Weekly Update

My Favorite Books

Last year, I asked people for book recommendations. I got a long list of books I normally wouldn’t touch and had so much fun getting outside my reading comfort zone. This year I would love to hear recommendations again, and also wanted to share some of my own favorites. Comment with your recommendations!

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you make a purchase through one of my links, at no cost to you. And while I would love to get rich off of commissions, I highly recommend checking these books out of the library or using the Libby app. 


The Bright Hour, Nina Griggs

This is a beautiful memoir, written by a 37-year-old mom with terminal breast cancer, reflecting on the loss of her mother and her own shortened life. Griggs happens to be the great, great, great-granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and her writing reflects it. I believe it should be required reading for anyone who works in oncology. I learned a lot about what to say and what not to say in the sacred space of a terminal diagnosis. While it may seem like a sad topic, Griggs infuses her book with humor and lightheartedness. 

Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, And Other Big Ideas, Alexi Pappas

This is a recommendation for all of my running friends! In this memoir, Alexi Pappas details her life as a professional athlete- how she got there, and what it took to stay there. Pappas ran the 10K in the 2016 Olympics and is no stranger to pain and hard work. She is also a poet and sprinkles the book with her poems. Her quirky personality shines through her writing, and you will likely finish the book inspired to head out the door for a run. 

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson

In his memoir, Stevenson details his career spent on death row, defending the poor and wrongly incarcerated. This book tore me apart. It was brutal to read some of the scenes, and terrifying to learn about how marginalized groups are often blamed for crimes they had nothing to do with. It really made me think about the injustice of the poor and marginalized being unable to afford good lawyers who can represent them.

I believe this should be required reading for anyone of voting age. 

Compilation of Essays

Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist

Shauna Niequist writes in the form of short essays. Her writing style is warm and relatable and she is by far, one of my favorite writers. In Present Over Perfect, Niequist details her journey from being burned out on busy to finding acceptance of herself in a quieter life. 

My main criticism of this book is that while she has great ideas about letting go of perfectionism, I don’t buy that she was there yet. But in her next book…..

I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet, Shauna Niequist

She takes you through the nitty gritty of working through a really hard time in her life: learning about a scandal in which her dad was involved, wondering who she is, how her faith has evolved, etc. 

This is one of those books where the author gets graciously vulnerable- lets us into a place most writers stay far away from- and leads you through her journey to the other side. 


Because let’s be honest, I need all the help I can get.

How to Keep House While Drowning, KC Davis, LPC

Those who know me well know that keeping my house clean is not one of my strong suits. I find it to be overwhelming, and I always considered this a character flaw. Davis doesn’t share long lists of tasks to keep the house in Instagram-worthy perfection. Instead, she gave me a new lens to look at housework through- one that included self-compassion, and reminded me that, “you do not exist to serve your space, your space exists to serve you.”

One of my favorite quotes from her book is: “Imperfection is required for a good life.”

Side note: I also love her podcast, “Struggle Care.”

Off the Clock, Laura Vanderkam

Okay, proclaiming my love for this book may put me in the nerd category, but alas. I’ve always been a nerd. The grape kind. 

Vanderkam takes the concept of time management and makes it interesting- fascinating even. She tracks her time in a spreadsheet (I do not), only to discover that she does have time for the things she loves if she is intentional… yes, that means less Instagram scrolling. I read this book on a yearly basis because it is a good reminder to make time for the things I love. 

Listen on Audible

These books are great no matter what, but all of them are read by their authors on Audible, which makes for a fun listening experience.

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson

Wilson is an avid hiker and eloquent writer. In this book, she shares her journey with anxiety. I love how rather than turning her mental health disorder into a problem, she views it as a strength- having positive powers that can be harnessed and used. She has an Australian accent, so it is fun to listen to this book on Audible. 

Did I Say That Outloud?: Midlife Indignities and How to Survive Them,  Kristin van Ogtrop

This is a great book for dog lovers,  and those going through menopause. I am neither of these things, but absolutely love the writing style of van Ogtrop. She has a very down-to-earth, humorous lens on life, and her hilarious stories make aging seem a little less scary. If you can, listen on Audible, because she reads it, and is a great storyteller. I wrote an essay on my love for this book here

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

If you are going to read this book, which you should, listen to it on Audible, because it is read by Bourdain himself, and his rapid-fire, expletive-laced, words just make more sense when they come directly from his mouth.

I learned so much about chef culture, and behind the scenes in restaurants. Bourdain lived a colorful, fast-paced, life in the senses, and this book reflects that. The book sucked me in, and would be a great listen for a road trip (without kids).

My Top 3!

If I had to narrow it down to 3, these are my top picks.

I’ve Seen the End of You, W. Lee Warren, MD

I think this ranks in my top 3 books. Neurosurgeon, W. Lee Warren, grapples with the concept of faith in hopeless situations, specifically in patients with glioblastomas. In the oncology world, glioblastomas, or GBMs, are known for their incurable nature. They are highly aggressive and leave behind devastation. So where is God in all of this? And is it really worth praying, if we already know that the person with the GBM is incurable? 

Warren takes on all the big questions as he wrestles with them himself. I would highly recommend this book to anybody, but particularly to healthcare providers who may have struggled with these very same questions. 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottlieb

Another book in the top 3. Gottlieb brings the reader into her therapy office for a fly on the wall kind of experience. But she also brings you along on her visits to her therapist as she navigates a painful breakup. While this book chronicles the journeys of other people, I guarantee you will see yourself in one or more of their stories. The insight she gives her patients is insight you can take to your own life.

I laughed, I cried, and this book brought me peace about moving out of the one and only state I had ever lived in, and across country.  

If you like the book, she has a podcast called, “Dear Therapists” that I would also highly recommend.  

The Comfort Book, Matt Haig

If you have ever struggled, this book is for you. The book is a compilation of small pieces of wisdom the author shares to get through dark times, ranging from just a sentence long to a few pages. I leave it at my desk, within arms reach for an instant ray of hope. And any time a friend is having a bad day, they get a picture of one of the pages of the book. 

Haig has the right words, always. 

“It never rains forever. And know that, however wet you get, you are not the rain. You are not the bad feelings in your head. You are the person experiencing the storm. The storm may knock you off your feet. But you will stand again. Hold on.”- Matt Haig

I hope you enjoy these recommendations, and like I said, I would love to hear yours in the comments below!

Happy New Year,


Weekly Update

I used the Konmari Method on My House: Here’s What Happened

One fateful day, I listen to Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up” on Audible at 8.5x normal speed. I finish in 5 minutes and find myself inspired to experience the magic of tidying up. I wipe my Cheeto-dusted fingers on the white carpet and order a dumpster.

Marie Kondo instructs that I should start by imagining my ideal lifestyle.

I shut my eyes and imagine I live in a cabin in the mountains. BY MYSELF. I think about the fresh air, the tranquil views, and no toys underfoot. It is so peaceful in this imaginary world. A dimpled finger attempts to pry my eyelid open. “Mommy! Are you dead?”

“No,” I reply, “Not yet.”

Now that I have my ideal lifestyle in mind, I am to declutter by category, not by room.

Instead of going room by room, Marie Kondo recommends gathering all of my clothes/pencils/diapers/etc., putting them in a pile, and then deciding what to keep.

I start with clothes, taking my wheelbarrow from closet to closet, I grab all of the clothes. My job is made easier by the fact that 98% of the clothes are on the floor. Then, I visit the laundry room and gather all of the clothes that permanently hang on the rack, the ones that will never be brought back to their closets. I gather the stiff washcloths from the bathtub floor, the underwear my daughter put on all of her stuffed animals, and the dust-coated socks from behind the dryer. 

With that, I think I have everything.

I return to my bedroom to continue my task, to find that the room is floor-to-ceiling full. I realize I am in deep trouble.

I review the instructions. “Pick up each item one at a time. Ask yourself if it sparks joy – you should feel a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising. If it does, keep it! If it doesn’t, let it go with gratitude.”

I look at the room. The cells in my body sink. 

I don’t know what happens next- I think I black out. When I regain consciousness, I find myself standing in our backyard. The clothes somehow made it into a large pile outside. I stand with propane in one hand and matches in the other.

I watch as a lit match leaves my hand, sailing toward the clothes. I guess I’ve decided to let everything go with gratitude.

And then it happens. Joy is sparked.

I watch the flames climb, elated that I will never have to do another load of laundry. I am addicted to this decluttering. I must find more things.

I grab my leaf blower, run inside, and blow all the tiny plastic Barbie pieces off the floor, out the front door, and directly into the fire. “But what about Barbie’s juice box?” my four-year-old wails, “How could you?” “Have you seen Barbie’s stomach?” I ask, “She only eats kale. She doesn’t waste calories on juice. And besides, I already burned her. She’s gone.”

I watched gleefully as the Barbies’ faces contort and melt, as my never used yoga mat goes up in flames, and the wall art I planned to hang for the past ten years disappear. I ask my husband’s bobblehead collection if they’d like to join the fun. They nod their heads.

I shovel off our countertops and deposit the contents directly into the flames. My husband’s face turns white. “But what about the bill for the doctor that sat on the counter for the past year? Shouldn’t we keep it on the counter for another year? 

I grab the foam roller that I had planned to use but forgot to exercise. My four-year-old blocks my path, “I use that to roll out my stomach!”

“I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to do that,” I say, “but that could explain why you are never constipated. We should take that idea to Shark Tank.”

I’ve done good work, but I could do better. The more I watch things go up in flames, the more the cells in my body rise. 

And that’s how I find myself on the lawn, throwing a lit match onto my house that I had doused in propane. I hug my kids and husband tight and watch as it burns down. No more toilets to clean. No more smudgy glass shower doors.

There is no need to fret about future loads of laundry that I will always be behind on. All of our clothes are gone. We are naked.

Joy has been sparked. Marie Kondo? She had it right.

Her book changed my life. 

Weekly Update

Female Brain Takes Car for Maintenance

Maybe my hatred for car dealerships is linked to a traumatic memory. Perhaps the time my Toyota Corolla burst into flames while I was driving back to college on a cold November night. Or maybe it is the fact that they infuse the building with the scent of rubber, cologne, diesel, and new car.

It could be that I know the car sales guys’ hearts beat faster every time they lay eyes on me because I am a female brain. And their hearts should beat faster: I know nothing about cars. Also, I’m hot. 

Whatever it is, I resent that Man Brain makes me take care of my own car issues. Because when it benefits me, I like to revert to sexist roles. But don’t bash me for that. I am the CEO of lawn care in our household. I can weed whack with the best of them. 

I typically take my car to Valvoline for maintenance. Valvoline doesn’t require appointments, they get things done quickly, and they follow a predictable routine. First, Tech #1 gains my trust by telling me that my air filter is dirty but that I can save money by replacing it myself. Next, a chipper tech lists everything I have neglected and recommends a long list of services. Everything sounds necessary, and it only adds up to $700. 

I always tell them to do it all because I’m a female brain, and I trust anything a car tech tells me. To complete the routine, I sit awkwardly in the air-conditioned confines of my RAV4 while it is swarmed by techs. I follow social norms and avoid eye contact until a grease-covered knuckle knocks on my window. 

The last time I was there, the predictable routine was ruined when Tech #2 told me that they couldn’t take some cap off my car to check some fluid level. He tells me I should take my car to the dealership to see if they can get the cap off. It sounds boring, so I put it on my to-do list for next year.  

Anyway, two years later, here I am today at the car dealership. 

I sit at a high top, laptop open, furiously clacking away, waiting for them to change some fluid in my car. 

“Which fluid?” the car guy asks when I arrive.

 “Heck if I know,” I think. 

I dial up Man Brain and let him inform the guy of all of the car problems I have. Car Guy and Man Brain speak in a secret language, what sounds like a form of pig Latin with an emphasis on manly terms like “differential” and “money.” Before Car Guy hangs up, he says, “Okay, I will have Female Brain give me your number so we can bypass her the next time I have an update.”

He leaves me to go do things. Car Guy things, I presume.

And consistent with any other time I visit a car dealership, the next ghost of Christmas past appears. It’s Car Sales Guy. 

He begins, “I’m sure you’ve seen in the news that there is a huge used-car shortage.” He reeks of the leading brand of car-salesman cologne, “Untrustworthy.” I glare over the top of the blue light glasses that I only wear to make me look smarter. 

“Sorry, there’s no way I’m selling the car.” 

“Why?” he asks, a bewildered look crossing his face. 

“Because I love it so much. It’s the best car ever.” 

“Not even for the right price?”  he asks, trying to appeal to the money side of my brain. 


And with that statement, he realizes he is dealing with a female brain, dripping with emotion and vacant of any logic.  He leaves, dejected. 

The next update occurs. Car Guy tells me he is waiting for a tech to put the car up. He says he hopes the cap on my car isn’t stripped, because he says, “that could be costly.” I roll my eyes, regressing to my high school self.  

He continues, “If it is stripped, then I’m going to have to drill and tap it.” 

“That’s what he said,” my brain muttered to herself.

I give him my best glare and say, “Well, Valvoline said it is stripped.”

His eyes light up. “So Valvoline stripped it! You can go back to them and get money.” 

“No, they said they found it stripped.” 

He purses his lips at my female brain. “If they tried to open it, they likely stripped it.” 

And I nod in understanding, hoping Car Guy and his superior male brain will leave. He does.

I am alone again, in a lounge surrounded by bored humans. To prevent anarchy, there is a TV playing some mechanical show. Don’t they understand that if I am here, I am not interested in mechanics? The guy on the show is welding something. 

In front of me, a tatted-up guy leans forward in his seat, eating the free chips and nodding along to the show. He understands what they are doing. And he agrees. Whatever the guy on the mechanical show is doing, he is doing it right. 

The coffee machine is broken, and a sign on the wall says, “For steeping tea selection, please see cashier.” This either means that the tea is not free, or that too many people were stealing tea bags.

Thankfully I brought my own espresso. I am jittery, shaking like an addict as I chug my coffee, laughing at the poor souls who discover there is no coffee. Maybe if I start charging people for sips of my coffee, I can offset the “costly” maintenance my car is undergoing. 

Some lady spats, “Need coffee!” and shoots an evil eye at the people who work in the parts department. Then she looks at me. I want to say, “You could see the cashier for the steeping tea selection!” But, I value my life. I quickly look down.

The lady next to me is feeding her dog a bag of the free chips. He licks one and then refuses to eat it. He can smell the freeness of them. He is a wise dog. The lady mutters, “Not your cup of tea, huh?” This dog is wise, and I approve of his presence. He understands what I understand. 

He understands that in this place, time slows. That the fluorescent lighting sucks the life out of my soul. The salesmen with gelled hair, the ladies who sit behind the desk looking nothing like friendly Jan from the commercials, all these things create misery that cannot be reduced by a free bag of chips. 

Car Guy appears. “Can I take you to see your car? Bring your phone. You might want to take pictures.” Dread pools in my stomach as he leads me back through a labyrinth of diesel-smelling halls. He pushes open a swinging door, where I expect to find an intubated family member in an ICU bed. I expect he will ask me to decide whether or not to pull the plug.  Instead, I am standing in a large open warehouse full of cars in the air. He leads me to Old Faithful. 

Then he begins uttering a litany of everything wrong with my car. He bashes Valvoline multiple times. And then, as if trying to “gotcha” me, he says, “And there are a bunch of lights on in your car.” I am prepared for this accusation. “They are on because of the oxygen sensor, which we are not interested in fixing.” Female Brain finally contributes something of worth to the discussion, and we are both shocked by that. 

Before we leave, we walk past a whiteboard with tech names and money amounts next to each name. I presume these are the profits each tech acquired by swindling Female Brains. He brings me back to my place in the waiting area. “Give me a few minutes while I write a quote,” he says.  Back in the car ICU, I learned that the cap on my car is stripped, so I presume it will be costly

Some lady stole my spot at the high-top table, and I’m pissed. I have now been at the car dealership for seven hours. Just kidding, it has only been an hour. The longest hour of my life.  I am hangry and need to pee, but I don’t want to risk losing my spot. I am past the point of no return when it comes to bitchiness. The only way I will return to a state of loving-kindness is to get out of this prison. 

Man Brain calls.

I unleash the kind of fury that only a Female Brain can create, “Just so you know, I am going to have them fix everything they find for whatever cost they quote.” 

“Please have them call me,” he says. I imagine his eyes are doing the slow-blink thing that he does when he is pissed. 

We both know a female brain can’t make these kinds of decisions. The female brain lacks knowledge of the man world, of cars, and mechanical things like welding, and it certainly knows nothing about money, except for how to spend it. Much better to trust Man Brain with these decisions, I concede. It would be silly of me to have them fix whatever they find. 

I say, “Because I have been delegated this task, I have the power to make the financial decisions.” He sighs, tells me he loves me, and hangs up. 

I am finally summoned by Car Guy. He starts, “We don’t have the plugs, so we will have to order them.” I am annoyed. I just want to leave. “What are the plugs for?” I ask. He purses his lips. “Your differential- the thing we’ve been talking about this whole time,” he says. “Let’s call Man Brain.”

“Great idea,” I say, pissed yet strangely relieved that he only wants to talk to Man Brain. We call up Man Brain. In pig Latin, Car Guy details everything he thinks should be done with the car. Man Brain asks some questions. Car Guy drops the price: one thousand dollars. 

Man Brain tells him to do it all. 

My jaw drops. Car Guy’s eyes light up gleefully. Man Brain made a Female Brain decision. Turns out I didn’t need his help after all. 

Weekly Update

One Heck of a Ride

It’s 5:30 am. Avery is up eating breakfast, I am typing away at my laptop, all while Chad and Alice sleep. 

This life is one I didn’t envision eight years ago. Sure, I hoped to have kids, but like any childless parent, I didn’t understand the logistics of it, or how it would consume and overtake my life. 

And I sure didn’t consider how it would change my relationship with Chad. How our lazy Saturday mornings, sleeping in and walking over to the little French cafe near our downtown apartment for a leisurely brunch, would become a thing of the past. 

I’m writing in our dining room, which is currently full of bags and suitcases for a trip we are taking. The logistics of traveling with kids is complex, a battle plan. These are no longer the days of jetting off to Vancouver with a hastily packed suitcase, to wandering along the ocean after dark, hands clasped, talking about whatever our wine-infused brains wanted. I have contingency plans mapped in my brain: if x happens, we will do y. Puke bags and zofran are packed. Last night I dreamt we took the girls for a hike through snowy mountains and I forgot to have Alice wear pants. She trudged through the snow in a skirt. And then we ran into a delirious hiker who thought she brought water along for the hike, but instead was carrying mouthwash. 

If that dream has a message to tell, it’s that I’m the delirious, mouthwash-toting hiker. 

All this to say, these eight years of marriage have been eight years of exponential growth and change. We transitioned from our twenties, the years of trying what we thought we liked, trying to be who we thought we were, to our thirties.

For me, at least, the thirties have switched from a self-focused lens to more of a meaning-of-life lens. What is the purpose of life? What am I supposed to be doing in this world? Meanwhile, Chad ponders questions like, “What is the best golf course in a 30-mile radius of our house?”

We are very different, and this has brought many fruits to our marriage. Like how Avery and Alice will be good at math, unlike me. While Chad usually excels at getting the girls to bed in 5 minutes tops on his nights, I recently noticed it was taking him much longer than usual. And the girls were so quiet. Was he reading to them? 

I snuck upstairs and found him lying in bed with the girls and drilling them on addition and subtraction problems. Which explains why they now fall asleep so quickly on his nights. 

He forms alliances with the girls when it will be beneficial to his case. He taught them the chant, “What do we want? Ice cream! When do we want it? Now!” to accompany banging on the kitchen table after dinner. 

These days are whirlwinds. Sometimes, I feel like I am running on a hamster wheel. Sprinting. 

I fold endless stacks of laundry, while more stacks appear. I run to target for more dino nuggets, the kind with cauliflower and chickpeas blended in, only to return home and realize I forgot the dish soap, gosh darn it. The third target run I’ve gone on without getting dish soap.

There are RSVPs to be responded to, math homework to supervise, and meals to plan, oh the meals.

I hop off the hamster wheel occasionally, gulping in air, swigging water (or mouthwash), and wondering where I am trying to go, or what I am trying to achieve. 

Some days speed by, while others slug along. 

It is chaos. And organized. And everything in between. 

But there is a groundedness in this chaos of parenthood: I am not in this alone. Chad is working right alongside me to keep life running smoothly, or at least… running, puttering, and maybe stalling, but together. 

So this life? I didn’t imagine it would turn out the way it has. I imagined living out all of my days in Minnesota. I didn’t expect quite so many migraines. I thought I would have my life together by the time I was thirty. 

Instead, it has been one heck of a ride, with one heck of a guy. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Happy Anniversary, Chad!

Weekly Update

Bracing for Impact

Coming from Minnesota, a land of no natural disasters except for the errant tornado or occasional flooding, I’ve been keeping a close eye out for hurricanes ever since we moved to Florida.

Now what is interesting about hurricanes is that they can be predicted when they are over a week away, unlike tornados. And while you know for certain a hurricane is going to hit somewhere, you don’t know where that might be. You could be directly in the path– or, it could turn and hit someone else, or it could be predicted to hit elsewhere, and then smack you anyway.

A week ahead of Ian, we knew he was coming, and we knew he looked like a bad storm, but that was all of the intel we had. Or maybe I should say, we had a large amount of intel, but it was unclear how much of it was useful information.

For those who have not lived through a hurricane, the best analogy I have is birth. You know you’re pregnant, and you know that a baby will exit your body at some point in time, but you have no idea when or how that child will exit your body.

While we have lived here, there have been many hurricanes predicted to impact us. The closest we got was a small tropical storm last year. But this time around, the locals were eyeing the storm nervously. And when school got canceled ahead of the storm, we knew it was a real threat.

And just like during pregnancy, with the news of the impending hurricane, I began nesting, cleaning the house from top to bottom. I got caught up on laundry and moved all of our outdoor furniture and pots inside.

Our last dinner at Fish House, the night before it was destroyed

The night before Ian made landfall, tornado warnings blared and the weather forecasters were in blissful states, frantically tracking tornados and using all of their different weather models to make predictions on where Ian would make landfall.

And I was so exhausted from all of my nesting that I slept through it all. Thank goodness Chad was awake enough to monitor the storms.

The next morning the wind picked up, contorting palm trees and ripping out bushes. We hunkered down at our neighbors’ house, given that they have hurricane shutters and we do not. Right after we settled in, the power went out.

Hurricane Force Winds
The road out of our community

If you haven’t had the pleasure of spending time in a home that has hurricane shutters up, it is basically like sitting in a cave, with no view of what is happening outside.

We sat in the dark with four young, bored, kids. Hurricanes always sound so exciting, but this experience was monotonous. We entertained them with magnetiles, flashlights, and snacks.

The storm raged until around 9pm. We brought the girls back to our dark home and got ready for bed by flashlight. We woke up to silence and gray skies.

An eerie view when we finally came home.

The thing that will always stand out to me about this experience is that despite the significant impact Hurricane Ian left, the devastation, loss of lives and homes, the sun continued to rise and set. And that one constant has been enough to ground ourselves on.

In the first three days after the hurricane, we relied on the sun’s light during the day and were reminded to sleep when it set. The sunrises and sunsets were made up of muted colors, as if offering an apology for the eruption of the uncharacteristic and catastrophic behavior of the sky.

A post-Ian sunrise

The other thing that I have been reminded of during this experience is that sometimes the darkness accentuates the light.

Because no one had phone service, people showed up on our doorstep, the most welcome kind of unannounced. Neighbors brought hot coffee, chicken nuggets made off of generator power, and ice. Had it been during any other time, I would have been mortified to open the door, in my often bra-less, unshowered, grunge look, surrounded by a disaster of a house.

There was a vulnerability to it, not being able to hide the fact that I didn’t have my sh*t together. But we were all in the same boat.

Two days after the storm, a pharmacist showed up at our house in his truck to hand deliver my migraine medications. I think I encountered an angel.

One night we walked outside and were stunned by the vast number of stars illuminating the pitch-black sky, surrounding the sliver of a crescent moon. We soaked in a view that would not be possible in a neighborhood with power and lights.

But while that view was magnificent, I would have gladly traded it for power. Each night we slept in our family room, the coolest room in the house. We had weak battery-powered fans strategically positioned to provide the best airflow. We would wake up in the middle of the night when fan batteries died and groggily replace them.

We were lucky to get power the Saturday after the storm. With power, we also got phone and internet service. We were finally able to update all of our concerned people, and for the first time, we were able to watch the news.

While we had heard plenty of rumors about what was destroyed, it didn’t really register until we saw the footage of our favorite beaches, completely gone.

The skies have been full of rescue and coast guard helicopters, a sobering reminder that all is not well. I’ve been filled with survivor guilt, wondering why we came away unscathed while others lost everything.

I feel guilt at being able to return to an almost normal level of life. Sure, the grocery stores don’t have produce or meat, and school is shut indefinitely, but we can still bike to the park, and laugh, and come home to a safe home with power.

The empty produce section

I am not alone in feeling this way- almost every person I’ve talked to has expressed similar thoughts. When I texted one of my best friends about it, she nailed the response:

“Maybe take a Saturday or Sunday this weekend and go volunteer somewhere, but I think there’s something to be said for just keeping your family working properly during this time.”

I went for my first run after the hurricane yesterday. Today, I plan to floss my teeth for the first time. Life was shaken up for a bit there, and I lost all of my routines. I’m back in a place where I can slowly re-establish them, but I’m trying to give myself some grace to return to normalcy at my own pace.

Okay, maybe normalcy is a big ask. I’ll just aim to return to my previous level of weirdness.

We are so grateful to everyone who showed up at our doorstep, let us into their home (thanks, Pauls!), checked in with us, and provided support from afar. You know who you are. Thank you!

Weekly Update

Tour de Midwest

We spent the month of July in the Midwest- 3 weeks in Minnesota, and 10 days in Iowa & Missouri. While we traveled, I worked on an article for a parenting website entitled, “How to travel with kids- don’t”.

Post 3 hour flight to Minneapolis

We have traveled with the girls since they were born- pretty regularly, I might add. And while some trips are magical, most are not. Each time we pack up for another trip, I feel like I am playing a form of Russian Roulette: will this trip be magical or miserable?

Maybe it’s how my brain works- to categorize a memory as great or horrible, when in reality, it falls somewhere in the middle. Traveling with kids can take you to some of the highest highs- experiencing beautiful moments together. And it can also bring you to the lowest of lows- food poisoning induced projectile vomiting at the same time as explosive diarrhea, on the nasty floor of a hotel bathroom. But mostly, travel with kids brings you to a lot of ordinary, meh, moments.

The kind where kids ask how much longer at the beginning of a 10-hour road trip, the monotony of foraging for the apple pie Larabars in foreign grocery stores, the grumpiness that ensues over the course of adjusting to a time change.

How Alice really felt

All this to say, while I could write about our travels out of the magical lens, I can assure you they were not.

We spent a lot of time “traveling” on this trip, despite flying to Minnesota to reduce travel time. I think as a mom, I spend an inordinate amount of time planning and worrying about the transitions- the logistics of moving a months worth of luggage into the car, out of the car, into the airport, getting the family through security, going potty enough times before boarding the plane, getting off the plane, getting to the baggage claim without losing a child, retrieving a large amount of luggage, acquiring a rental car, moving luggage and children to the rental car, driving to VRBO, moving the luggage (AGAIN)….. blah, blah, blah.


We were able to see our families, and the girls got a lot of good quality time with people they otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to see. They camped with the Uppgaard grandparents, visited aunts & uncles, played with cousins, and spent a week at a cabin up in northern Minnesota.

We celebrated my Dad’s retirement at a truly magical surprise party. Fireflies made their appearance as the sky darkened and toasts were made. All the more magical? We got a babysitter for the kids that night.

On our last day in Minnesota, we learned Alice had COVID. And then I tested positive. And then Avery got it. Chad somehow remained immune.

Luckily, my in-laws had an exposure prior to our arrival… so we all holed up at their cabin in Missouri. We tubed, went on boat rides, and fished. I love running the hills in Missouri, but unfortunately, COVID dashed my running dreams.

In Iowa, we went to the county fair, watched the hot air balloons, visited the cows, looked at soybean plants up close (have you ever?), and played in the sprawling yard.

Iowa beauty

Throughout the trip, I read Jane Eyre. And a quote that struck me was, “There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.”

And I think that quote perfectly sums up how I felt about spending a month with family. It was a month of being loved by people we don’t see nearly enough. It was a cram session of memories, a hustle to see all the people we love, it was lying on the couch late at night re-living childhood memories with my siblings, countless times of yelling, “Reel, reel!” as I watched Alice’s bobber slip beneath the surface.

It was a drinking from the fire-hose kind of trip. It was listening to four Nancy Drew audiobooks on car rides, it was Chad vowing he would never listen to another Nancy Drew. By the end of the trip, we were bleary-eyed and so ready to be in our own beds.

5am airport, bleary-eyed, and ready to be home

Or as I told Chad, I was so ready to be home so I could be grumpy, and let down my “on-personality mask.”

We have been home for three weeks. I got my grumpy out (sorry Chad), and have never loved my bed quite so much.

I will leave you with a poem I wrote on a dock in Minnesota:


The loon calls

As the last rays of sun stretch through the sky

Creating contrast, definition



The trees with their leaves

Now black, against the horizon

Clouds above 

Waves lapping below


A bird trills

And a fisher casts his rod

Line, whooshing 

Horseflies dive bomb 


I am minute 

in this wild world


The sky is pink, 

Clouds purple

Horizon still pierced by rays


The colors are pastel,

The air is matte

Ducks swim home through the reeds


I am contributing nothing to this moment

But my attention

And for a moment,

All is right

MN Sunset
Weekly Update

Seven, Seven, Straight from Heaven

In celebration of Avery’s 7th birthday, here is a list of some of her best quotes. While she doesn’t spout out endless funny quotes like her sister, Avery’s are often deep and heartfelt. And I love that about her.

Avery Wisdom

“Practice does not make perfect. Only in people who believe in themselves.”

“Brownies are the best thing I’ve ever tasted!”

“You know what I like about M&M’s? They have chocolate in them”

How babies are born… pretty accurate: “Batgirl is going to die, and then the babies will come out. And then she will wake up and her heart will be fixed.”

Uttered on Thanksgiving: “I’m glad Jesus didn’t make me into a turkey.”

“But Alice, hugs are the most loveable thing to give!” (After Alice told Chad she didn’t need a hug)

“What a pretty world!” Re: Smoky Mountain National Park

“Soon you will die. You’re a mom, and then you’ll turn into a grandma, and then you will die.”

“Remember Alice, I will always be in your heart”- when going off to school

To me: “I’ll always be in your heart, even when you are dead.”

Also to me: “When you get older, you’re going to die on the cross and then I’m gonna have your house.” So much to unpack here.

“Jesus knows all the things in Target.”

Avery told me one of her classmates asked if Avery could come over for a sleepover. I explained that we need to know the parents better before we would think about a sleepover. To which she replied, “Yeah, because they could be strangers and kill our family?” Yes. Precisely.

“I like Daddy’s hugs that are warm like summer.”

“Hold on, Alice, slow down. I’m not as young as I used to be!”

Avery’s Rules to Live By

“I will never stop playing make believe!”

“The best thing I’m at is doing nothing!”

Avery’s Problems

“I think these undies are too small, my butt can barely handle them!”

After I asked the girls for help picking up their toys and then ditched them after they got engrossed in the activity: “Mommy, I feel like we are doing all the work for you!”

Avery’s Answers

Me: Do you have a stuffy nose?

Avery: I don’t know, but I have been sniffling it.


Me: Does anything hurt?

Avery: Just my feelings


Me: How do you feel?

Avery: “Like a spider without a web”


Me: Are you going to eat all the chips and queso?

Avery: “Sorry, when I see something yummy that I like, I just gotta eat!”

Avery’s Questions

“Mom, why is nature so dirty? Why did God make dirt?”

“But mom, who let the dogs out in that song?”

“I’m growing lots of questions.”

“Did Jesus just glue the stars up there?”

Happy Birthday, Sweet Pea! We love you oodles!


parenting Weekly Update

Lessons from a Bushcraft Class

Avery took a Bushcraft class this spring. Each Saturday morning, we showed up at a nature preserve, where Mrs. Becky taught a group of 5-9-year-olds survival skills.

When talking to my sister after the first week of class, I mentioned where we had been. I told her that the kids learned how to spell “HELP” out of logs so they could be spotted by a helicopter if they get lost. We both laughed uproariously. I envisioned Avery lost in the aisles of Target, spelling “HELP” out of lip liner.

I couldn’t help but wonder what I had gotten her into. But she loved it, and it was time spent outdoors, so I considered it a win.

Each week, I watched as the group of kids gained comfort and familiarity in the wilderness of Florida. The kids learned about plants that they could eat, plants with medicinal purposes, how to build shelters, and how to make a reservoir for water.

And then came knife skills. I don’t consider myself a helicopter parent. I think I’ve said it before- I’m more of a free-range, entertain yourself, kind of parent. But on that day, I was a helicopter parent. Miss Becky started the day by educating the kids on “the blood circle” (no one should be within knives reach of where you are cutting), and “the triangle of death” (never cut in the triangle between your legs, to avoid slicing your femoral artery and bleeding to death). I was particularly amused and terrified by the terminology.

The day I became a helicopter parent.

I was even more terrified when Avery unsheathed her knife and tried to carve a stick. But she survived, despite nicking herself in the triangle of death.

On the final day of class, the kids learned how to use a striker and a ferro rod to make a spark and start a pile of monkey hair (nest-like material from palm trees) on fire.

When Miss Becky showed the kids how to do it, it looked easy peasy. But when the kids tried? Well, it wasn’t easy. A significant amount of pressure needs to be placed on the striker and ferro rod to create enough amount of friction to create a spark.

Avery tried, and tried, and tried. She tried for 30 minutes (it felt like, but maybe it was more like 15). It began to seem an impossible hope. And then, finally, she got a spark. Magic.

The key to lighting the monkey hair on fire is that a large enough spark hits just the right place at just the right time.

Avery and her classmates kept striking their rods; sometimes, lucky enough to throw a big spark but never lucky enough to start the monkey hair on fire.

It was hot, and the work was challenging. One of Avery’s classmates commented in despair about how he would never be able to set his monkey hair on fire.

His mom smiled and said, “It hasn’t set fire yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. “

And it hit me as maybe the best piece of advice I have ever heard.

Sometimes, in challenging situations, or when I am learning a new skill, my brain changes the narrative of “If I keep trying, it will happen” to “this is impossible. Because I haven’t succeeded thus far, I never will, so I might as well give up.”

When I was eight days overdue with Avery, my brain changed the narrative to, “I will be pregnant forever.” When I was depressed for a year, my brain said, “This is how the rest of life will be- no matter what.” When I pitch articles to a dream publication- my brain whispers, “You haven’t done it yet, and therefore, it will never happen.”

It’s hard to believe that fire is possible when you’ve only ever seen a spark.

None of Avery’s classmates started their monkey hair on fire. And most of them left feeling a little defeated because they didn’t know what the adults knew. The adults knew that it was dang impressive that these kids were able to make a spark, given the strength required. And that someday, probably soon, their muscles would get a little stronger, they’d understand the feel for it better, the monkey hair would be in just the right spot, at just the right time, with a large enough spark.

For those of us who had been there, done that, the fire wasn’t an impossibility. I hope Avery comes to know that sometimes amid despair, we forget that sparks lead to a fire.

Just because it hasn’t set fire yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t.

Keep on,


Weekly Update

Thunder and Limes

I like thunderstorms.

I like the silence that descends before the water hits the ground and the way that the rain can start as splatters and crescendo into a downpour.

Even better, I like when it starts as a downpour, heavens releasing every drop of water they contain, unwilling to ease anyone into anything.

I like the way the sky becomes dark and it feels like night. It feels wrong, the midday light turning to that of evening dusk. But more than wrong, it feels very much right.

Also, I like cooking.

I’m not referring to the frantic, get dinner on the table, with four different variations to appease all tastes, kind of cooking. I am adamantly NOT referencing that.

What I am talking about, is the kind of cooking that involves chopping vibrant vegetables. The kind of cooking that evokes childhood memories. Basil in pesto, garlic on garlic, lemon. The sounds of bacon sizzling, the taste I sneak of the cake batter, the meatball hot out of the oven that I pop into my mouth. It is a meditation that involves all of the senses, wrapping me into a cocoon, reminding me that for this minute, I am here, fully present & all is right in my world.

The kind of cooking that leaves the kitchen dusted in flour, the dishwasher filled with measuring cups, scraps of sweet potato peels, and vibrant purple cabbage decorating countertops.

I love watching the drops of rain hit the ground, bouncing off of the steamy black pavement, or the raindrops racing across car windows, enveloping the other drops in their path, claiming victory at the bottom of the window.

The way the street shines, becomes glossy, and the world that I thought I knew by heart takes on an entirely different appearance.

Rain jackets and umbrellas, puddles for jumping, raindrop facials.

It is the same world I occupy every day, but with rain, everything is transformed.

When the storm lifts, when the sky brightens, I feel a little bit of sadness creep in, that this transformed landscape is returning to normal. The skies are done with their tantrum, the pause is over, everybody can just go back to what they were doing, forgetting that, for a moment that the world was different.

The mint and limes that once decorated my counters combine to create something they were not capable of alone. They are still them and they are also something new, the same way the sky transforms with the addition of nimbus clouds and raindrops.

It gives me great hope for this world, how things transform with simple additions.

Weekly Update


We bought two milkweed plants a couple months ago after a neighbor showed me her caterpillar-covered milkweed.

Alice followed me as I carried the plants out of the car. “Where are you going to put them?” she asked, big blue eyes darting around the yard. I told her I planned to put them on the side of the house, because, to be honest, the milkWEED didn’t really fit in with the landscaping.

Alice had other plans though. She wanted them front and center, right next to our walkway. Though it didn’t help the decor, there are some times it isn’t worth arguing with Alice. In fact, it is almost never worth arguing with the dimpled-handed, wide-eyed, dictator.

She helped dig up the sandy soil and wrestle the weeds into their new home.

The leaves were covered in small dark dots. Eggs.

We checked the plants daily. I grew impatient as the black dots remained black dots. I began to wonder if they even were caterpillar eggs, or if the plants were just diseased.

But one morning, as I examined the plants, I noticed tiny holes covering the leaves. I flipped a leaf over, and sure enough, there was a teeny tiny caterpillar, munching her way through a leaf.

In the beginning….

I was mesmerized. Alice and Avery were…. sort of intrigued?

Each morning, I dragged the girls outside to stare at the caterpillars. We watched as the tiny holes on the leaves turned into large holes. We watched as the caterpillars shed their skin and grew larger. We watched as entire leaves disappeared and as the caterpillars ate down the stems of the plant.

Caterpillar looking for milkweed.

The plants disappeared as the caterpillars grew chunky, and I began to wonder when we would find a chrysalis.

Google told me that when a caterpillar is around 2 inches long, it turns into a chrysalis. So I measured them. They were easily two inches. I looked at them expectantly. I checked on them hourly, not wanting to miss the big transition.

But they didn’t. They ate, and they ate, and they ate. Again, I felt impatient. The same sort of impatience I felt when I was nine days overdue with Avery.

Nature really irks me sometimes, with its slow, never rushing progress.

I grew convinced that the lizards who live in our petunia plants must be eating the fat caterpillars, so I bought more milkweed plants and moved the remaining caterpillars to plants inside our screened-in lanai, away from the lizard population. I put them next to the glass sliding door in the kitchen, where we could watch them.

Finally, one day, I watched as a caterpillar hung herself upside down in the “J shape.” And I knew, it was about time.

I camped out in the kitchen, unsure of what I was looking for, but not wanting to miss the transformation of a chunky caterpillar into a green, gold-studded chrysalis.

Well, it turns out they hang in that J-shape for 12-24 hours, sometimes longer. So the next morning, as I darted to take a shower, it shed its final layer of skin.

And when I returned to the kitchen, it was in the final throes of scootching, bunching, and swinging itself into its beautiful green home for the next two weeks.

Caterpillar -> Chrysalis

Again, the waiting games were on.

I examined the chrysalis multiple times each day, looking for a sign- any sign- that a butterfly might emerge. If I looked at the chrysalis from the right, sun-lit angle, I could see the wings, neatly folded up.

As the days passed, the chrysalis turned from bright green to a darker green, eventually becoming see-through right before the butterfly emerged.

Hours before a Monarch emerges.

And then one morning, right as the sun was rising under dark thunder clouds, I noticed that the shape of a chrysalis had changed. I went outside to investigate further, and watched, as a newly emerged butterfly hung, her wings still folded and crumpled.

The crumpled wings of a newly emerged Monarch

Consistent with the great timing of nature, I had to go drop Avery off at school, so I couldn’t watch the transformation unfold.

When I returned, her wings had expanded to full size, wrinkle-free, and breath-taking. I brought her out of the screened-in enclosure, outside to the world. Her dainty legs clung to my finger.

She began to flap her wings, testing them out.

And then she flew. As if she had never, as Chad likes to put it, slimed around, eating leaves.

As I watched her fly away, I was reminded of a question Alice asked weeks earlier as we watched the caterpillars devour leaves. “Mom, does a caterpillar know it is going to turn into a butterfly?”

“I don’t know,” I had replied at the time. I was struck by her question. It was so deep, and simply worded something I often wondered about myself.

But now, after watching the whole process, I don’t know if that piece of the puzzle even matters. Maybe they don’t need to know the end result.

Maybe, the end result is a tiny piece of the puzzle, holding the same weight as every other moment. While I was caught impatiently waiting for the next transition, the caterpillar moved at her own time. Each moment was beautiful.

It is in the becoming, that I learn a lot from these chunky creatures. That they didn’t rush. That transformation wasn’t a loud, crowd-drawing process. It was silent. And patient.

The world continued to revolve. The transformation took place without applause or encouragement. The butterflies didn’t listen to my impatient muttering about hurrying up, nor did I get a notification about when the caterpillar would change into a chrysalis, or when the butterfly would emerge.

The butterflies reminded me that the best things happen in their own time. They gain inherent beauty from following their own path, growing on their own terms, transforming on a schedule only they can determine.

And the end result? It is perfect. But so is every other step of becoming.