Categories
Faith

Oh, Rachel.

I recently finished reading, “Inspired,” by Rachel Held Evans. I bought the book the day the news came that Rachel died, basically out of the blue, in May 2019. She died of an allergic reaction to a medication when being treated for a simple infection. It was a stunning loss to progressive Christianity.

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My friend Sheila, who I’ve had many conversations about faith with over the years, called the day of Rachel’s death. Sheila is a nurse and was dumbstruck by the news. We all were. We wept on the phone together for a friend we’d never met.

I’d read Rachel’s previous books, including “A Year in Biblical Womanhood,” which I found a delightful study in how to be a modern Christian woman who loves your faith but also doesn’t want to sleep in a tent in the front yard away from your family during your time of the month. (If you’ve read it, you get the joke. Rachel had a way of pushing boundaries that made many of us laugh and realize man’s hand is all over the Bible.)

I was so glad to have listened to “Searching for Sunday” via audiobook. Listening to Rachel describe visiting churches across the United States, ranking their after-service casseroles, and just hearing her southern twangy voice made her so real. I wanted to sit next to her, ranking macaroni dishes, listening to the stories of Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists across the land.

Unlike anyone else I’ve read, she spoke to my doubts and love of Christ. In “Inspired,” she discusses themes of the Bible with her typical candor and humor. She takes something so sacred and strips away the pomp and says, “Here. Read this. Let’s laugh at how dumb this part is and how it contradicts this part and instead take this bigger meaning from it. The Bible is for you. Jesus loves you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a prostitute or a prosecutor. Just read. Trust me.”

But she says it so much better.

I loved this book. I miss her. Finishing “Inspired” felt like attending a funeral for a far away friend. If you’re interested, she has a new book coming out later this year — finished by one of her actual friends. “Wholehearted Faith” is on pre-order. I can’t wait for November.

Categories
Travel

Zagreb, Croatia

We flew from Dubrovnik to Zagreb. It was about an hour flight and both airports were pristine. They were clean, new, and mostly empty. It made flying feel special.

Zagreb is the university city of Croatia, from what I understand. It had an entirely different feel. First, it was the first city we visited that wasn’t on the coast. Second, it was older. The architecture was older and the people were younger. There were so many young people from so many different places. This was the first city where I saw (and appreciated) the bookstores. They were full of great books, stationery, etc. I was in heaven.

A few photos from our day there, including a tour of the botanic garden:

The hotel we stayed at was taken over by the Nazis during WWII. The historic books in each room showed black and white photos of Hollywood stars prior to WWII, and then the building of course changed. It felt eerie to be there. It was also a beautiful hotel, and the city feels like it has a youthful revival happening. Live music, dancing on the streets, great food, etc.
More great food, enjoyed on a patio with local wine. We were relishing the last dregs of vacation. The food in Croatia is so much better, I think, because it is fresh. That cold pea soup was one of the best things I ate on the trip. This is the only vacation I’ve ever had when I didn’t have a single bad meal. Croatias know their food!
The botanical garden was beautiful. It was a warm day and everything was fragrant. We enjoyed a quick walk through the grounds, which serve as a lab for the local university.

Oh, Croatia. I miss you. I can’t wait to return. Thank you.

Categories
Travel

Dubrovnik, Croatia

This took a bit longer than expected; I’ve been distracted with other travel. But I don’t want to forget the details of this trip to Croatia! The sun was about an hour from setting when the yacht pulled into port. We jumped in a cab and headed to the Hilton near the walled old city, featured in Game of Thrones.

The view from my hotel terrace. While I didn’t watch this program, I appreciated the beauty of these buildings all the same.

We spent two days in Dubrovnik. We toured the walled city, visited the oldest synagogue in Europe, ate at a fancy restaurant, and continued to enjoy each other’s company.

A few more photos to capture this beautiful place:

Hearing my friend Josh sing prayers at this synagogue left me crying. It is a remarkable place, with a remarkable story of survival.
More ancient, remarkable churches, squares, buildings inside the walled city. I took hundreds of photos.

I can’t wait to travel with these goofballs again soon.

We finished our trip in Zagreb, flying from Dubrovnik an hour north. That’s next.

Categories
2021 Travel

Yachting in Croatia

The night before we left Hvar, we were having dinner at a local pizzeria and in comes a table of loud Americans. They were from South Carolina and you could hear them across the room. Their tans were golden and one woman wore a glitter bra top. There was nothing subtle about their presence.

Soon enough, our tables began chatting. They were in Hvar only for the evening and for this dinner. They were participating in “Yacht Week” and staying on a boat.

We were polite and said hello and immediately got outside and held our sides at the idea of “yacht week.” I mean, really? The bigger reality was that we were all intrigued but no one wanted to be the first one to admit it.

Flying across the world to celebrate friendship, staying in former palaces, eating and drinking like royalty and yet we were shy about admitting that being on a fancy boat sounded like fun. Until John, our host, said he was interested. We already had tickets for the high-speed ferry the next morning, heading south to Dubrovnik. (For you Games of Thrones fans, you’ll know this town as Kings Crossing.)

John said he wanted to see if he could rent a yacht for a day. We’d meet for breakfast with our bags packed read to take the ferry in case his plans didn’t work out. Dear Reader, the plans worked and we spent the day on a yacht, which came with a captain and a skipper for the day. It was ridiculous, luxurious and fun. Here are a few of the photos from the day, including coming into Dubrovnik. (More on our time in the city later.)

There wasn’t a slip big enough in Hvar, so they parked at the end of the public pier. It was immediately so funny to us that this is how we’d be traveling. You’d expect us to be cool. Chill. You’d be wrong. We were giggling idiots, so excited to be ON A BOAT!
Told you. Full on idiot mode!
The captain took us into coves you can’t otherwise reach and we were all googly-eyed. The colors of these rocks reminded me a lot of Sedona.
These babes were meant for yachting, am I right?
We are drinking this delightful Croatian version of a summer shandy, but with more lemon. Emily is one of my forever friends and this trip was honestly the most fun because we had a week to chat and chat and chat. I would have walked across the country for this time together.
But if we had walked… I wouldn’t have had the chance to dive off of the back of a yacht into the Adriatic. The water was so cold, I felt like I’d been punched in the chest. But man, was it worth it. I loved being able to swim there! (The other women thought I was nuts.)
Yacht life isn’t so bad, friends. If you get the chance, take it!

For lunch, the captain took us to a small coastal village where the restaurant owner helped guide the boat into a slip. We were ushered upstairs on a patio, shaded by their olive trees. We had several courses of seafood and pasta with wine and gin and tonics. It was my favorite meal of the trip, namely because we had all day to be there and yet we knew we’d likely never have this chance again. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Categories
Travel Uncategorized

Korčula, Croatia

Korčula is a 20-mile long island an hour away from Hvar by high-speed ferry. It is also newly one of my favorite places on earth. There are 6,000 residents year-round on the island, and nearly all families have their own wine grapes. I fell in love with the island and its people.

The island has a long history, including yet another fortress built by the Venetians in the 1400s. The island was taken by the Germans in WWII and has gone back and forth between Italian, Croatian, and British rule over time. But really, by this point in the trip we were like, “ooooh. Another turret. Where’s the wine?”
I’m kinda kidding. The walk along the fortress was ridiculously cool and interesting. Marco Polo was born on the island. We walked by his house too, but there was not much to see.
You do, however, feel the Venetian artistic presence. The flourishes on the fortress buildings, including lions, are apparently very much their style. I would like to read more about how the island rebuilt itself after the bombings in WWII. It took a beating. The Yugoslavian war of 1991-1994 did not reach the island, although our taxi driver said many men left to go fight to the south in the city of Dubrovnik.
Trinkets and a bag of sponges — for sale in the little shops in the fortress. We didn’t buy much other than t-shirts.
On one end of the island is a community called Lumbarda. We took a taxi to a local winery here and this is the view from their porch. Those are their grapes, orange trees, olive trees, oh and yep. That’s the Adriatic Sea — right there.
I get how silly food photos are — but let me explain the significance here. This is why I fell in love with Korčula. The woman who served us explained her husband’s family has been on the land for more than 300 years. These are olives from their tree. Proscuitto she hand cut. Cheese they made from local dairy. We listened in wonder as we shoveled homemade bread dipped in their olive oil and drank their wine. It was unreal how fresh and wonderful everything was. And sincerely, as a bit of a wine snob, some of the best wine I’ve had in my life.
In my dream life, I spend my summers on this island writing and wandering. We rent one of those homes with a red tile roof, befriend our neighbors, have long meals over great conversation, and relax in the Mediterranean sun.

Korčula alone is worth visiting Croatia. As fas as logistics go, getting to the country from Arizona is not the easiest. However, beginning next month, there will be direct flights from the East Coast of the US to Dubrovnik, the major city to the south. This would take considerable time off of the trip considering my route involved three flights each way. (I’d do it again tomorrow given the chance! What an adventure!)

Next up: Dubrovnik and the Game of Thrones nerds I was traveling with’s delight.

Categories
Travel Uncategorized

Hvar, Croatia

Hvar is pronounced “War” and is a large island. We took a high-speed ferry from Split (where we landed) to Hvar. It took a little more than an hour to arrive. Hvar is one of the most charming places I’ve ever visited. A few photos, to remember the details:

The view from my hotel balcony. We stayed in a former palace and we were the first guests they’d had since 2019. The island has up to 10,000 people during the summer, but only 3,000 people live there year-round.
The seaside Croatian hillsides are covered in stone homes with red tile roofs. The homes often have charming shutters over windows.
This large square is normally full of tourists. Instead, we saw little kids playing soccer and selling sea shells to the few tourists silly enough to buy one (us.) The church is closed for repair, but the bells still rang on the hour. There are little shops that line the square, including a grocery store, bakery, bookstore, and clothing boutiques. Even with tourist prices in one of the most expensive places in the country, a great local bottle of wine from Croatian grapes cost $5.
Hvar also has a centuries-old fortress on he highest hill that we climbed up to. It is hard to photograph for a dozen reasons, so you’ll have to believe me. The path to the fortress was a thousand stairs through these narrow stone alleys. At night, they turn into restaurants, bars, and dance floors. I really enjoyed how Croatian custom is to sit with a cup of coffee or alcohol and talk for hours. Waiters won’t bring the bill until you ask for it, allowing for laughter and conversation to go on and on.
Most people here don’t have a garden space, but that didn’t stop people from using the space they had to have plants. I appreciated the creativity.
Being from the desert, I just couldn’t get over the water or shades of blue. While the shoreline is mostly devoid of sandy beaches, people still find a way to get in and swim.

Tomorrow: the island of Korčula, where I’m trying to convince Jason to move.

Categories
Travel

Split, Croatia

The beach in Split. With tourism just starting to return, many of the public spaces previously crammed with visitors are now being used by residents.
Split, Hvar, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb were walkable. We stayed near the water or the city center and were able to walk most places.
The food was excellent. Croatia sits just across the Adriatic from Italy. The seafood was fresh, the eggs yolks orange, the olive oil, wine, cheese, and proscuitto made on site.
Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik have centuries-old fortresses that we walked through. All were build with rock from local quarries, by hand. At one point, if you were traveling to one of these cities from the rural areas, you were required to bring stone with you. Being in these ancient buildings with their tiny passageways and stone arches reminded me of being in Old Jerusalem.
The day we were wandering Split was a Sunday morning, and first communion for some of the children. It was sweet to see so many families out with their kids. The church bells were ringing.
High speed ferries are common transportation between the larger coastal cities. They are reasonable. Depending on the distance, tickets cost $8-$20 or so. We took several of these and it was remarkable just how fast they go.
I couldn’t get over just how old everything was.

More on Hvar, Croatia next.

Categories
2021

This Week

Sewing: Made by Rae emerald top, cut on the bias

Knitting: the Weekender, in a cotton blend

Reading: Purity by Jonathan Franzen — so far so good

Watching: Start Up on Netflix. It is way too violent for my liking, but I’m sucked in.

Cooking: Feta pasta bake, salmon and vegetables, and BLTs with tomatoes from the garden

Gardening: the last of the tomatoes and basil. It is nearly time for the garden to go dormant until fall.

Loving: writing letters to friends and family. I’ve sent a dozen this week as a check in to just say hello. I love good mail! If I won the lottery, I’d buy a letterpress.

Wishing you a lovely week!

~KDW

Categories
2021

When Being Stubborn Kills

I’ve found a lot of joy during the pandemic in “perfecting” my crafting. Since joining the Phoenix Modern Quilt Guild, among the many things I’ve finally learned is how to sew a consistent 1/4 inch seam. Come to find out, there is no artistic give in a seam allowance for quilting if you want points to line up.

I’d gotten lazy, thinking that the rules of this craft didn’t apply to me. I was going to do it my way. I didn’t need to wash my fabrics, use a seam allowance, or starch. I didn’t need to use iron to press seams after sewn. I wanted to do it my way.

I was WRONG.

Reading the books, listening to the teachers, and following the rules produces a much prettier and sturdier quilt (leaving improv and art quilts out of this.) If you are making a quilt for someone, especially a baby quilt that will be washed often, sturdy seams are critical.

See those seams? Consistently 1/4 inch and pressed open. Pressed, not ironed. (A whole other lesson I needed to learn.)

I don’t know why our natural tendency is to think the rules don’t apply to us, but watching how cultures have responded to the pandemic, it’s hard to see this as anything other than stubborn Americanism. Why do what others are telling me when I know. I can figure it out. I am smarter.

Am I? Are we?

Most other countries immediately put community before self. They closed borders, limited infections and deaths, and recovered much faster. Not in the great US of A where we made sure to prioritize our freedoms. Our freedom to get sick. Our freedom to die. And now, our freedom not to be vaccinated.

We lost more than 18,000 people to COVID just in my state. That’s a small city in one of our rural counties, completely gone. 18,000 families now eating dinner with a seat empty at the table because we couldn’t get out of our own way and follow basic, well established public health instructions.

Working in public health, the tool of motivational interviewing has never been more useful. We can’t just create the tool and have enough of the tool on hand to save the nation, but we also have to be salespeople and get you to want it, too. We have to get you to believe in science, in truth, when falsity has never been more popular.

God bless America.

God, please bless everyone. If you’re giving out favors to our country, give us intelligence. Give us critical thinking. Give us the ability to better see when we are being hustled.

Teach us to follow the rules when it is in our best interest.

-KDW

Categories
2021

Laugh With Me

Do you have a ball? If not, can you get one? And can you throw it about 10,000 times?

I’ve always been a creature of habit. Chalk it up to being raised in a home with a steady schedule, I find comfort in knowing what the day will look like. For many years, this daily habit included running. For an hour or so before every work day, I’d meet a friend and run along the canals in Tempe. Eventually, this routine caught up with my joints and left me hobbling. There wasn’t a huge physical change when I stopped, but the lack of endorphins caught up with me quickly. I still miss the running high, enough to foolishly try to run a few miles here and there every now and then. (If I thought I hobbled before, you should see me the day after one of these optimistic outings. It is not pretty.)

My new routine, thanks to having yet another terrier who won’t sit still, involves an hour or so of walking. We live in a “hilly” area and after 4-5 miles in the heat, both Dolly and I are ready for the day. By the time I’m showered and ready for work at the kitchen counter, she’s conked out on the couch. This time walking allows for listening to books and podcasts, so it isn’t all puppy dog tails and hot sidewalks. We’ve also become friends with all the other neighbors who walk at this time.

Do I look sleepy? Don’t let these eyes fool you. I’d really like to chase a ball.

This morning, I got out of a cool shower and realized I feel like myself. For the first time in a very long time, I feel happy and at peace. Give it to endorphins, getting the exercise out of the way first thing, or being back to a normal routine — but I feel good in my own skin. All this walking has my clothes fitting more comfortably and my skin tanner by the day. But more than anything, I’m not crying as much. For many months, I felt a heavy weight of sadness. I carried it with me constantly, and the only way I knew to make it feel better was to make fun of it. I’ve made far too many people I love uncomfortable by cracking jokes about my barren body.

Making friends laugh has been the only way through this; looking at how terrible the situation is and going, “Wow, man. This is awful. Let’s find the funny. Help me find the funny.” And because I have great friends (and spouse), they all have.

Let me tell you, it take a long time to get all of those fertility drugs out of your system, the extra weight off, and to feel like you can watch a sappy commercial or anything on the Hallmark channel without having to wash your face. But this morning, dear Reader, I got dressed and was like, “DAMN GIRL. YOU GOT THIS.” And that was the first time in a long while that I laughed at and with myself, all while screaming Taylor Swift songs to the dogs.

I know how to paint a scene, right?

I’ve come to a place of acceptance that I won’t be a mother, but instead am called to be a great aunt. I have more maternal love and energy than I know what to do with most days, but the neighborhood children, animals, garden, and friends receive this instead. (Thank goodness for the patience they all continue to show. My sister in law, in particular, is the best.) When the occasional moment or day is dark, I find comfort in my faith and the hope that one day, in the next life, there will be children waiting for me, wanting my love.

In the meantime, there are so many people to love and to make laugh here.

~KDW