Monthly Archives: July 2012

Bad Dog Days of Summer

When I lived in Richmond, Virginia from 1992 until 1996 we often experienced these summer days of excruciating and unbearable heat. It would generally start the third week of July and run the second week of August. Sometimes it was all of July and all of August. We would have record 100 degree days for a week and more days of the month in the 90’s than in the 80’s. It was incredibly similar to what Lansing has been experiencing this summer. Also taking into consideration the lack of rain and this summer is a record breaker on multiple fronts. Summer can be frustrating in many respects. The kids trade in their perfectly scheduled routines for late nights, not so much late mornings and infrequent RRR. Despite great hopes every summer to continue with somewhat of a scholastic menu it somehow always goes down the drain. Soon the day in and day out guilt gets ever greater that I am not spending nearly enough time creating fun activities with my kids. So today I was going to change that. Yes, I knew the high for the day was supposed to reach 90, once again. My thinking was if I got us out early enough we could return before it was too bad. Somehow, though I found myself forcing the twins to shower and barely getting them into the car before 2 p.m. It was already 86. It’s okay I thought, I was planning to stop at a park. A park always makes everything okay. We parked at McDonalds on Larch. I bought them each $1.00 ice cream cones (didn’t these use to be $.25??) and an ice tea for myself. Then we headed east through the neighborhood. At first it was not too bad. I could tell after one block though that the twins weren’t going to put up with too much walking. After going around one block I decided to head straight to Gier Park Elementary to let the kids play. Even though this area has two schools, a community center, a baseball field, two additional parks, and a BMX track there was hardly anyone out there. The kids played a little as I took some photos like the 4 square area that I actually remember playing on when I was their age. Without many trees we quickly became over hot. The twins tried to enjoy themselves but I could see the fatigue setting in. They had eyed the other park to the north and wanted to try that one out too. So we made our way through the baseball fields.

I remember as a young person riding to these fields in the summer. Some of our friends would be playing there and it was a great place to socialize. Not today though, as there was no one there.

The parking lot was scattered with a few parked cars which always makes me wonder, what are those people doing? There was one couple that drove in and it was quite obvious what they were doing. I tried to not draw attention to them. At this park the twins quickly scaled a 6 foot fake rock. Once on the top, my just learning to read 6 1/2 year olds began reading the words they could make out; “suck my…”; oh my!! It was time to move on.

I suppose graffiti cleaning has been cut out of the budget years ago. By now Ellie is dragging. Her face is as pink as her shirt and I knew getting back to the car was going to be a challenge. We passed the BMX track and watched three young guys run the track once.

I suppose it’s too hot for even riding bikes. We crossed 27 (Larch for the non North Side folks) and took a non walked road back to the car. Ellie insisted I was making them walk 10 miles. It ended up being almost 2 miles on a 90 degree day. Now I know why they call it dog days, as all we’ve done since getting home is lay around the house. It’s a sad, sad summer when it’s even too hot to play.

Not Va-Can’t. It’s Va Can!

I don’t normally don a certain style for sauntering the city, especially one that requires Neon Green. After purchasing my ticket I quickly started getting clues for what my evening at Vacant would entail. The first clue was an overly cheesy Will Smith. Not zombie killing, super hero Will Smith. This was fluorescent wearing, hat on sideways, one acid washed jean suspender unhooked, Will Smith. Think 1992. Then there was the video clip; Hip Hop. Old School, rockin’ beat, break dancing hip hop. My final clue was for the location. Up until the day before the event the only clue I had for the location was “South Side”. I’m heavy type A and these types of clues don’t bode well for me. Thankfully the Vacant folks came through and a GPS setting was sent via email. So I think I had it. Dress was 1990’s, hip-hop, oh and we needed to bring quarters. I figured for that one it would either be arcade games or juke box. It was arcade! I love Galaga. So, back to the outfit. I graduated from Lansing Eastern High School in 1988 so my memories (and possible collectibles) were off by a couple of years. So I did some research. Now I remember! Neon, scrunchies, painters caps and pants, high top Converse, jean jackets, ripped up baggie t-shirts. As I put pieces together more memories came flooding back. Yes, I’ve worn these outfits before. So I cut off a pair of Pat’s old jeans and shredded the bottom a bit, since I wouldn’t have time to let it wear out properly. I bought a set of neon gloves with the fingers cut out at Claire’s (those styles are all coming back) and a pair of bright green socks. I paired all that with a cut up baggy sweatshirt over a green tank top. The icing on the cake was a borrowed pair of black high top Converse. Sweet!

Finally making my way to the location sent via email I quickly spotted the balloons attached to a pole; more clues. This isn’t the place. The actual location is two buildings down. If the note on the balloons hadn’t given the location away, the brightly attired crowd hanging out near the road would have.

I parked and walked over. I gave them my ticket and my password; “Fresh”. They gave me a cup, a green paper fan and a waiting time of 9 minutes since I was early. As friends started trickling in I was quickly able to find someone to hang with while we waited. We didn’t wait very long when we got the okay to enter VACANT.

The idea of Vacant is to bring community folks to a space that is vacant. This allows people to come and see how the space can be used. This idea is similar to when Ignite Lansing hosted their event at the Knapp’s building and soon after the owner of the building decided to begin restoration efforts for the building. The second goal is to raise money for South Lansing Community Development Association as the proceeds from ticket sales go to this group. The last and most non specific goal is to get people in the community participating in something mysterious and exciting without them needing to think about much more than showing up and supporting the creators of this event. Without those willing participants this event would really be truly vacant.
Rose Cooper riding in on her Harley to perform a Spoken Word Poem

Daniel Hogan enjoying the Arcade

Break Dancing

The Rating System



Anyone who knows me well knows I don’t buy anything full price. If I’m acting grumpy my husband will offer that I go shop clearance at Target for an emotional cheering up. Not only do I get all the sales at 20%-80% off but I also can pair that up with a 15%-30% off coupon (I know, with percents like that I should be given money back, right?). So when I heard about The Second Annual Lansing Thrift Crawl event created by Lansing’s very own fashionista Kat Cooper from Ginger and the Geek, I knew I wanted to give it a try. For this adventure we were scheduled to hit up six separate thrift stores. The first four were all located on the south side of Lansing. I was able to make it to 3 and found some great deals as well as a great time. This will be my one and only attempt at a fashion blog for the sake of presenting my finds from Lansing’s re-treasured stores.
My first stop was at Volunteers of America. I had arrived about fifteen minutes later than the rest of the group and with this being my very first thrift shopping, I was a bit not sure of what to do. I think also, I am the type that gets overwhelmed with too much to take in. VOA is a large warehouse style building filled with rows and rows of sale items. Most of the clothes are organized by selection; e.g. men’s, women’s, children’s. Then each of these sections is organized by color, not size and definitely not both. After 30 minutes of greeting people, potty breaks and getting organized I assumed I was walking out of this store empty handed. At the checkout I stood with our group as they finalized their choices. I toyed with a set of clothes outside of the changing room and came across my find. It’s a stretchy black, knee high skirt. I wore it to church today as it goes with almost all of my fancy shirts.

The next thrift stop was at St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop. I had made a stop in here earlier in the year and wrote about their shop in my blog Resilience. Here I was able to pick up quite a few items including four shirts for my son, 3 shirts and a pair of pants for my daughter and 4 shirts for me all under $15!
Evan only let me take one photo. Imagine this photo with a blue shirt, and a red shirt.

This shirt had the tags on it too!

Hand crafted hat by Grandma Teresa

My final stop was at Hidden Treasures Thrift. This store was meticulously organized. The prices were quite a bit higher but it seemed to match the quality of the items being sold. Here I found an adorable purple dress for Ellie. I also purchased 3 books.

For a first time thrift shopper I think I came home with some nice finds. My total spent was $29.15 for eleven shirts, 1 sweater, 1 dress, 1 skirt, 3 books and a pair of pants. I think my only negative would be the amount of time it takes to go through all of the clothing as many were organized by color and not size. I think a Thrift Party with a post fashion show would be a perfect way to spend any afternoon!


Recently a tweet came through from an assistant publisher from a local digital magazine. The thing that caught my attention (as well as the attention of a few other #LoveLansing folks) was that it was used to promote a very negative news story. Lansing tends to suffer from an obvious Jekyll and Hyde syndrome. From the perspective of many #LoveLansing ers it’s all sunshine, flower pots and happy, healthy well to do citizens. Then the sun goes down and it turns into a crime riddled, gun totting, prostitution ring, wild, wild, west. I’ve been told that for every bad story that makes it into the media there should be 10 good ones. So today, on this Friday the 13 of July, I will present my 13 reasons why I think Lansing (greater Lansing Area) is a great place to be!

13. The water. I’m not talking just the rivers, which I will get to in a minute but we also have a system of smaller creeks that surround the area. Then there is Hawk Island that has a perfect little lake front oasis set up with swimming, boating and fishing. Also within this park is a wonderfully refreshing Splash Pad.
Many times I have taken my twins there to cool off and play in the shooting jets, and dumping buckets. To the north is the handmade Jones Lake. It’s not nearly as popular as Hawk Island but it’s a cute little lake to check out. If fresh water sources aren’t your thing there are also a couple of public pools in the area including Hunter Park Pool & Splash Pad and Moores Park Pool. If you venture outside of Lansing’s city limits there is Lake Lansing South which is a very popular swimming and beach area. Just north of that is Park Lake which is a no wake boating and fishing lake. Both make wonderful destinations to have a picnic, play on the playgrounds or people watch.

12. Museums. Lansing’s root as explorers, scientists, travelers and inventors is quite evident when you look at the museums in the area. One of my all time favorites is Impression 5 (I5 as us locals like to call it). Inside is a wonderful warehouse filled with fun scientific activities, experiments, play areas and demonstrations. They continue to expand and redesign the contents of this museum to match the needs and desires of the families that visit. They are truly a staple of downtown Lansing. Turner–Dodge House is also an exciting opportunity to step back into time. As a child that lived on the north side I often would ride my bike there and go through the tour of turn of the century artifacts. Outside, we would play on the property for hours; roaming the gardens and climbing on the circular bench surrounding an ancient tree in the front. Another great place to spend the day is the Michigan Historical Museum. A couple of smaller museums that we’ve travelled through during Be A Tourist in Your Own Town are The Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors Institute and the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. Both are worth a visit.

11. Parks & Nature. Lansing maintains 2000 acres of park land. This really could go much higher up my list as I think our park system is extraordinary! Some of my favorites are Fenner Nature Center, Cooley Gardens (it was this City Saunter that had me visit there for the first time. Read my blog here), Hunter Garden House, Potter Park Zoo, Frances Park, Hawk Island and Scott’s Woods, Louis F. Adado Riverfront Park, Washington Park and Shigematsu Memorial Garden. Check here for the entire listing presented by The Greater Lansing Visitor’s Bureau.

10. Community. Lansing is the best “Little, Big Town”. I hear this phrase all the time. It’s true. It’s big enough to have amazing resources and amenities. Yet it is small enough to bike across, run into someone you know while out, get to have a conversation with the Mayor (city council or president of a large corporation), and know the owner of a local restaurant. A day ago I was with a friend and we were talking about the Lansing skyline. She laughed and said, I still look at the Boji Tower and am astonished that I walked down that. And I was there that day taking photos of her. I’m not sure how likely that would be in Chicago or New York. Also here in our little big town we promote each other’s ventures, ideas and businesses. We cheer on the underdogs and buy local as much as we can. We have incubators, networking meet-ups, small business assistance and non profits like I have never seen or read about in other cities. I’ve often heard that it’s our friendliness, as a community, that really makes people want to be here.

9. Sports. We like to play in Lansing. We also like to watch other people playing. Not only are many Lansing people strong supporters of our Michigan and university based teams, but we also enjoy rooting for our kids on their sports teams, especially when one of them makes it to the 2012 Summer Olympics! (Congratulations to Jordyn Wieber of Dewitt). Lansing also hosts their very own minor league baseball team that draws hundreds into town during the summer months. Last year Lansing had its first full marathon. We also host a multitude of charity races each month and have an annual adventure race called Dirty Feat.

8. Artistic Haven. Rising up out of the rusty Oldsmobiles and Chevys is a strong creative group of entrepreneurs. Sometimes this group even uses those rusty parts to create art in the Old Town Scrap Festival. Old Town also has a multitude of design studios and galleries. Sometimes this artistic nature comes to fruition in theatric form like at River Walk Theatre or Peppermint Creek Theatre, and sometimes is can be in created art found at Art Alley, REACH, or Craig Mitchell Smith Glass Gallery. (Click here for a more complete list of galleries and theaters)

7. The Rivers. I love the rivers in the Lansing area. I also enjoy supporting groups and events that are helping make the river something all the residents can enjoy, like Mid-MEAC and the Capital City Dragon Boat Race held this September 1 & 2.

6. State Government. I like that the Capitol is here. I enjoy the ebb and flow of political conversations. The state government provides stability to this city and helps it stay viable during rough financial situations and collapsing of entire industries. I appreciate that.

5. Education. There is no denying that Lansing has within its borders an immediate access to a plethora of educational institutions. Many of the outer colleges have some sort of agreement with LCC and MSU to provide their programs here. Or you can just attend LCC, Davenport, Cooley Law School or MSU, each with their own set of personalized programs.

4. Non Profits/Volunteer/Community Gardens. I once read that Michigan was able to ride out the recession much better than other states because of our nonprofit programs. Working with Lunch with a Purpose for two years has allowed me to witness all the great things these groups are providing almost always on a volunteer basis. Here is a list from LWP website of local non profits.

3. The Music Scene. At the exact moment of me writing this friends of mine are preparing for the 5th day of Common Ground. Every year for a week in July national musical talents are brought in to perform at this fantastic outdoor concert series. The Capital City Film Festival also coordinates fantastic music performances at the end of each day of that event. These were often held at The Loft which has become the perfect venue for smaller (400 capacity) concerts. Lansing has also been known for its original artists including but not limited to; 19 Wheels, Jen Sygit, Root Doctor, Global Village, Starform, Summer of Sol, John Beltran, Organissimo and Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle.

2. The Festivals! Old Town on its own hosts about 12 festivals each year!! Add to that Common Ground, Silver Bells, Taste of Downtown, Frost Fest, Christo Rey Fiesta, Ignite, BWL Chili Cook Off, Mosaic Festival, Dragon Boat Race, Apple Butter Festival, Maple Syrup Festival, Capital City Film Festival, TEDxLansing, and my favorite Be a Tourist in Your Own Town. WOW!
And finally my number one favorite thing about Lansing;

1. The Lansing River Trail. A few years back the trail was expanded south from Aurelius across Mt. Hope and into Hawk Island. From there you can continue south all the way to Jolly Rd which is the edge of Lansing’s southern border at that spot. I’ve heard they are planning a route into Holt there. To the east the trail connects to MSU campus which is already extremely bike and walking friendly. To the north (from Aurelius again) you travel passed Potter Park, Impression 5, the Lansing Center, The Lansing City Market, Old Town and up to the Turner Dodge Mansion. (See why I like it so much? You can take it to many of the things on this list!). Now go back south and the right turn you passed before will take you on the west route which takes you right to Moores River Park and really you can continue all the way to Frances Park since the roadway is very biker friendly here.

Even as I finish this up I realize I didn’t get to mention The Lansing City Market, or the Turner Street Outdoor Theatre, or the local publications that keep us up to date on information, or the media “celebrities” that participate in event after event and are a true part of what makes Lansing a great place to be. Maybe there isn’t a way to write out all the amazing things we do have going right here. I hope this might help Mid-Michiganders appreciate it maybe a little bit more. I also hope that this might let those not living here realize what they might be missing.

First to 500

Almost three weeks ago I woke up very early, 4 a.m. in fact to arrive at the staging area for Dirty Feat, Lansing’s very own adventure race. I had been asked by one of the coordinators to come in and photograph the eight hour event. There I stood among 174 participants each decked out in sporty outfits, bike helmets, head lamps, little biking packs and their sturdy bikes. Within an hour all had been checked in and were anxiously waiting to receive their maps to start their adventure. Yes, that’s right, this group of 87 pairs paid $60 each to participate in a race that started at 6 a.m. and they had no clue where they were going! As the buzzer sounded and all the teams took off running to their first two check in spots, Jeff Smith, one of the coordinators, looked at me with a smile and told me how much work went into this event, including a no sleep night before prep, and how anti climatic the start was. We both watched lines of Dirty Featers running around out on the streets in front of us. I said yes that might be true but you were able to get 174 people to pay to show up on a Saturday morning and bike, run and canoe for the next 8 hours. His smile back to me was priceless. He did do that, with some help of course, and he knew he did that.

Maybe it’s the ease of connectivity through resources like Facebook, Twitter and websites that make putting together events much, much easier. Essentially you can have a really great idea and share it with your “friends” to get needed support, attendees and any other essential needs. Basically City Saunter was exactly that. I had an idea and I saw a need. I created graphics and content and put it all out there for others to cheer me on. However there is one more step that needs to take effect and that’s the active part of the idea. It’s one thing to get people to say, wow that’s a great idea, but to take it to the action stage is another thing. It takes a lot of effort to make it worth the time for someone to read your blog or look at your photos or participate in an event. Recently a friend of mine, Justin Caine of Good Fruit and one of the participants of Dirty Feat started one of these “completely made up, but because you posted it to Facebook and people are getting involved it’s now real”, events. He is calling it First to 500. I saw it on my feed a couple of weeks ago and was definitely interested. I pulled up the event page and read the details. In essence all those that wish to participate will start keeping track of all of their exercise from July 1 to September 30, 2012 and the person that reaches 500 points first wins. The points are given out for the different types of exercise you do; e.g. swimming a mile is 8 points, walking/running a mile is 2 points, biking a mile is 1 point and workout tapes or weight lifting for an hour is 2 points. He even has a friend who is volunteering to keep track of all our points as we earn them. At this point there are 37 people actively working out to earn points for a competition that wasn’t in existence three weeks ago. Now I’m the type of person that doesn’t shy away from working out, which is obvious since I’ve taken it upon myself with my own project to walk all 400 miles of streets in Lansing, Michigan to help promote and improve the area. However I was surprised at how much this competition just plugged right into my desire for a challenge. I’ve never felt the urge to compete this much, ever. Maybe it’s hanging out with all these adventure racers. Maybe it’s watching people, like Justin who suffered an incredible set back at such a young age as he gets back up over and over and pushes himself to new levels. Not only does he push himself but he encourages the rest of us to join him. I find that to be an incredible motivator.

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