Sunday, December 17, 2017

Milestones and adventures in 2017

Some big milestones and transitions for the Murray family in 2017! New jobs, new adventures and exciting travels. Welcome to our 10th annual year in review.

Andrew started the year in Traverse City, moving into a beautiful apartment with a view of a nature preserve on New Year’s Eve. He soon landed a job as a social worker for Northwest Healthcare Management. We're exciting to see him happy and successful in his chosen field.

Technically, he’s the residential coordinator for the nursing facility transition team, helping seniors who are slowing down but still able to take care of themselves. Andrew travels around the region, checking to make sure clients are doing well and have access to services they are entitled to receive.

Andrew’s fiancĂ©e, Aubrey Williams, has a job as a speech therapist with the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School district, helping children in several schools.
Aubrey, Andrew and Caroline posing on Thanksgiving!

Traverse City is a beautiful place, located “Up North” in the lexicon of Michiganders, and they try to visit the parks and beaches. They’re also just about two hours north, making it easy to keep in touch with friends and family.

We are proud of Andrew and Aubrey, and look forward to their big day in October.

Caroline had the busiest year. We can barely keep up with her activities at Central Michigan University, where she is wrapping up her junior year as an economics major and works as a resident assistant at Larzelere Hall.

In March, CMU featured Caroline on a billboard in the Rockford area, highlighting her involvement with Pack Your Back, a nonprofit she co-founded that collects school supplies for children in Flint and Detroit. This month, the group has another event in Flint, providing Christmas stockings stuffed with school supplies.

Pack Your Back distributed thousands of backpacks filled with school supplies for children in Flint and Detroit. The organization was featured on MSNBC and the Huffington Post in addition to local media.

In May, Caroline embarked on an 18-day study abroad program that took her to England, where they learned about life and work in the United Kingdom, explored some of the historic sites and countryside, and even chased sheep.

She closed out the summer with Pack Your Back’s distribution day, appearing on a Flint television news broadcast. The event itself attracted national attention, which was exciting and brought in more donors.

Returning to CMU in the fall, Caroline was elected Senate leader in student government. A month later, she was elected Homecoming Golden Ambassador (CMU’s version of homecoming queen). Her reign began with a lot of rain – it poured during the parade and on-field ceremonies!

Homecoming was a soggy thrill as Caroline and co-golden ambassador Jason Hall were honored at halftime.

We’re proud of all the kids and Aubrey and are excited to see what they’ll do in the year ahead.
Tug pretty much runs the house, basking in the sun and collecting cardboard boxes.

Meanwhile, Dave and Julie celebrated their 30th anniversary on Oct. 10 by heading to Vancouver, Canada. We explored the beautiful city’s parks, museums and even a mountaintop. We did not get to be an extra in a Syfy movie! But we did have a wonderful time.

A couple of crazy kids after 30 years!

We also visited Mom and Dad and the Mets in Florida in March, Cincinnati in May, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in October. 
Vancouver was a wonderful place to visit, with an English high tea, Olympic memories and spectacular scenery.

Dave was able to visit his parents again this month, getting to see the renovations in Jenny’s new home and attending a beautiful advent service featuring John performing with Voices of Pride.

John keeps busy with his Voices of Pride choral group, performing  all over the West Palm Beach area.
As an added bonus, we were able to see the presidential motorcade zoom by!
One neat experience this summer was climbing to the top of Michigan's iconic Mackinac Bridge to talk about developing talent in Michigan, especially in the professional trades.

Julie works to tell the Grand Rapids Community College story as a member of the communications department. .

She also keeps up with her hobbies, especially knitting. Some of her work was mentioned on a knitting podcast, and we attended two fiber fests, meeting alpacas and other exotic animals.

Dave continues as communications director for the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development.

He enjoys traveling across the state, working with schools and employers to build a talented workforce. One trip was extra special: a climb atop one of the towers of the iconic Mackinac Bridge.

As the year closes and we reflect on the things we’ve done and the people we’ve done them with, we realize that the Lord has blessed us in many ways. 

We are so proud of the kids, and thrilled that we can spend time with Mom Nelson, who is closing in on her second year as a transplanted Michigander.

We hope that this holiday season finds you happy and healthy. We would love to hear from you! Everyone is on Facebook, and you can drop us a line at

Love, Dave, Julie, Andrew and Caroline.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Closing out 2016 in better places

To be sure, 2016 was a year of transitions and challenges. But as we close out the year, it is nice to see that we all are finding ourselves in better places.

Andrew had a very exciting year. He became engaged to Aubrey Williams this summer, and we are thrilled to have her as a future daughter-in-law.

Aubrey graduated this month with a master’s degree in speech therapy from Grand Valley State University, and she accepted a job with the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District  -- starting Jan. 3.
Dave and Julie were able to travel a little this year to see the Mets, and other things! They went to Cleveland and Milwaukee and later to Sault Ste, Marie before joining the traditional Labor Day walk across the Mackinac Bridge. Dave also saw his beloved Mets in Detroit. Of course, they lost all four games he attended.
Andrew has been working as a recreational therapist at Samaritas Senior Living in Grand Rapids, and was able to transfer to a similar role at the organization’s Traverse City location.

Traverse City is a beautiful community in Northern Michigan. If you do our Michigan hand thing, TC is located at the tip of the pinky. It’s famous for magnificent bays that lead to Lake Michigan, cherry farming and nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes, once recognized as the most beautiful place in the United States.

It’s also just about two hours north of Grand Rapids, so Andrew and Aubrey will never be too far away.

Caroline’s year was just as exciting. She’s a sophomore at Central Michigan University and was hired to be a resident assistant in Lazelere Hall.

Caroline is interested in government, and successfully ran for the Student Senate. She also worked as an intern this summer in the office of Michigan Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, learning about constituent service and attending legislative committee meetings.

Caroline and Dave had an epic trip to Washington, D.C., and did just about everything imaginable, including enjoying a staff-directed tour of the U.S. Capitol. They also went to the top of the Washington Monument, attended a Nationals game, toured the Supreme Court, multiple Smithsonian museums, the Archives, all the memorials on the National Mall, Ford's Theater  and more -- a wonderfully exhausting adventure.

Caroline also co-founded a nonprofit organization called Pack Your Back that collected school supplies for children in Flint, Mich. The group drew some financial and in-kind support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Walt Disney World and others.

CMU liked what the kids were doing and featured Caroline and co-founder Galen Miller in a series of ads and profiles. Caroline also was featured in an ad to recruit future resident assistants -- she was surprised to see her image on table tents in cafeterias across campus.
The whole family was fired up for the Chips!
Caroline is still playing piccolo in the Marching Chips and briefly escaped Michigan snow to perform at the Miami Beach Bowl.

We all are excited that Julie’s Mom, Alberta Nelson, moved this year from Champaign, Ill., to Rockford. We love having Mom nearby, and she hosted Thanksgiving dinner in the new place. Making the day extra special, Mom and Dad Murray made the trip from Florida – the first time both sides of the family were able to celebrate the holiday together!

Julie also keeps busy with her knitting projects, with several mentions of her handiwork on knitting podcasts. She also manages to keep the rest of us on track.
One of the highlights of the year was attending the wedding of friends Will Christensen and Laurie Larson on the shore of beautiful Torch Lake. Everything was perfect!
Dave’s new role in Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration keeps him on the go all across Pure Michigan. 

As the communications director for the Department of Talent and Economic Development, he oversees a team of 10 and focuses mostly on the challenge of developing talent and making communities stronger.
The Pure Michigan campaign is part of Dave's new department, so he and Julie attended the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR race at the Michigan International Speedway, and had some pretty neat experiences, from walking on the track to watching the pit crews up close  to meeting a driver and cheering in the Winner's Circle.
He’s working on a project in the Upper Peninsula, learning about the challenges faced by the communities of Ishpeming and Negaunee after one of the region’s iron mines closed.

Alas, despite spending time in the UP for both work and pleasure, a moose sighting remains elusive.
Will joined Dave for an awesome Kiss concert in Grand Rapids in August. We thought we were appropriately dressed until we encountered these members of the Kiss Army!
There were some difficult moments in 2016. But looking back, we recognize the Lord has blessed in so many ways. 

It’s wonderful to see the kids succeeding, and we’re so proud of them. Mom Murray endured some pretty tough health challenges, but none were are tough as she is! It’s so nice to have Mom Nelson nearby. 

We treasure the time we were able to spend with family from near and far. As we flip the last page on the calendar, we’re all in a good place.

We love to keep in touch. Everyone has a Facebook page and the family email is

Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe new year.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

College, careers and an empty nest in 2015

We are adjusting to life as empty nesters.

The holiday season finds Caroline off at college and Andrew with a job in the real world -- just two of the transitions we celebrated in 2015, which, as it comes to a close, we recognize as a very busy year.

Caroline wrapped up her senior year at Rockford High School with all the traditional activities – prom, graduation, open house – and moved ahead to her freshman year at Central Michigan University, where she majors in economics.
From prom to commencement to college, Caroline had a super-busy year.

Brother Andrew helped with the big college moving day.
Some aspects of the college world are familiar: Caroline plays piccolo in the mighty Marching Chips. You can catch the band and the football team on ESPN2, playing in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 28.

She’s also involved in the college version of the Rotary Club and student government. Her neighbor and best friend, Jordan Hill, also attends CMU, so campus is never a lonely place.

But Caroline is also learning about living away from home and sharing a room. CMU is located in Mount Pleasant, which is about an hour north of Lansing and about 80 miles from Rockford -- easy for Mom and Dad to head over for football games, concerts, supply runs and visits.
Every time we think about grumbling about the distance to CMU, we remember Caroline’s second choice was Michigan Tech University in Houghton, which, while still in the state, is about eight hours away at the farthest end of the Upper Peninsula. What’s the weather like in Houghton? The mascot is a husky named “Blizzard” and students have free access to a ski hill. We visited in February – during the spectacular Winter Carnival -- and were touched by the kindness of the people, struck by the beauty of the region and impressed by the programs. But CMU’s Business School was a better fit for Caroline.
Caroline also sparked a family vacation. Despite much photographic evidence, she claimed to have no memories of going to Disney World. We drove to Florida in early January, heading to Orlando with Poppy and Grandma for new and refreshed memories in the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT.

Andrew had an exciting year, landing a full-time job with Maple Creek retirement community, where he gets to use his experience assisting the senior population. We’re very proud of Andrew, and it’s exciting to think about the many people he’ll get to help during his career.
Andrew showing off his new sweater, one of Julie's projects that was discussed on a knitting podcast.
Nephew Zack Horve spent a day in Lansing with Uncle Dave to work on a Boy Scouts merit badge. It ended up being a pretty eventful day, with the U.S. Supreme Court announcing a ruling that affected Michigan. We later went to see the Lansing Lugnuts play the West Michigan Whitecaps, where Zack won a television. Pretty good day!
Julie enjoys her job in the communications department at Grand Rapids Community College, sharing the news of the college’s success through social media, speeches and media relations.

Her knitting has drawn some attention. Commentators on the podcast “Ladies of the Knit” twice discussed some of her projects. She also chronicles the family’s adventures in scrapbooks and takes part in the church’s new book club. 

Julie also basks in unconditional adoration from Tug, the family cat, who apparently has a following on Facebook and beyond.

Dave is excited about his November promotion to press secretary, working with an awesome communications team to tell the story of Gov. Rick Snyder and Michigan’s comeback.

Press secretary in action.  Here's Dave conducting a "scrum" press conference after Gov. Snyder signed the bill that sets aside money to better maintain Michigan's aging roads and infrastructure.
We frequently travel around Michigan and sometimes pop into other states. But August brought the adventure of a lifetime when Dave was part of the Michigan delegation on an investment mission to China. 

We visited five cities – starting in Beijing and ending in Shanghai – meeting with government and business leaders and lots of reporters along with way. Highlights include visiting the Great Wall and West Lake, formal dinners and the ceremony involved with signing a memorandum of understanding at the Ministry of Commerce.

Every step brought something different and exciting. To visit China is to be awed by its modern and ancient architecture, fascinated by its history and warmed by the hospitality of its people.

Sometimes we go to other countries to tell the Michigan story, and sometimes  people from other countries come to Michigan. Dave was able to be part of the team that worked on the visit of the King and Queen of the Netherlands to Grand Rapids. Dave helped King Willem Alexander conduct a press conference before getting on the plane. And they needed to get on that plane on time -- it was the day of Caroline's graduation.
And, while the World Series didn’t end quite the way we had hoped, the Mets presented us with an incredible season, and there was at least one Mets flag flying proudly in Michigan throughout the fall.

One of the most exciting nights of the year: Dave and Will Christensen  met up in Chicago to see the epic Rush R40 concert. They wrote about the event and their favorite band for months prior on the Mets Guy in Michigan blog.
Looking back, we treasure the opportunities to be with our families and friends as schedules fill up and there are increasing demands on everyone’s time. This holiday season is a reminder that the Lord has blessed us with busy and exciting lives, and we are always appreciative of this.

We love to keep in touch. Everyone has a Facebook page. Dave actually has two – one for friends and family and one for people who like hearing about our adventures in Michigan’s reinvention. The family email remains

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and a very healthy new year.