Foods That Don’t Like Me

The journey back to myself and my health started in April 2021 when I started having chronic headaches that no one could explain or eradicate. What followed was months and months of appointments and therapies and treatments and so many attempts at getting my body to move past the pattern of pain and dis-ease in my system. 

As of this writing, I am almost 14 months out from that initial headache spiral and my goodness, how far I have come. My head is not 100% 100% of the time but I’ve made huge strides in releasing tension from my body in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual senses. Many of the treatment methods have come and gone, ebbed and flowed, but the one that has stuck since last July (and actually expanded this February) is how I approach food. Or rather, what foods I no longer approach.

This began with going gluten free last summer and for a girl who loves pasta, bread, and pretty much every baked good out there, this was tough. I was cranky, felt deprived, and resented the whole experiment. It also had to get worse before it got better (a detox backlash, if you will) and it took several months before I noticed some changes that could be ascribed to the new diet.

Except, I still wasn’t really back to feeling like myself and noticed some more questions popping up in my brain over the holidays, so with the New Year, I turned to a food sensitivity test kit and found out that I had such a buildup in my system of eggs in particular but also cow’s milk, that inflammation had built up from those as well. Cutting out eggs and dairy was a beast and monumental effort but I’ve been at it for several months now and I can honestly say, at 40 years old, this is the best I’ve felt with and in my body in pretty much forever. 

Now perhaps that isn’t a fair statement because in the last 13 years, I spent 8 of them carrying and birthing and nursing babies, so you know, probably it was a bit expected for my body to feel wrung out, but now that our family is past those stages, it feels good to be paying attention to what I need in and for my self and my diet is definitely part of that. 

These days I eat GF and Vegan-ish (avoiding eggs and dairy but not meat) and I no longer feel so restricted or denied. In fact, I can eat an entire plate of food that is right for my body and feel nothing but satisfied – no bloat or discomfort – just fed and nourished. What a remarkable difference! Where I am also seeing a difference is in how my clothes fit and feel which is a lovely added bonus to know that my body really is responding to the changes and efforts of this last year+ of working to do better by it.

Do I still miss a real pizza crust or some bread with butter on it? Real chocolate chip cookies? Yeah, I do, but I’m learning new ways to navigate those old recipes and who knows – maybe I can eventually cut ties with sugar and those cravings altogether. In the meantime, I’m giving thanks for the access that I have to healthy food, a spouse who helps me prepare it, and kids who understand that Mama has to pay attention to whether or not things are “Glutenen-Free” (thanks for that cuteness, WA!) and Vegan, which has made them more mindful and compassionate along the way, not just for me but others as well. Those and the excuse to buy a new bikini are wins all around! 

*Post 10/52.

(Not-So-)Tiny Teachers

As of this writing, my kids are 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4. Before this project is done and published, each will have another birthday, making them 13, 11, 9, 7, and 5. For some reason those numbers sound much larger and older than their current ages and I find myself taken aback by the thought of them all being that big. But big they are, as evidenced by our Mother’s Day photo from this year. Harrison is within six-to-twelve months of passing me in height and Wilson still seems on track to beat us all, Ben included! But what I see most when I look at their unique but so obviously related handful of faces are not just the physical changes they are experiencing, but the mental and emotional lessons these (not-so-)tiny teachers of mine continue to give me. 

Harrison: my first teacher of what it means to be a mother. He will always be my guinea pig — the one I am learning with and perhaps making the most mistakes with simply because he hits each milestone first. I am literally forever not really knowing what I’m doing with him as he grows and goes, so to attempt to list all he has taught me would fill 100 books all on its own. But perhaps the greatest lesson he continues to demonstrate to me is how to stay true and loyal to what one enjoys while letting the words, opinions, and shenanigans of others slide right off the back. HD tunes out the noise and inspires me to do the same.

Raegan: my mini-me to the 10th degree, this girl. She reminds me what it means to radiate care and responsibility and how one can do both with ease and grace in so many forms and settings. She keeps me connected to my own childhood passion of reading obsessively and taking great pleasure and pride in doing so. But above all, RL teaches me what it means to be courageous. To take on new challenges and activities, yes, but also to face old fears and worries with a chin held high, a deep breath taken, and a good song to keep the spirit buoyed when it feels low. RL inspires me to be bold and brave through it all. 

Lincoln: my one who is perhaps most unlike me in terms of taking after his dad more than his mom. He is my always moving, always playing, always active guy – the one who can turn any moment into a game or a competition and will pick up any sport and play his heart out while doing it. He has taught me about passion and enthusiasm both in his loyalty to his favorite teams and players as well as with his heart that has bleed baseball for years. LT also has a great passion for his people and he teaches me constantly about how to be a fierce friend and how important moments of connection are. Even though he’s almost always in constant motion, he gives the best squeezes and is a darn good couch cuddler, too. LT inspires me to get out there and DO, to practice, and to play. 

Truman: my one who charms them all. This kid has been working it from the day he was born and I am no exception to the power of his big blond head and giant blue eyes. He teaches me to reconsider, to try again, to be silly and laugh about the word “poop” or “fart” even when I’m not in the mood. He is the one who helps my head and heart understand what it is like to be so little while observing such bigness all around you and both wanting to catch up to that but embodying such youth and tenderness at the same time. He demonstrates juxtaposition with his cries for help and independence, his big hugs and his running out of the room when he doesn’t want to stop or hear “no” one more time, his go-go-go and his need for rest and recovery. TJ inspires me to feel all the feels and to enjoy the heck out of the giggles when they come. 

Wilson: my one I never knew I needed. If I’d had my way, I would have had two boys and two girls and been Done with babies. But that’s not how it went and I decided that maybe I wasn’t done and that maybe we’d get another girl if we tried another time, and oh my goodness, I can’t imagine life any other way even though Wilson was a ball of teachings from the moment she emerged. From First Sight she taught me to rely on prayer more than I ever had in my life, but also modern medicine and doctors, too. Since then she’s taught me to be grateful for the small things that are sometimes the

big things and that there is always time and room for one more “huggy” and “kissy.” WA inspires me to wear what feels good, dance to my own tune, and love, Love, LOVE along the way. 

To my five greatest examples of what it means to grow and be in this world – thank you for teaching and inspiring me. 

*Post 8/52.

Oh, Placerville

Even though my family never moved schools or houses in the time I was growing up on the farm, we did journey our way through several different churches at different stages of my life. The middle school years brought us to the U.C.C. Congregational Church in Yankton because it was time for my confirmation classes to start, and for some reason, I did not want to do that at our then church home. My parents went along with this and we made the change, in plenty of me to, yes, get confirmed, but also to start attending summer church camps at Placerville in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

After my first week spent there as a middle schooler, I was hooked and went every summer (and sometimes back in the fall or winter for youth retreats) from then on all the way through high school. It was a literal across-the-state trip to get to the camp, which almost always involved riding the brown bus with no AC and probably no seat belts as we journeyed from one small town to another to each designated parking lot to pick up more campers along the way. Of course, any Placerville camper will tell you that the most intense part of that ride came in the last 10-15 minutes while winding up, down, and seemingly around and around the old mining road that lead from the highway to the camp grounds themselves; I probably thought we were going to die at least once a summer on that road, it was so narrow and twisty! 

But the road was also worth it because Placerville became a home away from home for me, and to this day remains a place that lives in my heart as a formative and special space for the person I am today and the faith I carry with me in this world. 

At Placerville I made friendships that transcended time and distance and would pick up on a dime when we’d come together for our week of camp the following year (aided by some letter writing back in the day because, honest to goodness, this was before it was commonplace for everyone to have their own email address). I also bonded with mentors and counselors who showed me what it meant to lead with love and grace – lessons I carried with me when I became a counselor myself and was in charge of my own little cabin of Jr./Sr. high girls the summer after my senior year of high school. 

At Placerville I learned to see God in nature. I loved the pine-scented air of the Hills and the extra cold creek water of the little stream that bubbled its way through the camp grounds. I watched squirrels explore the rock outcroppings and trees each morning during our daily outdoor quiet/prayer time. I tested my strength and endurance hiking the Hills (not to mention trust on one particularly scary hike in which we got lost/got a little too close to an approaching thunderstorm). And like those squirrels, I found my joy in climbing those same rocks to settle in for some contemplation and observation of the beautiful world around me, so much so that I had a friend take a picture of me doing it – twice! lol 

Placerville pushed me to share my heart and talents, both in writing and in performance. It also encouraged me to get more active with my church and community at home, which I did through participating in youth group and leading our Sr. High youth through various trips and service projects throughout my years there prior to leaving for college. Camp also was one of the first places where I learned to be a person completely removed from my life at home (even though I would totally ask my friends to send postcards so I would get mail during my week away), which is a life skill all its own. 

Even though it has been over twenty years since I’ve been a camper or a counselor there, I still recognize and give thanks for the connection Placerville gave me to a loving God and the joy that can come from celebrating relationships with spirit, self, and others, especially when surrounded by the majesty of nature. 

*Post 6/52

Orchard Odd Jobs

Like many a young girl, my first official paying gig was babysitting for some neighbor kids, but my first actual paycheck-paying job was at an orchard just a few miles west of our farm called Garrity’s Prairie Gardens. I was able to start working there before other places like food establishments and stores in part because of the work itself as well as the fact that it was just seasonal employment that centered on the various fruits and products grown and produced there on site, which was perfect for my 14-yr-old self at the time.

Of course apples were a main draw for many to Garrity’s but they also had several seasons throughout the early spring and summer, before the fall apples were ready, including strawberries that folks could either pick on their own or that employees would also pick for easy purchase; they also grew raspberries and produced a whole wealth of jams, jellies, pies, etc. in the small store building located on the grounds.

When I look back on it now, I realize how many odd jobs were rolled into this one job as I touched just about every aspect of the orchard at one point or another during my time there, including being a babysitter/driver for the owner’s young child and his summer activities. When I wasn’t on those random duties, the two tasks I remember the most were picking raspberries and working in the store/kitchen.

The raspberry patch, unlike the large strawberry field that lined the main drive onto the property, was smaller and to the back of the grounds. Tucked behind the house and some rows of apple trees, the raspberries were more for us to pick than the public, and pick I did, scratchy though they were. I know from our own small strawberry patch in our current garden that those berries are similar in the unpleasantness that comes with getting down low and sticking your arms in amongst the itchy leaves, but as a teen, I was probably more annoyed with the early hours to beat the heat than I was the physical discomfort of bending and stooping to look for the ripe fruit that could be plucked and later hauled into the sorting facility. True to form, I know I liked the quiet this particular part of the job and all told it probably went faster than I would have liked given the chaos of some of my other odds and ends at the orchard.

Being in the bustling and warm main building meant everything from kitchen duties like pitting cherries for pies and apple prep to semi-mindless, repetitive jobs like folding gift boxes and putting label stickers on jars for the various fruit-based products they produced. A lot of cleaning, both in the sink and of the surroundings, took place, too, as did some costumer service helping folks as they came in to purchase whatever trinket or homemade good they were after on that day.

Minimum wage at the time was $4.25 so it’s possible that I didn’t exactly make much more than gas money during my time at Garrity’s but it certainly broke the mold in terms of being a very unique first place of employment.

*Post 5/52.


We’re a week into April already and in case you didn’t know, it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I know this because I am a survivor and the very first place I shared publicly about my assault was on this blog eight years ago this very month. This is also the place where I shared my “Why I Didn’t Report” post when the Kavanaugh hearings were happening and where I wrote about my trip with other survivors to D.C. to protest his confirmation a little over three-and-a-half years ago. So it is both fitting and an ironic kick in the pants to be coming to the blog now with a trigger compelling me to write.

To be clear, the situation I was drawn into recently was not sexual in nature and wasn’t directed at me; however it involved someone entwined with my heart and the main takeaway that I will share here is that one person’s word against another’s was not enough to be believed.

Witnessing this happen shook me and sent me on a spiral that eventually made me realize, this is my very own fear – that if I confronted my own assaulter, he would simply say he didn’t do it and because there would be no evidence or proof, that would be it. His denial would in fact deny me the dignity and respect of belief. Clearly I have some work in therapy to do on this, for my own self, but so, too, do we as a society, because we still aren’t in a place where a person’s word of “This. Happened.” is enough to warrant even an apology much less ownership if the other person flat out denies us. Trust me, I realize I’m coming from a place of trauma and trauma spiral right now, but I don’t think I’m out of line for thinking this way.

So here’s my April SAAM charge to you: think about why one person’s word gets to negate a situation but one person’s word isn’t enough to confirm it. Think about how important belief can be to survivors or even people in situations that don’t involve sexual violence but rather power struggles and an overstep of authority because the same theory and question apply there, too.

One final note: I have no plans to disclose details about the situation I referenced here. I shared what I did to explain where my head and heart are right now and I hope that this month of all months, folks can take a moment to consider how we might start to change these dynamics. If you need more information on supporting survivors or getting support yourself, please consider this resource.

Both Things Can Be True

At its heart, this has always been a parenting blog and a personal blog. Both things can be true.

However, as the years have gone by, it has been harder to know what I should share here about my kids. They have their own struggles that equate to stories that I could tell here both for my own remembering and for the connection this provides with other parents and people. But, also, those are their stories, so are they really mine to share at all? I mean, I share a lot of my own shit here but that’s because it is my shit and I’m a grown up making that decision for myself, so that’s pretty different than me telling their sh!t to the world for them.

That said, things still happen in our life that are also both things – their stories as individuals and mine as their parent. Both things can be true. But what does that mean for my writing and how I relate these milestones, lessons, and takeaways? I guess I’m still navigating that, and in true Jenni form, I’m doing so via writing.

We had an incident lately that I want to share here about more than one thing being true but I’ll warn you right now – it’s going to be a little vague because I am trying to do honor my kids’ privacy in sharing this.

I’ll start with documenting, because it is helpful for my own reminding as much as anything, that sometimes my kids get along really well and are each other’s best cheerleaders. With all the bickering I referee on a daily basis, witnessing them cheering each on, being excited/nervous (Glennon calls this “scited” for scared and excited) for one another, and celebrating each others’ accomplishments would warrant a blog post all on its own – it’s that monumental. But within this same vague scenario, we had some individual wins that I want to celebration (word choice intentional – still one of my favorite toddlerisms from HD on his 3rd birthday).

During this particular group activity, two of my kids were offered a chance to split and go with an older group during a breakout session. OK, that’s great. Except that pretty soon it was obvious that it wasn’t and overwhelm on one of their faces was obvious, even from a distance. But you know what said child did? Spoke to the group leader, said they needed to join the other group, and then proceeded to walk themselves to that group instead, even though there was obvious self-imposed shame and embarrassment happening. It’s possible that said child’s mother called out, “It’s OK that you don’t know!” as they walked by – just saying.

The other child stayed with the older group and I was impressed by that too because I knew a lot of information that was going over their head was being discussed. Just like recognizing limits and honoring them can be brave, so too can be the act of sticking with something and trying it, even when you don’t know what’s going on. Both things can be true.

On the way home, I told them both how proud I was of these very different, very brave choices. And when the one who stayed and tried later told me that they thought my comment to their sibling meant I thought they should have left, too, I got right down at eye level and said, “I understand how you could have heard it that way. I hope you also heard what I said to you about your choice.” And then I thanked that child for telling me because that too was brave.

So this is me, recording (for myself and others and for my parenting self and other parents) that sometimes shit goes really right even when it is going wrong in the situation. Both things can be true. And sometimes we get a glimmer that our kids are hearing us and learning from us and, my God, do we need to honor such times because this is both the best and the hardest job.

Both things can be true.

A little trend happening here with photos that aren’t connected to the post except that you do get to see my five beautifully brave babies in it.

2022 Book List

Here it is! New Year, New Book List! I’m actually trying to read less this year, so we’ll see how that all goes. I set my GoodReads goals for 50 and I’m guessing I’ll blow past that but I really do want to slow down the reading pace and not use books as much to tap out of real life this year.

That said, I came up with a wild hair for my 40th to ask for 40 nonfiction books that I’d like to own/read and my people came through BIG time by fulfilling all my book dreams so now I have nonfiction TBRs for approximately the next five years. Coolest birthday celebration ever!

A partial glimpse of the birthday book collection.
  1. This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi — this book was such a weird way to start my year given that it is Empire Records set in a modern-day bookstore instead of music shop but is not billed or acknowledged as such until the author’s acknowledgments at the end of the book. I don’t like books to gaslight me, and somehow it feels extra painful that it was my initial read of 2022. At first I didn’t get what was happening but the second Imogen shaved her angsty head in the bathroom, I thought WTH?! and then from there it was just an onslaught of similarities and comparisons. Would I have enjoyed this more if I had known I was reading a retelling of ER? Probably because that movie was my go-to favorite in high school but instead this was just odd. That said, I’d still like to try another title from this author to see how that goes instead.
  2. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally — I love to read romance/rom com type books before bed because it helps my brain stop thinking quite so much but this had the opposite effect as it was just so bad that it made my brain mad instead of calm and quiet. I had hoped this would be a cute series but nope. I only finished it because it was short and I had already read too much the first night to give up on completing the whole (terrible) thing.
  3. Sistersong by Lucy Holland — This book is incredible. It’s a bit fantasy based which isn’t my normal genre but it is so beautifully crafted and includes family stuff, gender stuff, magic stuff, love stuff, betrayal stuff, and being true to yourself stuff. In other words, it is all the things and the things are all phenomenal. (finished 1/13/22)
  4. Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford — Ford’s first book is powerful and intense. She writes in such an open, honest way that puts you right there in her experience but also shows the universal struggles of families, abuse, rape, and more. This was a heavy read but one with multiple lines that took my breath away for their beauty and truth.
  5. The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin — Not a huge fan of this one. The 2001 pop culture references felt so forced and even though I get that lying was part of the package given the title, the overall storyline was cringe-y with an odd 9/11 element that both was and was not relevant to the story at all.
  6. Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey — How I ended up with a second book about teenagers and struggling indy bookstores this month is beyond me, but this one was OK. Nothing stands out about it but I’m one of those people who likes to read books about books, so it’s a win in that sense
  7. While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory — Love this series so much! May it continue forever! (finished 1/29/22)
  8. The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall — Another fantasy read with fascinating characters that include gender fluidity, queer relationships, and of course a little (or a lot) of magic. The switching perspective that not only moves between characters but that also includes the Sea as a character herself is well done here.
  9. Broken by Jenny Lawson — I love Jenny Lawson so much. She’s great in audio format but her stuff is just as funny when read in your own head, too. This one covers so much mental health and serious ground and yet it had me in near tears from laughing so hard more than once. (finished 2.13.22)
  10. Confessions of a Curious Bookseller by Elizabeth Green — I didn’t realize this would be all written as correspondence – mostly emails but also notes, texts, and Journal entries – nor did I know the main character would drive me nuts from start to finish either. I kept at it because a reader friend liked it so much but having read three books now about bookstores in the first two months of this year, I think this one found me at the wrong time when I just didn’t find it all that enjoyable or entertaining.
  11. No Judgment by Meg Cabot — Easy, breezy (I mean, literally – it is set in the midst of a hurricane on the Florida Keys), this was a fun little read with an animal lover twist to it as well.
  12. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson — Listened to this one and enjoyed it quite a bit. There’s a lot of good food for thought here but it would also be good to see this in hard copy, too, to remember all those tangibles and takeaways. I listened over a longer period of time than I would a fiction read and I noticed that I find myself asking, “Does this deserve giving a f*ck about?” more now which is probably a pretty good takeaway of its own. (Finished 3/9/22)
  13. Where It All Lands by Jennie Wexler — There’s a clever approach to the narrative style with this one that I really enjoyed and that added several unique twists and turns throughout the reading. At times it felt overly teenager-ly dramatic, but with all due fairness and respect to teenagers, that actually also felt fairly true to life.
  14. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins — Second read for me, first for my oldest. We love our read-aloud time together and this series is proving to be another hit for him (and a fun revisit for me).
  15. The Singles Table by Sarah Desai — Although I liked the first two in the series better, I still love Desai’s stories and relationships and way she weaves in work and family and friendship to each of her books, bringing together multiple sides of her characters and what makes them tick. (finished 3/24/22)
  16. West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge — This was such a different novel and one I really enjoyed, in part because it was well written historical fiction and also because giraffes are just my favorite animal ever. The unique story and the characterization of the narrator were fascinating and told in a way that was compelling and page turning. I don’t think I have ever read anything quite like it!
  17. Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown — I have never read a Brene Brown book that I didn’t love, nor one that didn’t challenge me. This was a slow go because even though it touches pretty briefly on each of the 87 emotions covered within it, it is dense as all get-out when it comes to the concepts and mental chewing that needs to take place after reading a section. This is definitely going to be a re-read because wow – so much depth and consideration involved in this book. (finished 4/23/22)
  18. Slingshot by Mercedes Helnwein — OK, the “for fans of Rainbow Rowell” with this one got me and I stuck with it the whole way through waiting to see that come to life on the page, but nope; never saw it. While it was probably fairly accurate to teenage life and angst, I just wasn’t feeling it.
  19. No Offense by Meg Cabot — Just like the first in the series, I found this fun, light, and a little less drama filled than some other romances which is often a welcome shift.
  20. Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai — My 10yo brought this home from school and I have always wanted to read it, so I did that today. It is so beautifully written and tells so much story with so few words on each page. This is a great read for kids and grownups alike.
  21. Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon — Like Yoon’s other books, I LVOED this one from the very start. There’s just enough mysticism woven in to make the story unique but not cloying and the writing style made me want to stay with these characters longer than the book allowed.
  22. The Story of You by Ian Morgan Chron — This was such a great read to learn about both myself and so many people in my life who have studied and discovered their Enneagram numbers. I was underlining like a fiend during it! I plan to revisit the ideas from this one often because they are such good reminders of that even though we can’t change the past, we don’t have to live stuck in it forever either.
  23. Oona out of Order by Margartia Montimore — This book surprised and delighted me even though there’s plenty of hard and challenging moments within it. I found myself wondering, even with less than 10% to go (that’s what happens when reading on a Kindle, I guess) how it was all going to resolve itself which is always a treat. Definitely worth a read!
  24. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo — This is a great YA read that takes on some very adult concerns and transitions from high school to the world beyond, but also looks at family and listening to one’s own self. Love the title, the protagonist, and all the food descriptions sprinkled in the midst of this one.
  25. Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune — Klune is quickly becoming another favorite contemporary author of mine. This book captured me and delighted me and made my heart fit to burst at the notion of what love and trust and a new way of looking at the world can do for people. Also, gotta love a good, queer romance read.
  26. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig — Although it took me a bit to get into this book/protagonist, once I was there, I really appreciated the combination of story-telling and takeaways and just how human Nora was in the midst of her multiverse experience. Quite the unique book!
  27. If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be #1) by Julie Murphy — Loved it. Loved the Cinderella spin and the modern take on the storyline and loved how fun and fast it was to read as well. Looking forward to what’s to follow with this series!
  28. Winter Ball by Amy Lane — Everything from the sentence structure to the characters themselves felt far too underdeveloped for me with this one. Plus, call me old fashioned, but I need a wee bit more story and content in my romance books before diving into the full-on, overly descriptive sex scenes, especially so early on in the book.
  29. Book Lovers by Emily Henry — As an avid reader, I’ve read my fair share of novels about reading and/or book stores, but this book-based novel hovers near the top of that list, not for the book store side of things but for the stories of sisters and transformation, family dynamics and romantic relationships, and a career in the publishing world. Plus, I just flat-out didn’t see some of the surprises coming throughout the book which always delights me (as does being right, which also happened a couple times with this book). I’ve read three Henry books now and this was definitely my favorite. Perfect summer read!
  30. The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne — I’m on the fence with this one. In some ways, the characters are so frustrating and flawed, but then this also turns out to be a decent read for what allyship really means and looks like, for teenagers especially.
  31. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender — Excellent read. This is a great choice for any teenager questioning identity/navigating high school, but also a good read for parents and allies to understand better how to be good allies and friends to someone in the queer community. (finished 7/5/22)
  32. Inheritance (American Royals #0.5) by Katharine McGee — I would have liked this no matter what given my feelings on the two actual books in the series (anxiously awaiting the third/new one) but that said, a novella was just too short for me. Although it was good to go back and get the story of the night that changed everything, I still wanted more and wished that the story was a full prequel, not just a taste.
  33. The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff — Even though my spidey-sense went off several times in Chap. 1 and beyond, it wasn’t until I was halfway through that I asked an old book club friend if we’d ever read this title and sure enough, we did – five years ago! That said, I had forgotten enough for it to be a new-ish again read that was very captivating.
  34. The Bromance Book Club (#1) by Lyssa Kay Adams — This seems like a cute little series that’s worth continuing. In addition to the twist on romance novel reading, this one also touched on family of origin/”doing the work” that spoke to my therapy-loving heart even though none of the characters were actually in therapy. (finished 7/23/22)
  35. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong – I’ve never read a more poetic novel. Every single page contained at least one line (and often more) that took my breath away with its beautiful phrasing and imagery. Even though the story itself is often harsh and explaining a very hard life, the combination/juxtaposition of that with the gorgeous (pun intended) word choices makes this a must read. (finished 7/24/22)
  36. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters — A huge YES to this book. The characters, the story arc, the start-to-finish references – all so well done. As a side note, unrelated to the writing, I had the strangest reading experience of my long library patron life in that on page 217, I ran into page 250-something – a misprint for the ages! So I had to wait about a month for the library to get a new copy ordered, in, and processed, so I had trouble remembering a bit from the early pages. But wow did I fly through the second half of the book, which I found to be both compelling and entertaining, whereas I found the first half a bit harder to read.
  37. Love at First Fight by Mary Jayne Baker — Had I not known this was a “Much Ado About Nothing” rewrite, I think I would have been confused and less pleased with this book, but fortunately I read the blurb and knew what I was getting into with it. As a result, I really enjoyed it and found it to be very well done. Makes me want more in a similar style.
  38. The One and Only by Emily Giffin — Nope. No. Not for me. I finished it but only because it was a train wreck I couldn’t stop watching as I kept wondering, “are we really going there?” And yep, we did. P.S. “there” is a romance between a young professional and her best friend’s recently widowed father. Guess I’m a judgy ass, but nope, not the book I wanted to read and yet somehow did.
  39. The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner — Although this had elements that I like (pivoting between different periods of time and narrators, and female leads) I did not care for the writing style as it seemed to swing between over-the-top description and moving too bluntly between scenes (and sometimes even thoughts) for the characters. The plot didn’t really hook me until 3/4 of the way through and then it quickly lost me again before the final 10% (Kindle read) of the book. Overall it seemed like too much of a stretch to even attempt suspending the veil of disbelief to enjoy what was happening on the page. (finished 8/22/22)
  40. We’re Speaking: The Life Lessons of Kamala Harris: How to Use Your Voice, Be Assertive, and Own Your Story by Hitha Palepu — I’m a huge Harris fan and have been following Hitha Palepu’s IG for a while now, so this was a great way to learn more about our shared hero, KHM, and Palepu’s own life and career (and lessons learned from KH’s same). This will be a great one to pull out again when a little motivation or inspiration is needed in either a professional or personal sense.
  41. The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams — What a lovely story about stories and the connections and lessons they bring us, both as individuals and as communities. I’ve accidentally read a lot of books about books this year and so far this is my favorite. Also, Mukesh might just be one of my all-time favorite characters ever.
  42. Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon – Listened to this on a short road trip today and even though the light/fluff nature of it was probably all my brain could handle right now, I was disappointed by the overall lack of perspective and insight that I thought I’d get out of this it. I didn’t realize it would be so surface level and not go into Reese’s actual life and career or that it would feel so privileged and fussy. I’ve long admired RW’s efforts as a producer who centers female writers, actors, etc., but yeah, this book is not that.
  43. Adult Assembly Required by Abbi Waxman — I find Waxman’s writing so charming and love the humor she weaves into her stories and characters. I didn’t realize that her books were so intertwined and I may have read some out of order, but somehow these also stand alone on their own in easy-to-read, quite enjoyable ways. (finished 9/6/22)
  44. I’ll Show Myself Out by Jessi Klein — This essay collection is so real and relatable even though Klein’s life and mothering experience is quite different from mine. She speaks to middle age, living in pandemic times, and raising a tiny human with such honesty, vulnerability, quirky humor, and beauty. I listened to this one which turned out to be a great bonus as Klein is also a wonderful narrator for her stories, too.
  45. Meant to be Mine by Hannah Orenstein — Had a hard time suspending disbelief with the family “gift” of prophecy in this one given how grounded in the present and mainstream culture the story actually is. I also had some major questions about an incident that happens between the sisters that gets brushed over too quickly/smoothly given the situation. That said, this was definitely a different concept for a romance novel that at times had me wanting to shake the protagonist by the shoulders and yell, “What are you doing?!” which I guess also kept me reading and wondering until the very end. (finished 9/10/22)
  46. By the Book (Meant to Be #2) by Jasmine Guillory — OK, Guillory never disappoints and even though this is quite different from her own series, that still holds. I love the love story here and that it’s not just romantic love but love for self and craft. And the Meant to Be series keeps impressing me because they are just such fun books to read. I love seeing how both authors have taken an old fairy tale (i.e. Disney movie from my childhood) and slipped it into the modern world. Guillory even keeps the physical stuff PG in this one, so if you like your romance without all the open door scenes, this is a great choice. To be fair, you have to endure the first chapter in which Izzy is nauseating as a character but then she gets real after that and the rest is fun to witness unfold. P.S. “Gaston” still exists and remains an arrogant jerk face.
  47. The Guncle by Steven Rowley — Loved this. This is by no means a light-hearted subject and yet the book is so funny, clever, and uplifting. It’s a pretty fast read, too, and is so well put together in terms of a story that entertains while also breaking your heart open a bit.
  48. This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub — Although the first part of the story lasted much longer than I expected, given the jacket blurb, this is one I could see reading multiple times given the mystery of it all, the relationships (way beyond just romantic) explored, and the concept of “If I could go back, what would I change and what would that do?” This would also make a great book club choice, especially for people circa 40, like Alice, who would probably find a lot of different ways to interpret and react to what happens in the book. (finished 9/24/22)
  49. The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley — This takes the multi-narrator concept and turns it on its head in a lovely and entertaining way. Such a great read about what can happen when we put our real selves out there, of course with a twist or two and some surprises along the way, all of which feels pretty true to life. I would be curious to read another book by this author.
  50. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins — HD and I finally got around to reading Book 3 aloud together which means we’ve come to the end of another beloved series. This was only my second time through so there were some “surprises” in store for me near the end and I had clearly forgotten just how gory and violent this particular book was, but overall we both enjoyed the story and the time together spent reading it.
  51. Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny — I don’t know that I have ever met, in one book, so many characters or details that seemed so potentially pointless but that somehow also came together in unified ways. At one point it struck me that this felt like short stories more than a novel with an overall point, which was confirmed by the acknowledgments at the end of the book about portions that previously appeared under different titles. That said, I still laughed out loud at some parts of the story and found the cast of (main) characters to be quite relatable.
  52. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin — I’m obsessed. This book was fantastic, both in its story and in its writing, both of which were so unique. I loved the way foreshadowing was done and how information about the characters was revealed in fits and starts (intentional given the subject matter, I assume). I probably read the first page a half dozen times to see it a new light, including right before the very end of the book. I’m not a huge gamer myself, but goodness, as a lover of books, this one hits so well.
  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen —

Out Like a Lamb?

Does anyone else know where March went? I know people have always said time speeds up as you age, but I swear I just shared my last post, blinked, and now here we are at the almost end of the month which also happens to be, speaking of aging, my 40th birthday. For a moment I entertained the thought of putting up a 40 Lessons Learned post like I did for my 30th (because I have indeed been blogging for just over 10 years now) but two things stopped me: 1) I do those lists of 25 things now each year and that’s enough lists for me, and 2) also true to other aging lessons I’ve heard from others, the older I get, the more I know I don’t know (and that’s OK!). So instead, I have a bookend post to accompany the start of the month that came in all lion energy and roar-y….

The good news is, the old wives’ tale rings true, if not for our upside down weather, then how things are going for me in several facets of life that are indeed more lamb-like now as March comes to a close.

The first update is on my headaches: I’m tracking those in connection to my cycle now, upping my acupuncture game in the coming weeks, and working the heck out of my liver energy lines and my irritability/anger (which is going to sound very woo woo to some but rings very true to what I need).

This brings me to the second update: anxiety meds. It really has taken the majority of the month to get to a good place with my new med. I had to switch when I was taking it to combat sleep troubles caused by the medicine and then give my body time to recover/adjust and finally, just this week, I am really seeing some signs of hope that this is the right medicine for me.

The timing on this leveling out is incredibly well placed because of the third update, previously not discussed on the blog because it’s been happening in the just recent weeks, but I’ve been going through some testing for calcifications found in both breasts at my “Welcome to 40” first/second mammograms conducted this month. This past Wednesday I had to have one breast biopsied to see if those cells are precancerous which I will find out in the next week. This has been challenging on several levels but I’ve had a lot of good support, worked with very kind medical providers, and am feeling more peace now that the procedure is done and results are coming soon. The second side will be monitored again in six months. I realize it’s probably surprising that I can look at something like this in a “lamb mentality” but that’s perhaps the biggest indicator that I am in fact on the right anxiety med. The nerves are still there but they aren’t controlling the narrative as much as they have in recent years.

So yes – here’s to 40. The last year in particular has been such a roller coaster of health and emotions, and, quite frankly, I am grateful to even be here to see my 40th. There’s no shame or darkness associated with this age for me and I plan to spend the rest of my day curled up with a good book in the sun because true to the name of the blog, I really am part lizard, now in the sense of longing most days to soak up as much sun as I can because it feeds my soul and is yet another gift on this ride called life.

In Like a Lion

I realize the image with this entry makes this look like a recipe post but that is very much not the case. Rather, this is the first time in weeks that I’ve really had time (kidding; I’m just making the time regardless of having it or not) and space in my brain to find words for all that’s been happening. And I promise, if you keep reading, the food picture will make sense.

It’s been a rough go since my last post about the medication backfire on my first attempt at anti-anxiety meds. It took over a week for me to feel better coming off it and even once I got my swab results back and started a test-approved medicine, my system has been dealing with a lot of panic. Part of that is the state of the world right now. Everything feels heavy and hard as we navigate yet another historic world-event well before we’ve even recovered or truly adapted from the last one.

Part of my panic has just been my own life, too. It’s the end of Winter Term for my university which means I’ve been helping students navigate getting their final assignments turned in and now I have this coming week to grade all that before Spring Term starts the week following. I’ve also been wrapping up my Writing Center hours which I will not continue in the next term because my teaching load and our family’s spring schedule doesn’t allow me to work those extra hours into each week. It was a beautiful opportunity and perhaps I’ll go back to it at some point but it was also A LOT of extra on my plate.

Also extra right now is the fact that the one (because it is a big one) PTO contribution that I give – the yearbook – is also due at the end of this week. This is a one-woman show that I volunteered for years ago but this is my first time actually making and marketing the thing and yeah, it’s unfortunate timing from the universe that all these deadlines and events have come crashing at the exact same time. I guess that’s March hitting me like a lion which hopefully means my upcoming birthday near the end of the month will be nothing but cute fluffy lambs, you know?

Circling back to the food image you may have noticed with this entry brings me to another development in this new year which is the result of yet another dietary change for me in the effort to clear my head of pain. Over the holidays I found some food sensitivity test kits on sale (not sponsored, just linked) and rather than just dive in with an elimination diet, I figured science could give me some direction on that front and did it ever. While a full-blown allergy did not show up in my results, I did come away with high reactivity (Tier 2, after Tier 1 = allergies, and 3/4 = low reactivity/normal reactivity). Of all the damn things, it showed me that my beloved EGGS are a no-no , along with cow’s milk (fine; but no cheese?! #$!#!) and peanuts. Well, f*ck. There go all the easy foods. So just when I thought I had adjusted back to the gluten free life, I had to also add in milk products and eggs which are in a ton of stuff, in case you’ve never looked.

So now I am eating a GF/quasi-vegan lifestyle because I have learned that if I look for that word, I’m going to avoid eggs and dairy. But quasi because I am still eating meat, and please don’t yell at me for disrespecting vegans by using that term but not following their rules. I am a tired, tired woman, doing her best to find what she can eat while still feeding her family their normal foods which just so happen to include a ton of things she, too, wishes she could eat.

To help with things, my sweet husband found me a meal kit service that caters to dietary needs called Green Chef (also not sponsored, just linked). We’re on a second week of meals, one of which was this amazing Curry Chickpea and Sweet Potato combo + Kale and Curry Humus toppings that I turned into nachos since I couldn’t do the tortillas that came with it and it was fricking awesome. Other meals I am able to get straight up GF +V, so that’s cool and really all of it has been good and a nice way for me to get fresh, wholesome, SAFE food for me as I continue to navigate this change.

And really, the word continue is the name of the game for me. I’ve seen some improvement to my head and system in the last two months since all this, but I’m still not quite there yet. I’ve felt some improvement in other ways since my new anxiety med, but am also experiencing some insomnia side effects (hence the tired, tired) as I play that waiting game of 2-4 weeks on that to know it fully in my system, so yeah – continue I must, continue I will.

The one thing I’m not continuing as much right now? Social media. Since last Thursday I’ve been away from it which has benefitted all my deadlines and probably my spinning brain, too. I’ll have to be back on it for things like posting this and some other tasks in the days to come, but bigger pauses between checking it feels like as healthy of a choice for me as all the other items spelled out here. But in case you’ve been wondering how things are, here’s that update for you. It’s a little roar-y but with possible signs of change and new growth, just like the glorious Spring that is hopefully just around the corner for us all.

Both/And, Not Either/Or

To share this means to put myself out there for all to see and judge. Not to share this means to hide behind passing privilege and if I’ve learned one thing in the last year, it is that my capacity for inauthenticity is extremely low, especially if that inauthentic way comes from myself.

The gist is this: after semi-, quietly, internally questioning myself over the last 20 years, I’ve opened up my heart, my mind, and my life to the queerness that is part of me. Queer how? I don’t find just one gender attractive. Call that bi or pan or whatever you like because I don’t mean to use labels to discriminate against others; I think that love is love and the person matters far more than the gender attached to them, assuming, that is, that they ascribe to a gender in the first place.

So what does this change, you wonder? Nothing. And everything. But let me start with the nothing. I know the first question for most will be – what about your marriage? My marriage is good. My marriage is sound. Will it last forever? Well, I can’t promise that any more than any other one person in a couple can in this life, but the short of it is that Ben was the first person beyond myself that I shared this with and it didn’t change a single thing for him or how he sees me, so I don’t see why it should change a single thing for us or how I see him. He’s been my person since we met at that party at a pond 17 years ago and as long as we continue to love and support each other, he’ll be my person through all the rest of it, too.

What I also hope is nothing is how the majority of other people will see/hear/respond to this and by “this” I mean me. I’m not a different person than the one you knew previously to reading this. I’m just sharing with you the more real and honest, the more open version of me. I’m giving more language to my understanding and acceptance of myself – that’s really it.

The reason I say “everything” changes is because of my motivation for sharing this in the first place – my kids. We have always been a Love is Love house and have talked about how females can love and marry other females and the same with males who love males. But we’ve never talked about the fact that some people can see themselves with both/and, not just either/or. And because I want my kids to be their most authentic selves and love whoever the flipdiddle they want to as they grow, I need to be transparent about myself as an example of that very principle. And I can’t tell them unless I’m also willing to tell the world at large, so no more passing privilege for me in which I stay quiet simply because I am a woman married to a man and therefore not questioned or judged by our heteronormative society for that marriage/attraction.

So the second gist is this: I am a woman who does not identify as straight but who is married to a man and together we are raising humans to love humans, in whatever form that takes (which means giving voice and pride to my own self along the way, too).

Does it scare me to post this publicly? Absolutely. But my hope is that in doing this, in sharing this most vulnerable side of myself, I’ll be able to show others that it really is OK to be who are you, however that presents. And I’ll be able to share eventually with my own children as they grow and get to know themselves that we really do mean it when we say: Love who you love. Find attractive who and what you find attractive in this world. Drop the shame for doing so. Show the world your real self; this is how we heal and live whole, healthy lives.

If you’re here for that (and by “that” I mean me) with love and support, great; please stay! If you’re bringing shame, lectures, or disgust to the table, kindly move along. While these words are worth sharing, who I am simply isn’t up for discussion or opinion.

So here’s to more moments of honesty and vulnerability, to moving through the world with more grace for others but also ourselves. And here’s to creating a better, more loving and accepting society as we do so.