Thursday, November 26, 2015


I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I’m a grandfather.

Not having met the child, it all still seems theoretical. Yet I know there’s a little guy with a Ranzenberger face in northwestern Midland County.
Andrew’s relationship with a co-worker was intense and strange, and ended on a bad note. Yet a few months later, along came the little guy. Andrew has stood up, is indeed the father, and now is paying child support. He also has some very limited visitation.
The limited visitation is not uncommon for children less than a year old. The kid hasn’t yet done an overnight at his father’s house, and I haven’t yet had the opportunity to tag along with Andrew. I hope that happens soon.
Being a grandfather is something for which I have very limited role models. My dad’s father died on Christmas Day 15 years before I was born; that event cast an echo of sadness and loss on the holiday season for decades. Mom’s father died when I was 8. I have two main memories of Grandpa Schaeffer:

•  He had taken me along to put flowers on my grandmother’s grave on a Sunday morning in November 1963. He had just bought a new, blue Chevrolet Bel Air, and it was one of those remarkably pleasant, late-November Michigan days. On the way back from the cemetery, we heard about the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald on the car radio.
• I had trouble when I was helping our extremely overweight dachshund, Gretchen, up the front steps. I yelled for help, and he helped me get that heavy dog into the house.

I also remember that his house on Park Street was very cool, and had a very cool banister. My cousins and I loved to slide down the railing. Most of the time, though, Grandpa was a distant figure, struck hard by the death of his wife. Soon, he, too, got very sick and died. I feel as if I never really knew him.
The real role model for me was the kids’ grandfather, Bryce Nimtz. He actually was their step-grandfather, but he filled the role so well. He died in January, and I miss him. He was a true class act.
So what do I do? I want to spend time with the little guy, have him tag along with me, and just talk about what we’re doing. I want to walk with him through CMU’s campus, show him the maroon-and-gold flowers, the labs and the lecture halls, the newsrooms and the broadcast studios, the arena and the football field. I want to take him to Chippewa football games and experience the Chippewa Marching Band’s incredible pregame.
I want him to dream. I want him to know he can make those dreams happen, and learn how he can make them happen. There's a lot of hard work and skill involved in making dreams come true, but hard work comes naturally to this family - and skills can be learned. I want him to know that.
And I want to listen to what he has to say. I want to tell him stories. And somehow, I think he just might want to tell me stories, too.
Just for the chance, that's what I'm thankful for.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

CMU protesters join "Million Student March"

Senior Portia Brown says she tried to work her way through college, but couldn't, and now finds herself buried in debt. 

About 100 students and sympathizers marched at Central Michigan University Thursday, demanding free tuition, forgiveness of student-loan debt, and a $15 per hour minimum wage for campus employees.
Student loan debt has increased to $1.2 trillion, double the $600 billion in 2006, according to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Tuition has increased at about five times the rate of inflation.
Organizers said marches were scheduled at more than 100 colleges and universities.

Marchers demanded tuition-free college.
Whitney Dzuirka, organizer for the Union of Teaching Faculty, joined the march.
Marchers chanted that their school is not for profit.
Marchers gathered on the Warriner Mall and cheered speakers who demanded free tuition, student loan forgiveness and a living wage for campus employees.
Protesters braved high winds and rain to make their point.
Americans owe more in student loan debt than credit card debt - and the student loan debt cannot be discharged through bankruptcy or even death.
The march circled the central campus.

The temperature for the protest was in the 40s, with high winds and occasional sideways rain.
The CMU protesters joined students across the country in marching for their demands.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Leaning Tree

A student walks past the Leaning Tree in the courtyard between Moore Hall and the Music Building at Central Michigan University.
One tree, strange and bent, stands out among Central Michigan University's beautifully manicured landscaping.
It's a tree in the large courtyard bounded by Moore Hall, Bush Theater and the Music Building. It doesn't grow straight up, like most trees. This tree leans off the vertical at about a 45-degree angle.
It's been like that for many years. A red dot is painted on the trunk, and I'm not sure what that means.
The tree appears, to a layman, to be solid. There's no indication that I've seen as to why the tree tilts off at that crazy angle.
The conservative, risk-averse part of me screams out, "It might fall on someone! Risky! Risky!"
But the artist in me says this is a cool tree, doing something different just because it can. And somehow, its location among the buildings where musicians, actors, designers, filmmakers, television producers and journalists learn their creative skills seems so appropriate.
Lean in, tree.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Green House

The 3,250-square-foot Victorian home at the corner of Main and Locust streets now has been painted red.
The Green House on Main Street is no longer green.
The fine, brick Victorian home at 500 S. Main St. was built in 1879, according to City of Mount Pleasant records. Some historians dispute that, saying it actually was built in 1876.

In late summer 2015, the job was about half done, with the rear of the building red, while the front remained the color that gave the home the nickname "The Green House."

For many years in the 20th century, it belonged to the McClintic family. The Kowalczyk family bought it in the late 1990s.
These days, the 3,250-square-foot, five-bedroom home houses Community Counseling Associates and a law office. The brick façade of the building reportedly was painted red at one point. That was changed to green, apparently sometime during the 1980s. Now, the brick is back to red. The brick-and-mortar construction is in good shape – Mount Pleasant bricks of the 19th century were made to last.

The home had been red for years before being painted green.

Good things happened to our family in that building. It’s a quiet place of knowledge and wisdom and awareness.

The brick-and-mortar exterior construction reportedly is in very good shape.

And now, it’s the Red House. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Jeff Daniels returns

Actor/singer Jeff Daniels once again came home to Mount Pleasant. Daniels headlined the final show of the Max & Emily's summer concert series.

Daniels took the Max & Emily's stage at its familiar location at Broadway and University
Jeff Daniels, center, performed with the Ben Daniels band, which includes singer Amanda Merte, Tommy Reifel on bass, Wesley Fritzemeier on drums and mandolin, and Ben Daniels and George Merkel on guitar. A solid crowd braved a rainy late-August evening for the show.

Father and son have performed separately and together

A Daniels show always is full of stories.
And no Daniels show would be complete without crowd favorites "The Big Bay Shuffle" and "Let's Take Our Pants Off."

Daniels' performance career has taken him from the strange comedy of "Escanaba in Da Moonlight," the weirdness of "Super Sucker," the "Dumb and Dumber" movies to the classic television of "The Newsroom." He's never lost his connection to his roots in Chelsea and on the Bush Theater stage at Central Michigan University.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fourth in the North

Upper Tahquamenon Falls, on the 4th of July 2015. Always beautiful!
There's nothing like the Fourth of July in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Tahquamenon, the Newberry parade - it's a tradition. This year, Matthew and Amanda, along with Debbie,  joined Karen and me for a great holiday weekend.

The Newberry is like any other small-town Fourth of July parade - until it gets wet and wild. You've got to watch the video.

Karen relaxes by the fire after a long Independence Day.

Know why the bridge was built? So Trolls would have a path to heaven.

On Da Bridge, Matthew is entirely in his element.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Old Goat celebrates Father's Day

The Old Goat, 2434 Eastern Ave SE, Grand Rapids, is new - and was the perfect place to celebrate Father's Day.
 What better way to celebrate the Old Goat than take him to a place called ... The Old Goat?
Actually, it was my own idea. I'd heard about this brand-new place in the Alger Heights neighborhood of Grand Rapids, with a truly eclectic menu of truly great food. It's owned by restaurateur Cory DeMint - the same guy behind The Electric Cheetah and Uncle Cheetah's Soup Shop. And he's really outdone himself this time.

Katherine, Amanda, Matthew and Karen treated the Old Goat to a fabulous Father's Day lunch - on the day before Father's Day. The food was great - eggs in a basket and Cajun frites for appetizers, and main dishes of such things as breaded schnitzel, a pork belly-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich, jambalaya in a Dutch oven, and a Michigan green-gold salad with the most terrific, perfect asparagus I've ever eaten. The wait staff is knowledgeable, personable and fun.

Katherine and Amanda loved it.

And the "kids" let the old goat know he's not quite dead yet.

On Sunday, Father's Day, Robert Facetimed from Oahu. The Marine Forces Pacific Band next heads to New Zealand and Tonga. On July 4, they will be part of the festivities surrounding the formal coronation of King Tupou VI of Tonga. The King is a graduate of the University of East Anglia and the U.S. Naval War College.
And Andrew posted this on my Facebook page:

"For the one who taught me wisdom and love, the one who taught me strength and patience, the one who taught me determination and the will to never give up, I wish you a happy Father's Day.
"For the one who showed me what it takes to be a man, the one who showed me what it takes to be an adult, the one who showed me what it takes to be a parent, I wish you a happy Father's Day.
"For the one who never made my decisions for me, the one who trusted me without question to live my own life, the one who stood by me even when I was headed straight to disaster, I wish you a happy Father's Day.

"I love you."

Then Katherine jumped in (right on deadline, of course) with this:

"I've spent a lot of the day trying to come up with something cheesy or sentimental to say about Mark Ranzenberger, so here it is. Even though I don't say it all the time publicly, I do love him. He's helped guide me through life's challenges. He's supported me through dropping out of college and then pushed me to go back. He's been there when every silly boy I've dated broke my heart. He's been my biggest fan and shares many of my stories that I write, cheering me on to bigger and better papers along the way. All the while, he embarrasses me in front of many people just like dads should. I wouldn't be as good at puns and wordplay without his help. I can't wait to step out of the large shadow he casts in the Michigan journalism world and make a name for myself, and I know that nothing would make him prouder than for me to achieve that. I love you, Dad. Thanks for being you.

Listen, you guys, I don't know how I deserve to have kids as wonderful as you. Thank you. I'm so insanely proud of all you guys, and so humbled that you still put up with the Old Goat.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Ranzencats and friends

When I married Karen, she said her goal in life was to become a crazy cat lady. I should have listened.
It turns out that I love these critters as much as she does. I'm a man who loves cats.
It recently dawned on me that I sometimes will put cat pictures up on Facebook, but I've never shown off all the cats at once. So here's your chance to meet all the felines in the Ranzenmenagerie. They run the joint. They own us. We just wait on them.

• Minden, the alpha cat: Siamese. We've had him and München since 2008. He rules the upstairs with an iron paw. Karen is his human.
• Gus, the senior cat: Large domestic shorthair. Rescue cat. Gus wandered out of the forest of the Upper Peninsula and adopted Karen’s mother about 13 years ago. We inherited him. While he was once a hunter, he’s retired into a life of indoor luxury. Dad is his human.
• München, the skittish cat: Siamese. He was born about the same time as Minden, but in a different litter. He’s just happy to be under the protection of Minden, especially now that there are other cats around. Robert is his human, and München misses him.

• Ziva, the shadow cat: Domestic longhair. Rescue cat. Ziva’s usually the only female, and the youngest of the bunch. She’s always happy and dancing - but she’ll disappear at the first sense of anything at all.  She hasn't really picked out a human, but many nights, she'll cuddle up to Dad.
• Max, the spoiled child. Siamese, mostly. Rescue cat. This is Katherine’s cat, and he's her big baby. He’s around for a couple of weeks. Although he’s about the same age as Ziva, he’s still getting used to being part of a big, big family. Katherine is very much Max's human, and  he misses her a lot. While she's gone, she Facetimes with him almost every day. Seriously.
• Princess Sophia, the baby cat. Domestic shorthair, mackerel markings. Rescue cat. Sophia was rescued from on top of a power pole, and eventually made her way to us. She's currently recovering from being spayed, and soon will be on her way to live with Karen's friend Debbie. She doesn't let the boys pick on her.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Meet the little princess, Sophia

Princess Sophia discovers the joy of a kitty toy upstairs at the Ranzenhaus.

We first became aware of this little girl cat when a friend of our posted a panicky Facebook message: She'd climbed to the top of a power pole, was meowing piteously, and refused to come down.

She was up there for a couple of days before a generous electrical contractor used a 40-foot ladder to bring her down.

But she couldn't stay at the friend's house, which already was the home to a Malamute who seemed to have decided that little Princess Sophia really should have been named "lunch." Another Facebook message went out - Sophia might have to go to the shelter if someone didn't step up.

Karen plays with Sophia
It turns out that family friend Debbie needed a cat. Debbie's long-time companion, Amanda Cat, had passed on. Debbie needs a cat. Welcome home, Sophia.

A literal rescue cat - rescued from atop a power pole!
Sophia will be spayed, get her shots and soon go off on another adventure. Just stay away from tall trees, power lines, telephone polls and large dogs. Debbie will make sure of that.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day weekend in Frankfort

Another weekend - and another day trip to Lake Michigan. Frankfort and Elberta are two of our favorite shoreline communities on Michigan's west coast. The beaches are beautiful, the people are wonderful, and the two-hour drive isn't hard on a sunny spring day.
Karen decides she's going to get adventurous and check out the breakwall that separates the calm harbor waters of Betsie Lake from Lake Michigan.
It's a long way out there, but the view of the Frankfort North Breakwall Light is very nice.

The light, built in 1912, is a symbol of the region.
On shore, we met retired humanities teachers Dan, left, and Carole Reznich of Higgins Lake, who love to spot passing lakers.

Far beyond the breakwall, a laker heads downbound.
Karen primps a little as she prepares to take a selfie on the beach.

That's nice.

She loves her newly spiffed-up platinum hair!

For dinner, we went to the Cabbage Shed in Elberta. Local food, craft beers and general wonderfulness. Bluegill, garlic mashed potatoes and steamed, fresh asparagus. We'll be back.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Kissy Missy's Milestone

It was Mother's Day - and perhaps more importantly, it was a major milestone birthday for Karen. (She doesn't look a day over 27.) She was absolutely clear about how we would celebrate: Dinner at the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth. And we celebrated.
Karen, her BFF Deb and accordionist Linda Lee, decked out in a Bavarian dirndl, show the tradition. Lee played "Happy Birthday." Not all the kids could make it - Katherine and Andrew both were scheduled to work, and Robert had this little commitment to the Corps in Hawaii. After learning of this, Lee played the "Marines' Hymn." 
Matthew and Amanda drove up from Grand Rapids to join the celebration.
Amanda hadn't had the Bavarian Inn's chicken dinner before, and she pronounced it delicious!
The Bavarian Inn provided a special Bavarian chocolate mini-birthday cake.
And Karen really loved the orange-and-vanilla swirl over cranberry ice cream.
Even the gnomes in the Royal Gift Shop wished her a happy birthday and happy Mother's Day.