March Lake

After a week of 80 degree days (and one 80 degree night inside our second story apartment!) it shocks my system to look back on pictures of ice from our March trip. And it reminds me that everything is temporary and everything is relative.


We sat in the car in the parking lot at the state park zipping up our coats and putting on our hats when an SUV pulled up next to us and 6 young adults in dress coats jumped out, yelling about how cool it was to be at the beach. I stalled, adjusting my hat 17 times because I wanted to put the camera on a post and set the timer to take pictures of Shane and I, but I didn’t want these fancy youths to see me do it. And I didn’t want them to offer to take the picture because I like to do things myself.


The snow was gone but the wind was fierce. We walked down to the water, because last month it was frozen too far out to see it.  After only a few minutes the church clothes kids came running back to their car complaining of the cold. Shane and I looked at each other and said, “They should have been here last month!”


We both agreed that the January Trip was a little bit miserable and the February Trip was way worse. And yet. Without those two trips we wouldn’t have known how sweet the March trip could be.


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I used to be a vegetarian and would laugh when people would say things like, “I’m a vegetarian too! Except for turkey and bacon. And sometimes chicken.”  Similarly, I feel like I eat a Paleo diet, except for doughnuts and hummus. And sometimes just an entire loaf of bread.  What we’re really trying to do is eat more whole foods, less sugar, less carbs in general- specifically gluten.  Not only do I think I couldn’t complete a Whole30, I don’t even have the desire to try!  A lot of our gym friends are Paleo and we like to ask each other, “Is this a legume? What’s a legume?” from this video.


Shane found this pizza crust recipe from Everyday Paleo last week and on Sunday afternoon we set out to cook it together.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a great cook and an even worse baker because the two things I hate the most are chemistry and following directions.  So when Shane wanted to follow the recipe exactly I quickly lost interest and let him take over.


And shockingly, when you actually follow directions things tend to turn out the way they’re supposed to! The pizza was a hit! No one is going to mistake it for doughy crusted gooey cheese take out, but it held together and tasted good!  Next time I’d put the greens under the meat so they don’t get so crisp.


I had never successfully made anything with almond meal before and was pleasantly surprised that it had a cornbready texture.  Not bad for pizza crust, but even better for the next recipe we made- Maple Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies!

We made them after the gym on Thursday night so we just chose the recipe with the fewest ingredients. I was too tired to take pictures and the night lighting was bad anyway, but they were fantastic! Shane followed the recipe, except I doubled the amount of chocolate chips.


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Double Double Under Under

It wasn’t until I started writing about going to the lake that I remembered all the goals I had for this year and realized how much work they were going to be. The big big goal, to buy a house, happens a little bit at a time, paycheck by paycheck, until the actual process of looking and buying starts.  But the physical goals, like doing a pull up, those need to be worked towards with a bit more focus and planning than just an automated savings account or picking one weekend a month to head to the lake.  I was actually going to have to start working on these so that bit by bit over the year I would get strong enough to do them.  And with 9 more months left in the year I figured I had plenty of time to start… a little bit later.

Our gym attendance has been pretty spotty since Christmas, kind of like our diet, but we decided March would be the month we get back on track.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to make any great strides, if anything I was only trying to get back to where I was in December when out of nowhere, right at the beginning of the workout, bam! My first Double Under!

This isn’t me, obviously. But I thought you might not know what a double under is.

I’ve been trying to do a double under for about 6 months, but only whenever they were part of the workout. It was something I wanted to conquer, but I didn’t know how to work towards it. It wasn’t like building the upper body strength (and hand calluses) to do a pull up. People kept saying to me that it would just come. Keep working on it and you’ll just get them.  And that’s exactly how it happened.

I was so used to the rope not making it all the way around and whipping my arms and legs that the first time it came back around I wasn’t ready for it with another jump. It just fell at my feet and it took me a second to realize what happened.   I screamed and screamed and jumped around! And just like that, I was doing double unders.  Single Single Double, Single Single Double, Single Single Double, Single Single Double.  Four times.
And then four times again. And again and again.

It was a small victory, but it’s a check on the list.  That paired with all the hype about The Open for The Crossfit Games has me pretty pumped to be back at the gym!

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Camping is in-tents

Something that might surprise you about me is that I’m not incredibly outdoorsy.  Yes, I work for an environmental organization.  Yes, I had a worm bin in my kitchen at one point (which is a story for another day). Yes I like to hike and yes I love animals and don’t even hate bugs. I think what I really dislike is sleeping outside. On the ground. I don’t understand why we can’t stay in a hotel and still hike every day and then shower, go out to dinner, and sleep in a bed every night. In fact, we probably could. And should.  Except that my husband is an Eagle Scout.


I know. I think it’s adorable too. So the first summer that we were dating he suggested a backpacking trip and I jumped right on board.  I already had a pack and sleeping bag, so we bought a water filter and some dehydrated food and set out for South Manitou island over memorial day weekend. The ferry ride to the island was gorgeous you know we have a thing for Lake Michigan.


We glanced through an old guide book before the trip and decided that of course we would stay at the furthest away and most rustic camp site.  And we would take out time getting there, with plenty of side trails and out of the way excursions. On the first day. With our full packs on.


We hiked through the dunes which was gorgeous and hilly and exhausting, but seemed worth it for this lunch spot.  The old guide book had warned me that I would be tempted to shoot an entire roll of film from this spot and to save some for the shipwreck hike tomorrow.


We ran/slid all the way down the bluff which was exactly as awesome as we imagined it would be, and we set off to hike along the beach, the perimeter of the island to the back campsite. Sure, it added a few miles to the trek but it was beautiful and we were loving it.

beach hike

Until we hit the rocks. Hiking on sand with a pack on certainly wasn’t easy, but when the sand changed to softball sized rocks it became especially grueling. We were hot and tired and our packs were heavy and there was nothing we could do but keep walking.

We were so tired and hungry when we got to campsite that we didn’t even look around. We set up in the first designated spot we saw which was heavily wooded and… damp.  A bit swampy. And buggy.  Shane rehydrated our dinner over the camp stove while I sat still and tried not to freak out.  He later confessed to me that I had on my crazy eyes all night and he thought for sure that we’d be on the next ferry out of there.

The next morning we found a new campsite that was dry and bugless and right off the beach, which inspired us to hike back up the dunes and see that shipwreck the guidebook had warned us to save some film for.  And in a not so shocking turn of events the hike was longer than we thought and I threw a fit.


We could not get out of there fast enough the next morning. We packed up and started the hike back to the dock extra early- this time straight across the island and not around it.  We arrived just in time to hear that the ferry was delayed, possibly until the next day because of severe thunderstorms.  Not only might we have to spend another night here, but in a storm no less.  Shane curled up with his sleeping bag pulled all the way over his head while I put my rain coat on and sat watch of the horizon, willing the ferry to appear any second.  Which it eventually did.


We made it back just fine, and we’ve been trying to convince each other of that ever since. No one died. We didn’t even break up! Surely that’s a testament to how strong our relationship is! You know, we say, looking back on it, it was actually kind of fun. And almost 3 years later we’re finally ready to try again.

But where?

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February Lake

My dad died at the end of January and I spent a week in the Virgin Islands, where he lived, with my brother and sister.  We spent time going to the places he loved and chatting with the people that loved him.

Honeymoon Beach

“You should move down here,” people kept telling me.  “We can find you a job. What does your husband do? We’ll find him a job too.”  And of course it was tempting. Who wouldn’t trade a Michigan January for year round 85 degree weather?

cocktails on the pirates lady

Well, me. I wouldn’t.  I love the seasons.  I like summer best of all but it’s that much better after a particularly harsh winter.  One of the men that my dad worked with told me that this was the natural order of things. Men grow old and die, and the true blessing was that my father didn’t have to bury any of his children.  Fall comes after summer.


I’m not discounting the appeal of warm weather and sunshine, but I think the ocean calls to people just as strongly.  It’s the same Siren call I mentioned last month.   Lake Michigan always reminds me that there is something much bigger than I am and that I’m lucky to sit in the presence of such great beauty.

Lake Michigan February

This trip was much colder, windier, and more miserable than the January trip.
But it was also more beautiful.
And a reminder that Spring is coming.

Grand Haven February

*USVI photos taken by my dad

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Blueberry Fields Forever


Two things that always catch me off guard:

  1. How many blueberry fields there are around here
  2. How bright red the bare branches look in the winter
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The Uncured January


Some thoughts on when I thought about participating in the January Cure.

Saturdays are for errands and friends and doing all of the things that I never get to during the week. But Sundays are strictly reserved for the two most time consuming chores: grocery shopping and laundry.  Unless we run out of food on Friday and are forced to grocery shop on Saturday, which frees up Sunday for reading the entire internet, which is exactly what happened last weekend.

I ended up back on Apartment Therapy, which reminded me that I thought about that once, which reminded me of this post, which reminded me that I never followed up on it.

All this to say, I didn’t do any of the January Cure but I did buy a mop and formally mop (not just swiffer!) the kitchen floor.  I even moved the table and mopped under the rug and this is how it looked when I was done


And the whole premise of the January Cure was proven true to me in the one small endeavor of mopping my floor: when you put some time and effort into taking care of something you like it a lot more.  It’s the same reason we all love Ikea and probably why I love this blog so much more than you do.  The January cure also wanted you to buy cut flowers every week, but I have cats.  They knock over the vases and the water spills and they eat the flowers and then they throw them up… I didn’t think having flowers would make me like the apartment more and it would probably make me hate the cats a little.  So, logically, if I didn’t want to buy cut flowers then I couldn’t do any of the January cure! Ever! At all!

So I didn’t.


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January Lake

In the 3 summers that Shane and I have been together we have swum in Lake Michigan during the summer only once and it was with my family during family camp.  We always mean to go. In fact, every summer we tell ourselves that this is the year we’ll go. This summer we will go to the beach! At least once!  And then… we don’t.  It gets too hot and too crowded and we get too busy.

Of course there is more to enjoying the Lake than swimming in it.  We like to hike the dunes in the early spring and late fall, and last year we even tried to go to the kite festival in Grand Haven.

And yet. The number one reason we say we stay in West Michigan, one of the biggest arguments we have for not wanting to move, is that we love that lake. Just like Homer’s Sirens, the call of Lake Michigan appeals to my spirit and not to my flesh.


In early January Shane and I made a list of things we wanted to do this year.  Not quite resolutions or behavior changes but events. Big things that we knew we were going to have to work towards. Buy a house. Get a dog.  Do a pull up.  And then I added “Go to the Lake once a month.”  That’s the kind of year I wanted to have.


We had been talking all week about going to lake on this particular Sunday in January, but the reality is it’s cold out in January and we still had to grocery shop and do laundry and prepare for the week.  Before we even got out of bed Shane was trying to talk me out of it and I was whining about having to go and also about how if we didn’t go we never would.  Until Shane said, “Get up. Get out of bed, get dressed right now and let’s go to the Lake.”  And we did.  Jeans over pajama pants and two pairs of leggings, hats over unbrushed hair and two coffee mugs to go.


We posed in front of the red door of the snack shop where Shane worked as a kid before walking the short trail to the Lake. It was cold and windy and absolutely beautiful and exactly what we needed.


As we walked back to the car I slipped my hand into Shane’s coat pocket and said, “If you admit that this was kind of awesome then I’ll admit it was kind of miserable.”

“Ok,” he said. “It was.”

“Yeah,” I said. “It was.”


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Story Telling

Yesterday morning I was in a workshop about story telling – not only how to tell the story of your organization to attract donors but also a call to examine the stories of our lives outside of our work. If someone were making a movie of my life, what would it look like?

The speaker used Donald Miller as an example.  He wrote the book Blue Like Jazz (which I liked) and when they started making it into a movie (which I hated) the film makers went to live with Don with the intention that knowing him better would make their movie better.  And after 1 month they told him that his life sucked! The success of his book had thrown him into this speaking circuit. He hated it and wasn’t very good at it.  So he wrote another book about that (which I haven’t read).

My sophomore seminar was on Modern Literature and the books that defined the Lost Generation.  The professor asked us what we thought would define our generation and someone suggested Blue Like Jazz.  Even though my copy of the book was full of notes and underlines, I didn’t think the book was widely read enough to be claimed by our whole generation, and the perspective is incredibly Christian.  But nearly half the class agreed with that kid and later in the year when I met Don Miller I told him about this as he was signing my book.  He didn’t seem very impressed by this compliment, probably because he knew how many books he had actually sold.  He also signed my book “All of Christ to you, Don” and I still don’t know what that means.

When the speaker brought up Donald Miller this morning, only a handful of people had ever heard of him. I was one of 2 people who had read Blue Like Jazz and the only person who had seen the movie. Looks like it didn’t impact our generation as much as 10 kids thought it might have 8 years ago.

But the whole point is this: I want to be telling more stories. I want to be living a life that has more stories in it.  I want to tell them and collect them here.

So I’m going to keep at it.

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Happiness Project: Home

I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project last year and just got her second book, Happier At Home, from the library this week without realizing that’s what it was.  I love the idea of purposely cultivating happiness and have been thinking about what things truly make me happy, which is one of the reasons I wanted to resurrect the blog.  I like looking back on a small written summary of the things I thought and felt and did, and I like doing them.  A lot of bloggers have confessed that they find themselves doing things they wouldn’t normally do so that they can write about it on the blog.  I’ll take it! Yes please to more adventures!  And yet. I can’t go on a brand new adventure every day (or can I?) and most of the blogs I read are about home design and family life any way.  The first chapter of Happiness at home is about the physical space of the home which got me thinking about the house we want to buy and the kind of space I want it to be.  And then over the weekend I read Offbeat Home for the first time, which lead to me wandering over to Apartment Therapy and realizing that the January Cure is already in full swing. Without me. Again.

Yes, I know that I could join a few days late.  But the first step is to do a walking tour of your home and make lists of all the things you want to change/improve and that mental list of mine is already so long.  I’m hoping to be out of here in 6 months, so is it worth it to start hanging pictures and creating storage systems now?  Or should I just wait to get into the new space?

One thing I know I can do now is cut down on the clutter. If I don’t use it now I probably won’t use it at the next space. And it’s less to move!

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