Category Archives: Travel

The First Snow and Some Thoughts on Wonder

Do you ever have one of those days where you want to write (paint, design, photograph, etc.) something and just feel dejected because you know you just can’t capture that special something that brings you so much wonder it hurts?

Today is one of those days. All week I’ve been thinking about the things in life that make me light up, that make me feel most alive, that steal my inspiration because there just aren’t words. Yet here I am trying to write about them anyway.

Last night was our first real snow fall of the year. In my book—and perhaps only in my book—that makes it a holiday. I love to celebrate by visiting a coffee shop where I can sit inside, thaw next to the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate, and think about the way snow transforms the world as I stare out the window. And crunching through the snow on my walk from the car? That’s just a bonus. My favorite “snow experience” came last night when I went outside and just stared up at the sky, watching the snow fall around me until my neck hurt.

That first snow (and each subsequent snow) brings out the same thing I feel when I visit a book store. Or when I go to the mountains. Or a Great Lake. Or when I step back during a family gathering and observe from the outside. Or when I think about the first day of school. Or the six months when I was praying Jonathan would notice me.

It’s wonder. The kind of wonder when you can’t speak, except to repeat the same phrase over and over (in my case, it’s usually “It’s so pretty!”) The kind that makes you ache inside because you know it’s beyond you. The kind that overwhelms you with beauty and brings the slightest bit of sorrow because you know you can never contain it. No matter what you do, you can’t take it all in.

And it’s really difficult to describe.

But that’s what makes it so perfect. So exciting. So wonderful.

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Not Exactly How I Planned to Spend Grandparents Day

DSCN7083We were all set to go up north on Friday after work to help Jonathan’s grandparents take the dock out of the lake just like we did last year. While I waited for Jonathan to come home, I packed and texted back and forth with Jonathan’s grandpa, giving him our ETA, letting him know that yes, we would stop and pick up taco shells on our way, and telling him I loved him too. After about three hours in the car, we arrived, at a late taco dinner (pretty much a tradition), visited with Grandma and Grandpa, and went to bed really late, but not before Grandma gave us her customary, “You get up when you get up.” The plan was for us to catch up on sleep, get up, have brunch, and maybe take the boat out for one last spin around the lake. Then the boys would go take the dock out of the lake.

But this weekend did not go as planned.

We woke up sometime after 8:00 a.m. to Grandma knocking on the door, apologizing for waking us and asking Jonathan if he could please go talk to Grandpa because he thinks he might be having a heart attack.

The night before, Grandpa had said more than once that he wasn’t feeling well, but he didn’t give details. Turns out that meant he had been having some pretty classic heart attack symptoms since Thursday. We got up, threw some things together, and Jonathan drove quite a ways to the nearest “hospital” (basically a glorified clinic with an emergency room. When you’re that far north, hospitals are few and far between). On the ride, Grandpa was acting like himself, asking Jonathan to slow down and did he go through a lot of tires and could he please go a little faster?

Grandma was just in awe of the way God had worked it out for Jonathan and me to be with them on this particular weekend. We had made plans for a different date and had switched those plans twice, finally landing on this weekend at the last minute. Since Grandma doesn’t drive much, it would not have been easy for her to drive that morning especially. It really was a blessing that we were there to do the driving and help where needed.

Having never experienced a real emergency before, I was surprised I was able to remain calm. (Jonathan is what one of my friends calls a “steady Eddie,” so I expected him to be that way, but not me.) My first instinct was to pray. So I started praying and I spent a good bit of time texting people I knew would pray for Grandpa. Since I had gone to bed without brushing my teeth or showering, I made sure I packed my toothbrush and makeup bag. I kept quiet nearly the whole car ride, not really knowing what to say. While we waited for news, Grandma sent us to the vending machines, where we looked for some kind of breakfast. We ended up with a bag of peanuts and a diet coke for her and pink lemonade, pop tarts, and cinnamon Certs (that’s what happens when you push the wrong numbers!) for us.

They did some tests, told us Grandpa had, in fact, had a severe heart attack, and prepared to airlift him to Minneapolis. Grandma couldn’t ride in the helicopter, so we drove her all the way back to the house to pick up our suitcase and car and pack for the hospital stay.

We collected the typical things you’d think to take, like clean underwear, things for Grandma to work on, and quarters for Grandpa’s Sunday paper, but since it’s a three-hour drive to Minneapolis and since Grandma was expecting bypass surgery and therapy afterward, we brought other things too. Like an entire box of tomatoes. And another box of green peppers. And a bag of cucumbers, an entire pumpkin pie, a few peaches, and two coolers full of food that Grandma thought would go to waste while they were in the Cities.

It took us about an hour to get back to the house, load everything, and leave for the hospital. Jonathan drove Grandma in her van and I followed in our car. I think it was hard for all three of us to know that we wouldn’t see Grandpa for several hours. Grandma busied herself with phone calls to and from loved ones, Jonathan drove and offered support when needed, and I prayed a bit and listened to shows on public radio for the entire three hours, not really wanting to think much about what was going on. I calmed myself by remembering that Grandpa was in exactly the right place to get the help he needed.

When we stopped for gas and lunch at Subway, Jonathan told me Grandpa had made it to the hospital, had a stent put in, and was already out of surgery, doing well, and expected to go home on Monday (which he did!). Jonathan’s mom was with him.

When we finally arrived, around 3:00 p.m., I sank into a chair in the waiting room and almost lost it. The stress of the day and the utter relief that Grandpa was okay finally hit me, and it was all I could do to not burst into tears. But Jonathan doesn’t have a weepy family like I do, and I wanted to keep myself in check. After Jonathan’s mom gave us a few more details, we got to sit with Grandpa. Other than being in intensive care and connected to a bunch of machines, he was his normal self, and I was so relieved.

I was surprised how many people thanked us for “everything you did.” What else would we do? I wondered. We love Grandpa just as much as you. But I realized that just like me, everyone else was just grateful Grandpa was okay. They were grateful, just as I was, that we were there to help. But we weren’t the ones who should be thanked—I have no doubt that God made sure we were there at just the right time.

This whole experience made me realize that how you respond in an emergency isn’t too far from how you respond in a non-emergency (maybe it’s different with others, but that was certainly the case with us). So often we think that it’ll be different when it matters, but is that really true? Do the things you care about most really change in an emergency? Despite the circumstances, your behavior and the things you care about might not change as much as you’d think—Jonathan still kept his cool and made sure he had a book to read; Grandpa still won the award for best backseat driver ever and worried about us (“Tell the kids not to worry about the dock”); and Grandma still kept everyone in the loop and wanted to make sure her food would be enjoyed. Me? Well, to my shame, I realized I care too much about how I look (who needs makeup at the hospital?), And I discovered prayer is my go-to in any situation.

The most important thing I realized is just how much Grandpa and Grandma mean to me. We went back to the hospital to visit on Sunday, and I must say, there’s no better way to celebrate Grandparent’s Day than with your grandparents.

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This is us this time last year—with Grandma and Grandpa and Jonathan’s brother Christopher.

To all of you who prayed for us this weekend, thank you! Your support and prayers meant so much to me and the rest of the family. I truly believe your prayers are part of the reason Grandpa is doing so well.

North Shore Love


Jonathan and I have spent quite a bit of time on the North Shore during our marriage. Our first two summer vacations were spent there, and we’ve gone up almost every year in March. This was our first time going somewhere other than Duluth, though. I found an amazing deal for two nights at Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay, which is about an hour north of Duluth. It was a perfect few days away in the middle of a week off.

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Like I mentioned last week, it was a little cool and a lot foggy (even if you can’t tell from these pictures), but it was the perfect way to get away from busyness and spend some time being . . . quiet. Our room had a lovely view of the lake (all the rooms do), and when it wasn’t raining, we spent a decent amount of time exploring the point.

room-view

cove-point cove-view Jonathan-rocks looking-at-lake-superior lake-superior2 superior-rocks

On Thursday, we celebrated four years of marriage.

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We did spend some time in Duluth at Park Point, Va Bene (our favorite restaurant there), and Pickwick. And on Friday morning, we drove to Tettegouche State Park to see the falls. The map said it was only a .7 mi hike to get to the falls, but it failed to mention all the ups and downs and the really muddy trail.

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baptism-river baptism-river2 bridge waterfall daisy

I learned the hard way that I shouldn’t hike in my running shoes. Excuse me for not wanting my knees to ache afterward. I was able to clean them up a bit, but they’ll never be quite the same.

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But it was worth it . . .

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Vacationing in the Twin Cities (Home Sweet Home)

Our vacation last week was wonderful. Not quite as exciting as some of the other trips we’ve taken (like last year’s visit to Yellowstone), but we did a lot of fun things. So many things that it needs to be two posts. So here’s a taste of what we did in the Twin Cities . . .

On Saturday, we took a free tour of the state capitol building in St. Paul. (And went to Cosetta for dinner. Yum! It’s huge with all the remodeling they’ve done—but still crowded.)

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governors-room

gold-horse city-view

On Sunday, we went to Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka and heard some good preaching. (When we were trying to find a church a few years ago, we almost landed at Redeemer because R.W. Glenn is just so good.) Call me a heathen if you want, but I told Jonathan I wanted to take a break from our normal church while we were on vacation. I love it, but I spend six days a week there and sometimes I just need a break. It was good to do something different. And God taught me a lot about myself. Like the fact that church is not about me. Go figure, huh?

And then we went to see a free production of As You Like It in Wolfe Park. Wonderful. The whole point is to make Shakespeare more accessible and they did a good job of that, but I still wish I had known the story going into it.

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On Monday, we ate at the Good Day Café and visited the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market (yummy fresh strawberries, sweet corn, and potatoes!) and The Walker Art Center, which is Minneapolis’ modern art museum. What a waste of $24. Others had warned me, but I wanted to experience it for myself. Next time I will trust others’ judgement. The free sculpture garden is worth a visit though (Cherry on a Spoon, anyone?). On a happier note, the Glazed Donut Pancakes at the Good Day Café were amazing.

Tuesday we spent much of the day downtown. We stuffed ourselves at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse we went to for lunch. It’s super pricey, but really good. I would be content to go and have nothing but the salad bar! After that, we visited the downtown library (not as impressive as I had hoped, though the moving stacks were cool). And we ended the day with Clybourne Park at the Guthrie. It was a fantastic production of one writers’ response to A Raisin in the Sun. (It’s playing for another week or so—go see it!) And if you’re under the age of 30, check out their 30 Below program to get rush tickets without having to stand in line!

(The yellow-tinted pictures were taken through yellow windows at the Guthrie.)

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Wednesday through Friday, we were enjoying the North Shore. Stay tuned for another post about that.

We got back on Friday night and hit the ground running again on Saturday with donuts from Wuollet Bakery, chai from Tea Garden, and our books at Lake Calhoun. Then we attended a friend’s wedding celebration BBQ and laughed until we cried at Comedy Sportz (I wish we could afford to go every week!).

lake-calhoun

Sunday morning was spent at Emmanuel Christian Center (the big church Jonathan’s family went to when he was growing up), playing Frisbee golf in Edina (please don’t make fun of my form—I don’t pretend to be good), and spontaneously taking an hour-long road trip to Square Lake Park in Marine on St. Croix, where the water is clear and warm enough for a swim.

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Such a busy week, but so fun. I’m already dreaming of next summer’s vacation. Somewhere awesome (I hope!).

Any ideas?

Four Years

Four years ago today, we got married.

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I’ll spare you the sappy I-love-my-husband-so-much post. It’s true, but I’m pretty sure you already knew that :)

We’re celebrating by spending a few days on Lake Superior north of Duluth. It’s a bit foggy and cold (would you believe it’s only 65 up here? It was 92 when we left Duluth yesterday, and that’s only an hour south of us!), but we’re enjoying the quiet time away. We’ve actually got the whole week off work, so I’ll post more pictures of our adventures later, but here are a few of my favorites so far. . .

Foggy-cove

Cove-Point

Taking the Dock Out of the Lake

We celebrated the beginning of fall with a trip up north to help Jonathan’s grandparents get the dock out of the water.

And it was a wonderful day to do it. Just kidding. It was 48 degrees, windy, and the sky was spitting at us.

cloudy-skyBut it wasn’t all bad.

fall_colorsHis grandpa had a knee replacement about a month ago and wasn’t able to get in the water, but Jonathan’s brother Christopher went up with us. Those are some sexy waders, huh?

wadersGrandpa gave orders. He likes to do that : )

I even got my hands dirty. See these pipes?

Grandpa handed them to me and I threw them in the pile. Some of them were taller than me, though that’s not hard.

And then we had a wonderful dinner. When we go up north, we eat A LOT. Food is Grandma’s love language.

I also got some work done. While we were up there, I finished Heiress by Susan May Warren and got some writing done. Yay for productivity!

Computer and papersAnother lovely trip to the lake . . .

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Our Trip to Yellowstone

It’s been about two weeks since we got back from our trip, and I still have a few things to share about our trip. The first being that I can’t believe it was already two weeks ago (three, depending on how you count it). But this will be the last exclusively-Yellowstone post—I promise.

This was not my first time visiting Yellowstone (I was there four years ago). But this was Jonathan’s first time going west of Minnesota, and I was so excited to show him the west. (Never mind that he did ALL the driving.) I knew he would love it.

We stayed in a different place almost every night, so we did quite a bit of packing and unpacking, but it ended up being a great way to see a lot of different places we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Most nights we stayed in KOA campgrounds (except for Jackson, where we paid $130 for a Motel 6!), but rather than cart along a tent that we’d have to put up and take down every day, we paid extra and stayed in the kabins (their spelling, not mine).

Day 1: Minneapolis, MN to Rapid City, SD

Why is it that hours in the car are not tedious at the beginning of a trip? We were so excited to finally be on vacation.

Day 2: Rapid City, SD to Cody, WY

First thing in the morning, we headed to Mt. Rushmore. Maybe it’s un-American to say so, but that was my second visit and I still didn’t think it was too exciting. It’s definitely worth a visit (and I find the history of it all pretty interesting), but don’t go just for Mt. Rushmore. Make it a side-stop.

After Mt. Rushmore, we drove through the Black Hills and took Hwy 16 almost the whole way to Cody, Wyoming. It was definitely the scenic route. And while we were on Hwy 16 in Wyoming, we drove through this:

The Ten Sleeps Canyon. Easily one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen in my life. If you’re ever in the area, make sure you see it.

Day 3: Cody, WY to Jackson, WY

Our first day in Yellowstone! This was the day we saw Yellowstone Lake, the West Thumb Geyser Basin, and the Grand Tetons. Also the only day it rained, but it didn’t last long.

Jackson was our favorite city. If I had millions of dollars, I would live there, in the shadow of the Tetons. So pretty.

Day 4: Jackson, WY to West Yellowstone, MT

More time in the Tetons. We drove through Yellowstone, but we didn’t really stop to see any sights.

Day 5: West Yellowstone, MT (Again)

We stayed at this KOA for two nights, so we spent this day going back and seeing the Yellowstone sights we hadn’t stopped at the day before: Grand Prismatic Springs (my favorite volcanic feature in the park), numerous waterfalls, Old Faithful, Grand Geyser (definitely worth waiting for), and Morning Glory Pool.

This day was also our third anniversary. I’m still pretty glad I married this guy.

Day 6: West Yellowstone, MT to Livingston, MT

This was a red-letter day for me. I FINALLY saw a bear in the wild. It’s something I’d wanted to do my whole life, but after 25 years and time in northern Michigan and Minnesota, a stay in the mountains in West Virginia, and a previous trip to Yellowstone, I still hadn’t seen one. We pulled off the road at a scenic overlook to take a picture, and a few other people there pointed out this lovely grizzly:

We also saw the Obsidian Cliff, a few waterfalls, and Mammoth Hot Springs.

The KOA we stayed at in Livingstone was gorgeous (and had probably the nicest bathrooms I’ve ever seen in a campground), but with the drought, we weren’t able to have a campfire. And the bugs were terrible, but I guess that’s to be expected when you’re right on the Yellowstone River.

Day 7: Livingston, MT to Cody, WY

Our last day in Yellowstone. We saw a few other favorites this day: Tower Falls, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley, and TWO more bears. As if one wasn’t enough!

Day 8: Cody, WY to Fargo, ND

We were supposed to get to Minneapolis this day, but when you wake up to a flat tire and leave several hours later than planned, things change. So we stayed in Fargo.

Day 9: Fargo, ND to Minneapolis, MN

We made it home by early afternoon, unpacked, washed clothes, and prepared for going back to the real world. It was not a fun transition. I’d rather be in the mountains.

Oh, and while we were unpacking, we discovered this very good reason to not store your EZ Cheese in the same bag as your binoculars:

The View from Yellowstone

After sorting through about a thousand pictures from our trip, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to do three different Yellowstone posts—one with all the pretty views (that’s today’s post), one with plant and animal pictures, and one with the story of our trip. So, without further ado, here are some of the breathtaking things we saw:

Greetings from Somewhere, South Dakota

Just a quick update to let you know I won’t be posting this week. Jonathan and I are taking a week to road-trip to Yellowstone to celebrate our 3rd anniversary (Wednesday, July 18). I’ll tell you all about it when we get back : )

Check out the wall on the right side of this picture—if you look closely, it’s covered with grasshoppers. Gross.