Too Soon?

Ugh. I sort of hate to admit that I’m a superstitious person because it goes against the logic and reasoning that I use to guide so much of my life, but also, I am a total kook about knocking on wood which I totally should have done when I posted my headache update last weekend. Because, this week, it would seem that in doing so, I jinxed the heck out of myself because not only have the headaches been back, they’ve been as bad as they ever were this spring.

Thursday night was the worst. After feeling the pressure and tension build throughout the afternoon, by evening I knew I was in complete hot mess mode. Still, I watched some AGT with my Bigs because we got hooked on it this summer and we’re still trying to work our way through episodes even though school is back in session. But by the time we paused the show and put a couple more kids to bed, I was just done and nothing was helping. Not a heating pad, not a shower, nothing. I finally gave up and crawled into bed just after 9PM, in so much pain that my stomach hurt.

Thankfully the next morning things were better, but there were more bad days than good ones in the last week which was rough physically. And I’ll be honest and tell you that when those bad days hit, the physical pain slides pretty quickly into being tough mentally, too. It’s hard not to fall into despair when my head goes sideways on me, especially when I’ve been doing ALL the things to help correct it and actually thought some of it was working. I mean, it really was better so why the sudden and severe setback?

Unfortunately, as has been the case this entire time, there’s no way to know. We’ve never been able to determine the actual cause of this shit show which thereby means we’ve never been able to target it with 100% confidence that we were doing the right things. And yes, I keep using “we” because this is not just a “me” effort but that of Ben and my family and the care providers that I’ve been working with for months now.

The takeaway? Chronic pain sucks. It’s awful to have to push through each day because what other choice is there but then, when you get a glimmer of “better” only to have that go away, too? That sucks even more because you start to think that life is always going to be this way and that’s a sad, hard, lonely place to be. It’s hard to tell people when you are hurting and then, when the pain does clear for a bit, it’s hard to get hopeful or excited because what if more bad days are lurking just around the corner?

Thankfully the weekend has been more so on the side of “good” (*knocks on wood* *knocks over a tree*) and because I’ve got that good, strong, and stubborn Scandinavian blood running through me, there is still some hope left that I am indeed on the right track and overall am making progress with my health. But if it seems like I’m reluctant or slow with the updates it is because this roller coaster just isn’t telling me when the ride is going to stop and I never really know from day-to-day where on that good v. bad scale I’m going to land. Plus my other takeaway from this week is, goodness graciousness – don’t jinx yourself!

Gut Check

In my last post I said I’d do a headache update here soon and apparently I have officially reached the age and stage where I blink and whole days and weeks and almost months can go by just like that because I had no idea the “here soon” would take quite this long, but sure enough, I am just now getting to that promised post.

In early July I changed a lot in my life, and that’s on top of all the things I had previously tried since April to help curb the chronic headaches. We’re talking new physical therapy, new supplements, new pillow, and even a whole new diet with going gluten free. While we’re not entirely sure what part of that helped the most, the good news is that since early July, my head has been improving. While I’m still not 100%, my light/sound sensitivity is better and I’m hovering between a 1.5-2 instead of a constant 7-9 on my pain scale. I say “my” pain scale because I’ve come to learn that those are super subjective and that I can both fortunately and unfortunately smile through a lot of shit. It’s not that everything you see that seems happy is fake but it’s also 100% true that there is always more to the story than we’re ever really telling each other and dealing with chronic pain touches all aspects of one’s life, even the happy bits.

Because I’m still not totally out of the woods, I’ve embarked on a 8-12 week process to reset my gut with the hope that in doing so, I can kick these headaches for good. This gut check included just that – a test to see what was going on with my body and now I’ll spend the next couple few months continuing the GF diet and taking gut-health supplements to clear out/rebuild my system.

The GF stuff is both not fun or easy but also not nearly as hard as it would been five years ago, for which I am grateful. There are a lot of GF products out there to try and now that the kids are back in school, I’m hoping to have an ounce more free time to plan and work out my meals so I’m really nourishing my body and not just cobbling this together to make it work. Crazy at it might sound, I am hopeful that the anchor of school will work in our/my favor and I really can get back to feeling like myself completely even though I’ve had to let so much of me go this year. Seriously, if you’d asked me in January if I thought I could give up coffee, alcohol, AND all things pizza, pasta, bread, and baked goods this year, I would have said you are freaking nuts. But here I am, doing what needs to be done and taking this gut check in my life not just in the stomach but in my head and heart, too.

May it all be worth it in the end. May that end mean no more pain. May it please come soon.

Firsts and the (Calendar) Flip Side

As my Facebook memories have been showing me the last few days, this is not my first end-of-July siren song post. In fact, that one I wrote five years ago had portions that I could easily cut and paste into today’s writing as our family prepares for all that is August and the not-so-slow shift out of summer mode. And now that I think about it, with our risk dial creeping up these last couple weeks thanks to the Delta variant of COVID-19, last year’s post could also unfortunately make a reappearance here today, but I am not ready to wrap my head around all things school + pandemic again, so I’m just not. I’m. Just. Not.

Instead, I’m standing in my general awe that we’ve landed on the last day of July. How did that happen? Where exactly did the last nine weeks go? Does anyone know?

I know that we were busy. I suppose anything would have felt busy after an entire summer (and spring and then some) at home last year, but even setting aside that, this summer had new obstacles, activities, and adventures for us.

For one, Ben taught summer school for the first time ever. I thought that sounded like a good idea until I realized how much it complicated the summer music program two kids were playing (three instruments) in, not to mention running various kids hither and thither for summer camps (yay for summer camps! they are great and this was also the first summer of all FIVE kids being old enough to participate in something somewhere!). We also had two boys back in city league baseball in June and my own online teaching and yeah, that month flew by.

I also continued to have approximately 237 appointments each week in June and most of July as I have continued to navigate my headaches which did not help lighten the calendar load. Fortunately the last few weeks have been a shift to more better days than bad days (hallelujah!!!) which is hopefully a trend that will continue and about which I’ll write an honest update for here soon.

Other firsts this summer included Colorado trips, both as a family of seven (first time there for the kids and first time in RMNP for all of us) AND as just a couple. Here’s the crazy part about that…we haven’t been away from the kids for more than one sleep in FOUR YEARS (NICU stay does not count. That was the farthest thing ever from a vacation)! Can you believe that? Um, I’m sure you can because it’s not hard to understand that it’s a big freaking ask to have other people watch this many kids so yeah, leaving them has been tough. But obviously that was way overdue and we took advantage of outdoor venues to see two beloved bands on our long weekend getaway, incidentally marking another first – our first live music post-pandemic (please; can we please be post-pandemic?).

During all that Ben had a ton of meetings for education association stuff and there were more hither/thither camps and we spent a week nursing sick kids through a nasty summer cold (and then damn near a week for me to recover from the same even though they were only down for two days each; I have learned that kids germs are a bit harder to kick when you’re breathing down the neck of 40).

So, yep. Just like that tomorrow is August. We celebrated by getting everyone’s school supplies this morning, which again – a first – includes all FIVE kids as Wilson finally gets to join the school schedule with her first year of preschool. About this she tells me that she will miss me when she’s gone and she’d like it to start tomorrow, please and thank you. You’ve gotta love the duality that is a 3yo!

But, actually, I get it because I’m feeling that flip side of all this, too. I’m excited for the new adventures and new schools (OK; maybe? One of those is middle school and I have not yet wrapped my brain around having a middle schooler either, but I am hoping for the best all the same). I’m looking forward to a return to routine and having, for the FIRST time ever since becoming a mom, a couple hours to myself each morning to work and be a person while they are all out of the house. But also there’s just a lot looming this fall and I like our summer bubble so I don’t really want to see it burst just yet.

I guess the good thing is, it doesn’t have to for a couple more weeks. Not officially, anyway, even though I know that first week of August is coming for us with a lot of To Dos. Hopefully it will just be good practice for what’s to come and can also give us a wee bit more time to just be before the real flip of the school year begins.

In the Weeds

It’s a whole new month today and time for an update, but before I go any further, let me clarify that I do know “in the weeds” is a restauranting turn of phrase that maybe seems like a stretch here but I’m applying it to my own life anyway as with the calendar flip comes another milestone in this mysterious health journey of mine….the three month mark of this head pain roller coaster.

First, a quick side note: big thanks and much appreciation given to those who have reached out with questions, possible therapies to try, and just general concern. That means the world to me and thanks to you all, I’ve been able to learn about and try some new-to-me treatments and approaches. I still haven’t tried every tool sent my way but it’s good to know I still have tricks up my sleeve if this sh!t continues to persist beyond current attempts in process.

The good news is, I have had some not just good but CLEAR days. 4.5 of them, actually, which probably sounds awful to most folks but after 2.5 solid months of a headache, I gladly welcomed that little window of relief. The crappy part was, it didn’t last and so the last couple weeks have been back on the roller coaster of up and down days with me still left to wonder what is going on, what can I do about it, and when in the world is it ever going to go away. As an uberplanner this unknown (that comes with chronic pain, no less) is incredibly hard on and frustrating for me. Hence the weeds and the continuing of trying of all the things to get out of them.

Since I last wrote I’ve started some new physical therapy techniques and exercises that seem to be helpful. Acupuncture continues to offer some relief and hopefully in time may get me to more and more clear days. I’ve also been toying with the idea of an elimination diet to see if my food is working against me more than for me, but that seems like such a daunting task, I’m pretty much dragging my feet on starting that just yet.

One thing I have been able to give up with ease has been alcohol. Turns out that when you already feel like you have a constant hangover, the thought of drinking something that could add to that pain is not appealing at all. I can’t say that this will stick beyond the headaches (see, still clinging to hope that this will all someday be behind me) but for the last two months I have been perfectly fine to take beer/wine out of rotation and feature sparkling water, kombucha, and hops water instead.

Here’s hoping that both the path forward and the pain clear soon and for good. I would give a huge, HUGE NA cheers to that development, for sure.

Headaches and Hiding

As if the last March-to-March didn’t make me enough of a hermit and homebody, the nearly constant, 90% daily headaches I’ve been having since early April of this year (that means I’m nearing the two month mark with that) have left me in very slow, very reluctant re-entry into the world.

OK, let’s be real. That’s not all the fault of the headaches. I’m one who would have come out of COVID life more slowly than most anyway but they certainly haven’t helped me feel up and ready dip a toe, really, much less dive back in to whatever life is these days. <– clearly I still have some feelings about this, eh?

But it’s been several weeks since I’ve written or done an update on the health front, and some folks have been checking in which is a good reminder to get on here and do some writing as part of the healing process, too.

After close to six weeks of constant headaches, I ran into five glorious, beautiful, wonderful days of Feeling Better. Not perfect but so much more myself that I was so relieved. Then came the backslide and it was not good. It also wasn’t a return to the height of pain, but still, to go backwards at all felt so defeating and even though things have improved somewhat since then, I still haven’t had another chunk of (or any) good days resurface. As a semi-side note, the level of awareness this has brought me about those living with chronic pain is huge. Being in pain every single day discolors and impacts every other area of your life, not just how your body feels. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, ever.

The good news is, my MRI came back clear. I’ve since sent off some samples for hormone testing and our house is currently being evaluated for mold due to our leaky roof over the last year (that’s a post/update all on its own, I believe). Either of those could easily be the culprit and I’m very curious to know results on both. I’ve also continued with chiropractor and acupuncture and some other therapies, all of which remain hopeful and positive that we will get this figured out/fixed. I’ll be honest that I struggle more days than not to keep that same faith, but I also know there has to be some resolution because I can’t accept this as my new normal. I just won’t.

Having the kids home for summer is both lovely and an added factor of difficulty in all this because in case you haven’t met them or realized from me yet, there’s a LOT of them and they are NOT quiet. Even when I’m feeling 100% I think my kids are loud, so imagine how it is with a constant headache. They’ve gotten way too used to me shushing them and also trying to find space from them somewhere, somehow in our very full house, now affectionately called The Pancake Stack. Thank goodness Ben is also home for the summer so I can indeed “run” and hide from time to time which I’ve been doing in some odd, creative, and unique ways. One of those is this crazy looking cool-pack headache hat thingamajig that arrived yesterday and requires me to sit for 15 minutes when I wear it. It’s freezing fricking cold for the first 6 minutes and I can’t tell if it actually works or just makes my head feel better because eventually I take it off, but again I tell you – trying alllll the things because somewhere an answer and some relief await me.

This is an odd start to summer vacation. It’s a rough patch after an impossibly difficult year. At some point, something has to shift because as much as I like to internalize and introvert, I miss my people and I miss myself.

I Don’t Know How to Do This

The last few weeks have been the perfect storm of All the Trying, All the Things, All the Info, and All the Changes…to put it another way, life has been a lot and much of it has been overwhelming, in both pleasant and painful ways.

Let’s start with All the Trying…my headaches have persisted since I last wrote about them which puts me at a solid FIVE WEEKS of a non-stop headache, sometimes with only a few hours “off” during the day but really most days have had ache involved at varying degrees the entire day and night. Since my last post, I have added in acupuncture and been back to the chiropractor. I also went to the dentist to get some adjustments made to my mouth guard (because, Holy Hannah, nighttime jaw clenching has been bonkers for me lately). I don’t fault myself one bit for being overwhelmed by this never-ending pain as I don’t know how anyone is supposed to be OK with a five week headache. That’s just insanely hard, full stop.

During these weeks of headache, however, I’ve had no choice but to keep going and doing through the other season of overwhelm that is also known as May. Even though we aren’t out of the Pandemic yet apparently May is back and ready to throw down in 2021. There have been a ton of fun things and end-of-year things and Big Exciting Things happening with the kids and their spring sports and their school and headaches or not, I didn’t want to miss any of it. I wasn’t entirely successful on that front and did end up missing some things, but for the most part I got to be there and be involved/spectate which made my mama heart happy even if my head was not always on board.

I’ve also continued reading throughout this last month+ which brings me to the All the Info and All the Changes portion of this as I’ve now finished several resources on the Enneagram and feel like I’ve landed on that at a very interesting time in my life and in our world. From these books I’ve learned more about myself and what drives me and also what’s potentially contributed to my stress levels over this last year as I am very much a One, The Perfectionist, and let me tell you – a One in a Pandemic is a tough place to be. I’ve spent so long trying to do the right thing and freaking out about other people doing/not doing the right thing or politicizing the right thing that I can’t believe my body waited until now to also freak the frick out. To clarify, I’m not saying I gave myself these headaches but also, I can look back over the last 14 months and very much see how I was numbing/stuffing my anxiety (hello, 42 books already in 2021) and how perhaps that stored tension over time has contributed to pain in my body. To make sure it’s not something beyond that, my doctor wants me to have an MRI next week and I’m very much on board as that helps eliminate or shed light on any of the potential scary causes behind this.

So now, after getting all this info about myself, we’re at the end of the school year which comes with All the Change in and of itself, but this week’s unexpected turn also included a sudden removal of masks in our classrooms and, just yesterday, the CDC announcement that fully vaccinated folks can drop the masks and go back to life essentially as normal.

Sorry, what? That’s a huge bucket of change to dump on this exhausted, perfectionist mama’s head and I’m not quite sure how to process it. In fact, not knowing how to do THIS (life this last year+two months, plus life with a five-week headache) has indeed been a huge source of the problem for me for some time now.

I thought getting vaccinated was going to make me feel so much better. I thought having masks go away would be a happy making announcement. I thought I’d be ready to do this but it turns out I’m a little stuck and a whole lot unsure of how to proceed. (PS: if you are a podcast person, check out Episode One of “We Can Do Hard Things” from Glennon Doyle; it’s all about anxiety and she spoke to this unease with coming out of Pandemic Life and it was like she was in my freaking head when she spoke about this because those are exactly the struggles I am having right now. Who knew I wasn’t alone in this?)

At some point I have to figure out how to navigate back in the world in a way that works for me but I have yet to come to an understanding of what that might look like. Will I stop wearing masks? No, I will not because my state, my health department area is hovering around the 40% mark of fully vaccinated folks and that doesn’t feel like a super great number even though it is definitely something and something that I hope continues to increase. Will I be more comfortable in outdoor gatherings and seeing vaccinated family and friends indoors? Yes, I’m trying but please understand that this shift is a big one and it’s going to take some time for folks like me.

If I’ve learned anything from the last five weeks, it’s that I’ve got to give myself some grace and self-forgiveness for not knowing how to do this. It’s going to have to be OK to not perfect this right out the gate because, frankly, none of us know how to do this, so why should I place sure pressure and expectation on my own tension-filled shoulders? The not knowing of what re-entry and recovery look like for me simply just has to be because clearly I can’t force this. I can only give it time and continued trying.

So Many Firsts

Like much of 2020, I had no foresight that today would end up being what it was or meaning what it did. Monday, October 19 seems like an unassuming kind of day, yes? Nothing too big happening?

But for our family, today was not just big. It was huge.

Today marked 222 (yes, TWO hundred and TWENTY-TWO) days since my kids were at in-person school AND it was their first day back to school to start 2nd Quarter face-to-face.

For my Big 3, this meant the first day back to their newly renovated building, which Lincoln has actually never attended at all and RL did only as a Kindergartner. It also was the first day of getting to eat school breakfast (thanks to some funding that makes it free for all) and their first time to see so many of the friends and faces they’ve been missing for the last seven months.

Like me, they were all excited and a little nervous this morning as they got ready to head out the door. And their bags were so heavy with workbooks and school computers to return to their new desks in their new classrooms!

After we got them out the door we still have roughly 3 1/2 hours to wait until the bus picked up Trumy to take him to his first day of preschool at a brand new school. His speech IEP qualifies him for busing which is a huge help to me since he’s a different building than the Bigs, but thankfully he got to meet his teacher and see his new classroom last week, so even though it felt like I was chopping off a limb to send him off, he gave me a squeeze and a kiss and got on the bus like such a little trooper.

Just like when we told them about this new adventure a couple weeks ago, I loved his continued honesty this morning. In addition to asking “Is it time yet?” 100x which showed his excitment, he also told me straight up that he was a little scared to go.

And I totally get it because my own heart has been ping-ponging between those two emotions all weekend, too.

Normally my husband is the one with the shakey leg, but last night I was wound sp tight, even after I crawled into bed I could not stop jiggling my feet because so many little nerves were buzzing through my body. After this many months together, just us without any more time apart than 6 hours (one time!), it felt so strange to have them gone for an entire day. And can you believe that much as I’ve been craving the quiet time in the afternoon that I now get four days a week, it was literally ringing in my ears as I sat trying to write this?

Without knowing until late-September that this would be the official date, we’ve been waiting for this day for forever, it seems. A return to routine, a re-entry to social settings (well, just school, but that counts!), a tiny ounce of normalcy.

Our state is very much still struggling with COVID right now and I’m praying people can get it together and start moving our trends in the other direction. It feels like an uncertain time to make such a big move like heading back to school, but also so beyond the point of needing to do so for our family. If I could have known school would last longer than three weeks after it started, we would have been there on the actual first day. As it is, I’m now hoping that my kids and all the others

Just Running

Four years ago in September, I was softening my body, hoping and praying that we would be so fortunate as to get pregnant again.

Three years ago this time I was, thankfully, quite pregnant.

Two years ago in the fall I was busy chasing after five small children, with one still attached at the boob, nursing.

One year ago I was still chasing but not nursing and experiencing chronic, unexplained pain in my body.

Today I am still juggling all those kids PLUS life at six months into a pandemic and I just completed Day Three in a row of running after five months of daily walks that suddenly shifted due to rage earlier this week.

I kid you not – somebody’s insensitive post on FB in response to peaceful protests pissed me off so much that on Wednesday, a walk just wasn’t enough to burn off the crazy – I had to run.

I’ve been feeling the urge for a while.

You see, before I was a mom and blogger, I was a writer and a runner. Cross Country in middle school and high school, and a couple half marathons under my belt prior to having babies; but since then, running just hasn’t ever felt right (see above timeline for some explanation).

Also, I walk a lot of the same routes around town and I joked to my girlfriends that if I just started running one day, the people who see me on a regular basis might worry that something was wrong or that someone was after me.

Like I said, Wednesday + Facebook broke me of that hesitancy and I just started running and didn’t stop for over a mile, maybe a mile and a half. Yesterday I went a few more blocks, and today the same – tacked on a few more.

And you know what? I feel amazing. And, I also feel like an 85-year-old man (I don’t know why not an 85-year-old woman – this probably stems from the way I am currently walking down stairs two feet to each step, sideways and grimacing, much like remember my Grandpa Tim doing in his later years), but that’s because I am good hurt – sore muscles that haven’t been used to this capacity in well, roughly a dozen years.

Our journeys with our bodies are so intense. If you’ve been reading along here for any length of time, you know my own relationship with my body is a complicated one, on several levels. I’ve gone through significant back issues and five pregnancies all with a solid dose of body dysmorphia thrown in there, too.

But right now? In this moment, in this body, in this insane year that is 2020?

I feel like a badass. I feel ready to fight. There’s just no other way to say it.

My body is nothing like it was the last time I was a runner and I’m not really sure three days of running makes me a runner again, but I’m here to give it my best shot because I’ve never known anything else that works quite so well to expend anger, frustration, worry, and all the other emotions that are running high this year besides running. Pun, as always, intended.

So I give thanks in this moment for my body and this journey and that I am where I am on this path to keep exploring, keep testing, and keep finding ways to be at peace with what is.

2020 Books

  1. Know My Name by Chanel Miller — this book is a must read for survivors and supporters/advocates, not to mention medical and police personal and basically anyone who is connected to someone who has experienced sexual assault (read: everyone). I very much appreciate the light that Miller shed on her experience and the questions that she raised about a very broken system. (finished 1.1.2020)
  2. No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert — this book takes on a LOT of tasks/topics, from race and parental and marital relationships, to friendship and education reform. That said, it was still easy enough to follow and keep straight among the many characters, and (many) important questions were raised about all of those subjects, so it was a worthwhile read.
  3. Only Child by Rhiannon Navin — this was another page turner for me (I was also taking full advantage of my final hours before my Winter Break ended). The narrator’s voice is both unique and compelling, and allows you to see so many sides of the story even though it is told from one perspective. (finished 1.5.2020)
  4. The Overstory by Richard Powers — Read. This. Book. You simply must. It changed the way I look at the world.
  5. The Dutch House by Ann Patchet — I liked this one very much, even though maybe not as much as I expected based on the recommendations from some of my favorite reader friends.
  6. Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman —  chose this as an audio listen for a road trip and was really into it for the first half but then the second part just jumped the shark way too much. I guess it was a decent fluff read, but not my favorite by any means.
  7. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (book club read) — I had to plow through half of this to get it done on time for book club which maybe didn’t quite do it justice, but it was an interesting read, even if it took many turns I didn’t expect and left me a bit confused at the end. (finished 1/26/20)
  8. UnFuck Yourself by Gary John Bishop — Listen to this book!!! Then, get a hard copy like I want to and highlight the sh!t out of it.
  9. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri — this is an excellent read on many levels, including how it is written but mostly for the content covered – families fleeing modern-day Syria. (finished 1/30/20)
  10. Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalauddin — LOVED this one. Such an enjoyable, quick read about relationships (and religion and family and life). Definitely recommend!
  11. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (book club read) — the dual narration was done in a different style here that made the second half of the book far more interesting to me even though I liked the first narrator more. Strange, eh?
  12. A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole — a friend loaned me a stack of romance novels and I have to say, it did make for lighter reading and wasn’t as over the top as I thought it might be based on genre.
  13. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (book club read) — normally I don’t reread books but this one was excellent the first time around and I did NOT want to be lacking memory for the book club discussion of this. Plus it was fun to reread with knowledge of what was to come; made me pay attention to some smaller but significant parts of the book the second time through it!
  14. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory — definitely a beach read which may seem like an odd choice in February, but given the heaviness of everything else in the world, not actually a bad way to go for before-bed reading. (finished 2/20/20)
  15. The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell — I had high hopes for this family/siblings dynamic novel and it did resolve eventually by the end in a semi-satisfying way, but some of it was too disturbing to make it a read I’d recommend.  (finished 2.27.20)
  16. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (book club read) — I don’t read much fantasy because it tends to confuse me but this was enjoyable and mysterious without being cloying and also kept me up reading past bedtime a couple nights because I wanted to know what would happen next.
  17. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (book club read) — stories such as this one, that are based on real-life experiences, blow my mind. And, on a side note, this one reads really quickly, perhaps in part because it was first imagined as a screenplay. (finished 3.6.2020)
  18. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Stout — sometimes when we read a book that isn’t aligned with our season of life, it doesn’t hit right. And while I’d say that is the case with this book, I still really, really liked it because of the way it was written. The book is named for a main character but very little of the book is told from her perspective and some chapters barely even include mentions of her, but still the whole thing comes together and paints a portrait of her life. Pretty cool.
  19. Untamed by Glennon Doyle — I loved it. You should read it. Duh. (finished 3.22.20)
  20. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas — same author as The Hate You Give and while this one didn’t shake me as much as that one, I still really enjoyed reading it. (finished 4.5.20)
  21. Honestly, a side note is needed here. Since COVID-19 hit hard in the US, my desire, ability, willingness to read has tanked. I’d love the distraction but find it hard to focus on books. Instead, it’s a lot of time with the kids, time outside with the kids, and watching movies with the kids (and on our own). We’ve been watching Star Wars movies and B and I have been binge-watching all the seasons of Parks and Recreation and the mini-series Little Fires Everywhere and documentary Tiger King. We also did season one of The Watchmen (and whoa, just whoa).
  22. The Woman’s Hour: the great fight to win the vote by Elaine Weiss — I learned a ton from this book but really struggled to read it on my Kindle. It seemed to take forever. Also, it was incredibly frustrating to read about the Antis who were a group of women fighting against the women’s suffrage movement. That honestly makes my blood boil. I am grateful for all those that fought for this right that 100 years later, I use and will never take for granted.
  23. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson — the last library book I had at home from The Before. It’s a YA read which in a way makes it easier, but I still thought it was an intense family story, albeit beautifully written and with compelling characters. (finished 4.20.20)
  24. The Ethan I was Before by Ali Standish (book club pick) — this YA read followed an enjoyable unfolding format and I could see where it would be really well received by teen readers. It’s a really compelling story about friendship and forgiveness.
  25. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan — there were some elements of this audio book that I loved, but it also confused the heck out of me (I think in part because it was audio and not on the page for me to understand what was happening with the shifting narrators), and then it jumped the shark with some really bizarre developments annnnnd, yeah. Not terrible. Not great. (finished 5.4.2020)
  26. The Library Book by Susan Orlean — I did not expect this nonfiction book about the LA Library and its 1986 fire to be this fascinating or quick to read, but it was awesome. Such a great book for readers and library lovers. How how I miss the library these days!
  27. All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin –this was a quick but intense read. It would be a good one for book club in that it covers parenting, privilege, and how to advocate in situations of sexual assault.
  28. Dear Girls by Ali Wong — I have never watched an Ali Wong comedy special but I love audio books read by their actual authors and this memoir did not disappoint. I have started walking every day and am really liking audio books during those; this might just be what gets me over the hump of problematic pandemic reading.
  29. The Gift by Cecelia Ahern — Needed another audio book for walking and this one by a familiar author was available. I struggled to suspend my disbelief very well for this one, or at least as much as was needed, but I guess it was an okay Christmas-y time read (even though it is currently mid-May). (finished 5.19.20)
  30. The Round House by Louise Erdrich — I can’t believe I’m reading this right now because it is SO heavy, but I’m desperate for real books to read and this one has been on my shelf for years, so there you have it. Once I got past the serious subject matter, the story itself sucked me in enough to keep going. I was left with some questions (I think intentionally) and was really impressed with the story telling style Erdrich uses.
  31. Shrill by Lindy West — Oh, wow. I don’t know if I’ve read any West pieces before or not (but chances are I have) but I am instantly a fan after listening to her book (in less than 24 hours, mind you, thanks to a basement painting project and walk). Her stances on fat shaming, abortion, and rape culture in comedy were all so interesting and I loved listening to her tell her stories. (finished 5.21.20)
  32. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins — Thank goodness for Hoopla! I had originally requested the hard copy of this upon release from the library but since the library is still closed, I was thrilled to see it pop up as an open-to-all, free audio book instead. And it was so good; revisiting the world of The Hunger Games with this prequel was so intriguing.
  33. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid — Now, technically I just read in the last 6-8 months, but dang, I loved it so and then a friend told me how well done the audio version was, so I had to give it a go. I think it would be a bit confusing to follow the book this way on the first-time through, but it was so well done and it is such a good story!
  34. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold — yeah, I don’t know why I didn’t expect strange and morbid in another book by the author of The Lovely Bones (which I remember really liking) but this one is definitely both of those things (without so much liking on my part).
  35. Beach Read by Emily Henry — This was a good audio for walk/listening to and while I shouldn’t be surprised by “too much romance” in a book called Beach Read, I still didn’t think the story needed to go quite so Harlequin in places. Beyond that, it was a pleasant enough read.
  36. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern — Holy Mother of Confusion, Batman. This book. What?! I was lost through literally the whole thing. I know COVID Life has messed with my reading ability, but what? This was so confusing, it made me feel bad. Do other people reading this understand it? I did not.
  37. To All the Boys I Ever Loved by Jenny Han — umm, I didn’t sleep well one night and ended up reading this teen romance drama in one sitting. It was such a needed brain break and also an enjoyable story to follow, based on the recommendation of a friend earlier this year. Looking forward to reading the other two in the series.
  38. Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson — been meaning to read this one for years and put it off. But finally got my hands on a copy and I flew through it. It reads so quickly and is so compelling and informative, not to mention both heartbreaking and hope-filled. A must read! (finished 6.20.20)
  39. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown — oh, this book. It is so fantastic. And it is the perfect complement to the Me and White Supremacy 28-Day Challenge that I’m currently working on as it gives poignant narrative examples to so much of what that book covers. This should be on all Christians’ To Read list.
  40. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout — wanting to read this is what had me read OK earlier this year and I have to say, even though that was just a few months ago, it still took me a while to recall and catch on to several characters who were clearly in both books. I can’t imagine if I had gone years between them! But I enjoyed the dive back in to Olive’s life and community, even if I’m not in a classic stage of life that relates to the protagonist.
  41. All Adults Here by Emma Straub — I was gifted a BotM subscription and this was my first read from that little collection. It was light enough to go quickly and breezed through a few too many characters too quickly, but I still enjoyed the family dynamics at play and liked the overall story line of it. I did notice a number of little nuggets that had me wanting to dog-ear the pages as I read – little mantras about life and parenting that seemed to ring capital T-truth. (finished 7.5.2020)
  42. The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai — this book will rip you wide open for its hardship and its sadness, but then, also, it has such lines of beauty and truth in it (not that hardship and sadness aren’t true). Several times I caught my breath while listening for the T-truth experienced by these characters in Vietnam. As a side note, this was one of the best audio books I’ve listened to of all time.
  43. Me and White Supremacy Layla F. Saad — in progress
  44. Gilead by Marilynn Robinson — in progress
  45. The Island of Sea Women by Lisa Lee
  46. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

 

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When They Call you a Terrorist: a Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Careful What You Wish For

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Blowout by Rachel Maddow

 

ENOUGH

Perhaps it is the contrarian in me, but I do not like the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve resisted them for years now and 2021 shall be no different. I’m not going to resolve to be a new me or a new anything for that matter. But what I am going to do is commit to staying active and present on this journey of life and I am doing so by picking just one word to be my guide for as many days as I need it in this new year.

If you’ve ever read anything else I’ve written or met me, I’m sure you know picking just one word doesn’t come naturally or easily to me. One of my favorite memories from college was calling my dad and freaking out over the phone about meeting the word count of an upcoming paper only to hear his loving and immediate response of, “Baby Daughter. You have never not had enough words.” and knowing he was right. I love me my words and I use them well and often, so here I shall continue, relying on my words.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done a word focused approach to start a new calendar, but it is the first time I’m forcing myself to pick just one word to guide me. Looking back at 2020, I landed a lot on resilient and I was tempted to choose its sister word of persistent for 2021, but I think what I need to remember now more than ever is that I am doing enough. I have enough. I am enough. I can also, conveniently, flip this word to a more stern tone and sharply say “enough!” when the BS gets too heavy (online or in my own mind) or when I need some time and space for my head and heart. Enough of this. Enough of that. Enough of me. Enough for me.

Enough. Enough. Enough.

This word will have its work cut out for it in the first month of this new year. I’ve made commitments to myself in terms of my physical body (consistent bed and wake up times, plus 30 days of yoga) and I also have to navigate my mental energy in my return to online teaching two terms and the subsequent essay grading overload that comes with that. Then there’s all the momming and adulting that comes with the normal day-to-day as the kids return to school but of course we’re still in a pandemic, so there are extra concerns and care that need to be addressed as we wait for a vaccine and think more about what 2021 will look like for us in terms of activities (or not). And then there’s the financial commitment that we’ve made to knock out the lingering credit card debt from house renovations and see? There is enough to attend to; now I just need to remember, every single day, that I have enough within me to do it.

Will one word be enough to do all that? I think so.