Harriet: Age 35

89A Vermillion Cliffs AZ_feistyharriet_35 bday

Today I turn 35 years old, last year I swore I would throw myself a big party, which is kind of ridiculous because in general I really hate being the center of attention. Maybe this is the year I grow up just enough to realize that, fabulous party be damned, I’d probably be happier overall with something small, quiet, and personal. (I don’t think I’ll get that either this year, but hey, there’s always next year.)

How will you spend your birthday?
Just like any other Tuesday, but hopefully my phone will be blowing up with Happy Birthday messages that would not be typical of the average Tuesday.

Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
About the same for all three.

What did you do last year that you’ve never done before?
Went SCUBA diving in the ocean! With turtles! And sharks!

What was your favorite discovery last year?
I am stronger than I ever thought I would need to be. Not necessarily a “favorite” but certainly an “essential.”

What do you hope to learn this coming year?
More patience, more hope, more faith. And maybe a little Spanish.

What would you like to have this year that you didn’t have last year?
Last year I said I wanted peace in my life. I mean, I’d settle for world peace (do not even get me started on politics), but I am craving serenity in a major way.

What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Getting my budget under control; I opened a Roth IRA and a 529 savings account for my own future Master’s degree, I set aside a significant chunk of money every month in savings and when the inevitable emergency came up (I’m looking at you, new clutch in my car), I was able to pay for the repair without freaking out about how that would impact my grocery budget. It has been such a good feeling!

What was your biggest failure?
Failure to communicate in a way that ensured the other party truly understood the what AND the why of my feelings, and the difficulty involved in me trying to get specific about it.

Where did you travel this year?
For years and years I have secretly wanted to be the kind of person who regularly used her passport. This year was that year for me. Blue Eyes and I went to Belize and Guatemala in the spring, I spent a lovely long weekend hiking in the Canadian Rockies in August, and at the end of the summer Blue Eyes and I went to Mexico to go SCUBA diving but were thwarted by a tropical storm wreaking havoc with the waves. Four countries, ya’ll. I’m feeling so very luxe over here with all those passport stamps. Throw in a handful of road trips around the West to round out a solid travel year (half of which has not been blogged, but probably will be, because photos from the glorious mountains and lakes of Banff, Alberta MUST BE SHARED!)

Do you have a destination in mind for next year?
I would love to head somewhere cold this summer; like I’m thinking Alaska or Maine. If I could manage to spend a month chillin’ in Antarctica I absolutely would. Arizona summers are brutally hot and are about 9 months too long. Without a cool-weather break I just won’t make it past July.

What did you get really excited about?
Books, friends, Wonder Woman, and finding genuine joy in my little adventures.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Taking the time to step away and breathe when Life Things started to weigh me down. I’m not talking about “stepping away to a 3 week vacation at a fancy yoga retreat” (although that sounds truly lovely), I’m talking about taking a few minutes every day to remind myself that I am strong enough and smart enough to handle this, if I just remember to breathe.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
You know how you almost always win the arguments you have with yourself while you are in the shower, or making dinner, or sitting in heavy traffic? Just me? Ok. Well, when I’m particularly angry I will have a VERY lucid and VERY specific conversation with myself, going over all my points of hurt, and slamming down any attempt (by my, uh, other (?) self) to make excuses. This kind of argument often takes me days or weeks to win, I just keep coming back to it, circling around all the moving parts and making sure to drive my point home, to the death. You know what does 100% NOT WORK in solving your communication problems? Having an argument ONLY WITH YOURSELF. I need a better solution that actually produces some kind of positive net result.

What was the best book you read?
I read a TON this last year, over 150 books with a number of five-star ratings. The non-fiction ones I loved the best are: graphic novels about the civil rights movement, March #1-#3, by John Lewis; stories from the Russian front, The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in WWII, by Svetlana Alexievich; a history and detailed research about cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddharta Mukherjee; a series of murders of wealthy Native Americans in the 1920s and 30s, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann. The two books that I kept referring back to over and over again as I tried to make sense of my life and figure out what to do next were: Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown; and Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. The fiction books I loved the best this year were: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas; The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee; and Now I Rise (#2 in The Conqueror’s Saga) by Kiersten White. I read literally dozens of other excellent books this year, you can follow me on Goodreads for updates in real time instead of this once-a-year recap.

What did you want and get?
1) A relaxing week in Belize to celebrate five years married to Blue Eyes.
2) Negotiated working from home 2 days a week. I think I actually respond to email faster in my fuzzy slippers.

What did you want and not get?
Peace of mind, peace of heart.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Last year’s answer still holds true: Several months of temperatures in the low thirties and high twenties; I am not cut out for the nine months of temps over 90 degrees. It makes my brain melt.
Adding for this year: A health care plan that covered my mental health needs.

What kept you sane?
Who said I was sane!? I lost my shiz a LOT this year, inevitably it was My People who helped me back from the edge.

What political issue stirred you the most?
I haven’t the time or the energy to go over it all again, but I will say that the women-led resistance has given me new life and new hope. From the Women’s March to the #MeToo movement, and every small and large victory in-between, I am so proud to be part of a nation-wide force of accountability and ethics that is led by, championed by, and moved forward by women. This is where I belong.

Did you fall in love?
Not exactly, but I did realize the opportunity for a new love and while I’m not yet to the giddy, indestructible phase of that relationship, I hope to get there soon. This year I realized that before I spend another 12 months taking care of everyone else, I need to learn to take care of myself; I need to be patient with myself, forgiving of myself, and learn to truly love this person I continue to become.

Who did you miss?
Same answer for the 3rd year: My people in Salt Lake, my nieces and nephews, siblings, and my glorious rocky mountains.

Did you learn a valuable life lesson this year?
Yes, I can probably do it all, but I really really shouldn’t. I want to, but I need to stop. I need to cut back until I can truly determine my essential needs, and then thoughtfully and sparingly add in other stuff. I feel like I’ve been overextended for the vast majority of my life, and this year I cracked in scary ways under the strain. I’m working on it, but I am grateful for the “A ha!” moment(s) that led to this realization.






Previous birthday posts here: Age 34, Age 33Age 32.

Are You There? It’s Me, Harriet

Capitol Reef Fruit Orchard_feistyharriet_March 2015 (1)




[awkward, embarrassed silence]

Um, how’ve you been? How’s things? How’s your Mom/sweetheart/puppy?

Oh good. Cool. Cool cool cool. Uh, yeah…same…?

I’ve been staring at this blank page for weeks trying to will myself to fill it up with something haunting and beautiful, or witty and funny, or angry and therapeutic. And all I can come up with is “Hello. Hi.” I guess sometimes that’s really the best place to start, sometimes it’s the only place to start.

A blank page is truly the best and most exciting thing about writing, and also the most terrifying.

Exciting and terrifying; such a killer combo.

I know it’s not New Year’s Resolutions time around the Internets, but let’s just pretend that I’m fashionably late to that particular party, okay>? I decided that my mantra for 2018 will be about self care, about putting my needs and my concerns first. I’m not necessarily talking about bath bombs and spa retreats (although I wouldn’t run away from either of those things), but about giving myself realistic goals and expectations, and saying “No” to everything else. Basically, if I am not 95% HELL YES! on any given decision, my answer will be “No,” “No, thank you,” or possibly “Get the hell out.” I’m absolutely done with half-assing anything and feeling guilty about it, I’ve been practicing saying “no” (I still kind of suck at it, but I’m trying) and I’ve been careful about what I say yes to. This will not be an easy lesson for me to learn, but I am convinced it’s one I desperately need. I also need to practice letting go of unnecessary feelings of guilt, which is something I’ve been perfecting holding on to for my whole damn life. So, let’s perhaps only expect baby steps in that department, mmmmkay?

Exciting and terrifying. Saying yes to the things that will really matter, and saying no to a lot of things that may also matter but, ultimately, will matter less.


I think that’s it for now. Apparently, I also need to practice writing blog posts? I mean, I legit had to do a gmail search to remember how/where to log on to even write a post. I’ve missed this space; the more time went by, the more I missed it. This little corner of the internet is, for me, a HELL YES! Not a HELL YES! EVERYDAY! HELL YES! because I just do not have that kind of bandwidth anymore (or ever), but something in-between “everyday” and “one post every six months.” Yes, let’s shoot for that.

Also? I’ve missed you. I’m not even going to look at my feed reader (it’s been months, I need to just open it, clear all news posts, and start over), so please leave me a link of whatever has been going on in your life lately, something you’re proud of, something that was really hard, something hilarious, a trip, a recipe, a darling picture of your kid/cat. I’m here. And I’m not going to be going away anytime soon.


Boone Hall Butterfly Pavilion, South Carolina


Hi, hi.

Last time we spoke I was in this strange, but not-entirely-unusual-for-me place of feeling totally and completely paralyzed. Not, like, technically (but, I certainly wasn’t getting my steps in every day), but this overwhelming feeling of being…stuck. I know perfectly well how to run, it just feels like my feet are stuck in cement.

Well, turns out, perhaps the most efficient way for me to get un-stuck is to have my legs kicked out from under me with a not-at-all graceful face plant. And with that, I unzipped my paralyzed suit, stepped out, and my mind and body quickly remembered how to fly, how to run.

Like anyone who hasn’t been working out regularly, it will take a little while for me to fight back the atrophied muscles and build up my endurance, but soon I’ll be running a 6-minute mile again.

Uh, that’s a big huge lie. I have never once run a 6-minute mile, nor do I intend to. I’m more of a 12-minute mile kind of girl.

Also, I’m not really talking about running here. That’s a life metaphor. But it’s also kind of factual. In the last week I’ve been to the gym 4 times and that is 4 times more than I have shown up in the previous three months. I’m making lists and plans like a madwoman and finally feel like I can breathe a little better.

I know that kind of vaguely talking about feeling stuck, and then bringing up a kind of horrible running metaphor for being un-stuck is not exactly blog du jour, but this is me, the good and the bad and the ugly and the broken, all just trying to make it through.


Firstly, I’m not actually paralyzed, all fingers and toes work perfectly fine, but thank you for your concern.

Secondly, I am totally paralyzed, but I’m not 100% sure the cause. I’m not sure if it’s a weird case of writer’s block, or just a super normal droll case of writer’s block. I can write in my journal just fine, I can write lengthy emails to friends just fine, but when it comes to this space I am…stuck? Afraid? Both? Something else? All of the above?

You know that quote “A rolling stone gathers no moss” which basically means that an object at motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest (thanks, Einstein), and it takes a significant amount of energy to get that rock rolling, or to stop it completely, but much less energy to keep it going along at whatever level of kinetic energy it is currently assigned…? Yeah, Einstein probably said it much better, but I’m not Einstein, so you get stuck with my paraphrasing.

I had all these goals and plans, and then Things Happened and I lost my mojo; I haven’t been going to the gym, I haven’t been writing here, I haven’t been doing many of the things that I love…and I’m starting to feel a literal strain, or tangible atrophy, that I’m not exercising those physical and mental muscles. I often have said that the hardest part of working out for me is just getting out the door, if I can do that I’m fine, but it is SO HARD for me to lace up my shoes and get my butt out the door. My mental lack of willpower is strong, yo. It’s tragic I can’t always harness it for positive forward movement. The hardest part of writing is that first paragraph on a blank page. As soon as I get my stone rolling I’m off like lightning, but that start? Ooouff. It’s a toughie for me.

Vacation re-entry would be easier with more fish tacos

Caye Caulker Belize 1_feistyharriet_April 2017

A few weeks ago Mr. Blue Eyes and I took the most lovely, long-planned and saved for vacation, we spent most of our time on a tiny Caribbean island, lots of hammocks and fish tacos and scuba diving; and then we hopped inland to visit some Mayan ruins before the sad-to-be-leaving-but-looking-forward-to-proper-AC-and-Diet-Dr-Pepper flight home.

And while I am not lounging beach-side or feasting on ridiculously cheap fresh-caught fish, I still kind of feel like I’m on vacation. The weeks leading up to our adventure were crazy stressful for both of us, mostly in a general Life Is Stressful way, but also with trying to make sure to have everything we needed taken care of for this big adventure. Life is still a little stressful, but not NEARLY what it was, and we are both literally glowing from spending a week in the Caribbean. Well, Blue Eyes is glowing and golden; I’m mostly just covered in sand fly bites that make me look like I have some kind of pox.

This may be surprising (but it totally shouldn’t be), but I can be super Type A, and I planned this vacation out like crazy. We don’t have the luxury of extra time, but do have the luxury of a little extra money, so we planned to spend our money in ways to maximize our time (meaning all travel was pre-booked, even down to the golf-cart taxi to take us and our luggage from the ferry to our Caribbean AirBnB). I spent the two or three weeks before we left finalizing all those little travel details on top of making sure our technology was all in order (cameras charged, memory cards emptied, details on phone use while abroad notated), ordering foreign currency for two countries, trying to memorize the exchange rates (2:$1 / 7.333:$1), making sure our credit and debit cards wouldn’t get flagged for fraud if we needed to use them, finalizing travel insurance, printing out every. single. confirmation. in triplicate, just in case, having the post office hold our mail while we were gone, asking a kind neighbor to come babysit my plants and make sure they didn’t shrivel and die, packing my suitcase and then re-packing my suitcase several times, having lengthy conversations with my sister on what shorts or cover ups I could leave home without missing (she was right on every single one) and what would be essential to my happiness, buying waterproof mascara and stocking up on sunscreen (I went through 3 full size tubes in one week, SPF 85, SPF 45, and SPF 30, and that is a post all by itself)…you know, the usual.

Or, maybe that is 100% not The Usual when people go on a big vacation, and maybe it was part of the reason why the weeks leading up to our trip were kind of stressful? Whatever, that pre-planning made our week away SO much more relaxed and we ended up coming in significantly under budget because I had a 15 oz bottle of SPF 85 IN MY SUITCASE and didn’t have to spend $20 dollars for a 4 oz tube, or, maybe $80 dollars for four 4 oz tubes (and $80 more for SPF 45, and $80 more for SPF 30, and, and, and…).

We’ve been back for a week or two and life is mostly back to normal…kind of. I mean, I still honestly feel like I’m on a part-time vacation. Let me explain: I still go to work, I still take care of my garden, I still make dinner and do the washing up and on Saturday I had the tremendously glamorous job of shampooing the family room rug and furniture, which is the epitome of Not A Vacation-y Experience. However, for the most part, life is easy-breezy. I’m not going to the gym every night in anticipation (uh, dread) of spending a week in a swimming suit; I’m not cutting out all sugar and carbs and happiness anymore; my To Do list is short and mostly unimportant… I spend my evenings reading…and slowly am going through and editing my photos…and, uh, hanging out on the patio and enjoying the last of the semi-pleasant weather…? I mean, I honestly feel like I’m still on vacation a little bit. And I’m afraid if I start writing about it here it will break the spell.

Dammit, I probably ruined it; it’s 1:24 am and my body is not at all interested in sleeping despite work as usually in the morning, and maybe that means the vacation spell is broken now anyway? I don’t know, but it is nice to stretch my write-y muscles here again, fish tacos or not, I’ve missed this little corner of my world.

So, what’s been up with you? Fill me in on everything.