Forest for the Trees


For those of you who don’t know, I am the managing editor (and founder?) of a literary journal for exceptional writing by teens, for teens. It’s called Forest for the Trees, and I think it’s pretty awesome. We’re accepting submissions for inclusion in our inaugeral issue up until the end of the year, and that includes artwork to be used on the front cover. We’re searching for high quality work by artists ages 13 to 19 – check out the submissions guidelines on the journal’s site!

Please feel free to share this with all of your writer and artist friends, and even if you are over 19 years of age, we would love it if you subscribed to our mailing list so we can let you know when the first issue is availible.


“I Am Not An Environmentalist.”

When I was probably ten years old, I saved a young maple tree in my back yard. Possibly growing nature’s way, from a scattered seed rather than a planted bucket, the tree was tall and spindly. When we’d moved into the house it was shorter than seven year old me, but it quickly caught up and overtook every member of our family. It was about ten feet tall when my father decided to cut it down – it was smack in the middle of our yard, and we had several trees already. Slicing through the two-inch diameter trunk would have been easy for any of the saws kept in our garage, but I’d grown attached to that tree. I begged for it’s life, and my wish was granted.

The yard now gets almost no sun at all, instead of a little bit of sun in the afternoon.


As part of  my research for my critical thesis at Spalding, I wrote and conducted a survey of children ages 4-18 that I called “Environmental Reading Habits.” The questions were simple enough, most of them multiple choice and having little to do with the environment. But the last question – “List some nonfiction or fiction books you’ve read that touch on environmental topics” – was the most interesting to me.

Many answers included The Lorax, Magic School Bus Books, Eye Witness, and National Geographic. Quite a few said “none,” “n/a,” “I don’t think I have ever read a book like that.” But one answer caught me off guard. Rather than simply saying “none,” one participant wrote, “No, I am not an environmentalist.” I got stuck on this and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Unlike the kids who were answering my questions, I could list a few dozen books that dealt explicitly with conservation or environmentalism. Did that make me an environmentalist? I had never thought of myself as one before. Was every kid who listed Hoot an environmentalist? It was an interesting question that I couldn’t get out of my head.

Something about that tiny maple tree in my yard inspired me to want to keep it there. I don’t think I knew that the tree would provide more oxygen to our yard, or that songbirds would make homes in its branches, or that squirrels would leap through its leaves. But I could remember when the tree was smaller than I was, and that made me feel protective of it. I think that’s how environmentalism really should be. The world might be older than we are, but we are stronger than its individual parts. It is fragile and struggling to hold on, and more than our lists of facts on its (many) benefits, it simply needs our protection.


So I think my answer is no. I am not an environmentalist. I am not, by training or trade, a scientist, an activist, or a crusader for the earth. What I am is someone who loves the earth and wants to protect it, just like that tiny maple tree.

Maybe that’s a problem. Maybe people can’t tell the difference between these two things, and if they aren’t an environmentalist they don’t believe they can do anything to make a difference.

If you think that, I’m sorry, but you are so wrong.

Start recycling. Grow some food. Use Energy Star when you replace things. Buy things second hand, or know where they come from when you buy new things. Stop making the world that we all live on a party issue and going against it simply because you’ve been told it’s “liberal.”

Plant a tree.

Or protect the one that’s already there, planted by the wind.

Photo used under Creative Commons License from The Value Web

Hickory Brick House Update

When my last semester started I sort of left this blog hanging on the subject of our home renovation. Because, well, we left our home renovation hanging. But here’s the final update on the kitchen and master bedroom.

We painted the kitchen walls Behr Yellow Wax Pepper – PPU9-13. The faux brick wall at the end is the same Perfect Taupe as the bathroom and Caleb’s work room.

The dining nook.


The inside of the white cabinets are that same Taupe color, too.


Finished kitchen – with cabinet doors! And new hardware! They didn’t get hung until just before Halloween. We spray painted the old hinges black, but the knobs and pulls are new from Home Depot.


Our bedroom upstairs has been the longer process. When we pulled off the plastic we’d covered the vents with to refinish the floor, the tape pulled some paint with it. (Which was fine.) But under the paint was the homeowners mortal enemy: wallpaper.

You read that right.

Luckily, some friends of ours own a steamer, which made the job go so much faster. (Which was still excruciatingly slow.) We had to steam every part of the wall twice, once to get the latex paint to peel off, and once to soak the wallpaper.


Once steamed, the paper came off like a dream – but the upper half of our bedroom walls are slanted. (Not fun.) Finally, I scrubbed all the walls twice – once with glue remover solution, once to clean them off. They looked so much better already!

We painted the long walls which slant up into the roof in Crepe – PPU7-19, and the short walls in Mushroom Bisque – UL140-10. (Both colors are Behr.) Whala – the last finished room!

Thus ends the largest, most time consuming portions of our Southwest Michigan home renovation.

Here’s how the other rooms look now that we’ve moved in and cluttered them up. The living room is one of my favorites. I’m so happy with the colors.

living room

You can see a few photos of my finished library here.

Thanks for following our journey! To see lots of before, during, and after pictures for these and other rooms, check out this post, this post, or this one.

Frozen! Anna’s Winter Dress

Guys, I made this costume for work. The only thing better would be if I could have made it at work. But seriously, this was one of the easiest costumes I’ve ever done! I found the light blue blouse, a black t-shirt, and the blue skirt for $15 in a single trip to the Goodwill one block away from my house. A quick Google for Anna’s costume details revealed stencils and color guides.

I simply trimmed up the t-shirt to the shape of Anna’s vest, hemmed the new edges, and shaped up the collar of the blouse. Then, guided by a YouTube tutorial, I drew the designs onto the vest and skirt with white eyeliner, and painted them in.


Winter dress



To finish it off, I used one of those great JoAnn’s coupons to get three yards of pink fleece for another $20 and with some quick cuts and just a little bit of sewing created Anna’s cloak. The lining fabric was provided courtesy of Juliet, who shewed up the bottom of our burgundy duvet cover.

Pink cloak



Costumes are so fun! I’m thinking that for Halloween, I will try to find time to add the gold details to the bodice and reuse this costume, which is one reason I didn’t mind spending the out of pocket money for the materials. Also – for $35 this costume was cheaper and (in my opinion) better than a store-bought version of Anna’s winter outfit.

Since no one is thinking about Halloween 2015 yet, what did you dress as for Halloween 2014? Did you make your costume or buy it? Let me know!

How are the Roads?

Skunk cabbage

In Michigan, in February, there is one question I hear more than any other question – more even than “How are you doing?” What question is that?

“How are the roads?”

As much as people instinctively respond “good” to the first question, they seem to take an inexplicable joy in relating just how “bad!” their journey was in the snow. The roads were absolutely terrible, barely even cleared, there were at least a dozen cars on the sides of the roads, and visibility was zilch.

Sometimes that sounds like the answer to the other question. The answer we never give.

Winter tends to have the same effect on my creativity as it does on the roads. It’s hard to find inspiration when everything around me is white or slush brown, and there’s no end in sight. It’s hard to be productive when all I want to do is curl up under every blanket we own and hibernate like a bear until spring.

I think it would be better if I forgot about the bear and tried to be more like skunk cabbage.

Skunk cabbage?

I’d never heard of this plant before moving to Michigan, where it grows freely in the ravine behind my house and my in-laws’ house, and in the local nature center where I like to walk. No one much cares for it, but I think the purple, wild, beak-like flower is really beautiful. What I didn’t know about skunk cabbage until just recently is that it has the ability to generate temperatures 20-60 degrees above the temperature of the air around it.

I know, it’s crazy!

This means that these little green plants started growing in the nature center last week, during the middle of our heaviest, longest snow of the season (so far).

So I want to be a skunk cabbage, and grow, and be green, in February, so I can tell people that the roads are just fine.

Iron Belle


If you live in Michigan, you might have seen (or heard?) the news about the “new” statewide trail that will be going in over the next few years. The Iron Belle Trail stretches from Ironwood at the west end of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle just outside Detroit. I’ve been waiting for news of places to do some real hiking for a year now, so I’m ecstatic!

I’m so excited, in fact, that I may or may not have set up a second blog to put trail news. Okay, yes, I did. Right now, at this link, you can find out about the Iron Belle, the North Country Trail, and a few guide books along with information about why there aren’t more.

Here it is:

I’ll be updating there with news about the trails progress, our progress on the trail, and other relevant information.

Happy Trails!

Sinful Simon or Peter, Redeemed


The practice of yoga tends to be a subject of some controversy among evangelicals due to it’s roots in eastern religion. When I took a class at a Baptist college on yoga (as exercise), we exclusively learned the poses involved. There was no chanting or mumbo jumbo, no meditation. The only possible thing that could be linked to the history of yoga was the word namaste. We ended each class by placing our palms together and nodding our heads to the instructor, who did the same to us, and we said namaste to each other.

According to our instructor, we were simply thanking her for the class, and she was thanking us for our participation. This is an accepted meaning for the term among those who practice yoga as an exercise or sport, but the translation of the Sanskrit word namaste into English is “the divine in me honors the divine in you.”

Conservative evangelicals often shy away even from this word, because of it’s meaning. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder – why don’t we adopt this greeting and use it in our churches?

C S Lewis, in his essay The Weight of Glory, famously pointed out that everyone we meet is someone who will be alive forever.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – there are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

– C S Lewis, The Weight of Glory

How often do we really think like this? It is certainly easy to forget that we are eternal ourselves, and much easier when it comes to those who irritate or harm us in some way. Perhaps if we kept a greeting with connotations of “my eternal self honors your eternal self” or, specifically among Christian communities, “my sanctified self honors your sanctified self” we could better remember that while we are still sinners, the same Christ saved us all, and we will be together with him – and each other – for eternity.

In a recent worship service, a preacher encouraged the congregation to recognize this in the example of Simon Peter. Jesus gave Simon, the sinner, a new name when he became a follower. That name was Peter, the Rock on which Christ built his church. This same person denied Christ three times on the eve of the crucifixion. Jesus, because he has covered this, chose to see Peter and love him, rather than to see Simon and punish the sin. The preacher encouraged us to do this ourselves, in conflict with others, to see the new person Christ has cleansed rather than the old person who was lost.

This is difficult to do even if we remember. But how often are we reminded, or do we remind ourselves? Perhaps it should be a little more often.