Environmental Impact: Commitments

As those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know, I make a yearly commitment to reduce my environmental impact or advocate for social justice in some consumer way. This past year, our family replaced the use of plastic straws with stainless steel or glass ones. When I tell people what we do or when some people see our straws, a common response is, “I could never do that because…”

  1. I’m too disorganized.
  2. I never remember those type of things.
  3. Who cares about straw use, it’s so small after all.
  4. I have too many other things going on so I just can’t commit to do another habit.
  5. Fill in your own excuse.

When I hear these responses, I want to empathize because I’ve had those same thoughts, especially in January and February when my habit isn’t established. But sometimes I have another response, especially when I visit other countries who have amazing environmental consciousness like Italy, which is, “How typically American.” In the entire planet, 20% of the people use 80% of the world’s resources. In case it isn’t clear, US citizens are in the 20%. Yet, if I can put aside judgment and offer encouragement my response is usually, “developing habits is guaranteed to change your person in unexpected ways so that you will benefit personally far more than whatever your impacting.” So selfishly, I continue to commit year after year to care for the environment or “my neighbor” across the ocean or next door. After all, what impact does eliminating one straw a day really have? An estimated 500 million straws are used in this country EVERY SINGLE DAY. So not much, but if we all start thinking about our straw use and start making a difference maybe we can cut our country’s use in half and then another half and another half until our straw use is a fraction of the 500 million.

This past year, some of you have asked about how we got started and developed our habit. So I’d like to offer some tips.

  1. Purchase straws – Amazon offers many options. If you’re like me and try not to use Amazon, www.byolongbeach.com has great prices. You can also go to her website and check out Southern California events to get them in person, which is even better.
  2. Store your straws in your car or purse.
  3. Buy double the straws per people in your family of the sizes you use often. In my family of four, it is rare we are all out for a smoothie together. Instead, three of us are often out so we have six boba/ smoothie straws. We also have four regular size straws. This is for when we all go out to a restaurant. Notice it isn’t double, this is because I almost never use a straw in a restaurant nor does Dennis so only two people use straws.
  4. Buy a special cleaner for the straws. (Many stainless steel straws come with them at purchase.)
  5. Have a bag for the used straws, which you wash out along with the straws, and this goes in your purse as soon as everyone is done using their straw. Otherwise, the straws get left in the car. Gross.
  6. Have a clean bag that you use to place the clean straws in. This also goes either in your purse or near your car keys so you get them back in your car (unless you store them in your purse).
  7. If you forget to bring them in the store, but they are in your car, make yourself go get them. You’ll never remember if there isn’t an incentive such as inconvenience to help you develop this new habit.
  8. Think about your motivations for developing this habit and it will likely increase your motivation for following through and making it a habit.

Environmental Motivation: From the Be Straw Free campaign, here are some facts. Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. To understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. That’s 46,400 school buses every year! Americans use these disposable utensils at an average rate of 1.6 straws per person per day.

What we gained as a family. It’s hard to identify everything we learned as a family through this discipline. One parenting victory with my 10 year old was when we started discussing our new habit, he gloated when we were out and he was using a plastic straw. He loved (and loves) moving against the rest of us. Our strategy was to teach him how to respect other’s opinions and not gloat about his different decisions rather than convince him about the need to reduce plastic use. (Of course, if we were out some where and had our straws with us, he needed to use a stainless steel straw but it was when we didn’t have them that he would be delighted to use a plastic one.)

Luckily, his school weekly news summaries addressed the issues of using straws and plastics. He began discussing with us what he was learning about plastics. He and I began watching a few Ted talks that had great information about plastic reuse (one discussed India’s reuse of plastic by converting it into roads and another one showed the ocean’s “plastic island.”). Slowly, he lost his delight in plastic straws and began asking if we had the reusable straws. He also became excited to share with friends that he was reducing his straw use.

For my 16 year old daughter, she also told her friends what we were doing – informing them on the “cool” straws we use as well as developing a lovely mindfulness and intentionality around this habit. In the beginning she would be bummed to go back to the car, but as the months went by, she went less often and it wasn’t a huge deal to do so.

For me, I find it spiritually rewarding to get outside of myself and make decisions where I personally aren’t necessarily gaining from my choice. Instead, it’s likely the future generations will see the benefit of decreasing our 500 million straw a day habit. However, I do find a reward in developing habits – internally, It’s sticking with something until it works (remembering to bring our straws) and being successful is motivating and feels good. I believe it also reflects a pace of life that means I’m not so overwhelmed that I an’t fit something new on my plate. For me, it brings me great joy to be participating in a greater good – reducing plastic and being mindful of our planet’s resources.

What’s up next? We’re going to create a habit of bringing our own containers for dining out, and when possible bring our own containers to the salad bar items at our local grocery stores.

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, I was sitting around Danielle Montiel’s bed witnessing her breathe her last breath. Friends sitting, standing around the room. Alicia wiping her mouth. Her dad sitting near her head in his chair, walker on the side. Mynor holding her left hand, sitting on her left hip. Matteo, their nine year old son, in Mynor’s lap. Juliette, their daughter, sitting nearby, possibly on the closest chair. Sophia, their oldest at twelve, sitting at his feet, next to mine. I held on to her left foot. Holding it as I had done so many times that year, 2017, only then it was much much warmer than that Saturday morning. It had had life, vibrancy.

12:38 I think Mynor said it was. The time of death. The time her body passed from this world. Today, 12:38. I looked at my iPhone at exactly that time. I remember because we were looking to see how much time before we needed to get to the nearby theater, the Pantages – 22 minutes. Wicked was showing. She would’ve loved it and taken her whole family this time around. This year, Sophia has joined us for a couple events. Us, honoring her dad as a single parent who loves good things for his children and is outnumbered by two. Us, enjoying Sophia and knowing her mom and grandmother have instilled so much love of music – we love having her with us – honoring Danielle.

The most poignant moments of missing her this year feel so small compared to the huge gapping hole left in her family. Heck, holes left in the community. When you have over 800 people at your funeral there are a lot of holes in the whole. But for me, and my relationship with Danielle, I missed our weekly sessions of moving energy through her body and listening together. Few words were spoken in those times but just being together gave me a quiet I hadn’t realized I’d gained until we were absent from one another. I missed her at Easter in the park with her parents and Mynor’s extended family, including the Porters who were our ticket to an invite to this festive affair. Danielle would’ve showed up with her huge, joyous smile (she loved people getting together) and would’ve brought some amazing wine, cheese, and crackers, along with some other dish thrown together with whatever was in her frig. She likely would’ve also had some fun game that she just pulled out of the back of her car (waiting for the perfect moment to use it). She and I would’ve caught up as we didn’t always see one another regularly so we liked these family get togethers to do so.

I missed her when I heard about Sophia’s 13 year old mother/daughter trip with a group that has been meeting for years. Aunt Alicia stepped in but grief was there when it was a right of passage meant for celebration and joy.

I missed her on our community camping trip. She would’ve scouted out the nearest hikes and we would’ve gone. I could always count on her to help me plan these trips. She was my unspoken partner. My rock steady nature friend who interviewed the rangers and got the kids involved in the young ranger programs where ever we camped. I’d picked this year’s camping spot in August 2017 (one must book a year in advance) with her in mind – a perfect fishing site – hoping she would again be the master fisherwoman as she was at Rancheria Campground in 2016. I missed her at random dinners or playdates with her family. I missed her ease, her love, her gratitude for good things, and her friendship – not just mine but how she loved people I loved too. We were all so much greater with her around.

I’m left feeling so much more than sadness. Still disappointment with the limitations of medicine and God with His lack of intervention. I wanted her to be the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe and was healed. Instead, she was one of the crowd left behind as Jesus left to go with the disciples on the water – away from the land, the masses. Away from the unhealed. I’m still angry at His leaving us with premature death. Songs that Jesus has overcome the grave sit hollow inside. I’m human after all. Short-sighted in my desires for immediate relationship, I could care little for heaven when I see her family’s sorrow. How I ache for relief over the loss of one’s mother. Yet, little by little, they, we, us, are finding our way. Filling gaps. Being better people because she made us better.

We Miss You, Danielle.

2018 Yearly Reflections

  1. What did you do in 2018 that you had never done before?
    For a birthday gift to myself, I went canyoneering in Utah as part of a photography workshop with National Geographic photographer Steve Matera and Get In The Wild, both experiences I’d never done before. It was an amazing adventure and fed my love of the southwest, a place I used to backpack every year before our children arrived.
photo credit Stephen Matera
Photo credit: Stephen Matera

2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions last year. Instead, I kept my focus on my goals that I create every September with my business group, Thrive. Here we focus on both habits/ daily practices and goals. I have felt really good about the progress I’ve made and I’ve found this structure is much more effective for me than New Year’s Resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Dennis’ fabulous assistant, Esther, gave birth to a baby boy and our cousin, Emily, gave birth to a lovely baby girl.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

January 6th, my dear friend, Danielle Montiel died from breast cancer. See here http://www.countrygirlinla.com/?p=1087 for more details. She is dearly missed by all who knew her.

5. What countries or new places did you visit?

Italy!!! Oh my goodness, what a fabulous trip this summer. We visited Florence, Rome, Siena, and a small town in the Italian Alps. I fell in love with food, wine, art, festivals, the people, the beauty, and well everything. I love this country. I can’t wait to return.

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

I need to prioritize physical activity. I have an occupation that is primarily sedentary. As a result, lots of tight IT bands, hips, etc. I need to be more intentional about stretching in between my clients and even taking a walk in the afternoon – not for exercise sake but for movement’s sake. I’d like to do more of this so I can keep away the hip pain that appears when I’ve sat too long.

7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Being with Danielle as she passed away on January 6th will remain etched in my memory. It’s a great privilege to be with someone and many of their loved ones as they leave this world. Shared grief feels like your whole being is surrounded by a community movement communicating one thing and one thing only – “You are not alone.”

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Fun! I created a lot of space for fun and creating memories this year. Some of it was intentional – attending concerts (U2, Fall Out Boy, Lorde, Halsey to name some), theater shows (Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away, School of Rock, Beautiful), sporting events (Angels, Ducks) or events (Pageant of the Masters). Other fun was spontaneous as we practiced the Sabbath as a family and often created space for times of enjoyment with one another or friends.

Coffee Shop Adventures

9. What was your biggest failure?

Hum. I continue to struggle with creating space for my writing. I tend to fill my time with office visits, workshops and other items that are more direct service to people. I hope to better value my writing this year. I’ve taken the steps to do so by applying and now attending a writing intensive which meets every three months in Santa Fe with Natalie Goldberg and Rob Wilder. So hopefully I won’t be writing the same thing next year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes – same situation caused both. My right shoulder is vulnerable to injury. I healed it last year after an 18 month struggle. However, my canyoneering trip re-injured it after our longest outing – primarily due to transitioning through slot canyons so narrow that I had to carry my backpack out in front or back of me since I couldn’t fit through with it on my back. After that trip, I somehow got bacteria that three days later started traveling up my arm. This landed me in the ER without a wait (meaning highest risk patient). Luckily some strong antibiotics knocked it out.

11. What’s the best thing you bought?

We bought a Tesla!! This is our second electric car, our third alternative fuel car. We love the auto drive in LA traffic!

12. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage. We live in the Los Angeles area need I say anything else.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Crew! This year was our first season of competition and it was so exciting. This is such a “guts” sport. Fabulous to watch and who doesn’t like spending a day by the water.

Someone won’t be pleased by this picture but this so captures the relief when the race is done. This girl was stroke for a 3 mile race and pleased her coach with her pace.

14. What song will always remind you of 2018?

Psalm 46 (Lord of Hosts) by Shane & Shane. This song really reflects the activity of my heart with so many tragedies, political divide, inequality, death, conflict and loss at my church, I’ve needed to sit with God’s presence with us, with me in this world full of brokenness.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
—happier or sadder?

  better at holding both – sadness and happiness.

— thinner or fatter?

the same but I’ve made some wonderful discoveries with my health – eating gluten and dairy free has helped clear out the “brain fog” I often experienced every day. I thought it was due to my thyroid, which hasn’t properly worked since 2003 but once I cut out gluten it left.

— richer or poorer?

Richer. Business was good and we have a good savings plan, especially since I was paying off my student loan for decades and couldn’t save much.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Hiking and camping. We didn’t do much hiking but did manage to get in our yearly camping trip even though it was poorly attended by other families. This year we had a wonderful campsite at Union Valley Reservoir. Magical. We had the entire area to ourselves likely due to the fires in Northern California but our air quality was great.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Dealing with paper – I hate opening mail unless it’s a letter or magazine. :-). And our family has a lot of moving parts, which makes coordinating, paper shuffling, etc. challenging for this busy business owner and mother.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

We had a great time with Dennis’ family playing games, eating amazing food (the gravy was incredible), decorating cookies, and then we drove up to one of our family’s favorite spots, Sedona, where we spent several days and even got snow!

Snowman Credit: Elisha
A tree I love along Oak Creek, on the property where we stay in Sedona.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Netflix’s show Patriot Act by Hasan Minhaj. I’m in love with his person. If you don’t like swearing, don’t watch. However, if you aren’t offended Hasan won’t disappoint. He discusses important and relevant issues for our country using his comedic style to inform his audience. I confess, I just love observing his mind.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

It’s so tough to pick my favorite books as there are so many I fall in love with. However, here are my picks for this year, the first two being older books I didn’t read until this year. Favorite Non-Fiction was the 2017 award winning book, Evicted, by Matthew Desmond. See his website for information – http://evictedbook.com. Favorite Fiction was 2016 book, Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly. This book is set around World War II and weaves the lives of three different women together. It’s riveting. My favorite spiritual book was Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright. I love how this author weaves in humor with his academic knowledge of the life of Paul. Definitely has influenced my understanding of Paul’s epistles. My favorite personal growth book was Why Won’t You Apologize by Harriet Lerner. I enjoy her ability to make simple – deeper psychological concepts as well as her vulnerability in her writing. I wonder what would happen if every high school student had to read this – would we be a kinder and more connected country?

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I really wish I could like cool, layered music but I’m really just not that hip and probably to a musician like “unsophisticated junk.” However, here it goes with my mainstream taste.

I couldn’t get enough of James Arthur’s music even though his album is two years old. I loved his new singles and am waiting impatiently for him to drop another album and tour. I think with his voice he could sing me the phone book and I’d be mesmerized. Another album favorite was Fall Out Boy’s Mania. However, I found their concert in Anaheim dissatisfying. As a concert lover, they seemed awkward on stage and at times it appeared as if they were going through the motions. Disappointing. I loved Thirty Seconds to Mars new album and hope I can finally see them in concert in 2019.

Best concert this year was predictable -U2. It’s a spiritual experience to be with this band. I’ve seen them four times and leave a better human being each time. Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour though was probably the most entertaining. She knows how to bring it and with guest performances from Troy Sivan and Selena Gomez – over the top.

22. What was your favorite film of the year?

Avengers: Infinity Wars was my favorite film of the year. The ending. Gutsy. I loved it. Again, I idealize those who watch independent films but I simply don’t create space to go to the movies that often. When I do, it’s usually for the special effects that only come from the big screen. Films I really wanted to see but didn’t – “Wont you be my neighbor,” “Free Solo” and “Mission Impossible: Fallout.” One of my favorites from year’s past was Hidden Figures. I might be able to watch that every year and not get enough of it.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I worked on my birthday and Dennis made me a great dinner. I also got a fabulous massage from Laura, my favorite. I really celebrated in April when I took my birthday adventure trip to Utah for canyoneering and photography. I was and am 48 years old.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having cancer wiped off the face of the earth. My friend Danielle died on January 6th. My friend, Gina is fighting Stage 4 colon cancer as is my childhood friend, Liz, fighting her own version with a recurrence of breast cancer. They are blessings to this earth. It makes me so mad that they are suffering with these diseases.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

Comfortable, yet colorful with sometimes the unexpected (think leopard print with stripes). I love jewelry so usually accessorize with a local artist’s piece (you will find no commercial jewelry on me – vintage or local artists is what I wear). I usually will choose comfort over fashion unless I know I’m going to be sitting and hence not maneuvering with uncomfortable clothing or shoes (the later being more of the issue with my narrow feet).

I’m definitely less cool than these two sic beauties.

26. What kept you sane?

My sanity may be debatable but if we are assuming I’m sane then it’s likely due to practicing the Sabbath. Committing to take a day off a week is paradoxically energizing and makes me more productive and present for the rest of the week. My kids love it, especially because they don’t need to do dishes. Even though I will move on to another spiritual practice, we will continue to integrate the Sabbath into our lives. I think my family would protest if I took away our weekly practice as they’ve all come to look forward to it.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

The present moment is the greatest gift. Too often I think, “I can do that later” but the reality is that I don’t really know I can do it later. So each time I workout, I see someone, or have time to connect -I try to take advantage and remember that I simply don’t know if I’ll ever be recreate the moment again. As well, I learned that my mindset can really impact my experience of the present moment. So, I’m trying to recognize how I’m thinking in order to either change it or cultivate it depending on my emotional state. In other words, “what mood is my mental life creating and if I don’t like it, what is needed to shift it?”

28. What new habit did you develop to decrease your environmental footprint?

We purchased stainless steel straws and decreased our use of plastic straws. I stored them in my car, which made them handy while eating out or grabbing a smoothie. We are still trying to remember to say, “No straws” when we eat out because it’s inconsistent as to whether you automatically get a glass with a straw, which of course is disappointing to those of us who are eliminating the one time use of plastic items.

Eden’s response for considering next year’s habit -“don’t we do everything there is to do?” As parents, either we’re doing lots of things right or we’re missing the boat on this one.

Happy New Year, Everyone. May I be around next year to reflect once again on my year.

Ode to My Tractor – A Reflection

I began writing this blog post long before the fires in California erupted and took lives, some of them families, property, and animals -so much devastation in both parts of the state.  I’m struggling with, “what’s the point,” but what I remember in my own life about devastating losses is that sometimes it was helpful to jump into someone else’s world in order to remind me that devastation wasn’t all there was in the world.  So I post this with what I hope is a humble posture regarding saying good-bye and reminiscing about a fire loss but recognizing the loss here it is nothing compared to the devastation that continues to rock the state and my past experience of my hometown area having tremendous fire losses that took property and lives too young to be taken from us.

What sixteen year old would ever admit, “My tractor grew me.” Yet, looking back, it may have.  It gave me chunks of quiet several hours long during my summer breaks when all other parts of my life were loud and chaotic.  I visited my tractor, two years ago this November.  It was a different type of quiet this time around.  Me.  Alone.  The rest of my family a half mile away at my childhood home.  I’d come back to pay homage – to the place I spent five years of my life – five to ten years old, within binocular viewing distance of my childhood home.  Those years grew me in significant ways and it wasn’t easy but there was something special about being among the early homestead houses, chicken coops, sheds and cellars that were lost once we moved to our new house.  There were hours of adventuring – exploring the half packed homestead, discarded goods in the sheds, and packaged treasures like Indian pennies, furs, and my first encounter with “naughty” – a marble statue of David, the Michelangelo replica.  Here, in this place, my first childhood adventure grounds my tractor was laid to rest.  So I came.  To acknowledge our sacred time together.  To reflect on my Western upbringing that hasn’t escaped my bones even in my Los Angeles area home, which hosts deer horns, coyote skins, and hides.  I’ll leave it at that.  What I eventually left with on this cold, scarf needed evening, was finding a piece of me that I hadn’t known I’d left – my nature stance – quiet, centered and observant.

I was about 12 when the Ford and I met.  For even though I’d seen my dad and grandpa driving around the golf course cutting the fairways hundreds of times, it was ordinary in the eyes of a young person.  Yet, when it became mine to use, we bonded like a teenager with their favorite pair of sneakers – unremarkable, yet so personal.  The tractor became a ticket to freedom, to money, to something all my own since I was the oldest and no other sibling got to drive before me.  On that first day, I showed up, Sears catalog in hand – extra height to see over the steering wheel.  My grandpa had the green velvet pillow to go on top – a pseudo-pad.  I swear that day I grew my spine closer to the clouds just so I could do the job – cut the grass on the 4th and 9th fairways.  

As I looked around, taking in the setting sun, and encountering the pieces of my tractor long put to pasture and trying to find that first vehicle love again – my eyes filled with tears of a yesterday that was long gone.  There would be no driving around the course, smelling cut grass.  Heck – the tractor no longer looked like mine with the added cage surrounding it now.  So much has changed since those days of driving around in circles, when some of the largest problems were steering clear of flying golf balls, testing my visual-spatial skills by experimenting with the exactness of “hitting the line” or driving around the small trees without turning mower into chainsaw.  Life hasn’t turned out to be an experiment.  Some decisions and situations haven’t allowed for freedoms, instead they have required nose to the grind and blinders of some sort.  When I was here, two years ago, I’d just found out my friend, Danielle, had a lump in her breast and was starting treatment.  We didn’t know she would only have one more fall in her bones.

What I didn’t realize during the hours of circling without music or headphones since they didn’t work with the ear muffs – was that this simple practice would stick with me only through the form of meditation and contemplation.  A decade plus I mowed – around and around every summer.  And it’s interesting because though sometimes boredom entered into my circles, it wasn’t the primary experience.  My mind found what it needed to find in order to observe and be engaged.  I’d set about doing certain tasks – timing my passes correctly as to impede the least amount of golfers.  This sometimes meant slowing down slightly even though I’d be a half circle away.  Or I’d watch the magpies and robins along with the occasional deer.  I imagined my life ahead of me.  What I’d do – possibly be a teacher.  Who I’d become – a wife, a mother, a professional, qualities and character traits unknown.  What I never imagined was living in Los Angeles for almost 30 years.  Going through a relational desert with my husband for 10 years before finding abundant life again.  Burying friends from cancer.  Burying friend’s children, my own.  In my adolescent mind, I didn’t imagine my life without my grandmother but I’d made room for my missing grandfather, since he’d died suddenly from a heart attack in 1989 – I’d been 19.  I hadn’t imagined that either.  I prayed on my knees every morning that fall after he died – simply to acknowledge his memory and my huge loss of his human body not sitting on a bleacher in the gymnasium while I played basketball.  It may have given me permission to leave the Puget Sound area and make my way to Southern California where I wouldn’t be trapped in overcast for 90 days straight (the clouds set a record my sophomore year – most consecutive days covering the sun).

What I didn’t know while growing up, seated on my tractor was how much I’d miss the quiet, mundane and simply way of life.  There is nothing simple about Los Angeles except the sunrises, sunsets, and the waves at the nearby beach – but not my hometown beach because it doesn’t have waves due the breaking wall built during WWII.  Around and around I drove that tractor. The sun, the wind, and grass.  Lots and lots of grass.  My path lay before me.  Simple.  A clear beginning and end. No distractions from billboards, traffic and neighbors close enough to smell their nightly dinner and hear their occasional fights.

As I enjoyed the sunset here now in Washington, I took in more of my surroundings, hoping for lighting goodness through my camera. The cellar – where I found teapots and cups from China, my great grandmothers ring, and Indian head pennies.  The stone area had been off limits because it was a storage place for dynamite.

Tanks.  The days of my parent’s guppy breeding experiment.  Also, temporary housing for a pet mouse or a frog.  We never kept them long.  That’d be cruel. Taking care of my pony and horse meant building fences – with my dad.  Official title – moral support and beverage carrier.A season of homemade root beer.  The house only smelled better on the once a month homemade glazed doughnut days.

Evidence of another lifetime – outhouse and “concealer” for friend hide and seek.  After all, what kid feels comfortable hiding in an outhouse except the kids who’ve spent hours playing games with their siblings in them.

I learned how to spot deer here.

All that’s left of my barn…

Standing on the place where the barn once were, I swear I could smell the ash even though it was at least fifteen years gone.  So many fond memories – hours of “Pageant of the Masters” – creeping up to the ground hog hold trying to catch them with a box or bucket; petting my horse, reading in the loft, catching mice, swinging on the questionably safe rope, and getting away from younger siblings to do nothing.  It too communicated – much has changed.  For forever.

As I returned on foot before the sky turned black to my childhood home, I realized that though much has changed, I’m still in there.  Somewhere that girl who drove a tractor, rode horses, spotted deer, and sat – in quiet, she’s still there.  And though I live in the huge urban sprawl, I can make my own quiet, my own mundane.  It’s harder.  The pace of this city I live in is fast.  Yet, I don’t have to be fast.  I can let people merge in front of me when I drive.  I can learn the names of the farmers and their sellers at the market.  I can meditate on my balcony, which does look at neighbors’ homes and a condominium but also has some vegetation.  I can make a way to sit, observe and be.  But let’s be real.  It will never be as cool as driving a 1956 Ford tractor the color of fall sunsets.  And the piece of me that was lost there, here, can be carried with me in memories that remind me to keep on the lookout for my next pseudo-tractor, the next flying golf ball that needs to be avoided – even if it requires leaving the city often or sitting on the balcony with pine scented candles.

I’m finding that girl again.  Slowly but faithfully, she’s bringing me back to the goodness of driving in circles.  Often.

Seizing the Moment – Part 2

photo credit: Stephen Matera

Presence.  Awareness.  About 12 years ago, when my son, in utero, died at 33 1/2 weeks, I decided my life had been underwhelming.  When faced with this devastating grief, I decided I was done “just getting by” and faced into what I had around me that I hadn’t been enjoying, noticing or simply addressing.  “Facing into” included addressing problems in my marriage, embracing my longing to get into “real” nature, confronting my personal challenges of living in the LA urban sprawl when I loved country living, and integrating the inner athlete who had been put on the back burner during my doctoral studies.  More recently, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this past five years has been one of saying good-bye to several friends as cancer took over their body and something less mentioned and much less significant, was rehabbing a shoulder injury that hurt for about a year and a half and kept me from my summer rock climbing expedition in the Casades.  What all these realities have propelled me to do, is ask myself,  “What’s around me that I need to grab hold of?”

This year, as I began my 48th year on this earth, the answer to this question came easyily – A photography and canyoneering trip in Utah (a former yearly spring break destination -pre-kids) with a National Geographic photographer, Stephen Matera, whose work I’ve admired a several years now – especially since he sometimes shoots in my hometown.  Given that my shoulder was rehabbed and I had stayed in shape enough to manage canyoneering, I decided to jump in (or in canyoneering terms, down climb) into the adventure.

The 12 hour road trip was completely worth it.  Utah’s rock formations are unique, simply magnificent.  My appetite for rocks has always been insatiable.  I used to have my own rock tumbler, which polished rocks collected from hikes.  Everywhere I go, I still collect rocks (unless it’s forbidden) and have a lovely collection in a planter.  For this trip, as I drove, each area brought with it a unique geological treasure so the visual feast kept me driving, ignoring the stiffness in my joints.  (The sun went down while I was in Capital Reef, a beautiful area.)


Day 1 — Overview of the Area – Dirty Devil and Robber’s Roost

For our evening shoot, the clouds left us looking for wonderful contrast since we weren’t guaranteed good lighting at sunset.  Our guides didn’t disappoint…

The above picture – illustrates something I learned about my photography – I tend to crop things too much – as Steve reminded me, “give the composition some space to breathe.”  Nonetheless, in this photo, I enjoy the contrast of the two trees, each with different green, along with the rock in the background.

Photo below – my view while at base camp.As I’ve mentioned above, I love Utah for all the different rock formations – from the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce and Capital Reef – this unexplored area of Dirty Devil/ Robber’s Roost didn’t disappoint.

We developed our canyoneering expertise as we went.  Steve is executing a “chimney” move to traverse the canyon.  This, along with “stemming” were two techniques we used all day long as there was water in the canyon when we were there, making it tough (until about 1/4 of the way in when all of us but our guide were wet and then we didn’t care if we walked through the water)
 I’m executing a “bridge” move.  This is fairly upright compared to what we have waiting for us up ahead.

The next three pictures were taken by Stephen Matera — you can see the water sitting at the bottom…it ranged from ankle deep to about 5.5 feet deep (I swam through that section.)
Even though I was exhausted after a grueling canyoneering day, shooting the stars at midnight was a definite highlight.

Prior to this trip, I felt much more comfortable getting up close and personal with macro shots, like the ones below, than shooting landscape, which I never felt quite satisfied with.  I’m excited to claim landscape has become a new favorite and though I like macro shots, I feel more confident with my landscape composition, which encourages me to attempt the larger scenes.  In the past, I’d have deemed them much more uninteresting in print than in person – so the “why bother” mentality would win.

Even though I was exhausted, this last picture (below) gives testimony to my commitment to not losing a Utah sunset by driving through it.  Unfortunately, I drove into rain clouds so this is a partially sunny/ cloudy sunset.  But I wanted to at least do due diligence of applying what I’d learned with decent lighting, so I stopped to shoot Chimney rock.  (Still, a non-cloudy sunset would have made the rock light up brilliantly.)

The trip was a wonderful culmination of learning, experiencing and challenging on so many layers.  It felt good to be alive.  It felt stimulating to learn.  Conversely, it felt humbling to learn.  It felt wild to be trying something new.  It felt like home to be out in nature and quiet.  I also felt expectant for beauty in obvious and subtle places rather than having my “urban dull” on.  I loved meeting new people and hearing their story.  I felt refreshed while exhausted.

Unfortunately, my adventure didn’t end with me getting good rest to make up for all lost sleep during the workshop (and the pictures below aren’t nearly as pretty).  Instead, I was one of those rare people who picked up an infection in the canyon’s water (at least according to healthline website scrapes gotten in fresh water like what was left by the rain, can cause this type of infection).  I rushed to the ER to make sure the infection didn’t spread to my entire lymphatic system (my official diagnosis was Lymphganitis) after several hours of heating the area brought the infection to the surface.  (A longtime family friend, who is a nurse, gave me this suggestion and I took her recommendation seriously to the point that I brought a hot rice compress to my  daughter’s concert that night so I could put heat on it long enough to expose any infection within my system.)  My concern and thus action to take heating the area seriously paid off.  The first picture shows Monday, then Tuesday at 1 pm and the third picture shows what showed up at 10 pm.

You might say I was a bit freaked out when I saw this red streak going down my arm but then when you add the on-call nurse saying, “You need to get to the hospital and be seen within an hour.”  I became VERY freaked out, in which case my coping strategy is to be witty at every opportunity and not have a mental breakdown.  Needless to say, the ER doctor informed me I had medically high blood pressure and, “was I treating it?” for which I answered, “You’d have high blood pressure too if you had this red streak running down your arm.”  We each laughed but nonetheless, he didn’t fully believe me as he rechecked my blood pressure before I was discharged.

Overall, I was grateful for my mom who invited me to take a first aid class with her when I was in fifth grade.  I may have been one of two children in the adult-centered class but it taught me three things that have stuck with me 1) I don’t know what I don’t know – so ask.  2) Early intervention is ALWAYS preferred to later.  Therefore see #1.  3) Red streaks running down your arm are BAD.  Therefore see #1.  As well, my mom was the one who suggested I talk with Eunice, our family friend who is a nurse, and it was her who told me to draw any infection out and to get help immediately if it worsened.  So the lessons I learned from this experience are 1) a wipe is not the same as washing a scrape with hot soap and water  2) wash all scrapes immediately (not 24 hours later at the hotel) after coming in contact with stagnant water 3) everyone needs a nurse as a friend ;-).

In the end, this trip felt like a culmination of leaning into my love of adventure and desire to live fully as well as leaning into the frailty of life – never knowing when something serious could invade my body and change my healthy status.  All in all, the first quarter of my 48th year has started with gusto!  Grateful.

Seizing the Moment – Lessons from Nature and Cancer

Last year in California, we had a superbloom spring – where the flowers open in abundance when rain hits in winter or fall after a considerable drought.  For us in Southern California, we’d had five years of drought before we welcomed last year’s superbloom that brought millions of visitors to witness the hillsides and deserts in all their glory. With this year being a superbloom fail; instead, year one of drought, I’m grateful I trekked to the hills to witness the blooms.  It’s easy to disregard the urgency of such moments.  When I’m juggling all my aspects of doing life (self-employment, mothering two active kids, volunteer work, church, friendships, family, etc) it can be easy to tell myself, “I’ll catch it next year.” Or, “It’s not that big of a deal, it can wait.”  With my words I ignore a reality that is undoubtedly true – “seize the moment because it will pass.”   And with things of nature, this is doubly true.  The moment won’t come around in exactly the same way -ever.  And just like going to the gym and working out, I don’t think there has ever been a time where I’ve regretted missing sleep to catch an eclipse or sunrise or time at home over traveling all day to witness canyons and rock formations.  Adding to my sense of urgency is the reality that loss of life happens.  In the past five years, I have lost three good friends to cancer.  These were friends who spoke into my life, knew me over a decade – some two, and were significant encouragers in my personal and professional growth.  What they taught me, no matter how long they lived with cancer, is that there isn’t a guarantee for tomorrow and even if it seems tomorrow will come, there isn’t a guarantee for how much or how little pain there will be.  So if you can do it, and have the opportunity, better do it now before the window has passed.

I think this sense of urgency is one of the gifts these women left me with.  I’m trying to live now with a, “Don’t wait.  Do it now while you can.” These pictures from last year’s superbloom remind me that I didn’t wait.  We got up before the sun, drove the 1.5 hours and beat the weekend crowds in order to witness and enjoy these poppies at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.  I find mentally marking these type of remembrances, when I did something well and didn’t let the moment pass, encourages me to look for the present moments when I want to skip over something that needs to be savored, or taken in, or leaned into so the “it’s too much effort” belief doesn’t win out.  This year, I’ve created space to “take in” – a canyoneering trip, a trip to Italy, a 30 year class reunion, a writing retreat in New Mexico – twice, and our yearly camping trip with 40 other friends.  And yet, I want to make sure I’m not forgetting that each mundane, every day moment calls out to be “taken in” because if I wait until these “big events” – well, I’m missing a lot of life.  And as I’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death during these past five years, I know that each day is truly a gift and I hope I can do it justice by living well.  In the name of Beth, Amy and Danielle, I want to honor the gift they weren’t given – more time.

May you also seize the day, capturing the moments of your life by paying attention and finding what there is to enjoy.  As well, may you be encouraged to shift as I’m trying to do, to live more “urgently” with time because we never know what the future holds.



Good Friday

Good Friday.  It’s a day I’d rather ignore.  Too uncomfortable and sobering, especially the Good Friday service where year after year I’m unable to leave with dry eyes.  However what feels different about this year is I’ve been sitting in a bit of a Good Friday since January 6th when my friend, Danielle, passed away leaving her three children and husband (and all of us who loved her) to move through life without her.  I’m reminded in this moment that even though I knew her body would feel better, she wouldn’t be suffering, and she would be going to be with her Heavenly Father, in those last moments, I didn’t want her to leave.  I didn’t want her breath to slow until it was no longer.  I didn’t want to lose this three dimensional self – that could be hugged, touched, kissed.  And yet, just like Jesus, she breathed her last breath surrounded by people who loved and knew her.

In past years, I’ve been wrapped up in the excruciating pain and humiliation of Jesus’ Good Friday experience.  I’ve related to his cry, “Take this cup from me, Lord,” especially sitting with so many who’ve suffered tremendously.  But this year, I find myself at the bottom of the cross – feeling abandoned and disappointed.

My thoughts go something like, “This is all you got?  Hanging from a tree, crucified? Where is your promise?  Where is your victory?  You were supposed to raise our status – take us out of oppressive Roman rules and culture.  Instead, you’re dead on a cross.  Hanging.  Lifeless.  What use were you?  Why did you even come – raising our hopes, drawing us into your compassion, your healing power, your promise that God was your Father?  We were fine without you, 32 years ago.  We were managing.  Now, deflated.  Full of despair and hurt.  You’ve abandoned me, all of us really.  Was I crazy to believe in you?  Was I crazy to believe your promises that God’s Kingdom was being made new?  That God was a kind and loving master? That you would free us from Roman oppression.   We are at their mercy, not yours.”

If I were there now, beneath Jesus, I may walk away in disgust.  I’m not sure I would have lasted to see his body wrapped and put into a tomb.  I might have missed Jesus’ own feelings of abandonment, “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” which is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  I know this to be true, my sorrow would have been laced with disappointment.

With Danielle’s journey of cancer, we hoped for time, for even just one successful treatment but we were given none of it – only one brief respite with markers falling before they stormed back a month later worse than before.  During her fight against cancer with failed treatment after failed treatment, I found comfort studying the life of John the Baptist, who spent his whole life serving God only to be beheaded because a girl requested it.  Then there was Herod’s violence against the sons born within the window he’d suspected Jesus was born – thousands died because Herod was afraid for his status as King.  I’m left with questions: What kind of God brings this type of violence to innocent people and individuals who love Him and spend their whole lives serving Him?  My conclusion for today is that He is a God who isn’t as simpleminded as I am. In other words, I can’t even come close to having a mind like God.  I cannot reconcile His ways.

In truth, I don’t want to rush to Easter.  I don’t care Jesus rose from the dead in the moments of my Good Friday experiences, just like those who live in Good Friday due to the suffering of this world, helpless to know the day when they will emerge to Easter.  And for some, it will never come here on Earth.  Good Friday happens over and over as grief washes over parents who’ve lost children, husbands their wives and wives their husbands, and most disheartening, young children their mothers or fathers.  I think of the refugees who have no place to rest their head, the foster children who endure feeling unwanted in a system bound to fail them, the sexual minority persecuted by the church commanded to love their neighbor as themselves, the environment groaning from overuse, pollution, and neglect and the list of atrocities encountered in human and environmental life goes on and on.  In Good Friday moments we all feel the despair, the abandonment, the lack of response to our cries for relief.  In these moments, I don’t care that I will see my friends, family members – my son, in heaven.  I’m still living here – with my feelings of abandonment, betrayal, even disbelief over what “God has allowed?”

Where does my hope come from, here at the base of the cross?  I’ve learned it does come from Yahweh.  He showed His presence to all those people scoffing, grieving, and feeling abandoned or disappointed at the foot of the cross in earth’s momentary darkness, the ripping of the temple veil, the ground shaking and the rocks splitting open.  I believe in a God who holds complexity in mind-blowing ways.  I believe in a God who can from one perspective, abandon, yet show up.  Who can give, yet take away.  Who can heal, yet allow death and physical pain.  Who can convert, yet allow executions.  Who can adopt, yet allow neglect and abuse.

I believe I serve a God who doesn’t ask me to put away my Good Friday feelings – to pretend Easter has arrived prematurely.  Yet, I believe that God asks me to remember His promises, including He will never leave me nor forsake me, that He’s making all things new, that Palm Sunday happened as He foretold it, and that Easter, though unsatisfying to my earthly self who, had I known Jesus, would miss him tremendously and wouldn’t care about the Holy Spirit coming because I’d want Him – his person, gives me hope in the unseen.  And it is in this space – holding onto Hope, while feeling abandoned and disappointed that I sit at the foot of the cross acknowledging something much, much greater than myself.

To God be the Glory.

When I Grow Up, I Want to be Danielle Montiel: A Year of Being.  Together.


By way of introduction, Danielle is a good friend.  We’ve known each other for a long time, we did Thanksgiving one year at her parent’s house, primarily because she married one of my best friend’s brothers who had invited us along.  Fast forward about five years and we spent two years in a couple’s group with several others, we camped and travelled once or twice a year with our families this last decade, we had a deep appreciation for one another and I felt “goodness” in my soul when I saw her but we weren’t necessarily in weekly or even biweekly contact until this past year.

A few things you should know:

She’s amazing – seriously.  Before cancer, she could do handstands and back flips- leftovers from being a gymnast (yes, in her 40s).  She was a gourmet chef effortlessly, whipping up whatever was in the kitchen and having it taste divine.  She was profound, observant, kind, generous, intelligent and had a combination of laid back and disciplined that few people could pull off.  She was so gracious in how she approached situations and people.  She single-handedly got a new charter school, the joint vision of her brother-in-law, Steve Porter and good friend, Jason Baehr, up and running.  She was a doer and yet she appeared to flow so easily between the doing and being, recognizing that while one does, one needs to be.

This past year, she transformed me spiritually without having a clue she was doing so (I didn’t have a clue in the middle of it).  I’d committed to a year of practicing the spiritual discipline of being and she and I together were engaged in a touch therapy I’d been briefly trained in (a modality I practice with friends, not professionally.).  She showed me the beauty of dependence, of asking for one’s needs, of moving slow together and not rushing to “get somewhere.”  See what was so clear to Danielle, but what I didn’t get (at least initially) was that our time was about being. I wanted results – a better sleep, loosened muscles, coordination improvement after her brain surgery.  But for Danielle we never tried to get somewhere, she let me know she enjoyed the company, the nurturing.

What I gut-achingly miss the most is feeling her body.  I learned her arms, her legs, her back.  Over the months, we grieved, through our acknowledgement of changes, ineffective chemotherapy, which resulted in the cancer stealing her strength because breathing was compromised not to mention the chemotherapy and radiation side effects.  Much later, we grieved the arrival of the breathing machine and what it meant at the same time we rejoiced she could breathe better.  We grieved that the spiritual images given to us during our time together never promised healing.  The last image she spoke about (our last months had very little speaking in them) was a dollhouse with open rooms that she could come and go in without being trapped in one place (possibly a foreshadowing of her visiting us from “behind the veil).”

I confess, I wanted to be miraculous.  I wanted her to heal so we didn’t have to live with worry.  I wasn’t so naive that I declared it to be true – that God was going to heal her through our time together.  While my posture might leave doubters declaring, “No wonder she didn’t heal oh ye of little faith,” I don’t think either one of us felt that way.  We were united in the very core of why we were together – to seek God’s will and to trust that He was with us as we were with each other.

I doubt I’ve done something more important in my life than sit with Danielle – listening. She showed me a part of myself that has rarely shown itself – being while helpless, dependent, powerlessness, with absolutely no power or control to change the outcome, only to impact the process. I needed her to show me our time wasn’t worthless even though I couldn’t heal her.  Even when I couldn’t help her sleep through the night, she gave herself over to the process and showed me what it was like to enjoy one another while being dependent and vulnerable.  I see now, our time together was an intimate pause in our lives.  It grew me.  Facing into death with her – feeling the muscle decrease in her arms, hearing the struggled breath, and shifting movements – going from lying flat, to being propped up by pillows, to sitting in a recliner, to siting straight up in a chair – all of these things we faced together – acknowledging with words and without what this meant for God answering our prayers.  Oh we hoped – we asked for healing for the chance to once again lie on the massage table but we didn’t proclaim false hopes or optimism like, “I can’t wait until you are strong enough to walk Juneau again” or “I can’t wait for this year’s camping trip when you will have enough breath to go on some longer hikes.”  In this, we were steadfast, “God’s will be done and we invite His Presence to be with us.”  The last several months we were together, she slept while I worked though she asked to be woken up each time so she could spend more time with her family after I was done.

I learned from Danielle that my beginner’s training was sufficient for us.  Danielle taught me that I didn’t need any special tricks or powers to pull out of a bag – what I was doing was good enough.  I didn’t believe her at first.  Wasn’t there something I could do to miraculously bring more comfort to her body?  Shouldn’t I know more?  When her body had declined to a place we couldn’t use the massage table I had a perfectionist panic – What if I don’t know what I’m doing and hurt her?  So I said to her, “okay – if things get too hot (my hands combined with the energy in her body creates heat), you let me know and I’ll stop.”  She very gently looked me in the eyes and said, “You’ve never hurt me before.  I doubt it will happen now.”  I met her gaze, nodded and answered with a bit of guilt in my eye for having been trapped once again by my perfectionism and said, “True.  Let’s get you more relaxed.”  See here with Danielle I was finally bearing witness and embodying what I’ve known for decades — being is about the good enough – otherwise what takes the place of being is often an anxiety that is focused on performance and outcome.  Perfectionism or focusing on “doing it perfect” can’t digest the present moment; instead it’s there to eat up the present moment for something obtained in the future.

Danielle also spoke into me about an identity I hadn’t claimed in myself.  So casually she shared with me a story about a Christian healer she’d gone to hear speak and was greeted by a member of our congregation via a handshake.  Danielle said to her, “You have warm hands like Kimber, you must be a healer.”  The gal had laughed and said, “I’m a massage therapist.”  I haven’t experienced my hands the same since.  See I do talk therapy professionally, I only do touch therapy as a hobby, yet here she was calling something into being for me.  “I’m a healer.”  I wear this declaration now as true.

My deepest regret is I didn’t share this with her because I didn’t know it until she’d died.  See I feel as if I’ve lost a patient who was a dear friend.  But it’s my hands that miss her the most.  They long to be with her, to touch her feet and create energy shifts up her body, to feel warmth, not the inability to create warmth as I experienced as she passed from this world when my hand was on her leg and I felt only coldness.  It was then that I knew what I’d miss the very most – being.  Together.

My year of being has made its way into my bones.  I have a category, a new way of existing.  I’m grateful.

Danielle, if your reading this now — I miss our times together.  You’ve marked me, changed me for good.  I love you, friend and please visit me – with Amy.  And my son.

Yearly Reflections

What did you do in 2017 that you had never done before?

I walked 39 miles in the Avon Walk for a Cancer Cure this September.

Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I kept almost all of my New Year’s Resolutions except for my blogging goals.  I’ve had to rethink my blog because my writing time has mostly gone towards finishing my memoir, which I’m still working on.

  1. Did anyone close to you give birth? (I can’t fix these numbers without a great deal of time so please forgive them.)

Cousin Emily Joy gave birth to a baby girl, Lila Joy, in December, whom we haven’t had the joy of meeting yet.

2.  Did anyone close to you die?

No but a church family, whom we love, lost a son in April and several good friends lost a parent this year.

  1. What countries or new places did you visit?

Had a business trip to Midland ,Texas and I’d never been to West Texas as well as Grass Valley in Northern California.

  1. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

Consistent paper organization and zero email box.  At the end of 2017, I finally got my email box down to zero and have a new mail/paper system.  The challenge for me is to keep up my system and continue to remain organized.


What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 16th – the day Dylan Stump died.  Although I didn’t know Dylan, I love his parents, who have been a part of my church family for 20 years.  Death of a 19 year old devastates us all.

  1. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Eliminating the hip pain I’ve had for nine years.  I have lived with hip pain of an unknown cause since 2008.  I’ve tried more interventions than you would care to read about.  The last piece of the puzzle was a massage therapist recognizing my gait was off, which led to a discovery that my left toe had been jammed for years – creating issues all the way up to my hip.  Once I got the toe moving (which took my toe from no pain to tremendous pain), it took four months of daily stretches before I eliminated the pain – (toe and hip).  I identify this as my biggest achievement because while I was in the middle of it I had no idea whether I could live without pain and it was a exercise in grit and perseverance.  There was no glory, no prize, no internal motivation except for a determination to keep trying to live pain-free.  What kept me going: regular appointments with my skilled massage therapist for deep tissue release, stretching and exercise routine created by my chiropractor from regular assessments of which muscles were overworking or weak, taking turmeric capsules and asking for external accountability to stretch daily.

  1. What was your biggest failure?

My garage is still a mess and I didn’t finish my memoir.  I made progress – it’s three parts and I’m 100% complete with part 1, 80% done with part 2 and 5% done with part 3.

  1. Did you suffer illness or injury?

In addition to hip pain, I had a shoulder injury from a snow weekend that turned out to be deeply inflamed and required creative modifications and finding natural anti inflammatories (turmeric, fish oil) to help reduce the swelling.

  1. What’s the best thing you bought?

I love my new car – A Chevy Bolt.  I love never going to the gas pump but most of all, I love my back-up camera which gives me a bird’s eye view so I can see the LINES.  As someone who loves parallel parking, it has taken my game to elite status.

  1. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage – I live in Southern California need I say anything else.

  1. What did you get really excited about?

I got excited about developing organizational habits in order to stay organized, efficient and eliminate avoidable stress – and so far have maintained it for about 45 days so I’m encouraged I’ll be able to maintain it.  I have also been excited about creating fun and meaningful memories with my children.  My daughter, a freshman in high school, is a concrete reminder of how little time I’ll have with everyone living at home.


  1. What song will always remind you of 2017?

‘Issues’ by Julia Michaels epitomizes my mental world this year.  The older I get, the more I realize I will forever fall short of the type of character I’d love to possess.  What’s different for me now, is I’ve come to accept myself within my limitations – impatience, at times intellectually arrogant, undisciplined in some areas, and critical.  I’ve developed enough self-compassion not to like these things that show themselves when I’m at my worst but at the same time, not have an overactive internal judge show up when they’ve been present.

  1. Compared to this time last year, are you:

—happier or sadder?

Neither…I’ve had ups and downs.  Up – celebrating my 20 year anniversary and we’ve never been happier.  Down – walking with a friend who has stage 4 breast cancer.  This is a difficult road to journey and we’ve had a lot of sad news to navigate as treatment after treatment has failed.

— thinner or fatter?

fatter – hormones and carbs caught up to me.  I gained more weight this year than I ever have.  Luckily, with the help of my nutritionist who I’ve used for pre-diabetes threat, we discovered how to eliminate the weight gain.  Now the job of losing the weight I gained…more positive results regarding health though is I am no longer pre-diabetic – dropped my levels .2.

— richer or poorer?

richer.  Business was good this year and we live with a budget.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Read great fiction books.  This year I didn’t read a ton of books.  Most of my reading time was spent on professional non-fiction and magazine articles.

17.  What do you wish you’d done less of?

Driving.  Last spring I spent 20 hours a week on the road.  My son’s school is about 30 minutes away, which gives he and I time to listen to non-fiction audio books together, which we both enjoy.  But this year, I may try to sneak in some juvenile fiction.  (He may not go for it -non-fiction is his favorite.)

18. How did you spend Christmas?

I spent Christmas in my hometown in the mountains of Washington. It was a splendid white Christmas with lots of family time.

19.  What was your favorite TV program?

I don’t watch much television except sports (can’t wait for the Olympics!) However, I have watched a few things on Netflix this year.  Though I’m only on season 2, I’ve enjoyed Parenthood – love the relational and family dynamics at play.  Confession: I really want to watch This is Us but I haven’t spent the time figuring out how to watch it since I’m behind and need to first watch the first season.

20.  What were your favorite books of the year?

Though an older book, I read The Martian by Andy Weir for the first time and loved it so much, I had my husband read it (edited) to my nine year old who LOVED it, too.  The tone and style of the narrator captured me and drew me in as he overcame trial after trial.  Other favorites were How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overcoming Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims (highly recommend for parents with middle school students or above) and I reread and enjoyed the newest edition of John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Healthy Marriage Work.  (great reminder of what helps cultivate intimacy and goodness in marriage.)  

21.  What was your favorite music from this year?

My favorite album was Imagine Dragons’ Evolve and Ed Sheeran’s Divide.   I’ve also been enjoying U2’s new album, Songs of Experience but haven’t listened enough to say it’s a favorite.  Songs on repeat were ‘Believer” by Imagine Dragons, “Back to the Garden” by Crowder, ‘If I Told You’ by Darius Rucker and ‘Walk on Water’ by Thirty Seconds to Mars.  I indulged in about six concerts this year – favorite large concert was U2’s Joshua Tree Tour and smaller venue was Needtobreathe’s House of Blues concert.

22.  What was your favorite film of the year?

Again…Star Wars.  Though The Last Jedi has had mixed reviews, I really enjoyed it.  I know this isn’t a deep, rich choice but when I go to the movies, I long to escape some of the realities in the really world.  So, living in this world that I’ve known since my childhood, satisfies my soul.  I will confess as I sat in the theater during the credits (one of five of us who stayed to the end), I couldn’t help shed a few tears about Carrie Fisher’s death.  I grieve we’ll miss a “good-bye” film with her like we’ve had with Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill.

23.  What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I had a small gathering of friends the night of my birthday.  I worked my birthday weekend in Texas so wanted to keep it low key but meaningful.

24.  What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having a personal cook.  Making meals at the end of the day and having prepared lunch was a challenge this year.  Loved ordering Blue Apron to help me out when I was in a pinch to buy ingredients for a yummy meal.

25.  How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?

Boho – still.  :).  I have yet to give up bright colors.  I enjoy bohemian style, one of a kind, comfortable clothing.  I love supporting LA designers and haunting sample sales occasionally where a person can find unique items that never made it to mass production.  “Comfortable feet” was a value — purchasing several styles of “non-athletic” tennis shoes – white Eccos, red Munros, gray and black Josef Seibels.

26. What kept you sane?

Keeping my calendar steady but not over committed as well as learning how to manage all the information coming at me that needs to be organized and kept track of…definitely hoping to continue to improve this type of organization.

2017 Day Timer

27.  Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.

Be present in the moments you have.  Live well and full.  You never know when your life is going to be turned upside down.

28.  What new habit are you developing to decrease your environmental footprint?

We purchased metal and glass straws in order to decrease our straw use.  In the US, we use 500 million straws every day.  For the last 15 years, I have made different choices, created habits in order to help my environmental footprint.  I realize I’m only one person but I’m modeling for my children how to think outside of their own convenience, ease or financial benefit.  Some of our choices over the years have been: changing out our gas vehicles for alternative fuel, reusable bags (for the last 10 years), for a year – buying new clothing from only social and environmental justice sources but mostly buying from consignment stores, don’t buy from the $1.00 bins at Target – almost guaranteed – fair wages and/or environment impact isn’t being considered for cheap items, fair trade chocolate versus commercial chocolate, using cloth napkins and towels instead of paper napkins and paper towels and changing out chemical cleaners with environmentally “pure” cleaners.

Hope your new year is starting well!

Avon 39 – Breast Cancer Walk

Someone asked me recently, what led me to walk the Avon 39?  My answer: It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for many years, when my friend and mentor, Beth Brokaw’s cancer came out of remission and catapulted her into living with stage 4 cancer, miraculously, for 15 years.

So, I signed up this year after hearing a friend was diagnosed with stage 3 in November, which very quickly became stage 4.  In my complete helpless feelings for this friend, Danielle, and her family, immediate and extended, whom I’m very connected with (very is the descriptor that gets placed after one spends Thanksgiving together at her mom’s house so very long ago, you’ve known family members for 20 years, and we’ve moved through pre-children to growing children), I hoped to at least DO something that kept her not just on my mind mentally, prayerfully, but also reminded me of the suffering she’s enduring every day.  I wanted to join her momentarily in this suffering space with something that would take everything I had.  It feels a bit silly – after all what can my suffering do to alleviate hers?  Nothing.  However, on an emotional and spiritual level, it brought me face to face with limitations, helplessness, the need for community and cheers of encouragement as well as facing vulnerability head on.  In this way, I walked in Danielle’s shoes with new understanding of her needs through my suffering experience.  Which I recognize as very limiting because the reality is I know only of momentary life-threatening anxiety, when I got held at gunpoint in my garage in 2000, I’m not having to contain and hold it as she does on a daily basis -living with unknown in the tension of fear and hope.  My own suffering started several weeks before the race after an 18-mile practice walk.  I developed deep, deep blisters on the balls of my feet.  They hadn’t recovered by the time I walked so I spent many hours researching how to take care of them, which turned into experimenting with what works (process included shoes, socks, and blister products).  As sometimes God does with timing, Danielle’s feet also became painful, a side effect of her chemotherapy, so I trained and hurt,then trained and hurt, which gave me hours to pray for her as well as experience a glimpse of her pain, how much time and space research can take (after all there are lots of opinions on best socks, shoes, best blister practices as there are lots of cancer treatment ideas and options) – at time it felt like i was on my own with loads of information but no idea of how to decipher what information applied to me or how it applied.

Even though I had a desire to do the Avon 39 walk, what really made me follow through with actually signing up for the event were these partners in crime….I couldn’t have done it without my wonderful team of friends and former workout partners – Jansen, Kathy and Seungee (from left to right in picture).

Here’s a recap of our time…

We look nice and fresh here…all full of smiles.  Ignorant smiles.Acquainting ourselves with our event sleeping arrangements…All smiles at 5:30 am.

1600 walkers

From the start, we had people cheering for us along the way.  People coming out of their houses, others going from section to section – singing, handing out red licorice, water, wet towels, and amazing otter pops, which none of us had eaten for decades (or at least didn’t admit to eating them for decades)!  Some of our favorite “cheerleaders” were a couple of guys who held up hilarious signs at different locations around the route.  For example, at around mile 5 or 6, one sign said “You are NOT almost there.”

We made it 1/3 of the way.  Lunch time!  Group stop for me to fix my blister – mile 19.  Thank goodness for my glacier gels and Seungee’s foot corn pads which were thicker than my moleskin.  From this picture – you cannot tell the steepness.  However, this hill and then when we went back down the other side was part of a mile long route…it was so steep my GPS only calculated 1/2 mile.  This was at MILE 24!!!!!  WHAT?  WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS?  We have no idea but someone must have been smiling.  Us – we just kept on keeping on, one foot after another.Yup!  We did it.  What didn’t get counted was then needing to walk down some smaller hills to hit the showers at the polo club.  We were disappointed they didn’t have horse carriages as transportation.Thank goodness, Kathy gave us wax earplugs!  Teamwork continues.Ready for round 2 — 13.1 miles.  We were grateful we’d participated in foam rolling, foot massagers and for some of us, an actual 10 minute massage.We needed these guys (and gals) to get us through!!  They stopped traffic, gave us encouragement and were full of energy!  Each had personality and brought their ‘A’ game.It wasn’t easy to get up on day two knowing we had 13 miles to go after already walked 26.2 but recognizing our pain was temporary moved us from self-pity to one foot in front of the other with hope and determination, the same character traits needed for cancer fighters.

With that said, the second day was grueling.  It was hotter.  We were sore.  Our quads were crying out for us to stop and our feet were protesting.  We were grateful for Jan’s suggestion for compression socks because they helped keep the cramping away.  There was so much discomfort it’s hard to describe.  One of our inspirational figures, who was walking about our pace was a Chicago fireman who wore his uniform (heavy!) while pushing his mother in a wheelchair for 39 miles. He walked because he’d been an absent son and had abandoned his mother during some of her breast cancer treatment.  Spending time with her walking was part of his redemption.  He’d walked 4 events when we saw him. His story can be found on Facebook, walking4ma.

We were greeted by so many people along the way.  With some, their sorrow could be felt, especially in the eyes of the children, and for others, they showed up to encourage us with their sense of humor with their comments like , “when else can I chase girls for two days and not get arrested,” and their signs like, “you think your legs are hurting, my arms are killing me” (from holding the sign), “Go total strangers go” “worst parade yet,” “where’s the floats?”

Our LB hats brought us lots of love.  We were proud to represent our city along with the other women we met from the LB.  We were supported all along the way at every turn and we met some beautiful people – one woman had raised over 4 million dollars in her lifetime of walks, another had walked in 141 events.

After the event, my feet had two blisters on them…a new one from the day that I had once again treated with foot corn pads and gel as soon as I felt it (wasn’t soon enough) and the first blister at mile 19, even though drained by the medical team at the end of day 1 (26.2 miles), decided to reappear again on day 2.  My battle wounds– This is the day one blister a week out….still healing.One thing that was reinforced from this walk is I desperately need community coming alongside and cheering when the going gets tough – gets life and death tough.  I’m not sure I can imagine finishing this event without the massive support we received.  Their were so many levels of support from the traffic people, to the rest stops, to the water stops, to the bathroom stops, etc.  Even the pink arrows and mile markers, were so helpful because we could break up our race in small chunks, telling ourselves, just get to the next marker.  One mile at a time.  I think it is the same when navigating extremely painful things – it’s about getting through ________ before worrying about what’s next.  And it’s when we can’t get through ____________(fill in the blank) then we must have people in our space so we can get through it.

What I loved about suffering together, is that I grew to enjoy the small things about each one of my team members.  Jan, she’s steady and loyal.  She’s going to get done what needs to get done and she’ll bring you with her.  She’s going to own her pain and support you through yours.  Kathy, is engaging and observant.  She keeps on keeping on, able to both receive and give in her suffering – coming up with that funny quip or observation at just the right time.  She’s up for anything.  Seungee is our social member – full of energy and encouragement.  She had no qualms about engaging the people around us, asking about the names on their shirts or the money they raised.  She knew what was up through her information gathering techniques and helped us keep up the news.  As a team, we raised our hands “woohoo” as cars beeped at us or people cheered – engaging with others – letting them know we received their encouragement and shouts.  We encouraged one another whether it was to make it to the next mile or to fix the problems flaring on our feet. It was a lovely adventure.  One I’m trying to talk them into repeating – only this time the 60 mile walk.  Just kidding, LBC Girls who may be reading this. 😉

For everyone who contributed to our walk, i want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Our LBC Girls team raised $8375 to go to breast cancer research and access to screenings and treatment to underserved populations.  The 1600 walkers who participated in the weekend raised 4.1 million by Saturday morning and more donations were expected.

Thanks for walking with me, with us, through your interest, donations, thoughts and prayers.  We received them.  If you didn’t know we were walking, lift up a family you know facing cancer.  They need you with them in their fight against cancer.  They can’t do it without you.  You’re important.  Don’t underestimate your value as family, a friend, a church member, a co-worker, a neighbor, or someone standing in the grocery store line (Jansen).  You are needed in this fight.  We all are.