In the middle of afternoons of persimmon cookie making or when we were out of avocados, mom would run to the local grocery store. She would return 20 minutes later with the magical missing ingredients, a local paper and a copper-foil scrap that was once…a Rolo wrapper. Years later she admitted that those moments were her time to inhale a package of Rolos and drive as fast as she wanted and for once, be free of questions about why the sky was blue or fighting from the backseat of the car, or the tossing of sugary treats onto the grocery store conveyor belt before she could order them put back on the shelves.

I don’t have children. I don’t pretend to have children, even though Winston sure acts like a child sometimes. I have no idea what it might be like to have a grown husband-child in addition to two youngsters. But, in my own way I needed a moment. This morning was supposed to be a typical 20-something brunch full of mimosas and chatter about why women are better than men. But instead, I went out for Rolos.

And on my way to find that foil tube of caramel-filled goodness, I sang at the top of my lungs to my favorite artists. And I zipped through the Pacheco Pass, cutting through the fog and shifting between neutral and overdrive. Yielding to 5th-wheels and having insects smatter my windshield, “Say’s You” carried me into a diner in a roadside town where my family was waiting to share a birthday meal.

It was full of love and light. There was a compassion that enveloped me, and a little boy with an infectious chuckle. I am so proud to be part of that group of hardworking, sweet, loving people. I found every reason to delay my return home. Stopping by Casa de Fruita for champagne and a garlic roaster – the perfect combination of sophisticated domestication and the poor priorities and sass one might expect from a 20-something. I took the long way to the outlets. I stopped for groceries on my way back into town.

And then, for the first time in almost two months, I spent the afternoon dancing around my kitchen. Turkey tacos with homemade tortillas, corn salsa, tomato and chili quinoa and jalepeno spiced black beans from scratch. Turkey sliders with sweet potato chips and cinnamon rolls for the office tomorrow. Garbanzo beans are cooking as we speak for those moments that only hummus can answer to.

I’ll never know if my mom felt this way about her trips to the market, but my rolos sure tasted sweet today.
Welcome 28.


the closer

I can’t remember a time when I wanted to stay in the raisin capital of the world so badly. I was anxious last night before going to bed; the midnight drive across town didn’t even calm me down, which is surprising because the freeways are deserted for that 30 minute drive and the moon is so bright against the foothills.

I was anxious when I woke up – my mom was fairly successful in distracting me with breakfast at a local diner. You know you’ve found a good breakfast spot when the parking lot is full of heavy duty trucks and is wedged between citrus fields. In fact, I almost stayed in the valley – and Lord knows I packed enough to stay for awhile.

Seven days in my childhood home felt like a month – a good month at that. I even had time to visit Raymond and Kevin at the cemetery and spend more than one night with my bests. Both of those were peaceful blessings with messages to carry forward to 2014.

The earth was warm and the sun was bright when I went to sit next to the tree by Ray’s resting place. It had been a few months since I’d been and I was happy to see that his tree was decorated for the holiday. It’s been a devastating year for our friends, and Brendan is buried right below his plot; I couldn’t help but wonder what he thinks about what’s happened here. God I miss those dimples. It seems like it was both yesterday and a million years ago since I held Ben’s hand as we followed his casket with our tired eyes.

At first I felt like the trip home was a misplay; I was tired and disliked the general “how are you?” “what’s new?” line of questions. The last thing I wanted to do was play catch up on the last four months. Its been a whirlwind and its only going to keep spinning for the next few months, so it seemed like a getaway might’ve been a better idea. Thankfully, everyone seemed to get over their pleasantries sooner than later and as soon as their guard dropped it was revealed that none of us wanted to talk, each of us was in transition and none of us had any clue what was ahead for us. It was a gift to be reminded that I wasn’t alone in this journey – it seems that a statistically significant sample of my friends are in the exact same boat. Whew. Indeed, the only thing certain about 2014 is that we’re going to spend a lot of money on weddings. After the amount of wedding work that was done over the past week, I might need a second job to cover the travel alone.

There were many highlights to this trip, not the least of these being the epic Christmas battle of 2013 – slinkies and wrapping paper tubes be damned by my favorite four year old. My nephew makes my heart smile, and my smile grew wider and wider with each and every rip and tear of the carefully wrapped gifts with his name on them. My mom and I cranked out seven dishes in four hours and still managed to pick-up some scratchers for stockings before the night was over – the smells of the glorious Christmas lunch to be was a definite highlight. The high point sticking in my mind at the moment, was my best guy serenading and asking me to dance to his version of “Sweet Annie” by the Zac Brown Band in the waiting area of Old Spaghetti Factory. He’s the same best guy that sang to me on my birthday, and told me that Bruno Mars, “Just the Way You Are” reminded him of me…and texts me every time he hears it. Nearing year 23 of our friendship, he can read me like a book and I’m so thankful for his love.

My annual visit to Monterey on New Years Eve will start up again this year, and the weather forecast predicts beautiful weather for photographs of the coast once again. The blessed unrest continues with no complaints and no victims, just a gnawing realization that there’s something big out there that I haven’t grown to comprehend yet.

There’s no sense in looking back, except for a parting glance at a beautiful sunset. Tootles 13.


In 11th grade I took Ornamental Horticulture. It was my way of rebelling against my Agriculture advisor who wanted me in Advanced Animal Science; he swore I’d never be FFA President if I didn’t get “serious”. But humans don’t listen to commands, they reject them – the Milgram Study at Stanford proved that long ago. Instead they must be led, and I found my education (and my leadership) in OH 1 & 2. Today when I stepped up to the boy’s door, I looked to my left and recited the Latin and common name of their beautifully gradiated tree from memory, “acer palmatim, Japanese Maple”. Take that for getting “serious” is what this past FFA President says.

My rebellious education choice also taught me that almost all plants form one of two different root systems: tap root or fibrous. Tap roots run long and deep with small string-like minor roots; a carrot is an example of a tap root. Fibrous roots are more shallow and each of the many root segments is fairly equal in size.

It’s good to be back in my childhood home. While I was driving back from the guy’s house tonight, I could see the Milky Way cloud and even 14 years after my Science Olympiad Astronomy days, I can still pick out constellations like a boss. It was comforting to wake up to the sun and the sound of the anti-freeze windmills working hard to save the citrus crop, and the mile over mile horizon view is always pretty wonderful.

Fibrous roots capitalize on an evolutionary strategy to draw on different resources from different parts of the soil; those near the surface pick up ground water, some dig deeper for nitrates and others pick up nutrients from other root systems. In understanding where I’m going, I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity and how it’s been drafted by where I’ve been.

Some of this has come up in how my family celebrates (or fails to celebrate) holidays – we aren’t big on tradition. Now with a new addition, that is more and more important to me. I also have to accept that one of the reasons that this place is calming to me is also a reason that I would struggle to return: it’s a fairly static lifestyle where routine dominates most of the lives of my loves. Jodi was excited that she went to…pub trivia, and my attempts to modernize our holiday menus have been met with a slow playing smile and nod.

Some of this came into my consciousness while talking to a local elected over coffee last week. “So, you can talk to techies and farmers? You know about urban land use and water policy? Don’t tell me you can sheer sheep too.” For the record, I totally can – in one piece of wool on a good day.

I spent summers running around orchards and riding bikes for miles. One winter break my brother and I built a paintball course on our property and I spent months singing camp songs and hiking through Yosemite and Kings Canyon. I never went without as a kid – even when things got bad. I always had a roof, a meal, a ride to school and money for the terribly unhealthy food from the snack bar. I played every sport I wanted, was in every club I could be in, went on every field trip, competed internationally, and had people around me that made sure I knew that I Could (fill in the blank). Taking the same attitude in college, I’ve had a ton of experiences and grown roots that have informed so much about the world and myself.

So now where to go and what to pursue? Because I could pick any of these roots or I could opt to grow a new one. One thing is for sure – there isn’t any part of me that even begins to look like a tap root, and maybe that’s okay but I’m going to need to shed the idea that that’s what I was supposed to be.

I have more thoughts and they’ll tie in here soon, but the sing-off just came on and we all know how I feel about A Capella. But for real.

and theres reason to believe…

…that maybe this year will be better than the last.

And just like that, the glow from the Christmas lights that adorn my windows and staircase are making me feel so cozy. The sprint through Thanksgiving and into holiday cheer was almost as fast as my race pace at this year’s Turkey Trot. I had the pleasure of hosting Sir Winston Churchill Warrior for the holiday weekend and now that he’s gone and the house is clean, it’s so quiet and I miss his footsteps on the hardwood floors.┬áMy (not so) secret santa gave me an Advent calendar, which of course started today. Day one was a success; just looking at it makes me smile.

There’s a lot about the next month that I’m not looking forward to – a lot of decisions to be made – a lot of selfish people distracting from what I need to think about and do for me and my future. I honestly have no idea how this is going to play out – not a clue; for once I can’t see the future. I’m really just hoping for someone to take my hand and let me know (with confidence in their voice and in their grip) that I’ll survive my 20’s. This leap of faith is going to be a hard one to take – especially because I’ve seen those leaps end in disaster for the man that I share half of my dna with.

The only thing I really know how to do at a crossroads is cook – it’s calming and makes me feel like I have some sort of control over something in the universe and allows me to focus my attention on other matters for the rest of the week. So, this morning I went to the market and this afternoon I cancelled the meeting that I never should’ve made, and I cooked.

So this week we have breakfast oatmeal muffins and chipotle sweet potato tacos and some of the vegan tortilla soup that I froze from two weeks ago. This weekend I’ll make my very favorite dark chocolate peppermint bark and depending on how low the temperatures get this week, I might restart my hot chocolate addiction.

So very thankful for the week full of friends and wine and a snuggly pup. But the blessed unrest continues, and for now I’m doing my best to keep perspective.

Pass the cranberries and let’s say grace

Another year, another successful contribution to the District 9 Thanksgiving luncheon. The holidays can be difficult for an anoretic (person who is anorexic), and I’m not immune to that.

Each year since 2011, I’ve volunteered to make the turkey, rolls and gravy for the D9 staff. 2011 was my first turkey ever, and I was pretty proud of that bird. 2012 was harder – the bird was even more perfect than before, but I didn’t want to eat it…at all. I didn’t want to eat anything.

This year I’ve focused on being more intentional and ceremonial about food and it’s helped me to value my nourishment and my time more – but holidays are still hard. This year I opted to slow cook my turkey, add pomegranate poms and infused my tasty cranberry sauce with cloves, and change up my rolls to a 9-seed whole grain dough. It was amazingly rich but fairly light.

Still though – it took a lot of mind power to not fall victim to the skinny devil on my shoulder. My shoulders have been heavy lately so I was more than excited to come home this weekend, even though that trip would mostly consist of…eating.

Somehow those concerns got lost in the hillscapes and painted skies on the drive home, and were completely forgotten with the sound of Landon’s voice when he paid me a surprise visit. “Annie? Annie I’m here!”

Music to my ears.

Also, my doggy-daddy passed the CA Bar, which added a bit more lightness to my step.