Still the Best. Family. Ever.

25 07 2010

…. Sorry for the delay, there are big changes afoot for me… but that is a story for a later date…

Event #5: Zarosinski Family Graduation(s) Celebration – Vancouver, WA – Sunday, June 13

After we had ambled around Portland’s Saturday Market, indulging in cinnamon elephant ears and Isabella’s first taste of fresh lemonade, we headed north on I-5 to Vancouver (Washington, not Canada, to clarify!) where there was to be a Zarosinski mini-reunion. Although it turned out not to be quite so “mini” as we were only missing two of the 30 Don-Z’s.

“There is nothing worth sharing / like the love that let us share our name.” – Avett Brothers

Not too shabby! We were all here together celebrating FOUR cousin graduations: one college (Mark), two high school (Tom and Ian), and one 8th-grade (Anne). Not to mention Fathers Day, several birthdays, and Grandma and Papa’s Anniversary. In our family, the traditional Paper Towel Banner marks special occasions, usually holding court via some masking tape on a kitchen cupboard door. Thanks to cousin Kieran, the tradition stands… 

The weather was absolutely PERFECT, and we spent long hours outside with a delicious spread of food, great beers, and of course an obligatory basketball game.

Event #6: Cousin Michael’s Graduation from U of O – Eugene, OR – Monday, June 14

(Too) early Monday morning we headed back down I-5 to Eugene to attend yet another graduation ceremony. Once again, the weather was stunning, but I was quickly reminded how a sunshine-y summery day in Eugene will wreak havoc on my sinuses. I probably sneezed no less than 284 times in the 6 hours we were in town. But it did give me a great excuse for my watery eyes as graduate after graduate took to the stage at Mac Court (*oh, you sweet old Pit, how I adore you!) to announce their name, major, and a joyful burst of thanks and love to their families in the stands!

“Michael Klaas Zarosinski vanBronkhorst”… it’s a good thing everyone said their own name!

After the ceremony, we met for a reception on the patio at Excelsior. I spent four years at school in Eugene, and never had I once even stepped foot inside this darling Inn! It’s really a beautiful place. The restaurant and kitchen take up several rooms on the main level of the building, with 14 guest rooms tucked away upstairs. I think I’ll definitely be returning here, whenever the next Eugene-event occurs!

Event #7: Visiting Mary Ann’s New House Project – Lake Oswego, OR – Tuesday, June 15

The next day was my first Non-Pre-Scheduled Event Day of the trip, and unfortunately my last full day in town. So, naturally, I filled it right up! First up was an “After” tour of Mary Ann’s project at “Millie’s House,” where I had lived (when it was in its “Before” state) before I bought my townhouse. Then it was off to Lake Oswego to see the new house project. Very, VERY “Before.” But knowing MA, she’s going to do wonders and amazing things with this little place!

Event #8: Happy Hour with the Girls and NoPo Reunion with an ATL buddy

My last night in town, I was able to meet up with two of my oldest friends (Emily and Sarah – and Shawn!) at McMenamins for a bite to eat and a fast catch-up session. It wasn’t long enough to even scratch the surface, but it’s worth it to me to have even a few minutes at a time to stay in each others’ lives. Jill and I then met up with cousin Zach at his sweet condo for a whiskey and downtime. The east-facing wall is entirely windows, and though we didn’t get the 3-mountain view, we were treated to a full-rainbow spanning I-84 instead!

Then it was once last stop in North Portland to see an old friend of mine who had recently moved to Portland from Atlanta, no less! We had a slice of pizza and a couple of beers at Mississippi Pizza Pub, which is one of my absolute favorite spots in town. They have a great, cozy live-music spot and host the Portland Spelling Bee on Monday nights! It’s fantastic.

It was yet another fun, full, happy trip to Portland. And I found it much harder to leave this time than I’ve experienced in the recent past. I still get a little misty-eyed when I think about the breakdown I had when saying goodbye to my brother Scott. It had been two years since I’d seen him last, and it’s hard not knowing when the next time will be. I am so very grateful for the close relationships that the four Grba-siblings have built and maintained, despite the physical distance that continues to separate us.

There’s nothing better than LIKING your family just as much as you love them.

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Best. Family. Ever.

30 06 2010

No one is as lucky as I am when it comes to familes… except for maybe Jill and Scott and Mark, but that’s because they have the same one that I do! Perhaps THEY are the REALLY lucky ones, because I’M their sister?! 🙂

It was truly a Family-themed trip to Portland last week. There wasn’t any singular occasion that made this a Not To Be Missed weekend in Portland, but a multi-event, multi-city, uber-happy Zarosinski-Grbavac love-fest in the Pacific Northwest!

Event #1: Grbavac Late-Night Happy Hour – Ashdale Drive – Thursday, June 10

My flight left Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. and arrived in Portland at 9:30 p.m. I love flying West! Of course I checked in online (including the $23 checked bag fee… essentially airline piracy) and could drop my bag off at the curb without waiting on a single line! And we all know how I feel about waiting for things! I had a direct flight, which to me is a serious luxury. It took awhile to get off the plane (as usual) but as soon as I came down the escalator to the PDX baggage claim, I saw my bag coming around the carousel! Sweet! Dad and Jill picked me up and we went straight home where Mark and Scott and Isabella were waiting for us. It was SO GOOD to see and hug my brothers again! It’s been 2 years since I’ve seen Scott, and I couldn’t wait to spend the next 6 days catching up. We had cocktails and sat around the kitchen table chatting for a couple of hours, laughing and making our plans for Friday. It felt like a very late night for me, but I like to drop-kick my Circadian rhythms into West Coast time as soon as possible!

Event #2: Grba-Siblings Hiking Adventures – Columbia River Gorge – Friday, June 11

Friday plans included hiking to the top of Multnomah Falls and the Horsetail Falls trail and making handmade pizzas on the grill for dinner. But first, I needed a pair of hiking shoes. And to borrow some hike-worthy clothes. Obviously I was unprepared. We packed a nice picnic lunch and filled the water bottles and were on our way. The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful stretches of river-side highway in the US. Despite wishing for some whiter clouds in bluer skies, the weather could not have been better for us.

Over a month straight of rain makes for one raging waterfall! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it look like this before! Nor have I (or any of us) ever been to the top of the Falls. But today is the day! It’s not a long hike (probably 1.2 miles) but nearly 1.1 of those miles ascend at nearly a 45 degree angle.

Scott had to be in charge of the camera at this point. The observation platform dangles over the edge of The Falls, and I’m not really a fan of dangling over the edge of anything. The return trip down the now -45 degree angles was fairly frightening due to some painful knees and tired quads. Poor little ACLs!

A few preemptive bandaids and short drive farther out the Gorge later, we were back on the trails to see a few more Falls. First was Horsetail Falls – aptly named!

Next up, Ponytail Falls. I always feel a little bit Last-of-the-Mohicans when I get to walk behind a waterfall!

Finally we made our way to Triple Falls – also appropriately (if not very creatively) named.

Triple Siblings at Triple Falls!

This made a great snack spot for the remainder of our picnic lunch: string cheese, hardboiled eggs, and apples for everyone!

After a delicious dinner of homemade (even the dough, thanks to our amazing Mom!) pizzas on the grill that we ate outside on the new deck, the Siblings headed across the river to meet up with cousins and friends and 25-cent Skee Ball at East Burn. As if there wasn’t going to be enough family-bonding going on downstairs in the TapRoom, another Central Catholic family dynasty was amassing as well. By 11 p.m. or so, it looked like a Harrington-Rice vs. Zarosinski-Grbavac Mafia War Council. *side note: the Zarosinski-Grbavac faction emerged as the clear and decisive winner… They had cleared out by midnight… WE closed the bar down. Bam.

Event #3: Mark’s Graduation from OSU – Corvallis, OR – Saturday, June 12

Closing the bar down at 2:30 a.m. hurt a little bit more when the alarm clock rang the next morning to rouse us for our 8 a.m. departure for Corvaillis. *sigh. But knowing that Grandma and Papa and Dona and Katie and DeAnna and Mary Ann were all going to be there made it slightly easier to get up and going. The weather was PERFECT. Sunny and warm and breezy and simply fantastic!

After the ceremony, we high-tailed it back to Mark’s house in hopes of catching the end of the US World Cup game… we got there in time for the inspiring music and the slow-motion highlight reel. Draw, USA! We soon assembled at King Tin’s Chinese restaurant for a smorgasbord of rice and meat and veggies and delicious extravagance!

A quick stop at the Woodburn Outlets proved fruitful as I found a light-weight, rain-resistant, wind-breaker type jacket. I was in need of something to protect me (read: my hair) from the sudden summer storms of the South. And it’s bright lime green, which makes me smile every time I see it! Yay for Columbia Sportswear!

Event #4: Portland’s Saturday Market – Sunday, June 13

Portland’s Saturday Market actually runs Saturdays AND Sundays in its new location at the Pavillion on the Waterfront.

The Siblings met up with Cousin Katie to spend a relaxing sunny morning/afternoon perusing the booths and taking in the sights of The Market prior to making our way up to Vancouver for the Zarosinski Family Graduation(s) Party.

There just isn’t a nicer or more beautiful place on earth than Portland on a warm, sunny, summer-y day!

Stay tuned for more stories….





End of the Hiatus

23 01 2010

Not that there was ever a conscious beginning to said hiatus. Regardless… I’M BACK! Back from where, one may query? Back FROM the internalization of the (sometimes) rambling thoughts and commentary on the goings-on of my days, and back TO the e-spilling of those self-same ramblings.

I honestly can’t come up with a reason for the months of silence… perhaps I talked more (telephone calls, text messages, Facebook posts) or had more personal interaction (West Coast Road Trip, multiple NC escapes) and so I didn’t focus so much (or at all) on the transcription of the events of the past six-plus months.

Here’s a Cliff’s Notes version of the last half of 2009… according to Kristen, of course!

August…

Thus began the first full-month of my “new” job. Not new in the sense that I changed locations or careers, but new in that the fifteen months of working and planning and presenting my (brilliant) ideas to The Powers That Be at work finally paid off. I am now the Lead Orthopedic Therapist at Piedmont Hospital. This role enables me to work full-time on the Orthopedic units of the hospital, which is truly where I am at my best, therapeutically. (if, for no other reason, because of the short lengths-of-stay for even the most challenging patients!) Instant gratification abounds! *It is important to note that this has NOT been the case for several patients in the past two weeks who have essentially taken up residency on the unit.

Not only does this job keep me on the Ortho unit, but it also enables me to make the (long, drawn out, sometimes painful) transition into a “leadership” role – at least as far as the orthopedic realm is concerned. I’m working on a multi-disciplinary team that is creating a Total Joint Replacement Bible (my own working title) that will outline the course of events from “You’ve decided to have your hip/knee replaced” to “Yes, you ARE getting out of bed with the Physical Therapist today” to “No, you can’t stay in the hospital one more night because your wife doesn’t want to make the 27-minute drive after 4:30 p.m.” (in so many words) In addition to the patient-information guide, Piedmont Hospital is looking to become an Orthopedic Center of Excellence, a quest I have sought to be a part of since the day I started working here, and one that I am currently contributing to on the planning committee.

September…

This month brought about a long-anticipated vacation! I flew to Portland and took off the next morning for Ashland to visit my friend Paula who was about to start Nursing school at OHSU’s Southern Oregon campus. The timing of my drive put me smack-dab in the middle of Game Day traffic – for both Oregon and Oregon State had home games. Oregon hosted 6th-ranked Cal, and made very short work of them, I must say! Despite my distaste for traffic – especially on 2-lane I-5 – it was great fun to be in the midst of the pre-game merriment. And Paula was such a good sport, ducking (!) into a dive-y pub in downtown Ashland to let me watch the 4th quarter… little did either one of us know, it was the hub for the Ashland chapter of U of O alumni! Go Ducks!

Ashland was lovely, and the company couldn’t be beat! We went wine-tasting and to the SOU bookstore (of course!) and wandered around little Talent, Oregon. Then it was off on the next leg of my journey: to Eureka!

Now, I’ve made the trip through the Redwood National Forest once before, en route to Arcata for Jill’s graduation several years ago. But I must have been asleep for that portion of the car ride, because I was FLOORED at the majesty of these botanical Giants! Could hardly get enough of them. Wow.

Seeing Jill was awesome and getting to spend time in her own town and life was fabulous! I even had the privilege to attend Hot Chick Night! Theme: Goddesses.

We took a day-trip to Petrolia, on the Lost Coast of California where Jill spent three years working for AmeriCorps and the Mattole Salmon Group. It was a stunning drive of cliffs and hairpin turns, gravelly roads and then a sprawling ocean-side highway. It’s totally where you find “Happy Cows are from California!”

We ate lunch on the banks of the (sadly dry) Mattole River after the wind cancelled our attempt to picnic at Strawberry Rock. The wind would NOT deter a photo-op, though!

From Eureka, I headed north along the Oregon Coast Highway. A longer route, but also one of much richer views. I was going back to my old stomping ground in Eugene, Oregon, to meet up with my dear friends Jeff and Laura.

We had a lovely time catching up that evening, and the next morning after tea with Laura and a send-off from Jeff, I went about re-exploring the U of O campus. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. The sun was shining and the breeze was light… reaffirming my stance that there is no nicer place on earth than Eugene when the sun shines in September!

I parked and walked around on 13th, popped into the bookstore (of course!) and got a bagel sandwich that I sat and ate on the Autzen footbridge, just soaking in the sights and sounds of the river and the passers-by.

Go Ducks!

From Eugene, I back-roaded it up to Corvallis to spend some time with Mark before continuing north to Kaiser where I stopped in to see my friend Tiffany (whom I had recently met up with in Charlotte, NC, of all places!) That was my final pre-Portland stop on the West Coast Road Trip. Once back in town, I was lucky enough to reconnect with some of my special lifelong friends. So much “life” has happened since we were all together the last time (a new career, a wedding, a sweet baby boy, a new state of residence) but by some stroke of fate, we were all in the same room again. And (it may sound cliché, but there’s no other way to put it) it felt like we had been apart for no longer than a weekend. So much laughter and fun times recalled – which only served to incite NEW laughter in this fun time. I am so glad that we were able to share that evening together.

October…

There was definitely a transition-period for me coming back to my real life after such an amazing vacation. But then I got an invite from my writing instructor (from my freelance writing class last summer) for a Writers’ Workshop. So I was back in the swing-of-things, Atlanta-wise.

Jocelyn was in town for her birthday, and there was quite the celebration that ensued. So much celebrating on her part, in fact, that I am completely absolved from all back-lash of the now infamous Ruining of Jocelyn’s Birthday in Paris, circa 2006. Let’s just say that while she had Friday off from work, I (the uber-patient and ever-conscientious designated driver for the evening’s events) did NOT. So the 2:45 a.m. return to my house was all-too-quickly followed by my 6:30 a.m. wake-up call. Best. Friend. Ever.

November…

This month brought another self-improvement opportunity: guitar lessons! Well, I took a beginning guitar class with 9 other people, so I suppose “lessons” is a bit of a stretch. I’m not very good, but I think I want to give it another try. Probably in a remedial beginning guitar class.

My friend Laura was inducted into Western Carolina’s Athletic Hall of Fame this year! She’s pretty much all-everything as far as Lady Catamount basketball goes. I was the rope-holder on Lily-patrol so that her family could bask in the glory and honor of the occasion. Lily and I wandered around the facilities, watching the Pride of the Smokies (WCU’s marching band) practice, the football team’s indoor warmups, and a basketball shoot-around, and still made it back for Dad’s introduction and Laura’s acceptance speeches. Way to go, Aunt K!

I’m really starting to believe that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – behind my Birthday/New Years, naturally! I had to work T-giving day and the day after, as did several of my friends. After work, we went over to Sunni and Brian’s for “Friends Thanksgiving II.” The first edition being 2 years ago, on the day after then closed on their new house. This year was a far cry from that “first” Thanksgiving when we sat on plastic chairs around a “beer pong” table in an otherwise completely empty house! Their home is absolutely lovely, and this was the first time Sunni got to set out her wedding china! I couldn’t be more grateful for the “family” I’ve found here in Atlanta.

December…

The last month of the year opened with a first for me… Jury Duty! I imagine there aren’t too many people who would put an elated exclamation point at the end of that sentence, but I am definitely one of them! It was a very interesting day. Definitely didn’t do much to make “lawyer” look like a trustworthy and noble career path. I just don’t like the idea of your whole purpose being to trick and undermine people and to make them look foolish or wrong. It left a very sour taste in my mouth and I just don’t like it.

My holiday season progressed rapidly after seeing one of my dear friends take the stage in The Santaland Diaries! Stuart was a brilliant Crumpet, and I’m already looking very much forward to seeing him in his next role, the lead in the musical “Parade” next month.

It sort of feels like I spent most of December in North Carolina! I drove up surreptitiously for my friend Allison’s surprise 30th Birthday dinner party, and made my way to Charlotte on Christmas Eve to spend Christmas with Jocelyn and Hans and the Marshall family. I even had my very own stocking!

It was the first time that I hadn’t woken up at Mom and Dad’s house on Christmas morning. The whole weekend felt just a little bit… off. Sort of like Christmas wasn’t even happening. I mean, there were 6 stockings up on the mantle, just like at home… there were wonderful, thoughtful gifts, just like we do… delicious food and a beautiful tree… everything that said “family Christmas”… except for MY family. Now, don’t get me wrong – I had a great time and a marvelous Christmas. I couldn’t have asked for a better substitute. But I did so miss Zarosinski-Grbavac Christmas this year.

And with that, I put to rest 2009. This new month/year/decade has reinspired me to do the things I enjoy (writing, traveling), restart things I don’t yet enjoy (working out, limiting coffee intake), and learning new things that I hope to enjoy (sewing, guitar).

2010 has been good to me so far! Mom, Dad, Jill and Mark all came to Atlanta for my 20-10th Birthday Party! Everyone stayed at my house (which, if you haven’t seen it, is quite quaint and cozy!) and we had just such a wonderful time together! We took a field trip to Stone Mountain and the siblings went to an Avett Brothers concert, courtesy of Jill. Scott’s Christmas box arrived on New Years Eve! We got to Skype with Scott on my birthday, and (thanks to the wonders of modern technology) took a fairly impressive Family Photo.

2010 looks to be a great year. After all (thanks, Jocelyn!), it’s The Year of Kristen!