It’s been six months (and about a week) since I realized that something was legit wrong with my ankle and roughly two and a half weeks since I tried to take myself out with bare feet + a wagon wheel whilst at a baseball game. Thanks to that little setback (toe was not broken, thankfully; just badly bruised and very sore for a while), I had to wait even longer for my not-so-patiently anticipated return to normal activity. I’m here today to say, “Hooray!” though because that wait is finally done. This week I am finally (FINALLY!) back at it!
I reentered the land of the moving over the weekend by getting on our old elliptical and going, if not terribly slow (I tried; I suck at that) at least not for very long. After half a year without activity, just doing 10-15 minutes was enough for me to break a sweat which is all I’ve been wanting, so I felt great.
This week was also the start of Summer Music for the Big 3 and we now have a third cellist in the family, although I have no proof because true to form, LT refused to let me take a picture of him with his cello. Each age/stage of band and orchestra is at a set time throughout the morning (4 days a week for 4 weeks) and it just so happens that Beginners Cello starts at 8:00a. And then ends a mere 30 minutes later which would basically just enough time to drive home, get a glass of water, and then drive back. In other words – pointless. (But yes, we do have three separate start times for all three kids, with the older two having longer, 50 min. lessons for their various instruments).
Fortunately the middle school, where lessons are held, has an asphalt track on campus, so while Linky has been learning to pluck cello strings this week, I have been walking. I don’t speed walk by any means, but I have been putting in a solid 25-30 mins the last three mornings which, again, feels great.
While I am walking, everything is A-OK. After, though, I am noticing some aches in my ankle that I hope are just adjustment to the activity level and not a sign of bigger trouble. Trust me, having waited this long to get to this point means I don’t want any more setbacks and loses of progress. I just want to keep moving my body and giving thanks that I can do so in a safe and steady way.
Just south of Milford, NE, at the top of my favorite kind of prairie ridge created by the West Blue River valley, sits a tiny white church with one little elegant steeple at the front doors and a small but beautifully maintained cemetery fenced just behind the building. West Blue U.C.C. Church has deep roots in the Welsch family as it is where Ben’s great, great, great grandfather, JP Welsch, was the first permanent pastor roughly 150 years ago. JP and his wife, Anna, are buried there along with many other Welsch descendants, including Ben’s own grandparents, Eugene and Louise, who used to live just up the road from the church while Ben’s parents live just down the hill from the church.
The church itself hasn’t been open in some time now for regular Sunday services, but for the last (almost) 50 years it has continued a tradition of hosting a Memorial Day Service in which families, friends, and neighbors can gather together for worship and, of course, a good old Midwestern Potluck in the church basement following service.
Since having kids, Ben and I haven’t made it back to as many of the Memorial Day Services as we did BC, but it’s a tradition I enjoy and actually one that gave me one of my fondest memories of Eugene. I can’t remember if it was pre-wedding or post, but in the early years of our relationship/marriage, Ben and I went to one of these services and the Welsch fam turned out in spades. All of Eugene and Louise’s four children were there as well as many of their partners and their children (and partners), meaning that we filled at least two if not two+ pews in the small church. Part of the agenda at each of these services is passing the microphone around those gathered so they can introduce themselves and share their connection to West Blue. For the old familiars, this is already known information, but every year there seems to be someone new or someone who hasn’t been there in some time. Often one person from a family will stand, be it the patriarch of the family or whoever is most comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.
That particular year that we were all there, Eugene stood, took the microphone, and then proceeded to introduce every single one of us down the pews without a single hiccup or error which set us all a-buzz with pleasure. Anyone who has ever been part of a family knows how dang hard it is to say the right name with the right face, much less when you are introducing outliers like myself who hadn’t been a part of the family for very long at that point. I don’t think any of us thought we could have pulled it off better than Gene, in his mid-70s at that time, did that morning!
A handful of years later, West Blue on a Memorial Sunday was the site of one of my maternity shoots (Ben’s cousin took some of my favorite pictures ever there when I was expecting the babe who turned out to be LT), but we hadn’t been back for ages for a Memorial Weekend, to the point that we realized, our kids did not remember this family tradition at all.
We course corrected that this past weekend by putting it on our calendar, and the Welschies got to experience the whole shebang, from the hymn numbers posted on the wall to being mesmerized by the organ that sits right up front (RL wants to add it to her ever-growing list of instruments she wants to play) to listening to all of the introductions and West Blue stories (“why is this taking so long?” asked one of them halfway through the exercise. “because this is kind of the main point!” I responded). Then it was downstairs for food (just as our clan of 7 fills a whole pew, we also filled up almost a whole entire table in the basement) and back out to the cemetery one more time to look at the graves and headstones.
We also managed to snag a few pictures with the kids on the steps of the church (where we considered getting married back in the day before settling on my own U.C.C. church in SoDak instead), in hopes of documenting what can once again become a more established tradition for us, so our kids know more of how our family came to be and how we came to be from this land.
In addition to all the End of Year shenanigans and shindigs that we’ve experienced in the last week, it’s also been a helluva week on the Foot Front, too.
On Wednesday, I graduated from PT. We thought this might happen a couple weeks ago but then three really rough days of too-much activity over a weekend set me back to where I not only could I not say “See ya!” I actually had to up my game and go back to twice-weekly appointments and laser treatments for pain management. But this week was finally the week to go over everything one last time, shake hands, and say, “Peace out!” which I happily did and documented because it felt so good to be back to feeling like myself.
On Thursday, I had my final follow-up with my surgeon and, similar to when I first went in to see him, it did not take long for him to assess the situation. Thankfully, this time it was “Oh, yeah – this feels great!” and I got the green light to return to normal activity and the option to ditch the brace for good. Of course, normal didn’t mean go for a two mile power walk – just start slow and small with the walks and the yoga and build up those activities over time.
On Saturday, I broke* my toe at a baseball game. Was I playing baseball? Of course not! That’s not a normal activity for me! But you know my boys are playing games, games, and more games all the time these days, and right as LT’s second game of a double hitter (as TJ calls it; sooooo cute) got going, I freaking took myself out while trying to navigate our mess of chairs, wagons, kids, and crap to get aforementioned cutie some water and bruised the heck out of my middle and second toe on, you guessed it, my left foot.
So much for those wishes I had to hop on the elliptical and my yoga mat anytime soon.
Thankfully I had some ice to put on it during the rest of that game and that game went quickly, so before too terribly long, I was home for some ibuprofen and an epsom bath. All of that helped but I can totally feel it when I walk/push off those toes and it’s already started to bruise so the next few days/coming week is probably going to suckity suck as far as all that feels.
No one ever said a road to healing was a straight or short path, but crap on a stick, this is frustrating. Also, no one warns parents enough that raising children is a job that should require steel-toed boots at all times, because good gravy, your toes are vulnerable as all get out (especially when you’re a dang hippie who loves to walk around barefoot/ground yourself via the grass).
All week long my besties and I have been sending each other reels about Mother’s Day and all the Dos and Don’ts for partners that surround this holiday*. I sent a few to B as well – some that made us laugh and others that made us go, “OK, but how??” and it’s that question right there that has me wondering how anyone can ever live up to the hype and expectation of this day (*commercialized circus/reason for every business and their dog to email me with a sale link) that rarely takes into consideration how hard this day is for so many for so many reasons.
There’s way too much emphasis loaded on this one rotating day each May, as if May itself isn’t a freaking tornado already without all this Make Everything Perfect for Mom pressure slapped in the middle of it. But guess what – nothing is ever perfect and even when you have the best laid intentions of making the day “magical,” those plans are as likely as not to go off the rails.
To be fair, maybe the reason for this derailment is because I’m still in The Tunnel/in the (very) Active Mothering Years. While we’ve crossed the fabulous milestones of everyone being able to buckle themselves in the car (what a game changer!) and almost everyone always being able to use the bathroom solo (TMI but also a real achievement), there is still SO much energy and effort required on a daily basis in my life as a mom, including on Mother’s Day.
To be fair again, Ben tried. He planned to give me some time and space today to just be (and hopefully not have to feed anyone or tend to anyone’s bathroom needs) but then Littlest Girl woke up with ear pain this morning and several of our plans went right out the door. She did still go to Sunday School (because, bless it, she wanted to make me the Mother’s Day craft she knew they’d be working on) but we didn’t go to church all together like I had wanted because we needed to get her to Convenient Care ASAP. Good thing we did because it turns out she has a double ear infection, but in the midst of finding that out, I managed to ruin my own lunch (because apparently reading directions is hard) and then had to abandon it anyway to go pick up the pizza that was ordered for the kids before all this went down. So, no church, a cold lunch, and a bunch of swears later, I finally got to sit down with an iced coffee and a book (and blankets in the back yard) while the kids did screens this afternoon.
From there the day picked up mood wise (thanks, oat milk caramel latte – lol), but let’s face it, a lot of normal happened today. I did several loads of laundry, including leading the kids through our new-ish ritual of helping them sort all of their clothes into their own self-folded piles. I swept the kitchen and did the dishes (although that was mostly because I wanted to listen to my Pride and Prejudice podcast “Live from Pemberly”). I (tried to) put out a half dozen arguments between kids. And I helped feed kids and wipes butts because, again, life. It just happens and if I didn’t attend to these things, then they’d just be here tomorrow; avoiding them today doesn’t get me too far.
I realize I sound cranky and ungrateful (I’m really just kind of one of those), but I don’t actually want the day to go away entirely; my kids are sweet and they like to show me in their own ways how they love me, so today is a good excuse for that. And Ben was good about continuing the tradition of plants, both for in the house and outside, which we took time to plant this afternoon. But this dang day needs to be taken off the pedestal of expectation, if nowhere else, in my own brain that it is actually going to contain A Break. Short of kicking everyone out of the house for the day (trust me, I’ve considered saying, “I love you. Thanks for making me a mom. Now leave!” on this day for a few years now), that’s just not going to happen.
The irony of this wanting space/not getting enough space is that now I suddenly have TOO MUCH SPACE, at least from one of them. The one last thing I want from this day is a picture with all five of my kids, but HD ended up riding his bike to a friend’s house this afternoon to hang out and managed to invite himself to their Mother’s Day dinner out and he may not make it home before Little Miss Ear Infection needs to go to bed. Thankfully Math Man came to the rescue and suggested we take individual pics with each kid, so I’ll just fix this when he gets home:
I guess if nothing else, this Mother’s Day was a Schmother’s Day to remember!
Ankle Update Time – it’s been eight weeks since my procedure and while there has been a lot of progress, this journey is not yet done.
Yesterday I had PT which I have been doing twice a week since the week after I got my Rhino Horn off (so, the last five weeks). After recovering from the literal misstep I took after getting out of the walking boot, I’ve been back on the every few days, a new sign of progress arising. First it was getting back out of the boot, then off the crutch, and then having far less pain and lurchiness each time I started walking (once I got going I was typically fine, but something about that initial motion was often rough). I left yesterday’s PT session with a note to take to my doctor for my 2-month check, also scheduled for yesterday, and had to laugh because it told him that I’m very “compliant” with my at-home program which is funny-true because 1) I do all my exercises twice a day, just like they told me, and 2) goodness if that isn’t the most Enneagram One description ever, I don’t know what is!
While the doctor’s office was quite pleased with my swelling and scar status, they agreed that my range of motion just isn’t there yet which means I’ll have a couple more weeks of PT to complete. One of my biggest hold-ups is stairs. I think this is because of the oops I had last month but also because This Old Home has very narrow steps, so in order to go down them, I have to be on the ball of my foot and that takes a looseness and range of motion that my left foot just doesn’t have back yet. I’m confident it will come, but I’m going to have to work for it.
What surprised me yesterday is that they want me back in my soft brace that I picked up in Houston when all this first escalated, at least when I’m out and about/doing a lot of walking. Around the house I don’t have to be in it 24/7, but for the next six weeks until my next appointment, I’m supposed to be using it. I didn’t realize that would be part of the process and while it feels like a bit of a set-back, it also makes sense that it’s really just for my own protection. Without the boot/crutch to stabilize or slow me down, the brace is my best line of defense at giving me the time I need to really let the healing continue while still getting around and doing as much life as I can.
Clearly it did not compute in my brain correctly, back in January, just how long and arduous this recovery would be. Every time I think I’ve gotten SO much closer to my “normal,” another stage comes along that says, sllllllloooooooow down, reminding me of how much I didn’t know what I was getting into here and how far I have yet to go. I mean, it’s not like I had a choice anyway, but wow, a walk in the park this is not. However, a walk in the park sounds like a lovely goal and it will come, just not quite as fast as I had hoped.
Let’s Talk About Itby Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan — This book came highly recommended and I will be telling everyone the same – you must read it! Especially if you are a parent of teens or soon-to-be teens, but also, maybe just everyone because it covers so much ground in such an inclusive and comprehensive manner. I don’t think the lessons and language are helpful for just teenagers to know more about their bodies and the relationships we have with ourselves and others but honestly all of us. Plus it’s a graphic novel so it’s a quick read.
Blue-Skinned Gods by S.J. Sindu — This sucked me right in and kept me turning pages quickly. It’s written in a fascinating sequence and left me with some wonderings and questions, but not in a bad way. I was also left with a desire to re-read because I think you would get even more out of a subsequent read than the first; not many books do that. Another unique feature was the land acknowledgment at the end – this is the first time I’ve seen that included in a book.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston — This is a must-read for jr. and sr. high kids, especially if they are growing up in a more conservative part of the country. Not only are the writing and storyline intriguing, but also, the book hits so many points smack on the head about identity and acceptance.
Good Inside by Dr. Becky Kennedy — A must-read, for parents and people starting the process of reparenting themselves. This book and BK’s strategies are so straightforward and empowering. Loved it. Can’t wait to work with the concepts and apply them to our family’s interactions.
Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai — This is a case of my wants/expectations not matching what I thought the book would be; while I expect drama in my romances, I don’t expect kidnappings and thieves (despite the title; didn’t see that coming) to keep me on the nervous edge of my seat when I’m reading before bed. I’d be interested to try another title from this author but no more crime thrillers for me, thanks.
Drunk on Love by Jasmine Guillory — Look, I’m going to love anything Guillory does, so let’s just get that statement out of the way straight away. This one took me a bit to get into because it is a tad different from her other series but I also see ways in which this one could expand into subsequent books and am totally down for that, so I think this new vein and I could become just as tight as the first in time.
Husband Material by Alexis Hall — This one kept me laughing (just like LC #1) and guessing the whole time, which made for super fun reading. I was so pleased to see another book with these characters and the actual book itself did not disappoint.
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien — HD asked me, “I think I want to read The Lord of the Rings; have you heard of it?” LOL, of course! But actually I’ve never read any of those books, so a friend suggested we start with The Hobbit which is exactly what we did. We both enjoyed it a lot, so I’m assuming the other books will follow in good time.
Only When It’s Us (Bergman Brothers #1) by Chloe Liese — I liked this first-in-series well enough to read some more that follow it; there were some big jumps that I thought felt forced within the storyline, but overall it was an enjoyable (and steamy) romance read.
Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me by Lily Collins — I love me some LC, and while some parts of this book dipped underneath the surface and showed some real truth and insight, a lot of it felt surface level and platitude-y to me. I realize this was an essay collection more than a memoir, so maybe that’s part of it, but the overall feeling this left me with was wanting more depth from it. However, it was a really simple listen while my kids were home for a Snow Day and I needed something easy in my ear during their screen time.
Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q. Suntanto — I really enjoyed that there was a follow up book to Dial A for Aunties and was excited to read this. Maybe the first book was like this, too, but there were a lot of cliff hanger chapter endings that felt like “and then the most shocking thing ever happened!” with this one that got old after a while. That said, the over-the-top-ness is part of the charm of these books and I liked how everything came to fruition/wrapped up by the book’s end, so it was definitely worth the read.
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy — McCurdy is a phenomenal writer. Her story is hard to read in the sense of how gut-wrenchingly difficult her upbringing was, but the way she writes it is brutiful in its honesty and depth. She’s never coy or cutesy with the narrative and her choice to write in real-time, first-person puts you right there with her at each age, stage, and mentality. I don’t know that I’ve read a more compelling memoir. Could not put it down.
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid — This didn’t blow me away as much as TJR’s latter books, but it was still fun to go back and read one of her earlier works. Also, it did have me wondering what was actually going to happen and I had a definite preference in the ending I wanted, so clearly she had a solid hook here.
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel — Even though this book is fairly dated at this point, it still gave me a lot of food for thought, especially after I got to the halfway point or so. There’s a lot to consider here in terms of parenthood and what we learn about acceptance and rejection early on in life and how that plays into our later, romantic relationships.
Counterfeit by Kristin Chen — There are some great twists and turns in this one and I really appreciated the writing style of the overall book. I know nothing about designer handbags but I enjoyed this novel about them so much! Such a different topic/focus and fun in a suspense-y sort of way. (finished 2.28.23)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling — Finally finished reading this to No.2 and No.3 – feels so good to check this off for two more of the kids!
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna — This book was such a delight to read. It reminded me a bit of TJ Klune’s writing, which is always a pleasure to experience; my only wish is that the magic had lasted a little longer.
The Winners by Fredrik Backman — I’m still not convinced I needed a third book to make this into a trilogy, but that said, I still love the way Backman writes these characters and the way he can summarize life and human-ing so well. His little capital-T Truths are sprinkled everywhere throughout this book, just like in the first two. This one is also no different in that it is a crack-your-heart open read, full of joy and sadness (although the sadness tends to take up more space). While it was worth it in the end to read No.3, I still think you could read just the first two in the series and feel satisfied with the story, which is probably what I would recommend first to people just because this last one is so much longer than the other two.
Ejaculate Responsibly by Gabrielle Blair — Everyone needs this book. Read it (quickly, because it is important, succinct, and compelling). Talk about it with your people. Read it again. Keep talking with your people. The shift of focus that Blair takes to discuss how we can reduce unwanted pregnancies (and thereby eliminate a great deal of abortions) is both simple and radical. The title says it all, but seriously, read this book. (finished 3.15.23)
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd — Reread this for an upcoming book club discussion (very much looking forward to this as I have yet to discuss this one with a group) and enjoyed it all over again. I picked up on lines that I’m sure I appreciated the first time and adored this time, and was taken by the fact that I am (once again, it turns out) reading this in the Easter-ish season; while I understand that this is fiction, it also seems so realistic and compelling, making it a fascinating lens from which to look at the adult life of Jesus.
The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor — Although this book is relatively short in page number, it does not lack in depth of importance or scope. The ideas here do feel radical but also necessary, even though I can already see that the work is going to be life-long. SRT offers solid framework for understanding how we got here, but also offers clear guidance for how we move forward and (bless it, someday) through this mess of body shame and fear. It’s a must-read and probably a read-again (and again) kind of book.
Astrid Parker Doesn’t Failby Ashley Herring Blake — As far as romances go, this was great, even if I did accidently read Book 2 before Book 1. I enjoyed the characters and premise and love to see queer love stories take shape on the page, which means I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. (finished 3.26.23)
Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen — I adored this book. It took me a few chapters to get into a groove with it, but then I didn’t want to stop and loved how the author wove together so many characters and little storylines, all while flushing out the story of the main characters. This was also so unique and unlike any other book I’ve read for who knows how long, which also made it a compelling and satisfying read.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks — Incredible. This is historical fiction in fine form, but it also pulls in modern issues of race and all the complexity that surrounds such concerns. I did not expect to get sucked into this book but I could not put it down and was really drawn into both the historical storylines and the contemporary one as well. The research that went into this is remarkable but the end result is a compelling, captivating story that isn’t dry or dull in the least. (finished 4.3.23
Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley — Such an endearing book and a lovely premise for a novel. The characters are fun and the way their stories connect keeps the reading quick and entertaining. I called a few shots and was surprised by some others. While there are some big heavies tucked in these pages, it’s also full of joy and hope. This is my second Pooley novel; looking forward to more in the future.
Rivals by Katharine McGee — This one didn’t land as well for me as the first two, but that may have been because I didn’t realize that this book was building to a Book Four. I thought I was getting story, character, and series resolution, only to start wondering WTH when I had 10% of my reading left and was definitely not getting things wrapped up with a royal bow. I’m certainly not mad about there being a B4 and clearly this one set the stage for some fireworks in what’s to come, but it did shift my reading experience in an odd way.
Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad — Did not expect to finish this in three days, but with the holiday weekend and Jaouad’s gorgeous writing style, I simply couldn’t put this down and flew through it. There’s so much human-ness wrapped up in her story and even though I can’t relate to her specific medical experience, I found myself understanding and agreeing with so much of what she shared here. There are essentially two parts to this memoir – the illness and the after, and she writes about both in remarkable ways. What a beautiful writer. (Finished 4.9.23)
In the Event of Love by Courtney Kae — I was all for the Hallmark premise of this but in actual execution of the story, I just couldn’t get on board with the characters and the big jumps between their hesitation and rejection and then their sudden (re)familiarity and declarations. Not nearly enough realistic development, despite being a real-enough setting and situation. Romance novels aren’t meant to be boring/irritating enough to put down and fall asleep!
Women Talking by Miriam Toews — This book is a gut punch and also a bit baffling to me given that its very title is Women Talking but has a male narrator. I get it that to have “minutes” from the meeting of an illiterate group, someone with the ability to write would need to be present, but that choice struck me throughout my reading of the book. It’s hellish to know that this fictional work stems from real-life trauma experienced in the world, but it is worthwhile to consider how the women might have talked about what choices they had after the men were arrested, which is exactly what this book details (albeit it through the lens of another man from the colony).
Not the Plan by Gia de Cadenet — This had more political intrigue than I expected which was interesting to see crop up in a romance read, and it also dove into family relationships (specifically an emotionally immature parent) in unexpected ways.
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang — Obsessed! This book is all about the writing of books but it is so much more than that, too, diving into race, professionalism, ownership of stories, friendship, some family shit, and, indirectly, a commentary on the evils of social media. Also, Kuang created my most favorite unreliable narrator ever in June/Juniper. Could not stop reading it! (finished 5/5/23)
Dear White Peacemaker by Osehta Moore — Moore approaches this book with the central ideas that Jesus is the model for anti-racism peacemaking and that such strides can be made in our society through efforts that involve both grit and grace. She echoes these themes throughout the book with both personal anecdotes, commentary on social tragedies and movements, and close readings of the bible. Each primary section also includes a Breath Prayer that invokes spiritual wording and ideas to associate with your inhales and exhales; altogether they make a beautiful list and prayer offering. In general, the book shines a different perspective on anti-racism work than most others I have read.
Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake –I’ve got another queer romance love in AHB’s writing! These books are so great. I accidentally read No.2 before No.1, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of either book, actually, even though I totally knew very important spoilers when I began this one. I love the way these characters, friendships, and romances are written, and I hope this series plays out for a good long while.
Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean — The jump to princess status and the relationship in this fell short for me, but at the same time, the friendships and heroine were enjoyable enough to read and made up for some of the other “how did we get here” moments. I’d be curious to read the second book and see how the story unfolds from this point.
In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune — This was a slower start for me, but once I got to Part II, I felt more of that typical Klune hook to the writing. And somehow he made me absolutely fall in love with sarcastic and neurotic robots, so there’s that! I didn’t know what to expect out of a dystopian novel about robots but ultimately the story and characters cracked my heart open just a bit more, like Klune’s book always do. (Finished 5/25/23)
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver — Oh, wow. I’ve never read David Copperfield but this modern retelling set in Appalachia is incredible. There are moments (many) that rip your heart out and stir your anger, and then there are others that make you root and cheer for Demon or sigh in relief that he’s survived to see another day after the latest shit show experience. This one is going to stick with me for quite a while. (6/6/23)
I’m at the close of my 40th year, taking on a writing project that’s pushed me to reflect and expand on memories, values, and personality quirks. I wrote to my past self, from 20 years ago, and it occurs to me that the best way I can wrap up this project is to write to my future self when I’ve eclipsed another 20 years from now. At that point, I’ll be 60, and even though I love me words and stories, I’ve still got a soft spot for numbers and symmetry, so here it goes…
1) I can’t wait to see the way you embody your self and your age. Making it through the 30s has brought freedom and exploration with clothing and hair, but I can only imagine that this journey will continue and that you will have officially reached your No Effs Left to Give stage, wearing and rocking whatever you want. I’ll also put in my vote now for long gray hair. Don’t succumb to the belief that as you get older your hair must get shorter or that you have to keep coloring it (unless you want to, and then you do you, Sis). You’ve always been one to play and experiment with your hair, and while it may not be the case right at 60, I sincerely hope that by now you’ve gone through the Blue Hair phase that we’ve been wanting for so long.
2) Speaking of bodies….I hope you are friends with yours. It’s been a long and winding road, and a shit ton of work, to get where we are at 40 – may another 20 years of practicing and accepting bring you closer and closer to loving your body and all that it provides. May you still be a walking, yoga-doing, kitchen dance partying badass, and may your movements be from joy, not punishment. And may you forgive your body and give it grace when it needs rest and forces you to slow down; that’s never been our strong suit, but we’re in this for the long-haul (and another letter written at 60 to our 80yo self), so do what you must for longevity as well as enjoyment in your (our) body.
3) Your babies are now grown. There’s no telling at this point of writing where any of them will land or what they will do, but I hope that in the midst of all the transition and launching of children out into the world, you continue to find what anchors you. What takes up your brain space now that you don’t have to catalog where everyone’s clothes, instruments, or practice schedules are? Are you reading a lot? Going on long walks? Traveling? As a child you thought you had to know exactly what you’d do career-wise for the rest of your life. As a 40yo, you know that’s not true at all and find that you still feel like a kid who is just winging it most days. Where are you at 60? I’m guessing that while your body may disagree on some days, you still feel like the world is full of possibility and you’re still just making it up as you go. May that be a joy unto itself.
4) Speaking of possibility…have you done it yet? Did you write that book or that series that you absolutely could not get to stop bumping around your brain at 40? Looking at it from this side of the next 20 years, it still feels impossible, but goodness, I hope that from your side you’re beaming with pride at all that you’ve managed to learn and create through the written word. Because standing here, that thought absolutely will not go away, so tell me, Babe – how did that flourish and come to fruition in real life?
5) And speaking of yets, hopes, and dreams…are you back to living in the country now? For as much as you love this current house and all the work you and B put into it, not to mention the benefits of living in town, I know your heart longs for a life with no neighbors (and their dogs, leaf blowers, and loud mufflers) and complete access to your favorite element of nature – the wide open prairie sky. It’s been a part of you forever, so are you closer to it yet? Here’s hoping that you’ve been able to carve out somewhere in the quiet of the ever-changing ocean of clouds and sunshine (and that the wind doesn’t drive you too insane).
What an adventure we have had so far and who can tell where it will go from here by the time I catch up to you then. I can’t wait to do it all with you.
At present, I am 5.5 weeks out from ankle surgery. While this last week contained some an exciting development, it also came with some setbacks and reminders of just how far I still have to go with my healing and recovery process.
On Tuesday, at PT, I was cleared to practice walking WITHOUT the boot. I knew this was coming and had been (cheating) practicing at home a bit the few days prior, just shuffling around our main floor without any boot or crutch. So that day at PT was great. Got some new stretches, did some new exercises, and left with the green light to wear the boot as much or as little as I saw fit day-to-day.
Unfortunately, the very next day, I got way ahead of myself which has now landed me back to where I felt things were a week or more ago. Wednesday morning I was getting around the house in just my Hokas (my favorite brand of athletic shoes) and felt pretty great. In the spirit of tidying the house, I was also doing multiple loads of laundry which required me to go downstairs to the basement multiple times to switch out loads, etc. Since surgery and getting cleared for weight bearing again, I’ve been doing the step-step-pause when I go up or down the stairs. In other words, I have to put both feet on each stair each time because I don’t have the range of motion in my left ankle yet to step/lift off one foot at a time.
Going to do laundry, however, and feeling super pleased with myself meant I forgot that I’m not ready for stepping down stairs, and without thinking, I lifted my left foot, placed it down on a stair and immediately rolled it through the action of lifting my right foot which was. not. good. That’s definitely a lot different than just lifting and setting my foot from one stair to the next. Thankfully I didn’t tear anything in the process, but I also didn’t do myself any favors in that moment, as I have been trying to work back from it every day since this week. As I told my physical therapist the next day, (damn) gravity and feeling a tad too confident got the best of me.
In all fairness, this is my first real set-back during my recovery. My pain after surgery was minimal and since I got rid of the Rhino Horn, I’ve been making steady progress every 2-3 days where I am suddenly able to do the next progression of movement, exercises, and get rid of aids like the crutches, and so forth. So part of me thinks, I should just be grateful that I’ve made it almost a month and a half and am already where I’m at with mobility. Another part of me, though, is super frustrated, hurting and sore, and just wants to be done with this. I miss going for walks and I miss doing yoga. I even miss being able to pop downstairs quick to check on the (damn) laundry when I want to without it taking twice as long as I step-step-pause my way down and then back up the stairs. I know all of this is going to come in time, but currently, I’m in the time where I feel like it’s been quite long (almost three months now) since I’ve been able to move my body how I want and I’m still quite far (at least another month, maybe more) before I get there.
Am I surprised that this is a legit lesson in patience or that it is hard? Not, not at all. But am I still in the thick of it? Yes, yes I am, sometimes with a boot, crutches, and all.
If my relationship to Public Radio was a romance novel, it would definitely be an enemies-to-lovers trope. But before we could be enemies, I still had to learn what Public Radio even was since I had no idea it existed, and wouldn’t until I was in high school.
Although my family listened to a lot of radio growing up, I never remember my parents being big on PR, even though my dad loved talk radio shows. He also loved calling in and winning stuff from the radio, like the time he got a free ride on an airplane and had the pilot take him over our marching band practice (no jokes), so he could get an aerial view of what we were doing. To be fair, I’ve inherited a bit of this trait from him (more on that soon).
Somehow, I can vividly remember the first time I was subjected to Public Radio which was in the late 90s while being driven across the state of South Dakota by a church member on a youth group ski trip to the Black Hills. I’m sure the dad of an upperclassman, a local doctor in our hometown, also let us listen to other things (or did he?!), but he for sure made us listen to *his* radio, too, which was all classical pieces and grown up news/talk stuff. My teenage, pop-loving self was not on board with this arrangement. The skiing may have been fun, but it felt like torture to be in the vehicle for so many hours coming and going (it takes a good 5.5 or 6 hours to get across SD) listening to that.
My next real encounter with all things classical music, world news, and talk-based shows, was in college, when I was once again influenced by my environment. This time it was the semester after my study-abroad in Africa, when I lived in the spare room of one of Doane’s professors; my quilting instructor. She had a radio/stereo in the center of her home and I remember it being turned on to NPR/NET Radio at any manner of time throughout any given day. Unlike the road trip/radio hostage situation, by the time I was 20/21 and living in her house, I was a tad bit more mature and less bothered by this listening choice. Also, I could leave the house or, at the very least, shut my door and put on my own music whenever I wanted, so I never felt so forced or attacked by this semester-long exposure.
In fact, I think my host’s influence was a good one on me because I learned that classical music can make a great backdrop to learning (and especially to writing). This was a trick I used often in my early years of teaching when I gave students time to write in class – some soft instrumental music in the background to fill the void a bit while they worked on individual compositions, free writes, etc. for assignments. It was also helpful that I’d been introduced to Nebraska’s Public Radio in college because, by the time I was teaching college myself, just three short years later, I needed to know that such a station existed, just to survive my morning drive to work.
Calling my drive a commute might not be fair since the campus where I first taught, Central Community College – Hastings, is literally just outside of Hastings. Even better was that our first house on the east-ish side of town, making it even easier to get to work. However, it still took about 10 minutes to get all the way out there, onto campus, and parked, and because of my teaching schedule/arrival to campus time, I found myself running into the hour on the local radio stations where they were doing nothing but birthday wishes (oh my goodness – another thing my dad was famous for loving when we were kids!) and talky-talk, and I couldn’t stand it. So, I flipped the dial to 89.1 and started listening to NPR’s Morning Edition instead; from there, the slippery slope took hold.
It wasn’t long before I, too, was obsessed. I listened to NPR in the car, at home, and even streamed it in my classes during the aforementioned writing times. I became a huge fan of several weekend shows including Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! and Click and Clack – a call-in show where two brothers, both mechanics, would answer wild car-related questions (that involved a lot of funny noises made by people trying to mimic the weird sounds their vehicles were making that had prompted them to call for help). Although my NPR listening tapered off when the kids came along (we switched to more music and kid-friendly on CDs rather than listening to NET’s updates on local and world news and such), I still loved to catch my weekend shows when I could, even when the babies were super young and I had less listening time.
Once, the spring I spent driving toddler HD and baby RL around the countryside because that was the only time I could get them both to nap, I even made my own call to Click and Clack in hopes that they could identify the strange noise our own vehicle was making at the time. Alas, I never got a call back to be interviewed on the show, but see? I am my father’s daughter!
A few years later a highlight of my NPR relationship occurred when Ben and I happened to get tickets at the Lied Center in Lincoln for a taping of Wait, Wait, which was so entertaining to witness and seems now like one of those things I can’t believe I ever got to do in this life. They literally travel the country doing the show, and for them to be in Nebraska felt like such a gift.
Recently, I learned that Public Radio has really only been available for listening in Nebraska since the 90s – the same time my teenage-self was lamenting my PR exposure in SoDak. And the reason I have access to it in Hastings, Nebraska at all is thanks to the fundraising efforts of a local woman that I just met for the first time in late winter of 2023, which is also remarkable to me. Here is this entity that has meant so much to me over the years and it is in large part because of her efforts that such a love could even exist in my life! Without her, a tower in Central, NE would have been unlikely and I never would have had the option to become a regular listener and supporter of the cause (check out the rad socks, pictured below, that I once got for a donation gift).
Public Radio and I may not have seen eye-to-eye early on in our relationship, and we may have had some dry spells over the years where it looked like we might be falling out, but we’re coming to the time when I once again find myself alone in the car with time to listen and think, meaning that our relationship can once again be a steady force and presence in my life. Thank goodness for that!
Of course I don’t mean move to a new house or a new city/state/country every time you have a problem. Although, to be fair, I really do believe people should move every 5-10 years so as to force our hands at sorting through and not keeping so many possessions, but I digress (and it is so not a rule we have followed).
What I mean is, when you don’t know what to do or your feelings are too big, or you feel overwhelmed, Move. Move your body. Move your breath. Move.
Moving your body might look like running or kickboxing (lately I really want to punch things, so boxing sounds like fun). It might look like a long walk or going for a swim. Or, you might not be able to do any of those activities for a variety of reasons, but you can still move your body, even if you’re sitting on the couch. Put on some really loud music if it helps, and start shaking your limbs. Flail your arms and legs, move without any other guide than where your body takes you. Let all of that energy move through and away from you. And, if you need to, punch a pillow; that usually helps, too. Rinse and repeat every day to release the pressure value, so to speak (nothing like a good mixed metaphor to drive home an important point).
Moving your breath might be an additional practice to the body movement or it might be its own entity. You can take deep breaths into your belly (diaphragmatic breathing), letting your inhales inflate your stomach like a big balloon; let your exhales be twice as long as you release those deep in-breaths. You can also do my personal favorite – Horsey Lips. This means taking a deep breath and then forcing your exhale out with so much oomph that your lips vibrate and shake, much like a horse does when they snort/snuff with their mouths. Will you look and sound weird? Yep. Will it help and be worth it? Also yep. And, when you’re ready, trying Ecstatic Breathwork; it is transformative and a powerful tool.
This isn’t my wisdom alone; these are lessons learned from years of yoga training and practice as well as tried and true techniques from books I’ve read about the body, stress, and how we store emotions in our physical bodies until we learn how to process them properly. Movement, in the body and in the breath, is the way. These practices won’t always be an instant fix and they aren’t going to solve all of your problems, but they are going to help you feel better, bit by bit, and they will definitely keep you feeling more grounded. This will help you with another important fix to when life feels like too much: rest, the exact opposite of moving and something I will also be practicing the remainder of my days.