The Word is Bird

November 15th

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving prep is underway at our house. The tables soon will be full with family, extended family, and neighbors. For the first time, I’m cooking the bird.

I’m a wee bit anxious. (Okay, it is 5 am and I’m blogging after spending an hour reading recipe reviews and turkey-cooking hacks. Apparently mayonnaise seems to be the way to go.)

Also this week, I started a new job. After nearly five years in state government, I decided to take a position with a health plan. I’m thankfully still working in public health, but with a new ID badge and set of coworkers. This week’s big project includes promoting HIV and TB testing among a specific population. In other words: MY JAM. Walking in the door of the new building yesterday felt much like the first day of school—nervous excitement, and also after two weeks off,  a bit of, “Oh, man. This means no afternoon naps, right?”

There will be no afternoon naps until, perhaps, Thanksgiving. In putting together the menu, and asking everyone to pitch in this and that, I’m most excited to make Orangette’s cranberry compote. I’ve made this before and like she describes, it really is a show stopper. This recipe reminded me how much I enjoy her blog, too.

The other tradition we’ll honor is a large bowl of black olives in a nod to my Grandmother Maxine. She hated olives, but knew her grandchildren loved them, and therefore always had a ready supply. We stuck them on our fingers and waggled them like fools until we were all well into adulthood. Like so many things, Thanksgiving always makes me think of Grandma Max. I miss everything about that woman, down to the way her house smelled when we’d arrive for the holiday. As I remember it, it was a mixture of coffee, all spice, turkey, and Ivory soap.

If the timing goes right, and I drink enough coffee this weekend while prepping pies and setting up guest rooms, I hope to run in our community turkey trot Thursday morning. Put one turkey in the oven, take the other out for a spandex-clad shuffle around the neighborhood. What could be better?

Wishing you and yours an excellent holiday.

xo,

K

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Celebrate!, Family, Hostess
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The Canyon

November 2nd

On this trip into the Grand Canyon, we took the South Kaibab trail from the South Rim. It is the shorter route to Phantom Ranch at 7.4 miles, but it is considerably steeper. We hadn’t ever taken this path before, and it happened to be an extraordinarily windy day. There were parts of the trail that were terrifying.

Of course, it is still the Grand Canyon. Every turn, each 15 minutes with different light on the rock, makes the view new and breathtaking. (Or, we were just breathing really hard from all the hiking. Either way, you end up light-headed and in awe.)

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

Look at that crazed, happy man. Have I mentioned how much he loves hiking? (I love it too, but I give him a hard time that when we visited Mexico City, it didn’t hurt to look at art. Or eat good food.)

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

Top of the trail. Look how innocent and clean we are. Four hours later, we pulled into Phantom Ranch.

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating: this lodge is a magical, wonderful oasis at the bottom of the canyon. If you get the chance to stay there—and the process is a complicated lottery because of the limited space—do it! The meals are simple, served family style in the lodge at picnic tables. The cabins have bunk beds that are comfortable and clean. The showers are hot. The rest is fantastic. Plus, you can imagine how interesting the people are who come to sit for a minute, either to stay or just to get a snack from the canteen.

We met people from all walks of life. The runners—just stopping to refill their water bladders before heading to another rim. Those on horseback, many of whom looked like extras from City Slickers, especially when they dismounted and tried to walk post-ride. And then there were those like us, who hiked down to hang out for a couple days. We sat at the picnic tables outside, eating apples and sipping lemonade and making up the back stories of the hikers who just arrived.

My niece loves to play games as much as I do. We played more hands of Rummy and Trash than I can count. We sent postcards (via mule!), ate Oreos by the sleeve, and told silly stories. We also woke up early Saturday morning to watch a meteor shower, stars shooting across inky black heavens—quite the way to bring in my 38th year.

We took the longer Bright Angel trail on the way out, about 10 miles of winding switch backs. The last mile, after you can see the edge of the Canyon but you are still not quite there, is the longest 15 minutes of your life. It could be the tourists toddling by, downward, with their ice cream cones and cups of coffee. It could be how good those tourists smell, and the realization you likely smell like a raccoon. It could also be how heavy your feet feel after 10 miles of up, up, up.

The bar in the Bright Angel Lodge has soft chairs, cold wine, average guacamole, and air conditioning. It is glorious.

It was another wonderful adventure with this crazy family of mine.

~K

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Horseshoe Bend

November 1st

Horseshoe Bend is near Page, Arizona — the tippy north center top of the state. It is free to see. You park in a gravel lot and hike about a quarter mile to an overlook.

When we were there last week, construction crews were working on the trail. It seems like the park service is going to make it handicap accessible, which it is not currently.

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

It is very pretty. I’d love to have the chance to go back when the water is high and take photos at sunrise and sunset.

It is hard to stand before land that has been carved by slow drips of water and not feel like the universe is huge, we are small, and it is all going to be okay.

~K

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Arizona, Travel
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Antelope Canyon

October 31st

Last week, we visited the Grand Canyon on our annual pilgrimage. We have hiked in the canyon each year of our relationship, and my husband’s love affair runs deep. This year, we invited some friends from Indianapolis to join us, and my extended family came along—including my card shark 15-year-old niece.

The trip started in Antelope Canyon. If given the chance, you should see this. From the road, it looks like nothing other than a crowded parking lot and an odd array of tourists huddled together around guides. Within 100 yards of the parking lot is a set of steel stairs that descend into a deep slot crevice. One by one, we trickled into the canyon with our guide. The lighting was magical. The crowds were not.

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

Hi Dan and Lisa!

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

Hi crazy crowds! The selfie sticks alone were b-a-n-a-n-a-s. I had to focus on deep breathing in parts where the canyon was tight and there were streams of people in front and behind me.

 

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

But then, this happened. There were a group of monks visiting and I was able to snap this quick shot.

Antelope Canyon is worth the trip, especially if you can find a time when it isn’t busy!

~K

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Arizona, Travel
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Robert Downey Jr. and the Twitters

October 13th

September 2017

Do you remember when Robert Downey Jr. appeared before a judge in the 1990s and was asked, “Why don’t you stop using drugs?” And his answer, to paraphrase, was something along the lines of “I have a gun in my mouth. It scares me. But I have grown to love the taste of the metal.”

That metaphor has always stuck with me—the things we love that are also terrible for us.

I’ve deleted social media apps from my phone, only to replace them a few days later, more times than I can count. I love Twitter and can see its usefulness for the instantaneous reporting it offers in emergencies. It can also be creative and funny. And full of angry, hateful, violent opinions that shock me. It is both a garden bed for comedic genius and a petri dish for the ugliest in society.

Facebook is easier to control. I can hide people I don’t want to see. I can make sure those who regularly want to point out how their views are superior to mine only see posts about my dog or the garden or something else typically unworthy of conflict.

I recognize social media is a tool. It helps me reach more people when I’m talking about writing and publishing. It is a great point of research when I need to crowd source a question. It can be endlessly entertaining when I want to see a mindless animal in clothing video. (You don’t Google “dogs in jammies?” You should. It’s hilarious.)

But, like the gun, I’ve grown a taste for something that can also be harmful. I’ve never experienced anxiety the way I am today. It is a mixture of politics and the general feeling of insecurity in the world. This makes sleeping for long periods of time difficult. My go-to when I can’t sleep, foolishly, is to look at social media until I can drift off again. Typically, those dreams afterward involve political figures or famous people I’ve been reading about when I should have been sleeping. It is unsettling and not restful, although last week I did take a walk down the beach with the Kardashian sisters in a great bathing suit and we had a lot of fun.

I visited some friends last weekend in California. When I arrived at their house, I sat down on the couch with their two elementary-age boys and immediately fell asleep among the clatter of their house. The television was on. The parrot was sqwuaking in the corner. And I was out cold.

So, I’ve once again deleted those apps. I can access them by computer if necessary for book research or curiosity, but I have to retrain myself not to use social media in the middle of the night. Behavior change can be hard, but this endless access to the world’s horrors is doing nothing good for my mental health. Thankfully, I know what I need to do and have the resources to do so.

Farewell, Midnight Twitters. You are a delightfully odd, tired, frightening, maddening place to visit.

~K

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Love Warrior

October 9th

November 2016 garden

 

Remember how I recently attended that Glennon Doyle event? They gave all the attendees her latest book on our way out the door. I finished “Love Warrior” this weekend while traveling.

I am new to the Glennon game, but lots of my girlfriends consider her up there next to Oprah, Jen Anniston and Reese Witherspoon in the hierarchy of famous women we look to for advice we should probably just figure out ourselves. After reading this, yes—I get it. I understand Glennon’s appeal. She is vulnerable and honest with her reader to a point that made me uncomfortable. She also reminds readers that faith has nothing to do with perfection.

There were a couple spots in this book that had me nodding and thinking, “I’ve got to write that down!”

{Enter the blog.}

“Most of the messages we receive every day are from people selling easy buttons. Marketers need us to believe that our pain is a mistake that can be solved with their product. As so they ask, ‘Feel lonely? Feel sad? Life hard? Well that’s certainly not because life can be lonely and sad and hard, so everybody feels that way. No, it’s because you don’t have this toy, these jeans, this hair, these countertops, this ice cream, this booze, this woman… fix your hot loneliness with this.’ So we consume and consume but it never works, because you can never get enough of what you don’t need. Our pain is not the poison; the lies about the pain are.”

Oh boy, do I get that. I have tried to buy my way out of unhappiness so many times, you’d think I’d realize it wouldn’t work. More expensive jeans. Fancy department store mascara. Another handbag. None of these made my pain better—if anything, my shopping without budgeting often made my life more difficult and anxiety laden.

The big takeaway I got from this quick read was about pain. Glennon is wrestling with her husband’s infidelity and whether or not she should stay in her marriage. Her pain is wholly different from anything I’ve experienced. And yet her writing about working through her pain made a lot of sense to me, especially in her relationship with God.

She writes, “I think about how the people who seem closest to God are often not dressed up and sitting in pews, but dressed down and sitting in folding chairs in recovery meetings. They have refused to cover themselves any longer. They are the ones who are no longer pretending. They are the ones who know. Pain led them to their rock bottom, and rock bottom is the beginning of any honest life, any spiritual journey. These are the ones who know that faith is standing before your maker and asking, ‘I just need to know if you can really know me and still love me.’ God’s yes to us is free and final. Our yeses to each other are harder to come by.”

Glennon’s story is also one of recovery and sobriety. She is an addict who unexpectedly finds herself pregnant. She has to clean up, so she does. But it isn’t an easy or straight path and she has to tell herself regularly not to think about getting through the day, but getting through the next choice. Making the next choice a good one.

The final passage I’ll share also made me smile and resonated. It is beautifully written:

“Some loves are perennials—they survive the winter and bloom again. Other loves are annuals—beautiful and lush and full for a season and then back to the earth to die and create richer soil for new life to grow. The eventual result of both types of plants is new life. New life. Nothing wasted. No failure. Love never fails. Love is messy and beautiful and brutal—and real love, the dangerous kind—it changes us. It makes us new.”

3/5 bananas, absoloodle

~K

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Creating Family

October 6th

 

 

Sunday Funday

This week I attended a bris. As we stood around the living room, the mohel leading the group in prayer, I played with the other kids quietly in a corner until everyone was exclaiming “Mazel tov!” and singing and clapping. I’d been to one of these before, two years prior, for the same family’s first son. I knew what was going to happen and was happy to be distracted.

The naming portion of the ceremony is my favorite. By custom, as the mohel explained, the baby is not to be referred to by his name until after he is circumcised. Then he is officially welcomed into the world with his new name. This baby boy was named after his late great grandmother (H) and her best friend (R). Amanda, the mother, spoke about how her grandmother and her grandmother’s best friend were tied to the hip. And now they would continue to always be together through her son’s name.

I started crying at the notion. Most in the room, including the parents, were also teary. One of the kids in my lap looked at me with wide eyes and said a bit too loudly, “Can we eat the cake now?” We all laughed.

When my parents moved to Texas more than 10 years ago, I found myself at the kitchen tables of my friends’ parents. I wiggled my way into their family vacations, Sunday dinners, and invitations to important events — anniversary parties, holidays, baptisms. I was thankful there was always an extra plate of food and often far too many questions and concern about what was going on in my life.

This bris, with my friends’ parents asking about my work, their nieces climbing all over me, and distant family chatting with me about recipes—it felt like I was home. Yes, it’s been more than a decade and I have my own family now. And yes, my parents are thriving and I’m happy for them. But also, yes: I miss them. I miss our Sunday tradition of bbq chicken, Rummicub, and bad television. I miss being able to craft with my mom. I miss swimming with my dad. I miss them being in my everyday life. Our time together now is infrequent and scheduled and often stressful.

As we head into the holiday season, I know I’m not alone in being more sentimental. It can be hard when the people you want there aren’t present—and vice versa. Here is to hoping our tables are full of laughter, and full of the family we’ve made, not just been given. And that there is enough wine to help ignore everything else.

~K

 

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Pap

October 2nd

Pap + Gram

My grandfather, Trevor, died in June. We had a memorial for him this weekend at his small church north of Tucson, tucked in the shadows of the Catalina Mountains. He joins my grandmother, who passed 4 years ago. Tucson seems empty without them. It is so very strange to visit and not see one of them.

A bit of what I shared at his service:

Trevor, or PapPap as his 6 grandchildren called him, was born September 2, 1926. He passed just a few months short of his 91st birthday. He was the oldest of four children raised in Wolfdale, Pennsylvania. His parents, Henry J. and Clarice Hague Beecham, had Trevor, Harry, Clarice – known as Sis – and Jack. Sis and Jack are still living.

When Pap graduated from Trinity High School, he enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific. He was in Okinawa when the treaty was signed on his 19th birthday, September 2, 1945. He returned to the United States via San Diego on New Years Eve, 1945 and would go on to continue for a few more months before honorably leaving the service.

One of the stories I remember Pap telling was how appalled he was, as a child who had grown up during the Great Depression, by the sheer waste of war. He talked about watching with horror as he and his fellow Navy men followed orders on their way home, dumping jeeps and other heavy materials off the back of the ship into the sea making the ship lighter. The only benefit was it made the trip home faster, or so they thought.

After the service, Pap attended LSU and remained an avid Tigers fan until his last days. I remember him fondly holding an LSU bottle opener that when tapped would play the fight song. He’d sit in his recliner on Saturday afternoons and cheer along with those in the stadium.

He returned to Washington, Pennsylvania in May of 1959 to start a job in finance. To his surprise and delight, waiting for him was the small town news that Maxine Pettit Donley, now a mother of two young boys, was recently divorced and had returned home to live with her parents on their family farm. Pap would tell us how Maxine had been the apple of his eye in high school, and he was considering reenlisting in the military, but instead stayed in Pennsylvania. They were married four months later. At the age of 33, he became a husband and a stepfather to two feisty boys, Kit age 8 and Rex age 5. His mother tried talking him out of the marriage; marrying a divorced woman with children was scandalous. He didn’t care.

Soon, Trevor would move his new family back to Louisiana. He continued working in finance in Lafayette. In the 1970s, they moved to Scottsdale, Arizona.

We gathered around their dining room table for countless meals, including one of Trevor’s favorites to prepare: gumbo. Cooking was next to football in Trevor’s heart. He loved to cook for others and enjoyed showing off the recipes he perfected during his time in Louisiana.

He was proud of his time and service at this church. He enjoyed serving as a deacon, elder and moderator. He liked being a lay speaker, choir member and Bible school teacher. On one of our last visits, he told me he once thought about going into the ministry because he loved to preach.

 

He was so happy that for his 90th birthday, his siblings – including Harry who was in good health at the time and Sis, who’d come all the way from Pennsylvania, surprised him for dinner and cake. I have photos of him crying, holding their hands, so thankful for their kindness. My Uncle Kit and Aunt Paula made sure the event went off without a hitch. In that moment, it felt like my grandmother was very much in the room as well.

I will dearly miss Trevor. I enjoyed speaking with him about books and travel. He loved me dearly in return. In his last days, I visited him with my husband, Jason. Pap hadn’t been well enough to attend our recent wedding. He held Jason’s hand and asked him to “take good care of me.”

With any luck, he is watching great football from heaven, sitting with my grandmother and great grandmother, and likely arguing with God.

Rest in peace, Pap. You will be missed.

 

 

 

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Empowered

October 1st

November 2016 garden

In the last week, I’ve attended a women’s conference at church, read a book by Brene Brown on imperfections, and attended Glennon Doyle’s Together conference with a girlfriend. I feel a little punch drunk on empowerment.

The women’s conference was titled “Known” and focused on recognizing how God has made each of us as perfect beings. We are created in His image, and when we compare ourselves to others, or speak poorly about ourselves—we are missing the point. Strong female stories are told again and again in the Bible. The story of the midwives who didn’t wait for Moses to lead the Exodus, but realized the pharaoh was going to bring hell upon their people and instead started rounding up the first-borns and hiding them, is just one example.

The conference speakers discussed the book of Galatians. Afterword, I took some time to read this book in its entirety, which didn’t take long. My experience with the Holy Spirit is one of me being a complete bone head and the Holy Spirit being the most patient, loving, hilarious person around. Regularly She’s like, “Um, dumb dumb. Didn’t we already discuss this? Didn’t I already teach you that lesson in 2004, 2006, again in 2006, the fall of 2009, and that one time in 2011?” — to paraphrase.

In reading Galatians, I’m reminded of how the Holy Spirit is walking along side us all, and there ready and willing to hold our hands and help us see what we cannot on our own, if (and that’s a big if) we are willing to reach out a hand and ask for the friendship. One of the speakers at Known said she was sure the Holy Spirit is a female because she’s “always there, bossy, and ready to get the job done.” That made me smile.

I’ve got one foot firmly planted in this evangelical church and the other dangling in the foyer of the United Methodist church where I was raised. The evangelical movement is traditionally far too conservative for my view of the world and my spiritual understanding. This is a longer post for another day. I need to spend some more time thinking about it, but like a pebble in my shoe, I miss the United Methodist church when I’m at the other church — and I feel like I’m not totally at home in either pew.

The Together conference was a group of women discussing their walks in life, with Glennon ending the three-hour-long discussion with a prayer. She recently left her husband to marry Abby Wambach of Olympic soccer fame. The pair briefly discussed their journey with sobriety, struggling to understand their love for each other and also honoring Christ, and how they are using their fame for good. At the Phoenix tour stop, this included interviewing female farm laborers who are trying to end sexual violence in the fields, and speaking with a Phoenix woman who leads an effort to end honor killings among tribal members in her home country of Pakistan.

There were a lot of tears. Tears of joy, of anger at the injustice in the world, and tears of hope that women can turn this unhappy world around.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.”

— Galatians 5: 22-23

~K

 

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Faith
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San Diego

September 12th

September 2017

September 2017

September 2017

I had the chance to spend some time in San Diego last week for work, including a quick visit with my dear Sue. It was so nice to spend time after work wandering barefoot on the beach, hanging out in the pool and day dreaming.

I love the desert, but the beach is my happy place.

When I wasn’t lounging poolside, I was attending the National Association of Rural Mental Health’s annual meeting for a series of heavy, fascinating discussions. One presentation included research from rural Scotland, paired with similar populations in rural Texas. Sadly, there are three leading reasons why rural Americans now have a lower life expectancy than those in cities: opioids, alcohol and suicide.

We have a lot of work to do to improve our access to care for 50% of America’s population who lives in our rural communities.

~K

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