Category Archives: Goals

This Week in Numbers

Good to know

One of the many creative signs I saw in Malawi, along with the “Good Riddance Coffin Company.”

17: Miles run. Five days of running, 2 days the long loop, 3 days the short loop including one day of intervals

4: Glass of wine enjoyed in the moment

4: Glasses of wine I regret because apparently this little nasty stomach bug I can’t seem to shake really doesn’t like booze. Like fighting fish, they’ve battled. The stomach bug (nay, monster) won.

1: Wagon I’m officially on

2: Books read. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “A Visit from the Goon Squad.” Reviews pending. Both worthy of reading today, if you haven’t.

$274: Dollars spent at Costco on items that apparently I needed in bulk. Sports bras, grape tomatoes, protein powder, and a new radio. I went to Costco my first day home and wandered in shock. It doesn’t take much time outside of the States to forget the sheer mass of consumerism that drives our culture. And, nearly $300 lighter, apparently I’m not immune. I am, however, well fed. And supported.

12: Miles biked. I am newly in love with Olive after listening to Finny go on about her whirlwind romance with Tulip. Hey, I’m living the weirdo dream too. We are weirdos together. We always have been.

1 (again): Netflix account canceled. Fewer movies. More books. One of my 2011 mantras.

8: fruit trees added to the community garden

12: chocolate cupcakes & 2: loaves of banana oatmeal almond cranberry bread baked. 0 consumed.

172: pounds. A few down since I puffed up my chest with “30 pound weight loss!” bravado. But not nearly enough to make me happy. And so, the week in numbers plods on, my resolve and discipline growing so my pants don’t.


My Pants Don’t Fit


I’ve had a sinking feeling for the last few months that I was going to have to wave the white flag of defeat and by bigger jeans. I’ve always crammed into my jeans as soon as I could on the weekends. Paired with flip-flops and a t-shirt, they are my comfort clothing. But, not surprisingly after having canceled my gym membership about a year ago, they aren’t fitting so comfortably today.

My friend Adam tells me regularly I’m good with accountability and discipline. My waistline these days says otherwise. I’m by no means fat, or even technically overweight. But I am not happy. I have an entire section of my closet that I’d really like to wear without sucking in, shimmying and having a stomach ache all day from the tightness. I could perhaps get a waist trainer – I have another friend who got one from and it helped them – but I think I need another option personally.

Veggies for roasting

I haven’t become sedentary; in fact, I think the extra cush is in part because of being more social. I’ve spent much less time in the last six months cooking for myself, or just being at home. The after-work happy hours, weekends with bowling and bar food and that taco festival? Well. You can do the math.

I weighed myself yesterday for the first time in a few months and I am about the same as I was 10 years ago when I left for the Peace Corps. Granted, prior to leaving, I spent the better part of a couple months curled up in the fetal position on the floor of a Cold Stone Creamery, mainlining mint chocolate chip. I was worried I’d never see anything cold in Africa. I was not worried about my jiggle.


Today is another story. So, I have a plan! Rather than waiting until January with all the other lemmings, I’m taking this pants vs. my waist circumference challenge by the horns today. And because I tackle few projects without waxing poetic, I figured I’d share the details and progress. You know. Just in case anyone else may have a few extra pounds to lose?

  1. I’ve downloaded a calorie counting app on my phone. Every bit of research I’ve read lately says writing down what you eat makes you more accountable and keeps things in check. You see what you are really doing to yourself with those after work nachos and margaritas. (Oh, those calorie numbers hurt.)
  2. I joined a gym. As much as I hate the gym rat routine anymore, it is just too dark outside this time of year for the hours I have available to work out alone. Someone recently told me that dressing the part might help us get in the mood to exercise, therefore I’m on the lookout for a good quality men’s or womens tracksuits. Anyway, a gorgeous trainer named Natalie is scheduled to start shaping up my flab tomorrow afternoon.
  3. I’m cooking. It is a lot harder for me to be disciplined about this than ever before because my work schedule is nuts. Yet the sodium content on a lot of the foods I’ve been eating — both brought back to life from the depths of the frozen food section and “healthy” eating out — is off the charts. My heart needs a break.
  4. Specifically, I am cooking with more vegetables. I’m also going to try to eat less meat. I know the hype with protein is “eat more! lose weight!” but in my mind, that more often than not translates to “have sausage on your morning bagel! the meat will be good for you!” Wrong.
  5. And, of course, I’m going to be a lot more selective about what I’m drinking. Far more water, far less wine. I’m unwilling to cut it out entirely. But for the time being, there will be fewer cocktail parties and more Netflix and knitting.

The goal is 30 pounds by April 1. Yes, it is a lot of weight. Yes it is completely possible. Yes, I can do this.

Each week, look for a new recipe, new weight loss tool and weight update. There is nothing as motivating as public shame.

Blog, keep me accountable.




Did you notice last night was a full moon? Couldn’t have been coincidence. The “Under the Same Moon” signing brought more than a 100 of my friends and family under one roof, too. I honestly couldn’t believe how many people were there — my grandparents and uncle from Tucson, my mama from Texas, three of my favorite teachers, many family friends who’ve taken me in as an additional child since my parents moved, my girlfriends, coworkers, fellow church attendants, bloggers and I think, just maybe, even a few strangers.

Little fan

Bill, Mariah, Julie, Jennie


It was a night I’ll never forget. Today I am so full of hope, happiness and gratitude.



Thank you, dear blog readers. You too are included on the acknowledgment page.


(And there are many more photos and video clips to come, but I couldn’t help but post a few to start off the day!)


For the longest time, Adam and I’ve said “later, Tyrone” instead of “later, gator.” I don’t know why it started, but it makes me giggle every time.

Blingy alligator

So, when my mama gave me a little African-inspired bling this afternoon to rock at tonight’s signing, the lucky guy was quickly coined Tyrone. I’ll be sporting T with a belly full of butterflies, a giddy smile, my lucky heels and some baubles.


Tyrone was gifted over lunch at one of my favorite local spots. I immediately recognized the server; we’d gone to high school together. His arms were covered in colorful tattoos, but his smile was identical as the day we’d graduated. We chatted for a minute and he said he was serving tables during the day to fund his dream: being a rock star. He “screams” as the lead in a band in the evenings. He rambled for a bit about how it was important to him to chase a dream, be working for something he could believe in, etc. His eyes glittered as he described being on stage with his bandmates.


I nodded, enthusiastically. I know in my gut I am supposed to write. This first book is full of typos and errors and passion and love. It’s a fun first step toward a career. Speaking with Emily today she asked when the second book, “Basket Baby,” will be complete. October. I’ll have draft one done within the next few months. The writing, character development, voice, story arch — they are all substantially easier and clearer the second time. Plus, now I know how to publish. I feel like I’ve climbed a giant mountain and the next peak looks like a hill by comparison.

October. I can work with a deadline, especially when it doesn’t feel like work.


In the meantime, I’ll just let this novel hang out next to my buddy and fellow author Barack. This is where Adam placed the book on his shelf. (How am I supposed to remain humble with this kind of ridiculous treatment?)

Later Tyrone,


Skinny Dipping in the Crazy Pool

my fave ever

Last weekend I hosted a few friends for dinner — a swim & grill get together. Such gatherings are a  reason I love Arizona.  Managing the heat is much easier when you are up to your neck in cool water. Plus, I’ve got this circle of friends who are crazy, funny, committed, honest, caring and crazy. Did I mention the crazy?

The best part is — they totally call me on my crazy.

four colors, five cheese

For example, about a month ago I posted on Facebook that I was buying yarn for my Christmas knitting projects. I was honestly making an order. It never even crossed my mind that posting about Christmas knitting projects in July in Phoenix was silly. Really. Sometimes I’m swimming so far deep in the crazy pool, it seems like an ocean. Adam, however, almost immediately called me out.

It was July.

In Phoenix.

I needed a cool drink and a date, not another order of yarn.




I also feel a little crazy at the moment because let’s be honest — I can think, talk and dream about only one event. There are so many exciting and happy things happening this month, I feel like skipping. As if having this team of amazing friends wasn’t enough, my family is rallying and will be here Tuesday for the signing.  My sixth grade teacher + my favorite teacher from high school are both attending. (Feel free to cry a bit over that. I did.) My elementary school arch nemesis is attending. (Booyah!) And I have a feeling an ex-boyfriend or two may even show, just to add to the stomach churning nervousness of the night. Hey! Maybe they could all sit together and compare notes?

It’s bound to be a night to remember. And I can’t help but hope this is just the beginning.


To have a taste of what I’ve always wanted has made me delirious. I’ve been thinking about how great it will be when I can rent a summer home in the Puget Sound to write. (I’ve got one picked out.) It will be nice to fly into New York for meetings with editors. Heck, I’ve found myself saying:

“Well, with the next book there will certainly be an agent and a publishing house involved.”

“You know your favorite bookstore in Albuquerque, Denver, Portland? Yes. I’m sending copies.”

“I don’t know about a book tour this time, but certainly with the next.”

“Julia should buy the rights. This would be a great movie.”

And perhaps the most egotastic-crazy yet — “Do you want that signed?”

Julia. As in Julia Roberts. What has happened to me? It’s easy to get carried away. It is also easy to under achieve in this life and to shoot for an average existence. I guess I’d rather be crazy excited about life than apathetic.


Thankfully, I’ve got a lot of good people to keep me grounded. Including those who take photos when I leave my camera unattended.

To crazy dreams coming delightfully true,


Book Contest Winners!

Gig Harbor

Remember when I asked for book marketing ideas? Well, you guys are the most efficient, productive and happiest team I’ve ever worked with. THANK YOU! I got some great ideas (e.g. Facebook page, youtube videos, book club marketing, and “send to Oprah!”) that got me thinking. As promised, the five randomly selected winners for signed copies are:

1. Debbie

2. Traciefree

3. Holly

4. Piccola

and 5. Teresa.

{I’ll be emailing you for your addresses. Thank you again!}

It’s been one of those week’s I’ll never forget. The first 108 copies of my book arrived at my home. I have a contract for 50 copies to be sold at my favorite indie bookstore. I dropped them off Monday. I was contacted by a local reporter for a feature on Monday night and was interviewed. I heard the books started selling at Changing Hands and Amazon on Tuesday. Today the paper’s photographer came to take a headshot to go with the article. Tonight I’ve been invited to a political fundraiser where my book is being raffled as a door prize. I’ve placed an order for another 25 books because there are to be more than 100 people at the signing. Woah.

It’s pinch-me exciting!I keep walking around my office with this goofy grin smiling at everyone and everything.

Gig Harbor

I’ve spent so much time thinking about what this would look and feel like — to see my book on the shelves. And now that it is here, I’ve honestly never been happier. I read many years ago that you should develop some habit that regularly reminds you of your dream. Keeping this in mind, for at least 8 years, every time I visit a bookstore I go to the fiction section and leave space in the “Ds” where my novel would be placed. Today, that book is actually there.


I’ve been doing a lot of pacing at night after work reading my novel aloud, trying to find the right section to share at the book signing in a couple weeks.  Of course I’ve already got my outfit selected, including a string of Ghanaian wedding beads I’ve never worn (other than the day I bought them, four years ago.) You can take the girl out of Africa, but you can’t take Africa out of the girl.

And so, life as an author moves forward at a very hectic and happy pace.

Thank you again for coming along on the journey,


Book Contest!

Front cover of my book

The tricky thing about self-publishing a novel is you don’t have a giant marketing team promoting your work. There are no ads in The New York Times or pop ups when you visit blogs. I don’t have an agent or even a specific website. You’ve got to learn how to promote your book with what resources you have. What I do have, however, is a mighty little blog and a handful of people I consider great friends who live far and wide.

That’s you.

To get my book onto as many shelves and hands as I can, I want to reach out to small bookstores and libraries nationwide. I’m not sure the best way of doing this — my instinct is to send beautifully handwritten cards — but I do know that finding the right people and the right contact information is crucial.

So, dear friends, this is where you come into play. Do you have a great bookstore you frequent? Are you a librarian? Do you know any great ways to market a book? How would you go about spreading the word? You would be doing me a sincere favor by letting me know what you think. Leave a comment with the details, including addresses and contact information for those bookstores. I’ll leave the contest open through the weekend and randomly select 5 winners for signed copies.

{Never left a comment? Leave a comment every day? Delurk, please.}

And thank you. For stopping here, for reading, for being such amazing cheerleaders. I don’t need no stinking fancy New York publishing house! I’ve got YOU!




My friend Sheila bought this basket for me when I recently visited Colorado. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s from a women’s cooperative in Ghana. Imagine me in the Denver airport with this as my carry-on. I got more than a few interesting looks, but in truth — pretty perfect luggage for a girl who calls herself African.

Metaphorically, my basket is overflowing. This new job, that in truth I took because I was suddenly unemployed and unsure, has become  a gigantic challenge in the best of ways. I’m working in a fast-paced medical practice with a team of smart, energetic, focused people who make me want to be my very best self everyday. I am thriving. The expense of this great new career, versus the job I thought I was signing up for, is a personal struggle to find equilibrium.

My previous two nonprofit jobs were, to put it mildly, far less demanding. I worked fewer hours and many of those which I did work were in stretchy pants on the couch labeled generously as “work from home.” This gave time for community dinners, ample sewing projects, household stuff and mental health breaks.

Now, I commute. I suit up. I work feverishly for 10-12 hours most days and I am never, ever caught up. Within my first two months I was promoted and given a new department to manage. Now I have two. I feel like I could use another set of arms  — one to type and the other to file, answer the phone, pat people on the back, etc.  While it’s taken a bit to get back in the habit of getting up at 4:30 am to squeeze in my morning run or swim, this return to routine is such a gift.

I work with people! In my office! Daily! I go on business trips. I have minimal authority and I use it wildly!

(Crazy the things you don’t realize you miss.)

So, I haven’t been blogging with the same fervor because my daily schedule has become a rinse and repeat of workout, work, read until I pass out. I think the last three months have shown I’m committed and willing to put in the air miles and time in the office to see my departments are successful. This week I’m going to find time to add the other elements of my life that make me truly shine — art, writing, gardening, dresses and a social life, time with friends and blogging.

Balancing the basket,


Under the Same Moon Book Signing

Guess what friends — after working on my first novel for more than EIGHT YEARS, it is going to see the light of publishing day!

Front cover of my book

Back of my novel

The book will be listed on Amazon and other web-based sellers by the end of August. I’ll be certain to post the details as soon as they come to light. However, for Phoenicians, there is a certain dream coming true on August 24th that I’d love for you to be a part of. Changing Hands Bookstore is a fixture for literary folk in the Valley. It’s one of the few remaining independent bookstores. The owners are community-minded folk who regularly invite international and local authors alike to speak about their varied passions and literary craft. I’ve listened to Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth Gilbert and many others thanks to Changing Hands.

In truth, it was my mother who gave me a love of reading —  specifically a love for Nancy Drew. I would save my allowance and beg for a trip to this bookstore, for time to sit among the dusty old marigold yellow copies of the mystery maven, trying to find those few copies missing from our vintage collection.

I grew up in this bookstore never guessing I’d one day be there presenting my own book. The day has arrived and you are invited:

7 pm, Tuesday, August 24th

Changing Hands Bookstore

Tempe, AZ

In the meantime, if you’d like a glimpse at what “Under the Same Moon” is about:

Abena Udate, a 15-year-old girl, is kidnapped from an open-air market in rural Mozambique by a wandering American businessman. Smuggled into a suburban Phoenix community, Abena must learn a new language, culture and way of life previously unimaginable. She tries desperately not to become accustomed to the luxuries she’s never previously known – bubble baths, libraries and a caretaker who keeps a keen eye on her new charge. The girl patient determines the motives of her captors and why they want a blue-black addition to their creamy family portrait.

Kupela, her young brother, will stop at nothing to find his sister and the muzungu who has stolen her. When he falls gravely ill with malaria, an American expat uses every resource to keep him alive and unravel the mystery of his missing sister. Burdened with the worries of flooding in Mozambique and the well-being of the brother she adores, Abena wonders if she’ll ever be able to escape the comfortable Arizonan stucco house for the mud hut in rural Beira she calls home.

And finally, this wouldn’t be my blog or style if I didn’t end on a note of sincere and complete gratitude. To Amanda, who spent countless hours editing and took my cover photo. To Colleen, who designed the most gorgeous cover in the history of novels. Really. To my friends, family and to all of you who have asked countless times about the status of this dream — my forever thanks.


Novelist (!!)

A Bit of Focus

A wee bit focused

I do my best with a firm plan in place, which is why once upon a time, I created a similar chart for my 1/2 Ironman. That chart got me through thousands of miles of training (okay, maybe 1 thousand miles) on my own and saw me through the best race of my life. I’m hoping this chart sees me through a summer of running and yoga and to a couple personal best times in the 10K and 1/2 marathon. I’m also participating in the 100 Pushup Challenge.

The truth is, I’m not a natural athlete*. I’m not particularly good at any single sport I’ve ever tried to master. But I am stubborn, which comes in handy when trying to finish a novel, a 60-day-yoga challenge, manage three jobs, or any of the other crazy challenges I’ve pushed myself through. So, I may not be running any races at an Ethiopian pace, but I can promise you I’ll finish and give it all I’ve got.

I’m looking forward to a summer of long and short runs through the desert, around Tempe Town Lake, with friends, alone, with dogs, with music and with my two legs that I know will see me to success.

What are your goals this summer?


* And yet? This doesn’t stop me from making bold statements at dinner parties, challenging friends and friends’ husbands to tennis matches, golf, bowling, etc. I wish my athletic ability could actually keep up with my cocky confident blabber mouth for once.