our stuff. in portland.

dinner on cutting boards

Chris and I arrived in Portland on April 23. Our stuff? May 16.

I never thought I was someone who cared about stuff. I thought flexibility was a strength of mine but I was LONGING for our stuff. We signed a lease on a two bedroom house on April 25 and “moved in”. Chris, myself and four suitcases moved in on that day. We lived in a very empty house eating dinner off of cutting boards we had begrudgingly purchased (we had SO many coming from Michigan!), using plastic silverware that had been washed a few too many times and drinking out of jars which we had eaten salsa out of.

I felt like a 20 year old version of myself living as a poor college student all the while knowing that I had masses of wonderful kitchen items, fluffy bedding, my great grandma’s furniture and plenty of clothes bouncing down some highway across America.

Our stuff did finally arrive. It arrived in a truck 4X the size of the truck that left my parent’s house with our stuff in it. It arrived in a truck that took up a small city block and almost blocked out the sun in the sky with it’s height. I have no idea how they moved or managed our stuff, but it arrived.

huge moving truck

It was like Christmas or a never ending birthday or some celebration where you get a ridiculous amount of things. Box by box stuff came off of the truck. Box after box was loaded into our house here in Portland. As they unloaded one after the other, we tried to direct the movers where to put stuff, not really having any actual idea.

moving boxes

After all of our boxes were unloaded, the movers had four other stops with their massive truck to get to. We signed the papers, shut the front door and looked glassy eyed at all of the boxes. The day we had been waiting for had come, our stuff was here in our house. In Portland.

I make the point about “in Portland” because this was the odd reality that was dawning on us, the permanence of what our wandering lives had been for the past year. We had just had all of our stuff moved to Portland. This sounds obvious but it sunk in deeply that what was purchased for our house on Fairmount St.  was now trying to fit into this house on Holgate Blvd. What was given to us by people we love dearly at our wedding was now coming out of boxes nearly new and ready to be used again.

We are not on the travel nursing rotation anymore. We are not in Grand Rapids for the foreseeable future (foreseeable in my mind is approximately two years). We have just made a huge decision and the hugeness of that decision sank in with the arrival of our stuff. Every box opened and unloaded was another reminder that we have chosen to settle here for a bit. Settling doesn’t seem to be something I’m very good at lately.

Chris went to work that Friday afternoon and I unloaded boxes. This was very healthy for me, to sort and organize, to reflect and decorate. It’s now been over a week since we’ve had stuff and this house in Portland is feeling a little more like home. Our stuff is integrating into the fabric of this house and it’s reminding me that this too will be home. This place will have memories made in it, will have friends stay in it and will hold a lot of life.

 

a mid-twenties conundrum

pink running shoes on pavement

No one told me that after college, after starting a career, getting married, buying a house and after making a myriad of other adult decisions, life still sometimes doesn’t quite make sense. I don’t know if I expected this necessarily, but 26 sounded so old and put together that certainly I’d have things figured out by then.

As many of you know, Chris and I have spent the past year traveling the country. We left our house, our community, our cat, Chris quit his job and we embarked with our Scion full to the brim with whatever we thought we would need for the next year. We thought this year would bring clarity, would give us a little less structure than what we had unknowingly created in Grand Rapids and help us explore and figure out what we “wanted to do with our lives”.

We lived in some beautiful places, made some wonderful friendships, explored parts of this world we never would have and at the end of Chris’ final rotation as a traveling nurse, we bought a camper and decided to be “homeless” for a while, camping up the coast.

tear drop camping

camping CA coast

Thinking back on it now, I’m glad we did it. But at the time this adventure, this year long journey we went on to “find ourselves” and discover what we wanted next ultimately ended as homeless semi-professionals worrying about where to camp. We thought, what could be better than wandering up the coast with no real agenda?

We quickly discovered that this is harder than it sounds. Somewhere in the course of graduating from school and getting married, our outlook on being aimless wanderers had changed. We loved it for a week. We surfed, read books, walked along the ocean and ate fish tacos. We quickly realized though that we were searching for direction and wandering around the California coast isn’t necessarily a prescription for direction.

So, one day we decided to head east and go back to Grand Rapids. We didn’t have concrete plans as to why, didn’t know how long we’d be there but it felt right. We turned the Scion {and camper} towards an eastern direction and drove and drove until we arrived at my parent’s house on a Friday afternoon, unannounced. The thrill and surprise was awesome – I can truly say my and Chris’ parents were so surprised.

Home didn’t seem to instantly give us direction either. I suppose direction was something I’ve been seeking out, looking for in seemingly right places but something that takes time. Direction can’t be rushed and so although at times it feels like an endless waiting room, a tunnel with no light at the end, I do believe that direction exists and sometimes it reveals itself.

My well laid plans for exactly how this or that will go have changed. I don’t really know what my direction is at the moment but I am not in control of it and the less tightly I hold on to that, the easier it is to let this time of trying things, of building new relationships and of discovering new hobbies be for what it is. A season. A truly unique season that I didn’t think would be in my life but one I am grateful for. However short or long it lasts, I’m learning to sit without direction for a time. And that is ok.

city guide: bend, oregon

as chris and i have been traveling, we’ve come upon some hidden gems in both cities that surprised us and places within each of these cities that we just love. for us, we prefer to have one solid coffee spot, a great place to grab a drink and chat, a decent grocery store, and access to nature. the access to nature piece has definitely become more of a focus for us lately as we have realized that in the absence of a huge community, being out in the wild is what gives us life.

so, here is my first city guide. bend, or. bend completely captured our hearts. we had only ever really heard of eugene or portland so when chris landed a job in bend we just hoped there would be something to do. it ended up being some of the best weeks of our life. bend is located on the deschutes river and they have most definitely taken advantage of that with trails along the majority of the river. it is also so close to the mountains that you can easily summit a peak in a day. the old craftsman houses didn’t disappoint either. here are some of my favorite spots.

food, drink and shops

crux fermentation project

crux fermentation project

crux fermentation project

in one word. brilliant. the tap room is set in such a way that you can watch the sun set over the mountains. that view never gets old. crux made the sunset even greater by fashioning their happy hour a 1/2 hour before and 1/2 hour after sunset. ah, the perfect time. they also have a great little outdoor area with games and fire pits. families would come for dinner and a drink and their kids would all play together in the lawn attached. that is a great set up.

chris and i got to know the bar tender there. this ended up being the only place that we wanted to go. we didn’t even try all twelve breweries that are in bend. we tried a few and crux always won. they had a few sippable (aka boozy) beers that were to die for.

lone pine coffee roasters

lone pine coffee roasters

lone pine coffee roasters

this cute little shop is around the corner from the main drag but well worth a dip into the alley way. their chai is to die for. i was trying not to drink a ton of coffee while in bend and this chai certainly helped me out! they make it from scratch (no concentrate here) and it is spicier than most but so good. chris always got a coffee and was pretty pleased.

we made this spot our place to go to chat not work. i visited others to get work done but it was always a treat to have a coffee with chris here.

barrio

on one of our last nights in bend, we thought we should at least give another establishment a chance over crux. we chose barrio, a tapas spot. it was amazing. the atmosphere wasn’t nearly as pretentious as some tapas spots and it had a ton of vegetarian options. it was one of those meals that you don’t eat a ton of food but are so satisfied.

repeat performance sports

this cute little shop has everything you could need for all of the wonderful activities that bend has to offer. it is a second hand shop but so much of the equipment was like new. it is the perfect spot to pick up sporting gear for kayaking, cycling, camping or climbing.

things to do

tin pan theater

tin pan theater

tin pan theater

this is one of the cutest theaters. it has approximately 20 seats and comes complete with a little bar that serves beer, wine, popcorn and snacks although it has to close during the films since it’s right within the theater. the tin pan shows local or independent films. we saw one of the trippiest movies i’ve ever seen but it was worth it for the experience of the tin pan theater.

deschutes river trail

yoga on the deshutes river

yoga on the deshutes river

the river trail was one of the most beautiful and relaxing places to be. it went for miles from city park, duck pond all the way to canyons that made you feel like you were in the middle of nowhere. i would take conference calls along this trail and walk and talk if i didn’t need my computer. the runs along this trail were simply wonderful. chris and i dreamed and planned for hours on this trail.

broken top mountain

jumping in the glacier lakes

jumping in the glacier lakes

this was by far my favorite hike. we left at 10:30 one morning, climbed the mountain, played around in the freezing glacier lake and was back in bend by 4 pm. not too shabby. this hike isn’t super hard and rewards you with such beautiful views and the glacier lake is pretty rockin.

paulina hot springs

digging out springs in paulina

digging out springs in paulina

this was one of the first hikes we did and it was so well worth it. we couldn’t find the lake or the springs so we finally parked in a lot and just tried to figure it out. after a short trek around part of the lake we came upon bubbling water. we found out that when you dig around these “bubbles” you create your own little hot spring. fortunately we came upon others who had shovels and so we have a nice spring dug at the side of the lake. it was certainly hot!

south sister

south sister in a storm

south sister in a storm

i’ve written about this hike before but thought i should mention it again here. this was one of the most mentally challenging hikes of my life. it starts going straight up through trees which is really quite beautiful. you get a small break on fairly flat land until you are basically walking up a gravel wall. there is also a false summit which is particularly lovely.

my advice is to steer clear of this hike is there even resembles a cloud in the sky. the first time we tried we didn’t bring much along thinking we were pretty good hikers and it would be no big deal. we got caught in a storm with winds and freezing temps. the second attempt was a sunny day and it felt like a completely different hike.

so long san francisco.

feet on the street of San Francisco

it has reached the time to leave san francisco and see what else california has to offer. i say that in a very passive way because we have been given opportunity to stay, but feel like it is time to leave. we have learned to love this city and it may have finally started to love us. but in this sweet year of travel, we have decided we need to move on.

Golden Gate Bridge at dusk

Golden Gate Bridge at dusk

it seems like we have been in san francisco for a long time. and we have. we came in the youth of fall and are leaving in the middle of winter (although this weather has certainly confused us)! so much life and transition and learning has been done here. we met amazing people and developed deep friendships with them. we learned new skills, how to be even more hipster, and what small space looks like. our definition of home changed while we were here.

Ocean Beach near sunset

Ocean Beach near sunset

we showed up on my birthday with the whole city seeming fresh and new. for the first two weeks we went on walks in all of the various neighborhoods just trying to figure out things like how pacific heights blended with the marina. or how to get from the mission to our house without going through the sketchy parts.

The Wiggle - best bike route around

The Wiggle – best bike route around

chris mastered the commute to san mateo knowing exactly when to leave our place to get to work on time. i mastered the commute down to my class at general assembly in the evenings. we learned the value of quarters for laundry and dollar bills for the bus although i was always one quarter short of a dryer load. golden gate park has the treads of my sneakers in its path from our house to the beach and back on countless runs. and the pie shop probably knows our names. i drool just thinking of that pear caramel pie.

we were able to visit my brother, sister-in-law, and niece a few times. we saw elephant seals (gross), hiked in marin, camped all over the place, and even made it down to joshua tree and san diego. on days where we stayed closer to home we found peace and space at land’s end or the presidio. it was so wonderful to be in the middle of a city but able to escape to these places at a moment’s notice.

Chris at Ano Nuevo

Chris & the Elephant Seal

Thanksgiving Day in Marin

Thanksgiving day in Marin

it is amazing what a short four months can do. i still can’t believe all that happened in that short time but it also feels like a very long time. i am so very happy to say that it felt good to pack up our apartment, throw it all in the car and move on. southern california will house us for the next few months which is somewhere i never thought we’d live.

Drinks with Glory at the Top of the Mark

Drinks with Glory at the Top of the Mark

so, we transition away from big city life, public transit, wonderful friends, an amazing church, and the hills of san francisco but i know with all my heart that God has something for us here in southern california. he will reveal himself in new and expected ways. and we will be transformed again. this i love.

i miss grand rapids.

there. i said it.

traveling is awesome. it’s amazing. i have seen and experienced some pretty awesome things in the past few months for which i am forever grateful.

but it’s not home. we try to make it home. we decorate with things that represent us and don’t take much space. we try and forget that space matters in our home and pretend we’re okay with it not representing us at all. but i miss home. i miss my house. i miss my creaky floors and paint chips and the old bones of that house.

i miss our community. i miss the evening that has no plans and a list of wonderful friends to call and have over for tea or a glass of wine. i miss being known. i miss having friends who know my story so that experiences or events that come up don’t need explanation but make sense and are woven into our story together.

i miss our cat. i will take the title of crazy cat lady any day. our cat is currently missing, roaming the streets of grand rapids and that breaks my heart. i want to cuddle with her and play fetch with her. i want a warm furry body to know when i’m sad and come and comfort me. i don’t want to be alone in an apartment, i want a cat with me (cue, pathetic cat lady).

i also know, deep within me, that this time is precious. i know we are supposed to be traveling right now even though it feels lonely and uncomfortable. i take comfort in that. i believe in that. and i also know that i will choose to live in grand rapids. it is not because i grew up there and have no other place to go. it is because i love it. it is because there are amazing people there and that is worth a lot.

for the love of november / december

i don’t quite have the right words to explain the beauty, challenges, contradictions, and wonderfulness of life right now. the pull to be back in grand rapids for the holidays but also feeling perfectly content here. envying the snow and cold, but also walking around without a coat and loving it.

so, here are a few photos of the happenings of late.

DIY Christmas Decorations

we decorated for christmas. minimal, i know, but given our transient lifestyle i really didn’t want to spend a dime on decorations. sprigs from the park it is!

view of san francsico from twin peaks

we took a sunday afternoon stroll that led us up lots and lots of stairs to some amazing views of the city.

Riley with Madison
we drove inland for some quality time with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece. perfect time for a holiday photo shoot with their new one coming in february!

mike, madison, and riley

riley jumping in mud puddles

we went camping in joshua tree. i think chris rocks the camping / coffee / model look. it was really cold, but we survived with our waining michigan blood.

Joshua Tree with Coffee

painted canyons with friends

our friends from Michigan, Nancy & Ryan, joined us. it was awesome to play around joshua tree with them.

sunrise in joshua tree

walking through painted canyons

ryan walking through painted canyons

making home.

i believe we have entered phase two of our time in san francisco. that feels good.

phase one was a roller coaster. so many feelings of “this is supposed to be awesome and it isn’t.” or constantly asking “what is wrong with us? why aren’t we loving it here? ” or just sitting with the fact that maybe we aren’t big city folk. maybe.

phase two ushered itself in very oddly. i was traveling for work, chris hauled all of our belongings to a new apartment, shut the door, and headed back to grand rapids. six days later, we arrived back to a new apartment and began to make home here.

this new place has ushered in new life for us here in san francisco. we are saving money here. we have a parking spot (!!!!!). we have natural sunlight. we have a full refrigerator so our produce won’t go bad. ultimately, this new apartment feels like home and that is important given that it’s been four months since we called our home in grand rapids home.

more than a new place, something has changed on the inside. phase two ushers in a little less frantic “we have to see and do everything” and a little more “let’s lead normal life here”. this weekend consisted of laundry, organizing, cooking, and decorating our new place. that felt good. normal felt good.

we have also started to make friends. i’ve always considered myself an independent person but it can get lonely in a big city. some nights were the good kind of lonely, enjoying quiet at home. some nights were the bad “i’m doing laundry on a saturday night” kind of lonely. but through all of those days and nights, i’ve learned about this city. i’ve learned about places to go, people to see, and a pie shop to love. google maps doesn’t reign my life anymore, i can navigate.

pie at chile pies & ice cream

pie. our favorite shop. this could be trouble

last weekend we went on a hike to land’s end. it’s beautiful and literally where the land ends. we went with friends, we jumped on rocks, we climbed up cliffs and we laughed. we had good conversation, true conversation and ended the day with delicious indian food. it was a tipping point, a day where you breathe deeply, sigh, and just stand in gratefulness that you’re in this place, can enjoy this peace.

land's end, san francisco

there is a labyrinth and apparently chris being pushed over.

land's end san francisco

it won’t stay this way forever, i know that. but right now i’ve been given a gift. i have the balance of adventures and new experiences while beginning to make friends and relationships. that balance is hard, it takes work, and it is here in some small ways which i am so grateful and in awe of.

with thanksgiving approaching, i can only stand back in awe of what God has brought into my life, how he has shaped every experience in the last few months for good. how he has brought us through phases and how we trust he’ll bring us through more. this thanksgiving won’t be with my family with a midwest chill. it won’t be in a cozy large home, but it will be where we call home for now. and i’m blessed that it will be with friends. for this i am grateful.