No One Wins


May we learn from our past.

There is a new war pending. Well, new to us. Thousands of Syrians are dead at the hands of other Syrians, with both sides likely using foreign-made (and secretly supported) weapons.

War is shitty. It is shitty for the families who are there, whose children will always suffer PTSD and will never grow to be the adults they could have been. Those without constant nightmares. Those who don’t jump and cover at loud sounds. Those who remember what it was like before their neighborhoods were gutted, first by other neighbors, and then by foreign forces. Before they hated everyone involved — that time before the war, when the world was a laboratory for their dreams.

There are Syrians who are dying and quite possibly being gassed by their own government. We are paying attention, the cynical side of me says, because there are so many foreign interests involved in this matter. Not because there are families just like ours but with a different color passport dead and dying from this ridiculous injustice.

I mean, if injustice was truly our motivation, we’d do something about:

Southern Sudan, which is once again in turmoil. One of the newest countries in the world has a perilously fragile government, which cannot protect its citizens from tribal unrest.

Uganda and Congo, where armies of children are kidnapped, given drugs and led into disastrous battles with weapons they can barely lift. Some 5 million Africans have died in World War III. Collectively, we don’t care. When was the last time you heard anything in the news about the Congo? (5 million people is roughly the entire population of the State of Arizona.)

Zimbabwe, where don’t even get me started on the farce that was their most recent election — once again allowing Mugabe to rule. His people starve. His country falls apart by the limbs. But hey, the US is not interested in getting involved.

North Korea, where famine is widespread and folks are encouraged to eat tree bark when their hunger gets too out of control.

In Mexico, where the northern half of the country remains paralyzed due to fear of cartel beheadings. Speak up against the Mexican mafia? Your head will be delivered faster than DHL to the nearest family member.

Or hey, if I was going to get really high on my soap box, if the US wanted to address injustice — how about the 1 in 5 children in our country who go to bed hungry every night? How about the cycles of poverty we cannot seem to break, and the kids who end up suffering as a result? (We choose not to break these cycles. Hunger in America — unlike hunger in many other countries — is not a problem of supply and demand. It is a matter of political will. And hungry kids do not get to vote.)

War sucks. The ramifications will be felt for generations. Our men will die in Syria. Our tax dollars will be used to kill Syrians. Syrians will continue to kill Syrians. The Russians, Chinese and American war machines will continue to be fed.

I’d prefer to feed the kids in all of these countries instead.


Sisters in Spirit August: Just Add Ribbon

Sisters in Spirit is a series of essays by a group of women who felt a spiritual perspective lacking from the steady stream of daily news. They each agreed to carve space monthly on their blogs for a spiritual conversation. The topic this month is choosing happiness as an act of faith.

Missoula, MT

I’m too old for ribbons in my hair, but this hasn’t ever stopped me. For a few brief months in 2000, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in western Africa. During, I was in courses with a half dozen other American kids — mostly in our 20s. One woman took an immediate dislike to me. She made it very well known she did not like me, and her husband was not to like me either.

There were only 6 of us. That left three others to be friends with. Remember, I had to spend 12 hours a day with her and the sweet husband, Mr. He “who-was-not-to-speak-to-me!”

After exhausting my few charms unsuccessfully, I wandered around a muddy market one day in a funk, watching the dirt climb up the edges of my fraying jeans. I was the youngest in our group by years, and in need of a friend. As I sulked, I came around the corner to find a vendor selling Chinese-made ribbon by the spool. (You never know what you’ll find in a rural African market.) I bought several pieces of brightly colored ribbon and started tying my bobbed haircut into a tiny ponytail. Each morning, I’d prep for our agroforestry coursework with a steamy bucket bath, a fresh t-shirt, a coat of mascara and a tiny ponytail, decorated with one of these pieces of ribbon.

Missoula, MT

I would also slap on a smile and make myself as cheery as I possibly could, never mind I was dying of homesickness inside. It was a fake-it-until-you-make-it scenario, and I was going to put on an Oscar winning performance in the category of “damn happy.”

I suspected correctly that wearing a juvenile ribbon and wide grin regardless of her antics would completely and illogically piss her off. The happier I was, the darker she became. I could only imagine the ridiculous conversations with her husband as the sun set over the equatorial horizon.

“But she was so nice to me! And did you see that stupid ribbon?! Urg!”

Missoula, MT

We all know about the less fortunate. There is always someone in greater need. Someone hungry. Someone with real problems who should keep us from complaining about our slice of life.

But that is not the way happiness works. As an act of faith, we should choose happiness daily. There is a constant tug between happiness and discontent that each of us must wrestle with — regardless of circumstance. And if I let myself, I readily succumb to darkness — a pit that begs to be fed with self-loathing and doubt. It is easy for me to let myself be blue; in this space, I complain a lot. I make the situation worse by doing everything else too much. Shopping. Eating. Drinking. Sleeping. Worrying.

And then, by grace, there comes a break in the pity party fog. Time spent with children, so wrapped in their own joy, a bit of it can’t help smudge off. A puppy with a wagging, optimistic tail. A great piece of art that brings tears to your eyes — it is just so profoundly beautiful.

Missoula, MT

You get shaken up — the taste of happiness hits you like an ice cold tart margarita on a blazing hot day in Phoenix: little is more perfect. These moments are a reminder; it is worth the work to get back to that place of joy, even if I have to fake it for a while. This means saying kind things to myself in the mirror. Looking at strangers on the street on the way into the gym and greeting them with a smile. Dropping extra change in the barista tip jar — not because the coffee is great, but because I am so very thankful to no longer have to work in the service industry. Writing fan letters to my favorite authors, because it always feels good to know your work is appreciated.

The book of Ruth is a reminder of fighting for happiness. After losing her husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law in war, Ruth could have walked away from her mother-in-law Naomi, like her sister-in-law Orpah did. She could have stayed in her own land, with her own people. But Ruth knew this would leave Naomi forever alone. Instead, she took the old woman back to Naomi’s people — staying steadfast by her side. I can only imagine she was a constant source of love, and hope for a better time.

Ruth’s happiness and good attitude didn’t go unnoticed. Boaz scooped her up after he caught her scooping up grain left in his fields after the harvesters were done. She was hungry; Naomi was too. Soon enough, she was remarried to Boaz and she and Naomi were well cared for.

She could have made many selfish choices, including diving within herself instead of fighting for joy. (Ruth would go on to have children with Boaz, and be in the direct lineage of Jesus.)

Princess Dork

Ruth’s story is one of my favorites. Ruth chose happiness.

May someone’s happiness smudge off of you today, especially if you’ve forgotten the carefree simplicity of a cheerful, bright day.


“Where you go I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).


Sarah is municipal attorney, mom to TWO toddler boys, and United Methodist’s pastor’s wife.  (She does not play the organ.)  She is a life-long Missouri girl with a heart for hospitality and social justice.  Sarah enjoys cooking, running, knitting and embroidery, reading, and playing in the sprinkler.  Sarah blogs at

Bianca is a Navy wife from the great state of Texas (where she coincidentally currently resides), and she and her husband welcomed their first child in the fall of 2012. She has a passion for serving others, asking hard questions and sharing The Gospel with both her words and actions. Bianca loves Jesus, her hubs & her son, authentic friendships, traveling, making lists of all kinds, and trying new recipes which she blogs about on

Rhonda is an attorney and native of Missouri.  She is known for being overly-emotionally invested in her three, elderly dogs and dabbling in a ridiculous amount of hobbies, including sewing, music, and writing, while mastering none.  She was baptized in her late twenties and is amazed and grateful that Jesus continues to put up with her.  She blogs at


Missoula, MT

Finny and I met this weekend for our annual adventure. This year, we returned Montana (after a previous visit to see Jellystone four years ago.) Missoula is on the western edge of the state, home to a university, mountains, rivers, a rather prolific farmers’ market, a dozen great restaurants, some of the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten, a museum that left my head spinning (more on that one later) and a great local book store — Fact or Fiction.

Missoula, MT

What to say about this annual girls’ trip that hasn’t already been said? Finny made it. We could have visited Yuma and had a great time. We have one of those friendships that reaffirms my views on the world.

{Do you ever get a bit shaky in that department? Wondering if everything from your politics to your ways of dressing are just a little nutty and off course? Well, time with Jess seems to always come just at the right moment, reminding me that if I am some sort of weird freak — no need to panic. I am in good company.}

Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT

And Missoula, oh, sweet Missoula, is also full of such “freaks.” Folks with Chaco tan lines, dirty Subarus, big, scruffy rescue mutts and gardens brimming with everything they can possibly grow and preserve before winter’s frosty return. It’s a liberal, all-loving enclave nestled in a valley with icy cold rivers perfect for an afternoon of swimming, gossiping and laughing.

Missoula, MT

A few photos for now, with many more planned for later in the week. Thank you again, Finnberg — for a sweet friendship that seems to only be getting better after more than 15 years. And thank you to Nici, for the brief time we were able to spend together. “Digs” is as fun and down to earth as Finny has always said. Plus, she has two adorable daughters who make you want to swing until you can touch the sun, scream until your lungs burst and chase chickens until your legs give out.

{Also, one daughter is named Rhubarb, Ruby for short. I LOVE THESE PEOPLE.}

Missoula, MT



Little feet

Little feet

Reasons it is awesome to have a 4-year-old roommate:

1. No sneaky bathroom behavior. When she has to poop, you know. “DADDY! I am going POOOOOOOOP now!”

2. When she doesn’t like your cooking, there is no unnecessary filter. “This is disgusting. DISGUSTING, Kelli.”

3. She lovingly refers to WNM as “Nelsie.”

4. She cuddles me, even when I am watching foreign movies and she can neither understand the spoken language, nor read the captions. No matter, she understands more than you would guess.

5. She introduced me to “Pitch Perfect.” Acabelievable.

6. She calls my beau “Harry Potter” because he once spoke to her in a British accent and wears glasses. With wide eyes, she looked at him and said, “YOU ARE HARRY POTTER!” Priceless.

7. When she gets the remote, she flips through channels until she finds something that looks interesting. But before really giving it any time, will make sure to ask an adult, “Is this appropriate?” Nine times out of ten, it is a housewife show. And she has a devilish, maybe-they-will-say-yes-this-time smirk.


8. And those toes. I mean, are you kidding me? She is pretty much the most perfect kid ever. (Never mind I say that about nearly all of my friends’ kids.)

I’ll miss you kid.

-Auntie Kelli

(your favorite aunt. Never mind the bio aunts. Or the others.)

Falling into Place

Lease signed. Utilities turned on. Truck en route from New Jersey to Arizona, brimming with our belongings. I do believe this calls for some celebratory guacamole.

Summer eating

(When doesn’t life call for celebratory guacamole?)


Along with grilled veggies, slabs of peppered steak and bowls of over ripe watermelon. It feels like even this crazy summer heat is worthy of celebration.

Summer eating

Arizona living: spicy food, cold drinks, great friends.



Contain This

Summer gardening

The new house has very little yard and a lot of patio space. The next garden will be in containers. Had any lucky with container gardening? Any creative tips or tricks you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.

Summer gardening

I’ve ordered this mix of seeds from Native Seed as a starter, and have a bunch of pots ready for soil and some TLC. I’m plotting a green bean trellis along one wall, and lots and lots of basil and tomatoes. (What else is new?)

Summer gardening

Y’all know my new house motto: it doesn’t feel like home until you get a garden planted. Whether acreage or in a shoe box — I need a bit of earth to tend.

Summer gardening

Happy late summer/early fall planting, friends!



Colorful Living

A colorful life

My friend Tony is always busting my chops online for being a “crunchy granola hippie.” This is so far from the truth, it is laughable. Don’t get me wrong — I’d like my life was a bit crunchier. I wish I was less drawn to Tory Burch handbags and overpriced designer mascara. I also never met a $14 glass of Chilean chardonnay I didn’t like. I’m a fair combination of environmentalista-frugalista-material girlista. (What? It’s a thing.)

A colorful life

When my friend Amanda placed these bowls out at a recent garage sale, I didn’t think twice in scooping them up. Of course we don’t need more bowls, but they were handmade, and each has a signature on the bottom. Their colorful glazes would make a bowl of anything more delicious — or better yet, a great way to display jewelry on a bureau. I love folk art. Quilts, beaded jewelry, baskets, canned goods, woodworking and pottery — sign me up.

A colorful life

I’m excited to now be living so close to work. I’ll begin commuting via Olive ASAP. We’ll see how it goes; my friend JT has long bike commuted, logging 1000-plus miles a year doing so. I’ve admired his commitment and willingness to suck it up and cycle.

I have no lofty goals of doing it every day to be posted. I would like to ride when possible to both save gas and spend my morning commute doing anything other than sitting on the freeway. Some days will require heels and a fancy dress. Others I can get away with slacks and flats.

A colorful life

So, Tony — call me crunchy all you like. I am who I am, and this tanned skin, containing all my crazy interests and desires, is feeling more comfortable than ever.


Summer Days

Until I get another garden of my own getting up and going, I’ve been helping out in others’. My friend Duda invited me to pitch in with a huge project she is undertaking in Tempe. Sunday, Nelson and I worked our little paws like crazy helping shovel, haul and organize the community garden space with Duda and her team.

Well, I worked. Nelson mostly chased what I suspect was a mouse.

Helping friends garden

We are finding our Arizona routine, thanks to great friends. Our hosts have a dog door and two pups. Nelson stays busy and safe during the day — which is a huge burden off my mind. I am commuting 1.5 hours a day for the time being, and don’t have to further stress about racing home (fairly impossible) to let him out, or make sure he is okay.

The commute will soon be changing. We are moving into our new home in the next few weeks and it is more centrally located. I am overjoyed to be able to decorate and garden a new home. The fact it is in my hometown makes it that much sweeter. D will be here soon; the final and most important piece of the puzzle falling into place.

Thank. God.



New collar day!

Bye bye red collar

New collar

After “naked Sunday,” of course. Or as our current 4-year-old roommate Emme says, “Nekkie Sunday! Collars off, Nelson, Dito and Smokey!”