2019: The Quetzal and the Cat

No fancy paper, no bows, a few questions and lists.

Filled with magic and loss and family and friends, this year stretched as long as the Pan-American Highway. No tidy one-word to sum it up, though a few tropes come to mind: rebirth, hope, heartache, discovery, resilience, family, connection, music.

With that, here’s my wrap of 2019 thanks to a few questions I found helpful in processing another revolution around the sun on this calendar. **If I had to distill it into one inspiring message, it’s that you, too, possess far more strength than you could have ever imagined.** You are the only one who can unlock it, though it helps to have an a-team of friends supporting you. If you’re blessed with a supporting family, wonderful! If not (and even if you do) build your own. You’ll never regret it. Heck, even Hulk had friends to help him recover between bouts of incredible strength.

Spontaneously Intentional

Last December, I went drinking with a friend. It’s very possible we hadn’t seen each other in a year or more. The bar owner asked if I was a musician as well, and I shrugged, saying “yeah, I play music”. One thing led to another, and I ended up booking a solo show for February. (See previous 2019 posts for more on that.) So I jumped into practicing and writing — as a show requires songs. I read blogs and books on song writing and joined song writing challenges. I recorded a video album. I busked while traveling. I worked on the mechanics so I could follow along with other musicians. I created jam dates and by Nov, I started hitting open mics.

What started with a spontaneous invite turned into an intentional practice and play.

Deadlines Kill Perfection

One challenge I’ve had calling myself an artist is that I wasn’t skilled at completing projects. I loved starting them but couldn’t get my perfectionist to shut the fuck up and let me finish them. You know how it goes … half way through, everything is “perfect” but the devil sleeps in the details and the details devour the last 20% or more.

Writing songs for a show meant I had to finish them for the show. So I finished them. Signing up for “national solo album writing month” meant I had to write and record an album. I had no shortage of excuses tugging at my time and attention, so I couldn’t afford to iron out the details, getting them “forever right”. Instead, I got them “right, for right now.” I recorded it on video so I couldn’t (even if I wanted to) go back and tweak it.

Uuuuuffffaaaa… putting my bare self out was exhausting, scary and fun. I turned what could have easily become a chore into play — the driving force behind why I enjoy it so.


I got these great year-end questions from Jan Keck, creator of my favorite “game” of the year as discovered by my uncle Paulo and played at a dinner party.

Song, book, movie title for 2019:

The Quetzal and the Cat: a transformational, healing journey to rediscover the meaning of home

Three words for my year:

  • Loss / Grieving
  • Wandering / Healing
  • Strength / Play

Biggest win & what did that matter to me?

Week of acro training in San Pancho, San Francisco, Nayarit MX. So much fear, strength, pushing beyond my comfort zone, and meeting people I’m inspired and awed by. While I felt like the weakest link, I felt stronger than I’ve ever been and inspired to continue training … to be my strongest at 50 and onward.

Biggest challenge and what did I learn?

Dissolving a 7 year relationship and losing my best friend. Beyond the heartache and personal learnings I’ll leave between us, I flat out failed at addressing the breakup with those mutual friends and colleagues I considered to be HER friend first.

I wish I would have reached out right away with the admission that I’d miss them or be awkward, because it’d simply be too hard for me to separate them from her … they’d be a constant reminder and I don’t know how long I’d stay obsessed with wanting to ask them about HER. They’d be my spy holes through her door that I wouldn’t be able to resist peeking through.

Even writing this now fills me with guilt and embarrassment. How could I not be strong enough to be direct with people I respected? Which bleeds into my guilt for how I handled, rather didn’t handle, being direct with my best friend and thus losing her forever. There’s a million lessons in the weeds, but the overarching one is that the risk of being direct will never outweigh the cost of avoidance.

Proudest moment & what skills made it happen?

With so much loss this year, for me personally and several friends, this is really a blend of moments and a new style of being present: holding & protecting space for those grieving; to honor our needs to be sad, angry, heard, relieved, comforted, devastated, connected, etc.

I couldn’t handle much emotion in my past, yet was a sponge for the emotions around me, so I couldn’t really be present for people in the way I wanted to be until I worked through my own limitations rooted in trauma.

What did support look like for me?

Lots of friends. Heart to hearts when I needed them & even when I didn’t think I did.

Dinner parties, especially the one on the night before I flew out to stay in a hospital with one of my brothers for an unknown amount of time.

Where did I feel most in flow?

Writing & making music

What is something I need to let go of?

Guilt, shame, perfection & emotional protection

2019 Lists

Songs Written

* drafted during “5 songs in 5 days” challenges
^ started during national album writing month

Special occasion songs / gifts:


6 new countries, 3 new Mexican states

  • Feb: Erin’s 40th in NOLA, home via Mexico City
  • Mar: Denmark to visit Liza, with a train trip to Paris, Barcelona + overnight layover in Amsterdam to visit Carl
  • April: Jenni’s 40th in Lincoln, NE
  • Seattle to see Arlo Guthrie and visit Tom
  • May: Omaha, NE for a funeral + Atlanta during full day layover *
  • June: weekend in Astoria with Elisabeth
  • June/July: My 40th in La Paz, MX (vacation) with John, Penelope, Melissa, Chris, Kris, Alex, Heather, Michelle, Joel (epic boat day) + road trip with Isaak
  • Acro Camp Out
  • Squamish, Victoria BC + Seattle road trip (vacation) – annual family trip with Dad and Jake to visit Nick, Matt, Tom and Susan
  • Sept: Santa Cruz – coaching weekend
  • Brussels – client’s convention followed by 2 solo days to Bruges *
  • Traverse City, MI for grandma’s funeral + visit Swans, O’Briens + saw great-aunt Marge *
  • Oct: Kansas City + visit Josh in hospital with Jake *
  • Seaside, OR with Elisabeth + Melissa @ the Starry Night Inn
  • Nov: Santa Theresa, Costa Rica with Alissa – week of aerial, yoga, 4 wheeling
  • San Pancho, Narayit MX – acro intensive
  • Dec: San Cristóbal, Chiapas + Oaxaca + San Agustinillo, Mazunte MX with Bobby – printmaking, music, photography

* last minute

Best Reads

  • Fleabag. This really deserves its own post. After watching the series on Amazon, I read the play.
  • Born a Crime. Narrated by Trevor Noah.
  • Daisy Jones & the 6 *
  • An American Marriage *
  • New Confessions of an Economic Hitman
  • Station Eleven *
  • Bossypants. Narrated by Tina Fey.
  • Talking to Strangers. Narrated by Malcom Gladwell.
  • The Stoic Drummer
  • The Sympathizer
  • Writing Better Lyrics

Go-To Podcasts

  • Skimm This
  • Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
  • The Argument
  • You’re Wrong About
  • This American Life
  • How I Built This

Series & Movies

  • Fleabag
  • Killing Eve
  • Euphoria
  • Big Little Lies
  • Umbrella Academy
  • His Dark Materials
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
  • Booksmart
  • So many airplane movies and yes, I still cry to airplane movies: The Kitchen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Late Night, Yesterday, Destroyer, I am Mother, Stockholm, Wild Rose, Finding Steve McQueen, John Wicks, Red Sparrow, The Hustle, Isn’t it Romantic, Long Shot

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