Catching Up

August 10

The Mercy Me concert awaited us the day after we arrived home from our Michigan vacation. I had been in contact with Stephanie – a blog follower from West Virginia who we met for the first time last year at the same venue! She and her family were in town again, so it was only natural that we would meet up! Kelly was with us too, just as she was last year!

It didn’t seem like an entire year had elapsed since we had been together! I was so touched by little Josie who is the same age as Nora would be. Josie kept looking at me and smiling excitedly. Stephanie explained that Josie recognized me from a photo that was taken last year of all of us together with Baby Nora. So so SWEET!



This was a whole new experience for William, Gavin and Greta. Kelly and I remembered how perfectly such an unlikely experience had unfolded before us last year. Even though Nora wasn’t with us in person this year, she certainly was in spirit. There were plenty of hearts and bird trios. Almost as soon as we sat down the band began playing “Happy Birthday”. It was a band member’s(?) birthday, I think? It’s not every day you get to hear Mercy Me sing “Happy Birthday”!


It was so great to see you Stephanie, Neil, Jacob, Jonah and Josie! Let’s do it again next year!

August 12

✔️Last minute school supply shopping
✔️Clothes and shoes that fit, meet the dress codes, and don’t have holes in them
✔️ Kids put to bed early
✔️ Lunches packed

It’s the first day of school and the transition back into a regimented routine. I worried about this. God gave us the 3 months of summer to sleep in if we wanted. It was nice – even with the company of a broken heart.

I survived my first walk down the steps at 5:30 AM. The sky still dark, the painful quiet awaited. The familiar low murmur of the TV or radio, oxygen concentrator, the nurse. I miss them so so bad. I hate this quiet. There was no one to turn the porch light on for, but there was a sleepy headed little boy who needed breakfast made and a lunch packed. Gavin is in middle school now. Being at a different school requires him to be up much earlier. He has a 6:37 AM bus to catch! This is the sweet boy who distracts me from the void of the mornings. I’m so thankful for him and for his new schedule, and for my husband who joins him at the breakfast table before leaving for work.


I have 40 minutes to take a breath before I have to wake Greta up. I know better than to climb back in bed, so I spend it watching or listening to Joyce Meyer.

Waking Greta up in the morning is no easy task. She hates to be extracted from her warm “schnoogy” nest. I warm our breakfasts up in the microwave that I premade with Gavin’s and we have a nice relaxing morning without any sibling shenanigans or teasing.


The first week back to school usually coincides with both of their birthdays. Greta turned 9 on August 20th and Gavin turned 11 on August 17th. We celebrated with the family that weekend.


Parker must have called Gavin from his Leapfrog phone to see what he was wearing!


Happy birthday to my sweet kids.

the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
(‭Numbers‬ ‭6‬:‭25-26‬ NIV)

North – Day 15

August 9

The early morning sun partners with the great blue sky for the making of a beautiful day. It seems such a waste to spend it in the car, but “real life” beckons. The kids start school in 4 days. So much to do!


I steal some last moments on the cedar perfumed shore with only a little lump in my throat. How absolutely wonderfully blessed not to have to wait an entire year before coming up here again.


Bags, boxes, totes, duffels, suitcases, pillows, boats, trailers, jet skis, dogs and kids, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, cousins, a nana, a papa, and a nanny. We are all packed up, packed in and ready to roll out.





Heading south on the bridge is very anticlimactic. It is the tear-stained back page of a beautiful album of memories.


Almost 9 hours later we are back at home plate. The carpet feels strange beneath my feet and the cat has a million questions. The old synapses in my brain look to turn on a missing oxygen concentrator. Her squeals, her cries and the toy noises and songs have all fallen silent. I distract myself with laundry, steadying myself beneath the weight of familiar grief. The past two weeks had been a gracious intermission from the glaring reminders. We needed that. Thank you, Mom & Dad!

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
(‭Psalm‬ ‭62‬:‭5-6‬ ESV)

North – Days 13 & 14

August 7 & 8

In the early afternoon we head over to my uncle and aunt’s property to visit with all the relatives and to see the new house they built. It is so nice to visit with everyone. Most of us live far apart from each other in “real life.”


Their cozy niche in the world, a respite from traffic, deadlines, meetings and emergencies. Blessed.

Gavin visits the awesome staircase library ~


Greta and her Dad check out the screened in living space that is underway. The mosquitos up here are horrible. I thought it was very woods-savvy to have the underside of the deck planks screened also. No bugs allowed!


We immediately notice the heart inside ~


No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
(1 John 4:12)




The unique tree formations make me pause in wonder.


They also make great hiding spots for little girls during games of Hide n’ Seek!




William, Kelly, Gavin and I head off to The Islander for dinner. Greta opted to stay behind with her cousins. It’s nice (and important) to spend one on one time with each of the kids.

(He doesn’t realize his picture is being taken!!! >:)




On our walk down to the Hessel Marina after dinner we are intrigued to see the same boat that we saw just the day before on Mackinac Island. In my quest to find out more about this boat, I found these pictures (<– click link) online of its really cool interior. It is rumored to be owned by the owner of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.


“Yes, operator? I’d like to place a text to Melanie to let her know my Instagram screen name? It’s ALEISAAK.”


Okay. Now here we go trying to get a nice picture again. As you can see, the mere sight of a camera (phone) pointed in Gavin’s direction and a request to SMILE(!) elicits this response. I’m all, “Gavin! Come. On. Really? Please?”


I’m completely confused as to where he gets it from. It really doesn’t make any sense.


Haha!!! I guess we’ll see that one on Awkward Family Photos at some point.


We are back to Island No. 8 in time to catch the sunset from the Kissing Bridge where we are reunited with sweet Greta.



It’s not even possible to capture the beauty of this sunset with my iphone, alas.


It’s hard to believe this is our last full day. The two weeks flew by so fast, just as we knew they would. Mom & Dad are out on one first and last kayak excursion ~


Greta and her Daddy head off on a jet ski adventure to explore new lands and islands.


William took this really cool picture of Greta standing on a rock with the vastness of Lake Huron behind her ~


I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
(‭Ephesians‬ ‭3‬:‭16-19‬ NIV)

Meanwhile, I am off an a shopping excursion with my Mom, sister and Kelly. One cannot have too many Les Cheneaux sweatshirts, T-shirts, etc.

While shopping in the Pine Cone Gift Store I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Rachael T. who recognized me as “Nora’s Mom.” Again, I remind you, we are almost 600 miles away from the Greater Cincinnati area, which is where Rachael is from also! It really is an incredibly small world! We really LOVE meeting blog followers! Thanks for saying Hi, Rachael!


Back home and out on the dock I watch with raised eyebrows as Gavin takes the reins of the jet ski. He stayed close by and docked it like a pro!


Rather proud of ‘eemself!


Ship in ~


Ship out ~


Sarah and I take a trip down to the Kissing Bridge by kayaks.


We’re both so bummed that we are leaving tomorrow and try to soak up all of the beauty in the storehouse of our souls.

This guy. He’s a sweet one. He takes a 5 second rest with his Papa. He’s really, really busy!!


Nana, Dustin and Joe are really, really busy whipping dinner together. Delicious turkey straight out of the smoker. Yes, please!


The kids construct some last minute sand castles before dinner ~


Everything is squared away, and we take a rest before the long drive ahead of us tomorrow. How quickly the days rushed by.


This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. (‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭5‬:‭18‬ NIV)

North – Days 11 & 12

August 5 & 6

The now boarded up gray building looks back at me like an old friend, “Remember me?” I wistfully recollect the childhood trips to the Bon Air for ice cream and Richie Rich comic books. Perched atop the wooden cross of a hundred year old church, a lone dove catches my eye. This quiet old town seen now through my grown-up eyes is familiar and cozy, reminding me of pure and simple innocence unblemished by the pains of life.


I think about my own children, the Big Kids as they were affectionately dubbed. I wonder how they will look back upon their own childhood. Not a day passes that we don’t talk about Nora or talk FOR Nora in her “voice.” She is still very much a part of our family and always, always will be.

The first death I experienced was my 92-year-old great Grandma Bohmer’s in 1982 and then the following year my Grandpa (my Mom’s father) passed away. He was 70 and finally free from a long battle with cancer. I was about Greta’s age now and definitely understood the finality of their passing. I dearly missed and mourned each of them, but I’ve never experienced the loss of a sibling as G & G have. I have no point of reference and must rely on them to tell me how they’re feeling and what they’re going through.

What I do know is that they are both incredibly brave. Nora passed on into heaven on their last day of school this past school year. Although Gavin understandably wasn’t quite up for it, Greta still decided she wanted to go to school that day. I am in thankful awe of how her teacher and the rest of the staff took care of her that day, from the moment we fumbled into the office at 10 am, shell-shocked.

I am awestruck by the stoic bravery with which Gavin carried his baby sister’s casket into church and down the aisle with their Dad. Such a grown up thing for a little boy to be asked to do – yet he accepted the assignment with honor.

I see the softness and the compassion in G&G’s eyes when we talk about the little girl who forever changed our lives. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh, and sometimes we just KNOW – without there being any words at all. A heartfelt teary smile and a nod, “I know.” Ultimately I believe that this experience will mold and shape them into exceptionally compassionate adults.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
– Kahlil Gibran

(Thanks so much for that awesome quote, Heather L!)

On our drive back to the house William and I decide to turn down the rustic gravel driveway. Cabin #3, Nora’s cabin, just as we left it. It certainly isn’t the most extravagant place in the world, but it is one of the most special. We lived life with her there. We LOVED her there.


A lump in my throat – I recall the last time we drove away from there. I miss her.

My visits with anguished grief are never for lengthy periods of time these days. I became well versed in the hell of grief after we got the diagnosis. It was then that I cried and cried and cried until there were no tears left in my tired, heavy body. “Don’t expect long with her,” the statistics warned, “… high mortality rate before or shortly after birth…” A strange surreal grief that I physically carried around with me–that there was no escape from. The next 2 years that unfolded were such an unexpected gift in so so many ways. We never could have imagined how much love and joy this baby girl would bring into our lives. It went against everything we had been told to expect. Even in the moments of uncertainty and fear, we did the best we could to cherish and appreciate each of the 777 days we were given with her. (Yes, you read that correctly. Nora was with us for 777 days!) We were given something that, statistically speaking, we should not have been. I have a hard time stomping my feet and getting angry with God at this point — after He graciously and miraculously answered every single prayer that was put before Him, AND THEN SOME. Knowing God like I do, I am confident that He was still very much in the business of answering prayers this past June 3rd as well. Nora is fully healed, completely restored, just as we asked. When I have been given SO much, how dare I kick and scream for more? In my human state I still cry, but I do it with an ever grateful heart. Thank You for her!

There are still so many reasons to laugh, to smile. These are the many reasons for both ~



Uncle Dustin and the boys are worn out!!!


Kohen peeks over at us, giving us the look… “Do you NOT see us trying to sleep?!?! Shhhhh!!!!!”


Or perhaps Kohen is trying to get a glimpse of his Dad out on the water? Joe and Dan commence in a double ski session. Minus the life jackets and real background, it was something straight out of an old Elvis Presley movie.


As if their antics weren’t amusing enough, Dan is wearing swim goggles and Joe is wearing a vintage circular diving mask (while skiing).



Back inside it is cocktail hour (not including a little boy) while dinner is underway.


With all the fabulous cooks in the family (myself not included) we ate like kings and queens every night! Joe and Dustin seemingly purchased and transported the entire meat department from Findlay Market up with us. Dan and Sarah brought up their fancy smoker and all was right with the world from a dining perspective!


That is reason enough to dance with your Mom!


The deer are everywhere. We see a set of adorable twin fawns along our evening walk.


Sadly it is Em & Josh’s last day. They roll out early to head back to the Land o’ Cleve. We are already sad without them and attempt to cheer ourselves up with a trip to Mackinac Island.

On our way to the ferries we saw THIS!!!! It’s Big Moose. “Ooooo! Looooook theeeerez yer moooose!”


William REFUSED to stop and ask for directions, so it took us a little while to get there, but we finally did. 😉

{It’s actually me who WILL. NOT. ask for directions!!!}

The late morning air is still chilly, so we opt for the indoor ferry seating.


Perhaps ONE DAY we will be able to get a family portrait taken without worrying what Gavin’s face is contorted into. But for now – this is the standard.


Fifty-five foot original Chris Craft docked in the Mackinac Marina named the Marion Leigh. Beautiful boat!


When you and I go cruisin’
You’ll thank me for choosin’
You to come and have some fun
On a bicycle built for two


It is a smooth 8 miles around the island in flawless weather. A warm summer breeze partners with the sails of a catamaran in the great blue yonder.


Next on the agenda is a carriage ride. Our 19-year-old tour guide / carriage driver is a native of the island with Ojibwa heritage. His family has been here since the early settlers. I am fascinated.


Kellkell keeps the Big Kids in check in the back seat.


The historic Grand Hotel never ceases to impress. The clip clop of horse hooves and the rattling of the carriage chains are whispers from another era. The ceiling of the 660-foot-long porch is painted blue to deter the barn swallows from building nests. This color reminds them that they are indeed BARN swallows and not PORCH swallows. Actually, it is said that they confuse the color with the open sky. Some of the mansions on the island have followed suit with the blue porch ceilings. One place even went so far as to have clouds painted.


The Grand Hotel keeps their fancy carriages here.


We wander inside to marvel at antique carriages on display and the tidy order of the establishment.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭28-30‬ NIV)





Life is sweet.


There are three geese in the harbor as we wait in line for the next ferry back to the mainland.


it has been a delightful day.


Loving the background photo bomb!


“Say cheese!” (and smash your daughter in the corner) (Poor girl!!!) (Sorry, Greta!)


It is night time. We’re all tired as fudge! Goodnight!


North – Days 9 & 10

August 3 & 4

It is no easy task separating myself from the warm clutches of my cozy bed at such an early hour on vacation, but I do. My Mom and I head off to the 8:30 mass at Our Lady of the Snows. It is exactly two months since Nora has been gone, although that hasn’t quite registered with me yet. It is early.

I remember coming to this church on vacations when I was little with my cousins. The same cousins seated a few pews back with families of their own. We’re the adults now; a whole new cast of children.

As the service wraps up the priest invites all August anniversaries and birthdays forward for a special blessing. My tear switch is flipped to the ON position as the congregation, the choir and the pipe organ join together in a cheerful arrangement of Happy Birthday. Happy birthday to the assembly of parishioners in front of the altar and *nod*wink*wink* to my breakable broken heart. Happy Birthday in unlikely places. My Aunt Elaine noticed too!

I am anxious to get back home to tell William about the Happy Birthday, as that would have been PLENTY! BUT WAIT! There’s MORE!

The service concludes and we gather outside into the beautiful day to chat with the aunts, uncles and cousins. As I am edging over to the coffee and doughnuts my Mom and another woman exchange enthusiastic hellos with one another. She introduces me to Mimi.

Rewind back to our 9th day in the hospital with Nora at the end of May. I wrote about the woman my Mom had met while she was up in Michigan then, and we were back home 560 miles away. The woman whose daughter had been THERE IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM working on Nora in those intensely critical minutes, hours–this is the mother of that nurse!!! I am beside myself to actually meet her! BUT WAIT! There’s MORE!

As I express my gratitude to Mimi for her amazing daughter, she points to a young lady with beautiful curly blonde hair talking with another group of people, “She’s here!”

This is Katie.


This is Katie who helped to save Nora’s precious life that day! She helped to give us an extra 15 days with Nora! How in the world do you even thank someone for that?!?!?! How in the world are we meeting up hundreds of miles from home in this remote little part of the world? {I ask as if I don’t know… } WOW. Just tears!

In the afternoon I watch the kids play in the sand from the dock. We all notice a couple of little white butterflies. They flutter around us, especially the kids. My little niece Keira matter-of-factly informs the others, “Nornor and Max are playing dress-up. Today they’re butterflies!”

You can see either “Nornor” or “Max” just above the orange bucket ~


And because you are wondering who Max is, he is my little nephew who lives in heaven; Grace, Keira and Parker’s brother. Max was born sleeping at 19 weeks gestation back in January of 2009. The doctors had been unable to find his heartbeat on a routine OB visit. This was obviously a very sad time. Max’s memory lives on and we will never forget his short but precious little life either. Back in June it was decided to have Max’s ashes buried with Nora in a pretty satchel that she held in her chubby dimpled hand. Sweet little cousins, playmates in heaven, dressed up as butterflies for the day. Such a sweet thought! 🙂

I glance up at the subtle cross in the sky ~


And the bold heart-shaped stump in the yard ~


“Dats me above my name! I just stop by to say hello! I love you!”


We wish the sun a good night and sweet dreams!


It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
(‭2 Samuel‬ ‭22‬:‭33-35‬ NIV)


On Monday William and I are again drawn back to “Narnia”. The bold cross in the sky, “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭28‬:‭20‬ NIV)


The 3G Network is with us (Gavin, Greta and Gracie), and our Kellkell.


Another freighter passes by in the distance ~













We take trips on the jet ski back and forth to Uncle Dan’s boat waiting just outside the cove. It gets a little dicey trying to maneuver a larger watercraft through and around the big boulders.


Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
(‭Psalm‬ ‭31‬:‭24‬ NIV)


In the afternoon I’m feeling creative. I inscribe Nora’s name on a piece of birch bark and place it by the family photo. Her precious physical presence is so missed.


I also paint their names on big rocks in the yard. Their memory is always right there with us!




Sisters 3


Cousins 3


And one beautiful sunset!


The nights around the campfire are the greatest! The roaring fire competing with the roars of laughter. How wonderfully blessed I am to have some of the funniest people I know as members of my family, by blood and by marriage. Thank you for your gift of laughter!

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
(‭Proverbs‬ ‭17‬:‭22‬ NIV)



Uncle Josh teaching Gavin important life lessons — how to make an ice and Coke! Someone (ahem) getting into mischief in the background!


How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
(‭Psalm‬ ‭133‬:‭1‬ NIV)

North – Days 7 & 8

August 1 & 2

This morning my Mom, sister Emily and I visited a garage sale. I discovered a couple of reasonably priced treasures, one of which was a bit of a Nora wink. Nora absolutely LOVED her music boxes. She had a green music box, much like the one pictured below that played Happy Birthday. These little Fisher Price music boxes are reminiscent of my childhood and are hard to come by. We used to joke that Nora was a little hipster baby. There were really no other baby toys at this garage sale – just this lone special music box, and I almost missed it. “I kinda liked doze tings!”


I also found this Art Deco-ish box camera. I have no idea how to use it or if it even works, but I thought it would look cool in my art space. I’m going to try to hook it up to Instagram later.


I am accustomed to fog in the early mornings back home. It is strange and beautiful to see a mysterious shroud of low clouds rolling into the channel in the middle of an unsuspecting sunny afternoon.


My sister, Sarah wondering, “What the fog?” ~


The air gets cooler and I can physically reach out and touch the wisps of vapor. I can no longer see the land across the water; the sun’s warmth cuts through the chill that suddenly surrounds me. I recall the uncountable interludes of worry that would creep into my thoughts much like this fog, much less beautiful. My skin would grow cold, clarity obstructed, yet God’s warmth permeated my short-sighted uneasiness. The worry would eventually burn away reminding me not “what” but “WHO.”

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
(‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭27‬ NIV)

The fog of worry is gone for now. A heavy boulder of sorrow has instead been dropped into the lake of my soul. I can see the flecks of gold through the shimmering water, the veins of precious minerals. There is indeed beauty marbled throughout this immense sorrow.

On the smaller rocks I paint beautiful pictures. The smaller of life’s burdens can remain as rocks to weigh me down or they can become my canvas.



As night time falls upon us, we decorate Chinese lanterns to set off into the starry sky. We write messages to Nora and to Ali who “Godwinkcidentally” is one of Nora’s neighbors at the cemetery, among many other wonderful things.


It would appear that Gavin is wearing his corresponding ROCK PINK ROCK LOVE t-shirt from Ali’s fabulous Rock Pink Par-tay for this purpose. However, it has become his new favorite shirt. I have to wash it almost daily or he will just wear it again out of the stinky hamper.





The three glowing lanterns rise high above the earth. I can’t see them clearly through the tears that have pooled up in my eyes, my Dad’s arm around me. We remember through teary smiles as they drift off out of sight.


After a lazy Saturday morning William and I head off on the jet ski. The heart smiles from the horizon.


In my only attempt to capture a flock of seagulls (not the band), only THREE of them wind up in the picture. Totally unintentional!

20140805-001107-667108.jpgAnd now I am officially freaked out laughing, because in my efforts to hyperlink a picture of the band, I found THIS. (<– click it)

We are towing the 2 red kayaks behind us and are moving along at a slower pace. As we pass the dolomite mines we are disappointed that there isn’t a huge freighter to admire.


I jokingly ask Siri if there are any freighters in the area. I would have flipped my wig if she was like, “Look to your right,” because basically that’s all we had to do!


We drop the kayaks off at our intended destination and then continue on to investigate the freighter. I am amused, but not surprised to note that the aerial view of Narnia’s gorgeous cove is somewhat heart shaped!



The freighter is the Wilfred Sykes. We watch in awe as this monstrosity of steel turns around and then backs into port over the course of about twenty minutes. Several of the crew repel down to shore once the steel cables are roped into place. Fascinating.



We gawk and stare for a good while at this huge curiosity and then head off back to our awaiting kayaks.

This water! These rocks! The pine trees growing right OUT of these rocks! And the perfect sky! As stunning as these pictures are, they still can’t do it justice!



My eyes happen upon a ladybug struggling in the ripples of the water. Her fate seemingly sealed, when along comes the yellow paddle of my oar. I carefully extricate her from her peril and set her on my sleeve to dry off. How much she and I have in common, I think to myself. I too have been plucked out of the deadly water, currently basking in the warm sunshine from the comforts of God’s sleeve. I am never quite free from the chill of the water, perhaps never will be, but I have survived. I am warmed. I am loved.


I watch as she flies off into the forever of the bold blue sky. Someday I reckon will join her.


I am in love with the Pure Michigan ads, commercials and billboards alike. We were quite surprised to see a billboard in Cincinnati advertising “OUR” Michigan, Les Cheneaux Islands (in bottom left corner)!


These are our best DRAMATIC re-enactments ~



We explore the shoreline for a couple of hours before heading back. I stand in awed silence memorizing the sight, sounds and smells of this unparalleled treasure as William secures the kayaks to the jet ski. A heart winks back.


The rest of the day unfolds with lots to do, or not, if you so choose!


The day draws to a close, our extended family and friends among us watching the crazy cold water skiers.



Emily und Josh spielt Tischtennis!


The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.
(‭Psalm‬ ‭65‬:‭8‬ NIV)