Dean & Jean do Riviera Maya

“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun (do di-do do)
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right” – George Harrison

Little darling, it has been a loooooong, cold lonely winter.

So Daniel and I decided we needed a trip. I told him I want warm, sandy beaches and an oceanfront room – I want to wake up and have the roar of the waves greet me every morning. That’s all I want. The rest was up to him. I really didn’t care.

IMG_8012We left our house at 4am on Monday the 21st and I literally had no idea where we were going. Daniel planned it all and had been teasing “Michigan” for weeks. It wasn’t until we reached our layover in Denver that I learned we’d be flying to Cancun. Great. Again, I’m good, as long as I had my beach.

Plus, that’s totally fun, right? I love surprises.
Then this happened.


GROUP ONE?!?! What?!?!? We’re going FIRST CLASS?!?! WHAT?!??!?

THAT never happens. I travel A LOT but not like this. Apparently our original flight was cancelled due to weather and we got an upgrade. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!! Let the FUN BE-GIN! We’re going to ME-HI-CO (say it right)!! I’ve never been to the Caribbean!


When we landed, this happened, which was just fun. I mean, come on. Every detail.


This guy took us to the Valentin Imperial Riveria Maya Hotel. If you’ve been there, let’s gush about it right now. Seriously. It’s perfect. Add to that that I’ve never done an all-inclusive resort, so HHHHEEEYYYY!

Once we arrived, they immediately served us appetizers and champagne – we didn’t even have to ask – I still don’t think I realized what goodness we were in for.


(I started writing this blog over a week ago, and life just…. you know…. doesn’t provide the 37 hours I need in a DAY. I give up. No more writing. Here’s the rest of the story in pictures)

First of all, the FOOD (ok, and a little more writing). Unbelievable. Buffets for breakfast and lunch. 7 different restaurants to choose from for dinner.

  • The tomatoes were SO SWEET. I usually emptied the salad bar tray – shamelessly – every day and ate so. much. bruschetta.
  • There was a dress code enforced at most of the restaurants, which required the men to wear long pants. Dan didn’t pack any. So we purchased a pair from the gift shop that were far above our normal price range for pants. AND it was completely worth it.
  • I think our favorite was the Japanese, but the Mexican and Italian also blew us away. Oh man.
  • YUM. Just yum.


Our backyard.


La playa.






A+ trip Deaner. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

PS: Date your spouse.

PPS: You know the honeymoon dress collection made a comeback, with a few new additions, but this is the only picture Daniel got. :/



How and why I started cooking

When Daniel and I got married, we made a deal:
Sinead will do all the cleaning and Daniel will do all the cooking and grocery shopping.  I hate (and am terrible at) cooking and he hates (and is terrible about) cleaning.  Match made in heaven.

Last fall, Daniel and I happened to be in Hanover (or somewhere like that way up north) for a cross-country meet. If you’ve ever been to one, you know you drive, you watch your kid start, you see your kid run by once, maybe twice, during they’re race, and you see them finish. It’s all over in about 20 minutes. Then you drive home. Well Hanover is far, and I didn’t feel like driving back and forth like that. So we stopped over at our friends, John & Amber’s house – which happens to be in Hanover –  and found them doing their late afternoon thing – one child at the dining room table doing homework, one child in the basement practicing for band, Amber cooking up something that smelled delicious, and John walking in the door from a day at work. It was just so charming.

I was inspired. I decided I wanted to cook for my family.

Beyond that, Daniel and I have this point of tension that goes something like this…
D: What do you want for dinner?
S: I don’t care. Food.

I hate being asked that question, and he hates my answer.

Plus, our lives had changed a lot since we got married, and with new jobs and working situations, one person doing all of one or the other just wasn’t working for us any more.

So, how about this… a meal plan. A 3-week rotation of meals that are easy enough for either one of us to prepare. I found amazing recipes, most of which were from Tasty – you know those instructional videos on Facebook that looks so simple and sooooo good – and most of them are one-pot or crock pot, so they’re easy and don’t take a ton of time.  I dropped them into a google calendar that we share.

It’s been an awesome change for us.
Plus, I’ve found that I actually do like cooking AND I’m pretty good at it.

I’m happy to share the link to our calendar if you wanna do the same.

And we all lived happily ever after. The end.





This year was not my favorite. Not even close.

Aside from the fact that it paled in comparison to the last few…
it was just hard.

So. Hard.


Rip my freakin’ heart out ‘cuz I HATE YOU 2017!! <<< temper tantrum

I will say this…
One day, one year…
I will look back on 2017 and be entirely thankful for it. It will be one of those years where I will say “I would’ve never asked for it, but I’m so glad it happened.”

But as of right now… I’m glad it’s over. I am hopeful for tomorrow.

I have a sinful tendency to dwell on the dark and miss the light.

In reality, 2017 hasn’t been all bad. There’s been SO MUCH good.
And since, I’ve made it a practice every year on New Year’s Eve to recall the highlights, I’m going to try to expand on what is normally just a bulleted list of one-liners tucked away in my journal, and give it the credit it’s due.

Here are my Top Nine of 2017:

We finished our basement. We now have so much more usable space for hanging and entertaining. Unfortunately, I don’t have a great picture of the finished product, but it’s awesome and I love it.


Traveling with the girls. I travel a lot for work, and for the most part, my family hates it when I do. This year, I got to take the girls with me a few times – California in March, Chicago in June, DC & Miami in November. They also got to visit NYC w/ my sister in June.


Christmas was really fun. First Annual Barry-Lukas Christmas cup. Girls crushed the boys.


Over $15K raised for clean water in Africa. I know really incredible and generous people.


Chick-Fil-A Day with Shawn. 24 hours straight with my 22 year old son, in a tent, with free food and unlimited sweet tea, and then you win 52 free #1 meals from Chick-Fil-A.


Work. I still love my job. More than anything I love the people I get to work with. I remain amazed by the way they love.


I swam 2.4 miles in a freakin’ lake! Do you remember how scared I used to be to swim in open water? I do.

Hamilton: An American Musical. Silly but such a HUGE part of this year. Saw it, sort of by surprise, in March. I won what should’ve been a $$$ ticket by making a donation to clean water.  I probably listened to the soundtrack 3,405,857 times since (and in so doing, managed to really piss Daniel off a few times).


Awaken East was born. I’m so unbelievably proud of Daniel Lukas. The man blows my mind every Sunday in all the ways. After a long time away, and a lot of healing, I have a church home and I have my husband (and Jesus) to thank for that.


Awesomeness of honorable mention:

Uncle Brian visits in June.


My girls saran wrap Josh’s desk.

Hotel rooms with Julie, Laura & Alex.

Beyonce sing/dance offs in the living room (Yes, there is video. No, you can’t see it.)

Late night facetimes with the Croslands.


The pugs and my dogchild finally meet (and we laughed and laughed and laughed).



Amaya getting her license and her car. Game changer.

Daniel, Egla & Shadrack visit the US.

Speaking at NLG.

Paid off the car. Student loans and house is all the debt we carry. Boom!

Twin Cities Marathon – it poured rain, but we had SO MUCH FUN.

I watched all sorts of people around me take on HUGE challenges. I’m so proud of them.

Finally saw the Phantom of the Opera.

2017 had a lot of good. Even more that isn’t even pictured here.
So. Much. Good.

To those of you who got me through,
you know who you are…



Sponsored by Love

I pulled out all my letters last night. I was sharing with some teammates about how awesome these kids are and how absolutely amazing it is that we can call them “friends” – that we can have any sort of relationship with them. I am moved to tears every time I read their letters, and this morning is no different.


Alice from Zambia

14 year old Alice recently wrote “I am very happy to hear that your husband Dan is a pastor. May Almighty God be with him.” – –  This is a 14 year old!

Then, I found my most recent letter from 11 year old Daniel, who will be here two weeks from today (!!!), and among meeting my whole family and visiting my home, he mentioned wanting to see a horse – and it messes me up because it’s so simple.

His mama Egla often writes to me too, which is just so special, because she’s a mama and I’m a mama, and we have that bond. She’s got the brightest smile in the universe. She begins her last letter with “We love you and your family so much.”

At World Vision, we talk about how sponsoring a child is a personal way to show God’s love to a child in need. And IT IS! The deep roots of generations of poverty are torn up when we share our abundant resources with children and their communities, and the future comes alive with hope for them when share our love and encouragement.

But as much as it is a personal way for us to show God’s love to them, God uses it as a way for Him to personally show His love to this American adult, who has all her physical needs met and way more “stuff” than I know what to do with. My poverty is spiritual and relational, and I need Jesus desperately.

He said whatever you did for the least of these my brothers and sisters – whatever you did for those who were hungry or thirsty or naked or homeless or orphaned or widowed – whatever you did for them, you did for me. Whatever we do to meet the needs of those who have less than us, we actually do it for Jesus. They represent Him.

And they write me letters and tell me they love me.

Do you get it?

We could all use a few more regular reminders that we are so very loved by the Almighty God. Imagine if we all knew and experienced that love just a little bit more, and if we would actually let it sink into our hearts and let it change us.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we have to do anything for God to love us. God’s love is not earned – it is free and unconditional. We don’t have to run races, give money or some sort of perfect life. He loves us no matter what. We know this.

But when does this knowledge move from our head to our heart?  When do we feel or experience it? How do we receive it? Are our eyes open to see it? Are our ears open to hear when he says “I love you”? Can we ever feel, see and hear that too much?

He communicates his love for us in so many profound ways.

Maybe the real question is, do we even want to receive it? Do we even care?

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Look into the eyes of a child. Hold their hand. Learn their story. Be their friend.

I’d be happy to introduce you.

Big Brick Weekend

When I woke up this morning, I didn’t think I had 18 in me. In fact, even when I was going to bed last night, I seriously doubted I would run this morning.

My long ride went really well yesterday. We biked the entire IMWI course (112 miles) and I felt great most of the day, despite getting off course 3 different times (might’ve had something to do with the 3 bottles of coke I drank during the ride).


The 112 mile bike course. 5600 ft of elevation gain.

With about 12 miles to go, I missed a turn that lead us 7 miles in the wrong direction. When I finally got back to town for dinner, my blood sugar started to drop fast. I took 2 fast bites of dinner and started to shake. I thought I was going down. I didn’t, thank God, but I wasn’t able to eat more than a banana before I went to bed.

In addition to all of that, I got less than 5 hours of sleep. I’m allergic to something in lake water, which means every time I swim outside, I end up super congested. I couldn’t breathe through my nose at all last night.

Needless to say, when I woke up, I was sure I wasn’t gonna run. Maybe I’d walk some, or jog a few miles. But no way could I go 18. I skipped my normal pre-long run meal, and opted for decaf coffee, a creme dream donut and beef jerky. I planned to hang out with my buddy Tye and support our other teammates most of the day.

But IRONMAN Wisconsin is 4 weeks away, and if I didn’t get this long run in today, with my teammates, I’m not sure if or when I would. So I went. And just kept going.

This is me at mile 13 running along the lakefront path in Madison. Feeling fine. Having a good run with great friends.

I made it 18 miles today. Makes no sense to me.

Glory to God. We are capable of SO MUCH MORE than we think.

Mary walks 18 miles A DAY to provide her family with water. You can read her story here.

What’s wrong with me

I know what’s wrong with you.

It’s a phrase that usually makes me cringe. Nobody likes it when someone points out their flaws. Or worse yet, when your doctor tells you that there’s someone wrong with you.

That’s what happened to me last week.

For the last year and a half, I’ve been struggling with increasing levels of fatigue. I just haven’t been myself.

Right out of the gate…
No. This is not because I run marathons or even because I’m training for an Ironman. Obviously, that was something we considered, but all my doctors LOVE my level of activity. One said “I wish all my patients did what you do.”

So first I corrected my diet. I almost bought some of those expensive health shakes from a friend, but instead, opted to just try eating real food for a change. Dan and I did the Whole30 back in February of last year, which eliminated all potential allergens and irritants – dairy, gluten, sugar, etc. People claim that this diet gives them a level of energy they’ve never felt before. “Tiger blood” they say.  Didn’t do it for me.

So I started chasing down other potential causes. I tried other cleanses. My doctors ran every test humanly possible. Everything came back better than normal. Basically I am the epitome of health ;), but I feel like garbage all the time.

Finally, this spring my doctor suggested I have a sleep study done.

“Maybe you have sleep apnea.”

That’s ridiculous, I thought. Sleep apnea is for people who snore and struggle with their weight.  Plus, sleep studies are expensive. I think I’ll look into some other things.

But after undergoing a series of additional tests and second opinions and still coming up with nothing to explain my malaise, I decided to try it. I had exhausted just about every other option, and was literally tired of it.


Turns out the doctor was right. I have sleep apnea, a condition in which people stop breathing while they sleep. According to my study, I stop breathing up to 16 times an hour while I’m asleep. It’s bad news and can cause a host of other serious issues. But it totally explains why I never wake up feeling refreshed or well rested. It explains my brain fog. It explains my lack of motivation or normal capacity to do the things I want to do.

As crazy as it sounds, I’m so happy about it. It’s so great to know what’s wrong with me! I’m so relieved. I’m relieved to finally have an answer and a way to fix it. I’ll have to start sleeping with a device called CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) that will keep my airways open and ensure I’m getting enough oxygen throughout the night. Definitely not the sexiest thing and it might not be super comfortable at first, but I’m ok with that. I just want to stop feeling this way and get back to living life to it’s fullest.

All that to say, God’s grace has been sufficient and in my opinion, it’s basically a miracle that I’ve been able to keep training at the level of intensity I do. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Ironman Wisconsin is less than 5 weeks away, and my biggest training weekends are staring me straight in the face. This weekend, I head back out to Madison to tackle my first ever century ride (100 miles), a swim in Lake Monona, and an 18 mile run. This is getting REAL, folks.

Most days, I feel like doing ABSOLUTELY nothing. But kids in Africa need clean water. I care, and so I run. Relentless forward motion. We will end the water crisis in our lifetime. I’m not stopping, no matter how crappy I feel, until we do.

Please donate – especially this weekend.


RIP Timothy


On July 19, Daniel and I received the very hard news that one of our sponsor children in Bartabwa, Kenya passed away tragically in a flood. We are both heartbroken and without words. Please say a prayer for his family.

This is personal.

We are fortunate enough to have friends and colleagues in the area where our sponsor child Timothy lived and they have been able to help us piece together his story.

One of them was his teacher, Jan Kipsong, she too devastated by the loss of her favorite pupil. She told me that Timothy was a wonderful boy – he was joyful and had many friends. He used to look after his father’s livestock (cows, sheep and goats) and it was in the evening hours, as he was trying to cross a river to take the animals home from grazing, that he was caught up in the “hungry waters” of the flood. It is possible that their livestock did not make it across either, so on top of losing a child, they may have lost their financial security as well.

This is a recent news story from the area where he lives, very likely the same river.

Our kid’s job today was to take our pugs out to the yard and scoop food into their dishes.

Meanwhile, we live in a world where 10-year-olds walk alone for many miles and across dangerous waters to help their family’s survive. Ironically, Timothy lived in an area that lately has been ravaged by drought and famine – one far worse than what we witnessed in the 80’s – but when the rain finally came, it came too fast. A flash flood that should’ve produced hope and replenishment, instead wreaked havoc and stole an innocent life – from ALL of us.


In these situations, it is easy to wonder how a good and loving God could allow such suffering and tragedy.

I believe he doesn’t allow it. We do. People allow it.

Dan and I will be sending a financial gift to help the family and are working to shift the sponsorship to one of Timothy’s siblings. We want to walk as closely as we can with them in their grief, knowing that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” and we want to be close to Him.

You can help by sponsoring a child in Timothy’s community. There are currently 273 children in Bartabwa who are waiting to be sponsored. Child sponsorship is an opportunity for you to build a relationship with one special child and help their whole community have access to vital resources like clean water, nutritious food, healthcare, education, economic opportunities, and more. Let me know if you’re interested.

You can also make a one-time donation in honor of Timothy to provide clean, safe water his community. Development begins with clean water. Follow the link here to make a donation.…

We love you Timothy and we will continue to fight for you.