You Can Lead A Pig To The Scene Of The Crime, But You Can’t Make Him Squeal


I have a raincoat very similar to this one, and every time I wear it, my husband asks me if I’m getting ready to take a bite out of crime. He’s hilarious that way. Sometimes he’ll drop random questions into conversations and it will take me a moment to get where he’s coming from.

“Did you find any?”

“Did I find any what?”


As a fan of mystery novels, I feel as though I have developed a decent set of deductive reasoning skills. Motherhood helps that as well. As a parent of four children who don’t like to take blame, I tend to subscribe to the Occam’s Razor way of looking at a situation- the simplest, most logical explanation is probably the truth.

Except with Malaysia flight 370- I’m sticking with the wormhole theory until I see a crashed plane.

When something happens in my house, and no one wants to cop to it, I typically apply the Occam’s Razor philosophy.

When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my  sister Shannon had a cough. My mother had bought her cough drops. One night, the bag of cough drops went missing. No one took responsibility for the missing cough drops. After scouring our room, the cough drops were discovered UNDER MY PILLOW. I swore it wasn’t me. My sister Shannon swore it wasn’t her- after all, why would she hide her own cough drops? My sister Colleen swore it wasn’t her. My father decided to get to the bottom of it- literally. He told us if the person who did it would just confess it would be over, but if no one confessed he’d have to spank us all. I’m pretty sure it was an attempt to smoke out the true thief, but the perpetrator chose to let the innocents take the punishment.

It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that my sister Colleen finally admitted it was her. ( I already knew that. I mean, I knew it wasn’t me, and it didn’t make sense it was Shannon.)

Last week, Zoe stomped into my bedroom upset because someone had taken all of the covers off her bed and thrown them onto the floor. She started accusing Parker of doing it, because he had been angry with her earlier over a video game. He got very upset at being accused. I told her that it was unfair to go around accusing people of things when no one had seen who did it. Truthfully, I knew it had to be him, but I was trying to calm him down enough to get him to admit to it.

Zoe went in to take a shower and I went into her bedroom. Sure enough, it appeared that someone had stripped her bed in a fit of anger. I remade the bed and went back into my room. I attempted once again to calmly get Parker to admit to doing it. I told him I had already cleaned it up, but that it was important for him to take accountability for what he had done. He was steadfast in his denials.

Zoe came out of the shower and started in on him again. He went full martyr, crying and stomping off to his bed, his heart broken over “always taking the blame for everything” and “everyone acting like he’s the bad guy.”

I have to say, if it weren’t for the fact that it made no sense for it to have been anyone BUT him, I would have bought it. He seemed to have convinced himself, and his wounded act seemed very genuine.

The next day I was packing them up for their weekend with their grandparents, and when I went into Parker and Nathan’s closet, I found all of Nathan’s clothes flung off the shelf and onto the floor. It appeared to have been done in the same sweeping fashion as Zoe’s bed.

So as I was driving them 90 minutes south to meet up with their grandfather, Zoe was on her phone in the very back seat, and Parker was sitting behind me looking out the window. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get him to admit what he had done, but I knew I had to approach it in just the right way. Here is how that conversation went:

Me: So, funny thing. I kind of need help solving a mystery.

Parker: What?

Me: Well when I went to pack your stuff, I found all of Nathan’s clothes off the shelf and on the floor.

Parker: Hmmm.

Me: It was sort of like when I went into Zoe’s room last night and found all the covers on the floor

Parker: That I DID NOT DO!

Me: Well, whenever I’m trying to figure something out, I ask myself a lot of questions. First, who had the opportunity to swipe all of Zoe’s pillows and blankets onto the floor? Who had the opportunity to throw all of Nathan’s clothes on the floor? I think only the people who live in our house, right? So then we need to think about why someone would do it. Can you think of a reason dad might have done it? Does that sound like something he would do?

Parker: No

Me: How about me? Does it make sense that I would do it?

Parker: Well sometimes you throw stuff on the floor when you’re cleaning.

Me: Yes, but not this time. See I had already organized Nathan’s clothes when I spent several hours cleaning and organizing your room, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense that I would throw his clothes on the ground. And why would I throw Zoe’s bedding on the ground if I was going to have to be the one to clean it up?

Parker: I don’t know.

Me: Does it sound like something Sydney would do?

Parker: No

Me: You know, I already cleaned everything up. If you did it, you aren’t going to get into trouble, I just need you to be honest.

Parker:shaggy wasn't me

Me: Does it make sense that Zoe would throw all her covers on the floor and then come in upset that it happened?

Parker: Well, maybe she did it to get me in trouble, and she thought you’d make me clean it up. Maybe she thought you’d clean up her room, but you’d make me clean up mine.

Me: But I cleaned up both. What about Nathan? Why would Nathan throw his clothes on the ground?

Parker: Maybe because he was looking for something.

Me: I don’t know. I mean, it looked like it was done in anger, probably by the same person. Do you remember anyone being angry yesterday?

Parker: Well me, but I didn’t do it.

Me: Do you think it’s possible- I’m just throwing this out there- that YOU did it, but you were so angry, like the Incredible Hulk, that you blacked out and don’t remember that you did it?

Parker: That has never ever happened. Never.

Me: If you were me, who would you think did it, based on all the evidence?

Parker: Probably me or Zoe. But it wasn’t me.

Me: Well SOMEBODY did it.

Parker: Well it WASN’T ME!”

Occam’s razor says Parker did it, but Occam would have a tough time getting Parker to admit it, too. He’s so convinced of his own innocence, I think I’m going to stick with my Hulk theory.








My Left Foot-And-Mouth Disease Outbreak- An Irish Adventure


Ah, St Patrick’s day, when everyone celebrates the Irish- my people. So my DNA results show I’m only 55.7% Irish. My aunt is less than 10% Ashkenazi Jew but she’s identified with Israel and our Jewish heritage since she was a little girl. For me, when people have asked, I’m Irish.

My mother’s got the Quinns on one side and the Dohertys on the other. My father proudly thought he was mostly Scottish until he received a family reunion invitation for the Ward family reunion- in Ireland. Turns out he’s still got Scottish, just not as much as he thought. Through my research I learned that the name Ward comes from the term “Mac an Bháird” which means “son of the bard.” Looks like writing truly is in the genes. Also, I found that he is descended from Niall. No, not that twerp from One Direction. Niall Noígíallach also known as Niall of the nine hostages. Niall was a conquering king of Ireland, who, according to accounts, was responsible for the kidnapping of several people off the coasts of Britain and France.

One of these people was a young boy named Patrick.

Most people don’t realize that Patrick was British and not Irish. Patrick was a slave in Ireland. He escaped and went back to England. After entering church ministry, he felt God lead him back to Ireland as a missionary to the very people who had enslaved him.

How this hero of the faith became an excuse for getting drunk, I have no idea. I guess because people are always looking for any reason to throw back a pint or two.


Back in late 2000 my husband and I were at lunch when he casually dropped this into our conversation:

“Hey, so did I tell you that I am leading a group of timeshare owners through Ireland in a few months?

Me: (blank stare and long pause) Uh, no. Pretty sure I would have remembered that.

Him: Yeah, it’s a guided tour and they need a company rep to go along.

Me: Are you serious?

Him: Yeah, why?

I stared at him again.

Me: You. Who has no Irish heritage (turns out he has like 17%) get to go to Ireland. Where I have wanted to go my whole life. Because I’m like 90% Irish. (55.7)

Him: You have? I mean, I know you have the Irish temper…

Me: Are you kidding me? Have you listened to a word I have said over the course of the entire time you’ve known me? I’m Irish. Every year I make you choke down corned beef and cabbage. I decorate the table with shamrocks and gold coins and rainbows. I’m so Irish I pretended to be a leprechaun for 2 weeks when I was in junior high.

Him: Why would you pretend you were a leprechaun, and weren’t you a little old for that?

Me: Not the point.( “Moonlighting” had just done an episode about a leprechaun and her pot of gold.) The point is, I have always wanted to go to Ireland.

Him: Maybe you can go.

Me: When is it?

Him: I’ll have to look at exact dates. I know it ends with the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin.

Me: (Nearly hyperventilating) I have to go on this trip. You have to make this happen.

Well, for some reason, whoever was in charge of the trip insisted I couldn’t go on it. My husband, sensing the danger of what might happen to him if he didn’t take me to Ireland, suggested flying in a week early with me, having me fly out the day before the tour was set to arrive. They didn’t have an issue with that.

In hindsight, it might have been better to have me fly in after he had spent the week on a guided tour. Instead, we flew into Dublin with two nights hotel booked and no idea what we were doing or where we were going. We fancied ourselves explorers, and imagined happening upon charming bed and breakfasts along the way. No schedule of having to be at a certain place at a certain time.

We made plans to fly to Seattle for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary party, and then we were going to leave the kids with the grandparents. The day we were supposed to fly out, there was a massive earthquake in Seattle. We checked the flight times, and it showed on time. By the time we got checked in and to our gate, the flight was delayed. After 4 hours of sitting in the airport with 6 year old Sydney and 2 year old Nathan, they cancelled the flight. It turned out that the tower for air traffic control had been badly damaged and they couldn’t guarantee we would get a flight there in the next several days.

We got picked back up from the airport, packed up our car and started the 14 hour drive from Salt Lake City to Seattle. Through  the night. In a snow storm. But we made it. And a few days later we were on a plane headed for London. We spent a couple hours at Heathrow before the flight to Dublin. My dream was about to come true.

We managed to get from the airport to our hotel, but then had a really difficult time figuring out how to get TO the hotel. The streets are crazy there, and the hotel didn’t seem to have an entrance. We eventually figured out that we were supposed to park in the parking garage across the street and down half a block and then roll our luggage to the hotel. I had packed the world’s largest suitcase ever made in order to fit all the souvenirs I planned on bringing home. That was back when they didn’t have limits on luggage or charge overage fees. Truth be known, it was nearly big enough for me to sleep in, if the need arose. Without a plan, anything was a possibility.

Jet lag be damned, we were up in the morning for a day of adventure. I found out that even though I had gone to Brookstone to buy the variety pack of plug adapters, my American curling iron did NOT like Irish current. That thing popped, sparked and went dead as a doornail.

We made our way downstairs to the restaurant, and the waitress recommended the “full Irish breakfast.” That sounded exciting, and we gladly ordered it.

When it arrived, we were still enthusiastic.


I poked at the circles on the left of the plate. They looked like sausage slices. There was already a slice of ham, bacon and link sausage, so I expected that’s what these were as well. I took a bite. Something was off, but I couldn’t understand what. When the waitress came to refill our coffees, I asked her what they were.

“Black pudding and white pudding.”

“Oh. They don’t look like pudding, and they certainly don’t taste like pudding.”

“Well they aren’t really pudding. They are sausages. ”

“What’s the difference?”

“The white pudding doesn’t have blood,”

Neither did my face at that moment, as I became quite pale. Almost green, I would guess.

“Does that mean the black pudding…”

“Another name for black pudding is blood pudding.”

Let’s just say that the next morning I chose to have the “half Irish breakfast.”

As we left the hotel to go check out Trinity college, Dublin Castle and St Stephen’s Green, we stepped out the door onto a giant, squishy, foam mat.

We walked down Grafton Street and noticed that nearly every doorway had one of these foamy, soapy mats.

At lunch we finally asked the waiter what they were all about. He stared at us in surprise.

“Why, it’s the foot and mouth disease outbreak. Didn’t you know?”

We didn’t know. And that was back before smart phones, so we couldn’t google it.

It turned out that England had had an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. While there was no indication that any of the contaminated cattle had ended up in Ireland, there were cases in Northern Ireland. We were told that if we crossed over into Northern Ireland, we wouldn’t be let back in.

We only gathered bits and pieces of info, we didn’t understand if this was something that affected people (it doesn’t), why we had to walk across foamy mats (the mats disinfect your shoes to prevent tromping the diseases hither and thither) and why people kept asking us if we’d been on a farm recently (armpit check).

Unfortunately, the fear of the outbreak spreading caused there to be many closures of public landmarks.


Every where we went we came across signs like these:


We weren’t sure how much of an issue this was going to be.

Thankfully we were able to get into Trinity to see the Book of Kells ( and most of the locations in Dublin remained open.

At one point our credit card stopped working, so Jeff called the bank to find out what was going on. Turns out that when charges start appearing out of the blue in a foreign country, the bank will CALL YOUR HOUSE to verify that it’s you. If you don’t answer, they shut off the card. Because of course if it IS you making charges in Dublin, you’re going to answer your home phone to say so. I’ll sit here for a moment while we all ponder that brilliant logic.

We toured around Dublin for a couple days, and then we decided it was time to hit the open road.

Jeff was doing pretty well trying to adjust to driving on the other side of the car on the other side of the road. I was not good as a passenger on the left, and kept trying to slam on fake brakes.

Funny thing about Ireland back in  2001- while the distance signs were in kilometers, the speed signs were in MPH. It took several days of driving before we realized that. Maybe that’s because no one pays any attention to speed limits.

We did a lot of driving- pastoral Ireland looks a lot like pastoral Western Washington. If we came across a landmark, usually a castle, we would stop. At the end of the first day, we landed at some motel. So much for the bed and breakfast idea.

I can’t remember all the details of our trip. I thought I kept a journal, but if I did, it’s buried deep in my garage in a box. I know we went to Galway, and we stood on a bridge overlooking the River Shannon. I know we went to Killarney, which was my favorite town.

We tried to go see the Cliffs of Moher.

“We are sorry, the cliffs are closed due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.”

My husband: “How do you close cliffs??”

After a few days we got tired of seeing castle after castle. Besides, there was only one I really wanted to see: Blarney Castle.


We had stayed in a hotel in Cork, which reminded me a lot of our local naval port town. It was less charming than some of the other places we had been. However, our accommodations got increasingly nicer every night.

Blarney Castle was teeming with tourists, as one might expect just a few days before St. Patrick’s day. We made our way through, and up the steps towards the infamous Blarney stone. I didn’t really know what to expect. I can tell you for absolute certain that I did not anticipate being hung upside down facing out off the top of a castle turret. And it wasn’t until my husband refused to do it with me, saying, “Gross, I wouldn’t put my lips on that slimy rock that has had millions of other lips on it. I might catch foot-and-mouth disease,” that it ever occurred to me that this truly was a disgusting thing to do.

There is a hole in the brick floor where two men hold your torso and then lower you through, where you find yourself literally hanging off the side of the castle. How in the world this became something to do is truly a mystery to me. It was terrifying.

blarney stone

Did it give me the “gift of blarney?” You tell me.

After Cork we went on to Waterford, where we took a tour of the Waterford crystal factory. We found an internet café (Remember those?!) and emailed our kids.

By the time we got back to Dublin, we decided that we were going to stay in the nicest hotel we had seen on Grafton Street. We never stayed in a single bed and breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, my full Irish breakfast that became my half Irish breakfast, soon became just an egg and a piece of toast. I found myself craving fresh fruit.

I wasn’t a fan of the food there, I must admit. They put onion soup mix in their ground beef. I was craving a real burger so badly I could hardly stand it.

Jeff said, “On our next big trip, let’s go someplace that’s known for its food. Like Italy.”

After I got back to Seattle, I got a call from Jeff.( His tour story is a whole other blog for another time. )

Me: How’s it going there?

Him: Well, ok, I guess. The people aren’t very happy because the parade has been cancelled.

Can you imagine? You save your money and go on a trip to Ireland culminating in the St Patrick’s day parade in Dublin, and it gets cancelled because of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

So much for the luck of the Irish. Maybe Irish luck is really just people drinking enough to not remember that things aren’t going well.

stpats2013Last year’s St Patrick’s day table



Is That A Pussy Willow In Your Ear Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?


My mother gave me a gift the other day.

Or DID she?

I’m starting to think she might have a bit more of a sadistic sense of humor than I ever gave her credit for.

I mean, think of one of your greatest childhood traumas. Now imagine your mother giving you a kitchen towel with the source of that trauma emblazoned on it; Like that creepy clown from the circus that gave you nightmares, or a photo of the bad perm that had everyone calling you “poodlehead” for a month.

Of course, we all can laugh about it, now that it’s 35 years in the past, right? We should be able to, because in all honesty, it’s hilarious. And awful. But mostly hilarious.

Let me introduce you to the source of my greatest childhood trauma- The Pussy Willow.

pussy willow

Yes, I’m serious. Don’t let this furry ball of cuteness deceive you- it’s a menace.


See that sweet little circa 1979 me? All innocent and naïve? Keep that face in mind when you hear the tale I am about to tell.

I’m the youngest in my family. The baby. As a child I loved the attention that brought. I’m not gonna lie. I was a bit like Parker in that I just thought the world revolved around me.

The problem with this, besides the obvious issues of narcissism, selfishness, and desire to be the center of attention, was that I didn’t like to share the spotlight, but I wasn’t the only child in the house. My sister Shannon would have been about 12 when this event occurred, my sister Colleen about 9. I was 6.

One day I came home from school to discover Colleen snuggled up on the couch with a blanket, some tea, and a book. She wasn’t feeling well, I believe she might have had an ear infection.

I was jealous of the day off from school, I was jealous of the pampering, and I was jealous of the attention. Also, I think part of it was that I wanted to be like her. She had something cool and different going on, and I wanted in on that action.

I noticed that my mom had set a vase of pussy willows next to Colleen on the coffee table. I also noticed that she appeared to have something fuzzy in her ears. What I didn’t know, was that the fuzzy things in her ears were cotton balls. There were no cotton balls on the coffee table. All there was, was a vase of pussy willow branches.

You see where I’m going with this.

I broke a couple of pussy willow seeds off and headed for my mother’s bathroom. I placed one furry seed in each ear. It didn’t look right. I pushed it in further to get the same look as my sister’s had, but still it didn’t look right. I tried to pull one out, but it wouldn’t come. I tried to pull the other out, and managed only to push it further into my ear.

I knew I had a problem. And I knew I was going to be in big trouble.

I have blacked out the confession to my mother. I know she tried several different methods of extraction, to no avail. She called the doctor’s office and made me an appointment.

My mom doesn’t drive, and my dad worked, so we had to take the bus into town for the doctor’s appointment. The doctor attempted to remove the pussy willows, but was only able to get one of them out. The other was so deeply embedded it was going to start sprouting in the spring if we didn’t get it out of there. (I hear ear wax can work as a fertilizer. That might be a wives’ tale)

The doctor referred us to a specialist, probably an ENT in the town over.

For a few days I walked around with a pussy willow seed in my ear. I was starting to wonder if anyone would ever be able to get it out.

We rode for what seemed like forever on the bus to the clinic. The doctor and nurse both gave me reproving looks when they heard the story.

The decision was made that the only way to get the pussy willow out was to lube up the ear, chop the seed up and suck it out. This did not sound like a good plan to me, but I had lost my right to an opinion when I shoved a pussy willow down to my eardrum.

I will never, for as long as I live, forget the sound of that pussy willow being sucked out, the feeling of him rooting around with that tube in my ear, the smell of ear wax and humiliation permeating the air.

When he finished, he gave me the standard, “Don’t ever shove a pussy willow in your ear again” talk. I don’t know why he thought that was necessary.

I’m not sure when the story became funny. As with most silly childhood traumas, time and distance gives perspective. But it did, it joined the ranks of “the Burgundy Cherry ice cream incident,” the “missing pack of cough drops” incident, and the “Katie fell off the edge at Deception Pass!” debacle.


A few years ago our church in Socal, Rock Harbor, did a series on the Sabbath and what it means to truly “Sabbath.” The suggestion was that they would do the same service two weeks in a row, and we were to choose one to attend, and the other to “Sabbath.”

I announced to my family that we would be participating, and we made plans to spend the day together. I did a lot of prep work leading up to that Sunday. As the mother of 4, the concept of a day of resting is a foreign one, and trying to figure out how to fill the needs of my family while still being able to rest myself was daunting. I bought stuff to make easy sandwiches for lunch, I made a breakfast casserole the night before so that all I had to do was pop it in the oven in the morning. I was going to rest and relax, dammit!

We chose to play board games, although I can’t for the life of me remember what we could have played that accommodated the ages of my children who were ranging in age from baby to middle school.

I do, however, remember very clearly when someone noticed that Zoe was making funny sounds with her nose. She couldn’t have been much more than 3. She kept acting like she needed to blow her nose. I suggested she get a tissue. Jeff decided it was worth a closer look.

There was something up there.

There was something shoved far up into her nose.

He grabbed a flashlight and shined it up, and shouted some sort of non-Sabbath-friendly expletive. It was a nut. Not a peanut. Not a cashew or an  almond. A nut. A metal nut, as in “nut and bolt” and it was almost to her sinus cavity.

My husband decided the best thing was to take her upstairs and attempt to get it out without everyone hovering around. After quite a very long time of delicately maneuvering tweezers around in her nose, and applying pressure from the outside to push it down, he eventually was able to get the chunk of metal out.

Any idea of relaxation had gone out the window by that time.

Of course, Zoe was so young, she probably doesn’t even remember, and certainly wouldn’t be offended if I gave her a dish towel with this on the front:


These things happen. Kids shove things where they don’t belong. If you can’t laugh about stuff like this as a parent, you won’t ever survive.

Will I ever have a vase of pussy willows on display in my house? Probably not. Will I ever be able to look at pussy willows without shuddering and hearing the faint sucking and slurping of a vacuum tube? No. Can I hang a pussy willow dish towel in my kitchen for the Spring and a good laugh? Sure I can.


When she handed it to me she giggled and said, “I couldn’t not.”

I don’t blame her. If I were her, I couldn’t not, either.





Eat The Frog. With a Side Of Shawarma.


The other day my friend Liz said, “I’m gonna eat the frog.”

I looked at her for a moment, my face scrunched up in a combination of confusion and disgust.

“What frog?”

“It’s a thing. Eat the frog. Do the hard stuff first, then everything else is easy.”

The side of me that loves a good metaphor thought this was great. The literal side of me couldn’t stop thinking about actually eating a frog.

I don’t want to eat the frog. Metaphorically or literally.

Besides excelling at being a procrastinator (everyone has their gifts) I also excel at being a giant chicken. I’m not typically a risk taker (see previous posts about being a rule follower). Part of being a rule follower is the logic that parameters are put into place for a reason. Rule followers love the feeling of security that boundaries create.

We also tend to be creatures of habit. We find what we like and we stick to it. Going outside of the norm is scary, taking risks terrifying.

Risk taking hasn’t always worked out for me. Like the time I jumped off a cliff at Flaming Gorge. I spent over an hour trying to psych myself up.


This photo doesn’t do these cliffs justice. It was a 30 foot drop. I’m afraid of heights. And deep water. And falling at tremendously accelerating speed.

When I finally got the nerve to jump off, I was amazed at how slow it felt like I was moving. I started off in a straight vertical position, but as I moved closer to the surface of the water, my posture began to shift, so that by the time I landed, I was in the same position someone would be in if they were sitting in a recliner. (see diagram below)


For three weeks I had large purplish-blackish bruising on the backs of my arms and the back of my thighs, and a bruised tailbone that required sitting on a donut shaped pillow.

For me, taking the risk only confirmed my worst fears, and pushed me back into my safety zone.

I should point out that some of the things I view as risks, other people view as a normal part of life. When you read my examples you may say to yourself, “what’s the big deal about that?” You’d probably be right.

If you ever go out to dinner with my husband and I, you are likely to hear him say, “She’s a meat and potatoes kind of girl.” (My vegan friend Sam is starting to hyperventilate. Get a paper bag, Sam and breathe deeply.)

While not a very flattering statement (am I the only one for whom that phrase conjures up an image of a burly woman in a flannel shirt and a slight mustache?) , it’s also not an inaccurate one. If I had to pick my final meal on this earth, it would be a nice filet smothered in Béarnaise with a loaded baked potato.

My husband likes to use this phrase A LOT, however. He gleefully announces it whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of exotic foods, it’s true. Unless, of course, you count some of my father’s food creations. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they did not. My mother served delicious casseroles, pastas, salads and a lot of Mexican food. Mexican food was very common in my house as a kid, and very common in my house now. My father was the griller. Still is, actually. During the summer months my mom often took a “cooking hiatus” so my dad would take over. We would have something off the grill nearly every night all summer long. His grilling wasn’t limited to summer months, though. His barbequing philosophy is similar to the US postal service-  “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this barbeque from the swift completion of grilling this meat.”

My dad likes a little seafood, my mom not at all.

My dad enjoys Asian foods, my mom not so much. I remember as a kid going to the Peking Duck downtown Snohomish ONE TIME. She probably is intolerant to something in Asian foods and that’s why she’s naturally disinclined to consume them. Her stay in the hospital with major stomach pain a couple weeks ago following a rare dinner at a Thai restaurant has reinforced her aversion. Forever.

So, as a result of not being exposed to these foods, I never developed a taste for them.

When I was about Zoe’s age, we had a Japanese exchange student come live with us for 3 weeks. She despised us. Seriously, she barely spoke to us. My mother kept lamenting why we didn’t get the fun one, like the neighbors had.

FILE0165Her name was Kyoko. Do you see how happy she was to be with us?

Part of her program included her making a traditional meal for her host family. She didn’t choose teriyaki.

There was soup with floaty things and seaweed, rice wrapped in seaweed, seaweed with a side of seaweed. I, with my impeccable manners gagged, cried, and was banished from the table.

I survived my high school trip to China by subsisting on cookies, a hunk of chocolate I bought at a marketplace, and rice. The pizza I ordered once we arrived back in Hong Kong after 10 days on the mainland tasted like the best food I had ever consumed in my life up until that point. It was Domino’s. That tells you how desperate I was.

Over the years, many people tried to cajole me into trying new foods but I resisted.

My ex-fiancé’s mom insisted I would like lobster. I told her not to buy me any. She swore if I just had it fresh, cooked the right way, I would like it. I begged her not to buy me any. She did. I gagged, I cried, and she ranted about how much money she spent on the lobster that I refused to eat.

My husband eats almost anything, which makes my job as a cook way easier. He’s mostly just grateful for the meal, and has endured a lot of my mistakes over the years with a smile on his face and a “Thank you.”

His former assistant was from Cambodia and she often picked his lunch up for him. I remember one day he came home and I asked him what he had for lunch, since his breath was a little strange.

He answered, “I have no clue. It was some sort of soup that looked like they took a giant scoop of whatever was lying on the ocean floor and threw it in a bowl. Including sand.”

As I have gotten older, though, I’ve become more interested in taking risks, particularly with food.

A few years ago we celebrated my friend Christin’s birthday at a Vietnamese restaurant. When the invite went out along with a link to the menu, I started panicking. I’d never eaten Vietnamese food before.

As we arrived at the restaurant and were seated at the end of a table filled with 5 other couples, my husband loudly announced “She doesn’t eat this stuff. She’s a meat and potatoes girl!”

As a result, although the restaurant serves food family style, someone ordered me a bowl of Pho. Determined to prove my husband wrong, I tried several of the items that were ordered for the group and LOVED them. The thing I liked least? The Pho.

A few months ago, Christin and I were meeting up for dinner. She called me and said, “What are you in the mood for?”

I said, “I’m open.”

She laughed and said, “Katie. I know you. You don’t like anything strange or out of the ordinary.”

I said, “Well, I’m trying to get over that.”

She told me she would send me a menu of a restaurant and I was to look it over and see what I thought. It was Mediterranean.

I texted her and told her I thought it looked good. She nearly fell over in surprise.

The place is the Mediterranean Kitchen In Bellevue, WA. It’s a tiny little place, and day and night there are lines out the door of people waiting to get in. It’s Zagat ratings are off the charts.

Christin chose something she couldn’t pronounce- DAJAJ MISHWI. I decided to go with the chicken shawarma. It was love at first bite.

shawarma It was so good I wanted to take a bath in the tahini sauce.

A new obsession was born.

My husband seemed slightly offended that I was willing to try new foods with someone else, when I never will with him. He was also terribly offended at the garlic breath that meal produced.

In one week in January I took Sydney to the Mediterranean kitchen on a Monday and ate at Shawarma King in University district on a Wednesday. (also amazing!)

shawarmaking Shawarma King

Yesterday Jeff said, “What did you have for lunch?”

I looked at him sheepishly. “Shawarma.”

“From where?”

“There’s a new place at the mall. The Blue Olive.”

“You know, I was impressed at first that you were willing to try something new. Now you are so fixated on shawarma, I will be more impressed when you choose to eat something else.”

I guess that makes me a meat, potatoes and shawarma girl










I Think This Makes Me A Writer


This week I received two copies of “The Hurricane Review” in the mail. “The Hurricane Review” is a literary anthology published yearly by Pensacola State College in Pensacola, Florida, and its inclusion of my short story “Flip Flop,” along with two poems makes me officially a published author.

I didn’t get paid any money, and it won’t be appearing on any best seller list, but for me, it’s the first step towards achieving my life long dream of being a writer. A real one, not the one I have been, the one who hasn’t let anyone read her stuff since she was in school and had to turn it in for class credit. Not the one who has about 20 partially written stories. Not the one too scared to try.

I grew up with the knowledge that writing is in my blood. My grandfather, Ritchie Ward, was a published author of biological nonfiction. His first book, “The Living Clocks,” was published the year I was born and has been translated into several other languages. He also wrote “Into the Ocean World,” an in-depth look at marine biology worldwide. One of my proudest moments was the day I found his books in my high school library.


However, over the years, as my family grew, my writing became very hit and miss. The further I got from the accolades of my UW English professors and the deeper into laundry and dishes and diapers, that part of me dimmed.

Last year, a family member sent me a message telling me that I should write a blog, She wasn’t the first person to suggest that I do that, but for some reason, what she said struck a chord. So on May 25, 2013, my 41st birthday, I started a blog.


Last summer I received a call from my friend Holly MacNaughton. Holly and I have been friends since high school, and have tried to remain in contact over the years as each of us have lived all over the country. Holly is currently living in Florida as her husband, a 20th year USMC Major aviator, finishes out the remainder of his military career. Holly has been going to school at Pensacola State, and was chosen to be this year’s editor of both “The Hurricane Review” as well as “The Kilgore Review,” an anthology publication for current students of the college.

She called to say that she had been reading my blog and wondered if I would be interested in submitting a piece to “The Hurricane Review.” At first I thought she meant something similar to my blog, but then I realized she was talking about a short story; a fictional story.

Some might think that writing fiction would be less personal than writing non-fiction, but for me, that simply isn’t the case. There’s a real difference between my blog, which is my random observations of the world around me, and creating something from my own mind. I’m the kind of writer that is so self-conscious that I don’t like people hovering behind me while I compose a Facebook status, much less having them read my fictional stories. For me, fiction is much more revealing of the writer’s heart than nonfiction.

Oh, and, did I mention the deadline was less than 2 weeks away?

I promised her I would attempt to write something, and if it worked out, great. If it didn’t, well, I tried.

I wrote that story in less than four days. A couple days into it I was less concerned about being able to write enough, but started getting worried that I was going to go way over 15 pages before ever figuring out how to end it. (Those of you familiar with my blog know I can tend to be a bit wordy.) It turned out I had a story.

When I was done, and it was time to send my story, I can’t begin to express the stomach churning that went into pressing send on that email. It felt like I had just ripped my chest open for the world to see.

I submitted my story to her, and then I waited. When she called me to let me know that it had been reviewed and accepted I was thrilled, but also terrified. People were going to read this story. That meant I was about to find out whether I really can write or not. I had opened myself up to criticism, something I hadn’t done with my writing in a very long time.

During the editing process, Holly got back in touch and said she had a challenge for me. She wanted me to also submit two poems of different types for possible inclusion. I hadn’t written poetry since college. I wasn’t even sure I could remember how.

But I did. And guess what? Poetry is not easy, and even MORE soul-bearing than writing fiction. I wrote two poems, one freestyle-ish (I won’t attempt to fool you into thinking I knew what I was doing) and one in iambic pentameter- quatrains and a couplet. Truthfully, I chose iambic pentameter because it was the only style I remembered from Mrs. Searle’s (I think that was her name) poetry class. Shakespeare probably just rolled over in his grave that I have the audacity to call what I wrote Iambic pentameter, but it was at least in the same ballpark.

Amazingly, my poems were accepted as well.

So now, I am a published author. I am currently working on a full length book, that I hope to have finished by the end of the year. Don’t ask me what it’s about, if I told you, I’d have to throw it away and start over. It’s just how I am.

Last night my mom and I got the chance to meet mystery author JA Jance. Ms. Jance has just published her 50th book, “Moving Target.”


I have been reading her books since I was in high school, and I respect her work immensely.

She began by sitting down several minutes before the evening was officially supposed to start, and chatted with us. She gave us warnings about what NOT to say to an author at a book signing. For example, don’t ever tell her she looks tired. She’s promoting her 50th book. She sometimes goes to 3 or 4 book signings in a day. She said, “I’ve earned the right to be tired. You haven’t earned the right to tell me I look tired.”

She spoke about negative emails that she receives (she answers emails personally) and how she has chosen to handle them. She often writes a terse “thank you for your feedback” reply to those who are nasty, but that’s never the end of it. If you cross a mystery writer, she says, we have ways of dealing with it.


She told how a University of Arizona creative writing professor wouldn’t let her participate because she was a girl. Funny thing, there’s a character in one of her books who is a Uof A creative writing professor. It doesn’t end well for him.

She also spoke of things that her readers criticize her for, things she includes in her books that some may feel are unnecessary. What the readers often don’t know is the story behind why she includes certain ideas, landmarks, characters. She said she often doesn’t know where the fiction ends and the truth begins, because there are so many of her real life experiences woven throughout.

She told a few stories to explain why certain aspects were included, and they made perfect sense. The reality is, she isn’t really writing for us. She’s writing because she has a story to tell. The two most important concepts I took away from last night were these:

1. Write what you know

2. Write what you want

It was confirmation to me that I’m on the right track. Or the WRITE track. (Good Lord do I love a bad pun. I shall include them because I WANT to.)