WHITNEY: This is my trip to the mountains, I'll be sure to write

I'm going home.

By the time you read this, I'll already be home. It will be a normal Wednesday filled with cartoons and, with luck, waffles and strong coffee. The only difference will you will will not see me return to my desk in the Pioneer's downtown office.

This was my final week as the associate editor of the Pioneer.

I'm going home to be with my family. To be a mom and a wife, and still a writer but just in a different capacity. I know "spending time with family" is often a cop out used by shamed politicians and golden-parachuted, scandal-embroiled bankers who've been fired, but for me it's the truth.

This was a difficult decision to make. For the better part of 10 years, I've been dreaming of being a reporter and eventually a news editor. And for more than four years, the Pioneer provided me with my start in the news business — as a city government and crime reporter, as an editor of a women's magazine, as a columnist and as a big girl, second-in-command newsroom leader surrounded by some of the best coworkers/people I've ever known. I couldn't have dreamed up a better opportunity for myself.

I've also made a lot of friends in this community I barely knew existed before I moved here. Plenty of my "sources," the word we use in journalism for people who we need but ethically must keep no closer than arm's reach, are people who I'd now consider friends. They're people in courthouses, cop shops and city hall who've taken time to teach me how things work, to read with me through legal jargon, and who've been surprisingly willing to forgive me for serving them with FOIA requests and, sometimes, a snotty attitude. Even when we've had spats, they're still willing to have life chats before we get down to business next time I darken their doorways.

And there's people who've trusted me, a stranger, with their stories in a way I've not trusted family members with mine. Those people deserve the biggest thanks. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for giving me a chance.

During my time here, I've met some brilliant people and shared their stories with readers who largely seem to appreciate the effort. I've also gotten my share of hate mail and "kites" from the county jail, all of which I've saved (aside from those I had to turn over as evidence) and all of which helped me grow a thicker skin.

Sometimes we're pushed into the pool when we're not ready. I don't think I was ready to take on the responsibility of reporting in Big Rapids. I wasn't really ready to become a parent. I can't be totally sure I'm ready to leave this job now. But the time to do it is now. There's only so much time left to watch my little girl grow before she skips off to school and no longer needs me, and I'm ready to see my husband in a way that doesn't so much resemble ships passing in the night. I'm ready not to be on call on the weekends, and after work, and in the middle of the night. I can't wait to no longer sleep with my cell phone near my pillow.

So my desk will be empty this week, but I'll still be here. I'm not leaving Big Rapids and, actually, I'm going to continue writing this column, which has more people greeting me as "Olivia's mom" than "that lady from the newspaper."

Rather than write about parenting while my baby spends her days without me, I'm going to hang out with her and report back to you here. And maybe out and about in Big Rapids, where you might see me more now than ever before.

I once read a quote by author and wildlife preservationist John Muir in which he said, "I'd rather be in the mountains thinking about God than in church thinking about the mountains." This is my journey to the mountains. I'll be sure to write.