How to feel softer

The amount of posts I’ve started writing during a storm are probably outnumbered by any other criteria for this space. We are experiencing a good ol’ fashion cleanse from the Winter here in West Michigan, right now. This minute. The skies opened with a crack and she has been pouring it on us for minutes. Which, when you’re still enough, feels like hours.

And. It. Is. Glorious.

I have my “Hallelujah” playlist on Spotify playing in the background. Ok, the foreground. Because it’s LOUD. The rain is the staccato behind everything else.

I can’t tell you why I love the rain so much. I always have. I remember the smell of the rain in Nigeria and the dust rising as it pounded the earth right outside of our screened porch. Everything got dirty, which was funny, because rain usually cleans things off. But in Africa – everything is dirt and dry and still. Until it rains. And then everything is sprayed in the evidence that the earth can still give birth.

So, hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve ripped off a bandaid and bled here. Not that this is what I do here, on the regular. But I miss having a space to chronicle parts of my life I want to remember. The gritty, the dirty, the salvation of it all. I want to see pools of blood to recognize where the healing came from.

Parenting is a constant in my life. We’re raising kids and we went from the Easter-Basket phase to the Barf-On-The-Side-Of-The-Road phase. We are constantly hungover from parenting.

It’s still sublime, I’m obsessed with my kids. I love them so much, it actually hurts. But also? I lose my religion on the daily. I wonder if we’ve done everything wrong, often. I fret over things that are not actually connected to me, but because my kid(s) are experiencing it – I do too. I continue to have weird correlations with their ages, although less and less with such a force of personal reconciliation and more, now, with a reckoning of understanding that I was not ever, nor was I ever going to be, prepared for this.

Sometimes Aaron and I will think back to when we were first married and we just laugh. I had nieces and nephews, I was an avid babysitter and caregiver. We had our shit together, or so we thought. And then we had our own kids – and it’s adorable, really. I’m so glad we were so blind about it, to be completely honest. How pure and unfretted and rare it was to walk into being a mother without fear. It was everything I ever wanted. To be pregnant and have babies and raise a family. God. Yes.

Still is.

Is it harder now because it’s almost over? Because I don’t know who I am, without them, any more? Because I can see down the road and the next exit is college? I know where this is going. They are going to grow up and our of my house. Out of my immediate care. She is going to fall in love and he is going to run so fast towards his goals we won’t know he left until he’s already out the door. They’re going to leave.

I want them to. They need to. This is healthy. This is what we want, what we’re working towards. And they can always come back, oh I hope they come back. But they’re going to leave. They will outgrow this house and our traditions and memories and they’ll brave a new trail and make their own paths and I’ll be the first one on the sidelines to cheer my fool-head off at them. I can’t wait.

It’s going to be so good.

It is.

But it’s going to be so soon. And I’m a mess about it. It’s not over yet and I’m mourning the end. It has been the most delight I’ve ever experienced in all of my life, to be a mother. Their mother.

I wonder if we’ll remember the smell of this rain. How it baptized me from everything still and dry and dirty and left the evidence all over my life that I gave birth …

to them.

Mothers Day 2008

As I end this post the song ‘I Get To Love You‘ by Ruelle is playing, and it’s everything.

xoxo

Thoughts from the polar vortex of 2019

There’ve been a number of different themes floating around my head/heart lately. Boundaries, Permanence, Patience. They’ve been poking around like those little sucker fish that hitch a ride on larger species, just kind of there. Waiting, often annoying me or nagging me or sucking me dry of my limited resources while other times I can go entire days without knowing they’re still there.

But, it’s the sixth snow-day in a row for my kids and I found myself silently saying “just wait til next week.” I have honed my ability to lower my expectations over the years to a bit of a science of Jodi. I know what it feels like to build, build, build until the only thing left is to watch something fall or, maybe, how it feels to latch on to something someone said (leading) and start to think in absolutes about a situation, event, or idea only to feel completely gutted and like I got the wind knocked out of me when things don’t go the way I had imagined.

When our last school-week ended with a snow-day and the weather looked ominous, I started preparing for the whole week home. I figured if they went back to school at any time, that would be a bonus, but mostly I was just ready to hunker down, go very slow, and shovel a ton of snow. Guess how this week turned out?

Home every day, all day. I yelled more than I wanted to, there was way more screen time than I thought I would allow, but there were still playdates, I cleaned and organized my entire kitchen, I watched some fun shows, we played games and as it started to feel less like the apocalypse we started venturing out of the house. To the store, the library, to see the water.

Polar Vortex 2019

I stayed off my phone as much as possible, misery loves company and I was trying so hard to not go down there. I’ve had years where snow-days threw everything off and instead of just slowing down and taking it as it came, I fretted over the things I wasn’t able to do or the places I wasn’t able to go. I didn’t know how to recalibrate. I think I’m still learning, but I also didn’t engage in the practice of complaining.

And those little sucker fish; Boundaries, Permanence, and Patience kept pace with me as I slowed down. I wasn’t gracious about it, like I said, I yelled more than I wanted to – but I also apologized more than I used to and took more deep breaths. I don’t want my kids to remember their days home with me as being an inconvenience for me.

I had to cancel plans I had made, I had to reprioritize my days according to my kids’ needs and wants, every night before I went to bed I had to decide if I was going to get up tomorrow and try again, and not disappear, as is also my M.O. There were a few mid-day cocktails. But there was also a lot of laughter. My kids (and I) finally got bored enough to get curious again.

Last night we watched ‘Patch Adams’ as a family and after the credits rolled we googled Hunter Patch Adams and found his blog and a recent post with a video of Patch talking about books.

He’s in the same league as Bob Goff, for me. When people lead with their passions as publicly and unapologetically as they seem to, I can’t help but be a fan. I am a serious fan-girl of seeing other people’s fires lit and glowing white hot. And I think I like to believe that people are mostly good and that we’re all working something out and that laughter is often the boat that outlasts the storm.

And I went ahead and ordered David Abram’s, ‘The Spell of Sensuous’, from the library that Patch recommends in his video. As well as checked out a small army of books for garden planning and landscaping ideas, because along with my little suckers of Boundaries, Permanence, and Patience … I’ve grown wildly in my ability to rest in Hope.

Update on our No-vember. (A month without spending anything extra)

You can catch up on the how and why here but just in case you’re walking into this post wondering where this is coming from …

What exactly is a no-spend month?

To be overly simple, it’s a month with no extra spending. Keeping the lights on and food in our bellies isn’t part of the “No-November” for us. If we have a bill, we pay it. If we need groceries, we pick them up. If there was a pre-planned event, we attend. It’s not saying no to having fun or being social, it’s just taking a month to recalibrate and evaluate where the funds are going by stopping the flow of all the extra’s.

No coffee’s from Starbucks, no lunch dates or dinners out, no last minute “I’m bored” spending on the weekends. Just, not this month.

And it’s officially over! The last 11 days were more difficult than the first 19. We had a school break in there, a holiday, a snow day. A lot of down time, is what I’m getting at, and while we stuck to our no-spend month … it’s true you can’t buy happiness, but you can delay sadness.

I had guessed we’d be “over” in our grocery budget but we ended the month within $100 of our usual burn rate at the grocery store – and without any eating out, this felt like a feat. But clearly a doable one.

We borrowed puzzles, drank a lot of hot chocolate at home, had friends over, hung out with family, went for walks, and the kids played with the chickens, it was all very lovely in hindsight.

We went a little stir crazy (Aaron and I more than the kids) BUT it was honestly eye-opening to do this and I’m so glad we tried it, for a few reasons:

We spent less than half what we normally would.

Which definitely made the month of no spending worth it, in my book. I’m the numbers person in our family, so it is very interesting to me to see what we went without and how that affects the bottom line. We can get comfortable and stop practicing discernment or patience in our spending, especially this time of year.

We appreciated what we already have.

Games, subscriptions, the library, relationships, natural resources. We definitely made the most of what we had, even though there were days we were tired of being creative or trying to think a different way.

This was more of a mindset change, and one we struggled with as a whole family, than anything else. Which is the true nugget of this month, I think.

One evening my daughter led a workshop for our family on how to make ornaments out of paper. We already had the paper and the string, even though she wanted to go get additional items like stickers or prettier paper or glitter, we all had to think outside the box at different times to just use what we had. And now our house is colorful, and it means something to all of us.

I actually made money.

We had a few things lying around that didn’t work for us any more, either furniture we no longer had a use for or nice items the kids grew out of – and I sold them. I also took a temporary job for part of November and booked multiple photoshoots this month. Which is not something I had planned on or even thought of as a bonus to a month without spending.

What wasn’t included.

You get to make up your own rules and no one is keeping score 😉

For our family – this is what we spent money on this month:
My medications and all the B.S. that goes with being diabetic
Groceries (food and drinks, people. We didn’t eat ramen all month)
Our monthly bills (gas, electric, mortgage, investments, water, trash)
Gas for our cars
And we did use a gift certificate for free pizza one evening

We also had already purchased tickets before November for a few events and even a girls getaway weekend for me and we happily attended.

Now, for the nitty-gritty:

We spent $71.15 that technically we weren’t supposed to which included Aaron’s coffee on the weekends (read more about that here), my oopsie lunch at the beginning of the month, and 2 “breaks” on different weekends for coffee out as a family.

All in all, a good reminder of how much we already have & how little we really need, but most of all, what matters most.

And I would totally do it again! Maybe once a year, but not during the summer 😉

Saturday morning

😍

Get ready, we’re gonna unleash the joy

Good morning!

The forecast where we live is predicting the first snowfall tomorrow and I just want you all to know I’ve been preparing for this moment all year. I started re-watching The Gilmore Girls with my daughter and we’re almost to the first snow episode and can I just say that my wish is for all of us to be Lorelai.

Snow Day! ❄️☃❄️

You know what surprises me? I get that driving in snow is hard(er) than normal and shoveling snow is laborious and dressing for colder weather is allthethings, but what I don’t get is the adopted attitude that everything turns to shit in winter. I live in Michigan, winter is all but guaranteed, and while I used to have the rage feelings about this season, too, I’ve since realized that the only reason I felt that way was because I was taught to feel that way.

Truth is? I really love winter. Like, I AM A SUPER FAN OF WINTER. I love it so much. It’s beautiful and calm and the entire world whispers and it shines like glitter and it smells amazing and Thanksgiving happens and then Christmas comes and then we get to celebrate a handful of family birthdays (one being my favorite teenager of all time) and we get to go skiing and be among the trees while they hibernate and glisten and we bake all the things and drink hot chocolate and have you ever felt the pure joy of sledding down a hill with friends, or small kids, or grandparents?

YOU SHOULD TRY IT.

I get that popular opinion is usually the path of least resistance and that there are staunch supporters of “Winter is the Worst” – thats fine. Hats off, dear friends. But the rest of us? Really? Do we really hate winter? Or are we just taught to turn our noses up and complain about the roads?

We can do hard things, even changing our mind about our likes and dislikes – or maybe discovering them for the first time.

It's embarrassing how long it took us to get here this morning only to find the lodge closed, no rentals for the day, and the sledding hill roped off. It was pretty though. Aaaaand I'm done.

Let’s not forget that for some weird (out of body) reason I am Team Holidays this year. I feel like making jersey’s and going caroling and hand delivering baked goods to my neighbors in a horse drawn sleigh. We can all wonder what the H happened to me, while you’re busy doing that – I’ll be over here cheering for snow and flipping the freak out about the weight of all this joy. Effortless, I tell you. There’s just so much and it’s just so dangum easy to carry.

The other side of the camera is me freaking out with a stupid happy face and lots of giggling. I love snow. Love it love it love it.

Here’s a list of things to do this winter, and please add to it and take from it whatever serves you and leave the rest. Maybe the most freeing thing about all this is realizing we can change our minds or witness our hearts healing. Look up, you get to decide what’s next.

Obviously, GO SLEDDING
Make snowmen
Bake Holiday treats
Watch Holiday movies (Elf, The Christmas Calendar, Home Alone, Easrnest does Christmas, Polar Express, The Grinch … I need more, leave suggestions in the comments)
Make tree decorations
Snowball fight
Go to a local middle or high school play (go to all of them?)
See the Holiday symphony
Sing along to the radio
Play Christmas music REALLY LOUD, and often
Decorate early!
Or just dust off those boxes and decorate at all
Make an indoor tent with sheets, read stories, drink hot chocolate
Hang twinkly lights
Buy those chocolate advent calendars, go nuts
Speaking of nuts, roast some! Or sugar some!
Walk around the mall, take it all in. You don’t even need to shop, just watch, smell, listen.
Pick up a journal and choose to write something in it every day – a joke, a memory, something you’re thankful for, what you need to let go of in order to choose new/different/now. No rules, there is not right way to feel (especially in private).
Draw or paint or color
Do a puzzle
Wear slippers on purpose, giggle
Buy that coffee creamer you love, and get the full fat, real sugar stuff. (do it.)
Try a new latte
Meet a friend for lunch, order mimosa’s (or something fancy)
Host a game night
Greet your neighbors with a lot of excitement. They should maybe wonder what you’re so jolly about. Confuse the hell out of people – give away joy like candy canes at the north pole.
Go for a wintery walk in the woods or a trail you love
Shovel someone’s driveway
Play with puppies in the snow
Skip school for the perfect ski day – run away together
Sit in a hot-tub during a snowstorm
Take lots of baths, light the candles
Go cross-country skiing
Go snow-shoeing
Go bird watching after a powdery snow fall
Call your Grandma’s and Grandpa’s – ask them about their favorite holiday traditions from their past
Visit your library
Make goofy headbands (elf, reindeer, santa)
Star in a child’s directional debut of the Night Before Christmas – perform at gatherings, laugh a lot
Play group games (pictionary, catch phrase, etc)
Host sleepovers
When out of town family comes to town, SHOW THEM WHAT YOU LOVE, take them to your favorite spots, spring for the bill, get out the good plates, buy the brisket
Build an igloo
Go iceskating

Your turn, friends. Show up in the comments, let’s build this list so grand and fantastic that we look back and think of this as the winter we started believing.

It’s going to snow tomorrow.

I’m ready.

Highway 1 // California Coast

Our adventure’s continue in California, when we left off we had just explored Tilden Regional Park and before that we had our first Airbnb Experience in a Vintage VW van through Napa. California just keeps getting better.

We turned off “highways” on our gps system and took the backroads to another winery called The Russian River.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

We actually thought we would be able to get dinner at this winery from everything we had read, but we missed the part about needing a dinner ticket for their supper club. They were wonderful, offered to get us in that evening with their ticket holders but we decided on a shared plate, a glass of something white and to enjoy the quiet view of their farm for a while before continuing our backroads tour of the region … looking for highway 1.

I couldn’t tell you at which part we finally connected with highway 1, there were amazing little towns we went through and all kinds of winding roads and then our view just broke open. Just like that.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

I mean, it was stunning. I probably wrote poetry about it. We just meandering through this weird and beautiful outcropping of water and rock and the salty air, and the little beach towns, and the dive hotdog bars, and the succulents! You guys. The weather-worn shacks and cottages with million dollar views, the surf boards. It was just as I’d imagined it would be: breathtakingly beautiful, a little haunting, but in a good way. A day I’ll never forget.