Remembering Grandpa One Year Later

October 29th, 2013

There’s an old adage that says, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” We all come into this world powerless and innocent. One can only hope that the family in which we are born is one of unconditional love, good health, prosperity and happiness. According to internet calculations, the probability of me being born as the granddaughter of Bruce Warzala is 11 in 10 to the 2 million, 685,000th power. I think I won that lottery, because if I could have the choice of a grandfather, I’d definitely choose Grandpa.


My grandfather was a very positive man who always had a smile on his face. I admired his attitude towards life because even though life’s not always easy…he sure made it look so. He was a depression baby, born in August of 1928; graduating from Harding High School in St. Paul Minnesota and eventually college at the U of M. He met his future wife, my grandma Jeanne, through friends Ken and Maxine Russell. Their love was greater than the nearly 450 miles that separated them for 2 years of their courtship and they went on to say “I do” in 1950. Grandpa worked as a civil engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in order to support their quickly growing family. By the time 1964 rolled around grandma and grandpa had quite the handful…my dad and 4 uncles.


According to my dad and uncles, Grandpa was a great father. He was very involved in coaching his sons’ hockey and baseball teams in addition to heading the Maplewood Athletics Association. My uncles recalled memories to me…from my grandpa teaching them how to water ski at Lake Levitte during the summers of their youth to dredging the woods for black bears who’d make their way into campsites and hoard trash.


And then there’s Grandpa from my perspective. The granddaughter perspective. My grandfather was a fun-loving man whose sense of humor and positivity could make anyone feel at ease. Anyone, that is, who wasn’t dating one of his four beloved granddaughters. As one of those granddaughters I got to witness, firsthand, my husband Kevin as he nervously tried to answer my Grandpa’s infamous “What are your intentions here?” question. I think having five sons allowed him an excuse to be overprotective of his granddaughters. It’s like the protectiveness trait within him grew exponentially in my generation after not being utilized as much in my dad’s.


I admire my grandpa’s commitment to building and fixing things. It seemed like every time my parents went on vacation and Grandpa came to stay with us he’d find something that was “broken” and in need of a little love. To say my grandpa had ingenuity might somehow be an understatement. For example, I remember a time in which the door to our basement wouldn’t shut. I don’t think business cards would have been my first idea as a solution to this problem, but it’s true he found a way to use my dad’s business cards as a shim in the hinges. Fixing the door and putting my dad’s business cards to use, now that’s ingenuity.


Another thing I remember about grandpa is his persistence. And specifically, his persistence with bananas. Breakfast at Balsam just wasn’t complete without a banana. “Would you like a banana Danielle?”
“No thanks grandpa.” I would answer.
“Are you sure you don’t want a banana?”
“Yes I’m sure grandpa.” I would say.
“What about half a banana?” He would ask.
“No thanks grandpa.”
“What if I cut it up and put a few slices on your cereal?”
……..“Alright.” (When it wasn’t a banana it was milk.) But Grandpa’s persistence was always in direct connection to his concern for the health and wellbeing of our family, and for that I love him.

Father's Day 2006 015

In recent years, grandpa had become persistent in his emails. Albeit, all of his emails were Forwards, one entitled “Bananas…READ THIS…Some good things to know” caught my attention. That, among “3D Ping Pong” and “Cat on a Roof”. Funny thing, I got a call from Grandpa one time asking for my email address after realizing that my name had mysteriously disappeared from his contacts list. That phone call made me realize the importance of these forwarded emails in addition to wasp spray, colonoscopies, the boogie woogie, and every other email subject I received from then on.


Big B was grandpa’s nickname. And Big B symbolized, to me and many others, his big and powerful heart. It was amazing… the amount of space in his heart for family and friendships. It’s as if his heart was always full of love but at the same time capable and ready to love more. Part of me thought that heart would never stop beating. And although it did physically, Grandpa’s heart has transcended himself. There’s his heart within each and everyone one of us here today, and his legacy of love and family will never ever die. It will live on through our children, our children’s children and our children’s grandchildren. Even if the world ends tomorrow it is my belief that that love will still be floating around somewhere, ready and waiting to cling to whatever form of life it finds.

You never forget the family member who dressed up as Santa, delivering presents on Christmas in an attempt to foster their grandchildren’s growing spirit and belief in magic. I know I never will. As children, the stepping stones of life are bridged by those of whom we have no choice…family. And to that, it’s amazing…how unbelievably fortunate I am to have been born the granddaughter of a man named Bruce Warzala.


The one and only picture I have of Grandpa and Dakota. I will cherish it forever. Love and miss you, Grandpa.

Team Truckenmunch

July 25th, 2013

Well, the Color Run came and went…almost two weeks ago now (geez I’ve been slacking on posts)…but boy was it a BLAST! We were in the second to last run of the day which happened at 2:00pm and despite the heat it was a beautiful day with some nice southerly breezes. We didn’t take Dakota on the actual course but saved some of the color packets for him to join in on the color fun later. Despite having 3 color packets left, 2 of them were the same color—green; the other—yellow. Somehow, even after receiving my degree in Graphic Design, I came to the conclusion that if we mixed green and yellow it would make blue. I was disappointed to find that this wasn’t the case, but didn’t think much about it until reading the book, “The Color Kittens,” about a week later to Dakota. D’oh!



We couldn’t resist naming our team after something our good friend Shanita always calls us: Truckenmunch! I made a before and after cool comparison of our mascot Dakota. As you can see before the color fun he was simply a cool boy, but after he became a super cool boy!





The post-run team shot! From left to right: me, Katie H., Katie S., Kevin, and my brother Mike. Can’t wait to do it again next year! Team Truckenmunch unite!


The Fourth of July

July 14th, 2013

Our fourth of July weekend was filled with lots of food, fun, family and sun. We spent a good two days in Big Lake, Minnesota with the Truckenmiller family and as you’ll soon see their resident chicken—Jackie. She acts like a dog and follows/chases you everywhere. In typical Shiloh style she photo bombed a few pictures! Dakota enjoyed watching her most as she crazily flapped her wings from the railing of the deck.

On the fourth we trekked back to Minneapolis to watch the Twins nearly make a comeback against the Yankees…unfortunately to no avail… hmph. But we rounded out the day with a family BBQ and an amazing view of the Red, White and Boom downtown Minneapolis fireworks display. We enjoyed nearly 15 more firework displays from the roof top of my work’s parking ramp, which gave us an incredible view of downtown.

Here are a few pics from the weekend!












Dakota’s First Birthday

April 26th, 2013

It finally happened! The big 1 year milestone for Dakota came and went on Tuesday, but we celebrated with an under the sea themed party last weekend. This guy is officially 1!


It’s crazy to think back on the past year and how fast time flies. In 1 year, Dakota has tripled his birth weight and increased his height by 50%! He’s developing this feisty personality that continues to be defined with each passing day. I love fostering his search for knowledge through exploration and playing games like Peek a Boo! Each morning I’m greeted by this wide-eyed, gap-toothed, red-haired baby boy and can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am to have such an innocent, sweet being in my life. Happy Birthday boy!


Kevin thinks I may have went a little overboard (pun intended!) on making all the underwater birthday decor myself. All of the decorations were DIY ideas found elsewhere on the internet and gathered onto an Undersea Pinterest Board. I put some original twists on the jellyfish lanterns that I’m actually pretty proud of and hope to make some sort of tutorial blog for that later. If anyone’s interested I can also post some templates for the Happy Birthday banner. Thanks to our family for coming, Kevin for the mouthwatering slow-cooked carnitas and the delicious sea friend cupcakes made by my mom!














SoCal Excursions

March 20th, 2013

Kevin, Dakota and I recently returned from an amazing adventure in Southern California. We stayed in Aguanga with Kevin’s parents and for the most part it was a pretty laid back, rejuvenating vacation. Here are my five favorite things from the trip:


5. Exploring Crystal Cove

After staying with Kevin’s aunt and uncle one night in Coto de Caza, we voyaged to Crystal Cove State Park. Amongst picturesque bluffs, we scavenged tide pools and the shore for sea critters. We didn’t have a lot of luck in the crab, urchin or starfish departments, but we were very lucky to spot a large pod of whales just off the coast. It was the best part of the day, next to soaking up what few rays of sunshine we could that somewhat cloudy morning on the fine sands of Crystal Cove’s beach.




4. Strolling the wharf in San Diego

I didn’t know much about Harbor Island before going, but man are there some cool ships! We saw the Star of India (the oldest iron-hulled ship afloat), in addition to the longest serving aircraft carrier in US history–the USS Midway.




3. Taking in the beauty of the California hills

Driving through Southern California was an adventure in itself. Winding through the canyons of San Juan Capistrano on the Ortega Highway is the first time in my life I felt carsick. At the same time, it was easy to forget about the feeling when you have breathtaking birds eye views of the valley of Lake Elsinore.




2. Wine Tasting at South Coast on St. Patty’s Day

One of my favorite excursions was to the South Coast Winery in Temecula. It was bustling with St. Patty’s Day cheer and so was Dakota. He could best be described as a rascal leprechaun sans beard. This day was filled with good conversation, family mischief, and, of course, wine!




1. Lounging pool side with a bubs

On a near 90º day in Aguanga, what better thing to do than go swimming and lay by a pool with this guy?