Category Archives: Inspiration

Announcing… BIKES IN HOLLAND!!!

It give me great pleasure to announce this year’s spring event:

BIHposter - draft 2

I could hardly be more excited.

This spring, Professor Lee Hardy of Calvin College (my alma mater) will take us on a fascinating ride through the streets of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, two of the world’s leading cities for bicycling.

Professor Hardy
Professor Hardy

Professor Hardy’s inspiring multimedia presentation demonstrates how these cities make way for people on bikes and help them get around in a way that’s fun, easy, and affordable – for everyone!

After he answers your questions, we’ll turn our attention to our own community here in Holland, Michigan. Elisa Hoekwater, author of the greater Holland region’s new non-motorized plan, will offer a brief update on where things stand around here. Your input is welcome!

Delicious cookies and coffee from Simpatico Coffee will be available for you to enjoy.

The event will be held in Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church’s brand-spanking-new fellowship room. It’s cozy in the best kind of way, and you’re going to love it.

Join us on Saturday, May 10 at 7:00 p.m. to celebrate Bikes in Holland!

Tickets are $10 and are available online now!

Few things are ever accomplished by one person working alone.

I need YOUR help! Here’s what you can do:

  • E-mail a friend today. Take just a second right now to copy this link – – and send it to a friend. It will bring them to this page, so they can read about this great event for themselves.
  • Join the Event Team. There’s still plenty to do, from publicity to event set-up to considering ways to help these ideas gain traction in our community.
  • Put us in contact with potential sponsors. I would still like to have a few more sponsors to help underwrite this event. Our primary sponsorship levels range from $50 to $250, and we also have a low-cost ticket sponsorship option.
  • And of course, buy your own tickets right away! Here’s the link again:
  • Contact me at with any questions or for more information. This is going to be so much fun – I hope to see you there!


    Why the Winter Bird Sings and How You Can Too

    Sometimes all we need is a reminder of just how free we are.

    It’s early on the second day back to normal, after that endless streak of snow days at the beginning of the year.

    “Mom, can we go to the playground?”


    The playground…In the dead of winter?

    Well, I guess I could blog about it. Sure, let’s go.

    We go potty (or “go potty”) and don 27 pieces of outerwear (I count), some more than once, before crunching down to the end of the block. The temperature is in the mid-twenties, which feels unbearable in November but by January makes hats and mittens seem overdone. I can feel the beginnings of sweat at my hairline as I pull Mae across the squeaky snow and over the street-edge snowbanks in her bright new sled. I tell the five-year-old who doesn’t like to walk, the child who requested this trip, that when I was her age I walked to school every day all by myself.

    She isn’t impressed.

    The park we are going to is right in our neighborhood, only four or five blocks away. It takes up most of one city block and has a playground, a gazebo, a big open field and a ball diamond. After fighting the shifty sidewalk snow and a recalcitrant preschooler all the way here, my legs are ready for a break. I breathe a sigh of relief as we walk up…

    …and see that, of course, the sidewalks in the park haven’t been cleared. Wearily I gaze across the field of unbroken snow and contemplate turning right back around to go home.

    I’ve been hooked by the idea of winter cities, places that embrace their climate and celebrate life through every season. I can picture a miniature sledding hill in the middle of this park, sidewalks shoveled to the playground, kids playing on the playground and making snowy igloos in the baseball diamond.

    Someday. Today is… different than that.


    Abigail is suddenly inspired and leads the way, powering her way through the snow with her strong little legs. She stops in the gazebo, where the snow is shallower, and lays down for a minute before plowing on to the playground.

    In the meantime, I have Mae in the sled and am trying to stay upright as I gracelessly drag her through this impenetrable snow bog. I’m scarcely twenty feet off the sidewalk and am beginning to wonder if we’ll even make it to the playground at all.


    Ignoring her requests is ineffective as she attempts to launch herself out of her wee chariot. So out she comes..

    But the snow is “doo deep.”

    “WANT UP!”

    What have I done? What am I doing here? It’s the middle of winter and we walked to the playground?? What kind of crazy was this? I’m plowing through knee-deep snow carrying a two-year-old who has ever been in the 98th percentile for both height and weight, dragging the sled in which she now refuses to ride. Those prickles of sweat at my hairline have turned to droplets in a hurry. I stop and take a breather.


    The sky is feathery gray and blue and has that heavy, steely look it does in winter. It’s like its colors have been put on mute for the season. There are birds flittering around the tree beside me. I can’t tell what they are, but I hear a bluejay across the park.

    I pause. You can’t see the birds in this photo but a flock has hidden itself in these trees, dancing through the branches and singing their little hearts out in the middle of this Narnian season, free birds who “leap on the back of the wind,” however cold it may be.*

    Their song baffles me. Don’t they know how cold it is? Don’t they long for the spring, iwth its gentle breezes and plentiful food? I think that I might sit huddled on a branch, waiting for the season to change.

    And I wonder… am I waiting for an easier season, too? Don’t I wish there were fewer clothes to put on, fewer mittens to find, beautiful clear sidewalks to walk down? Don’t I wish for fewer dishes to wash, fewer early-morning wakings, beautiful little rooms that stay clean once I clean them?

    Have you ever put your life on pause until spring? I have.

    Maybe life is just too HARD right now. We lower our heads and hunker down, wishing for the storm to pass and waiting for an easier season to venture out.

    But there’s beauty in the storm.

    How much do we miss if we confine our dancing, confine our singing, to the days when the sun shines warm on our faces? How much of life passes us by if we flee indoors to escape the blowing snow that needles our cheeks?

    Abandoning the sled in the gazebo I press on, feet sinking deep into the dense snow.


    The playground was amazing. The slide that the girls normally fly off at top speed, landing on the hard ground in a crying crumple, is nearly snowed in. They slide down and then off the end on an invented luge run that extends the ride by a good fast four feet. Abigail faces her nemesis, the monkey bars, now plopping painlessly into the snow when she loses her grip. Every snowdrift is a little fort, piled up around slides and stairs, ready for hideouts and playing bad guys.


    Getting there was arduous, but oh, was the journey worth it.

    So much of this life is in how we face it. Whether it’s a dark night of the soul, the winter of our discontent, or a polar vortex, we’re birds in a cage with an open door. And sometimes it takes some doing, but gathering our courage and being willing to endure discomfort can make all the difference in how we experience this cold season.

    The trip back goes faster. We’ve already broken the trail out to the playground, so getting back to the sidewalk is much more manageable. Over the snowbanks we clamber, cheerfully kicking aside snowplow-flung chunks of ice to arrive back home, to the favored lunch of hot tomato soup and Sunbutter sandwiches.

    That thing you’ve been waiting to begin, that thing you’ve been waiting to be over with… will you settle into it this week? Take a little leap into the storm, put on a coat and find a spot of beauty in it? Will you decide this week to sing a song of freedom?*

    I’d love to hear. Feel free, as always, to leave a comment or email me at And stay tuned for an exciting announcement about an event that you will LOVE coming up next week!

    Because livable places are better.

    *I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

    Snow Day Survival Guide, including a free printable!

    Adorable. Fresh, clean snow.
    Adorable. Fresh, clean snow.

    If you’re all in a panic because your kids are going mad and you don’t have a thing prepared for them to do on the millionth snow day in a row, go on ahead and skip to the end. I won’t tell!

    This winter is no joke.

    It’s snowed every single day since forever. We haven’t had school since last Wednesday, and wind chills for today are forecast to hit about -30F (which is -34C – we’ve almost converged!).

    But what do you do? There are only so many days you can spend huddled inside waiting for spring, especially if you live with lots of little humans.

    There’s something to be said for celebrating the place you live, crazy climate and all. In honor of our fourth straight snow day, I’m offering a few hints on getting outside to enjoy this unique weather with a free printable below to wrap it up.

    Dress in layers.

    And I mean lots of them. Two pair of socks; leggings, long underwear, or fleece tights under jeans; undershirt, long-sleeved shirt, and sweater – this is your base layer. Then add your boots, snowpants, hat, mittens or gloves, and scarf. It’s so much easier to enjoy being out in the snow if you’re dressed for it!

    Stay out of the wind.

    Play on the sheltered side of the house and avoid open areas – it will make a tremendous difference in how long you’re able to stay outside. Good old-fashioned snow forts make great windblocks, too.

    Come in for warming breaks.

    This is a new one to me that came from a woman who grew up in Alaska. You can get outside in some crazy cold weather, you just need to come in periodically to let your skin warm up. So send the kids out for twenty minutes – or better yet, join them, the fresh air will do you good too! – then come back in for five or ten minutes to warm up and head right back out. Go ahead and leave the gear on and your sanity may actually remain intact.

    Activity for Desperate Parents


    Now, for that moment when you really need to go inside, I created – ahem – a printable. It’s a poem called The Snowman which I’ve formatted as a booklet for the kiddos to illustrate. It requires the ability to do double-sided printing but otherwise needs absolutely no preparation ahead of time. It is appropriate for preschoolers and young grade-schoolers (my kids are 5 and 7 and enjoyed it; the 2-year-old took a yogurt bath and decorated my kitchen with cinnamon rather than participate).

    Get it while it’s hot (hahahahahaaa):

    The Snowman: Click here to download!

    Additional Activity for the Exceptionally Motivated or Desperate

    Again, this needs no preparation ahead of time. Grab some kind of dish with sides from the kitchen – a cookie sheet with a lip, casserole dish, pie plate, that sort of thing – and bring it outside to put some snow in. Make a miniature snowman. (If you live around here you might need to let the snow warm up a little for it to pack.) Then watch it melt, just like the snowman in the book (hopefully it won’t traumatize your little artistes!). A lesson in solid and liquid states.

    UPDATE! What’s a snow day without a video?

    Many thanks to Sammy for this suggestion. Head on over there if you love to escape through adoption stories. 🙂

    See? You covered nature, literature, and science today. Win!

    Like this? Sign up for our e-mail list and never miss a thing!

    More on helping kids thrive in:
    Ten Reasons for Your Child to Walk to School
    The Courage of Children
    The Capability of Children
    Car Time to School Keeps Kids from Concentrating

    We Must Do (Wednesday’s Words)

    We Must Do - daVinci

    I know myself. I love the world of words and thoughts; I’m very comfortable in an academic environment.


    It’s not enough. The digital world, the world of words, these are real and good things.

    But it’s time to do.

    This is going to be the year of doing. I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like; I have ideas, but no promises. (Remember? I’m good at ideas!) But this year? This year, things will happen.

    Join me?

    Anything Can Be (Wednesday’s Words)

    Anything Can Happen - Silverstein

    It’s the day of possibility. We may be relieved that the intensity of the holidays has passed, and we’re energized by the prospect of a new year. On this day, it’s all hope and no disappointment. Anything can be!

    So let’s take this time to dream. What can we bring to pass this year? What can we work toward, what little piece of the elephant can we take on in coming months?

    I’d love to hear what your hopes are for this year, either in the comments or via email to

    Giving Thanks (Wednesday’s Words)

    Give Thanks for good Things - Voskamp

    Ann’s website (here) is a favorite of mine. Something about actively seeking to give thanks in the middle of noisy, crazy childrearing resonates with me so deeply – no idea why, really. 🙂

    Through Ann’s writing and involvement with Compassion International, I came across her friend, songwriter Shaun Groves. This beautiful song, friends, I offer to you this Thanksgiving.

    An excerpt:

    Maker of the starry sky
    When all is bleak and broken
    With your pow’r through us make bright
    When love is lived and spoken
    To God the Father, God the Son
    God the Spirit, Three in One
    Gratitude and glory be
    Sung by every soul set free

    May your Thanksgiving offer you ample time to give thanks for all good gifts. Godspeed, friends.

    Start Where You Are (Wednesday’s Words)

    Start - Use - Do - Ashe

    You know that quote that talks about how our biggest fear is that we are really powerful beyond measure? Sometimes that resonates with me. Sometimes I think, that if I were to succeed with all the wild dreams that I come up with on beautiful days filled with sunshine and hot flowing coffee, I would find myself in a crashing ocean of I Don’t Know What I’m Doing. It’s hard to believe that could actually be a deterrent, but… sometimes.

    Most days, though, it’s more the opposite. I look at the problems of the world and that’s where I find the crashing ocean. It’s like eating an elephant, and how on earth can I possibly even make the teeniest tiniest little difference?

    So here I am, a housewife sitting in a small-town coffee shop on a rainy day. I have a computer, a few hours of internet access, and the hope that words really can change some things.

    May you find the courage to do what you can with what you have, wherever you find yourself today.