Details. Choices. Priorities.


I’ve been working on my dad’s Celebration of Life service; trying to write an appropriate and worthy epilogue to his life.  As my friend, Faye said to me, “How can you summarize someone’s life?  Seems like an oxymoron to me.”

And she’s right, how can anyone summarize another person’s life?  I think it would be hard enough to summarize my own life, and I’ve been present for the whole thing.  I was only in my dad’s life for 50 of his 75 years, and I left home when I was 17.

And further, my experience as his child is different from my brother’s or my sister’s.  But still, I was very close to my dad.  We talked often, and I look forward to standing in front of a room filled with his friends, relatives, and students and talking about my dad.

My brother was his best man at dad’s wedding, my sister was the Executor of his estate, and this will be my part.

So I’m trying to remember the details. What made dad, Dad.  What made him the kind of professor that former students still reach out to me to express their sadness for the loss of this man from the planet?

Days pass by so quickly now.  The older I get, the faster they seem.  My daughter, Hadley, a mere 22 years old, even remarked on how fast time is passing now she has a full time professional position in a tech company in Los Angeles.  Her comment to me was “I look at the clock and it’s 10 (am), and the next time I look at the clock it’s 7 (pm).”  (She really likes her new job 🙂

The details of our days are significant, even the Everyday days.  We seem to place more importance on the Big Day days…holidays, birthdays, wedding, graduation.  But in comparison, we have so many more of the Everyday days and those are the days, the moments, the details that I’m remembering now.


One thing my father taught me is that our lives are made up of all the choices we make.  He was never very big on giving out advice, even when I asked him.  “Jannie”, he’d say, “You can figure it out.”  He trusted that he and my mother had raised us to know right from wrong and after that, we were smart enough to make our own choices, and live with the consequences of those choices.


And in the end, we remember the priorities.  Who and what were the priorities in his life, in anyone’s life?  Now that he’s gone, that his days are done, it’s easier to look back and discover what choices he made and what his priorities were.  But were they actually his choices and priorities, did he pay attention to the details of his life and consciously choose?  I hope so.  But then I look at my life and I know, much of what I do feels more like a “should do” than a choice.

Choices. Details. Priorities.

 Seems easy enough when spelled out in three words, but so much harder when trying to incorporate them into a real life Saturday.  Do I choose to work on my taxes, or spend the day breathing the fresh air, feeling the sun on my face as I ski through the fresh powder on the mountain with my husband?  Do I clean my house, write my Christmas Cards, or sit on the couch watching a movie with my 15 year old who asked to spend time with me?  Do I take the dog for a walk on the river road to get some exercise for both of us, or do I put together a care package for my daughter who lives far away from me now?

All the choices that make up the priorities, that create the details of our lives.  The days are going by fast, but I’m trying to be more mindful of the choices I make in regards to how I spend my time; the currency of my life.  Because when it’s done, I want my children to know what and who my priorities were.  As I know, I was to my father.

Yesterday I made the choice to make a big batch of Quinoa Salad.  I’ve included the recipe for Hadley.  Make it up on the weekend, then pack in small containers and take it to the office for lunch.  It’s a good source of Fiber and Protein, and you can eat it warm or cold.  Enjoy!


Quinoa Salad with Zuchinni and Almonds


  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 yellow or red pepper, ribs and seeds discarded, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp red-pepper flakes (MAKES IT SPICEY)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Dash salt (optional)
  • 2 medium zucchini (green and yellow), halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • SUBSTITUTIONS: Spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts (any other veggies can be thrown in if you don’t have zucchini or celery)


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear; drain well.  When oven is hot,  toast almonds until crisp, lightly browned, and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, In a large skillet with a lid, heat 1 1/2 TBS olive oil over medium heat. Add yellow pepper, garlic, scallions, and red-pepper flakes; cook until the pepper is crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Stir in quinoa, thyme, 2 cups water, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 5-7 minutes. Stir in zucchini, cover, and cook until quinoa is tender but not mushy, 3-5 minutes longer. Remove the saucepan from heat.
  4. Stir in celery, almonds, and remaining olive oil, season with salt (optional), and fluff with a fork.  Eat right away, or cool and then pack in lunch-size containers.
  5. Your dad likes to squeeze lime over his.  You can also throw in some fresh thyme (easier to do in the summer, in Montana) This is good warm or cold.  Feed it to Mike, he’ll like it too.

 See you all next Sunday.  And thank you for letting me know you read this, it means more to me than you could ever know.  Jana (Mom)






Sunday Brunch

If you’re following me you know I’ve missed a few Sunday posts.  I spend my week days in front of a computer and lately I’m spending my weekends at my laptop at home.  I’m desperately trying to finish the 2013 Calendars I used to make for Christmas, and the Christmas/Valentine’s Day photo cards.

My mother says I have too much on my plate, I’m trying to do too much.  OK.  But what exactly do I give up?  Sure I could stop making the calendars, but the truth is I enjoy creating them.  I use photos I’ve taken during the year, and each person’s calendar has the birthday’s that are important to them.

I just gave my sister her calendar, it was the first.  Turns out Good Friday landed on Monday and Easter is on a Wednesday.  Oops.  Anyway, the point was, I know I’m trying to do too much, but I don’t know what to stop doing.  Of course I’d love to just stop working.  Stay home, finish the calendars, the cards, clean the house, make healthy meals for my family, exercise 2 hours a day, finish my novel…but that’s not possible at this stage of my life.

So I’ve given up house cleaning (no great tragedy there), bookkeeping (I hired my sister to do it) skiing (not happy about that one – at all!), and writing (not forever, just for now).

This morning we woke up and took the dog for a walk on the river road.  The snow was falling and we were the only ones out there (until the very end).  It was lovely.  Stephen and I are doing a class at the Montana Athletic Club at 5:30am. Stephen is participating in a Spartan Race in May so this is a Spartan Training Class.

I pretty much hurt all over.  My abs (yes it’s true I still have some), my thighs, my upper chest muscles all hurt from the planks, push-ups, pull-ups, squats, etc. etc. we do in class and at home (Gigi gives us HOMEWORK!).  But it felt good to just walk for four miles.  On the way back we started talking about breakfast and what we would order if we were at Echo Lake Cafe, one of our favorite Sunday Brunch places.

When we got home I went straight to the kitchen and started working on our orders.  I put the water to boil and cut-up red potatoes, they boil for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile I started chopping the brussel sprouts, onions, mushrooms, and yellow pepper.  Stephen cut-up an avocado, tomato, and spinach leaves.

I threw the potatoes, and my mixture into the saute pan with olive oil, garlic, pepper and a dash of salt.  Stephen threw the English muffins into the toaster and poached a few eggs.

It was a great Brunch and we were satisfied for the rest of the day.  Not how we usually eat, but it worked for a Sunday.

I talked to my sister, I asked her to stop by to get her calendar.  As usual the conversation covered the rest of the family.  It seems it was a hard week for all of us.  For me, I had a day when something triggered my heart and I said “Oh my God, my dad’s dead!”  You’d think that after 3 months I would already know this.

I said to Stephen, “I want to say, this isn’t fair!  but my father’s voice rings in my head.  No one ever said that life was Fair.”

I always hated it when he said that.

But it isn’t and I’m well aware of that fact.  It still doesn’t mean I have to like it.  I think it helps me that my father lived in Oregon and I live in Montana.  I only got to see him 2-3 times a year.  He wasn’t a part of my daily routine.

My body, my mind, the cells that make-up Jana, they haven’t had to accept that my daddy is gone.  I just keep pretending he’s in Oregon.  Until I need to ask him a question, and then I’m reminded that he is gone, not just out of state, but gone from the planet.  



But today when I talked to my sister, she said my brother was thinking about talking to a therapist, because he just can’t accept that dad’s gone and I knew exactly what he meant.  But the truth is (for me anyway), this is okay.  We’ll deal with it someday.  But I don’t want to KNOW it, I’m not ready to accept it, it’s so much better to ease into the knowledge that he is, in fact, gone.  We have years to deal with it, there’s no time limit on grief.

I’ve dealt with death before and this is how I handled that one too.  The tears come at random-odd moments, not entirely expected, but for some reason ALWAYS welcome.  It feels really good to cry and mourn his passing.

But in the meantime, I’m busy with work, calendars, letters, class, meals, bills, books, family, email, etc. LIFE.  And tonight I’m going to take a few hours off and watch a movie with Sadie and Stephen. We’re going to watch Skyfall.  We love James Bond.  But it was the movie I was watching in the theatre when I got the phone call from Janet that my dad had two days to live.


For those of you who have read this far – I realize this post is completely rambling…I usually write it in Microsoft Word and then post it here.  This one was written live without editing or structure.  I’ll get back to the recipes eventually, but for now it feels good to write.

See you next Sunday!  Jana