Counting Coup — Book Launch

February 13th

At 11:30 am, Saturday, March 17th at Dobson Ranch Library in Mesa, “Counting Coup” will be out in the world.

Basket Baby signing

Dobson Ranch Library is my childhood library. I spent most of my elementary school summers on the bean bags, collecting stickers from the summer reading program. I remember finding an entire shelf of Sue Grafton’s mysteries, and meticulously reading them in alphabetic order. There was the arduous conversation I had with a saintly librarian about “War and Peace,” after I’d hauled it home on my Huffy only to find out it was way, way too complicated. Why hadn’t she warned me. (She had.) And what did it all mean anyway? (She tried her best to explain.)

And it was the place where I spent hours on the floor in the children’s section on my belly, resting on my elbows, trying to learn sign language out of a book full of diagrams. (That didn’t go so well either.) It was also the place where I felt my curiosities celebrated and encouraged at every turn.

signing

“Counting Coup” is my third book.

Happily consumed with her academic career, Professor Avery Wainwright never planned on becoming sole guardian of her octogenarian Aunt Birdie. Forced to move Birdie—and her failing memory—into her tiny apartment, Avery’s precariously balanced life loses its footing.

Unearthed in the chaos is a stack of sixty-year-old letters. Written in 1951, the letters tell of a year Avery’s grandmother, Alma Jean, spent teaching in the Indian school system, in the high desert town of Winslow, Arizona. The letters are addressed to Birdie, who was teaching at the Phoenix Indian School. The ghostly yet familiar voices in the letters tell of a dark time in her grandmother’s life, a time no one has ever spoken of.

Torn between caring for the old woman who cannot remember, and her very different memories of a grandmother no longer alive to explain, Avery searches for answers. But the scandal and loss she finds, the revelations about abuses, atrocities, and cover-ups at the Indian schools, threaten far more than she’s bargained for.

I’ll have books available for sale, a reading, and will talk shop about writing and publishing.

I hope to see you there!

~K

Posted in
Novel, Writing
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Sweethearts

February 6th

Valentines Sewing

My cousin died unexpectedly two years ago. He was just shy of his 37th birthday. He’d lived a hard, brief life, and most of us still struggle to say his name today with crying. One of his great joys were his children. He had two young daughters with a beautiful woman.

Valentines Sewing

The girls and their mama live on the east coast, close to her family. I haven’t seen them in more than six years, and they have grown in leaps and bounds. I keep up with them through their mom and her generosity; she doesn’t have to share the details of their childhoods with me, but she chooses to. I know it is hard for her to talk about their father, but she does. She send me his poems on occasion when she runs across them in the house.

Valentines Sewing

I don’t have a large family. My cousin’s death left a hole. Maintaining a relationship with his daughters is important to me, in part because my Aunt Karen did so from afar with me. My dad’s much younger siblings lived on the east coast and on occasion would come to Arizona for Mexican food and a dip in the pool. My Aunt Karen made a point of writing me long letters on yellow legal pad paper, even when she was in college on a basketball scholarship and I’m sure had other things she’d rather be doing.

Today, I consider her a friend and someone I admire greatly. She, nor her mother — my grandmother Astra — let the distance be a barrier for having a relationship.

Valentines Sewing

I added some cactus fabric to these valentine pouches for the girls because I want them to always know there are many who love them in Arizona.

Family is often not easy. We don’t chose the branches of our genetic trees, but we can look beyond the political and religious differences and be loving. I’ve got a good example of how to do that.

~K

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handmade
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The February Garden

February 5th

February in the garden

February in the garden

February in the garden

February in the garden

February in the garden

February in the garden

We are enjoying this beautiful, temperate spring weather. Everything is blooming and happy. Even the avocado tree is sprouting new leaves and growing. The acacia trees, with their yellow pom poms of pollen are making the entire neighborhood smell heavenly.

Our raised bed garden, fondly referred to as the “dong garden” because of its vulgar shape, is not thriving. We need to pull everything out, turn the soil, add amendments and replant. I have to remind myself it took years for the garden in Tempe to take off. While this is year 3 in this garden space, it still isn’t quite right.

Gardening is a hobby for those who need help with patience. With a few free hours next weekend, we’ll have new tomato and squash transplants in the ground, and hopefully a booming garden come summer.

What are you planting?

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Domestic Art, Flora and Fauna
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Why Can’t We Talk About This?

January 22nd

Baby Quilt for Nonnie

A former coworker, who upon meeting for the first time, asked both my age and if I had children. I was 35, and no, “not yet.” She then pressed her hand into mine, looked me square in the eye, and said, “Well, don’t you worry. Older women have babies all the time.”

It was in that moment I began to despise her. This dislike would grow like cancerous mold during the next few years. She saw what I didn’t want to discuss, my most vulnerable spot, and poked at it.

I saw her again just last week. We no longer work together. The first words out of her unpolished mouth were, “Oh, no baby bump yet? Well, keep trying!”  No longer bound to the rules of the workplace, I replied, “I don’t miss that.” I swallowed the less kind words that also came to mind.

My close friends and family know I’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while. There have been doctor appointments, one minor but very expensive surgery, and countless ovulation tests. There is still no baby. My mother, girlfriends, and anyone else who sees the exhausted anguish on my face, regularly reassure me, “Don’t worry. It will happen.”

Will it? Can we for a moment talk about the fact that it might not, and that this reality will have to be okay, too? My husband has adult children, and one turning 16 next week. He is not interested in adoption or fostering, even though I’ve long wanted to go this route. Either this pregnancy thing happens, or we move on as a married couple without children together.

And that will have to be okay.

The reason I’m sharing my frustration is multifaceted. I’m tired of having people pat my hand, especially friends with children. Sure, tell me again how it will happen because it happened for you. That isn’t the way biology works. I’m also tired of having relative strangers say things like, “Oh, so you didn’t want children?” or worse, “Well, you’d better hurry!” when they hear I’m married and don’t have kids. I’m certain I said these sorts of stupid comments when I was younger and without understanding of how terrible they were.

I’ve wanted to be a mom since I was given my first baby doll. I have no regrets that this didn’t come to be before I met my husband. I love my stepchildren, and yes—I am fortunate to have them in my lives, but again: do not reassure me that “at least I have them.” They have a mother who they adore. I do not fill that role. And also, they aren’t ever to be put in the “at least” category.

My advice is this: if you have a woman in your life who is trying to get pregnant, ask her if she wants to talk about it. Let her vent, if she wants to. And if she doesn’t, let her be. Try your hardest not to put your story on her if she doesn’t ask for advice. If she doesn’t want to attend your baby shower, or hold your baby, understand it has nothing to do with you.

There is also the superstition that a woman trying to get pregnant, or newly pregnant, shouldn’t talk about it. That’s crap. Her words aren’t going to make it be anything other than it is, but the chance to speak about what she is feeling very well may be her saving grace.

I’ve never felt more emotionally fragile, or wanted something more. Thank you for handling me, and others in my spot, with care.

~K

 

 

 

 

Posted in
2018
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A Year of Meaning

December 29th

 

Spirit Sisters

I’ve fallen into some habits that I’m not fond of. Namely, I spend far too much time on my computer/phone these days, resulting in less time reading actual books and having face-to-face conversations. When exactly did I become that person who looks at her phone when out to eat with her husband? YUCK.

I came up with a list of things I’d like to try in 2018 to give my daily life more meaning. In contrast to 2017, I’d like the next year to include less time online and more time spent reading, gardening, cooking and walking the dogs in quiet. Each month, I’ll tackle something new. The idea is to push my level of comfort and to create new, healthier habits for my relationships, mind, body, spirit, and pocketbook.

The tentative list:

  1. Spiritual practice
  2. Neighboring
  3. Mindful eating
  4. Mindful spending/budgeting
  5. Learning to meditate
  6. Use what I have
  7. Nothing disposable for one month
  8. Knit stockings for the family
  9. Learn a new craft 
  10. Compile family photo albums
  11. Spanish: find a lunch buddy to practice with
  12. Volunteer

Each of these will have a month of focused effort, with the idea that I’ll carry what I’ve learned forward to make 2018 a transformative year. These aren’t listed in calendar order, but in how they popped into my head. Yes, January will be spiritual practice. (There is still time to join our online Bible study, if you are interested.) I’ve got a few blog ideas in mind for areas I’d like to learn and grow spiritually.

As always, this is more fun with company. If you are interested in playing along, please do. If nothing else, I hope to blog more in 2018. This garden could use a bit of weeding and some new seeds.

Wishing you and yours the best in the New Year!

~Kelli

Posted in
2018
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All the Goodness of This Year

December 22nd

Mexico City trip

This time of year, I like to look back and think about all of the wonderful days that we celebrated in some way. There was the trip to Mexico City, which remains one of my favorites of all time. Jason and I loved the culture, walking the city, the food, and definitely the art. Mexico City knows public art. It’s the first place I’ve visited that I loved so much, I’d prefer to go back in lieu of a new destination.

Mexico City trip

There is so much good food. And so much excellent public art.

After the earthquake, our friends from the DF rushed back to help friends and family. It was uncovered, unsurprisingly, that many of the buildings that fell around the city did so because the building codes had been ignored, inspectors paid off. It was also shown, equally unsurprisingly, that the Mexican people flooded the city with offers of assistance. They had to turn volunteers away, so many came to help their fellow countrymen in need.

Mexico City trip

Mexico City trip

Mexico City tripMexico City trip

Have I mentioned how much I love this country?

Yes, there was the slight blip of us wandering into a tequila bar near the Condessa neighborhood only to realize two steps inside that we were actually in a narcos bar and very, very much out of place. But hey, a quick shot of tequila before any other shots could be taken and we were back out on the streets with a great story in our pocket to elaborate and share with friends back home.

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

Also this year, my husband and I both changed jobs. I’m in the same field, and he’s returning to something he loves. We bought an all-electric car and expanded the garden to grow more of our own food. We hiked the Grand Canyon. We enjoyed our first full year of marriage, much of which we spent arm-in-arm happily arguing over who has the best burrito in town.

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

For media, a few things to share that I absolutely fell over myself loving:

  1. Novels by Swedish author Jonas Jonasson. His stuff is so weirdly creative, it is a true pleasure to read.
  2. The Crown, season 2, and what it is teaching me about the royal family and 1900s history.
  3. Til the Well Runs Dry, a novel by Lauren Francis-Sharma. I’ve thought about this book several times this year. The characters and the plight of immigrants stick with you.
  4. Africa Solo, which is my favorite non-fiction of the year —namely because I always want to be on the road seeing new places and Africa has my heart. I enjoyed traveling alongside this author.

Let us also remember this year, 2017, as the one where Robert Mugabe was removed from power. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see the day. I hopeful the people of Zimbabwe will find true leadership and inspire the people of Cameroon to boot Paul Biya next.

Wishes for 2018 include more travel, democracy, compassion, and peace around the world.

xo,

K

Posted in
Blessings, Celebrate!, Family
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In the Spirit

December 5th

knitting

There is knitting…

canning

And canning…

Christmas mantle

And decorating happening at our house.

nativity

And of course it wouldn’t be Christmas without a dash of Africa. Love this nativity from Mozambique.

nativity 2

What I’m not showing you is the sad state of our stockings. Each year we pull out the decorations and I think, “HOW have I not done something about these pitiful things?” They are a mix up of Goodwill finds and personalized stockings, with letters that have fallen off resulting in nonsense. Next year I’m going to either quilt or knit something pretty for the holiday.

What decorations do you love?

~K

Posted in
Celebrate!
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Online Bible Study

December 4th

Prayer journal

A coworker gave me this weekly planner last month. In turn, I’ve been trying to establish a daily Bible scripture study and writing out the verse each morning. I’m starting my day with this, and a good cup of coffee. If I write out the verse, I think about it during the day.

prayer journal 2

This is my go-to online devotional. I appreciate the prayer and summary of the verse. In the past, I’ve followed the Bible in One Year, and I am going to do so again in 2018. There is an app with on-going conversation about the verses of the day, which I’m interested in learning from. If you would like to be a part of this online study, let me know. We’ll have a closed group and have a weekly discussion on what we’ve read.

Here’s to making 2018 a year of improved habits, and more quiet time with God.

~K

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Faith
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My Favorite Week of the Year

November 20th

Thanksgiving with the W Family

Not only is my family set to arrive within 48 hours, but several of my closest friends are here for the week to be with their families. Everywhere I look, there is a warm meal, a glass of wine, and laughter filling the air!

{Reality: I’m in my second week of a new job, have no paid time off, and am trying to figure out how in the giblets I’m going to get everything done, see everyone, and fit in my clothing with all the stress eating.}

Maybe we could all set up the Christmas tree on Saturday?

{Reality: I’m going to crawl into yoga pants on Saturday after the family is gone and the leftovers are put away, and sit on the couch with my friends at the Hallmark Channel for a marathon of bad movies and good knitting. Do we really need a tree?}

I’m so glad our home is in order and I took the time to get the prep work done so this holiday was as stress-free as possible. It is important to be stress-free, otherwise you get those lines on your face and no one appreciates a frowny hostess!

{Reality: Botox is cheap. Chardonnay for breakfast is a thing on holidays. The cookies ended up flat, and I’m not baking them again. Flat cookies are where it is at this year. Martha said so.*}

Happy week, y’all!

(No, really. I mean that part.)

~K

*Martha very much did not say so.

Posted in
Celebrate!
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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

Posted in
Celebrate!, Family, Hostess
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