Love in the time of Covid19 | {the serenity circle}

So many words and phrases have been added to our vocabulary in just the past month and a half.

Social Distancing.


Corona Virus.

Flatten the Curve.

Zoom meetings.

And let’s not forget, homeschooling. Not a new word, but so many of us have been thrown into it with very little foresight or planning.

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There is so much anxiety, uncertainty, confusion, frustration, worry and just plain exhaustion out in the world today. I’ll be honest, there have been days when I have gotten out of bed and immediately started planning when I could get back into it.

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The good news is we have been able to get out almost daily for walks and bike rides. That has really helped. Exercise has always been a means of rejuvenation and energy for me (I miss the gym!), and we have been so fortunate to have nice weather for the most part. Spring is here, my online friends have been keeping me company, I have lots of books to read (we live in the age of library kindle books- how amazing is that?) and we have been together as a family,  so I guess if there was a “good” time for this to happen, it’s now.

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The world keeps on turning, and we will heal from this. Life will continue on. Maybe we will be a little bit better for it on the other side.

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I’m keeping everyone who has been affected by this horrible virus in my thoughts.

Hang in there, friends.  Stay healthy and keep the faith.


The Serenity Project is a collaborative photography project. The goal the photographers participating share is to find moments of peace and calmness, even in difficult times. Please continue to Wendy May, NE Scotland Photographer to see what brought her some serenity this month.



Looking Beyond Roses | {the serenity project}

My husband (sweetly) gives me roses every year for Valentine’s Day. By my calculation, that means he gave me my 300th rose this year!

Part of the joy of them for me, aside from the thought and the look and the smell, is photographing them. Every year I take photos of them. I love macro photography and I find it to be very relaxing and a practice in mindfulness. This year, though, the photos of the flowers themselves didn’t do much for me. So I branched out and photographed some of the greenery. And those images were my favorites from this session!

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(Lensbaby Velvet 56, edited in LR and Exposure with texture added)

Sometimes it helps me to branch out and think beyond the obvious.


The Serenity Project is a monthly collaborative photography project. The photographers who participate aim to bring a sense of peace and calm with their imagery. Please continue the circle to Pamela Douglas, PD Creations Photography to see what brought her some serenity this month.

Winter-ish | {the serenity project}

We have had a very, very warm winter. I have only lived here (less than) two years, but it’s been interesting to see the difference in weather– last year was one of the coldest (Arctic Blast! Polar Vortex! These were new terms for me.) and this year has been one of the warmest (60 degrees! Record highs! These are not new terms for me!) We had our windows open Christmas morning! Not that I’m complaining.

We did have one good snow so far, in early December. Recently I put out a bird feeder and I have loved seeing the birds it has attracted. December 16, 2019-ECC_7994-EditEileenCritchley1December 16, 2019-ECC_7966-EditEileenCritchley1December 16, 2019-ECC_7940-EditEileenCritchley1December 16, 2019-ECC_7917-EditEileenCritchley1

We have really enjoyed watching them, and they do look especially lovely in the snow.

Maybe we will get some more snow this year, maybe not. It was certainly cozy and peaceful while it lasted!

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The Serenity Project is a  monthly collaborative photography project. Please continue the circle to Wendy May, NE Scotland hobbyist photographer to see what brought her serenity this month. I know life has been a bit hectic for her lately and I hope she was able to find a moment of peace.

Finding Our Way Again | {the serenity circle}

Oh this past month has been a doozy, my friends! We moved for the third time in less than three years. This time it was just across town, so in that respect it was easier than usual. Honestly, though, in many ways it was one of the most difficult moves we have done. It felt very drawn out, and affected me emotionally in a way no move ever has. I am so thankful it’s over!

We are feeling as “at home” as we can in our current home and are now able to enjoy what summer has to offer us.  For us, this means plenty of swimming, hiking, firefly catching, s’more and watermelon eating, grilling out, spending time with friends, and even, hopefully, a little travel! My husband also took my daughter fishing (I sat in the shade mostly). It was a beautiful morning, and they had a lot of fun!

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One fun thing about being in a different house is discovering the light. I know other photographers will relate to this! It’s always interesting to me to see where light falls during different times of the day and year.

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So, that’s been my hodgepodge way of stealing a bit of serenity this month! Life has been feeling a bit chaotic but things are settling down for a moment and we can breathe a little bit better now. Summer is a time to slow down where we can and sometimes we just have to take what we can get!

I hope you are finding a bit of magic this summer and enjoying the little gifts  the season has to offer us!

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The Serenity Project is a collaborative group project. The participating photographers aim to bring a sense of peace and calm to their imagery. Please continue the circle to Wendy May, Nature Photographer, NE Scotland
I can’t wait to see what brought her some serenity this month!


From the car window | {the serenity project}

That morning, there was fog,  frost in the trees and snow on the ground. The fog makes the world quiet and calm, and even the golf course has a nice atmosphere. I snapped this image from the car  passenger seat as we headed downtown. Fog is fleeting; it was gone by the time we got home. But it was so beautiful while it lasted.

 The Serenity Project is a  monthly group photography project. The photographers who participate aim to bring a sense of peace and calm through their photography. Please continue the circle to my good friend, the talented Iris Nelson- Metro Phoenix Photographer  to see what brought her some serenity this month.

Frosty Mornings | {The Serenity Project}

It seems we had a very short fall and then went straight into winter! The seasonal weather has been a nice change for us.

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The frosty mornings are beautiful, and very fun to photograph.

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Mostly it’s just frosty in the mornings, but we did have one ice storm. Beautiful but a little scary to drive in. Fortunately, the roads were cleared quickly.

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frost_on_evergreen_macro| Winter_click-Pro_daily_project_by Eileen Critchley

We haven’t seen any real snow yet, but maybe by next month’s Serenity Project there will be.

The Serenity Project is a collaborative photography project featuring photographers who aim to bring a sense of peace and calm to their imagery. Please continue the circle to Amy L Smith Photography To see what brought her some serenity this month.

Our New Home | {The Serenity Project}


The question I get asked often these days is “are you feeling settled in your new home?” The answer is, happily, YES.

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My husband and I like to make our houses feel like “home” as quickly as possible. Typically we get out of boxes and everything put away within two to three days. While this process is hardly serene (and is exhausting and perhaps slightly insane), it is good to have the house organized quickly so we can get on with our lives!

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And normal life has resumed. We are really enjoying this area so far. We aren’t used to so much greenery and flowers. Luckily there are plenty of beautiful parks to explore and enjoy. It’s also a nice perk to be outside in the middle of summer! While it has been surprisingly hot (surprising to me, anyway), it’s cooler by a good 20 or 30 degrees than what we were used to in Phoenix and San Antonio. I’ll take it!

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I’m pleasantly surprised how fast this area is feeling like “home”. That wasn’t our experience during our time in Texas unfortunately; it took at least a month for our space to feel like ours. We haven’t yet been here a month and already it feels pretty normal. I’m still learning my way around of course, but getting lost less and less each day!

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With the return of school this week, we will start to get into more of a routine. There will still be plenty of time to get out on the weekends and hike, bike, walk, and photograph!

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I so enjoy these times with my family. Moving often is inconvenient but I do love that it gives us the opportunity to discover new places.

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(All images taken with Lensbaby Velvet 56, at the Cox Arboretum, Dayton, Ohio)

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The Serenity Project is a collaborative photography project. The women who participate in this project aim to bring a sense of peace and calmness to their imagery. Please continue the circle to Wendy May to see what brought her some serenity this month.

November in South Carolina | {The Serenity Project}

We spend a week in South Carolina with my in-laws every November.

My mother- and father-in-law live in a quiet rural town outside of Columbia. One of my favorite things to do while there is to take photowalks, either with my husband in their neighborhood or just by myself in their backyard. The light there is so beautiful, and very different from what I am used to in the sunny Southwest.

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Life is just a little slower there. It’s great to have some time to take a walk, read a bit, spend some time outdoors in the cool air, make s’mores and drink mulled wine by the fire after dinner.

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I enjoy taking time to slow down and take in nature through my lens.

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I know my daughter will look back on these trips from her childhood with fondness and warm memories. I’m so thankful we have the opportunity to spend some time with family at this time of year.

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(all images taken with Velvet 56)


The Serenity Project is an ongoing, monthly collaborative photography project. The participating photographers wish to capture a sense of peace and calm in their imagery. Please head over to the talented Wendy May – Scottish Photographer to see what brought her a little serenity this month.

Books of the Month | August 2017

August was a month where I put too many books on hold at the library, only to have them all appear at once (as I type this, I just got another notification that yet another one is ready for pickup! Guess I have my September, and perhaps beyond, reading lined up for me). I started one and didn’t finish it (Yesterday by Felicia Yap), which put me behind in my reading (I generally give a book 50-100 pages and if I’m not into it by then, I put it down. Life is too short to read books you just aren’t into). Hopefully I will finish the stack of library books I now have on my nightstand before they are due in September.

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radke – Another graphic book, only this is a memoir. This book is kind of about the heart condition that runs in the author’s family which killed her uncle… kind of about abandoned cities and buildings and the temporary nature of it all… kind of a memoir about her early 20s and finding her way.. it kind of rambled. I expected more from it based on the reviews I had read; it wasn’t as good as the graphic novel I read last month.

The Job by Steve Osborne –  The author of this book was “discovered” after an appearance on The Moth, where he told a story about his time as a NYC police officer. He served on the force for 20 years. I listened to this book, and I’m glad I did because I am not sure I would have enjoyed  reading it. Listening to it in the car as I ran errands was OK. I found some of the stories interesting, but a lot of his comments became a bit tiresome. I enjoy memoirs and learning about other people’s life experiences through books.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti – The title of this book implies a book that involves something supernatural, à la The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, The Confessions of Max Tifoli or Replay (that last one is the best of that lot, in my opinion, if you are looking for something along those lines). But this book is not that! It’s about a single man raising his daughter and the stories of his past are interwoven in the book. I liked it OK, didn’t love it.  Much of it dragged for me and I wasn’t really pulled in, but I did finish it so that’s something.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery- I became interested in reading this book after I saw a video online of a large octopus squeezing through a tiny hole on a boat. Apparently there are some theories out there that octopuses (I’m assuming this is the correct plural form, as that is what she uses throughout this book) are actually aliens living among us. That’s not addressed in this book. An interesting theory, but not one I subscribe to. Parts of this book I found really interesting, and some of it I really didn’t. One criticism that comes up in reviews of it is that she talks too much about scuba diving. While that didn’t bother me per se, it is a hefty portion of the book. It’s a book about octopuses, but it also is about empathy and consciousness (and scuba diving). If you are interested in learning more about octopuses, it’s probably a good book to pick up. If not, skip it.


Unfortunately, I didn’t read any books that really blew me away this month. But, I have a stack of potentially amazing books on my nightstand. Better get started!


The Unknown

When my daughter was a toddler, she would say “I can’t know they names” instead of “I don’t know their names”. “I can’t know” has become one of our family phrases now. I’m sure all families who have had young children in their home have these quotes from children that become part of the family lexicon.

This phrase has become more than just a funny memory to us though. Often a situation will come up and my husband or I will say “We can’t know”. There is so much we can’t know in life. We can’t know if the decisions we are making are the right ones. We can’t know what kind of year we are going to have. We can’t know how things are going to go. I’ve started thinking about all the things we can’t know, and how there is nothing we can do about the things we can’t know. All we can do is live through it, try to make the right choices, hope for the best, and have faith that the universe will take care of us. If you’re a planner like me, it’s hard not to worry about things that are out of our control. Living a mindful life takes constant practice.

My daughter is starting at her new school today. I would be lying if I told you that I was not at all nervous about this. The truth is, I have a lot of anxiety about it. She was doing well and really happy at her school in Phoenix; it is a wonderful school. How will things go today and this year? What will happen next year? We can’t know. She might be at this school a year, she might be there less than a year. She might be there three years, she might be there until she graduates from high school.

But, we can be optimistic and hope for the best. We can (and have) tried to prepare for her first day by getting together with other families who will have children at this school, putting her in summer camp for a week at the school,  and  attending orientation and meet-the-teacher night. I’m trying to teach her to have an open mind, to live a life of gratitude, and to have a positive attitude. Change is hard, but  I know that I am making the very best choice for her education that I can right now, with the information that I have. I can send her off to third grade confident that she will have a fun and successful year. I can put my trust in her and in her school.

I can have faith.

So, that’s what I am going to do.

And I’m going to miss her.

Final Summer Days

Summer is quickly winding down and with it, so are my lazy mornings and afternoons alone with my daughter.  For the first time in her life, my daughter is sleeping in. I swear she is still on Arizona time, as she is running consistently two hours behind what she has been running for the past several years both in the morning (which is kind of nice) and at bedtime (not as nice). It’s going to be a difficult transition next Monday!

She has had a long summer. Arizona schools start summer break earlier and Texas schools start school later. Therefore, she has had almost a full month of summer longer than her peers. Of course it’s been busy with moving, but we have also found plenty of time for fun and exploring.

One thing I’ve been focusing on these past few weeks is some quieter time together in the afternoon. We have been doing a lot of coloring and drawing.  Although I am not a talented artist by any means, I do enjoy drawing, doodling and coloring with her. It gives us a chance to talk or just be together quietly. It can be almost meditative.


(One of her favorite things to do is write stories. I’m sure there is a moral in this one somewhere.)August 10, 2017-ECC_7658EileenCritchley1

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Our other favorite quiet activity right now is playing games. Her favorites are Clue and Scrabble. She can’t get enough Scrabble. As I write this, in fact, I just promised her another game this afternoon. I look forward to playing the “grown up” version with her one day soon.

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This days are precious to me, although I know there is a time and a season for everything. It’s definitely time to head back to school for her, but it’s going to be an adjustment for both of us.

19 Memories

  1. Remember that day 19 years ago today? We got married in New Mexico, at the University of New Mexico Chapel, just steps away from where we first met. I remember looking out the bridal dressing room window and seeing you had arrived. I knew everything would be OK then. The organist was late and I was afraid we would have to walk down the aisle with our friends and family humming “Here Comes the Bride”, but she showed up finally and everything else went off as planned.
  2. Remember driving to our honeymoon? We were almost hit by a huge bighorn sheep as he darted across the highway. As we were driving back into Albuquerque a few nights later, the song “The Lights of Albuquerque” came on the radio. My mother made turkey sandwiches for us at 10 o’clock at night.
  3. Remember the long distance relationship we were in for 2 years prior to our wedding and for four long months after? That was no fun. You were in Washington, DC and I was living in Albuquerque. The letters you sent me were what kept me going. I still have them all.
  4. Do you remember that tiny apartment we lived in in Maryland, when we were finally able to be together? It was a one bedroom, and I can not imagine squeezing ourselves into something that small now. But at the time, it was perfect.
  5. Remember that first Christmas together as a married couple? We didn’t even have a tree. We had lights on a potted plant. The next year, we got a small table trop tree.
  6. Remember when my little Honda broke down in the middle of the Rockville Pike? I didn’t have a cell phone at the time and had to rely on the kindness of strangers. It led to us buying our first new car, a green Saturn. I thought it was the best car in the world.
  7. Remember Y2K? Everyone was freaking out over that. We spent that New Year’s Eve at one of your classmate’s parties. The location was changed last minute, and the world didn’t end.
  8. Remember September 11, 2001? I was working in the pharmacy in Maryland and you were at Andrews AFB. We had no internet access on our phones back then. I could not get in touch with you, but finally I did. That night you didn’t come home because you had to work all night. I went home by myself, sad and scared and alone.
  9. Remember that time we drove across the country? And that other time? And that other time? And that other time? We almost froze to death in Amarillo pumping gas. It rained really hard in Tupelo. We drove through an ice storm in Tennessee. I rode in the backseat with a cranky 4 month old for most of one trip.We drove through the worst rain and hail storm I have ever seen somewhere in nowhere Texas. We drove through Nowhere, Texas a lot actually. Satellite radio and audiobooks became our best friends.
  10. Remember all the food? We always have our favorite go to spots in each city. Tako Grill in DC, Timpano in Rockville, Copa in San Antonio, Garduños in Albuquerque, Brat Haus in Phoenix, The Yard House everywhere… to name a few.
  11. Remember the time we had the crazy idea to move and buy a house and then immediately turn around and go on vacation for two weeks to Germany? That was fun, but a little hectic. It worked out though. We went hiking in the alps, we rode bikes to the Austrian border, we ate way too much meat.
  12. Remember when I was put in the hospital at 32 weeks pregnant and called you at work crying? It all happened really suddenly, but when you showed up in my hospital room, I was so grateful to see you.  I don’t think I have ever been more happy to see another person before or since. You were such a huge advocate and support to me during my pregnancy.
  13. Remember our first night at home with a new baby? She slept in our room in a pack and play and every 10 minutes you would press the remote that rocked it so she would go back to sleep. Why was that timer so short?! It took us a long while to get the sleep thing down.
  14. Remember all the hikes? After we hiked the Grand Canyon, you came back to the hotel and watched a movie on your laptop. I had every intention of watching it with you, but fell asleep almost immediately instead. We’ve hiked as often as possible. Albuquerque, Arizona, Hawaii, Germany, Oregon, Colorado, California.. I can’t wait to do more.
  15. Remember the Hurrication? We drove inland to Richmond to get away from the coast and the storm, only to have the power in our hotel go out (it didn’t go out at our house). We had chips for dinner. The hotel was packed full of crazy people running wild down the hall. Our two-year-old woke up at 2 AM stating “But I have a bed at home, mama”.
  16. Remember the morning my dad died? How could you not, it was just a few months ago. You were on your way to work when I called and you turned around and met me at the school, where we had a parent-teacher conference, of all things, to attend. Afterwards we went to Starbucks.  You got thanked for your service and held my hand while I cried.
  17. Remember that time we stayed up way too late and we heard a really loud noise and then the squeal of tires? Someone had driven their car into the wall by the house next door. It was a Friday night. They drove away, and it looked like a bomb went off. Remember the weird noise in this house that we keep hearing? It makes us laugh because we can not figure out what it is. You told me the other day that one thing you would really like to do before we move out of this house is figure out what that noise is.
  18. Remember binge watching Breaking Bad and Dexter and Homeland and Game of Thrones? And now everything old is new again with ER in syndication.
  19. Please always remember that I have your back. I know you have mine. I am always on your side and so blessed and thankful we get to spend this life together. There is no one else I would rather spend it with. Most of these memories are good ones, and I know we have been incredibly lucky. I pray every day for that luck to hold.


20. And PS- remember that amazing vacation you took us on for our 20th anniversary in 2018? Maybe it was a Mediterranean cruise or maybe Hawaii or maybe London and Paris or maybe New York. But wherever it was, I know it was a ton of fun and more memories were made.