A Holiday Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

A decade ago, on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s, a handsome man I had never seen before walked through the door at my parent’s annual Holiday Dance. “Who is that?” I said out loud. I walked over, introduced myself and now we have two kids, four broken-down vehicles in our yard and a whole lot of memories of the meandering path that brought us here.

Oh, and there’s going to be a wedding! Nope, not ours; we believe in loooong engagements. Tony’s oldest, Molly, is getting hitched to my nephew, Jordan, and we all get to have double titles from now on. I’ll be Jordan’s aunt and his stepmom-in-law. Julian will be Molly’s brother and cousin. Iris will be Jordan’s first cousin and his sister-in-law. Tony will be Jordan’s father-in-law and uncle. You get the gist. Most people get kind of quiet and wide-eyed when we laugh about this, but we don’t mind. Their looks of confusion and mild distaste remind me we need to do something about those four broken-down vehicles in the yard.

Our first year as a family of four – with Tony’s four older daughters flitting in and out from time to time – has been, well, … messy. I’d seriously consider using all the money I make at my Grandma Grace’s resort cleaning cabins to hire someone to clean our cabin if it weren’t for the fact that we know everyone who lives around here. Our mess will have to stay our own.

Iris, who is in first grade and turns seven at the end of January, continues to make one beautiful mess after the other, setting up puppet shows, song and dance performances, all manner of arts and crafts, and a fun favorite: indoor athletic obstacle courses. She dances from joy to joy, happy as a clam, even when I’m grumpy at her for not cleaning up her mess or turning down her joyful noise.

Julian, who just turned one, is our bull in the proverbial China shop. If there’s an electric cord, string of any sort or even a hanging plant accessible, he pulls on it until he finds out what’s on the other end. If there’s something that will rip, he likes to see how many pieces he can create. If there’s food to be squished, buttons to be pushed, drawers to be pulled or saliva to be drooled, he’s on the job.

Tony’s mess is chock full of hunting gear, grilling accessories, books he’s read and everything woodworking. He both bow- and rifle-hunted this year, putting two deer in our freezer. Iris especially loves the venison jerky he makes, asking for it in her school lunches long after we’ve run out. I appreciate the mess we don’t make in the kitchen when he asks “What’s for dinner? Want me to grill?” The Traeger pellet grill and smoker he got last Christmas sure wasn’t granted an easy life when it came to live at our home. He loves it and uses it many times a week. Smoked boiled eggs? So good.

I continue to play at music, jewelry making, sewing, driftwood art and my writing, keeping at least three corners of the house messy with more than is required for all of those undertakings. I wrote a column for the Warroad Pioneer for four years and sadly watched it close its doors this past spring. Without the forcing function of a deadline, writing fell to the back burner until this past fall when I began to write in earnest on my first novel. I say “first” with confidence, because whether this book comes to something or not, the joy I get from the process tells me all I need to know about what I’m meant to be doing. If only there were self-cleaning houses and children and yards so I wouldn’t have to stop so often or worry about what the neighbors think when Iris is left-unattended, using the broken-down vehicles as climbing structures.

Of Tony’s girls, Molly is now in Washington state, Sophie is in Grand Forks, and Maggie and Evangeline are busy with hockey and school. We see them whenever we can and miss them always.

We are blessed to have both sets of Grandparents close-by. Deb and Marvin still live on the westernmost point of Flag Island and we love to visit them when busy life and the water or ice allows. My folks, Bill and Linda, are still in “The Big House”, as we’ve all come to call their big log cabin. If I’m even a minute late to pick-up Iris from school, she runs across the road to visit them before I can track her down.

Our little parcel of land, adjacent to my folks’ land and the resort, now has a dirt driveway and a cleared plot for our future house. When the ground thaws in the spring, we’ll get the remaining stumps pulled and gravel poured to make it ready for building. It will be lovely to live walking-distance to the school, the lake and the Knight / Prothero side of the family.

Tony is still a summer fishing guide and The Angle’s UPS driver, wearing out vehicle after vehicle on the long Angle road. Kids in tow, I fill in driving as needed and help at the resort. Life is trucking right along. Our kids are healthy. And we’re all decently happy with our messy lot in life. We’d sure welcome a visit from anyone who wants to see our little corner of the world. Or get ready, and maybe we’ll come to you!

From our mess to yours, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and have the most amazing New Year and new decade!

Love,

-Kellie, Tony, Iris & Julian

Why Did the Porcupine Cross the Road?

We all rode to town together on Friday. It’s an hour+ drive, so it’s no small thing. We packed the diaper bag, installed the car seats and rushed through our morning in order to leave by 8AM. The whole way to town, the 6-year old watched her tablet. the 8-month old slept, and Tony and I argued. Continue reading “Why Did the Porcupine Cross the Road?”

Sweet Sucker Punch

Without a weekly newspaper deadline, I’ve had little desire to sit at my computer and write these past two months. The sun is shining. The grass is green. The lake is warm. And we’ve been doing what people do when all those stars align.

No, I haven’t missed writing. Continue reading “Sweet Sucker Punch”

The Hard Way

There are only a handful of dreams that impacted me enough that I clearly remember them now years later.

In one such dream during my time working at Microsoft, I needed to meet my manager  on the other side of a small pond. One route around the pond was wooded and the other side was an open meadow. Continue reading “The Hard Way”

“You’ve Got to Stand for Something or You’ll Fall for Anything.”

121 columns later and this is my final piece to appear in the now-closed Warroad Pioneer, a small-town newspaper that had survived for over a century. If read chronologically, they tell the winding story of loss and heartbreak, growth and hope.

I stood a good ways back watching the huge balm of gilead before she fell. Up here, where they grow like dandelions, it’s easy to dismiss these trees as junk wood or “trash trees” as I’ve heard them called. But this peaceful old dame has healing ointment in her veins, salves for human wounds if it’s processed right. And she’s surely seen twice as many summers as I. Perhaps Iris, the graduating kindergartener, and I will count the rings later to verify. Continue reading ““You’ve Got to Stand for Something or You’ll Fall for Anything.””

A Fond Farewell

The Warroad Pioneer (the small-town newspaper I write for) is going out of business.

This column is one I didn’t want to write, so I’ll keep it brief (haha) and get it out of the way this week instead of next.

I’ve never been good at Goodbye’s. Sometimes I skip them altogether. But writing this column meant too much to me to not say a few words. Continue reading “A Fond Farewell”

One-Track Mind

The Hunt and The Birth

We marked the last day of regular firearms deer season with a dinner of fresh venison and grouse. The glass door had gotten the grouse, so no license was required there. Cut very thin, lightly breaded and fried, both meats were a hit with the five-year old.

Bow season continues and muzzle loader opens this weekend, but even though he’ll likely bring home one more deer, I should get to see a bit more of my orange-clad partner now.

We made the hour+ trip to town together one day last week, and our conversation was like one from a sitcom. Both in our own separate worlds, he was focused on the hunt and I was focused on the birth. I later apologized for my one-track mind, and he laughed. “Me too,” he said sheepishly. Continue reading “One-Track Mind”