Yellowstone Anniversary Memories

Today, we have been very nostalgic, naming favorite memories from each of the last three years. The first year was a tie between going to Yellowstone and Mexico. Yellowstone was very much a working honeymoon while in Mexico we just relaxed on the beach. We were roughing it after our third honeymoon plan had fallen through (Oh COVID year of 2020). We had to figure everything out as we went, as neither of us had really been camping before.

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Our neighbor heard that we were going camping in Yellowstone as complete newbies and was concerned about our naivete. She offered some good advice to get a tarp for under our tent, and thank goodness because it was damp from dew most of the time.

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The trip pushed us to our limits of our skill and patience, but we learned a lot and had a great time. There were some moments of great pathos, though. We were setting up camp, exhausted, just on the other side of the Montana border. I was gathering wood to start a fire and slid backwards into a thistle patch. Derek had been trying to start a fire, finally got it going, and started coffee. It got hot finally, and then a storm came up, rain put out the fire and wet the wood, and then wind tipped over the coffee pot. I came walking up from the river for help with the thistles I couldn’t reach, and then a bird pooped on Dereks head. We all needed a minute to reestablish composure after that.

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We remember being amazed at our ability as a new family to decide to do something and go do it. We learned a lot about how we liked to travel. We are morning people and prefer to be set up where we will spend the night by 3-4 pm. We like to see everything on the road and don’t tend to travel more than 4-5 hours a day. How we would push each other and balance each other in the next few years. I make sure Derek is wearing sunscreen and doesn’t drive off the road looking at things. He spontaneously stops the car to climb and bring me up mountains. Safe ones, he’s not a risk taker thankfully. Coffee is not optional.

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Driving across Wyoming gave some perspective on how much desert there is in the US. The place names reflected the perilous landscape. Dead horse creek, crazy woman canyon.

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There was a very romantic place named the Wedding of the Waters, an interesting feature because of the lay of the land it looked like the water was flowing uphill. This was near Thermopolis, a geothermic feature with a free hot mineral pool. That night we camped in a gorgeous canyon and watched the Perseids far from light pollution.

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We camped at the first campground outside Yellowstone that allowed non-hard sided units (due to bear activity) roughing it was real, some of the campgrounds didn’t even have water, we had to bring it back from the campground across the valley. but the prettiest views were hidden from main view. We stopped at seemingly boring stops only to uncover spectacular scenery.

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We saw a grizzly bear, buffalo, moose, caribou, elk, and pronghorn antelope.

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This young male buffalo had an attitude! He was strutting down the highway.
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We listened to Tolkein’s Tales from the Perilous Realm the whole way down this highway.

Learning to be Tennesseans

  • Putting bug spray on, always. Walking across the park? Sidewalk? Deep woods? Eight legged things are watching everywhere. They would like to get up close and personal.
  • Spraying around the home is routine, not optional. Eight legged things are crawling.
  • Finally remembering how to spell Tennessee.

Saturday Morning Dictation

Saturday morning test block (left in for effect of true dictation. I’ll have to train the word blog so it will recognize) post. Just got dictation for my personal computer. This means I can sit down and type a blog post without having to actually sit down. Benedict is none in the wiser.


Testing how this works this is the first blog post made using dictation. I can use a spare moment of the day, though there are not many, to write down a few snatches of notes. It has been interesting because learning to write by speaking is very different than writing without putting it into spoken words.


Well after one miserable week, Baby Ben has two teeth. they came in two days after his half birthday.

Not New Years Resolutions

Second half of January, and the resolved are already clearing out of the gym, thank goodness.

My resolutions:

  • only blog posts typed with one hand (other one around baby).
  • floss organized and visible the front of the drawer in each bathroom.
  • one transverse abdominal exercise each morning in front of mirror while getting ready in the morning to regain pre-pregnancy core strength

teeny tiny steps, micro goals, still going strong.

Oh, but most of these I set back in October. Every day is a good day for change.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

We cooked this to take to a friend who has been feeling under the weather, and when we tasted it scrubbed plans to serve steak to my physician mentor later this week.

Side was roasted diced sweet and red potatoes with salt, olive oil, and fresh rosemary. roasted under high heat.


One year ago, in the throes of morning sickness, I quietly took and passed my nurse practitioner certification.

I pleaded with the test administrator to let me take a forbidden water bottle into the secured, videotaped test room. Thankfully rules were relaxed which allowed me an extra hour without dealing with nausea.

Now my license is in order, credentialing is complete, and I am cleared to start my first position in just 4 weeks.

January 2023

I am sitting in the early morning with my new planner by candlelight, accompanied by morning Lauds from Sing the Hours.

To-do list miles long vanishes in the face of a morning offering, leaving only a few key tasks visible. More then necessary chores they are the vocation, the calling for the day.

Cultural Memory

This post speaks to what I’ve had on my mind since last October, when Derek and I visited the Sacramento capitol building to see a marble statue carved from same block as the David modeling Queen Isabella and Columbus. I had seen it for the first time and was in awe of the incredible workmanship.

When we arrived, we realized the statue had been a casualty of the many monuments removed last summer during protests following the murder of George Floyd. I’m sure it’s disappeared into some storage area. Something worth that much money doesn’t just disappear. I am happy it’s safe rather than destroyed or vandalized like so many other statues were.

I’m happy I have pictures from years ago for memory sake, and thankful I’ll be able to pass on this small bit of culture, and remember the way things were before this cultural change swept through.

Pregnancy, Pilgrimage, Penance

written mid December 2021, but I didn’t have enough stamina to polish until recently.

This December closes an era, and graduation from my nurse practitioner program will allow me to be able to focus more fully on settling into home ownership, married life and getting ready for baby on the way.

The purple robes bring a nostalgic feeling as I remember assisting at births, each time during a penitential season. I witnessed a birth for the first time on Good Friday, in a very hands-off role as a RN student. Last year I waited all fall to see a birth, and then finally helped with three in a day and a half the first Sunday of Advent. As a practitioner I had a much more hands on role. I remember the smells and my aching muscles as I physically supported the women’s chosen birthing position.

I first ventured to Kansas City just before the beginning of Lent, 2019. I returned in 2020 to work at a birth center with a midwife I’d met during my first stint as a travel nurse. (Another peds RN turned midwife? I kept her contact info!) My last weekend there, I was missing Derek on our first married Sunday of Advent with Derek as I attended Mass in the morning. I remember the homily preached by the priest, who had been my favorite to listen to when I was there for the previous three months. “Your vocation is your number one marching order for this Advent” He had been in the Navy before the priesthood.

Kansas city is hardly a popular pilgrimage destination, but relocating and longing for home has a way of snapping spiritual funks and reminding me what is precious about your normal routines. I feel almost like it’s easier to relate to my pilgrim status on earth. My travels to KC have always had a rhythm of a tremendous amount of effort followed immediately by a need to be present for others. This started the weekend I arrived as a travel nurse and attended a silent retreat my first day there before a Monday start at the Children’s Hospital. This trip, I would be up all night assisting with back to back births in the Topeka Kansas Immanuel birth center.

It’s not hard to connect the ideas of Advent and pregnancy, though I usually picture it more as a calm carrying. This year it’s been very penitential for me. Not quite as bad as the Ash Wednesday I got my oral appliance on, but almost, and it’s lasted a lot longer. The nausea never relents. Some of the food aversions are improving, but still every meal or snack requires incredible effort. Clearly there’s a lot of opportunity for resignation and grace through this process, but it’s caught me so off guard it’s been hard to feel that way.

In Between

Waiting in an uncomfortable in between, having just taken my nurse practitioner boards but waiting the 1-2 week interval before results are posted.

It was surreal being pregnant for this this test after meeting and getting to know so many women at their OB appointments through my studies. Most questions brought to mind a face, some woman facing a similar scenario. I thought back to how I or the midwife responded. The entire exam my baby provided input with periodic squirms.

Projects in progress at home are also very in between right now. Our dining room is currently half way through a makeover from rusty toned orange walls and ceiling to a neutral warm white. This is less frustrating than waiting for test scores, since I’m planning to set aside time to wrap up the majority of the painting on my next weekend off. I came home from work one day and Derek had started the ceiling and didn’t stop until it was finished, and that gave my height challenged arms a good head start.

Palaak Paneer-Simplified Indian

It will be a while before I’ll be able to make anything this adventurous, or spend time in the kitchen smelling these spices, but I’ve thought of this recipe several times in the last year. I was happy to discover I’d saved it and recorded my shortcuts here. 

Adapted from this recipe here.

1 10 oz bag spinach

1 Jalapeno pepper

3 T pureed ginger

Pour spinach into boiling water for 2-3 minutes  (I also experimented with putting in the steamer to retain more of the water soluble vitamins B and C, and that worked well)

1 T butter

1 small onion

2 Garlic cloves

2 t cumin

2 t chili powder

1 t turmeric

1 t cinnamon

1 8 oz can chopped tomatoes

1/4 cream

I also did try making the indian cheese, or Paneer, which turned out to be very simple.

At the Well

This draft from March 2017, as I began to volunteer with women in pregnancy help centers.

The first rule of triage (prioritizing in nursing) is to start where you are and move outward. I feel this can apply to the faith life as well. At least that was what I thought when I encountered a woman at the well.

Some days, when I hear what someone has been through, I look at my feet, I don’t know what to say. I’ve been sheltered, privileged. Obviously the right thing to say isn’t, drugs are bad for you why don’t you stop them? He is not treating you right why don’t you leave him?

I remember the words of Christ, “You have had five husbands”. So direct, naming, yet no blame attached. Knowledge of the other so powerful that it could change a heart.

I don’t know how to do this, but I know I have to not draw back before the sin without reaching for the soul.

This four year old post is especially poignant as I realize it was the first glimpse of my current calling. As a brand new RN, I knew how to identify problematic and dangerous behaviors when I saw them. I also understood the slow surrender of freedom that comes with any unhealthy relationship, whether this is with drugs, alcohol, or a man. The last six months I have found a career where I can focus on direct, healing communication. Words that do not draw back from evil, hesitate to name it, or blame or shame. I believe this post shows the first seeds that grew into my work with victims of assault and human trafficking.