2018 Word of the Year

I had a lively list of contenders for my next word of the year:


Asking myself a question helped me narrow it down to just one:

Who am I now that I have ignited and cleared so many obstacles?

I am a woman who turns inward to find truth, with healthy boundaries, and an expansive capacity for love. I act from a place of knowing.

When you drill down enough in the place of knowing, and you feel a little shaky with the weight of your actions, but absolutely at peace - that is called yirah.

It's the Hebrew word I learned from the book Playing Big, by Tara Mohr. She distinguishes between two types of fear:

Rabbi Lew explained that the Hebrew Bible uses two different words for fear. The first word is pachad. Pachad, Rabbi Lew explains, is the fear of projected or imagined things, “the fear of the phantom, the fear whose object is imagined.” Pachad is the overreactive, irrational fear that stems from worries about what could happen, about the worst-case scenarios we imagine. 
Here’s where things get fascinating: Rabbi Lew explains that in the Hebrew Bible, there’s a second word used for fear, yirah. Yirah has three different meanings:
1. It is the feeling that overcomes us when we inhabit a larger space than we are used to.
2. It is the feeling we experience when we suddenly come into possession of considerably more energy than we had before.
3. It is what we feel in the presence of the divine. 
Oh. That.

Mohr, Tara. Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead (p. 66). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


It is the perfect description of how I feel when I write. When I publish my first sweet romance novel, my first young adult fantasy novel, my memoirs about mental illness, they are all an expression of me inhabiting a larger space than I'm used to. YIRAH.

It is a gorgeous way to explain photography: focusing on both the context and the details, preserving stories with light and shadow, celebrating with art. YIRAH.

It is a hope for my mothering. There are always difficult decisions to be made, balancing the sacred sheltering and releasing that parenthood is. YIRAH.

It is the ecstasy I feel when I'm at peace, seated deep in my truth, taking steps toward wholeness, and fulfilling promises to myself. YIRAH.

One last thing

I have a strange mental tic. Whenever I read something that feels right and true, I imagine myself throwing my coffee cup against the wall, shattering it in celebration.

It happens a couple times a month and it delights me. I stand in my vision watching the pieces explode and the coffee drip down the wall.

I just finished reading Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr after one of my favorite authors, Katie Cross, mentioned that it was a game-changing book for her. 

(Katie Cross is an author whose books I read for pleasure, but also to pick them apart and emulate. Her book Miss Mabel's School for Girls made me sigh and think, "This is the mood I was going for in my book.")

Playing Big did not disappoint. I wanted to throw my coffee cup against the wall several times while reading it. 

Here's what I learned. I have invested a lot of time and energy into creative projects that I hope will enlighten other people, but I rarely share them. The nagging voice inside my head says, "Wow, you're a pontificating navel-gazer. This stuff is embarrassing." 

I'll blog because it's low-risk and it doesn't require anything from other people. Asking people to subscribe to an email list for my fiction or pay for my work? That's a whole different story. It's an energy exchange that I'm not ready for yet.

My word of the year for 2017 has been IGNITE. I'm pretty attached to it. I have ignited the heck out of everything. I'm going to savor it until the last moment of December 31. 

I'm starting to think of my word for 2018. It makes me want to throw my mug against the wall because I'm that excited about it. Before I do, perhaps I need to ignite one last false limiting belief: 

that I'm not Worthy of Success.

I am already successful. I'm wildly successful at turning inward to find answers. I'm great at making time for my writing and other activities that show me hidden beauty.

I am fascinated to see what the new year holds. I can feel the next word bearing down on me. It just hasn't revealed itself yet.

Super Frost Moon

It turns out that taking decent pictures of the moon is pretty challenging. I don’t have the best lens for the job, but I experimented and took lots of blurry pictures with different settings to get a few okay shots. 

I started turning my lens into the sky this summer. It has been like looking through new eyes. 

This photo was taken on the last day of August. 
There is a teeny tiny speck of an airplane in the upper right quadrant.

This photo was just 20 minutes after the previous one 
when whispy clouds gave the moon an ethereal look.

I love the blue in the sky and the way the other side of the moon disappears into it.

This full moon picture was taken September 7. It is one of my favorite pictures ever because the moon resembles a melon and the topography of the surface is visible.

This is a bad photo. Let's be honest, but I still like it. The camera records light data and this data tells the story of how just part of the moon is lit. There's also a weird reflection that makes it look like it could be an alien planet with two moons.

This moon is barely there in the evening sky on September 24.

October 1

November 8

November 30. It is much harder to capture detail of the moon 
in the night sky. This was the last picture in a series of 30 shots that night, 
each with different camera settings.

After those test shots, I was ready to capture the Super Frost Moon in the coming days. 
As if fulfilling a prophecy, the roses were covered in frost the next morning.

December 2. The nearly full moon from my backyard. 
One more night to go!

December 3, Super Frost Moon through the treetops

December 3, Super Frost Moon

Fall 2017 Photojournal

I went on a photo walk to a park I'd never visited. Since I’m a Scorpio with depression, crackly leaves, skeletal trees, a chilly wind, and a subtle palette of browns and grays feel like home to me.

Other people were walking along the trail that snakes around the prairie. They were wearing jackets and had drippy noses. I was in a tee shirt crawling around in the dead foliage to shoot through with my camera. (I just learned what “shooting through” means and I was determined to try it.)

This set of pictures was shot in RAW format and then converted and processed with the software that came with my Canon DSLR. Everyone is right. Shooting RAW gives you so much more detail to play with. It's my new favorite!

Scene and Story #12

I joined the scene and story group almost a year ago with a photo of a different stack of books. My French dictionaries reminded me of falling in love with the study of all things French. It was a chance to step outside the rumination and worry. It was my raison d’ĂȘtre for a time.

I’ve heard of people making a playlist for their life story. I love the idea that if we had a soundtrack to our lives, we’d know what was the heck was going on. Instead of songs, what speaks more to me is a pile of books, each title representing a step in my spiritual progression from top to bottom.

For all of 2017, I've joined Sarah from Paisley Rain Boots and Lee from Sea Blue Lens for a monthly Scene and Story Linkup. They are my photography inspiration. The group has given me a guidepost for each passing month this year. Thank you, Sarah and Lee!

What This Mom Will Do

This mom will not sleep in a tent all night.

This mom won't volunteer in your classroom, chaperone field trips, or buy candy to pass around on your birthday.

This mom will not answer when you shout her name from the basement.

This mom will not change out of her PJs to and flip-flops to drop you off.

This mom will not leave anything unsaid.

This mom will fill your life with love, both spoken and unspoken.

She will fix what she can, knowing fixable things are rare.

If she can't fix them, she'll help you make sense of them, and listen while you sort through your options.

She'll nod silently, give you hugs, and remove every sliver of apple peel.

She'll help you rearrange your room, keep your favorite toys in storage, vacuum under your bed, and show you how to do your own laundry.

She will not freak out when you tell her you "like" somebody, but she might linger outside your door to eavesdrop if the chance arises.

This mom will do a million uncomfortable things for your sake. 

She will set aside her love of traveling, sleep, and gracious lifestyle. 

She will lose touch with her friends, confront school officials, gain weight, and lose it again.

This mom will redefine the word mom so it is precisely what you need it to mean, and tweak it every day after that until it begins to shrink.

This mom will - on purpose - step back from you a little at a time to let you breathe your own air without perfectly peeled apple slices, laundry lessons, and eavesdropping.

This mom will not wonder "where the time went' or exclaim "they grow up so fast!" because she will have been there for every apple, boyfriend, dirty sock, and unfixable problem.

2017 Scene and Story #11

This month's picture will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows my obsession with raptors. This hawk has been a regular visitor to our backyard for the last few weeks. It has been cool and overcast. Perfect hunting weather. No matter how often it appears, it takes my breath away every time.

Perhaps that's why it returns, to be admired and photographed.

For all of 2017, I'm joining Sarah from Paisley Rain Boots and Lee from Sea Blue Lens for a monthly Scene and Story Linkup. They are my photography inspiration!

Highlights and Eye lights

Sometimes you have few words, but you're still noticing all the beauty around you.  This post is simply an excuse to share some of that beauty with you.

In each of the creature photos, the light is reflected in their eyes. Even a few of the marigold petals have a soft cast of light.

Photo Credit Michael Weishaar

Photo Credit Michael Weishaar


I'm participating in a writing workshop that is helping me through a particularly nasty bout of depression. I didn't plan it that way, but every morning, it has helped me remember who I am without the heaviness on my chest.

Each day's prompt comes from a poem. The students take a line from the poem and write for 15 minutes, pen not leaving the page.

Here's my poem inspired by "Pray for Peace" by Ellen Bass. 

Pray to watercolor blooms, feathery carrot seeds, and the blank canvas.
Pray in peace and in chaotic noise.
Pray with your pulse, your feet, and your thoughts.
Pray out loud, on paper, and while petting your dog.
Make your chili, your hard-boiled eggs, and big-ass salads in prayer.
Sip the coffee, the tea, the water, and the wine, in prayer.

Pray to the bird-feeder, the lawn mower, and the rusty swing set.
Pray to the teacher, the new curriculum, and the standardized test.
Pray to the road noise, the empty long division packet, and the leaf-blower racket.
Pray to the mom who yelled in her baby's face that she'd blister her ass right there in Target. 
Pray to that baby and on the onlookers who felt helpless.
Pray to music, fantasy stories, and whole food.

Pray to tradition, ignoring tradition, and railing against it, too.
Pray to your parents even though they were imperfect. 
Pray to your children even though they mirror your imperfections.
Pray to years of institutions, education, and rule-following. 
But then pray to throwing that all to the side to stay home and raise kids.
Pray to your heart. Pray with your heart.
Pray for your heart. 
So you can keep praying.

2017 Scene and Story #10: Creature Town

I love the plants and wildlife where we live. So much diversity nests, crawls, hops, flutters, and soars through our space. When I spot something, I feel six years old again. "Look there's a butterfly!"

My favorite picture of September is definitely the cardinal side-eye, but I couldn't help but share other mini scenes to add to the story.

These roses sit just under the bird feeder, hosting spiders, thorns, and brilliant petals.

I love the little feathers being flipped up by the wind.

All my kids ran outside in the middle of homework when someone spotted a praying mantis on our front porch. He was very photogenic and patiently crawled around letting us admire him.

I like it when lots of birds crowd the feeder at once. It's like a bird-town reality show. Who will prevail? Who will be kicked off the tray?

These seed pods are in a tree whose leaves were just beginning to turn on the first day of Autumn.

A broad-winged hawk is cooling himself on the swingset. We usually see red-tailed hawks in our yard, so this was a welcome surprise.

We have heirloom carrots in our garden this year. This Monarch is sitting atop and underneath the carrot flowers. Another favorite snapshot of the month.

One of the regular bird-town characters, this pretty bird is normally fluffier and has a pointy crest, but here he is crouched and ready.

My son is studying the lunar cycles in school. We've been taking lots of moon pictures. It has been more difficult than I expected, so this shot came as a pleasant surprise. I also kept it because it seemed to represent the whole month. Instead of just one night of full moon, the entire 30 days felt expectant, itchy, and wild.

For all of 2017, I'm joining Sarah from Paisley Rain Boots and Lee from Sea Blue Lens for a monthly Scene and Story Linkup. They are my photography inspiration!