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Wyo inspo 

We took our first family vacation (road trip!) to Wyoming this week. Trip recap soon, but here are a few snaps of spots that inspired me. I’m exhausted/envigorated, if that makes sense? 

Gladiola flowers were everywhere! I think I will plant some in our parkway to remind me of this trip. 

Laramie – or “Laradise” – as the locals call it, had a fun mural project and I made Joe stop for more than a few wall photos. I love how murals are popping up more and more in Des Moines, too! 

Bonus of a road trip: Reading time! I finished “The Hate You Give” (a fictional take on #blacklivesmatter) and should polish off “Do Not Become Alarmed” by the time we pull into the driveway. Joe snagged “Lincoln in the Bardo” but I have dibs on next read.


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We marched together

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to juggle two kids at the Women’s March on Saturday (Joe had to work the bike expo), but we made it out! After all, if my children are a reason I want to stand up for democracy, I can’t make them my excuse not to show up.


We rode down and met up with friends, and it was encouraging to be among so much positive energy.

The highlight of the morning was when one of my friends asked Emmett “What are women’s rights?” And he responded – without prompting – “Human rights!”


I’ve been feeling wary since the election, emotionally exhausted looking out at the uphill climb out of policies, de-funding and secrecy that are counter to what I feel make this country great. I’m scared, and furious.

But am inspired by the activism and calls to responsible citizenship that I’ve seen and I know I am able to act from a place of privilege. There are so many who have had their sleeves rolled up for so long and I hope everyone who marched is able to stay organized. {Thanks to a friend who shared some good posts (vol. 1 & vol. 2) on intersectional feminism!}


Last Friday during the inauguration, I was at the YNPN Des Moines NON-CON, hearing presenters including Dr. Glennda Bivens present on topics of diversity, equality and inclusion, which felt like a good antidote to the rhetoric of the incoming president.

There are lots of sites out there with suggestions for “acts of resistance” beyond the march {my friend Norah pulled together a nice roundup} and I already have my legislators saves to speed dial. I don’t think anything will replace the need for deep and meaningful conversations.


Image via @xo_lp who has a sweet printable you can turn into postcards to send to your representatives

A few weeks ago, I went to act on calling out companies that are advertising on fake news sites. I was surprised and dismayed to see ads for a local company I’ve had great interactions with on Breitbart. But instead of blasting a tweet calling them out, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and sent a private message, which was quickly answered. Turns out it was part of a “remarketing” campaign and their company was just following my cookie trail to any site I visited. They weren’t intentionally marketing there, and were really nice about the interaction. People! Conversations!


The other piece is putting my money where my mouth is and trying to focus less on acquiring stuff and more on supporting meaningful causes and work. We have digital subscriptions to several news sites, are sustaining IPR members and subscribe to the New Yorker. I’ve made several first-time donations in honor of friends’ kind acts and response to discouraging policies.

Did you march? Looking to do more?

If you’ve never been to a “Day on the Hill” at the Iowa State Capitol, there are opportunities throughout session to support organizations and causes that are meaningful to you. DMU had our day today, and it was so much fun to see our students get excited about advocacy!

P.S. Fox Brewing is hosting Adulting 101: How to talk to your local legislators on March 5 and The Greater Des Moines Partnership is hosting an “Advocacy Essentials” workshop on Feb. 7 in the morning



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Cool things my friends are doing

I’ve taken a break from planning a gazillion events this fall, and it’s been pretty glorious. I’m channeling some of that energy into actually seeing my friends, and supporting initiatives other people have invested time and effort into. Celebrating some recent awesomeness out of people I know:

My friend Mike Draper (of RAYGUN fame) wrote a play!


I love that Mike is a person who’s constantly working on projects that amuse and challenge him. The play, No Coast, will be performed at Grand View. (Speaking of – I was there last night for the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Legislative Reception and am so impressed by their new student center and expanded community engagement.)

I got to hang out and have lunch with our friends the Forgraves in October when we were in Minneapolis and heard that Reid was going to have a major story in this month’s GQ magazine.


Reid is a Mizzou grad (a few years older than me) and was the storytelling expert when I was at the Register. The Concussion Diaries, a story of a Des Moines-area football player who got CTE after playing through High School, is totally compelling. Another reason (besides Ryan Gosling #feministswag) to pick up the January issue.

Annnd, this time last year I was hiding in a storage room at the State Historical Building with my breast pump, trying to also host a conference. It’s a glam life. I had nothing to do with NON-CON 2017, but I bought my ticket and am totally pumped to participate as a regular old attendee. Joe is going, too, and this is pretty much the closest we’ll get to a Friday night date these days.


If you work in the nonprofit sector and/or care about diversity, inclusion, equity and making our community stronger, this is the conference for you!

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What I’m Into: December, 2017

The past couple of weeks have been pretty relaxed at home, and it’s been great to chill and create. And snuggle a tiny manatee impersonator.


I can’t believe I’ll be off work for 10 whole days over Christmas – and I’m looking forward to more of the same.

Watching: The Crown

Joe and I haven’t had a show in a while, and we’ve been slowly working through The Crown, the Netflix original series about Queen Elizabeth’s young days as a monarch. It’s an interesting character study of a female leader, but also, I’m not going to lie – those costumes are what get me.

Reading: “We are Not Ourselves” by Mathew Thomas


A colleague passed this 600-pager about an Irish family spanning the 50s-90s along to me, and although it wasn’t exactly uplifting, it was well-written and absorbing. And the central character’s name is Eileen! I started it one night with a big bowl of dessert cereal and realized the simplest joy.

Trying: Calligraphy

I went to a DSM Girl Gang watercolor and calligraphy workshop last weekend, and although my finished greeting card was a bit of a fail (especially when held up next to my friend Maggie’s, who is basically a professional), I had a blast.


There is something so relaxing about repeatedly tipping writing tools and paintbrushes into pigment, and practicing a new skill. I stayed up way too late making name tags for gifts. That was a little more my speed, because I could practice a million times and then cut out the best one, versus having a big huge card in front of me that I was afraid to mess up.


Baking: Caramel-filled Snickerdoodles

Emmett turned his nose up at my homemade chocolate chip cookies the other week (!!!) saying he wanted cinnamon sugar cookies instead. Fine kid. More for me. So when I came across this recipe for a caramel-filled snickerdoodle, I thought it would be a fun one for us to work on. It was a big hit! We made the dough in advance and then he and his cousins got to roll the caramel into them. We ate them fresh from the oven while I read The Polar Express after dinner.

Plotting: A downstairs bathroom refresh 


I haven’t been on Pinterest in ages, but I’m itching for a winter project and finally painting our downstairs bathroom is on my list. (It’s still the same bright purple it was when we moved in!) We picked up an IKEA buffet to serve as a kind of vanity/more storage, and I’m going to put some deep blue test patches up to see what fits. The claw-foot tub and tile are black-and-white, so hopefully it all comes together.


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The Parting Glass: R.E.K.

It’s no secret that my grandpa was one of the most important people in my life, and laying him to rest today was emotional. I had the honor of writing his biography for the funeral program, and giving the short eulogy during Mass. The ceremony was beautiful and, just as the bagpipes began to play after the recession, it started to rain and thunder. The sun came out again as we all surrounded his grave and the honor guard played Taps. He had 94 and a half great years and died last week knowing the Cubs won the World Series, surrounded by family. We sent him off with a graveside toast of whiskey, naturally. We played “The Parting Glass,” had a good cry and poured one out.

Robert Emmett Kelley was born May 3, 1922, and raised in a two-flat on Chicago’s West Side by Eileen and Daniel. Bob grew up with his brother, Fran, during a time when if you had enough, you were rich and you fed those who didn’t on your door stoop. The “waste not, want not” ethos of the Great Depression inspired a lifetime of frugality and generosity. He was the kind of guy who gave the shirt off his back and never let a rebate opportunity go unfulfilled.

Bob’s first job, as a youngster earning 10 cents for helping the milkman fulfill his route, provided him with a lifetime of stories about the milk horse Boots and a work ethic that would see him through 40 years in the education field. Bob was revered as a counselor at Kennedy High School and beloved by his staff at the Board of Education, not just for the Irish coffee he was known to serve on St. Patrick’s Day.

Known as “Abbey” among his friends at St. Mel’s high school and by his baseball teammates on the Redwings, Bob had a good-natured charisma and gift of gab that drew people to him – and earned him flight upgrades on occasion. The most notable of his admirers was Kathleen “Kay” Foley, whom he married in March of 1946.


They met at the Chicago Teacher’s College and like many in their generation, were kept apart by the Second World War. From 1942-46, Bob served as Recognition officer in the United States Navy. He fought in the Pacific theater, notably in the Battle of Okinawa. More than once, his quick wit and good instincts served him well there and throughout his life.

Bob and Kay built a life together in Westchester, Illinois, where they joined Divine Infant Parish. They brought up their five children: Bob, Carol Ann, Kathy, Mary Lee and Dan, in a too-small house where – as the kids tell it – a single steak fed seven. As a young family, they spent summer vacations at the lake in Northern Wisconsin and loved to visit and play Bridge with friends.

The Kelleys moved to LaGrange, where Bob would love to read on the porch, while simultaneously watching the Cubs game and listening to classical music. Soon, that house filled with ten grandchildren and eventually five great-grandchildren who would sit at his lap to hear stories, enjoy a meal and maybe a game of Scrabble or Boggle. All can trace their love of language back to years of hearing Sloppy Joes referred to as “Untidy Josephs” and trying to maximize the triple word score.

But those are just the biographical details of a man who was rare even among “The Greatest Generation.” To feel the warmth of his love – in the form of a newspaper clipping and a $2 bill to let you know he was thinking about you, or a home cooked dinner with cookies for the road – leaves us with so many warm and happy memories.


I still can’t believe he’s gone. But in a lot of ways, he never will be. Listen to his StoryCorps, watch us make Irish Soda Bread and his family-famous Beef Stew.

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Tiny undies

It’s a battle of wills around our house lately, with one potty training kid who inherited his mom’s stubborn streak and another teether who lets you know with all her lung-power her desire to stay up late and chill like her dad. I’m whispering “this is a phase” to myself over and over and over and knowing that some day, I will sleep again and won’t be lugging a travel potty with me everywhere.

Some. Fine. Day.


There is really no good time in our go-go-go schedule to start potty training, but after we went to our little triplet friends’ third birthday party and I noticed all three of them in undies, it was settled. The next day, we were ditching the diapers and rolling up the carpets. This was our third attempt, so I already had a jar of gummy worms, stickers for a chart and a bunch of tiny boy undies. This time, I had the will and there’s no looking back. We did a couple days of setting alarms and making him try every 10 minutes or so, and it gave us some momentum to commit.

Thankfully, our summer babysitter has potty trained before, and got into it, too. It’s definitely going to be a long, accident-prone road, but I’m trying not to make potty training turn us into total shut-ins and only resorting to pull-ups at night, for nap and during wedding receptions when I want to keep my sanity. Emmett may have further “christened” a Church floor in Indiana this weekend. This photo is after our rest stop pee-s negotiations on the way up. We both got what we wanted, eventually. The struggle, though. Our second week has been way harder because we’ve been out of a routine.


Thankfully, Emmett did NOT pee at the Vaudeville Mews tonight, when I took him to see the ridiculous band Koo Koo Kanga Roo (mostly because my friend Danny’s band MAIDS was opening and I can really only go to his all-ages, 6:30 p.m. shows!) Emmett ran around in circles and ate ice out of a red solo cup and then barely fought bedtime, so I’d call it a win.


Let’s hope that’s the first and last time I bring a potty seat to the Mews, although honestly those bathrooms are so scuzzy, I’d probably prefer the Baby Bjorn. Right?


Also, completely unrelated but I started “The Girls” by Emma Cline on our car ride home from Indiana and it’s been a good, quick read so far. One of those summer books everyone’s packing for vacation.



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Small town adventure

Hiking at a shorter stride is still hiking, right? We took a weekend family trip as part of a freelance assignment and spent Saturday in nature and a night in a converted chicken coop with the kids. The story probably won’t be published until next fall, so I don’t want to write too much, but here’s a peek:


Wilbur narrowly missed getting hit by a car when he escaped down the highway, and hiking at a toddler’s pace means marveling most at mud puddles, but breathing that spring air and listening to the bullfrog songs is good for the soul.

One of my favorite things about taking the rural highways of Iowa is spotting barn quilts along the way. My goal in life is to commission one for over the garage. (Confession: I frequently screenshot quilts that pop up in my Instagram feed looking for the perfect pattern.) In the meantime, these are cute alternatives:


20″ mini barn quilt quilt (how meta!) via SLOstudio


Desktop mini barn quilts 

I was just telling Joe how I have no desire to ever take one of those paint/drink classes, but this Mt. Vernon, Iowa based Barns & Brews class where you drink beer and make barn quilts has just totally changed that for me.


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