A New Olympic Sport

This may or may not be inspired by an actual conversation. I’m not admitting to anything, except that my husband is a drainage engineer.


The man dribbled the basketball dejectedly as his wife pulled her car up next to the court. “How did the game go?”

He shot the ball and missed. It went bouncing away down the court. “About like that.”

His wife laughed. “It couldn’t have been that bad. How many points did you score?”

“Zero.” He slowly chased down the ball and walked to the car, where his wife was smirking at him. “It’s not my fault. I don’t have the right genetics. If I had been taller I could have gone pro. I could have been a champion,” he whined.

Her smirk didn’t fade. “Yes, we could have decorated our house with trophies and gold medals. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that you sit at a desk all day. It must be your DNA’s fault.” The man slumped into the passenger seat. “Maybe you should aim for a more reachable dream,” his wife added.

“What, in engineering? They don’t give out gold medals for engineering.”

The wife laughed. “Maybe they should,” she teased.

“I could win gold in water drainage design—with my eyes closed,” the man shot back.

“Let’s call the Olympic committee. You could be a national hero.”

The man smiled and his wife pulled the car away from the empty basketball court. He may not have won the game, but at least he knew the the court would never puddle. His excellent drainage plan had taken care of that.

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Bear Spray, Princesses, and the Wandering Mind

I recently took an amazing vacation to Alaska. We hiked (to glaciers, lakes, waterfalls), fished at the break of dawn (which is REALLY early in Alaska in the summer), flew to the wilderness, and generally spent our time doing, moving, and going, not resting and relaxing. But despite this, my mind felt like it was being completely renewed after a long brain marathon that started before I can remember.

I realized this near the end of our trip as we hiked back from a lake where my husband had skipped rocks surrounded by snow topped mountains, green forests, sparkling water, and no people. (I posted a picture just so you could see what I mean.) DSC00820I had just passed another indigo wildflower, which led my mind to ponder on the abundance of blue wildflowers in Alaska. They seemed to be more common than at home. And you know what, my brain said, utility vehicles have blue lights here, unlike at home. I wonder why. Is there a reason that there are more blue flowers and blue lights? Are there really more blue flowers, or is it the season, or my bias? My brain just kept going. By the time we reached the end of the hike, I had come up with a citizen science wildflower database idea that could span the continent and provide me with the means to answer all my wildflower questions. Also, I like databases, which is weird, but I’m weird, so there you go. Continue reading

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Pretty Girls in Dirty Jeans

To all my loyal readers (a.k.a. Beth and Dad), I will be taking a break from blogging for a couple weeks. Lots of summer fun coming up. Don’t worry I’ll be back soon.

I wrote this story about something that really happened to me during field camp in college, but from someone else’s perspective.  I used all facts available to me including what the rancher’s son later said to his father who repeated it to the professor. It was really fun to write from this perspective. Can you guess who I am in the story?


In the far northeast of the state of Utah there is a rural town that sits on the border between two places that have the same name. To the south, the Uinta Basin stretches down and away, a desert good for oil drilling, ATVing, and slowly dying of thirst. It is not the picturesque type of desert one sees in the movies, but rather the kind you sleep through on a road trip, secure in the fact that you will not miss anything significant as the miles roll by. To the north, the Uinta Mountains rise, billions of years in the making. They start imperceptibly in the desert, dusty, with hardly the fertility to support the gnarled sage brush and juniper trees whose lot it is to grow where no other flora would. As the elevation rises on the bones of ancient seashores, the sage mixes with lusher vegetation. Meadows of wild flowers, moist with dew, carpet the soil.  Sparkling streams and peaceful lakes are more beautiful for the lack of water just down the slope in the basin below. Up higher, proper trees grow straight and tall unlike the hunchbacked junipers; pines and aspen who have scares in their trunks that almost tell a story if you only knew the language. Finally, the trees give way, and at the very top where, again, almost nothing can grow, are the lichen cover rocks. Everywhere there are the rocks. Continue reading

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Previous Chapters

The man in the black suit sat in the airport coffee shop staring at his laptop computer and manically tapping his foot. His agents had called in for pick-up a day early, which made him more nervous than he’d already been. He’d handled the man—called Ethan this time—on more than one occasion and he knew that the only reason this agent would call in early was because things were going really well, or really poorly.

He also knew that Ethan hated working with a partner. He always made it very clear that he considered partners a burden—babysitting was a common term he used. Ethan had been their best option, but he had so little experience in impersonation, that the-powers-that-be had insisted on a partner. The man had tried to argue this point, but no one had listened to him. The-powers-that-be had also chosen the girl—Kathleen—without knowing a thing about her except she was young and good at impersonations.

It’s true that she had impressed him with her persona change in the back of the car, but her snarky personality had been keeping the man up every night since she’d stepped onto the airport curb. He couldn’t think of a personality more poorly match to Ethan’s dead seriousness. It was a disaster. The agency would be shamed. Millions of dollars would go to someone else. Lives may be lost. Continue reading

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Ethan-Day 4: It Wouldn’t Be a Mission

This is the second to last chapter, just so you know to expect one more, next week.

Previous Chapters

Ethan hurried back to the dining room, wanting to get away before Smith pulled himself together. He was met quickly by the Durrants, who rushed to him as soon as he entered the room. Karon Durrant gave him half a hug as she said, “Major James, you’re back. Is everything okay? How is Kathleen? Where is she?”

It was perfect. Ethan didn’t even have to try. Karon’s purse hung directly under his wrist. With just a slight twist of his hand, the flash drive was loose. It slipped into the woman’s purse, without anyone suspecting a thing. Now, Ethan just had to wait and see what she did with it. He had a theory. “Everything is okay, I think,” Ethan said, answering Karon’s question, as she released him from the hug. “Kath just wanted to go clean up a bit.”

“Glad to see she didn’t murder you,” Colonel Durrant said. The Blacks and Burgstein had swarmed around their group as well, so that when Chance Smith walked stiffly into the room, massaging his shoulder with his hand, he had to brush right by the group. It was only Ethan’s super human self-control that kept him from decking the guy. Continue reading

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Ethan-Day 4: Press OK to Proceed

Previous Chapters

“You’re pretty good at this,” James said, as if she was pleasantly surprised by the insight. “I didn’t know if you’d pick up on the shocked and confused husband act, but you played it perfectly.”

Ethan decided the best response to this would be silence. That whole “open your mouth and prove yourself a fool” mantra. It occurred to Ethan that she—like him—had assumed her partner would be incompetent; and she—like him—was realizing that wasn’t the case. James was leading them down a narrow, dusty staircase in the passageways. She hadn’t been idle this morning. When the Blacks’ room (former and present) were dead-ends, she’d slunk around until she stumbled upon an opening to the secret passageways in a supply closet at the end of a hall on the first floor.

“Did you plan on the baby thing from the beginning?” he asked as they reached the basement. She pulled out her phone where she had uploaded the map overlay and blueprints.

“It was a possibility,” she said dismissively. “I didn’t decide for certain until last night.”

“And you told Karon Durrant?”

James looked back at him as if he was crazy and then turned back to the phone and started down the hall to the right. It was so narrow, they had to walk single file. “The Durrants were watching us. I needed remove the suspicion. Karon followed me to the drug store last night after dinner,” she said as if he had known she took a trip to the drug store. They came to an intersection and after consulting the map, turned left. “Something is up with the Durrants.” Continue reading

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Ethan-Day 4: Call Me Buddha

Previous Chapters

Ethan didn’t often doubt himself. His instincts were almost never wrong. But with the breakfast speaker concluding his talk and no sign of Black, he was worried he may have played this one the wrong way. Maybe James had been right, they should have tried to get to the Blacks’ room last night. Or, instead of going back to their hotel room to get a couple hours sleep after the evacuation was lifted, they should have tailed the Blacks, as James had also suggested. Ethan had been sure that nothing else would happen in the night, but with Black a no-show, he was beginning to doubt.

Another obvious no-show this morning was Chance Smith. Ethan had to consider the possibility that Smith had disposed of the Blacks after finding the drive. As the speaker wrapped up, Ethan pulled out his phone, ready to text his partner—also a no-show (feigning exhaustion, but really investigating the Blacks’ old and new rooms)—when Black and his wife made their appearance.

They were immediately swarmed. Continue reading

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