Love is a game of tag



Yesterday, unexpectedly, I had to put Nelson down. He’d been sick for a while with an uncommon autoimmune disease. Sunday, he was chasing me around the house trying to eat the tortilla chips off my plate, in his normal, annoying way. Monday as I left for work, I gave him a treat and kissed him goodbye—all the while thinking we had years before us. When I returned late afternoon, he couldn’t stand.

That quickly, life had changed forever.

I spent Monday night with him on his bed, spoon-feeding him water. He could no longer lift his head and was having a hard time breathing. This dog, who the week before was still going on walks, and the day before was begging me for baby carrots in front of the fridge.

You get to a place like this and language fails you. Bereft? Distraught? Completely lost? What I felt was failure, and like my heart was going to stop beating. I knew he was in serious trouble and pain.

Oh, sweet Jesus, the pain. I could see it on his face and it made every bit of me hurt. I scooped him into my arms and took him to the vet as soon as they opened Tuesday morning. Our long-time vet, and a childhood friend of mine, took one look at Nelson and knew. He didn’t want to tell me that it was Nelson’s time. He had tears in his eyes as I openly sobbed in the exam room. The options were few and only one would bring Nelson less pain.

How could this be happening?

Too soon, I was sitting on the floor, cradling him. He looked into my eyes and I told him how much I loved him, how much he would be missed. Stroking his face, I tried to stay as calm as I could.

And then, he was gone.

I held him to my chest and wailed.

I don’t have well crafted word to express how terrible I feel, or to describe the loss. Nelson was in so many ways my child. The moment I met him, I knew we were family. He gave me more than 7 years of love and companionship. This morning, I came downstairs for the first time to see his bed empty. Right now, the house feels haunted. I keep expecting to hear the tick of his nails on the floor, to hear the soft grunt that meant “please lift me on the couch,” or the “meep!” noise he made when he was happy to see me. I am profoundly sad.

His passing has made me see that love is a game of tag. I loved him because I have been well loved. He loved me in return, and this made me more loving. I hope I’ve passed that on to others, and I know his presence—his long eyelashes, and curious personality—gave others joy.


Halloweenies 2012

Nelson: year 1

December 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

Thank you Willie Nelson Mandela for being the best friend I could have ever asked for. I will love you always.

Adopted: 7/22/2011

Passed: 10/9/2018



Waiting Room

Southern Arizona Honeymoon


I’ve written a bit about our attempts at trying to have a baby. Status update: no luck yet.

There is something profoundly lonely about infertility. Granted, there is the waiting room at the clinic, full of other hopeful souls. There are the online chat groups, which use acronyms I’ll never master. And of course, there is the trove of advice and love from friends and family. At times there is so much of this last category that one piece of wisdom cancels out the next.

Chart everything. Stand on your head!

Forget you’re trying. Go on vacation. 

Don’t eat gluten! 

Eat everything you want. (More my speed.)

Stay positive!

Let yourself feel what you feel. 

Kids are the best!

Do you want one of mine? 

And God bless the one friend and mother of three who said in all seriousness, “Don’t stop drinking. I didn’t stop drinking until I found out I was pregnant and look!” pointing to a bubbly, happy 3-year-old, “She’s fine!”

The side effects of fertility medications are no joke. To push my body to create a child, I am taking a medication that makes me deeply, miserably depressed. It is a common side effect, yet not one mentioned by my doctor or the pharmacist.  I woke up one day and didn’t want to shower, go to work, eat—I knew something was not right. The other cruel aspect of this process is that signs of early pregnancy are easily confused for signs of menstruation. You think you’re pregnant one moment and you are most definitely not the next.

There is nothing more maddening than realizing what you thought was a child was actually just your imagination. And in that moment, rather than having a good cry, you have to immediately phone the doctor because menstruation starts the clock. Again. You’re now “day 1” and things start all over on “day 3.” You’ve got about 48 hours to mourn and beat yourself up for being so optimistic before you start all over with the drugs that make you feel like you’re pulling your (heavy, mean, emotional) shadow around with you everywhere you go.

But don’t forget to be happy! Be optimistic! Maybe it’s your attitude? 

I’m struggling. I’m writing this because I want to remember this time of life. If it works, I’ll look back and think, “We did this. We pushed forward.” And if it doesn’t, I hope with time, I’ll look back on these words and see that we did everything we could. The money, the time, the countless doctor’s visits. The barrage of strangers who poked and prodded me like a science experiment.

I’d say none of this has been easy, but that isn’t true. My husband has been nothing but wonderful and kind in just the right dose. He knows when to come home with flowers and when to leave me alone. I’ve never been more thankful that he’s my partner.



Simple Newborn Beanie

Simple Newborn Hat

Simple Newborn Hat

Simple Newborn Hat

0.5 to 1 oz (40 to 80 yards) of DK weight baby yarn – scrap sock yarn works great.
Size 5 (3.75 mm) circular needle, set of size 5 (3.75 mm) double pointed needles, yarn needle, stitch marker

k = knit  p= purl
k2tog = knit two together

Cast on 72. Join to knit in the round. Place stitch marker at the beginning of the round. K2, p2 repeated across round until the hat measures 1-2 inches.

Rnd 1-3: k
Rnd 4: k5, (k2tog, k10) five times, k2tog, k5 – 60 stitches
Rnd 5-20: knit – or however many rounds it takes for hat to be 4.5-5” tall from cast on.


Rnd 21: K8, k2tog entire round

Rnd 22: K

Rnd 23: K7, k2tog entire round

Rnd 24: K

Rnd 25: K6, k2tog entire round

Rnd 26: K

Rnd 27: K5, k2tog entire round

Rnd 28: K

Rnd 29: K4, k2tog entire round

Rnd 30: K

Rnd 31: K3, k2tog entire round

Rnd 32: K

Rnd 33: K2, k2tog entire round

Rnd 32: K

Rnd 33: K1, k2tog entire round

Cut 8” tail. Using a yarn needle, put remaining stitches on tail. Pull tight. Weave in ends.

Give colorful hats to friends expecting babies!









Master Bedroom Update

This took several months, but boy are we glad it is done. When Jason moved into this home, we knew the master bedroom would need some help. The woman who lived here before was obsessed with greek themes. (You may remember the column in the bathroom.) Hence the drapey olive green curtains, lots of wallpaper, and the throne.

A throne. But I knew that if we were going to add our personal touches to the room, using these resources were going to make all the difference to the bedroom once it was complete.

Master bedroom update: I mean, seriously. Look at that throne.

Master bedroom update

So, we took it all down and started with some fresh paint, including bright green beneath the chair rail. I think we just needed a break away from the wallpaper, hence why we decided to go with paint instead. When we redecorate again in the future, I’ve already thought about the type of wallpaper that I want. I’ve recently come across some different types of marble wallpaper, and I have to say that they look really good and I would love to see that sort of style in my home. But for now, we’ve decided to go with some fresh paint instead. And by “we,” I mean Jason. I picked out the colors and helped remove a bit of the wallpaper, but he did the vast majority of the work. Although, I did give the carpet a quick clean using the vacuum we found online at Bissell which was very easy to use.


Master bedroom update: I do not miss the throne.

Master bedroom update: new art. These are the lyrics from our wedding song

We bought some blue drapes to replace the others, and I splurged on a piece of art from House of Belonging. Those lyrics are from Hillsong’s “Ocean,” which is our wedding song. Decorating a master bedroom is always hard work, but if you want to give it a try, there are a lot of places you can check out, for example, if you’re looking for a place to get the best mattress, there are websites for you to check out.


Master bedroom update


Master bedroom update

I love the crazy mix of colors, the homemade quilt from my mom on the bed and on Nelson’s bed, and how happy this room is now. We are sleeping better with the heavier curtains, and we managed to clean up some clutter in the process. It was a simple update, but one much needed.

I love our home!


The Productivity Trap

I’ve been struggling a bit lately. This isn’t uncommon for me this time of year. We’re mid-July and really only starting our summer season. The weather’s already climbed over 110, and this shifts life. To be outside, where I’d rather be, you’ve got to get up before the sun.

None of this is new. You’d think after nearly 40 years of living in one place, I’d be adjusted. But no, as the temperatures rise and the days grow longer, I feel a heavy weight of seasonal depression wrap itself around me like a hungry snake.

Further, I’ve noticed a source of my sadness is that I’m not spending all the time doing all the hobbies. Pieces of a quilt waiting to be sewn are scattered on the dining room table. My knitting is on the couch, where it rests in a colorful heap waiting for me to have a moment at the end of the day. The tomato leaves have browned and curled in upon themselves, frustrated that my lack of time and love has left the garden looking rather apocalyptic.

I lived for so long alone, close to work. I had nearly every moment, outside of the 40 hours a week I was at a desk, to play. Today, in lieu of having a new recipe or quirky story to post on the blog, I’ve got a happy husband and three dogs on a leash pulling me around the block before I race across town to work.

I’ve hitched my happiness for too long on how much I could get done. How many crafts can I make? How many neighbors can I feed? How many XYZ can I do and write about and show the world that I’m busy and productive?

What a trap. In retrospect, this behavior is boastful smoke and mirrors. If you can’t be happy sitting still, are you really at peace?

Mindfully, I’m adjusting to this new schedule and trying instead to find moments of happiness in the routine. The way the dogs greet me at the door after a long day at work. The magic of an Instapot recipe that puts dinner on the table with minimal effort. The basil that grows under our Ficus tree and soldiers on regardless of the heat. The tiny bag of sock knitting I keep in my purse for conference calls at work, because the methodical movement is soothing and helps me focus on whatever I’m listening to on the phone.

This is where I am today, friends. No great photos to post. No funny conclusion to the story. Putting one foot in front of the other and pushing through another summer in the desert.


What a week



This week has been a whirlwind. On Tuesday, we hosted the neighborhood bookclub. This likely doesn’t sound like much, but it took a considerable effort to have 20 people over for dinner after a work day. That said, everyone sat shoulder to shoulder in our living room, holding tiny plates of shrimp and sandwiches. There was quite a bit of feedback on “Counting Coup,” which was both wonderful and always awkward to sit through.

It’s hard to hear critique of something you love without being defensive and a jerk in response. I’m learning. I’m trying. I’m far from perfect. (And neither is my writing.)


On Thursday, I was interviewed on the local PBS station about “Counting Coup” and it went well. It was terrifying at first, but quickly became fun. The host, Ted Simons, was a doll. Personable, kind, and generous. I hope I get to be a guest again.

As far as writing goes, this has been the best week yet. Thank you for your constant support!



In the Trenches

Garden update


Lately, I’ve been spending time with the homeless, and those on the edge of homelessness. I’ve also been spending a lot of time at public forums and community events discussing substance use services available in our community.

None of this is terribly interesting. However, this week, while standing outside eating hot dogs and drinking black coffee with a group of homeless people at a health fair, I saw the situation differently. There were likely 100 volunteers at this event. Many of us work in health care in one form or another. There was also a large group of LDS missionaries, volunteers from the evangelical church where the event took place, and retirees.

Those who came to the event for help, including several large African refugee families, were paired with a volunteer. They walked with their volunteer through the varying stations to seek the services they needed. There was HIV testing, a shower station, a clothing room, a barber and even a veterinary station for those with pets. The largest lines were at the Social Security and Motor Vehicle lines to replace lost identification cards.

For hours, I watched volunteers and their paired family or homeless individual meander through the maze of services. The volunteer would start with a map, and several hours later would often walk by holding a huge bag of clothing and fistful of papers. One of the African women, with a roly poly infant tied to her back, elegantly wrapped her family’s bundle in a brightly patterned west African wax fabric that matched her long skirt and placed it on the crown of her head. She couldn’t have been five feet tall, but she cut quite the presence walking through the event.

There is a space between the homeless and the volunteer. In that space—or trench—rests the ashes of days past. For many of the homeless folks we spoke to, this included mental illness and substance use. What I would have guess also rested there nested among their current health struggles was a childhood plagued with unkindness. Physical and sexual abuse. Divorce. Poverty and the corresponding hunger that can prevent a child from ever being able to catch up developmentally with his or her peers.

Painting with a broad brush, on one side of this conversation stood a volunteer who likely had enough education and privilege, his job allowed him to take the day to be at the event, or enough paid time off to do so. On the other side, stood a man whose dentures and wallet were stolen. He wore new-to-him clothing, and was freshly showered after his haircut. The man, whose face was creased with the heavy wrinkles of a person who lives outside, tried explaining to his volunteer and to us how difficult it is to maneuver the Medicaid system in Arizona for dental benefits, and how difficult it is to live without teeth. He keeps choking when trying to eat.

We were able to get him a replacement ID card for his health services, but he didn’t qualify for the small dental service we could offer him. Frustrated, but grateful for our efforts, he scrunched his brow and went to the next station. His volunteer just nodded to us and followed behind.

We spend all of our time and efforts as a culture and nation pulling at weeds that won’t stop growing, rather than thinking about how to plant new seed.

If we want to make significant positive change in substance use, homeless, domestic violence, poverty, etc., we have to take better care of our kids. We have to reform the foster care system so no child is ever abused once already suffering the loss (temporary or permanent) from his/her birth parents. We have to spend more time feeding hungry people and loving those who need our compassion, not our judgment.


How to be More Like Leslie

Remember in the 1990s when the song, “I wanna be like Mike!” was popular? My brother and I had the cassette single, which we played on the boom box on repeat for a summer. As children, we never stopped to wonder why we wouldn’t want to be a rich, famous athlete with his own Bugs Bunny cartoon movie and line of eponymous tennis shoes.

Fast forward twenty years, and two years since my favorite television show of all time went off the air: Parks and Rec. The lead character, Leslie Knope, plays a determined, feisty city government worker who both loves her friends and coworkers, and also has no problem overriding their thoughts and feelings to do what she thinks is best. She is also insanely competitive, and the most thoughtful gift-giver in the history of television.

I wanna be like Leslie. I identify with some of her charming and all of her annoying characteristics.

On my desk, I have a Leslie Knope doll and a candle. The shrine made more sense at my previous job working in government, but it has helped me make friends in my new corporate cubicle farm too. In my first week, several people stopped by to chat about their favorite episodes and commiserate how our Knope-Wyatts would be doing today in DC. (Not well.)

There are days when I am discouraged and I look to that little shrine and sincerely wonder, “What would Leslie do?” (The answer surely involves binders, Joe Biden, Lil’ Sebastian, and waffles with extra whipped cream.) But seriously, Leslie Knope’s unending good attitude is something I admire most about the character. There are a handful of episodes where she is knocked on her butt, sometimes literally, and she still finds a way to make the situation fun.

A few life lessons we can all learn from Leslie Barbara Knope:

  1. Give it your all. Having a hard day at work? Lock yourself in a conference room and read the materials again. Ask more questions.
  2. Don’t let what others think about you rain on your day. “What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring really loudly about me.”
  3. Be a good friend. “Uteruses before duderuses.”
  4. Be proud of where you are from … even if you were technically born in Eagleton.
  5. Love hard.

And when these don’t work, I go back and watch the Tammy II episodes and laugh until I pee. Or, the episode where she takes Tom to the strip club and tells him if she were an exotic dancer, her name would be “Equality.”

I hope all you beautiful tropical land fishes are having a good week,


In the thick of it

“Counting Coup” launched this weekend, with a handful of friends gathered at Dobson Ranch Library in Mesa. My brother and his longtime girlfriend Jessica came from Colorado, too. A girlfriend came to play assistant, running book sales outside and taking photos. The community newspaper included a blurb about a “local girl” returning to her childhood stomping grounds. (If only they knew how many summer library reading hours I’d booked under that roof.)  In the community room, where I took babysitting classes 25 years prior, I talked about the spark that made me want to write this story.

It was simply put one of the best days. I got hug and see a handful of people who mean the world to me.

Yesterday, I spent my lunch hour meeting with a man who is interested in publishing nonfiction. He is a friend of a friend and wanted advice on formatting, get into local bookstores, etc. The hour flew by and during the conversation, I realized how much I’ve been able to learn from trial and error since “Under the Same Moon” was published in 2011. I’ve fallen on my face many, many times. I’ve also built a tribe of helpers: the writing group, the editors, the cover artist, the friends who have day jobs but also act as my publicists and marketers.

There is a great unknown about writing and publishing for the first and second time. But I promise if you want to be an author, the process from first draft to holding a printed novel gets exponentially easier with time. You know who to trust, what to expect, and with luck—how to make your art better.


Weighted Blanket Sewing Tutorial

Weighted blankets for the kids

A few weeks back, a girlfriend posted about an Instagram contest to win a homemade weighted blanket. I’d had my eye on a weighted blanket after hearing from another girlfriend how much better she was sleeping. There is a good bit of research to show the weight helps with anxiety and promotes more restful sleep.

I’d never thought of sewing one myself. I did a bit of poking around on the Interwebs and found a simple sewing tutorial. I reviewed the weighted pellets on Amazon and bought 50 pounds. I’d use a vintage sheet and some denim, to add to the weight, to sew three blankets for me and the kids. The weight worked out perfectly. My stepson and I would each have a 20 pound blanket (they recommend about a pound per person, although friends mentioned slightly heavier was also comfortable) and my stepdaughter would get the remaining. She is a sprite, and I’m pretty sure does not weigh 100 pounds, if she ever will.

Weighted blankets for the kids

What I didn’t consider was how difficult it would be to sew these blankets once you start adding the pellets. First, the pellets move. You are sewing the pockets around them as you go and it was tricky to keep them all where they were supposed to be. And second, the blanket of course becomes heavier and harder to maneuver the farther along you go.

Weighted blankets for the kids

The end results were not perfectly sewn, but they worked. With fabric and the pellets, I spent $180 for the three blankets. Considering one sells for $130-$200, it was a deal. And the kids are happy! I will report back if I find the extra weight helps with sleep.