Detroit Blood

I’ve gone soft.

The change happened over a span of 8 years while adjusting to and then permanently residing in West Michigan. The adaptations have been gradual, of course, but the reality hit me today like a rush hour traffic jam on 696. Fast.

When I left the Detroit area, I left in my black ’99 Ford Taurus, seat tilted back, rap turned up, one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, pushing 90mph and weaving in and out of traffic. Fast forward a few years and I’m returning in my white 2011 Mazda3, driving 74mph, white knuckled at 10 and 2 with straight seat back and Carrie Underwood streaming through my Bluetooth radio.

You could say things have changed a bit.

When I first sped into West Michigan 8 years ago, I cursed the slow drivers and the laid back attitudes. I stained my walk and talk with Detroit blood like a badge of honor and I’d bad mouth anyone who dissed the D.

But over the years, I grew softer. My speech calmed, my speedometer slowed, and my pace slagged. I started to look at Detroit as a concrete jungle full of aggressive type As. I hated it and I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to move back. There’s no opportunity there. The housing market hasn’t recovered. It’s dangerous!

And in many ways I have loved that I’ve softened. I don’t need to feed off aggression or memorize speed traps. I can relax. And it is nice to be relaxed…

But I realized today that becoming soft also robs you of some things. Pride, for starters. I have pride in West Michigan but as an Eastsider I had pride in myself. I knew that if you wanted something, you had to get aggressive. No one is letting you in their lane because you used your turn signal. They’re letting you in because you shot the gap into the one car length ahead of them that they didn’t mean to give you. And if you managed to switch lanes without immediately slamming on your brakes, you earned the right to be there.

Becoming soft also robs you of growth. When have you ever faced a new challenge resting on your heels and come out on top? I didn’t think so.

And, in an unexpected twist, being soft limits your happiness. The happiest people are those who constantly try new things, push their limits, conquer new goals.

As I drove 696 tonight, I realized the beauty of the Eastside. I tilted my seat back just a little. I opened my sun roof and switched my radio to Nappy Roots, for old time’s sake. In a stroke of luck, I caught the echo of classic V8 engines roaring through the cement jungle after a night ride in the Woodward Dream Cruise. I breathed in the hot pavement, rubber and exhaust of the city and thought to myself, “My children will never know the lure of this place like I did.”

My Detroit blood has thinned over the years but it still courses throughout my veins with every beat of my heart and every rev of a V8 engine. It’s still inside of me. And it always will be.


The Happiest 5k on the Planet

My alarm went off at 5:50am this morning, reminding me that I was about to run in The Color Run – Grand Rapids with one day’s worth of training under my belt and some pre-existing knee pain.

5:50am. Yuck.

My parents were up for the weekend to take care of some GR chores, so I guilted my mom into coming as my support. She was already in the shower when my alarm went off and I shuddered to think of how tired she must be.

Geared up, I headed downtown with my mom to sign-in. I was meeting up with some girlfriends for the run and found them with relative ease.

This is what we looked like before the run:


Clean, fresh-faced, and ready to go!

And after:


Success! Running with girlfriends is so much better than running alone!

The race isn’t timed so we finished when we finished and threw that competitive awkwardness out the window. I may not have been in shape but I had a great time today with my friends. When I needed to walk, we walked. But they definitely pushed me to run!

Here’s my advice: If you have little running experience, I highly recommend signing up as a 5k team leader when you’re feeling ambitious. I know that doesn’t sound like it makes a whole lot of sense but thinking about it: If you lose motivation? Too bad. You’re the leader! You’re committed to running it because people are counting on you!

5ks are kind of my new thing. They’re long enough to make you feel accomplished when you’re out of shape but short enough to be within reach. And it might have something to do with something my mom said to me today about happy people too:

She told me that the happiest people actually engage in more activities that sit outside their comfort zone. Out of curiosity or a desire to tackle something new on their list, they sign up for those things they’ve never done before and, once they complete them, they’re happier for it.

Don’t go thinking that’s made a runner out of me (yet!) – but I continue to see 5ks in my future. And someday soon, I’ll take on something new!


A special thanks to my mom for cheering us on and documenting our day! It means a lot to me!

What Legacy am I Creating?

What will people say about me as I draw my final earthly breaths?

If I could choose (and ultimately I do choose by the way I live my life), I would want people to say things like:

She’s God-fearing.
She had a great sense of humor.
She loved her family.
She was compassionate.
She was a great encourager.
She was thoughtful.
She followed through on her word.
She went above and beyond.
She helped others in need.
She witnessed to others about the love of God.

It’s crazy how short life is in the grand scheme of things. How many excuses we make to start being the people we want to be later. How many defenses we build when people try to help us become the people we were meant to be.

If I had to guess, I would think people might say the following:

She had a great sense of humor. (Eh? Wink wink)
She had a short fuse and a sailor mouth.
She had a good work ethic.
She loved her people.
She called it like she saw it.
She wasn’t great at keeping in touch.

Isn’t that something? I need to make a change, it would appear.

I need to start building my legacy.

Dog friends, you’ve been warned!

My husband and I have recently taken up dog sitting. Not for profit but for love and, to be completely honest, with hope of reciprocation. When you become a dog parent, you start to do these crazy favors so that when the time comes, your friends will feel obligated to the same level of crazy. Or perhaps, if they have a well behaved dog and you do not, an even greater level of crazy!

My dog is not particularly well behaved. This morning, I watched from the window as my dog went racing down the backyard into the water, splashing and barking wildly toward a family of geese. The adult geese honked and hissed and flapped their wings until one lifted up from the water on attack. Winston ran back up the bank and turned quick on his heels to dive in again. The animals repeated this cycle until my husband was able to distract our bad dog with the promise of a game of catch. Winston left one game to begin another while the family of geese swam out of what they had interpreted to be the single greatest threat to their lives.

If only that were an isolated story!

There was the time I walked up to the scene of my husband swinging roadkill from his hand while talking to our picture perfect neighbors because Winston was picking away it in between circling the family and barking. Or the time that Winston spent a half an hour just outside of reach, darting from one side of the driveway to the other, when we were late for dinner plans. Or his general inability to stay in our yard. Or stay down when he sees someone who is excited to see him. Or, most recently, when his jealousy with sharing “dad” with our friends’ one and a half year old son caused some alarm.

We have a bad dog.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed with gratitude that we’re jumping at the chance to watch your dog, keep it in the back of your head that we’ll be expecting the same in return when the time is right!

The Inefficient Multi-Tasker

In Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist writes the following words, words that resonate so deeply within my tensed muscles that I nearly felt relaxed to read to them:

She writes, “This winter, I got the kind of tired that you can’t recover from, almost like something gets altered on a cellular level, and you begin to fantasize about what it would be like to just not be tired anymore.”

Have you ever felt that way? Not just exhausted but exhausted. It’s the difference between needing a good night’s sleep or a short coma to recover. When I read her words, my worn out cells muster up their dwindling strength and shout in unison, “Amen, sister! Amen!

Shauna goes on to explain in the chapter “Things I Don’t Do” that her exhaustion comes from the need to do it all, so she prioritizes the things she wants to do and documents the things she is willing to give up in order to make room for the good. It’s simple, really, but it’s worth mentioning to the masses. I think we’ve all gotten into the habit of biting off more and more to chew until we find ourselves choking on things we really didn’t have any interest in chewing in the first place! Let’s face it. We live in a Pinterest-happy culture where monthly magazine articles encouraging us to be better hosts, chefs, crafters and lovers have been replaced by an unending, streaming barrage of prerequisites, each more ornate, more detailed, and more defeating than the next.

It’s exhausting trying to keep up.

I’ve recently begun the task of down-sizing from a personal phone and business phone to one phone. You think it would be easy enough: Inform your friends that you’re changing your number and make the switch. And perhaps it used to be but now my number is used at Walgreens, if I forget my care card, or Panera, or Biggby, or the grocery store. It’s on file at my doctor’s office, my dentist, my alma mater, my Facebook, my mail accounts, and my bank. It’s linked to emergency alerts and prescription reminders and my favorite clothing stores. Trying to remember where my number is stored is maddening! Do you know that I have four e-mail addresses? Yes, four! One for junk, one for work, and two personal accounts that reflect my name change. No wonder I can’t remember anything if it’s not written down in my calendar! And let’s not even get into whether I’ve stored that calendar date on my work calendar, my Google calendar, or my iPhone calendar! *Phew*

How did my life get so cluttered? In my effort to multi-task, I’ve rendered myself nearly useless in every category that I want to grow. And I’ve found myself juggling e-mail addresses and calendars full of repeat or bogus information!

If I, like Shauna, evaluated my priorities to establish the “things I don’t do,” I might come up with a list like this:

  • Excel in the kitchen. My husband makes incredible meals and he enjoys cooking. I should be satisfied with some passing grades and move on.
  • Pinterest projects. I hate them. And aside from basic artwork, I have every awareness that I am no good at them.
  • Maintain a spotless house. Dogs shed. And my time is too precious to spend every minute with a Swiffer in hand.
  • Hold regular hair appointments. I get my hair cut when I am painfully disheveled or when my bangs grow over my eyes and I can no longer see.

Making lists of don’t are not easy because I find myself engaging in a bitter argument against the dreamer in me. I want to be able to cook gourmet meals! And have perfectly manicured fingers at all times. And eat organic and gluten-free. I want to be able to sing along flawlessly. And I need to have a magazine house that prompts people to wonder if anyone actually sits in the rooms. Oh and if I could sew my own designer clothes! I also need to become a runner and have the best behaved dog. I need to host large dinner parties on the weekends and always put my clothes away. I’ll get up to working out four days a week and down to a size 4. And then I’ll send birthday cards to every friend and relative to make sure that it gets there on time.

Can you see why I need to get rid of the second phone??

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

It’s cold. More accurately, it’s 50 degrees but the Internet weather site states that it feels like 44. My logical brain tells me that if we were just leaving the icy grip of winter, this weather would be warm enough for short sleeves and rolled down windows, but it isn’t the break of winter and instead we’re coming off a few days of 80+ degrees. My fingers are nearly numb from the cool air and open windows!

Today’s “fall weather” prompted me to take the long way home from work so I could stop by Baker Book House. Baker Book House is a wonderfully modern looking bookstore that I’ve only recently discovered sells Christian books. I’ve been meaning to stop by and today’s weather offered the perfect excuse. I entered, knowing that I was going to pick up a book by Shauna Niequist, and began perusing the aisles. Imagine my delight when I came across a soft cover book written by none other than my church pastor! I picked it up and walked around until I could flag down an employee to point me in my intended direction.

Here is what I like about Shauna Niequist and her books: 1) She’s delightfully honest and charming and raw; 2) She writes the way I hope to write. I love her ability to jump from subject to subject but keep the reader engaged; 3) Much of her descriptions are filled with Grand Rapids staples which makes me feel connected, like we share in some great West Michigan secret together. Having already read Cold Tangerines, I had the choice today between Bittersweet and Bread & Wine. I chose Bittersweet because this period of life is more focused on finding beauty within the sorrow for me and because I don’t have a kitchen table to gather friends around – so Bread & Wine will have to wait.

Now I’m 61 pages in and have just finished a beautiful chapter on friendship and girlfriends and making time and my head is full of things to think about…

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The London Olympic Stadium is 53 meters high. This blog had about 670 visitors in 2012. If every visitor were a meter, this blog would be 13 times taller than the Olympic Stadium – not too shabby.

Click here to see the complete report.


As I increased my writing on, I have update you all from here less. Even so, I appreciate your continued support and hope to grow with you in 2013!