Category Archives: Family

7 Reasons the Internet is a Nerd — A Post by Molly

#WisconsinCasual, my dad and the magic Polish tartan

Friday night lights, camera, comedy!

We enjoyed a rare opportunity to see the oldest and the youngest Kostelnik granddaughters perform Friday in Chicago in separate shows that shared twin themes of sweet laughter and sassy fun.

My eight-year old niece Erin capped off her summer theatre camp experience by playing the Abominable Snowman in the cutest production of Frozen we’ve seen. (And Disney set that bar pretty high, no?)

With a hand-painted backdrop, homemade costumes and a cast of seven girls of varying tooth gap degrees, the show featured choreographed dances and dramatic prose. Mostly, said the Emerald City Theatre Director, they worked on teamwork.

Teamwork also featured prominently in Pure and Weary’s sketch comedy show “Nerd Alert” at the Annoyance Theatre.

The 45-minute set featured a lively contemporary musical debate – Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, a jolly romp through Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, a Shakespearean dissection of text messaging, among many other nerdy riffs.

The whip smart comedy is the perfect kickoff to a summer weekend. Nerd Alert runs on Friday evenings through July. With $6 tickets and available “Atomic Wedgie” drinks, we think it’s the bargain of the summer.

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I think the abominable snowman spotted me.

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They were missing a few teeth, but they never missed a beat.

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So cute!

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Ladies and Gentleman,meet the latest cast of Frozen.

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The abominable snowman and her mother.

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The oldest and youngest Kostelnik granddaughters

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Nerd Alert! Charlie and his Grandma Peggy

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Nerds in the audience

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Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter?

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Tickets are available now through the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago.

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Pure and

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Fish and a chip off the old block

Until my brother in-law Dennis came to visit, we thought of the Oconto River as a recreational vehicle, transporting us via kayak, canoe, or inner tube from drop in point to cabin on frothy summer waves.

It formed a scenic, babbling backdrop to the view from our front porch swing.

Then Dennis arrived with his green lures and earthworms, license and reels, and we learned our charming river could be an excellent food source as well.

Dennis is a fisherman, the kind of guy who can land a small mouth bass, clean, filet, pan fry and serve it faster than you can say, “Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills.”

He once fished an entire weekend with a wire hook embedded in his lower lip.

“It was a brand new hook so I knew it was clean,” he said. “It hurt a lot, but I got six beautiful trout that weekend, including the biggest Steelhead I’ve ever caught.”

This weekend, he and his son, our nephew Ryan, taught us a little something about how to eat food so fresh it melts in your mouth, and so delicious you want to chew anyway.

I took notes, but there’s no way we’ll be able to recreate that meal.

Norman McLean wrote in A River Runs Through It, “If our father had had his way, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.”

Ryan and Dennis, two very skilled fishermen, honored their catch.

We’re grateful for every bite our family fishermen provided us, and for every moment they spent with us.


Dennis is the best kind of fisherman. He can spin a good yarn at the same time he untangles a 40-year old snarl of fishing lines in my dad’s old tackle box.

Dennis fishing

Here he is showing us all how it’s done on the river.

Ryan and his fish

Though, I have to be honest, Ryan caught the biggest fish.

Ryan fly fishing

Here is Ryan casting on the river. He picked up a wood tick or two, but he found an excellent spot.

Dennis with his catch

Dennis with a couple of his catch.

Dennis in action

Here is Dennis in action in the kitchen. Pan fried bass.

Donna, Vinnie, Sharon Ryan

My sister in-law Donna, Vinnie, my sister in-law Sharon, the family historian, and Ryan.

My plate

My plate. Be jealous. Be very jealous. That’s fresh, smoked (by Dennis) salmon, which he caught the day before in Lake Michigan, fruit salad, and the flakiest pan friend fish I’ve ever tasted.

Never waste a wish

We’re big on wishes in this house — falling stars, birthday candles, eye lashes, four-leaf clovers, dandelion seeds.

We wish on just about anything.

Our post-Thanksgiving turkey tussles have become legendary.

Last night I found a wishbone tucked away in the cabinet above our stove. At first it grossed me out and I quickly calculated the last time I’d cooked a bird.

I’ll be honest, it had been a few weeks.

I turned to toss it, and then I paused.

Life’s too short, man. You have to wish upon every opportunity you have.

Hoard your wishes if you’d like.

Share them with a friend.

But, for the love of all things magical and free, never waste an opportunity to wish.

Step outside on a sticky sweet s’more summer night and wish upon the evening star.

Wish you may. Wish you might. Have the wish you wish tonight.

Wishes equal hope and God knows we need that in this world.

Wishes transcend the ages and best of all they’re free.

Throw a penny in a wishing well.

Close your eyes, think about what you want most in this world, and wish.

The rules are simple, the stakes high.

You can’t tell what you’ve wished for until it comes true. That’s the one real challenge of the gifted wisher.

Wishes can transform an ordinary Wednesday.

So, here’s your task: find a stray eyelash, or a dandelion gone to seed, or the first star you see.

Make a wish.

Don’t tell.

And then, the important part, believe.

We hope all your wishes come true.

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We celebrated optimism last night with this wishbone, which I grossly found in a kitchen cabinet.

Vinnie and Molly wishbone

I wasn’t going to waste a good wishbone, so I gave it to these two.

Molly and Vinnie broken wishbone

Weirdly, it split in three when they finally pulled..

Molly and Vinnie what

So, who gets the wish? Hmmmmm.

Here's Molly at her First Communion wishing on a dandelion.

Here’s Molly at her First Communion wishing on a dandelion.

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Molly has plenty of experience with wishbones. Here are she and Charlie in an epic standoff, Thanksgiving 2011. What follows is a series of photos from the famous Thanksgiving Take-Down of 2013…

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Relay for Life Round 2 — the Laughter Lap

Happy Memorial Day from Jack, Molly B and Me

A reluctant hero and his legendary coach

My brother in-law Keith never intended to play basketball when he and his cousin Priscilla attended Pompano Beach High School.

“It was my mother’s wish that I attend Pompano Beach High School,” Keith said. “It was not mine.”

Obediently, the 14-year old agreed to help Priscilla in her efforts to integrate the high school, but only to spend the required hours there.

So, he refused to take the bus to and from school, and, though he had planned to play basketball with his friends at Blanche Ely High School, he did not go out for the team at Pompano Beach.

Then, Pompano Coach Tucker Morris saw him playing in gym class and drove to Keith’s house to talk him into joining the team.

The rest, in matters of civil rights and points on the scoreboard, is history.

Keith, the first black student to play sports at Pompano Beach High School, joined the team as a 15-year old sophomore, and became a team leader. The 5-9 guard earned the Most Valuable Player award, the team rebounding award and remains the fourth highest scorer in the school’s history.

Following high school, he attended Biscayne College on a basketball scholarship. He was the first black athlete to attend that school as well.

“Keith withstood a lot of pressure being the first Negro player here,” said Coach Morris in a 1971 newspaper article. “He never once lost his composure and came through with flying colors, both as a player and a person. He’s an outstanding young man.”

The coach and the reluctant sports hero formed a bond during those years. Asked if anyone ever called him the N-word during high school, Keith said, “Once.”

“The coach found out about it and put a stop to it,” he said.

The coach also found out that Keith had been hitchhiking to school and put a stop to that as well. During his senior year, Keith rode to and from school with the team manager.

In 2013, school boosters planned a lunch in Coach Morris’ honor. Asked who he’d like most to attend, the 87-year old coach said, “Keith Finley.”

Touched and somewhat surprised by the coach’s request, Keith agreed to fly from Wisconsin to Florida for the occasion, though he had not seen the coach in more than 40 years.

A weather delay grounded Keith in Atlanta and he missed the lunch, but he did take the opportunity to visit Coach Morris in his home.

The two posed for a picture and talked well into the night. Coach Morris apologized for never coming to see Keith play in college, and showed him a scrapbook he’d kept of his years there.

“I told him about the scrapbook I had that my mother kept. So, on my second visit to see him I took him that scrapbook and a framed picture we had taken,” Keith said.

Two months after Keith’s visit, Coach Morris died.

Their story lives on in the carefully cropped pages of a scrapbook maintained by a proud mother and inspired by her history-making insistence.

Keith basketball

Convinced to play high school basketball, Keith Finley became a star. The 5-9 guard considered an invitation to tryout for the American Basketball Association, but decided to seek more reliable employment following his graduation from college. He earned a Master’s Degree in Education, and became a teacher, then administrator in the Milwaukee Public School System.


Though he didn’t set out to break any boundaries, Keith also blazed a trail for black athletes at Biscayne College in Miami. Here he is with his college roommate.


An excellent student, Keith taught mathematics to migrant worker children the summer before his freshman year in college.

Keith and Coach

This is Keith, Coach Morris and Delores “Dee” Morris, the coach’s wife. Following the coach’s death, Keith visited Dee to pay his respects and was very impressed to learn that, at 87-years old, she still plays tennis.

Mr. Walter James Finley has reason to be proud

With profound faith and a commitment to education that transcended generations, Walter James Finley came to the United States in 1897.

The Bahamian entrepreneur, farmer, and first black man in Broward County to own an automobile, planted fields and grew a dynasty.

Today, the close-knit third generation of Finleys, includes educators and engineers, business owners, athletes and one newly minted Hall of Fame member.

Like their patriarch’s, the Finley family’s rise involved determination, maternal discipline, pride, humor, perseverance, loyalty and love.

My brother in-law Keith Finley and his cousin Priscilla (Finley) Miller-Jones personify these attributes. In 1964, they became the first two students to integrate Pompano Beach High School.

Priscilla made the switch because she loves a challenge.

“I heard them say the school would remain lily white and I, the bold one, said, ‘Over my dead body,” she said.

Keith did it because his mother, the formidable Lucy Finley, told him he had to.

As the only two black students in a school population of 3,000, the two cousins negotiated occasionally hostile territory. In 1964, Broward County still had black only drinking fountains and black bathrooms, and many people weren’t anxious to see that change.

For two years, Keith hitchhiked to school, walking the final mile, because he refused to take the bus. Priscilla rode the bus, dodging gum wads and racial epithets.

“Priscilla would come home daily with gum stuck in her hair, and my mom would have to use kerosene to get it out,” said Priscilla’s sister, Carolyn Miller Menendez.

A math teacher told Keith he could skip class as long as he passed the unit tests.

“I was young at the time and I thought it was great that I didn’t have to go to class. Later, I realized he just didn’t want me in his class,” Keith said. “He didn’t know that I had an excellent math teacher in junior high, Mr. Humphries, so I passed those tests.”

Keith was only 14 and Priscilla 15 that first year, but they stuck it out.

“The one thing is, we had each other,” Priscilla said.

The following school year, 25 black students attended Pompano Beach High,  and, by their senior year, more than 100.

“Guess what? I opened the door for my brother, Quan L. Miller,” Priscilla, who had 15 brothers and 2 sisters, all single births from the same two parents. “He ran cross country and track at that school and was vice president of his class.”

Today, Walter James Finley’s grandchildren continue to do him proud. Priscilla, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati, runs a very successful family U-Haul business.

Keith, about whom I’ll be writing more on Monday, earned a master’s in education and recently retired as a high school administrator. Their cousin Dr. Eric Williams, serves as Assistant Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Wisconsin. Another cousin, Edith Spivey, a legendary coach, was just inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame.

An unexpected guest added a postscript to the Finley story during a recent visit to Priscilla’s business.

“He said he wanted to apologize for the way he treated me in high school,” she said. “He said he didn’t know any better at the time. I was astonished. I said, ‘You are forgiven.”


Keith and Priscilla were members of the National Junior Honor Society at Deerfield Park Junior High. That’s Priscilla standing between Keith and the giant trophy. I leave it up to you to figure out which one Keith is. The next year, Keith and Priscilla attended Pompano Beach High School, the only two black students to do so.


Priscilla’s high school picture.

Keith and Priscilla

Here are Keith and Priscilla today. They’d both make their grandpa proud.

Priscilla, Keith, Carolyn and Traveian

Priscilla and her sister Carolyn, who live in Florida, surprised Traveain with a visit to Wisconsin last week. I jumped on the opportunity to interview them about their high school experiences.

Racing toward 40 with a smile on her face


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