My Chautauqua Choir experience

Sun, July 12

I can still remember the smell of the place. It was a mixture of old and dusty wood, lavender (old lady) cologne, and perhaps a bit of lake air with just a trace of seaweed. It was usually a bit cool in the mornings underneath the roof and even as girls we would usually have to wear a sweater. My sister and I would often see older gentlemen falling asleep during the service, and every now and then we would spot a spider crawling on someone’s arm or once even a mouse scooting around the floor. Those were all potentials for entertainment for grade school girls in an outdoor/open air church venue like the amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution. But beyond the familiar scents and the funny sights that were regular occurrences there, there was something more to this simple, but beautiful structure of paint and wood. There was a magic that captured my fascination as a little girl and continues to be with me today. Was it the gathering of 6000 people from all around the country and beyond to worship together in one space? Was it the world renown speakers from near and far giving inspirational sermons that would pull at your heart strings? Was it the weekly singing of the favorite hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” that was so magical? Yes, yes, and yes! All of those things contributed to the magic of this special and sacred place. But for me, the epicenter of this magic was the choir. It was not only the singing of “Holy, Holy, Holy” that brought tears down my face, but it was this exquisite descant from the sopranos floating high among the stratosphere, high above the congregation that overwhelmed me every time. As I looked at the choir in awe, wearing my sundress, sweater, and probably a new turquoise ring purchased that day that I would lose a few hours later swimming in the lake (happened every year!), I dreamed of someday being up there – being one of the magic makers in this magnificent place.

Little did I know that I would have the chance to make this dream come true some 35 years later!

Cut to this spring. Since Zach was going to sailing camp again this year at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center (4th generation camper!), I got the idea that Mike and I could stay somewhere on the lake during the same week. We could enjoy a week at the lake and just make one trip! So after I booked a week at a cottage I began to research more about what else we could do in the area including things at the institution. I stumbled on information about the choir and learned that there was no audition to sing. What?? These people aren’t professionals??!! You just had to have previous choral experience (check and check) and attend at least 2 of the 3 rehearsals prior to the Sunday service. The rehearsals were Thurs, Fri and Sat nights from 6pm – 7:45pm. Oh, my gosh, could I actually do this?? I started letting myself get excited about the possibility of this actually happening, but then I ran into a problem. Our cottage rental was from Sat – Sat (which most are) which meant that we would not have a place to sleep on the Sat night before the Sunday service! Ugh! Well, I wasn’t going to let this stop me! No siree! I started calling places to book one extra night on Saturday so I could make this happen. After being turned down by about 3 places (most have a 2-night minimum!), I finally got a YES from a hotel in Jamestown. Done! I was so excited!

On the night of the first rehearsal I was pretty nervous. I had Mike drop me off 30 minutes early so I could find the place and check-in. The choir regulars were so welcoming and sweet that I relaxed right away. It was extremely organized and I became obsessed with documenting everything.

My music

My folder

Starting to gather

My card

The director of the choir, Jared Jacobsen, was also the organist and pianist for the amphitheater and he was a legend to me. His talents for directing us matched his abilities on the keyboard. He was a m a z i n g.


He kept things running smoothly with just enough humor, information, and inspiration. He did not miss a beat and I was astounded by how we could pick up on the slightest mistake while still playing and directing a choir with 8-part harmony. I was exhausted at the end of rehearsal, but in the best way. I had forgotten how much I loved to sing with a group, not to mention this group! I had to shake the rust off a bit with my sight reading, but once I did that I settled in pretty well. It felt so good that I could actually do this! I told Mike going home that first night that I needed to find a way to sing on a regular basis again. I had been since my early 20’s (after college) that I had sung with a choral group. It made me realize how much I miss it.

I enjoyed the rehearsal so much that I decided that I wanted to attend all 3. I mean, why not, right? I had no idea if I would ever be in the position to do this again so I wanted to enjoy every possible minute. Plus, we were doing this Kyrie piece, by Dobrogosz, that was crazy hard and I could use all the practice I could get!


Sunday morning came and I was ready. I just hoped I could get through the morning without too much boo-hooing. I had kleenex with me just in case. It was fun to see the amphitheater from that perspective.

Starting to gather

Some of the 1st sopranos

Rehearsal before the service

As soon as the organ started with the introduction to “Holy, Holy, Holy” I got giant tears in eyes. I mean I cry during that song in the congregation all the time, so no surprise there. I managed to pull it together enough to really blow out the descant which I can’t describe in words. Let’s just say I was sweating. Ha! The rest of the service went rather quickly. The choir sang a lot so I felt like I was really working the entire time. At the end of the service is when I really lost it. The choir was seated while Jared Jacobsen plays the postlude on the organ. This man is extremely talented as I mentioned, but something about seeing his face as he played rather than from the congregation was just overwhelming and very emotional for me. The loudness of the organ, the complexity of the piece, the perfection with which he played it and then the emotion on his face as he played was too much for me. Words don’t cut it, but the only way to describe it is “beauty in action”. But don’t take my word for it. Become one of the magic makers at the amphitheater at Chautauqua and see for yourself!

Zach’s Confirmation Sunday

Zach was baptized at Rejoice Lutheran Church on Sun, April 21, 2002


Then almost exactly 13 years later on Sun, April 19, 2015 he was confirmed at Rejoice Lutheran Church


The rehearsal on Saturday…yeah, the kids feel at home here! Z has bare feet!

Overall it was a wonderful weekend of celebration, but of course in true Ramsey form we had to have some drama along with the good times. On Saturday afternoon, Zach and his cousins were playing on the driving range behind grandma’s house and Zach got hit with a golf ball in the middle of the forehead! He came in announcing that he had a third eye. I started freaking out a bit when I saw the largest goose-egg pop out from his forehead! It looked terrible.


This picture does not adequately show how big this sucker was! Scary!

Once we determined he didn’t have a concussion or anything (quick call to Uncle Bruce), he just iced it and we hoped the swelling would go down for the confirmation pictures the next day! Thankfully it did and he was just fine. Now it is just a good story that will make confirmation that more memorable!

Cool devotional book gift from Barkers. He jokingly was covering up his goose-egg for the picture!

Gifts from Pillsbury’s: customized dogtags…very Zachary

And framed quote from Grandpa P….also very Zachary

It had to happen…

Ready to go in his new duds! He really wanted a tie bow tie and he wasn’t satisfied until he tied it himself!

The procession into church – big class of 9 kids this year!

The Barkers waiting patiently

We even had a canine visitor celebrating with us!

They all did a very nice job!

Can you see the goose-egg?!

With GMa and GPa


Evan and Zach have been buddies since they were about 3 years old!

Zach’s confirmation certificate and memory verse. The memory verse he picked once he learned that “Jesus wept”. was out was Isaiah 40:30-31: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Very fitting.

The sentence that Pastor picked to highlight from Zach’s final paragraph was this one: “Knowing that my core identity is a gift from God makes me feel unique and special”.


Brunch at Blue Canyon after the service

Grateful for such a fun and memorable celebration with family and friends. I felt God’s presence with us through the weekend…goose-eggs and all!

The Great Big Ramsey Spring Break Adventure 2015 – Part 2

March 2015

So…good news! We made our flight to Denver on Tuesday and Zach and I both agreed that this airport would have been really fun to be stuck in for 5 1/2 hours! There was an upper level that was just a bunch of empty space for people to walk or run around and the airport was virtually empty – especially when compared to Chicago! Plus they had a TCBY – remember that place?

This was a cool plane hanging from the ceiling…

Thankfully we got into SLC without a hitch this time and were happily reunited with our luggage!


By the time we got our rental car and arrived at the hotel it was 5pm. Les Mis started at 7:30pm and we were to be at will call at 7pm to get our tickets. Did I also mention that the theater was an hour away?? So in record breaking speed we took showers and jumped in the car. We grabbed something to eat quick in a drive-through (I’m embarrassed to admit that it was McDonalds!), and arrived at the theater. The building was very small and unassuming. If you didn’t know it was a theater you would have no idea from the outside, save from the large Les Mis sign, of course.


The theater was small and set in the round with about 250 seats. I had never seen a show in that format so I was excited to see it. I was also so hoping that Mike and Zach would like it!

You can see here the entrance to the backstage area.

There was seating around 3 sides of the stage.

Our seats were not together, but that didn’t matter for a theater this small. Before the show started they requested that everyone stay in their seats for the duration of each act because actors and large pieces of scenery would be coming down the aisles. I had wondered how they would do that! They did it seamlessly, however, and stayed in character the entire time. Well, the show was amazing. We felt like we were a part of the show with the actors being like 25 feet away. They were so talented and had gorgeous voices. Plus I just love the music in Les Mis. At intermission I was anxious to hear how Z and M liked it so far and they said they liked it! The second act was equally awesome and as we exited past the actors I could barely look at them (I have a problem with being star struck), but managed to say “good job”. Mike was having full conversations with some of them! I was cracking up! We talked about the show almost the entire way back to the hotel. I was pleased as punch that the boys enjoyed it so much!! For me, the trip was well worth it already! Mike read that the season tickets for this theater were $30/piece…for like 6 shows! What a bargain! Note to self: find a theater in the round in Cleveland.


After we dropped Mike off at the office, Zach and I headed out to go hiking. I had done some research about popular trails, but, of course, the pictures on the websites were all taken during the summer! Zach randomly picked one called “Donut Falls” and so I set the GPS for that one. According to the website that trail was considered “moderate”. As we drove to our destination I quickly figured out that we were going to be driving up the mountain…like straight up! We made out last turn and we still had 9 miles to go to get to the trailhead! I was very glad to be driving because I think I would have been nauseous if I was a passenger. It was a beautiful drive up the mountain – what I could notice beyond watching the road and my white knuckles gripping the steering wheel! We finally got there and took in the view!






I cut our mountain hike a little bit short because I just felt like we were unprepared for a snowy hike (read: Zach was unprepared with shorts and basketball shoes on with no tread). Plus it seemed pretty steep and icy in places and I just felt irresponsible going forward like that and not knowing the area. So we set out to find a trail that was a little bit further down the mountain.

We stopped at a place with a really beautiful waterfall and explored a bit…


There were some people who had just finished rappelling the mountain…

An old mine…

This trail also looked a little too treacherous for amateur hikers like us so I looked up an “easy” trail and we went there (much to Zach’s chagrin).

Ensign Peak – actually was set up against a residential neighborhood behind the capital building in Salt Lake City.

Our destination!

Cool monument


The view from the top

The monument from the top…proof we got there!

The Salt Lake in the distance


Zachary far ahead of me

Beautiful area – the hike was designated as “easy”, but it was a great workout. Somehow I think “easy” in Ohio is different than “easy” in the SLC area!


After our hike we had lunch near the City Center at the Lion House (home built by Brigham Young) and then shopped a bit at the City Center. We finished our afternoon at the pool at the hotel before picking Mike up from the office. That night we just had pizza and went to bed early. Just a half day more and then time to fly home!

Zach and I had a short time on Thursday as we had to catch our cab to the airport at 1:45pm. So, we took public transportation to the city for lunch so Mike could take the car. They do food trucks on Thursdays so I thought that would be fun to do.


Zach was really tempted with this one, but ultimately decided on grilled cheese instead…it had to be cheese!


Apparently this was the truck to go to! The line started forming before 11am! We didn’t have tons of time or else I would have waited to try it. It was some sort of asian noodle bowls.

Plain Jane grilled cheese

I got mine with bacon – why not, I’m on vacation!

After lunch we hopped back on the train and went to Temple Square for the free tabernacle organ recital. I went to it last time I was in SLC and it is phenomenal. It is just 30 minutes, but gives you a flavor of the range of the instrument. Amazing! It was built in the 1860’s and has 11,623 pipes. It shook the seats!


Then we just walked around the square a bit and took some pictures from the 10th floor of the Joseph Smith building:


The temple – this particular building is reserved for Mormon’s only, but there is a model of it with a cutaway in the visitor center to get an idea of what it is like inside.


Beautiful floral arrangement in the lobby of the building

Family sculpture in the city center

We got our cab to the airport and arrived home very late, but safely. We had a near miss in Baltimore when we literally had 10 minutes to get to our gate and on our plane to Cleveland. Oh, and Zach’s phone was dead so he didn’t have access to his boarding pass! Ugh. Luckily we made it – just a few gates away and the staff printed off another boarding pass for Zach and all was well. We just had to have a little stress to round out our trip home! Even though it was disappointing to have about 1 day and a half cut short from our trip, all in all we had a great time just being together. So there ends another Ramsey style adventure!!!

The Great Big Ramsey Spring Break Adventure 2015: Part 1

March 2015
Well, our story all started towards the end of February with Mike announcing that his trip to Salt Lake City had been finalized for the week of Zach’s spring break in March. After my initial panic a plan began to form in my mind. Rather than figure out what to do to keep Zach occupied while I went to work for that week, why don’t we all go?! Mike had a free ticket to use so soon it became a done deal. We would all travel together on Monday and Zach and I would return late Thursday night and Mike would return on Saturday.

We had an early flight on Monday morning so we were up at 3am. After an uneventful flight to Chicago we had to circle the airport a bit because they were clearing the runway of snow (that should have been our first clue to the adventures that awaited us!). We landed to find out that our flight to SLC was delayed for an hour (9:30am). I was actually okay with that because I wanted to use the yoga room that I found at the airport. Pretty cool! They had yoga mats and wipes for travelers to get their namaste on before or after flights. I spent about 30 minutes in there.



Almost right after I got back to the terminal the announcement was made that our flight was now delayed until 11:40am. They explained that our plane was diverted to Dayton (of all places) because it could not land because of extremely low visibility due to snow and they hoped it could get to us by that time. At this point Mike was getting a little frustrated. He and Chicago have a history. A few years ago he was stuck in the city for 2 days due to airline cancellations. We took turns walking up and down the people mover throughout the people mover just for something to do. The airport started getting really crowded at this point as many flights were delayed. The adventure was started to get old, but the worst was yet to come…




Close to when we have should started boarding, the next announcement came saying the plane was delayed until 2pm. At this point Mike was ready to go home. I tried to stay positive and suggested we go have lunch. I have never seen an airport so crowded – people all lined up and down the people movers and every seat taken. Not only were we bored and frustrated, but we were just plain old tired! Mike and I had made the poor decision of staying up to watch our show the night before thinking “we can sleep on the plane”. Ha! The next two announcements came close together. First, they said the plane would depart at 2:40pm and then about 20 minutes later made the final announcement that the flight was CANCELLED. Crud. They told people to come up the desk or call the 800 number to reschedule the flight. Since the line at the desk was extremely long already, Mike got on the phone with Southwest and I started calling hotels. The hotel was the easy part. There were no other flights going to SLC on Monday so we had to stay the night. The first flight out to SLC on Tuesday was at 6:40am, but as we were on the phone with them it got booked up! Mike was telling me there were no flights available at all except one that would get into SLC at 11:30pm the next day. He asked if I wanted to just go home. Heck no! I was really upset. I was bound and determined to get there! We had tickets to see Les Mis at 7:30pm so that was my benchmark. If we could just make that time I would still want to make the trip. Miraculously, a flight became available that was going to Denver at 10:40am and would land in SLC 4:15pm on Tuesday. SOLD! We booked that flight and headed up to ticketing to get new boarding passes. It was only then that I realized/learned that our checked luggage was not available to us. The ticketing agent said it was “in the bowels” of the airport and would be sent on the next flight to our destination. She saw my mouth drop open and said, “do you need something from your luggage”? The difference between want and need became clearer as she explained that we could get the luggage, but it would take between 1 and 3 hours for them to retrieve it for us (in the bowels). Um, no thanks. Oh, and remember how your mother always tells you to pack an extra pair of underwear in your carry-on? Yeah, about that. No such luck. Not only had we been wearing these clothes since 3am, but we would be wearing them until probably 3pm the next day AND did I mention I did a short yoga session in the airport? Yeah.

The good news was that we checked into a nice hotel and they were so nice to provide us with all sorts of toiletries. After a nice dinner I did my best to wash out some of my clothing in the sink and hoped it would be dry by morning. My jammies that night were a bath towel and a fleece sweatshirt. The boys didn’t seem phased by having to wear dirty clothes the next day. Well, for Zach such is life, right?! We turned the TV off at 8pm, thankful for full bellies and comfy beds and fell asleep hoping our luck would change the next day…

To be continued…

Why I’ll Never be a Fishing Boat Captain

June 16, 2014

I should have known better. Well, I did kinda know better, but such is life. You know how you know how something is going to turn out a certain way (badly), but you do it again hoping for a different result this time? Like the shoes I keep wearing to work because they are so cute, but they are God awful uncomfortable. I keep thinking that it will change – that today they will fit fine, but alas they still suck. It’s the damnedest thing.

Well, I had one of those experiences today. We signed up to take a 5 ½ hour deep sea fishing tour at Hilton Head. Those of you who know me at all are probably already shaking your head and know full well where this story is leading. Please continue…

Well, Mike really wanted to try this on vacation this year so after looking into it, we booked a trip. I had offered because of cost to bow out and let the boys just go, but Mike found one that was pretty reasonable so we could all go together.
Now, a couple things you should know about me before going further. First, I get motion sick. I cannot read in the car, go on spinning rides and at times cannot even look at my phone in the car in the passenger seat. Second, I love boats. On a lake. Above the water. I love going fast and riding into “big waves”. And lastly, I love my husband and family and enjoy doing new things together. All of these things came together today in a perfect storm!

I mean how bad could it be? I took a half of a motion sickness pill in the morning that we made a special trip to CVS on the island to get. I had a great run that morning and I was ready to go fishing!

Our boat – Captain Hook

I should have paid attention to the signs that morning…like this little goody conveniently placed right outside the ticket booth.

And the story from a local, grandpa-type, fellow passenger waiting in line to get on the boat, about how his wife was “sick as a dog” on their last trip. Gulp –not reassuring. All that being said though I was determined that I would be fine. Just because I have gotten motion sick before doesn’t mean it would happen again (yes, that is really what I thought). Forget about that time I threw up in a little 2-seater plane while on a date with the pilot! That is another story for another day. Plus, that was kid stuff, I thought! This was different – this was a boat. I LOVE boats!!!

I felt pretty good for the first hour into the trip. It took us that long to get from where we boarded to the open water. It was fun to look at the big houses and just enjoy the ride.

However, my uneasiness increased in direct proportion to how far into the open water we were getting. But the worst was yet to come. The first mate gave us an orientation on how to fish. I half-listened, but my ears really perked up when he said that sometimes people get sick and there is no shame in that. He told us that if that happened, just keep it outside the boat…and that it is actually good for fishing! Everyone chuckled, but I just felt a greater sense of doom encroaching on me.

Me, realizing this was a bad idea…

The boat finally stopped and the boys started fishing. The boat was rocking gently side to side. I mean, I guess it was gentle, but the fact that it was moving at all and constantly was starting to make me feel dizzy and queasy. I thought I might feel better if I went up to the sundeck to read so I told Mike that I was heading up above. But as I made my way to the sundeck I quickly realized that it was 5 times worse up there. And reading? Yeah, right. I then realized that I needed to find a spot on the boat, heady down and just hope for the best. I sat on a bench in the shade, leaned on the rail and closed my eyes and tried to find my happy place. All the while I felt so nauseous that I thought at any moment I would contribute positively to the fishing with the contents of my stomach. I was kicking myself for going on this trip and wishing I would have just let the boys go and I stayed on the beach! But that was a fleeting thought. Here I was, stuck on this boat, for the next 2 hours and I just had to get through it. I was determined not to make a big stink of it and I didn’t want to ruin it for the boys. There was nothing anyone could do at this point anyways. But most of all, I did not want to throw up. I have never been so sick without being actually being sick in my entire life. I managed to pull it together to take a few quick pics of Zach as he caught fish, but other than that I was heady down.

We moved fishing spots 2 different times and each time I was literally praying that we were heading back. Nope. At one point the first mate came along and offered me a frozen washcloth to put on the back of my neck. He could have offered me a snakeskin to wear on my neck and I wouldn’t have fought him. I was that out of it. Finally, we headed back and I breathed a sigh of relief. Once we got back into calmer waters I made my way to the front of the boat and tried to enjoy the ride. The nausea had mostly passed and I was proud that I retained my stomach contents, and my dignity! All that was left was a headache and a desire to be very still for a while.

So, lesson learned. No, I will not be a fishing boat captain, nor will I ever go on a cruise that people keep telling me I would just love (you can wear these bracelets or take this great medicine!). No thanks. I think I’ll keep both feet on the ground.

Run the HHI highlight reel…

So I feel like I haven’t blogged in forever!! And sure enough it has been about a month!! Funny how that happens when life gets super busy. Either that or nothing particularly interesting has happened. Well, either way, I thought I should write a blog entry about our trip to Hilton Head. I decided to cheat a bit because I’m really just trying to get this blog entry done before our next trip (we leave tomorrow!). So forgive me if you have heard some of these things before. I’m recycling blog posts and adding pictures to them. Am I cutting corners on this one? Yes, but at least it will all be in one place so I can re-read it when I really start missing the beach like in January!!!

We had a pretty uneventful trip down to HH. We stayed overnight at a Holiday Inn Express in Charlotte, NC. It just made sense to break up the trip with our 11-year-old “I get bored in 2 hours little traveler”. Mike had made us reservations at this high-rise hotel with an outdoor pool and fitness center on the roof. It was really fun and Zach LOVED it! We found out later (a few days into the trip) that Mike did not share our enthusiasm for the place. Evidently he saw a critter…as in COCKROACH…skitter across the carpet near the tv after Z and I had fallen asleep!!!! Yeah, that would have been a deal-breaker for me no matter what time of day or night it was. I still get the heebee-jeebies thinking about it!!! Needless to say, we will not be staying there again!!!

Our condo was really nice! Very clean and comfortable and well stocked.

Day 1 – great first full day at HHI! Early solo walk on the beach collecting shells, then exploring Harbor Town, lunch out, a sailing excursion (so awesome we saw a dolphin 20 yards from the boat!), beach time, bike ride, late dinner in the condo and now relaxing with a movie in the condo!

Highlight – SAILING!!! Let’s buy a boat!

Day 2- okay Hilton Head rocks! Morning beach run, yoga (just me) by the pool, then afternoon dolphin and beach combing tour! Saw some cool live animals (dolphins very close) and found tons of big shells and sand dollars. Dinner out = yummy crab cakes! Might go looking for crabs on the beach in the dark if we can stay awake!

Highlight – Beach combing cruise!! We collected tons of bigger shells and sand dollars!

Day 3: Early yoga at the pool, shopping and exploring Coligne Plaza and South Beach, lunch at Salty Dog, then beach time and dinner in. Today will hopefully be our day in Savannah!

Highlight – Salty Dog Lunch!! I seafood combo with 1/2 of a crab salad sandwich – so yummy! Not to mention the hushpuppies below…

They called them hushpuppies, but no, they were more like doughnuts or funnel cakes!! The devil!!

Day 4: Well, good day trip to Savannah with the “on and off” tour. Savannah is such a cool place! It was to see all the historical buildings and architecture. Good thing because tonight was a fail. Tried to go hear an entertainer in Harbour Town, but the parking was non-existent so instead attempted a bike ride on the beach. Oh yeah, it was high tide…oops! Had to walk them all the way back with an oh, so pleasant tween boy just loving every minute of it. Oh well, tomorrow is another day!

Highlight – Trip to Savannah!

Day 5: Great day hanging with the Sams family…beach run, the pool, the beach and then dinner! What a great fam! Ice cream again for dessert at a place called “Frozen Moo”…Z is in his glory!

Highlight – Hanging out with the Sams’ family!

Day 6: sunrise yoga on the beach, then rainy day so outlet shopping, lunch and mini golf. Then we decided to get a jump on traffic and head out last night so we could break up the drive again. Hilarious drive to IHOP and finally a hotel.

Highlight – yoga on the beach and lunch at Nosh! The restaurant by the chef from the show “Restaurant Impossible”

I enjoyed everything we did on our trip. I kept the family going at a pretty good clip which was challenging for my husband! But I think he enjoyed it too. If I had to pick a favorite experience at Hilton Head I would have to choose the beach in the morning. Whether or I was running, walking or doing yoga I was in my element then and there. I’m an early riser anyways, but seeing the beach in the morning with less people, runners and walkers on the beach, dogs playing, and just the sound of the waves. It was really breathtaking. The beauty just reminds me how we are all connected. I was overcome leaving and shed some tears, but that is okay. It just means we need to come back. What is it about water that is so intoxicating and attractive? Until we meet again, Hilton Head – stay salty and calm!

Mom of the Year

Yesterday I took my mom to the Mom Squad Luncheon sponsored by 95.5 the Fish at Hartville Kitchen to celebrate Mother’s Day. These events are so fun and they include a yummy lunch (the pie is to die for!), prizes, music and a speaker. They also celebrate one mom by giving her the “Mom of the Year” award. I have thought about nominating my mom in the past for this, but always seemed to miss the deadline. So this year, I made a point of doing it and got my nomination in on time! She didn’t win the official contest. The winner was a wonderful, faith-filled, selfless, and caring mom of two children with severe special needs. She was definitely very deserving of the award – not a dry eye in the place! However, I wanted to share my nomination with the world in honor of her and Mother’s Day. I already shared this with my mom yesterday and she agreed that I could post it here!

Mom of the Year – May 2013
Virginia Marie Pillsbury

I am writing to nominate my mom, Virginia Marie Pillsbury as “Mom of the Year”. When I think of the many reasons why my mom should win “Mom of the Year” the words that immediately come to my mind are faith, teacher, and friend. So I thought I would share why I think my mom is deserving of this award by grouping the reasons in those categories.

First of all, my mom’s strong faith is the cornerstone of her life and she is a role model for me and many other people in her life. She has a very active prayer life and consistently uses her daily “doggie walks” as her prayer time….in all seasons! I think her faith helps her to remain incredibly positive no matter what situation she is facing. From just appreciating the things in life that other people complain about, like walks in the rain, to seeing the silver lining in a relationship gone bad, my mom always seems to look on the bright side of life. She has been through some struggles in her life that she didn’t plan on, but she is always able to find the good in everything, believing firmly that there is a greater plan for her. Also, she has served as a member and as the chair of the Outreach team at our church throughout the years and does such a good job of reaching out to others who are seeking and inviting them to come and check out our church. She has a real gift of hospitality and knows how to make people feel comfortable and welcome right away. In addition to her role with Outreach my mom is a faithful attender of the weekly women’s bible study, quilting nights and a leader/planner for the women’s weekend retreat for over twenty years. Over the last few years my mom’s faith and work with our church has extended her outreach even more into the community as a whole. For the past five (5) of years she has served as our church representative to the Hudson Community Service Association.

Perhaps the most inspirational thing my mom has been involved with as a result of her faith has been the creation of the Hudson Food Pantry. Historically there has been a great need for a food pantry in Hudson for a number of years. A few dedicated individuals had a home grown system based in someone’s garage to help provide food to people who needed it, but the system had become antiquated. The Hudson Community Service Association recognized the need to find a dedicated space to house the food pantry, but struggled to find the space for it. Enter my mom. She came up with the idea of housing it in our church! She advocated for this idea with tons of passion! First, she talked at the organization’s monthly meeting and then presented the idea to our church council and congregation and it was passed! Her passion and caring, together with the support of our Pastor, convinced the church to give up a prime Sunday school classroom for dedicated space for The Food Pantry! The first distribution in April 2012 served two families (four people) and it continues growing every month. In March 2013 the distribution served 32 families (94 people)! My mom continues to be faithful to this project in her consistent service on food distribution day. I’m so proud to see this wonderful contribution to our community and to know that my mom was a huge part of getting it started!!

My mom worked as a preschool teacher in Hudson for twenty years, mostly at church programs for 3-4 year olds. Through the years she has met so many nice families and developed some neat relationships with the preschool moms she has gotten to know. Often my mom runs into former preschool families or students out in the community and it is so fun to see them greet my mom with a big smile and a hug! They always tell me how much they liked having Mrs. Pillsbury as a teacher. When I meet someone out in the community who is a former preschool mom, she always tells me how much their son/daughter loved my mom’s class and they ask how she is doing. My mom took her job as a teacher very seriously. As a matter of fact, to her I think it was more than a job – it was a calling – it was/is who she is. She genuinely loves children and loved the opportunity to teach in a Christian program so teaching about God could be part of the curriculum. She brought a loving heart and the patience of Job to her classroom, even with the most challenging of children. Many times the most ornery and misbehaving child in the class at the beginning of the year became one of her favorites by the end of the year and looked forward to a hug from Mrs. Pillsbury. The kids knew she loved them and they felt safe and could make mistakes and learn in her classroom. She still teaches a “Fun with Art and Music class” and a “Kindergarten club” part-time at the local fitness club where she has consistent followers who sign their children up for classes on a regular basis. She is able to combine her talent for crafts with her love for children and teaching in the most creative way.

My mom is a good friend. She is one of those people who truly listens to people when they talk rather than just nodding and smiling! She is tuned into what people are feeling and is so good at just being there for people. She has a nice group of women friends who have met for breakfast every Monday morning for twenty-nine years! As an adult I have heard countless times from my mom’s friends, former preschool moms and even just acquaintances how much they love my mom. “You have the best mom” or “I just love your mom” are phrases I have gotten used to hearing often over the years and it is really only until I am writing this that I truly realize how lucky I am. I was not only lucky enough to have had my mom as my actual mom, but now that I am a mother myself I get to enjoy being my mom’s friend too.

One of the unique ways my mom is able to sustain her friendships over the years is through her Christmas cards. My mom is very thoughtful. Even though she is now on Facebook to keep up with her friends, she still often sends out handwritten notes to friends and puts them in the mailbox. Imagine that! She also has kept up her favorite Christmas tradition each year – her handmade Christmas cards. She has designed and created a unique handmade Christmas card each year since 1971. Each year she makes and sends out about 200 of them! Most are mailed to family and friends near and far, but the local merchants on Main Street receive a hand delivered greeting from my mom the week before Christmas. There is also a homemade ornament in each card that follows the theme of that year’s card! She usually gets her card idea in the summer, makes a prototype and once it is tweaked she starts the production process! Many people on her Christmas list look forward to her cards. Some even have special little Christmas trees that hold their collection of ornaments from her cards. My mom calls her cards “her Christmas” and even with financial challenges and increasing postage costs over the years she always manages to continue her tradition of greeting her loved ones in her own special way.

I am writing to nominate my mom as “mom of the year” because of all the things I have already said, but mostly because of the person she is and the person she has taught and continues to teach me to be. I’m 43 years old, but I still need my mom and I am still learning from her. If I could be half the mom, half the teacher, or half the friend that she is for me and all who know her, I would be thrilled. Her steadfast faith is woven through her church work, her career/calling as a teacher, her work in the community, and her friendships. She is a role-model, a confidant, and my friend. Most of all I am just happy to nominate her because that means that I can share with her all the reasons that she is already “mom of the year” to me. I love you, Mom!

Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Run!

Sat, Dec 8

What a great event! The Jingle Bell Run 5K Run/Walk for the Arthritis Foundation was awesome! What a fun morning! The morning for me began rather early – right around 4am – up coughing with yet another cold! I had been determined to try to PR for this race – for my Zachary B! However, after a shorter night’s sleep than planned and not feeling quite up to par I decided that we would run together instead! Originally Mike had said he would walk it, but then he decided to run/walk instead so we met in the middle. My friend, Angie and her friend Ann joined our team soon after we started promoting it! I call them the “Ram Fam on the ground” since they were actually going to be participating in the run itself. The other 35 people who gave generously to the run are the silent supporters, but still a part of the Ram Fam team for sure. I’ll get to them later!

We headed to Legacy this am happy that it was fairly mild outside and just a little misty. I grabbed a quick family photo with the elf guy! Afterall he was the mascot on the website so he was famous!!

There was nice energy happening at the registration area – tons of Christmas red and green, costumes, and of course, jingle bells! We grabbed another pic in front of the Christmas Tree.

We finally met up with the rest of our team and got prepared in our jingle bell run hats that Angie made! She even made one labeled “captain” for Zachy (the status of which he reminded us of quite often!)

Close-ups of the hats because they are totally awesome (and before Henry decides that they are awesome too!)

We agreed to run together and took off when the horn blew! We all stayed together and ran for the first mile and I was really proud of Zach and Mike! Neither one of them run at all and they did great! Then we walked a bit and then took off again. By the half-way point Angie and I were ready to take off a bit. Mike and Zach said to go on ahead so we did! Ang and I came in around 35:20, but for once I really did not care about time. I just wanted to get into position to take pictures of Zach and Mike coming into the finish! I took a video of them coming in. Check it out here! (coming soon)

Here they are after a quick water break!

And a silly one of me and my dude!

Here is a posed pic of the team by the finish. Pay no attention to the clock – we had waited around a bit!

As I mentioned there were a number of crazy costumes there. Here were the winners of the team costumes! You gotta have tutus at every race!!

This lady won first place in individual costume! She also placed in her age group which was over 70, I think. She was cool!!

After they went through all the running awards in all the age-groups they announced fundraising goals. They did not mention the top three team names which I thought was odd, especially since the Ram Fam came in 2nd!! But that was okay because then they announced the top individual fundraisers and first place was Mike Ramsey!!!! Yahoo!!!

The prize was 4 tickets to an event at the Q in January and $100 to Dick’s Sporting Goods! So cool! Wish we could share it with the whole team!

Speaking of the whole team, as many of you know we have been working on fundraising for the Arthritis Foundation for this event for about a month now with much success! Happily we surpassed our initial goal of $2000!!! We are so grateful to all of the people who contributed to this great organization. You are all amazing! Here is our tribute and applause for the Ram Fam Honor Roll:

Heber Allred
Luigi Annelli
Kristen & Bruce Barker
Sean Bernat
Shirley & Rich Berthold
Scott Davis
Marian & Al Edmiston
Ann Feltis
Mary Ann Hanicak
Amy Hatch
Bruce Hecking
Janet Juliano
Jan Khrev
Carla & Heather Mauer
Carol & Dennis McFarland
Harry Menzel
Betty Montgomery
Heidi Muller
Laura & Chris Patrick
Ginny & Brian Pillsbury
James Pupura
Cynthia S.
Gennel Schvartz
Sandy & Paul Smith
Marco Spalla
Brandin Thomas
Darin Thomas
Marilyn Valencia
Aaron Watts
Angie Weimer
Audra West
Steve & Susan Windham
Asian Sun

Thank you all and God Bless!!!

The Incredible Shrinking Man!

So I thought it was time to write a blog bragging about my husband. And it is not what you are thinking. It is not because he is a wonderful husband and father in all the ways that count. It is not because he can fix the air conditioner with an $8 part that would have cost us $120 with a contractor. It is not because he is so supportive of me and all of my goals. No, even though all these things are true (and there are tons more) it is not about any of those things. No, I’m blogging about my husband because I’m proud of his dedication and commitment to being more healthy!

It all began when he became very curious watching Zach at his first tae kwon do class at the end of March this year. We had gotten a free 6 week trial for Zach for his birthday. Probably about a day later Mike said, “you know, they have family memberships at Asian Sun too!” Hmmm, why yes, yes they do! Pretty soon the guy who just could not “make time” to get to the gym during lunch (working from home) was managing to make time for not only one, but two tae kwon do classes a day some days! He had finally found his niche – something physical he truly enjoyed. And bonus – he could share it with Zachary! They kept going to classes and started earning new belts. Mike even competed in his first tournament in May! He started enjoying it even more than Zach, I think! I started noticing that Mike was slimming down and getting more toned and this was confirmed by the fact that some of his shorts were becoming loser fitting on him. So he was seeing the positive results of being active and enjoying the activity at the same time.

About two weeks ago, he decided to kick it up a notch! Even though he generally eats a pretty healthy diet, I think he wasn’t quite aware about proper portions (like the rest of America!). I was pleasantly surprised when I came home from being out of town for an overnight to find that he had joined an on-line food and exercise tracking system ( , after researching a bunch of them, and started using it! It is actually a pretty cool website with an app for the phone and even a bar code scanner feature. I was so inspired by it that I decided to try it too even though I will remain faithful to Weight Watchers in my heart and attend meetings always. I’m fighting with these pesky, stubborn 10 pounds that have been hanging on ever since the WW program changed. So I figured it would not hurt to change things up a bit and see if tracking calories will help me.

So far Mike has lost a little over 5 pounds and I’m very proud of him. We now own a digital bathroom scale, a food scale (both at Mike’s request) and Mike has a detailed spreadsheet tracking his weight progress. I’m way impressed. He is keeping me honest about tracking too and it is just very cool. And this healthy mindset has transferred over to other areas too. He has tried new things that he had never done before like kickboxing class and yoga and enjoyed them, as well. So, cheers to Mr. Ramsey! Good work and keep it up. And by the way, you are dead sexy to me no matter what the scale says!!

Mommy Camp 2012: Highlight Reel

So last week, Zach and I did our second annual Mommy Camp! What is Mommy Camp? Well, Mommy Camp is basically a week that I am off of work where Z and I pick fun things to do everyday away from home, but not too far. Last year was so much fun we decided to do it again this year! I decided to just write one blog to cover the entire week just to give you the flavor of this year’s adventure…

Monday – Lunch at Taggarts Ice Cream, Shopping at Belden Village
Our original plan for today was to do the tour of the London’s Chocolate Factory. I signed us up for a 1pm tour time. My colleague at work mentioned that Taggarts Ice Cream was close to there so we decided to try it for lunch. We both got burgers – me a veggie burger and Z a cheese burger and fries and then we got kiddie hot fudge sundaes. Our bill came to $16.25! The food was really good and the ice cream and fudge was homemade – superb! We even brought some home for Mike!
Here we are at the restaurant with our ice cream!

We were enjoying our lunch so much that we missed our tour time, but decided to go shopping at Belden Village instead. Overall a good first day!

Tuesday – Wild Water Kingdom
Today was water park day! Yahoo! We packed our lunches to eat at the picnic tables right outside the entrance to the park. You cannot bring food in and there is no way I would pay for food there so this is a fun option!
Zach jumped right into the splash area:

You get totally drenched! You know it is coming when the bucket’s bell starts ringing quickly.

My favorite part of the water park was the lazy river. The water was super warm that day – like almost hotter than bath water, but I loved it because I was almost cold. I drifted along in my tube while Zach pushed my tube along and right under the waterfalls! I got totally drenched again and again and loved every minute of it!!! Zach’s favorite thing, besides the splash area (see above) was the wave pool. That was actually pretty fun too!
Here we are taking a break and enjoying a snack:

Wednesday – Togetherness Yoga, Lunch at Nosh Eatery, Fun-n-Stuff
This was probably my favorite day! First we did a mom and child yoga class together at Yoga Lounge which was really fun! After doing an intro into the vinyasa practice we did some partner poses which was really fun. Then we went to eat at Nosh Eatery which I dearly love. The food is all made from scratch and it is fresh and healthy. We spent the afternoon at Fun-n-Stuff where I rode my first Go-Carts (boo – too bumpy) and I played my first lazer tag (yay – so fun – my competitive streak shined through!) I got such a kick out of seeing Zach loving the Go-Carts and jumping from one activity to the next. We definitely got our monies worth that day!!

Here he is after doing the bumper boats!

Thursday – Thrift Store and a movie
So this was a rainy day. The pool was out and shopping was in. We were also running out of money so we decided to go to the Thrift store! Zach found some junk to buy, but then reconsidered after I told him we could stop at The Land of Make Believe. That store is still so cool – just like it was when I was a kid. He bought a couple of magic tricks and was happy as a clam. Then we decided to go see a movie. We saw Brave and we both really liked it. I cried at the end, of course.

Friday – Movie
Today was supposed to be a trip to to the Summit County Fair. Mike was going to take a half day and we were going to go together. Well, Mike got busy and was not able to get off work until about 5pm. By the time we got to the fair the sky was dark and it was sprinkling. Before we bought tickets standing there with an umbrella, we decided to bag it and go the next day. So we went to see the new Ice Age movie instead. The movie was okay, but it was fun to spend the time together.