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It took over 700 words in an unpublished essay for me to get this one sentence … “If there’s only one thing I can keep from my first family: I want it to be that I was in one.”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

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

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.

upload
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

DSC_6303

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.

Fall Camping

We took advantage of a school break to have one more camping adventure of the year in Northern Michigan. We stayed at Platte River Campground in the Sleeping Bear Dunes and ventured to Frankfort, Beulah, Traverse City, Empire and Glen Arbor for a color tour/food/things to do/and to listen to podcasts before bed.

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

We hiked to the beach, made a teepee with fallen trees, cooked over the fire, drank lots of tea and hot chocolate, hung around in hammocks, played soccer and read. It was chilly and a bit rainy one of the days but we stayed warm and dry.

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

We saw a fox! Lots of deer and squirrels and every brilliant fall color.

Resources and places to visit:

**Take the M22 drive
**Stop for coffee and bagels at Leelanau Coffee Roasters in Glen Arbor
**Make a special stop for the kids in your car at The Cherry Republic (they do pop tastings!)
**Grab a hot chocolate to walk around with or sit and stay and enjoy a beer at Brew in Traverse City
**Once you’ve satisfied your craving, head to Brilliant Books for some inspiration and to catch up on your favorite authors
**If you’re hungry make a special trip to Harvest (in Traverse) or Stormcloud (in Frankfort)
**If you just want a snack and a glass of wine with a view or you want to wrap up the wine trail with a memorable tradition – head to Brys Estate Winery for a glass of wine and a cheese board on their deck
**Then sneak down to their Secret Garden with your kids (or friends) and giggle with delight (maybe nightcap it with some apple cider)
**For a memorable afternoon with friends or older kids who love outdoor activities, make a stop at Hop Lot for a fire and games (their tacos are not to be argued with, either)
**A weekend for just the two of you? Make it special with dinner at 9 Bean Rows
**Have the kids along? There’s still something for you at their bakery to take home – 9 Bean Rows Bakery

I love Michigan and traditions. When the two meet, fall in love and make out passionately in the back of my car? We make memories.