Category: etc.


If you read my bio or visit my house, you probably know that the unused rooms in my house were converted to a homeshare style AirBnb as a way to benefit the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust and to maintain and maximize my house as a resource. I would like to have the air flow and wiring and plumbing in those rooms get used.

The true way to maximize the entire property would be to have a family move in and me, one individual, move out. Seeing that I am not ready to vacate the house, I can take steps toward gauging my feelings about it through HomeExchange. HomeExchange is a way to conduct house swapping. Maybe you saw a movie called The Holiday, where Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet traded houses in the United States and the United Kingdom for an extended period of time. Their characters may have used HomeExchange (which I will call HE from here on out).

When I couldn’t find hotel rooms during my cousin’s wedding weekend, I found what I needed – better than what I needed – with HE. I say better because I got an entire property – house, garage, and yard, and we didn’t have a reciprocal exchange where the host home owners stay at my place while I stay at theirs, and used no cash. Instead, I stayed at the HE house using GuestPoints, which are convenient and flexible. GuestPoints are HE currency that is earned and used with every stay, and make exchanges between houses of different sizes and locations more equitable. Ultimately, I spent no money to stay in a charming house in a lovely neighborhood for the wedding.

While on my HE, I did some geocaching in a very walkable neighborhood, drove to a nearby recreational lake and rose garden for some fun, and generally puttered around as my empty nest self. It was quite lovely and freeing. HE has been around for 30 years, which increases my trust in its participants. I am in a couple HE communities online, and everyone seems genuinely interested in learning about a culture through living in it.

This positive exchange is what led me to give my house to a family of five for eight days earlier this year. I had to live in a different place for 8 days as this was not a reciprocal exchange (i would have done a reciprocal exchange if i held a remote job). I found this exchange to be a good test for myself as an empty nester – did I feel good about having a family using the property if it wasn’t my own family? I did. Am I ready to give up my house? Not yet, but I am definitely going to continue using HomeExchange. Family, personal, and business trips seem more fun when I’m paying one annual HE fee for unlimited exchanges and not putting money toward a hotel. What do you think about house swapping? Check it out at and if you sign up, use referral code julia-cce2f

let’s be nice

I’m going to get vulnerable here. I’ve stated this before in short facebook format, but I want to take the longer blog form to say ….

I am tired of the mindset that “skinny people have no problems and if they do, it’s a mistake. because skinny people have no problems.” (also, “skinny” is extremely relative. and while i recognize that people consider me so compared to what they know, I have not identified as skinny for years)

Things from my real life that I would love to not hear again:

  • I know that shopping for clothes isn’t a problem for you because you’re skinny. (guess we’ve never shopped together, but it would be nice to get invited to join you.)
  • That fits you + <dismissive gesture> (just because an article of clothing can go over my head does not mean that it fits)
  • High cholesterol? But you’re skinny! (most recent offense)
  • You’re two size bigger than you were five years ago? No way! (buying new clothes for kicks and giggles never happens because of the first item above.)
  • You don’t really need to be in this wellness program, do you? (instead of being judgy, being curious would be a better approach, thank you)

Compassionate things that my mother, siblings, children, and friends have said:

  • Well, it’s your body and your clothes, and you’re living it. I think you look fine, but I believe you.
  • She said what? I’ll talk to her.
  • Why didn’t (Grandma, rude co-worker, random person on the street) think you could have an issue? It’s pretty common to be honest.

Where is human dignity and respect? What is the source of the assumptions behind these rude statements?

If you’re married, then you might have marriage problems. If you’re a runner, then you might have runner problems. If you have an occupation, then you might have occupational problems. If you have feet, then you might have foot problems. If you have body, then you might have body problems.

If we’re all human, it’s conceivable that we all have variations of the same problems.

What part of your life needs more compassionate comments from people? Tell me in the comments.

Telling the Bees

julia telling the bees

My paternal grandmother married into a culturally Dutch family with a Scottish name (Campbell). There seems to be a Celtic (the shared language of Scots) tradition called “Telling the Bees,” in which every hive is informed of a keeper’s major life event (deaths and marriages). I have found paintings and poems, and I must say that telling my children was easier than telling the bees and definitely easier than writing my own poem!

Telling the Bees

To keep tradition, to tell the bees,

With reluctance, I suit up and walk down the hill

Because withholding the truth could be disastrously unhealthy according to tradition.

Toward the hives, standing like tombstones,

I approach with smoke and intention.

With tears and a soft rap, I lean down and whisper, “Grandma is gone.”

Hive by hive, the honey bees hear me, laboring in the darkness of their boxes.

Young foragers approach the entrance, orient, and leave toward heaven.

They see floral arrangements from the heights, meet as a group to gather sustenance for their sisters,

And return older and learned.

Life at a distance

So practices for dealing with corona virus have arrived in the 515.

Negative outcomes from covid-19:

  • No gatherings of 10 or more people. Church services are cancelled.
  • Staying 6′ apart from others. I’ve cancelled my traditional Sunday dinners.
  • Indefinitely postponed events

Ways that I am dealing with negative outcomes:

  • Watching church by livestream. I cannot stand the pre-recorded videos (ugh!) and it’s the closest I can get to receiving the Eucharist. I’d love to have a live Sat. service, but haven’t found one. The habit of morning readings has been ongoing since a few Lenten seasons ago, but Sunday!
  • On-demand workouts. My new gym sent a lovely collection of ways to exercise at home. No longer restricted to someone else’s schedule!
  • Using the telephone. I grew up in the country. I didn’t have a friend or group of friends who could walk a few blocks to visit for a couple hours. I’m used to the telephone.
  • Extending the season. That’s what I’m calling dance workshops, race training, etc. I will take longer to prepare for my postponed large group events — dance performances and at least one 5k race in which my family and I were hoping to participate.
  • Distractions! I have never been one to sit and watch television, but I will watch modern dance videos at times. If you have a spare 20 minutes, here is lovely video by Bill T. Jones (what a name he was in the 1990’s!) that my choreographer (his former rehearsal director #spoleto) sent. Its title is spot-on for today “Shared Distance”: I really love athletic, physical partnering works like this one, both being in them and watching them.

Crazy Rich Asians :: Music, sightseeing, and dolls

audience for crazy rich asians
Waiting for showtime in the theater!

“I” of GAIN, my youngest child, and I went to see the movie Crazy Rich Asians over the weekend. She had read the book when it was first released, and as a half-Asian teenager, she wanted to support representation of Asians in Hollywood. I just wanted to see a good movie that was worth the admission.

The story was fantastic, and I loved that it caused a meaningful discussion between us that was unrelated to the storyline. We spent time talking about Asian representation outside of Hollywood.

I’ve struggled with describing representation for myself, but I think I’ve thought out the subject enough to put words to it. I think my struggle comes from living in a 99% colorblind world. My parents adopted me while they were living in Taiwan; I was a cute three week old infant. I always knew that I was adopted. I always knew that I wasn’t white. It wasn’t a big deal, still isn’t a big deal in my life. So, today, to explain the 1% and the 99% means reversing my regular thought patterns.

Let me start with an example that I hope you can relate to. I am a dancer. I form a bond with the pieces of music that I perform to. I know them intimately. The timing of an arrangement, the instruments and their cues, etc. are necessary for me to do my job well. Once my performance is over, I lose connection with that music, but if I hear it somewhere outside of the context of dance, I get a little nostalgic/excited/positive. Other pieces of music won’t make me upset, and music is not inherently bad, but certain pieces get me energized, especially ones that I’ve studied through dance.

Another example comes from sightseeing. When I see mention of a sight that I’ve seen in the media, I get a spark/memorable flashback — and feel more excited than I was before the sight was mentioned. It’s not that the rest of the news/movie/book/article/story was bad for me, but that familiarity sparked something warm and nostalgic inside my soul.

Applying these examples to the movie Crazy Rich Asians, I can remember a time when my family lived in Ankeny. I would have been younger than 8 years old, which is when we moved to unincorporated Des Moines. I didn’t like blond haired people for a period of time. Not because they were bad, but because they didn’t have dark hair like me. I had (and still have) dark hair. All my Barbie dolls had blond hair. All the Halloween costumes that I liked unfortunately had blond masks. My babysitter had blond hair. I resented blond people because they had dolls and costumes and I didn’t. I couldn’t really verbalize it, but I distinctly remember hating blond people because they were represented in the toy aisle. That energy, that spark of familiarity from certain musical selections and sightseeing, was missing.

[Salty side note: Tuesday Taylor was the only doll I had with dark hair. I have no idea if there were other brunette dolls, but now that I’ve had time to consider her in the large scheme of all toys, I’m pretty annoyed that her dark hair was optional. You see, her hair flipped from blond to brunette, so she wasn’t committed to being brunette. Midge was committed to being redheaded; her hair couldn’t change color. Barbie was blond and her hair couldn’t change, either. Did the toy makers think no one would like a brunette doll and want to keep her blond?]

My hope is that Crazy Rich Asians has a trickle-down effect for all the kids who were like me, searching for something that the toy aisle didn’t have. And I want to emphasize that I’m talking about 1% of my life. I’ve been extremely fortunate and blessed. Because I had nothing but encouragement from my family to achieve anything I focused on, I don’t feel that non-representation oppressed me, left me feeling ignored, etc. Representation didn’t influence my goals in life, but if they help some other child (or adult) who isn’t getting encouragement, then I welcome representation.