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Anniversaries, Blogs, Sailboats and Pirates

Yesterday marked the second year anniversary of this here blog. How does the two year mark translate in blog years? Anyone know? Because it doesn’t feel like a baby blog the same way we think of two year old babies or marriages or even homes. No, it seems to be accelerated but I’m not sure to what extent. Whatever the case, stay tuned because I’m prepping a little giveaway of sorts for you loyal readers. Because I love you so.

In other news, my dad’s at sea where he’ll be for the next week and a half, give or take a few days. Perhaps this is his way of having a midlife crisis, but I thought that the muscle car was his midlife crisis awhile ago, so who knows what this is. He’s racing the Caribbean 1500! Which, in all reality, is like a marathon for sailboats. He’s nearing the Bermuda Triangle as we speak, at 7 knots. Send your prayers to him and his teammates. I’m a bit uneasy about the pirates that navigate those open waters. Keep Blackbeard away, please.

In other news, I’ve come to the realization that things will be rather anniversary-y around here for the next little. I’m still sharing our weekend vacation for our wedding anniversary, we’ll be celebrating this here blog’s anniversary, and, oh, November marks our home ownership anniversary of… I’ve lost track already. Goodness.

So, well, happy anniversaries. Of all shapes and sizes.

Sail on.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

From the Map of Michigan

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Half Acre by Hem on Grooveshark

I am holding half an acre torn from the map of Michigan. And folded in this scrap of paper is the land I grew in….

We haven’t necessarily “buried” my grandfather yet. He’s in a box. Well, two boxes. One that will take a final voyage back to England. The other is kind of just hanging out. Picking the perfect spot, you know? When we were up at our family cottage on Lake Michigan in August, grandma and I meant to go for a walk to pick out a good spot. It’s tricky, though. Finding a spot for eternity.

You see, the cottage is practically on a giant sand dune like the rest of the Lake Michigan coast. So we don’t want him to wash away. These things aren’t easy. Anyway, Alex knows to bring me there when I’m packed away in a heavy box just like grandpa is.

Because this is where I am from. This is what I am. I trace my life on that beach. The early years of the jetty-lined beach overpopulated with sandcastles and tiny cousins. The catamaran years. The years when the grasses began creeping down the hill and out into our beach. This place. I grew in this place.

And it’s funny, really. Because I’ve never been a Michigan resident, gone to school in Michigan, held a job in Michigan. But this little plot of land right there at the top of the pinky finger of that gigantic mitten, it’s meant more to me every year of my life than any other place ever will.

This is where I come from.

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These pictures were taken a few weeks ago when we were up at the cottage on vacation. Yes, the sunsets are always this gorgeous. If you need proof, see this. And this.

Aqua Cats and Union Jacks

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On January 13, 1946 a young British sailor stationed on HMS Fort Prudhomme wrote home to his parents from Venice to let them know he was finally coming home. One quick trip to North Africa for iron ore and then to the British Isles for good. He wrote of the troublemakers and theives on the ship, of how it was ”floating in cognac, champagne, vino and all kids of different deadly wines” at the good news, of visiting the “most beautiful and most expensive cathedral in the world, St. Marks” and of plans for holiday one day back to Venezia. He finished the letter with a miniature sketch of a gondola for his baby brother, Michael.

Nearly twenty years later he married a young widow with an extremely special, very important bonus wedding gift of four teenage boys and one young little girl. He invited them all into his life with nothing but tender love and compassion. Looking back, him being a stock broker and all, he probably saw this as a golden opportunity- a packaged deal, you know? And this is how he entered my life, too. This is how he became my Grandpa Colin.

Though now in Michigan and far removed from his days in the British Merchant Navy, he remained close to the water. Completing what had begun long before his time, before the sudden, tragic, undeserved death of a father and husband, Grandpa Colin helped my grandma finish our real family home: a rather large ”cottage” on Lake Michigan. 

That cottage raised me. Every summer when we’d visit, after a calm ride on the catamaran, he’d sit at the top of the beach looking out over those waves like he owned that massive lake. As a kid, I kind of believed he did. As long as I can remember, I’d look up to see him raising his Union Jack flag high in the breeze, staking out his plot right there for everyone to see. A little bit of Britain in the New World. That’s how I’d know the direction home, when the waves would carry me down the shore on my boogie board. That Union Jack’s how I mapped my journey back home.

And after the late, northern Michigan summer sun would set, well past bedtime, you could find him in his black leather chair doing the crosswords. Always doing the crosswords. Always in his black chair. In the past few years, when he didn’t make it up to Lake Michigan, I still wouldn’t dare sit in his chair. Like maybe he was going to show up at any moment and need to do a crossword. I left it open just in case.

I bet he’s really still there, watching out over the ships and the ferries and the waves each day. Then, after the sunset, he doesn’t go far. Just back inside to do his crossword. We just can’t see him.

That’s how I’m going to remember him, at least. Looking out over the lake, his flag flapping in the wind and the Aqua Cat sitting ready for its next launch, upright and waving its stripes through the air in salute. Eager to cut through the waves one more time. Yes, this is how I’ve decided I’ll remember Grandpa Colin.

All my love, until we meet again. Your loving granddaughter, Tina.

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On Miracles and Moms and Babies

I’m about to tell you a story that will make you believe in miracles. It doesn’t matter who you pray to (or don’t). It doesn’t matter how skeptical you are of luck and chance and the serendipitous nature of things. All of that is about to change.

My mom calls me her miracle baby. And I am. After an entire decade wrought with constant pain and endless miscarriages, I stuck around through a full term. And then some, actually. I guess I needed a wee bit longer to bake. So I arrived, at noon on September 29th, 1986, as my mom and dad’s miracle. Over a dozen miscarriages and a number on Catholic Charities’ wait list later, I stuck it out and made it to the delivery room to meet them for the first time. My great uncle, Jack, claims he named me. Christina Marie Griffin. Plain enough for quite the miracle I was. But whatever.

Then there were more miscarriages. Twins that I was so proud to meet one day. But there were two other miracles, too. I call them Bud Mud Bud and Sister. They call me Ten Pen Ten. Together we make up the Griffin Trifecta Miracle (which I just coined right at this very moment in history). There’s over a dozen others of us that just weren’t strong enough to make it that we’ll never know. But I guess three miracles were really plenty for one lifetime, right?

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This upcoming weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day and I’ll be celebrating not only because I love my mom, but because she’s the strongest woman I know and she fought tirelessly to be a mom at all.

Today Jenni prompted us to discuss the thing we are most afraid of. You know what I’m most afraid of? I’m ghastly terrified that I won’t have the same enduring strength and courage as my mom to fight for my own little miracles. The silliest part is that I may not have to wait a whole decade like my mom. Hopefully, at least. It doesn’t really matter. I’m afraid, so there.

But now you all believe in miracles and that’s all we ever really needed in life was to believe. We make our own destinies, but it surely doesn’t happen without a positive outlook. I know plenty of women who have already met their miracles. I also know plenty of women who are slowing dying a bit every time their miracle disappears yet again. And this all scares me so much.

Sometimes the scariest, toughest, most terrifying things are those things that are made up of the fibers and fabrics of what’s worth the most value.

Except snakes. I’m just plum out afraid of snakes.

Becoming Me: Seeking Truth

photo photo18-1_zps0f9e7bd0.jpgUs// Lake Garda, Italy// 2010

I’ve been tiptoeing through broken glass and burning coals regarding this subject as of late. When I’m certain I’m being careful enough, avoiding burns and cuts, my dad will call and tell me how transparent he found a post to be. Or, my friends will come to me first thing in morning and go, “wow, I totally saw right through that”. Hopefully, oh gosh I hope, this will maybe be even in the slightest bit new to some of you. Otherwise, it’s sort of like the kid who comes out of the closet to his parents but they’ve known it his whole life.

I’m pretending like I’ve developed the gumption to write this post thanks to a wonderful dialogue I’ve seen begin through some of my blog friends: Nadine & Lauren. So, what the hell, let’s get started.

Generally speaking, I am very content in my life. I have a steady, rewarding job that pays the bills and provides great benefits. I am madly in love with my husband and we’ve made ourselves quite a comfortable starter home. I’m in a routine that, broadly speaking, allows me to foster relationships, hobbies, goals and personal growth. Things are good.

Specifically speaking, I am so disappointed. This is not where I want to be. My priorities are nowhere near where they beg to be. And, for being only 26, I feel my life is closing in around me like it should when I’m 80. Hence the importance focus for this year.

What is it that I really want? What is going to make me soul affirmingly happy? The sort of happy that you look back on and go, “I built my life out of this and I wouldn’t change it for the world”. This, I decided, would guide what is important to me. I knew all along, I suppose. Maybe I was ashamed? But why? What do I have to prove and whom must I prove to? 

I’ve been fighting for a life that I don’t even want. It’s a life that I thought I should have. The one that looks good on the outside. The one I thought people would expect of me. I’m smart and determined. Tenacious, even. Makes sense, right? So why would I settle to be just a mom?

Ah, there’s the rub. All of this unhappiness. All because I’ve been unwilling to admit it. And while plenty of you are probably thinking, “you can work and raise a family”… no. Just no. Not for me. Not a full time job, at least. Not what I do now. Without getting political, but it will, because it is, Alex and I fully believe that a major downturn of our country occurred when June Cleaver had to work full time to support her family. Call it super conservative, backwards, closed minded, whatever. That’s alright. It’s what we are choosing for our family, not yours. I don’t have it in me to let someone else raise my children while I’m plugging away for a paycheck. And while it can work, it does work, and it will work, it won’t work for us.(… that is so hard to say living where we live because practically every household is dual income by necessity…)

Because, to me, there was never, ever a job on this planet more important than raising a family.

And so I come to the root of my word for 2013. What is really important to me. A new career path isn’t going to make me happier. More money isn’t going to make me happier. Everything I did yesterday, do today, and will do for the foreseeable future is to ensure that one day, some day, we can say we are ready to start our family. Staying healthy. Paying off our debt. Burying those student loans. Building equity in our home. Moving.

It’s long term and rather crappy. What is important to me definitely doesn’t leave room for luxury or fun vacations. But, I am so entirely comfortable with that. After all, the only thing I’ve ever wanted is to make the unbelievable sacrifice that comes with parenthood. I guess I just didn’t realize the sacrifice would begin so prematurely. And I am so glad it has.

Joyeux Anniversaire x3

Last Saturday was my baby sister’s 20th birthday. Today is my baby brother’s 23rd birthday. And today is also my mom’s ##th birthday. Happy Birthday to these beautiful people.

photo tina-ceremony_028_zps2b6af8c5.jpgThat’s right, she gave birth to him on her birthday. Isn’t there some sort of prize for that sort of feat?

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& so I thought I’d leave it at just this and save them from embarrassing photos blasted all over the internet. But then I decided… nah…. what’s the fun in that? Soooo….

photo 272748_4356074537152_1249861014_o_zpsbd484c56.jpg(there’s my mom in the Americana bathing suit)

photo 69003_840847517749_3981681_n_zps549607aa.jpg(that’s my brother and sister after polishing off one too many bellini’s in Venice a few years ago)

photo 67258_840861459809_6361495_n_zpsb9ddaf79.jpg(annddd that would be them a few days later polishing off some brews in Munich)

& then I started to feel a little guilty so I decided to finish this post off with something sweet.

photo 178004_10151186109023082_1074586854_o_zps5cd8bf33.jpgerrrr… kind of.

Happy birthday, mom. Happy birthday, bud mud bud. Happy birthday, baby sister. I love you guys so much. Love, ten pen ten

P.S. In case you missed it… This week’s recap:
* A Printable Wisdom GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!
And my favorite posts around the blog-o-sphere this week:
* Allie found this awesome Nude Timelapse
* A Beautiful Mess’s Handwritten Statement Wall is kinda awesome
* This made me laugh

The 2012 Byland Family Christmas Spectacular


Three years ago we bought our first Christmas tree. It was our second Christmas in the house but we’d spent our first holiday mid-move in the depths of snow-mageddon. Buying a tree is sort of out of the question when you are knee deep in hardwood floor installations and furniture deliveries. So there we were. Buying our first tree.

At Lowes.

Please don’t judge me for owning a fake tree. Ahem. Artificial. It sounds better. Believe me, I’ve judged myself enough for an entire lifetime. But it’s better for the environment. And it came pre-lit. And it just paid for itself this third go-round. I mean, a decent 8 foot Fraser Fur isn’t exactly cheep. Plus, Misha has asthma and is highly allergic to pine. So a plastic Christmas will be had.

We love our giant mass of pre-lit plastic. When she’s set up and glowing in the corner of the living room, everything seems right with the world. Even if just for one month.

So here she is, three years old. There’s a chunk of branches that we hid in the back that just don’t seem to want to light up. And she’s sagging a bit unlike she’s ever done before. But she’s still our tree. And we love her so.

Ok, Alex. Time to get off your new iphone and decorate that tree! (It’s called Falldown, and it’s a silly little game where you let a metal ball drop down a wooden maze, and he’s obsessed).











(ps not too shabby for amateur hour, manual mode, no flash, Christmas tree photography, huh? This girl’s starting to get the hang of it… s-t-a-r-t-i-n-g….)

It Happened… & We Survived


Success. Great success.

We hosted Thanksgiving. And we survived.

Let’s go through the highlights on this Monday morning. Just because sometimes that is more fun.

* Having my sous chef (aka baby sister aka Sara) peel and slice practically everything and only cut her finger once.

* Nearly forgetting to make cranberry sauce, and then realizing that I was eyeballing ev-er-y-thing. I blame it on being sick.

*Oh yeah! Hosting my first Thanksgiving while getting over this flu/ cold/ sinus infection awfulness. So exciting!

* Forgetting the rosemary for the turkey and sticking it in his little butt.

* The green beans. The healthy green bean casserole recipe. Nixing the healthy green bean casserole recipe because it was way too complicated.

* Ice. Falling. All over the kitchen. No way to give those green beans an ice bath anyway.

* Alex’s contribution: Pigs in a Blanket.

* Turkey perfection & turkey carving perfection thanks to my dad.

* My brother’s legal apple cider moonshine concoction. Delish.

* Lions lost. Redskins won.

* My cousin’s cheese ball. Hand carved. Delish again.

* Leftovers…..

* Tryptophan comas.

I hope your Thanksgiving was just a fabulous as ours.

And now, for some pictures.







So there was food…..




& a large dose of Griffin’s….


Pies, too….



& then there was rest…..


So let Christmastime commence, Charlie Brown.

To Be Thankful

Should be easy, huh? And while I can always come up with the standard list (family, friends, food, clothing), it’s tricky these days to focus your perspective in the right frame.

Today Alex finished a ton of rather monstrous house projects that had fallen into the “well, if nothing else, we’ll finish them before we put the house on the market again” category. It was stressful. Unlike my family, where we did everything from change our own oil at home to build rooms from scratch by ourselves, he’s learned pretty much everything on his own in the past three years we’ve owned our house. And he’s not a natural handyman. Oops. As in, he hates it.

So, in typical Tina fashion, I’m sick. Surprised? I’m not. Let me paint the picture here. Alex is cursing the homeowner gods over caulking and nailing into studs and everything in between, I’m trying to clean for tomorrow’s party and I just crash. I mean, I pass out. On the bed, thank goodness. But, there I am. And there he is.

It was a rough day.

And on the eve of Thanksgiving, all we could think about is how we don’t have enough time, we don’t have enough money, we don’t have the right jobs, we don’t have the right house to raise a family, we don’t have, we don’t have, we don’t have. What do we have? House projects and illness. Been there, done that?

On the other side of all of that bickering, all of those awful thoughts, all of those emotional comments, Misha and Baci curl up on the couch in the cup of my lap and rest their heads on one another. And for just a moment, we could think clearly.


Here’s what I’ve got for you. To help you be thankful:

While there will always be someone smarter, prettier, richer, luckier than you….

at the same time….

there will always be someone worse off than you…..

So instead of a list, I’m just telling you this:

I’m thankful for my life. I’m thankful that the largest stresses in my life are over extremely lucky career choices & who we will celebrate the holidays with & which cities will be best for us to raise a family & the whens and hows of carrying my future babies & how to save for their college & whether to bake a pecan pie or a cherry cobbler for Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my little family.

From all of us to all of you, have a blessed Thanksgiving.