Yearly Reflections – 2020

  • What did you do in 2020 that you had never done before?

Hum – let’s see – Survived a Pandemic?! Published my first journal. Got hypnotized and liked it.

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

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because I don’t really believe that all of a sudden every January I can “resolve” to change a bunch of things in my life. However, I do change my spiritual discipline focus every year. Last year, I continued my focus on contemplation. This year, I’m entering into a weekly relationship with a spiritual director as I practice the daily Ignatius’ prayer and contemplation. However, I did create a vision board which, from the outset, looks much better than my vision board of 2020 (see below).

2020! (Who Knew!!)
2020! What?!

My oldest saw the vision board and said, “Does this mean we can get a puppy?!” And while it looks like I may have had one too many “fun” stickers (which be true), it’s a posture I’m cultivating inside of me as a recovering “over responsible oldest.”

Did anyone close to you give birth?

A neighbor.

Did anyone close to you die?


What countries or new places did you visit?

We were supposed to visit the UK last summer but, like most of us, cancelled plans due to pandemic. So we did some staycations and had a ball at Surf and Sand in Laguna Beach, something I’d never have done since we live an hour away. But it was a magical time as we prepared for the incredible losses this year would bring with Eden going through her senior year online.

What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?

More time to do things at home. (kidding!) There are so many ways to answer this question but what I’ve realized is I want to take more risks – with ideas, with conversations, with vulnerability.

What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

February 20th – I celebrated my 50th with dancing, dancing and more dancing surrounded by friends and family. March 12th – Eden got sick and missed school March 13th – which would have been her last physical day of school at her high school – as a junior. LA County shut down March 15th and most likely won’t return to in person until after her graduation. May 26th – George Floyd’s death sparked the fires of turning racial justice into a movement to end police brutality.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I owned how I wanted to celebrate my 50th birthday. I didn’t wait for someone to ask. I didn’t ask someone (read husband) to read my mind. I sat with what would be meaningful and went for it. At that event, I created a journal and gave it to my guests. Who knew the positive responses I received from so many would lead me to be brave enough to “put it out there” to a larger audience? #grateful

What was your biggest failure?

I CANNOT prioritize mail. I hate mail and all things paper. I get paralyzed deciding what to do with it. I will do good and then bam – a clutter mess in my bedroom. Obviously, this has nothing to do with time since I was stuck in my house (and continue to be) and it still hasn’t gotten done. Maybe 2021 can be the year I actually start adulting with my clutter?!

Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had some ongoing shoulder/ hip pain but it is much, much better than prior years. However, I momentarily forgot I was 50 and played “how far can you go” on a hammock against my son and bruised my left ribs. I won. #noregrets #worth it

What’s the best thing you bought?

We bought an outdoor screen to watch movies on so we could provide some civid-safe social activities. This and my amazing, though it’s rarely cold enough to wear without overheating, oversized leopard sweater by & Other Stories.

Where did most of your money go?


What did you get really excited about?

Socializing. In person. Though outside and six feet apart. Waiting patiently for hugging to return.

What song will always remind you of 2020?

Lasting Lover by Sigala and James Arthur. This song was on repeat for hours as I finished writing my manuscript this October. I can’t explain all that went this match – me typing, James singing as I wrote about my relationship with my husband in my memoir but it worked especially as I walked the cliffs chewing on the words yet to be written on the page.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

—happier or sadder?

happier. Friends, who make me laugh and help me find meaning, have never been so important and present in my life than now. Also, I’ve never felt so deeply called as now to revive some of the oldest spiritual disciplines in order to transform a dying, shallow Christianity so present in today’s churches. Love has become an afterthought in one’s Christian faith whereas Christ put it front and center.

— thinner or fatter?

Slightly thinner. Emphasis on slightly.

— richer or poorer?

Richer. My job took a hit the first two months of the pandemic but rebounded after that. However, due to the economic impact of the pandemic, once a month I gave 100% of a day’s wage away to either a particular person or to an organization standing in the gap for heavily impacted covid people groups. I supported students, artists, as well as communities both medically challenged as well as physically vulnerable to food scarcity. We also became monthly supporters of Equal Justice Initiative, Long Beach Rescue Mission, Grassroots Law, and a student following her dreams. I will continue this practice in 2021.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Gone to concerts, travelled, or anything that was suddenly unsafe once covid invaded like being next to people without a mask.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stayed at home except, well, it was the loving thing to do. #stopthespread

How did you spend Christmas?

We were at home, just our family because of well, covid. We bought matching pajamas for the first time because it was that kind of year.

What was your favorite TV program?

Lucifer! Completely hooked and I can’t wait for it to be safe to make more episodes. Best Limited Series for me was hands down Queen’s Gambit – full of complexity and eventually, hope.

What were your favorite books of the year?

Favorite book was Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes. It’s a book about hope and incredible resilience when circumstances could have killed both. Guillotine: Poems by Eduardo Corral was my favorite poetry read. Powerful. It’s one that continues to stay on my nightstand. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins was favorite work of fiction. Transforming the Soul in Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry by Ruth Haley Barton was my favorite spiritual book.

What was your favorite music from this year?

Mumford & Sons Delta Tour EP, Maverick City Vol. 3 Part 1, Saturn by Sleeping At Last and Tim Fain and Lights by Florian Christi, Esther Abrami and The Modern String Quintet

What was your favorite film of the year?

Any Documentary with David Attenborough. I love that man’s voice and anytime I need to feel revitalized with nature I sit down and listen to the films he’s narrated. I thought the Social Dilemma was excellent should be part of the curriculum for every student. I also loved What the Constitution Means to Me though I watched this onstage in January.

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

Amazing party with friends and a dj.

Photo Credit for all birthday shots: Nathan Nowack
Let Flo Go (who also happen to be my nieces) opened up the evening

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

not wearing pajama bottoms while doing zoom therapy sessions because I would be seeing people in person where I would actually dress normally for work.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?

See above – comfort above all else but don’t look like you’ve just rolled out of bed or are actually in bed while working

What kept you sane?

Having a new office, which I’d moved into mid-February so I could work from there while Dennis worked from home. I think it kept me married more than sane. As well, the lovely Shannon Ahern took over the interior decorating and designed it around a painting I feel in love with, which makes me so happy.

Also – friends, friends, and more friends. They carry me toward sanity often, and when necessary, drag me there.

A reflection with the full moon.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020. 

Having friends who can hold complexity and regard open-mindedness as an important virtue is worth its weight in gold.

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

Less is more. I’m committing to buying only one personal item a month, including clothes, shoes, books, etc and giving away something twice a month. Just today I gave away empty boxes I kept in my garage in order to be more environmentally responsible by reusing rather than simply recycling boxes from online shopping.

Now go hug a damn tree.

Have an incredible year and, Lord willing, I’ll be back with 2021 reflections.


A Seat at the Table

Pantheon, Rome

I wrote parts of this post two years ago after visiting Rome and having a profound spiritual experience. For matters I didn’t fully understand other than it felt too vulnerable, I never posted it. Last week I picked it back up to include the present stirrings in my heart around the church’s broad response to Covid-19, which ranges from suing states (ex. here in California), continuing to ignore social distancing mandates by gathering (just google that one), or conversely, actually following the Biblical scripture which very specifically says to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1-2) and encouraging their congregations to do the same. But, I hadn’t pushed the publish button because if I’m honest, I’ve been too angry at the first two responses of Christians so my words felt similar to Jesus’s communication after throwing over the tables when the Pharisees misused the temple for their own monetary gains, which doesn’t capture what I’ve wanted to invite – which is loving your neighbor. This approach shifted after attending yesterday’s online church which affirmed to me the calling of my heart. To paraphrase the words of Pastor Daniel Long, “what if during this pandemic we are being called into love – more deeply loving the world and our neighbor.” And then both he and our good friend, Steve Porter, quoted a favorite poem, “Pry Me off Dead Center” by Ted Loder in different recorded parts of the session without knowing it. And, as if that wasn’t confirmation enough that I needed to move forward and publish this post, my mentor, Beth Brokaw, who was always, and I mean always, telling me to blog more, spoke to me from heaven as we ended the service with “Bless the Lord,” her life theme song after she navigated a stage four breast cancer diagnosis before dying six years ago this June. So here it goes…

Rome was the last place on earth I, or anyone else who really knows me, would’ve expected me to feel at home. We arrived via train from Florence (which we loved – who doesn’t?) mid afternoon without having much of an idea where to go. Like any unprepared American, we made our way through the thick zig zagging crowds to the desk with the universal ? mark in orange, or maybe red, at the main platform and in our broken Italian, asked if anyone spoke English. Not really though with perseverance on all our parts, we got answers. As we turned to leave, the gentlemen came around the desk and proceeded to tell us all the ways we needed to protect our 10-year-old blonde, blue-eyed son from kidnappers on the subways/buses. He play-acted – moving our bodies this way and that to show us exactly what we needed to do – keep ourselves between the door and our son. He apologized while delivering the information but stated in his broken English, “You need to know this. Keep him safe.” I hadn’t realized how unsafe I felt until my body, taking now a deep breath, relaxed because he’d offered me information that equipped me to actually keep my son safe. I was a stranger. Him – a generous man offering his time and knowledge.

When in Rome…Draw

And so we were ushered in to Rome. Over the next two days, God showed up in unlikely ways – two unexpected meetings on two different days with our daughter with whom we’d had no contact with her or her choir tour and randomly saw her – not once but twice. Unexplainable and probability of it happening randomly – infinite, especially given it was St. Peter’s Day – the second largest visitation weekend of the year in Rome. But that’s a story for another day.

Unexpected Visit at Catacombs Outside the City Walls

The spirituality in Rome is indescribable to someone who really doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I was only there for four days but my tour guides and their knowledge of history and their way of being with others, along with their commitment to leave no proverbial footprint on the earth was inspiring. There wasn’t an ounce of impatience over “those tourists” though the crowds were thick. I felt joy from them over getting to educate about their heritage. Rome has survived whether rich or poor. It felt to me there wasn’t a division between believing and unbelieving, religious or pagan. Maybe it was the awe felt by the places of worship like the Vatican, the Pantheon, and other less known churches. It was more about my own experience of being in the place Paul walked and if I’d been alone in different parts of the city I would’ve wept – for the persecution of Christians, for the poverty over centuries, for the broken humanity that’s lived in this very ancient city, for Paul’s journey in Rome, for the early church and their acts of obedience, for many things that seemed to be so deeply grounded here and couldn’t be ignored. For example, when I looked at the Colosseum, I couldn’t ignore that Christians and other victims were killed by the thousands for entertainment. And the ancient awe of a city with real centuries of roots, left me both wordless and sickened because we’ve robbed our Native Americans from such an experience of the land our colonists took from them. Centuries of life between them and their land before our European take-over – destroyed by our ideas of progress. I’d say they’re waiting for the richness to arrive again. And if God is a lover of anyone, it’s the poor. My longing is that they may once again have a seat at the table in America, while I’m alive to witness it.

But I digress – Rome. Other highlights: gelato – in a cone, wine at any meal, “everyone’s welcome here” embodied throughout in the people. While eating near the Vatican, my husband mentioned his grandmother’s family is from Naples. Given his Italian looks I imagine his words were believable because the chef, the actual chef, delivered to us a free dish shouting as Italians do, for your Italian grandmother! Of course, not everything was roses – we had rude taxi drivers who pretended not to know where major museums were because it was a short ride or eye rolls from locals when we failed to weigh food properly. But I’ve learned to hold complexity -to not be disgusted by the utter beauty of the Vatican because of the very real abuse, that’s destroyed lives and continues to do so, in the Catholic Church. To know it’s complicated -not the abuse, there’s nothing complicated about that but to know its a broken system with broken humans running it and it also does an incredible job feeding the hungry, taking care of the widow, supporting those forgotten – there are approximately 8,000 homeless in Rome compared to LA County’s 15,000. Adriana, on of our tour guides, went into great details about the ways the Catholic Church supports Italians who cannot support themselves. Proof once again, that humanity needs God, needs his sanctifying power while at the same time needing real people.

If we doubt our need to hold complexity, we only need to read about John the Baptist who does nothing but serve God, even leaping in Elizabeth’s womb when a pregnant Mary was close, his death comes in the form of a ridiculous beheading – that’s some serious complexity. Yet, here in America I find many messages are far from complex – oversimplifying the work of Satan or sin without confronting individuals’s lack of sanctification or poor character in their lives. Further, church leadership (please read elders, deacons, etc. not simply the pastor) lack discipling members or confronting their own brokenness over issues such as simplifying sexuality and ignoring the massive pornography problems as well as the bashing of people with same sex attraction. Where is the love of our neighbor there? How can the church be like a light on a hill when it’s full of judgment and divisiveness. The us/ them mentality runs deep, even among denominations.

But my experience in Rome was a “everyone’s welcome. Come to the table.” Every person had a seat. I’m sure I’m romanticizing my experience but the friendliness of the people was remarkable. They embodied Jesus’s – “come as you are!” “Here – we love where you’re family’s from let us bless you!” “You have no shoes – come in anyways!” I didn’t experience an underbelly of pride, which can give from a superior place and dismiss anything the receiver has to give. In Rome, I never felt I needed to be more Italian than I was – which is zero percent. I haven’t an ounce of Italian in me and I speak it horribly, but enthusiastically to the embarrassment of my children. Yet, not once did I feel unwelcome or as if I couldn’t contribute to a story or an experience. (the trick – gesture bigger and talk even louder.) It reminded me of the prostitute wiping Jesus’ feet with her perfume and while his host wanted to whisk her away, he received her – he embraced what she gave him and commented to Simon about what a gift it was to receive. I think we can read his words, “you are forgiven” with a superior tone but what if he, like the Italians, gave forgiveness like the free dish from a place of receiving her love (us offering our heritage) and offering her his love through forgiveness. What if there was an equality relationally in the giver and the receiver as they move interchangeably in the beautiful act of washing feet.

With covid-19 devastating the world but especially Italy, I weep for them and their current circumstances. I pray for their people, knowing they have deep wells of resilience. I pray for us here in the US, too. That we would find a way back to the Last Supper – where Jesus loved and commanded us to love one another. A time where there was a seat at the table regardless of race, class, sexual preference or occupation. May we find something we’ve lost as a community – not only the love for our neighbor but also the need for our neighbor. God did not create us to live apart from our community – it wasn’t what he modeled in Christ incarnate nor in the early church. Rather, we can find our answers to our dependence on God through the material, recognizing He can show up in as an ass, a burning bush, or a prostitute. May we who have been invited to love as He has loved us, make a seat for everyone. Though to be clear – in the time of covid-19 this means sending money to food banks, delivering a meal to a neighbor using sanitation precautions, giving gift cards, or ordering food from local restaurants – whatever is needed to make sure everyone has a seat at the proverbial table.

May we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and courage to see our own ability to host a table or come sit the table – you being simply you. Finally, I trust that someone needs to read this – whoever you are – God sees you.

To Beth – I hear you. Your legacy lives on. And now, I’ll push the publish button. To Rome – I’ll be back and I’m bringing friends.

I Matter. You Matter. We Matter.

This is an article I wrote for GrowthSkills…

Our brains are hard-wired for maximum efficiency – paying attention to the familiar as little as possible.  Our patterns get developed as we repeat behaviors, thoughts, or feelings.  For instance, we all have a cadence for talking and walking.  This isn’t to say that it never changes, because it does when relationships and emotions enter the dynamic (like being in a hurry is a different cadence than casual walking).  However, these adjustments are habitual.  For example, your body recruits the same muscles for walking or running every time and when a person is anxious their talking cadence has a pattern.  For me, I talk faster and louder than my normal cadence.  When giving speeches, I intentionally slow down my speech and talk softer, which leads to feeling less anxious.  As a result of our automatic patterns, we are usually so focused on what’s happening or not happening, we forget to bring attention to our attention — how we’re thinking, feeling, behaving, or believing.

A relational pattern to attend to is, “I matter, you matter and we matter.”  This concept, like a teeter totter, requires that the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ have similar weight in order for the “we-ness” to work properly. I believe this concept is supported scripturally in the ending phrase of God’s commandment to us, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  It doesn’t say, “Love your neighbor more than yourself.”  It doesn’t say, “Love yourself before your neighbor” but it says, “Love your neighbor AS yourself” and from this place of neighbor and self the ‘we’ emerges.

For decades, I didn’t embody “I matter.”  In my adolescence, I struggled to get more than five hours of sleep a night because I was so overextended from school, athletics, volunteer work and helping friends whenever they asked.  During this time, I got mononucleosis three times before my doctor explained that I could develop lifelong chronic fatigue if I didn’t change my lifestyle.  With the help of therapy, I came to realize that “I matter” felt selfish and prideful.  I didn’t know how to prioritize self-care, which included sufficient rest, as more important than my volunteer work.   At the time, I lost the ability to see how my choices were leading me on a path where the pressure to help, to succeed, to grow got greater and greater with each success and new volunteer cause.  Eventually, I became depressed and burned out until I learned how to prioritize myself along with others.

The concept of “I matter” isn’t translated into “I matter and no one else does.”  It’s not self-absorption or even self-care to the point of neglecting responsibilities.  “I matter” in its healthiest form is a posture that values the self at the same time it pays attention to how personal decisions impact others.  “I matter” is grossly abused when it justifies a father working long hours because work is satisfying while his family feels unimportant and unvalued.  “I matter” must always be considered in relationship to the “You matter” and vice versa.

The concept of the “neighbor or other” is expansive.  It’s anyone other than yourself.  “You matter” becomes imbalanced when we’re meeting everyone else’s needs before our priorities, as I mentioned earlier.  “You matter” is imbalanced when everyone else has school lunches and you don’t pack your own.  Or when you donate to multiple causes but can’t pay your bills. We need to pay attention to prioritizing otherness and understanding how much of ourselves we can give, which all feeds back into keeping the metaphoric teeter totter in balance.  This is incredibly challenging when caring for aging, ill parents or being a caregiver of an ill spouse or child.  One question to ask yourself is, “Who are my ‘yous’ and do I need to expand or decrease who they are?

From the “I” and the “you” we create a “we.”  There are a couple of things that can go wrong in the “we.”  If the “we” is created out of duty and responsibility, then the “we” is inauthentic and the “you” becomes much more powerful and habitual than the “I.”  Going through the motions and relating out of obligation can often reinforce depression, anxiety, resentment, and burn-out.  Authenticity needs connection to the self – to know it’s loved and valued.  Another “we” that can go wrong is being in relationship with the wrong people.  These are people who don’t support the growth of “I” and end up using the relationship, which also creates an imbalanced “you matter.”  A healthy “we” is one where both individuals thrive and grow.  In assessing the “we” ask yourself, “Does this person support my dreams?  Do they value me finding what I love to do?”  These types of questions become highly important when choosing a “we,” including life team members.

A few points of application.  1.  Rate yourself on a scale of ‘1’ to ‘10’ with one being you never consider yourself to 10 being you never let yourself be inconvenienced by anyone. (This is the “I matter” scale.)  2.  Rate yourself on a scale of ‘1’ to ‘10’ with one being you never allow yourself to be inconvenienced to ‘10’ being you sacrifice something six to seven days a week for others, without thought of how it would impact you or your loved ones.  (You matter scale)  3.  How balanced are your numbers?  What needs to change to get them balanced?

  1. Practice Saying “I matter” in the mirror or to a friend. Do you believe your words?  If so, where in your body tells you that you believe it?  What do you feel saying it?  Embarrassed?  Selfish?  Empowering?  Over time does it get any easier?  Does it feel true?
  2. Pay more attention to what you pay attention to. Are you drawn to what others are doing to you?  For you?  What you’re doing for everyone else?  What conclusions are you drawing?  How does it feel to be on your metaphoric teeter totter?  Do you feel stuck in the air?  Always weighted down?  Or do you feel like you have a good flow between you and others mattering?

I matter.  You matter.  We matter.  Amen.


Yearly Reflections 2016

_dsc8330What did you do in 2016 that you had never done before?

There were two things —

I spent New Year’s Eve on the Las Vegas Strip with the 330,000 other people.


2.  I went to a professional football game.  We went and saw the Seattle Seahawks in the Los Angeles Coliseum against the Rams.  We lost but it wasn’t a major disappointment since the Rams are now our hometown team.  Disappointing was the 95 degree temperature mixed with the atrocious prices for water or a glass of ice.

IMG_6325 IMG_6329Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I kept many of my New Year’s Resolutions but lacked discipline in making a lot of progress on my memoir.  I hobbled along but hope to get disciplined in 2017 to get it done.  I also didn’t do well in meal planning, which is something I hope to change in 2017.  I did great with career, family and relational goals.

Did anyone close to you give birth?


Did anyone close to you die?

No but several good friends lost a family member this year.

What countries or new places did you visit?

Lake Tahoe for a great winter trip.

IMG_4330 IMG_4295 IMG_4293What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

I would love to keep my clutter decluttered.  I keep cleaning areas but seem to lack the organization to keep an area decluttered.  I know my busy schedule is one issue but I’m sure there are habits I need to adopt to internalize this process.  I know I keep writing this but I’m hoping that this year I will actually get a system in place.  One change that we will be doing is focusing on a habit every month.  For January we will be making a habit of cleaning off the kitchen counter every evening.  We will be adopting the questions — throw out?  if so, do it now.  if not, where does it go and put it there.

What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

January 11, first group launch of the institute my husband and I started.

Title_ImageApril 21, day Prince died.  He was such an important part of my childhood music, not to mention an incredible musical talent.

December 31 — parent’s 50th wedding anniversary

_DSC8406What was your biggest achievement of the year?

My husband, Dennis and I, launched the Del Valle Relational Institute this year.  We’d been working together for a couple of years on different projects and decided to create something that represented our work together and make something more formal.  Through the institute, we traveled to Dallas, trained trainers in our Experiential workshop, and did co-therapy with couples from around the United States who could benefit from our unique therapy interventions.  In 2017, we are look forward to returning to Texas, Leading a marriage workshop in Northern California and working towards launching more marriage groups.

What was your biggest failure?

My writing practice took a back seat this year.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

This year was a reality check in getting older — I injured my shoulder in February and am still rehabbing it some due to internal inflammation and muscular imbalance, my hip problems continue to plague me but the rehab I’ve done this year has been beneficial, which is encouraging. I also got extremely sick with a virus in November that literally wiped me out for three weeks since I continued working and then slept all day everyday every weekend until I was better.  (I’m not the best patient.)

What’s the best thing you bought?

A drought tolerant front yard, designed by Shannon Ahern Designs.  ( I LOVE the area and I couldn’t have done it myself.  I love the added touches of antique lights that replaced the “too small” ones that were there along with the fountain, which has been a fun attraction for birds of all kinds.

IMG_4257IMG_4237IMG_4949dsc_0887 IMG_4941Where did most of your money go?


What did you get really excited about?

Working professionally with Dennis.  We make a good team since we approach things differently given our personality differences.  With our different strengths, we are able to be effective in a variety of work situations/ circumstances.

What song will always remind you of 2016?

Two — Alone Together by Fall Out Boy.  Being someone who has a tendency to hide my stress and struggles, this song reminds me of the goodness of allowing others in to our craziness and not journeying alone through this life.  I felt like this year especially I really lived that way — reaching out to friends when I needed prayer and just confessing my crazy thoughts in order to diffuse them by others’ words.

IMG_4479Also reminiscent of this year was “I Have This Hope” by Tenth Avenue North.  No matter the chaos around me, including the fruits of terrorism, corruption, and greed, I believe in a God who parts seas, raises from the dead and lives inside of me.  This, is my hope.

IMG_4403Compared to this time last year, are you:

—happier or sadder?  Both — happier for the connection I feel to others as well as feeling like I’m living out my giftings, which is rewarding.  At the same time, I’m sadder because my friend, Danielle, is battling breast cancer.  It’s scary.  I’m also sadder due to the human destruction and suffering that people face today.  Whether it be civil wars, slave labor, ISIS, or simply greed, there is tremendous human suffering today in the world and for that reality, I feel burdened.

— thinner or fatter?  I would say fatter but not fatter “I need to buy new clothes.” (yet)  Being really sick in November, taking a simple walk was tremendously draining so I choose to rest most days rather than work out and this didn’t help the waist line (oh wait, it’s what I put in my body that didn’t help my waist line…that too didn’t help.). ;-).

— richer or poorer?  Richer.  We had a successful business year and I went from working two days a week to four days a week, which brought in more income.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish I would have done more yoga and stretching.  The type of exercise I do regularly coupled with the amount of sitting I do in my job, has really taken a toll on my hips.  I wish I would have been more disciplined in stretching after stretches of sitting as well as spending intentional time stretching (if only I watched more television! A perfect opportunity!). This year, I intend to increase my yoga practice, hopefully with my daughter, which will help this issue.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

I wish I would have done less “I’ll get to that mail tomorrow.”  I hate dealing with mail and I wish I would have made a daily habit of getting it done and out of the way rather than creating stacks and clutter that takes hours to sift through.

How did you spend Christmas?

We had an extended Christmas this year.  We celebrated our immediate family’s Christmas on Christmas Eve, celebrating with good friends.  Eden made gingerbread from scratch and the kids did both graham cracker houses and gingerbread houses.  They made an elaborate village, complete with a natural disaster – a hurricane flood along with a murderer.  On Christmas day, we traveled to the Phoenix area to be with family and had a wonderful dinner and played games.

IMG_6940 IMG_6948 IMG_6956What was your favorite TV program?

Sadly, my favorite TV program from this year is The Voice.  It’s sad because I should be watching some of the wonderful dramas out there but I just didn’t make any time for viewing.  What makes me go back to the Voice is I can fast forward almost everything except the music and its something I can just listen to while I’m doing other tasks.

What were your favorite books of the year?

I really enjoyed Life Reimagined by Barbara Bradley Hagerty.  It was a reminder of how to live well, how to prioritize and what can help a person in mid-life stay out of the usual pitfalls of “just coasting along.”  Other favorites were Redemption Road by John Hart, Thirst by Mary Oliver, and The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller.

What was your favorite music from this year?

I really enjoyed Halsey’s and Alessia Cara’s albums.  Favorite songs were Castle and Hold Me Down by the former artist and River of Tears and Scars to Your Beautiful by Alessia.  I love the advocacy spirit of both of these women — giving voice to living outside of the mainstream and developing a fierce spirit.  Hamilton was our clear favorite.  It’s on constant repeat mode in the house over meal preparation and clean-up.

What was your favorite film of the year?

For whatever reason, maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s my occupation as a psychologist, this year I just needed movies to entertain me.  I didn’t want to cry, emote, feel anything other than joy when I went to the movies.  So, although there was tragedy in Rogue One, I LOVED it!!!  It took me back to when I fell in love with Star Wars at 7 years old.  My younger self is thrilled with my choice as favorite film — adult self, a bit sheepish.

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

On my birthday, I worked this year at one of our marriage intensives.  Afterwards, we all celebrated with a wonderful cake, along with a gift – a silky soft scarf made by women in Equador, which also happened to be my favorite color, teal (how did they know?!), and then ended the evening with great company at a Dallas Stars game where we sat right behind the penalty box.  Super fun game!  I love hockey.  I turned 46 years old.

IMG_4314What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Playing more games and smelling more proverbial flowers.  There is a lot to be said for working hard, but we were also created for rest.  In fact, our brain integrates what we’ve learned during the night while we sleep.  It seems that rest is consistently underrated in our “get ahead culture” and I have lived my life as such.  I’m hoping that the next half of my life has a bit more “rest” activities that actually enhance my ability to work hard.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

I don’t think it’s changed much over this past year.  I love 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.  “Love my feet” was a motto — trying to wear cute but comfortable shoes to send some love to my feet who have worked hard all my life given my high arches.

IMG_7412What kept you sane?

Feeling the support of friends kept me sane this year.  If I am having a difficult time, I have someone I can reach out and contact no matter what day or time (though middle of the night interruptions are not my thing).  It’s hard to describe what this means to me.  It’s like being a trapeze artist and having a trampoline net underneath you at all times.  I feel the freedom of a bird, without the threat of a predator.  I’m not sure I could have written this in my 20s or 30s even though I think I did have the support of friends and family.  It’s only now that I’ve needed a net underneath me that my friendship network is deeply internalized and taken for granted (in an attachment sort of way).

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.

Confession has been a missing factor in my life.  I couldn’t have imagined the freedom and support that comes when we allow others into our darkness, anxieties, sin and joys.  Fear and shame are life-destroyers that can be annihilated through confession.  It too can be a reliable “net beneath me” that can keep loneliness, depression and shame at bay.

Community Living, Well



One of the difficult things about where we live is we don’t have family within drop in distance.  As a result, we’ve had to create our own extended family.  Luckily, we have been cultivating friendships long before we had children so our long history with these friends has turned into a wellspring of fun and support.  One of the main commitments to our kids is that we will plan at least one vacation a year with lots of friends.

Our camping trip in August was absolutely amazing and filled with Ranger programs, sea life and lots of independent living for the middle school/high school kids.  They had the run of the land, something that’s rare for these city dwellers.  I have confidence these are the types of memories they will be telling their children about.

IMG_4953 The Ranger Progam — learning about seal life and the environment.


Where else can you practice your beam routine 10 feet above the ground?IMG_5284 Or watch the nest activity of baby seagulls and their parents?IMG_5243Where else can you climb rocks with your buddy?  Without parents? IMG_5206Or sing while hiking in the forest?

Since we had so much fun during our summer trips, a group of us also planned a winter trip to Lake Tahoe.  We weren’t disappointed.  I have no pictures of any one other than my dear friend, Shannon, because I couldn’t keep up with anyone.  Lucky for me, she willingly saw me down the mountain with my beginner level snowboarding skills.

IMG_4293 IMG_4330IMG_4291A mere glimpse of friends.IMG_4295Lakeside walk with a wonderful Lox and cream cheese ending.

As my friend, Mandy says, “This folks, is good living.”

May you find time to make lifetime memories with friends this year.  I promise, you won’t regret it.


Yearly Reflections — Finally


The last half of 2015 was a blog bust.  Hoping to get out more posts this year, including some important moments from last year.

  1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

I did a guided rock climb with my daughter and guide on a peak in the North Cascades. I also went hunting with my dad, two of my brothers, and husband in Wyoming. I successfully brought home some venison, at 337 yards using a 7MM.

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  1. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I successfully achieved many of my resolutions but failed in some areas, such as organization. It’s always difficult for me to only make a few resolutions that I’m more likely to keep. Instead, I go for the ideal and accept the reality that some of them will just fall through the cracks.

  1. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Dennis’s dear cousin, Emily, and her husband, Dave, gave birth to a son in December.

  1. Did anyone close to you die?

My father-in-law died this year.  I will miss his enthusiastic love for his family and the way he made you feel welcome.  My kids miss him tremendously.  He was an amazing grandpa.  Also, my childhood friend, Callie, lost her husband to a heart attack in late December.

  1. What countries or new places did you visit?

Jackson Hole, Wyoming


  1. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

Paper Organization!! I’m a mail avoider so when I sit down to take care of it, it’s a long process.

  1. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I’m not really one to pay attention to dates without reminders. This year there aren’t any significant date that sticks out to me.

  1. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I had two — finishing my memoir and sending queries out to writing editors to help me get it to the next phase and PAYING OFF MY SCHOOL LOANS. Getting a doctorate isn’t cheap.

  1. What was your biggest failure?

My blog. :/. I just didn’t create the time for blog writing. Another failure was practicing solitude more often. I had started the year hoping I could do quarterly retreats and after the first one, I didn’t schedule any others.

  1. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I have a hip injury that hasn’t healed. I continue to struggle to find a maintenance program so that it won’t torque on a regular basis, which throws off my knee alignment.

  1. What was the best thing you bought?

Concert tickets. I went to about 12 concerts last year and finally became a Hollywood Bowl subscriber. I decided if I was going to live in this city, I’d best do what I love – music. I saw everything from John Fogerty, B-52s, Heart to Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes and The Band Perry.

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  1. Where did most of your money go?

Most of our money went to our mortgage.

  1. What did you get really excited about?


  1. What song will always remind you of 2015?

Ugly Love by Griffin Peterson. This was a year of reaping the fruit of sticking in a marriage that has been extremely difficult at times. It was a year of knowing that we are committed for life and even if there may be instances of wanting to leave, they are fleeting and have been replaced with a feeling of dependency on the other that I’ve never felt before. The fruit we are bearing now isn’t always tasty but it’s present now. This is good.  In the words of the song, “Lovin’ isn’t always pretty, sometimes it’s ugly.”

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

– happier or sadder? happier. I’m reaping the fruit of friendship – in marriage, with old, faithful friends, and in blossoming new friendships as well.
– thinner or fatter? The same. Pretty much stayed the same, for better or for worse.

– richer or poorer? Richer. Both Dennis’ and my business grew this last year.

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

I wish I’d done more playing games with my kids. We love playing games together but we don’t create the space to do so often enough.

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

Dealing with mail and paperwork.

  1. How did you spend Christmas?

We spent our Christmas with my entire extended family in Washington State. It was full of sledding, cups of coffee, and laughing and connecting.

DSC_0380 DSC_0608

Metal Creation for Bathroom

  1. What was your favorite TV program?

Mr. Robot. I do not recommend this show to everyone. It is dark. My Mom would not approve. However, I think it’s storytelling is genius so, for me, it’s worth the exposure all the darkness that’s in the script. What mainly attracts me to the story is it addresses things I care about – capitalism, greed, global consumerism, mass production, etc and the acting is great, in my opinion.

  1. What were your favorite books of the year?

This was a book of very little fiction reading, which is unusual for me. However, I was drawn to poetry, Memoir and essay writing this year. My favorite book was an old one, Naked, by David Sedaris. I loved his candidness about the struggle of just doing life as a gay man in the 1960s, whose parents did their best but feel well short of good enough. It’s the third book of his I’ve read and I haven’t met one I haven’t liked.

  1. What was your favorite music from this year?

Fall Out Boy’s album, American Beauty/American Psycho; Sam Hunt’s Album Montevallo; Imagine Dragons Album Smoke and Mirrors (Loved this concert – could almost reach out and touch them); Robbie Seay Band’s Psalms LP.

  1. What was your favorite film of the year?

Selma. I was moved by the courage of the lives portrayed and angered at the injustice and the oppression that still lives in the world today of millions of people around the globe. (This film was officially from 2014 but I watched in the beginning of 2015.)

AND Star Wars. I loved it, especially since I saw it with my kids, husband, dad and my favorite aunt and uncle!

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

I spent my birthday in Laguna Beach creating my own solitude and writing retreat. Second part of the question, unimportant. (J)

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

Having a clean garage.

  1. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?

Comfy and unique. I love one-of- a-kind wearable artists and enjoy shopping every year at an art fair called, Artistic License in Costa Mesa.

  1. What kept you sane?

Connecting with God, friends and allowing others into my crazy head space.

  1. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.

Life, lived well, is full of rest and restoration in addition to the hard work it requires to “run our race in such a way as to get the prize.” I have largely ignored the reality that running, literally, requires days of rest, stretching, and restoration, in order to get out and do it again over and over again. I think my life is coming closer to reflecting this important lesson.

Hoping to have more contact with you in 2016!


Environmental Intention — Part 1


As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, I use January for planning and getting a vision for the upcoming year.  One of the intentions, or habits, I set is in the category of caring for the environment and/ or participating in some type of social justice.  This is something we as a family commit to doing for the year.  Sometimes, the habit is integrated into our lives like brushing our teeth and sometimes it’s something that’s just done once or for that year.  We’ve been doing it for about 10 years.

Something to clarify about our intention.  This isn’t a task that feels like we are “doing” something good or adding a great big checkmark for good deeds.  For us, committing to take care of the Earth or defend people who fall victim to a lack of social justice practice, is as natural as taking a bath or brushing our teeth.  It does require discipline and commitment from us, but it doesn’t feel like “doing” because the fruit from our decisions bring us such joy.  In the same way, I don’t feel like brushing my teeth is something I have to do because I could choose to walk around with bad breath and rotting teeth; rather, brushing my teeth is something I happily do because I love the end results — teeth to eat amazing food, a happy husband who isn’t repulsed from my breath, and an ease in which I can socialize with others because I’m not self-conscious about my breath.  I would say, if it feels like something you’re adding to your to do list only to ease guilt about not doing enough or to make you feel better, then maybe it’s not the right time for you to pick an intention of this type.  Again, it is with great joy that we approach this intention, excited to decide what new habit we’re going to develop, knowing with confidence it will impact not just our family but others, some across the globe.

Now, this year’s intention requires a post all its own because I want to share with you some of the habits we’ve done in case you’d like to choose something for you to try.  I haven’t listed these in any particular order.

1.  Eat Fish and seafood only on the sustainable seafood list. We started this habit when we were members at the Long Beach aquarium.  I carried around their consumer guide, which made it very handy to do.  All these years later, I still ask my server about any fish item they have, ordering only those things on the sustainable list.  Here’s a link to find out more.

2 – 3.  No more paper towels.  Nope.  That’s right.  We gave up paper towels and only use paper napkins.  Just kidding!  We gave up all paper hand goods in our house.  Well, except for toilet paper.  🙂 We rarely use paper napkins and use reusable items for anything paper towels could do.  We have a great supply of cloth napkins and towels.  Saves money and the environment!

4.  Bought a no emissions car with alternative fuel.  We own two cars of this sort (Natural Gas Vehicles — bought about 8 years apart) for commuting but still own gas cars for trips because we can’t use alternative fuel for travelling longer distances.  And lest you think I’m perfect, one of them is an SUV.

5.  Decrease water use.  Don’t shower every day.  Few car washes for the purpose of preserving the exterior of the car.  Dump out all left over water glasses in plants rather than down the drain.  Wash faces with cold water rather than wasting water to warm it up.  Baths for the kids are filled only 1/3 high.  My children are not deprived as one mother told me when I said they never got a full bath.  Instead, they’ve created wonderful water play without the need to have a full bath tub.  This is all they’ve known so they wouldn’t even dream of filing the bathtub with unnecessary water.

6.  Used our fruit from the fruit trees.  We had two major producing citrus trees so one year we made sure we gave lots away and didn’t let any go to waste.

7.  Bought all environmentally friendly cleaning products.  We changed out all the cleaning products that have toxins with products from Seventh Generation, Method and Mrs. Meyers.

8.  Eliminated use of all store bags.  We got reusable bags and eventually got a system down so we used and use them regularly.  As many people who are trying to develop this habit say, it’s a process.  You have to take the time to figure out what works for your family because remembering the bags is almost the entire battle to actually successfully accomplishing this task.  (Buying and having the bags is easy!)

IMG_16259.  Beach Clean-ups.  We live in a beach city so one year we committed to cleaning the beach during the major beach clean-up days.  We would also throw away at least one item of trash when we visited the beach.

So that’s our ten year journey of trying to leave as little footprint as we can on this earth.

IMG_3662Up Next — Our Intention for this year.


January Reflections

January is one of my favorite months.  It’s a month where I set aside time to be intentional, to set goals, to plan my year, and to identify what I want this year to be about.  It completely feeds my organizational self and I enjoy the fruit I see each year from setting aside this time.  I will share more about my intentions in later posts.  But for now, here is my month in review via photos, quotes and music.

We were still in Vegas when January started and we enjoyed 40 degree weather with a dip in the heated pool and jacuzzi.

IMG_1708IMG_1773We loved hiking the Red Rocks.  (It was still cold.)

IMG_4174 IMG_4080We ran into this beautiful Friesian Horse, Crue, in a parking lot.  He had just had an audition in the snow for a Michael Bay movie.  What a beauty!

IMG_1792We threw a Kick-Up Dinner for Dennis’ work.  With some help of Shannon and Elisabeth, we created this lovely table.

IMG_1843I love winter sunsets.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.

IMG_1848I ended the month with a fabulous date with my favorite under 5-foot guy at a favorite haunt, Grounds, in our old neighbor.

IMG_1853Quotes Worth Remembering:

At times the strength of spiritual community lies in the love of people who refrain from getting caught in the trap of trying to fix everything for us, who pray for us and allow us the pain of our wilderness, our wants, so that we may be more deeply grounded in God.           — Rosemary Dougherty

With silence only as their benediction,

God’s angels come — where in the shadow of great affliction,

The soul sits dumb…

–John Greenleaf Whittier, from a letter to a friend on the death of his sister

“No,” I tell him.  “I don’t want to know anything more than I know now.  No.  I don’t want to know.  I already know too much.”

“I disagree with you there, Annie, Blumenfeld says softly.  “Truths about people are never too much.”                                                                                                                                                                                        — A Shining Affliction, Annie G. Rogers

“What has been wounded in a relationship, must be, after all, healed in a relationship….She left you without ever recognizing you.  That’s not a goodbye, Annie; it’s just leaving…..I feel the largeness of grief, how grief will not let you hide from the awareness of time passing and death, or from life itself, going on in all its unexpected ways.”                                                                                                                                                                                                 — A Shining Affliction, Annie G. Rogers

“When it comes to love, there is room for so much and so many different kinds.  The heart is capable of expanding far beyond what we can ever imagine if only we will allow it….There will always be things greater than we can ever comprehend that can come into our lives at any moment.”                                        — The Cellar, Katherine Lo

“Accepting truth was like removing a Band-Aid: at first it was painful, then it left a red mark and some of that gray sticky gunk that you had to scrape off” (p. 230) ……. “Jesus hung there, staring at me in all His agony, and I suddenly understood something:  Everyone suffered…But it was more than that that.  Sometimes we had to walk through the pain alone.  I looked back at a picture on the wall, the one where a bystander helped Jesus carry the cross.  Sometimes we had others to help us along the way.” (p. 233)

Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos

“God is infinitely patient.  He will not push himself into our lives.  He knows the greatest thing he has given us is our freedom.  If we want habitually, even exclusively, to operate from the level of our own reason, he will respectfully keep silent.  We can fill ourselves with our own thoughts, ideas, images, and feelings.  He will not interfere.  But if we invite him with attention, opening the inner spaces with silence, he will speak to our souls, not in words or concepts, but in the mysterious way that Love expresses itself — by presence.”

— M. Basil Pennington, Centered Living

“‘The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.’ (p.11)…Imagination gives us the opportunity to envision new possibilities — it is an essential launchpad for making our hopes come true.  It fires our creativity, relieves our boredom, alleviates our pain, enhances our pleasure, and enriches our most intimate relationships. (p. 17)….Healing, he told us, depends on existential knowledge: You can be fully in charge of your life only if you can acknowledge the reality of your body, in all its visceral dimensions. (p. 27)”                                  — B. Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score

Songs on Repeat Mode in January:

Give me a Song by Will Reagan

Set a Fire by Will Reagan

Losing Your Memory by Ryan Star

Ghost by Ella Henderson

Where the Island Ends by Ryan Star

May peace and joy follow you into February.

Got 20 Minutes for Prep? Easy Dinners


Recently I’ve had some requests for easy weeknight dinners recipes so I thought I’d share them here.  I have no pictures so I may throw in a random picture I like so it’s not a completely boring post.  The no pictures of food is intentional.  I’m a bit of a photo snob.  I can’t pull off appetizing looking soup.  Also, I also like to “play with tastes” so I’m giving you recipes with country girl-style because I don’t give you exact measurements (like using landmarks rather than street names to give directions).  This will drive some of you crazy.  I apologize in advance and just encourage you to live on the wild side and follow along.  I think you may even find you like it.

Recipe #1 — Turkey and Bean Chili


1 container of ground turkey from Costco (Foster Farms)

1 brown, yellow OR white onion

seasoning for turkey — I love Cabo Seasoning from Shenandoah at the Arbor in Los Alamitos (so for you non-locals season with some type of seasoning salt)

2 cans of white beans (navy or Cannellini work well), black beans also work but Kidney beans are a bit too bitter in my opinion

8 oz of frozen corn (much better for you than canned corn which is full of sodium)

8 to 10 oz of cut up mixed bell peppers (I get mine from Trader Joes) OR two fresh, sliced red, yellow, or orange pepper

2 – 3 cups chicken broth

oregano to taste

Directions:  Brown turkey meat with onion, season as it browns.  Put in either crock pot or big pan.  Add all the remaining ingredients.  Then you can do one of two things — make early in day and cook in crock pot, cooking on low for two to three hours OR you can cook on stove for 30 minutes.  If you use fresh bell peppers, you may want to saute first for stove-top but for crock pot they soften nicely on their own.)  Bring the chili to a boil if cooking on stove top and then put on low for 20 to 30 minutes.  This makes great leftovers and can be frozen as well.  It really tastes better the longer it can cook as long as the beans don’t get mushy.

Recipe #2 — Quesadilla

Flour Tortilla and Mexican Cheese — look up how to make from someone way more detailed than me.

Additional Toppings — Salsa, Black Bean from Trader Joe’s — (Amazing! for all you spice lovers), cooked chicken, jalapenos, and green onions.

Recipe #3 — Tacos

So I’m only calling this a recipe to keep the format of this post.  But really, think of this as a suggestion for an easy dinner because why reinvent the wheel with my special spin on tacos.  Create your own special spin with your favorite Mexican/ Spanish flavors.  We make this at least once every two weeks and though my kids may get sick of it, it’s a nutritious meal with our fresh veggies and fruit.

Recipe #4 — Homemade Pizza

We buy our pizza dough because it’s just faster but for those of you who may have more time, there are some good recipes out there for dough.  We use store bought pizza sauce, we like Trader Joe’s but you can also use spaghetti sauce, which is usually more flavorful and is cheaper.  For the rest of the ingredients, I just want to say, play, play, play.  We make ours with Mozzarella cheese because my kids don’t really like a strong cheese but there are plenty of cheese options out there.

Topping Suggestions:

Sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, pineapple, bell peppers, olives, hot peppers, sauteed onions, bacon bits, and so many others.

We have a pizza pan but you could also use a cookie sheet for baking.  We follow the dough directions for cooking.

Enjoy!  Hopefully this will help those “what do I make for dinner and it’s 5 pm” times.

As promised my random photo, lil e’s Christmas gingerbread man.


Yearly Reflections 2014

I love to do yearly reflections as well as new year resolutions.  I consider it to be an important time to consider if I’m going where I want to go or living how I want to live.  Last year, I found the following questions on one of my favorite blogs, Rage Against the Minivan, who appears to have “stolen it” from another blogger who has taken it from another blogger, etc. and I wanted to continue by starting my year again answering these questions.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

I “swam” in the Boiling River in Montana, which is a river where hot springs meet a river and creates an interesting experience of feeling boiling hot water and ice cold water sometimes within inches of each other.  The temperature outside was a brisk 50 degrees but the warm pockets in the river made it worth any coldness we experienced on the short hike out to our car.

The Boiling River


Another thing I tried this year was pole dancing for exercise.  I found the experience incredibly fun, I loved twirling on the bar and challenging physically.  It took me a long time to get up the nerve to actually do it and I was grateful I found the courage to try something new that involved body movement.  It was liberating.  And.  There will be no pictures for that one.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Like every year, I kept some of my new year’s resolutions and not others.  I could pretty much say the same things I did last year, which lets me know how committed I am to some parts of my life and not others.  I was successful in my career goals.  However, I wanted to blog more regularly and just didn’t create the time.  I was also successful in connecting with friends regularly and staying committed to two regular meeting groups but I had wanted to have a “fun” night out every month and that happened irregularly.  Health goals were hit and miss but I did gain understanding of what really works for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and need to do a better job of preparing veggies one or two times a week so we can have them for snacks rather than going for the baby carrots every time.  I also hope to meal plan a better variety of foods rather than our go to meals of tacos, spaghetti, and Costco rotisserie chicken.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No.  The first year in a long time my group of friends and family didn’t welcome someone new.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, good friend, Amy died after her 6 year battle with brain cancer.  She experienced some years of remission before it came back aggressively a year ago March.  She did not want to die.  I didn’t want her to either.

5. What countries or new places did you visit?

While I would love to write I traveled outside of the country, it didn’t happen.  However, I traveled to the first time to Montana and enjoyed Yellowstone National Park as well as Red Lodge where we saw a black bear.  We also went to Antelope Canyon in Utah and Walnut Canyon in Arizona, two places I had never been.

Black Bear in Red Lodge

Black Bear in Red Lodge

Yellowstone ImagesIMG_2880 IMG_2820 IMG_2799Walnut Canyon

IMG_1356 IMG_1358

Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ

IMG_1450 IMG_1482 IMG_17336. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

I would like to have a routine planning time where I meal plan for the week, enter budgeting information, identify time for writing and exercise, and daily prayer/ meditation.  I find if I do not plan well, quality of meals, spending habits and healthy choices get compromised.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

June 20th, the day I learned my friend, Amy died. October 30th, the evening I received a call from my dear family friend, Barbara, who told me my Mom had been “air-vaced” to Seattle for bleeding in her brain.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I continued my work on my memoir and will be submitting it to an editor and then agent for hopeful publication.  I will have my huge school bill paid off in 2015.  I am also proud of all the fun outings we planned as a family.  We made some incredible memories, many of them cost us only time.

9. What was your biggest failure?

1) Purging and organizing my garage, I just never created time for it after Dennis, my husband, put up shelves.  2) Failing to live with a budget.  We want to pay off my still large school loan in two years, which means living intentionally with our finances.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

My hips and back have been injured for much of the year.  I haven’t been able to do the type of physical activity I was doing before but am hoping that by adjusting what I’m doing, I’ll find healing.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I made big canvases out of several of my photographs and hung them in my house.  These are two of my favorites.



12. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage, taxes

13. What did you get really excited about?

Visiting National Parks and Forests.  This year we visited the national forests by Sedona, Walnut Canyon (a national monument), Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Sequoias.  In 2015, we hope to visit Red Rock National Park and hopefully make another trip to the Sequoias.

14. What song will always remind you of 2014?

Counting Stars by One Republic.  This was one of my favorite concerts of the year.  Eden and I saw them at the Hollywood Bowl.  There are so many lines in this song I love but my favorite is, “Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.”  I love the honesty this song gets at about the struggles of life and the striving for dreams and how we sabotage ourselves by how we cope.  I can relate not so much in terms of having blatant addictions; instead, in terms of how I emotionally protect myself by isolating when I need connection, by staying silent when I need to speak up, by speaking up when I need to be silent, and by doing all those things that are intuitive and which I do unquestionably — many of which take me away from relationship and deeper into my unhealthy ways of coping.

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

– happier or sadder?  I’m sadder than last year, I’ve been grieving the loss of my dear friend, Amy since June as well as grieving some realities about my life story which are painful.  However, (and I don’t want to just sugar coat my sadness) I’ve experienced some of the most joy and laughter as a Mom this year than I ever have.

– thinner or fatter?  I’m sure I’m fatter though I haven’t gone up any clothing sizes.  I’m ending a two week vacation, one week which was spent in Vegas which has AMAZING, AMAZING dessert establishments (did I mention they were amazing!?).  I’m hoping it doesn’t take all year to lose whatever pounds I’m gaining while enjoying mounds of chocolate.

– richer or poorer?   Richer but our commitment to paying off school debt hasn’t translated into feeling richer.

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

I wish I would’ve spent more time with God, listening and praying.

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

Surfing the internet

18. How did you spend Christmas?

With my husband’s family in the Phoenix area before traveling to Sedona for a quick stay and finally, ending our Christmas vacation in Las Vegas where we got to experience the crowds and New Year’s Eve fireworks.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Same as last year, Parks and Recreation (though I’m only on season 5) and The Voice; guilty pleasure — Nashville

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

Brainstorm by Dan Siegel; and books I read written in previous years — Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, and Integrity by Henry Cloud.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

Philip Phillips album was probably my favorite from the year.  I also enjoyed new music from The Script, American Authors, and Five for Fighting.

22. What was your favorite film of the year?

I loved Philomena, one of the only movies I saw that wasn’t rated G in the movie theaters.

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

43, I went to hear Jerry Sittser speak at Biola, which was simply amazing, and ate my favorite restaurant, Panda Inn and I don’t think my age matters anymore.

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

Having landed an agent to publish my book.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Lots of tops with asymmetrical lines and leggings or skinny jeans with hair down, curly, and long.  Bohemian casual to Bohemian dressed up (for work)….and ankle boots.

IMG_3130The backdrop almost looks fake, but it isn’t.  The picture was taken in Montana on a fun, picnic hike to Ousel Falls.

26. What kept you sane?

Nature, dinners with friends and family, prayer and meditation (God’s presence), laughter, writing, meeting weekly with my mentor, and deepening friendships.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Should your death be anything but immediate, you will most likely die in much of the same manner that you lived — the fruit you bear will be recognized as coming from you (for better and for worse).