This summer Quinn took her kids on a nostalgic return to Michigan, the land where she collected the most childhood memories and considers “home.” She showed them where she attended junior high, high school, and college. She drove them through Grace Youth Camp (now Grace Adventures), estimated the spot where she worked one summer on kitchen staff,


and stopped at Whippy Dip in Silver Lake for cones. She connected with as many high school friends who still live in the vicinity as she could and let her kids hear the stories of her youth. Brave! They attended Jamie’s wedding and spent time with brother/uncle Ben.

But wait! I skipped over one of best parts!

Cedar Point

A bucket-list entry, now fulfilled——Cedar Point! Quinn booked a room in a (a-hem) less than desirable motel to allow them first entry into the park (that’s how they got this picture sans the summer crowd). They had a blast, and the kids continued to talk about the rides for days and weeks.

While I don’t usually blog about other people’s vacations, there’s purpose here. It’s that 21 years ago Mauri and I got married——and took our kids on a honeymoon to Cedar Point. Quinn got to reminisce with her kids about her favorite rides (she’d been there many times with her buds), but when they walked toward this

Cedar Point-old-timey photographer

she could tell them about going on a honeymoon with Gus and Gum and posing for this masterpiece:

1994-Macy-Carlson family wedding photo at Cedar Point Sandusky OH copy

Surely that was worth the price of the admission!

Posted in family matters, nostalgia | 3 Comments

happy sad

This kind of sadness is unrelated to the sadness we feel in the loss of our daughter. That sadness will ebb and flow as time passes but it will not go away. My sadness today is colored with happiness because I’ve been blessed with a visit from all three of my Carlson children at the same time! Records show it’s been ten years since they all came to Oregon to help me celebrate my 60th birthday. It isn’t as though we haven’t been together, it’s just that one son in particular (that would be Ben) needs a really good reason to come this way. Now that two siblings live in Arizona, he goes there for the holidays. Imagine a Michigander choosing Arizona over Oregon in the dead of winter!

Given this phenomena, I was exceedingly happy that I could enjoy a house full of “out-of-town” guests last weekend. We have abundant guest space, so housing seven extra adult-sized people comfortably was not very difficult, although it took converting the studio into a dorm for the Anderson kids. They offered to rent cars; I said yes! They offered to rent motel rooms; I said NO WAY! I wanted everybody under one roof! Mama usually gets what she wants, right?

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I used my reunion birthday party blue-and-white flags (instead of the original flags) to welcome each arrival.

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First came Taylor, without Beth. (Pregnancy problems prevented her from coming, but she encouraged T to come anyway.) A quick lunch stop at Ye Olde Pizza, still a fav after all these years.

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Killing a little time entertaining the dog.

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Picnic in the park with the local fam.

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Would it be a picnic without fried chicken?

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A walk to Jem 100 for cones.

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Urban son John Williams makes his way in our small town.

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The walking part beat the ice cream part in my view.

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Taylor getting ready to be a dad.

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The next day Ben arrived and that evening all of the Andersons. My heart skips a beat.

Bailey’s red shirt was purchased and worn for this arrival for my benefit. Bailey has never liked ketchup and has endured my constant pokes about that for as long as I’ve known him. At In ’n’ Out Burger, for example, I will load him up with ketchup packets. Haha. Thanks, Gus. Haha. I won’t be stopping any time soon, I don’t suppose.

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Not to deprive the new arrivals of a walk to Jem 100 for ice cream cones, we stop off to listen for the Cooper’s hawk family in the trees.

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Gum leads the way home via alleys he’s ridden for his many years as a Newberger. He shares the sights along the way. Missed his calling as a tour guide.

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A bonus waited for us at Memorial Park a block from home. John and Erin, Sage and Brynn! Those little girls are climbers, while John “spots” them from above. Hmmm. How does that work?

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Cassidy sat with me in the semi-dark living room and talked about everything under the sun. Here she’s finding the Pinterest pictures on her iPod that inspired her party plans for birthday number 12, coming up in a month. Twelve!

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After we joined the others in the cookin’ room, Marissa and I entertained ourselves doing handfuls.

All of the above was the prelude to the events that brought the Carlson side of the family to Newberg. What follows is the postlude.

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At Beth’s encouragement, Taylor stuck it out, even after learning she had been hospitalized for observation. (The scare has now passed, but she and the baby are still being closely monitored. He is just over 4 lbs and needs to fatten up a bit.) So one more lunch at Ye Olde before heading out.

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He was the first to be white-hanky farewelled.

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Mixed grill.

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Backyard pick-up soccer game. I think they need a bigger field.

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Rachel’s friend Sally gave John photocopies of some letters Rachel wrote when they were in high school. John read them to us. A hoot!

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It wouldn’t be a family gathering without a couple of hacks.

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More white hanky waving as another Carlson heads to the airport. I guess you have to take my word for it.

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Ahh. Dishes washed and put away, chairs returned, no need for language. Only a bowl of Scrabble letters, a table, and the comfort of dearly loved people to create this idyllic scene. Well, that and a K in my handful to make the word AARDVARK.

That might have been the perfect finale, but the Andersons still had one more day in Oregon.

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Here we are, together again around a different table. John invited us to tour the Nike World Headquarters, where he works. So we started out with a lovely lunch in one of their dining facilities. The air temp had dropped to the 70s, and the Arizonians were freezing.

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The main event was a chance to climb Nike’s state-of-the-art rock wall. This is Bailey.

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Cassidy, with John as her belayer

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and John. They all made it to the top, yet those of us cheering from the ground were the ones who complained of aching necks. I can only imagine how the climbers felt the next day.

After a bit of shopping at the Nike employee store it was time for Mauri and me to head back to Newberg. We said our goodbyes, Quinn squeezing me more tightly than usual and whispering “you did a good job” in my ear, trying hard not to cry, not to make a scene. They could see I had my white hanky tucked tightly in my hand, ready to show but not wave. The last thing I’d want would be to embarrass my middle-school- and high-school- and college-aged grandkids in the middle of the Nike employee store. So we finished our goodbyes and Mauri and I turned to leave the store. In a moment Mauri stopped me, “Marvel, turn around; you don’t want to miss this.” All five Andersons were waving white T-shirts wildly in the air.

– – – – –

I get attached when we’re together and miss them when they leave. I use putting the house back together as the buffer.

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Washing and ceremonially folding the towels and sheets just so has benediction qualities for me. I don’t want anyone else to do it.

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This room holds the head and footboard that Mauri and Margaret-Rose bought as newlyweds. A tall person must sleep diagonally and his wife would find her spot in the corner, making room for the dog and the cat as well. Let’s just say I am happy with our California king, OK?

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Taylor had to make his own bed, and now the sheets are washed and folded for our next guest. That’s the kind of host I am. As I try to smooth the pillowcases, I’m reminded of the time as a 21-year-old newlywed I was making our bed after a long day of work. I asked my new husband, Paul, “Do you care if I don’t iron the pillowcases?” “Oh,” he said, “do you iron the pillowcases?” From that day to this, we sleep on wrinkled pillowcases and no one even thinks to complain.

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All reset, order restored. What makes this accomplishment so satisfying?

Posted in family matters | 6 Comments


Yesterday we celebrated the life of Rachel Macy. It was perfect, one of those times you just wish the one being remembered could be there to feel all of the love expressed and to witness the broad impact of her life. Still, this had to be the capsule version, a mere representation of Rachel’s 41 years.


Longtime family friend and Rachel’s “mom friend” Debbie Rickey came from Arizona to host the celebration. She told Rachel’s story in three parts—Big House in the Small Town; Small House in the Big City; Coming Home—separated by time for those gathered to either write or tell a story or memory of Rachel. Then we got to see the slide show (linked at the end) that John Macy prepared from pictures shared from many sources. Debbie closed our time together by reading a prayer sent by the pastor of Rachel’s church in Philadelphia.

It was perfect.

Then . . .


. . . we talked to each other . . .




. . . and snacked on some of Rachel’s favorite sweet treats.



The Anderson kids replenished the cookie offerings of local friends.


Subtle references to the Carlson side of our blended family always make me smile.


Thanks to many ready hands, clean-up at the Chehalem Cultural Center was a snap, and off we went to a smaller space to enjoy some more time together as a family. The kids could run off their reserve of energy while we introverts could talk or not talk, whichever suited the moment.



Some had driven quite a distance to the service and had the same distance to return by day’s end. Stacey bids Mauri farewell before driving back to Seattle.


You aren’t misreading the joy on my face. Bookended by Carlson sons—an event too rare to not savor.


I’d give my eye teeth (or maybe not) for a matching picture of these two boyhood buds. Poring through the Macy family albums, this was as close as I could come.

John John

Jon Rickey is the reason we call John Macy John Macy. Two John/Jons who were together more than they were apart needed differentiation.


What a blessing to have Jon and his mom play important roles in Rachel’s celebration!


John Williams (yes, two Johns in the family) reconnected with his dad. This is an “up” side of any “funeral,” giving family members a reason to come together.

Speaking of families coming together . . .

Ours now faces the new reality of posing a family picture with missing faces.


Beth’s face is missing because she had a pregnancy scare and was forced on bed rest. She’ll be in the next family photo, probably holding her son. Linsey will probably be holding her son. This is the way it’s supposed to be. But Rachel will be missing from our family photos from now on, and this is hard to accept. Once again I learn the futility of expectation. Therefore, I will embrace what I have today. “We are not singled out for loss; it’s an experience common to all of us.” A friend of Mauri shared this one thought not long before Margaret-Rose died. We will embrace each day as a gift from God and trust him to fill the missing spaces with joyful memories of our loved ones.

Debbie shared this true “saying” (unattributed) in Rachel’s service:

“Grief never ends . . . . but it changes.
It’s a passage, not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith . . .
It is the price of love . . .”

– – – –

The promised link to the video slide show. CLICK HERE.

Coming soon: A representation of the audio portion.

Posted in family matters | 9 Comments

completely rachel

By human standards Rachel Macy should have lived another forty to fifty years. We are in the process of accepting her shortened life as part of our new reality. But for the purposes of this post I’m taking the approach that Rachel’s 41-year life was fully lived, complete.

Rachel the Kid

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Shhhh. Hush Little Baby. Rachel’s parents raised her with great love and specific intentions that she grow up to be independent and successful.


Margaret-Rose held Rachel close in one of the original Snugli baby carriers. M-R and Mauri drove up to Evergreen, Colorado, to the home of its inventor to purchase it months before she was born.

3-1974-Pop and Rachel make faces and baskets

They did not want to raise her with cultural bias and made sure her toys included a basketball hoop and trucks, along with the typical dolls.

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She clearly embraced her femininity.

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The Macy family often sang for public gatherings. Around this time Mauri was invited to produce recordings for Wee Sing in their home studio. All three Macy children participated in those projects. Here’s what one of the Wee Sing originators wrote to Rachel about that time in her life:

“I have been listening to your voice on the many Wee Sing songs you recorded and reflect on those wonderful days with the Wee Singers. I picture you all with your headphones, then the excitement of ‘It’s a wrap!’ and off to Burgerville. It was great joy to see the relationships develop and the camaraderie of the choir as you all worked so hard to create such fun music for kids. Your voices continue to be shared in so many places around the world, and those young voices live on. Thank you for sharing that time of your life—your positive attitude, friendship, joy, determination, and your beautiful voice. You are a treasure.” — Susan Nipp

Rachel the Sister


Rachel adored her brothers and expressed that love in various ways.


Sometimes by borrowing their toothbrushes or pinching their necks! But as they grew older she would do anything for them and the reverse was true as well.

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She valued family and prioritized attending important events.


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Rachel the Student

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Shortly after her mother’s death in 1988, Rachel was chosen to be the freshman homecoming princess. Family friend Debbie Rickey wrote to Rachel, remembering the drama around finding this homecoming dress. “You were so beautiful and every inch a princess!” (I look forward to hearing Debbie tell the whole story when she comes to host Rachel’s memorial celebration. See full information at the end.)


Her high school senior picture—1992.

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Graduating from Portland State in 2000 with her bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.


Rachel sees me up in the bleachers at her George Fox hooding ceremony.

Rachel the Teacher

“Have you ever seen her teach?” Rachel’s friend Rebecca asked Mauri when he visited Philly last winter. “She’s a wonder, a force in the classroom!” Rachel was passionate about her profession; having to concede to her constant pain and give up teaching was one of her deepest sadnesses.

Rachel and Christine _Snapseed

Christine is hidden in the shadows over on the right in this purposely blurred photo of “Wonder…Do…Write,” their after-school science and writing club for second and third graders. She wrote this after Rachel moved to Oregon:

“I was instantly drawn to your passion and love for teaching. You had so many wonderful teaching ideas! At that time, I had no one to share with, and I was feeling a bit discouraged about the whole teaching thing. You were there to encourage me and to lift my spirits. You helped me realize what teaching was all about. With you, I found that there were others out there who loved teaching as much as I did and would be willing to sit for hours and talk about it. I knew I wasn’t alone!! We found an instant bond through teaching and the CCCS community, but I also found a kind, gentle, fun-loving new friend. We sat together at lunch, whether in the teacher’s lounge or in our classrooms, when the teacher’s lounge was way too loud! We talked about teaching, husbands, and the possibility of having children soon. We talked about how we can’t understand why our school does not recycle. We were determined to make that happen. We tried so HARD! Rachel, I’m not giving up the fight! CCCS will recycle! We are the official “tree huggers” of Christopher Columbus Charter School!”


Rachel and Christine birthed babies exactly one week apart! Here Rachel shows off Oscar to her class.

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She was a “chip off the old block.” I enjoy imagining her mom proudly reading some of these affirming comments shared by teachers and staff at Wissahickon:

“I’m so glad you had a few weeks with the kids here this year. They still remember joyfully the games you played and the ways you helped them. I hope you know and feel how loved you have been by so many children.” — Jenny

“Your genuine concern and care for the kids was obvious to see. I always wish that I could unearth as much tenderness and understanding as you showed.” — Tim

“You weather those crazy 4th graders with grace.” — Chantal

“Even at the hardest, most trying times you were always so smiley. You are such a sweet, kind, and wonderful person.” — Jenn

“You are inspirational and I wish to be more like you.” — Angelica “Thank you for the love and care you brought to your work and the emotional growth of your students. I have been honored to work alongside you.” — Amira

Rachel the Mom


Look at that cute “little” expectant belly! Rachel was so eager to be a mom!


Not long after that she held Oscar Kedric in a modern-day baby carrier, just as her mama did.


She joyfully shows off OK to her pop.


No caption necessary.


The stylish school teacher comes home to instruct her son.


Narrowing the choice of pictures of Rachel having fun with Oscar was a challenge.


Linked for life and eternity.

Rachel the Wife

In the last several weeks of Rachel’s life, many texts and e-mail passed between all of us. One unforgettable text from Rachel referred to her husband as “my dear, dear Johnny.” Her love for John and his love for her have always been evident and remained so to the finish.

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John began showing up in our photo albums around 15 years ago.

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Rachel’s hair color often changed, but John remained her steady.


In 2002 they eloped to Puerto Rico,

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then about a month later they threw a big wedding party in their backyard so we could all celebrate with them.

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Two years later, after Rachel completed her masters degree in education at George Fox, they packed a U-Haul and moved to Philadelphia. John started art school and waited tables at night, and Rachel started teaching.


They loved their urban life.


But life got better when Oscar joined the family.


He gave them “excuses” to expand their world.

John's 42nd

This picture was taken on June 18, 2014, just a year before they moved back to Oregon. They were on a vacation provided entirely by For Pete’s Sake, an organization that gives a break to people like Rachel who diligently work to keep cancer at bay.


While Rachel spent years doing all the right things to stay alive, John offered his loving support in any and every way he could. Days after her death he wrote:

“My best friend. Flashback: last fall, a rare breakfast out, just the two of us. Oscar had just started kindergarten and Rachel was beginning her second round of chemo. Her indomitable spirit is so plainly evident here. We had hopes of beating cancer and living our lives well into the future. Moving back to Oregon.

“We made it back to Oregon, only not on our terms. Rachel spent the last week and a half surrounded by family, rare Oregon sun in June and so much love and care. It rejuvenated her spirit and carried her peacefully into the night.

“I continue to be amazed by how many lives Rachel has touched. The love and outpouring of emotion is felt far and wide.

“Rachel is the most genuine person I know. She did everything with integrity, honesty, and compassion. We are all better people for knowing her.

“The void is vast and Oscar and I will miss her deeply, but we will carry her spirit with us in everything we do.”


Do you have a story about Rachel? Please share it in the comments! We’ll be compiling stories and memories at her memorial celebration on Sunday, July 19, at 3 p.m., at Newberg’s Chehalem Cultural Center. If you can’t come in person, we will gladly add yours to the collection, which we’ll eventually make into a book.

Rachel's obituary

Posted in family matters, nostalgia | 14 Comments

the other side of the family

Yesterday Mauri and I drove out to Rockaway Beach to share in the fun of another family reunion, this one for the Macy side of our clan. I used my handy dandy phone to snap a few pics to capture some of the fun, even though I carried my “real” camera.

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Cousins reconnect in this familiar and historic setting.

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Ben and Jonathan, some from what we call the fourth generation (this reunion honors Mauri’s grandparents).

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Time for lunch!

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After the clean-up and some game time, we headed over to the camp for our traditional gathering in Macy Chapel.

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Named to honor Mauri’s aunt Charlotte.

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Mauri and I sang/led the group in the traditional rendition of “Swimmin’ in the Same Soup, while family members held up drawings of the named veggies.

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Cousin Rebecca led us all in a rousing version of “Yellow Submarine.” [grins]

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And what would the Macy reunion be without someone taking the fifth generation on a lion hunt?

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The letters spelled out each of the second generation Macys followed by a designated third- or fourth-generation member from that branch of the clan sharing an update on the twigs of their branch. We had already honored the memory of the two Macys who have died since our last reunion, but Howard’s task held obvious poignancy when reporting on Mauri’s branch with one fewer twig—Rachel. You are right in correcting my reference, as Rachel will always be part of our family tree.

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We were served a delicious dinner at the camp. Then, while others returned to Harbor Villa (just down the road), Mauri and I returned to our car for the scenic drive back to Newberg.

Posted in family matters | 1 Comment


Seventy isn’t so bad. At least not so far. Considering I started out like this:

1945-Baby Sharon is 10 days Dayton OH_Snapseed

I think I’ve come a long way. And today I’ve been cheered, celebrated, caked, candle holdered, carded, caramel appled, crocheted for, called, cooked for, cupcaked, consoled, cajoled, and congratulated for the accomplishment of making it this far in life. Everyone should be so lucky.

Posted in blather | 2 Comments

nill reunion, 2015 style

The timing of Rachel’s departure allowed us to take part in my original family’s every-three-years reunion. My coworker Denise provided the encouragement that it might be good for us to “get out of Dodge,” having had several days to just hang loose with the local family, to eat together, to process together, to grieve together.

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Off we went, south, through Vegas and on to Phoenix. After choosing a rental car, we continued up the White Mountains of Arizona.

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I took this picture on our way back down the mountain to show you where they got their name. But our evening drive up the mountain was windy (the tumbleweed whipped sideways across the road) and stormy (we had to pull over to wait out the downpour).

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Our destination was Show Low, named by the turn of a card (a gambling term, I had to be told).


Through the generosity of a friend of Quinn and Dusty’s friend, we enjoyed every blessing of this remarkable home (remarkable being an understatement). You’ll see what I mean in a minute. The owner refers to it as “the cabin.”




Four large bedrooms and a bunkroom on the upper level.


Two huge round tables seating eight each plus these counter stools. I’ve never seen anything like them, have you?



In the lower level, two fully automated bowling lanes



next to a complete game room.


As if that weren’t enough, a theater big enough for our full family of 18!


The house even has its own firepole, quick transportation from the bunkroom to the garage.

This wasn’t the first reunion when some arrived with raw emotions, having just suffered a devastating loss. My family loved us gently, acknowledging the recent events in our lives while steering clear of maudlin.

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They assigned us the master suite, one of two large suites on the main level. I was glad I thought to take a few pictures before we messed it up.

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The shower room is built around the back of the Jacuzzi and is also a steam room. But Mauri discovered its coolest feature when he played with the switch that turned these clear windows overlooking the forest

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into opaque windows to keep us from scaring any passersby.


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Dear Quinn knows I spell comfort h-o-t c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e and had this waiting by the bed.

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You’re right to assume this fabulous “cabin” was a big part of our time together, but even more wonderful was getting to hang around with the people who make up the Nill clan. It’s a reunion of the descendants of my parents, Carl and Winifred Nill.


My brother, John, is in the middle. He’s the oldest. Sister Carol to his left with her husband, Bill. I’m the baby.


Not the complete set, but we are the ones who show up for reunions. To the right of Mauri and me and brother John is his son, Kevin, and family (Cheryl, Peyton, Cameron, and Aubrey). Beth and Taylor next, surrounded by the Andersons. By Quinn is Krista, my sister’s daughter. You often see Krista on my posts about our Thanksgiving Juarez builds.


The cousins, commonly referred to as “Bailey and the girls.” Bailey and Peyton head off to college in a few months, so we especially cherish these days of guaranteed time with them.


Indulge me one more posed picture. Beth made the effort to put on her pretty pink top, then got hidden behind the bowling apparatus. She happily joined in her first Nill family reunion and was loved by all. But what’s to not love about Beth?

Now that you’ve seen our spectacular surroundings and met the family, I’ll drag you along on our adventures.

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Our hostess baskets had supplied us with sunblock and protective Chapstick, but that didn’t guarantee us beautiful weather for our ski lift ride to the top of Sunrise Park Ski Resort.


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Oh well, we still had a few minutes to look around at the top before this:

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Rain and hail! I worried some about Quinn and Peyton, who braved the hike up the mountain, despite threatening weather and bear warnings from other hikers.


We hadn’t seen hide nor hair of them, but after the weather cleared the younger generations set out to hike down the mountain. Here you see them waving a farewell, but look who is just rounding the corner when I snapped the picture!


When they turned around, surprise!


A chance to tell some stories and bear warnings.

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Now you know why Bailey is carrying a big stick!

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Other fair-weather adventures included a hike into the ice caves.


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The brave ones who actually went on the hike! I opted out when I learned commando crawling was involved.

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Indoor activities appealed more to my generation.



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A strike for Beth! I bowled too, though the laughter and shouting were more fun than the actual game.

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For posterity, Mauri recorded one of my two hangers in our shuffleboard game.

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We took our turn at cooking for everyone.

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A whole breakfast planned around the use of this manly stove and grill.

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There was a nearby lake to enjoy.

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Golf, of course.

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A cactus caption contest.

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Mauri and I ran away with four prizes!



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Food and table prep for a traditional shrimp boil

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that turned out to be a surprise birthday celebration for yours truly!

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Blue and white flags. It’s all about tradition.

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Come and get it! You don’t have to call me twice.


I’ll be 70 on Wednesday . . .


A heaping serving of chocolate trifle.

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A suitcase of old family photos provided hours of stories (who is this?), laughter (hair styles, fashion), and memories.

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I had already scanned or set aside the ones I wanted to keep from my vast photo collection, so I could offer all of these up for first-come-first-grabs. Most have now found happy new homes.

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Every evening the aroma of popcorn filled the house, drawing us to the theater.

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This became known as the “Cousins Couch.”

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Toward the end of our stay we all gathered to review pictures and hear the reading of last reunion’s list of highlights. Three years is a long interval, so we need reminders of fun shared in the past. Of course there were lots of highlights to write on this year’s list.


The signs from our first reunion in 1998 came out for photos.


Here’s the matching one from nine years ago.



Always just one more picture!


And a shout out to this reunion’s planners, cousins Krista and Quinn. They are also dear friends, only six months apart in age, and photographed for my series every time they are together.


The first, 1971. (They’ll love me for this.)


“Nills we are and Nills we’ll be
Nills for all the world to see
Names may change or rearrange
But Nills we’ll be for eternity!”
(the chorus from “We Three Nills of Origin Are”)


Ha! Not when there’s a blogger around!

Posted in family matters, nostalgia | 1 Comment