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.

How is it only Wednesday?

We’re going to start this one out with a truce, ok? Because I am not here to tell you how to parent or act like I’m a good one or uncover some deep seeded need of yours to fight over parenting practices or logistics. If you’re crazy enough to be a parent, you also know you’re lucky enough to be one. If you’re struggling, hopefully you’ve experienced joy so you have a well to pull on when things are rough. If it’s sunshine and rainbows, perhaps your bundle is only hours old. Avert your eyes.

Shit’s about to get real.

My lovely little blessings are almost 12 and 8 1/2 years old. It’s only Wednesday of the longest week ever and I had turned a new leaf today. I danced in the rain, friends. It was looking up.

A video posted by Jodi Schaap (@jodimichelle) on

I had some time to drink a cup of tea before I had to grab the kids from carpool and I was insanely happy, content, settled. Just such a good day, so much joy. I was swimming in it. I had delirious thoughts about making cupcakes or cookies with the kids after school since the past few days have been rough, I thought to myself “let’s do it differently today” and then I saw my children LITERALLY fighting in the pickup line. They were taking each other down. And I rolled forward, one car at a time, until I could make eye contact with Jessica and my finger has never been more erect as I pointed at her with EVERYTHING IN ME and conveyed that she had better apologize and get her act together. That finger speaks its own language and we were writing it’s Bible in that carpool line.

Girlfriend, rise to the occasion of being the bigger kid. This is an opportunity to be better. PLEASE GET AFTER IT.

On a scale of all the terrible things, this is minor. I understand that. Her reason for swinging her thirty pound backpack at her brothers precious, and one and only, head was because he was “credit carding” her and other children’s butts.

Please let that sink in.

Read it again if you have to.

My adorable son saw a friend of his acting this way and decided to join in. To swipe his hand, the hand that holds my own, the hand that prays for our dinner and his grandparents and his sister, through the butt crack of unsuspecting children (including his sister) and then of course all the giggling and horror.

It’s possible this is just another lap around the parenting track. Another chance to try again. Another opportunity to talk about what might be considered inappropriate. How embarrassing someone else is never a good reason to cross a line for a laugh. How respect is precious and trust is the ultimate testament of love.

They are not too young to learn this, we never are.

It’s just. Parenting is really hard. It’s so ridiculously exhausting. But, it’s also so amazingly rewarding.

I am completely inept to rise to this occasion most days. I certainly do not feel well equipped to lay my own fight down so I can coach someone else on how to navigate their own battles. But here I am. Doing just that, with two very different minds and hearts than my own. Two very independent, thoughtful, curious, daring, brave, exciting, interesting and beautiful people.

Here’s where I want this to end: in a manifesto for myself, maybe for you, to remember in the ditches that there’s always a climb. You might not have practiced this before and I’m with you if you feel out of shape to get down and do the work but we are not our yesterday.

And our children are not our mistakes.

And it’s OK if they make some, because we’ll be here when they do.

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Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016

xoxo

Housekeeping: Throw a party

Our pastor described his daughter as a “Party waiting to happen” once when I was in middle school and I’ve never forgotten that phrase. I decided; to be known as anything – a “party waiting to happen” was probably top of the line and I wanted in. I liked the connotation of the description. It didn’t mean she was a partier, on the “wrong side of those illusive tracks”, or someone to beware of. It meant she was fun, happy. It meant anything could be a party, a good time. It meant she was joyful.

There’s some great resources out there to get your creative juices going about how to host people in your space. Use them!

Pinterest
Picmonkey (How I make my invites)
Amazon
Your friends – borrow, borrow, borrow. Their cupboards are full of unused crockpots, platters, and napkins. Ask. And you will hopefully, probably receive.
Magazines. (My favorites are Midwest Living, Southern Living, This Old House)

Today's the day! First peer-group birthday party. #picmonkeyinvites #DIY #OliverWayne

I grew up in a house with a lot of people. Sunday’s were packed, our table was full but there was always room for more. My mom fed us our favorites every week and we’d sit around drinking coffee or hot chocolate reading the Sunday ad’s or watching football. Sometimes we’d sit around the piano and pluck away together. Everyone would smoke in the garage and laugh. My brothers would tell stories of “back then” or when my sister and I were younger and all the pranks they’d pull on us. It was so happy. Even though we had our problems, and still do, these are some of my favorite memories. Sunday dinner. The tension could be tight, or we could be holding babies, or plotting our black friday wish lists, or talking about buying houses, or broken hearts, or family trips.

When I moved out of my parents house and into my own – I got the biggest table I could fit in my dining room. I couldn’t wait to host dinners, parties, friends, and my family.

So maybe I come by this honestly. But I love a good cook out. I love to feed people, I love to play games, I love to try new recipes and drinks, I LOVE TO HOST.

I will rearrange my entire house to fit everyone around a table. And I’m always looking for a reason to throw a party.

Here’s my rules:

Have an idea.
Do it.

Here’s how:

I might see, read, experience or think of something that sounds like a good time to me. I make a note, pin the idea, gather the information needed and then I tell someone. Usually Aaron or some of my girlfriends. I’ve done this in almost every one of my jobs as well – I create experiences for a living and then I tell those stories to the masses so they can recreate the experience on their own.

Then I make a list (we know I love lists) of what might be needed for said idea, what the menu might look like, and the timing.

If I’m roping some of my friends into the hosting, we divide and conquer.

I don’t believe in having a spotless house in order to open your doors to friends or family, I really like feeling comfortable in my space. We built this house to be lived in, but my general rule is that the sinks are clean, the toilets fresh and the dirt is off my floor to start the evening. By the end of the night, my sinks are full, the toilet’s are used, and there’s a new layer of dust and dirt and fun to sweep off the floor. I’m also a huge fan of laundry baskets. They’re always full and I can shove them in a closet that no one generally is bold enough to go hunting for. If they are: surprise! I stuff dirty crap in my closets. That’s called Monday in this house.

So, for example: Oliver’s 6th birthday we threw a food fight party.

Happy little DIY thank you's for Oliver's party favor tomorrow. #someoneis6 #birthdayparty #picmonkeyinvites #DIY

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Oliver's 6th birthday (party!)

How did you come up with the idea??

So glad you asked. Oliver had been hinting that he really wanted to have a food fight. In our house. In our just-finished-brand-new-newly-remodeled-home-with-white-walls. I said, you’re cute but, um, no. He started saying “Are you thinking what I’m thinking??” at the dinner table every night and we would yell in unison “NO!!!!!!”. This was a fun game and since it didn’t go away I thought, well ok. We’re going to give him his food fight.

I enlisted my mom for some back up help and to bounce ideas off of. We came up with pasta being the easiest way to host a food fight since I could batch make it in advance, cool it, and oil it up so it wouldn’t stick together. We already own two 6-foot tables that we store in our garage and bring out when we’re hosting something. We set them up in the driveway, dressed all the little kids in garbage bags and told them to keep their eyes closed. We plopped so many pounds of cooked spaghetti pasta on the table and then we yelled “Hey Oliver!!! ARE YOU THINKING WHAT I’M THINKING???!!!? …… FOOD FIIIIIIGHT!!!”. The kids all opened their eyes and hilarity ensued. We also had cool whip out for them to grab and throw and the laughing and screaming and exclaiming was just the best.

Turns out Oliver doesn’t like food fights. He didn’t think you’d get dirty … so, we got that out of his system. It was awesome.

A few other parties I’ve hosted in our home have been:

A champagne toast to the Tiny House with friends!

TinyHouse

What we needed:

Champagne
Friends

A 3rd Grade Rocked My Socks Party for Jessica and friends!

picmonkey invite

What we needed:

I borrowed a popcorn maker
Enlisted help from my mom
Qued up some music, there was dancing
Snacks!
Jessica taught us how to make Italian Soda’s
Gift bags with little notebooks so we could all exchange numbers to keep in touch through the summer

Pumpkin Fest with 6th Grade Girls Youth Group

Pumpkin Fest 2016
Pumpkin Fest 2016

What we needed:

Chili & S’more stuff
Pumpkins
Music
Spoons

Decorations 101

I’m a fan of simple. Streamers and balloons are about as festive as I get. Just know what you can do. Are you going to have more fun decorating with lights and party themed items or are you going to enjoy cooking a meal or making a cheese plate or cocktail? I think you have to pick what you want the focus to be and then just focus on that. The food IS part of the decoration. If you have empty bowls and lots of fruit or veggies in your fridge or pantry – those can be decorations. Pick a color theme but don’t marry it. For starters if you feel super overwhelmed with this part of hosting, copy something you’ve seen before. Out of a magazine, at your friends house. Just copy it. Think to yourself “What did I like about that? Where were the glasses, what was on the table/bar/island? What did I see first? What made me think it was memorable?”

It's time for the Third Grade Rocked My Socks Off kick off to summer party! #thisiswhatialwaysimagineditwouldbeliketobeamom

Set up!

paper airplanes

Jessica's 11th birthday party

The Farmhouse Deli // Oz is Event March 8 2015

June 20th Oz Event

I will always focus on flowers. They’re beautiful, they bring life to my home, and they’re the gift that keeps on giving. I’d rather spend $15 on a beautiful bouquet that will last past the party (so many fun memories to be reminded of) than on a specific center-piece I might only use once a year (but forget next year all-together). I almost always have flowers in my home – plants work too. You don’t have to constantly spend your dollars on stems. Carrots with their tops look like a bouquet when stuck in a clear case. Use your garden, your trees in your yard, the sticks from the side of the road.

Lighting is also important. I’m a huge fan of low lighting. Lamps and natural light are my favorite. Candles are fun but they’re always meant to be the background. They offer scent more than illumination and a good candle in your bathroom goes a long way. Trust me. Outdoor lighting is probably my favorite. Twinkly lights around the Tiny house or over the deck, around the porch … who doesn’t have twinkly lights from Christmas time? REUSE THEM. Get them out – plug them in. Create a canopy of magic above your head. Everything tastes better under twinkly lights.

Here’s what I don’t do: I don’t stress out about this. The most important thing, for me, when I’m hosting is that people fill my space. So I make sure it’s not full of extras. I don’t shop to decorate for parties. I will thrift items if I know what I’m looking for and have time to wait and find it. Usually with serving dishes or bowls. I like having a variety of sizes, heights, and finishes. Wood, marble, slate, white, dark, small bowls, little plates.

If you’re still with me at this point, you get a gold sticker. And an invitation to my house.

The last thing I’ll say is this: Before you execute ask yourself, How can I make this easier?

You’ll be surprised, there’s always an option for less which leaves the rest of the event/evening/party up for more connection and conversation. Host the kind of party or dinner you’d like to attend.

Just do it, you already have everything you need.