Hetch Hetchy Valley, As Amazing As Muir Said It Would Be

Hetch Hetchy Valley, As Amazing As Muir Said It Would Be

Have you ever heard about a place and just needed to go experience it for yourself? With the help of my cousin, I crossed one of those places off my list: Hetch Hetchy at Yosemite National Park. Ever since learning about it at college, I’ve wanted to go and experience what it was that made that area such a wonderful place. Let me back up- what is Hetch Hetchy you’re wondering.

Photo from the Restore Hetch Hetchy Project. Taken 1908 by Isaiah West Tabor.
Photo from the Restore Hetch Hetchy Project. Taken 1908 by Isaiah West Tabor.
Standing on the dam at the beginning of the hike. Use Kolana Peak to compare the two photos, 108 years apart.
Standing on the dam at the beginning of the hike. Use Kolana Peak to compare the two photos, 108 years apart.

During the fall of 1871, John Muir visited Hetch Hetchy Valley for the first time. He was a conservationist in every sense of the word, meaning he felt that nature needed to be protected and not saved simply for human benefits later. About 180 miles west of Hetch Hetchy Valley was the growing city of San Francisco. Officials were concerned with the growing city’s need for water and began looking at areas to build a reservoir. The years of 1908 through 1913 saw this great debate about whether or not to build a dam in the valley and use Hetch Hetchy for the reservoir.

Looking at the dam from the Wapama Falls over looking the reservoir.
Looking at the dam from the Wapama Falls over looking the reservoir.

Muir argued against this construction. He and his supporters appreciated the beauty of Hetch Hetchy and the marvel of true wilderness simply for what it was and not as a human resource. President Wilson saw its value too, but for its benefit to San Francisco and approved the project. Michael O’Shaughnessy, the project director, and his team completed the dam in 1938. Yosemite became a National Park in 1890, thanks to the lobbying by Muir himself. The controversy over the construction of the dam continues to this day since the dam was built on National Park land, protected land- it is the only project that destroyed protected land in the history of the National Parks.

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Flash-forward a little more than 80 years, I am at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Muir spent many years, and I am learning about environmental issues and both sides of this debate. I learned about Muir and Gifford Pinchot, Wilson’s Natural Resource Advisor, and their backgrounds and ideas about Hetch Hetchy. We talked about it at some point in every one of my environmental classes so I became knowledgeable and passionate about how to see both sides of an environmental issue. I got to the point where I wanted to see Hetch Hetchy for myself and see what was so special about Yosemite in every sense.

My cousin and I had the meadow to ourselves the night we camped in Yosemite. We ate our breakfast with Mule Deer who came down to the valley to graze- these were the only large wild animals we came across.
My cousin and I had the meadow to ourselves the night we camped in Yosemite. We ate our breakfast with Mule Deer who came down to the valley to graze- these were the only large wild animals we came across.

Sight: This trip I have two answers for my favorite site. One was when we were driving to the trailhead and Hetch Hetchy just came into view. I was star struck. I kept sitting up further in my seat to see more of it and when my cousin and I were hiking around it, I kept wanting to stop to keep taking it all in. We hiked 10 miles each day. We ended the first day with a 5-mile hike up the side of a mountain before reaching the meadow where we spent the night. That was my second favorite site: seeing the meadow. My thighs, my butt and back were killing me- I’ve never been so happy to see a meadow or an awkward log to sit on.

 

 

 

One step in front of the other, dont forget to look up at the trees and smell the fresh air.
One step in front of the other, dont forget to look up at the trees and smell the fresh air.

Smell: This is an easy one, and I noticed it right away. Fresh pine. As soon as we got onto the trail and away from the parking lot, you could smell how fresh the air was. Even when I was out of breathe from all the switchbacks at the end of the first day, I would breathe in deeply and feel clear and calm. And no it’s nothing like a pine scented candle or having the Christmas tree in your living room for a month, this smell surrounds you and gives you a hug saying, ‘welcome back to nature.’

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Sound: Throughout Yosemite National Park there are several waterfalls- who knew! During our hike around Hetch Hetchy we passed several smaller falls before coming to Wapama Falls. This gorgeous curtain of water cascades down from the side of a cliff before spraying off several rocks and flowing into the reservoir. You can hear it and feel the spray from it hitting the rocks before seeing it. We ate lunch next to the Falls both days. It was soothing to watch each section of water make its way over the edge of the cliff before rushing down. Water is just so cool🙂

Taste: If you hike, camp or workout often you know there are certain snacks that just taste better when you’re burning hundreds of calories at a time. For me, it was Teriyaki and Sweet Chipotle Jerky. My cousin hikes and camps often and knew all the good stuff to bring. We paired these jerky flavors with, what seems like a staple camping food for my cousin, hard Parmesan cheese. I hesitate to try this without having hiked 10 miles, but our breaks for jerky and cheese were delicious and appreciated.

This is where we decided to break from the trail and get down to this river.
This is where we decided to break from the trail and get down to this river.

Touch: At one point during the first day we diverted from the trail to get to a river to fill our water bottles (do not leave the trails or head into an area you can’t get out of- this PSA brought to you for the National Parks). To get back to where the trail was, we climbed up over these large rocks. Given that my pack was 20 pounds and that I am not used to rock climbing I had trouble getting over the last rock. My cousin came down and took my pack from me so I could just pull my body over the edge of the rock. We weren’t up very high, but I needed to use all my arm strength (not much) to pull myself up and over the rock. I was concerned about my grip and where I would put my leg when I swung it over the rock. I could feel my heart beat pick up and my adrenaline kick in. I was a little scared- what if I fell backward. I looked backward- bad idea. I got the best grip I could on this rock and pulled myself up. My cousin and I both agreed maybe we didn’t do anymore rock climbing.

A little more abstract, but I feel like this trip I really got more in touch with myself. I did things like climbing up those rocks and peeing in the middle of the night in woods where we knew there were mountain lions and bears (oh my) that I have never done before. I put myself out of my comfort zone and I feel much stronger. We’re encouraged to get outside our comfort zone and do things that make us a little uncomfortable and I think that’s why we must continue to do this. It forces us to rely on ourselves exclusively and see what we’re really capable of because if we don’t get in touch with this part of us, we’ll never know.

Here's to more family hiking trips!
Here’s to more family hiking trips!

Shout out to my cousin Kevin! I could have never done this without him. I am not a very experienced outdoorslady and I needed his expertise to help make this dream of mine a reality. That being said, if you have a dream or something you want to go do or try- find someone who can help you or find a way to make it happen on your own. These are the experiences that you’ll never forget and the ones that help you reach your full potential.

Fenway Park, Paul Revere, Cambridge and Much More – Two Days in Boston

Fenway Park, Paul Revere, Cambridge and Much More – Two Days in Boston

I’ve always enjoyed history, specifically American history. I love documentaries about American wars, the settling of our country and anything that gives a glimpse of how the land was thousands of years ago. Not to mention I have made it a goal while traveling to visit all the iconic spots seen in the movie, National Treasure. So I was very excited to be able to travel to Boston for work along with a day or two of site seeing and catching up with good friends. Here is my sensory tale from my three wonderful days in Boston, MA.

Sight: Let me start out by saying I managed to see a lot while in Boston. I walked to Fenway Park by way of the walkway along the Charles River, the Boston Commons and Public Garden. I learned a lot about Paul Revere by visiting his historic home, walking along the Freedom Trail and across the Longfellow Bridge, eating at Green Dragon Tavern, stopping at the North Church and Paul Revere Mall as well as paying respects at his final resting place in Granary Burying Ground. I spent time enjoying the spring weather in the Boston Commons while admiring the golden dome of the State Building. I also took a cup of tea to the Boston Tea Party Museum and walked through both Harvard and MIT while spending time in Cambridge.

I loved the old feeling I had walking through the streets. The brick roads and sidewalks and the colonial architecture.
I loved the old feeling I had walking through the streets. The brick roads and sidewalks and the colonial architecture.

So with all that in mind, my favorite site(s) were the streets of Boston themselves. I spent a lot of time walking through the North End and Beacon Hill. You can tell you’re in an old city just by how the roads curve and are so narrow. In the North End the streets are brick and uneven, you feel like Paul Revere or Samuel Adams could turn a corner and start walking towards you. I also noticed, that’s sort of odd to notice, the streetlights. They were black, iron and the lights inside them were dimly lit like candles. Walking around Boston, you can feel the history and it’s an experience I have yet to find anywhere else.

Sound: While waiting to meet my friend in Cambridge- I should mention this is my oldest friend who I had not seen in 8 years, so I was very excited- I was sitting at The Abbey drinking a glass of wine listening to the bar chatter. As each new person came in, the bartender and owners greeted them, mostly by name. It made the whole place feel very welcoming and comfortable as though it was a family reunion instead of busy bar. Even as I was sitting alone, I didn’t feel alone. I was part of the reunion, relaxing and catching up after a long week.

Smell: I’ve always been comforted by smells. That probably sounds weird, but think of your family or significant other; they have a distinct smell that when you hug or embrace, you probably feel calm and safe. So when my long time friend, since we were in 3rd grade, walked into the restaurant, I stood up to give her a huge hug and her perfume was the same as always- Anise Anise. Since we last saw each other every time I smell it I think of her and it makes me smile. She gave me a small bottle to take back home with me🙂.

I walked through Harvard and MIT and not to sound like a snob, but I liked MIT's campus much better. The river view is gorgeous and everyone just seemed much more approachable.
I walked through Harvard and MIT after spending time with my friend and not to sound like a snob, but I liked MIT’s campus much better. The river view is gorgeous and everyone just seemed much more approachable.

Taste: I had a lot of delicious food in Boston and Cambridge; I was fortunate to have my friends pick great restaurants and order very well. Thursday night after the work event, I met with a few work friends at a restaurant in China Town, Shojo. It’s a smaller place with an urban but cozy vibe. My friends ordered several dishes like fried rice, a chicken sandwich, short ribs and my favorite taste from the trip: Big Mac Dumplings. Yes, it was all the wonderfully satisfying flavors of America’s favorite sandwich wrapped up and served as a dumpling. There was no bun or cheese, but the meat inside was flavored so well that I ended up eating 2 and cutting them into smaller bites to enjoy longer. 

Touch: Before catching a cab for the airport, I walked through the Granary Burying Ground. It’s here that Benjamin Franklin’s parents, the victims of the Boston Massacre, John Hancock, Mother Goose, Samuel Adams and Paul Revere a buried. When you walk through the front gate there’s a nice man with a thick Boston accent handing out maps and information packets. I walked over to read the stone for Samuel Adams (an empty pint glass was placed on top of his stone) and next to him the victims of the Boston Massacre. As I wove my way past Mr. and Mrs. Franklin and John Hancock I made my way to the back where Paul Revere is buried. People throw coins, not just pennies, around the tombstones and burial markers to pay respect.

On my way out, I reached out my hand to graze the tops of a few of the tombstones of the lesser-known individuals buried there. I stopped and read the years on their stones. 1500s, 1600s – this cemetery has been here longer than the country. I didn’t take any photos in the cemetery, I thought that was odd to do, but I did just leave my hand on the top of a tombstone just for a few seconds. All the Boston winters and construction and everything and these original rocks are still here. I think it’s important to appreciate history and preserve it, just as this cemetery does to help us remember how our country came to be.

Christopher Columbus Park. The trellis like arches they have make it a stunning spot, even though I was starting to get caught in the rain there.
Christopher Columbus Park. The trellis like arches they have make it a stunning spot, even though I was starting to get caught in the rain there.

Clearly you can tell I have an interest and passion for history. While I know that looking forward is most important, you can learn a lot from understanding the past. Boston certainly is a city with a ton of American history, but it’s also doing wonders for our future. The bike lanes through the greater Boston area for instance, are a perfect large-scale example that other cities can use to improve their own sustainable transpiration options.

For anyone looking to travel to Boston I would recommend doing so in warmer weather because you can pretty much walk the city in a weekend and see so much more than if you took cabs everywhere. Even in early April I found myself stopping and random stores just to get out of the wind and cold. The people of Boston are very friendly and very helpful when it comes to directions and places to eat. They also have bus tours and Duck tours, which I was not able to do this trip – Duck tour is on my list for next time!

Adventures with a Passport: Hong Kong & China

Adventures with a Passport: Hong Kong & China

 

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Taken in Kawloon along Victoria Harbor looking across at Hong Kong’s Convention Center.

I am 24 years old and for the first time in my life, I left the United States. Hong Kong is about the last place in the world I expected I would travel first, but off I went. I traveled for work with my coworker with the goals of attending an industry expo, meeting with our company at our Hong Kong office and visiting the factory. Fortunately, we did also have one day to ourselves to explore, shop and site see. I am hoping to do more traveling, abroad and domestically and I hope to keep up a little log of my experiences, here we go:

 

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Taken after I devoured 3 servings of Peking Duck.

Favorite Taste: We enjoyed five Dim Sum meals with our Hong Kong office. Think of Dim Sum as Chinese Tapas, plates of varying sizes meant for sharing that are served on a Lazy Susan table. While visiting the factory in Mainland China we had my favorite dishes. Peking Duck, which is sliced duck on top of cucumber and a chip that reminded me of a Pringle, wrapped in a thin pancake dipped in Hoisin sauce, I hope I can find that in the US. The crunchy chip, the refreshing cucumber and the delicious duck that was filling without being too rich.

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The Hong Kong skyline is at its brightest and most gorgeous just after it rains.

Favorite Site: The skyline of Hong Kong at night from the Clock Tower in Kowloon. Just a short 15-minute walk from our hotel was this walkway along Victoria Harbor. From there you can see the gorgeous convention center, Victoria Peak, the Ferris wheel and all the lights that make up Hong Kong. It’s truly unique to be able to have a skyline view from any point around the harbor making it just a gorgeous place for an evening stroll.

This gorgeous chandelier hung all the way down to about 8 feet off the ground.
This gorgeous chandelier hung all the way down to about 8 feet off the ground.

 

Favorite Smell: During our stay we heard that from the top of the International Commerce Center you can eat dinner and look out over Victoria Harbor, we had to go check this out. Turns out it’s also the Ritz Carlton Hotel- we fancy. We rode the elevator 103 floors up to a cozy bar and lounge. The entire hotel smelled like vanilla and was so warm and inviting, I immediately felt comfortable and relaxed. A pleasant change from strange food and pollution smells I found in other parts of the city.

 

 

 

 

Favorite Touch: Victoria Peak is the highest point in Hong Kong. You can ride a tram all the way to the top to visit the sky deck and get a full view of Hong Kong, Kowloon and the surrounding areas. Even though it was raining on our one day to site see, the view looked something like this:

Super cloudy because of the rain you couldnt even see the trees or buildings close by and in the distance.
Super cloudy because of the rain you couldnt even see the trees or buildings close by and in the distance.

So we ate lunch there and then checked out what the shop venders had to offer. I found several scarves hanging against a wall and proceeded to feel all of them. Silk. Cashmere. Cotton. All so soft and so beautiful, I stood for several minutes touching and modeling a few before making my selection.

Favorite Sound: As many of my friends know, birds are not my favorite animals, but the birds in Hong Kong were a welcomed noise. Amongst the blaring horns and congested traffic, it was simple to hear birds chirping. Simple is a strange way to describe a sound, but hearing a bird sing in an otherwise developed area reminds me to stop and look around and take notice of where I am.

One place I didn’t mention that was a very cool experience was the fish market. You’ll question yourself getting out of the cab because it looks like you’re about to walk down an alley, which you sort of do. You’ll pass a few restaurants and fruit venders before seeing fish tanks with lobster, crab, shellfish, sharks and other local catches. I know what you’re thinking, but it actually doesn’t smell too fishy as you walk by.

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You wind your way through an open-air fish market where fisherman will try to sell you fish as you walk by. Behind or next door to the tanks you’ll notice restaurants. These are Dim Sum style restaurants where you select your order not off a menu but by choosing the fish from the tank. The fisherman kills the fish and the restaurant prepares it. I was not present when they picked out the fish, but the experience and the food was delicious and something I’ll never forget. If you have a hard time looking at a cow and then going to eat a cheeseburger, maybe not the place for you, but for everyone else, definitely check this out when you’re in Hong Kong.

I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to travel abroad for work and also have the opportunity to take time to be a tourist. I know this is a perk not everyone gets to enjoy. Should you ever find yourself in Hong Kong, have a great time, I know I did.

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An Afternoon She’ll Forget- But One I Won’t

Grandma Pat (G. Pat) was born in 1920. She was born in England and came to the United States with her parents and her stuffed animal bear, Teddy. She can tell you everything about her trip over on the ship and her friends she played sports with growing up in Minnesota, but what she ate for dinner just a few hours earlier, you’ll need to remind her. Memory loss is common for someone who will be 95 in just a couple weeks. It can be frustrating and scary for us but it’s worse for her. I am lucky to have two grandparents in their 90s and even luckier that I get to spend time with them and actually know them well.

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G. Pat walking with Dan down the aisle at his wedding.

Don’t Stop Moving
While I was grateful to be able to spend in afternoon on the couch and occasionally take the dog out or for a walk, G. Pat could not sit still. She said she wasn’t used to sitting so much, that she’s usually up doing little projects around the house. For the last few years she’s volunteered at resale shop, helping customers, organizing donations and keeping the store clean. If you’re ever needing the motivation to get up and do something, think of G.Pat and don’t ever stop doing things.

Keep The Political Conversation Going
I spent most of the afternoon talking with G. Pat and playing with the dog, while I took care of my laundry. G. Pat told me about the book she was currently reading – John Adams. Coming to the U.S. my great-grandparents knew of politics in England, but politics in America was not a common conversation in G. Pat’s childhood home. It’s hard to imagine since today there are shows and books and magazines dedicated to political discussion and social media platforms available for public dialog. G. Pat did not have as many resources to learn about U.S. politics.

Grandma with Morgan during the professional family photos at Dan and Meg's wedding.
Grandma with Morgan during the professional family photos at Dan and Meg’s wedding.

Her book choice this time, she still reads a ton, was so she could get a better understanding of American political history outside of her formal education. We went on to discuss our disgust for Donald Trump and our fear of many of the other candidates this election. “That face, that smile…it’s just yucky” G. Pat said of Trump’s face on the cover of a magazine on the coffee table. She thanked me for sharing my views and talking with her about these issues- she understands that me, my siblings and my peers are the future of the country. She was pleased to hear that political discussion was not only so common among young people but that we are actively involved in discussion, rallies and generally voicing our opinions.

A Coke A Day Keeps the Doctor Away
About this time we both needed to eat. Without wanting to deal with crowds, loud restaurants or actually cooking a meal, we agreed on carry out from a local bistro. Two Chicken Clubs and a Pear Salad. I helped my grandma up the stairs to the bar where we ordered for carry out, she looked right at home ordering from the bartender. I know that in her day, her and her friends used to have big picnics with lots of food and beer- maybe alcohol tolerance is genetic😉

Back at home, we set the table and divided up our orders when I asked her what she’d like to drink. “I’ll take a Coke. I know I shouldn’t be drinking this stuff, but I do enjoy a Coke about once a day,” She said seating herself at the table. I smiled and just said there were worse vices to have. She happily agreed and added “they’re lucky I gave up the bourbon, I used to drink that stuff straight. My dad always said, Patricia if you’re going to drink it, drink it straight. So I did as my dad told me, never ordered a mixed drink.” She took a sip of her Coke and we enjoyed our dinner.

Getting old might be scary, but G. Pat still looks beautiful.
Getting old might be scary, but G. Pat still looks beautiful.

Getting Old is Scary
10 hours earlier Mom and Dad left to drive to get all her furniture packed up and into her new home. G. Pat was getting anxious and worried as snow started to fall for the first time this season outside. She repeated several times what she knew and what she didn’t know about how the day was scheduled. I was in the loop on a few more details getting text updates from Mom and Dad, but it was clear G. Pat just didn’t remember what Dad told her many many times over the last few weeks. I answered her each time she asked with as many details about the rest of the nights plans as I could trying to keep her in the loop and calm. As a granddaughter, hell even as a person, it was hard to listen to her repeat herself over and over without any memory of asking 30 minutes before.

As she’s often told me, it’s scary getting old. She’s lost many friends and now moving to a new, unfamiliar place well that would be scary for anyone. A high school graduate heading off to school, a college graduate taking a job in a new city, attending an event or function by yourself, moving into an apartment by yourself, all these experiences are intimidating. Add memory loss and a whole lifetime of habits and independence, yea that would be a scary time. She’s one strong woman though and I have a feeling she’s going to be just fine.

Keep Asking Questions
Even when her memory was as good as any of ours, G. Pat would still ask lots of questions. When we visited she’d ask my siblings and I what we liked for breakfast or what treats we enjoyed. Sure enough the next trip she’d have that cereal or snack at the house for us and she’d proudly display all our options the first morning of our trip. She still asks lots of questions, but now she does it to understand or gain more clarity of what’s going on. Some questions I now come to expect, where I’m living now and what phone number she should use to call me. She’s always said, “if I don’t ask, then I don’t know.” For Grandma and really for anyone, asking questions doesn’t make you stupid, not knowing to ask does. I will always happily answer her questions knowing she’s just trying to understand and spend more time with me.

She’s been at her new home for almost two days now. She’s still scared, but everyone is friendly and we unpacked most of her apartment so she’s almost settled. Just like any intimidating situation, you can’t face it being scared, eventually you have to overcome your fear and keep on living. At 94 going on 95, she’s starting a new chapter of her life – I hope I have her longevity and and strength as I take on my own challenges.

How to Have the Best Relationship with Your Kids

Before you start reading this you may wonder, why am I taking parenting advice from a 23 year old who isn’t married and doesn’t have any kids of her own. While I am not a parent, I am giving you the view that you’ll probably never get honestly, the side from the kid.

You too can join your kids at college football games and maybe even the pre game before :-)
You too can join your kids at college football games and maybe even the pre game before🙂

Don’t Just Say No: This is a hard one. You want to give us the world, protect us and make sure we have everything we need. It’s better if you trust us (like my parents do) and let us make our own mistakes. If you keep telling your kid “no you can’t wear that” or “no you can’t go there”, guess what they’re going to do? That’s right there going to figure out how to “wear that” and “go there”. Instead make sure that they know you trust them, saying okay you can do that and if you need me, if anything goes wrong I am here for you. Plus by saying no all the time, your kids just won’t ask anymore if they know what the answer is going to be. They’ll start making up lies to tell you so they can go where they want and wear or see who they want. Even for adults trust is a really hard thing to develop, so developing it early between parents and the kids goes beyond high school, it’s for the rest of your lives.

And maybe even take a trip with just your kids. You too can take selfies on top of Rockefeller.
And maybe even take a trip with just your kids. You too can take selfies on top of Rockefeller.

No Questions Asked: We had a policy growing up, we could take the car on weekends as long as if something went wrong or if we needed our parents we could call. Any time of night, for any reason – no questions asked. The most important thing is that everyone is safe, no one got hurt and probably a lesson was learned. My brother, sister and I almost never needed our parents to come get us at 3 in the morning in a random place, but it was always nice and comforting to know that if we needed them they’d be there. We weren’t totally on our own if something went south. Plus it builds the trust that you’re all on the same side and it’s not this horrible consequence if we tell you we did something wrong.

It’s Okay to Say the “A” Word: Especially for high schoolers, alcohol is something that they are faced with. Parents, don’t worry so much about this. The more you tell them this is bad don’t do this, you can’t drink- they’re going to be interested in why they can’t, what’s so bad about it. Plus, you keep pushing for them to not try it while they’re at home, with friends you’ve probably seen or driven somewhere and with parents you may know from sports or school functions- that means they’re going to try it when they get to college with kids you don’t know, from families you’ve never met, in a place that is foreign to both of you. Not safe. Encourage them to be smart about it. No drinking at a bar at 17 isn’t safe. Driving drunk is NEVER okay. And don’t push it too far, just enough to try it and have a good time. Trust me, they’ll get to college and it won’t be this big mystery that they need to spend a lot of time exploring because they’ve already tried it. And they’ll be able to control themselves while they’re still making friends and learning their way around.

I love my family, won't trade them for the world!
I love my family, wouldn’t trade them for the world!

It’s really these three big things that helped me to see that my parents, while yes they had the final say on things and yes I checked with them before making any big decisions, were 100% in my corner. If I need advice, help or just someone to drink a beer and relax with it’s not just my friends I can go to, it’s my parents. Try these three things and your kids might see you a little differently.