Bayfield County Staycation

IMG_1734If rocks could smell fear, I’d be in trouble. I was never one blessed with agility, balance or sense of adventure. Yet, I always seem to find myself at river intersections that involve rushing water, a series of unstable rocks unreasonably spaced out before me and at least one expensive piece of camera gear around my neck. And, I’m generally alone with my irrational thoughts contemplating how many ways a simple slip could send me plunging to my death. Today was no exception.

But, today also marked a sense of wonder I haven’t had in a while. Today was a time out. It was an opportunity to wander in the woods and get lost in my thoughts. To remember why I choose to live here. I put on my tourism pants, loaded up my camera gear, filled my traveling coffee mug to the brim and set out on a day-long adventure in northern Bayfield County. I had exactly 8.5 hours from daycare drop-off to pick-up for just me.

My first stop may or may not have involved some doughnut holes from B’s Busy Bakery in Iron River. Listening to the Growth Show and snacking on sugary sweets, I drove the windy and scenic county highway to Port Wing. It was a perfect summer day. Once in Port Wing, I did a quick leg stretcher at Twin Falls. In the past, I’ve generally stayed up top but today I opted for the lower falls trail. Recent rain had the river higher than normal for summer, but certainly not the powerful rage spring often brings. It also meant repeated river crossings, to my final resting spot of a gentle waterfall. It was a great warm-up to the day.

IMG_1735From there, I headed to Herbster beach to enjoy a few more sips of coffee and catch my first real glimpse of the lake. I never tire of seeing or listening to her music. The rippling of waves washing up along Lake Superior stones far surpasses any meditation tape. I leave, ready for a power walk thru the woods.

IMG_1737Next up is a 3-mile hike at Lost Creek Falls. Thanks to the Bayfield County Forestry department, the trail is much improved from my infamous first date with the hubby (you can read more about that here). In fact, it even has a trailhead with parking, signage and a pathway patched with gravel and crafty boardwalks. It is quite impressive. But, the trail is just a prequel to this out-of-the-way waterfall.

I have yet to meet someone on this trail. Of course, a river walk wouldn’t be complete with a series of rock crossings, but I’m feeling extra dangerous today. (It helps that the water is only 5-6 inches deep). This sense of adventure ends with me getting my feet wet but saving my d-slr. Success comes in many shapes and sizes.

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Someone has left an Inukshuk directly in front of the falls. This Inukshuk, which is a signal of one being on the right path, resonates with me today. While much of today is about having fun, one can’t help but contemplate life while immersed in nature. This symbol seems all to appropriate for the questions I’m trying to answer in my head.

Harbor House SweetsI glance at my watch. It is approaching lunch time and decisions must be made. I opt to skip lunch and instead, consume my weight (and then some) in calories at Harbor House Sweets. This is a somewhat new candy and sweet shop in Washburn. I plan for just a few small chocolates and some almond bark but out of the corner of my eye, I cannot help but notice the luscious chocolate cupcakes staring me down. I casually ask about them. As the words, infused with caramel come out of the owner’s mouth, I’m immediately sold. I know mood can affect one’s taste buds and perhaps that had something to do with this experience, but honestly, it was the best cupcake I’ve ever consumed. And, I have consumed quite a few cupcakes in my day. I would have shot an interior shot of this gem but I was driving. By the time I reached Houghton Falls outside of Washburn, the only thing left to photograph was an empty wrapper.

I haven’t been to Houghton Falls for a few years. I must admit, I was a bit taken aback by the intense signage in the parking lot. Lots of lines through things, warnings about surveillance cameras, and even an automatic gate that will lock you in the parking lot if you are there after 8 pm in the summer. If you happen to get stuck, plan on paying a fine. I’m sure all of this is being driven by a few nimrods who can’t respect public land and a community that wasn’t expecting usage of this trail to be quite so high, but still, I’m having a few moments of Gooseberry Falls PTSD and the time I had to take a bus into the park during fall peak season. Pretty sure there were more people in nature that day then in my entire town. That said, my car is the only one in the parking lot on this beautiful day.

Round trip, I’ll only clock about 1.6 miles on this trek. It is a short, yet interesting walk. The massive rock gorges, multiple waterfalls, and ultimate view of the rocky ridges of Lake Superior reminds me slightly of the North Shore, but without the crowds. It is peaceful here. Once at Lake Superior, I take a few moments to take in the views. A single bird floats birdpast me, basking in the sunlight.

I jump in my car and head north to Bayfield. It is the first time I’m seeing crowds of any sorts. Main Street is full so I park on a side street next to Silver Waves Jewelry. I pop in, hoping to purchase a bracelet I had seen at a holiday sale last December. It has already sold. My heart dips a little until I learn she’ll remake a similar one for me. A custom bracelet—seems like the perfect trinket to wear as a reminder of today.

roadclosedNext up, one last power walk above the well-known Sea Caves. My husband mentions a shortcut that may or may not involve parking illegally on a road named after his favorite home improvement store. Accurate directions including, just go to the end, are my guide. Turns out the town road is closed before I get to the end, but given my poor sense of direction, I figure I have to be closer to the caves than if I drive to the trail head. Turns out that my poor sense of direction is still strong. Pretty sure I clocked more miles on that town road than if I had just hiked the trail. But, before long I’m hearing the deep bass of frigid Lake Superior water pushing up against the sandstone caves before succumbing to the wall of stone and heading back out to sea. seacavesStanding above the caves, I can’t help but question when the caves might finally accept defeat and collapse under the power of this majestic beauty. Lucky for me, it isn’t today.

 

I hop back in the Subaru determined to make one final stop before the day is done. As I approach Cornucopia, I see the ship graveyard next to the green shed. I turn right into the parking lot and head into Halvorson Fisheries for some smoked fish. Within minutes, I’m leaving, armed with Lake Superior Trout for dinner, poor man’s lobster and the most beautiful piece of Brown Sugar Smoked Lake Superior Trout. I fill up my water bottle at the artesian well and plop on the sandy beach. I remove my shoes and run my feet through the white washed sand. Sitting hear alone on the beach, I can’t help but fill mom in on all that’s happened to me this past year. In this moment of quiet reflection, I know she’s listening.

IMG_1760Once done refueling on my savory and salt-infused snack, I make my way back to the car feeling more relaxed than I have in ages. I know some people have judges me for living a simpler life. They don’t understand why I’m not more aggressive in my professional life or pursuing life in the big city. The pressure to do more is always there. And I admit, I’m human. At times, I find myself equating my worth with job titles, mortgages and zip codes. But, today I’m reminded of all of the reasons I’ve chosen to live a simpler life. Simpler doesn’t mean less fulfilling, less meaningful, or less important. It isn’t for everyone. But, it certainly suits me. Any lingering doubts are quickly smacked down when I arrive home.

MothersonMy son grabs my hand and pulls me down the trail to throw sticks in our lake. Afterwards, we head up to collect eggs and grill supper. We top off the evening with a game of baseball, biking up and down country road and a single two-handed hug that makes me feel like the richest woman on the planet.

Some people travel the world to find what matters. For me, a simple day in the woods in a place I’m lucky enough to call home is enough.

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Ignoring the Signs

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Michigan Ice Festival, 2016

Signs often give direction, suggestions, information needed to get from point a to point b. In my case, the signs I encountered on my way to the sheet of ice I was about to attempt to ascend at the Michigan Ice Festival in Munising said run the other way.

It started with my travel buddy being sick. She alerted me the day before and while it would have been easy enough to cancel the trip, we decided to go anyway. It was sunny skies and temperate weather in Iron River. A few hours later, as I drove over the Michigan border, visibility was deteriorating quickly. Within an hour, plows had abandoned all hope of keeping roads clear leaving us nothing but marginal trail tracks, rumble strips and snow covered signs guiding us through the UP. By the time we hit Marquette, even my well-trained winter driving skills were maxed out.

We fueled up at a UP favorite—Donckers. Walking down Main Street headed to get our fill of chocolate, I couldn’t help but question my sanity. The road was shutdown and packed with several feet of snow in anticipation of an evening sled dog race scheduled to take place in sub-zero temperatures. We didn’t hesitate to tromp over the barricades and snow piles for our caramels.

wroadclosedBut, perhaps the biggest sign was the one I almost hit (literally) on our final leg of the journey. MI-28, the main interstate between Marquette and Munising, was closed. Somehow, I missed the sign notifying me that this main artery was no longer passable. The barricades, while barely visible, were hard to miss. Did I mention they were placed nowhere near a detour as well?

Did we turn around? Absolutely. Did we head home? Absolutely not. Instead, we navigated our way through the back roads of the UP. At first, we thought the steady stream of hazard lights approaching us was a funeral procession. We later learned, this was common during white out conditions in Big Snow country.

The signs didn’t stop here. Once in Munising, temperatures plummeted. Even the hardcore climbers were talking about how unforgiving a cold, winter day in Munising can be for folks heading out. Rather than wimp out, I just put on another pair of pants. There was of course the embarrassing gear check-out moment where I had to point out that my supersized ass would not in fact fit in the harness designed for the normal climbers body type. After several attempts and a lot of wriggling around, I was told I was equipped with straps that’d withstand me falling from a cliff.

And then there was the trek -in. Did I mention there would be an uphill climb in a snowy, ice-covered trail full of steep ledges? Or, that I wasn’t aware of said trail and had an extremely top heavy backpack on me that was packed with shoes (yes plural), coffee, snacks, extra clothes, 3 cameras and other miscellaneous outdoor gear.

This is what was below us when we climbed. Lots and lots of hill.
This is what was below us when we climbed. Lots and lots of hill.

The first time I fell over on an uphill incline, I questioned whether I’d get up. Like a turtle straddled on its back, I somehow waddled my way up the hill. There was of-course the embarrassing and somewhat frustrating attempt to secure my crampons while sporting 4 layers of clothing. But somehow, despite all of these signs, I soon found myself at the base of a 40-foot cliff with only one way to go—up.

We were handed some pick axes and given some basic instruction on how to ice climb. It seemed as though the ice hated me. If I swung hard, the ice shattered. If I swung delicately like our instructor, the pick ax ricocheted back at me, threatening to take my eyes out. This didn’t seem promising. But again, I ignored the signs.

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One of our instructors giving us some tips on how to climb. That is what it looks like to get to the top. This was not me.

My girlfriend and I were in an intro teaser course. Our instructors were awesome. One was from Salt Lake and a rep for Black Diamond. The other, a world cup ranked speed climber. (Yes, that’s a real sport and she is an amazing athlete). They made climbing look so easy. They provided serious encouragement and didn’t scoff as I fumbled about like an idiot.

Given the time limitations of our course, we only got two chances to climb. And, despite the our class title has intro in it, most of the guys in our class had climbed before. The gals, while less experienced, were primarily rock climbers. I am neither. We lined up like little soldiers, each taking our turn at the base. When it was finally my turn, I clipped myself to the rope and climbed. And fell. And climbed. And fell. Even though I knew that each time I slipped off the icy rock or my pick ax gave way, I wouldn’t in-fact plummet to my death, my survival instinct screamed what the F**** do you think you are doing? I managed to ignore that voice and kept trying. Progress was slow but progress just the same.

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This is me early on. It did not get better as time progressed.

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Did I make it to the top? Absolutely not. Did others? Absolutely. But, I’d be willing to bet our experiences were equally as scary, exhilarating and frankly fun. There I said it. Despite all of these signs and obstacles, ice climbing is a pretty big high. If given the opportunity, I definitely would have kept trying to get to the top. And, knowing the stubborn Fin in me, I would have at some point made it. In hindsight, I wish I had taken two days of classes so that the second go around I’d maybe experience more success. Who knows, I might even go back next year. It is unlikely the weather or road conditions could be any worse.

wbethcold
After my climb. Did I mention it was cold out there?

For everyone curious to know how high I went… I honestly don’t know. The Go Pro was stopped about 10 seconds into my first climb and I later realized I had nobody take shots on my second climb. I don’t want to pull a Paul Ryan on his half-marathon time or a angler’s tale of the big fish by exaggerating my climb, so suffice is to say, let’s just say I went high enough. The second time, I climbed even higher. But, by far the hardest part of the climb was getting to the base.

Crampon Casualty 2016.
Crampon Casualty 2016.

And, I’m just happy that in total, the only real casualty of the day was my snow pant leg that got shredded by my crampons when I tripped attempting to pose for a group photo.

That evening, I had the opportunity to listen to keynote speaker Tim Emmett. An athlete for Mountain Hardware, he redefines adventure. I loved his presentation and the photos and videos to accompany it were spectacular. In his presentation, he mentions that life is what we do before we die. It sounds stupid but it is so true. So much of life is about the unknown day-to-day stumbling we make trying to navigate this thing called life.

Afterwards, Aaron Peterson premiered The Michigan Ice Film. It was an enduring combination of extreme ice climbing and the people and culture known as the UP. Peterson did an awesome job intertwining the two to create a solid story line amongst a backdrop that only Michigan ice can provide. Two thumbs up for sure.

At the end of the day, I loved my experience at the Michigan Ice Fest not because I was good at ice climbing, discovered a hidden talent or because it changed my life. Instead, I love that this festival and instructors opened my eyes up to the fact that I can in fact climb, even though every sign along the way said I couldn’t.

Future ice climber in the making! Watch-out Michigan Ice Festival 2025...
Future ice climber in the making! Watch-out Michigan Ice Festival 2025…

Becoming an Outdoor Woman – Pure Michigan

bow bow1A fresh snow on Moon Lake made it finally feel like winter. The snow coincides with me getting the latest travel guide from Pure Michigan. Inside, I finally got to see an article I put together last winter in print. It is all about being an outdoor woman. The assignment was perfect for me. I absolutely love the UP and being outside. The trip was my first time away from Jake for a vacation. Granted, I was working the entire time but I left being reminded of how much I love experiencing nature and how I couldn’t wait to share some of these experiences with Jake once he’s a bit older. The edited version of the piece can be found here. Or, here is a much earlier draft that shared a bit more about some of the amazing women I met over this 72-hour period in Big Bay, Michigan. For anyone interested in experiencing the outdoors in an environment that embraces women and all of the insecurities we sometimes face when exploring the great outdoors, this camp couldn’t be better. Happy Reading!

Girls just want to have fun! The DNR provides a grown-up version of Summer Camp for women twice a year in the northern tip of the UP.

Ding, ding, ding! A bell rings signaling the start to my weekend long adventure along with dinner in what’s fondly referred to as the Big House. I follow the bright eyed, enthusiastic group of 70 women to cafeteria style tables where food and stories are passed with similar enthusiasm. Glancing at the hearty homemade lasagna and catching a whiff of the fresh baked garlic bread, it is easy to understand why. By the time I savor my last bight of homemade apple pie, it quickly becomes clear there will be no carb counting this weekend.

In fact, nothing is off limits this weekend at the Winter Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) Camp at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, Michigan (25 miles north of Marquette). Over the course of the next few days, I watch and participate with mother-daughter teams, friends, seniors and strangers as we build snow forts, sleep outside in sub-zero temperatures, dogsled, snowshoes, ski, cook, learn self-defense, tie flies, fish and laugh… a lot.

Laughing is key. BOW is a national program that originated in the 90s when a professor recognized one of the reasons women weren’t getting into fishing and hunting is because they prefer to be taught by women and want to learn in a non-competitive atmosphere.

This weekend, that sentiment rings true. “I love the instructors,” says Catherine Sanborn of Bruce Cross, Michigan. For 10-years, she’s made the trek to Big Bay. “They teach you to do things without yelling at you the way your husband might.” Over the years, she’s tried everything from fishing to handgun safety, while making friends along the way. “The people here become life-long friends.”

It is easy to understand why, given over half the participants and most of the volunteer instructors have been making the trek to Big Bay for years. “I’m a BOW junkie,” laughs 5-year veteran Carrie Moritz. Each year, she and her mother-in-law drive up from southern Minnesota to attend the summer and winter camp. She’s taken many of the classes, but one in particular has stuck.

“I’ve taken wood burning every year. Over the years, I’ve really honed my skills and now I’m selling pieces on Etsy and making things for friends,” she explains. “It is something I love that I never would have discovered without BOW.”

Woodburning, like so many of the other courses, empower you to try something new. As someone who is more comfortable running a half-marathon than drawing a stick figure, I quickly learn that pushing your comfort zone isn’t just physical. By the time I’m done etching a flaming red pen along a freshly sanded piece of Baswood, my charred name tag and swirling oak leaves are barely legible. But, this doesn’t stop me from wearing it like a badge of courage the rest of the weekend.

In-between classes, impromptu snowshoe hikes along Lake Superior, bonfires and S’moreos, saunas, board games, and relaxing in front of the fireplace provide a backdrop for new friendships to develop and memories to be made.

For Ilene Smith, her only goal was to do something special with her college aged kids. Chatting with them prior to our final meal together, her 19-year old daughter Alex casually says, “I don’t want to be morbid. But, this is something I could see talking about at my mom’s funeral. My mother doesn’t have a ton of money but what she’s given me is memories.”

Mission accomplished mom.

As I make my way to my car, I pause for a moment under the gazebo basking in the surprisingly warm winter sun. Before me, the world’s largest freshwater lake looms large. I soak it all in and can’t help but think back to our speaker the first night who shared her personal story and struggles while circumnavigating Isle Royale. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just worth it.”

I Dig Being Two!

IMG_1285I’m hijacking mom’s blog again in anticipation of my second birthday coming up on Saturday. Things have changed a ton since I last wrote. First, I’m communicating. My vocabulary includes a lot of body parts, food groups and demands. I’ve mastered the words mine, poo and no. And, while I still don’t get it, I have found if I add the word puh-lease to the end of everything, I pretty much get everything I want.

Mom says I’m in the height of terrible 2’s and have a bit of a temper. I’d say I’m more the vocal, independent type that knows what I want and how to get it. It’s the Sisu Fin in me so mom only has herself to thank for that.

I’m also very curious. This past week, I figured out that if I connect my step stool to my play kitchen, I can walk up the stool, use the kitchen as a step and finally gain access to the kitchen counters where there is all kinds of good stuff, including access to all of the food cupboards. Dad busted me and said he wasn’t sure if he should be angry or proud of the fact that I figured that out on my own. What can I say? I’m a natural problem solver.

I am obsessed with water and consider myself very brave. I love jumping off the dock, going for boat rides, dunking my head in the water and rolling around in circles in the tub… all of which makes my parents quite anxious. Seriously, you should see them. They are wound up so tight when I’m playing. They keep saying I’m going to drown, even though I sport a life jacket constantly. A couple weeks ago, I even went tubing at the cabin making me the youngest Probst to enter the world of water sports.

I still enjoy being read to but I’m much more into turning the pages and trying to figure out the names of things on my own. There are just so many words out there for me to learn. I’m not sure if wombat is a must know at two but I’m going with what mom and dad give me to read and soaking it all up like a sponge.

I waited a while to walk. I found crawling to be more effective. But, around Christmas that started to change. Now, I run and jump and walk all day long. I love stairs. Another thing that seemed to stress mom and dad out. Then again, everything seems to stress at least mom out. I love tackling dad. We roughhouse a ton. I frankly love it and dad is a wimp. But, it seems to get me into trouble at daycare sometimes. Turns out tackling dad and tackling infants aren’t the same thing. Go figure. In addition to running around, I love throwing balls and swinging bats. Oh and stroller and wagon rides. Pretty much anything outside where I’m moving is good. I’ve also taken up weeding. Mom taught me that. It doesn’t seem to make much sense since we never seem to be done but it passes time. And, only sometimes mom says what I’m pulling are actually plants versus weeds. Give me a break, I’m two.

I love food. I weigh in at over 32 pounds and have been called sturdy by more than one person. I like my food spicier than mom, although that doesn’t take much. Dad says I’m clearly a carnivore. But, I could live on graham crackers if given the opportunity. For the first few months of eating, I resisted cheese and refused to eat anything with cheese in or on it. It just seemed like such a cliché since I was born in Wisconsin. But, I have learned the errors of my way and now beg for cheese constantly. Joey loves when I get cheese. Especially the shredded kind since at least half of it ends up on the floor for her. She’s sort of a beggar. But I don’t mind. She’s my best bud.

I remain a full-time daycare kid. It works out pretty good. I think mom and dad feel a bit guilty so I’ve been told I’m a bit spoiled at times… But, I frankly wouldn’t want to be with my parents 24/7. They are sort of boring. All of my friends are at daycare, plus they got pet chickens and rabbits and all kinds of cool toys I don’t have at home. Did I mention the chickens? How cool is that? Rumor is I might be getting a chicken pen so I can have one (or more—we’re still negotiating that front) next summer just like mom had when she was growing up.

This past year included quite a few adventures. I went to the Children’s Museum, multiple zoos, countless festivals (mom’s obsessed), swimming in Lake Superior, cabin visits, shopping, the library, lots of restaurants, hiking, my first Big Top show and had my photo taken a ton (literally). I watched mom cross the finish line at several races. I also helped lead off the Blueberry Festival Parade since my dad is town supervisor. Dad forgot to mention it to mom so we were scrambling a bit but I ended up getting to throw bouncy balls. Plus, mom didn’t have time to get me a blueberry costume and dad wouldn’t let her die a diaper bright blue so that’s good. It was bad enough I had to be a ladybug (or as PR mom tried to spin it, Mr. Bug) for Halloween. Can’t wait to see how they will humiliate me this year.

All of that said, it was another good year on Moon Lake. It is hard to believe my age has doubled since I last wrote. I’m still not potty trained but I sleep a solid 11 hours nightly. I love my afternoon naps. The whole play hard, sleep hard seems to suit me well. This past month, my car seat flipped from backwards to forwards. I now see the world whiz by me in a whole different light. I have a hunch a lot of being two will be like this—seeing the world differently. I’m looking forward to it!

Until next time,

Jake from Moon Lake

Predator Round-Up, Sea Cave Mayhem, Playing Hookie and an Unwarranted Pity Party

Newsflash: Last week I had an unwarranted pity party. It started during my 5-hour drive home from the UP after a weekend of bonding with women at a 3-day Becoming an Outdoor Woman camp (more on that experience in a different post). I left the camp recharged and excited about life. But then, I had a bout of road rage with an irrational SUV somewhere in God’s country. In the heat of the moment and cursing him out for almost running me off the road, I missed my turn. It was an important turn that resulted in my 5-hour drive being more like 6.5 hours… in a place where there is no coffee. Seriously, look at a map of coffee shops (or any shops for that matter) in the route from Big Bay, Michigan to Iron River, Wisconsin. It is dismal at best. (Although Mount Huron Bakery in Ishpeming and Marquette makes up for it… almost).

About this time, I came upon a small town where trucks lined the highway on both sides for as far as the eye could see. My heart jumped for joy believing that any winter festival that draws this many visitors, must be stocked with some fabulous food and a well-kept porta potty. Imagine my surprise when I learned at the epicenter of this UP traffic jam was dozens of dead animals hanging from a poll. It turns out this winter festival was in fact the Kenton Predator Round-Up in which sportsman harvest as many bobcat, coyote and fox over a 3 day period as possible. Despite my curiosity, I opted to not stop at Hoppy’s Bar in Kenton.

It was about this time, something in me snapped. A full-fledged pity party began. I was irritated. I missed my son. I wanted to be vacationing somewhere warm, drinking something indulgent, and sporting cute summer sandals instead of oversized fishing boots. By the time I got home, my mood had only lightened somewhat. Then I logged onto Facebook and saw friend after friend posting photos from somewhere other than here. I was instantly jealous.

This sour mood continued for a few days. And then this happened. A co-worker was connecting with me on a project and mentioned she was taking the rest of the day off to hit up the Apostle Island Mainland Sea Caves. The sun was out. Temps were above freezing. I had no pressing deadlines. So, after a few logistical phone calls, I crashed her party and checked out of work a half day early. For those of you who know me, this is unprecedented. I’m a planner. I don’t randomly use my precious vacation time for spur of the moment events. This was huge (my life is in fact this boring).

Yes, the Sea Caves were busier than they’ve ever been when I’ve been there. Yes, I was a bit appalled by the number of folks I saw talking on their cell phone or shooting selfies even though I’m totally guilty of doing at least one of these things. But, somewhere along the way my mood lightened. I discovered that my life doesn’t involve cocktails on the beach…. right now. But man I’m blessed. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say, crabby pants was squashed by the blessings in my life.
Looking back, it frustrates me that it took a day on a frozen beach to put things back into perspective. But then again, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten these great shots. And for those who missed the memo, the caves are now closed for the season. So for all those folks sipping margaritas in the blistering sun, I’ll see that margarita with a locally made mead and Mother Nature’s glory.

50 Shades of Gray

I know, lame title. But, I just saw a promo for the movie and it seemed to fit this post. I’m a visual person. Winter, while beautiful, can literally suck the life out of me. So, I’m trying to find ways to bring color and live to Moon Lake. I’ve become fascinated with birds (which will be a whole different post but I’ve determined I need to invest a small fortune in a couple of lenses first). I’m also trying nurture my black thumb. So far, I’ve managed to keep an Orchid alive for 2 months, sprout some microgreens and urge my African Violet to re-bloom. And, after almost giving up hope, my Amaryllis decided to start growing as well. If this path of success continues, I should have a flower around my 37th birthday… I shot these with my little Olympus Pen E-PL5, which I have grown to love. Anyways, I thought if you are anything like me, these shots might brighten your day. Enjoy!

The Ugly Truth: My Real Year-in-Review

stevebethThis fall I contacted the talented Hannah of Stonehouse Photo to do family photos. I envisioned a warm, sunny day along the shores of Lake Superior with vivid red maples and golden oaks gently blowing in the background creating a backdrop Hallmark would envy.

I should have known better. Instead, Lake Superior dealt up an early winter storm complete with 40 mile an hour winds whipping off the Lake pelting tiny icy shards of rain into our skin. A grey sky and thick fog camouflaged any hint of fall color. Our photo shoot lasted all of 10-minutes before we surrendered to Mother Nature and made a pact to try again next year.

If nothing else, we could at least check off laughing in the rain on the shores of Lake Superior off our bucket list. The excursion, while fleeting, pretty much sums up how much of my year went. This was a year of humbling blunders for me where things never really worked out how I anticipated. I think motherhood does that to a person. Every time I thought I had things figured out, Jake reminded me that I in fact have no clue what I’m doing.

This, coupled with balancing an unexpected (and at time unmanageable) freelance boom, job transition, relational surprises and a variety of random setbacks, made for an interesting and somewhat messy year. I won’t lie. At times it was difficult. Downright depressing, frustrating and emotionally exhausting.

This is new for me—definitely a tougher transition than I expected. I like order. I like schedules. I like making to do lists so I can check things off. Instead, I am a planner operating for the first time ever without a 5-year plan. Heck, at this moment I’d settle for a 5-week plan or actually remembering to get our daycare schedule consistently turned in on time.

If I wanted to be dishonest, this would be the part where I say but it was these moments that made the great moments that much sweeter. But, this isn’t the inside foil of a Dove chocolate folks. This is my life and this past year wasn’t that great or pretty.

But, I’m learning. I’m growing. Evolving. Discovering that perhaps for me, imperfection is quite possibly perfection in disguise. I just need to manage it a bit better.

This past year has taught me that sometimes messy is ok. The world does not in fact stop if you leave dirty dishes in the sink and instead stack blocks only to have your son sabotage your creation in an instant. Kind co-workers will in-fact pretend not to notice the handprints of oatmeal on your sleeve, the lingering smell of diaper cream on your hands despite washing them twice, or laugh in your face when you mention your need to go potty. Friends will not question your lack of logic or question your agenda as you navigate this turbulent chapter of adulthood of just figuring things out.

While complex and messy and scary at times, life really can be as simple and amazing as a great cup of coffee and 5-minutes of solitude on your deck rediscovering how lucky and blessed you truly are in life. It helps when this solitude is interrupted with a strong, genuine, unconditional bear hug and a deep belly giggle from your son. While this year was trying at times, it was less trying thanks to the amazing people I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by. They keep me grounded, remind me on the tough days that things will in fact get better, and love me for who I am. It is pretty awesome.

Most importantly, I’ve learned this year the great thing about life is it is always a work in progress and you always get another chance to get it right. So, here’s to getting it more right than wrong in 2015. Granted, I’m not exactly sure what all that will entail for me next year. Similar to last year, I have no real New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t anticipate any major self-improvements or earth shattering achievements other than continuing to do my best. I will also return to running with a goal of the Journeys Half-Marathon in Eagle River in May. I know by including this in the post, I will in fact cross the finish line. The question is can I break that 3-hour goal I set last year. As part of this, it’d be great to shed some weight and improve my overall health. Yes. I know this is a bit cliché on New Year’s but honestly, who doesn’t want to look and feel better?

Beyond that, who knows what the next 12-months or 12-minutes of life will bring. Realizing this is an achievement in itself for me. To everyone who has been a part of this past year of my life, thank you for taking this wild ride with me!