Happy New Year! 2016 in Review

I recently was commenting to my husband Nathan how I felt our year was uneventful so it was no big deal that we weren’t sending out a newsletter. He immediately corrected me as we both began naming many things we did/accomplished throughout the year! As I started this entry, I couldn’t believe how right my dear husband was. Although 2016 was a painful year of growing for me personally, it was also a beautiful year and God has never left our side. We have been immensely blessed by the gifts of relationships, provisions, laughter, beauty and wisdom to just name a few. So although we did not send out a physical letter/card this year, hope you enjoy learning a little bit about what we’ve been up to via this blog. This entry has been a healing journey of remembering all the gifts God has so graciously given us!

January-January was a pretty busy month! I enjoyed some girl time by hosting some of my close friends/old roomies for dinner; meanwhile Nathan enjoyed a snowboarding trip in Wausau, WI with his sister Jessy.

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snowboarding at Granite Peak in Wausau Wisconsin with his sister Jessy

We also had our first couple guests as a married couple, my cousin Caitlin and her husband Barry. I made teriyaki salmon and we played games and just relaxed. It was awesome. Finally, we enjoyed a 2-day stay at Canyon Road Inn-a cute B & B in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin (a wedding gift from our good friends Travis and Shivan).

February- We enjoyed skating at Rice Park in downtown St. Paul. We also celebrated Valentines day at a fancy restaurant-McCormick & Schmick’s and heard/saw our first ballet-St Paul Ballet. The dinner was good; the walk to the ballet was brutal (super cold); the ballet was…interesting! If you want to hear the whole story, go ahead and ask, haha.

March-We celebrated N’s birthday at Mediterranean Cruise Cafe, one of our favorite restaurants. I enjoyed watching my middle schoolers perform the Little Mermaid Jr. with my good friend Jesica. The highlight of our month was our long-awaited week-long honeymoon to the Dominican Republic. We chose the all-inclusive Iberostar Grand Hotel in Punta Cana and were delighted by just being able to relax in a beautiful setting! The trip was unforgettable!20160327_120111

April-We celebrated Nathan’s gradation from graduate school with an MS in Electrical Engineering. (He still had some studying left to do for a few weeks afterward so we couldn’t fully celebrate til May!)

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May-Nathan finally finished his studies (Way to go Babe!!!!!) so we enjoyed more time together! Tim and Amelie came from Germany. The 4 of us plus Caitlin and Barry all hung out at Lake Minnetonka. We also attended my old roomie and good friend’s Ambrosia’s wedding to Daniel. It was a definitely a month of connection and relationships!

June-Since I still had a few weeks of teaching left, Nathan began vigorously working on the house, organizing, decluttering and cleaning. We had our first overnight house guests come at the end of June. N’s brother Bob, wife Carol and children, Landon, Ashlyn and Reese, stayed with us for 3 days. Bob and Nathan bonded through their running of a Spartan Race in Welsh Village (it was N’s 3rd Spartan Race and, while he did not have a lot of time to train this time, both guys finished well and had a quite a story to tell!) We enjoyed dinners, movies, Nickelodeon Universe, a trip to the beach and just talking and spending time together with our family.

July-I finally began to relax after a stressful school year. Since I decided to not work this summer, I got a lot of reading in. I finished the entire Harry Potter Series (started it in March); I also enjoyed Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, a lighthearted memoir called Wait Till Next Year and a very interesting memoir about losing and finding faith,When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over. I also read quite a few marriage and self-help books.

July was also a month of family. Nathan and I enjoyed a visit to Coleman, Wisconsin (his hometown) to celebrate Fourth of July with his extended family. The party was hosted by his great Uncle Myron. This was an incredibly special time to meet tons of family and also because Uncle Myron recently passed away (a few days before Christmas). So I was very grateful to have met him and just feel closer to my husband’s family. We also visited my brother Nathan, Kat, Brendan (5) and Owen (2) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It was our first time to their home. We enjoyed seeing the hospital where Nate works as a chaplain, yoga (Kat and me), bike rides, farmer’s market, and just playing around the house and yard. We are blessed by family!

This month N and I became companion care volunteers for a hospice program. We now visit a hospice patient several times a month and have enjoyed our time as a couple doing something that we both find rewarding.

August-I planned a karaoke birthday party for my 32nd! So that was fun. It was special that so many great people took the time to come and spend time with me, even if karaoke isn’t their cup of tea!  Nathan and I also enjoyed going to (his first) drive-in movie. Actually we stayed for all three movies! It was a fun, enjoyable and romantic date!

The highlight of the summer was probably our time up in Duluth with our friends Jeff and Emma. We loved their beautiful home, ate good (healthy) food, played games and enjoyed a day of hiking. Then N and I spent some special time at a Bed and Breakfast in downtown Duluth right on the incredibly gorgeous lake! It was a beautifully unforgettable trip! Finally, this month, we had a double date with our friends Scott and Joy. We enjoyed sushi, Yogurt Lab and a Trader Joe’s run. We are so grateful for our friends!

Sadly, summer came to an end. I enjoyed getting a few more books read and working on organizing the house and yard, particularly my bird stuff. I also practiced quite a bit of yoga at a private yoga studio a mile from my house! (Now that I mention it, a new grocery store called Fresh Thyme opened next door to the yoga studio, so I also enjoyed getting some good deals there!)

We got involved in a Saturday evening Bible Study on Genesis with a bunch of couples from our church and are really enjoying it!

September-We celebrated our first anniversary on 2 different days. First we enjoyed Pho at Quang Vietnamese in Uptown. Later, we had an interesting night (long story) hearing live music at Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Mnpls. Our actual anniversary was even more enjoyable. We spent several hours at a nearby apple orchard! We enjoyed strolling the beautiful grounds and getting lost (and found) in the corn maze!

I also began writing on my blog more. I was captured by this Blog-tember writing challenge where you were supposed to respond to a prompt each day. Well I probably wrote only about half of the days but it felt good to be writing again.

Throughout the summer and fall, Nathan went to town doing multiple house projects including finishing our driveway, organizing the garage, fixing the garage door, replacing the water-damaged siding on the back of the house, and gardening among other things. He is an awesome handyman!  (He installed a dartboard in the garage so we have enjoyed playing darts here and there!)

October-We went to Bethel Homecoming with our friend Theresa. It was fun to visit our (Theresa and my) Alma Mater again! Nathan enjoyed going to see the Packers play in Green Bay with his high school buddy.

Meanwhile I visited my parents in Eau Claire. I enjoyed visiting the apple orchard with Mom!

This month I also expanded on a different blog I have been working on. Check it out! It has been a healing journey for me.

November-We enjoyed date nights such as seeing Finding Dory, eating Greek food at the mall and working out together at the gym. We had Thanksgiving with N’s family and also attended his cousin Jennifer’s wedding in Milwaukee. It was a great time for me to get to know more of his family better and really love and cherish their family culture.

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Nathan, his dad Steve, stepmom Chris and me

December– We are debt free! Thank you Lord! I paid off the rest of my school and car loans this month! We also enjoyed many Christmasy type things: Festival of Christmas at Bethel University; a Christmas gathering with our Bible study and a Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant concert. We had an enjoyable Christmas with our families in eastern Wisconsin (Nathan’s) and Eau Claire (mine). I also enjoyed seeing my girls. We enjoyed a Christmas gathering at Good Earth and ice skating together!

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Maintaining my friendships is priceless to me. Here are 4 of my closest friends/Small Group girls: Dallas, (me), Theresa, Vanessa and Michelle. Each is dear to me in her own way!

N and I also hosted my brother Greg, sister-in-law Sarah Jane and their 4 kids on Dec. 30th. They live about 40 minutes away but it’s still hard to get together. We did crafts, ate BBQ chicken and just talked.

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my nieces Nynaeve (1 yr), Verity (almost 5), Corryn (6) and nephew Callum (6)

Finally, this month, Nathan and I really grew as a couple. We both enjoyed several weeks off of work where we could work on the house together (mostly N), read and study the Bible together and play racquetball together. We have had a great, rewarding year. I hope 2016 was a blessing for you and we pray for many more blessings in 2017! Happy New Year!

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Inspired

I have been inspired to share my journey so I will start from the beginning on my other website. Please follow me if you want to learn about my story: one of hope, healing and my daily journey with depression and anxiety. My hope is to give the best way I know how-through writing. Through my writing, I hope to connect with others who are or know someone like me and to remind you all (and myself) that we are not alone.

Blog-tember Challenge-Stress Relief

Day 16 (Yeah so I am behind, but I am just choosing the ones I like): How do you de-stress/take care of yourself?

Anyone who knows me knows I am not so great when I get stressed. Being an introvert while also working as a middle schooler teacher 50 hours a week creates its challenges. Luckily, I know quite a bit about myself and how to combat this craziness.

  1. Yoga. I try to do yoga at least 5 times a week. Even if it is just a few stretches here and there. I love Esther Ekhart and mostly do her free videos at home. Yoga is a full mind-body experience. It’s one of the only ways I can focus my mind on one thing fully while also getting in a good workout! I bought a package at a yoga studio near my home last spring so I enjoyed a variety of classes that way. I’d like to try aerial yoga there one of these days.
  2. Exercise. I hate exercising. But my body loves it so I must obey. My functional medicine dr. ordered both a full body lifting routine 2x a week and an interval training routine 2x/ week. Due to time constraints, I try to get in one of each per week. I always feel so much better and sleep a ton better the night of my workouts!
  3. Sitting/ walking outside. I try to get outside every day. Even if just for a few minutes. I combine this with my workouts and time with friends (walking, usually.) Nature is one of my biggest soothers.
  4. Time with family and friends. I like my alone time but…a little too much. Sometimes it backfires on me when my thoughts go haywire and I end up more stressed out. So I try to have a good talk or laugh with my hubby or a friend every day. And it needs to be about something besides our jobs!
  5. Reading the Psalms. They aren’t as life-giving as they once were but I find the Psalms speak to any emotion I might be feeling at the time. I try to read one per day.
  6. Following a night time routine/creating peace before bed. I have to wind down almost an hour before bed so I usually start doing this around 7:30. First I lower or turn off most lights. I might light candles in my bedroom or around the house. Then I take a hot shower which almost always relaxes me. Afterwards, I set my Pandora One station to “Yiruma” (one of my fav pianists). I set the sleep timer for an hour and read (has to be light reading).Finally, Nathan and I try to pray together before sleep. (We haven’t been as good about it lately, but I usually sleep better when we do.) One rule we have is no deep talks before bed on weeknights!
  7. Massage. I wish I could do this more but I try to get in 1 every 2 months or so (due to cost.) For a cheaper version I roll on some tennis balls or if I’m lucky get my husband or a friend to rub my back.

Blog-tember Challenge: Mood Board

Instead of a mood board I decided to share my Vision Board that I created as part of my work through this book:

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For the past 1-2 years, I have been dealing with another bout of depression which I am sure was fueled by the stress of so many changes in my life this past year. This past summer my goal was to get healthy and one of the things in my functional medicine doctor’s plan was to read this book. The author’s point was to become a Visionary not a Critic (pp. 24-26): “While the critic whispers incessantly to you about your shortcomings, all that is wrong, and how hard you must work to change, …the visionary knows who you really are, identifies with your basic goodness, and has specific longings just for you.”  The book said to create a Vision Board by first reflecting on what hopes you have in going through this workbook. Then, by cutting out pictures from magazines that speak to these hopes and your vitality. As a former artsy crafty person, it was fun to be creative and take the time to do this for myself. So this is what I came up with.

img_0004The book asks, “What does your vision board tell you about your deepest longings and intentions for yourself on this journey to resilience?”

My deepest longing is to be free from self-sabotage brought about by my incessant self-judgements. When I strip away all this negative judgement I am left with the person I really am, even if I don’t feel like I am her. That’s why I included affirmations such as “I am free from fear; I am full of peace” and “I have the courage to change.”  They feel so very far from true-like it’s almost wrong to say them. But by not saying them, I am not true to myself and I continue along the sad road of self-sabotage. Along with the Scripture verses, “I am precious and honored” and “I am chosen, holy and Christ’s heir”-they don’t feel real, but I must fight to believe them.

I also included comforting and serene pictures to remind me that I am someone who longs for peace, rest and comfort. And it’s okay to have these things. Because when I experience them, I can then give them to others.

I included pictures and quotes about healing because true healing is not the absence of pain or disease; that’s just a cure. True healing is a mental state that shows I am resilient and have the ability to find joy in tough times.

I also included a picture of a snowman because it reminds me of the innocence of childhood and brings me back to my memories of childhood.  This is a reminder that it’s okay to be nostalgic, to receive soothing comfort from the past. While I find joy in my memories, I also desire to be creating new memories by experiencing beauty in the present moment. Because by remaining focused on the past or future, I am contributing to my old patterns of stuckness and self-sabotage. This reminds me that life is about a balance.

The book finally asks to come up with an intention statement for yourself as you go through this book. My intention as I continue along the road of healing is:

I allow myself to become who I truly am by letting go of the fear of change and of becoming this new person. I allow myself to let go of the things that overall don’t matter but instead embrace all of the beauty in my self, others and Creation.

Blog-tember Challenge Day 7: 5 things that make you joyful

I realize I am four days behind. Oh well; I am just picking ones I like. I may or may not come back to the ones I missed. I have just been enjoying writing lately. And with my new goal of no judgement, I think I am doing a good job.

Choosing only 5 things that bring me joy will be pretty hard.

My top joy-bringers (I am sorry that I cheated a little bit by combining a few things…) are:

  1. Travel/Culture: Ever since the trips we took as children to the Appalachian Mountains, the West Coast and New York City, I have loved seeing how other people live their lives. I was blessed to take a life changing study-abroad trip to Guatemala in college where I fell in the love with the beauty and simplicity of the Mayan culture. Another one of my favorite trips was to Arches National Park in Utah with my parents in 2009. This is combined with my love of Nature. I am not a science person, so I don’t know all the correct terms, but it was phenomenal to see how God allowed erosion to take its toll over time leaving us the most beautiful natural landscapes in these arches. Plus, I loved the dry heat and desert climate, the luscious blue of sky and the hummingbirds darting about outside the cabin we stayed at.
  2. Nature: This is where I am most healed. Right now I am sitting, delighted, with wind whipping through tree branches through the open window, light pouring through shadowy leaves on my carpet and clothes. Down below is my deck and backyard where I just got my squirrel barrier set up above my feeder so as to encourage the chickadees, nuthatches and cardinals to come and stay awhile. (I had to move it further from the trunk because those pesky squirrels were still able to jump to it!) Anyone who knows me knows how childlike I get in nature-especially when it comes to birds and cloud-filled skies! Nature is at rest and that’s where I want to be.
  3. Live Music-the last picture above is the Piano Guys live in concert. I know it is not a great pic, but that was one of my favorite concerts. (It was my 3rd or 4th date with Nathan 2 years ago!) I am a fan of all kinds of music, but choral and instrumental music-especially live- really fill me with the kind of peace I cannot describe. I am grateful beyond words for the beauty and exquisiteness of music. Also PandoraOne. I recently tried to add another station and was met with the Error Message: “You are not allowed to add over 100 stations.” Ha ha. I am a little obsessed; this just goes to show the variety of music I enjoy. My favorite station right now is “Alexandre Desplat” who is a film musician and did Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-part 2, Argo, Filomena, and The Imitation Game among many others.
  4. Loved Ones. Some say I don’t laugh enough. They’re right. The things I laugh the most at are people. No, I laugh with them. They are the people closest to me. Above, you will see a group of the Bettgers (my dad’s side) outside the Whirlyball court in Maple Grove MN. This was in the spring of 2015 and it was a blast!!! If you’ve never played Whirlyball, it’s hilarious! And we laughed a ton. Then there’s my hubby. He’s the strangest yet most loveable person ever. I don’t have to fake laugh at my husband’s comments and jokes (like they talk about in the media). I actually think he is hilarious! Above we are being goofy at an airport on our way to NY last Christmas. Also, pictured is me with my oldest bro Nate, sis-in-law Kat, and 2 nephews, Owen and Brendan at their old house in Oshkosh, WI. I am so blessed to have an amazing family!!!!!
  5. Memories. What can I say? I am so nostalgic. Probably to a fault. Remembering the past and all the good times brings me so much joy. My favorite creative writing to do and books to read are nonfiction and memoir. And my dream is to be a memoir author. I love going through old letters and memorabilia. In fact, my “Survival Box” (for when I am so overloaded with stress I have nowhere to turn) is filled with this kind of stuff. Above are some memory jars that I made for my family one Christmas out of decoupage glue and scrapbooking materials. Inside the jars, I put strips of paper-30, I believe (one for each day of the month)-with memories and quotes typed up and catered to each person, my mom, dad, and brothers. It was a lot of work, but so fun and cathartic. I was told it was a blessing and a meaningful gift.

What are your 5 joy-givers????