New Endeavors!


It’s been a tough week.  I woke up last Friday morning (May 5) and knew I had hit the proverbial wall.  It had been building the whole month of April, and I just ignored the signs.  Most people who know me know I have several chronic illnesses that need daily management, and ignoring the signs is not a good idea for me.  I have felt so good since retiring, and started filling my days with more and more activities, cuz isn’t that what retirement is about?  Having the time and freedom to do it all?  Well, oops!  I kind of, sort of, “forgot” that my number one daily goal is to take care of my health and fitness.  So, I built in some quiet days for recovery this week, am feeling better, and I will most definitely be reprioritizing and restructuring my days.  Lesson learned!

Now on to the fun stuff!  A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about it being time to give back in new ways and have begun two new endeavors that I am really excited about!

#1 ~ SAFARI PARK (aka Wild Animal Park) VOLUNTEER
I have had a membership to the zoo/park for 27 years!  I joined when we were first married and would head to the park on weekend mornings while Pat slept after his shift. It kept the condo quiet for him, kept me busy until he woke up, and gave me some time to myself with my camera.  My nieces and nephews were babies at the time, and the park also became Auntie Lorna’s place to take them for outings as they grew up over the years.  One nephew has always teased that there will be a bench with my name on it one day!

I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of volunteering there, but as I went through the training in April, I realized it was a perfect fit.  I worked my first solo shift on Wednesday and absolutely loved it!  It’s all about hospitality which is right up my alley.  Greeting guests, answering questions, guiding them, and making them feel welcome…. all the while in a gorgeous outdoor setting… it was great.  I talked with some wonderful people from around the world, discussed photography with several others, and met some talented ladies who made a quilt to auction off at the next park charity event.  One of the best parts of this new ‘job,’ is working with old friends.

Dale and I taught together in Temecula from 1990-1997.  He volunteers at the park and was one of my training mentors!  We still make an awesome team!!

I’ve known Val forever, too, because her daughter, Michele, taught with Dale and me at Temecula Elementary, also!  Being reunited with my Temecula people is an unexpected blessing!



As mentioned above, I have some chronic illnesses, the most serious being Addison’s Disease.  It’s a complicated disease, but this checklist of facts describes it succinctly. When I was finally diagnosed in January 2010, I had been deteriorating for five months, was in organ failure, bedridden, and the doctor said I was about a week from death.  I only share all this to demonstrate the fear that I lived with at that time.  And although I celebrated getting a diagnosis, getting treatment, and knowing I would indeed live, that fear continued as Pat and I learned how to manage this disease in those early years. Having a rare disease that can be life-threatening changes your life and there are many, many times when I have felt very afraid and very alone.

7+ years later, I am so happy and grateful to say that those scary moments are now few and far between!  I am healthier and stronger than ever and have learned to manage things well most of the time…. minus these last six weeks!  haha

So, I wanted to do something to help support those newly diagnosed with Addison’s Disease.  Those who are in the early days of healing and learning.  Those who are still in the stages of feeling scared and alone.  Therefore, I decided to use my new passion for quilting and create ‘comfort quilts,’ for lack of a better term, for new patients.  On a practical level, the quilts will provide them cozy warmth on those days when the fatigue hits and they cannot make it out of bed.  On an emotional level, my hope is that the recipients of the quilts will feel less isolated and that someone else understands what they’re going through.

This week I started working on my first gift quilt for a fellow Addisonian.  Check out these gorgeous fabrics!  IMG_7230I do not know yet who I will give it to, but am already praying for them as I press and cut the fabric.  When it is finished, I will find someone who needs some encouragement through my Addison’s support group and send it their way.

I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend, and God bless all of you moms as you celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday!  xo




What I Miss

IMG_0277-1So…. last night at church, I was hit for the very first time on what I will miss as a teacher. For those that do not know, I have been the volunteer photographer at my parish since fall 2008.  Since my parish and my school are in the same area, many of the Empresa students also attend St. Margaret’s Catholic Church.  This has given me a special and sacred connection between the public school forum within I teach and the sacred forum within I worship.  Although much of the time I crave anonymity, some of the greatest blessings I have received have being asked to be a Confirmation Sponsor by a former student.  This blending of the spiritual influence as a Catholic,  with being a public school teacher, is a humble gift from God.

On Friday night, as I stood in the Narthex connecting with friends, one student from last year, shyly approached me to say hello.  Not one minute later, another former (adult) student came to greet me warmly with a huge smile and tight hug!  After Communion, a young girl, perhaps 4th or 5th grade, caught my eye and smiled in recognition of me as well.  And that’s when it hit me.  I will tremendously miss the connection I have had between Church and School.  Sharing in the sacred moments of Baptism, First Holy Communion,  and Confirmation with those children I teach in the pubic domain has been a huge blessing which I will miss tremendously!

Planning for Retirement

When people think and talk about ‘Planning for Retirement,’ typically it is all about the financial piece which makes sense. We all need to consider setting up a secure future for home, healthcare, and such. Thankfully, I chose to marry a man who always had a clear, financial direction for us, and after years of hard work and sacrifice, we are reaping the rewards.

For me, though, ‘planning for retirement’ was more about lifestyle and how I would spend my time.  And to be honest, I have been consciously moving in this direction since I was 26 years old.  I can remember talking to older people in my life back then and listening to their stories.  I watched how some struggled with the transition from worker bee to retiree, while others embraced the new-found freedom.  My ‘ah-ha moment’ was recognizing that most people do not develop new hobbies later in life, and the time to start was now.

As I thought about my interests and activities at that time, almost all were sports related. Realizing that injuries or an aging body might preclude me from enjoying those things when I was older, I made a purposeful decision to explore new hobbies, such as photography and scrap-booking. And my natural enthusiasm to try and learn new things has allowed me to develop a wide range of interests over the years.  I am so grateful for the lessons my older friends taught me so long ago.

In August of 2015, when Pat and I made the decision that I would resign at the end of that school year, I started a retirement list in the notes app of my phone.  That might sound a little anal… okay, a lot anal!… but it was a place to jot down any and all ideas that popped into my head, totally unfiltered.  If I thought it, I listed it, using these categories:


I only occasionally actually look back on it, but when I do, it has been fun to check off the things I’ve tried or done so far!  And laugh at some of the things that will never happen… like no dishes in the sink and no clothes on the floor!  Ha!

When friends ask how retirement is going, I still get giddy when responding!  Recently, I have even told a few people that I think I was ‘born to retire!’  It has been an interesting journey of mixed emotions (more on that soon) and a lot of self-reflection as Pat and I build this new life together.

Playlists and Podcasts

As do most people, I love listening to music.  It has the power to lift my spirits and make me dance.  Certain melodies can instantly take me back to another place and time, and emotional lyrics can remind me of special people who have shared my life. And, of course, I love to crank up the radio and sing along ~~ although, my dear, sweet husband has told me often to ‘never sing in public!’ I wasn’t blessed with a singing voice, but I don’t let that hold me back!

Just like they have wine pairing, I think everyone has their own style of music pairing. For example, classic rock makes my workouts on the elliptical machine so much better, while mellow songs from the 70’s are perfect when driving late at night on those long open roads to Idaho. The activity and time of day most certainly impact my choice of playlists.

With that said, I must admit, I am much more of a talk radio girl! I started listening to KFI-AM640 during the commute to Temecula in my first decade of teaching (1987-97). Bill Handel in the morning, John and Ken on my way home. In the evenings, while Pat was at work, I would also listen to late night psychologists while I putzed around the house doing chores.

Since the advent of podcasts, my love of listening to talk radio has expanded greatly.  I appreciate how convenient it is to listen to such a wide variety of shows and topics. Opening my ears and mind to what others have to say has a way of expanding my world and engages me to think about issues in whole new ways. I love that!

When I bring up podcasts to other people, I have found that about 7 out of 10 people don’t even know about podcasts, and most are free entertainment! So I thought I would share a few of my favorites that you all might want to explore.

My #1 pick is Dr. Laura. Her show is not free, but the fee to access her podcast library is minimal. I found Dr. Laura in the early 90s on KFI and have listened consistently since then. She is definitely a controversial figure on radio, and is not a fit for everyone, but I find her dedication to upholding morals and values so inspiring. I have greatly appreciated the perspectives she has on marriage, friendship, and family, and I can honestly say I am a better woman because of the lessons learned from her show.

Catholic Answers Live is an excellent show, not only for those that share the Catholic faith, but for everyone.  It’s a call-in program that allows listeners to ask leaders of our church (Priests, Catholic authors, etc.) questions about the tenets of the faith, the Mass, Catholic prayers, the history of the Church, and just about anything. Sometimes they have a theme to the show, other times it is just an open forum, and they also have days where only non-Catholics can call in to ask and learn more about the Catholicism. This program has helped me grow in knowledge of my Catholic Christian faith and also has aided me in then being able to more effectively answer questions from my non-Catholic friends about some of our beliefs and practices.

My most recent find and podcast addiction is The Moth.  These podcast episodes are a compilation of true stories, told in front of live audiences around the world.  The storytellers (both experts and amateurs) share short tales from their lives around a center theme, and there is usually some sort of lesson learned or poignant message revealed. Pat and I often listen while on the road, or I’ll listen while quilting at night, and the stories have made me laugh out loud, gasp, and even cry. What I absolutely love about these episodes is that they expose me to people and experiences I would typically never have the opportunity to interact with. I am hooked and highly recommend this one!

Be it music or talk, Pandora or Podcasts….. my phone sure gets a workout and helps keep me entertained!

Giving Back

Nine months ago today, I walked out of my classroom for the last time! Wow! It really has gone by so darn quickly.

When I quit teaching, I knew I wanted to give myself six months before committing to any new endeavors ~ six months just to breathe. I needed, wanted, craved a window of time to unwind from my career, to focus on my health, to get strong again, to explore new hobbies, to create a new home in Idaho with Pat, to deepen my Catholic faith, and a few other things. Yep… I know I said breathe, and this sounds like a big ‘to do’ list, but these are many of the things that do help me relax and feel grounded. Nothing on this list committed me to anyone else except myself and my husband. My time, our time together, was used for healing, creating, exploring, and enjoying new adventures.

As that time frame stretched out past six months, through the busy holidays, and has rounded the corner into the new year, I am finding myself ready to reach out again. It feels like I have been self-indulgent long enough, and that it is time to start giving back in some way. I expressed this to Pat, and we ended up having this unexpected conversation over several days about what it means to ‘give back.’ He told me he doesn’t understand the concept. The giving he gets, but what or who are we to give back to? For me, ‘giving back’ is a spiritual concept. I want to honor God and show appreciation for the gifts He has given me by sharing with others. With the help of a friend joining in the discussion, it ended up mostly being about semantics. If we use the social term of ‘paying it forward,’ that seems to satisfy both of our notions of the importance of giving to others and sharing our blessings.

So, now what? How will I use my time, treasure, and talent to do some good in this world? Exciting question for me to explore! As I’ve considered several options over the past 4-6 weeks, a few guiding questions have become clear:

1.  Who am I being called to help?
2.  How am I supposed to serve?
3.  What will be flexible enough to fit our lives?
4.  Will it be meaningful enough?

This fourth question is the one that keeps hanging me up. A couple of my ideas would not benefit many people. In reality, perhaps only 2 or 3 a year. So, is that ‘enough?’ This is the concept I have been praying on and trying to wrap my head around. My bold approach to life has always pushed me to do more, be more, etc. Perhaps in this softer new phase of my life, it is time to look at things a little differently.

I spent some time with a close friend last week and shared my thoughts. She has a solid faith and such tremendous insight into life’s big questions. I love her sage advice, and she helped me clarify a few things in my head and heart.

A new endeavor is in my future….

A Few of My Favorite Things

Don’t get your hopes up! This is not a play on Oprah’s famous ‘favorite things’ giveaway episodes… I ain’t got nothin’ for ya’ll! But as I have been doing some winter hiking and snowshoeing in temps far below freezing, it has made me think about the importance of having the right gear for the right job — no matter what the activity.

So I thought I would compile a simple list of some of my favorite items for some of my favorite hobbies. Perhaps you will find something that you like, too, and please comment back with any of your favorite things that I might want to explore!

Ahnu is a new brand for me that I found this summer when researching trail sahnuhoes. I found this Sugarpine Mesh shoe, bought a pair for Idaho, and fell in love! They are so much lighter than my old hiking boots, they fit true to size, and needed no breaking in at all. I logged over 250 hiking miles in my new, blue pair without a single blister or foot issue, so got a purple pair, too! The color makes me smile.  



So when looking for a winter boot, I went right back to Ahnu again, and their Montara model has not failed me! My feet are always dry and toasty warm as I explore the North Idaho snow. I cannot recommend this brand highly enough!

I have made numerous rag quilts over the years, but took my first REAL quilting class this past November. I have to give a huge shout out to Jan and Diane of the Quilter’s Cottage in Fallbrook for being amazing teachers and mentors in this new hobby of mine. And once again, I learned that the right equipment makes a world of difference in the accuracy, efficiency and pure enjoyment of the activity. As does quilting by the fire while watching the deer play in the snow outside!

Precisicutteron in fabric cutting is vital to not having ‘wonky’ quilt squares — yup, I learned that very technical quilting term in class! This Martelli Rotary Cutter is a gem and so comfortable to use. Wicked sharp, tooclover, so be careful.

Next up is pinning. The lining up of all the edges, corners and points plays nicely into the exacting part of my personality! I love the challenge, and these super fine pins by Clover slide through fabric so easily.

Finally, I splurged a new sewing machine that is AMAZING!! I have loved using my mom’s machine from the 70s, however, the tension is always off, and the thread breaks every five minutes, so sewing on it has become anything but relaxing!  Jan and Diane let me try a Bernina Sewing Machine (B350), and I knew immediately I needed to invest in one. It is definitely a want, not a need, but if you are a sewer or crafter, it is worth every penny!  It’s so easy to use and offers enough bells and whistles to fit my needs for a long time.


One of the very first questions I am asked as a photographer is, “Are you a Nikon or Canon girl?” Canon all the way for me! It’s what I grew up on, so to speak — it’s wh7dat I know. If looking for an entry level DSLR, you cannot go wrong with the Rebel line. My Rebel served me well for many, many years, however, I upgraded to a Canon 7D two years ago, and it has all the creative features I need, plus video! lens

And my go to, favorite lens is the Canon 17-55mm, f2.8-22. It produces clear, crisp images every time and is excellent in low light.


It’s only been in the last five years or so that I have fallen in love with cooking. I was always decent at it, but with a busy life, it was just not something I devoted tifood-processorme to until recent years. And I have found that the equipment you use sure does matter!! Especially with the prep work! I could not live without my Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor. This appliance is a work horse for chopping, shredding, mixing, and more, and with all the entertaining we do, it has been so incredibly helpful.


Speakinbowlsg of meal prep, any home cook should learn the art of mise en place. It’s a fancy, French term meaning ‘putting in place,’ which simply translates to prepping ALL your ingredients before starting to cook. Brilliant idea and sure makes creating delicious dishes all the more relaxing and joyful! I love these little bowls by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman (all her recipes are a hit as well!). They are happy and beautiful, and work just perfectly for the smaller ingredients such as spices, butter, choppedcast-iron herbs, etc.

Beyond the prep, for actual cooking, nothing beats a cast iron skillet.  I have a few different sizes by Lodge and do not know what I ever did without one. Ribeye steaks seared in this skillet and finished in the oven are to die for! I doctor up this Alton Brown technique/recipe with different herbs or spices, but it’s a great starting point.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a soup lover through and through. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall… year round, soup is a go to meal for us and an enamel cast iron dutch oven, regardless of the brand, is key! Saute, sear, deglaze, simmer… it does it all and more! Plus it is fabulous for braising and making dishes like chicken cacciatore and osso bucco. I remember being turned off by the price of one, but the investment will last a lifetime. And all the color choices are oh so fun!

So there you have it!  Just a few of the things that make our lives a little bit easier. Now I’m off to grab that camera of mine and go exploring as the sun rises.  Enjoy your day!

It’s Not Just Football

100_0084-1Pat and I got word that the Chargers would be leaving San Diego as we drove up to Idaho on Wednesday. Actually, our cell phones have been quite busy these last two days with texts and calls about it all from family and friends. The disappointment runs deep for us, for all devoted Charger fans, and it made me reflect on why that is so.

Before I go on, I completely understand that it is “just” football! That there is real pain and suffering in this world, so please recognize I’m only talking here about this small piece of our lives — I do have perspective! — but also thought the topic deserved some focus.

After living in a zillion different places, we moved to small town Carlsbad on Labor Day Weekend, 1972. Seriously, my mom and dad moved something like 24 times in the 16 years of marriage up to that point, and I had been in four different schools by 4th grade. So, I think we all were ready, in our own ways, to settle down and embrace being a part of a community.

My dad was a businessman and understood the value of making and building relationships. So in that first fall, he started taking a couple of us girls to Carlsbad High School football games. His thought process behind this was that football was the Monday morning topic around the water cooler in offices everywhere, so we needed to be able to join in the conversation. It would help us with our work relationships and be a part of the office camaraderie. Pretty savvy on his part, I must say! I can clearly remember sitting in the stands with him and my sister, Lisa, explaining to us all about the four downs and yards-to-go. And from there, two die-hard football fans were born!

From fulling enjoying the high school football games, the late ’70s and early ’80s brought added excitement as our San Diego Chargers enjoyed the days of “Air Coryell!”  QB Dan Fouts led an amazing team of players, like Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, Chuck Muncie, and my favorite, Kellen Winslow. Lisa and I were forever hooked on our beloved Bolts.

Fast forward to meeting Pat and finding out he, too, moved to the area in 1972 and he, too, became a huge Charger fan in the same years. For our entire marriage, we have had Sunday Charger dates to watch the games together, and soon, his brother, Mike, became part of the tradition. My family and friends just know that our Sunday plans during football season revolve around game times. It’s ‘our thing,’ and we are both completely and equally passionate about games. We analyze and cheer and yell and pace and help boost each other through the losing seasons.

And talk about camaraderie with others, Dad was so right. One of the first texts about the move to LA was from three of my work buddies and fellow fans. And then there was the great football connection I had with my students either enjoying Monday morning Charger talk together or talking smack with students who were Bronco or Raiders fans. For years, I had ‘jersey day’ on Fridays in my classroom and have proudly worn Antonio Gates’ #85 for almost decade and a half. I also have my football texting buddies as we text throughout the games and celebrate great plays together.

So the discussion turns to what do we do now. Pat and I have talked about choosing another team to support; he likes the Broncos, and a couple of years ago, I thought about the Seahawks as my back-up team in case this happened. And now here we are in the northwest, so that makes sense. I’m just not so excited about it yet. But they are in the playoffs!!  hhmmm….. something to think about…

I told my work friends, though, that if Rivers and Gates go with the Chargers to LA, how can we not support them? Because in fact, we are fans of the players, not the owners, not the NFL. And I told Pat last night that as long as one of those players is playing, I will watch — I won’t wear an LA jersey, but I will forever cheer on the two of them. They are class acts! Rivers has been such a huge part of the San Diego culture and Catholic faith community here. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be on him and his young family. Do he and Tiffany uproot their kids’ lives and move to LA? Or does he commute? Tough decisions for all the players.

Side note:  I had the privilege of photographing a Catholic charity event a few years ago and snapped this photo of the Rivers. Baby #6 was two weeks hold and asleep under the table!

img_1137So like one friend said, she feels like a girl without a team, and I agree, and am not sure what we will be doing on Sundays this coming fall. Charger fans are all in the same boat, and in the big picture of life, it is a very unimportant conundrum to be in. But it just goes to show, that it is much more than just football. For many, it’s the end of football relationships and lifelong traditions.

Fellow fans, what are you choosing to do?