Hidden in all the words

It took over 700 words in an unpublished essay for me to get this one sentence … “If there’s only one thing I can keep from my first family: I want it to be that I was in one.”

And I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

This keeps happening lately. I surround the one thing I want to express with hundreds of words, often not knowing what it is I want to get out until I’ve written it and then I think, oh – there it is. And suddenly the rest of the words don’t mean anything and I walk away from the essay all together.

Riley Woods

I’m doing a Bible Study right now with a small group of women, we’re walking through a book on Your Beautiful Purpose and for the most part, I’ve been blown away each and every week. Because what I wanted going in to this study was a prescribed outcome. I wanted A to connect to B which was going to equal C and I could carry on knowing exactly what I should be doing with my life and voila! Purpose found.

I’ve been afraid each week to speak up, to tell parts of my story. I haven’t come to an understanding yet of what I should and shouldn’t share in these situations but last night on my way home it hit me that I’ve been trying to use my pain as the Branding Expert for my story.

That’s not to say that what I’ve been through/what I’ve done isn’t true. How often do I need to marry my past with my present? Or do I at all?

upload

I so badly want to do something great with my life, but I’ve longsince thought that meant I would have to tell everyone everything all the time for them to see the transformation in me. I USED TO BE THIS :: NOW I’M THIS. And that might work for a little bit, to live through the painful parts of my story over and over again to demonstrate the new life I have now, but is that the point?

Am I just staying abandoned in my pain because it’s powerful?

Am I staying unlovable in my self because it’s relatable?

Am I staying small in my life because it’s required?

Am I staying lonely in relationships because it’s comfortable?

To the Bay!

I think part of the shame story is always that our pain and our past is unique. Which, it is, but it’s not special. What makes me special is not what I’ve been through and I think for a while I’ve been lost in how to get out of this pattern.

Isn’t it possible that the small, seemingly insignificant parts of my life are the great thing I am doing in my life? Listening when my kids talk, being there when they fall apart, loving them unconditionally, feeding them around a dinner table every night, washing their sheets, signing their permission slips, volunteering in their social lives, driving them safely to their practices and events?

I’ve felt called to something significant for a long time. Something substantial. And how I’ve interpreted that has always been sparkly and great and big. SPLASHY! SEEN!

But I’ve also noticed a shift, because what I struggle with today will be gone tomorrow. I won’t always have children to rear or sheets to wash or feasts to serve. These guys are going to grow up and be wonderfully on their own and then I might find myself right where I am now: wondering what’s next?

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

So instead of begrudgingly accepting the task of my every day – I’ve started to think of it as an opportunity I’m grateful for. One of the lies I often get sucked in to is that whatever life is right now is how it’s always going to be. ALWAYS. ALLLLLLWAYYYYYYSSSSS. And that’s a really long time for me. But instead, I get to do this today. This won’t actually last forever, and for now this is where I’m planted.

So I’m sprouting a few small roots. No longer easily unearthed by the slightest wind, I’m learning to withstand the weather of life and to bloom any way.

Night 1, Day 2 of Summer Road Trip West

Morning light

And it will be ok.

Adventures: This one in Arizona

December 2015 we surprised the kids with a trip to Arizona. This was a working trip for Aaron but with both of his brothers and both of mine living in the Grand Canyon state it was a nice trip to tag along with.

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

We did plenty of hiking, a day trip to Sedona, sightseeing, off-roading, and visiting close by parks and state parks.

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

I’m feeling a little but of the wanderlust this season … ready for another adventure. A flight, an open road, a few minutes beneath the sun. With our kids being the ages they are (12 and 8) we’re starting to think about some different destinations. Where have you been (with or without kids) and what should we do/see/experience? I grew up globe trotting so over-seas itineraries don’t bother me at all. I have my eye on London, but weirdly also Ireland and Sweden. Or closer to home trips are fine too. I’m not really bothered by distance or lack thereof. Let’s just get going.

Where have you been?

If you can’t sing, be the song

Hi. I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately. “You” being this side of me, I suppose. Going through old photos and boxes of letters recently we found the letter Aaron wrote to his groomsmen before our wedding. He titled it his Single Man’s Swan Song, it was an ode to a former piece of him, a letting go of the old and an invitation to take on the new alongside of him. In true Aaron-fashion he was the first of his buddies to get married (to have a kid, a business, etc) and he owned it. His place in his story, and his clear decision to add a partner to his life with an invitation extended to his confidants to continue the journey with him … but also with us.

We laugh now when we read his letter to his friends but it really stuck with me. I’ve been wondering if this is my Swan Song to this part of me. A farewell, a goodbye, a letting go. A distance but an invitation to the change. It has long since been my goal to be authored and published. To walk into a book store and see my name on the spine of a book. So, as one does at the end of a year or season or extended period of waiting, I re-evaluated my goals. This entire year has been one evaluation after another.

Do I want this?

Is this for me?

Can I walk in this?

Will this hurt me?

Does this help me?

Where is this moving me?

Am I ready?

Slowly, ever so slowly, I’ve noticed that whatever desire was in me to be known on paper has changed. To see ink printed with my words, as satisfying as that is, hasn’t worked out. I’ve tried and mostly failed. And that’s ok. I’m not sorry I tried, or sad that it didn’t work out, or even hung up on the idea that some day it surely will. Maybe I’ve already written my book. Likely, I’ve written many in these archives. Scores of seasons and transitions and living – all recorded. All ready ordered.

So some of it goes unwritten, who cares. Some of it doesn’t get archived here, but maybe, even better, it gets archived on the hearts of my children. It bubbles up out of the mouths of my dearest friends who walked this road with me, maybe one day they’ll tell part of my story for me when I no longer can.

And maybe, just maybe, I tell my story a little differently from here on out. Maybe I start talking. Maybe I start speaking. Maybe I start sharing. Maybe I start profusely sweating and blacking out on a stage while words fall out of my mouth and instead of carrying these chapters with me, maybe I let them out.

Who knows?

I sure don’t. 12 years ago when we decided I would stay home and be a mom I had no idea that a decade later I would still be writing. That, at one point, this writing would bring in a full time income and a community of complete strangers who got me through some of the hardest seasons to date. For anonymous people to mean so much to a person, it might be borderline, but also? It was a lifeline. It was my lifeline.

I’m plagued with What’s Next lately, not like I have been before. I’m not frantic for something to distract me, I’m curious as to where this is all going. What have I been doing to prepare myself for what’s next all these years? I live on standby right now, with one parent who runs a company the sacrifice to the family is that changes, big or small, need to be leveled at a baseline. Here’s how far we can stretch and still bend, together. But this, this is where we break. We have to know where that point is. And we do, we know that point – so I continue to be a mom. I continue to freelance photography and when I stop being afraid of query letters – it’s how I continue to write outside of this space and flex those muscle’s too.

Should someone get sick, should the kids have a break or vacation from school – I’m on standby to supervise. I’m the constant parent. But I have a constant partner.

Aaron and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary this past August. It was delicious. I wrote (on Facebook) that I finally trust in marriage. God, it’s beautiful. I don’t deserve this life but I get to keep living it. It’s not lost on me that marriages all around me fall down. That friends suffer loss, that my own family suffers loss. I’ve spent the better part of the last thirteen years with my back against the wall waiting for the suffering to befall my house. Surely it was coming, I was due. And if I wasn’t going to suffer loss of love, I was up to bat to lose a life.

Ever so subtly I started backing away from the wall and embracing the vulnerability of stepping in with both feet. I would say something out loud and Aaron wouldn’t shun me. I would stand in front of him, naked in spirit, and ask him if he could see me and he would dance with me. I would sit next to him while he held our babies and I would whisper “is this pretend?” and he would look at me and promise with his eyes that I could trust this. I’ve cried a lot this year (spoiler alert!) because I didn’t know. I had no idea.

How can this be? For me?

It is. IT IS IT IS IT IS IT IS. This is for me. !!!!!!!! HOLY SHIT THIS IS FOR ME.

And I have no more words. I’m not searching for anything, I found it.

xoxo
Jodi

Homemade kitchen: apple cider donuts

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my kids are off school today, and it’s raining. They were up late last night and early to rise today which calls for homemade donuts.

Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts

I tore this page out of a magazine and bought apple butter specifically for this task over the school break. I couldn’t wait to be in the kitchen with my kids. You can find the recipe here, it’s from Southern Living Magazine.

I knew they turned out when Oliver kept sneaking upstairs and all I would see is his hand come around the corner by the stove to steal another donut hole fresh out of the oil. I’ve made donuts before but this recipe with the apple and the cider – it was moist (I said it) and dense and flavorful. I went with the Maple Glaze and can never get my frostings to set up like they do in photos, maybe I don’t wait long enough for the donut to cool or don’t add enough sugar to the frosting to thicken … either way it was still delicious.

If you’re surrounded by family and in the kitchen all day today: you still have time to make these for breakfast tomorrow (or snacks this afternoon). Enjoy your weekends! Eat something deep-fried and dipped in sugar. Just carve out a few minutes this weekend to stretch and breathe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Truth and Dare

I’ve tried to write essay after essay to bridge the gap from the letter I wrote to my kids about politics to the realities of our season. Turns out every time I look at the blank page in front of me I want to explain and suffer through words and slip back into victimization as a way to exploit the negative impacts of a man. I haven’t been able to figure this out. How do I open my mouth and say anything worth while in the middle of this?

Maybe I don’t.

Isn’t that nice? Maybe I don’t have to say anything at all. If I really need to, I can talk to my kids in person or pen the letter quietly and privately. I can write in their journals, the ones I keep specifically for each of them filled with love notes and stories and explanations and apologies and prayers and little victories.

Riley Woods 🙌 Fall 2016

These are my babies.

And this is what I know to be true:

Love matters. Not the empty words of “Love matters, Love wins”, this isn’t a banner I’m wearing, it’s a way of living. And it matters. It’s sacred, to give space to the parts of us that you cannot see. To let the light in, to quiet the darkness of loneliness. Even if it’s a smile, an acknowledgment of someone else’s breath, of their life. Seeing people matters.

Northern Michigan

Art matters. The expression of that space in someone else, their words and stories, their songs, paintings, poems, photographs, designs, gardens, sculptures, dances and battle cries. It’s witnessing someone else hold a mirror up to the vulnerable parts of who they are: and the expression of their heart is essentially their art. Can you see me? Do you hear me? Am I enough? Am I worthy and brave?

This discussion matters. Because our souls are not dead. Because who we present to the whole of the world is often the least of the person we know in the quiet places of our heart, as ourselves. We are wild, we are free.

Weekend on the Lakeshore

Faith matters. There are 3 parts to our heart – like Mind, Body, Soul … our heart has a function, guardian, and emotional aspect. I’m just learning this, or re-learning this as I think most adolescents are taught to unlearn and disconnect their hearts from their mind, from their body. We’re taught, largely on a scale of “fitting in”, to disregard our hearts as a part of our soul. And then we’re taught to hide them. Faith is believing that this trinity in my heart is worth protecting and it’s worth going after with everything I’ve got to keep them connected. I am a girl on fire for keeping my faith alive. I love God and only recently can I say that I see him as a good, good Father.

The Bible is such a wild fairytale some times. It’s radical and unprecedented. It’s a horror story and a birth story and a redeeming love story. It reads like a scifi novel, like a poet in love, like a parent in suffering. It reads like a scientist discovering the wild unknown and it introduces language and words and hidden meanings. It’s one of the oldest recorded histories of our time and it leaves nothing, yet everything, to the imagination. I’m not a scholar of the Bible, but I am a student. If I’m going to say I love God, I want to know who he is. And I have so many questions. They feel provocative, sometimes obscene. But this is faith. And it’s the most daring piece of me. And it matters.

I've never seen a field of sunflowers praying before. I get that they were heavy and this must be what happens before harvesting their seeds but I like to imagine the world a little differently. Not so black and white. Not so either or. Not so afraid of b

Lastly and certainly not least, people matter. Other. Outside, different, margin and fringe. Diversity. If you can see someone, if you can see their eyes or their art, then the rest maybe doesn’t matter. Their eyes and their art are what they are any way. So the color of their skin, their clothes, piercings or tattoos, their hair or the way they wear their past: doesn’t.

These are the simple things I know to be true.

So I’m going to start there.