Keep Calm…and Don't be a Jerk, ok?

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“To make possible true inner silence, practice:

Silence of the eyes, by seeking always the beauty and goodness of God everywhere, and closing them to the faults of others and to all that is sinful and disturbing to the soul.

Silence of the ears, by listening always to the voice of God and to the cry of the poor and the needy, and closing them to all the other voices that come from fallen human nature, such as gossip, tale bearing, and uncharitable words.

Silence of the tongue, by praising God and speaking the life-giving Word of God that is the truth, that enlightens and inspires, brings peace, hope, and joy and by refraining from self-defense and every word that causes darkness, turmoil, pain, and death.

Silence of the mind, by opening it to the truth and knowledge of God in prayer and contemplation, like Mary who pondered the marvels of the Lord in her heart, and by closing it to all untruths, distractions, destructive thoughts, rash judgments, false suspicions of others, vengeful thoughts, and desires.

Silence of the heart, by loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, loving one another as God loves; and avoiding all selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, and greed.”

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Rob and I go down to the beach in front of our house almost every night. It is our way of winding down at the end of the day, and time to spend with each other away from screens. Now I would consider myself a nature enthusiast. I ADORE going out into the woods and learning about the plants and the animals, I like to identify and learn the story of as many plants and critters as possible. Down at the beach I spend a lot of time watching the birds, there are a few mallards, a couple and a single mom with 5 ducklings. There is also a lone merganser, and the usual seagulls. There are few other birds which I haven’t identified yet, though lately they’ve been perching in the trees by us. I think they’re watching us watch them. A few weeks ago we were heading back home, and as we passed by the quiet little pond tucked in the shore, I heard an odd clicking sound. What on earth could that be? It was past dusk, nearly dark. So of course I had to investigate! As I crept closer to the pond, I saw a small black shape sitting just in the edge of the water, a little closer. Holy Crap! That’s a beaver! I was stoked. When he realized I was there he started doing laps back and forth along the shoreline waiting for me to leave so he could continue his meal.

Ever since then, when we go down there I always look for the beaver. Beavers are monogamous, they leave home when they’re about 2 years old in search of a mate and a place to settle down. I was a little worried about the beaver in the pond here. How was he going to meet any lady beavers when he’s all they way over here on Mackinac Island??? Just a few nights ago, we were heading back home again from our spot, and of course stopped to look at the pond. There were TWO beavers!!! Holy double crap! That’s fabulous. We watched them swim about their pond gathering up food and the like. At one point one of them was on the shore and the other one came up from the water and they touched noses for a moment or two before resuming their work.

Beaver’s are known for their work ethic, they spend most of their time gathering food for the winter, building and maintaining strong dams and lodges out of logs, sticks and mud. Though if there’s a good site for it, they will also burrow into the bank of their pond or river. Which I believe is what our beaver’s have done as there’s no evidence so far of a lodge. They are one of the largest rodents and can grow on average up to 60 pounds, though there’s been records of bigger ones! They are herbivores and their diet consists mostly of leaves, bark, roots and aquatic plants. I’ve seen the Mackinac beaver’s traveling along the shoreline with whole branches. They have a hard time moving on land, they sort of waddle around. But in the water they are incredibly graceful and can swim up to 5mph. Their large webbed hind feet propel them through the water, their big flat tail also serves as a rudder. They can also hold their breath for up to 15minutes and have a special clear eyelid so they can see where they’re going, their fur is naturally oily and thus waterproof.

Fun fact, beaver’s are second only to humans in their ability to change and manipulate their environment.

this is a picture of the giant beaver dam in Canada, that can be seen from space… now this was not the work of just 2 solitary beavers. There were many involved in this, but just imagine what they could do if they had our resources!

I love beavers because they are fascinating creatures, however I also have a vested interest in them, since it is because of these rodents that I have a job and a beautiful place to live.

huh? you may be thinking. Well, let me tell you about it;

The fur trade began in earnest in the 1500’s. Felt hats and other garments were very fashionable in Europe. Beaver very quickly became one of the most valuable as it was being turned into the wildly popular beaver felt hats.

This is a beaver felt hat, notice how shiny it is, they feel like velvet. The top hat shape was one of the last shapes of the hats, becoming popular around the turn of the 19th century. What does all this have to do with my job?

I happen to live where once there was a thriving fur trade community. The Mackinac area was settled by traders who established trade with the Natives, and shipped them out from here to Montreal (then later New York), and from Montreal their came more trade goods with which to acquire more furs. It was in search of these furs, in search of the fortune that they brought that much of the northern U.S. was explored and slowly settled. The historic downtown buildings I work in represent the era of the height of the fur trade here on Mackinac Island, in the 1830’s right before the trade crashed. (Silk hats became vogue, beaver hats were old news) In the Biddle house, Edward Biddle was an independent fur trader who did very well for himself and his family. We have the American Fur Company retail store. The AFC was owned by a man named John Jacob Astor who was a German immigrant and an excellent business man, he made his fortune in furs, over 3 million dollars in furs passed through the island in the early 1830’s. (This is in addition to the fur trading he conducted from the western coast of the U.S. with china) Now Astor never came here to the Island, he ran his empire from New York and if you account for inflation, he’s richer than Bill Gates. (He also had the great foresight to buy the realty that is now Time’s Square, and sell at the right time.) It was his grandson who went down on the Titanic by the way. (Fun fact: my great grandmother’s uncle married Astor’s widow after the Titanic sank in 1912)

The island and the area have a rich history, and it is because of these humble little creatures, the Beavers, that this area was explored and settled and built up into the community that it is today. So I often tell my visitors that if they ever see a Beaver to thank them for their vacation, without them this land would not have been settled, the historic sites would not exist and I wouldn’t have the wonderful job of sharing that heritage with them.

 

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This year for April Fool’s Day Rob and I decided to play our own little joke. At midnight we both posted a picture of Rob, grinning, holding a pregnancy test, to our Facebook walls; in the hopes to create a gossipy stir amongst our friends and family. (We are NOT pregnant; we checked we didn’t want Karma to bite us in the butt.) Now, this may seem a little cruel to some, giving false hope to our loved ones. But allow me to explain why we did this;

Rob and I have been married 1yr+, we’ll have been together for only 3years this summer.

Now in our society there are certain expectations for the timing of your life as you grow older. You should date someone for a while, then get engaged, have a long engagement, throw a wedding that will drown you in debt but impress all your “friends” and family, then when you’ve been married for 6months-1year, you should get pregnant, commence baby making, helicopter, organic parenting stage, then when your little darling is 2-3years old, you should have another baby, and continue on this cycle for approx. 3-5 little heathens…I mean darling, talented, special, brilliant, children. And so on until you’ve sent them all to college and paved their way in life at any cost, at which point you attempt to retire somewhere and live out the rest of your days being cared for by people who are not your family.

                So according to society, Rob and I should have one baby by now; we are not following the unwritten timeline. AND PEOPLE ASK US ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME! Or feel that it’s ok to insinuate that we might be.  Really people?

Since when is it ok to poke into other people’s lives, particularly with such old-fashioned expectations? Its 2012, we have been blessed with so many wonderful things in the modern world, which has given us more freedom of choice than ever before, let’s have a little respect for people and their choices or lack there-of. We live in a wonderful era, it may not seem like it all the time, but make a study of any period in history you’ll find we have it made here in America.

All I ask is that you take some time to have a meaningful, or fun, or silly, or philosophical conversation. We love those kinds of questions much more than “So, got any little ones on the way? (Or variations thereof)” as they say all nonchalantly, dripping with curiosity. Or go on pinterest and get your baby fix there. Don’t leech it from us poor untraditional 20-somethings

  Now, I’ll get down from my horse and just say this; Rob and I are not in our ideal place to start a family yet. We’d like to at least have a house (which we are currently working on), then we’ll consider it. So in the meantime we are taking measures to stick to the time that is right for us. Though if God decides to bless us with a little one we would be ok. And we’d really appreciate it if everyone quit asking us about it. If we have real news to share of a new addition, I promise it will be all over Facebook as soon as we know.


Me and my Ukelele, not great but getting better.

In other news, after taking our parents through the beautiful house, we are doing some hard thinking about whether or not this is the right thing for us. I still love the house, but I’m not convinced anymore on the price or logistics of it. So we shall see, in the meantime it’s almost time for summer to start up again! Which means our annual move back to Mackinac Island! Now I just need to figure out how exactly to pack up a 3 bedroom house…….


I just finished an e-book “One Bite at a Time; 52 projects for making life simpler” by Tsh Oxenreider.

http://www.amazon.com/One-Bite-Time-Projects-ebook/dp/B005MZGZ84/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328553258&sr=8-1

(she has a blog “Simplemom.net” which I have not checked out yet, but will!) I highly recommend this for really any modern woman. In her book she presents 52 “projects” which are mostly good habits to foster. These are all things that she uses and implements in her own life. One of the ones that I almost immediately adopted was her daily “To-Do” list. She emphasizes over and over again throughout her book to do what you can, take baby steps until you reach your full goal. Project 39 is to create a daily to-do list. Most people’s lives are too unpredictable to make a minute by minute schedule, so instead she suggests making a “skeleton” to-do list, with no more than 10 things on it. You create this list one day at a time and make sure that your list is reasonable. (for example, if one task is going to take 3 hours, than maybe that day will only have 8 items) She also doesn’t put a time on anything unless it requires a time. (like appointments or mealtimes) and each day has 3 MITs (Most Important Tasks) so if nothing but those three things gets done, its a good day.

So I started this habit, except given my current retirement I have less pertinent things to do, the day before I pick 3 things to do. (Writing this post was one of them today!) I got this great App on my Kindle Fire, Tasks N Todos. (their website is http://www.handy-apps.com) which is where I put my list. But paper is also great for this! 😉 Then the next day I do my quiet morning stuff (Project 3) and eat my frog (project 1) then do my three tasks. Since I’ve started this, I’ve been able to cross off things on my “I wish I had time to do this” list. On my own, I think about all the STUFF I have to do, and then end up not doing any of it, because it’s overwhelming and I don’t know where to start. So by taking my list and turning it into bite size tasks, I can get more done. I don’t have to worry about the rest of the list, or the project or anything, all I have to do is the only little piece I wrote down, and if I do more, it’s a bonus! And once it is done, I get to cross it off my list. (which for a visual, list-oriented person like me, it’s very satisfying) and I can do the things I want to do, like play games, without feeling guilty.

Tsh’s whole book is full of good habits and methods and wisdom. It’s by far, the most reasonable, down-to-earth, homemaker advice book that I have ever read. All of her projects are reasonable, reachable and they really make a difference in making life run smoother. She does a good job of utilizing modern perks (She uses Pintrest, and Netflix) and more traditional methods (like Project 23, Turn off your TV regularly) I am really looking forward to (unlimited) home internet, so I can spend more time browsing her blog. For the rest of the world, I would highly recommend picking up an e-copy of her book, it’s $5 in the Amazon store, and totally worth it!


This is a somewhat crappy recording I took in Colonial Williamsburg at a special program called “Between The Scenes” where the wonderful costumed interpreters there performed some of the short skits that would have originally been played during scene changes in the 18th century. They were really really wonderful.


Growing up my mom/dad always used to write a little letter about the highlights of the past year, and include it in the Christmas cards they sent out. There was also the occasionally family that sent similar letters to us. In any case it’s a nice way to keep up with people you don’t get to see or talk to all the time. And since Christmas kind of snuck up on me this year, I didn’t have to time to send out cards, so this is the letter I would have included to each of you with my card.

2011 has been a year of changes and of challenges and blessings. Just before the year began, on Christmas Eve of 2010, Rob and I said our vows to each other and got married. The past year has been at times a challenge for both us, as we learn what it means to be husband and wife, and to live with each other and communicate (well try to!) with each other. Most of the time, God has blessed us greatly with patience and understanding and above all happiness. We spent the first four months living with his mom and her guy in their rather large split-level house, with a small herd of cats (much to my delight! J ), before we made our annual move in May to Mackinac Island. There both of us worked for Mackinac State Historic Parks as historic interpreters. Rob worked mainly as an 1880’s American Soldier until the Blacksmith took him under his wing. Rob apprenticed with the Blacksmith for the remainder of the summer until taking over his duties in full in the Fall. He also worked as a tour guide for the Haunts of Mackinac, leading ghost tours around the island.

I worked the same position I’ve had for the last 5 years, as a historic house interpreter, which meant anything from cooking over an open 1830’s hearth, to leading visitors in 1880’s dances, to blacksmithing. I was sort of the jack-of-all-trades for the parks. I also worked in a new coffee house that opened up for it’s first summer, “The Lucky Bean” I was a barista there in the mornings. That job was a blast, I learned how to make delicious drinks and got to meet a lot of cool people! My boss Carolyn, was also kind enough to allow local artists and crafters to sell their goods in her shop, and I had great success selling handcrafted wood-burned jewelry there.

Several times over this summer, God blessed us repeatedly, he provided housing and income and but Rob in the right place to become the full time blacksmith (which includes a raise). And once the season was over and we left the island for the winter God continued to bless us. He connected us with a cozy 3 bedroom house we share with our friend LeeAnn. He provided enough money this summer that neither of us have to work this winter, so we “retired” I get to spend my days however I please, crafting or drawing, or playing games. I have time to cook yummy dinners and I even learned how to Can food this fall! LeeAnn’s been great  showing us around all the cool music things Northern Michigan has to offer, we play music every Wednesday with a couple older guys in the next town over. We’re also able to have our feline friends with us, Pax, our new-old cat, is a 12 year old guy we rescued from the Shelter. He’s been a joy to have around. We’ve also got one of my old friends from Rob’s Mom’s, Orange Kitty, (a big orange tabby) Who’s taught Pax a thing or two about sharing.

2011 was a good year, and I expect the next one to be even better. God has truly blessed us, more than I can imagine, and I know He’s got even more good things in store.  May He bless you too as you start your New Year.