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

Don’t look down

Perspective

Stick with me here for a minute, per usual, I have a round about way to get to the point. I used to spend an awful lot of time driving towards the lake. Specifically a small outlet in a nearby town where the parking spaces were few, the traffic slow, and the view unending.

It’s been a while since I made this pilgrimage … for a number of reasons. I haven’t really had time with this project house we’ve been working on, and the emotional space this ride used to take up was otherwise occupied by my anxious worries about the end result. The end result?

Of so many things.

When is this house going to be done? When is it going to sell? Is it going to sell? What did we do wrong? Why hasn’t any of this worked out? Did we make the right decisions? Should we have seen this coming? Were there red flags that I ignored? Is this ever going to be something that’s easy for me? Will this always be a fight? Why do I feel so unsupported? Where did my people go? What’s going on? Why can’t I stop the roller coaster? Are my kids ok? What the hell were we thinking? Will they ever make new friends? Did we just cement their future in therapy? Why is marriage still so hard? Aren’t we supposed to be good at this by now? Why do I resent my husbands job so much? Why is my family such a basket case? When does any of this workout for me? Have I just gone through life bulldozing my way towards something better without waiting for whats right?

So, as you can see, super busy.

The house is finally done and is listed for sale. Now we wait, while also continuing to work on things as the weather improves.

There’s so much more going on in the background of some of these decisions – I’ve thought more than once that we never really know whats going on behind the curtain.

Anyway, enough about the house. Back to the beach.

In addition to my mental gymnastics that were keeping me busy I’ve been having some pretty interesting conversations with God. And some completely crap-tastic dreams every night. Weird stuff, heavy stuff, icky stuff. Not generally “sleep good” lullabies – more “you’re trapped in a room and here’s your clue to get out, clock is ticking, enemy is after you: GO” adrenaline dump at midnight type stuff. I wake up weeping most nights.

Right? So – we’re all on the same page. Things are stressful. Overwhelming. And yet … I continue to hear from God that I can trust him. That he will not surprise me. That I haven’t heard him wrong.

You need that information for the next part:

Early this week on my way home from bringing my kids to and from school, somewhere on the rural back roads of Holland Township, this conviction just hits me;

I don’t trust him. No two ways about it, when I get an idea I don’t wait, I go. Not always without his blessing, but definitely always before the prompting. I am impatient. And in control. I have a hard time accepting blessings (tangible ones from friends or family, as well as those lofty things we all pray or hope for) because I am so capable on my own. Not necessarily from a “I’m awesome” stand point, more from a “well, I can afford to buy my own meal or we aren’t the ones who NEED that gift/blessing/or pardon.”

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I drive up to the beach this morning, park and get out. I walk to the steps and relish in how mild the weather is today. I’m not too cold near the water, it smells amazing, and the ice is moving. I think to myself, why have I waited so long to come back here?

I get to the bottom step, before another set of stairs that takes you right down to the beach, and I stop. The sun is just peaking through some clouds, it’s kind of moody – my favorite. I take my phone out for a few photos:

Perspective

Perspective

And then I walk down towards the beach, and stop again. I take another photo:

Perspective

And I immediately notice how I can no longer see beyond the ice formation towards the horizon. My view is blocked by what’s in front of me. I know it’s there, because I was just a few steps higher and saw it. But coming down to the beach, towards the water, everything changed. Somehow now I was landlocked. The open and vast water in front of me now a small shore towards something that felt much smaller, even though it’s still the same big lake I know exists.

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Here’s how this all came together for me; this morning I had a very tangible example of how moving just slightly in any direction can change the view in front of us drastically. How perspective is more a tool than an idea.

When I have a broad view (say, things are going well and my quiet time is full of big picture promises and hope and encouragement) I can see beyond the peaks in front of me. Beyond the road blocks, the hills, the possible mountains. I can see the horizon – still endless – but visible.

But when I walk towards those peaks, hills, mountains and the view changes from being able to see where I’m going to where I am right now: shit can really hit the fan.

I stop trusting that beyond this little bump in my journey there is still a beautiful horizon. I stop believing I’m on the right track, I start looking at my feet and my ability as the only tools to get me to the other side when I’ve forgotten the best part:

feet

The sky? She never disappears. Those beautiful clouds and the sun shining through them – they don’t connect to the endless horizon but they meet the mountain of ice instead.

Boulder, Co Day 6

I’ve been looking at the wrong thing. Trusting that the end is the goal and if the goal is out of reach, I must be doing it wrong. So I should try harder, do better, get more resourceful, get busier, work more … when I could, maybe, just keep going instead.

The hills are never that big, after all.

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Literally none of this changes my circumstances, it changes my perspective. My attitude. It calms my fears and washes away the anxiety. It brings my focus from a micro to a macro and I can finally breathe knowing we aren’t stuck here. Not even ‘we’, but me. Among my chief fears in life are: being forgotten, never being loved, and being stuck.

Not one of those fears is actually true. I just wondered if I was having such a hard time in this place, maybe one or two of you were, too. I would say to you: You’re not alone, you are loved, and don’t look down.

Change of address

All that writing about a book and then no follow up. Here’s what’s happening:

I wrote the book.

I did the thing.

It’s as done as it can be at this point.

And it will likely live on unpublished for a long time. This gutted me at first, I wanted to release this and let it go but what ended up happening is even better. I got it out of my head and if it’s ever time to release it to the rest of the world, I will readily.

If my kids are my only audience, I’m so glad I wrote this all down for them. As we enter the grey waters of growing up and learning that right and wrong are always colored in grace … I’m glad that if I don’t ever have the opportunity to tell them myself, they’ll still have my story to answer any of their questions.

I was talking to a friend recently about stepping back, being online for the past 16ish years has over-exposed me for a really long time. I’m ready for the mystery to return to my life. I don’t want to depend on the branding of my living room to feel good or the likes on twitter to help me feel worthy. I don’t want to be the person who creates images for consumption without having any real impact on the reality of the lives I can touch.

I worried that stepping away from the daily grind of creating would produce failure, but it’s been a fertile ground instead. A steady climb towards something new, different.

In the past year we’ve quietly changed most of our life. Changing schools, we bought a new house, we’ve been on trips without posting a damn thing about it and these moments that we’ve kept for ourselves, they’re the ones I’m savoring.

Not because the secret is more powerful, but the being present in the quiet moments of living are what I want to remember.

I’m honored to be asked to speak at events, to throw them still, to think-tank projects with some of my favorite people who are going places I’ve wanted to inhabit. And I think the best lesson of less has been this: it’s not that I won’t get to inhabit these spaces, but that I have time to inhabit them.

A few years ago I went to an event in upstate New York with one of my talented writer girlfriends and we sat and listened to authors speak about their careers and how varied their paths were towards the success of a book. The best thing I took away from that weekend was that there’s time. You can be 60 and still write the book. You can be sixty and start over entirely. You can be 80, or twenty-two or thirty-nine or twelve.

You can live all nine lives in the span of your one, amazing lifetime.

Maybe I’m explaining this poorly, I mean to say that I’m a writer. I just am, I always have been, I always will be. I will keep a record of my life and the lessons I’ve learned for as long as I live. I’m also a sharer. I care deeply about connection and information sharing. Of having the conversations and saying the things. I will write poetry for the rest of my life, even if every single one of them gets mistaken for trash on the back of a used envelope. I will keep releasing the prose to paper. Over and over and over again.

And eventually … they’ll live beyond my door.

I’ll let you know when that happens. It will be a really good day.

Two-thousand-and-who?

Before there were babies on the scene, I started hard-coding a weblog back in the day because I was mysterious like that, liked to write, thought I had interesting things to say, and liked a boy who could code.

The entry I can remember the most was about plastic water bottles and pondering the tough questions about whether or not water could actually “go bad”. Such originality. What educated talking points.

It is physically impossible to roll my eyes in the back of my head as far as I would like to for the effect needed of being entirely embarrassed and over myself for that period of my life. Which I documented. Out loud. On the internet.

There was a small break from my weblog days of yore to the infancy of this here website – what started as a “bump watch” for family became what we know today as jodimichelle.com.

That bump, if we can remember that far back, is about to turn thirteen.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. THIRTEEN.

The archives throughout the years are still here, albeit maybe a tad difficult to search. But they’re here, nonetheless. The teeny baby parent I started out as at the bright and shiny age of 21 is a bubble gum version full of raw pain, neglect, and heartbreak. And again, all of which I documented. Out loud. On the internet.

In the middle of it all, I was asked over and over again why I was so brave with my pain. Why was I so vulnerable? And over and over again I answered, “What else am I supposed to be?” That was real, then. That was my life. Torn and broken and bright and beautiful and full of life and longing and grief.

Now my little lady is about to come out to the world. She’s going to show up and color outside the lines and dance with abandon and wear her heart on her sleeve and cry and weep and laugh and achieve. God, she’s magnificent. She wants to sit at the table, THIS table, and start partaking. She’s ready to let the world in.

I’ve stopped sharing about my kids unless I have their permission. Something I wish I had thought of sooner. But here we are with chronicled little miracles throughout her life in writing. And her mother, fumbling through the task of growing up while raising her at the same time. It’s all there, here. For whoever wants to put their nose up to the glass of our little window and peer inside. I’ve let strangers in to my home. And, too late, I’ve discovered at what cost.

Not regret, necessarily. But she’s about to start controlling the scope of what she shares of her life. And it will all be public. When I was 13 and loved dancing in the mirror in my bedroom to Shania Twain – I did not have a public record of the boots I wore, my belly button, or the weird dance moves I thought were legit. I couldn’t stop taking photos of myself or friends, with FILM in a camera, but thank you Jesus, that there isn’t an Instagram history of my middle school years. The truth or dare sleepovers we had, the pranks we pulled, the notes I wrote.

Heaven have mercy, there is no lasting evidence of the stupid things I did or notes I penned.

Social media is a complex game these days and it’s all too important to her age group. I’ve been delighted that she doesn’t even care yet. But she will, she’s starting to. There’s a rage monster inside of me when it comes to my kids. And the fever builds to blinding when I watch them try to be brave in the face of rejection from peers. They bury it, don’t let it show. The minute someone shames them or casts them aside or mistreats them – I have violent flashbacks to the first time they took a breath, laying on my chest; it cuts to breastfeeding them in the middle of the night and hearing them giggle for the first time. Their first word, first steps … firsts. It’s a movie in my head and they’re the stars. One bright light after the next: moment after moment after moment. Building to the very moment where instead of stepping in, I have to step aside.

Thirteen. Not always, but as it happens for us, this is the year she gets the reigns. And it’s beautiful and wonderful and I wish I could tell you all about it. But it’s her turn. This is her story.

And what a lovely story it’s been.

Happy Birthday, baby girl.

Me pregnant with Jessica

I’m kind of obsessed with you 🙂

Love,
Mom