Before The Blog


I celebrated my 40th birthday this weekend (1982, represent! ), and it’s got me all reflective-y. I’ve written about my story of becoming a blogger before, but here’s a closer look at some of the pieces surrounding those decisions.

The Tribune

The Tribune signTo start, this blog began in lovely San Luis Obispo County California. It was the place we called home before moving to Washington in 2020.

Before I was @two.n.tow, I wrote for the SLO Tribune  newspaper as a coffee-crazed journalist straight out of college – all the way up to my mid-thirties.

I landed there after earning my journalism degree from Cal Poly State University. During my senior year in 2005, I answered a want ad and got a job as the Trib’s obituary editor. Almost every day, the late Bill Morem used to pop out from behind the giant plant separating our cubicles, chuckle, and ask me how the “deadbeat” was going.

I loved that newsroom. So I stayed. My beat grew from consoling families and doing biography writing on the obits desk, to re-writing courtesy and business submissions as a news assistant and covering a couple of city governments as a city reporter – all of which eventually broadened to regional coverage of the entire northern half of SLO County’s many local governments.

Newspaper text on grey newsprint
SLO Tribune archives
girl in sunglasses in firetruck
2009 | Out to a cliff rescue

At the paper, I earned some state awards, did lots of cool things, met some truly incredible people, met some truly not-so-incredible people, almost accidentally went into a murderer’s house, got yelled at by cranky readers, covered a state mental health hospital, ate tons of pizza every election night, got hung up on by a mayor, hitched a ride with cool crews on rescue calls, and got to tell hundreds of stories.

A Look Back: Here’s my first story as a news assistant after transferring from the obituary desk:

Here’s my first story as a news assistant, 2006


This is a Tribune story, but my husband Bowen, who I met three months after starting my job at the paper, was with me through all of it.

black and white pic of couple laughing

Flash forward to 2008: I turned 26, was finally promoted to Staff Writer and Bowen asked me to marry him. He proposed on top of the  Black Hill Trail in our favorite coastal town – Morro Bay.

That was a good year. Weird thing was, though, 26 was the exact age younger-me always dreamed would be the coolest age of all adulthood. Turns out? It ended up being quite the contender.

Bowen and I bought a house together in 2010 and got married in 2011. Two years later, we had Clara. As a new family of three in 2013 and 2014, Bowen and I kept our jobs the same as in our pre-kid years by getting a nanny. Working full time in that stage of life had its challenges, mainly in work-life balance, but being a newspaper reporter was my heart and The Tribune was my second home. Things were good.


Two In Tow & On The Go Morro Bay with kids bathroomLife trucked on until 2015 when along came baby Wyatt. When we got pregnant, I went down to part time for 4 days a week. Which is pretty much the same amount of work at 5 days a week but with less pay. Six weeks into my maternity leave with him, our nanny incident happened. It was in the fallout of those eye-opening weeks that I re-evaluated, as people often do. Bowen and I talked about it, and, as I’ve written before, that’s the moment I decided to stay home with the kids full-time.

And, as it turned out, it was also when I started to explore my own writing path. But I wouldn’t know that until later.


Overall, I’ll never regret the decisions that got me to where I am today, even if they weren’t the original plan (do original plans ever work out anyway?).

The choices I made to get here were for my family, but, in the end, also for myself and my own peace of mind. But, speaking of sanity, I’ll tell you what, though — I sure as hell didn’t let anyone watch the kids for a full three years after our nanny left. #childcaretrustissues.

I said it before, but I’ll say it again – marriage is a partnership. And I’m damn lucky to have such a hardworking and caring husband. He’s generous with his time and skill to keep 40+ hour work weeks and still be there when we need him. I absolutely could not have kept writing in my life in such a predominate way as I have been, nor spent all this time with the kids, if it wasn’t for Bowen’s work ethic and kind heart.

(He’s one cool dude, btw. Here’s a little bit about our story).

The Kids

Clara and Wyatt know I wrote for newspapers before I stayed home with them, but they don’t remember the nanny or what happened with her. I’ll tell them all about it one day, I’m sure, but I wouldn’t want them to think that all these years at home with them were forced on me by that one shitty situation. Like, staying home with them, or just having them, was something I didn’t want. Because even though the initial break from the working world felt like a martyr’s stab to the heart, I’ve actively chosen to stay home with them ever since (as finances have thankfully allowed). Job opportunities have come up, but each time, Bowen and I evaluate and decide to keep going with what’s been working for us. And, I also continue to actively choose to incorporate Clara and Wyatt into my writing as much as I can. Because, duh, they’re my people. No matter how crazy parenting can get, I like spending time with them.

Before kids – I wanted both things. The writing stuff and the family stuff. And somehow, although it wasn’t easy, we’ve managed to make both happen. Which is cool, because writing about our adventures makes me happy. And that kind of happiness, in whatever ways a person can find it, is worth a lot.


About Tonya Strickland

Tonya Strickland is a journalist and Instagram influencer in the family and travel niche. A former newspaper reporter, Tonya shares unfiltered #momlife content about places to go with kids. Her family moved from California's Central Coast to Washington state in August 2020. Their adventures now continue in the Pacific Northwest.

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