Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bang Your Head

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

OK, so there's no real reason for this post. Andrew had the camera in the back seat of the minivan. He pointed it toward his siblings. Silliness began. He squeezed off eight frames.
I've been playing with animated GIFs. More silliness ensued.
Don't hurt yourself.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Mount Pleasant High School Band Director Matt Taton, center, stands in front of Robert and the clarinet section to direct the band at the corner of Main and Broadway for the city's annual Memorial Day observance.

As it does every year, Mt. Pleasant marked Memorial Day with a parade and ceremony downtown.
This was the second year Robert took part as a member of the high school marching band, and the difference in confidence on his part was immense. It's amazing what a year of almost daily practice, intense competition and a trip to the state finals will do for your confidence.

This most recent incarnation of the band -- which includes both seniors and seventh-graders -- sounded good. Perhaps it's just me, but I heard confidence and maturity I don't remember being there last Memorial Day.
The 2007 band will include 11 eighth-graders. Last year, Robert's class, only three, then eventually four eighth-graders were called up to the high school band.

As the old people waved their flags, the veterans marched and remembered their fallen comrades-in-arms. Children for whom places like Iwo Jima and Korea and Vietnam and Afghanistan are only vague mentions in history books ran up and down the sidewalks.
The ceremony concluded with a release of balloons, carrying messages. The message, actually, was very clear.

Marching band video

Here's a link to a recording of the Mt. Pleasant High School band performance at West Bloomfield last fall, narrated with one judge's comments. It's fun to watch.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Katherine decided to tag along with me while I made one of my semi-regular appearances as a talking head on Delta College Public Broadcasting's "Currently Speaking" program last night. I like doing television, even though I'm not pretty -- the only character I can play is the print-media pundit pontificating on politics and pablum.
When we walked into the studio, the crew -- which turned out to be short on volunteers -- asked Katherine if she wanted to run camera. Before she even had a chance to say yes, she was briefed on how to run it and put on Camera 3.

The hour-long broadcast is a live call-in show, with all the pitfalls of live TV. Katherine says she didn't screw up, and discovered how different television looks from behind the scenes as opposed to what shows up on the screen.
Her primary shot was the other guest pundit -- a Michigan State professor she said was "way too tan with teeth that were too perfect."
I've always thought it's more fun to be behind the scenes. Let's just say the commentary on the crew's headsets often is more entertaining than the commentary from the pontificating pundits.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Busy week for overachievers

Man, what a week for the overachieving Ranzenbergers. I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to post, but … well, you’ll see.


Andrew is awarded the patch for Life Scout. That’s the rank just below Eagle – and he still has time to earn his Eagle. This is the highest rank in Scouting a Ranzenberger kid has ever achieved.
He’s also been the senior patrol leader of his troop, something I never accomplished. Currently, he holds the position of chaplain aide, a worthy senior leadership position in this values-driven organization.


Robert performs in the West Intermediate spring concert. The eighth-grade band has shown incredible progress, and Robert’s gained great confidence on the clarinet.


Minden just becomes more adorable. Or disturbing. One or the other.


Robert heads north to Camp Rotary for the Order of the Arrow Mischigonong Lodge spring fellowship. He is to undergo The Ordeal. Meanwhile, Katherine is performing in Collage, which showcases the vocal talent of Mt. Pleasant High School and West Intermediate School students.

Katherine opens the show as one of The Fair Maidens, and later performs a brief solo as part of an ensemble, along with Alex “Wally” Kaminski, left, and others. The two of them were Mt. Pleasant’s contribution to last summer’s Blue Lake International Choir.


Robert returns from the spring fellowship, a full member of the Order of the Arrow, the Scouts’ National Honor Society.

Then Bryce and Kay, the kids’ grandparents (my ex’s mother and stepfather), come over. It’s their 30th anniversary, and they choose to spend it with us. I photograph them in the back yard; an enlargement of this image is likely to find a place of honor in their home. They’ve been so great to the kids and me over the years, and it was great to see them.
Other than that, I guess we’ve just been goofing off!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Kittens are growing

CAUTION: May cause overload of cute circuits!

Minden and München define the meaning of the word "awwwww."

The kittens have been with us for a little more than a week now, and they're settling in. München had a bit of a urinary infection, but with antibiotics -- which he doesn't object to taking -- he's getting better. He's still a little sleepy, while his younger buddy Minden is everywhere and into everything.

Minden gets ready to pounce

They play hard, chasing each other under the bedskirts, in and out of the litterbox, anywhere they can. They're growing -- and becoming part of us.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Andrew, the college kid

The letter read: Dear Andrew: Congratulations on your acceptance at Central Michigan University.
Andrew, the college kid.
He's been accepted as a dual-enrollment student for his senior year in high school. Mount Pleasant doesn't offer third-year German, so he'll be taking college level German at CMU. Under Michigan law, the school district pays the tuition, which will amount to $753 for the year.
He'll have to take an assessment to determine the level of college class, but it will have to look good on a college admission form that he's dual-enrolling for a foreign language.
Ja. Das is gut!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Katrina's eyes

The family of Marine Master Sgt. Michael Wert, from left, Debbie, Michael, Katrina and Rochelle, accept the flag that covered Master Sgt. Wert's casket at his burial Saturday in Alma.

Katrina Wert's eyes are going to haunt me for a long time.
Katrina Wert is the daughter of Marine Master Sgt. Michael Wert of Alma. Sgt. Wert was given a Marine hero's funeral Saturday in his home town after he died while helping to rescue two boys caught in a rip tide off a beach in North Carolina, where he was stationed.
Katrina also took part in the rescue, taking a boogie board into the water with her, locating them, getting them to hold onto the board, and getting them to shore. She said, in a written essay read at the funeral service, that she thought her father was right behind her, letting her do the lifesaving.
But he wasn't, and she didn't realize that until it was too late.
She got the boys to shore.
Master Sgt. Wert taught his daughter well. The only thing I can think of is that this young woman truly lived up to all the meaning of Semper Fidelis.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Brotherhood, cheerfulness, service

Robert has been selected to join the Order of the Arrow.
The OA is the Boy Scouts' National Honor Society, sort of a group-within-a-group. About 12 percent of Scouts are elected to the Order.
Election to the society is by Scouts overall -- so it is a group whose members are selected by non-members.

The Order of the Arrow has a long and storied history within the Scouting movement. It also features some of the most impressive and meaningful ceremonies in Scouting. The callout ceremony, which is something many Scouts witness at summer camp or elsewhere, is spine-tingling. I'm not letting out any secrets by saying the ceremonies that follow, which are for members only, are even more impressive.
Robert will join his oldest brother, his mother, who was nominated as an adult leader, and me as members of the Order, should he accomplish the Ordeal. Members are not at liberty to divulge all the details of this experience.
But I fully expect him to join us in the Brotherhood of Cheerful Service, WWW.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Minden and München

Minden, age 6 weeks, checks out his new home.

München, age 7 weeks, decides who's in charge.

After Cinnamon's unexpected death, we all took it very hard. The house in Lake Isabella was too quiet, too empty, too sad. Kissy Missy put it this way: "I think I'll just gone home and miss Cinnamon."
The place needed a cat. Two cats, in fact. Two Siamese kittens.
Meet Minden and München.
Minden is the younger of the two, a little smaller, a week younger than München. He's a bit shy at this point, but he's got the kind of resolve behind those blue eyes that just makes things happen.
München is bigger, older, a little tougher, and man, he's loud! He's got a mouth on him that just won't quit! It's hard to believe that all that sound can come out of that little package.
Siamese are vocal cats, and this one, wow, he proves it.

The two were named after the kids' two favorite German cities. Katherine had a great time in Minden with a marvelous host family during her European tour last summer -- and Andrew felt as if he'd come home when he visited Bavaria this spring. Totally appropriate.
(I argued for Zeus and Jupiter. They're Siamese, after all, so they already think they're gods.)
Minden and München are not brothers, but were raised together. We got them from a breeder in Chesaning. The mama cats were friendly and happy, the place was clean and good-smelling, the breeders professional.
To a long, fun life, Minden and München!

Top left: München looks alert as Katherine holds him. Top right: Minden, top, and München race to the litter box. Bottom left: Robert compares his size-10 foot to the tiny kitten.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Prom night

It was prom night Saturday night at Mount Pleasant High School.

Margaret and Katherine looked lovely!

The event was at the Comfort Inn on campus, which hosts numerous major events.

Dinner, dancing, photography, followed by bowling (not in those dresses) and breakfast at Big Boy all were part of the plan. Katherine's a freshman, but Margaret's a senior.

Katherine and Margaret each wore marvelous dresses, accessorized with shawls borrowed from Margaret's mother.

One other event was set for Saturday at the Comfort Inn. I suspect it had a slightly different tone.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Saying goodbye to Cinnamon

Cinnamon Eastman Ranzenberger, the regal Siamese cat who trained teenagers, disdained other cats, stole the covers and generally ran first the Eastman household, then the Ranzenberger household, died Wednesday at the age of 12.
Cinnamon was a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He picked out Kissy Missy as his staff shortly after he was weaned. (Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.)
His first home was an apartment that didn't allow pets, but that didn't bother Cinny. It was here that he learned the "fling the kitty" trick that trained his staff that closed doors simply were not acceptable.

He accompanied Kissy Missy as she worked in radio, and later television, in the U.P. He was her constant companion, and they were very protective of each other. When Cinny met Karen's future husband, the cat was skeptical, but went along for the ride.
Arriving in Lake Isabella, he hid in the closet for the first month. The noise of youngsters, and mostly the evil ceiling fans, appeared to make him nervous. Eventually, he came out, joined the family, and soon was running the joint.

Cinnamom trained every single family member to turn on a dribble of water in the bathtub when he wanted a drink; all it took was a slightly disgusted, slightly expectant look aimed at whomever was closest. Declawed as a kitten, he took great pride in whacking Katherine when she got out of line. And though he was always underfoot, he was seldom stepped on.
At Lake Isabella, he was always interested in the wildlife, especially the squirrels, which he would watch for hours out the patio door.
But he was an indoor cat, and that was the secret to his long, luxurious, well-cared-for, well-loved life.
For all his regality and apparent standoffishness, he was, at heart, a loving kitten, remaining kittenish and playful -- on his terms -- all his life. He would wait on the back of the couch, very patiently, for us to come home. Often it would be Robert who was the first home, and Cinny would greet him, then yawn and go about his business.
In the last few days of his life, he seemed to be a little cranky. He was off his food, but a new kind of food seemed to perk him up. After he cuddled close to her most of the night, Kissy Missy kissed him goodbye, as always, Wednesday morning.
But Robert came home and found Cinnamon unresponsive, in Cinnys' favorite sleeping spot on the bed. The cat apparently had simply gone to sleep, and did not wake up.
He was in peace.
There were many real, deep, heartfelt, hot tears for him. His family built a box of faux pine, and buried him with his catnip pillow, his favorite cat toy and a can of his favorite kitty treats. He was laid to rest after dark in an impromptu candlelight ceremony, in the back yard beneath a budding oak tree. A wind chime over his grave will ensure he is remembered every time the wind blows.
He'll live on. "Cinnamon, the big Siamese tomcat," is the subject of a question dealing with the proper way to identify animals on Style Quiz 13 in CMU's "Introduction to Writing for the Mass Media" class. (The answer: Identify animals with names (Cinnamon) or identifiable genders (tomcat) with gender-specific personal pronouns, such as he or she, rather than it.)
So he'll continue to teach. Cinnamon taught us all a lot about dignity, loyalty, love, expectations, and how to grab the best spot in front of the fireplace.
In Kissy Missy's words, "He was the best kitty in the whole world."
We love the Cinny.