Thursday, December 31, 2009

thanks 2009

2009. Seems like it was here, then poof, gone so fast. I have to say, it was a wonderful year. . . in a steady, relaxed way for me. This is the year I became comfortable and content with my life, just as it is right now. I realized it's more helpful to remember the past rather than reliving the past. . . to be truly grateful for this moment right now. . . and that the future holds so very much. My word for the year was threshold. Not a word I considered much until I read an essay about thresholds last December. It just seemed to fit where I felt I was a year ago. And I honestly believe a threshold was where I was more often than not this year. Standing between the past and the future, able to look back at the past, but mostly preparing to move into the future.

This is the year I learned how to live a happy life. I chose to be happy with how my life is right now. I planned for happiness, and more often than not, I found it all around me.
Maybe not exactly how I had imagined it, but it was there.

This photo was taken on one of favorite days in July. I took the day off from work and set out on an adventure, driving south on Hwy 35 in Wisconsin to Pepin, where I had dinner at the Harbor View Cafe. I arrived just before they opened for the evening and gathered among the others waiting in line outside the restaurant. It was a gorgeous afternoon. The menu is written on a chalk board hanging on a wall. I walked up to get a closer look and the woman next to me sighed and remarked that everything is fabulous here. I said this was my first visit. She smiled and said, "Girl, I love seeing a woman who takes care of herself, and this is a great place to do just that."

I savored every bite of that delicious day. And of this year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

i'm back. . .

I've sort of missed not blogging for the past four days. I must have created a habit during my 30 days of intentional cyberspace blabbing.

I had a request earlier to tell this story. So here goes.

There are three things that I consistantly could care less about - really, not like at all. And they happen to be things most people typically enjoy: parades, fireworks, and football. To separate them more, I find parades and fireworks utterly boring. Perhaps the first time I saw a parade and fireworks they might have been exciting, but after 34 years there's nothing much new or fresh about either in my book. Pyrotechnics haven't seemed to change, at all. And they still throw that woman up in the air and the Vulcans still run around acting obnoxious. Stale and boring.

Football. I completely detest football. To my core. (I do want to see The Blindspot, however, because the story seems to be more human interest than football). I remember happily telling a guy on my freshman floor that I considered Super Bowl Sunday one of my favorite days of the year. . . because it means it's over for a few months. I left him speechless. But he wrote about my comment in his weekly campus newspaper column. I vaguely remember him calling me unpatriotic or not human for my admission.

Well, imagine the sheer delight that came over me this year at the U of M Ultimate Homecoming when I learned that I would have to partake in these three things all in one night. (Apparently it was the "ultimate" homecoming because the blessed stadium, after all the years of whining and complaining about the Metrodome and then talking about building it, followed by the years of building it, was finally finished. And the U, to our credit, decided to start a tradition of showcasing our academic and outreach missions in addition to pride and spirit during this week).  Actually, I didn't have to participate, but because I love my coworker Erica to pieces, I told her I would volunteer for our CLA Homecoming Parade experience. I thought I would just have to direct CLA alumni who came to march in the parade. Then I'd go home. Oh no - I ended up having to march in the parade and carry a sign because we were short volunteers - and I'm not even an alum of CLA. To make it even better, the act in front of us was none other than the bouncing girl. And those Vulcans were running around everywhere. Really, I thought? This isn't a city parade. Really, those two acts have to be at the U of M parade too? They have nothing to do with the U of M.

It gets better because the parade route (which was only a few blocks long) ended at the stadium, for a football game pepfest with fireworks. The saving grace at this affair was the marching band. We have a fabulous marching band. I love listening to and watching them. And I love that they now have a great new home in the new stadium. Those kids so deserve it.

So, there I sat in the new stadium, singing the rouser with my coworkers, clapping for the spirit squad and watching a ridiculous message from Coach Tim Brewster on the jumbo-tron. Then the pyrotechnic specialist set off fireworks on the field. And yes, they were unremarkable to me. 

The parade: ok, it moved along pretty fast.

The football team: supposedly "preparing" for the game at the Radisson Hotel near campus, so I didn't have to watch them prance about the field. Also thankfully, I didn't have to attend the game the next day.

The stadium: meh. It's fine. The inner corridor is a massive wind tunnel. The bowl section wasn't as cold as I thought it would be that night. I'm sure it will be a great venue for U2 next summer.

But because I'm a good aunt, a few weeks later I went to Iowa to watch my nephew play football. And yes, I watched the game and cheered. Although from the backseat of my sister's car. I giggled when I realized his school is so small that some players and cheer squad members were dashing around to get suited up to also play in the half-time marching band show.

And I discoverd just how much my mom loves nachos. And just how good the nachos are at the Akron-Westfield field. And that Andrew's game was sort of fun, mostly because I was watching him and because there wasn't a parade or fireworks in sight.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Merry Christmas! I hope you are enjoying a beautiful day with family and friends. I was probably four or five in this picture. My sister made the duck I'm clutching along with my Woodsy family that lived in that fabric log. The Woodsies remain one of my all-time favorite gifts. I carried them everywhere. Papa, Mama and Baby Woodsy were squirrels or woodchucks or chipmunks. They were dressed. They squeaked. And the door of the log folded down so the Woodsies could sit in chairs at their table. The whole thing came with a book about their lives. I wonder if it's all still in my parents' attic. I need to look. Other favorite gifts were the My Friends dolls, Merlin and Fashion Plates.

December 25 marks my 30 days of blogging each day. I made it - and accomplished one of my 34 to-dos of the year! Thanks for reading along. I hope to keep it up.

Love and peace.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Christmas 1975. I was a month old and Jodi was almost 17. Mom was 41 and dad almost 41. I was exactly a month early, and was supposed to be born on December 25. Mom tells everyone that I finally started to look "normal" on Christmas because my first month I had a staph skin infection from the hospital. But I made a quick recovery just in time to enjoy my first Christmas with my family.

Mom still sets out the nativity scene in the background. And that tree came home with dad one day. 1975 was a big year for him: a new kid, a new car (a blue GMC Pacer - not a long-lived model - looked like a circus clown car), a color TV, and this tree. And maybe that snazzy shirt. Mom told him she didn't want to deal with a real tree, so he went to Montgomary Wards and picked this one up. From the front it looks fine. It was really missing half a back, and we would set it up so the missing back faced out the window. I laughed at it for many years.

Christmas Eve is big in my family. We open family presents, typically have mom's homemade spaghetti and meatballs (although Swedish and German, she uses a recipe from an Italian family), and church. When I was little mom and Jodi went to the late night service. I remember mom would wear a bell necklace and I would listen by the door in my room for it to stop jingling and then I would sneak out for a while and gaze at the tree, all alone in the living room. . . and watch for Santa out the window.

And when I'd wake up in the morning that Rudolph had left behind evidence of very messy carrot eating.

Enjoy the wonder of this night.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I love this picture of my dad and me. I think I was in sixth grade. I'm happy I scheduled these posts for the next few days, thinking I would be at my sister's now. Most of my holiday cheer has been sapped right out of me. Hopefully some will return tomorrow. Being three instead of six last year just seemed like a blip and I easily shook it off. Two years in a row isn't as easy to shrug my shoulders at, especially since we don't see each other that often. I've learned a valuable lesson this season: always, always have a backup plan. Which I do because my parents are close, and I'm thankful for that. I'll spend the next two days with them. I was hoping to shake up our Christmas Day a bit and go to a movie. Just to get mom and me out of the house and around others. I'm not holding tightly to that idea anymore. It sounds like traveling around will be pretty difficult. Wait and see I guess. I'm eagerly looking forward to December 26, and similarly, January 1.

And I'm grateful I'm not trapped in a snowy ditch, or airport, or that we're seperated because we don't get along. I think watching the Grinch right now will help my mood a bit!

The highlight of my day was receiving greetings from my Ireland trip friends in Austraila and Chicago. Email is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

bed time

Someone (ahem. . . ) wasn't looking forward to going to bed during the holidays in this classic holiday photo. Turns out she's really a night-owl. No wonder she was upset.

Monday, December 21, 2009

go with the flow

Some days are just sort of odd. Today was one of them. I started when I, still asleep, answered the phone and my dad told me we aren't going to my sister's because of the weather. I don't think I said anything to him, and just hung up. When I got up and hour later, I was completely confused as to if that was a dream or not, so I called home. No, not a dream and yes, we're not going to Iowa for Christmas and my sister and her family are staying put as well.

I felt disappointed for most of the day. This is the second year in a row that we're all not together. The roads are already full of ice where they live. So now we're all rethinking menus and doing last minute shopping to re-prepare for the holiday. On the upside, I did enjoy spending time at my place for the holiday last year. I think I might have some extra time to read and hang some pictures that have been leaning against my walls for two or so years. Yep, this Christmas might just be the time to do these things!

Also adding to my "off" day was staying home for most of morning waiting for a building inspector to come by to "inspect" my new patio door. His inspection involved looking mostly at the clipboard he was carrying, and not at the door. Odd.

Tonight I got a call from the mom of a guy I went to high school with. We (the mom and I) have remained friends, strangely enough. Technically I'm friend skipping over my mom because she met Ginger when Dave and I were preschoolers. Then we all re-met when Dave and I entered 9th grade. He and his brother went to St. Joe's and I went to public school. I had a huge crush on him all throughout high school, which Ginger and my mom (and probably Dave) knew. He's married now and lives in Milwaukee. He friended me on facebook over a year ago, which I didn't know because his facebook name is Bucky Badger, and his photo was nondescript. I ignored his friend request, until he sent me a message explaining that he is Bucky. I accepted. A bit strange. . . and we haven't communicated since.

Here's the best part of that story: Ginger tells me at least once a year that she wishes I was her daughter-in-law, yet says I'm too good for David and that I probably wouldn't enjoy being married to him. It sounds like she's not supportive of him when I say it like this, but that's not the case. She loves him to pieces and wishes the best for him, but realizes he's (in her words) "not the best communicator." I just laugh when she says this to me because there was a time in my life, oh so long ago, when I would have died a thousand deaths in sheer delight to hear her say she wishes I was her daughter-in-law. Now she's a loving sorta mom-like/sorta friend-like presence in my life. I guess we've double friend skipped over David and my mom to wind up still talking to each other after all these years.

So, truly, the lesson of the day is to go with the flow.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

kitchen redemption

I feel like the Rocky theme song should be playing right now. I redeemed myself in the kitchen today, twice. Whew. I was worried after last weekend's cookie debacle and my mid-week "I'm off food" phase that this holiday season was going to be a complete bust in the enjoyable eats department.

I made some really good banana bread this morning, from a recipe a Starbuck's employee gave me a few months ago. Supposedly this is Starbuck's new banana bread recipe, from when they decided to start baking with real ingredients. So, that's all ready to go to Iowa for Kane Christmas 2009.

Tonight I roasted some vegetables. Among them, parsnips. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time I've had parsnips. I like them - at least I do roasted with yellow onion and golden beets, sea salt, pepper and olive oil. I combined the veggies with these very tasty tiny ravioli I found at Trader Joe's. It just might be the perfect pasta in my book. I made a lovely cold pasta salad with them and lots of fresh veggies and TJ's Italian Balsamic dressing this summer. Boy, that was good. That dressing is now my favorite, along with their orange vinegar mixed with a little olive oil.

I must stop. I'm making myself hungry and it's 11:40p.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

holiday daily

Adding to my holiday daily album, almost on a daily basis. I need to play some catch-up this weekend. You can see my progress here.

Friday, December 18, 2009


It's 10pm on Friday night, almost a week after I baked the sugar cookies, and I'm finally motivated to frost them. Kitchen, here I come.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

he sees you when you're sleeping

Ah, Santa. The Santas around my home have captured my attention much more this year. For a while Santa's secularness and connection with the material part of Christmas sort of drove me nuts. So for the past few years I've been kind of down on the idea of Santa. This year I'm back to liking Santa more. I started thinking how hard my family worked to keep the magic of Santa alive for me when I was young, and what a true gift that is to me. My sister submitted my name somewhere so I would receive a letter from Santa, probably when I was two or three. My mom kept it, and added it to the Christmas decorations I put up in my room each year. It was big deal for me to pick out the cookies and the milk glass I'd leave for Santa on Christmas Eve. And Santa wrapped his gifts really well, and always in Santa paper.

The pictures are of a Santa decoration I've had since I was probably five or so. I believe it was a gift from a neighbor. Now I'm struck by the craftsmenship of it - it's so rare to see wooden toys and decorations now. It's always hung in my bedroom - at my parent's, on my closet door, and now at my place on my bedroom door. There's a little pull string on the bottom that moves Santa's legs and arms, which makes the little bells tinkle. I love it.

When I was in college I enjoyed watching my nephew, Andrew, live in awe of Santa. I would help him pick out cookies and pour milk and write his note to Santa. I'd stay up with my sister and help assemble toys and cardboard blocks and wrap Santa gifts. One year Santa came out to my sister's house and Andrew had a personal visit with him. He asked for a "comfortable quiet." My dad laughed so hard and couldn't believe how Andrew could know what we would all want for Christmas. If you knew Andrew at the time, this was completely fitting. He was perhaps the loudest, and somewhat obnoxious, little 3 year old. When Santa left, Andrew looked at us with big eyes and asked, "Santa drives a Ford Taurus?" (my brother-in-law worked for Ford at the time, so that's how Andrew knew about the Taurus). And after he drove away, I watched out the window as Andrew and my mom stood out in yard and walked all around the house, little Andrew pointing at the roof and mom explaining how Santa will find a way inside to deliver presents on Christmas night.

These memories simply delight me. Many of my Santa gifts are long gone, but the thoughtfulness and care my family took - and the enjoyment I've had "on the other side" of Santa - keep me believing in the magic people bring to this season.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Tonight I was reminded what I enjoy most about Christmas as an adult - spending time with family and friends. I didn't feel well today, so I came home from work early, with all the "I still need to get this done" thoughts running through my mind. I slept for most of the afternoon and woke up feeling a bit better. My sister called and we had a fun conversation talking about our food menus for next week. And that's when I was reminded - the gifts, the wrapping, and the decorating are beautiful and wonderful ways to prepare for the holiday, but spending time with my loved ones is what matters most.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I have a lot of ironing to do tonight. I'm also feeling a bit melancholy today - and the mound of ironing isn't helping the situation - but it's something I can control, so I'm going to take care of it now. I'm hoping after a good night's sleep, tomorrow will seem a bit brighter.

Monday, December 14, 2009

gone missing

Isn't that a funny phrase, gone missing? There's a piece of paper in my world that has gone missing, and I've searched high and low for it tonight. Just can't find it. And am not yet to the place where I can let it go and trust that it will turn up. I'm thinking in another 15 minutes, I'll reach that place. At least I hope I will.

The search continues. . .

And it's a way to put off frosting holiday cookies for another night.

UPDATE: at 11:30p, I found the paper. And I had stopped looking about an hour and a half earlier. Works everytime.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

holly + peppermint

Ha! I can't figure out how to flip the bottom photo, but it goes along with my spirit today - a bit out of sorts - with holiday baking to be exact.

First the holly. I love holly. It's so winter to me. Nature understands complimentary colors. Red and green are compliments, and opposites, on the color wheel. Holly is just stunning to me. I took the second photo in Ireland. Holly grows there year-round and it's common to see it used for landscaping. This plant was outside our hotel in Tramore, Co. Cork, a seaside town in the south. It was gorgeous. So I've decided to use it each year in my holiday daily book. You can see this year I added some text (with picnik), and it's at the start and end of my book. I still need to get some photos taken of my progress with this journal. I'm a bit behind, but I'm really enjoying it.

I purchased a few bunches of holly and boxwood at a garden center today and made the arrangement in the first photo. It's great, and so adds some "living" to my living room. I hope I can keep it looking healthy into January. That's my goal.

Perhaps all my creative energy is going to crafting this holiday season because I'm really down on baking. Just blah about it. I was excited when I bought a holiday shape cookie pan at Crate and Barrel last weekend. It's a breeze to use. The first batch of gingerbread cookies are hideous looking. And I don't think they taste that great either. They might end up in the garbage. I frosted them with squeeze frosting from the store (never again) and added red sugar. And then broke out laughing that a 34 year old created the ugliest cookies ever. A two year could make something more visually appealing.

I also made peppermint brownies. Those are good. And in the freezer. I'm not really interested in eating them. I went back to the cookie pan tonight and tried a new recipe for peppermint chip sugar cookies. Way better looking than the gingerbread. They taste much better too, at least to me. I'm not interested in eating those either. And I got bored after making 4 dozen so I tossed the rest of the dough. That was difficult because I don't like to waste food, but I couldn't deal with the peppermint smell anymore. I think I'll whip up a simple buttercream frosting and crush some small candy canes and lightly frost some of them tomorrow. Then in the freezer they go. I need to bring some treats for yet another work potluck on Wednesday (yes, we do work at the U). And that's it for cookie baking for me. I do plan to make spiced pecans next week. Those sound delicious.

I wrapped up the baking with eating an apple. Seriously, I don't think an apple has ever tasted as good to me as it did tonight.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Hey, this is post number 50 for me. There was a time this year when I thought this blog idea was just another thing to do. Now I'm rather enjoying it.

Today I'm celebrating three years of working in development for CLA at the U, along with Emily and Eva. We've learned a lot together, and it's meant the world to me to for us to be newbies together. After three years I can finally say I have an understanding of the U works. It truly took that long. . . and I doubted all those who told me it would. I'm a fast learner and catch on quick at jobs. Calendar time at the U goes by very quickly. Projects and decisions aren't typically made quickly. Efficient or not, the reason is academia is a highly consultative culture. It's an odd time continuum to live in sometimes. I'm blessed to have found my way back to U, which was a goal after I graduated from Morris in 1998. And I'm blessed to work with fabulous colleages, and talented and motivated students.

We had a small anniversary and graduation celebration this afternoon in the office. My coworker Kaylee walked in graduate school commencement today as well. Her parents, husband and best friend joined us for the party. The only person missing was Mary because she had a chemo appointment, but we know she was with us in spirit. We're nearing a celebration for her too because she's almost finished with her third and last type of chemo treatments.

It was a good friday indeed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

it isn't always holly jolly

Today was somewhat a day of extremes.

1. The garage door on my end of the garage wasn't opening this morning, so I had to go out the other door. Not a big deal, but I knew I needed to call it into our management company. Turns out another owner had manually shut the door earlier this morning because it wasn't shutting all the way. Just like all of us, he didn't have time to post a note in my building to let us know what he did. It's a good thing he shut the door for many reasons I won't go into. I made the call, he apologized for not also calling, and the door was fixed. Teamwork!

2. 94 was a mess this morning, so I exited to University, along with everyone else. I love my job, but the commute really gets to me some days. Yesterday I was literally trapped behind someone going 15 on the River Parkway from Shepard Road to the U campus - basically the bulk of my commute. I'm all for caution, but when you're going so slow that your car doesn't have enough momentum to keep traction, that's also a problem.

3. I'm finally getting another string of visits with prospective donors! You really have to be like a duck and just let all the no's and ignored calls/emails be water that just rolls off your back. I'm fortunate to work with a great team who gets the stigma attached to raising money. We support and cheer each other on and that's wonderful.

4. I completely enjoyed potluck #1 of the day with my coworkers, and even one new colleague who will start next week. We gave our director a really nice gift certificate to Meritage and recognized the difficult year we've lived through with the economy tanking, a new dean, a new CEO at the foundation, the U in an ongoing precarious budget situation, and a few of us dealing with aging parents and grandparents and our director fighting cancer. We've really been through quite a year together!

5. Another condo issue this afternoon. I'm praying the common sense fairy will visit a certain unit tonight, wave her wand, and greater personal responsibility will be the outcome. Fingers crossed!

6. Potluck #2 this evening with friends from Hennepin. Lots of laughter and good food. I had sweet potato pie for the first time, and believe I like it more than pumpkin.

7. This is really from yesterday, but I noticed again the beautiful card from a friend and it just lifted my spirits after I wrote another email to the people who need some common sense. I'm so happy the post office is still around just to receive beautiful mail.

8. Super excited that thirtysomething season 2 will be released in January. I was sort of bummed to finish the first season that released in August in about a week, and thought the other seasons will be released who knows when. I'm hoping 3 and 4 will follow. Such a great show.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

holiday bokeh

What is bokeh you say? It's demonstrated in this photo - the blur, or aesthetic quality of the blur, in an out-of-focus photo.

I snapped this on campus as I was leaving tonight. Somewhat by hasty accident, and quickly realizing I've wanted to take more photos this way, but just haven't seized the opportunity when it's upon me. This is a part of my typical (outside) walk twice a day. Through this little courtyard called Lilly Plaza that workers have been scrutinizing over the light hanging for a few days. It's near Northrop Auditorium and Morrill Hall and one guess is someone in either of those buildings hasn't thought the lights were just right. . .

I'll have to snap a picture of this another night, but fear it just won't do justice, but I also walk by a frat house that on my home is playing synthesized holiday tunes complete with a choreographed outdoor light display show. They do it every year. It's quite something. I give those boys credit. It's really a sight.

I sort of fell into a long winter's nap this evening and think I might have missed posting for 12/9/09. Maybe I can back date with the clock setting. . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Wasn't quite ready for the snow to start falling. Campus sparkled in white glittery flakes as I departed for the day, and I was quickly reminded how tired driving in snow makes me feel. Good night.

Monday, December 7, 2009

we need a little christmas

Have you heard this holiday song?

Haul out the holly,
Put up the tree before
My spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things,
But deck the halls again now.

For we need a little Christmas,
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet,
Yes, we need a little Christmas,
Right this very minute,
It hasn't snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we're in a hurry.

Climb down the chimney,
Turn on the brightest string
Of lights I've ever seen,
Slice up the fruitcake,
It's time we hung some tinsel

On that evergreen bough.

For we need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing,
Ringing through the rafter,

And a little snappy
Happy ever after,
Yes we need a little Christmas now!

When I was little I remember my mom playing these Christmas records. . . and occasionally they would skip and skip and skip. This song was and still is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I associate this one with my mom decorating our house, so I've been humming it all week. I loved all our special decorations, especially these hanging gold ball things with tinsel coming out of the top of them. She used to hang those in the doorways in our living room. I also vividly remember these small caroler and tree candles she would set out on my dresser with white glittery batting for snow. And the santa face mobile she would hang from my ceiling light. That mobile sort of freaked me out though, like my sister's santa doll. I remember calling mom into my room one night convinced the mobile was going to "get me." She turned on the light, which of course made it less scary. Then she turned the light off and I pulled the covers over my head. Apparently santa frightened me a lot as a kid.

I'm almost finished decorating. Brought in the last of my trimmings from my garage storage unit tonight. This is a chore. All my holiday stuff is outside in our garage, in a wall storage cage. I can't reach into the cage without climbing on a ladder, of which I really need a new one. (Christmas present from dad maybe?) And the tubs are really dirty so I clean them off first, then sort through and haul most of the things I want upstairs in my handy blue Ikea bag. The tree and ornament bin are their own trip. Then another trip to bring back the empty bins. Each year I think maybe next year I won't put up the tree, and just put up my tree village. I would miss my ornaments though. They're what I enjoy most about the big tree. And I'd probably miss the process of decorating my home. I do think I'll keep the decorations up longer this year though, maybe until MLK Jr. weekend.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


My tree is up and about 95% decorated. Yipee! I have just a few more ornaments and the tree topper to go. I'll probably work on it for a few minutes before work, then bring in just a few more decorations after work tomorrow. I'm scaling back a bit this year.

The ornament above is my oldest ornament. It was given to my mom for me by a church member named Fern Novotny. She and her husband Ed passed away many, many years ago. It's a sweet ornament - made entirely and intricately - from wood. Probably by hand too, for sure the painting is hand done. I love it. I always hang it near the top of my tree.

I'm looking forward to a less hectic week. Two potlucks. One at work and one with the young adults at Hennepin. I'm making my "potluck go to recipe" - layered taco dip - for both. Easy.

Today during our church service Pastor Bruce talked about a meeting he had with other downtown pastors and the chief medical director at HCMC. The meeting was about a likely need for a public health care option to happen at the state level, since this part of the federal health care reform remains a lightingrod issue. As predicted when the state budget was passed last spring, HCMC and Regions are now to the point of withholding medical care for under- and uninsured persons in need. These hospitals have always been the resource other Twin Cities hospitals have sent patients to when they learn patients are unable to pay. Our advent theme is Welcoming the Wild One, and Bruce challenged us to begin thinking how the "wild one" would work on the public health care option, and where Hennepin's place is in that work. Challenging issue. Something for me (and I hope for others) to pray about.

In the midst of this, my little angel ornament will continue bring me hope.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Whew! This has been a busy, yet fun, week. Full week of work (after five days off - always an adjustment) and five full nights of activities. Holiday gatherings #1, #2, and #3, combined with music, colors, storefronts and a general excitement for the season I've felt from others has put me in the holiday - joyous and peaceful - spirit.

I had breakfast with a former co-worker this morning. If you ever go to the Good Earth, I highly recommend the cinnamon french toast. Then it was on to Grand Meander on Grand Ave in St. Paul. I met friends from Hennepin Ave we were all over the avenue with many others. Took the trolley up to the Macalester area to see a penguin from Como Zoo. He is a warm weather penguin, so the zoo worker was spritzing him with water to keep him cool. He had enough social time and went into his little cage for some quite. Animals amaze me. We also saw an Irish wolfhound on a walk. It was almost the size of a pony. Wow. Imagine a dog that size in your house.

Lately I've become more interested in looking at clothes in small boutiques (often way too expensive), vintage shops and consignment stores. Grand Ave has plenty. I was taken aback to spot a familiar label, Avoca (from Ireland), in Karma on Grand. There were quite a few scarves and a hot water bottle cover (I've always wondered about hot water bottles. . . ). I remembered the idyllic original (and still operational) weaving mill we toured in Co. Wicklow. I think it dated back to the 1800s, which is young compared to some of the sites we saw. I guess even quaint Avoca has discovered the world market. I smiled, remembering I had on a scarf from the source :)

Becca commented she couldn't believe how courteous people in St. Paul seem to be, compared to Minneapolis. Maybe something the smaller twin can can boast in the seemingly never-ending rivalry between the two cities.

Friday, December 4, 2009

no coast

Really enjoyed the No Coast Craft O Rama at Midtown Global Market this evening on my home from work. It's open tomorrow too. Holy Land Deli has great falafel and Salty Tart Bakery was voted a favorite bakery in the Twin Cities. Check it out if you can!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


If I wasn't so tired right now I'd go to the kitchen and get my camera and download the photo I took of the snow this morning on my deck. But I am way too tired to do that, so words will have to suffice for this evening.

Good day. Productive day. Visited with two donors I've really enjoyed getting to know and connecting them to what they're interested in at the U. Survived having 8 glasses of wine fall off a serving tray on onto my dress and boots at our holiday gathering for donors this evening. Went to dinner club at King's Wine Bar in South Minneapolis and visited with people I haven't seen in a while. Decided that I really want to go on a walking tour of the Cinque Terre in Italy for my big trip next year. Came home and decided that scheduled events each evening of the week is a bit too much for this introvert. A brief night off tomorrow night, then the SPCO with mom on Saturday night. I hope I don't sleep through the concert.

Have a good sleep, as our Irish tour guide would tell us.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

not THE candle. . .

But a good photo fill-in because it's dark in my place and I'm a bigger fan of daytime indoor photos. And I don't want to light THE candle just yet!

THE candle is a Thymes (local company) Frasier Fir. If you're near one this season, smell it. It's the reason to not have a real tree. On my way home from tutoring this evening I picked one up at Gerten's Ladies Night Out Wednesdays. 30% off - which was needed. I still gulped when I paid for it. But the Aveda Shampure candle above is almost burned down and I knew I would need a new go-to candle soon. I'm looking forward to this Frasier Fir. I'm thinking it can be an all year candle. In the summer it will remind me of northern Minnesota.

Today I was inspired by the beautiful and functional creations of U of M art students. I visited the annual holiday art sale on campus and picked up a cup and some cards made by intaglio printing. I'd love to take an intaglio class. . . and hope MCBA might offer one sometime. Or I guess I could look into taking one at the U. . .but I'd have to take it for a grade to take advantage of the Regent's Scholarship for employees. Grades = stress I just don't need in life anymore. Decisions, decisons. . . I was also reminded how much I enjoyed pottery classes in college. It was a frustrated enjoyment actually. Man, that wheel throwing is tough. I could watch my instructor's gracefulness all day, in awe. All in all, those pottery classes provided great balance at that point in my life, which was a true blessing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

the dice game

Tonight I enjoyed holiday party #1, with friends from a book club (hi to you all because you're the majority of my readers, at least those I know of). We had a great time laughing and eating good food. And we played the always popular dice game. I walked away with a Santa head cookie jar, which is great because I don't have a Santa head cookie jar. And it sort of reminds me of this Santa doll that is my sister's, but for some reason it never moved with her so my mom would put it under our tree every year. Actually that doll sort of freaked me out when I was little and would be in the living room with just the Christmas tree lights on. It has "follow you" eyes. I remember getting to edge of the kitchen and running really fast around the corner through the living room and into the bathroom or my bedroom. I haven't thought of that memory in a long time.

Back to the dice game. It was intense. The most wanted item seemed to be the movie The Holiday. Carol is the proud winner. I love that movie. If it wasn't 11:22, I'd watch it now. Beth gave us lovely poinsettias and Melissa in all her craftiness made us bookmarks. Thanks ladies for a fun night!

Monday, November 30, 2009


I'm really into birds lately. Watching them fly, or eat at a feeder. I've started noticing they are all over the place in decorations, in print, and in the handmade craft world. This photo is of a holiday display at Nordstrom - a tree filled with birds! Tonight I had to go back to the MOA to pick up a bag my sister left in a store on Friday. I really wasn't looking forward to going back to the mall. Big change for me over the past two years. I used to love shopping there - now, it's just OK. I had two coupons for DSW, good through today. I scoured the regular and sale priced areas for a pair of gray flats. No luck. Then I looked for new running shoes. No luck. So I left. And am happy I didn't just buy something I wasn't looking for because I had coupons. That's another big change for me.

Two stories from this Thanksgiving, aka, the great gravy debacle. I'm the mashed potato maker and my sister makes great gravy. This year the turkey was in the oven a bit too long, was dry, and there was an abundance of pan drippings. Jodi was in gravy making heaven. We had so much that she left over half in the saucepan, which for some reason she put in the sink. You know where this is going. After eating my dad cleared his plate and put it on top of the pan in the sink, covering it. I proceeded to wash my hands in that half of the sink. We soon figured out the gravy was full of soap. Oh boy, there were some sad gravy faces as we dumped the gravy in the garbage. The next day Jodi had to make gravy with "the bag of stuff that was with the turkey" (as my mom called it). I didn't want to know what that bag of stuff was, so I chose not the watch the second gravy making.

The next is about my nephew, Andrew. He has definite ideas about what he likes to eat. On Thanksgiving it's just turkey legs and pumpkin pie. No sides. Except rolls. Well, I told my mom the week before that we probably don't need rolls, since there's stuffing and all the other sides. We sit down, Andrew gets his legs and asks where the rolls are. My mom sighs and says, "Jill said we didn't need bread. . . " and repeated that at least three times during the meal. I offered to make toast. He said it wasn't a big deal. More sighs from mom.

Next year I'm taking a cue from Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and setting out a plate of toast, stick pretzels, popcorn and jelly beans. And I bet more than one person will eat some of it. It's my plan for a new tradition. . . since the scalloped corn I made this year wasn't well received. That's another story.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Look at that yummy sandwich and beer cheese soup from Hogan's in Northfield. I forgot to include that photo yesterday.

Currently reading When Summer is in the Meadow by Niall and Christine Williams. I mentioned them in another post. This is their second book about living in Ireland. They are about to adopt an Irish child. It's a good read.

I went to the library today after yoga. It's my typical Sunday routine - yoga, library, Target. I've heard good things about this Handmade Home idea book, so I thought I'd check it out. Most of the projects are sewing based, using recycled/repurposed fabric and clothing. I'm really just liking the pictures at this point.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

a favorite place

I spent the morning with my new friend, Quik Fix Singer. It took us a while to get to know each other - especially threading the bobbin. I made the whole process more complicated than it had to be. But we became fast friends after that. I pulled out some paper I wanted to stitch and away we went. Lots of fun.

I visited one of my favorite Minnesota towns in the afternoon - Northfield. I love Northfield. In my book it has all the makings for a wonderful small town. . . not one, but two liberal arts colleges, a river, angle parking, a charming main street, a rich arts community, college student hangouts coupled with ethnic restaurants, a real bakery, a consignment/vintage clothing shop, a few boutique-y clothing shops, this craft extravaganza shop called diggs, and (what first brought me there) a bead shop. Yes folks, in my book Northfield has it all. Something about it reminds me of that quirky town on the Gilmore Girls. Rory and Loralei drove me nuts on that show, but I so enjoyed the character of that town they lived in. And it's only 45 minutes away! A "backup dream" place to live someday if my goal of becoming a sidewalk sweeper/writer/beader/full-time crafty person in Co. Kerry, Ireland is just a bit out of my reach for this lifetime.

Friday, November 27, 2009


At 11:18p, these feet are tired. Happy day after Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

potato masher + gravy maker

Family and Thanksgiving. Jodi and I are a like in many ways, and very different in other ways. I'm the mashed potato expert, she's the gravy expert. Mom is starting to pass some of the duties on to us. Always love this day with my family.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Today is my 34th birthday. 34. Wow. Over a 1/3 of the way to 99. To celebrate the next year of my life, I created the little book above. This birthday book idea came from Elise. It's called my 34 to-do book. Here's my list of 34 to-dos for the next year (in no particular order).
1: love
2: start an etsy shop
3: finish five books
4: cross an ocean
5: bake bread from scratch
6: have a "Clare's Well day" once a month
7: sister's weekend trip with Jodi
8: take a book class at MCBA
9: hike
10: kayak
11: dinner (again) at the Harbor View Cafe in Pepin
12: host a party
13: de-clutter
14: go fishing with dad
15: go to a Gopher football game with Andrew
16: go on a picnic
17: stay at a B&B
18: smile
19: make a favorite childhood recipe with mom
20: sing in the rain
21: buy handmade
22: support literacy
23: blog everyday for one month
24: close a big gift
25: date
26: fit more comfortably in my clothes
27: watch the oringinal Star Wars trilogy
28: ice skate at Ivy Hills Park
29: find something lovely at a consignment shop
30: go bowling
31: bake a rhubarb pie from scratch
32: fill my red wall with art
33: pray
34: document this list

I'm beginning #23 today - blog every day for a month. This also happens to be the first day of documenting my holiday season in my holiday book, so the daily blogging will help with my goal to take a photo + write down some words about my day.

I'm super excited about this year and to capture some details about it in this little book. Stay tuned for my progress!

Now off to frost some spice cupcakes with maple cream cheese buttercream frosting. It's bring a treat night at tutoring this evening, and the cupcakes will be my contribution.

Monday, November 16, 2009

calm + bright

2008 dec daily collage, originally uploaded by jmk photos.
I'm about ten days away from starting my 2009 holiday daily book. It's ready to go, and all my supplies are assembled in one pile (well, maybe two or three piles to be honest).

I first learned about this idea from Ali. Her idea is this: document each day from December 1-25. Keep it simple. Focus on images and words. Create the book and base pages ahead of time. Gather your supplies. Enjoy the process and the season.

Last year I decided to create one of these albums. A few photos of it are pictured above. I didn't create the foundation or gather my supplies beforehand, however, and I quickly learned a lesson for this year: make the base ahead of time. It equals more fun time thinking about one day at a time.

My 2008 album documented Dec 1-30. I learned another lesson: I'm more interested in the month before Christmas. It will always include my birthday (Nov 25) and most of the time Thanksgiving as well (which is my most favorite holiday).

The most important lesson I learned was how to more fully appreciate and give thanks for this time of year. Although I've dramatically reframed my view of being single over the past few years, I still struggle a bit with being single from Thanksgiving to New Year's. Making time for creativity and reflecting on the gift of each day in December made an incredible difference in holiday experience last year. I realized there are some traditions this family of one would like to keep honoring, and that there is room for new surprises if I am present and open to them. The discipline of really observing each day carried on into the rest of 2009. And I'm grateful for that. I highly recommend a project like this. It can be in any form. . .a blog. . .from re-purposed paper. . . with a lot of glitter. . . with all pictures, or with one. . . from whichever dates you'd like during the season. . .with whatever words you feel like writing. I felt such a sense of accomplishment and creative awe as I read my 2008 pages a week ago. For that alone it was worth taking the time to smear some glue stick over paper.

So, my new 2009 little holiday book is ready to go for November 25. . . and it will help me with another creative project I have in store for the next year of my life. More to come on both next week.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.
Ayn Rand

Balance. The mourning doves demonstrate it's importance. And they make it look so effortless.

I've been consciously welcoming balance into my life for over seven years. It started when I joined Weight Watchers in 2001 and lost over 40 pounds in a year. Losing weight is one type of effort; maintaining weight loss is a whole different game. One I haven't really been playing for a while. It's funny, but I don't think I was living in balance while I was losing that weight. This isn't the way it has to be on WW, but now I laugh at all the weird "food" substitutions I came to know through the WW meetings. Like by using Cool Whip Free instead of Cool Whip Lite, I could save 1 point. . . blah, blah, blah. And why was Cool Whip and all the chemicals that create it all of a sudden an integral part of my diet anyway? Perhaps because I didn't want to use 3-4 points on a spoonful or two of real ice cream, even though that's what I really wanted, and what would have likely brought balance into my pleasure of eating. Too bad Cool Whip really isn't food in the nutritional sense, yet I can so remember all the time I spent contemplating sticking to an talking about my 24 daily points. I believe in the ideas WW is created from, but some of the tactics I used to lose the weight were really ridiculous. It's really about moderation and balance.

Last year I started a more conscious journey of inviting balance in my relationships. I let a long-time friendship shift to "inactive" in my life. It was both a wonderful and difficult choice for me. Sometimes people no longer provide the meaning they once did - and worse, sometimes they suck the life right out of you. Stepping away from that friend, and into the lives of people brand new to me took a lot of courage. I think it's difficult to meet new friends as an adult, especially in Minnesota. I tell people not from here all the time that I whole-heartedly believe it's true that Minnesotans typically stick to the tribes they grew up with - friends from grade and high school and college - and find it hard to truly include new friends in their tribes.

But taking that scary step was so worth it. I welcomed more people into my life that have lives that look a bit more like mine does at this point - something I felt was really out of balance for me. Finding that balance has helped me be a better friend, daughter, and sibling overall.

What I've learned from both of these journeys is that balance is so individual. Just as my yoga instructor says every week, our ability to phyically balance our bodies changes each day and it's like a fingerprint - different for everyone. It's up to me to define and honor what balance is for me. Then live it. And enjoy how it ripples goodness from me out into the world.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Going to give The Simple Woman's Daybook blog posting ideas a try.

For today
October 18, 2009

Outside my window. . . right now it's dark, but I loved the sunlight streaming through my windows today.
I am thinking. . . about pictures I want to hang on a hallway wall.
I am thankful for. . . a warm home.
From the kitchen. . . chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven. New recipe from a co-worker. Yum!
I am wearing. . . yoga pants and workout tops. I bought a new long-sleeve top for yoga class (for the winter) and love it. I'll get a lot of use from it.
I am creating. . . a fabric mini-album for some autumn photos I took last year. Have plans for another small book for this year's photos.
I am going. . . to visit my sister and her family on Friday for the weekend. Looking forward to seeing them, and I'm considering myself a good aunt because we're going to watch my nephew play football. Watching football = the thrill of watching paint dry for me. Should be a fun weekend!
I am reading. . . between books right now.
I am hoping. . . that a donor I'm calling this week will be open to talking about a gift.
I am hearing. . . a commercial while watching Sunday night TV on ABC. Can't wait for Brothers & Sisters!
Around the house. . . lots of piles in my craft room. Lots.
One of my favorite things. . . dresses. Planning on wearing a few this week.
A few plans for the rest of the week. . . condo board meeting, tutoring, drinks with friends to celebrate a friend who just accepted a job at the U - another lunch buddy! and a four day week. Can't beat that.
Photo above was taken today during a walk at the nature center across the street from my house.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Being a big Kate Winslet fan, I saw The Reader last winter the weekend it was released. I didn't know the story, and the friend I went with said the book is basically a screen play for the movie - that doesn't happen often.

This was one of those movies that I thought about for days after seeing it. The characters are brilliantly complex and layered. And the story is about so much - the Holocaust, the rebuilding of German life after WW2, love, killing, redemption and - here's a twist - illiteracy. Each person I've discussed the movie with has had widely differing viewpoints about why the characters made the choices they did. Holocaust stories, both fiction and nonfiction are certainly plentiful, but this one explores that subject from a very different perspective. It's fascinating to me.

Last fall during the presidential campaign I was really touched by President Obama asking people to get involved in their neighborhoods and help where there are needs. Paging through my community education catalog one night I noticed a request for literacy tutors in the adult basic education section. And I had an a-ha moment. Perhaps this is the right volunteer fit for me. So I called the coordinator and started the training process. It's federally mandated that volunteer tutors in these programs complete 12 hours of training - thank goodness. In May I attended training at the Minnesota Literacy Council, which I have to say was the most well done, professional training I've ever attended. Working in the nonprofit sector for over 10 years and volunteering with several different organizations, I've seen the good and not so good. MLC and the staff are fabulous. I looked forward to the 3 hour trainings even after a day at work. I think because the content is so different from my development work. I "teach" in both roles, but the content and delivery are apples and oranges.

Now on Wednesday evenings from 6-7:30 I assist in a class in South St. Paul. Each learner is working on individualized goals and most in this class are working toward completing the General Educational Development (GED) certificate - also known as the high school equivalency certificate. I won't get into this here, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what the GED is all about. For learners who have issues with literacy and have been out of the pattern of studying and taking standardized tests, preparing for and testing the GED can seem like an impossible task. But that's where the human spirit takes over. The majority of learners at this level are motivated and dedicated in ways I hadn't considered. They want to read to their kids. They want a wider variety of job opportunities. They want to experience more of our world. And that's where the fictional story of The Reader intersects with real life. Lacking age-appropriate literacy skills produces unimaginable (at least for me) shame. People attend ABE classes in secret because they don't want their families and friends to know they stuggle with reading, writing and math. They are overcoming the belief that they will always fail at reading or working math problems that an average 4th grader can do with ease.

The past two weeks I've worked with, "Greg," who has passed the reading, writing, social studies and science components of the GED. Greg has one section remaining - math - and he's working through a textbook to prepare. We've been working with decimals. And since I don't think about decimals much anymore, I've had to study the work book quite a bit as well. He's working hard at class, and making time for learning in his full life. We briefly talked about our jobs this week and I learned Greg has worked as a custodian at St. Thomas for over 20 years. He likes it, and loves being around the students. He told me a few stories about work, and this one stands out. He knows Father Dease (UST's president) from talking with him from time to time on campus. One night Greg was cleaning up after a donor event. Guests were leaving and Father Dease was seeing them out. Father came back to room and starting talking with Greg as he loaded chairs. They were in the middle of a conversation when a guest stepped right in between them, interupted and started talking to Father Dease. Father told the man he would talk to him in just a minute, when he finished his conversation with Greg. He turned back to Greg and asked "where were we?"

Greg smiled and said to me, "You know, that says a lot. I'm nobody - I'm just a custodian - and he told that guy with the tie on to wait a minute and we continued our conversation." Then Greg said, "Well that's enough chit-chat for now, I've got to get back to these decimals."

I'd love to hear what you think about The Reader. If you read or see it, let me know :)

By the way, I think Kate Winslet deserves all the awards she received last year. I already consider her the legendary actress of my generation. She's come a long way since Titanic.

Friday, September 11, 2009


In May I wrote about beginning So I Married Adventure, and as predicted, my progress was stalled by a few other books. Most recently this one, O Come Ye Back to Ireland. While looking for travel books on Paris and Morocco at my library, this one caught my eye. There it was on the shelf, cover facing me and all. I'm still reading my way through it, but here's the synopsis: a couple from New York decide to move to Ireland for a year. They resign from their jobs, pack up a few belongings, and move to a small village in County Clare. She is an artist, he is a writer.
While searching for the book image, I landed on their website. A long list of books and life and adventures continue after this one. And now I've found inspiration from their words and pictures that make this idea of mine even more real and do-able. If Niall and Christine could pick up and move to Ireland, do what they love, adopt children and travel the world as a family, I trust this is possible for my life as well.
Inspiration when you're really not looking for it. Blessings.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

time away

I'm off to Clare's Well for five nights of nature, books, fabulous food, fascinating people and time just to take it all in. I've scheduled a picture post to launch each day I'm away, so you can see some of what I'm enjoying.

Be well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ireland pages

ireland pages, originally uploaded by jmk photos.

Spending time with photos and memories from my Ireland trip has kept me happily busy for a few months. . . and likely will for a few more. There's still many more stories to document.

I'm unifying pages in this scrapbook mostly through color and repeating layout designs. For colors I'm sticking with mostly white or off-white cardstock for a base, and accenting with oranges, blues, grays, some red and gold. Part of the reason I'm loving this hobby right now is that it's another outlet for me to mix patterns. I do this with my clothes all the time, and have so with my house decorating too, but working with paper greatly expands my possibilities and engages my imagination. I'm loving that right now.

I'm also including some divided page protectors with various size pocket openings - 2x2, 2x3, and 4x6 - which makes planning and placing photos and journaling in these pockets go a bit faster. At first I thought this album would be all 8-1/2x11 pages, but I quickly figured out I have many photos to include and a 12x12 album would probably be the way to go. So, I'm now working with the 12x12 size too. The best part is that I'm taking a nod from Ali Edwards and assembling all the different size pages in one binder style album. I love the look of all the sizes scattered throughout the album.

These are two spreads I'm enjoying right now. The one on the left is about our coach bus; the right is about me and my feelings about the trip, using one of the hotel mirror photos I snapped of myself.

And I've also discovered Picnik. I don't have photo editing software on my computer, so Picnik is great alternative for me. It's web-based and for $25/year I have access to some fun editing tools. I used it to make the photo collages on this post and my last. I'm sure it's not as robust as Adobe, but for me now, it's about all I wrap my mind around learning. It's also helped me solve my issue with posting more than one photo on this blog (ha!). I link the collages to my Flickr account, and blog from Flickr, which is so much easier than formatting a post in blogger, at least I think so :)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

what i've been up to

get crafty minibook, originally uploaded by jmk photos.

Summer is clipping right along. I've been enjoying a mix of traditions + new. Time outside, outdoor dinners with friends, day trips here and there, and spending much more time in my craft room. One of my homeowner dreams was to have a craft room. I'm so blessed that my little condo has an extra room that I've turned into my craft space. Supplies are scattered around, projects left out on the desk in various states of completion. . . oh yes, I love this so!

One of my new experiences in June was participating in an on-line craft class. Loved it. It was taught by Elise, and focused on getting crafty with the world around you - through found paper and looking through a camera a bit differently, especially for patterns in nature and the human-constructed world.

The posted photo is of one of my completed projects. This is 4x6 minibook with pattern photos from 2008, a mix from the letterpress studio at MCBA and my time at Clare's Well last August. The photos of me are also from last year, taken at Clare's Well and in Ireland. I love the cover shot. It happened to be my type tray storage spot at MCBA. Not sure if I consciously chose between 32 and 33, but that just happened to be my age at the time. Love this photo so much I framed a copy. A wonderful reminder of last year.

The text is all about how I would like to live abroad at some point in my life. They say writing your thoughts down is the first step to making them a reality. . .

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Let yourself be silently drawn by
the strange pull of what you really love.
It will not lead you astray.

Megan inspired this entry through her recent post. Tammy would often (and still does) tell me where she saw God in her life and it sometimes confused me. . . these events often seemed like luck or coincidence to me. But those who believe in God or comforting energy or the divine or whatever you believe it to be would say they are instances of witnessing grace from another in your life. Here are the instances in my life that keep me believing.

1: My dad's mother died during my senior year of college. There were many complicated family relationship circumstances that surrounded the time leading up to and after her death, that cast a long, dark shadow on this time, especially for my dad. Part of it is because my grandmother was not a kind person over multiple periods of her life. By moving through the dying process, she revealed her kindness. I was away at college during most of this time, only hearing updates from my mom mostly. I had planned weeks in advance to be home the weekend she ended up dying. Mom, dad and I visited her on Saturday and she passed on Sunday. Her death truly showed me how dying is so much about those still living. Up until this point in my life, I never saw my dad cry. But when he came home on Sunday afternoon, told mom and I, and walked past us to the living room, through her tears my mom told me to go to him. So I did. And he sobbed in my arms. We cried together for what felt like an eternity, not saying a word.

2: A few months after this, I graduated. Like all commencement ceremonies, it was long, full of inspirational words and reflective moments. I'm sure we all felt at least a bit like I did: apprehensive and excited about the next stage in our lives. Sixteen years of existing as students made for a complex transition; all year I felt I was walking in two worlds, childhood and adulthood. It rained on and off during the ceremony, but in true UMM style, the weather didn't stop us from celebrating outside. Also in unpretentious Morris style, maintenance staff handed out trash bags for guests to wear or sit on. As I walked down the mall to my seat, I saw my mom, wearing a trash bag, scurrying between people, taking pictures of me. I was somewhat embarrassed and annoyed by her, even through my hangover from the night before. But she was excited and happy, and that's how she showed it. During the ceremony our Chancellor (who was also transitioning, to retirement) asked the graduates to turn and clap in appreciation for our family and friends who supported us during this experience. I only remember seeing my dad, who was smiling the brightest smile I've ever seen from him. He was watching the first person in his family graduate from college. As we received our diplomas, Chancey Dave gave each of us a piece of wood flooring from a gym that would be torn down that summer and replaced by a new science building. I have it on a shelf in my closet, and look at it every day. Dave wrote the same message on over 300 blocks of wood. They read, "A piece of UMM, with my good wishes. Dave Johnson 12 June 1998."

3: In 2001, Tammy was living and working at Slide Ranch, north of San Francisco on the ocean in Marin. I made plans in the spring to visit her in September. Between that time, my world and our world sort of fell apart, at least I perceived it that way. My close junior/senior high group of friends splintered in two in August, and then 9/11 happened. I flew out to Slide Ranch on 9/21. I remember feeling more and more calm as the plane ascended into the air. And that feeling of calm grew each day I was at Slide. We slept outside, fairly close to the ocean each night. I learned to milk a goat. We did yoga on the beach. We hiked through Muir Woods to see the redwoods. We ate wonderful, wholesome food. I started being quiet with my thoughts here. The beauty of that place and time continues to take my breath away. It is still my most treasured vacation. This was a turning point in my life, when I started to really notice, every so often, grace around me.

4: The following May I was in a serious car accident. My car was totaled, and I injured my knew enough to deal with healing it for many months after. There was probably a 10 second span of time, maybe longer, that I thought I would die/was dying during the accident. As they say, moments of my life flashed rapidly in my mind and I saw a bright, white light. That was scary. But the time that followed were scarier. It was like that intense brightness dimmed the rest of what I saw around me in the months after. I eventually saw a therapist for a while and remember telling her I was grateful to be alive, but that I didn't know how to live anymore. I can't remember a specific event that pulled me out of what I was experiencing. Perhaps it was through the grace of time passing, and talking it through with someone new.

5: This story continues to unfold. I've stopped trying to figure out when it will be all told, and believe, it will be known as my life. I have a male friend from college, who I've known for over 15 years. Our lives intersect in mysterious ways. Most of the time by chance, sometimes by our will, but all of it is through grace. I believe our relationship can best be described the way Richard describes soul mates in Eat, Pray, Love (it's not society's standard description of soul mates, and I won't go through the description here). Suffice it to say, this relationship has confused and distracted me for many years. In 2007, I decided to tell him how I felt, and that I wondered often if our friendship was pointing toward something more. I searched for courage for quite a while to stand in my truth with him. And all that has been spoken between us since has been full of grace. He didn't feel the same about me, and expressed that to me in his own gentle way. Both of us could have very easily decided my admission created too much awkwardness to continue our friendship and stopped communicating with each other. But that hasn't happened either. Our honesty with each other moved me to a new place. Maybe it did for him too, I'm not really sure. That place for me was realizing I needed to let go of ideas I had long held about my life. Some I should have let go of before 2007, like that I would be a social worker and married by the time I was 28. And that by now I'd be living in a house with a husband and a dog, not alone in a condo. That I would marry a guy I met in college. That I would be having children in my early 30s. Slowly over the past two years I've allowed grace to help me let go of these ideas that aren't my reality. Grace has helped me develop gratitude for the beauty that is real in my life.

6: Slide Ranch led me to Clare's Well. And Clare's Well reminds me of wonderful places in my life: Slide, Morris, a friend's family cabin in Wisconsin, Dodge Nature Center (my favorite neighborhood spot), and the resort my family went to when I was young. My first visit was in 2003, for one night. I had briefly experienced living in community at Slide, so that aspect was not too unknown for me. I didn't quite know what to think of spending time with nuns, however. What would they be wearing? Would I be out of place not doing the sign of the cross? Would I have to talk about being Methodist? Turns out I didn't need to worry about any of these things. Sisters Carol, Aggie, Paula and Jan are so loving, humorous, and real. They wear Patty Wettlerling for Congress T-shirts and write Mark Kennedy letters about ending the war in the Middle East. They go to the State Fair. They ride pack mules for miles in Nicaragua to travel to mission sites. They are all in their late 60s/early 70s and take care of a farm, grounds, cabins, and guests. They create the most peaceful and grace-filled environment at Clare's Well. I feel like it's my mission to tell as many people about this wonderful place to relax, smile and appreciate our beautiful world. This year I'm staying five nights.

7: My trip to Ireland. I've traveled several places alone for vacations - as a way to prove to myself that a could, and to go on adventures even when there aren't people able to travel with me. Now, I'm sort of past traveling alone. I thought my next adventure should be experienced with people I didn't previously know. I expected grace in the beauty and spiritualness of Ireland. I was overwhelmed by the grace I found among strangers, who became my traveling companions. Over 10 days, we cared enough for each other to make our trip as great for each other as possible. I now have new friends across the world. And a few of us are already planning another trip together.