Soft Will Power


I am strong willed. I prefer to think of this stubbornness as a super power. I’d go as far as to call it one of my greatest strengths.

As with many positive attributes, it does have a dark side I encounter once in a while.

Lets take for example my morning walks. Walking is great! Walking is healthful for body, mind and spirit! So when the temperature cooled enough last September, I headed out on my first neighborhood walk in our new home. In the beginning I had a very nice 5.5 mile loop established. Every day I’d lace up my shoes, push play on a podcast and head out into the sunshine.

Speed walking over five miles a morning should have been enough. Not for this strong willed girl. I added on a little bit at a time until the day my walk had grown to 7.5 miles. Occasionally I’d have a few muscle aches and pains, but nothing that kept me from my routine.

Pushing myself further and further while trying to increase my speed took a toll and by the end of December my left leg said “Screw this action. I’m out”. All at once I could only hobble around trying not to anger my hamstring.

I don’t deal well with being sedentary. Surely I could go for short walks once I was no longer in the hobbling category. How wrong I was.  I would gingerly go for a walk only to come home in tears.

So, I sat. I hobbled and I sat more.

I was forced to look for the lesson I had been trying to ignore. What was the universe trying to teach me this time? (The universe has seen me take my strong will and use it as a weapon on my body more than once.)

Still pondering the universe, I went on a trip to the Grand Canyon where I could only walk on the rim trail. For an avid hiker, this felt like torture. But it was during that trip I understood. By slowing down, I could really take in the magic surrounding me.

All I could do, all I needed to do, was walk slowly and allow my eyes to take it all in.

This morning I was able to walk my original 5.5 mile circle. I am overjoyed and grateful for healing and the ability to begin again. I know how lucky I am to have a healthy body. Lord knows I’ve put it through a lot, and yet it heals.

I’ll always be strong willed. If my Grandma is any indication, it will only get stronger. And I’m okay with that.

I will, however, be prepared to be soft willed once in a while.

Still learning. Still growing. Still changing.

Still just me through it all.





Last winter I knew the height of all the bridges. I slept on hard surfaces in emotional beds of regret. Last winter served me lessons I couldn’t refuse.

(walking the slick streets with my face to the wind just to feel alive)

And now I’m in January with perfect vision looking back. How I grew stronger on the tile floor. How I found a gift in the darkness.

Gratitude comes quietly to lift my head. Hums a melody I know by heart. Here I’ll stand for a little while longer considering the low bridges. How they saved me with their proximity.

How they led me to this place.


Just in Case


I wait, breath held, in this clumsily constructed doorway. You’d expect better of a woodworker’s daughter. You’d think I’d be skilled at right angles and plumb lines. 

I ,too, thought that I’d be further along by now.

But I’m strong. You have no idea how strong I’ve become. And hopeful. I hold it in my sun spotted hands like the winged creature it is.  Still learning to fly.

Part of me wants to slam this amalgamation of days behind me. Part of me wants to leave it open. Just a crack.

Just in case. 



Loss in the Trees



It’s so simple really… nature’s ebbs and flows and how necessary they are.  Yesterday a tree I’ve passed at least fifty times was suddenly the most beautiful specimen on my walk. Why hadn’t I noticed it previously?

The answer came to me later in the day. I thought back to the first few weeks of my morning walk. The flowers were screaming shades of purple all around me. For quite some time I felt bathed in bright colors and wondered at these bushes and trees that decorate the desert.

Overnight, the flowers were gone.

In their place, wildlife seemed to be calling for my attention. Roadrunners, surprised as I rounded the bend, delighted me more than once. Little rabbits bounded away in pairs and lizards sunned themselves. A few days ago I realized I’ve been seeing fewer animals.

Yesterday that tree captured my heart. I realize now that it stood out because the other things had gone.

Oh nature, there you go again being a metaphor for life.

Over the past year I’ve experienced loss. I’ve lost a dream. I’ve lost a friendship. I’ve lost faith and hope in humanity. I’ve nearly lost my will to keep going.  In this forest of losses, I began to see trees I hadn’t known were there all along. These new trees looked like hope. They wore leaves of love and fresh dreams. They spoke to me of deeper friendships.

They rekindled my fire and now my forest teems with possibility.  What will I find over the next hill?

What layers will appear when these trees too lose their leaves?




One week and a day ago I woke to another gloriously bright Sunday in Las Vegas. I went for my morning walk. Almost every person I encountered gave a wave or a good morning. As I walked I felt so happy. This new home was nothing like I’d expected.  I had the realization that I love it here. I love the scenery and the people. I love living in a thriving community where no community should thrive. It’s the middle of the desert after all. I realized I felt at home.

I realized I too am thriving.

The next morning I woke up to a phone screen lit up with texts. Sisters saying they were devastated reading the news, parents making sure I was okay. My heart racing, I immediately opened my news feed. Mass shooting…Mandalay Bay… hundreds injured… death and panic.

Just miles away from where I slept safe and sound, the worst mass shooting in modern American history had unfolded.

Last Monday is a haze in my mind and yet feels like yesterday.

Rob convinced me we had to leave the house. I agreed to drive to Hoover Dam. I don’t know why we chose this, but I knew just being around other people would be comforting in a strange way. I’d finally stopped crying when we got in the car to leave. As I’d been doing every few minutes, I refreshed my news feed.

Tom Petty. Fresh tears and a sense that my whole world was falling apart. To say Rob and I are Tom Petty fans in an understatement. I wanted to go back inside the house. I wanted to hide in bed until I could wrap my mind around the grief that had already been too intense. Rob didn’t let me. He went back in the house for the box of kleenex and we drove.

The rest of the day is cloudy. The rest of the week is cloudy.

Today is cloudy.

I grapple with so many emotions and thoughts over the course of the day. What kind of world are we living in? How are people that I know and love against gun control? Why did this happen? How do we heal?

Months ago I bought tickets to a concert at The Mandalay Bay. It’s thirteen days from today. I still don’t know if I’ll be able to go. I’m torn. Part of me doesn’t want to miss seeing a band I’ve loved for so long. This part is reminding me that I never saw Tom Petty in concert. I thought I had time. The other part of me is afraid. I’m not only afraid for our safety in big venues, but I’m afraid that I’ll be too emotional to even enjoy the show. Can I possibly enjoy a concert so close to where so many endured the most traumatic night of their lives?

The only thing I know for sure is how important people are. Your people. My people. Hold them close. Even in such uncertain times, we have each other.







Every morning the past looks different. A new yesterday overlaid giving it an unexpected hue. I can worry away the minutes of today (and I probably will), but I cannot predict tomorrow or the next day or the next.

And yet, even knowing this, I worry.

Has the future ever turned out the way I imagined it might? Never. This is a blessing and occasionally a curse. The things I held onto with utmost certainty have often been the heart-strings painfully pulled apart. All the while, worries that had taken up my entire world, never see fruition.

What am I trying to say?

I don’t know. I only know as I sit here on this Friday morning on the first of September, I’m worrying. I’ve had two cups of tea as I’ve looked around at my new home. Once again I’ve realized I would never have imagined this new address. Even a year ago I would have insisted I could never live in Las Vegas. Yet here I sit. Alive.

And isn’t that what matters in the end?

I guess I do know what I’m trying to say. I will continue to worry.  I will continue to live. And I will continue to be amazed by it all.



“Since we’re friends in real life now…” the text began.

“You should know there’s an extra ‘A’ in my name”.

Yes, I was being very “Anne with an E” Green Gables about it, but my name without that extra letter never feels right. It’s not me.

The recipient of the text was very gracious (as he always is) and needlessly apologized for getting it wrong. I let him know that it’s been an issue my whole life. Even my birth certificate has it wrong I informed him.

Wait…what? Wouldn’t that mean that I am, in fact, the wrong one? Au contraire. My social security card and all other official documents use that extra ‘A’.  The first passport I obtained went with the SSC spelling as did the second passport.

I have never had anyone other than myself question my identity, and that is always purely existential.

Perhaps this text was tempting the universe to mess with me, put me in my extra letter place. Or maybe it was always only a matter of time.

Last week I went very responsibly to the DMV to register our vehicle in Nevada and also to apply for a Nevada driver’s license. This goes against my usual habit of letting whatever state license I have expire before even worrying about it. Lately I’ve been waging less of a war against adulthood, so off I went to the DMV.

Proof of residency – check. Proof of identity – check and check . I handed over all items as the friendly (it’s true) DMV employee chatted and filled out forms. That’s when it happened. She paused. Looked at my birth certificate, looked over to my social security card, back to the birth certificate, glanced at my Montana driver’s license, only to land back on that damn birth certificate.  She looked up at me, and in a tone that didn’t let on that she was about to ruin my day, informed me that there was a discrepancy in the spelling of my name. It didn’t matter to her that everything else of importance in my life didn’t use that spelling, the Nevada DMV firmly goes by the birth certificate.

I held back tears. I pleaded. I almost stopped the entire process. I should have now that I look back. Before I could fully process the implications, I was standing in line for my glamour shot. The photo snapped, the man let me know my new license would arrive in a few days.

I walked out.

I cried.

I actually sobbed the sentence “Who even AM I right now?” to poor Rob. The new spelling of my name had rendered even my grammar useless.

A rose by any other name might smell just as sweet, but I bet the rose would cry too if you called it lily.

At home, I googled. I contacted my friend in law school for advice. I texted my sister to cry on her shoulder. How does one change their birth certificate? I was imagining lawyers, court dates, huge bills and stress. My sister wasted no time texting me links to the appropriate site in Washington State. She had gone through an issue with her own birth certificate years ago and had to have it corrected.

It appears I will be able to claim that extra vowel again eventually. It’s been surprising to me how very much my name and it’s spelling are my very identity. Two days ago when the new license came by mail, I cried again over the ‘mis’ spelling of my name. Even the photo of me looking like a fifty year old insomniac didn’t faze me.

I may be lost in the details, but I keep finding that deep down I am truly Just Me Actually.




The annual move is complete. As with the last four or five moves, I swear I’ll never do it again.

Except I will.

I won’t regale you with the tortuous days of packing up in Portland, driving one thousand miles, living in hotels for a week while looking at rentals, unloading our belongings into temporary storage when the search seemed futile, taking a few days out of town when the hotels filled and became unaffordable (welcome to fabulous Las Vegas), learning to do everything with crossed fingers, almost crying with relief when the approval call came through, loading our stuff back into a truck in 104 degree heat, unloading it all into our newest home (also in said heat) and collapsing exhausted at the end of it all full of hope that it would at least be a year until we do it all again.

Oops I regaled you.

You’ve been regaled.


P.S. I left out the broken garbage disposal and the rat I met yesterday. You’re welcome.



The fire burned hot as I tossed another handful of handwriting onto the pile.  Large black flakes of ash rose and drifted away. Two full shoeboxes of memories that only weighed me down were slowly disappearing forever. The already warm summer night combined with the flames made my eyes burn and water.

Or were they tears…

Rewind to that morning as I unloaded everything I’d been storing for the last ten years in a cedar chest tucked away in a place a rarely visit. This “hope chest” was never filled with hope, but weighed down by the past. Realizing that I’d held on to every card and letter I’d received as well as notes passed between friends throughout high school was overwhelming.

I knew it was time to delete the things I no longer want to carry with me. I have no problem getting rid of “stuff”. I lead a happily minimalist life with my husband. I no longer believe that I’m required by some strange law to keep every sentimental item ever given to me.

I needed to go through these letters and cards to pick out the few I’d like to keep a while longer before tossing the whole lot.

Initially I thought I’d do a quick dig through the large shoebox of letters. I was certain it would be a quick and easy job with a few laughs at my younger self thrown in.

What I hadn’t counted on was my heart.

One name in particular kept showing up over and over and over and had me in tears before I knew what was happening. A stack began to grow. A paper monument to a friendship now lost. Still a fresh wound.  When Rob saw what was happening he gently stopped me. Later he would pre sort these out so that I could finish with less emotional distress.

I’m not totally heartless…I did save some very important pieces of paper. Love letters from Rob when we were first dating are not going anywhere. A handful of letters and cards written to me by my family also were too precious to burn.

But the rest entered the flames without regret. I don’t need boxes of notes to remind me how clever my high school friends were. I don’t need letters written to me by people I haven’t seen in twenty years.  I don’t need birthday or graduation cards from the 90’s.

I certainly don’t need letters spanning nineteen years that had become painful to look at. I don’t need anything to remind me of a treasure I will always hold so close to my heart. Those memories aren’t going anywhere even when the physical reminders are gone.

As the flames ate away at the last scraps, I wasn’t sad anymore. I hold all of it in my heart. The memories, sweet and bittersweet, aren’t going anywhere.





I move a lot. Each time I find my new home, I decide to make changes. This time things will be different. This time I will start over. This time I won’t do this but I’ll always do that. The list can be quite long.

When I first arrived in Portland everything changed. I had a completely new part time job. New people to get to know and become friends with. The studio apartment was a new challenge in minimalistic living and the weather clearly would be the antithesis of what I’d been enduring in Loas. Even my clothes were different (my bags being stolen out of my car on day one).

I’ve done my best to be the employee, friend and spouse that I want to be. I want to energetic and happy. I do. Sometimes I genuinely am. But often I just want to walk in the trees alone. I want to listen to music and be inside my own head.

Most of the time I want this.

At first I went full blast in the opposite direction of my inherent introverted hermitism. I worked almost every day. I said yes to social things and tried to be the opposite of me. My husband wasn’t on his new regular schedule yet so I had no real routine for months.

I’m a routine person.

It wasn’t working.  So I’m on my way back to myself and it feels right.

There’s nothing wrong with me.

The life that makes me happy is a simple and quiet one. I love sunshine. I love my husband. Mountains and trees and rivers will always make me happiest. Some days I want to be alone and that’s fine. Some days I want to hang out with my friends but only for a few hours and that’s fine too.

There’s nothing wrong with me. Next time I move (and yes that will be this year) I will try to remember that I don’t have to make a list of ways I want to be different in my new home.

Wherever I go….I’ll always end up just me actually.