How We Roll

A few years ago, my friend Kara began posting about how she was shifting how she shopped. She was going to stop buying new and focus on vintage and thrift shops. Kara is a dish and has great fashion sense. She can pull off stuff that would look laughable on my near six foot frame. So, I was curious about her experiment and invited myself along on one of her Goodwill adventures.

It was shocking. There were so many nice, gently worn, and sometimes new-with-the-tag items on the racks for a tiny fraction of what I was used to paying. The experience opened my eyes. Of course, I wasn’t new to thrifting, but for whatever reason, I’d never spent time looking through clothing.

Fast forward two years, and now the shock comes when I walk into Talbots. Or Banana Republic. It is bananas (said in my best minion voice) what I’d been used to paying for a blouse, for example. Between Goodwill and ThredUp, I’ve completely changed my shopping habits to second-hand. I feel good about the environmental impact of this and certainly the change on my pocketbook.

That said, just like walking into a department store and walking out with a new outfit used to give me a rush, I’ve found myself making time for thrifting when I need a pick-me-up. This behavior has become a problem. Our closet was so full and Jason made a gentle comment about the number of shoes.

Coincidentally, my dear friend Meg is newly living in Denmark and just got her first European job. She did not bring a professional wardrobe with her and she reached out. Could I go to thrifting with her in mind?

COULD I.

I spent about $100 at Goodwill and a couple hours sorting through things in my closet that are not well used, but in good shape. Meg and I are the same size, which works out well. I’m excited to be taking this giant suitcase to her in a couple weeks. Needless to say, Denmark and Arizona couldn’t have more different weather. Denmark is cold and rainy and they live on the coast. We are dry, hot, and sweaty for 8 months of the year. But, with tights, gloves, and a good jacket, I think you can make just about anything work.

I won’t go into all the details, but if you need a nudge to change your shopping habits, consider this: for that $100, I was able to find three dresses, two skirts, two blazers, and a handful of other items. All are name brand and in great shape. No one item cost more than $14. Also, these items didn’t go into a landfill. No child labor, or giant ship to cross an ocean, was required for the Goodwill run. Plus, they have coupons! Spend $20, save 20%.

I’m on a shopping hiatus for the time being. I need to address and change the behavior to shop when I want to feel a rush of endorphins. It is a yucky habit and it does not align with who I want to be, the values I want to demonstrate. It also is grossly capitalist. Consume more! Feel better!

That said, a friend suggested I start thrifting for others as a side gig. I love to shop for others! I also would love to start a closet organizing business because my goodness, my nerdy hobbies run deep.

So, if you care to play along:

  1. What’s your best thrift find?
  2. Do you have a habit you need to change? How are you working to do so?
  3. Where is your favorite place to find a good deal? (If you are in the east valley, check out the Sunshine Acres boutique!)

~KDW

Spinning on the Dance Floor

I started a new job mid-August. I’m still working in both government and in public health, but for a new agency and in a new area. I’d worked in suicide prevention across the state for nearly a decade, and it was a great time to be involved in this field. There were a handful of new laws passed that brought much needed attention to helping individuals access behavioral health services, safely store firearms, methods to remove unnecessary medications, etc.

In a nutshell: we actually saw progress. In public health school, professors said time and time again, “You can spend your career on an issue and maybe, maybe you’ll see some improvement before you retire.” Public health is often a game of patience. You have to tell yourself every day that the work you’re doing does matter, as incremental as it often seems.

But with suicide prevention, we saw a school staff training mandate go into place, new collaborations with other state agencies, and Veteran groups having meaningful (and much needed) conversations about how to help their community get into substance abuse treatment and get guns out of homes when there is a crisis.

I felt proud to leave when I did. The team is doing great work. We saw substantial decreases in youth suicide (41% one year!) and the partnership were in place for success. Plus, there were days when I would come home utterly spent. I wasn’t a clinician, but there were more than a handful of times when I came home from work having counseled someone who’d just lost a loved one to suicide. Those phone calls were the absolute worst. (Second worst was trying to help families connect their suicidal children to almost non-existent child psychiatry resources. Want job security? Study child psychiatry.)

It was hard, hard work. But it was also very rewarding. I was sad to leave my state agency, where I’d worked long enough that the systems and people felt second hand. The leadership was great and I didn’t have any reason to go other than I was ready for a new challenge.

And while being somewhat intentionally vague because it isn’t good form to go into work details on a public blog: I am loving my new challenge. It’s a much bigger job in a smaller region. Our team focuses on homelessness, domestic violence, and other social service outreach. It is the first regional policy focused position I’ve held, and the idea we could make regional changes to help the most vulnerable makes me want to do cart wheels down the street.

The business books and mentors would say, “never show your vulnerabilities in a new position.” To some extent, I agree. I’m not interested in complaining or looking foolish to the team I manage. However, showing vulnerabilities makes us human. There is only so much faking it till you make it. And getting into this new job groove, including a commuting routine, has felt like someone asked me to dance to a slow song and now I’m stuck at a rave and can’t find my way out. It is a go! go! go! pace, which is quite the change from working from my couch for 18 months. We are all feeling it. The dogs aren’t getting the same amount of attention. The meal planning isn’t as consistent. The garden is not being planted for Fall.

But, nearly two months into this new dance, I’m starting to anticipate the steps. This hasn’t come without some frustrating falls and missteps, to continue the metaphor. Today, I feel less dizzy. I’m paying more attention to exercise and what I’m eating to keep my brain sharp and ready to go. And of course, I’m loving having the opportunity to wear dresses again. I had been living in work blouses and shorts to meet the Zoom criteria. But the new gig is more dressed up and there is something about the clothing making the man. I never thought I’d enjoy wearing a suit, but I so do. Most days I’m in my fancy office by myself on the floor. (Most folks are still virtual.) But it still feels good.

While the Peace Corps didn’t go as planned, it did introduce me to the needs of the poor in a new way. And from that, I knew I wanted to study public health. How fortunate I am to have found a field where the work remains fun and a challenge.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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