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Friday, March 24, 2017

#mittenhiking: Rogue River Park

Our latest Mitten Hiking adventure was at Rogue River Park in Belmont, Michigan, less than 10 miles north of downtown Grand Rapids. We were greeted with a gray and misty morning (as most of our hikes tend to be) that has me really looking forward to the sunshiney days that hopefully lie ahead. 

We were able to get about 3 miles out of this hike by doing multiple loops and taking a few side trails. It's quite flat and takes you along the banks of the Rogue River, through a fish hatchery, and gives you the option to link up with the White Pine Trail. With its close proximity to the city and easy trails, Rogue River Park would make a wonderful family-friendly hike!







Monday, March 20, 2017

#mittenhiking: Pickerel Lake

I've shared before a bit about #mittenhiking, a weekly hiking group my friends and I created where we explore trails in and around Grand Rapids. I post about it frequently on Instagram, but I want to get in the habit of sharing regularly here as well. 

I'm going to start with my favorite trail in the GR area, Pickerel Lake in Cannonsburg, Michigan. Pickerel Lake is part of the Frederic Meijer Nature Preserve, located just northeast of downtown Grand Rapids. Trails weave along the shoreline and throughout forests of pines. A recently renovated boardwalk allows you to walk along the lake and is the gateway to roughly five miles of trails. Be prepared for conquering quite a few hills, but know that you'll be rewarded with gorgeous lake views at the top!

As I mentioned, this trail is a favorite haunt of the Mitten Hikers. We've hiked it in both the spring and fall months, and I've done a few solo winter hikes. (Pro Tip: If you're hiking in the winter, be prepared for extremely icy trail conditions.)

Pickerel Lake is beautiful at any time of year, but I'm certainly looking forward to the days of more sunshine. 













Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Woman's Place

Source



I'm truly grateful beyond words for all of the amazing women in my life (and there are many). I come from a family of independent, intelligent, and deeply caring women who always encouraged me to take my own path, stand up for myself, and march to the beat of my own drummer. The women that surround me in my daily life offer me words of advice, make me roar with laughter, and remind me to breathe. 

I am uplifted by these women daily. I carry their passions and love and hopes and dreams in my heart. I strive to make them proud. Their confidence and bravery make me strong.

This year, today is also A Day Without a Woman

It's upsetting that we need this. It's upsetting that we need to go on strike in 2017 to communicate our value as human beings. It's infuriating to be constantly bombarded with messages and articles and commentary and unsolicited advice about how we should act. How we should look. How we should dress. We're told we're too fat, too skinny, we wear too much make-up, wear not enough. We're not confident, we're narcissistic, we're too feminine, we're too butch. We're sluts, we're prudes, we're not assertive, we're too bossy. 

"Cover up."
"Show a little skin."
"Asking for it."
"Give us a smile."
"Honey, you're evading my question."

We're told to hate our bodies, hate other women, hate ourselves. Be ashamed.

So today (and every day) we fight back. We recognize our contributions and our value. We strike from all labor (paid and unpaid). We don't make purchases (except to support local, woman-powered business). We wear red in solidarity. We educate. 

Today, my library is open. I am at work. I am here to serve, to be a resource to the community, to offer a safe place. I am dressed like Rosie the Riveter, proudly wearing a red bandanna. Yes we can. 

I am striving daily to be bold. To take up space. To speak up. To not back down. I am channeling the power and gathering strength from the women who have come before me. Who spoke out and stood their ground so that I could have a future of opportunities. Be bold for change.

"And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives. That we not hide behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which so often we accept as our own...For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us...for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken." 
 ::From "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action," Audre Lorde

I'm proud of you. I stand by you. I support you. Always. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

From the Shadow to the Sun



I have multiple posts sitting in my drafts folder that I just can't seem to finish. They're all things that I really want to write about and I know that the words are there somewhere deepdeepdown, but I just can't seem to find them. Nothing I write seems right and all of the words colliding in my brain cannot find meaningful order. 

I've found that I'm really struggling post-Inauguration Day. In the days after the election, I was ready to mobilize, ready to resist, ready to fight. I didn't feel the deep sense of despair that seemed to be permeating my social media feeds. In retrospect, I think this was a classic case of denial. I wasn't ready to believe that the worst case scenario had actually happened. (Which I realize is extreme privilege in and of itself.) And the more the policies of hate and extremism and xenophobia that are enacted, the more hopeless and lost I feel. 

I am finding refuge in the pages of books. Reading is all I want to do (even more so than usual). Graphic novels, biographies, literary fiction, memoirs, YA lit, audiobooks, poetry--the list goes on and on. I'm falling head-first into worlds that offer a respite from the chaos of my current one, but also provide stunning and insightful context that cannot be ignored. 

The poetry of Maya Angelou and Audre Lorde and Langston Hughes give me words to repeat when I am struggling. Still I rise, still I rise, still I rise. It gives a heartbreaking perspective to the fight for equality that has been ongoing for years and years and years with little resolution and makes me want to scream, "Why weren't we listening?!"

The infallible story of John Lewis's stand for nonviolence and civil rights told through the series of graphic novels, March is a powerful reminder to stand on the right side of history. Kamala Khan: Muslim, the child of immigrants, and a true super hero (in more ways than one) tells her story through the comic series Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and truly shows the importance of representation in all mediums and genres. 

The stories of powerful, kind, and intelligent women told in the books Brown Girl Dreaming, Hidden Figures, The Notorious RBG, Year of Yes, and Shrill remind me to be brave, to speak up, to take up space. These stories make me proud to be a woman. 

The fictional worlds created by Nicola Yoon in Everything, Everything and Zadie Smith in Swing Time weave stories of women trying to navigate life and love and heartache and happiness. The Earth End trilogy by Gillian Anderson and the classic tales of the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery provide different kinds of escapism--in an ancient land that never existed and in the simplicity of yesterdays that (almost) did--give me moments to smile at the improbability of it all. 

And so I continue to read. To give myself the grace of solitude for now. To resist through words and writing and listening and understanding and learning from the voices of those who have been silenced for so long because of their sex or their race or their religion or their desire to go against the status quo. For them, I am eternally grateful. For them, I will strive to do better, to be better. 

One day I will march. One day I will yell. One day I will fight. Today, I will learn. Today, I will listen. Today, I will try to understand.

Today, I will read. Tomorrow, I will rise. 


Reading is the highway from the shadow to the sun. 
Maya Angelou

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Beginnings

Millennium Park, Jan 2017

I typically experience difficulty getting back into the swing of things after an extended break from routine; whether that be the holidays, a long vacation, or a few extra days off. I'm struggling a bit today, so I thought it would be a good idea to take a few moments to think about my goals for 2017 and where I want this year to take me. 
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Focus.
I've found that I become more and more scattered-brained with each passing year. The piles on my desk accumulate, I procrastinate, which leads to feeling unprepared and over-stressed. When it comes to my professional life, I need to make a concerted effort to focus. Eliminate distractions. Do what I can to stay on top of deadlines, make reasonable lists, and delegate. Be in the moment more and multitask less.

Move.
I want to continue hiking (and snowshoeing!) every week and practicing yoga regularly. I also want to get back into exercising more on a daily basis--walking, stretching, running, lifting, etc. Anything to get moving and feel the earth under my feet. 

Travel.
I was fortunate enough to travel quite a bit in 2016 and I want to continue as much as possible in the coming year. Whether that's traveling across the country, across the state, or even just exploring new parts of my city, I want to see new horizons and breathe new air. 

Simplify.
I want to simplify in many areas of my life this year: my possessions, my wardrobe, the food I eat, the emails and papers I save, the media I consume, how I devote my time.  I want to establish boundaries and understand that "no" can be a complete sentence. I want less of what is weighing me down and more of what makes me feel alive.  

Write. 

Whether it be blogging, a 10 minute journal entry, short stories, poetry, or sending cards to friends, I want to write more words this year. When I was younger, I would write constantly. I called myself a writer. I clung to that identity proudly. In recent years, that identity has become lost in a flurry of emails, academia, and self-doubt. I want to write words and memories and stories and dreams and frustrations and lists and anything and everything. Ultimately, I want to write for me. 

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I hope these ideas and goals are able to guide me throughout 2017 and beyond. I'd like to continue practicing mindfulness while striving for strength and kindness in all situations. I want to remember to be kind to myself as well and know that I am enough. 

I'm grateful that every day is a new beginning and I hope to live each one to its fullest. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Redux: 10 Good Things


1) The Chicago Cubs won the World Series!

I still can't quite wrap my head around this. I want to put a post together about the many, MANY emotions I have about my beloved Cubbies finally winning it all, but so far I haven't been able to find the words. This video sums it up pretty damn well.

Photo by Max.

2) I traveled to the Bahamas, Key West, NYC, Mackinac Island (twice!), and Chicago (also twice!). 

I traveled quite a bit this year! We took a Caribbean cruise in February to celebrate my graduation from grad school. In May, I traveled to Mackinac Island for a conference and finally got to stay in the Grand Hotel. Later that month, we went to New York City for the weekend to see Gillian Anderson star as Blanche Du Bois in A Streetcar Named Desire. The summer was spent taking quick weekend trips up north. In September, we returned to Mackinac Island to run the 8 Mile Race around the island. October and November included trips to Chicago for the World Series and the Championship Parade.  I'm so, so grateful I was able to travel as much as I did this year and only hope that I can continue. 

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn

Port Oneida, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Mackinac Island

Wrigley Field, Chicago



3) I simplified my wardrobe.

I decided to define my "personal style" and for me, that means sticking to a very neutral color palate (black, gray, cream, olive) and having pieces that I can mix and match. This is nothing revolutionary, but it has greatly reduced the size of my closet and how I view clothing. I'm guilty of indulging in shopping a bit too often and this has drastically cut down on that. If it's not in my color palate or I don't need it, I don't buy it. This is all certainly a work in progress, but it's really helping me downsize and I love it.

4) The X-Files returned, filling me with hope and angst.


Seeing Mulder and Scully again after so many years was an absolute delight. BUT WOULD IT HAVE KILLED YOU TO ANSWER A FEW IMPORTANT QUESTIONS, CHRIS CARTER?!?!?! WOULD IT?!?!?!

(source)

5) I read. A lot. 

I feel like this year I discovered a renewed vigor for reading. I listened to audiobooks  almost constantly: in my car, in my office, while I do the dishes. When I wasn't listening, I was reading: graphic novels, comics, YA and children's lit, memoirs, literary fiction, poetry collections, how-tos, the list goes on and on. See what I read in 2016 here



6) I became a vegetarian. 

I was a vegetarian for a time when I was a kid and I've been wanting to return to it for years. I'm at a point in my life where this just feels right. I've been doing my research, reading a lot of vegetarian cookbooks, and experimenting with vegan recipes here and there as well. I actually found this book to be a very helpful, nonjudgmental resource about choosing to not eat meat.

7) Kyle and I celebrated 5 years of marriage on August 6th. 

We took a carriage ride around the city, had a fancy dinner at Cygnus, and then went to see Star Trek Beyond, because we're not that fancy. I'm so grateful to be married to such an amazing man who is always up for any of my harebrained ideas and who fixes me eggs every Sunday morning. Here's to many, many more.



8) We adopted a cat. 


This is Teddy Roosevelt. He's very vocal and very cuddly. He is also very cross-eyed and very large. Don't let this picture fool you--they're just roommates, not friends. 



9) I tried new things like hiking, snowshoeing, and yoga.



More than ever, the outdoors has become my refuge. I spent  a majority of this year getting outside whenever I could and it has done wonders for my soul. Even with cold weather upon us, my friends and I still hike almost every Saturday. And this is the first winter in years that I have actually wished for more snow, just so that I could snowshoe. I tried yoga for the first time this year, absolutely fell in love, and wished that I had started practicing sooner. 



10) THE CHICAGO CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES!
YOU GUYS. 



Wishing you love and light in 2017, friends. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Redux: Still Another Year in Books

My library card got quite a bit of use this year. I've read/listened to more books this year than I have maybe ever: 135. I attribute this to listening to audiobooks on my one hour round-trip commute and devouring any graphic novel I can get my hands on. 

I made a strong effort this year to read books written by women and people of color. I hope to continue this in the years ahead. I'd like to participate in a reading challenge that will get me reading out of my comfort zone and that will give me deeper insight to our world. I read almost everything on my Summer Syllabus (aside from finishing one of the graphic novel series), along with many recommendations from my library's monthly book club. I also reread some favorites, including Wild, The Little Prince, and When You Reach Me. I'm also delving into the Anne of Green Gables series, which I've never read before but am quickly falling in love with.

I agonized over picking my favorites this year. Most of the titles on this list are for young readers. (Although I think that Bucky F*cking Dent takes the cake overall!) I read some really wonderful stories that I loved for different reasons. Aren't books the best?

Here's what I read this year. (All images courtesy of Goodreads.) Which of these have you read and loved (or hated!)? What did you read this year? What should I be reading in 2017? 

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Top 15 Favorites
The Complete PoetryMaya Angelou
Between the World and MeTa-Nesihi Coates (audiobook, read by the author)
MatildaRoal Dahl (audiobook, read by Kate Winslet)
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing EyeTania del Rio & Will Staehle
Bucky F*cking DentDavid Duchovny (audiobook, read by the author)
The Turner House, Angela Flournoy
84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff
My One Hundred AdventuresPolly Horvath
Dumplin', Julie Murphy
I am Princess XCherie Priest
Nimona, Noelle Stevenson 
Paper Girls (Vol. 1), Brian K. Vaughn
Where Am I Now?, Mara Wilson

Want to know more about what I'm reading throughout the year? Follow me on Goodreads, Instagram, or under the hashtag #whatmollyreads. Let me know where I can follow you! Wishing you all an amazing 2017 filled with good coffee and even better books!

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Here's what I read in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015