In the morning, I step out my front door

To see the diamonds shining on the lawn

With a cup of joe in my hands

Warming my fingers

I listen to the birds sing their song

Greeting the day in all its glory

Before Grey

I’ve been thinking about Darcie a lot the last couple days. This year will mark 10 years since she passed. I think about her when I sing on stage, which I did on New Year’s Eve. She lived loud. She loved loud. She was full of joy, laughter, and encouragement. She lived with her whole heart. We weren’t too great about keeping in touch the last few years of her life. But losing her felt like losing a sister and I feel her presence a lot more since she’s gone.
Her energy is still here, her memory lives on and encourages me. She inspires me to live more fully, more out loud.
We spent a lot of time together on the court, and also in the van, driving to games. My volleyball teammates often doubled as subjects for my photo projects.
These grainy black and white images which are now sweet memories. These moments captured while waiting…maybe at a gas station or outside a restaurant on the way to or from a game or tournament. How many times did the 11 of us pile into or out of a 12-passenger van? How many hours on the road did we spend singing, talking, laughing? How many hours did we spend in silence, contemplating the game we just played, our wins and losses, our triumphs and failures, every play? I miss being on that team, with those girls. What a gift that time, those bonds and experiences were.

I miss the dark room; the way time passed in 10-minute chunks between the dim, red light of the dark room and back into the white light. I miss the smell of developer, bringing an image into focus on the enlarger. Exposure. Watching it slowly appear on the photo paper in the tub of developer. The dark room was magic.

Black & white

Until I opened the photo lab door to find the sunrise.

Film strips hanging on a line, photo paper hanging out to dry. Images of friends, teammates, roommates, my fellow art majors, all that youth and beauty and fun.

This year will also mark 10 years since the end of my marriage. A relationship I was in for 20 years, which is now less than half of my life. It’s now much less of what defines me as a person. He shows up in those photos too. Young and beautiful and strong. Before all the poison and pain, or at least the effects of this hadn’t shown up yet. We were young and naive and so carefree.
Photography was so different then. It was more expensive. A roll of film. One shot at a time. You didn’t know what you had for days after, until you finished the roll and developed the whole thing. Time was cheap, we had so much time back then. These things have now flipped.
Contact Sheet…a high-level view of your projects over the course of 24 frames.

Each photo taken was recorded in a journal so you could track the settings, reflect, and improve for next time. Meta data was captured by hand; pen to paper in a composition notebook back then. Image 4 of 24 ISO 400, F11, 1/60. Every failure and success contemplated. Was the sky exposed correctly, or was it blown out? There was no auto-correct, no dimming the highlights while brightening the shadows. Just black and white and grey. Maybe a little dodging and burning. There is always a workaround I guess.Photography notes
I didn’t know much about grey back then. I didn’t realize nearly all of life is there in the grey. Is there even such a thing as black and white? I painted shades of gray once as part of a painting project. We couldn’t use black paint either. Black was made with a mix of ultramarine and brown…burnt sienna maybe…I can’t remember. The assignment was to create a continuum of grey from white to black in 10 steps. I wish I had learned the deeper lesson then. Does black or white even exist? It’s mostly grey.Art majors
Just looking through one contact sheet, I see my boyfriend about to surf Newport Beach, flexing shirtless for some photo project, a photo taken from the back seat of the van of my teammates on the way to some game. There’s Sunny’s overalls reflected in the window with L.A. traffic on the other side, the Kent Twitchel mural with a Biola runner on the 10. Rameson, Roberts, Darcie, Yvette, Sunny and Deb, Lyons and Melanie Michelle Denise Smith Johnson (depending on which parent showed up to the game that night). Jed. Nate. Angela. Brian. Emily. Sheryl. Robbie Halleen. College was fun.

Death. Loss. Change. These all help us let go of something and make room for something new, and usually in the end, it helps us grow and brings us to a place where we become more us. It is meant to be.


In the not-so-distant past, I had this idea in my head that changing my beliefs about something was negative and wishy washy. I remember thinking about this at the time. I’d read a book and gain some new perspective on something, and it would open my mind to new ideas and there would be a mental shift. This happened often. I remember judging myself for this, as though it would be better to have more solid convictions about everything and not keep changing.A path in the woods

Now, I see this shifting as growth. Of course it is. And of course that is as it should be. I should always be learning, and with each new insight, I shift into something hopefully more aware. It’s astounding to me that the belief system I grew up in caused me to think of this as a negative and that certainty in a set of rigid ideals was the right way to go. This causes a person to stay stuck, unthoughtful, immature, and ultimately unloving, as it’s impossible to consider other people’s lived experiences and perspectives without that soft front. 

We’re continually building a picture of reality. As we perceive through our senses, we’re updating our picture of the world. As Maya Angelo said, when we know better, we do better. I hope to always be growing to know better and in turn do better.


Photography, Perfection, Apertures, and Hospitality

“f8 and be there.” Renowned photojournalist Arthur Fellig said this when asked about how he captured such great photos. It’s a basic photo setting. You won’t get the dramatic depth of field like you would with a larger aperture, like portrait mode on your iphone. And you won’t get super crisp landscapes like Ansel Adams did with f64. But f8 is good enough to get your subject clear while letting in enough light to avoid motion blur in a majority of photos. The point is, to “be there”.

In a world of automatic camera settings, this point is still profound in other areas of life and how it relates to perfection. Perfection is the enemy of productivity. I think often about the 80/20 rule where 20% of my effort will result in 80% of my impact. The other day, I was sharing this with a couple friends who were at my house, applying this idea to cleaning. Rarely is my house spotless. I have three teenage sons. My goal is 80% clean. The “be there” part of this is in the hospitality. I love having people over and I don’t mind them seeing a little mess, as long as it’s 80% clean.

The past couple years have been socially strange, as the term “social distancing” entered our lexicon. We had social bubbles, and we sheltered in place. We spent weeks in lockdown and felt guilty meeting the eyes of neighbors we passed on the street for fear that eye contact alone might spread the virus in those early days.

It might feel a little strange to invite friends into your home. But if we’ve learned anything through this strange social experiment, I hope we have realized how precious our friendships are. Precious enough to practice hospitality, even if your home is only 80% clean.


Time Travel

Alamo Creek
Time travel at Alamo Creek. 

I found this magical spot near my house shortly after moving to this side of town last year. I often walk or jog here and stop for a few minutes, scrambling down the rocks to the river’s edge, to watch the water trickle and the birds frolic. It’s my place to pause, breathe, and enjoy nature. I often imagine I’m taken back to a different time and consider how this place looked and who walked through these trees before I came. 

Yesterday, as I jogged past, I saw someone painting this same scene. She later shared her painting with me. It was such a perfect moment, I stopped to ask if she wanted her picture taken while she painted. 

On a recent morning run, after chasing the pink and orange sunrise, brilliant ahead of me, I turned back toward home as orange light washed me from behind and lit the trail like a dream. I stopped on a bridge over this creek. Tiny drops drizzled on me and the water below as I looked out at the massive expanse of sky above. I watched the raindrops create ripples in the water as they took on a new form. Droplet to stream. My eyes followed the stream until my mind’s eye continued its path to the ocean. These tiny drops continued to become something different…a stream to an ocean. Eventually they evaporate back into the atmosphere and fall somewhere new as snow. 

I looked up into the rain clouds, still edged pink with the sunrise and I spoke to the divine creator who I understand now to be so much more than the  male deity that I imagined before. Hearing God only referred to with male pronouns, to me, minimizes half of the attributes of the divine. I told her, for this full moon, I release those limiting beliefs. I watched as my old identity fell to the water below and drifted down the stream, to become something new and continue to change.  

I released seeing myself as fundamentally bad, needing something outside of myself to help me be good and loving. I have been given this beautiful gift of living the human experience, the divine within me, and the point is to love. I recently heard someone say “religion is training wheels to spirituality”, and that felt like a good description of this evolution, taking off those training wheels. 

Einstein once said, “I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.” The answer has profound implications. If we believe the world is intrinsically unfriendly, and we are intrinsically evil people with wicked and deceitful hearts as I was told so many times growing up, then we’ll use our resources and technology to create bigger walls and weapons. 

If we believe that the world is intrinsically a friendly place, we’ll use our resources to deepen our understanding. I believe love is at the source, and I’ll keep looking for the beauty of that every day.

Vietnam 2000

Originally posted October 2015

We spent Thanksgiving in Ho Chi Minh City with Megan who was spending four months teaching English there. Kia and I flew in to Seoul, South Korea and spent the night in a Korean style room with mattresses on the heated floor before boarding a plane to Vietnam where we would spend the next couple weeks. We shopped in Korean markets which had cell phones with color displays, as yet unheard of in the states at the time.

Taxi ride
Taxi ride

Megan met us at the airport with rice hats. We took a cab to her house which would be the only time we rode in an actual car for the rest of the trip. The city runs on scooters and motorcycles.

We had clothes custom made for us, including some silk qipao dresses. There were plenty of pre-made dresses to buy, but none of these fit my 5’10” self. We bought material at a fabric shop while playing patty cake with the local kids.

Custom Qipao
Custom Qipao

Then we went to a seamstress. She took our measurements, looked at some of the pictures we brought from home, them made us awesome outfits.

We toured the Mekong Delta. But before that, we got food poisoning from an upscale Chinese food restaurant serving drunken prawns. I’ve never been so sick in my life. That night president Clinton made the first visit to Vietnam from an American president since the war. The streets were going crazy in celebration and I didn’t have the strength to stand at the window and watch. Still, it was cool to hear and witness that.

My new friend
My new friend

The museums in Vietnam show history from a different side than we Americans are used to. We lost that war. The museums showed atrocities committed by American soldiers and the damage done to that country rather than celebrating any freedom we had hoped to bring. It was a different story in Korea where the war memorial celebrated the various countries that helped South Korea escape communism. The Vietnamese museum was the first place I’ve experienced the sobering feeling of being on the losing side of history. Helicopters from 30 years before still littered the airfield.

Head massage in Saigon
Head massage in Saigon

Kia, Megan and I got head massages. They lasted for one hour and felt amazing. I looked like a Qtip after with my short platinum hair sticking straight up and frizzing all over the place afterward.

Motorcycles, Grand Prix, and Monte Carlo

This was originally posted October, 2015

It was raining in Paris, so we left.

Paris in 2000

We headed south for the coast of France and rented a couple motorcycles.  We explored Cannes, I had one of the best meals of my life in Nice. It was there I discovered Gnocchi, with my dad on his birthday.

South of France with Dad in 2000
South of France with Dad in 2000

We wound our way along the coast, through the small coastal towns of Southern France. Every time we rode around another point to see the next inlet of blue ocean and a steep coastline dotted with bright houses it took my breath away.

I had learned how to ride a motorcycle earlier that year dirt biking in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I borrowed my friend Mike’s time-worn Honda to practice before leaving.

Dad and me our our Mediterranean motorcycle tour
Dad and me our our Mediterranean motorcycle tour

Italian’s drive a little more aggressively than drivers in the US. Similarly, my dad drives more aggressively than your average driver anywhere in the world except maybe Jeff Gordon. I did my best to keep up, but somewhere near San Remo we were passing a car on this winding coastal road as two motorcycles came at us in the oncoming lane. I was still on the center line and those two remained side-by-side. I think my bike had 125cc’s, so there wasn’t much power to get in front of the car I was passing. No room on the road! Dad had safely passed already. I avoided a head on collision bumping into the car I was passing. My foot hit the car’s front tire, I wobbled a little before regaining control.

I was a little shaky pulling into San Remo a short time later. We may have gone a little slower after that. So there you have the story of one of my near death experiences. Next time, I’ll let dad go on ahead.

Grand Prix practice in Monte Carlo
Grand Prix practice in Monte Carlo

One morning, we were sitting outside eating breakfast and we heard this strange buzzing sound. It was like thousands of bees nearby. We listened for a few minutes before realizing it was the sound of Formula One engines racing through the streets of Monte Carlo. We had passed through Monaco the day before and saw the race course being set up. But today the drivers were practicing on the course. Perfect! We returned to Monte Carlo and found seats on the last turn before these cars floored it through the iconic tunnel. It was loud. The drivers cut this corner so close each time that the banner hung there was torn to shreds by the first afternoon.

A perfect day finished with some Limoncello. Que Magnifico!

Paris in 2000

Uncle, Uncle

This post was originally published in November, 2019.

I started my new corporate job last week. It’s a great company, great people I work with, a fun department and challenging work. I haven’t done a corporate gig since the last millennium, so I’m adjusting to the new schedule. It’s working out well so far.

Today the CEO walked past our row of cubicles. Apparently this doesn’t happen often because there was a lot of buzz about it. It got me thinking about my Uncle John.

John Akers, CEO of IBM
John Akers, CEO of IBM

John Akers would have caused a buzz like that walking past any floor in IBM. My uncle was the CEO of one of the largest corporations in the world. The last time I saw him was at my parent’s house during Easter a couple years ago, the year before he passed away.

My new job has gotten me thinking about another uncle lately too. My new job title is “Editor”. This was my Uncle Roger’s title at People magazine. For a couple decades Roger Wolmuth was the senior editor at this major magazine and now, in a small way, I’m echoing that.

Becky with Roger and Sheila in 1999
Becky with Roger and Sheila in 1999

I like my new job, and my new company. I’m excited about this opportunity and getting to know my new co-workers.

Update January, 2022

I start another new job this month. After 6 years at the last gig, and working up to the title, Learning Experience Designer, I’m moving on to see what else there is for me. I worked with great people and learned so much the past six years. I’ve felt very lucky to have landed in that role. I feel very lucky to have the option and opportunity to move on and try something new, too.

So here’s to new beginnings and taking a leap!

In a few months, I’m hoping to take my boys back to New York and visit Aunt Sheila in the same place pictured above. The week I spent in New York with them in 1999 still holds such great memories. Nothing is certain in these pandemic days. But, I really hope my boys get to know Aunt Sheila this spring.