A Welcome

Hi friends, welcome!

Since this is my first post after the site’s name change, I thought I would tell you a touch of who I am.

My name is Hannah Innis, and I’m 30 years old, just shy of 31. I am wife to Ryan – my strong and steady, my big spoon, my life love – and mother to, Samuel – my one and a half year-old, bursting at the seams with energy, big lover of life, all boy – my son.

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Photos by Kaleigh Simmons Photography

I am a part-time working, mostly staying at home mom, but when I do partly work, it’s at my beloved fine dining restaurant cozied up in a historic building in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. I adore being part of others’ experiences and that’s what people expect when they dine there. Many are celebrating something, and I have found deep joy in making memorable evenings for others. I love food, I love wine, and I love everything that involves time around a table. If I ever leave my job, I’ll leave a piece of me there.

When I tell you about my love for time around the table at my job, it seeps right into my love for time around the table anywhere. Food and wine are a big part of who I am away from the workplace as well. I think the best conversations are spent at a table with good food paired with a good glass of wine. Some of my favorite memories are these moments, these sacred times with people I love with soft music in the background, quiet lights, and usually loud and real talk going on endlessly. Change that table to a paper plate on your lap and a cold sparkling water with lemon on a hot summer day and you have just as much of my attention as a detailed dining production. If you sit me down with good food and good people my soul is overflowing.

I live in a small town, the one I grew up in and said I would never live in again. We moved there four months ago after searching all surrounding areas for 6 months. I’m endlessly grateful to be back, to raise my family in this friendly, small town, on this quiet cul-de-sac, where I grew up.

 

 

 

I am very much a family person. I am my parents’ youngest of five daughters and each of us are married to incredible men, with beautiful babies ranging from growing in the womb to almost 15 years old…fourteen grandbabies to be exact. Ryan, on the other hand, is the oldest to six siblings, with three brothers and two sisters. Throw in my Ryan’s parents, one sister-in-law and their sweet baby boy, just four months younger than our Sam, and you have my family. Big, loud, loving, supporting each other’s dreams, encouraging one another…that is my foundation. I am very much obsessed with these people, every single one of them. Each of their unique personalities and passions, their hurts and joys that make up the stories of who they are…just obsessed with them.

 

 

 

As for the one growing in the womb, that one is mine. We will welcome our second child this summer, expected to arrive sometime around June 20. I’m nestled somewhere in between fearing for my sanity and overwhelmed with excitement. Aside from these emotions, we know we are beyond blessed to be parents and bring this child into our lives.

There’s no telling you about who I am without telling you what I believe, because those go hand in hand, heart in heart. I am in love with Jesus, who saves me daily with grace. Who brought me back to Him time and time again in big and small ways.   He is my reason for everything. I have been through the dark and the scary without letting my Savior near me, and it was indeed the hardest years of my life. Never again will I choose to walk through the years of this beautiful, challenging, sin soaked, beloved life without the One who offers me hope in every grief and joy. My biggest prayer is that I may seek Him daily and shine His light with my words and actions. And that He continues to rescue me each time I fail.

 

Aside from food, family, faith, and friends, my passions rest mostly in the creative. I love to photograph and have been pursuing this as another part time job. I photograph families and kids, and am learning more and more the love of capturing life through a lens.

I also love to write, but have been doing most of it in my head over the past year and half. The pen and paper and the laptop and been sitting patiently on the back burner as I learned to parent and discover what this new life looks like. Writing in my head doesn’t feel as good as the physical exhale that is getting it onto paper or a screen, and so, with great effort, I’m putting my fingers to keys and rediscovering this life long passion of mine.

 

This is my little space to share stories and experiences that cause me to think, learn, live, parent, and in the meantime, maybe we can connect on some topics. I don’t know, but I need the exhale, and this is my favorite spot for doing so.

 

My first year of living my thirties has been beautiful and life giving, and entirely different from my twenties. But if you’re interested in that too, keep scrolling. Lots of lessons learned there.

So, this is me. Just a touch of me. I couldn’t give you the rest if I tried, because I’m still learning.

 

Life is wild, isn’t it? We imagine that some day we will reach a moment where it all clicks, and then instead we realize we are actually re-learning and re-shaping everything we’ve ever known. I’ve come to see that if we aren’t growing, changing, evolving, then we are stagnant. We settle for complacency in what we think is probably the best it’s going to get for us. What if we keep going, even when the change and the questions are scary?

I want to chase after and demolish things that scare me, and then move on to the next one. My twenties were great and all, but so far, I’m absolutely in love with my thirties.

Happy Weekend, sweet friends!

Cheers!

 

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Drunk Tattoos

I have two tattoos.

One is a celtic knot, which symbolizes the Holy Trinity.

I had thought about this tattoo for years before getting it.  I did research of the symbol and daydreamed about where I wanted it on my body.  It represented my faith, and I wanted is as a constant reminder.

But seriously, let’s be real.  I was 20 years old and could barely afford rent, but could always afford beer and apparently permanent ink.  I cussed the entire time.

This tattoo was about as deep as my faith was…barely below the flesh.

Still, I’ve always loved and wanted this tattoo and it truly has been a great reminder of what I believe.  I never had a regret.

Then there’s the second one.

I  also had a vision for this one, and daydreamed about it, etc.  I wanted the phrase ad petendam pluviam, a Latin phrase translated, “to ask for rain.”

I read it in a book that I couldn’t finish because the author didn’t use periods and it drove me absolutely nutty.  No periods, just commas. It was like a giant run-on sentence that was totally unnecessary and I never had any idea who was talking, and now there’s a new character and maybe someone’s speaking and there’s a totally new topic, but no one will ever know because there are NEVER ANY PERIODS (OR QUOTATION MARKS)!  My sweet readers, I solemnly swear to ALWAYS use periods (and quotation marks).

But anyway, this phrase stood out to me in this period-less book and became my muse for my next tattoo.

 

This Latin phrase, for me, represented hardships in life that make you stronger.  Just as those who originally said this phrase were asking for rain in order to grow a thriving crop, I felt that we should also ask for these painful times since we would in turn grow in our character, and there was a Flood Watch in my life at that time.  I wanted to feel stronger and bigger than the struggles I was going through, and I felt like this would be a reminder of that.

So one beautiful morning in the mountains, my good friend asked if I wanted to get brunch.  No matter the season, rainy, sunny, or muddy, I freaking LOVE brunch.  You can have all the goodies of breakfast without feeling badly or needing an excuse that it’s well passed breakfast time, because it’s brunch!

Brunch also allows you to sleep in.  And this girl adores sleeping in.  (Ryan said to me yesterday that there are 2 Hannah’s: one before 9:30am and one after…the one before is slightly more difficult.)

We arrived to our favorite spot and indulged, as we usually did, in all our favorites.  Starting with coffee and bottomless mimosas.  (This restaurant no longer offers the bottomless mimosa deal…and I have a feeling we may have been a reason.)

After brunch, our buzzy brains got the brilliant idea to get tattoos since there was a tattoo shop just across the street.  What a perfect time to get my Latin phrase, and I decided I would like it on my wrist.

When we got to the tattoo shop the artist has you fill out and sign a waiver stating that you are not being forced to get this tattoo and that you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Away I signed!

When the tattoo artist asked what I would like I paused and thought.

I couldn’t remember how to spell it.

Thoughts went through my mind:

It’s freaking Latin, no one would know if you get it wrong, just go for it!

You just had 84 mimosas.  Don’t get the tattoo right now.

You know how to spell it, remember?  It’s ad petandarmquirwod….was there a number in there somewhere?

Get something else, duh!

I responded, “I would like the word ‘grace’ in cursive right here on my wrist.  It’s the meaning of my name.”

I had never come up with this backup idea before, but the tattoo artist wrote up a nice swirly little ‘grace’ and away he buzzed with his permanent skin engraver.  (Thanks for stepping in here and stopping me, Cole!)

As the mimosas wore off I got more and more aware of what I had done and was furious.

GRACE???

YOU COULDN’T JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU WEREN’T DRINKING???  THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU WANTED YOU FOOLISH MIMOSA CHUGGING, BRUNCH LOVING IDIOT!

What about my reminder to be strong through the struggles in life?  To ask for these times so that you can come out a better person?

How stupid, right?

 

I actually think that God had an angel with me that day, holding the tattoo ink pen.

 

Looking back, I don’t think I would have been as happy with that Latin phrase.  Had I known how long the depression would last and how hard that rain would fall I don’t think I would like a reminder to ask for it.  Why would any of us ASK for hardships?  What I should have asked for was No rain ever, k thanks.

What I needed more was exactly what I got, grace.

I needed forgiveness from a lot of people, and they gave it gracefully.

I needed healing in myself, to show myself epic grace.

I needed to move on from a dark time and I didn’t need to depend on how strong I was, but I needed to depend on the grace of God that is bigger and stronger than we can ever imagine.

That’s my reminder when I look at this drunken tattoo.

That a girl was lost and scared and was brought out – still imperfect, still damp, but WHOLE – through grace.

 

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I hope it never fades, and I’m confident it won’t. (His grace, that is.)

Keep swimming, loves

Cheers!

New York City Adventure

Hi Internet friends!

I’ve missed you.

The end of summer is a crazy time, isn’t it?  It’s been wild for me.  Between having friends visit from out of town, weekend getaways, weddings, and a quick trip to NYC, these past couple weeks have drenched my soul with joy, wrung it out all over my footsteps, and is now hanging to dry, like a new painting – fresh and thought provoking.

I want to share with you today my trip to New York City.  There are endless photos (phone pictures blown up to all their grainy glory) and way too many selfies due to many solo excursions.  I’m afraid I don’t apologize for them.  

I was invited early August by my friends Joash and Michelle to come to NYC for a visit that month.  They had just found an apartment in their dream neighborhood and their leases would be overlapping for about three weeks, allowing friends and family a place to stay should they have an opening to make the trip.   I had just taken a week off for a family vacation in early July, along with most weekends for weddings and cottage getaways, so the notion of taking more time off and spend more money for another trip seemed a little out of the question.  However, when it came down to the wire, I decided I couldn’t pass it up.  

Ryan had close friends visiting from New Jersey the second to last week in August and offered me a one-way trip to the city.  I found a cheap one-way flight back, and before I knew it, I was going.

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I arrived late Sunday night after being stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge for over two hours.  Bless Francis and Lisa, because had I decided to make that trip myself, I would have been in trouble.  My accommodations turned out to be a beautiful high-ceiling studio with a cozy little mattress.  All to myself.

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The next day I did a lot of solo wandering.  Michelle and Joash both had to work and Francis and Lisa were back to work and school also.  My home away from home was a block away from the Hudson, however, so clearly I started my excursion there.  Selfie to prove it.

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I wandered for a few hours, eventually cutting back into the heart of the city.  Michelle sent me a text just before noon asking if I would want to visit her at work and eat at her restaurant.  I was walking as I read and stopped mid-step.  Let me tell you a little about the restaurant Michelle works at.  It’s called Jean-Georges, and has received four stars by the New York Times and three Michelin stars.  It’s fine dining heaven, and sits on the southwest corner of Central Park while also overlooking Columbus Circle.  Did I mention it’s also located in Trump Tower?  So when Michelle asked if I wanted to have lunch there, I figured I would have a liquid lunch.  As long as I could see and feel the ambiance, I was sold.  I began my hundred block, ninety degree sun-blasted walk over and showed up with a “gorgeous glow” (aka dripping with disgusting all over sweat).

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Michelle was working on the terrace that day, and seeing this stunning face made every ounce of sweat and every blister worth it.  The cold martini helped also.

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My happy heart found tuna tare tare on the menu, and for a price that didn’t terrify me, so I ran with it.  It was decadent.  I was then spoiled with fois gras brulee (not pictured) followed by butterscotch pudding and a perfectly paired port.  I died.

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I forget this guy’s name, but if you are anywhere near a food photo of mine, you will be asked to smile.

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Angry/confused partial selfie to show the terrace.

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And my view from my seat at the bar, clearly aware that I do not belong in such a fancy place, but totally soaking in every second.

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After my lunch, Michelle showed me how to take the subway back to her neighborhood.  I walked the streets for a couple more hours before deciding it was happy hour.  I walked into this spot and found myself in a dark, we are talking nearly black, space, with a worn bar with two guests sipping cocktails and flaunting English accents.  I sat down, smitten, and ordered a gin and tonic.  Not four sips later, a voice came over the speaker system.  It sounded like the voice of an old villain, the wicked witch of the west, maybe, only male.  I couldn’t find the source until it popped up again, and a man fully garbed in a red velvet suit and top hat with a stringy black mop of hair stood behind the bar patrons.  My eyes had finally adjusted to the dark, and when I took a moment to look around the bar as the crackly voice spoke I noticed there were full skeletons hanging from the ceiling.  I didn’t stay for a second drink.

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Instead, Joash met up with me after getting out of work and we decided to go over to Soho to walk through Little Italy and Chinatown, and find other spots to eat and drink.

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At our last spot, a kitchen guy came out and gave me this enormous “sparkler” (which burnt the cuss out of my hand), to which Joash responded to by serenading me with “Happy Birthday.”  We then drank Hennessy for free.  A very Happy Un-Birthday to me.

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Oh yeah, then the bartender did this.

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The next morning, Michelle and I had plans to venture to Brooklyn, with a quick stop at her favorite coffee shop first called Whynot.  Yes, we drank Morning Wine.

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New Yorkers at their finest.

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Our brunch choice, Egg. 

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Brooklyn Bridge

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The subways are smelly, disgusting, hot, and feel like murder.

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It was a beautiful day exploring with my friend.

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Since Michelle had to work that night, I walked 50+ blocks the the ferry and took it over to Hoboken to meet up with an old friend from college.  I hadn’t seen her in years.

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Her babe, Jack, who I got to meet for the first time!

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You guys, I ate alligator.  It was so good.

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Pier 13 in Hoboken.  Dinner, wine, friends, and good conversation.  

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Up and at ’em the next morning for my last day in NYC and spending it mostly with this cute thing.  I walked over late morning to see their new place before heading out.

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Cappuccinos and quiet.

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Scenes from our walk on the High Line, a railway turned park above the streets.  It’s gorgeous (and hot.  Freaking hot that day.)

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Ramen is the cool thing there, guys, so I ate at their favorite Ramen spot.  So good.

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Spicy margarita, mojito, and topped off with a free shot of rum accompanied by an orange squeeze and raw sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa.  People ask what I did in NYC and I say I walked, ate, and drank at all the best spots with all the best people.

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City selfie as I wandered the Upper East Side.  

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And then got two free drinks. 

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I subway-ed back after my afternoon solo adventures and over to Michelle and Joash’s for an evening on their patio.  When I walked in, Michelle had music playing, candles lit, steak being cooked, bottles of wine ready to be opened, and this insane spread.  

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Every sense was rocked on this trip, but the conversations I had with friends about God and humanity and relationships and the solo time I had to think and soak everything in is what I took home with me.  On the last night, as I sat with Michelle and Joash on the candle lit patio, we decided each of us would say something about God before our meal.  I had felt overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious on this trip, and on the flip side I had felt peace far deeper than I had in a long time.  I felt fulfillment and curiosity and anger and love.  The journey that I am on (and that we are on) is vast with opportunities, but short.  It’s leaking with extravagance, but bound by hours, by priorities, by standards put in place by society.  At that moment when I had to say something about God I felt like He was and would continue to teach me in bizarre ways, through cocktails and kind strangers, through subways and chaotic crowds.  I looked up and closed my eyes and took a deep breath of New York City’s potent air.  “God is Crazy.” (totally with capital “C”)

That was all I could come up with.  But I hope you feel the craziness of God.  In whatever way that is, whether you want it or not, I hope it’s never what you expect.  

I can’t believe I almost didn’t make that trip.  

To Fran and Lisa, to Kelly and Nicole and baby Jack, to Joash and Michelle,

THANK YOU and Cheers!

Ryan

I’ve been asked several times why I’ve never written about Ryan or how I met him, and since we are creeping up on the big ONE YEAR, I am finally giving in.  Here you go, y’all, here’s how it all began (WARNING: I could get mushy) :

 

July 12, 2012

It was the second Friday of July and I was waiting tables, per usual, at my beloved fine dining restaurant.  I was still new, fresh out of training and slightly intimidated by the chandeliers and fragile glassware, by my intelligent and well-versed co-workers and also by our clientele.

It was on this night when a couple came in with their daughter to celebrate her college graduation.  They were fantastic and fun and we talked as if we had known each other for years.

When the evening was coming to a close, the mother said to the daughter, “Do you know who she’d be perfect for?”

The daughter responded immediately, “Ryan.”

As it turned out, Ryan was the oldest son of their family, and was serving in the Marine Corps and soon to be deployed for the second time.

“He’s going to be on pre-deployment leave, though, so while he’s home I’ll take him in for a drink so he can meet you,”said the daughter.

“I’d love that!” I responded, and then smiled for a picture with the daughter (her name is Kayla) for them to send to Ryan. (How could he not fall for the bow tie?)

 

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These wonderful people went on their way, and I didn’t hear from them.  Eventually they were tucked quietly in the back of my memories with all the other cozy, good ones.

Fast forward a year to the day later, July 12, 2013 and we come to meet Hannah again, understandably frustrated by the depressing topic of the male race.  I had had several mediocre to hilariously awful encounters, dates, and set-ups, and I had begun to worry that there were no good eggs left.  They were all single for a reason, and apparently so was I.

I was still serving at the same restaurant on the day my manager handed me a note with a couple names and a phone number.

“Call them to confirm a reservation.  They requested you,” he said.

I didn’t recognize the names at all.

I dialed the number, and the first person I spoke to was male.

“My daughter and wife are actually the ones setting this up, you may want to talk with one of them,” he said.

Before putting his wife on the phone, however, he had given me enough information to piece things together.  They were the family from the previous year, and just as sweet as I remembered.

As I spoke with Mrs. (Innis) on the phone, I learned that this time around they would be out celebrating none other than Ryan, who was home from the Marines for good.

More than anything, I was excited to see that family again, but in the back of my mind, I remembered how they wanted me to meet him.  It was a bad day to pass on a quick tease of the hair and a little extra make-up.  And let’s be real, my bow tie and vest don’t do me any favors.

Picture it in slow motion, people, because it’s seriously like a movie.  I’m chatting with the family when he walks in through the glass doors, tall and tan and manly.  You guys, serious, it all happened in slow motion.  I drooled all over the table.

Five days after our first meeting we had our first date, and have spent few days apart since.

Ryan is good to the core.  When I prayed about finding someone, it’s amazing how I was praying for him.  He is tall and tan and manly, yes, but he is also caring, goofy, and intelligent.  He is crazy about his family, adores his grandparents, and has faith that inspires me.  He makes me feel safe without being dominant, and at the same time he makes me feel strong and confident in myself.

Today is the 12th, and yesterday was the second Friday in July, making it one year since I met him.  Last night we went up north to one of our favorite places, the home that belongs to his late best friend’s mother and stepdad (Aunt Char and Uncle Jim).  They live on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, and as the sun set he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. (Side note: Aunt Char tied the ring around my dog’s neck and he delivered it to Ryan….you guys, I KNOW.  Literally dying)

366 days ago.

Ryan, I never saw you coming.

To Kayla and Mama Innis for the best set up ever, to my dad for giving permission, to Aunt Char and Uncle Jim for their help, but mostly, to my favorite person that I get to live with forever-Ryan, I totally do.

Cheers!

 

 

 

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MOMENTS

One of the goals I made for the blog this year was to write a post every week – to keep the creative juices flowing, fingers typing, mind working.  Clearly, this is a difficult one for me.  Recently I’ve felt that I just don’t have enough going on or happening in my life to form a post that’s worthy of reading.  My readers want adventure and pictures and excitement, and my days are surrounded by my nieces and nephews, reading easy books, racing last minute to work, and returning home late at night, exhausted and wide awake.  I come to the morning where I told myself I will absolutely blog today and think nothing has happened worth writing about.  I walk away from my computer.  Maybe next week.

I always want to entertain you, make you laugh, make you think, maybe inspire you,  but then I put pressure on having these momentous occasions to refer to, ones that teach lessons or are cause for laughing so hard you get the hiccups.

But it’s time to admit it – my life right now, is simple.

It’s beautifully and perfectly simple – full of the most monumentally simple things.

I’ve had the travel bug for a bit now, tugging at me to set everything aside and GO. Go somewhere, anywhere.

I want to see all the places I’ve never been.  I want to breathe that air and swim in that culture and explore everything that makes others lives what mine is now.  What do other’s lives look like when it’s “simple”?

I have friends that are spending the summer travelling through Europe.  Others who are planning weeks later this summer for epic road trips and adventures in South America.  I see on Instagram and Facebook pictures of moments that are life-changing, soul-bursting, heart-wrenching.  It makes me want to leave even more.

It also makes me think of all these beautiful, small moments in my life now with less gratitude.  How often do we compare our lives with those we see online?

I don’t want to do that.  I want to see these pictures and find inspiration and encouragement, yes, but not a means to belittle my own life.

So today I’m thinking of the small moments the past few weeks, because they’ve added heaps of joy to my life.

Like last night, when I sat around the table with my parents, three of my sisters, and my boyfriend, with candles lit and wine open and kids’ happy shouts coming from the basement.  Phones were set aside as we sat and talked late into the evening.

Or the other day, when my three-year-old nephew jumped on my lap and asked me to look out the window with him.  He pointed out trees and puddles and flowers and then we laid our heads on the back of the couch looking at each other.  He was looking not into my eyes but all over my face and I asked him, “What are you looking at, D?”  I was certain his stare was aimed at a zit of blemish, an imperfection I should be more aware of.

“Your face,” he responded, “it’s so pretty.”

He popped his head up, ready to jump off the couch before he paused and said, “Or do you like awesome better?” and then leapt away with a squeal before I could answer.

I think of this moment at work the other day, while I set up the restaurant.

My boss and I had gotten into a couple small arguments recently that made me sad and frustrated, and I was declining into a period of desperation to leave.  That day, I was setting up in the dining room whem my boss pulled out a chair and asked, “Hannah, are you okay?  I’ve been noticing lately that maybe you aren’t as happy here as you used to be, and I want to make sure that we do our job to keep you happy.”

I scrambled for words – I could have said a million of them, and responded, “I have my ups and downs, but I’m happy.”

He paused, maybe also searching through millions of his own words before saying, “I think you carry a lot of the spirit in this place, Hannah.  I truly think that.”

It was a compliment my restaurant-weary soul needed, and least expected from him.  My eyes immediately filled with tears (I’m a crier, he knows this and I also know that it makes him intensely uncomfortable).  I said a thank-you and warned him I could cry, to which he responded by nearly jumping out of his seat and moving on.  It was a strangely perfect way for the two of us to make amends.

I think of my sister and her three kids who are staying with us for the summer as they do each year, visiting from Alabama, so there’s always a mob of kids (her and my other sisters’ kids) running around.  It’s a fun, loud, creative, hilarious mob of loving cousins, and I see magic when they’re pretending, when the big kids tend to the little ones, encouraging their imaginations .

So yes, I want adventures and travel stories and big, momentous occasions that drastically shape me, but I never want to overlook the small ones.  These perfectly simple moments of kindness, innocence, beauty.  These moments you can’t catch and post online.  The conversations that aren’t texts, the things you only get to keep in your memory.  I want my eyes to be wide open and away from a screen for each of them.

To all of the little things,

Cheers!

WEDDING SEASON

June is wild.

Wedding season has arrived with every ounce of energy it it can muster, and it has a cuss ton of it.  Last week alone I attended three weddings, beginning on Sunday the 8th at Gun Lake and finishing it off in Chicago on Saturday, with one in between here in Grand Rapids on Friday.

They were all as different and as lovely as the couples.  The wedding on Sunday I spent photographing for a friend from work, which is actually a touch humorous, considering I am in no way a professional photographer.  It was also terrifying.  I crapped my pants shortly after agreeing to do my friend this favor of capturing lifelong memories of the most important day of her life.  Then I wanted to do so again when I woke up the morning of her wedding to see dark clouds and deep puddles everywhere.  Thankfully when I arrived to the lake/wedding site at 10 am that morning the clouds had already dispersed and the day turned out to be absolutely perfect.  Except for when I broke a lens, but thankfully it was not the one Ryan bought me for Christmas nor was it either of the two lenses I had rented for the weekend.  One is forced to find blessings in tragedies as expensive as broken camera lenses.  Dan picked Karly up after they were pronounced husband and wife and he carried her down the aisle.  Pure magic.

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Friday’s wedding was for an old friend who has been in my life since elementary school.  There is a group of 20-30 (seriously, I’m not even going to count) who has kept quite close even after our high school days were over.  Many are married to each other – high school sweethearts whose relationships survived the odds, and others who we’ve since added to the group.  They’re my people.  We can move away, make mistakes, be absent from the group activities, forget birthdays, not speak in months, and then when we do all get together, everything is forgotten except that we have been through it all and that is enough to carry our friendships through.  It’s a beautiful crew.

and these are just some of the females…

Both the bride and groom that day had wide smiles they couldn’t quit.  They would try to give their cheeks a break and couldn’t.  It was happiness in its brightest, best fashion.  The reception was in an old brick building with antique chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the tables covered with white linens and decorated with bouquets of baby’s breath and white hydrangeas.  Romantic, man.  It was freaking romantic.

and seriously…photo booths? Awesome.

 

The morning after I rode with my parents and two of my sisters down to the Chicago suburbs for my cousin’s wedding.  She and I are the same age, but dramatically different.  She’s petite, sweet, teaches elementary, and has a heart of solid gold, whereas I’m brash, loud and unorganized.  And definitely not petite.  Despite our differences, she is my blood to the very heart of the meaning.  She is part of me and I of her.  She inspires me, and her now husband, Dave, clenched his jaw as she walked down the aisle to hold back his tears and then threw his fist in the air after their “I do’s.”

Hannah and her sisters (that should totally be a movie, right? 😉 )

 

We stopped in Saugatuck on our way home to soak in the smell of the lake and to eat pizza and ice cream in a waffle cone, and from there I sped north to Ryan’s family cottage where we took a late evening pontoon ride around the lake with a glass of wine.

And now it’s Monday.  My schedule is nearly packed with work every night, and part of me wants to quit my job just so I can keep going with this season…but I’m also exhausted.  Happily exhausted.  My body needs a break from mounds of endless food and bottomless glasses of wine.  However, finding that balance of crazy fun and endless work is not my strength, and there’s this idea brewing, wondering, imagining if it didn’t have to be a balance and could, instead, be all wrapped up into crazy fun.  Wouldn’t that be what we all hope for?

June is wild.  In the best way.

To Dan and Karly, Amber and Jon, and Christine and Dave,

Cheers!

Rachelle Rae was the photographer for Amber and Jon’s wedding, and clearly, she is awesome.  Visit her page here

Being Kind is SO Overrated

I’m serious.

We’ve given it up.  We used to effort ourselves to “kill people with kindness,” and now we’ve reverted to killing people with bitterness, snarkiness, anger, and behind-closed-doors-cursing.  We’re a bunch of smart-asses, waiting for the opportunity to roll our eyes and make the other person feel the angry shadow we cast as we loom above them, glowering in our headiness.

We can feel this like a thickness in the air, weighing everyone down, our shoulders drooping forward and our eyes downcast.

I see this often.  I see it in the way we handle conflict, in our demeanor towards co-workers, strangers on the street, on our oh-so-beloved social medias where we turn into sharks, safe behind our plastic keyboards.

I’ve been a victim, but I’ve also been the antagonist, though it breaks my heart to admit.  I’ve responded to harmless questions with sharp words, sarcastic and dry – sandpaper to a baby’s soft skin.

What happened to our effort for kindness?

Putting ourselves above others seems to come naturally.  Quickly defensive and slow to take blame, we are becoming a society where we are never wrong and the other person is always the idiot.  Throw them under that roaring, angry, hateful bus.

It’s slowly, but visibly, wearing us down.

It has to change.  If we ever want to see better, to do better, to be better, we have to change.  Change our mindset, our vocabulary, tone of voice.  Change our pedestal…lower it a few levels.  There isn’t one of us who has it all together, with all the answers and the perfect plan.  You will make mistakes today, and so will others.  So what if we decided to take a deep breath and be kind?

I’ve worked in the service industry for nearly ten years and I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to scream at a guest an unpleasant reminder that although I am waiting on them, I am still, in fact, a human.  Their rudeness is a baseball to the head, shouldn’t I return the favor?  But I smile (no, it may not be a genuine smile) and continue on.  I want to keep my job.  I want to be professional.  I want to KILL THAT PERSON with kindness.  More often than not, they notice how big of a jerk they’re being, and take it down a notch (though, not always).

What if we took the extra effort in our every day lives?  A deep breath and clenched smile and a genuine effort to not become a jerk could go a long way.  There’s one world and we all have to live in it, we may as well try.

I like you all, in my most sincerest way of liking,

Cheers!

Hi, you shouldn’t be a Professor

It’s been nearly a month since I finished my first full year back at school, and I’m still irked to the core about one of my professors.  Part of me wants to forget about him and move on, and the other wants to write incessant letters and e-mails to the Dean of Students until he is released from his duties as Professor.

This class was an intro class for document design and was based heavily (and I mean every single thing we did) on Adobe InDesign.  If you don’t know anything or much about this program, it would likely be similar to sitting in a space ship and trying to figure out how to fly it.  Or reading Harry Potter in Italian.  It’s complicated and complex for beginners.  I would say it’s about twice as complicated and complex for Writing Majors who have NO interest or minute understanding of computers or technology.  Ahem, 98% of my class.

There were a few Advertising and PR kids who were already well versed with this program, and they quickly adopted the status of teachers pet.  Then there were the rest of us who simply tried to keep our grades above failing.

His version of “teaching” us this program was to give us YouTube videos to watch.  I basically stared cross-eyed at the screen for each of those videos and when the time came to apply it to our projects, they didn’t match up.

Ah, the projects.  Yes, three projects, all jam packed into the last few weeks of the semester, and these were the only grades that mattered.  So if you had no idea what you’re doing with the first project, or if he didn’t think your design was good enough – TOO BAD.  His feedback was anything but helpful and when one student asked for further advice he would say things like, “Maybe you should review the assignment sheet.” She e-mailed our class in desperation for advice, clearly, she had read the assignment sheets over and over. Don’t even bother asking questions in class, because that response will be defensive and mocking, making you feel like an idiot for even asking.

I’m livid because I see what I pay him per class, and any lack of success should reflect poorly on him as well.  I passed the class, but I feel like I could have learned far more had he known how to teach the subject matter.  The problem is that it’s not his first job.  Teaching college students is extra cash for him, and it’s clear we are not his priority.  I know my other classmates were frustrated as well (or those of us who had no prior training with InDesign).  We all felt loss and timid to ask questions.

I don’t like seeing our careless professors get away with it.  College is insanely expensive, but how are we supposed to reach graduation if we don’t have professors who want to see us succeed?   That’s fine for them to expect a lot from us, that I understand, but if they can’t back it up with being able to explain and teach without simply sending us to YouTube, I’m over you, and I’ll take that couple grand back also.

Any of you college kids feel my pain?

Angry about this, but secretly super happy with life,

Cheers!

 

JAMIE

I am currently listening to the Frozen soundtrack for the 9,472nd time this week.  That’s right.  For the past week my sister has been staying with us along with my 5 week old nephew and my 1 1/2 year-old niece who is infatuated with Frozen, just like every other young human in the world.  My eyes pop open in the morning and I’m immediately singing “Do you want to build a snowman?” and twirling around as if I have magical powers to freeze things.  Disney, man, you win.

But this week was more than an unending musical.  This week I finished my first year back to school after a four year hiatus.  I gave myself a pat on the back because I’m proud.  I’m proud that I finally took the initiative to go back despite every apprehension.  Part of me feels really cool and accomplished.  But there are actually tons of people doing things that are so much cooler.  Like the people who are graduating this weekend with their undergrad or masters.  Or, hi, how about Meb Keflezighi who just won the Boston freaking Marathon at the age of 38.

Or my friend Jamie, an insanely gorgeous and adventurous beauty I met when I lived in Jackson, Wyoming.  She’s originally from New York, and her quick wit and raw honesty are evidence of this.  She will call you out if you’re being an idiot and stand behind everything she believes with sincere grit.  Jamie also goes on travel adventures that can make the Homebody of the Year want to get out and see the world.

Like back in 2012 when she decided to spend some time in Thailand.  And then extended her stay and traveled through Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  We were all back in Jackson just waiting for her to return and then she would decide to stay longer…and longer….and longer.  She met people along the way with whom she traveled, and went on solo adventures as well.  She’s truly a badass.

 

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Gaaah, I love to hate her (with love).

There’s also the time, in 2011, when she traveled to South America and did things like this:

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Yes, sand boarding down the Huacachina dunes

 

 

 

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biking a dangerous 13,123 feet downhill road (with oncoming traffic) in Peru

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ziplining….with that setting. GAH.

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Hiking Machu Picchu

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Doing this

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I mean, really.  Just stop.

During her South America trip she visited Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Argentina.  Whoa.  During the past couple years she’s gone on some shorter trips to Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala.

Jamie isn’t a born world traveler.  It wasn’t until 2007 at the age of 27 that she went on her first solo trip to Costa Rica, just after spending her first summer out west in Jackson Hole.  It gives me hope that maybe my traveling days haven’t even started.  If I can head anywhere in the direction Jamie has gone, I’ll be a wildly happy girl.  As I was going back and forth with Jamie today on the phone, she also mentioned that after this summer she wants to buy a one way ticket to…somewhere.  She listed off a couple places, but for the sake of keeping you in the dark, not giving away all her secrets, and for the hope that she may get back to sharing her adventures through her own blog, I’m not going to tell you.  (JAMIE’S BLOG HERE)

There are things that change us, and I think travel is one of them.  The kind of travel where you get deep into the culture and be a little vulnerable.  The kind of travel where not everything is planned out.  Where maybe you get lost and come out with a really great story.  You can start it with “Ah, that reminds me of that time I got so lost in the middle of the jungle on Easter Island and the natives spit on me because I have red hair.” …..or something like that.

My grandparents didn’t start traveling until they were in their 60’s, and my grandma was skeptical.  After their first trip overseas, however, she was hooked.  It’s apparently the best drug out there.

I hope with all my heart that I don’t wait until I’m 60.  I hope with all my heart that you don’t either.

Do you have any truly awesome travel tales?  I’d love to hear/read them.

Also, if you are one of my readers outside of the U.S., I want to say THANK YOU for reading.  Let’s get in touch, let’s connect, let’s talk about each other’s cultures and hometowns.  Seriously.  And then maybe we can visit each other.

Lastly, thank you, Jamie, for being as awesome as you are (and for letting me use your photos).  I have a very special place in my heart that is just for you.

To our passports,

Cheers!

 

Finding Home

 

Yesterday, April 1, marked two years since I’ve moved back to Michigan. It was also my mother’s birthday.

Two years ago I walked into the house I grew up in after driving 26 hours across the country to surprise my mom on her birthday. What a fun birthday surprise, right?

What she didn’t realize was that I also had my car packed full of all my junk to move back into her house (for what would turn into a two year visit).

This video is of that moment, caught in all its awkward splendor by my sister, Rachel (she and my Dad were “in the know”). I remember being terrified, shaking, wondering how she would react. I also remember that I was terrified and shaking for more than just that reason. (um, i’ll work on the video…not tech saavy)

I made the decision to move home pretty quickly, and I had no idea if my soul was ready to be plunked so suddenly back into the town I grew up in.

I made the decision to move out to Wyoming late in November, 2009, after many conversations with one of my best friends in the world, Betsy. She was already living out there, and had grown in so many ways – personally, spiritually, etc. I craved the same experience, and finally, I told her, “I’m coming out there.”

She was the only reason it came to fruition. She found the apartment, put down the deposit. She made every single plan, and in a very short time, because just over a month after I made the decision to pack up and go, I was on the road. January 3, 2010, and told myself I would never live in Michigan again.

I can’t imagine that now. I’m going to be very real with you for a minute: I was a part-time waitress at Applebees. I had saved up just over $500. I had no job waiting for me out there.

I think about it now and wonder, how the heck did I dare to do that?!

There is no way it would happen today. I can’t commit to purchasing a brand new computer, for goodness sake.

But it’s because Michigan no longer felt like home to me. I felt suffocated, branded, and judged by it. I felt like it accused me of not fitting in (and feeling like an outsider in your hometown isn’t fun). I also had this free-spirit-wanna-be-hippie-but-totally-not thing going on inside of me that was the most tumultuous roller coaster, and the only way I can describe it is that I was at a loss for an identity. Which makes perfect sense. Because if you don’t feel at home in yourself, how are you supposed to feel at home in your hometown?

But that brought on another issue: If you have no sense of who you are in one place, you are not guaranteed to find it in another.

I thought Wyoming would solve my problems. Small town, mountains in your backyard, how could that not fill your soul every day with answers to life?

Well, it doesn’t. There were times out west when I felt more detached, more lost, confused, anxious, and angry than I ever felt in Michigan. I know without a doubt that the emptiness I felt was as present as my physical self. If I thought leaving Michigan would only make things better, I quickly found out how wrong I was.

Okay, the point I’m trying to make/the blessing. (I know, I know, thank you God there is a good part, because seriously, super depressing here)

Things slowly began to heal inside of me. I thought I was so tough and so (eek, this is hard to write) right, (No seriously, I thought I was always right) when I actually had NO idea what was going on in my life or where I was going. If anyone asked me what I believed, what I thought was important, or even what my goals in life were, I had no answer. They would receive from me some confused babbling (trying to sound philosophical, probably). And seriously, when you don’t know this about yourself and then you realize it, you suddenly know deep in your core where you are really supposed to be; where “home” is for you then.  It’s whether or not you take the step to get there.

I packed everything, including anxieties and fears, into my little spaceship-looking car and headed back to Michigan. You can see in the video how unsure I am. I mean, come on, I’m looking the mother who loves me beyond my wildest imagination in her eyes saying “I’m home” and then I just stand there. (No wonder she didn’t get it.)

Michigan may not be my home for the rest of my life, and I hope that you can see by now that that isn’t the point. Home is knowing/finding/being comfortable in the search of what you believe in and physically and emotionally stand for every day. It’s the very core of who you are. It’s surrounding yourself, no matter where, with those who bring out the absolute best in you. It’s being caught in the scariest, saddest, most heart-breaking time of your life and having someone to turn to. Those people that will see you for you and, even after you’ve broken their heart time and time again, and love you beyond your shittiness.

Right now, y’all, I’m home.

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Can I give any advice?  Okay, I will

If you’re looking, start by looking at whom you are surrounding yourself with.  It’s everything.

If you think I sound like a crazy person, well, congratulations, because you have probably never had an overdrawn account, broken bone, lost a loved one, or had any other sad moment in your life. Or maybe go take a shot of whiskey and re-read once your emotions are a tad more revved up.

To kicking off your shoes,

Cheers