Hello 40!

yourlifeDo you honestly think a writer would let her 40th birthday pass without spewing some thoughts about the day? Here’s the thing, I’m struggling a bit to really shine in this major moment. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to interview some healthcare workers for a campaign I’m working on. During one of the interviews, someone shared a patient story about an elderly lady who said, “You know what the hardest part about being old is? That when I look in a mirror, I see a 30-year old but everyone else just sees an old lady.”

This really resonated with me not because I’m an old lady by any means, but this week I realized just how often we’re judged by our age. Not necessarily good or bad, but rather just educated on how we’re either too young or really old or in some cases both. But here’s the thing, I’m just not buying it.

I assumed given my dramatic quarter-life crisis and then thriving thirties struggle, that 40 would play out like a really bad Lifetime movie. If ever there were a year to have an existential crisis, this would be it. But, if I’m being completely honest, while I did have that brief breakdown on Pinterest in which I attempted to define my life’s meaning with inspirational quotes and unattainable Bucket List items because the pictures were pretty, it passed. In fact, it passed pretty quickly and now suddenly I’m sitting here on St. Urho’s Eve looking at middle age with a new found appreciation and perspective.


These first 40 years have been a shit storm of highs and lows that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I earned every inch of the massive crevice of a wrinkle on my forehead overcoming the obstacles thrown my way (and conquered). Those crow’s feet are the result of being blessed with amazing friends who make me laugh so hard my stomachs hurt and my face crinkles. And those stretch marks that span my waistline paved the way for the greatest achievement and challenge of my life—motherhood.

So yes, tomorrow, I turn 40. I’ll pay more for Life Insurance and modify my retirement plan. My metabolism will diminish overnight and I’ll probably spend a bit more time strength training and a little less time with chips and top the tater. But honestly, that’s about all the craziness I can squeeze out of this middle-age milestone. Because when all is said and done, I’m simply happy to be here in this moment.

If you are reading this right now, it means you have somehow played a role in my first 40-years and for that, thank you. The one piece of wisdom I have tonight is I know very little—but what I do know is that the people in my life matter. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without you. What’s equally exciting is I have never been more in the driver’s seat of my own life than right now. I’ve finally reached a place where I am confident saying I’m a work-in-progress but it is my work in progress. So here’s to a new decade and life of living on my terms and to all women who are finding it within themselves to do the same. May we all be so lucky to enjoy so many more trips around the sun.



Better for It.

dearselfAlas, another year is coming to a close. With that, comes the reflection of goals and dreams unmet in the past 365 days and the opportunity to start anew. This practice is particularly poignant for me this year given the vast number of milestones I anticipate celebrating next year. While some of these are goals, others are just a proof of mere survival, but all hold meaning to me. This includes:

  • Turning 40
  • Celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary
  • My first and only child starting kindergarten
  • Graduating with my MBA

To mark these milestones, I started surfing Pinterest several months ago looking for that perfect bucket list of items to accomplish as I sail over the hill. Many of the lists, memes, and words to live by resonated with me—so much so that I started folders and sub-folders within my Pinterest profile marking running goals, health goals, parenting goals and 40-year old bucket list goals. The laundry list of things I could do got very long quickly… While this all started out as fun, this also happened to be timed with finals, the holiday frenzy of Christmas and complications with an aging father. Needless to say, it went from fun and inspirational to gut wrenchingly impossible, very quickly. I could barely find time to shower let alone conquer the world.

It was about this time Twitter served me up this article from Harvard Business Review. This article focuses on your framework at work but I easily found this applying to my life. In my quest to keep moving forward, I had given up control of some things that really mattered to me. It was easier to keep piling things on than saying no to keep the overwhelming sense of guilt at bay. The task lists piled and life seemed to spiral out of control. As a control freak, this is a quick road to burn-out, irritability and feeling hopeless.

This past month, after hitting submit on my final paper, I took a time-out. No freelance. No schoolwork. Vacation. Reading. I spent time with friends, mailed thank you cards, and made sure I was present at Christmas. I cooked great food and drank cocktails of my choice. I didn’t bake, even when my kitchen-aid mixer glared at me for going unused during her prime season. I looked at my freelance contracts and let go of a few that were far from fulfilling. While it is hard to walk away from money, it was liberating to retake control of the small things.

And so it leads me to this post and the inevitable New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve whittled my list down (thanks to the help of a book called Grit, highly fascinating and I definitely recommend it) to just one with a few milestones to lead the way. It is cliché but as I watch some people near and dear to me struggle with health complications and saying good-bye to loved ones, it has meaning to me. And so, as I fly over the hill, my New Year’s resolution is to simply strive for a healthier and whole me.

Doing so, means saying no more. This will definitely not be the year of yes. It’ll be the year of, let me think about it and get back to you. My time and energy will be spent investing in my family, friends and frankly me. I’ll still volunteer and give back when I can, but honestly, it’ll be a lot more inward than outward this coming year.


It also means walking across a few lines. Topping the list – my first trail run. Initially, I wanted to think big, so I figured I’d do a complicated half-marathon in my neighborhood. It frankly didn’t even sound fun and to my disbelief, does not award finisher medals. After some soul searching, I thought, Why?!?!? Why set myself up to suck at something so bad?!?!?! I’ve done the whole finishing last thing so no need to repeat that chapter.

So I’ve revised that goal to a 10K at Mount Bohemia in October. Last May, I took a trip that way and really reconnected with myself. I figure what better way to celebrate that, than by crossing a finish line in that same neighborhood. I have a series of races I’ll run leading up to that, all allowing me to train in a realistic manner.

A few months later, I plan to walk at commencement. It is something I’ve never allowed myself to do and I figure after 4-college degrees, it is time. Plus, I’m somewhat confident (as is my pocketbook) that at this point, I’m done with spending thousands of dollars on a sheet of paper to confirm my self-worth. No offense to higher education but it is time to be a lifelong learner outside of the classroom.


Beyond that, there are a few other things up my sleeves but more on that to come. Bottom line is I’m ready for 40 and am just getting started. Don’t get me wrong, the self-doubt is certainly alive and well but I’ve learned that my Sisu is in fact grit and my passion is improving. So, worse case on this trail run goal, I find myself meandering through the woods of the UP during fall peak healthier than I’ve ever been before… and that’s a pretty awesome consolation prize. In the meantime, here’s a snapshot compliments of Nike of my life in the gym…

Thriving Thirties Crisis Anyone?


Another trip around the sun means I’m one step closer to the inevitable mid-life crisis that happens at 40. Or, at least that’s what I’ve been told. What baffles me, though, is nobody talks about the time between your quarter-life crisis and your mid-life crisis. That in-between time where so much happens your head spins. So this is a post about the unnamed, unknown crisis turned opportunity I’m calling the Thriving Thirties.

I was thinking this week, what a shitstorm of highs and lows, all in a decade. Ones you think you can anticipate, and in many cases long for, but society does a great job of masquerading into something else.

There is of course the biggie—my status. I went from girlfriend to fiancé to wife and now mother. Each time, I discovered my beliefs and understanding of what unconditional and unwavering love means were completely underrated. You hear about the sacrifice that comes with parenting, often when you are rolling your eyes at your parents, but experiencing it is a whole different ballgame. Talk about high highs and low lows. There really needs to be more about the tough days, because frankly I’ve never experienced something more challenging than raising a family.

My career took a backseat—something I never thought would happen. I changed jobs three times in my 30s, only to discover that while I know I want to make my mark in the world, I have no clue how to do it. Career advancement, which seemed to come so easily in my 20s, came to a screeching halt as I realized that living in a place I love, doesn’t always come with abundant economic opportunities. Guess what? I wouldn’t change a thing (other than my paycheck).

The lifelong learner in me had a near meltdown when I finally paid off my student loans and realized for the first time in 34 years I wasn’t attending or paying for continuing education. I opted to re-enroll for my 4th college degree creating a seamless transition from being a student to graduating at the same time my son enters school. And so the cycle continues.

And then there was the pursuit of happiness. Despite self-help books telling me that I could in fact wake up everyday and conquer the world and be happy, I seriously question the sanity of those so-called authors. Living the life that I want with those I want, where I want, means compromise. It means prioritizing and sacrificing and wiping boogers and changing diapers. It means long commutes, limited shopping, befriending Amazon Prime and fighting over things like uncrushed diet Mountain Dew cans scattered around the house. It means experiencing unmet dreams and acknowledging that sometimes life is bigger than your needs and wants.

Nobody warned me about the weight-gain that comes with an aging metabolism. Gone are the days of downing Dr. Pepper and munching on chips and Top the Tater while binge watching the latest season of Dawson’s Creek. Instead, I found myself hitting the pavement (literally) and crossing the finish line not once but ten times over the past six years, to barely maintain the weight gain that I’m lovingly calling my dirty thirty in honor of my attempts to do Beach Body at this size. The running highs and lows are a whole different post but if you had told me in my 20s, I’d have some of my heaviest and hardest conversations with myself wearing running shoes, I would have laughed.

My 30s did not result in endless afternoons hanging out at coffee shops chatting about the weather like the characters on Friends. Instead, it was spent scrambling to keep connections with lifelong friends on Facebook messenger and recognizing that many of those friendships would fade away, despite noble and in some cases knock down, drag down attempts to keep them. It was hard to let go at times but I find friendships now are easier—more based on common interests, shared values and day-to-day life experiences than the baggage of what you were once pegged to be.

And somewhere in all of this, I discovered that one of life’s greatest gifts arrived for me in my 30s. It frankly couldn’t have happened sooner. And, maybe I’ll change my mind after my next centennial crisis, but in this moment, I’m still a bit in awe.

I distinctly remember my quarter-life crisis. It played out like a bad after school special that left me leaving television news and moving to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. It meant abandoning bad habits, facing my demons and acknowledging that the person I was trying to be, wasn’t me. But, then my 30s hit and I discovered that instead of trying to be someone or something, I could instead, just be me.

Better yet, I could embrace it. There’s something empowering about grabbing life and saying, I’m good enough. I wake up everyday and I do my best. Frankly, that’s enough. It may mean 175% some days or surviving on others. And that’s ok, despite the self-help books saying otherwise. It isn’t that I don’t care. It isn’t that I don’t embrace life and all of its complexities and know all too well that we never know when our ticket is going to come up. Instead, it is acknowledging that some of the best things in life happen, when you just let them be.

So in a long winded way, I discovered I know less in my 30s than my 20s. But this I know. At times I’m irritable and unbearable and cranky. I’m stubborn like my mother. I’m a bit odd. I crave meaningful connections but am an introvert. I love to try new things like roasting coffee and buying obscure plants that have no chance of survival (banana plants anyone) because it is fun to try and fail. I run races with mediocre times and battle the bulge, while still finding a way to love myself even though health blogs and beauty magazines tell me I’m obese. I tell really bad jokes and most times, people can’t even tell if I’m joking. I’m inpatient. I’m independent. I’m loyal. And the best thing is, all of this could change in a heartbeat because the thing I know most, is I’m a constant work-in-progress and that’s what makes me, me.

The Economics of Time

Let’s be frank. It isn’t on my side right now. I find myself caught in-between trying to keep up with the day-to-day, while struggling to find new and exciting goals to be excited about this year. It is an odd place for me to be right now, but I’m starting to think this may become my new normal.

I was listening to a Planet Money podcast last week, in which the economics of love was the focus. It is a pretty entertaining, and frankly informative episode. In it, the conversation around love being in abundance came up and yet many of us (myself included) choose to limit our love to one partner.

The economist cited a Nobel Prize winning economist’s theory about the finite complexities of time and how it is a valuable resource for all. Later on in the discussion, the notion of being with something that’s good enough removes the time for you to experience or pursue something that could be really amazing.

This really hit home. At the time, I was border line burned out due to a number of events colliding at the same time. Each day, I’d wake up and go through my to do list and find a way to cram it all in, but I was missing the luxury of just enjoying life. I realized that while project management is great, equally as great is just saying no.

This past week I stepped down from a committee I wasn’t passionate about and passed on a great freelance gig because frankly, money isn’t and cannot be everything. I scaled back from a half-marathon to a 10K. I got excited about a bathroom remodel project, only to step back and put it on-hold. At first, I was pretty bummed out. Frankly, I felt like a borderline failure. But, then I realized that by saying no to these things, I was making room for things like planting a garden with Jake and reading a novel on my deck and even continuing the Tuesday night fitness classes. That while I may not be running a half-marathon this spring, that doesn’t mean I can’t do the Shamrock Shuffle followed by a 1k with Jake—both of which sound a lot more fun. Sure, I want a new bathroom. But, I also want my sanity.

I have an abundance of hobbies. An endless checklist of items I want to do in the here and now because frankly, we don’t know when our time is up. But, in my haste to make the most of each day, my time to do more of what I love is getting squished out.

I never thought economics would remind me of that. Nor, did I think a Planet Money Podcast would make me pause and re-evaluate the time-space continuum. But, I’m really glad it did.


And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln

As I look back on the past year, my head and heart ache a bit. It was a whirlwind year filled with incredible highs and some tough lows. But, it was also a lesson in resiliency.

I’m not one much for ringing in the New Year. This year was no exception, other than at 12:01 am I was awoken to the sounds of my son heaving. Mopping the floor and soaking my son’s puke-filled Superman footie pajamas, I couldn’t help but think what an ironic way to ring in a New Year. This trend continued for much of the night. But, come morning, my son awoke with his usual zest for life with a desire to wrestle, be pulled around our lake on a sled and eat crackers and juice while wrestling with dad. Just like that, he bounced back.

My son’s resiliency always ceases to amaze me. But, it isn’t just him. This past year, I’ve watched some friends and colleagues suffer illness and loss that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. And, they’ve done it with such grace. When asked how, they simply say, you’d do the same. But would I? I’m not so sure.

Past experience has taught me New Year’s resolutions don’t work for me. But, that doesn’t stop me from hoping the coming year will find me being more resilient when things happen. That I will find ways to bounce back versus letting them consume me. To recognize that even while mopping up puke while millions ring in the New Year with champagne, I am in fact truly blessed. After all, for years all I wanted was to be mom. And, I am. That’s just one of many blessings I need to appreciate.

A girlfriend recently got a t-shirt that reads, perfectly imperfect. I totally want it. It sums up my life and well me. This coming year, I hope to improve upon a few things beyond just being resilient. Some I’m just not quite ready to share here. But, I hope to do so with a bit of grace and understanding that I’m a work in progress and that’s frankly ok, partly because of all of the amazing people that have chosen and continue to be an integral part of my life. I couldn’t do any of this without them. Likely, if you are still reading this post, that includes you. So thank you. I wish for you in the coming year joy and excitement and should life throw you curveballs, the resilience you need to power on.

Happy New Year-

So much of the same

I realized I hadn’t checked in lately. If you have a moment, grab this month’s issue of Northern Gardener. I did a column about apples – which may not sound super exciting at first. But, if you are all into the economics behind the price of an apple or wondered why there are so many variations of apples in the store, you might enjoy it. I’ll try to post a copy of it as well sometime soon.

I meant to post on the 15th anniversary of September 11. But, I was flying to Chicago and time got away from me. So I’ll share a bit of that now. I think we all remember where we were that day when the planes struck. We all have our own story – our own memories – our own truth of that day. For me, I was working on my MA in Broadcast Journalism and had actually left the newsroom for my morning class at UWS in broadcast journalism. The topic that day happened to be breaking news. My teacher and mentor Mike Simonson was talking about the first crash that had happened right before class as an example. At the time we didn’t know the magnitude. He turned on the Today Show to demonstrate how well (or in his mind how sensational network news was becoming, given he was a public radio guy), when we watched the second plane hit live. It was a surreal moment to share in that class. We ended it and I immediately headed back to the newsroom where I spent the next few days attempting to connect what was happening to ties in the Northland while still giving viewers the weather and sports they wanted to hear. At the time, I was convinced that I’d finish my degree and climb the corporate newsroom ladder, landing in some mid-to-larger market as a newsroom executive.

It is crazy to think how that definitely did not happen. I finished my degree with my grad thesis focused around female news managers and how they find a work-life balance. The only thing that solidified was that this career path probably wasn’t right for me. I left news soon after that. Fast forward to today and life is very different but in many ways the same.

This fall I started school again. On the anniversary of 9/11, I was busy studying a different topic but with the same passion for learning as always. This time, I’m pursuing an MBA in Rural Healthcare to hopefully land in a more operational position so I can work to help my friends and neighbors access care in rural communities. It is a cause I care deeply about and want to play an active role in improving. But, it comes at a time when I’m already struggling to balance my time between an aging father, being a new mom, working full-time, a growing freelance business and enjoying time with my hubby. Add in my much needed desire for me time to stay sane and well I have a hunch the next few years will be interesting, potentially rocky and a bit chaotic. But, no matter how I slice it, definitely worth it. And at the end of the day, isn’t living a perfectly imperfect world better than not taking risks? Stay tuned for more updates as I embark on life as a Saint (AKA CSS student).

So that’s the latest from Moon Lake. The leaves are just starting to change and I look forward to sharing some shots soon. This weekend we’ll be attending yet another fall festival and hopefully harvesting apples with Jake so he can make his first batch of Apple Crisp. Should make for a yummy but messy weekend.

Happy Harvesting-

Wild, Free and Three!


Hey folks – it is me Jake of Moon Lake stealing mom’s blog again because in just a few days I’ll be 3. I can’t believe another year has passed. That’s 1/3 of my life folks! It has been another year of whirlwind adventure.

Since writing last, I’ve taken up a new hobby. Talking. A lot. I often hear friends and family say wow, he’s talking so much more. I’m a bit bewildered by how surprised they are—after all, I have a lot of important information to share.

Did you know I’m a superhero who can also fly planes? Mom got me a batman cape. Then daycare got me a cape. And mom and dad found three capes at a garage sale for $1. Can you believe that? Anyways, I pretty much wear them everywhere I go. I definitely prefer being Batman but will fill-in as Robin or Superman if needed. I primarily leave those roles for my friends at daycare, though.

Yep. I’m still a full-time daycare kid. And yep, I’m still not potty trained. I did pee once on-demand for mom when she asked. But I did it on the floor instead of in the toilet. I needed to make a point. Not sure what that point is but I made it anyway. I’m sure I could be potty trained if I wanted to be but I like to keep mom and dad humble. So those two things haven’t changed much in the past year.

Mom and dad have to work harder to limit something called screen time for me. I don’t mind. I’d much rather be outside practicing my baseball swing or attempting to drown myself in Moon Lake. But sometimes when I’m really tired, I like to veg out in front of a few episodes of Super Why or Batman. Dad even let me watch the 60’s version of Batman. Since sharks are all the rage right now, the scene where a shark eats Batman’s leg is particularly entertaining.

I also find snacking on string cheese, crackers and watermelon while watching television quite satisfying. It used to be applesauce but mom put a stop to that saying something about needing new furniture. In my mind, I’m telling her you’re welcome since I know that’s just an excuse for her to buy stuff.

Speaking of buying stuff, my belongings are still primarily the product of garage sales and daycare friends. My entire wardrobe was pretty much worn by my buddy Nolan first. But, mom and dad keep saying the money is going towards my college fund instead so I guess I’m ok with that. Although, mom also talks about how I’m going to be QB1 or the next Steve Jobs… both of which are unlikely. I mean, have you seem my gene pool?

All of that said, mom and dad did make an effort this past year to show me there is life outside of Smiling Faces Daycare and Moon Lake Estates. I spent a lot of time with fish at the aquarium, hanging with family at the green cabin, exploring new trails, eating at new restaurants and flying jets at an air show. I also caught my first fish at take your kid fishing day… and it was a BIG one. It is so special it keeps getting bigger every time I talk about it. Dad has taken me out to a lot of timber sales where I get to play on super large, cool machinery. Mom stresses about that and instead takes me to bookstores and regular kid playgrounds. I don’t mind, though. She’s at least trying.

I’m still growing but not nearly as fast. I weight in at a solid 38 pounds and have passed the 3-foot marker. I survived my first cleaning at the dentist and am cavity free. Oh, and I managed to pick up and give strep and a number of other spreadable diseases to mom and dad. I do love to share. But, I’m healthy and happy.


That’s the latest from Moon Lake. I’m not sure what comes next other than the promise of multiple cakes and cupcakes. Maybe some more toys. Hanging with mom and dad. Making new friends. Seeing new places. I’d say all in all, life is good on Moon Lake folks.

Until next time-
Jake from Moon Lake