Happy. Healthy. Heathen.

Traveling, training, thinking, talking, typing

Greetings from the Bar cave

Good evening!

Oh how I miss writing for leisure! Recreational reading and writing are on my Things-I’m-doing-after-the-Bar list. Want to know some other things on that list?

–Go to lunch.

–Have wine without calculating what time I have to start studying in the morning.

–Binge-watch Project Runway.

–Travel to see every child I have – Colorado (x2), Oregon, Nevada.

–Spend a few days with my piggies in the sand and my face in the sun.

–Get to know my honey all over again.

So this will be a short, boring update. I’m about 6 weeks in to a 16-week Bar prep program. I finished classes for law school in September, so the JD is done. (Woot.) The Bar Exam is a 3-day behemoth in California on the 24, 25, and 26 of February. Simple really: 6 essays, 2 Performance Tests, and 200 Multiple Choice questions. Easy Peasy. There are 8 subjects from which the multiple choice come, and 14 subjects from which the essays come. The Performance Test is a closed universe that’s a special level of mental gymnastics unto itself.

See? Boring. What’s not boring is how wonderful and fabulous my precious posse has been. Whether friends or family, I have felt more love and support and love than anyone ever has a right to. I’ve had visits and gifts and notes and sometimes all those in one day. I’ve been grumpy and frustrated and hermit-y, and my lovely people just keep bringing the sunshine! When I have those inevitable moments of doubt, all I have to do is look around at my expressions of support and encouragement and I just can’t stay in that despair for long!

I’m keeping a diary of the whole experience, which I plan to turn into a blog after the test which will be more interesting, with pictures, and the excitement of the physical journey too. Graduation is the Saturday following the test, and the highlight of that will be all of the kids in the same place at the same time! We also have a post-graduation Vegas extravaganza planned too, so that will be worth checking back for.


So in the meantime, here’s a picture of Bevo the Longhorn from the University of Texas, because look at him!

That’s the study break for now. Thanks for being patient,

and thanks for reading!


Goodbye sweet girl.

We laid sweet old Boo in the upper pasture today, in a spot where it’s sunny in the morning, and shady in the afternoon.

She’s been with us for 13 years.  She has lived the doggiest of lives, and traveled more than most people.  She’s been to Colorado and back a few times, to Iowa and back multiple times, to Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, and North and South Carolina.  She raised 4 teenagers who will miss her desperately, and a 9-year-old who will remember her only as an old sweet girl who slept a lot.

She has served as comforter and confidant for everyone in our family at different times of our lives.  She has had the same spot under the dining room table in 2 different homes, and the same seat on the Ragbrai bus for years.  How we will ever pass that seat without a bittersweet memory is more than I can expect.

She has been called the Best Dog Ever by almost everyone who knew her.  At friends and family bonfires, she went from person to person to get her head stroked and her ears scratched.  She has put up with canine siblings, and was patient and tolerant of their puppy stages.

We know how lucky we have been to have known this beautiful member of our family.  We know she lived a long, lovely, happy, healthy life.  What we don’t know is how we’ll ever not feel the pain of her absence.

Anyone who has ever had a beloved pet knows how it feels to love and lose such a precious member of the family.  Since there are so few words that can describe those feelings, I’ve decided to let the pictures tell the story.

















































“No Matter how little money and how few possessions, you own, having a dog makes you rich.”

    -Louis Sabin
Thanks for reading.

Family swag

I just got home from the most epic-wonderful, non-stop, loud, proud, can’t-get-enough graduation weekend!  Oldest son Ben graduated from the University of Colorado last weekend.  He may have been the last of the 4 to graduate, but he did it in fine style!

All of the kids have humored their parents and grandparents and have participated in the graduation ceremonies.  Since they all attended large universities, the graduations were similar – hundreds graduating, thousands attending, prestigious speakers, interminable list of names called, the pomp and circumstance of it all.  Ben’s main graduation ceremony was no different, but because he was in an honors program, we were treated to a few more festivities.

But first:  getting there.

Ben and his SO Kirsten live in Loveland, CO.  They have a darling little house with a garden and a guest room and 2 precious dogs.  She drives north to Fort Collins where she works as an architect, and he drives south to Boulder for school.











River and Susie
River and Susie

Our family lives…everywhere.  Graduation was to begin on Thursday.  Travel started on Sunday.


My parents headed out in their SUV from Peachtree City, Georgia


I left my sweetheart in Austin, Texas to travel to Eugene, Oregon, where #4 has been.


#2 and his SO left Salida, Colorado heading for Loveland.  Amy and I made it from Eugene to Salt Lake City.  Parents made it to Loveland.


Jesse, Anna Leigh, and Aden left Murfreesboro to fly to Denver to rent a car to drive to Loveland.  Amy and I made it to Loveland.  #3 and her SO left Las Vegas at 5am, right after she got off work at the casino, flew through Salt Lake City to Denver to Loveland.

We have a couple of folks yet to arrive, but off we go to dinner.

Grandma Glenda, me, Amy, Little Glenda
Grandma Glenda, me, Amy, Little Glenda
The man of the moment and his very loving, very patient, very supportive girlfriend
The man of the moment and his very loving, very patient, very supportive girlfriend











Sam and Little Jess
Sam and Little Jess
Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma and Grandpa














Thursday morning brought the first of the official ceremonies:










































Ben’s Honors Thesis was entitled:  A Dangerous Conflation of Ideologies: The Nexus of Christianity and Neoliberalism.  I know, everyone’s dying to read it, but he wants to get it peer-reviewed and published, so he’s not quite making it public yet.  You can trust his mother – it’s brilliant.  His plan is to go to law school (University of Washington?) after a year off for LSAT study and travel.

Then the obligatory cheese and fruit reception



Thursday night was our cooking extravaganza, and I don’t have many pictures of that because I was…cooking.  What a feast we had!  Everyone pitched in – all of us in the kitchen at once, cooking, mixing drinks, dancing, and I know it will surprise everyone, but we are a little loud when we are all together, so I remember a lot of shouting.

Late Thursday night brought in Amy’s squeeze, Alex, from Eugene, Oregon, after a little tense pass travel experience going through Salt Lake City.  Then Friday was the big show!









And then there he was!
And then there he was!

Next was a reception for his department, with a quick stop in the bookstore on the way

Aden and Ralphie
Aden and Ralphie





We grabbed this moment for the group shot:




This one I call My Honeys with Their Honeys
This one I call My Honeys with Their Honeys



And whattyaknow, we have time for a quick drink before the final event of the day!


Then, the last event – his graduation with his Political Science Department









BBQ and friends, my honey got in late, food and drink for everyone (and a little storytelling…), and then back together again for breakfast before everyone had to hit the road for that traveling in reverse.

Breakfast bunch
Breakfast bunch

Ben, we are profoundly proud of you.  Not only did you get it done, you got it done magnificently!

Thanks for reading!


All about poo.

Don’t be hatin.

But if you don’t want to read a post about dog poop, click away.  Ok, forewarned.

On my hippie farm, with my cows and goats and chickens, I have the most delicious compost pile.  Cow manure, chicken manure, goat manure, hardwood leaves, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds – it makes the most rich, earthy, healthy soil you’ve ever seen.  I’ve got a dual operation going:

High tech.
High tech.
Inside the drum
Inside the drum
Did you notice his goofy, happy compost face?
Did you notice his derpy, happy compost face?

But I also have dogs, and if you read my last post, you know I’ve added to the canine contingency.  And 4 dogs generate lots of poo.

In an effort to figure out what to do with the abundance of dog waste that accumulates in the yard (I have 8 acres, but who’s gonna walk more than 20 feet outside in the rain?  Not my guys!), I did a little Shit Research.  I won’t go into all the science, but the poop of herbivores vs the poop of omnivores vs the poop of carnivores has to do with amounts of nitrogen, enzymes, bacteria, and parasites.  The short version is that dog waste can’t be composted with other kitchen and farm waste (and neither, therefore, can human waste – a post for another day).

Just to be sure, I contacted my go-to science guy (Sam, if you didn’t know), and he confirmed what my research showed.  So it was out of the question to put the poop in the big compost pile.  But I still had a poop pile problem in the yard.

I googled that shit and found a variety of commercial set-ups to deal with this issue, but they were all extremely low in complexity and high in cost.  I’m bright, I’m capable, I’ve got power tools – I can do this!

My Family Dollar $10 trash can.
My Family Dollar $10 trash can.
First, dig a hole.
First, dig a hole.
Fortunately, my hired hand is very into me, and showed up to finish the digging job.
Fortunately, my hired hand is very into me, and showed up to finish the digging job.
Next, cut off the bottom of the trash can.
Next, cut off the bottom of the trash can.
Drill a bunch of small holes, but be sure the holes are below the level that will be above the ground.
Drill a bunch of small holes, but be sure the holes are below the level that will be above the ground.
Now sink that bad boy up to the brim!
Now sink that bad boy up to the brim!
a layer of gravel in the bottom first...
a layer of gravel in the bottom first…
...then a layer of sawdust, which I just happen to have for my baby chicks!
…then a layer of sawdust, which I just happen to have for my baby chicks!
Now all I need is some dog poo...
Now all I need is some dog poo…
Where o where will I find some dog poo?
Where oh where will I find some dog poo?
Let's not name names, but there ya go.
Let’s not name names, but there ya go.
Eventually I'll add a little of this, but I'll wait until there's a little more...accumulation...and after it rains.
Eventually I’ll add a little of this, but I’ll wait until there’s a little more…accumulation…and after it rains.
Here it is in the yard - I still have to move the dirt pile, but the only thing you see is the lid, and it's at the edge of the yard.
Here it is – I still have to move the dirt pile, but the only thing you see is the lid, and it’s at the edge of the yard.  See the slack line?  I suck at it.

Doggie Dooley is already trademarked, as is Tidy Paws.  I’m thinking Doggie Dumper?  Doggie Doo-Be-Gone?  Poopmaster?

I think I’ll tag this post Cottage Living.  I don’t have a Waste Products tag.  Yet.  I think I’m going to draw the line at a pit latrine.

Thanks for reading!





Vaughn and Lucy

I loved Edwin Kagin.


Edwin died on March 27.  I loved him.  I loved his big, fat, beautiful, juicy brain, I loved his irreverent, dry, southern sense of humor, and I loved his unrelenting compassion, desire for justice, and concern for children.

Edwin was the legal director for American Atheists from 2006 until his death.  He and his wife Helen were the originators of Camp Quest, a secular summer camp for children.  It had grown from a brilliant idea in 1996, to overnight and week-long camps located in many states, and UK and Switzerland.  Camp Quest offers children the summer camp experience including educational activities that promote critical thinking, ethics, scientific inquiry, and philosophy.   Edwin was the brilliant legal mind behind many civil rights and religious freedom lawsuits over the years, but I believe it was Camp Quest of which he was most proud.


I met Edwin in Des Moines at the American Atheist convention and was captivated by his charm.  He was lovely and encouraging to me as a first-year law student.   Edwin could be funny and serious and blasphemous, all in one sentence.  He was the quintessential cantankerous and curmudgeonly crank whose eyes twinkled behind his glasses under the brim of his leather hat.

Edwin was also an author and bloggerHere is a post he wrote about the death of his lovely wife Helen.  Not long after I met Edwin, he sent me a copy of his book Baubles of Blasphemy.  I rationed the readings of his writings because they usually had a profound effect on me as a new freethinker just coming out of the daze of religion, and I needed the extra moments to digest the profundity.  We corresponded through email and even in this cold, impersonal digital format, his warm, witty personality peeked through.

Edwin and I saw one another at various freethinkers conventions, and always stole a moment or two to catch up.  He never failed to ask me about law school and how I was doing and what my plans were.  I saw him last in Austin, Texas, and was looking forward to seeing him again in Salt Lake City in April.  Edwin died on March 27.

But my sweet Edwin left behind not only a legacy of epic proportions in the way of Camp Quest, but also his two canine loves, Vaughn and Lucy.  Edwin’s family put out the word that these two honeys needed a home, and they needed to stay together, if possible.  It took me about 10 seconds of reflection before I knew I wanted to provide a home for these babies.

So I introduce to you:  Vaughn and Lucy.



Big Vaughn
Meeting Elvis the steer
Meeting Elvis the steer
Hot mess of Freethought canines
Hot mess of Freethought canines
The sweetness that is Lucy.
The sweetness that is Lucy.
Precious Vaughn
Precious Vaughn

We’re getting to know one another.  When they learn to trust me, I plan to solicit any legal genius that Edwin shared with them, but I can be patient.  Right now we’re working on positioning in my office while I’m studying, and smelling everything that can be smelled on a farm.

What a delight these two furries are.

And what a joy and an honor and a privilege to have known this man.

Thanks for reading.


Before you return to wherever you were before you were born, it might be a good idea to so live that people remember you fondly. This is not a dress rehearsal. Life ends / Tao flows.
Don’t take life too seriously; you won’t get out of it alive anyway.

Edwin Kagin



Get busy livin or get busy dyin

I know I haven’t blogged enough when I am tempted to title the post as “An Update”, but there could be no more boring a post title than that, and I refuse.

I’m in my fourth and final year of law school.  This year’s subjects are Wills and Trusts, Remedies, and California Community Property.  Our schedule is a little different this year: these 3 classes finish in September, and Sept-Dec we have Capstone, which is a course intended to prepare us for the Performance Test, which is a portion of the Bar Exam.  Then in December I begin my Bar Review course, and take the Bar in February.

Exactly one year from today will be the Sunday evening before Bar Exam week.  The test is 3 days, Tues/Wed/Thurs consisting of 6 essays, 200 multiple choice questions, and 2 Performance Tests.  Just describing it is enough stimulation for now, and I’ll post more about it in the future, but after this week’s applicants take it, my countdown begins.

That’s enough about school, except to say that I still love everything about it.  I say with no disclaimer that I am going to miss it.  I’ve loved gaining the knowledge, studying the cases, and sharing with my classmates.  Here’s my post of when I announced I was attending – see if you detect any less excitement now than when I began.

And in other news, last year, darling son Sam, who is also an endurance athlete said to me ever-so-sweetly:  “Mom, I want to do an Ironman with you before you are too old.”  Without even the faintest tinge of humor.

In what turned out to be a much, much bigger commitment that I imagined in my wildest dreams, I once made a promise to my children that whatever they would ask or allow me to do with them, I would do.  It was based on my belief that you meet your children where they are if you want to be close to them.  This promise has taken me to the top of black diamond ski runs, down rapids in a kayak, to art museums in New York City, to road trips across America.

So, on September 7, 2014, Sam and I will be competing in the Rev 3 Cedarpoint Triathlon in Sandusky, Ohio.  Just to refresh:  It’s a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.  I started training in January in Tennessee; Sam’s doing his training in Colorado.

Distance training involves a progressive program of adding longer/more often/more intense workouts over time.  Over the months leading to September I plan to do several shorter triathlons.  There’s one in Tullahoma in June, a great race in Chattanooga in July, and I’m looking for a half-Iron for August.  I’ve done a couple of half-marathons since the new year, with a couple more coming up.  I’ve got some 5, 10, and 15ks mixed in as well, and then triathlon season starts this spring.

Watch for race previews, race debriefs, and pics of the adventure.  Suggest a race if you know of a good one.  And you’re welcome to come to Ohio in September – the race is held at Cedar Point Amusement park, which is where my team support will be as Sammy and I are out on the course!

Thanks for reading!


Hawaii Wrap-up

Traveling, putting away Christmas, starting back to school — are any of those good enough reasons for having taken so long to write this post?!

Picking up where we left off…Sam, Ben, and I are in Maui.  Sam was completing a housesitting gig for his boss.  We were anticipating Eliott joining us for a few days, but on the way out he had an unexpected episode of claustrophobia on the first flight and wasn’t able to make it.  It left the three of us to our own devices on arrangements, and we are nothing if not resilient and flexible.

The Maui Bird Recovery Project was very accommodating and allowed us to bunk with the interns in the staff housing.  If you’ve ever priced accommodations on the island of Maui, you can imagine how grateful we were!

Our days were spent in a variety of Hawaiian activities – snorkeling, surfing, kite-surfing – and by we, I mean the boys.  I was a little puny for most of the time we were there, and opted out of the big stuff.  Ben got to try every sport he wanted to, and Sam was a patient, if novice, teacher.

We cooked at the cabin in the evenings, and that was a delight.  With Ben’s experience in the restaurant, and my interest in cooking, we had some fabulous dinners, accompanied by local avocados, bananas, lilikoi, and coconut.  Sam had to work one day and Ben and I drove the famed Road to Hana.

Whatever.  So we're tourists.  It was yummy.
Whatever. So we’re tourists. It was yummy.
Bounty from the roadside honor stands -- all delicious!
Bounty from the roadside honor stands — all delicious!
This is what it looks like - a random poinsettia bush in full bloom.
This is what it looks like – a random poinsettia bush in full bloom.
Cliche double rainbow on Maui!
Cliche double rainbow on Maui!
Another lovely shot
Another lovely shot
Along the Road to Hana
Along the Road to Hana
This is the area where Sam has been planting trees
This is the area where Sam has been planting trees
Became obsessed with this little sweet/sour fruit - lilikoi
Became obsessed with this little sweet/sour fruit – lilikoi
One more shot
One more shot
At a little Friday night street festival, this vendor offered, in the upper right corner, a bacon cookie.  No, I didn't.
At a little Friday night street festival, this vendor offered, in the upper right corner, a bacon cookie. No, I didn’t.
Punctuation problems everywhere.
Punctuation problems everywhere.


I had to leave ahead of the boys, and as I described in an earlier post, the pass travel back home was hideous.  I couldn’t get out of LA to anywhere but Minneapolis, and then I couldn’t get out of there.

And after all that lovely sunshine...
And after all that lovely sunshine…

This was during the first pass of the Polar Vortex, and flights were cancelled everywhere.  My honey was back at home on the internet, looking for any flight I could get on.  He finally found one late that evening to Birmingham, Alabama.  I flew, he drove, and I landed back home in my snuggly little cottage with memories of the white, warm, sandy beaches of Maui, and a few delicious days with my boys.


Life is good.  Thanks for reading!












The one with all the pretty pictures

In the last post I wrote about getting out here, but I don’t think I wrote enough about what Sam is doing.

He’s had an internship since September with the Maui Bird Recovery Project, which I linked to in the last post.  Here’s their Facebook page – give them a like, and a donation if you’re so inclined.  Sam has spent a lot of time in the field planting trees that support the bird recovery.  He and his crew are helicoptered in to remote areas and plant seedlings of the trees.  His internship is almost at an end, and in late January he’ll go to Crested Butte Colorado where he’ll work until the spring and he goes back to Salida, CO, as a river ranger.

He’s had housing as a part of his internship, but for the 2 weeks of Christmas and New Years he’s had a housesitting gig in a charming place just outside of Paia, HI, which is near Kahului.  It is in a beautiful setting, and today’s post is simply my afternoon walk around the house.  If I had the mad camera skills (and the mad camera) of my girl Suzy Q. Steen I could do a better job of capturing all the beauty, but you’ll have to settle for my iPhone wannabes.




The house is situated by this beautiful ravine
The house is situated by this beautiful ravine



See the little guy pretending to be a bean pod??
See the little guy pretending to be a bean pod??




Don't think I didn't want to.  They're the landlord's.
Don’t think I didn’t want to. They’re the landlord’s.



sunset across the ravine
sunset across the ravine
These boys.
These boys.


Happy, happy, happy New Calendar!

Thanks for reading!

The Glamour of Pass Travel

I’m in Hawaii!!  I’ll post about the adventures we’re having in the days to come, but I wanted to get a quick post out about how I got out here.  Literally, not philosophically.

One of the employment benefits of working for an airline is what is known as Pass Travel.  This little post is about what that stand-by experience can be like.  Good and bad.

Son #2 is at the conclusion of an internship on the island of Maui.  He’s doing a bird recovery/reforestation project.   Son #1 and I, both students, found ourselves with a window of opportunity to visit Sam over the holidays.  Both girlies are working, Glenda in Vegas and Amy in Utah, so Ben and I are the lucky ones who get to do the trip.

There in an internal employee website that gives information about the “loads” on any particular flight, so that we nonrevs (non-revenue) fliers can make choices about the best time for travel.  This site lists the flights, how many seats are on the airplane, how many of those seats have been sold, and how many remain for us freeloaders to use.  (Technically, pass travel is not free – there are minimal charges that are attached to each flight, based on mileage.)

The holidays are never a good time to attempt pass travel, but if you are strategic, choose your flights well, and are flexible, sometimes it works.

Ben lives in Denver and it was his plan to fly from Denver to Salt Lake City to LA, and then on to Maui.  I would start from Nashville, fly to Atlanta, then LA, then meet up with Ben for the flight into Maui.  The flights online looked tight, but doable.

From years of pass travel, we’ve learned to check your main bag (with items you won’t grieve losing), put some overnight stuff in your small carry-on (toothbrush, clean undies), dress comfortably and in layers (Denver in Dec vs Maui in Dec), and prepare your attitude.  When the children were little, we developed a family motto specifically around pass travel:  Life Is An Adventure.  If you’ve ever tried to keep 4 preschoolers happy in the Memphis terminal for 36 hours, you will understand.

Off we go.  I leave my home in Murfreesboro at 11am on Saturday, Ben leaves his home in Fort Collins at 3pm.  Getting from Nashville to Atlanta didn’t present a problem.  It was in Atlanta that the plan began to deteriorate.  My honey was at home with the employee website pulled up, guiding me on the phone.  LA had become out of the question.  The first 3 flights I watched push back were oversold and 35 standbys were left standing at the gate.  I began to seek other options (keep in mind it’s December 28th) it was clear that Atlanta (Delta’s main hub) was overwhelmed, and I couldn’t find a way ANYWHERE.  Every flight out of Atlanta to any city was overbooked.  I saw a sliver of opportunity in a flight to Seattle (by now it’s about 9pm), and sure enough, I got the last standby seat.

Last seat, last row
Last seat, last row

In the meantime, Ben was having the same experience in Salt Lake City.   He hadn’t had a problem leaving Denver, but SLC (another Delta hub) was a clusterf*&k.  His squeeze was doing the same as mine, and guided him to grabbing the last seat on the last flight to San Francisco.

So instead of meeting in LA on Saturday night, I’m in Seattle, and Ben’s in San Fran.  We had good chances in the morning for both of us to get to LA, and that was the plan.  In true pass travel fashion, we both find a nice, comfy, slice of carpeted floor in our respective terminals.  Here’s a pic of mine from my viewpoint:

backpack as a pillow, and scarf as a blanket
backpack as a pillow, and scarf as a blanket

And in a turn of fortune typical to pass travel, I got a first-class seat on the early flight from Seattle to LA.  This is the breakfast they wanted me to eat:

another post for another time, and I'm an ungrateful brat
another post for another time, and I’m an ungrateful brat

Ben was having the same experience on his flight out of San Francisco to LA, and he got there a few minutes before I did.  After our joyful reunion (around 9:30am), we decided to spend the 8 hours waiting for our flight somewhere besides the LA terminal.  In true Jordan-adventure fashion, Sam had previously scoped out the terminal-proximity-food-and-shade scene, and he was able to tell us the direction to head out.

I'm never happier than this.
I’m never happier than times like this.

We ended up grabbing a six-pack from the grocery, 2 animal-style, protein-style double doubles from In N Out, sitting in a park under the glide path.



One more trip to the grocery for the remaining 2 hours’ entertainment:

If you're stuck in LA, call me for the down low.
If you’re stuck in LA, call me for the down low.

Then, finally, at the gate in LA, waiting for those elusive seats, listening, listening for:  “Passengers, Jordan, party of 2” to be called over that loudspeaker.


Sweet Sammy met us at the airport with leis, fresh pineapple, chocolate-covered macadamias, and Hawaiian beer.  Stay tuned for more blogging about the Maui adventures.


So, pass travel.  Is it worth it?  Yes, absolutely, 100% no doubt.  Among my children’s friends, I often encourage them, if they are unsure of what direction to go in life, to consider working for an airline purely because of the benefit of pass travel.  But pass travel requires a mentality, a combination of a sense of adventure, flexibility, patience, a letting go of control, patience and flexibility on the part of your eventual host, and maybe even a little diplomacy thrown in for gate agents and fellow pass riders/passengers.

Life Is An Adventure!

Thanks for reading!





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