Sunday, December 18, 2016

Closing out 2016 in better places

To be sure, 2016 was a year of transitions and challenges. But as we close out the year, it is nice to see that we all are finding ourselves in better places.

Andrew had a very exciting year. He became engaged to Aubrey Williams this summer, and we are thrilled to have her as a future daughter-in-law.

Aubrey graduated this month with a master’s degree in speech therapy from Grand Valley State University, and she accepted a job with the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District  -- starting Jan. 3.
Dave and Julie were able to travel a little this year to see the Mets, and other things! They went to Cleveland and Milwaukee and later to Sault Ste, Marie before joining the traditional Labor Day walk across the Mackinac Bridge. Dave also saw his beloved Mets in Detroit. Of course, they lost all four games he attended.
Andrew has been working as a recreational therapist at Samaritas Senior Living in Grand Rapids, and was able to transfer to a similar role at the organization’s Traverse City location.

Traverse City is a beautiful community in Northern Michigan. If you do our Michigan hand thing, TC is located at the tip of the pinky. It’s famous for magnificent bays that lead to Lake Michigan, cherry farming and nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes, once recognized as the most beautiful place in the United States.

It’s also just about two hours north of Grand Rapids, so Andrew and Aubrey will never be too far away.

Caroline’s year was just as exciting. She’s a sophomore at Central Michigan University and was hired to be a resident assistant in Lazelere Hall.

Caroline is interested in government, and successfully ran for the Student Senate. She also worked as an intern this summer in the office of Michigan Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, learning about constituent service and attending legislative committee meetings.

Caroline and Dave had an epic trip to Washington, D.C., and did just about everything imaginable, including enjoying a staff-directed tour of the U.S. Capitol. They also went to the top of the Washington Monument, attended a Nationals game, toured the Supreme Court, multiple Smithsonian museums, the Archives, all the memorials on the National Mall, Ford's Theater  and more -- a wonderfully exhausting adventure.

Caroline also co-founded a nonprofit organization called Pack Your Back that collected school supplies for children in Flint, Mich. The group drew some financial and in-kind support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Walt Disney World and others.

CMU liked what the kids were doing and featured Caroline and co-founder Galen Miller in a series of ads and profiles. Caroline also was featured in an ad to recruit future resident assistants -- she was surprised to see her image on table tents in cafeterias across campus.
The whole family was fired up for the Chips!
Caroline is still playing piccolo in the Marching Chips and briefly escaped Michigan snow to perform at the Miami Beach Bowl.

We all are excited that Julie’s Mom, Alberta Nelson, moved this year from Champaign, Ill., to Rockford. We love having Mom nearby, and she hosted Thanksgiving dinner in the new place. Making the day extra special, Mom and Dad Murray made the trip from Florida – the first time both sides of the family were able to celebrate the holiday together!

Julie also keeps busy with her knitting projects, with several mentions of her handiwork on knitting podcasts. She also manages to keep the rest of us on track.
One of the highlights of the year was attending the wedding of friends Will Christensen and Laurie Larson on the shore of beautiful Torch Lake. Everything was perfect!
Dave’s new role in Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration keeps him on the go all across Pure Michigan. 

As the communications director for the Department of Talent and Economic Development, he oversees a team of 10 and focuses mostly on the challenge of developing talent and making communities stronger.
The Pure Michigan campaign is part of Dave's new department, so he and Julie attended the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR race at the Michigan International Speedway, and had some pretty neat experiences, from walking on the track to watching the pit crews up close  to meeting a driver and cheering in the Winner's Circle.
He’s working on a project in the Upper Peninsula, learning about the challenges faced by the communities of Ishpeming and Negaunee after one of the region’s iron mines closed.

Alas, despite spending time in the UP for both work and pleasure, a moose sighting remains elusive.
Will joined Dave for an awesome Kiss concert in Grand Rapids in August. We thought we were appropriately dressed until we encountered these members of the Kiss Army!
There were some difficult moments in 2016. But looking back, we recognize the Lord has blessed in so many ways. 

It’s wonderful to see the kids succeeding, and we’re so proud of them. Mom Murray endured some pretty tough health challenges, but none were are tough as she is! It’s so nice to have Mom Nelson nearby. 

We treasure the time we were able to spend with family from near and far. As we flip the last page on the calendar, we’re all in a good place.

We love to keep in touch. Everyone has a Facebook page and the family email is

Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe new year.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

College, careers and an empty nest in 2015

We are adjusting to life as empty nesters.

The holiday season finds Caroline off at college and Andrew with a job in the real world -- just two of the transitions we celebrated in 2015, which, as it comes to a close, we recognize as a very busy year.

Caroline wrapped up her senior year at Rockford High School with all the traditional activities – prom, graduation, open house – and moved ahead to her freshman year at Central Michigan University, where she majors in economics.
From prom to commencement to college, Caroline had a super-busy year.

Brother Andrew helped with the big college moving day.
Some aspects of the college world are familiar: Caroline plays piccolo in the mighty Marching Chips. You can catch the band and the football team on ESPN2, playing in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 28.

She’s also involved in the college version of the Rotary Club and student government. Her neighbor and best friend, Jordan Hill, also attends CMU, so campus is never a lonely place.

But Caroline is also learning about living away from home and sharing a room. CMU is located in Mount Pleasant, which is about an hour north of Lansing and about 80 miles from Rockford -- easy for Mom and Dad to head over for football games, concerts, supply runs and visits.
Every time we think about grumbling about the distance to CMU, we remember Caroline’s second choice was Michigan Tech University in Houghton, which, while still in the state, is about eight hours away at the farthest end of the Upper Peninsula. What’s the weather like in Houghton? The mascot is a husky named “Blizzard” and students have free access to a ski hill. We visited in February – during the spectacular Winter Carnival -- and were touched by the kindness of the people, struck by the beauty of the region and impressed by the programs. But CMU’s Business School was a better fit for Caroline.
Caroline also sparked a family vacation. Despite much photographic evidence, she claimed to have no memories of going to Disney World. We drove to Florida in early January, heading to Orlando with Poppy and Grandma for new and refreshed memories in the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT.

Andrew had an exciting year, landing a full-time job with Maple Creek retirement community, where he gets to use his experience assisting the senior population. We’re very proud of Andrew, and it’s exciting to think about the many people he’ll get to help during his career.
Andrew showing off his new sweater, one of Julie's projects that was discussed on a knitting podcast.
Nephew Zack Horve spent a day in Lansing with Uncle Dave to work on a Boy Scouts merit badge. It ended up being a pretty eventful day, with the U.S. Supreme Court announcing a ruling that affected Michigan. We later went to see the Lansing Lugnuts play the West Michigan Whitecaps, where Zack won a television. Pretty good day!
Julie enjoys her job in the communications department at Grand Rapids Community College, sharing the news of the college’s success through social media, speeches and media relations.

Her knitting has drawn some attention. Commentators on the podcast “Ladies of the Knit” twice discussed some of her projects. She also chronicles the family’s adventures in scrapbooks and takes part in the church’s new book club. 

Julie also basks in unconditional adoration from Tug, the family cat, who apparently has a following on Facebook and beyond.

Dave is excited about his November promotion to press secretary, working with an awesome communications team to tell the story of Gov. Rick Snyder and Michigan’s comeback.

Press secretary in action.  Here's Dave conducting a "scrum" press conference after Gov. Snyder signed the bill that sets aside money to better maintain Michigan's aging roads and infrastructure.
We frequently travel around Michigan and sometimes pop into other states. But August brought the adventure of a lifetime when Dave was part of the Michigan delegation on an investment mission to China. 

We visited five cities – starting in Beijing and ending in Shanghai – meeting with government and business leaders and lots of reporters along with way. Highlights include visiting the Great Wall and West Lake, formal dinners and the ceremony involved with signing a memorandum of understanding at the Ministry of Commerce.

Every step brought something different and exciting. To visit China is to be awed by its modern and ancient architecture, fascinated by its history and warmed by the hospitality of its people.

Sometimes we go to other countries to tell the Michigan story, and sometimes  people from other countries come to Michigan. Dave was able to be part of the team that worked on the visit of the King and Queen of the Netherlands to Grand Rapids. Dave helped King Willem Alexander conduct a press conference before getting on the plane. And they needed to get on that plane on time -- it was the day of Caroline's graduation.
And, while the World Series didn’t end quite the way we had hoped, the Mets presented us with an incredible season, and there was at least one Mets flag flying proudly in Michigan throughout the fall.

One of the most exciting nights of the year: Dave and Will Christensen  met up in Chicago to see the epic Rush R40 concert. They wrote about the event and their favorite band for months prior on the Mets Guy in Michigan blog.
Looking back, we treasure the opportunities to be with our families and friends as schedules fill up and there are increasing demands on everyone’s time. This holiday season is a reminder that the Lord has blessed us with busy and exciting lives, and we are always appreciative of this.

We love to keep in touch. Everyone has a Facebook page. Dave actually has two – one for friends and family and one for people who like hearing about our adventures in Michigan’s reinvention. The family email remains

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and a very healthy new year. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

How did 2014 pass by in an instant?

Julie and Caroline enjoyed Lansing's "Silver Bells in the City" festival, which includes a light parade, lighting the state Christmas tree and fireworks over the Capitol dome.

How does a year pass by in an instant?

As 2014 comes to a close, we look back at a busy year, with big transitions and plans and exciting times and travels.

Caroline had the busiest year. She is wrapping up at Rockford High School and making the most of her senior year. There have been homecoming dances and senior photos and all the other activities of 12th grade.

She was super-active in the marching band, serving as co-section leader for the flutes. The band had a triumphant year, closing with its best performance at the MCBA State Championship at Ford Field in Detroit. After finishing third in each of the past five years, the mighty Rams finished in second place for the first time!
Caroline and friend Maddy P. show off their medals!
Caroline and band director Brian Phillips after learning about her special award.
But the best surprise came a couple of weeks later, when Caroline was named the 2014 National School Marching Award winner, an honor based on student and staff votes, for her skill, leadership and overall contribution to the band. Her name goes on a plaque that will hang in the band room for years to come.

This video gives a taste of this year's awesome band show, "Before I Wake." Each year, the band performs a version of the show in the auditorium to show seventh- and eighth-graders what they can do once they are in the high school. You get the music, but not the marching. Caroline is the second flute, in the third row from the right.

When not playing the flute and piccolo, Caroline keeps busy as one of the leaders of the school’s Interact Service Club. She’s the blood drive coordinator and is pretty relentless and convincing as she goes door to door in the neighborhood and to local businesses distributing fliers. We’re all a few pints low, but it’s for a good cause.
Caroline was active with Special Olympics, mentoring and coaching athletes and designing their shirts.

Dave's friend Cory Olsen shot Caroline's senior photos and did and amazing job. Thanks, Cory!
She also had some fun travels this year. Our awesome neighbors, the Hills, invited Caroline to join them on a wonderful spring break adventure to Hilton Head, S.C. Jordan and Caroline have been friends since we moved to Grand Rapids in 1999.
Caroline loved going to South Carolina with Jordan and the Hills during spring break.

Caroline later spent a week in Florida with Grandma and Poppy – her first time changing flights as a solo traveler. Later, she and Dave went to St. Louis to climb to the top of the Gateway Arch and see the Cardinals.

With high school winding down, Caroline is looking ahead to selecting a college and plans to major in economics.
Dad and Mom Murray were able to attend Andrew's GVSU graduation.

Andrew is making the big transition from college to the real world. He graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work. He’s very excited to be out on his own, sharing a house in Grand Rapids with his friend Christian. Andrew started his career helping troubled adolescents and continues working as a lifeguard at the YMCA, interning with the Y’s social workers. We’re very proud of him.
Julie and Mom Nelson went to check out one of nephew Zack Horve's football games on a cold and windy afternoon. Zack also pitches and is very involved with Boy Scouts. 

Julie is an avid knitter, working furiously on projects for people who are “knit worthy.” (Dave has been deemed “not knit worthy” and hopes to someday be redeemed). 

Julie is in her second year working in Grand Rapids Community College’s communications department, overseeing social media, writing press releases and drafting speeches for President Ender. Highlights of the year were keeping pesky reporters in their media pen while President Jimmy Carter spoke at the college and all the festivities surrounding GRCC’s 100th anniversary.
Julie represented Grand Rapids Community College at a special ArtPrize event. 

Julie and Dave were able to attend the Detroit Auto Show charity gala while staffing the governor.
Julie’s also an avid cropper, chronicling the family’s adventures and milestones in scrap books, usually accompanied and supervised by Tug, the cat.
Naturally, there were some baseball adventures in 2014. Julie made her first-ever trip to Wrigley Field. 

Dave went from covering politicians to working for a politician to becoming a politician. He appeared on the August primary ballot, running for precinct delegate – the lowest possible elected position.

Naturally, this effort required a full campaign, with Caroline designing buttons and a yard sign. 

Technically, he was running unopposed, with two candidates vying for two open seats. But the hard-fought campaign successfully turned back any potential challenges from write-in candidates!

The successful election granted Dave a seat at the Kent County convention, where he was part of a slate elected to the state convention to determine the candidates who appeared on the November ballot.

Of course, the person at the head of the ticket was Dave’s boss – Gov. Rick Snyder. It was a pretty exciting and exhausting year to be deputy press secretary, visiting all parts of the state with the governor, including a first-ever trip deep into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Naturally, the Gnome of Victory and Celebration joined us to experience the UP and a traditional UP meal -- the pasty!
That journey was quite the adventure, including a time getting lost in the wilderness with no cellphone reception or GPS service and hungry bears no doubt peeking around every tree. The rest of the trip was safer, including fascinating tours of a copper mine and a lumber mill, plus visits to Marquette, Menominee, Escanaba and the U.P. State Fair.

You can read more about these adventures and see the photos here in the Mets Guy blog.

The family returned to the U.P. for Labor Day weekend, exploring beautiful Tahquamenon Falls State Park and dining on pasties. Dave and Caroline joined Gov. Snyder and other members of the team leading the Mackinac Bridge Walk, a 5-mile trek across the span that connects the state’s upper and lower peninsulas.
You can see the Mackinac Bridge off in the distance!

Caroline was able to catch up with Gov. Snyder after the 5-mile walk.

The governor was triumphant on Election Day, and Dave is thrilled to be a part of the “Nerd Herd” and continuing to work on making our adopted state a better place. Come visit!
You meet some colorful folks on the campaign trail, like Kid Rock.

The Detroit News captured the deputy press secretary in action during this election night "scrum." It was a night filled with relief and exhilaration. 

The governor's communications team after the victory speech: Ken Silfven, Jess Brown, Dave, Sara Wurfel, Jarrod Agen, Laura Biehl.
Looking back on an eventful year, we realized we worked through some challenges and stressful times. But we also know that the Lord has blessed us in more ways than we can count and we cherish the special times we can spend with special people.

We love keeping up with everyone on Facebook. (Dave has two pages, one for family and friends and the other for people interested in the activities of Michigan state government.) The family email address remains, and, now that the campaign is over and life slows down a little, Dave can get back to writing about baseball and bad postcards on Mets Guy in Michigan.

Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and happy, healthy new year!