An Ode To The Lovely Chris

My dad wrote this to my mom 20+ years ago and he included it in her funeral program! I love it…except that Jamie wasn’t yet on the scene and an old boyfriend is included. :-)

An Ode To The Lovely Chris by Stan February 14, 1996

They met at curling, that roaring game

Stan of Fork River and Christine from Raymond she came

That Chris was a knockout, ere was no doubt But Stan was too shy to ask her out

Chris took the lead

And to dinner Stan came

And that all started the old dating game

First came love, and then “I do”

And off to Hawaii the happy couple flew

Taylor apartments was their first home

With that big Dodge Royal with which to roam

A year later Number 1 baby came

Patrick Shawn was the little guy’s name

A new home was now needed and as the story goes

Off the pair went to Mapleglade Close

A few years later, in 1972 I think

We got baby Number 2 and the color was pink

For a girl arrived at the stroke of midnight

While Stan was at home sleeping quite tight!

On summer vacations we traveled quite far

Off to B.C. or Disneyland in that faithful old car

First with a tent, then a tent trailer we went

Finally a -fist class trailer was money well spent

In 1977, the last bundle of joy came

Jade Barrett Borowski was Number 3’s name

Sports was a big thing with the kids I must say

Baseball and soccer and volleyball and hockey they play

Those were great times, a chance to go out

To cheer and to holler and let out a loud shout!

Pat finally got married and it seemed to be

That would leave Chris, Jade, Amber and me

But no – I remember utter surprise When Pat, Jane and Ashton on our doorstep arrived!

We managed quite fine but they needed something new

And after awhile, out of the nest they all flew

It was Amber’s turn next and off to Ricks she went

And the big expedition was money well spent

For she made good friends and found a boyfriend named Scott

He was No.1 whether we liked it or not

But she wasn’t prepared to just settle down

A missionary call would change things around

Geneva Switzerland, she said was the place to be

With Heavenly Father, my companion and me

That left just Jade and he was growing up fast

Enjoy him while he’s home. It wasn’t to last

Hockey was over when Jade broke his right leg

But it was on to golf with great passion instead

On crutches to school and on crutches to play

On Mapleridge course, it was the talk of the day

Two holes in one during only one year

Was cause for celebration and a loud cheer

But a golf ball came flying and much to his surprise

It caught Jade squarely between his two eyes!

Chris became a business lady under The Curiosity Shoppe name

Tea room and gifts were her new claim to fame

They came to the tea room from near and from far

And it was a great business, well above par

But the landlord and city lowered the boom

With more rent and more taxes to send them to doom

And out dear old Chevron way,

Stan was bundled up and bid a good day

After 33 years to new ventures he went

You still have to eat. You still must pay rent

And Jade has now left and so you must see

That leaves empty nesters, Christine and me

We still have our quarrels, our troubles, the lot

But I am still happy we decided to tie that OLD KNOT!

-Love, Stan

Christine Ririe Borowski

A lot of people associate me with being the writer in the family but I love the sweet and funny tribute my dad wrote about my mom.

BOROWSKI, Christine Ririe
July 12, 1944 – April 30, 2019

Christine Ririe Borowski passed away on April 30, 2019 at the age of 74. Despite being a life-of-the-party type of person, at her request there will not be a funeral service or public viewing (she didn’t want people staring at her), only a graveside service. Her request for no obituary is being overlooked (maybe at great peril).

Christine Wilde was born in Magrath, Alberta on July 12, 1944, the first daughter to Wallace and Virginia Wilde. Two more daughters, Miriam and Susan, came along later to complete the family. Many of her fondest memories were of living on a farm a few miles outside of Raymond, Alberta where she enjoyed growing up with her ‘Wilde’ cousins who lived half a mile down the lane. The family moved to the bright lights of Raymond when she was around Grade 8.

Chris attended Rick’s College in Rexburg, Idaho for a year and then moved on to the larger social scene at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Age 22 found her in Calgary, working for an insurance company. Chris enjoyed curling and her roommate Francis invited her to join a Catholic youth curling league. Well, the ‘Mormon’ girl ended up on Stan Borowski’s curling team which led to dating, a proposal and finally marriage on July 8, 1967. A honeymoon to Hawaii started their married life.

Chris was a stay-at-home mom for Patrick, Amber and Jade. While the kids were growing up, she demoed food products at the grocery stores on weekends and Friday nights. She smiled at the masses and handed out food samples. And then there was the “route.”  She worked tirelessly delivering The Bargain Finder newspaper every week, lugging those bundles of newspapers into her gold Mini Cooper and out to the businesses. She always wanted her kids to have a few extras. She sewed, cooked, camped, did crafts, church callings and set an example of a woman who was talented and devoted to her family and was a hard worker. It was in her genes.

As the kids grew older, a new adventure awaited her. Chris and her friend, Lin Snowdon, launched ‘The Old Curiosity Shoppe’ in Glenmore Landing. This popular and beloved tea room was to be her passion for the next 12 years. Following the shop’s closure, Chris and Lin ran a wedding decorating/catering business for a few years.

Family vacation time usually took them to British Columbia and the western United States in the Nomad travel trailer. Later in life, the trips were mostly to New Jersey and Colorado to visit her children.

Chris was diagnosed with MS while in her 30s, but that didn’t slow her down much until the last 5 years of her life. She had an outgoing and fun personality and was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Chris was a collector. People who knew her would recall her passion for baskets (100+) and hats (100+), several closets full of clothes, many, many shoes and an impressive collection of rings and jewelery as well as many hat boxes. The few times they had a garage sale, Stan was instructed not to sell any of her stuff. So, Stan has been quietly taking trips to Goodwill as well as being a regular contributor to charities collecting used clothes.

Chris liked buying “brand name” clothes but didn’t particularly like paying “brand name” prices. This led her to roam around places like Winners and TJ Maxx.

Christine is survived by her devoted husband of 50 years, Stan; sister, Susan; her children. Patrick (Jane), Amber (Jamie) and Jade (Jen) as well as 6 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

A Graveside Service will be held at Okotoks Cemetery on Friday May 10 at 11:00 a.m. Please meet at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Willow Park Chapel (940 Acadia Drive, Calgary) Procession will depart at 10:30 a.m.

Messages of condolence may be forwarded to the family at

A Backcountry Yurt Couple’s Retreat for Valentine’s Day!

Jamie and I spent one of my favorite Valentine’s Days ever in a backcountry yurt with five other couples.

The adventure started long before it began. A steady stream of storms threatened to derail our plans but the grandparents came a day early, for which I’m so grateful because they were able to take care of Bode when he got sick.  Then I-80 westbound closed but thankfully we turned off at the exit just before the closure.

Trip organizer Rob is Bode’s Scout master so I’m attuned to his craziness. I was a bit wary when he said it was a flat-ish 3.5-mile snowshoe into Beulah Vista a brand-new yurt on the east fork of the Bear River that is maintained in a cooperative venture between the U.S. Forest Service and BRORA in Uinta National Forest. I mean, I really like Rob but this is a guy who is a juxtaposition: he is a caring, encouraging Scout leader but has also been known to toughen them up when he takes picture if they cry during their expeditions. Would I be his next victim?

The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway is 78 miles between Wyoming Highway 150 and Utah State Road 150, but the middle portion is closed in the winter so we drove to Evanston. The freeway was still closed and it was a bit eerie as we wound through a tight tunnel of hundreds of semis parked along the road. We carb-loaded at Jody’s Diner before driving to the Lily Lake trailhead 45 minutes away in Utah.

(Andrew, Jessica, Me, Jamie, Jed, Nicole, Kristen, Rob, Leland, Lindsey, Jenny, Rod)

The piercing wind was biting when we arrived. We strapped on our snowshoes, grabbed our backpacks and slowly broke trail through huge swathes of wild coniferous landscape. As our heart rates increased, our body temperatures warmed and we shed layers…until the next time we left the trees and were exposed again. I have been snowshoeing. I have been backpacking. But I have never backpacked with snowshoes and though the trail was only moderate, I had just enough sensory bandwidth left when we arrived at our yurt 3.5 miles later as the wind and cold were being unleashed.

The yurt was cozy and clean, equipped with six bunk beds, a large table, propane stove, kitchen utensils and plenty of firewood for the wood-burning stove. It took a while for the yurt to warm up so we shivered off the cold as we unpacked and prepped for dinner. Rob served his mission in Thailand and served up a gourmet batch of yellow curry and rice for our Valentine’s Day feast….and a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs and hashbrowns.

He is the most organized person alive but in his words, “I don’t do games” so he put me in charge of the fun. We played an ice-breaker, followed by a VERY revealing Newlywed Game that lasted until 10 p.m. where we laughed ’til we cried.

A few truths revealed:

Jessica and Andrew lived in Dubai for three years and most recently returned from a year abroad with their five kids where they traveled to 20+ countries. Favorite family tradition: throwing hard-boiled eggs at each other for Easter.

Rob and Kristen. Apparently Rob once kissed his cousin (on the lips). But the real show-stopper was when he was asked what would be his first purchase after winning the lottery. His response? A knife.

Jed and Nicole. Though they have been married almost 17 years, they bombed the Newlywed Game but we did learn he was the worst (black) Baptist minister ever and has a deep love for all the Rocky movies.  He was also great comic relief when he picked Jamie every time for the ice-breaker and when he played the Rocky theme song as our wake-up call the next morning.

Lindsey and Leland. He once peed on a pregnancy stick, she once owned 200 shoes and don’t ask either of them to perform “Sneaky Snake” in a talent show.

Jenny and Rod. She likes peace in the morning, he’s a wildman who mountain biked the Alps. We also learned getting busted for “make-out face”  by your parents is a bad thing when engaged.

Jamie and me. We were in our element with many incriminating stories but nothing brought down the house quite like his Meet the Parents: Sleepwalk Edition. “Don’t worry, I’m Jamie Johnson” was the inside joke the rest of the trip.

Some other memorable moments:

  • Leland terrifying me as I walked back from the outhouse. It was pitch-black and he was grabbing snow for water. Not wanting to alarm me, he spoke from the darkness, “Don’t worry, I’m over here.” Good thing I had already peed because I let out a blood-curdling scream that freaked everyone else out as well. I haven’t laughed that hard in years.

Leland: the predator

  • Jamie brought his disco globe nightlight and Jessica hung a string of white lights above her bunk for some mood lighting while Jed, a Tony Robbins-certified coach, led a discussion on forming meaningful connections in our relationships.

  • Rob (a prolific musician) serenaded us to sleep with his violin. Fiddler on the roof…errr. yurt.
  • It snowed all night, the perfect setting in our cozy yurt. I worried I would freeze but had the opposite problem and slept poorly because it was so warm from the wood-burning stove.
  • Kristen’s alarm went off at 6 a.m…and she was the only one who didn’t hear it because she was wearing earplugs. Bless Rod who climbed off the top bunk to turn it off–and bonked his head twice on the ceiling. Fortunately, we fell back asleep until 8 a.m.
  • We celebrated our 16th anniversary with the most stunningly pristine bluebird day with fresh views of Deadman Pass.

    • Rob rolling up his sleeping pad. I swear, it as smaller than when it arrived from the manufacturer.
    • Jessica and Andrew brought two sleds and hit the deep powder behind our yurt.  Rod hit a tree in a very memorable way; good thing they’re done having kids.

Our trek out was a lot different than the previous day. The temperatures were milder, the sun shone brighter and our packs were lighter so it was much easier to appreciate the scale and connectivity across our powder-perfect playground.

Our Valentine’s Day Retreat 2019 was one of those experiences that can be recreated but never relived.

Here’s to creating more experiences and to saying “yes” because you just never know when magic will happen.

Christmas in Canada

Slowly but surely, I’m getting caught up here and I would be remiss if I didn’t post about our Canadian Christmas. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times but I’ll focus on the best.

1) Being there in the first place.  Special thanks to my friend Lisa who spotted the $300 direct flights to Calgary and to my dad who, instead of buying Christmas presents, chipped in for part of the fare. A Christmas miracle! Not so miraculous: our 24-hour ordeal getting back to SLC after our flight was canceled.

2) Being with my mom for her last Christmas at home. She is currently in the hospital and on the waiting list for a care facility. It has been a long time coming and we’re grateful my selfless dad has been able to care for her at home this long. She spends most of her day sleeping now but miraculously was awake for all Christmas Eve. She went out for Chinese food  with us one day and most moments spend with her were holding her hand, looking through her beloved Woman’s Day magazine recipes and bucolic scenes from her favorite calendar. Our final night before flying home, she was more lucid than she was the entire time we were in Canada and we saw a glimpse of that spitfire we know and love.

3) Christmas. A smorgasbord of food, left-right game, bells, besting Pat in Jenga, home theatre movies (“Crazy, Rich Asians” is a new favorite), naps and matching PJS. The gift exchange game was our most epic ever with three people who bought Pimple Pete (we have zit-loving issues), Jade’s camo marshmallow blowgun and Pat’s Presidents Putin and Trump socks. Borowski Family Christmas: alternately promoting chaos and world peace. 4) Ice, ice, baby. The weather was so warm leading up to our visit I had resigned myself I wouldn’t be able to  do any of my favorite winter activities. Quite unbelievably, our lakes and rivers did freeze over so we were able to play hockey with cousin Conner, my dad, Jade and a few pee wee kids at Lake Bonavista. Bode found his calling as goalie, as did I after a near concussion making a slapshot (I scored!) Bowness Park is a Canadian party on skates! We joined the throngs of people to circle the lake but the real fun began after we crossed the barriers to skate the river for a few miles. Canadian fun at its best! And another family favorite: Fish Creek Provincial Park. In the summer, it’s the mud pits and swimming. In the winter: Cautious Bode and Dallas (the dog) only had minor heart attacks about walking on the cracking ice. Also, what a difference a few years makes! 5) Troll Falls Insider tip #1: Skip Banff and recreate next door in Kananaskis Country—same gorgeous Rocky Mountains without the crowds and cost. Insider tip #2: When hiking steep, icy sections, link arms in a “love chain.” When someone starts to wipe out (like your brother) ditch him, even if it prompts his rebuke, “WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LOVE CHAIN?” Insider tip #3: When you say, “I feel like I’m the only sane one in the family,” make sure your mom is not editing the group picture at that exact moment where you look certifiably insane with your mouth wide open.

Insider tip #4: Despite teens often being really boring and glued to their technology, those reduced brain cells make for exciting moments when they attempt to scale a waterfall without spikes. Insider tip #5: Remember that being a pleasant teenager is hard work, as demonstrated by your daughter after your epic adventure, “I started to get a headache from my delightfulness.”

4. New Year’s Eve was replete with family, my bestie, Stacey, chocolate, cheese and meat fondue (which is to be repeated for Valentine’s Day), not be forgotten was marathon Pictionary when the team with the worst artists (Bode and me) somehow won. Christmas is, after all, a time for miracles.

Family travel: Central California’s Untouched Grandeur

I’ve been busy wrapping up an article about our trip to Central California for fall break. It truly was a breath of fresh air after what feels like a year of non-stop stress.

Not-so airy? The long drive to get there.

Las Vegas is my least favorite place on earth but the kids have never been there. It marked the halfway point so we gave into Hadley’s pleas and made a quick detour. As we were cruising along The Strip, we noticed the car was making funny noises. Now, some of you might remember the nightmare-that-was-last-summer, my Honda Pilot’s steady demise and the thousands of dollars in repairs we’re still paying off as it sits in our garage, undriveable. And if our Pilot is sitting on our garage waiting for us to pay off last summer’s bills while we scrape together enough money to get a newer one, that means it was Jamie’s car we were driving that was having problems.

Oh, the joys never end.

Fortunately, it was only the water pump that went out and was relatively easy $600 fix. Three hours later, we were back on the road, which made for a REALLY long, miserable drive that made me wonder “is this really worth it?”

Thankfully, Central California was that and so much more.


Central California: A Wonderland of Untouched Beaches, Castles and Dunes

We leaned into our strokes, our kayaks carving across Morro Bay and onto the flanks of Morro Dunes Natural Preserve. In a flash, Hadley and Bode were gone. It took them a few minutes to resurface and I chuckled as I saw them jumping, rolling and skiing down each peaked dune. Since entering middle school, I’ve mourned that their childhood is slipping away but for this eclipse in time, they were kids again.

My family traveled to San Luis Obispo County along the coastal Highway 1 for fall break. When I told people where we were going, they queried “San Luis Obispo…where?”

Located halfway between San Francisco and Orange County, this untouched region in Central California is  known for the dramatic Hearst Castle with the Pacific to the West, 100+ wineries in the San Joaquin Valley to the east and a smattering of quaint coastal villages in between. With the recent announcement of United Airlines’ direct flights from Denver to San Luis Obispo (SLO to locals), it’s more accessible than ever.

San Luis Obispo and the Madonna Inn

From the moment my friend Jennie told me her parents honeymooned at the Madonna Inn, “the quirkiest, pinkest hotel in the world,” my bucket list was formed. This outlandish landmark hotel in San Luis Obispo looks like the Mad Hatter was set loose in Casa Bonita with 110 themed rooms, a world-famous waterfall urinal and an onslaught of hot pink everything–carpets, marble, lamps and leather booths and their fluffy Pink Champagne Cake made with Guittard pink chocolate. Not everything here is sensory overload; located on 1,000 acres of coastal hills, you’ll find a serene horse pasture, the Secret Garden bursting with flowers and a European-style pool with a 45-foot waterfall.

Our mantra was Go Big or Go Home so we blew half our travel budget to stay in the rooftop Sky Room, a two-story muted-blue family suite with textured white clouds and a carved staircase to the second level that looked down on flamboyant chandeliers. The real show-stopper was the bidet in the bathroom; potty breaks have never been so…refreshing! This 50-year-old kitschy inn shows signs of its age but guaranteed, it’s one stay you’ll never forget.

Not far away, you’ll discover a gem among the historic Spanish California missions.  Named after Saint Louis of Anjou, the bishop of Toulouse, the Mission San Luis Obispo is a must-see for history buffs.  We stopped by the famed Bubblegum Alley in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo for bubblegum graffiti that is every germaphobe’s worst nightmare and left our own sticky mark on this collective work of art.  The city is home to Cal Poly and downtown SLO’s tree-lined streets, unique cafes and the Thursday night Farmer’s Market cater to that cool college-town vibe.

Day 1: Charming Cambria and a Castle on a Hill

I like my oceans like my mountains: wild, untouched and au naturel. San Luis Obispo’s quirky coastal villages and large stretches of the Pacific Ocean devoid of development are in stark contrast to the glitz and glam of California’s big cities. A local proudly told us, “This area is what Santa Barbara was 30 years ago and we want to keep it that way.” Even the tourists are different here and mostly consist of Californians or visitors passing through while driving the Pacific Coast Highway.

We only had an afternoon tour of the Hearst Castle scheduled so our plan was no plan of all. We drove north on California State Route 1 and soon stumbled upon Cambria, a seaside village nestled in the pines that was brimming with a brigade of 400 whimsical scarecrows for the Cambria Scarecrow Festival. And these weren’t just my genre of straw-and-farmer’s-clothing scarecrows. These were masterful works of art–Rip Van Winkle and cyclists with motorized wheels–a testament to this Victorian community that is teeming with artisans, unique shops, eateries and bed and breakfasts.

All the beaches in the 20-mile segment north of Cambria are part of Hearst San Simeon State Park with thirteen different beaches from Santa Rosa Creek on Moonstone Drive in Cambria to the southern Big Sur Coast. Many of them are hidden gems including Moonstone Beach’s brown sandy coves where you’ll find tide pools and semi-precious jasper stones of all colors. We followed the ridgeline, winding down to the beach where the wild spray elicited sheer glee. For land-locked kids, it doesn’t get much better than this. 

Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark perched above the clouds atop The Enchanted Hill. Built by publishing magnet William Randolph Hearst, this 165-room castle is a must-visit destination with various guided tours available. Our jaws were agape as we marveled at the opulence of his personal art collection and stunning architecture. The Refectory was reminiscent of the Great Hall of Hogwarts and its very own home theater broadcast (you guessed it) Heart’s news specials.  As we strolled the 127 acres of terraced gardens and fountains with wraparound views of the sunny Central Coast it was no surprise this is one of California’s most visited state parks.

A mere four miles north of Hearst Caste on Highway 1, the Elephant Seal Rookery is home to about 15,000 Northern Elephant Seals that migrate thousands of miles twice each year where they breed, birth, molt and rest between trips. We chuckled at the laziness and middle-school drama between the seals but after learning about the perilous conditions they endure for 8-10 months in the ocean, they’ve earned it. Teenagers? Another story.

We drove south and checked in to the newly redesigned and renovated 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites, home for the next two nights. After the ostentatious Madonna Inn, this 33-room boutique hotel was a refreshing juxtaposition and we were delighted to learn its ties to Colorado–the owner spent a number of years in Durango. Our spacious two-bedroom family suite overlooked Morro Bay and the town’s quaint shops and eateries were all within walking distance. We fell asleep that night to the lull of the waves and the harbor seals barking at the yellow, gibbous moon.

( 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites’ Ideal Location)

Day 2: Morro Bay’s Magic

Morro Bay is best known for Morro Rock, an ancient volcanic mound that stands sentry over Morro Bay State Park, home to lagoons, trails and a bird-rich saltwater marsh.  The next morning, we met John Flaherty of  Central Coast Outdoors for our half-day guided kayaking tour. Locally renowned for his kayaking, biking and hiking tours of San Luis Obispo, Big Sur and the Central Coast, we were in good hands.

After a thorough skills debriefing, we navigated around sea otters to a heron preserve with crows wheeling overhead.  John pointed out the crustaceans’ indentations in the mud flats. “Morro Bay is one of the few estuaries left in California,” he divulged. “Thanks to the many state parks along Central California’s coastline, these areas have been preserved.  That’s what makes it truly special here.”


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That time we were featured in the Wall Street Journal

A few weeks ago my friend Eileen Ogintz, founder of Taking The Kids and a syndicated columnist, emailed to ask if I could put the word out to my friends that a reporter from the Wall Street Journal was looking to interview families who let their kids help plan the vacation. I put the word out on Facebook but nobody responded so I acquiesced to be interviewed by Sue Shellenbarger. I really didn’t think much would come of it–maybe she’d include a quote in her article–until she emailed me again in a panic saying her editor wanted her to interview my kids as well. So on Friday after school, Bode and Hadley casually talked to the a reporter from the biggest newspaper in the United States. No biggie.

If you are questioning the reliability of journalism in this day and age, rest assured the Wall Street Journal is the most fact-checked newspaper I’ve ever seen. For our small quotes in the article, Sue emailed me several times.

Anyway, here’s the link to Dare to Let the Children Plan Your Vacation and I’ll include screenshots and our quotes below.

And yes, Bode totally talks like a 40-year-old man.



The Johnson family of Denver is planning a car trip to western Colorado this summer. Amber Johnson says her daughter Hadley, 12, persuaded the family to go jet-boating, racing over the Colorado River at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour in boats driven by professionals.

It’s a plan Ms. Johnson and her husband Jamie would never have chosen for the family. But Hadley sees children’s museums as cheesy. “I’m kind of growing up and everything,” Hadley says. “I’m a little more crazy and adventurous than museums.”

Bode, 10, says he was nervous at first about jet-boating. But Ms. Johnson reassured him that the boats have seat belts and life jackets. Now he’s on board with the plan. “I think I might actually learn something, including having a positive attitude and being willing to do new things,” he says.

Giving the children a voice keeps them excited and interested, Ms. Johnson says. It also means suffering through their mistakes. Bode and Hadley picked a hotel online for a road trip last summer because it had a big pool, says Ms. Johnson, editor of Mile High Mamas, an online community. She suggested they might want to do more research, but “they jumped on it because it looked really fun,” Ms. Johnson says.

When they arrived, the pool was closed for renovation. Ms. Johnson sees such “soft failures,” or missteps with minor consequences, as learning experiences. “We would call ahead and do more research” next time, Hadley says.


Confessions of a (Horrible) Cat and Fish Sitter

My friend Jana was looking for someone to check in on her cat and fish over Spring Break so I volunteered my middle schooler Hadley. She loves animals and her career aspiration in first grade was to run a Cat Hotel until she later learned it’s not cool to be the crazy cat lady until you’re over 50 years old.

I figured she’d be better equipped to take care of animals since she got off to a rocky start babysitting humans when my friend Sarah asked her:

“Hey, Hadley. Do you babysit?”

“I’m not really good with kids.”

As a former publicist, I was appalled at her pitch.  She later told me she was caught off-guard and meant to say I’m not comfortable taking care of babies. She repented of her trespass by volunteering to watch Sarah’s kids for free while she attended a church event. Hadley limped through the door several hours later.

“How was it?”

“Exhausting. I spent the entire night running around after three boys. How do you do this EVERYDAY?”

And suddenly, the heavens opened and the herald angels sang the Hallelujah shout to the tune of “PAYBACK” for all those sleepless, colicky nights.

As it turns out, she enjoys babysitting (or at least the money she makes) so how much better would a gig be for beasts you don’t have to chase?

Hadley’s responsibilities were simple. Replenish Kitty’s food and water every day, clean the kitty litter box and feed the fish. Jana hadn’t formed an attachment to Fishy and went as far as to say she wouldn’t be sad if he didn’t survive, which made us wonder if we were hired to be fish sitters or assasins. Jana told us we probably wouldn’t even see Kitty who accesses the house via a cat door after partying all night with her feline friends and sleeps all day. Easiest cat-sitting gig ever.

Or was it?

Day 1: Hadley opens garage door, goes about her responsibilities with Kitty. Starts to feed Fishy. He is dead.

Or is he?

We text Jana to ask if we should give him a watery burial. She responds, “He sometimes just looks dead and doesn’t move for a while.”

Cool fish.

Day 2: Fishy appears dead in a different position so we figure he’s still alive in his own way. No sign of Kitty but food has been eaten so we’re in business.

Day 3:  Fishy is moving. It’s an Easter resurrection miracle.

Days 4 and 5: Hadley stays at Grandma’s so I take over duties. All seems in order.

Day 6: Hadley continues her responsibilities. Goes to enter mudroom via the garage but the door is locked, which means we can’t access the house and that I was the person who inadvertently locked it the day before. Panic sets in but fortunately, Kitty’s food and water are in the garage so we can take care of her. Tragically, Fishy will go from resurrection to famine within three days. The irony is not lost on me.

Day 7: When we arrive THE GARAGE DOOR IS ALREADY OPEN. “We closed it when we left yesterday, I’m 100% sure of it,” Hadley wails.

We hesitantly make our way through the garage to the mudroom door, which mysteriously opens. Even though it’s been less than 24 hours since our last visit, Fishy appears really dead this time and is floating on his side at the bottom of the bowl. We feed him anyway because he’s a master manipulator and as we’re attempting to leave the house, we realize the doorknob will not budge and we’re locked inside with a fish who could come to life at any moment.

It takes a few panicked minutes until we position the doorknob just right and we make our escape…but not before I put something in the door jam for the next time we get locked out. Or in. Really, the whole thing is confusing.

I hesitantly text Jana that we were able to get back in the house.

“Oh, our friend needed to grab something today,” she responds. “He probably left the garage door open! I also remembered that mudroom door is sometimes hard to open, so you have to twist the knob really hard.”

Hallelujah shout Take 2.

Day 8: Fishy confirmed dead and Kitty is alive. Allegedly. We didn’t see her all week but she ate all her food. It was probably for the best because we saw Fishy every day and look what happened to him.

Day 9: Jana’s family returns home. Hallelujah shout Take 3 as we are relieved of our pet sitting duties.

When I was relaying the tale of our memorable Spring Break to my son Bode, I joked, “Don’t you want to be a pet sitter?”

“I think I could have done a better job than you and Hadley,” he retorted.

The [low] bar has been set.

P.S. Did I mentioned we’re available for hire?

Welcome to 2017: A year of healing, hope and discovery

From the offset, I knew 2016 would be a tough year as we walked away from a beautiful life we spent 13 years building into a wilderness of unknowns. At times, I’ve thrived and reached summits I never thought possible. Other times, I’ve faltered and have struggled to carve out a new existence. I’ve been so busy getting unpacked and starting a new job over these last months (while still juggling the old one) that I’ve neglected what makes me happy. Being outdoors. Writing about travel. Building friendships. Communing with God.

I talked to Jamie about some of my frustrations this week and he consoled me to be kind to myself. “We’ve had a hard year. We’ve been in survival mode.”

But now that we’re a lot more settled, I’m feeling restless to delve in. To explore. To befriend. To eat healthier. To build new communities and networks. So much of the Midway area is unknown and brimming with possibilities. I’ve been uncharacteristically placid. Paralyzed in the past and present. I injured my left knee a few months ago running down the Mid-mountain Trail in Park City and it is still giving me problems. Couple that with my other arthritic knee and I’ve been slow to rehabilitate and figure out a new lifestyle that nurtures healing.

A few years ago, I read an article about adventure racer Amelia Boone. Since the sport’s inception, she’s amassed more than 30 victories and 50 podiums. In the 2012 World’s Toughest Mudder competition, which lasted 24 hours, she finished 2nd OVERALL out of 1,000+ competitors. This was ahead of every male except the winner, who beat her by just 8 minutes.

When she was asked why she was so successful in obstacle racing, she replied,

“I’m not the fastest, and I’m not the strongest, but I’m REALLY good at suffering.”

Persistence. Endurance. Never giving up.

I’ve certainly never been at Amelia’s elite level but being an athlete has been part of my identity. Even from a young age, I would torture myself with sprints up and down the gully. I’d slog through the deep snow in the golf course. I’d leap-frog off my long jumping leg for hours on the trampoline. Last year was the first time in my life (besides my mission and late in my pregnancies) that I haven’t had a regular workout routine because I’ve been at a loss for what to do. I’m bored to tears by low-impact yoga, swimming and Pilates so I’ve barely done anything since we moved to Midway.

It was with great interest I followed Amelia’s journey this year after a serious injury. How would a champion who thrives on being on top of the podium cope with her rehabilitation? She recently wrote an article that has become my blueprint for this year, “A Year of Healing.” You won’t regret taking a few minutes to read it if you’ve ever been smacked in the face with the need to change but here are a few excerpts.

On April 26th of this year, a few days after the whole “broken femur” thing started, I picked up a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s book “Brave Enough.” I flipped to a page, and this stared at me:

I promptly ripped this page (and one more, which you’ll see if you make it all the way through this novel of a post) and taped it to my bathroom mirror, as a theme for my recovery journey. Granted, the journey has been much longer than I anticipated, but can be summed up with two themes: gratitude and acceptance.

When I first sat down to write this post, I titled it “2016: A Year of Injury.” But the more I wrote, I realized that, yes – I could look at this as a year of injury. Or I could look at this as a year of healing – body and mind. So that’s what I choose to do.

….People always talk about the physical part of injury. The physical part is easy. It’s the mental part that will eat you alive. Wondering if every ache and pain is a new catastrophic injury, or a massive setback from the prior. Worrying that your body is going to betray you…forever. And trying to have the patience and trust to weather the painfully slow rebuilding process.

…..2016 didn’t go as planned, to say the least. From laying out my most ambitious and exciting race schedule ever a year ago, to not even competing in a single obstacle race. From logging my highest mileage months ever, to not running a step for 9 months. From feeling the strongest I ever have as an athlete, to feeling the absolute weakest. Yes, 2016 was a doozy.

But you know what? It has been, by far, my most personally fulfilling year ever. Maybe being unable to physically run from my problems forced me to confront them, and do the deep work that is so easy to abandon when times are good. Maybe I had to be physically weak and broken to become emotionally strong. And while I don’t have it all figured out, maybe life put a “pause” button in front of me to allow me to do so.

To say it was a sucker punch when you are already down for the count is a bit of an understatement. But amidst the tears, my friend (and life twin!) Caroline asked me a question which I thought was rather silly at the time: “Amelia, did you ACCEPT your injury? With the femur?” And I retorted “of course I have, Burckle. It’s hard to not when you are on crutches for 3+ months.”

But what I realized is that while I couldn’t ignore the physical injury, I did everything I could to cross-train around it. I fought like hell to maintain my fitness. I denied that my training methods were wrong, or that they may have been the source of the injury. I did everything to pretend it was just a few months off, and my training would resume as normal after a clean bill showing no fracture. For months, I kept lamenting about being worried about “getting back to the place where I was.” When instead, I should have accepted that I’m NEVER going to return to “where I was,” and that’s actually the LAST place I should want to go. Instead, I need to move forward, accept that I’m never going to be the same athlete, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Now, the end of December, a month into a return to run program (until the careful guidance of Coach David…#rawr) from the second stress fracture, I finally feel like I’ve reached the point where I’ve accepted that I’m not trying to “get back” anywhere. And I’m probably never going to train how I used to train, but that’s OK. Because I have faith that, with the perspective and knowledge, I’ll train better.


My frustrations with 2016 aren’t just about my injuries (though that has definitely been a part of it). I need to figure out what my new normal will be–for my family, my new career path and my health. I’ll never return to “where I was” and I need to become more OK with that.  Because things are still good, even great.

Instagram has an algorithm that compiles your nine most popular posts of the year. I posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

It was almost exactly a year ago that we made the decision to move for no apparent reason, during which time Jamie prophetically announced “2016 is going to suck.” I find it interesting that we started, ended and spent the majority of our year in Colorado but most of my #2016bestnine moments are in Midway. Because despite all the hard stuff of goodbyes and stresses, there were new friends, rainbow sunrises, joyous reunions and golden vistas. 2016 was a lesson in faith, sacrifice and growth but 2017 will be about finding our place here. I’ve learned not to take any mundane or magical moment for granted. Life comes and goes, just long enough for us to witness the sublime, the glory, but only if we take the time to look and listen.

I may be limping into 2017 (literally and figuratively) but my life’s creed resonates more than ever: “When you’re falling on your face you’re actually moving forward.”

I’m coming for you, 2017, face-plants and all.

Merry Christmas!

What to say about 2015? We had a cram-packed year of work, school, church, travel and pumpkins. Always, always pumpkins.

We have visited Mexico, Canada, Disneyland and Moab, as well as many Colorado camping and ski trips. Hadley and Bode competed in the Kids Adventure Games as they mountain biked, ziplined, Tyrolean Traversed, mudpitted, underground river hiked, slip ‘n slided, climbed and conquered their way through Vail.

This year has had a lot of highs and a few lows (usually health-related) but we feel blessed to be surrounded by beloved friends and family!

Moab, Utah

Banff National Park, Canada

Cancun dorks

Bode. (Age 9, fourth grade)

Lover of soccer, student council, Clash of Clans, Cub Scouts, making movies, skiing, piano, biking, pumpkins, birthdays at the Lakehouse and his buddies.  Nicknamed “the human calculator” by his peers due to his math aptitude.  Milestones: Spent an extra week with Grandma J. in Utah before flying home by himself. Begged to join the cross-country team at school, to which I responded, “you know that’s running, right?” As it turns out, he’s actually pretty speedy when he remembers not to knock his head around like a Bobblehead.

Avid4 Adventure Camp

Elbow Falls, Canada

Kids Adventure Games

Hadley. (Age 11, sixth grade)

Lover of carbs, drawing dragons, volleyball, Fablehaven books, cross-country, Minecraft, surfing at the Lakehouse, skiing, huge growth spurts, birthdays at  AAA Five-Diamond The Broadmoor, overnight horse camp at Camp Chief Ouray, Outdoor Lab class trip and sleeping in. Milestone: She trained and climbed her first 14er (14,000-foot peak) this summer, leaving her altitude-sick mom in her dust. Had the biggest transition of everyone as she transferred from her Waldorf back to our public school. Exceeded expectations, adapting quickly to new friends and more rigorous academics. Except math, which is a bit of a struggle. Good thing she has a human calculator for a brother.

Kids Adventure Games, Vail

Rigorous Ha Ling Summit, Canada


Lover of all things outdoors, skiing, biking, birthdays at luxury ski resorts and weekly hikes with friends. Still running (Colorado’s social media community for moms), frequent contributor to 9New and area media outlets. Memorable solo press trips home to Canada and New Mexico. Cub Scout leader at church but does more wrangling than leading. Milestone: Survived solo 3,000-mile road-trip to Canada with the kids…and had the time of her life doing it. Traveled to Aspen for a girls’ weekend with friends for a 7-mile Mudderella competition. Also climbed a 14er with Hadley and Jamie and lived to tell the tale. And that story (almost) had a few expletives in it.

14,036 Mount Sherman

Winter media trip to Lake Louise, Canada

Aspen birthday


Lover of nada. At least that was his response when I asked him for newsletter updates and he confessed, “I’ve got nothin’.” Works long hours building his successful web development business Pixo Web Design and Strategy while battling a bad back and rheumatism. Fun-loving father, awesome traveler and busy at church as Priest Adviser and Stake Technology Clerk. Had a disappointing year in the patch when the neighbor’s dog (literally) ate his pumpkin, followed by irrigation problems. Still managed to grow a beast but the man will not rest until he has a state record, which means neither will the rest of us. He’s especially not bitter about his December birthdays stuck at home with Fat Kitty.

Delicate Arch, Moab

Surfin’ Okanogan Lake, Canada

Fat Kitty

Still fat. Lover of Jamie.

Aunt Lisa

We’re including Jamie’s sister to our family newsletter because she is currently living with us. Sold her house in the spring, quit her job and went to Europe. Now that she’s back in Colorado, she says the highlight of her year is cohabitating with the coolest family on the planet. Well, that’s a loose translation of what she mumbles when we’re bouncing off the walls at 6:30 a.m. before school.

Lisa speaks her truth

We wish you and yours the happiest of Christmas seasons as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.


The Johnsons

Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada

Magical birthday at the Canada lakehouse

Oh Canada: The Lakehouse Edition

How can you summarize a glorious week with family at a lakehouse tucked away in the breadbasket in Canada? You can’t, that’s why I prefer to document our family reunion on Okanogan Lake in pictures!

I chuckle when I see other family’s carefully regimented reunions, with every last detail planned. Their perfectly coiffed, matching family pictures. Ours is typical Borowski-style chaos. Wake up. Boat, kayak or SUP. Eat breakfast. Boat, play with cousins, eat. Boat. Eat. Cards. Games. Rinse, lather, repeat. Oh wait. Scratch that because the boys don’t shower.

What I particularly enjoyed about summer 2015 at the lake is the temperature–it wasn’t blazing hot 100+ degrees like last year. With temps in the upper 80s, I deemed it to be near perfect (for me, anyway; the hardcore boaters prefer scorchers). My brother Pat’s family is incredibly generous with their resources, time and patience bringing the rest of us up to their [trailblazing] speed.

A few of our favorite things:

Water play (duh)

Wakeboarding Hadley

Wakeboarding Bode

There’s never a dull moment with cousin Jaxson. Prior to tubing, we asked if he knew the hand signal for telling us he’s done (tapping the top of his head). “Sure!” And he proceeded to do the throat-slitting gesture. That works, too.

Driving to the West Side for our Annual Family Dive-off

Lakeside Movie Night at Todd and Kim’s

First Annual Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) Competition

When you only have one paddleboard, you improvise and have timed races. Pat won. As always. But he’s almost 50 and we’ll soon dominate him.

Pat the soon-to-be dominated

Lots and lots of cards and games

Bode’s Birthday

DQ ice cream cake courtesy of Aunt Sue

My favorite moment: globe light + sparklers = a magical birthday eve

Davison Orchard Tours

And their best peach and apple pies. Ever.

A truly epic bike ride on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail

Everyone Flying into the Rooster Tail with Guns Blazing

Not pictured:

A lot of laughter, Jane’s delicious cooking, Emily’s addictive Greek bruschetta, bloodsport croquet (we broke Dad’s new mallets), Hadley’s first all-girl dance party on the boat, early-morning kayak runs, nighttime tales of the lake monster Ogopogo, Tim Horton’s Timbits, Rook tournaments, Screamers (half ice cream, half Slurpee) and the Borowski’s epic wakeboarding moves.

Jamie and I had a competition with my younger brother Jade in surfing (we called it The Worst of the Worst). I thought for sure I would win but after popping up my first try and successfully surfing the wake, I cracked and started regressing while Jamie and Jade got better, even dropping the rope and surfing on their own.

Near the end of the week, I’d only been out a few times and was downright frustrated until my sister-in-law Jane shouted out at me, “Do you know what your problem is? You’re not having fun!” She was right. I was so focused on surpassing the boys that my failures were getting the best of me. That very next attempt, I fought my way out of the water and had my best surf of the entire week. Turns out having fun IS the key!

I loved seeing my kiddos progress on the water–Bode popped back up on his wakeboard and Hadley started carving. She tried surfing by herself on the very first day and with Jane’s assistance in the water, was able to get up and surf a bit. She showed no interest in trying again until the very last night. When you have avid boaters, you have to be bold with getting your own time on the water so I asked Pat if we could do one last run before dark, which he kindly acquiesced. I had a great run and wanted to go again until Hadley asked if she could try surfing again.

This time, she said she wanted to do it completely on her own without Jane in the water and my gosh, if that girl of mine didn’t pop up and surf the wake. It was one of my proudest moments at the lake…and then a reminder that she’ll probably surpass me in the Worst of the Worst surfing competition next year and I’ll still be at the bottom of the bucket.

It’ll be worth it.


In case you missed our other Canadian adventures this summer:

Oh Canada: The Lethbridge Edition

Oh Canada: The Canada Day in Raymond and Waterton Edition

Oh Canada: The Calgary Edition

Oh Canada: The Banff/Canmore Edition

Oh Canada: The Lakehouse Edition

Oh Canada: The Kettle Valley Railway Trail Edition

 Oh Canada: The Edition Not in Canada