Thursday, September 27, 2012


I wrote this in August, three days before my sister and brother-in-law had their son Levi. In my first visit with them after Levi's birth, my head whirled through a thousand thoughts as I held the newborn. I marveled at his perfection, and all nine pounds of it. It's the first time a newborn didn't look all that tiny.

I found out two days ago that I am pregnant. I figured out yesterday that I am about 8 weeks pregnant. The baby-to-be already has some nervous system, some circulatory system, and is starting to develop a face. 

What? I think I just fainted a little bit.

On Monday, it started to move, which is (maybe?) what caused me to feel nauseous, and finally go do a pregnancy test. Let me say that again. It started to move. 

Fainting again.

By the time I publish this, I'll be at the end of the first trimester, sharing this unexpected news with the world.

We didn't intend to become parents. In fact, we were well on our way to having decided to forego that whole realm. 

This is all very unlikely. 

I never had a strong desire to be a parent. I never even felt a twinge of biological clock. And now that this is happening, I have an unperturbed sense of peace. We will live out this adventure, with as much love and learning as any other.

I thought it would be more complicated. 

I am not afraid. I am not torn with a desire to know what might have been. I believe that so much of what I have planned for my life will still come to be--just with an unpredicted twist.

It couldn't really be any other way.

To have made a decision to have a child, this would have been so much planning and pressure, we would have struggled to define our own experience. Having already set our course, this becomes simply a part of the journey.

It happens really fast.

I finally called my doctor, and went in for an official test. Yup, still pregnant. Prenatal appointments and a baby-industrial-complex span out in front of me. I find myself browsing sites about home birth, the things I should and shouldn't eat, and the week-by-week development of a pregnancy.

I smile a lot, especially at Kevin. It's a strange little secret we have between us.

I am waiting. My little sister goes before me in this, ready to deliver her baby at any moment. I will hold my news until I know we're past the largest risks, and until after she has had some time in the light.

It's all so unexpected. 

Announcements have been made, and the news has begun to sink in for all. My own reaction is still defined by peace and trust. Fourteen weeks have passed by, and the baby growing inside me is getting bigger and stronger every day. I am still amazed, grateful, hopeful. By now, I'm getting over the surprise. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Worms and other weird things

First off, let's get the context.

I am a writer and project manager/consultant-type for a communications firm. I serve clients. I plan and develop communications strategies, write/edit/architect websites, analyze website usage data, write and advise on Facebook posts, and everything in between. I dress up for work, and I work in a beautiful downtown office. With other people who are consultant-types and creative-types, who also dress up every day and do a lot of brain work.

I'm also a hippie. I believe (fervently!) in living a life connected to the natural world--from food to weather to seasons, to human duty to act responsibly with our resources. It is this philosophy that underlies all my value decisions. I live in a small house, I camp out most weekends in Northport, dreaming (and occasionally making progress) about reclaiming an old farmstead.

And that differential—between business-day Amelia and farmer Amy—is what this post is about. For my friend and colleague Will, whose sharp mind, curiosity, humor and enthusiasm are eternally valuable, here is a catalog of things I do, that you will think are endlessly weird.

1 - Worms

I think this is what started the whole conversation. Worms, that eat your organic garbage, turn it into compost, and live happily in your house with you. They're efficient little fellas, and they live in a condo like this one. You fill each tray with moistened bedding made out of cardboard or newspaper, sawdust, chopped leaves, or other biodegradable goodness. You put in lots of worms in the bottom tray, and as you generate biodegradable waste aka kitchen scraps, you bury it in the bedding in the upper trays. The worms migrate up toward their food, and leave behind their castings, which are awesome for your garden.

You use red wigglers, and lots of them. I looked it up, it's more than 10. More than 50. Probably more than 1,000. It depends on how much compost you have to process. You buy them from a worm farm, by the pound.

Since I know you are DYING to know more, here's a better explanation:

2 - Homemade dairy products

Yup, this one too. I make yogurt from organic milk (raw if I can find it) and a starter yogurt culture. It involves heating the milk, cooling it a bit, adding starter, and letting it sit at warm temperatures overnight. I eat it plain, straight out of a mason jar.

If you want Greek yogurt, you do just drain off the extra liquid from regular yogurt. Cheesecloth and a colander over a bowl in your fridge for a few hours does the trick.

I also make creme fraiche, by mixing buttermilk and heavy cream, and letting it stand on the counter overnight. My least-weird dairy recipe is ice cream.

I want to learn to make cheese. Real cheese of the smelly variety. Like the kind that ages in caves. I also want to have a miscellaneous assortment of milk-producing pasture pals, someday. A cow, a couple goats, a few sheep.

3 - Homemade beer

We brew our own. We drink primarily Michigan beer when we're out, but at home, we pretty much keep ourselves in our own beer, cider and mead.

We spend a few days a year, steeping grain in hot water to convert the starches, boiling the wort, adding hops, adding yeast, and waiting while it ferments away in a corner in the kitchen, five gallons at a time. In a bucket or a giant glass bottle.

I do still buy wine, but only because I haven't had time to figure out winemaking yet. Oh, and it comes in boxes now, which are quite tasty, and better for my recycling bin.

4 - Preserves

I put up vegetables every year, either from the market or from our own garden. This you will not find gross, but perhaps just a little strange. Pickled asparagus, cucumbers, beans, beets and garlic tops. The occasional pickled garlic and pickled eggs (ok, maybe you think that is gross. but it's really delicious). Roasted peppers and roasted tomatoes get popped in the freezer. Frozen beans, peas and fruit. We're nearly out of everything from last year--spring and early summer, before the first harvests, are known as the "hunger gap."

Someday, one summer soon, I want to try to grow all our vegetables. I realize I don't actually have time to be a farmer, so I'll have to keep buying meat and eggs from friends and the market. But, one day, we'll see if I can't more or less feed us out of our garden plot. Between that and a fishing license.... who knows?

5 - Diesel and grease

I drive a diesel Volkswagen Golf with almost 200,000 miles on it. My truck (an early 90s F-250 with about 150K on it) is also a diesel, and is parked behind the grape vines out back right now, because I'm trying to figure out how much to spend fixing it, and when. I fully intend to convert both vehicles to run on grease.

I am sure there are other, and perhaps stranger, things that I do, or want to learn to do. I may not even know they are strange. I like being quirky, dreaming up new ways or reclaiming old ways. I know its nonsensical, when you juxtapose back-to-the-earth-Amy with head-down-working Amy. I might be better off if I were in better balance.

And that, my friend, is the thing that has me scratching my head. How do we create an economy that has room for knowledge work and manual labors of love like growing and cooking food? How do we create space for people to be connected on the internet, and connected to their food source? What does a truly integrated life look like?

I'll be working on that daydream, from my desk, and from my garden.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

One more cup of coffee

It's a rare Saturday morning that I wake up at home in Spring Lake, and I'm reveling in the quiet time. Listening to my dog snore softly, and watching the resident wild turkeys wander through the yard, and across the road. Fanning their tails, they're such beautiful and clumsy birds. I can't help but love them, and laugh at the bravado.

Spring has flown by, split between mundane and significance.

We watched our last sunset in Stevensville, and moved all of Grandma's furniture into the garage at home. I've watched my sister become more and more pregnant, expecting the first baby on our side of the family. I labored over TEDxGrandRapids, and waved goodbye to my team mates as I move on to other causes. We plowed in two enormous gardens in Spring Lake, and planted apples and asparagus in Northport. I learned to drive a tractor, and to love riding with Kevin on the Trail 90. Our second truck in six months purportedly needs brakes and a new engine. The 8N needs a new carburetor before we can sell it, and the garden tractor is up on blocks in the driveway. (Our neighbors LOVE us.) I spent last weekend catching up with my bff, and a slough of other old friends, moms and dads now, or like us, keeping parenthood a mystery. I already miss them.

Missing a sense of place

We joke about living on raw land in Northport, working in Grand Rapids and keeping our stuff in Spring Lake. It's a little bit true... This is the first time I've been home on a weekend in what must be months. I haven't kept track. I love my spread-out life, the peace of early mornings in our field when it rains, late evenings under the stars around the fire. I love the simplicity of home, the promise of the gardens. And yet, I yearn for the day when the two come together, and my homebody routine can reclaim me. I have so many projects I want to undertake, and so little time to devote, it's a constant compromise.

Two grandmothers

In our barn/garage and in our home, we're living amidst the physical memories of my two grandmothers. Furniture, keepsakes, pots and pans, small appliances, art, dishes. The things I cherish for the connection to their memories. Grandma Schaus, with her platinum hair, blue eye shadow, and brilliant smile managing circles around her world. I've claimed that heritage, the fierce independence, self-determination, tenacity, and stubborn stoicism. Bockie, with her soft wrinkles, set curls, and tiny feet. Her worries and fears, at one time balanced with fiery warmth and quick laughter. I miss that Bockie, before the darkening of her memory. I'm claiming the laughter, cultivating the warmth. And, for my own sanity, I need to figure out what to do with all the stuff I'm hanging on to...

A good at-home weekend

By the end of these two days, still stretched out in front of me, we should have a working garden tractor and a mowed field. Two gardens fully planted (vegetable rows in one, and three sisters in the other). A clean house--really, truly clean, not just tidied. I'm even going to dust. A refrigerator full of healthy food to get us through the week. Baby shower invitations out for my sister. A tidier garage. Hopefully a dinner with farming friends we can dream with.

For now, I'm off to the farmer's market, tractor repair shop, and on to the chores of the day.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A new menu

I have been a little behind on sharing menus. (Sorry Jenny... :)). It's getting to the tough part of the year to be inspired about eating. The first harvests are not all that far away, but we're still in the dregs of what's in the cellars—or forced to eat produce from the other side of the continent and beyond. It's also the time of year when the lull of January and February, when we stay home for a few weekends, has subsided. Schedules pick up, and every extra moment that isn't stolen by my paying job should be devoted to catching up on my garden chores. As always, I'm so far behind, I'll never catch up. Sigh.

On the menu

On the bright side, here's next week's menu, and it mostly means we don't need to stop at the grocery store this week.

  • Sat: Chick pea salad with feta, parsley and lemony dressing
  • Sun: Chicken stew
  • (Meatless) Mon: Lentil soup and a big salad with bleu cheese dressing
  • Tues: leftovers
  • Wed: Roasted cauliflower with parsley pesto, roasted peppers and black beans
  • Thurs: Garlic shrimp over wilted spinach
  • Fri: headed up to Northport... veggies and black bean puree in the truck
  • Saturday: something grilled in NP
Lunches: leftover soup and stew
Breakfast: yogurt, fresh juice, smoothies

Testing a juicer: Jack LaLanne's

Speaking of breakfast, we just got a juicer. They were on sale at Costco, and since I've been contemplating it for 15 years, I decided to just get one and try it. So far I have found:
  • It takes a lot of carrots to make 2 glasses of juice
  • It's probably great for my compost, but eventually I'll feel wasteful tossing all that pulp
  • Garlic in the morning is not so much the ticket
  • Carrots, spinach, lemons and celery taste a lot like V8 without the tomatoes and make a bracing but energizing breakfast

Speaking of breakfast... yogurt experiments

I have been in the last 3 months pretty much making all of our yogurt at home. I read something about a favorite milk producer giving in to Monsanto feed, and said EFF IT, I'm going to figure out how to make my own yogurt and cheese so I can buy milk from a neighbor I can trust.

So, for the moment, I'm getting all my milk from Hilhof Farms (via the health food store in town) until I can find a good dairy share where I can get cow's milk and goat's milk. And, here's what I'm learning:
  • The first few times went great. Heat up the milk to about 140, cool to about 100, mix in jars with live yogurt culture, and let sit in the oven with the pilot on overnight. 
  • The second few times..... not sure what happened. Flavor is great, but texture is too liquid. Either I'm not heating it enough, or the culture is weakened. We'll experiment with adding an actual bacterial culture to see what happens.


We'll use basic Cook's Illustrated recipes to make the lentil soup. I think I learned the Chick Pea Salad recipe from a Bon Appetit about a year ago. As always, props to Hilhof and Creswick Farms for our dairy and meat, and to the regular old grocery industry for the rest. I can't wait until we're more self-sufficient. I'm anxious to be in charge of my own food.

Now I better get to starting seeds, for real.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring is springing

Sarah and Bellamy, putting out the open sign for Tandem

Ten days ago, in Northport we enjoyed what might be the last big snow with friends. The adventure of lots of snow and no power, a great breakfast at Sarah and Steve's cabin, and one of the best days of the year so far, spent with the whole crew at Tandem Ciders, playing music, singing, and catching up.

Today is lovely and sunny, and the daffodils and crocuses are up and beginning to swell with buds. A bluebird is hanging out on top of the bird feeder post, just staring at me. It rained the first sweet-smelling rain of spring yesterday, and after the storms passed, the sunset brought fog and then clear stars. In the dark, I could hear the peeper frogs begin their first songs of the season. We are way ahead of ourselves... and it might very well snow again, but it is good to see the clear sun and feel its warmth.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lenten Vows

We're co-opting Lent. We're not Catholic. In fact, we're not even really Christian. We believe in love and individual responsibility. Our cardinal rule is to live with integrity. So, what's up with the Lenten vows?

Two things

  1. Lent is an excuse to participate in a cultural ritual with beautiful results. Self-imposed austerity--doing without--has a cleansing effect. It helps reset life, refocus intentions. It has a holistic dimension: spirit, body and mind are affected.
  2. And, it's a convenient excuse to retool the way we think about some particular thing in life. What we give up for Lent, usually a vice or a bad habit, is symbolic. Forty days of doing without give us either a renewed appreciation for the thing itself, or help us move beyond it, let go of whatever it is that we needed before.

Reset: health

This year for Lent, we're changing the way we eat. We ordinarily eat fairly healthy foods, but in busy times (which seems like always, lately), restaurant meals and thrown-together dinners take precedence over thoughtful food. Easy pantry pasta. Roasted potatoes. Sandwiches. Two pizzas a week. Fish and rice. None of it is bad for you, but our consumption gets out of balance with our production. Meaning, we eat too much easy energy, without the chance to balance it out with care and investment of time and love. Literally meaning, we gain weight and we might be a little cranky.

The promise

Restore balance to our bodies: lose weight, build core strength, gain endurance

To do this, we decided to take a rather drastic measure for the duration of Lent: eliminate carbohydrates. After our fast is over, we'll go back to whole grains, albeit at a slower pace.

No pasta. No pizza. No beer, wine, whiskey or rum. No cereal. No sugar. Some are easy (like sugar... we consume very little of it.) Some are really hard (like pizza, which is a Friday night staple). It's a serious reduction in winter comfort food options. It challenges us to think about vegetables in more creative ways. And, it offers an interesting experiment: a byproduct of eliminating carbohydrates means we're gluten-free. I doubt we have a sensitivity to gluten, but I'll be paying attention just to see if it makes a difference.

The new menu

  • Saturday: Spring mix with roasted citrus, toasted pecans and Greek yogurt
  • Sunday: Vegetables à la barigoule (artichoke stew)
  • Monday: (Still practicing Meatless Monday) Cauliflower "steaks" with tapenade and fava bean puree
  • Tuesday: Poached fish and wilted greens
  • Wednesday: Roasted beet and fennel salad with leftover chicken
  • Thursday: Chick pea stew with squash
  • Friday: Roasted celery root with buttermilk sauce, red pepper soup and wilted salad
For the freezer: Potato leek soup (using up those spuds, so we can eat them after Lent)
For lunch: Hearty cabbage soup
For breakfasts: Still figuring out what to eat instead of cereal and fruit...


I have been completely inspired recently by the Bon Appétit "BA Kitchen" section. Most of the dishes on this week's menu will be direct pick-ups or ideas based on recipes from the March 2012 issue. Inspired by my friend Laurie Arboreal of Eater's Guild farm, I'll be making my own yogurt and cottage cheese. Cabbage soup from the The Best Soups & Stews cookbook from Christopher Kimball's crew at Cook's Illustrated/Cook's Country/America's Test Kitchen.

In reserve

Of course, as I dream over what to eat, and what to put on the grocery list, I run across ideas that I'm saving for after Lent.
  • French potato casserole (Cook's Illustrated, March 2012)
  • Potato and fish puttanesca (Bon Appétit, February 2012)
  • Shellfish and potatoes à la marinière (Bon Appétit, March 2012)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Two Menus, February 2012

First week

  • Sat:was going to be a homemade meal, but ended up eating at Mia & Grace. (yum)
  • Sun: road trip to Stevensville. Nourishment at The Livery.
  • Mon: leftover chicken en mole
  • Tue: I truly cannot remember what we ate...., but I made super tasty banana bread for Williams Group.
  • Wed: Pulpo and risotto in a white wine and garlic sauce
  • Thur: patatas a la riojana
  • Fri: homemade pizza with red peppers, kalamata olives, and fresh mozzarella

Credits: thanks to Lisa Rose Starner for the mole sauce. It was awesome the second time too. Thanks to Creswick Farms for the chicken, and Kevin's trip to the Asian Market on Division for the pulpo. Banana bread recipe, courtesy Baking Illustrated.

Second week

This is advanced menu planning. We'll see how well we do at following it. (hint, things always change)
  • Sat: fresh pasta al vino blanco
  • Sun: roast chicken and something good I haven't thought of yet.
  • Mon: baked eggs and greens
  • Tues: Hearty cabbage soup
  • Wed: roasted root vegetable salad
  • Thur: poached fish with vegetable vinaigrette
  • Fri: pizza
Lunches: carrot ginger soup, cabbage soup

Credits: pasta from Cook's Illustrated, March 2012--an issue containing many recipes that are inspiring. We've been subscribers for almost 15 years! Skillet eggs based on Bon Appétit recipe from Feb. 2012 (and the eggs overcooked... a technique that must require practice). Cabbage soup from The Best Soups and Stews.

Update: 2/23 - well, we barely followed that one. Life happened, I was too busy to remember what we ate, and much of this got recycled into the new menu.... c'est la vie.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Another menu - January 2012

Saturday: Carbonara with shrimp
Sunday: Grill-roasted chicken with grilled peppers and carrots
Monday: Tuscan white bean soup
Tues: Cauliflower "steaks" with roasted pepper, olive and turnip green tapenade
Wed: Pizza with leftover tapenade and fresh mozzarella
Thurs: Surprise! Dinner at Brewery Vivant with Luisa
Friday: Scallops in red Thai curry

Credit where credit's due

Carbonara and white bean soup inspired by Cook's Illustrated recipes. Thanks to Creswick Farms for the chicken. Cauliflower steaks and tapenade a variation on a recipe from the Jan. 2012 issue of Bon Appétit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Building bridges

In the last week and a half, I have been involved in deep reflection, and hard conversations, about diversity and community. The essay that I write here is one ephemeral moment of thinking and processing what I have learned up until this moment. I'm feeling my way through this, not knowing where I'll come out. As I write it, I am continuing to learn and find my next step forward.

Here's the setup

This all started in a conversation through TEDxGrandRapids, where I volunteer on the core team. We have been aware that we can do more to ensure great minds from every corner of our community--every discipline, every race, every industry, every social scene--are at least aware of the event, so that those who might benefit from it can choose to apply. We are trying to remove at least the barrier of awareness and invitation. So we've been meeting with many people, and entering into hard conversations about diversity.  Some people are really glad we're starting the conversation. Some people think we need to do a lot more before they're willing to trust us. Some people think both things. And I believe they are all right.

Here's where it gets complicated

Diversity and community mean a lot of things, to a lot of different people. Cultural context and personal experience create a layer of meaning, and that meaning may or may not be shared. Sometimes, it's not even clear what that meaning is, because it's a visceral, emotional thing buried deep inside us, and wrapped up in our identity.

I was sharply reminded that our contexts have emerged separately, divided by history and the experiences of our ancestors. I became keenly aware, again, that our personal experiences are informed by day after day of living in this world and interacting with each other. Those interactions are sometimes damaging. And the more we hurt each other, the more we undermine our ability to find common ground and create a better community, better society.

We lose sight of the compassion and good intention that is there. We become fearful. We hesitate to extend ourselves and build bridges, because, frankly, it hurts. It's a lonely and vulnerable place. Building bridges means not belonging to either side. It means residing in the murky, volatile mess of it all, and attempting to navigate by love anyway. It is no easy task.

It is personal

I love people. I love our human potential, and I am patient with our flaws. I place high value on broad perspectives and diverse experiences. Welcoming everyone is really important to me.

I start from trust and love, and a knowledge that I am imperfect, but that I will keep trying, and each time I try, I'll learn something that broadens my view, challenges and improves what I know about the world, and makes me a better person. I can't see any other way of existing in this world.

As I have struggled with defining my experience of the last week, and the reality of the pain that has surfaced through misunderstandings and missed opportunities, I was reminded by my friend Luisa that I am abnormal. I know she's right. My unique experiences span languages, religions, continents, art, science and literature. Poverty and wealth. Rural and urban. I am privileged to have shared in a huge portion of human experiences. I suppose this uniquely equips me to build bridges across many divides. Perhaps this is the gift I am meant to give the world.

My wish

That we can all embrace our abnormality, and love each other for it. I want to sit at a table with people from every corner of experience, and I want to share with them. I want to share responsibility, learning, perception, experience. I want us to find reconciliation, patience and goodwill.  I want a community that is willing to care for each other, hold each other accountable, trust each other, forgive each other. I can't help but believe this is possible.

I guess I have started to codify my work. And now I need to start thinking about how to bring it about.

Thanks for listening. This post isn't a defined body of articulate thought. It's a reflection at this single moment in time, my effort to learn and grow. If you have suggestions about bringing people together, and creating community, I'd love to hear them. I think we'll do this work in an unusual, unexpected way, but I don't know where the path leads, or even really how to recognize it. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

On the menu

For years, I have made my grocery list from a menu. I started this right after I graduated from college, and Kevin and I had to make careful decisions about what we bought at the grocery store, because our limited dollars had to buy enough food to last us until the next trip. I made Kevin choose between wine and steak more than once.

Now that we're in a different financial position, I have kept this tradition of menu planning, because it means that we eat healthy, home-cooked food. It's better for us all around.

Living frugally is still a goal, driven by philosophy more than necessity. Living simply is an intention, a purposeful choice. For my own reflection in a year, and in case anyone else might be inspired to spend more time in the kitchen, I am going to share the weekly menus.

More than meatless Monday

In January, we're extending meatless Monday to several days a week. It's better for us, and better for the planet. Here's to health, and feeling better about bikinis come June!

Week 1 

(finish up the holiday leftovers...)
  • Sunday: garden tomato soup and sandwiches (thanks Kelly!)
  • Monday: Split pea soup with the rest of the holiday ham 
  • Tuesday: Roast chicken with fava bean purée and a salad 
  • Wednesday:  Stir fried vegetable matchsticks with sautéed mushrooms
  • Thursday: Carrot-ginger soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Friday: pizza with the leftover holiday duck, roasted red peppers and kale

Week 2

  • Saturday: Free day (surprise party) 
  • Sunday: Chicken and dumplings 
  • Monday: Skillet-baked eggs with wilted kale and yogurt sauce (inspired by Bon Appetit)
  • Tuesday: Lentil soup 
  • Wednesday: Macaroni and cheese with spinach and roasted peppers 
  • Thursday: Fish en mole 
  • Friday: Pizza 

Credit where credit's due

Props to Creswick Farms, where Nathan raises healthy, happy chickens, and to Behren's Hens at Beechwood Acres, and Rebecca, who drops eggs off at WYCE for Kevin to bring home. Also, thanks to Lisa Rose Starner, who made the salsa mole and traded us for some cider at the GRap Food Swap this fall.

May you all have a chance to enjoy good food, good health and good company.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I love it that we live in a culture that celebrates the fresh start, a new beginning. I love it that we resolve to be better somehow in the next 12 months than we were before.

I have shared this ritual of annual optimism since childhood, when my mom invited us all to write resolutions for the new year in our notebooks. A whole family, making wishes. Bockie and Grandpa. Grandma Schaus. My little sister. Mom and Dad. The dog and cats. My uncle Tom and aunt Diane, in from Washington State. I don't remember the promises we made ourselves. But I do remember the camaraderie. Giggles induced by late nights, sweets and brandied eggnog. A perfectly fitting end to my tenth year, and to the indulgence of the holiday season.

Now, as I turn 35, I sit at my own kitchen table, the last of the holiday ham simmering into split pea soup on the stove. Sipping cider (a Murphy-Tandem blend of Crabster and Smackintosh, heavier on the crabby tartness) from a glass I bought in Dublin 15 years ago. Outside, the fresh snow is blanketed by the dark, and only occasional lights sweep by from the street.

Like many of the past several years, my hopes for the next are simple. Perhaps hard to attain, but ultimately, quite simple: Health, love, friendship, family, spirit, courage, thought, art. Integrity. Beauty. Compassion.

Four promises

I promise to live slower. Organize around the things that matter. Plant a garden, cook at home. Cultivate friends.

I promise to live healthier. Long walks and meditations. Simple food. Whole food. Laughter and companionship.

I promise to live with purpose. Making time for people. Connecting good work to good ends. Gaining and maintaining perspective. Letting go, and making peace. Living with low impact. Less consumption, more production.

I promise to live with love. To say the unsaid. To share in lives. To consider. To become explicitly thoughtful. To inquire, and listen. To celebrate.

Luke and Murphy get a new year's treat from Kevin.