noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

No Ants, No Pants May 15, 2016

I tried on a pair of jeans that cost $187.  They were free to try on.  The adorable redhead who rocked those jeans chattered on to me about their qualities and benefits the whole time I struggled to pour my fifty-one year old body into them.  I ask you:  “Should one have to pour, pull, push, jump, suck, hold breath in, yank, and sweat to get into a pair of the correct size jeans that cost one hundred and eighty seven dollars?”  The fabric felt weighted and silky, drapey and stretchy.  Supposedly, they would not leave baggy spots where you bend (if you could bend), after hours of wear.  That’s the benefit of such a perfect denim made sustainably, produced scientifically, ensuring rich quality.  When I looked in the mirror, I thought the jeans looked painted on.  Can a woman over fifty wear painted on style jeans without embarrassing her daughters or herself?  If the painted style pour-yourself-in jeans had been marked down from $187.00 to $18.70 would it be a good idea to wear those in public?  I asked myself this in the dressing room.  My answer and the knowledgable twenty-something answer were completely opposite.  She said the jeans looked fantastic on me.   Ha…of course she would say that.  Shes PAID to say that.  I did not agree.

Two weeks later I took my pants off.  Not the expensive jeans – I did actually get those off in the store and left them there, I mean I took off my long-legged pants that do fit.  The temperature outside was 70’s warm after long months of 20’s cold.  Suddenly everyone had on completely different clothing.  Including me.  I exchanged the pants for capris – or ‘caprants’ as re-named by my friend Heidi, whose daughter thinks capris are silly.  Well Miss Mackenna, they are NOT silly, they are necessary for the greater good of humanity when one has leg skin that needs constant ironing.  It it much more appropriate to wear ‘caprants’ than short skirts at this stage of life in order to maintain personal modesty and public decorum.  You’re welcome.

Two days later, I put pants back on.

My new state of Michigan has a lot of surprises up its sleeve.  I’m not certain I will become fond of the morning surprise of sunshine.  I would prefer that to be reliable, a regular occurence not a rarity.  This is the first spring I’ve been a resident and I am gathering you go outside and do outside things when the sun is outside for tomorrow it may not be.  Today I tried three times to go outside when I saw the sun.  We started a neighborhood walk to peruse the garage sales, but it ended at block two with sudden rain and dare I say hail; possibly MI spring snow nuggets?  I’ll ask around to confirm.  By the third time I went out in a car, the garage sale hosts had given up and gone inside.  I did score a crooked floor lamp for $15.  Looks great in the spare room standing mostly straight in the corner.  Beside garage sale shopping, I wanted to get in the dirt.  My goal all week was to go outside and reduce the amount of mint that is growing and tame the fern in my gardens.    One week I had no fern.  Next week, fern farm.  I have no previous experience with mint or fern.  What I can confidently say after one partial spring, is they are both fast and hearty growers.  Clearly, they don’t need the sun like us humans do.   I’m not sure I will meet the plant reduction goal today.   Unless…I go out in the clouds with long pants, coat and mittens.

Ants.  Michigan, I need to ask you, do ants thrive here too?  I keep a relatively clean house.  Not “dutch clean” like my mom, but pretty clean.  One time in Florida we had a rat.  In My Kitchen Cupboards.  I discovered the rat before I discovered its feces in every single solitary drawer in my large kitchen.  I came undone, unravelled, repulsed, devastated that such filth touched the things I cook with.  And I kept a clean kitchen.  We also lived on the water and the rats apparently lived in the roof of the building with occasional drop downs into human dwellings. I threw our cat in the cupboard where the rat was and shut the door.  Crickets.  Fifteen minutes later (that’s long enough to take care of a rat right?), she sauntered out as if she was done using the bathroom.  She did not choose to pursue the rat.  Worthless cat…  The rat clean up project required the man of the townhouse; and later, flowers in all the drawers for therapeutic reasons. No more rat ever.  But now I have MI ants.  I’ve tried several removal tactics including letting them go outside.   When I opened my sugar bowl to scoop the raw sugar into my first cup of morning coffee and there is an ant flailing around I put my foot down, picked up the phone and called my mom.   She poo-pooed all previous ant removal systems and said get Tero.  24 hours after Tero tactic, no ants.  I hope ants are like the rat and not one of Michigan’s ongoing surprises.

Wooden shoe dancers, tulip lined streets in Holland, Fricano’s pizza, the Cone Shops soft lemon twist cones; the pure sound of Calvin Alumni Choir,  Stella’s burgers and chronic fries, Grand Rapids Opera, Marie Catribs, Fulton Heights neighborhood, the people of Art Of The Table,  solid-friendly, healthy-growing Encounter Church, Women and Wine, Grand Rapids Main Library, the acoustics of Cathedral of St. Andrews, generous beauty of all that is colorful and blooming are some of the Michigan surprises working to convince me to stay, belong, engage.  The increasing list of good surprises far surpasses the unpleasant.  The sense of settling down is happening.  I may weigh more than I want, battle fatigue more than I like, and am more conversant in grief than I’d prefer.  Those things accompanied me here.   But this new state is kindly meeting me with a sweet place to heal and renew.  Ants, clouds and tight pants, you might live here, but despite you I believe some really great new is happening.

Better than being surprised, I am so very thankful.


Top Ten List of Things I Didn’t Expect, Part 2 July 24, 2013

I did not dream about this list.  On one of my daily potty walks  with Calvin, (I walk, Calvin potties), I realized there were below the surface things I didn’t expect.  Here is the deeper counterpart to the list in part 1.  (see July 23, 2012)

1.  The rhythm is missing.  Seasons of weather give rhythm to the year – cooler color season, soup season, planting season, vacation season.  Here, it is always bathing suit season.  I’ve had a few soup Days, the planting happens backwards or continually, snow bird season takes up 1/2 the year and people come to FL for vacation year round.   Don’t misunderstand…I LOVE being at the water any old day and exchanging my work fancy pants for bathing suits.   I don’t miss the cold & didn’t expect to miss the natural changes which gave a reliable rhythm to my world.

2.   When I got married, I never thought about year 27.   I never considered what it would be like to drop my twins off at college 1200 miles from home; sing my sister into heaven; enjoy  a 16-year-old girl from Thailand living with us; pack up our home of 11 years and leave a state we had lived in for 27/40 year (myself/JR) and move to the nearly southest/eastest corner of the US  – all in a little over 1 years time.  And so I didn’t expect how meaningful, comforting, amazing the phrase, “I’m still here” would be.  It’s a highly repeated phrase we’ve shared the last 8 months. The phrase sits alongside gratitude for the friendship, partnership, mutual mercy and encouragement that has been flung back and forth between us.  I love my husband for better, for worse.

3.    I am capable of learning new things.  Not just about how to play sports, but about how to do life post kids in the house, post living in Colorado. How to do life here with a fresh white canvas to paint on and alot more awareness of who I am.

4. I am grateful for the funds to buy a lot of plane tickets.  Those connect me face to face with the people I love.  Physical proximity to family and good friends should not be taken for granted.   I did.  Forgive me.  Now I’m not.

5. Prior to moving, I was warned about Hurricanes, Alligators, Bugs – they’re all here.  No one mentioned the powerful instantaneous cow-and-horse downpours that happen here A LOT.  I’ve doubled the amount of umbrellas I own and have strategically situated them.  It is an awesome and beautiful display of the Creator’s beauty.  Rain appreciation club member here.  Who knew.

6.  Truly I HATE tight things – spaces, pants, bras, long sleeves, coats, and especially shoes.  Barefootedness feels like a type of freedom that I’ve been granted.  Barefootedness feels like childhood.  Great non-expectation.

7.  Henry’s beach, Santa Barbara California – home to many of my best childhood memories.  I’m nearly unexpectedly overwhelmed with gratitude  for the Oasis the beach is, on a holiday, on the weekend, on a walk.  I am as content  and joyful there now as I remember being when I was growing up.  Thank You Lord for this perfect, personal gift.

8.  Distance makes the heart grow fonder?  Yes it does.  So does watching my girls grow into remarkable young women via places I’ve never been, people I’ve never met, things I’d never do, experiences I’ve never had.  They are leaning into their lives full steam ahead.  I’ll take the Skype conversations over a phone call, and the individual visits over no visits at all.  In fact spending one on one time with each daughter has offered new depth to our changing adult relationships.  Didn’t see that comin…

9. The companionship of my dog in all of the unfamiliar is priceless.

10.  I’ve liked to watch birds on occasion.  Other than the shameless thief of the seagull nature, my eyes and interests have opened up wide for birds.  They are plentiful here and I’ve spent much time quietly enjoying them, appreciating & observing them.  Perhaps number 10 on the list points out the most unexpected of all, the relief and healing of having time to live at a sustainable pace and notice beauty, people, opportunity, blessing, potential.

And it took a move to Florida for this to happen.

I certainly didn’t expect that.


Pausing For The Parents November 28, 2012

Filed under: Adventure,Being New,moving,new places,Writing — lauradegroot @ 7:30 am

Mary and Andy from MN and AZ are in FL with us.  What a treat – we are having a great time in our temporary dwelling.

But, they are distracting me from writing.

They’re forgiven though,  because today they gave me the perfect gift….a lighted compass for my car.  Direction!  It’s still great to get direction from your parents.

This particular gift serves two purposes:

  1. To keep me from driving to the Alligator infested Everglades rather than the Dolphin           infused Ocean.
  2. To retrain my West-Mountains oriented internal compass, to a East-Beach oriented internal compass.  You of course cannot see the ocean until you are at it, but I’m hoping to eventually sense it.  Or not.

The compass is a really good idea.

Tomorrow is a big day.  The house inspection on our Colorado home happened today and we are praying all will go smoothly with the “inspection resolution” that must be accomplished.  We are also having our interview with the association president of the Florida condo we are moving into in on Friday.   Hope they like us?  Interesting all that has to happen these days to leave a dwelling or enter a dwelling.

Otherwise…well…(a little tiny worry)…maybe…this is silly.  Tomorrow is a new day.  Worry won’t change a thing.  This is still an adventure.  Tomorrow is Wednesday, November 28, 2012.  It should be about 78 and sunny!

I think I will pause and do a little praying.   And then enjoy a puzzle with my dad in the place I am dwelling.

Not homeless Laura


Comforts Of Home November 19, 2012

Sorry Florida, I can’t call you home yet.  Today marks 3 weeks being here in Delray Beach, FL and there is yet to be a sense of “homeness.”  I do so love your beaches.  Your blue blue sky and puffy white clouds bring me delight.  My skin thanks you for the moisture in the air, and I appreciate the abundance of topical flora.  But daily, I have to remind myself I live here now.

Last week however, a little home came to us.  Via facebook I saw the news that friends of ours had experienced the loss of a loved one.  One of the friends was in Boynton Beach taking care of things that needed family attention.  Boynton Beach is our next door neighbor, and through the speed of instant technology, we were able to invite this friend to our fancy camping space for dinner.   Ray’s visit brought us the comfort of home and familiarity, history and memories, knowing others and being known.  Thank You Ray for your presence.

The green tomatoes turned red.  Every one of them.  I picked them off my plants in October following our look-see trip to Florida.  Due to threat of freeze, they needed to come out of the cold. So I traveled with a large bowl of green tomatoes from CO to FL.  This week those wonderfully red, tasty Niwot Colorado grown tomatoes became fresh salsa for dinner.  Another comfort from home.

My friend Adie made pumpkin bars while we were skyping this week.  She came in and out of the picture, but that didn’t disrupt our conversation which included a great discussion about bread baking.  The only reason I KNEW I wasn’t at home sitting by her counter while she was making bars and talking bread, was that I couldn’t actually have some of the pumpkin cake she had made a few days earlier.  Still, it felt like home – a normal conversation; recognizing pots and pans, countertops and cookbooks; being fully myself without wondering where I was supposed to go, or where I was, or who I was with.  Thanks Adie for pumpkin and companionship.

I brought a bread recipe from home that I had intended to try for months.  I made it here in Florida.   I am going to share the recipe because it’s so delicious & simple – even those who have never made homemade bread can do it.  Baking bread is a task that is familiar and comforting. Seems like making a new recipe from home, here in my home-to-be is a good part of the transition that is taking place.

Florida, don’t be discouraged.  I’m sure you’ve got the stuff to make yourself feel like home.  It’s just going to take more than 3 weeks…

a wee bit homesick Laura


BASIC NO KNEAD BREAD                                                                                                                      Start this bread the day before you want to bake it.

(I got it from someone who wrote that it’s slightly adapted from Jim Lahey’s My Bread – I’ve slightly adapted again – so Jim gets original credit!, but I added a healthy change and tried a non-stick pot)

6 cups bread or all purpose flour.  I used 3 cups of white whole-wheat flour and 3 cups white.

1/2 tsp instant or active-dry yeast

2 1/2 tsp salt

2 2/3 cup cool water


1.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt.  Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated; the dough should be wet and sticky.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest 12-18 hours on the counter at room temperature.  When the surface of the risen dough has darkened slightly, smells yeasty, and is  dotted with bubbles, it is ready.

2.  Lightly flour your hands and a work surface.  Place dough on work surface and sprinkle with more flour.  Fold the dough over on itself once or twice and using floured fingers, tuck the dough underneath to form a rough ball.

Generously dust a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with enough flour, cornmeal or wheat bran to preven the dough from sticking to the towel as it rises.  ( I USED CORNMEAL  – yum!) Place dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour, cornmeal or wheat bra.  Cover with the edges or a second cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours until it has doubled in size.   ( I let it rise 4 hrs because I was gone…)

4. After about 1 1/2 hours, preheat oven to 425-450.  Place a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot, such as a cast-iron Dutch oven, in the oven as it heats.  When the dough has fully risen, carefully removed the pot from the oven.  Remove top towel dfrom dough and slide your hand under the bottom towel; flip the dough over the pot, seam side up.  ( I was clumsy and dropped it in seam side down…)  Shake pan once or twice if dough looks unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

5.  Cover and bake for 40-50 minutes.  Uncover and continue baking about 5-10 minutes until a deep chestnut brown.  The internal temp of the bread should be around 200 degrees.  You can check this with a meat thermometer, if desired.  ( I didn’t bake without lid for more than 2 min and also didn’t check internal temp)

6. Remove the bread from the pot and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.  (Are you kidding?   I took it out of the oven, put it on the table, said a prayer over the meal and sliced the warm bread and served it with brie).  Do what you will…


Palm Trees Can Be A Problem November 15, 2012

Filed under: Adventure,Being New,moving,South Florida — lauradegroot @ 8:20 am


Southeast Florida has a plethora of Palm Trees.  They make my new world here look like tropical Maui and I love them.  HOWEVER, they can be a problem.


#1. A large creature called the Palmetto bug (translation: Ginormous Roach) comes from these trees.


#2.  They line every road and block the top of all the buildings you drive by, thus preventing you from seeing if in fact the storefront says Publix or Costco or Bed Bath and Beyond for instance.


#3.  This is NOT a good place to slow down and try to look under said palm trees to see if you are supposed to turn in or not, because you will likely get honked at or even rear ended.  And I have been strongly warned that these two hazards are about to get intensified when “Season” is in full tilt.  That begins January 1.



Thank goodness for my GPS ( a gift  from my parents 4 years ago.  I thanked them for FINALLY giving me direction and boy is it a lifesaver now.)  This technology too is ‘some kind of wonderful’.  It helps me find what I am looking for when I can’t see the store name through the trees.

I successfully found the Grocery store today!



We have also been looking for a place to call home once our fancy camping gig is up.  It too has been hard to find, but today – Celebration!  We found what we were looking for and the papers were signed and sealed.   Boca Raton will be our new town, close to JR’s job and only 10 minutes from the beach!  Something heavy lifted…sigh.


So we are looking for one more something that has been very difficult to locate.  That is a buyer for our wonderful home in Niwot.  If only people could see past the brick and mortar and bumpy basement floor and know that it’s a home you can invite people to and love people there and enjoy the beauty and quietness of quaint neighborhood with AMAZING neighbors and a backyard that is simply perfect in the evening to connect and eat and refresh.  If you are people who pray, we covet that.  If you are people who know people looking for a house in Niwot – please send them our way.


There are a lot of people and places here that are yet to be found.  And I am not even sure yet who or what I am looking for.  I hope I don’t miss anyone or anything good because the palm trees get in the way!

Laura – tropically thankful











wa·ter·shed (noun) 1. an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas. 2. an event or period marking a turning point, a change of course.

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noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

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