Tag Archive | family

Circus Trip 2018: Marshall, Michigan

Days 70, Sunday, September 23, 2018
Marshall, Michigan

Sunday morning my parents and I had breakfast with my Aunt Elaine, Uncle Richard and cousin Stephanie, and then we were off to the other side of the state to visit my mom’s side of the family.  Mom’s family is much smaller, but I have an aunt, uncle and cousin (and a few other relatives outside of Michigan) who live in Galesburg, Michigan, a small town outside of Kalamazoo. 

We headed over to the other side of the state, but driving separately since my parents had their own rental car.  I stopped in Marshall, Michigan and did a little wandering and shopping.  Marshall is a cute little town with a historic downtown area with shops and antique stores (which unfortunately are mostly closed on Sundays), and several nicely painted murals on the buildings.  

And then my cousin Megan met me at Dark Horse Brewing Company.  If you feel like you have heard of it, you probably have.  They had a reality show there several years ago, but I’ve never actually seen the show.  Megan and I got a beer and a pretzel with beer cheese, and I got a t-shirt!

That evening was pretty quiet, just enjoying a dinner of pork tenderloin tacos with the family, and catching up.

Not every day on the road can be thrilling I guess!


Circus Trip 2018: East-side Michigan

Days 66 – 69, Wednesday – Saturday, September 19 – 22, 2018

I had reached Michigan for a stay with my family. At this point, I had been on the road for more than two months. I had driven from Washington State to Maine, down to Washington, D.C., and back to Michigan. Most of the those over 60 nights on the road were spent in campgrounds, with three in hotels and seven spent with friends and family.

So how was I feeling? Pretty good! I was really enjoying being out on the road! I could set my own pace, I could go where I wanted and stay as long as I wanted.  The problem I was running into was that I wanted to stay longer at each place, and worried that I wouldn’t make it all the way around the country before I ended up having to head home.  I could relax and decompress when I needed to after a very rough couple of years.  I suppose that is a good problem to have, and looking back on this time, I recognize what an amazing experience this was, and how it helped me heal.  After another rough couple of years, I’m ready for this again.

I found myself finding so many things to do in each local area I visited.  In addition to googling things, I asked people what was around, stumbled upon activities, followed informational road signs, and headed down back roads to see what I could find.  GPS is truly a Godsend.

I arrived in Michigan a few days ahead of my cousin’s wedding, and had some time to hang out with my parents who flew in, my aunts and uncles and cousins.  It was great to have the family time.  And sadly it was the last time I really had a vacation with my Dad, but of course I didn’t know that at the time… 

Wednesday I slept in and had a lazy day, and caught up with my parents, since I hadn’t seen them for two months!  That evening I went out for dessert with my cousins and the bride’s friends; cheesecake and Sauvignon Blanc.

We decorated the hall for the wedding on Thursday, making flower arrangements with twinkle lights inside, and hanging photos.  It was fun to help.  On the way home, my mom and I visited the Bay County Historical Society Museum.  I’ll post about that separately!  


My mom and I went to the Christmas store in Frankenmuth on Friday.  It’s called Bronner’s and if you have never been there, you are in for a surprise.  It is a gigantic store, filled with every imaginable Christmas item.  Ornaments galore, garlands, nativities, trees, and more.  They will also personalize ornaments with names or phrases for free!  I always love visiting there when I am in Michigan.  I also went to the Black Star Farms tasting room and did a tasting and got a few bottles of bubbles and a Riesling for mom.  I had their wines several years before when I was in Michigan and I was so excited to have them again! 

Friday night was the wedding.  It was beautiful and sweet, and I loved watching my uncle walk my cousin down the aisle; his first granddaughter to get married…  It was fun to catch up with lots of my family members who came in for the wedding.

Saturday at lunch we all met up at Krzyziak’s Polish Buffet.  There were 19 of us and that is just my Dad’s side!  Yea, I have a big family when we all get together.  The Pacific Northwest doesn’t really have many Polish restaurants (or perhaps none), so I always enjoy getting back to my roots on my Michigan trips!  I also loved seeing my Dad so happy, surrounded by his sisters and all my cousins.  Family meant so much to him and he lit up when we visited.  I miss that.



Looking back those days meant a lot to me.  There weren’t really visits to places to blog about, but spending time with my family that I don’t get to see often enough (and then COVID) was truly precious. 

Me and Dad – September 2018

The next day I was off with my parents to spend a few days with my mom’s side of the family too!



Circus Trip 2018: A Break

I’m in Michigan visiting my extended family.  Yesterday was my cousin’s wedding, so I got the chance to see quite a few of my aunts, uncles and cousins.  It is so nice to catch up and hear the old stories!

Today we had a lunch with the family who could make it, and ended up with a reunion of 19 of us at the Polish restaurant in town.  Good food and great conversation!

Tomorrow I’m off to visit my mom’s side of the family on the other side of Michigan.  I will be there for a few days, and then I will be getting back on the road.

It has been a nice respite, with good food, a real bed, and lots of hugs from the family.  I am blessed to have such a good family.

The photo is me in the dress I wore to the wedding.

I hope you are all having a great weekend!


2016 White Water Rafting

White water rafting has been on my bucket list for several years. And thanks to an invitation from my aunt and uncle, I got to go on my first trip!

My uncle’s niece runs a white water rafting business on the White Salmon Wild and Scenic River in White Salmon, WA. Although she is my cousin’s cousin, she is technically not my cousin. But having such a large family, these family distinctions get pretty blurry in my world, so we have just declared each other cousins! That’s often way easier than trying to explain that someone is your second cousin, or your first cousin once removed, or your who-knows-how-someone-is-actually-related-to you…

The trip took place in July, when I went down to spent a long weekend with my aunt, uncle and cousin. Before we drove out to the rafting site, we had lunch at a little café in White Salmon, WA, a cute yet tiny town along the Columbia River in the Gorge. My lunch was a delicious scramble with a cup of gourmet coffee.

We headed north from White Salmon to find BZ Corner and All Adventures Rafting, our guides and our gear! The first order of business was safety. Learning what would be expected for a safe and fun adventure. How to paddle, when to paddle, how and when to paddle backwards and most importantly, what happens if someone falls out of the raft!

Next, we were each fitted with a wetsuit, booties, and a splash jacket.  The water in the White Salmon River is only about 40 degrees even in the summer, because its headwaters are on Mount Adams.  Staying warm is a major consideration.  We had swimsuits on underneath.  And we got helmets too – you know, for that aforementioned falling out of the raft thing…

We rode up to where the rafts were ready to be launched, and went on our way!

My cousin and I were in the two front seats of the rafts.  The wettest seats.  We had a blast!


I’m on the far left – in the front right seat

Parts of the river were very calm, and we had an opportunity to hear about the history of the river, its flora and fauna of the area.  The White Salmon River was dammed in 1913 by the Condit Dam, and the dam was removed in 2011.  It is one of two dams in Washington State that have been removed in order to restore critical salmon and steelhead habitat.

The story of the Condit Dam removal was an interesting one. The dam was built with fish ladders, but they were wiped out twice by floods shortly after the dam was built. Ultimately, they decided to not build new ladders, effectively wiping out the spawning grounds for salmon and steelhead on the river. In the 1990s, when the dam’s owners applied to renew their permits, a determination was made to require remediation for the habitat that was lost. The cost was prohibitive, operating the dam no longer made sense and the company ultimately decided to work toward removing the dam.

The removal was not without controversy. Property owners upriver from the dam had enjoyed a man-made lake for many years – removal of the dam lowered the level of the river in that area significantly and eliminated the lake. You could still see docks and stairs going down to what was the former water level, high up the cliffs. Other than the few homes that were right upstream from where the dam once was, I was fascinated by how wild the river still is – there were very few homes along the river and very little evidence of development.

Other areas of the river are white water rapids.  They were so much fun!  My cousin, who was steering the raft, did such a good job of keeping us rowing together and adjusting to get us positioned for the rapids.  The front seats really were wet – several times I was completely covered by water!


I’m in there somewhere!

The entire trip took us a 8.5 miles down the river, and was about 3 hours.  I had a blast – I haven’t laughed that much in a long time.  Which was kind of a drawback for pictures, since there were many where my mouth was wide open, laughing (or gasping for breath)!



After our rafting trip, my family and some of the staff from All Adventures Rafting hung out and had a picnic dinner together, with hotdogs, fresh salad greens from the garden, cowboy caviar, and beer and soda.  It was a great evening.

If you have the chance to go; I highly recommend All Adventures Rafting.  I would even say that if they were not my family.  It is a small, family owned business that is committed to sustainable, green practices.  They only put two rafts on each trip, so the groups are small and personal.  This is one of the best experiences I have had, and certainly a highlight of my year!

Farewell 2014 – Say Hello to 2015!

What is it about growing older that just makes the years fly by?  I feel like just a few weeks ago, I wrote my 2013 Year in Review post, and now it is time (actually a bit overdue) for the 2014 post!  There’s no doubt I had good year, but of course, it wasn’t without its hardships.  In no particular order…

  1. Biz, my Quarter Horse gelding, had to have another tooth pulled this spring.  Fortunately, he had no complications.  He also celebrated his 27th birthday!
  2. Jon and I took an amazing roadtrip to the Southwest.  We visited six states, got to hike in some of the world’s most beautiful places, and learned about our country’s history.  Plus, we drank some good beer, checked out the stars, and topped it off with a family wedding.
  3. I finished my sixth half marathon, with several of my close friends.  It was a great weekend spent with good food, great wine, and fabulous company.  I love my friends!  It was my first half marathon with my husband too – I still consider it together even though he finished 90 minutes before I did.
  4. My uncle died in August, after a several year battle with colon cancer.  I was fortunate to be able to visit him before he died.
  5. Jon and I took a trip to Michigan in October to visit my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins.  We also got the chance to visit the northern part of mainland Michigan and sample some great beer and wine, and hike at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Posts coming!
  6. Jon and I, with a lot of help from Jon’s dad, painted our huge deck.  It was an incredible amount of work, and many gallons of paint!  It also makes me wish that the previous owner had stained the deck originally, instead of painting it.  I’m glad it is done (for now)!
  7. After driving by many times on our way to and from Portland, Oregon, Jon and I finally visited Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  It was so cool!
  8. It was a quiet year on the kitty front – everybody is healthy and happy.  Although Oliver is getting older, he is still well, Oscar continues to become more tame, and Coraline is a cheerful little pudge who loves tormenting her brothers.
  9. I have another new niece or nephew on the way!  He or she – it is going to be a surprise – will be joining the family in February 2015!
  10. I took the plunge and accepted a new job.  It is a promotion for me; I’ll be an HR Director!  I said goodbye to my old job and will be starting the new one next week.

I know I have said it before, but I do lead a blessed life.  I am married to a wonderful man, have a successful career, and fill my off time with travel.  I have family and friends who I love and treasure, and who love me in return.  I hope all of you have had a good year too, filled with more joy than sadness.  I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

Sometimes You Just Need a Break

Some posts are difficult to write.  A few make the tears come to my eyes as the words come to my fingers.  But in every dark day, there are moments of joy, and I choose to hang on to those.

My father and I visited the Santa Monica Pier in August.  It was the first time that I had ever been.  We had been down in California visiting my Uncle Richard, and one evening, Richard declared that I wasn’t having enough fun on the trip.  He in no uncertain terms told us that we should do some sightseeing that evening – I guess when you are the older brother, you get to make demands like that, even when your younger brother is old enough to have grandchildren.

The Sign at the Top of the Santa Monica Pier

The Sign at the Top of the Santa Monica Pier

Richard sent us on our way with vague instructions about a burger joint on the Santa Monica Pier that had the best burgers in the area.  We will never know if we found the right one, but we each had a fabulous burger at PierBurger, with a homemade beef patty, fries and delicious iced tea.  My dad had a yummy chocolate ice cream cone as a dessert treat.

Perhaps this was the burger place my uncle was talking about?

Perhaps this was the burger place my uncle was talking about?

After dinner, we strolled along the pier, seeing the sights.  Carnival rides, neon lights, souvenir shops, and tons of people, both tourists and locals.  We were lucky enough to be there on a beautiful night when there was a concert, and we were able to stop and listen to the music for a little while.  I purchased a few Route 66 postcards for my collection.  We watched a beautiful sunset, and shook off the stress of the last several days.

The Ferris Wheel at the Pier

The Ferris Wheel at the Pier

The end of Route 66!

The end of Route 66!

The rest of the trip was more somber.  My uncle’s cancer had progressed significantly.  We interacted with a seemingly endless parade of doctors, nurses, social workers, and home health care coordinators.  We checked off the many details of hospice, home health care, home medical equipment and power of attorney.  There were still some opportunities to talk quietly, and we treasured those.  We collapsed into bed each evening, spent.

My uncle died a week after I flew home, with other family members by his side.  I will always be grateful that I had the chance to visit and say my goodbyes, and hopefully make things a little easier for him at the end.  And I will always fondly remember that evening I spent with my dad at the Pier – the most simple of respites when it was desperately needed.  Rest in Peace Richard – you are missed.

A beautiful California sunset

A beautiful California sunset



I hope you are all reading this after spending a day filled with family and friends, good food, and of course, fabulous wine.  Before everyone arrives, I just wanted to take a minute to reflect on everything I am thankful for.

1.  Family – I am blessed to have a wonderful family filled with people who love me for who I am.  And I won the in-law lottery – I scored an amazing second family of people who are warm and caring and fun.  And then there is Jon; I can always count on him to steal the first sip out of any glass of wine he pours me, but I wouldn’t trade him for anything.  He’s a wonderful husband!  Enough said.

2.  Coworkers – Spending 45 hours a week of your life with someone could drive you crazy, but fortunately, I am blessed with an amazing group of people to work with.  They are the smartest, most grounded, and funniest ladies I could ever hope to be surrounding by.  We get things done, but we don’t forget that work without some fun is just plain tedious.

3.  Animals – My fur-babies make me happy.  I love seeing them first thing when I wake up and last thing before I go to bed.  And I love their different personalities; from Ollie wanting to snuggle to Oscar who begs for pets in the kitchen.  And then there’s Biz, who might not be the smartest horse, but his antics have kept me busy all these years.

4.  Home – I consider myself lucky to live where I do.  The scenery is gorgeous, my commute is nothing, and I find nature right in my backyard.  The land is green, the weather is mild, and we can afford a good quality of life.

5.  Opportunity – My parents taught me that I could be anything I wanted and do anything I set my mind to.  I took that to heart, got an education, and set about on a career path that I love.  But in my spare time, I have had the opportunity to travel and see this great Nation and parts of this beautiful world.  I treasure the experiences that I have had, and always look forward to more.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!  I hope you have joy, and that your hearts are as full of blessings as mine.


Chehalem for Christmas

Here we are, the post Christmas return to normal. I finished the shopping, hung out with the families, and had to go back to work this morning after a lovely 4 day weekend. One of the perks of the new job (although I’ve been there almost a year now!) is that we have both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. When they both fall on a weekend, like this year, we get the business day before and after off instead, so we end up with a four day weekend! I really needed a four day weekend. Of course, I’m fighting another sinus infection that continues to wipe me out. My eyes were really puffy for several days last week, making me look like I just got done with a good cry. This is a fairly new symptom with sinus infections for me, and I’m sure I don’t like it. I think I looked like death warmed over, since I’m more pale than I have been in years, due to the lack of a summer this year.

Jon got my big Christmas gift the Monday before Christmas – the 19th. He was so excited about it that he started texting me in the afternoon, asking if we could open presents that night. I hadn’t actually gotten all his presents at that point, so that made things a bit tougher. I said no, he said yes, and it went round and round like that until he sat me down on the couch with a gift bag and would let me get up until I opened it. It was a Kindle! I’m pretty excited about it, but I didn’t have any time to play with it with the flurry that is the week before Christmas. Now that things have settled down, I’ve had the opportunity to download a few books to read.

On Christmas Eve we opened a bottle of the 2008 Chehalem Corral Creek Pinot Noir. 2008 ended up being an excellent year for Willamette Valley Pinots, with the weather cooperating, and a late summer/fall warmth and sunshine that contributed to a bumper crop. As a result this vintage tends to be very reasonably priced – if you can still find it. The Chehalem Corral Creek Pinot is an excellent single vineyard Pinot, with a softness that really showcases what I think a Pinot ought to be. There are raspberry notes, and a light mouthfeel that is perfect anytime. We enjoyed it with veggies, cheeses and dips before dinner, and although Pinots are light wines, it wasn’t overpowered by any of the snacks.

I have yet to meet a Chehalem wine I haven’t loved, but this one is extra special.  If you have a chance, try it!