Row4ROW Needs Your Help

Unfortunately, the Row4ROW team has some sad news to report and we need your help.

Jenn was set to row to Beaver Island on Sunday morning but was attacked and sexually assaulted by a man in the early morning hours. The attack occurred in an area south of Gulliver along Lake Michigan in Mueller Township, Schoolcraft County, Mich. Investigators have reason to believe the assailant traveled a significant distance to commit the assault. The suspect is described as a white male in his 30s, approximately 5’8” to 6’ tall, with a fair amount of facial stubble hair, but not a full beard nor mustache. The man has light eyes, an average to athletic build and shorter well-kept hair. He was wearing a grayish green t-shirt, jean shorts and tennis shoes. A bright yellow Jeep Wrangler was seen in the area. It has a spare tire on the back with a yellow smiley face on it. Investigators are seeking information about this vehicle. Anyone with information or investigative leads please call the Michigan State Police toll-free at 1-866-411-0018.

Please know that Jenn is safe and in good hands. A statement from her about the trip and future plans will be made very soon. Please re-post this information and help us find this criminal.

Thank you for your continued support of Row4ROW.

Posted in Uncategorized by Brenda. Comments Off

Go with the Flow, dear Jenn…

During Jenn’s trip we’ll be posting writing from various friends in Jenn’s life. Today’s post is from Kathy B, a breast cancer survivor and member of the Recovery on Water team.

It’s day two (ed. note: this was written several weeks ago) of Jenn’s great adventure and I find myself thinking of her frequently. They say it’s about the journey not the destination and I’m sure that will prove true. I wonder how many shooting stars will she see? How many times will she daydream of a cold glass of wine and putting her feet up? How many times will she scream and cry to chase the fears away?

No matter what this amazing experience brings to her, I want to whisper in her ear, “Go with the flow, dear Jenn.” It’s just like life, don’t fight against it - flow with it. Flow gently. I know it’s about powering through some grueling waves and currents; it’s about proving a lot of things to a lot of people and more importantly to yourself. It’s about getting in your daily allotment of miles and reaching each of your key destinations. But, my hope is that you will trust yourself in all situations and if you feel like stopping – stop. If you feel like pushing – push. If you feel like you need to rethink anything that you’ve planned for – rethink it. Go with the flow. Sometimes it’s good to push yourself beyond your comfort zone but most of the time it’s best to go with the flow of life, riding the waves and then resting in still waters. A wise man once told me how the words to the childhood song were a metaphor for life, “Row, row, row, your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream.”

Here’s to gently rowing your boat merrily, dear Jenn!

Kathy B.
R.O.W. Team Member

Posted in Uncategorized by Brenda. 1 Comment

Grandma JoAnn: The Very First Gibby Girl

Why is it that Grandma’s always get so little when they get old? It’s like they become these precious tiny glass ornaments.  Maybe it’s so that we treat them delicately and cherish them.  Hold them gently, look at them fondly-admire them often.

And why does cancer suck so much?

I left for this journey four weeks ago today. My grandma was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer less than three weeks ago. She passed away this morning around 2 am.

I got the news from my dad early this morning, I woke up at 4 to start rowing.  I set out my water and supplies for the day, got the oars in place and was about to push off when I just burst into tears.  I don’t want to be brave today. I just want to be sad.

The truth is- I’ve been spending a lot of time mourning my grandma’s death-even before she died.  When I found out about her diagnosis (knowing it’s a very fatal form of cancer with no cure), I knew I wasn’t going to be able to see her at the end of my journey.  I remember one morning last week-I had perfect conditions, plenty to be happy about-but I just sobbed as I rowed.  I cried until I had no tears. In the sun and in the silence…with no one for miles to hear or see me I just let everything out.  I talked to her and thanked her for everything she taught me-and the memories she’s given my family.  I cried because I knew she would never be at my wedding or hold my children in her arms. I realized those were selfish thoughts…things I couldn’t hold on to because she was in so much pain.

I wanted her around because my grandma was the best. I mean, I know everyone probably says that about their grandma…but really, she was.

She started a tradition with the girl cousins in my family that is called “Gibby Girls”. As kids we would spend a week with her in South Haven doing typical “girl” things. For Grandma, she was teaching us how to be “ladies”.  Baking pies, quilting, fake nail gluing, sand castles by Lake Michigan…all intertwined with stories about our dads and uncles as kids, her divorce…memories that were painful but meant to share.  Life lessons, happy stories, sad stories.

As we’ve all gotten older the tradition has changed-soon it became the “Gibby Girl Weekend”.  We would change the location and venues-but it always included the same stories, the same sharing-time together as women and part of a family that loves each other.  My brother got married-we added my sister in law to the tradition after her official initiation (I would tell you the process but I’d have to kill you).  My cousin Joel got married-and the group grew. It was fun to hear the newbies talk about how they were so excited to join “Gibby Girls”. It was like a special society they heard rumors about…and they were lucky enough to marry in. Over the years we’ve added margaritas. A cousin had a baby, and the concept of “pumping and dumping” breast milk became the humor for one weekend. Our stories about our dads have changed as we watch them get older-helping each other cope with the concept of our parents not always being around. I’m one of the only cousins that isn’t a teacher-so I hear stories about kids and school administration and parents and smile and nod, trying to relate as a rowing coach. They always apologize when they get into it but I love how they all relate. I don’t mind at all. We talk about marriage and relationships and balancing life as a full time mom, wife, teacher, daughter, grandchild. There’s no judgement. We tell happy stories, sad stories, we lean on each other and grow through each other’s experiences.

Yes, we have matching “Gibby Girl” t-shirts (be jealous).

I am willing to bet my grandma had the most hopeful intentions when she started Gibby Girls-but had no idea it would blossom into something so beautiful. And I am so thankful, so lucky, and so honored to be a part of my family for many reasons-but this one hits the top. I’m so proud to be a Gibby Girl.

When I heard about her passing and learned about the funeral-I was faced with a tough decision.  Stop the trip and attend the funeral, or keep going. I thought I had already made my mind up. My parents and I had talked a few weeks ago about how I would continue on the trip, that nothing would skip a beat.  But when I got the news and I tried to row this morning-I had to let myself process the news differently than I had hoped.  My dad offered to drive to Menomonee to pick me up and bring me back after the funeral. I got an email from a ROW member that said, “Remember that there is no right or wrong way to deal with grief.  Grief is beyond judgment.  Be gentle with yourself.”  I called my dad back and took him up on his offer for a ride to the funeral. I know my grandma would be fine with me making peace however I decided-but this is what I wanted. I want to be with my family-and the Lake isn’t going anywhere.

So now I’m here in Liv, waiting for my dad. Looking through old photos on my computer-this one I found from May of this year.  The last time we spent the afternoon together.

My Grandma had this beautiful zest and energy for life. I’m sure you can see it in her smile (so I thought I better write about that too).  We wrote each other letters every week. We wrote each other at MSU, while I was working in DC, and the letters continued for years as I’ve lived in Chicago. I told her about the good and bad jobs, boyfriends, decisions. I would get so excited to get her letters in the mail-full of words of wisdom and advice-gentle grandmotherly suggestions and uplifting guidance.

She loved to laugh and have fun-but had a serious side as well.  Serious- in the sense that she always wanted us grandkids to be happy-and do what we wanted. To find happiness-whether that was as a brain surgeon or a sanitary worker. She never wanted anyone to talk down to or badly about each other. She wanted our family to be a family-to love each other and support each other. To be good brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins to each other.  And we have, and we will this weekend as we mourn her death and celebrate her life.

This break to attend the funeral does change my itinerary a bit. Liv and I want to stay on track with our stops-so I may have to make up miles and alter the trip a bit. I hate the idea of changing things but have to accept that life happens and I know that everyone will be supportive. The idea is to raise awareness and funds-and we’re doing both well. The trip has certainly had its ups and downs and has been far from perfect. But so is life-and I think that by sharing with you honestly and being vulnerable in this sense is a strength-so I will continue to share (while it is not always easy).

I like the idea of having a memorial bike ride for the miles I miss due to the funeral service-and making it a memorial Gibby Girl bike trip in her honor in the fall.

But that’s just me-always planning an adventure. :)


Thank you for your continued support of ROW and this trip. Please consider sponsoring a mile of this adventure for $100 or making a donation online.


Posted in Uncategorized by Jenn. 4 Comments