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In We Heart Travel by Courtney

gc_blogintro-2Personal Blog.

Welcome. This is our personal blog, where we periodically write blog posts about what’s happening in the life of “Team Christenson”. We are a family of 4 living near Seattle, WA. We love to travel, experience new cultures and share in fun adventures together. We are passionate about living a meaningful and purposeful life. We’re grateful and thankful for the journey so far, and we can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Read our story here, and follow along on our journey by keeping up on this blog (scroll down).

We LOVE what we get to do for a living, but there’s more to life than work, so you’ll mainly see “life” happening here on this blog (travels, passion projects, photos, announcements, etc.). For work we do three things: photography, graphic design and advocacy. Learn more by clicking here.

Redefining WE

In Make An Impact by Gary2 Comments

After months of planning, networking, organizing, asking for favors, networking some more, prepping, applying for funding, nagging, photographing and framing…My photo exhibit finally happened!


For those who don’t know, for the last 7 months I have been working on a nationwide photography project to bring together Muslim women and Christian women called “Redefining WE”. I collaborated with [primarily] female photographers around the United States to create a collection of images that dismantle stereotypes, facilitate dialogue and create a sense of mutuality between Muslim and Christian women. Each photographer created a set of images with one photo of a Muslim woman and one of a Christian woman, engaged in a similar activity (ie. studying, speaking, making art, being a mother, playing sports etc). The photos were matted side-by-side in a shared frame to communicate the idea that Muslim women and Christian women have much in common, despite our differences. Discussion questions, posted throughout the exhibit, were carefully constructed to facilitate meaningful dialogue, build relationships and create opportunities for mutual transformation.

The idea sounded simple, but it quickly grew larger than I anticipated. My original goal was 10 photographers and 10 sets of photos…and I ended up with 23 sets of photos, 17 photographers, 50 photo subjects, 7 states (and 1 photo from Morocco!), 2 grants and hundreds of hours of work.

The project was supported and sponsored by Peace Catalyst International, with lots of help from the wonderful women behind 2 Faiths, 1 Friendship in Southern California. It was primarily funded by a grant from the Abe Keller Peace Education Fund, with additional funding provided by The Awesome Foundation.

Here are just a few of the sets of photos from the exhibit:redefining-we-event-courtney-christenson-3Left Photo by: Joey Bertocchini
Right Photo by: Marie Monforteredefining-we-event-courtney-christenson-1Top Left Photo by: Marwa Al-Alwani
Bottom Left Photo by: Courtney Christenson

Top Right Photo by: Amos Kolbo
Bottom Right Photo Courtesy of: Aneelah Afzali (Sand Boarding)redefining-we-event-courtney-christenson-4Photos by: Christine Otteredefining-we-event-courtney-christenson-2Photos by: Danielle Zacharias

We had our first gallery-viewing and dialogue event in Redmond, WA on September 2, 2016 and it was a success beyond my wildest expectations. I cried happy tears the entire night because the idea came to life so beautifully.


There were 75 women who attended (on a rainy Friday night, on a holiday weekend!) and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Wonderfully, the vision I had in my head was realized. Women came in, were put into small groups and moved through the exhibit discussing the posted questions. They were all nervous at first, being forced into groups with strangers and asked to discuss questions about gender and religion, but afterwards many of them told me that the small groups were the best part.

redefining-we-event-courtney-christenson-10redefining-we-event-courtney-christenson-9The feedback from everyone was incredible. The most encouraging part of my exit survey was that the phrase “we are all women” was repeated over and over again in the comments. The exhibit worked – it actually did redefine people’s “we” to include women who were very different from themselves. “We” are all women. (Cue the happy tears)

Appropriately, the exhibit ended with a wall of interfaith selfies that people sent me from all over the country. They make me smile every time I look at them.


Overwhelmingly, the most common piece of feedback I received was that the exhibit needs to keep going. The ladies who attended found it inspiring, encouraging and transformative and they want others to experience it too.

And it will continue! I created the exhibit to travel, so the possibilities are endless. Redefining “We” is set to display at Bellevue City Hall (here in the Seattle area) in October, and potentially a couple of other venues in the Puget Sound/Seattle area before it hopefully travels to Southern California to be displayed. There is also an organization in Atlanta that is hoping to host it. So this is not the end, but only the beginning!

If you are interested in hosting the exhibit and a dialogue event (anywhere in the world), please contact me for more information.

Thank you to everyone who helped, supported, networked, photographed, modeled, financed or championed this project! It was such a pleasure to work with so many incredible people.

More Summer Adventures

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment


Well, you guessed it, we took another trip to B.C. (it’s honestly been a goal of ours to hit it up a lot since we live this close right now). We met Team Strubhar at the family lake house on Lake Okanagan for a long weekend of playing in the water.

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Man trip to the coast for some surf! Met up with Kirk & KL (friends from B.C.) and scored a super fun surf session.

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Binge watching some stars. And then fueling up for a little hike the next morning.

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Exploring and scoring some sweet river spots to beat the heat and the crowds.

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Work trip with a side of play to Bend. First time downhill Mtn Biking (Mt Bachelor). So fun.

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When in Bend, spend the night on a mountain lake in a sail boat.

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More family camping. This time up in the North Cascades.

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Camping and testing out the muzzleloaders for elk season.

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Took an end of summer hike with my buddy Andrew to catch some cutthroat – we had a healthy competition going on and each caught 10 fish in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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More exploring and having fun.

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Getting ready to install Courtney’s gallery!



In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment


We just can’t stay away from Canada this summer :) We headed over to the west side of Vancouver Island with Courtney’s folks to explore the greater Tofino and Ucluelet area. Such an amazing gem of a place! Surf culture, great people, amazing seafood, beautiful coastline, empty beaches and so much more… we’ll be back!

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PNW Mid Summer Recap

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment


It’s been a whirlwind of a summer so far. We’ll try and catch you up here in this [all over the place and kinda messy] blog post. Things are warming up and we’ve been getting outside as often as we can to enjoy the area. It’s so beautiful up here in the PacNW. School is out and it’s a whole new challenge trying to figure out how to get work and grad school done while the kids are in tow.

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Courtney has been crushing her grad school work. She’s planning a photo event for the fall and is making progress on her thesis. It’s crazy to think that we only have 1 more year left here… who knows what’ll happen after that!

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Courtney met up with good friend Jenny in Denmark to attend the Women Deliver conference (the world’s largest global conference on the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women).

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Back home, we’ve been having fun and exploring the area. Below are some ice caves that we checked out one weekend. So rad. The pictures don’t do the size of the caves justice, and the whole area had countless waterfalls and tons of natural beauty.

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Took Joelle for a quick turkey hunt on my grandfathers land in eastern Washington. We mainly just camped and target practiced, and we almost got a turkey.

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Quick trip to Bend, OR to visit friends and family… and (below) TRY to surf their new standing wave in the river… it was much harder than we’d care to admit.

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Back in WA, mountain biking above and below Gary’s bro-in-law had his first AVP beach volleyball tournament here in Seattle.

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More exploring… trying our hardest to beat the crowds… it’s SO busy up here in the summer… which is cool that everyone in Seattle loves to get outside and explore! But it just makes it hard to find some quiet and solitude. So we’ve been venturing deeper into the wood and driving farther to find a few hidden gems.

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Oh #VanLife … there always seems to be something goin’ down with our 30 year old van. Yet, she keeps on chugging right along. Below is a quick fishing trip with my buddy Andrew.

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More trips to Bend to play in the playground that is Central Oregon.


The Paulina area is a gem, and below is a lake side hot spring, so cool.

Canada or Bust, eh?!

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment


We recently got back from a family trip to Canada during Courtney’s Spring Break. We traveled through British Columbia and a tiny bit of Alberta to play and explore in the mountains. We traveled from Seattle to Revelstoke, BC in one big push. We drove over some crazy mountains and passed right through some insane thunderstorms, but we made it safely to the Revelstoke area… which is kinda like Bend Oregon 15-20 years ago, it’s a rad place full of adventure and beauty but without many people around…

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We stayed in Revelstoke with our friends Kirk & Kerilyn. We met their family last year down in Oceanside after they traveled from BC in their truck & trailer and set up camp at an RV park to surf and hang out for several months. We shared many beach days, backyard bbqs and countless surf sessions together down in SoCal, so it was a treat to be up in their neck of the woods and explore the area with them :)


For a fun day trip we took a lake ferry (which is free by the way, b/c BC is awesome) to go find a natural hot spring to hike to and show the kids.

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About a half mile in, there were three pools just sitting in the middle of the forest up on a hillside. We liked the top one the most – it was the hottest, but the cleanest and more private (less naked hippies, haha). Natural hot tubs, love it.

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One day we had a quick opportunity to go check out some horses in Revelstoke and do a little riding with both of the families and all of the kiddos. Our girls were beyond pumped (especially Charlie – horses are her jam).


After a few days of checking out the Revelstoke area (hiking, hot springs, mountain biking, horses, garage hockey with the kids, BBQs, a pool day, etc) we headed deeper into the mountains with just our family to stay at a rustic off-grid ranch in the middle of nowhere (kinda half way between Revelstoke and Banff).

To be honest, it was kind of a gamble. They had just switched management, and the person I was talking to in Calgary didn’t know much about the ranch or if it would even be fully staffed and ready or not (b/c it was kinda early in the season, which wasn’t their fault)… they didn’t even know if there’d still be snow on the ground or anything :) … so we kept our expectations low and booked it anyways. We’re so glad we did, it was a dream come true! Below is the view from our little cabin. We spent the next three days living in this rustic mountain paradise.

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About 20 horses roam freely around the property and would come to the coral in the mornings and evenings (which was right in front of our cabin). The girls couldn’t ever get enough. We visited the horses countless times and the girls enjoyed helping feed them in the mornings and evenings… and of course they LOVED riding them.

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We did some canoeing and fishing on the property. We literally didn’t leave for three days. We just enjoyed the ranch and the area. It was insanely peaceful. We were basically the only ones around besides a few staff (b/c of it being off season).

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Saunas are a big deal up north, and there was an old school one on the property. So we fired it up, why not! It took about an hour after we built the fire and it was super toasty hot. Then we’d cool off in the creek behind the sauna cabin. The kids were not big fans of the sauna experience. They just couldn’t understand why you’d wanna be that hot.

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Campfires and powdered donuts. The good life.

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Above: Charlie took this photo with our big camera, love it. Below: Charlotte got attached to two twin horses who were just the sweetest.

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After we left the ranch we made a few stops on our way to Banff. First up was Emerald Lake. The color of the water is mind bending, we can’t even imagine what it’d be like in the summer on a sunny day.

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Above: Made a quick stop at the famous Lake Louise. So beautiful, but pretty chilly still. We stayed at a normal little condo close to downtown Banff and made a few day trips around the area. One hike to a waterfall in particular was very cool (below)…

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Above: if you look top right, you’ll see the girls in a cave, and the image below is what it looks likes THROUGH that cave/tunnel – it pops you out right next to the waterfall. Pretty awesome.

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After our time in Banff, we headed back to the motherland of British Columbia (Invermere area) to stay at a friends lake house and unwind, it was the perfect way to end our trip. We fished, standup paddled, and even found some hot springs nearby. We just loved our time in Canada! We’ll be back to explore BC at some point soon! Banff was cool to see, but we liked BC a bit more, we need to explore more of it while we live this close.


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Spring Has Sprung

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment


Here’s an update on where we’re at these days. The Spring here rivals the fall, so beautiful! The days are getting longer and the flowers and trees are blooming like crazy. Life somehow keeps getting busier and busier, but we’re still managing to get out and enjoy the area bit by bit… even with a lot of sickness for our family and late nights and very early mornings… I think we’re all a little “over it” at this point (finals weeks)… just so busy and scattered, but we’re only about one year from being done with Court’s graduate program, crazy to think about! Who knows what next summer will bring for our little family?!? Above & Below: Exploring the EMP building and the Space Needle.

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SUPing and beach bonfires on the Puget Sound… it’s a lake-like ocean… yah, kinda weird (where are the waves man!?!), but totally beautiful!

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Above: More van work :) basically me just learning from the master Jamie, all preventative maintenance at this point. Below: A quick trip to Whidbey Island with the family to eat pie and explore the island.

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Above: The Konzelman brothers have become good friends to us up here, showing us the good eats, playing good music and having some fun and adventures together. Below: Drew and Gary hitting up some Spring skiing.

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Sunset paddle boarding and fishing on Lake Washington (very close to our apartment). The weather is getting so nice now!

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Gary took a quick trip to New Orleans for business to visit a clients trade show booth (and marketing/product materials) he designed.


More beach exploring, vanning, and hanging with friends.

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We took a weekend trip (sans kids) in the van to camp and hang with friends in the very NW corner of the USA. Yet another ferry ride (below) and then a long drive up and over the Olympic Peninsula towards Neah Bay & Cape Flattery… unbelievably beautiful country, worth the journey for sure.


Above: It’s hard to tell, but Betty (our van) got a recent paint job on the front and sides (it’s a textured truck bed liner of sorts), and new dark rims/wheels, and bigger beefier tires… slowly but surely she’s getting more and more rugged and fixed up. Below: The life of a grad student… when theres downtime, she’s always working hard!!!


Follow those vans to the campsite!

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Van shenanigans (offroading in 30 year old 2 wheel drive vans… you’d be amazed where these things can go) and some fun small surf with the boys.

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Birthday Man Trip

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If you haven’t caught on by now, we’re into giving experiences as gifts. So for my (Gary’s) birthday this year Courtney planned a weekend guys getaway on the central coast of Oregon. Before she headed off to her Thursday night class she handed me this note: “You leave at 6am tomorrow…” and a packing list. Game on! It was like a scavenger hunt, one clue at various stages of the trip.


Stop #1 was an early meet up at my good buddy Ryan’s house in Tacoma (aka @poseidonsbeard) for breakfast Acai Bowls and coffee. At sunrise I opened the second piece of paper and it gave us an address in Oregon, so we hit the long rainy road all the way down towards Reedsport. The weekend forecast called for 100% chance of rain on the Oregon coast, but The Good Lord gave us a full weekend of great weather. Only a few thunderstorms quickly passing through. We arrived on the coast to my brother in law Matt (aka “Greenleaf”) and my other good buddy Matt (aka “Strubhar”) who had the dirt bikes unloaded from the trailer and prepped for shreddin’… so we got straight to it!

Below: Supershaka from Ryan – it’d been the better part of a decade since he was working (and shredding) at a motocross park in SoCal (he broke his femur during a race and hadn’t really rode since), but he was pumped to be back on a bike (he is very good… as is Strubhar… Greenleaf and I mainly spent our time watching in awe as those two mobbed all over those dunes… it was pure enjoyment to watch them).

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That night we drank beer-soda and ate the freshest (and best tasting) charbroiled oysters I ever had… it wasn’t a perfect pairing, but was close ;) Throughout the weekend we tried to find some surf, but the waves just weren’t working :( We did find a skatepark though, which always excites Strubhar.

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We did some house boating and some vehicle drooling in Reedsport.


We ended up doing 3 different dune sessions. Two near Winchester Bay and one near Florence. It was my first time riding on the sand so I wasn’t very good, but had a great time learning! Over the last couple years I’ve ridden a bunch in Central Oregon on the dirt, but the sand was a whole new ballgame. Challenging, but so fun… and soft… for all the times I went over the handlebars.

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Last but not least, we spent some time riding on the edge of the mighty Pacific. Thanks fellas (and Courtney) for a fun man trip! No broken bones, just good times.


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Winder Roundup

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment


Time is flying!!! Here’s a quick image roundup of our winter. First up, later in the fall we bought an old VW Vanagon and have been slowly fixing it up to be our adventure mobile for the great Pacific Northwest. It’s a finicky old vehicle, but it brings the party wherever we go :)

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Above: The girls have been liking all sorts of new foods since our move up north. We absolutely love it! Long gone are the days of chicken nuggets and quesadillas for every meal ;) Below: Courtney’s Cohort who are on the long tiring journey together (ICD Graduate Program), a rad group of world changers!!! … and below that, while the family is sleeping, Gary is out before dawn with some buddies trying to catch some salmon and trout!

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Ahhh, the warmth of a fire on a cold winter night ;) Here’s a glimpse into our apartment. It’s a small footprint, but it has everything we need (and helps us keep out what we don’t), so we’re stoked.


After Christmas in Seattle we headed down to Bend, OR to spend some time with friends and family… sledding, skiing, beer-ing, hot tubbing, etc… you know, the usual Bend winter activities.

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Joelle and Charlies first time on skis. They loved it and did so good. I was a proud [bearded] papa bear! Many more ski trips to come.

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A quick biz (and surf) trip to SoCal for Gary.


Below: On a random winter weekend we loaded up the van, took a ferry and met up with some friends for some camping on the Olympic Peninsula.

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It wouldn’t be a trip in a 30 year old VW without a little wrenchin’ to be done – which is the downside to choosing this type of vehicle for our adventure mobile, but thankfully we have an amazing community that helps each other out along the way – which is one of the main reasons we travel in packs, to rescue each other, haha. We really do appreciate the VW community up here, they are adventurous folk who are all about getting out and enjoying the area (surfing, beaches, mountain lakes, fishing, mtn biking, etc… not hippies, these folks are explorers and we love it).

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We hit up the Wild Animal park near Sequim in the vans – it’s a drive through animal park with bears, tigers, zebras, buffalo, etc. It was a ton of fun for the whole fam.


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I’m Back!

In Make An Impact, Our Life by Courtney1 Comment

Courtney_NWU_900(update from Courtney)

Ok. So. It turns out, figuring out what you want to do with your life and what you’re all about is fairly challenging. Who knew?

When we moved (seven months ago!) we had a very vague idea of what was going to come next and no long-term plans whatsoever. We just knew that grad school was the first step (or giant leap of faith…whatever) that we were supposed to take. Well, we still have no long-term plans whatsoever, but after feeling pretty lost for the last little while, I’m finally beginning to find a direction/discover my vocation/uncover my passion etc.

Now that I’m starting to figure it out, it actually feels incredibly obvious. In fact, I doubt that this direction will surprise anyone who knows me fairly well, but it was still difficult for me to figure out. I like to think that this is simply due to the fact that it is often more difficult to find the vein that runs through your own story than it is to identify it in others. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself…I prefer it to “I lacked enough self-awareness to be able to identify this part of myself earlier”.

I don’t have it all figured out yet and I’m ok with that. You guys can help me figure out the rest of it as we go along.

Here’s what I do know:

  • I’m passionate about global gender equality and gender-based issues in general. I believe that women hold the key to ending poverty, oppression, and many other massive global issues.
  • Nothing can effectively change these problems except for the work of passionate individuals doing what they can to make difference. Once again, I think women are a key here.
  • I am interested in engaging and challenging our cultural acceptance of living for ourselves, or for more stuff, or for the perfect home/life/kids/wardrobe/car/trip/handbag/(insert your personal wishlist here…mine is the trip. And the wardrobe. Ah, hell, let’s be real- I wish I had all those things.) Life is more than stuff, fun and our own self-interest. Life is meant to be meaningful.
  • We ALL are called to contribute to something beyond ourselves, whether it is global or local, and it’s meant to cost us something. Giving out of excess isn’t really giving at all.

So what does this look like? I’ve got some projects up my sleeve….Some attempts to use the gifts/skills/networks that God has given me to make a difference in these things to the best of my ability. I would love for you to be a part of these ideas and projects as they unfold!

Your feedback, ideas, connections or criticisms would be appreciated as I process these pretty massive concepts. I need all the help I can get! These ideas aren’t going to go anywhere if I try to do it all myself.

You will be hearing more from me in the future (here on this blog and on our social media accounts). I hope you’ll consider joining me in discovering what we were each put here to do and how our lives can make a difference on behalf of the many oppressed and hurting people in the world, whether they are in our neighborhood or across the globe.

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First Fall in the PacNW

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment


Here’s where we’re currently at:

The Good: It’s Fall!!! Winter is starting to close in on us now, but up until a week or two ago the color, the weather, the activities were all epically beautiful for a solid few months. Fall lasts a really long time up here. It’s the best. Even now (late November) there are still colorful leaves in most directions you look. We’re soaking it up and loving the changing of the seasons! Some other good news: We’re FINALLY finding some sort of balance with school schedules, work, homework and adventure. And we’re meeting fun people and building some solid friendships. It’s getting there! Trying to be patient with how long it takes to start-over.

The Bad: It’s Fall ;) The time change always sucks… especially this far north, it gets dark sooooo early (around 4pm) and will only get darker! And compared to down south, it’s pretty chilly these days (Gary loves it, Courtney and the girls not so much). It’s been raining about 50% of the time. Some weeks it’s incredibly clear and beautiful (but cold) and some weeks it’s dreary, gray and dark… it’s not so much the rain or the gray that gets to us, it’s more of the lack of light.

What We’re Learning: That the issues of this world (and life is general) are messy and extremely complicated: Terrorism, refugees, war, poverty, oppression, political rants, religious views, ill-advised FaceBook posts… these issues are deep and convoluted and many don’t have answers, let alone easy answers. Some days it makes us want to throw up our hands and give up on it all. The more we learn, the more difficult it all seems but the more important it feels to do our part to make a difference. As a family, we feel the need to TRY to do something about it, even if our attempts seem small and insignificant.  So we’re learning and discussing and brainstorming how we can help those who need it (locally and globally). We’re very thankful for Courtney’s masters program. The topics, discussions, papers, books and research she is doing is very much on point with the major issues our world is facing today and have led to many excellent conversations about the future. We are eager to help and feel that we’re getting closer to something – someway to engage and help.

So, that’s where we’re at… below you’ll find some of the things we’ve been up to this Fall. First up, we met up with some good friends (Team Miller of Bend, OR) for a weekend away (sans kids). We headed to the east side of the mountains for a super fun Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, WA.

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We had such a great time with Conor & Michelle. We ate, we drank, we explored, we conquered… it was a perfect weekend away.

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Over the past couple weeks we’ve had both grandmas come down for various trips to help us out. The kiddos are always in heaven when the Grandmas are in town :) We’re thankful to have such awesome and supportive families during this crazy time in our life!

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For Halloween the girls dressed up as The Kratt Bros (from a kids show called Wild Kratts).


Piles of leaves and leaf fights!

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Gary grew up in Montana hunting and fishing and eating wild game. He once harvested a moose at the age of 12! So now that we live back in the land of plenty (when it comes to natural resources and the outdoors) he was able to get out this Fall and try to fill our freezer with (organic, local, free range, gluten free, fair trade, no GMO, cage free, etc.) meat before the long dark winter. He didn’t have much luck (it was more a season of learning the area), but had an awesome time in the great outdoors with his Dad chasing deer and elk throughout the high mountains of the Cascades.

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Mt Rainier (above), we see it often as we drive around our immediate area. It’s actually an active volcano!  Below: Poo Poo Point. Where the paragliders take off. We need to do this at some point!

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Above: as Joelle gets older, she’s loving staying up later and reading from her top bunk. Below: Apparently you don’t mess with Owls up here, haha. And this is a drawing from Charlotte of an elk riding and dolphin…or somethin’ – amazing! So funny. Thanks for checking in with us! We hope you’re doing well and have a Happy Thanksgiving!


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Discovering Dad Podcast

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

GaryHollywoodJust incase you’re not getting it, the above image is obviously a joke – although, I am kind of a big deal ;)

I (Gary) had the opportunity to have a nice long chat with some really awesome fellow dads. We talked about life’s messiness, dad-hood, the backstory of Courtney and I’s move, the catalyst that sent us down this path, my role as a husband and father, and what life looks like for us now in Seattle (the struggles and the joys). I really enjoyed my time with Josh, Zach, and Chad (thanks for having me on fellas!) You can find more info about Discovering Dad here.

I hope that other new or used dads can listen in and be challenged and encouraged. The fact is that none of us really know what we’re doing as husbands and fathers, but during this podcast we had some really genuine conversations, heartfelt concerns, and tough questions to answer about what we’re all striving to become – an actively engaged dad and a loving husband (with a bigger story to tell). Hope you enjoy:

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Sailing to Sucia

In Our Life by Courtney1 Comment


We are lucky enough to have some very awesome extended family who live up here in the PacNW. Gary’s Aunt Nadine and her husband Greg recently upgraded their sailboat and were kind enough to take us out on the water for a long weekend. The plan was to sail from Blaine (a border town with Canada), cross the Straight of Georgia and anchor in a protected bay on Sucia Island (a beautiful state park surrounded by other islands in the Puget Sound).

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Above: Nadine. She’s amazing. So fun and full of life. She captained the boat most of the time – very impressive sailing skills! Below: Greg. He’s basically the man, such an inspiration. He is an expert adventurer and has had incredible experiences and stories from around the world.


Above: one for the ocean, and one for the crew – to ensure a safe voyage at sea :) Below: Our girls basically just snuggled and slept during our long sail to the islands.

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We had quite the adventure when sailing across the Straight of Georgia. After a while the wind really started to pick up and we were cruising! It was fun, but challenging. It must have been the beginning of crab season b/c there were literally hundreds of crap pot buoys to try and dodge while sailing across. One buoy in particular got the best of us. It got wrapped around our propeller making it impossible to use the motor (which we needed to direct ourselves into the bay once we reached Sucia Island). But not a worry, because Greg and Nadine are sailing pros :) We tacked and sailed our way right up into the bay like champs. It was stressful and hard work, but with Greg and Gary as her crew Nadine brought us in safely to the protected waters of Fossil Bay. We set the anchor and took a sigh of relief. We made it… but at some point we’d have to address the line caught in the prop if/when we wanted to leave :)

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Above: fishing during the sunset. Below: the sunrise next to Mt Baker.

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Exploring Sucia Island. There’s no roads or homes or anything, just hiking trails, camping spots and beautiful beaches to hang out on.

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Above: the Coast Guard boat happen to be anchored in the same bay, so we called them over to see if there was anything they could do to help us out. After a few attempts at pulling on the rope from various angles, they couldn’t make anything happen either (b/c it was more than just a rope caught in the propeller, the buoy was wedged in there making it impossible to get a full rotation on the prop). So, the only thing left was to have Gary suit up and dive into the frigid water to cut the tangled mess of ropes from the prop. Luckily Gary has lots of experience free diving (he can hold his breath for over 3 minutes and dive down to 80ft deep on a single breath), so it only took one quick dive to cut us free from the mess.


What a fun and beautiful adventure! Big thanks to Nadine & Greg for having us along. We love you!!!


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Change is Hard

In Our Life by CourtneyLeave a Comment


We haven’t been good about blogging since we moved, and I (Courtney) would like to tell you all a bit about why that is.

When we moved, we changed nearly every aspect of our lives. Not every, because Gary kept his job with Big Deal Branding, we kept our children, and we stayed married. But other than those thing, we essentially changed every aspect of our life.

Turns out, that’s a difficult thing to do. I went from being a full-time mom to a grad student/full-time mom. We went from being a homeschooling family to a public school and preschool family. We went from two cars to one. We went from owning our 4b/2b house to renting a tiny little 2b/2b apartment. We went from a beach family to a mountain family. We went from a super flexible and casual lifestyle to a very busy schedule to maintain. Gary and I went from doing nearly everything together to doing nearly nothing together except a couple evenings a week and the weekends (like normal people).

And it’s hard. It’s GOOD in many ways. But it’s hard.

I love that I’ve got a thing that’s mine. I love that I’m not homeschooling (and so does Jo. And so does my husband.) I love being in school. I love what I’m learning and who I am becoming. Gary loves the area. He is taking full advantage of hunting, fishing, exploring and is already making plans for the spring/summer. The kids are stoked on their schools. They love our new apartment because we have neighbors with kids their ages, a playground about 20 yards away, and a soccer field outside our backdoor.

These are all good things, and the changes they are bringing are making us into the people we want to become! They truly are. We feel like there is so much more out there for us to do – places to go and people that we might be able to help… that are in far off places that aren’t easy or comfortable to get to. There’s more to life than just living in comfort and establishing a normal/safe routine. There’s more to life than just working more so that you can pay more bills. There’s even more to life than having fun BBQs and chillin’ at the beach every weekend (like we’ve done for the last 5+ years) – those are amazingly great things, but there’s still got to be more to life than that! We became a little too complacent and a little too comfortable in Southern California over the last couple years, so we chose to mix it up, to stretch, to change and to grow… but the growing pains SUCK!!! Big time. I miss my husband, and he misses me. I have a built in community at school, but Gary doesn’t. He likes to do stuff (surprise, surprise) and between the kid’s school schedule, my school schedule and homework, I’m not very available to do all the fun things he wants to do together which is super hard for him. There’s been a lot of miscommunications and discussions about balance.

We’re not quite nailing it yet. But it feels like we are making some progress. I think. Maybe.

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Summer Wrap-up in the PNW

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

We spent the last part of the summer trying to pack in as much fun as we could before our crazy school schedules began. We had about 6 weeks to explore the area (take a few work trips back south), unpack from our move, and get acquainted with our new life… you know…  learn the area, get lost a lot, find grocery stores, find good beer/breweries, DMV stuff, schedule tuition payments, unpack our little apartment (we still had way too much stuff – even after getting rid of most of it back in SoCal), find a church, make friends, etc. But more importantly, before the loooong, dark, rainy winter arrived we (Gary, aka Capt’n Adventure) felt very pressured to get out and explore the area before hibernation set in… so, we were off!

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So much time playing in the lake. The girls LOVED jumping off the docks and playing around on the SUP.

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Above: visiting beaches on the Puget Sound and discovering local waterfalls. We love the diversity of this area! Below: Making new friends.


Above: A very quick work trip down to San Diego (wedding in La Jolla), we had one free evening that we spent at the beach with good friends (and fun surf and warm water) that we will truly miss. Below: Another work trip (wedding) in Yosemite for a quick weekend. Yosemite was very hot and smoky from all the summer fires. But we still were able to find some water and ditch the heat.

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Daddy daughter weekend on the Oregon coast with Team Strubhar.

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On a rainy weekend our family visited Mt Rainier National Park, and per usual, the girls were all about filling out their Jr Park Ranger packets.

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For some reason, we got sick a lot after the move (probably b/c this climate is so different… and new people… new germs, etc), but the first couple weeks of Sept were VERY INTENSE with sickness and class assignments and juggling all the different school schedules.

All three Christenson ladies started classes in September… Charlotte started preschool, Joelle started 1st grade, and Courtney started her grad program…. and Gary started fishing for salmon ;) and working like crazy of course (editing photos & designing).

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This is Lake Washington, we live very close to it and loved spending time in/near it this summer. Already making plans for the area for next summer! The options are endless for fun and adventure. If you wanna join us, hit us up and lets plan something fun together!