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.

Behind the Screen

What you see is not what you get. We know this, right? Especially when it comes to what folks present (or not) on social media? Over the years of keeping this blog, I’ve prided myself on keeping it as real and honest as possible but part of keeping that honesty is also in bearing in mind that even with all that’s been shared here, there’s also been plenty in our lives that hasn’t made it on because some things are just private like that.

Pain, for me, often tends to be private. At least at first. I don’t readily share my pain on a wide scale because to do so comes with great vulnerability and exposure, neither of which are easy to just pull from one’s back pocket, especially if you’re hurting or have been for awhile.

So here’s what I’ve been keeping mostly to myself: April was a month of pain. Basically a entire month of hurting that started the week after Easter with a headache that just would not go away, no matter how mindful I was in trying to prevent it each day or how much I tried to treat it with OTC medicines.

At first I didn’t realize anything was seriously wrong because you know, sometimes a person just gets a headache or two. But then after days turned into a week and that then turned into weekS, I started getting nervous, not to mention exhausted because as you might imagine, my house is not a conducive environment for headache recovery. Have you met my children? They are my whole heart but there a lot of them and not one of them is quiet which is hard even when I don’t have a days/weeks-long headache battle in my body.

This is why I went to the eye doctor. Yes, I’m using the readers and yes, I’m sure they are good for my eyes, but no, they aren’t making the headaches subside. But yes, still reading like a maniac, even with headaches because I am who I am, folks.

This is why I went to my GP. No, he didn’t see any red flags at this point of something larger or scarier like my weary brain was starting to fear, but also no, the medicine I got there to try also didn’t do anything to make the headaches disappear.

And this is why I went to my chiropractor (that’s a regular thing anyway but I haven’t been since all this became a noticeable problem, so it was beyond time to get there). That was just today, actually, and while the headache isn’t totally gone, I am really, really hoping that this is the fix my system needs to move away from this place of pain.

At this point, answers or relief (ummm, who am I kidding? Preferably both!) would be greatly appreciated. It’s really hard to go through the day-to-day when every day involves pain, but maybe more so to do this on one’s own. Hence the telling now and the reminder that what we see of people (online and in person) is never, ever the full story. Are we still doing the things big and small that you see me sharing on social media? Yeah, because constant headache or not, I have no choice but to keep mom-ing and working and going. But there is always, always more to it, and sometimes, when the pain goes on for too long, it’s worth admitting to the struggle because it’s as much a part of us as all the rest.

Hopefully I’ll have a happier, healthier update to share soon, but for now I’ve got to keep doing what I can to try and solve/resolve what’s happening in my body while keeping all the other plates spinning, too.

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.

Can I Have a Hug?

For years (forever?) I have been the mom who doesn’t force her kids to dole out physical affection. This goes for hugs and kisses to me, Dad, grandparents, anyone. As a survivor of sexual assault, consent is a pretty big deal and plays into this, but overall this approach of asking first has been our way to teach the kids autonomy over their own bodies.

In our day-to-day this looks like me asking before I give them snuggles and such with the primary question being, “Do you give hugs (or kisses or snuggles) today?” and then gracefully accepting whatever they say in that moment. No pouting, no guilt trips if they say no, just check-ins to see if anyone is need of some physical love and doling it out when they do.

To be honest, as much as I personally need consent to involved, I don’t make the children ask me first before they hug me because let’s be real – I’m never saying ‘no’ to those little hugs and kisses, even when they are accompanied by dirty faces and sticky fingers (I just cringe a little on the extra messy ones because I know laundry may be involved). But apparently years of modeling this Ask First policy have paid off because I’ve noticed a trend lately where the Bigs do in fact ask before they come in for a squeeze and I love it.

Harrison especially has been asking lately and again – I’m never saying no because as my oldest who is off to middle school in the fall, I know these exchanges with him could be numbered/limited in the years to come. I mean, maybe not, but as he gets closer and closer to catching me in height (my bets are on him passing me by Christmas), I can’t help but recognize that things they are a changing and he is growing up quickly. There’s a lot to be proud of when it comes to him, but this back and forth of asking and respecting, this voicing of what he needs or perceives of me maybe needing is pretty cool to see.

So can you have a hug? Yes, you bet. Anytime.

Spring Board

In a lovely turn of events, Saturdays are now our quiet days, our days to do nothing (or everything depending on how you look at it) and will be for the next five weeks as tomorrow marks the start of Spring Sports in high gear for our fam. Miss Raegan’s already been at it for a few weeks with her running program, Girls on the Run, and the two biggest boys started with flag football practices this past week, but starting tomorrow our weeks will be full of all of that plus Sunday football games and then weekly practices for the new kid track program that Ben is helping coach here in town, and while we’re at it, why not throw in orchestra rehearsals for HD and Kinder Orientation for TJ, this week too, eh? Because, yep; all that is happening, too.

And this is why this sweatshirt has the best-ever job descriptor of what my life is like as a mama of five busy Littles because chaos coordination is exactly what I attempt to do all the live-long day, and especially now that we’re getting into high levels of activity again with this new season.

To be fair, I often find spring a little overwhelming for these very reasons – all the things happening at all the times takes a lot of organization and planning, not to mention remembering and executing. But this spring has that not-so-little extra bit of anxiety built into it because we’re coming into this level of activity after a year of basically going nowhere and doing nothing and the overwhelm is not just to our calendar but also our senses and energy levels, too.

The good part of this is that Ben and I have both been fortunate enough to receive our vaccinations for COVID-19 in the last month, at least the first dose. He actually had his second just yesterday and I will have mine this coming week, so once we get through two weeks after that, life going back to semi-normal will feel a bit more possible. But there’s still so much to process from everything that is happened in the last year that makes it hard to just dive back in to active, calendar-full life, on multiple levels, which brings me back to these quiet Saturdays.

I need them.

My kids need them.

My husband and my house need them.

We need some time to decompress and be away from all the going and doing because we haven’t quite figured out how to re-enter that again, which I think is OK. Actually, I’m not sure I ever want to go back fully to what life was like before, but with this many kids in our family, even keeping them limited on activities still means we have a ton going on and eventually I am going to have to find a way to navigate that that keeps us all happy and sane. In the case of this year, maintaining that meant saying “no” to soccer for the littlest two because we just needed to keep one day of the week to ourselves while we still could.

I’d like to think that we can still keep quiet days moving forward and we’re doing well to lay that foundation now. I have to believe that the spring board back to the world at large can still leave such space and grace for ourselves and our families. Time to take walks and think. Time to play games both inside and outside. Time to listen to music. Time to unwind and reset for all that is to come (because, again, even with just a little, it all quickly becomes a lot in this house).

Is it wishful thinking to hope we can keep this forever? Yes. I know that. But for this year in particular, this feels like the best strategy possible to keep ourselves in one piece while also putting some feelers back out there for what that semi-return actually looks like for us. I think coordinated chaos plus once-a-week quiet days are a pretty good way to start.

Hurricane Wilson

Call it Spring Fever or a celebration that March is finally over or that I know my kids are going to be home for the next four days and I just can’t stand the mess anymore, but today I drank my tea and then got after it on picking up/decluttering around the house (spoiler alert: it looks better but is far from done). As you might imagine, we do this quite often but with seven mess makers living here, it takes all of two seconds for it to become a disaster zone again, especially with this girl on the premises.

Don’t let the cuteness fool you. She is the No. 1 Offender when it comes to spreading randomness from one end of my house to the other at lightning speed. Here’s an example of said random toys that were all together in the same 2 ft. area of a room that is NOT a toy room, and it doesn’t include any books or Lego, which is misleading because those feature in every pile everywhere all the live long day.

It’s been like this for a couple months now (my mom will back me up because WA does the exact same thing at her house) and I have been trying to figure out why that is. Is this just her personality? I mean, it could be because she can’t seem to dry her hands in the bathroom without pulling the towel to the floor, but I guess time will tell for sure. But what I think is (also) happening here is that she’s our first 3yo to be on the literal loose in the house without a little sibling behind her and that has changed the game for sure.

In the past we always kept toys with lots of pieces and any sort of small part away from the youngest Welschie by keeping them all in the basement (or at least did our very best to do so). Only baby toys and things that couldn’t be swallowed by a crawling/exploring 6-24 month-old were allowed on the main floor up until Wilson graduated from that stage, and oh my, is she having a blast with this arrangement. In fact, she throws her fun around like plastic confetti on a regular basis and holy moly cow, I can’t keep up, not even if I switched back from tea to coffee.

Eventually the goal/plan is to sort all the kid chaos in our house and get rid of a bunch of it. The last year of pandemic living has left me wanting to do that task very badly and also having zero energy left to actually tackle the enormous job of it. So maybe this summer? Until then I’ll just be chasing Hurricane Wilson from one room to the next, giving thanks for her imaginative play ability while also (mostly silently) cursing the mess it creates.

2021 Reading List

Holy smokes. I didn’t expect to hit the ground running quite so hard with the books this year, but we’re a quarter of the way through 2021 and I’ve already hit 25 books. This has me thinking maybe I’ll up my goal from 75 to 100 for the year, but maybe I’ll just see what happens and how that plays out as the weather gets nicer and we’re outside more of each day and evening.

As always, what follows are the books I’ve read this year in chronological order. Bold titles are the ones I super recommend or enjoyed. The list that follows after the titles and blurbs is (just part of) my virtual To Be Read stack.

  1. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid — I zipped through this one mostly because I didn’t want to stop reading so I could see what was going to happen next. This felt so relevant and possible and real, plus it was great the way it moved back and forth from lead female character to lead female character.
  2. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett — Although the first 20-30 pages were a little slow for me, by Part Two, I was totally hooked and found this to be a great read. I was intrigued by the characters and their life choices and by how society/perception played into all of that as well.
  3. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare — This one took me a bit to get into and essentially the entire book is filled with intense hardship, but the language is beautiful and revealing and the determination in it is just as remarkable as the crisis. The story may be fiction but the facts sprinkled through the later chapter titles show how it may not be far off from reality for some (many).
  4. Go Tell it On the Mountain by James Baldwin — The connotation of a word on the very first page threw me for such a loop, I struggled to get into the rest of the book, and as it turned out, the book had nothing to do with the meaning of that word. I stuck with it for the sake of a virtual book club. Eventually I caught on to what was happening with the structure and the focal point of one particular day/night in young John’s life but this was a hard read for me.
  5. The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power — I have been wanting to read this forever and was glad to finally get my hands on a copy. It’s big – 550 pages of memoir meets journalistic reporting on life in war-torn countries plus genocide and then into politics, so whoa – that’s a lot of heavy stuff. But I have always enjoyed Power’s interviews in recent years and she is a great writer/reflector and I’m so glad she’s back into government work with the USAID.
  6. One Day in December by Josie Silver — Given the book’s title, I was surprised at how much time and content the story covered. Even though I found it predictable, I still enjoyed it as a quick, romance-y read and was interested in the character’s growth over time. I also found it more believable than the previous Silver book that I read last year, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird.
  7. Conjure Woman by Afia Atakora — This would make an excellent book club choice in part because I have questions and ideas I want to bounce off others after reading it. Also, this is a debut novel?! Whoa. I can’t wait to read what she writes next! I love how the book jumps in time but not in giant leaps (for the most part); this builds the story and characters in such an intriguing way.
  8. Our Time is Now by Stacey Abrams — This was such an informative read. Granted, a fair bit of it went over my not-in-politics brain, but I also don’t think you have to have direct ties to politics to get something out of this book. It really speaks to our civic engagement in general which is so vital and important. It was interesting to read this given that the book was written before COVID-19 really hit and so that discussion along with the drama of mail-in voting that became our reality in 2020 was missing here (and about which, I am sure, other books will one day be written). It was also interesting to read this after Jan. 6 because that too feels like it plays a role in what Abrams had to say about voting and leaders and concerns for our democracy. All together, I learned a ton and I am so grateful that the Stacey Abrams of the world are out there to guide us and keep us going through it all. (finished 2.11.21)
  9. Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn — I grabbed this online because it was being offered as a community read from our library and it proved to be more than just a typical romance as it had some intrigue and mystery to the characters, too. It was the perfect palette cleanser read after some of the more dense books I’ve been tackling as of late.
  10. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory — Sometimes a predictable, quick, romance-heavy book is just what you need to read and this series is so good for that. I actually read Book 2 last year, so I liked going back in time to the first and plan to read the subsequent ones later in the year. I like Jasmine Guillory’s style, but fair warning – these are Harlequin in nature so pick a different book if that’s not what you feel like reading.
  11. The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia — I loved the way this was written and the way the story unfolded. The in-depth discussion of the 1918 Spanish Influenza caught me off guard because I wasn’t prepared for how relatable that would feel to life in 2020/2021, but that was not the whole focus of the book by any means. Although I was confused by the shifting perspectives and occasional odd jumps in sequencing at first, once I hit a stride with this one, I couldn’t put it down.
  12. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord — This book was adorable. It’s a YA RomCom sort of read but it still caught me by surprise and delight while reading, which was great because it was witty and fun without being too obvious or over the top. (Finished 2/23/21)
  13. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi — This was neither light nor easy in terms of content but this book blew me away both in scope and style and I could not stop reading. I loved the approach of each chapter devoted to a new generation and how the stories and characters were woven together in this breathtaking, brutiful novel.
  14. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover — I expected this to be predictable and while it was, it was also a quick, enjoyable read and I liked some of the little nuggets that came at the end of the book in terms of life lessons. Also, if the characters had just freaking talked to each other, a lot of heartache and headaches would have been avoided, but then you also wouldn’t have had as much story to build, so, there’s that.
  15. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah — Although a relatively quick read, this is not light in scope or subject matter. I got so drawn into these characters and was so compelled by their story of hardship and struggle in the Dust Bowl 1930s. Oddly there were lines throughout the book that were spot-on perfect for and relevant to today’s (pandemic) world. I’ve read at least three of Hannah’s books and all were serious but good and I highly recommend this one!
  16. Kindred by Octavia Butler — this surprised me in content and style and was truly unlike anything else I’ve read. While I’ve read many books that travel between narrators and time, I’ve never taken on a story that follows one narrator through time in this way. Ultimately this was an interesting story with an impactful look at slavery and racism ancestry, and history.
  17. You Have a Match by Emma Lord — The miscommunication between characters drove me a bit nuts at times but then that’s probably pretty spot-on for teenagers, so I get it. I love how Lord weaves family dynamics into her books and that the whole story isn’t just about crushes or partying or totally typical teenage drama. (finished 3.13.21)
  18. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo — It took my editing brain a bit to calm down over the total lack of periods in this book, but once I got past that, I absolutely loved the characters and how this was written in interconnected trilogies that were multi-generational and so fascinating to watch (read) unfold. Loved it! Also, it had a totally unexpected connection to the book I read just prior to it which is always weird/cool when that happens.
  19. When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller — This was a great YA read that spoke so much to family dynamics and cultural backgrounds and young teendom. It was a quick read but I loved how it wove together in its own story the art, beauty, history, and magic that is story telling.
  20. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion — Even though the basic premise stems from an obvious and somewhat irritating miscommunication, that’s actually pretty on point with these characters and this series which remains enjoyable and fun to read. I read the first book not that long ago so it was easy to fall back into rhythm on Book #2.
  21. Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo — This was far from a happy, light read, but it was very well done from a layered, unfolding sense of both the characters and the story that details not only relationships but also parenthood in raw, honest ways. I’ve read a number of Nigerian-based books recently and this one blew me away as a debut novel.
  22. The Archer by Paulo Coelho — A simple, short read that is, of course, layered with symbolism and meaning and told through a basic story that could be applied to connecting any action in life to one’s soul, not just archery. The illustrations throughout the book are beautiful. This could be read multiple times not just for dissection of meaning but also because it is such a brief book. (finished 3.22.21)
  23. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot — I didn’t expect this to be such a page-turner but even in the midst of the science, the story and reporting of this sucked me in and I couldn’t put down the book. I learned a lot about cell cultures as well as the rights, privacy, and privileges given to medical patients over the course of our nation’s history. Ultimately, I was blown away by the questions this true story revealed and raised.
  24. If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane — Although the basis of the meet-cute and subterfuge were remarkably similar to another book I read not that long ago, I still enjoyed the story and the way the twists and turns developed throughout the book. I also appreciate that every romance book doesn’t have to be Harlequin in nature.
  25. This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith — this one surprised me in how, devastatingly at times, human these characters were. I also struggled to suspend my disbelief at how the beginning of the story unfolded but from there it was a beautifully detailed look at how even a few days can leave a lasting impact and connection between people. And, on an odd side note, the basic premise for a marriage ending in this book was the exact same as what happened in the book I just finished reading. How does that even happen? (finished 3.30.21)
  26. The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory — I just praised a previous book for not being too “open door” and now I’m going to turn around a praise this one for being, well, perfectly open door in the way all of JG’s books have been. I read the first two books of this series out of order but that worked in my favor on Book 3 because the character carry over was more direct here and I liked that. For an it-is-what-it-is series, I really enjoy these!
  27. Vera by Carol Edgarian — It’s remarkable to read stories of survival after moments of devastating destruction and loss such as an earthquake + fire in the early 1900s which is the setting for this book. I liked how the story unfolded with a hyper focus on the days after followed by learning more of the story in a long arc sort of way beyond that. I ultimately was confused by a statement on page 1 that never did resolve (for me) in the rest of the book, which means either I missed something or something is missing. Either way, this would make for an interesting book club discussion.
  28. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayern — To be fair this style is outside my normal comfort zone so this was just an OK read for me but that may just be because I no longer read thriller/fantasy books much if ever. This one seemed part Hunger Games, part Handmaid’s Tale, part Twilight (not really, there are no vampires, just odd, surreal and supernatural messed up fairy tale stuff) but I appreciated the concept of a fairy tale turned on its head and the overall message behind the quest. (finished 4.4.21)
  29. Wonder by R.J. Palacio — Love this book so much. This is a second read for me as my own 5th grader just read it and wanted to discuss with me and all I could remember was how much I liked it. Now I remember why and can’t wait to discuss it with him.
  30. The Turner House by Angela Flournoy — I loved the way this was written (focusing on roughly a third of the members of a family with 13 kids) both in terms of the present day storyline and then the periodic flashback chapters to the POV of each parent each time it happened. It was such a good look at big family life, life in Detroit, and just life in general. I LOVED the line “Humans haunt more houses than ghosts do.” and the paragraph that followed it all about how houses become homes that mean so much to the people who reside in them.
  31. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall — This is a must-read and a must-read-again because the scope of everything being addressed within this book is wide and deserves to be given attention more than once. The subtitle on my copy is different from what is listed online; mine reads “notes from the women white feminists forgot” which is an accurate description of what the book entails.
  32. Behold the Dreamers by Imblo Mbue — These are characters and a story that crawl under your skin (in a good way) and settle in for longer than it takes to read the book. Set around the time of the 2008 Recession, this is written in such a tangible and honest way. It would make for an excellent book club discussion! (finished 4.15.21)
  33. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd — from the onset I liked the premise of Ana, a young woman set on being a writer who shares her voice even though next to no one finds this acceptable. As the story unfolded, I especially appreciated her relationship to Jesus and how the whole concept of the book was imagining what it would have been like had he been married and how it really could have come to be without us knowing seeing as how the majority of women in history have been silenced/ignored. SMK’s Author’s Note at the end of the book speaks well to this in terms of her inspiration and why a story such as this is worth conceiving and sharing.
  34. Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra — I wanted to read this because I love Little Women but because I love Little Women, I struggled getting into this. I also really disliked the Meg/John storyline for the first half of the book (just talk to each other already!!!) but of course enjoyed Jo’s arc from start to finish. By the end, I was more drawn in to the whole story and could definitely appreciate the risks and liberties Kantra took when recreating this classic in a modern way.
  35. Pride by Ibi Zoboi — It has been ages since I read Pride and Prejudice so the story there wasn’t super fresh in my brain while reading this, but there was enough in my memory to see how Zoboi played with that framework and also how she made this her own. I loved the combination of romance then to the real world now and this detailed look at Bushwick and Brooklyn which I’ve read about in many books but have never been to in real life. (finished 4.23.21)
  36. Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory — I wasn’t prepared for the departure in the storyline to a different generation of love stories, but still enjoyed the ease and predictability of the book. Curious to see what Book 5 is like.
  37. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile — This is my first foray into the full Enneagram and I learned a lot about myself as well as all nine types. I’m looking forward to learning more and will also be seeking out books on this subject that aren’t so faith-based; there’s nothing wrong with that element, but I also want to know more of the psychology behind each of these.
  38. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb — I laughed, I cried, I learned something, I saw myself reflected in this book, and just like I think therapy is for all, so too do I think this is a must read. I loved this book about what it is like to be a therapist/what it is like to be in therapy and I think it would be a good introduction to anyone considering seeking therapy themselves. My only caveat is that Gottlieb speaks to the ending of therapy which may well indeed be the case for some/many, but not all; beyond that this is a break-your-heart open look into the lives of her patients, her therapist and herself. I loved it.
  39. The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth — Perhaps I’ve read too many SH books at this point as I’m getting a little too good at figuring out the twisty-twists well before the end of the book, but this one just didn’t hit quite as good as some of her others for me.
  40. Simple and Free by Jen Hatmaker — I appreciated the seven different tasks Jen took on in this book and it was very interesting to read now, ten+ years removed from when she first did them/wrote this. The asides/additions/corrections she placed into the new publication of this were insightful and gave a very unique perspective to how certain seasons and challenges in life shift over time. I will carry some nuggets forward from this book and see what I too can implement to make like a little more simple, a little more free. (finished 5.8.21)
  41. Hana Kahn Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin — As with Jalaluddin’s first book, I enjoyed this modern take on an older tale. This was a quick read and although it touched on several heavier topics throughout, it was also fun and charming.
  42. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn — I’ve stayed away from WWII books for a while after being overrun with them, but this was a fantastic choice for revisiting that subgenre. I was blown away by the pulls from real life that this took and even though I did not understand the decoding/machines they used, I found the story and its unfolding to be very intriguing.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Dear Martin/Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Ordinary Light by Tracy Smith

Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Janye Allen

Queenie by Candice Carty Williams

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

A Song Below Water by Bethany Morrow

I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillian

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Well, That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey

A Black Woman’s History of the United States by Diana Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross