Category Archives: Journal

Daily happenings


I’m 42. Is this too late for a mid-life crisis? Do I really think I’ll see 84? Is this a crisis, or just the emotional exhaustion from playing viral hide-and-seek for more than two years?

Some how, with international trips, an adult child going to college in California, another adult child in the workforce, two busy careers and social lives, we are still COVID-free. Still, I’m in a strange head-space because of this pandemic. I spend my professional and free time loving public health, and most days, I am on the brink of tears.

I know I’m not alone. It seems no one is sleeping well. Everyone is imbibing too much, whether it is alcohol or sugar or worse. And we are out of patience. We are acting like angry monkeys who have been scared and kept in a cage for years. Flights keep getting turned around due to unruly passengers. Road rage seems to have escalated. And millions of people walked out on their jobs in December as part of the “great resignation.”

This is a pandemic-exhaustion-frustration crisis. I rarely listen to NPR these days, much less the evening news. I glance at The New York Times and the Arizona Republic each morning, but try my hardest to keep the heavy stuff I can’t change from being another weight on my shoulders. (I see you, Ukrainians. I wish I knew what could be done. It does feel very WWIII to us right now too, and we aren’t on the front line. And Tonga — I hope you all are doing okay. That volcano nearly suffocated you and I couldn’t sleep for nights worrying about how you were going to survive. Mozambique, the latest cyclone was devastating. I hope clean drinking water and some semblance of social order has been restored. I miss your beautiful, complex country and wish you’d all move to higher ground.)

The coffee is brewing, the sun beginning to rise on a rainy February day in the desert. The dogs are pacing, wondering if we are going for a walk now… or now… or NOW? There are choices to be made. Today, I’ll choose to listen to an audiobook during our walk instead of the world news. I’ll make sure to workout, knowing that cardio is the best gift I can give my mental health and counter insomnia. I’ll pray and connect with Jesus, the one relationship in my life that never waivers. I’ll cook my husband dinner, taking joy in putting on my apron and cutting up the onions for the 10,000th time. I’ll drop a lasagna off at a neighbor’s house while her husband recovers from surgery and find happiness in helping others. I’ll find a reason to laugh. I’ll be thankful for this gift of today, a rainy February Wednesday that is in no other way remarkable.

We have to choose to live. We have to lasso the joy we can find and hold it close to us. And we have to remember to get more melatonin so we can sleep tonight.

We are one day closer to this pandemic being over. That’s enough for today.

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.

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. And to be honest, not everybody who has experienced infertility knows about loneliness.

Granted, there is the waiting room at the clinic, full of other hopeful souls. It is true that these souls cannot be consoled for what they might be going through. But these people can at the least be given a comfortable waiting room experience.

Only if the clinic or hospitals consider implementing unique waiting room ideas (maybe
they can include comfortable chairs, free WiFi, and provide Television streaming services like Atmosphere ), they can improve the waiting room experience and perhaps end the loneliness of the hopeful souls for some time.

Anyway, besides waiting rooms trying to make these lonely souls hopeful, the online chat groups, which use acronyms I’ll never master, also do the same. 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.



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,


Robert Downey Jr. and the Twitters

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.


Rock and Rolled and Great Friendships

A group of girlfriends I swam with in high school got together a few weeks ago. We had dinner and caught up — many of us not having seen each other for 19-plus years. It was fun to hear how everyone was. Most have children and every single one of us still loves to exercise in some way.

I actually ran. In public.


Three of us decided to run the Rock and Roll 10k together that Sunday morning. This photo makes me smile. Natalie and I spent 80% of our childhoods together in the pool, or smelling like chlorine out of the pool. We were side by side through junior high and high school. And when she went to California to swim in college, and I headed to Flagstaff to take swimming as a PE elective (never the great athlete), we lost track of each other. It was so nice to see her and reconnect.

I actually ran. In public.

The race concludes after running over the Mill Avenue bridge in Tempe. Years ago, when I’d run over that bridge with Adam and Juliann in the mornings before work, we’d stop and pick up a rock and toss it in Tempe Town Lake at the bridge mid-point, with our good wishes for the day. It was a positive affirmation they made fun of me for, but rumor has it they continued doing it after I moved to Denver.

Now that both Adam and Juliann live in Denver (with their partners), I stopped to pick up a stone and take a quick photo before I crossed the bridge. Traditions, man! Also, I miss those two a lot.

I actually ran. In public.

After the race, our group found Elvis. Yes, this guy ran in that outfit. He was more than happy to pose with the long line of women who wanted photos with him afterward.

Afton, who I also hadn’t seen since high school, now lives in Portland. I didn’t realize how much fun she was until this weekend. We had so much to talk about and along with Natalie, we are planning a girls’ trip this year now that we’ve reconnected.

I am thankful that I grew up swimming for a bunch of reasons, crows feet and skin damage not included. Swimming taught me discipline and time management. You couldn’t be in the water for hours every day and be a good student, both of which were expected, if you didn’t keep on top of your priorities. And swimming gave me friendships that will last a lifetime. Most of my closest adult friends came through time spent in the pool, or church youth group. (And we spent a lot of time in church youth group in someone’s pool, now that I think of it.)

Ah, the childhoods of Arizona children.

To reconnecting with old friends, and maintaining friendships far and wide!


Ebb and Flow

I recently applied for a local writing contest and had to submit a few shorter pieces. Reviewing my portfolio, I’ve had my head down working on novels for the last 12-plus years. There has been occasional blogging when I was distracted with crafts or inspired by travel, but I’ve done very little other writing.

I spent several hours yesterday going over this space to find a couple essays I could include in my submission for the contest. In doing so, I am reminded why I blog. This site has served as my journal for the last 10 years. Moves across the country, countless recipes, adopting Nelson, marathons, a wedding and two books later — my life has taken turns I couldn’t have imagined.

Eyeing the craft supplies in the guest room, I wonder if I will ever return with a fervor to share the latest pattern or project. I now know I cannot be creatively focused on more than one project at a time. Finishing this novel is my priority; my sewing machine has grown dusty.

The one exception to this seems to be knitting. When I am winding down at night and my husband is watching sports or a food program, I find peace in knitting. (Not in Guy Fieri’s shoveling.)

I’m not giving up my crafting supplies yet, or this blog. Yet, I am giving myself the space to change. Expect more updates on writing process, knitting patterns and married life in the burbs.



Raising the Modern Family: A Stepchild’s View

In this entry in the series, Raising a Modern Family, Ashley talks about being raised by a stepfather, and how this has influenced her marriage with Nick-and the raising of their two boys. She also talks about how her relationship with Christ changed her life, and brought her to forgiving her stepfather.

{I’ve known Ashley for a dozen years, and she has the most incredible real life hair of any woman I’ve ever met.}

Modern Family

Tell me about you, and your family. How long have you been married? How old are your kids?

My name is Ashley. I am a cake decorator and teachers aide-but my two boys would say I’m a ninja mom because of my ability to sneak up behind them when they least expect it! I’m married to an amazing man who is also a wonderful father. We celebrated our 11th year of marriage this past May. Our boys are ages 9 and 5 and keep us very busy between baseball, school, broken bones, lego building, and sword fights. We are followers of Jesus and teach our children to love others, even when nobody is watching and give generously because nothing here is really ours anyway.

How long have you been a stepkid?

I became a step kid when I was in the 8th grade. Trying not to age myself here, it’s been roughly 22 years.

Did you have a good relationship with your stepparents? Are they still married today? Are you in contact?

No. Not at first, anyway. To me, my step father was the reason my parents got in touch with a divorce attorney and even considered getting divorced. It took a very long time for me to just forgive him and learn to let him in emotionally. Before that, I acted out, getting arrested, skipping school, and in general being a horrible person. It was a rough 4 years before I graduated high school and moved out. When I was 19, I asked Jesus to take control. It was life changing. Letting go of the bitterness, forgiving both of them, really helped grow our relationship into what it is today. They are still married and I do get to see him quite often.

I also have a step mother, which was a totally different experience…but for sanity purposes, I’ll keep these comments about my step father, since that’s who I lived with primarily.

How has this experience changed you?

My parents had nearly divorced a few times. Had they received timely legal guidance from family law solicitors similar to that of a Bradford law firm, we wouldn’t have had to experience what we have been through. I can remember them sitting us down and having the “talk” with us, and then nothing would happen. Then we’d have another talk. And then nothing. Then one day, when my dad was away on a business trip, she moved us to a new house. It was so life-changing, that I never want my own kids to go through that if I can avoid it. I know that there are MANY different reasons and ways to become a stepchild or step-parent. My story is through a divorce. And it broke our family for a long time. So for us, we of course want to avoid getting divorced if possible. That being said, some friends of ours have recently decided to get a divorce, and I genuinely believe that it is the right choice for them. Our friends have only been married for a couple of years, and because they completed a prenuptial agreement, the financial side of their divorce should be relatively straightforward. I can still remember the day when my friend told me that she was going to meet with a team of Los Angeles prenup attorneys. It is pretty safe to say that signing a prenup turned out to be the right decision for them. Nonetheless, of course, in our marriage we have had many ups and downs, but our promise was not only to each other, but also to God. I think going through a divorce experience made me a better wife and mother.

What would you have done differently?

Oh gosh. I would have stopped being such a brat and just listened to him! He had two grown kids of his own and knew a thing or two about how to raise us. I just didn’t want to hear it then. I will say, he did a very good job of just hanging back until I was ready to let him in.

Has your parenting style been influenced by this experience?

I’m sure it has in some way. I just never really stopped to say, hey, I do this because I was a step kid.

What advice would you give to someone new to either the stepkid or stepparent game?

To stepkids I’d say, be open. Let your step parent in. Talk to them; let them know if you’re having a hard time. Be respectful and share some of your favorite family memories, and make new memories together!

Is there a story about your childhood you’d like to share?

My step father knew our family for years before he became a part of it. He was a magician. I can remember him sitting us down as kids and teaching us magic tricks. We each got to learn one. We were sworn to secrecy about how it was done. To this day I can not reveal how the trick he taught me is done.

Is there anything else you’d like folks to know about your experience?

Only recently did I learn that my stepfather actually struggled with forgiving HIMSELF for how everything happened with my mom. Out of respect for him and my mom, I won’t list details, but I will say that it made me look at him with much more sympathy. Over 22 years living with guilt is no way to live life. Forgive yourself. Forgive your step parents. And step parents: forgive your step kids. One day they WILL come around!

Thank you Ashley!

Onward We March

March 2016

During the last year, the department I work for has been reduced by more than 30%. The work we are doing has been transferred to a different state agency. The transition, all the same, has been an odd experience. I am the only person left on one side of a large floor of offices and cubicles. When I come in, I have to wave my arms above my head to get the lights to click on. I can hear when anyone on the other side of the floor exits. The elevator dings on occasion, getting my attention.

It’s zombie movie strange.

I miss the voice of friends and colleagues who filled the sea of gray cubicles. I’ll be joining them soon in a different building, under a different agency, a few miles away. I’m one of the lucky ones.

With this transition has come a need for deep flexibility. As colleagues were let go, others found new positions. Still others took retirement. Their responsibilities in many cases have been divided among those remaining. And so, we juggle.

There is an express bus that leaves not far from my house, depositing me one mile from my new office. For now, that mile is a nice morning walk. Soon, it will be a hot slog and I’ll need to keep wet wipes at my desk — but I am going to try to do this as many days as possible. Commuting by bus is new to me; I was pleasantly surprised by how quick the bus gets you to and from. It is comfortable, and full of other professionals headed downtown. The price is great too because as a state employee, the fair is subsidized. It is of course the green option, and as the summer approaches, I won’t be sitting in traffic on the asphalt in 110 degree heat.

The flip side to taking the bus is I have to plan my entire day within walking distance of my office. I can’t go out to lunch unless someone else drives or we are hoofing it. And, going to the gym means hauling an extra set of clothing downtown and on that mile walk each way. I’m trying to make getting to the gym as easy as possible, and carting even the necessaries back and forth each day will hamper my motivation.

Tomorrow, I get back on the gym workout wagon that I rode for so many years in my 20s: up by 5, at the gym by 5:15, in the showers by 6:30, and on the bus by 7. I can leave my gym bag and car at the bus stop — which is within half a mile of the gym. So, I’m only carting my purse and lunch to my desk.

I like having a plan and a routine. And I know having my workout done before I get to work will start my day off on a happier foot. I have more work than ever to accomplish, so getting up earlier as it gets warmer makes sense.

Onward, we march into this new professional life.



The McNay Museum

My mom had told me the McNay Museum in San Antonio was worth visiting, but I had no idea they would have such an incredible collection. I saw my first (and second) Diego Rivera! If you ever get the chance, spend an afternoon at this collection. The mansion alone is spectacular.

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The art did not disappoint either:

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

(Yes. That is entirely of cheese doodles. What was even stranger was two of the mannequins moved.)

The McKay museum

Diego Rivera — self-portrait

The McKay museum

Diego Rivera

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The next three are all another favorite of mine, Georgia O’Keeffe

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

And an odd Picasso for good measure.

If you get the chance, GO!