Fifteen

The vibe

Those kids? They had zero chill about getting married. We celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this summer and I’ve been thinking about this milestone for a while. There’s some fun stats I could outline, we could walk down memory lane … or I could just write about what it’s meant to be married to Aaron for 15 years straight.

Consecutively.

All together.

So far.

Little did I know as the Bambi child I was that getting married meant staying married. I mean, of course it means this … but in reality … in the doing … I had no idea. You can’t know what you don’t know. And I, simply, just didn’t know. My version of commitment was short. I was a teenager when I met the guy, the only reference to “10 years ago” I could give to anyone was to the first grade.

But I have to be honest with you, being married and staying married and working at marriage and getting to be Aaron’s wife and partner in life – has been one of the most rewarding things in my life so far. And now when I reference 10 years ago, it’s to our beginning. The hard part. It’s looking back and knowing we came through it, together. It’s knowing he’s always been there for me, he’s never wavered. He has waited for me and chosen me and he is my first safe place.

It will not surprise you, dear reader, to hear that I am a romantic. Somewhat of a poet about love or life. I can have rose colored glasses for almost anything, including pain. I’m here for the experience of life and man, has she thrown some at me. But everywhere I turn in my quest to know something or discover myself or become who I’ve always been becoming, there is Aaron. He’s kept pace with me, has often pushed me to be better and find my voice. He’s gifted me with his care, his love, his support.

When I look back, it’s his arm I see around me first before I can even glance at the past. When I look ahead, it’s his stride leading us toward our future hand in hand. And when I stop and just look around? He’s next to me.

How beautiful it is to have him next to me.

Mr and Mrs Schaap

I’m kind of a fan of those letters you write to your younger self, the lessons from the future you wish you could have given your perfect skin and flat stomach to ENJOY IT NOW. Not because it’s fleeting but because now I just know. I know how fast life changes, how little it takes to topple our expectations and plans. How often we claim control over things that simply aren’t ours to mess around with and how worth it this has been to keep trying at.

One of the things I absolutely love about Jen Hatmaker is how unapologetic she is about being obsessed with her big extended family. The love letter she wrote to her parents in her most recent book, Of Mess and Moxie? And a recent tidbit she posted on social media about how their summer days start with coffee on the porch with her siblings … this is not my experience. Certainly not my reality – but damn it if I don’t fist pump every time she regales the happiness this brings her … and to me as a fan, a reader, a hopeful lover of life. That this exists in the world. It might not exist for me personally, and thats ok. I don’t need all the wins … but this one small thing, this relationship that is evergreen … Aaron. This is my win. It’s less than perfect but we’re a beautiful and imperfect mess.

And I’m so thankful for our adventure in life together.

Happy Anniversary, babe.

15 years of learning to trust in love and you haven’t given up on us, yet. I like that about you.

Chicago Feb 2016

Wilderness State Park

This year for Spring Break we headed North. Did I want to go to sunny Florida? Georgia, even? Um, I live in Michigan so that answer is automatically 100% yes. But! We did something different and it was awesome, too. Much colder, snowy even, but a blast nonetheless.

Spring Break 2018

Our kids are 13 and nine and while I used to make things like the Summer Jar for school breaks, I’ve broken that habit since moving in to our current house almost 6 years ago. Sad, but true. This past year has been a difficult one, full of stops and changing plans when we thought everything was green light GO! It wrecked a piece of me for a while, I can’t lie to you. And then a couple weeks ago I decided to literally fuck it and took my life back. We’ve been living in limbo, in the ‘not there yet’ and ‘no longer here’ for way too long. A bunch of wait, so much of “when X happens, or Y starts, or Z is done” we’ll finally be able to / get to / go there.

And traveling is one of the many things we’ve been putting off for good reasons until I couldn’t justify them anymore and it was time to escape.

TO THE WOODS!

Waking up like this

Pour over, slow mornings

My husband spends a few nights at Wilderness State Park every year with the same group of guys. This year will be the 20th year consecutively that they winter together, in the woods. As our kids have gotten older and more curious – they’ve expressed interest in seeing what he does every year. So, we went!

Snow was in the forecast and my kids forgot their winter coats (my son forgot a coat entirely), I forgot my camera (hence the iphone photos here), we forgot to pack things like the french press and a pan for boiling water. You know. Essentials. But we remembered the coffee and the fruit and cheese.

We stopped on our way up to buy a pour-over 1 cup coffee brewer (and it worked like magic) and a few other things.

A love letter // a short list of things we forgot: *Upon entering Wilderness State Park, Oliver proclaimed he didn’t pack a coat. (It’s snowing) *Something to brew coffee, but we remembered the coffee. *Something to boil water in, but we remembered someth

Hikes, hikes, and more hikes

We hiked and saw the tee-pee my husband and his friends built years and years and years ago, and it’s still standing. We hiked over little bridges and creeks and found beavers’ dens. We walked out as far as I could handle with my best friend anxiety riding shot-gun on the ice of Lake Michigan, and we played rock ball in the freezing rain.

The Tee-pee Aaron and his buddies built almost 20 years ago

Playing "rock ball"

Free range

There was a lot of cooking over coals, an incident with the Whirly-pop and a lot of smoke, the dinner I turned into charcoal, and the naps and reading and coffee and games and laughing. There was a lot of laughing.

Playing games

Spring Break 2018

When making popcorn over hot coals inside means you get smoked out ... unless you’re a die hard popcorn fan.

Playing "rock ball" 2018

Spring Break 2018

It was a great escape. We stayed in the Sturgeon Bay Cabin and we’re able to drive in (not always the case, and had we not been able to it would have been a 3 mile hike in to the cabin), they supply the firewood for the wood-burning stove and a couple of rolls of toilet paper – but the rest is up to you. Bedding, all dinnerware and cookware, food and drink. The cabin is dry, no running water, and there’s an outhouse for yo’ business time.

But it was breathtaking and worth every effort.

Spring Break 2018
[Click on image above to play video]

Links:

*Reservations for Wilderness State Park
*Wilderness State Park Trail Map
*Helpful information and other camping options

Deep Lake // Yankee Springs Late Fall Camping

We had a great Thanksgiving this year, the weather was amazing and the food was delicious. There was a hike involved and, later, a law breaking ride on a golf cart to collect some greens for our outdoor decorating needs. In all of that excitement one of my brothers mentioned wanting to go camping one more time this year. He said this within earshot of my son, who is nothing if not an outdoorsmen who dreams of hunting and has two parents who type a lot as opposed to gather anything outside of a super market.

Also, we’re crazy, and it sounded fun. We might not be able to sit in a blind with him and educate him on the best practices for ethical hunting but we’re huge fans of our kids and if they’re in to it, we’ll get there.

So, it was decided! We were going to camp on the ground, outside, in late November. The weather looked amazing, the radar clear. So the day after Thanksgiving we packed up the car with our “six person” tent we got as a wedding gift and have used all of 4 times since and we headed to Yankee Springs.

The adventure starts.

We set up camp in record time for not being “tent” campers, with zero arguments (we continue to defy odds in the marriage counseling circles with our ability to do tedious things together and not threaten divorce: kayaking or canoeing, putting together a dresser from Ikea, set up a tent …) but after our agreed upon meet-up time came and went we started wondering if we missed something. Which we did. We set up the entirety of our camp at the WRONG CAMPSITE. Wrong campground even.

Deep Lake Campground

Fast forward to the correct campsite …

Deep Lake Campground

GLORIOUS, I tell you! We set up (again) and watched the sun go down over Deep Lake while stoking a fire to cook dinner over. The boys and men fashioned a bench out of fallen logs and branches since, in our amazing packing, we forgot everything but the tent and our sleeping bags and pepperoni. The essentials, if you ask Aaron. He packed. And I’m not kidding.

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

We cooked both meals we shared in this cast iron dutch oven that my brother owns and can I just say that if everything is going to hell in life, it can be fixed with a meal out of one of these cooked over a fire and shared under the stars?

Deep Lake Campground

There’s poetry to eating this way.

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

And I was reading it all weekend.

After dinner we played a couple games of capture the flag in the dark and I managed to run through the woods and stay upright in the dark until the very last game when a stone, out of nowhere, cropped up and took me out. Flat on my face. It was awesome. So much laughing and giggling and screeching and hiding and sitting in jail and running and it felt so good.

We all went to our tents fairly early but it was very dark and hard to tell by that point what time it really was. We gazed at the stars and watched the fire prick the air and not long after, the smoke escaping in whispers.

We got all tucked in to our various sleeping bags and blankets and then the real fun began. It was a night to remember full of unexpected rain, hardly any sleep, a lot of middle the night giggling fits because WTF and kids who couldn’t get comfortable and ended up sleeping in tiny rain puddles – and at one point, all 4 of us on a full size sleeping pad around 3:30 am wondering what now?

But the sun came up and there was coffee.

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

And coffee cake.

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

We hiked a bit, laughed about our night and broke down camp while the kids ran around with walkie-talkies.

Deep Lake Campground

We came home so incredibly tired, smelling like campfire and wet socks. But so happy. Stupid happy to have done the thing. Sleep (or pretend to sleep) on the ground in late November overlooking a lake by the fire.

And I was so thankful.

Adventures: This one in Florida

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We ran away to sunshine and spanish moss over winter break last month with our kids. Everything in me inhales deeper at the base of a live oak trunk with it’s arms swaying above me dressed in spanish moss and salty air.

I. Love. Florida.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Our destination was Amelia Island and we stayed at the Omni Plantation Resort.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We were able to find an incredible deal on priceline.com for the rooms and a rental car, and bought our plane tickets through a deal site that kicks back to our tuition bill, which is always helpful. When we checked in to the hotel we had no idea that it would be this amazing. I had researched and googled and planned an itinerary but seeing it in person and getting an ocean front room was another story entirely.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

In my “House Keeping” series I talked about budgets (you can read that here) and one of the things I don’t think I mentioned was that we set aside a bit of each paycheck for vacations. It’s a separate savings account and the amount we budget for just gets automatically deducted from our paycheck and directly deposited each time we get paid. Lickety split. This is how I budget, actually, I have separate accounts for a number of different things.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

I would absolutely go back to Amelia Island. It’s just inside of the Florida state line from Georgia so the southern charm is heavy. The history of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach was rich and fun to explore.

A few things I really wanted to do were unavailable when we got there – but here’s our tips for a weekend getaway:

We flew into Jacksonville which is about 35-45 minutes away from the hotel we stayed at. So renting a car was the best option for us to get from the airport to the hotel. It was also nice to have a way to get around outside of the resort, where food was cheaper and being a tourist was more available. Inside the resort is beautiful, and I would recommend renting a golf cart (if you rent at the end of the day you get to keep it overnight for the cost of 2 hours, win!) to really be able to see the vastness of the estate. It is amazing, full of beautiful pockets, parks, lakes, neighborhoods, beaches and pools. Plus restaurants, shopping villages, a spa and more.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Definitely look for shark teeth on the beach, we came home with 3. We think. They might be shark teeth or they might be suspiciously shaped shells. Either way, the hunt was fun. This is the beach our hotel was sitting on. Gorgeous.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We had our own pool at the complex we stayed in but the main hotel had a larger, warmer pool that we spent most of our lounge time at.

The hotel also has a great calendar of events, some of them free to guests. We took advantage of all the things that sounded fun to us. A fire one night with s’mores, a tour of their apiary and Seelings Project with the head Sous Chef for the property, partaking in the donut wall for the holiday weekend.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Food:

Resort food is very expensive, but buying 4 adult meals every meal is too. We tried to eat at great local places that wouldn’t break the bank and we tried a couple of the restaurants in the resort as well. I think our favorite was The Patio Place on Sunday morning. A local brunch spot with good coffee, savory crepes, and amazing atmosphere.

The cheapest meal we ate was a $5 hot and ready pizza from Little Caesars on Saturday night. It was magnificent.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We walked around the historic part of Old Town after breakfast, just taking in the shops and scenery. We like to find a local book store every where we travel so we waited for their shop to open so we could browse.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Fort Clinch State Park:

For the next few hours we explored Fort Clinch State Park but we didn’t pay the entry fee for the actual fort. We walked to the beach and saw the fort from the outside, watched the tide change, looked for shells and watched fishermen. We also spent some time exploring the woods and climbing trees before we took a small hike to look for alligators.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

The hike we did was The Willow Pond Trail and we spotted 5 alligators. Which means I think there were probably like 12. And you know, they’re just laying in wait in the water about 5 feet from my sandaled toes.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Oliver was very interested in keeping us all safe. 😉

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

There’s only one in the photo above, can you spot him?

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

And there are 4 in this above photo. Probably more that we didn’t see. Tricky!

After some more time at the pool and our only “resort” experience with poolside pina coladas (omg, so yummy) we decided to try to rent bikes and see more of the complex. When we got to rental place we noticed that it would actually be cheaper to rent a golf cart than to rent 4 bikes – and because we were so close to closing time, the 2 hour minimum rental for a golf cart turned into an overnight rental as long as we had it back by the time they opened the following morning (which was 9 am).

If you know my son, you know that this spoke his love language more than anything else all weekend.

BEHOLD!

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We were able to see so much more this way – it was one of our highlights.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Monday morning we had the golf cart back by 9 am, grabbed breakfast at the resorts “market style” morning deli for the second time, went to the beach one last time, checked out the nature center and helped the kids shop for their souvenirs with their money.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We checked out at 11, drove back to their airport, and came home.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

A perfect amount of time for a getaway in the sun in the middle of February in Michigan.

Until the next adventure.

😉

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