A few birthdays, a wedding, and a lot of food.  It sounds like a start to a good joke.  But these events and more, all happened while I was vacationing for a week in my home state of Illinois.

In all honestly, this vacation was supposed to take place back in April, and it goes without saying, the COVID-19 pandemic totally put a wrench in my initial plans.  I rescheduled my trip for May.  At the time, the virus fears were slowly declining in South Dakota.  However, that was not the case in the Chicagoland area.  I had not seen my family since Christmas, and I was feeling discouraged and sad about the entire situation.  I had to rethink my plans yet again.  This time, I scheduled my trip for July.  So why did I choose mid-July?

Easy:  My dad's birthday was during that week, my birthday (and my twin sister Katie's birthday) falls two days after my dad's, and one of my good friends from college was still getting married (thankfully).  It just made sense.  Since this was my first trip back home, I had to plan my entire week to make sure I saw most of my family and some friends.  I was busy but at least my schedule worked!

I was determined to drive the long 8 1/2 hour haul back to my hometown, but my parents were not too thrilled about me on the road alone with my "new car" and by that I mean, my 2003 Camry.  I understood their concerns.  So sister Katie graciously hopped on a plane to Sioux Falls to endure the journey with me.

During the first 72 hours of my vacation, I was able to see a good portion of my family at a safe distance including my grandma.  She's going to be 94-years-old in December, and I was so thrilled to actually see her instead of talking to her over Facetime.  In this same time period, I went hiking with my aunt and two of my younger cousins at Matthiessen State Park.  It's a beautiful hiking trail with hidden waterfalls.  You literally have to jump on stones and cross steams to get to them.  So cool!

Despite all the adventures, birthdays, other celebrations, and Dunkin' Donuts coffee, Illinois is very different when it comes to managing the COVID-19 pandemic.  I'll describe these differences in greater detail in a future post.  For now, let's just say COVID-19 guidelines are different throughout the state depending on the area.  It was a culture shock, to say the least.  However,  I will say this experience at home makes me realize how fortunate South Dakota is to now be in a steady, solid position in this battle against the global pandemic.

Thank you to everyone for all the vacation well wishes and birthday sentiments. I really appreciate your kind words!  My time off was great, but I am so excited to be back in action!

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