Hello all! I have recently returned from a much needed family vacation and have been eager to write this post. I have always known (and said) that family and close friends are a priority. Although I considered them a priority, looking back at my propensity to choose work over them tells a different story. I am sure that many of us out there have good intentions, but often fall short when living up to what truly matters to us. More often than not, I have chosen work over family. Not intentionally, but because I truly felt that I had to. Well I am here to say…. no more.
I spent the past week in the upper peninsula of Michigan (aka Copper Country or the UP) with my father’s side of the family. Those that live in the upper peninsula refer to themselves as “Yoopers” and are very proud of their heritage. So although I am a born southerner, there is definitely some Yooper in me! It has probably been over 10 years since I last visited this place. As a grown woman now in her 30’s, I was able to appreciate it so much more. Although it was wonderful to visit with so many family members I had not seen in ages, having the opportunity to reconnect with my father and sister made this trip truly special for me.
Like most families, mine is not perfect. Due to poor communication, hurt feelings, and bitterness, I did not speak to my sister or father for several years. It wasn’t until my father and sister made the big gesture and reached out to me that we started rebuilding the relationship that we have now. Throughout my life, I did not feel like an important member of my own family. This inevitably led me to become bitter and resentful towards my father and sister. That being said, it would have been easy to ignore his gesture and continue life without the possibility of getting hurt. However, I willingly chose to leave the door wide open in the hopes of becoming a closer family like I had always wanted. Life is too short to hold grudges and remain resentful. To do so is truly toxic to your soul.
It has now been a little over a year since they reached out to me and I am so grateful that I chose to be receptive. My father has met an incredible woman that has brought so much peace and happiness to his life and my sister is married to a great man who loves her and treats her well. They also have a sweet little one on the way! At this point, I could care less about the dark parts of our past or re-opening old wounds. I am just so happy that we are spending time together and in each others lives again. Now that the fog of my workaholism has lifted, I am shocked at the amount of beautiful life that has come rushing in. I had fully intended to take time out of my trip last week to write, but found that to completely defeat the purpose of why we were there.
We spent the entire week exploring, eating, laughing, and telling stories. The chance to spend un-erupted time with my sister was especially priceless. We are 6 years apart, and I had yet to get to know my sister on a deeper level as an adult. It brings tears to my eyes to see the wonderful woman she has become. She is a dedicated and compassionate teacher, a thoughtful wife, and will make an incredible mother here soon. I love her more than she will ever know. My father is a die-hard Yooper and is proud of our Finnish heritage. From traditional dishes like Pannukakku and Pasties to stories of his childhood in the UP, he was elated to share this with my husband (who had never been to the UP before) and again with me. He loves this place so much that I think he may have purchased a shirt and hat at every gift shop we passed! I have never seen my father so happy, and I know this trip meant everything to him. It did for me too.
Despite harsh winters, the UP is a nice place to visit. It is quiet, peaceful, and relatively untouched. Especially on the small island of Isle Royale that is just south of Canada in Lake Superior. This island is considered one of the least visited national parks, but is arguably one of the most beautiful. There are no cars on the island and very little development. Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for a few short hours before taking a long boat ride back to the UP. For those fortunate enough to stay for an extended period of time, you are likely to encounter some incredible wildlife!
Back in the UP, many of the areas we visited would be considered ghost towns to the average tourist. But for me, it gave me the peace and quiet that I so desperately needed. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover some incredible coffee shops! I can survive anywhere as long as I can find a good vanilla latte. That being said, I look forward to many more summers with my family in the UP. For those of you that make it to this unique part of the US, go during July or August for the best weather. Swing by the Jampot where you can meet some friendly monks that know how to bake and make some of the best jams/preserves. My sister and I would argue that the best pasty can be found at Syl’s Cafe in Ontonagon (because us southern girls like our gravy). Take the long boat ride to visit Isle Royale, but make sure you stay at least a few days! And whenever in the UP….. beware the black flies.
I know that many people are estranged from their family, and for a while, so was I. I can’t speak for anyone else, as everyone’s family dynamic is unique. For me, reconnecting with my family has been one of the biggest steps towards a more rewarding life. The truth is, parents aren’t perfect and siblings will disagree. My new definition of the perfect family is one that accepts each other for who they are and loves them not despite their flaws, but because of them. My most cherished moments in life are the memories I have of trips and time spent with family and friends. I hope this post encourages you to take the time and make memories with those that you love.
“I guess I’ve been working so hard, I forgot what it’s like to be hardly working.” – Michael Scott