Each and every name of each and every victim is read aloud. 

Beautiful names. Names given and learned and loved.

A flower placed for each victim. A flower placed by members of a community who have wept and cared and prayed for strangers across the country.

I watch this and as the tears start to flow all I can think is that there are too many damn flowers on that table.

Fifty seems like a lot and it looks like even more when you see blossom piled upon blossom.

I attended a vigil for the Orlando tragedy tonight, organized and hosted by the local LGBT+ community. I attended to be a part of a community, I attended for solidarity and support, I attended because my heart is broken with my country.

I stood beside a couple that was two women, who silently wept and held each other, and when a speaker called for us to reach out to one another as a show of solidarity, and one of them held her hand out to me I eagerly accepted it and held on tight in the cooling evening. 

The entire circle of roughly a couple hundred people reached out to one another and held on tight.

The tragedy of what happened on Sunday didn’t really hit me until tonight, and there are just no words to express how terrible of a thing has been done. 

And yet, in the midst of this, I have never felt more a part of the community of Coeur d’Alene than I did tonight. 

To any friends of mine who are a part of the LGBT+ community, I know you feel hated, I know you feel rejected, I know you are targeted, I know you are a minority. 

But I also know that you are loved, and you are valued, and you are needed. You are unique and beautiful human beings. 

For every person that stands up and spews hatred, there will be a sea of people rising up to engulf them, to say you are wanted, and you are loved, and I want you to know that I will be a wave in that sea. 

No more flags at half-mast.

No more of these damn flowers piled on black tables.

Maybe this is already a pro-tip, but I just did it all by myself and it worked good, so. 

When you want to squeeze lime juice into/onto things, do this. 

1. Cut lime in half, across the fat middle. 

2. Turn individual halves cut side down. 

3. Make four individual cuts, essentially dividing the lime into four quarters, but keeping it all attached via the top end of the lime. 

4. Squeeze away! The individual quarters make it easier to handle, keeping you from squirting juice all over yourself, and you can use the opposing quarters against each other to extract as much as possible. 


Sometimes messy food is the most enjoyable; cheese and limes mingled on wooden board, one spoon to dish up all toppings, every person is the artist of their own plate. Fingers are licked, aromatic fresh-chopped herbs tossed onto food and countertop, arms reaching over arms, the pop-hiss of Mexican colas being opened interrupting the noise.

Messy food can be some of the very best, and I’m learning to relax into that. Messy life is what we’ve been given, and I’m trying to learn to relax into that as well, but I’m very bad at it.

Food is small and I can see it all on my counter and I know how it works and I have a deep and real appreciation and love for it. Life is inescapably large and I can’t see what’s going to happen and it’s unspeakably frightening. I think things are going to go a certain direction and then they don’t and I’m left drifting momentarily. A cold flood washing over my body as my head spins and I spill coffee down the front of my dress in a coffeehouse late at night. I feel lighter than air for just one moment in time as I look across the room and see the expression that must mirror mine and it’s a damning confirmation.

It’s messy; sticky warm coffee smeared across my chin and cold-hot-lighter-than-air-sinking-life jarring my heart.

I never know what to do with it, and it’s as if I’m staring at a table full of food and have forgotten how to cook.

I am missing my great Aunt Shelley right now. Missing her and wishing I could have seen her more recently. Wishing she could have met my husband, because she would have loved him. Wishing there had been more connection, more shared meals, more bread broken.

I wish I could take this life and make a little sense of it. Look at things and think to myself: Okay well this is messy and imperfect but we’ll just trim the rotten bits off and we can just throw in this and that, spice and herb, smoke things up, cure and salt and sear and taste. Make things good. Take the unsures and the new ingredients and learn with it and learn to be okay.

But I never know what to do when the milk of life sours overnight; when cast iron is heated too hot and foods burn, and breads don’t rise and flavors are discordant. When the tried and true recipe who’s outcome you can always predict goes terribly awry.

Food and life; they’re inescapably intermingled and it’s a beautiful emotional thing. It’s messy and unpredictable and sometimes just terrible, but I’m trying. I’m trying to learn, to be okay, to take the messy and know it, learn it, accept it.

To learn to find the hickory taste in the burnt edges, the baking gold in the soured dairy, the lesson in the fallen bread.

It’s disappointing and frustrating and messy and it’s life. And sometimes the messy is also the good.



One of the most difficult things to learn is how to be proud of yourself for doing one thing right,
when everything else seems to be going wrong.

Photo Credit: Seth Elsom, Christmas of 2014

my orion

At 1 o’clock AM tonight, I walked outside to grab the mail- all careful foot on the ice stairs.

A full moon still hung above our roof, and when I stopped to look up at it through freeze-stripped branches I also saw, for the first time since I had it inscribed upon my skin, my constellation; my Orion.

I recognized it immediately, and almost without thinking my hand lifted to cup the back of my neck where my insignificant reflection sits, inked under my epidermis.

I looked to the sky where Orion flies, and I felt the warmth of my skin where Orion hides, and for just a moment- out in the cold and the blue and the clean- my heart overflowed a little.



“Naming is Edenic. 

I name gifts and go back to the Garden and God in the beginning who first speaks a name and lets what is come into existence. This naming is how the first emptiness of space fills; the naming of light and land and sky. The first man’s first task is to name. Adam completes creation with his Maker through the act of naming creatures, releasing the land from chaos, from the teeming, undefinable mass. I am seeing it too, in the journal, in the face of the Farmer: naming offers the gift of recognition. When I name moments- string out laundry and name-pray, thank You, Lord, for bedsheets in billowing winds, for fluff of sparrow landing on line, sun winter warm, and one last leaf still hanging in the orchard- I am Adam and I discover my meaning and God’s, and to name is to learn the language of Paradise. This naming work never ends for all the children of Adam. 

Naming to find an identity, our identity, God’s.”

-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts 

The next time you begin to feel angry or bitter or offended by so-called labeling… I want you to please try and remember this. 

I’m not discounting labeling as a judgmental problem, because oftentimes it can be. What I am saying though, is that there is a reason we, as humans, have a penchant for naming (labeling) things and people. 

The above excerpt is why, I believe. 

Reflect before you react. We are human, we name, it is an aspect that defines us to our very soul. 


I’ll pose the question: How do I turn away from character development, and focus instead on plot advancement?

Here’s the thing. When I write- at least, when I write this particular story- I am attempting to tell the story of characters that my imagination birthed ten years ago. For me, once a character is created, it’s as though my mind forgets that they are my creation, and perceives them as a whole, complete being who’s story is just waiting to be told- by me. So I have known these characters- these people, really- for ten years.

I know them now so much better than I used to, for children always have a bit of a skewed perception of reality- and non-reality. Things are different when we are young; we think we know people, until we grow up and take a look at their souls and realize that we never really knew them to begin with, and are only just now seeing who they really are.

So on that note, I keenly feel the emotions of these people (characters). I have grown up with them. I have spent ten years with their thoughts and feelings and motives teeming in my brain. It’s a wonder my own thoughts fit. Sometimes my mind feels full to bursting with their longing- their story wants to be told but I am the only one with the voice to do it. But my voice falters me all too often, which is why that story is yet to be told.

(As I write this I am struck with the need to apologize to them.)

(I’m sorry, my beautiful souls. I know the pain in waiting, silently, knowing there is nothing you can do to move circumstances forward. I’m sorry that your voices are all obscured and mixed up, so I have trouble understanding what you’re asking of me- the story you’re trying to tell me. You are all so beautiful to me- my beautiful messes- and I love you. I’m sorry.)

That said, my problem is that I can’t get out of their heads, much like they shall never leave my mind. Turns out I can be incredibly focused, and all I can focus on is my people (characters), and what they’re thinking and feeling, and how they interact with each other, and how they carry themselves, and dress themselves, and what they like to listen to, and how they deal with trauma, and what makes them hurt, and- do you see my problem?

They matter so much to me. So much, in fact, that that’s all I can focus on when I write their story. I write them, and not the story. I have plot partially mapped out in my head- that is to say I know what happens in their story for the most part- I just don’t know how to focus on it enough to get it written down accurately and succinctly. It’s true, I want to write a character driven novel rather than plot driven, but I still need plot progression to tell a cohesive story. I like the plot of this story, make no mistake, I’m just more interested in how the plot affects my people (characters) than how the plot plays out.

The thing is, no one wants to read a book about people (characters) they don’t know intimately, and they can only know them intimately when they comprehend and understand the circumstances those people (characters) go through; when they witness the events first hand.

So ultimately, what I’m asking for is advice. What suggestions do you have for how to focus more on plot, and just get the meat of the story written, without dedicating obscene amounts of time to character development (which can obviously be filled in later)?

(Links to advice is appreciated also, but I am longing to hear original, spur-of-the-moment thoughts and opinions and suggestions.)