Dear Jake

Dear Jake,

I don’t scrapbook. I’ve discovered, despite my love for writing, I’m horrible at keeping up your baby book. But, like any new mom I managed to take lots of photos. I slapped them together in this video just in time for your birthday. I hope someday you can watch this and know you had an amazing first year surrounded by lots of people who love you.

It is crazy to think it has already been one-year. If I’ve learned anything this past year it is that I have no idea how to be a mother and that you have given me a new perspective on life. This past year you have taught me more than I could ever teach you.

A friend on Facebook (a social media tool that will be so old school by the time you can read this) recently posted a poem that came through on my feed this week that really hit home:

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

― William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

By all definitions, your dad and I strive to live an ordinary, grounded life. But, there is no doubt in my mind that we live in an extraordinary place surrounded by extraordinary people. You are one of those people.

I have no idea what the next year will hold for us. What I do know is that the first time you grabbed my finger, I truly understood the sheer force of unconditional love. I look forward to many, many more birthdays with you my little munchkin.

Love,

Mom

 

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Jacob Time

10484147_726996994028819_4369468032011984221_nJacob William Probst of Moon Lake here. I hijacked mom’s blog again. This is a big week. I turn 1. More importantly, I’ve been promised a chocolate cupcake. It’s all about perspective folks.

So much has happened in the past year. I’m not sure where to start. In a nutshell, we’re still operating on what I call Jake time. Life pretty much revolves around my nap and feeding times. I don’t mind. It has taken a while but I think mom and dad are finally adjusting to meeting my every need. Sometimes when I’m crying in my crib they pretend they don’t hear me. If I really want out, though, I let them have it. I always win!

Daycare rocks. I have lots of friends and I get to play all day long. Minus naps and eating which are equally as important. We do lots of crafts and there’s always someone available to push me on the swing. I do love swinging.

Mom and dad’s house is a bit more boring. But, I do my best to make the most of it. We go on a lot of boat rides, swim in Moon Lake, and wander aimlessly around town in my stroller. Mom and dad are constantly reading to me. I also have lots of toys. Mom calls it clutter. Dad laughs and dumps the boxes over for me so I can wander with the toys dropping them all over the house only to watch mom trip on them and say words I don’t think I’m supposed to repeat.

When mom isn’t around, dad sneaks me down to what he calls the workshop. I play with a lot of things that I don’t think mom would approve of or that are kid friendly. I also get very dirty which I love. To me, it is very similar to playing in a dirt box for kids like I have at daycare and that’s ok so why shouldn’t this be ok?

Mom tends to take me out and about to experience things. As in art festivals, parades, fairs, grocery stores, malls and other random places that generally involve her buying things. Then she makes me do embarrassing things like poising with machinery or animals so she can take yet another photo. I’m really to the point where I should start charging a commission. I mean, it is never too early to start saving for college, right?

I eat like a horse. When I’m full, or bored, I accidentally drop food on the floor. The pets love me. What can I say? I deliver. Especially if it is food I don’t like. Just call me a giver. I have a mouth full of teeth. I’ll admit, teething is unpleasant but I enjoy the fact that as I get more teeth I get to try new foods. Dad gave me my first haircut while mom was feeding me. It was a bit chaotic having sharp blades by my face but I guess he did ok. (They really only cut 2-3 pieces of hair off so I’m not sure what they were so excited about.) Speaking of hair, I’ve learned I’ll never be as furry as Joey, Lucky, Mischief and Chickpea. That said, I love eating their hair that I’m constantly finding on the floor (or pulling off their body but they really don’t seem to mind).

I’m also what mom and dad call mobile. This seems to cause a lot of angst at Moon Lake Estates. Sometimes for fun I climb up and down the stairs while watching mom and dad follow behind me. I haven’t quite learned how to walk yet but I do know how to crawl fast. And hurl myself over something mom and dad call ledges. I like doing that to get a reaction. It isn’t like I’d actually let myself fall. What, do they think I’m stupid?

Everyday is a learning day for me. I see new things, experience new places, savor new foods and push myself to do new things. Mom and dad say they are exhausted. Meantime, I’m doing just fine on Jacob Time. They really should tackle life the way I do – two naps a day whenever I feel like it and 12 hours at night. But they always ramble on about how they have to work to provide for me or something. As if.

I’m not sure what happens after I turn 1. If being 1 is anything like the past year, I’m ok with that. As mom always says, Life is Good on Moon Lake.

Happy Me Week!

Jacob William Probst

 

Eighteen Years and Counting

Dear Mom,

Today marks a pivotal moment in our relationship. Eighteen years ago, my life changed forever when I held your hand for the very last time. At just 18, I had no idea what would come next. Up until that moment, I had been busy planning my senior prom, anticipating high school graduation, fighting with my loser boyfriend and dreaming about my first day of college—all with your help.

Suddenly it all seemed so insignificant. Nothing really mattered without you by my side. Looking back, I’m still unsure of how I navigated through life those first few months without you. Each time faced with a decision, I sought your advice only to be met with unanswered prayers. But somehow, despite making poor choices at best, I seemed to keep bouncing back. I kept stumbling around, constantly moving forward.

Along the way, I longed for your confidence. Nothing ever seemed to phase you in life mom. I’ll never forget when my best friend dropped her pants in front of you. Most mothers would have been aghast. You didn’t miss a beat. “Show me something I haven’t seen,” you laughed.

I miss those moments. For months now, I’ve been dreading this day. It marks a time when I’ve lived longer without you. As the years go by, my memories of us start to fade. I find myself thumbing through pages of high school journals and photo albums trying to fill in the blanks time has erased.  As I look at the pivotal milestones I’ve passed over, I’m finding myself more familiar without your presence. A new normal I guess.

I wish you were here today to see my new normal. On paper, it is pretty amazing. I’ve checked a lot of things off the list that we used to talk about growing up. I graduated from college. I followed our dream of becoming a published writer, mom. Sure, I haven’t penned the next great American novel but I’m writing and sharing my stories with people. Despite numerous heartbreaks and kissing some serious frogs, I found an amazing man who loves me for me. I’m a new mom and you’re a grandma. I have a job I love. Awesome friends. I still find time to hike in the woods, read books and garden. I didn’t inherit your talent for canning cucumbers but I can make a mean flat jack just like you.

If you scratch a little deeper, you’d find I face battles similar to you mom. I hate my weight. I refuse to settle. I live life on my terms, even if people look down at it. Complacency scares me. I help others, even if it means hurting myself. I am stubborn. At times downright mean. But that meanness is often a defense mechanism to survive. Like you mom, I’m a survivor.

Eighteen years ago my life changed forever as I watched you take your last breath. For an instant, I thought time would stop. But it kept moving. And with it, so did I. You gave me no choice but to move on without you by my side. For years I was angry. Disappointed you weren’t here to share my life and answer my questions. Angry that alcoholism broke our family until at some point I had to learn to forgive.

This past year has been a game changer partly because as a new mom I’ve discovered something. You may not be here physically, but I cannot deny you are a part of me. You’re stubborn spirit and endless desire to plow ahead even with the cards stacked against you, now defines me.

In a few weeks I’m supposed to lace up my shoes and run a half-marathon. It will be my fourth race. As always, I’m nowhere near ready. It’d be easy for me to quit. But I’m a stubborn Fin who refuses to give up. I keep training in hopes that I’ll be ready come race day. Even if it means I come in dead last. I owe that to you mom. This race is just one of countless examples of you pushing to be better—to try harder—to continue to show up and play the game on my terms, not because that’s what people expect but because it is what I want to do for me.

I still miss you mom. I still wish more than anything you were here by my side. I wish I could have one more day with you, one more conversation, even share just one more moment with you. I wish that every single day. But I have also found comfort in that every milestone, failure or achievement I experience it is a piece of you shining through and reminding me of where I came from and what really matters in life. And for that, I’ll always love you.

Your baby girl

Merry Christmas from Moon Lake

merrychristmaswebHello! It is Jacob of Moon Lake again. I hijacked mom’s blog again so I could send you my Christmas letter. I’m not sure how I feel about the photo but I’m guessing the ladies will dig it. What’s there about me not to love? Just don’t ask mom this question at 2 am when I decide to show my less happy side. Don’t hate on me. I don’t plan these growth spurts. And when I’m hungry, I’m hungry. Anyways, I digress.

Back to my letter. It is crazy to think of everything that has happened in the past year. You know a year ago, I was sitting in my mom’s stomach wondering exactly when she was going to acknowledge my presence. She kept making up these odd excuses. But frankly, I think she knew. Sure, she probably didn’t want to get her hopes up. Can you blame her? I wasn’t around pre-me (duh), but I have been around when she’s reminded me I’m her miracle baby and how grateful she is to have me in her life. I think that makes this Christmas extra special. But I have a hunch that every mom thinks their baby is a miracle (only I really am folks).

lovesantaI only mention this because it ties to my Christmas message of please believe. Believe in what? I’m not quite sure. I’m only 4-months old and am still figuring out the whole faith thing. But, I do know that I’ll totally believe in a fat red guy fitting down our miniscule chimney if it scores me presents each year. I even have a shirt to prove it. And, I don’t ever want to stop believing that someday we’ll live in a world where the milk flows endlessly, we alternate round the clock between playtime, nap time and dinner time, and no single kids goes without daily hugs and kisses from folks that love them to the moon and back again. We’re not there, yet. Not even close. And that makes it hard to keep believing. But, I’m going to try. And, I’m going to do my part to make sure it happens. I hugseven started by kissing the neighbor girl…and flirting with a gal at my first Happy Hour (Yeah, I totally have game). I hope you’ll consider the same (not kissing the neighbor girl but doing your part to make the world a better place). I know mom and dad try to live this way, even when it at times can be very, very discouraging. But, that doesn’t stop them from trying.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. May you fine time to indulge in too many cookies (eat one for me, please), drink too much milk, laugh until your stomach hurts, stay up too late telling stories with those you love,remembering what matters most not only at Christmas but all-year round and finding a place in your heart to believe in the unbelievable.

Live life, laugh lots, and love forever,

Jacob of Moon Lake

Berry Picking, Bare Feet, and Three Strange Men in an Ambulance

Prior to an unsettling event last week that caught me completely off-guard, I had the opportunity to take advantage of yet another great past-time in my neck of the woods—berry picking.

IMG_1280The wild blueberries in Bayfield County are bountiful this summer. And, thanks to having a husband who spends most of his time driving the back roads of the county checking timber sales, he’s my perfect investigator for finding the best, secret berry hot spots around. This year was no exception.

Last year I purchased a blueberry rake from Williams Sonoma. I thought this might expedite the extraction process of the miniscule royal blue gems. FYI: It doesn’t work on wild blueberries.

I only lasted 45-minutes in the early morning sun before Baby Boy Probst informed me enough was enough. But, it was long enough to harvest enough berries to make a great batch of blueberry muffins and enjoy several breakfasts of berries and yogurt. As I packed up my car, I had every intention of returning to enjoy another harvest well before the season ended. Unfortunately, this won’t be the case.

A few days later I sat in the doctor’s office and was informed I should start taking it easy. Despite my best efforts to lie low, I was dealt another surprise last Thursday when my blood pressure shot up for reasons unbeknownst to me. Within an hour I was in my doctor’s office. She immediately had me admitted to MMC. While I was never in serious danger, there was certainly an immediacy I was not expecting. My hubby soon arrived at which time I was informed it might be go time… and that they were starting a magnesium drip in my arm and sending me via ambulance to Duluth.

Other than listening in on the Second Grade Tours I coordinate for the hospital, I’ve never spent time in or around an ambulance. I can honestly say it wasn’t on my top 10 list of things to do before I die. And, I certainly didn’t want my first transport to be one that would take 75-minutes, with three men I didn’t know, no shoes, and at a heightened hormonal state.

I silently cried much of the way to Duluth for no reason. The men, clearly experts at dealing with their own hormonal wives and/or overly emotional patients, did their best to calm my nerves. (Some medication may have helped as well). It was during this long, bumpy ride that I discovered two things—they really need to repave parts of Highway 2 and being vulnerable sucks.

There is something about riding barefoot in an ambulance with a measly hospital gown and no wallet or phone that makes you feel very vulnerable. It is even worse when your feet are swollen and less than glam. Watching too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy had me envisioning us getting caught in a hurricane and me flying out of the back of the ambulance on a gurney, only to be lost in the woods in hopes some other stranger would find me. (Never mind it was sunny, dry and 70 degrees out).

Soon, the world’s longest uneventful ambulance ride was complete. I’ll spare you the details of the next 48-hours other than to say I never went into labor. Baby Boy Probst is doing fabulous. I’m stable. And, after two nights of monitoring and tests, I was allowed to return home with the understanding that this will be over in two weeks and berry picking or any strenuous activity (including work) is out of the question.

Every mother has a birthing story that is unique. Heartbreak, hope, sheer and utter joy, pain, anxiety, stress, frustration are regular emotions one rides on the rollercoaster journey of motherhood. My story is no exception. But, I’m also finding that my story is filled with angels that show-up at the most unexpected moments, asking for nothing in return other than to help me.

I’m not overly religious. But I find comfort in the chaplain who prayed for me when our adoption failed. The calming effect doctors and nurses have on being honest and direct with me at a time I want to think the worse. The nurse who came by and without even asking, offered me her Caribou coffee, knowing the hospital coffee was gasoline at best. The co-worker who didn’t think twice about checking my blood pressure daily to ensure I was doing ok and the others who have comforted me along this entire journey. Caring friends that listen to my endless ramblings without passing judgment and always knowing what to say or do. Supportive family. My breastfeeding, birthing coach and doula who answers my endless questions. My strong and compassionate husband who rubs my back, changes litter boxes (with minimal complaining) and vacuums while I nap. My puppy Joey who follows me around offering hugs and cuddles as needed, while my kitties offer me comedy relief and cues on how to rest for endless hours daily. And somewhere up there, I know the greatest angel of all—my mother is watching over me as well and reminding me that the Sisu Fin in me is strong enough for whatever comes my way in the next few weeks. Bottom line, Baby and I are both blessed.

So, my blog posts adventures in and around Lake Superior are quickly dwindling while I prepare for a different kind of adventure. But, I’ll be back soon with new stories and adventures to share about life on Lake Superior with a little one in tow. Stay tuned…

Pickles and Moms: The two have more in common than you think

The stringent smell of boiling vinegar makes me want to gag. Growing up, it was an annual tradition in our house signaling the end of summer and the start to canning season. I loathed it. I loathed the smell, the humid stagnant kitchen air, and the realization that my carefree, responsibility free life and escapades at Pinehurst Pool with friends would soon be replaced with the constraints of returning to school.

Eight weeks later, though, my mother would finally give me the signal that it was time. I’d scurry down to the basement and grab a Bell jar off the shelf. I’d run upstairs, turn the lid, pop the seal and inhale the comforting smell of vinegar subdued by large quantities of dill. Nothing could ever replace the glorious crunch of the season’s first pickles.

My relationship with my mother was similar. On certain days I loathed her. I hated that she always seemed to know exactly what I was up to, even before I knew. I hated when she called me out on my bullshit or gave me the advice I didn’t really want to hear, but needed to hear. I hated when she said no. And, I hated that she was always right. What teenager doesn’t?

I still hate the stringent smell of vinegar but love the crunchy goodness of a fresh dill pickle. And, to this day I love that all of the things I hated so much about mom, helped shape me into the person I’m proud to be today.

I know I’m not alone as I approach this Mother’s Day, missing and wishing mom was here with me to celebrate. But, if I look hard enough, I see her all around me. In the short 18 years we had together, she made an impression on me I’ll never forget. I’ll never take it for granted. And, I’ll never again underestimate that sometimes the things we despise morph into something amazing. I just hope others feel the same.

This Mother’s Day I’ll enjoy an extra crunchy pickle (or two) to celebrate this special day. Happy Mother’s Day!

Surprise! My Journey to Motherhood…

My life in 90 seconds.

This is in fact one of the worst kept secrets of all-time for me. I guess it isn’t so much that it is a secret but rather an odd thing to share beyond my close circle of friends and colleagues who need to know from a planning standpoint. However, as my pants get tighter and I admit that I am no longer training for my 4th Half-Marathon, I wanted to clear up the confusion as to why. So there you have it.

The past month has been a flurry of writing activity. With tourism season around the corner (should spring ever arrive), I hope to post about a couple local favorites including the awesome Delta Diner and year-round gallery favorite Karlyn’s in Washburn, Wisconsin. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’ll share this. For those who don’t like corny, feel free to stop reading right now. In January, I started a 90-day program with the creative and inspirational Leslie Hamp. The program, Create the Life You Crave, was a chance to pause this winter, take stock on life, set some tangible goals and work to achieve them. Of course, life threw a curveball because immediately after I set my goals and 24-hours before the program started, I learned I was pregnant. That said, I still managed to adjust my course of action, achieve some of my goals and better understand where I’m going in life. Not bad for 90-days. The course ended with a vision board. While my artistic talent is lacking, it is a great reminder of what matters in life.

As part of the course work, we were asked to write about our perfect day. No additional parameters were set other than to dream big. I immediately dived in, knowing exactly what my perfect day encompasses: Nature, exercise, quality conversations and encounters, great food and coffee, and some quiet. To this, I added the impending news of baby, which is 5-years in the making. My perfect day goes something like this:

I awake as the sun breaks on Moon Lake. A loon serenades me as I face a new day full of promise. I tiptoe down the stairs and start water on the stove—a base for a freshly pressed cup of light roast coffee I made on the grill earlier this week. While waiting for the familiar whistle signaling the water is ready, I peak into the nursery for my daily reminder that miracles happen.

By the time my first cup is down, baby is awake with a freshly changed diaper via my hubby. It is Saturday and we’ve got the entire day ahead of us to explore. Once dressed, we head to the Farmer’s Market in Port Wing where we buy freshly baked bread to accompany the giant beefsteak tomatoes and basil from our garden at home. From there, we continue on to our land in Herbster where we take our little one out and about to check and trim the balsams on our Christmas Tree farm that’ll one day be home to an important family tradition. Then, it is off to the beach in Cornucopia for a picnic and opportunity to listen to the solitude of Lake Superior while enjoying fresh smoked whitefish. Baby dips her toes in the Big Lake for the first time and squeals with joy. Fully relaxed, we continue along on our South Shore journey, wandering the shops of Bayfield, indulging in an ice cream sandwich from Tetzners, picking berries in our special spot and buying goat cheese from Sassy Nanny at Coco’s to round-out our dinner all while snapping endless photos along the way.

We head home for an evening boat ride on Moon Lake. Our neighbors are out and before we know it, a small group has gathered on our deck for dinner. We fire up the grill and fill it with veggie kabobs freshly picked from our garden and burgers from Jim’s and enjoy sides from the treasures we’ve picked up throughout the day. As the sun sets, we build a bonfire and watch babies wonderment directed at the flickering flames. Surrounded by friends and family, I am reminded that perfection comes in many forms.

Everyday is not this perfect. But, my life is filled with love and balance and family. I am healthy enough to chase after baby, run half-marathons and swim across Moon Lake. Work is fulfilling – I’m a full-time PR specialist with enough time to freelance write about the area I love and continue working on my self-published book, while staying at 40-hours per week. I balance the rest of my time out with board service and volunteering with an ultimate goal of building a new Youth Center and Library in Iron River, writing that next great American novel, exercising, cooking, gardening, reading, traveling, being a loving mother, sister, daughter and wife and having meaningful, rich relationships with friends, neighbors and colleagues.

Despite these dreams, I also accept and recognize that my self-published book will not hit the New York Times Best Selling List and that I may not succeed in building a new library in Iron River, become the next Julia Childs, break a Half-Marathon record or win All-American mother. But, for the first time in my life, I am ok with this. I have come to the conclusion that it is better to live life to the fullest and fail than to give up at the first sign of imperfection. The journey to motherhood has taught me to be vulnerable, to let go and find resolution with the unknown. To accept I cannot control everything and that things might now always go my way. But if I believe I am enough, than I am in fact enough, even if others don’t feel the same.

Brené Browne in her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead says, “Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.” Oh so true. And how I love her.

I realized a few days later after reading this back to myself that my perfect day is in fact, my current life. Sure, it all doesn’t play out in a single day. But, all of these components are very real and important parts of my daily routine. This didn’t happen by accident, or without a ton of missteps, miscalculations, mistakes and sacrifice. But, in hindsight, I wouldn’t trade that journey for anything. It makes today, that much sweeter.

I know things won’t always be this perfect. And, there are plenty of things I can keep on doing in the self-improvement category. But for now, I want to savor the fact that hard work and being true to one’s self pays off in the end. I hope everyone can feel this way at least once in their life—it truly makes up for all the days that don’t pan out this way.