Update: Six weeks into my ‘grand plans’

It’s been six weeks since 2020 began and I have been working diligently on three fronts: To read more books, to declutter my reading retreat and to focus on healthy habits.

Here’s how it’s going.


I decided the easiest way to track my progress here was a Books 2020 page, which you can find up top under the Minimally banner above: What I’ve read, what I’m reading and what I’ve ditched. (I’m learning to ditch! I’m ridiculously excited about that.) (I’ve only ditched one so far.) The eLibrary has been coming through, usually in the nick of time, which is nothing short of a miracle, but I’ve also reread a couple favorites.

I’m learning to reach for my book instead of reaching for my phone, even if I only have a couple of minutes to kill. I feel like I’ve wasted less time when I read vs. scroll around online. I don’t always remember, but I am remembering more often. I like to read when I read, so it’s different to grab a book knowing I might only have time to finish a page or two. So much is just habit and routine. I find that fascinating, but that’s another post for another time. Eh, maybe.


I am finding it easier to be in my reading retreat for longer periods of time. Probably because each day I’m in there means there’s less visual clutter. And less actual clutter. It’s getting there!

I did make the mistake of letting the girls in on what I was doing early in the process, and they were horrified that some of their childhood books were in the giveaway pile. The kicker: They wanted to keep certain books, but not in their own rooms. “Think of your grandchildren!” Abby said at one point, but I was like, Dude, I AM. They might not even like these books.

That’s the thing: We keep things for future generations, and the future generations are all like, Nah, I want my own stuff. I know. I am one of those future generations (I wrote about that HERE).

I’ve tackled books. I’ve tackled the box of negatives and duplicate photos (that has been on my to-do list for like seven years, no joke). I’ve even tackled the mess of gift bags and ribbons and boxes. I’m sorting through my extensive Everyday Food magazine collection and recycling. I thought that would be harder. What IS harder: I’m dealing with a fat stack of scrapbook supplies and photos that need to go into albums.

(This will strictly be placing photos on pages, no decorating, no creative endeavors, just getting it done. I still don’t want to do it, I think because scrapbooking used to stress me out — the pressure of creating perfect pages, all the supplies and tools, all spread out all over the front room. I associate scrapbooking with stress.)

It feels good to finally be dealing with this space. I cannot believe all that I’ve managed to accomplish in six week. I can’t wait to see what it looks like after the next six.


Again, this one is about mindfulness rather than fulfilling a to-do list. I’m drinking more water (which probably still isn’t enough, but at this stage, we’re just going with any water that’s not coffee as a win). I’m moving around more. I’m taking breaks. Well, sort of. I’m practicing self-care. I’m going to bed ridiculously early if that’s what I need to do.

I’m talking 8:30 p.m.! This is the benefit of having older kids. They let you sleep.

My downfall is sugar — I’m still eating too much, and that’s idiotic because it upsets my stomach and makes me feel super gross. On Feb. 1, I decided to give up desserts for the week to see how I felt. I was eating blueberries for dessert, which actually wasn’t so bad. But on Feb. 8, I ate A LOT of chocolate. Dessert fast over, YAY.

On Feb. 9, I had to admit that symptoms that had taken a week’s vacation were back: Swollen stomach, didn’t sleep well that night, general feeling of ick. Um, yeah, I did finish off the chocolate with a vague plan of restarting the dessert fast today. For a bit, anyway.


Well, the year is long, if I managed to succeed in all my health goals in six weeks, what would I do with the other 10.5 months of this year? 😉


That time I took Abby grocery shopping

The day before Abby headed to school, we had a weird weather day of rain, then snow, then more rain, then nothing, then more snow — with a forecast that was, as Eric put it, for snow accumulation that amounted to anything between a skiff and 10 feet. Knowing she would be facing snow at school, we decided to meet at the grocery store (with 10,000 of our best friends who were also freaking out about the forecast) and get her weekly groceries so she wouldn’t have to worry about that once she got back.

cats for blog

This photo of all my furry children will make more sense later. Left is Goose, Bean is center and Pearl is ignoring everyone as per usual at top.

We were in the meat aisle and I was looking at roasts for the ol’ crock pot (because I still don’t have an oven) and coming up short on the inspiration, and anyway Abby is going vegetarian for environmental reasons. But out of the corner of my eye, I see her place two packages of hamburger and one roast at the bottom of our cart, and I’m like, Hey, what did you get?

And this woman I’ve never seen before was like, Well, I got hamburger and …

And I burst out laughing because, I mean, I tend to have weird interactions with people anyway because I’m just an awkward person so this is par for the course, but wow, totally not my kid. I pointed to Abby and explained that’s who I thought she was (and my astonishment at her meat choices because again, vegetarian) and she was like, I just thought you were really interested in my selection! and I was all, I kind of was because I can’t decide what to get myself but also sorry about that, and she laughed and we wished each other good luck in getting through the store on this crazy, crowded afternoon.

And I ended up with chicken from the meat counter, in case you’re curious.

Speaking of ovens … 

We have movement on the oven front! For those of you who are new, my oven tried to kill me way back in July (I think; whatever, it was a long time ago) and we have been without one since. We researched replacement parts and other various options (and when I say “we,” I mean “Eric.” I like to make a fast decision and live with the consequences whereas he likes to take his time. Which should adequately explain why we’re six months into this oven-less journey), and finally, we decided to accept the reality that we were going to have to get a new one and ordered the thing. The drama!

Christmas sales, got a deal. Well, sort of a deal. Turns out ovens without hoods are SUPER expensive. Why did we think putting an oven in the island was a good idea again?

The oven was supposed to be delivered last week but then we had another snowstorm and it got pushed back to this week. It doesn’t actually matter when it’s delivered, though, because Eric has informed me that he’s not taking out the old one until this spring or summer. Something about retrofitting the space and online reviews that point to huge hassles and, like, not wanting to rip up the kitchen in the winter. So the thing will live in the garage for a bit.

That’s cool. It’s amazing what you can cook in a crockpot. I could write a book at this point. Okay, fine, a pamphlet.

Kitten friends

The snow has excited the boys to no end. Bean and Goose fall over themselves trying to get out of the house every morning so they can go play and hunt and do whatever it is cats do. Yes, they’re in 10 minutes later because they get cold and need pats on the head and reassurances they are good boys and to make sure the food dish is still there (it always is and that always surprises them), but then they’re ready to go back out again. And come in again. Over and over and over.

Well, they’re cats.

Pearl, on the other hand, is greatly offended by the snow and cold and wet. She turns her nose up at the open door and hides behind the couch, where she can look out the window in warmth and safety. She shakes her head at the boys’ antics. I can feel the distain just rolling off her, for them, for the snow, for anyone who is dumb enough to go out into that dripping mess.

I feel you, Pearl. We are idiots.

The end.

Goodbye, 2019

I like to do a little end of the year housekeeping and sort through the last 12 months — and damn, what a year. I can’t say I’ve been too impressed with 2019, but to be fair, I’ve never had a year so good that I wanted a repeat. I like moving forward.

My word this year was peace (um, anyone else pick a word to guide them through the year?) and I’m 98 percent certain that will be my word again in 2020. It’s been my word for like three years running and, as I was explaining to my dear friend Shannon the other day, I choose it because that is the goal, not because I am peaceful. I rarely feel at peace, although I do often feel content and maybe that’s the same thing, now that I think about it.

I use my word daily and, as I’ve shared before, there have been times I’ve had to scream I CHOOSE PEACE because it is not something that comes naturally to me. I also write it in my journal every week, no joke. The word helps me remember that I crave calm and that I don’t need to judge. To care for my inside and my outside. To look at the light instead of the dark.

I know. That’s a lot for one word to hold.

It came in handy on deadline days when chaos reigned (“Not my circus, not my monkeys. Oh wait, yes it is. Shit. I CHOOSE PEACE”). It was what saved me when my father-in-law spent four days in ICU before passing away from a traumatic brain injury. It’s what reminds me that I need to stop and breathe.

I’m a big fan. And I’d love to hear your word for the year and/or plans for next year’s word in the comments.


In 2019, I had to embrace change because I had no choice. And let me tell you, I despise change. Give me routine any ol’ day. But by keeping an open mind — well, really just trying to be open to the gifts and lessons of each day — I managed to have a lovely time on our trip to Canada (HERE) as well as to whatever life happens to throw me on any particular day. That’s not easy for my brain. I am terribly proud of the progress I’ve made since making this a priority (HERE).

I let go of my own crushing expectations of myself (HERE) and a lot of people — we had four deaths this year (my beloved Aunt Jan, Don, and family friends Celia and Patty). And for some reason, I let go of my walk break at work. I need to bring that back because I feel so much better when I walk. And take a break.

I’m grateful, however, for so much: My little family and the time we spend together, friends who rally when the chips are down and getting to see my Grandma so often now that she’s moved to town all come to mind. That we get to be a year older. That we haven’t gotten nuked yet.


It’s always easier for me to think of the year’s challenges than it is accomplishments, but here we go.

Challenges first:

The experience of days in the ICU with my father-in-law, knowing that chances were very good he would never wake up, was the biggest challenge this year (HERE). Being in that GD waiting room. And then just the aftermath of his death. What a huge hole. I still expect to see him around and it’s always a shock to realize, again, that he’s gone.

I never want to see another ICU.

Deadlines have been particularly challenging at work this year; we’ve had staff turnover, which means more on everyone’s plate, and getting the paper out on time has been more miss than hit because of various personalities and/or the realities of print.

Perimenopause — I don’t even know where to begin with this one. It affects my guts. It affects my mental stability. I never know what will happen from month to month — will I have two periods or will I have zero? Who knows!


Um … well, I did win a newspaper award (second place) for my work. That was kind of nice, even though my brain is all like, Eh, second. And I managed to get myself a raise. I still make a poverty wage but I feel less ripped off.

I nailed our Canada trip! Which I am very proud of because I am not a good traveler. I also nailed July, with all my self-care appointments (HERE). I felt awesome that month and I’m sure it was because I was taking such good care of myself.

I don’t know if this is really an accomplishment, but I got my ears pierced and now I get to wear fun earrings and feel punk. And I feel like I have some new tools to work with: Breath exercises, stopping negative spirals (HERE) and a restarted morning routine that keeps me grounded (HERE).

Well, goodbye 2019. And see you next year, internet friends.

Here we go

My laptop has 26 percent battery, and as it turns out, that’s also an accurate representation of where I’m at.

I mean, I’m proud for how well I’ve done this December. I tried really hard. There may have been days I wasn’t feeling it, but I didn’t bring anyone down with me. I’ve enjoyed waking up each morning and turning on the Christmas lights in my kitchen window, even everything else seemed stupid.

I’ve managed to work towards Christmas and the gradual increase of light. And yeah, my battery is low. And yeah, I’ve got some crazy work deadlines this week and next because of Christmas and New Year’s landing smack on what are usually delivery days.

But here’s what I’m looking forward to:

  • Meeting Abby in our favorite coffee shop when she’s on her lunch break (we both work downtown).
  • Seeing my cousins, who are rolling in to visit Grandma.
  • Giving a couple of gifts to co-workers who save my life every day (I’ve made small packs with coffee cards, chocolate bars and peppermint lip balm, and I am ridiculously excited).
  • Binge watching “The Good Place” on Netflix with the girls (HERE).
  • And our various Christmas gatherings with my family and Eric’s, as well as our Walker Four Christmas morning extravaganza, which mostly involves the girls rolling out of bed late and a lot of coffee.

Anyway, for my friends who also have a hard time with this month, this is just a reminder that we’re almost there. That when the going gets overwhelming, we can focus on our breath or the light or whatever it is that gets us through it. And that we need to take good, good care of ourselves — not just everyday maintenance kind of stuff, but the kind of care we give to everyone else.

I think for me that’s going to be walk breaks, even on deadline, coffee (obvs), hugging my kids a lot and taking that GD five seconds after my shower to apply body lotion because, shock, my skin is high maintenance, just like every single other aspect that makes me me.

Here we go.

Um, wait, Christmas is next week?

  1. It’s snowing.
  2. Abby made it home safely for winter break.
  3. And in time for Johanna’s birthday.
  4. We celebrated with an out-of-town basketball game.
  5. Jo scored 5 points.
  6. She opened her presents in a Subway sandwich shop.
  7. (“Sandwich” used loosely here.)
  8. (Not a place I can eat.)
  9. We took her to a Mexican restaurant for a proper birthday dinner later.
  10. I ordered a quesadilla.
  11. It was the best thing I’ve eaten in ages.
  12. I did not have much of a reaction.
  13. I’m being rewarded for bad behavior, basically.
  14. The girls and I binged watched “Umbrella Academy” on Netflix this week.
  15. Ten episodes in three days. (HERE.)
  16. I want to watch it again.
  17. It’s got some violence and some swearing (fair warning).
  18. But the storyline is creative and captivating.
  19. And also: Klaus.
  20. And also: The cinematography is really fantastic.
  21. It occurred to me yesterday at, like, 7 p.m. that Christmas is in a week.
  22. Um yeah, of course I have all my shopping done, what are you talking about?
  23. Note to self: Finish shopping.
  24. I hate shopping.
  25. We had our staff Christmas party on Tuesday.
  26. Seemed like a weird day for a party but okay.
  27. One of the ladies who planned it got food that I could eat.
  28. And I am ridiculously touched by that.
  29. I never get to eat.
  30. Unless there’s a carrot or something laying around.
  31. I have stopped asking Alexa to play Christmas music.
  32. I’m trying to keep it together for this last week of Advent.
  33. And I think I’m mostly succeeding.
  34. But I’ve reached capacity for hearing “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”
  35. Even Ray Conniff is starting to annoy me.
  36. So I ask her to play Top Alternative.
  37. That’s more my jam.
  38. Eric and Jo put the Christmas tree up on Saturday.
  39. It was literally one that Eric cut out of the yard.
  40. It was a … what, volunteer tree? … and messing up his landscaping plans.
  41. It is UGLY.
  42. And the bottom lights are all burned out.
  43. You know what, though, I feel this tree.
  44. And it’s better than the tree we had that year that Johanna turned 4.
  45. And between her and the cats, it got knocked down three times.
  46. Twice by Johanna.
  47. Anyway, I’m just trying to breathe.
  48. And remember that I’m focusing on Advent.
  49. Well.
  50. That’s 50.

Dear everyone,

I have, no joke, three “dear everyone” drafts saved to my folder — I wouldn’t have any problem at all posting twice a week if I’d just hit “publish” and not overthink what I’m sharing. (It’s more a judgement of the words I’m using than the actual sharing part, now that I think about it, but whatever.)

Today’s goal: Just get the words out.

In which I take a trip

Right before Thanksgiving, and despite a looming holiday deadline, I took two and a half days off from work to accompany Eric on a business trip.

So of course, the day before we leave, all hell breaks loose. Which is generally the way it goes. That Monday deadline was awful — we have a new reporter who was still figuring things out and we were late to press. Then I got a phone call from Johanna saying she couldn’t participate in basketball practice because I forgotten to submit her physical release form with her registration. And Bean had some kind of accident and his paw was bloody — we thought maybe he’d lost a claw somehow.


Still handsome.

So Tuesday was spent running Bean to the vet (he was such a good boy) and learning he had not lost a claw, just had flap lacerations, but stitches and a cone of shame were in order. I picked up Jo’s physical release from the doctor’s office (thank you Eric for calling in the request) and submitted that via the internet (thank you technology). I put in a couple hours at the office before picking Jo up for an appointment and Bean from the vet, then getting Bean home, Jo to practice and myself to first quarter conferences. Um, and then home again to finally pack.

All that was keeping me sane was the thought of that trip. My co-workers were like, Be free, Trisha Walker, which I appreciated because I was feeling guilty about leaving. It’s funny that I can be so burned out but also so hesitant to actually leave. Deep down, I must like my stupid job.

The day of the trip finally dawned. I took a nap on the way and then hung out in our hotel room that evening while Eric had meeting stuff. It felt weird to just … be … after the craziness that had been the week up until that point. I ate the quinoa and chicken I’d packed for dinner and started our Christmas letter. Eric came back eventually and was surprised that I’d used my time on that — I didn’t do anything as far as Christmas cards or letters last year, but this year I’m feeling up to the task. It felt good to write.

The next day was spent walking around town a bit and window shopping, meeting my dear friend Mara for coffee, reading and writing and napping and enjoying the quiet. I wasn’t bored. I was well-supplied with coffee, thanks to my darling husband, who searched it out on my behalf. I had zero responsibilities — no dishes, no laundry, none of my usual home chores — so my only option was to relax. And the lesson I learned was that I CAN relax, I just need to leave town to do it. 😉

Johanna, incidentally, was at my parents’ house, and Bean and company were under my mother-in-law’s care (here’s our sick cat, have fun!). So I didn’t have to worry about that, either. They were all in the best of hands.

In which we celebrate Thanksgiving

We thought Abby wouldn’t be home until the day before Thanksgiving because of her class schedule, but she was able to arrange to take all of her tests on Monday. So our party started a whole 48 hours early. And by “party,” I mean “snuggling on the couch together in a dogpile.”

Also, bonus, she made it home before the snow hit.

On Wednesday, Abby picked Johanna up from basketball practice — no school, but hoops never sleep — and they went to my parents’ house to help my mother with Thanksgiving prep. Later, they came to my office and we walked to the coffee shop together; both girls got a snack and coffee, and then worked on various homework projects. Thank you, free wifi and portable devices!

We were on deadline Wednesday for our Saturday edition. We thought it was end of day and it ended up being 2 p.m. We made it, although I’m still not sure how, and it was awesome because I walked back to the coffee shop around 3 p.m. to hang with the girls. Eric also walked down, so we had a nice family moment. He went back to work and the girls and I did some window shopping before heading back to the house. We had dinner, watched some “Office” reruns and then Abby put on “Mall Cop,” which was surprisingly entertaining. No one probably cares about these details, but it was just so lovely — all my kids under one roof, the fire blazing, just hanging out. That is my kind of evening.

Thanksgiving tends to stress me out, even when I’m not hosting — just crowds and noise, and yeah, it’s family but that’s how my brain is wired. We had a full house at my parents’, with all of my family in attendance, plus Grandma, and another full house at my brother-in-law’s. Now this is love: I couldn’t figure out at first why Mom made baked beans to go with the usual turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing et al., but it turns out Grandma has been in the mood. And she thoroughly enjoyed her serving.

Speaking of love: I STILL don’t have an oven, but Johanna requested a raspberry salad — you know, that 1950s monstrosity with the pretzel and sugar crust, cool whip and cream cheese middle and raspberry jello top — and even though it’s literally the most artificial, terrible creation ever (so much packaging! So few nutrients!), I was determined to make her one. I couldn’t bake the crust so I just packed it in really tight and put it in the freezer. And hey, it worked. She was thrilled, which was all I really cared about.

In which I retrench

The day after Thanksgiving saw me up at 7 a.m., with a goal of being to work around 9. I wanted a nice, easy morning. And I was feeling pretty good about life when I noticed that I couldn’t find my car keys anywhere in the house.

Hmm. I did have a faint memory of putting them in the center console while Eric drove us home after our various celebrations, so I went to the garage to check. A little voice reminded me that sometimes the car locks on its own accord, which would be sort of a disaster because Eric had gotten up early to get a noise checked out on his truck (and go to The Store that Must Not Be Named? Interesting turn of events).

So guess what happened? Yep. There were my keys, clearly visible. There were the doors, clearly locked. I called Eric in a panic, and he directed me to his desk, where he stores the extra keys. I found the one for my car, but it did not work. At all. I was on my knees trying to find the hide-a-key that was somewhere on the vehicle’s exterior, but never could locate it. My options: Wait for Eric to come home and unlock me, wait until Abby went into work for her 10:30 shift, or drive the Zippy Mobile, Abby’s high school ride that was my grandma’s ’88 Honda Civic. You know, the one out in the driveway buried in snow with the crappy tires.

Eh, what could happen?

It took a while to defrost that sucker, but I made it into work by 9:30. This is the kind of thing, honestly, that just throws me off my game. Not how I planned my morning, the need to retrench my expectations, the feeling that the whole day is now shot because this one negative thing happened.

BUT YOU GUYS that was my new year’s resolution in July when I turned 47 — embracing Plan Z! And I’ve had a lot of practice. I’d also figured out the whole “ridiculousness stops the negative mind spirals” trick. So I’m driving Zip, thankful that we have an extra vehicle to get me where I need to go and reminding myself that all I really need to do is be open to the gifts and lessons of the day.

And it was a good day.

In which I end this novel

Um, is anyone still with me?


In which I have an epiphany

It’s Sunday morning. I’ve got my earbuds in; Eric is knocking around the kitchen, making a double batch of clam chowder and carefully cutting all vegetables into perfect cubes. (He’s the patient one in this relationship.) We’re having friends over for dinner tonight and he’s taking care of the menu. Technically, this isn’t something I can eat, what with the potatoes and the flour used as a thickener, so I’m making myself a pot of butternut squash soup. Tangent, I used my crock pot to cook whole butternut squash I got at the farmers’ market (still no oven, I’ll alert the media when THAT ever happens) (oh wait, I am the media) (awkward) AND IT TOTALLY WORKED.

I’m so pleased with myself for that little victory, honestly.

Anyway, you might be asking yourself why Eric is making a meal that I can’t eat. I don’t see it that way. He has taken it upon himself to create a menu and cook the whole ordeal. Okay, I did pick up some bread, I guess I get credit for that. 😉 He is doing all that so I don’t have to. And instead of having to explain my diet, we can just be like, Hey, two soup options! 

That’s such a relief.


This past week was rough. Deadlines deadlines deadlines because of holiday special sections. Coming home wrecked. (I forgot to check myself.) Feeling cranky and tired. Feeling defeated and overwhelmed before I even got out of bed in the morning because of all I needed to accomplish.

I was headed into work on Friday and thinking about how I just need … help. I was praying / pleading. Because dreading the day before you even get out of bed cannot be healthy.

The answer came rather quickly: I am collapsing under the weight of my own expectations. All the lists, all the schedules, all the planning for how the day will go. Nothing ever goes as planned, so I spend a good chunk of my day trying to retrench when things go awry. And instead of celebrating all the crossed off to-dos, I focus on the one or two that I inevitably don’t get to and how I therefore failed.

I started thinking about how I was dreading our trip to Banff and how I did so well because every morning, I set the intention to just be open to whatever gifts and lessons the day should bring. (Good or bad, the gifts and lessons don’t distinguish between the two.) And that trip ended up being amazing.

And then I thought about V’s comment on last Monday’s post about declaring this the year of less — how we might have less stuff, but not less chaos and overwhelm because we take on too much. How we don’t give ourselves a chance to breathe or really even figure out what our priorities are.

I got to work and pitched my to-do list. I went from task to task without any preconceived schedule. I had fun with my co-workers. I left the office at a reasonable time. Johanna and I went to a play later that evening that stars two-thirds of our editorial staff (meaning: I am the only reporter NOT in the play) with two more of my co-workers; we saw all kinds of people that we knew and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the crowd.

Jo and I also had a dance party in the car during the trip to and from the venue. Our moves are pretty good when we’re sitting down.

Saturday was similar. It’s my market / chore day and I hate it. I decided to skip the to-do list. I went to the farmers’ market at opening in my PJs (well, jeans and a sweatshirt, but I didn’t shower). I came home and started prepping that butternut squash and a slew of sweet potatoes. I dried some apples. Jo eventually got up and we hit The Store That Must Not Be Named and then the coffee shop — we need to get coffee more often — and then we went to visit my grandma. She decided that she needed three bananas and some grapes, and was kind of mad at me when I refused to take her money. (“You don’t let me do anything!”)

We took our time at the store and still got out of there in less than an hour; it’s nice having a kid who shops for their own lunch items and snacks). We took Grandma her produce and she was so excited. Apparently you don’t get a lot of fresh fruit in assisted living.

Usually after all my store stops, I’m just done: No more people, no more activity, just leave me alone. But again, I did not feel any sense of overwhelm or defeat at the end of the day. And I slept through the night.

I don’t know how long my brain will let me stay in this honeymoon period. I am not wired to think this way — I am naturally deadline-oriented, newspaper gig or not, and I have years and years of routines I’m trying to overcome here. Monday will be the real test: Newspaper deadline, and traditionally they do not go well. If I can get out of there and still feel mentally and emotionally sound, that will be such a victory.

Every morning in my journal, I write out my to-do list. This week, I am forgoing that in favor of a gift and lesson list — just a recap of a few things that happened the day before. (Friday: Co-worker fun time, acupuncture; Saturday: Visiting Grandma, time with Johanna.) I’m essentially trying to replace one routine with another because I don’t think I’ll succeed otherwise.

I may never be a free spirit, but I don’t need to be my own worst enemy, either.