family over everything

On Thursday, an event reminder popped up on our family calendar. My phone buzzed and shortly after I received a “declined” message from my husband. He was trying to be funny because we were both underlyingly depressed about the whole situation, to I pressed on through a rather stressful day at work, not thinking about the fact that we would have been at the airport that morning. After a year and a half of planning, COVID prevented us from embarking on our trip. We were supposed to visit Mexico, Jamaica, Grand Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas, side by side with characters who represent the happiest place on earth. It was supposed to be our long-awaited Disney cruise.

Instead, we’re in northern Michigan.

We aren’t in warm and sunny weather or eating endless amounts of ice cream, and we won’t be running a 5k on Castaway Cay, but we’re together. So far, Candy Land, Legos, and Uno have been on this new itinerary, along with movies, playing in the snow, cuddling, and an outdoor run for me.

Speaking of an outdoor run, this is the best place to enjoy a winter run. Because we are so close to the lake, they use sand instead of salt on the roads. The sand makes the ground so sturdy and not a bit slippery.

Over the past fifteen years, our trips here to “up north” Michigan have seemed to align with life changes to follow. Hard decisions, uncertainty, and even unexpected paths seem to present themselves before our trips, or follow us home.

When we got married in 2006, we were both unemployed by 2007. My husband was working as an event planner and I worked in the mortgage industry. 2007 brought us the housing market crash / real estate / banking disaster, and a few weeks after his company went under, we were called into a meeting and I was handed the same fate. Here we were, newlyweds with a new mortgage, and neither of us had any prospects. We packed up the car, and our dog Guinness, and came up here for two weeks. We made soup and watched movies and chilled. There was a lot of time for talking, reflecting, and planning. By the time we made our way home, I was ready to embark on my next adventure, which was to pursue my master’s degree and he was going to start his own business out of our home.

In 2016, I took a leap of faith and decided to join my husband’s company (the now extremely successful one one he started in 2007). We made our way here following the last day at my company. I worked as a Marketing Director in the healthcare industry, and we thought it would be beneficial if I used my talents to expand our own business. It wasn’t warm enough to swim because it was spring, but we hiked and bowled. I left here with a renewed sense of energy and excitement to join what would now be our family company. I would get to do a job I loved, side by side with one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had (my husband – for real, he’s crazy smart and creative!) and the flexibility I would have to be there for our kids was an absolute dream come true. 

In 2017, we were called here again with Guinness and the kids for a quick change of scenery. We played in the snow and spent a lot of quality time together. Before we left for our trip, my mother-in-law asked if we wanted her to keep Guinness while we were gone. We decided to bring him with us, and he spent his time laying by the fire and running around with the kids outside. It was last time he would be here with us, because he passed away unexpectedly a few days later. I often think of our time here and look at the photos we took together, so grateful for that time with him, in this place he loved so much. The time that was so special became even more meaningful following that trip.

And here we are in 2021, here again. Following what has easily been the hardest year of our life thus far, we traveled here at yet another crossroads in this journey. In June, I left our family company because it was hit hard by the pandemic. The past five months, I’ve worked with a company full of wonderful people, allowing me to work with what I’m passionate about (writing), and yet, I don’t know if it’s right for me; right for us. The hours are very long and many times, unexpected. The time I need with my family in the evenings and weekends has been hard to come by. I’ve been feeling like I am treading water while holding very heavy, very large rocks in each hand. The weight is getting harder to bear and my choice is to either drop one of the rocks, or go under completely. What an impossible situation to be in. This week, we’ve been uncertain about whether or not I am going to stay with this position. In a year when the struggle of surmounting stresses out of our control have been paramount, we’ve been trying to be mindful of the things that are actually in our control.

And so today, my head and my heart (and the soft falling snow that made it seem as though time was standing still) called to me. It was time to put my running shoes on and get out there. For clarity, for sanity, and for my family, I completed 4.25 miles in the sand / snow. And as I sit here and write, I believe in my heart that time will provide me with what I need that will help me to make a decision that benefits all of us. 

I may not know the answers to the questions that I brought with me on this trip, but I have to utilize what I know will help me in the end. And that, for me, is running. Remember when I mentioned holding those rocks in each hand? Well, running gives me the sense that even if I’m trying to hold my head above water, I will be able to eventually plant both feet on the surface below.