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.

Washington, 2016

This past summer we took off for the PNW taking a week to road trip west, a month to stay in one place, and a week to road trip back east to the midwest. So far, here’s what I’ve documented: Day 1, South Dakota, Custer State Park, etc, Mt Rushmore and the Black Hills, Montana, Day 6, 7 and 8, as well as a few posts about our time in Washington: Home and Like you, Like me.

I haven’t been able to write about our time away yet, I thought it was because there was so much to tell you, to unpack, but I think it’s because I wasn’t ready to share it. It took an entire year of planning to even get there and the year it took was a hard one. There was so much good but so much hard good and getting to the end of the plan and experiencing it first hand was spiritual for me. I needed this summer, those people, my people. I needed that place and the space to unwind, to spread out without anyone watching me. I needed to be a in place where I could blend in and not stand out, where I didn’t recognize faces and wasn’t recognizable. Even though I looked like everyone else, even though I was among people who would know me, who could really see me.

First morning in Washington, Home.

First morning in Washington, Home.

I ran away, to some extent. Far away. The farthest I could go for as long as I could go. I was trying to leave a few things behind and pick up a few more along the way. I had ideas and all kinds of expectations that quickly went to the wayside.

We got to our rental house and unpacked and then I made dinner.

Cooking

Cooking

Cooking

Furiously chopping and pouring, simmering and steaming. The little kitchen didn’t have a chance. I’d like to think of it as a yoga for the mind. I worked so much out in that little kitchen. Without modern tools to help along the way, every batch of cookies or bread I made, I did by hand. No power tools. Just me and a whisk, a wooden spoon. And I counted the minutes it took to knead a loaf of bread and I let the sweat drip down my face as I knit my entire back in knots over countless batches of cookie dough. I let the kids think it was the onions that made me cry, even though the tears didn’t stop well past the chopping.

Home

I accomplished the things I thought I wanted to. I saw and introduced and explored the landscape of my heart and I walked those roads, up and down, back and forth. Disappearing into the pines, letting the rains baptize me in the moment. I was there for guts and glory and I wasn’t going anywhere until I undid myself.

2016-06-23 07.28.48

2016-06-23 07.33.57

Just as soon as we arrived, we quickly began a routine of picking berries with my Aunt. Not just any berries. PNW berries from the very capital of the entire world of berry producing soil. Whatcom County. And it was berry season. And I had arrived.

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

A month in Washington

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

There was a romance in those fields. Heavy, ripe fruit bending it’s branches. You would touch them and they’d fall into your hands. It never took more than half an hour to fill alllllll our bowls and buckets and we’d laugh and eat so many that our tummies would hurt and we’d guess how long it would take for us to run out and return to the rows.

We’d go in the middle of the day, at the end of the day, just before sunset, at dusk. We’d go mid morning and quick before dinner, right after dessert, and before the movie started. We went and went and went. Back to the field, back to the rows, back to the fertile soil.

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

And it became a rhythm for me, a meditation of our time spent there. A place to go, a reason to return. To the fields. To the dirt by the mountains kissed by the misty rain under the sun and the wide open sky and where I found myself. Where I found myself dancing and laughing and eating and being merry and in love and in communion and in relationship and together, with my family.

Picking blueberries

Like I had never not been there in the first place. Like I was always where I belonged. Like I had never left.

Like I never would.

like you, like me

Our time in Washington was memorable. There aren’t any words, really, that do it justice. We rented a house for a month and I was worried that I would forget what our life in Michigan felt like, it was that seamless. The last puzzle piece, lost under the couch for ten years until the moving truck comes and finds it. That was this month. Complete.

Home

My grandma's garden

a walk to Grandma's

First morning in Washington, Home.

I was trying to explain this to a friend of mine and the best I can do is that going home felt like being adopted and meeting my family for the first time. They looked like me and talked like me and we’d be hanging out and someone would say “you look just like … when you …” or “No way! Me, too!” Even weird stuff, like the kinds of products I use or different cooking things. There was just so much LIKENESS. So much of me. I wasn’t the only one.

My aunts are writers and they write books! Like, it’s not just this idea they’re dreaming about or this secret they don’t talk about. They’re DOING IT. They’ve done it. No one looked at me funny when I took photos of literally everything or recorded their stories and they all went along withy my wild adventures. Clamming (even if it rains), baking hundreds of cookies for a kids market (even if they don’t sell), fishing (even if we don’t catch anything). My grandma said we really revved up their life while I was talking to her on the phone since we’ve been home and I feel the same way. The very best possible way. All revved up.

But being back in Michigan feels like I’m driving around in my past. We’re back and life is “returning to normal” and I don’t know why I keep waiting for my past to tell me a different story. It never changes. I’m tired of waiting. There’s a lot to learn here so I’m listening but still struggling to find the silver lining.

First morning: home

I’m excited for what’s next. Who knows, maybe we’ll do this next year. Or maybe we’ll find ourselves traveling to all the corners of the globe immersion style. It’s not out of the question, as I’ve learned over and over again, anything is possible. And never say never.

Day six, seven, and eight.

We left Montana and knew that by the time we stopped for the evening on day 6 we would be in Washington. As we were driving through mountains and crossing boarders and stopping for gas or bathroom breaks – the closer we got the more I started to recognize where we were. The smells were familiar, the backdrops were from my memories.

I was getting excited and ready to be there but I was also apprehensive and nervous. Gut checking my expectations, leaving them behind to just experience whatever was in my today. Right now. There was a song (even before we left) that I had started listening to that made me cry every time. A line in the song has to do with finally having a family, I don’t know, I’m sentimental I’ll give you that, but this was more. I was belonging to something, somewhere. And we were almost there.

The first place we stopped we decided to pass on (a first for the trip) and we kept heading west until we found a campground in the middle of nowhere. It was someone’s yard. The town looked like it was out of a movie set from the 30’s and even the bank was closing. There was one restaurant, the grocery store had closed. One gas station with $3 kleenex that we bought them out of. We ate dinner at the only restaurant and went back to our camper for the night. Trains were frequent and loud but the sunset was the most beautiful thing I had seen.

Drove a long way to see this today.

I think I was wary on day six. My nerves were a little shot, we had the first experience of a disappointing stop, the build up of arriving was starting to cap … it was time to land.

The next morning we got up and on our way, hitting up a breakfast spot along the way and making it to Fort Worden for our last night on the road.

Fort Worden, WA Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7

If you don’t mind some home-video and can stomach a walking camera and a newbie figuring out how to focus and manage changing light … well then give it a go:
Fort Worden

We made our first fire of the road trip, ate our first s’mores. Met our neighbors, thought we lost the kids and as we watched a creepy yellow van with his windows card-boarded up drive slowly out of the park I saw myself on the local news begging for my children’s safety and return … in reality, while we were running around and looking for them, they were collecting shells and having hot chocolate with our neighbors. So, I pooped my pants, metaphorically. But also, what the four letter words. We slept soundly that night, feet away from the beach and all in one place.

Day 8 was here! By my calculations we had a small drive to our final destination so we could spend some time at Fort Worden, but also in Port Townsend doing some sight seeing and shopping and lunching and generally things not having to do with sitting in a car. And we did. Slowly ambling around Port Townsend, getting lunch and coffee, and our first souvenirs.

Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Port Townsend, WA Day 8
Port Townsend, WA Day 8

We even packed up and spent more time at Fort Worden at their Whale exhibit and their Marine learning center with the kids before we got back in the car and started driving … then suddenly stopping in a long line of cars headed for a ferry that you would need a reservation to board. Which we did not have.

Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, WA (day 8)
Fort Worden, WA (day 8)

I loved this place.

So our last day of travel was supposed to be a teeny little trip. But it turned out longer and bigger than we thought – and included a ferry for the kids and an eventual arrival at our house with actual beds that night.

We were almost home.

Montana: Lewis and Clark State Park

We landed in Montana on the 5th day – I’m pretty sure Aaron did some driving because he kept taking videos of the mountains while driving. He was seeing this landscape for the first time, winding hills dotted with cattle. An endless horizon and blue sky. He wasn’t just a passenger, finally 🙂 I remember being pretty excited about this development.

Montana is windy. Just, you know, like 25 mile an hour winds on a vista. That same vista our little pop-up camper was parked for the night in the open air between mountain peaks. We had conquered rain and thunder, clapping skies and sheets of rain. We had been through heat and fevers and the flu. Wind though? We didn’t really know what to do with wind. (Video of wind)

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

So we played games.

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

We walked around the camp ground for a bit and read some signs: we were in bear territory and on the menu for dinner? Sausage. Eggs. Breakfast for dinner … inside the camper.

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

The crackling of the stove and the smell of cooking breakfast with wind whipping through our camper, the kids sitting at the table playing games with snacks, and Aaron finally functioning as a human. This was a new normal by day 5. Rugged, dirty, take it as it comes living.

With Aaron’s new found sea legs for traveling he was also all of a sudden aware of time passing. And how much more opportunity there was to FILL THAT TIME WITH SEEING EVERYTHING. We laugh about it now, but his being sick for the first 5 days was really a blessing. We actually traveled. He can take about 2 hours in the car before he needs to stop and look around. About 30 minutes before he starts complaining about being in a car. And yet, we love to travel this way.

Which meant that after dinner we started asking around wondering if there was anything “to do around here.” We hopped back into the car for a little field trip.

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

And this was the new soundtrack to my days:

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

Water and birds, all kinds of hidden bugs singing, little feet stepping, constantly parenting, and always wide-eyed wondering.

We were almost there. I started seeing sunsets behind mountains and recognizing the smells in the air. I also stopped showering thinking the next place wouldn’t charge $3 for five minutes of water … Note to self: keep quarters.