The love of an aunt

No one loves you like I do.

No. No one ever will.


That’s how I feel. That’s how my entire family feels. This week. Right now.

Because our dear, amazing aunt is no longer here to hug us super tight (she squeezed extra hard) and tell us how much she loves us.

Let’s be honest. She loved everyone (although I can name a couple dozen hockey players she probably didn’t always feel love toward..and she hated snakes). But other than that, she loved anyone. First and foremost, she loved Him. And from that love, she loved her husband, kids, daughter’s and son’s in law, and her sweet grandchildren with her entire heart. And then came everyone else. No matter who you were, my aunt loved you. Wholly, deeply, unconditionally, unequivocally.

Every day, she lived life to the fullest. Embraced the good with the bad. From life’s small moments to its greatest blessings, she was always grateful, thankful, graceful.

It almost sounds too good to be true, but believe me, it’s all true. Every word we speak about Aunt Jill, it’s truer than true.

She was the person in our family, in our worlds, who could break through any of life’s struggles and encourage you in words and prayer. The way she loved was unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Always genuine. Always gracious.

Aunt Jill was a blend of Annie Oakley and Betty Crocker.She did. it. all. One minute she was huntin’, fishin’ and the next she was cookin’ and bakin’ – and lovin’ everyday.

Her time on the lake with my uncle (and her kids and grandkids) was something she looked forward to every summer. She loved reeling in fish – Crappies, Walleye, and even Northern (and no one can pronounce those words like Jill could). And a good fish fry was guaranteed. She made killer Eggs McJill, amazing homemade jam from raspberries grown in her garden, and blueberry pie that even the Amish can’t touch, and breakfast scones that put Starbucks to shame.

Just when you think she couldn’t be any more amazing, she also devoted years to playing piano at church every Sunday morning while my uncle led worship. She taught Sunday School and Wednesday night Awana, and led Apples of Gold and numerous Bible Studies.

Then there was the time she spent knitting beautiful sweaters for her grandkids, or mittens for her daughters and nieces.

She’d feed deer in her front yard and shoot squirrels in her back yard (because they were “dirty rats!”). She played Sequence like a cheater – always table talking and dropping hints – “We gots trouble!” or my favorite, this odd onomatopoeia “deet dee dee” (which isn’t actually a natural sound…but it sounded natural coming from her) to signal you during the game. Needless to say, we never played poker.

Her dialect alone sent us into fits of laughter and her animated tales never disappointed.

She’d pop popcorn right after a big dinner and turn on a hockey game so she could yell “hustle, hustle” or “What in the world is he doing!?” She loved watching women’s volleyball with my uncle and knew player’s stats! And it drove her nuts when my uncle flipped through channels to see what else was on. But, oh how she loved laughing when my uncle watched “Home Alone” at Christmas (it’s a beaut).

Truly, Aunt Jill was one in a billion. And she always made you feel like one in a billion, too. No matter what, Jill always believed, always trusted. She shone with so much light that she always wanted to share with others. And she had Hope for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, the literal tomorrow, will be hard. To see family, and to realize that we’re missing her and always will be. But, about a week before she went into the hospital, at the end of September, Aunt Jill sent me a hand written note (in response to my hand written note that I can’t even talk about without bawling). Oh, how I will cherish her words. Her heart poured out to me. A clear reminder of her love for me and promise that she will always believe in His promises for me.

So, that’s how I’ll face this – carrying Jill’s love for me and Hope for tomorrow.

I love you, Aunt Jill.


Watching others experience joy was one of Aunt Jill’s greatest joys. This is how she loved.


Road trips all by myself

I just completed my 6th road trip in the last month, and I have more drives ahead. 

Half of my trips have been as a passenger or second driver – easy co-piloting roles and company to keep me occupied. The solo drives are a different story. 

It’s all about planning and spontaneity-knowing where to stop for gas and gas station snacks, and fully embracing fast food (true story: yesterday, I bought fries and coke at McDonald’s and then went next door to Culver’s for chicken tenders and 2 dipping sauces – because I’m high maintenance – and ate my meal while in Drive–the dipping sauces did not spill). 

It’s about passing college towns and cabin towns – farms, fields, and forests – and enjoying their simply astounding beauty during morning light, full day time sun, and purple skies with orange highlights at dusk. 

It’s about somber drives past cities synonymous with Jacob Wetterling; a story, a boy, so close to our Minnesota hearts and homes.

 It’s seeing signs for towns you’ve never visited but feel like you know because that one kid from college was from there. It’s wishing you could keep driving or stop in a different town. It’s getting to your destination and experiencing its newness all while missing the familiar. It’s watching the seasons go by out your window-yellow sunflowers waving as you pass and green fields turned golden as the summer fades to fall. 

It’s cruise control set at top speeds and only braking for construction and super slow drivers. It’s passing cars on one lane highways and slowing down to 30 mph for small town charm. 

It’s blaring your favorite 90’s tunes and wishing you could go back to those simple years. It’s keeping the car at an ideal cool temperature and utilizing stay-awake-tricks when you feel road weary. 

It’s thinking about people, places, and things from your past, present, and future. It’s wondering what your next move should be and praying for an answer on the side of the road. 

It’s taking that drive time to just be alone. To be ok with aloneness and adventure, and the joy of returning home and appreciating where you’re from. 

Transplant day

I’m the passenger in my parents SUV, sprawled out in the backseat, heading to the hospital. It’s a scene I remember all too well from childhood. Doctor appointments and surgery days. 

This time, I’m not the one heading into surgery. Instead it’s my brother in law and my cousin in law. They’re both having surgery. On the same day. At the same hospital. My brother in law is giving his kidney to my cousin in law. Why? Because we’re family. 

A few months ago, we learned that my cousin’s husband needed a new kidney. Friends and family followed Facebook links to see if we were contenders in the great kidney donation of 2016. And my brother in law won. 

After tests and more tests, he was cleared as the official donor. 

It’s the kind of story you read about online, see on a news special – some Land of 10,000 Lakes story narrated by an award winning journalists, a Today Show special with Matt and Natalie talking about what a great story it is. And it is. But the story didn’t start with the kidney donation. It started when my cousin and my sister chose their husbands. Their love stories are filled with humor – women who didn’t expect to fall in love. And yet, they did. And here they are sending their husbands into surgery. 

Tomorrow will be a long day, filled with lots of waiting, but we are family – lifting these in-laws up in prayer, supporting each other through emails and texts, the way we pull together in every other situation we face. 

We are family. 

Showered in Spades

There’s no easy way to say goodbye to a loved one. There’s no easy way to move forward. Despite all of the goodbyes and all of the sadness my family experienced in May, we continue to do what families do. Change and grow. And on Sunday, that’s what we did.

Just like when Anne joined our family, we opened our arms once again to welcome another cousin-in-law into our midst. She’s our cousin’s fiance and we could not be more excited that she chose us (well, she chose him, but we were probably a big factor).

I was thrilled to put on my party-planning hat and help host her shower. In true Megan fashion, I knew it had to be themed (see post from my sister’s shower). A quick peek at the bride-to-be’s Pinterest board and I knew immediately we had to go preppy and fun. What better way to do that than with Kate Spade?!

With a chosen theme, I set out on Pinterest to hunt and gather ideas. I hired my graphic designer friend to design the invites (copied from a Pinterest board), as well as recipe cards, and little thank you tags for the favors.

The result was fun and perfect. The party was fun and perfect. Our family is pretty low-key so we didn’t plan any games (besides, if I’m being honest, I’m not a huge bridal shower game fan). But there was an impromptu blind taste test (red, yellow, and orange bell peppers were involved), a hilarious photo that we sent to an aunt who lives in the PNW, and shared stories from the mother of the groom’s mom and sisters on marriage.

Here’s what it looked like.

shower mock up for blog

Please note, I erased all personal info for privacy. It looked a lot prettier than this!

recipe mock for blog

Each guest received a recipe card with their invitation. They were asked to fill out their favorite dish and bring the card to the shower.

I think I’ll be a florist when I grow up. Costco bouquets broken up into the perfect arrangements. The hydrogenous were cut down to fit into a candy dish (it’s not a vase) with a chalkboard that I wrote “LOVE” on. The other flowers were split into small gold polka dot vases from Hobby Lobby. The glass votive candles are my mom’s (I believe they are Orrefors crystal).


Costco cutlery cleverly hidden behind napkins and skinny striped ribbon from Michael’s.


I swapped out family pics for pics of the future bride and groom. I used the back of extra shower invites (which had the couple’s wedding hashtag on it) for decorations. Most of the paper products are from Hobby Lobby. The random striped gifts off to the side are for looks. The recipe box in the front held all of the recipe cards from guests.

I mean, the food alone deserved its own collage. And hostess fail, I didn’t get a pic of the chicken salad and croissants. You’ll just have to imagine those. Also, before you get super impressed, I did not make the truffles. But I did make the cookies. My aunt made the delish tarts. And the dip in the red cabbage is Penzey’s Green Goddessssss. And yes, it needs all of those s’s.



All guests received a jar of my aunt’s homemade freezer jam! Yum-o!

Now, that we partied Kate Spade style, we’re ready for the wedding in August! Thankful to be adding another cousin to our midst.