Soul in the Season: Favorite Tastes

Roasted turkey with perfectly-moist-yet-just-a-little-crispy dressing (or do you call it stuffing?) piled high on your Thanksgiving plate…that first bite of silken pumpkin pie with fluffy whipped cream dolloped on top…left-over turkey sandwiches the next day with a smear of cranberry sauce, for that perfect bite of bittersweet goodness…

These are some of the most beloved tastes of Fall (perhaps a little Thanksgiving-centric, but we can’t help it! It’s less than a week away!). Today we share with you some of our other favorite (non-Thanksgiving-centric) Autumn tastes…

Soul in the Season Favorite Tastes

From Wisconsin…

Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, fresh out of the oven

Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins


A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte #PSL (Mmmmm…too good to resist!)


From Michigan…

Creamy pumpkin soup (My Mom taught me the pumpkin soup recipe she always uses, which is based on one found in the More With Less cookbook. Pssst! My secret is to swirl a little Sriracha hot sauce and a dash of cinnamon in it just before serving for the perfect kick of hot and sweet. So Delicious!)

Pumpkin Soup


Pierogis (This was one of the first dishes Drew and I ever cooked together. He shared his family recipe with me, from his Mom’s Polish family side, while we were dating, and it has become a fall tradition to make several batches from scratch.)


What are your favorite tastes of Fall?



A Mediocre Mom, Part 2

Please note: Today’s post is a continuation of A Mediocre Mom, Part 1.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked by my post-partum depression diagnosis, considering what had been going on in our lives over the past year—what with raising an infant, both of us undergoing job changes, moving twice, experiencing another high-risk pregnancy, learning of Drew’s Dad’s cancer diagnosis and Lily’s hip dysplasia diagnosis—in retrospect (oh, that beautiful hindsight!), I should’ve been expecting it.

I recognized that I had been feeling overwhelmed in general by life, and that even though I loved my daughters so much my heart hurt, I was having a hard time just…settling down and enjoying them. The days felt long and never-ending, and Drew was left with the brunt of my pent-up frustration.

He would call to tell me that he’d be an hour late getting home from work one day, for instance, and it felt as if my entire world had come crashing down around me.

Red flag?


Still, I was actually surprised that my OB-GYN was so serious about my “condition”.

And I was ashamed. Because post-partum depression—in my mind, at that time—meant another “failure”.

It meant I couldn’t handle being a mother.

These self-deprecating thoughts came before I began to understand, of course, that motherhood isn’t something to be graded: that Mom over there gets an “A” because she volunteered in the classroom! Oh, and that one…she totally gets an “F” because she didn’t sign up to bring treats even once this year!”

Like most things in life, motherhood isn’t black and white—success or failure.

(I know there are exceptions to this generalization. There are, in fact, neglectful—or worse—Moms out there that are certainly not putting their children first.)

But I’m talking about the majority of the population. I’m talking about you, and me, and our friends and family members—most of the people we know—Moms who love their kids more than anything, more than we ever thought it was possible to love someone.

We strive to do the next right thing, but we sometimes make mistakes. We sometimes yell. We sometimes hand our kids our iPads or turn on the TV instead of getting down there on the floor with them to play a game. We sometimes go through that McDonald’s drive-thru for Happy Meals because making dinner with the ambiance of screaming and fighting in the background seems like just a little more than we can handle right now.

We do our best. Even if our best isn’t always the best.

We show up for the job.

Every day.

Even when we don’t want to.

Or feel like we can’t.

We do it anyway.

And what starts out as just doing the next right thing to get through your day is often transformed into moments of pure joy when those little arms circle around your neck and their tiny lips kiss your cheek.

A Mediocre Mom Part 2

The anti-depressant my OB-GYN prescribed did help, eventually, as it built up in my system. There came a point in time when just emptying the dishwasher didn’t feel completely overwhelming. A point in time when I didn’t direct every ounce of my anger and frustration at my husband. A point in time when I didn’t cry when Lucy dumped out the entire toybox for the third time that day.

A point in time when it felt like a fog had lifted. When I could breathe again.

I never pictured myself as someone who’d experience post-partum depression (then again, who does?), but when I saw the look in my doctor’s eyes that day in the exam room, I knew something wasn’t right. She knew me too well. She’d been my doctor through the nearly four years of infertility, and now through two-high risk pregnancies.

She knew. She knew the road I’d been traveling, and she recognized my weariness. She knew that just one. more. thing. on top of ALL THE THINGS that had happened would probably be my undoing.

Thank God for her.

And thank God for Prozac.

In January, when Lily was 3 months old, I went back to work full-time. A friend and former colleague of mine had approached me about an interaction design position, and I was really excited to be a part of the design team.

I worked at that gig for about 2 years…until the product launched and the design work began to wind down.

Even though that time was quite rewarding on a professional level, I was working so much that I felt I was missing out on a lot of things going on with my still-so-young daughters. We’d have to leave the house not long after they awoke just to get to the office on time, and by the time we got home at night, everyone (adults included) was cranky.

Rinse, repeat.

That was the trade-off.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the world-renowned author of Eat, Pray, Love, argues against that word that I called a fallacy in Part 1 of my Mediocre Mom post—against the quest for so-called “balance” in our lives. I’ll quote her exactly here because she states her point so much more eloquently than I could ever hope to:

“We are constantly being told that we should be achieving balance — that we should somehow exquisitely be negotiating the relationships between our work lives, our home lives, our romantic lives, our health and well-being, our spiritual selves. You can’t read an interview with a famous woman these days that the journalist does not applaud her for having achieved BALANCE….and then if you turn the pages of that magazine, you will find ten more articles showing how you can achieve balance. too!

Be careful. The word BALANCE has tilted dangerously close, I fear, to the word PERFECT — another word that women use as weapons against themselves and each other. To say that someone has found the secret to a balanced life is to suggest that they have solved life, and that they now float through their days in a constant state of grace and ease, never suffering stress, ambivalence, confusion, exhaustion, anger, fear, or regret. Which is a wonderful description of nobody, ever.”

I share this quote with you for a reason. To demonstrate that the grass isn’t necessarily greener in someone else’s configuration of motherhood.

I feel pretty lucky that I’ve gotten to “try out” a few different motherhood configurations, mostly because of the education it’s given me (though I am obviously still a fledgling) regarding the universal struggles of mothers.

What I’d like to share with you about what I’ve learned so far—you, the Mom lamenting not being able to stay home with your child for a snow day because of that really important work meeting you can’t miss today…or you, the Mom still feeling bad about not signing up to bring treats for the Halloween party at school because everyone at your house was sick the week leading up to it— is that in every configuration of motherhood I’ve tried, I’ve always, always felt like I was failing at this “job” in some way or another.

Whether it was not contributing “enough” financially to our family, or spending less time with my kids, or being unable to find the right rhythm to that irregular schedule.

I’ve likely tried that configuration of motherhood you’re yearning so much for. The one you think that—once you get there—you’ll finally feel balanced.

Here’s something that all motherhood configurations have in common: none of them—not one—leaves you feeling that way: balanced. Each configuration has trade-offs, and something will always be lacking.

In fact, balance is, by nature, at odds with the very concept of motherhood.

You start your day—disoriented and fuzzy-headed—with the demands of your three-year-old who “wants Cheerios in the red bowl with the drinky-straw right NOW!” or with the unpleasant task of trying to awaken your pre-teen SEVEN times before they’ll actually get up and get moving already.

Your very day—your EVERY day—begins off-kilter, off-BALANCE, as you try to get those little soldiers regimented, to FALL IN, the way they’re supposed to.

And that sought-after balance is never quite achieved, because life can’t be predicted.

As soon as you think you’ve gotten into that groove—like the one I confided in Kate about several weeks ago—LIFE HAPPENS, and something knocks you off-kilter again.

Pop quiz time!

Q. What’s the one thing that all mothers have in common?

A. Guilt! Loads and loads of internal, soul-anguishing, keep-you-up-at-night guilt surrounding whether or not each minuscule decision you make is in the best interest of your child(ren).

Guilt. It’s an inherently Mom thing. We can’t escape it.

But let’s try not to embrace it, either.

I want to remind myself that I will have those days (or perhaps only hours, minutes…) where I totally feel “in the groove” as a Mom. And then I’ll have those days (or perhaps only hours, minutes…) where I’m flailing around like a freakin’ maniac…struggling to figure out how to “make it work”.

I will have days where I’ll feel like a Mediocre Mom…and that’s okay.

Let’s re-visit the word mediocre for a second. Although some definitions or synonyms of the word may differ slightly, the one below is what I’m going to try  to embrace more often—rather than guilt—during moments when motherhood seems to be totally kicking my ass.

mediocre [mee-dee-oh-ker]

(adjective) of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad

synonyms: undistinguished, passable, commonplace, everyday, run-of-the-mill

Because some days, even “passable” is pretty darn good.

Soul in the Season: This “Feels” Like Fall

As I write this, there is a good 6 inches of snow on the ground outside my office window. Admittedly, right this minute, it doesn’t “feel” that much like Fall anymore. But we’re not ready to say good-bye to it just yet. According to the calendar, we still have about a month left of this wonderful season, and we’re going to make the most of it!

This week we’re sharing some of the things that “feel” (the sensory experience of touch) most like Fall to us….

SIS_Feels Like Fall

From Wisconsin…

Pumpkin guts during pumpkin carving

Pumpkin guts

Comfy sweatshirts and jeans

Sweatshirts and jeans

From Michigan…

Being cuddled up on the couch with cozy slippers and a favorite blanket

Slippers and a Down Throw

Holding a hot cup of tea in your hands

Cup of Tea

What does Fall “feel” like to you?

A Mediocre Mom, Part 1

Mediocre Mother

Several weeks ago I confided to Kate that I thought I was starting to “find my groove” as a stay-at-home Mom (SAHM for those unaware of the acronym).

Many of you know from past posts (or just knowing me in “real” life) that I was laid-off from my job in mid-August of this year. My husband Drew and I decided, when that happened, that this was my chance to really attempt the whole stay-at-home Mom thing again (yes, again—more on that later).

“I feel like something has just changed!” I exclaimed to Kate over the phone. “I don’t wake up worrying so much about the day and how things will play out. I’m just enjoying my time with the girls more—and yelling less!”


Silly me for saying those words out loud.

Silly me for thinking this feeling—of perhaps having figured out some “secret formula” to Mommydom— would last.

Because, seriously, it wasn’t even a week later when I admitted tearfully to Kate: “Sooo…remember what I said earlier about the whole SAHM thing? About thinking I found my groove? Yeah, um…scratch that. I am definitely NOT in anything that even remotely resembles a groove right now.”

In the blink of an eye, my somewhat calm and relatively drama-free days with my daughters had turned into a constant quagmire of fighting, yelling, crying, and whining. I felt like the girls were constantly at each other’s throats, and after the 16th time-out of the day, I was—for lack of a more apt phrase— completely losing my shit.

A lot.

I’m ashamed to admit that “out loud”.

The yelling…oh the yelling. As if the louder my voice was the more they would understand how desperately I needed their cooperation at that moment.

But I should know by now—scratch that, I do know by now, inherently, even if I can’t always put it into practice—that yelling only escalates the situation…adds on a new level of chaos and frustration.

So, yeah. I am failing at the stay-at-home Mom gig, and I’m not even to the 3-month mark yet.

Where’s my medal? (You know, the Mediocre Mom award? And that’s probably being generous.)

Seriously, though, in the back of my mind I just keep wondering…when will I ever feel like I am really thriving as a mother?

Because I’ve been all “types”, really.

a full-time working Mom…

a part-time working Mom…

a full-time stay-at-home Mom during the day with a job on the side…

a full-time stay-at-home Mom…

When my oldest daughter Lucy was born, I went back to work part-time in my marketing communications role at an educational non-profit organization.  I really loved this particular Motherhood configuration. I was in the office Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and home with my baby girl Tuesdays and Fridays. The organization was one that was actually supportive of part-time positions—which is not easy to find in many professional positions and organizations. It was a great mix of feeling fulfilled doing meaningful work that matched my skills while still allowing me some quality one-on-one time at home with my daughter.

A nice “balance” (as they say).

Except that “balance” (as it applies to motherhood) is a fallacy.

Because even in this particular configuration, I often felt like I was drowning. The amount of work for a part-time role never seems to quite line-up with being part-time itself. In my experience, you always feel like you’re playing catch-up (what did I miss on Tuesday? So and so did WHAT?), and then you start to wonder: is this even worth it? I’m making less money, but I feel like I’m trying to squeeze full-time work into fewer days without being compensated for it.

And then there’s the matter of schedule. We all know children thrive on routines, and when you work one day, are off one day, then work the next day, it can really throw you and your little one(s) for a loop.

I worked in that part-time role until Lucy was about 10 months old. At that time, Drew had found a job in the aerospace industry—at the same company his Dad had worked at for 30+ years. It seemed like a great opportunity, so when he accepted the job offer, I resigned from my job, we put our house on the market, and we half-moved down to Kalamazoo…living in Drew’s parents’ basement temporarily until our house sold and we could find a place down there to buy.

During this time, we agreed that I wouldn’t look for another job outside the home. I had been teaching college writing classes online before Lucy was born, and so I took on two courses for the winter/spring semester. We figured I’d spend my days taking care of Lucy, then grade papers, moderate discussions, post lectures, etc. in the evenings and on weekends.

Hoo boy. THAT was one of the longest semesters of my life. A month after we moved to Kalamazoo, we found out I was pregnant with Lily. I was battling exhaustion and morning sickness during those early days of the pregnancy while chasing a toddler around all day and then logging on in my “free time” to be all academic and whatnot.

Which was just a wee bit challenging. (This thing called pregnancy brain? I swear it’s real.) I felt like I wasn’t even able to form coherent thoughts, let alone produce thought-provoking lectures, discussion questions, and formative feedback on students’ writing assignments.

The semester ended in May, and somehow through all of that, I survived. Drew’s job, however, wasn’t really working out. He was hired to help manage a project for the COMAC C919, which kept being delayed.

And then there was our house. It wasn’t selling. And the market was so bad at the time that it was becoming clear that we’d take a pretty big loss on it when it did sell.

One night, we sat down after putting Lucy to bed, and it hit us like a ton of bricks: What the hell are we doing here? This job of Drew’s isn’t panning out. Our house isn’t selling. I’m going nuts being pregnant and trying to keep a toddler busy all day in my in-laws’ basement. Let’s just…move back.

Go home.

And so we did. Drew was able to find a job back closer to home, and in early June, we moved back. I was done teaching for a while. I didn’t sign up to teach summer classes, because I was, well…exhausted, and I also wasn’t scheduled to teach the fall semester, because Lily was due to arrive in mid-October.

So, from June to December of that year, I was fully a SAHM without any other obligations. I really enjoyed those months with Lucy before Lily joined us, but it was one of the hottest summers I can remember, and I was high-risk and hugely pregnant and having a hard time keeping up with her.

Then, just after Lily arrived in October, we found out about Drew’s Dad’s cancer diagnosis. A dark cloud hung over those months as we waited to hear what the next steps were for him.

Add to that Lily’s diagnosis of hip dysplasia and having to meet with specialists who were making MY BABY wear a brace the first three months of her life…and KA-BOOM! Everything seemed to explode out of me onto the floor of the OB-GYN’s examination room during my check-up as she “tested” me for post-partum depression.

She prescribed me an anti-depressant immediately and told me it was essential I take them.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of a Mediocre Mom…

Soul in the Season: Favorite Sounds

Trick-or-treaters excitedly chattering and giggling outside your front door…an extra-blustery gust of late autumn wind rattling your windows…the familiar hum of family and friends’ voices gathered indoors with mugs of something warm to drink in their hands…

These are just a few of the sounds of autumn that bring contentment and joy to our hearts. Here are a few more of our favorite sounds of the season from this past week…

Soul in the Season: Favorite Sounds

From Wisconsin…

Crunching leaves underfoot

Leaves in the Woods

Football on TV

football on tv

From Michigan…

The whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of  raking leaves into piles


The crack and roll of acorns falling from giant oak trees


What are your favorite sounds of the season?

The Price to Pay

“So let me get this straight….you just built this house exactly how you wanted it and now you’re going to sell it?”

It’s a question we get all of the time and, if I’m being honest, it’s a question I dread, because I’m never quite sure how to answer it.

It’s a hard one to explain because unless you’ve  been lucky enough (haha, luckythat might not be the best choice of words) to hear all of our thoughts and ponderings and considerations of alternatives over the last year and a half, I’m not sure how I can explain it in less than 30-minutes.

The answer we usually give is an enthusiastic “Yes! We’re dreaming of a farm!”

But that’s only part of the answer.

The full answer is so much more complicated than that.

January 2012

I sit in the passenger seat while Collin drives. It’s mid morning, the boys are at his mom’s, and I’ve been cleared to leave work for a couple of hours. On the county road between our home and the place we are now staying, a semi pulls out in front of us; on his trailer is a backhoe.

“There he is.” Collin says to me.

My heart instantly starts racing and tears flood my vision.  I’m not ready for this.

We follow the backhoe down these familiar back roads and I look up at Collin, “I feel like I’m in a funeral procession.”

The rig pulls into our driveway and we park as quickly as we can—we know Jim and he’s a no-bullshit kind of guy—there will be no lollygagging when the machine comes off that trailer, he’ll get right down to business, but before he does we want to pull the chest from Grandpa Bruske out of the basement. It’s heavily damaged, but with a little love we might be able to bring it back to life.

Collin wiggles through the broken out basement windows, and he and his dad somehow manage to pull the large antique piece of furniture out. Just as they set it down on the lawn we hear the first loud boom.

I stand motionless for several minutes. I had hoped for a moment of silence before this began, but that was not to be, we’re here and this is happening. Bundled in a gray hat and scarf that my mom rummaged out of her closet, my new (to me) Columbia jacket hangs open (my pregnant belly is just big enough to prevent me from zipping it). There is a thin layer of snow on the ground, and with each movement the backhoe leaves his mark on the earth. It’s cold and I’m so thankful that people have given me these items to wear.

Our house is tan, light brown in color, but the tops of the few remaining walls are scorched, charred black streaks run jig jagged down their upper portion—evidence of the hot, hot flames that ravaged the place just a few weeks earlier. I watch as the scoop of the machine raises high in the air and then comes crashing down on the very little that’s left of our first home. Cloth diapers spill out of the dresser that was still standing in our bedroom, bags of sweet corn and frozen apples appear in the wreckage from our freezer, and few pictures and pages of otherwise ruined books litter the walkway.  It doesn’t take the backhoe very long….four large dumpsters later and life as we knew has been completely erased.

The fire took our home, our cat,  and all of our personal belongings…but it did not take our hope.

We all survived, our dog survived, and the baby in my belly was showing no signs of distress. We took solace in these things and trusted that God had a bright future planned for us.

Over 2-lb burritos (no joke!) in a little restaurant downtown Collin and I decided that we would rebuild.  We would rebuild our home and our life, bit by bit. I had a job that I loved, one that was steady and reliable, even if it required long hours. Collin’s work was less steady but came with more flexibility. The two were a perfect combination.

With the knowledge of what wasn’t working in the old house we rebuilt a home that works for us. When we started out we had no intention of building a “dream house” but we realize now that’s exactly what we did.  We built our dream house. One that allows us plenty of space to entertain and enough room to raise three little (but soon enough big) boys.  One that we could add more children to in the future if we wanted.

“We have a realtor coming to look at our house tonight.” Lori, our (amazing) cleaning lady had just gotten here and was rummaging through the supply cabinet.

“No! You are not moving…” and then her eyes brightened “you’re building a new house aren’t you?”

It took me several minutes but I gave her the shortened, condensed version of our long-winded story. I didn’t cry but the tears were right there, as they usually are, when I talk about this.

She looked at me with mothering eyes and shook her head “It’s okay.” She told me,  “Plans change.”

She summed up in two words what we’ve been trying, but fumbling, to explain over the past several months.

Plans Change.

We had no idea when we rebuilt our life around my income and Collin’s schedule that in the future I would no longer love my job—some days I wouldn’t even like it. I didn’t anticipate how much my heart would ache when I sent them off to school, for the first time in the care of someone other than family, and they would cling to me at drop off. If they were not all out crying there were always tears and fear in their eyes. They wanted nothing more then their Mama and I wanted nothing more than to whisper “I’ll be back soon, you’ll have fun.” But I couldn’t say that because I wouldn’t be back soon. It would be all day and into the evening before we would see each other again.With tears in everyone’s eyes, each morning I had to go, I had to pry them off of me so I could get to work.  I had to leave the one (three) things that fuel me and give purpose to my days to go to the one thing that drains me, physically and mentally each day, and when I come home at night I am exhausted, I have nothing left in me to give.

We also had no idea that being the “default” parent would leave Collin unfulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, he is an amazing father who is so hands-on with the boys. He has more patience with them then I could ever dream of, but Collin is a workaholic. His drive and passion comes from working. When he comes home after a long day of physical labor, as tired as he may be, he gets down and plays with the boys, he helps with homework, he wrestles them and makes them laugh. He has even more to give because his days have been fueled by the thing he loves.

When we stepped back and took an honest look at our life it clearly screamed to us “What are you doing?? You’ve got this backwards!!”

But it’s not as easy as just switching places.

The hard truth is, we can’t have the life we dream of and also have the house of our dreams.

price you pay

Mark came out last week. He is a long-time friend of Collin’s and has a passion for real estate. Nothing of what he told us came as a surprise: there isn’t a huge market for this type of house but there are specific buyers. I don’t want you to be discouraged, but this might not sell in one season. These are the things I think you should have done before listing it.

Despite this, we walked away feeling more encouraged than discouraged; we’ve always known the challenges we would face if we decided to sell. We were not thrown for a loop but instead felt confident that our initial thoughts were right on the mark. We felt good about our decision to have him come out and motivated by what he had to say.

Despite the generally good feelings we were having, that night as we put the boys to bed I started snapping at everyone.

“What’s wrong?” Collin asked me.

“I’m just stressed out.  I’m stressed out.” I didn’t even try to make myself stay awake through the bedtime routine, I knew all I wanted in that moment was to go to sleep. I wanted my brain (and my heart) to stop thinking (and feeling).

I woke up at 4 am the next morning, up early to finish the boys’ Halloween costumes, I wrapped my robe around me and came out to the living room to stoke the fire. It was quiet and I was alone—I love this time in the morning. As I sat down on the couch I felt the first tear slip down my cheek, and before I knew it I was crying.

I wasn’t stressed, I was sad.

I love this house. I don’t want to leave it. Collin and his dad put all of their sweat and energy and love into building our first home and six years later put all of their sweat and energy and love into building our second home. This place, our house, our land, this spot on the earth that we’ve lived now for nine years is full of so many memories and joy and excitement. It’s also full of a lot of pain and difficulties and hurt, but it’s all of this combined that makes it so special.  It’s all of these emotions entwined that makes me love this place so much.

I know which thing I want more—the shot at the life of our dreams or the house of our dreams—but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy choice to make.

Soul in the Season: Favorite Smells

Apple crisp baking in the oven…soup simmering on the stovetop…wood burning in the fireplace…these are some of the most treasured scents of the season.

Now, here are some of the favorite smells we’ve experienced this past week…

Soul in the Season Smells

From Wisconsin…

Pot roast simmering in the crockpot

Pot Roast in the Crockpot

A mug of warm spiced apple cider

spiced apple cider


From Michigan…

Pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven


Baked sugar pumpkins, all ready to puree for pumpkin soup


What have been your favorite smells this autumn?

The Crack in the Windshield

There’s a crack in my windshield.

It started as a tiny divot in the glass, where a piece of gravel made contact after flying from the back of a truck during my morning commute (back when I had one). This chip in the glass occurred…oh…probably three or four months ago now?

After a month or so of ignoring it, a little crack began to creep its way from the left side of the divot, inching toward the driver’s side of the van.

“We need to call our insurance guy and see what our deductible is, then have it replaced,” Drew and I would murmur to each other from time to time.

But, as with most things these days, following through on that task fell to the bottom of the priority list.

Last week, after additional neglect, the crack suddenly bolted its way across the expanse of windshield—most likely from a combination of moisture and cooler temperatures mixed with another warm-up.

We couldn’t even pinpoint the exact time it happened—it was that quick. Was it before or after dropping the girls off at preschool? Or possibly the night before?

Nobody saw it happen, but all of a sudden, there it was: visible evidence of not properly maintaining our vehicles.

Fast forward to late Friday afternoon.

We were about 15 minutes into our drive—on our way to Kalamazoo to pick up Drew’s Mom (Babcia) to bring her up to our place for the weekend—when it started.

First, I felt short of breath. I turned up the fan on the passenger side of the van and tried to deepen my breathing, hoping it would help.

Next, my hands started to shake, my fingers tingled, and when I looked down at my hands to witness this strange occurrence, I noticed my vision was blurred.

My heart started racing.

I couldn’t catch my breath.

The highway outside the windshield looked distorted—as if I were viewing it through a funhouse mirror.

“Something’s wrong with me,” I said aloud, turning to Drew in a panic.

“What?” he said, looking at me as if I were crazy.

“I don’t know what’s happening, “ I replied, trying to get across in my tone—even though I couldn’t really control it—that I wasn’t playing around. “But I can’t breathe, and everything is blurry, and…”

I started to sob.

(Which didn’t help my breathing.)


Holy shit, I thought. I’m dying. I’m literally dying right now, here in the car…of a heart attack or something. I don’t know what.  I’m going to die.

Then, an idea struck me. I had skipped lunch…it was probably just low blood sugar.

I reached my shaking hand out to Drew, asking if I could take a drink of the Coke he’d bought at the gas station we’d stopped at on our way out of town.

I took a long swig, and the cold liquid felt wonderful on my throat. I took another one. I kept trying to take deep breaths. I turned down the temperature and the fan up even more.

What was WRONG with me?

If you were following my Facebook feed this weekend, you would see no account of the event I just described. You’d see happy, smiley pictures of pumpkin patching, Chuck E. Cheesing, birthday cake eating, birthday present opening, and leaf-pile jumping.

All of those fun activities happened, of course. And, yes, we had a lot of fun!

But this other thing also happened. And it haunted me the entire time, like a veil clouding the view of the wonderful sights in front of me.

I so badly wanted to see everything clearly—without muddled vision. I wanted to be able to fully immerse myself in the fun.

But in the periphery, I could see the darkness hovering, trying to creep its way back in—looking for an opening.

After Googling the symptoms of what happened, Drew and I think I experienced some sort of panic attack. From what I’ve read, panic attacks occur spontaneously, but usually to people who are under enormous amounts of stress.

My first thought after reading those words was: “But that doesn’t describe me right now: ‘enormous amounts of stress’. I mean, I’m not working outside the home anymore. My Mom helps me with watching the girls three days a week so that I can focus on writing or household tasks. I should be less stressed now than I’ve been in the past few years, actually.”

But then I continued to ponder our lives right now…

Drew’s extra hours at the office over the past month…

Drew’s near-daily trips to Kalamazoo to see his Dad after work during his last weeks…

The start of a new school year and transitioning the kids back into that routine…

Having a three year old (‘nough said)…

Worrying about finances now that I’m not bringing in a supplementary income…

So then my second thought was: “Wait. Why am I the one having a panic attack, instead of Drew? Why is he able to keep it together, while I lose it? Hasn’t he been under more stress than I have?”

The obvious answer to that question is yes. I think he has. He is the one working more. He is the one supporting our family solely right now. He is the one who just experienced watching his father pass away.

I’m just the one at home, taking care of the kids. Often times feeding them alone, putting them to bed alone. Worrying about us infecting my Mom with another round of sickness. Worrying about—and constantly keeping my eye on the bank accounts and the job market to see if I should apply to any jobs to help support—our finances. Running errands. Dropping off. Picking up. Making appointments. Trying to fit in a workout. Trying to spend quality time with the girls, but often having the planned activities dissolve into a puddle of tears and frustration (for both Mama and kiddos). Worrying that I’m doing it wrong—failing—while other Moms have so much more on their plate and succeed. Hiding in the bathroom and crying when I feel overwhelmed, so that the girls don’t see me.

I wish I were stronger. I wish that my attempts to keep things semi-normal at home during these anything-but-normal past few months hadn’t “ended” in me “cracking” suddenly in the car on Friday evening.

But I’m not (stronger). I reached my limit somewhere in between the sixth request for goldfish crackers and trying to remember if I dusted the guest room for Babcia before we left the house.

Refusing to acknowledge all of my anxieties and feelings of being worn out caught up with me. I neglected self-maintenance, much in the same way I’d been neglecting getting that damn windshield fixed.


I’m not sure where to go from here. I don’t know how to ensure I don’t have another one of these attacks.

But I’m going to start with breathing deeply.

Trying to be kinder to myself.

Going to bed earlier.

Re-instating my morning devotions and prayer time.

Working out more often, but not necessarily more rigorously.

And I’m going to hope that—for now—that will be enough to keep the darkness from creeping its way back in from the edges of my vision.

Soul in the Season: Favorite Sights

Leaves and pumpkins and sweatshirts and football games…these are some of the most familiar (and beloved) sights of fall.  Here are just a few of our own favorite sights so far this season…

Soul in the Season Favorite Sights


Favorite sights from Wisconsin…

Up North


Corn Maze

Favorite sights from Michigan…

Fall Walk


Looking Up

What have been your favorites sights this autumn?

A Day in the Country

Amish trip 10-14 02-3 Amish Trip 10-14 03-2

Amish trip 10-14 04-4

Amish trip 10-14 05

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Well, longer than lately; it’s been nearly three years, if I’m being honest—ever since the fire.  A funk that waxes and wanes, but even during my best times, always seems to be there, lingering.  It’s hard to articulate the full effects this experience has had on me—on our family—but the truth is, we’re still dealing with the repercussions almost daily. Our life was flipped upside down that night, and three years later I have yet to find my footing.  I am constantly overwhelmed by life, having not yet redeveloped appropriate systems for organization, I struggle with paranoia, and my heart aches when my children do as well—Hutton, in particular, has had a rough time lately, and it has become evident that he is in need of some counseling. The resulting feelings of depression, anxiety, and constant exhaustion have changed me.  I wouldn’t say my pre-fire self was carefree, but I would say that I used to be able to make people laugh, I used to know how to have a good time, I used to be a bit crazy. I feel like that side of me has been a buried for the last several years. This is kind of a sick metaphor, but I feel a bit burnt out by life.

The summer after the fire, when my struggles were at their worst, my friend Tanya suggested we plan a little day trip to the Amish community just an hour or so south of here.  She told me I’d love it; she promised it would lift my spirits.  Two years ago this fall three of us girls—Tanya, Amanda, and myself—took the first of our (now seasonal) ventures into the quaint little countryside whose beauty is depicted by rolling hills that are specked with beautiful, yet simple, farm houses.  Bakeries are tucked in the basements of houses, and rug shops are found in little white buildings off the side of the road. The bulk food grocery store—the place that probably draws the most city-folk—sits just down the road from the woodworking shop; it’s close but just far enough away that hopping in your car still makes sense.

The three of us girls ventured back down there a couple of weekends ago; it’s impossible to visit this part of the state and not slow down, not breath deeply, not let the beauty of it sink into your being; with each exhale I felt my body expelling the pent up stress. These trips always seem to come at a much needed time for me and this one was no different.

Amish countryside

Our day started with our traditional cinnamon roll breakfast, but these are no ordinary cinnamon rolls, these are just-out-of-the-oven gigantic rolls dripping with homemade frosting. These cinnamon rolls are, quite seriously, a little slice of heaven.  There is nowhere to daintily eat these, so we sit in our car and do our best not to get frosting down the front of our shirts. We chit chat, but mostly you’ll hear a lot of mmmmm’s and OMG, these are so good!

Our original plan for this trip was to make it an over-night, but that had to be scrapped at the last minute (due to what I believe is probably post traumatic stress that we’ve been dealing with with Hutton.) Even if we couldn’t stay until Sunday, we still had the whole day to spend; there were no time limits this time, no Mama commitments that we had to tend to in the evening. Having a whole day to ourselves, sans clock-watching, made the whole trip that much more enjoyable.

After our cinnamon rolls we checked out a neighboring farm that was for sale (I couldn’t help it!) and then headed to the woodworking shop and the grocery store.  I stocked up on kluski noodles for all of our chicken noodle soups needs for the winter, replenished my supply of ground flax seed, and found the boys (and Collin too) some new work gloves (they were, after all, busy making wood while I was out shopping.) We ended our evening with a nice dinner out – the type of dinner that mama’s of small kids rarely get.

The day was full of a lot of laughs from all of our silliness, and I’m not talking about polite little giggles, I’m talking about the gasping-for-air belly laughs that have you nearly peeing in your pants—those laughs. The three of us had an entire day to spend with no obligations—there was no one asking for a snack or needing their diaper changed, there was no laundry to be folded or dishes to be put away.  It was just us and the open road.

The morning after our trip I woke up eager to tell Collin all the funny stories and show the boys all I had brought home.  As I pulled each item out of my bag I realized just how thankful I was: thankful for fresh donuts before church on Sunday morning, thankful for the re-supply of honey in my pantry, and thankful for the loads of squash and potatoes to be stored for winter, to name a few. But the things I was most thankful for weren’t found in the bag, they were found in my heart: quality time spent with good friends and a reminder that I’m still me.