U of M Ski Trip to Vail

A group of guys have been going on this ski trip for a while. This year, Thorne let me know he and Blaine had space in their room and invited me along. Among the other first timers were Blaine, Jon, Lamarchial and possibly some others. Some people departed as others arrived, but my guess is that there were about 16 or 17 people in this group (almost all Sigma Nus, plus some relatives and close friends).

The SF crew arrived Thursday afternoon, but some others had already had a full day of skiing and were gathered at the Red Lion for après. We spent hours there catching up before moving over to Vendetta’s for pizza and the Michigan basketball game. We finished the evening at the hotel before calling it a night. It’s no wonder why some of them did not make it to first chair, but the committed were waiting at the Gondola 1 before service officially started.

It’s not easy to keep a group this large together on a mountain like Vail. To that point, we lost Lamar about 3 minutes after getting off the gondola and didn’t see him again until lunch. It was almost as bad as losing your kid at the mall. There wasn’t a lot of new snow, but it was good enough. The groomers were a lot better than the back bowls, and we covered a lot of the mountain in search of good terrain.

How many old dudes can you fit in a hot tub? Too many is the answer. The size of the group also made it hard to find fine dining, but that was okay because we all fit inside the Blü Cow. Those guys behind the bar had no idea a group would come in and pay for the next 3 months’ rent. I wasn’t there to shut it down, but they reserved half the restaurant for us for the following night as well.

Although I’ve seen most of these guys here and there over the years, I hadn’t met John before because he was a little after my time in the house. The Flint crew showed up on Friday, and Paul and I decided we hadn’t seen each other since college. That meant it was awesome to catch up on almost 30 years and also learn he has 580K TikTok followers. Who knew!

The number of skiers/boarders dwindled on Saturday, with some opting for recovery. Greg and Scott had a beautiful champagne lunch at the Four Seasons. We’re all very happy for them. The rest of us were dining on burgers and chicken strips at the Eagle’s Nest and only the bravest continued on through the end of a very full day of skiing and riding.

Saturday’s Michigan-OSU game did not end as well, but we shook it off with more Vendetta’s (sorry, Blü Cow crew) in Greg’s room. Things got a little crazy with our all-night Euchre tournament. No punches were thrown, but let’s just say some people will do anything to win.

Sunday, I ventured out alone for a few runs in the morning before packing up and saying our farewells. Thorne, Idema and I had our first civilized meal of the trip at Sweet Basil before heading out to Eagle and home.

One thing I loved about this trip was that I got to really catch up with everyone, unlike at a tailgate or a game. There’s lots of time on the chairlift and while hanging out to meaningfully reconnect. On the mountain and in the bar, everyone is still 20. But our conversations really reflect our age as we celebrate our children (and babies!) and partners, support each other with our aging parents, lift some out of unimaginable hardships, compare colonoscopies and cholesterol levels, and contemplate the next phase of life.

However that next phase plays out for each of us, I hope we can keep doing this trip while our knees and (some) livers will allow. Until next time.

Note: I can’t be in all places at all times to capture all the shenanigans, so these are a collection of photos from the trip.

Long weekend in Tahoe with Moons

We spent the long weekend with the Moons in Lake Tahoe. Clara and Grace conspired to sign-up Lucas for ski team at Northstar. This was his first time skiing with his Mountain Explorers team. He’ll get some more days on the mountain this season and is happy to have Nico to keep him company.

Olivia and Alex didn’t ski/ride as much this weekend, but they still got out for some tubing. We didn’t end up getting on the mountain on our last day, so the four kids went tubing instead. It was a great end to our weekend together.

Thanks, Moons, for having us (as always). We’ll see you again in two weeks.

Ski Trip to Beaver Creek with Jea and Eddie

We planned a ski trip for the 2nd week of the kids’ break. It’s always a gamble with the snow that early in the season and a week or two before our trip to Beaver Creek it was looking very bleak. It was dumping in California during that time, but not all of the storms seemed to be hitting Colorado.

While we’re used to going to Beaver Creek now, we chose it in particular because Jea and Eddie planned to be their with their family and their friends. It’s a crazy time to travel and the only thing we could find was a 3 BR at the Westin. We didn’t need all the space, so Jea and Eddie joined us in one of our rooms, which was nice to be able to stay together.

Between COVID-19 and the weather, our flight to Eagle was cancelled after several delays. We spent most of the day at the airport trying to re-route and got on a flight to Denver in the afternoon, rented a car, and drove ourselves up that evening. It was very snowy and slow, but we made it safely, but our bags did not.

We arrived on Sunday, but our bags didn’t arrive until Wednesday night. Luckily I had shipped all of our ski gear ahead of time because we were supposed to be coming directly from NY. The kids didn’t have their base layers, so we bought some there and everyone wore the same clothes for 3 days straight. Thankfully we had laundry in the unit to stay fresh.

It snowed pretty much every day we were there, yet much of the mountain and lifts were still not open. The lack of staff impacted everything from the restaurants, in-room dining menu, and lift operations. I don’t think I skied a groomed run all week. Even Starbucks was shut down in the hotel, which is usually an important part of our routine.

In any case, we made the most of the fresh snow and being with our friends. It wasn’t easy to coordinate the whole group, but the kids skied together some days, as did the adults. We had some meals together and celebrated Olivia’s birthday. We enjoyed spending time with the Lim family and their boys were great with Olivia and Lucas (even if they were no match for him in Super Smash Bros). We were supposed to spend NYE together, but the other groups headed out a day early to beat a big storm that threatened to snow them in. They made it safely to Denver after a 5-hour drive.

We were suffering as well back at the hotel, watching Michigan get destroyed in the semi-finals. I barely made it to east coast midnight, but I did manage to get out early on New Years Day to find some fresh powder. Lucas and I skied 6 days while Olivia took her birthday off with Grace.

Although we were delayed again on the way home, we were relieved to just get a flight out with all the cancellations. We made it home safely with all of our luggage (though our shipped ski bags were dropped off ironically to the wrong house).

Happy New Year!

Annual U of M Holiday Party – 2021

It’s hard enough to schedule a holiday party and much more so during a pandemic. We skipped it last year, but were determined to get back on track this year. Some regulars decided to leave the country (temporarily) and others had conflicts. Amy and Grady were kind enough to host at their new home.

In the time of COVID-19, it’s perfectly normal for one of the hosts to participate virtually. Grady had a solid reason to be away and Amy handled this rowdy group effortlessly. As we age, the gift exchange becomes tamer and tamer (and more full of CBD-related products).

Glad we didn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with dear friends, despite a lot of other things going on. Happy Holidays and GO BLUE!

Lunch with Lilly in SF

Mom has been missing her beloved Mia so much. We had lunch with her daughter, Lilly, in San Francisco during her visit. We spent some time before lunch at the Ferry Building and walked to Waterbar along the Embarcadero. It was so nice to catch up and hear about her family and her new passions.

Lucas’s 13th Birthday Party

Lucas had a small birthday party with some friends from school. He wanted to do VR at Sandbox, which only allows 6 participants. Afterwards, the kids came over for dinner (Delfina, his favorite) and hanging out.

Lucas also received generous presents from his family.

Happy Birthday, Lucas! We love you.

Michigan Grandpa’s Memorial

Michigan grandpa passed away peacefully just after 8pm ET on Thursday, October 7th, 2021. Aunt Jen and I were able to get to the hospital a few hours before he passed. He was surround by good friends and passed away just after they left the hospital.

These are the words I shared at his memorial:

Our father and husband, Hak Inn Rhee, was born on December 28, 1935 in Kwangju, Korea. His father died when he was only 3 years old, and thus he and his younger brother were raised by a strong, single mother.

He attended Korea University and served in the Korean Army before coming to the United States in 1961 to continue his education. He first arrived in Chicago, his US hometown, where he took classes and worked in the library at the University of Chicago. While I knew he studied political science later in his academic career, it wasn’t until recently he told me he was studying library science there. He was primarily trying to learn English.

He didn’t realize how expensive private education was and worked summers in steel mills to pay for his tuition and living expenses. Seeking a more affordable master’s program, he moved to Michigan to complete his masters at Eastern Michigan University. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment came early, when he convinced my mother to leave her relatively comfortable life in Korea in 1965 and join him in the US. Perhaps his second greatest accomplishment was convincing her to stay. They were married the following year and remained so for the next 55 years, through better and worse, and in sickness and in health.


Jen (then Jenny) was born later that year in Ypsilanti. After completing his masters at Eastern, the three of them moved to Detroit where my dad enrolled at Wayne State to pursue his PhD, studying Political Science. He started working part-time at Silver’s, a family-owned office supply business in Highland Park, to support the family. He told me the only job he could get with a PhD in Poly Sci was a professor. My mom told me he said he was doing well at Silver’s and could just work there full time and make a life. He did just that after about 2 years. I was born in Detroit in 1970 and in 1973, the family moved to West Bloomfield, where Dad lived in the same home for the remainder of his life.

In the early 80s, I remember him coming home and proudly showing me his business card, which had “Vice President” printed on it. I was too young to really understand what it meant, but it marked the ascent of an immigrant green card holder who started out on the stock floor and ended up running their commercial operations. This business, however, was run by a father and son, which ultimately left no where else for my father to rise to secure his family’s future. Dad told me the owner’s son, who I understood loved my dad, cried when my dad resigned.

Thus, in the mid-80s, seeking more for his family, Dad set out on his own and started a retail and commercial office supply store in Farmington Hills. Jen and I worked there after school, on weekends, and during summers. The business was called “JR & Company.” To this day, it’s still not clear if it was named after Jennifer or Jason Rhee, but Jen often reminds me that my initials are JJR, which is a fair point (Jen has no legal middle name).

As I was informing friends of Dad’s passing, almost all of them reminded me that they had worked for my dad at the store at some point or another. One cried, not just for my loss, but for theirs. A few years ago at my high school reunion, a friend with whom I was not close asked me how my dad was doing, which surprised me because I didn’t know how he would know him. He told me he was in a job program at school and my dad hired him through it. I have a pretty good memory and him working there escapes me because it was completely independent of me. He said my dad was awesome and that he was thankful for the job. In college, a van-load of fraternity brothers helped move my dad’s store to a new location. He took us all out for dinner afterwards. One of them reached out to me this week and recalled helping that day. I’m so glad so many friends got to know him as more than just my dad. Through his work, Dad probably touched a lot more people than we realized.


Outside of work, Dad had a lot of different passions and interests, which he was never shy to express with his friends and family.

His primary passion was for politics, and in particular, human rights in his home country of Korea. He got this from his mother, who was a formidable human rights activist in Korea. He valued fairness and equality, and always rooted for the underdog, whether in sports or in life.

In addition to his human rights campaigning in Korea from afar, he was also passionate about the Korean-American community in Detroit and was involved in many different ways. He was a board member of Sae Jong Society of Metro Detroit. Later, he volunteered at the Korean Cultural Center in Detroit. More recently, he volunteered as a translator for non-English-speaking Koreans dealing with immigration or legal issues. His dedication inspired me in my own service to Sae Jong Camp, which is now loved by Lucas and Olivia, too.

He was always up on current events, being very well read and informed. He could pass any amount of time, reading the paper, a magazine or a book. More recently, he spent a lot of time on his computer, reading news about Korea and getting spammed by way too many progressive causes.

I mentioned sports before and Dad loved many of them, including football, basketball and baseball. He rooted for the Bears and the White Sox, his hometown Chicago teams. He also rooted for U of M, which is consistent with his affinity for underdogs.

Dad also enjoyed golf and poker with his friends. Though he wasn’t very boastful ever, except about his own intelligence and cleverness (Sorry, Olivia and Lucas, it’s genetic), I do recall him flashing me wads of cash winnings from the prior night’s game. Ultimately what he loved about these activities the most was his time with his friends.


He had many friends and kept in touch with college and even middle school friends here in Michigan. As one of the earliest Korean-American settlers in the Detroit area, he met most of his friends here.

Spencer left me a beautiful message the other day and reminded me what a good friend Dad was to his dad. The truth is they were good friends to each other and I’m glad they will be laid to rest next to each other as they had planned.

Because Dad’s family was so small and that his younger brother preceeded him in death by many years, his friends were his family. As long as I can remember, our holidays were shared with the Yoons, Parks and Nams, and later also included Dr. Rhee and our beloved Mia.

We shared a beautiful moment together at the hospital where the Nams, Parks and Dr. Choi and Dr. Choo came to his bedside together with us. Dad passed away peacefully just about 20 minutes after they left and only a few hours after Jen and I got to the hospital. He held out just long enough to see those closest to him and didn’t linger long.


As for our times together, as father and son, I used to wonder how he knew how to be a dad when he didn’t grow up with one himself. I have fond memories of him doing dad things with me. I remember the first time we went fishing together at Orchard Lake one day after work. I caught a sunfish and we put it in a fishing pail, which is still in our garage at home (the pail, not the fish). I played little league when I was younger and he would often play catch with me after work and come to my games.

It wasn’t lost on me how markedly different Dad was from most other Korean fathers I knew. His English was excellent and he spoke it to me exclusively my whole life. He also swore a fair amount. He was pretty funny, again relative to most dads. He liked to joke and tease, the latter not always being fun or funny. Once, when we were swimming in the ocean in Japan, he thought it was funny to throw jellyfish on me, and I had all these sting marks on my body. Funny, but not that funny.

He also had a warped sense of fun when it came to his grandchildren, where his teasing often ended in their tears. I would see him dangling their beloved loveys just out reach, shaking my head. They probably don’t remember that, but the trauma may have seeded their more recent annoyance with “Michigan Grandpa”, with his constant questions and re-telling of the same stories. His sweet spot with them was when they were babies and toddlers. He was great at strollering them around town, taking them to the park, and driving them to and from school.

He didn’t discipline me like other dads. I don’t really remember being spanked, except for a couple instances. Most of the time he just talked to me. When I did something really wrong, he just told me he was disappointed, and that was enough for me to learn from those mistakes.

It was also easy for him to tell me when he was proud of me. After speaking to so many of you yesterday, sounds like he told you, too. I knew he was always rooting for me. Recently we purchased our first home and he told me he was happy for us and that we deserved our good fortune.

Perhaps being raised by and married to strong women, he always treated Jen and me equally. If I was the favorite child, it wasn’t because I was the son or the youngest. It was probably because he and Jen were too much alike: stubborn, strong-willed, and opinionated. But, they also shared a love of all the sports I mentioned before.

He wasn’t a hero to me like some dads are to others. He was human, and made mistakes as we all do. Some of his were big ones, and for those, he also taught me indirectly about forgiveness and grace.


In 2004, he had a heart attack and quadruple bypass. He was pretty sick at the time, so I viewed his time with us since as a gift. He was able to attend my wedding the year after. When he came to see his first grandchild, Olivia, he cried as he was leaving from his visit. I’m so glad that he was able to spend good time with Olivia and Lucas, and helped to take care of them during his extended visits to California. I know he really enjoyed being a grandparent to them and was proud of them. More recently, he enjoyed spoiling Jen’s dog Blue from the dinner table.

It’s really my mom who deserves the credit for keeping him alive all these years, particularly the last few when his health issues started piling up. Mom, thank you for taking care of him for us. Almost every time I spoke to him, he told me how much he hated dialysis, which is understandable. When I talked to him after his last couple hospitalizations, he would pick up the phone and exclaim, “I’m alive!” and he told me, “As long as I’m alive, I’m going to keep fighting.” I’m glad he is now free from the fight and the struggle. May he rest in peace, knowing he made a good life, together with my mom, for his children and grandchildren.

We’ve only begun our journey without him. He will be very missed by all of us. We love you, Dad.

4th of July in Tahoe with Moons

You know things are getting back to normal when we’re in Tahoe with the Moons for 4th of July. We had intentions of setting out early on Friday morning, but didn’t quite make it. It didn’t seem to make much difference because traffic was bad.

For as many times as we’ve passed Ikeda’s on the way up, Grace has never been. The kids and I stopped on our first Airstream trip, but they don’t really remember. We had a good stop for lunch and groceries.

When we’re at home, the kids spend most of their waking hours gaming with the Moon boys online. In Tahoe, it was the same, but in person. Just kidding – they spent time playing chess, ping pong and a little time outdoors, too.

Our biggest excursion was tubing down the Truckee river. We have done it in the past with rafting operators, but Mike had the gear for DIY tubing thanks to a pickup from Clara and Grace at the end. Speaking of pickups, Mike’s Ohio roots are starting to show with his new Ram truck! Grace has been informed that we’re getting a Raptor so we can duel.

My tube started to deflate on the first leg, which was exciting. I also spent the first leg of the trip Googling “Is the iPhone 11 waterproof?,” but I never had enough signal. It turns out it is! The kids worked well together to keep us out of danger. We ran into a couple friends on the river, which was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday evening, we couldn’t convince Clara and Grace to head to the barn to see Wonder Bread 5, but Mike and I wouldn’t miss it. Sunday was pretty chill as we celebrated America’s birthday. Olivia caught a fish (they’re not smart this early in the season).

We were able to squeeze in a little Thando baseball after dinner before getting in the car to return home. We were talking in the car about how we never really make it a point to see fireworks on the 4th and we’re often driving back from festivities at that time. This time, we saw ALL the fireworks on the way home, which really didn’t end as we arrived before midnight.

Thanks to the Moons for hosting us again in Tahoe. It’s always beautiful and relaxing. The kids (and adults) have been having fun together since birth and I hope they never outgrow their special friendship.

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