Friendship Over Time

One facet of life that’s taken me a long time to get to a healthy working definition of is friendship, and trust me – that definition has changed and grown a lot over time. That’s not to say that I haven’t had very strong, wonderful friendships over the years, but that just now, at the start of my 40s, am I really beginning to understand what kind of friend I am and what friendship looks like in *my* life.

I’ve written about friendship before and talked about how the self-doubt that creeps in is false and how it is OK for friendships to come and go. Those lessons remain the same, but what I’ve learned since is that friendship is one of those cycles that will continue to play out and evolve for the rest of my life. Because, obviously, so will I. It makes sense that some connections will end, others will strengthen, and some will begin (repeat, repeat, repeat) as our own needs and selves change over time. And there is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean you can’t maintain lasting friendships or are a bad friend; it just means that as you navigate the different seasons of life, friendship will present itself with different ways and means, if you allow it.

One element of friendship that I have for sure changed my mind about is the notion that I need to have one core group to carry me through this world. I feel like I see that modeled in other people’s lives on social media but that might just be an Internet “Gotcha!” because it doesn’t reflect the life I’ve built for myself in recent years when it comes to friendship, a life that I find quite full and satisfying. 

Instead of putting all my proverbial friendship eggs into one basket, I’ve spread those baddies out all over the place. But please note, I do not mean in a spread-too-thin kind of way because a lot of those friendships are rock solid, rooted in my heart center strong. But they don’t all overlap and they don’t all make sense on paper (more on that in a bit). I mean that I have diversified my friendships with various circles and groups, some being large and boisterous, and others being small and contemplative. Life breathes into these relationships via social gatherings, coffee dates, Marco Polos, text threads, quick chats with kids pulling at our arms, and playdates where, again, we try to mother while also tending to each other as women, too. 

So I don’t have the IG-worthy Squad that I once thought I needed. But I wonder, needed for what? So others could be envious of my life and friends? I really don’t know where that thought came from originally, but it was a stuck one that took me some time to work through. What I have now is an understanding of myself and that my heart works really well with different little pockets of friendship. Those unique relationships accurately reflect all the different pieces of life that make me who I am. And it turns out, I’m really here for it with the people who return that same energy to me. 

What also holds true is that my friends do not have to be exactly like me to be considered My People. I have been blessed with love, acceptance, and friendship from some women over the years that might not make sense to the outside world based on our backgrounds (or our voting records). But I believe that when we see people for who they are beyond the labels society gives, we can foster real, authentic connection and carry a lot of grace for one another. I can’t think of a better definition of friendship than someone who does exactly those things for their people, in whatever form they present themselves.

*Post 40/52.


My Room of Requirement

As an introvert, it’s no big surprise that my favorite simple pleasures in life revolve around quiet things I can do by myself. It’s not that I don’t want to be around my people, I just need to be around just myself a lot, too; naturally, my hobbies and “me time” over the years have gravitated toward activities that perpetuate solitude. My tops are: reading (duh), writing (double duh), yoga (this can be done in groups, of course, but your practice is really only ever a you thing and doesn’t require outsiders to be present), drinking coffee (keep trying to quit; keep coming back to it), and burning incense (some days are two- or even three-stick days). 

As it just so happens, our house has a room attached to it that affords me the perfect amount of space for me to do all of my favorite simple solos: the sun porch. This room is two walls of windows and two walls of old exterior siding painted a soft buttery yellow, capped off with wood floors and a stunning stained glass window that was left here by the previous owners (for which I am forever grateful because it faces the east and catches the best morning sun). In the 11 years that we’ve been in this house, the sun porch has housed all of my simple pleasures, along with a whole lot of parenting, too.

In that time, this space has seen multiple trampolines come and go (fabulous for busting that pent-up winter energy), various tables, chairs, rockers, and papasan seats rotate through it, a hand-me-down foosball table take up residence, kid toys get kicked around, and an art easel that doesn’t always contain its masterpieces set up shop. It has also been a makeshift office for me where I grade papers or Zoom with students. It’s been the backdrop for multiple photo shoots (newborn, toddler, family, and professional). And it’s been my yoga studio – both publicly and privately. Most often it serves as a makeshift storage room for, well, anything. Yesterday I read a book out here. Currently it is where I am writing this very post (while burning incense, of course). Come to think of it, it’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a Room of Requirement, and while the room itself doesn’t take the exact shape I need, it is clearly very skilled at giving me what I seek at various ages and stages of both myself, my family, and my career. 

Over the years we’ve looked at other houses, and while there were ultimately many factors that went into us deciding not to buy, leaving this room behind was in fact probably one of them. The sun porch has been where I have nurtured my self and my babies and the thought of it no longer being a part of our world just doesn’t compute for me. Maybe it would be possible to find another house with a gorgeous room that provides tons of natural light and the feel of air moving (but with the benefit of screens to keep the bugs away and heaters to keep the cold at bay). Or maybe there would be some other magical room that would draw me away from this one. Until I see that, though, I’m going to keep thanking my lucky stars that I can read, write, practice, and just be in this unique and shifty (in the best way) space. 

*Post 39/52

Pixie No-No

For years I flirted with the idea of going super short with my hair. I’d had plenty of bobs over the years (including after our wedding when I chopped off something like 12 inches of the longest hair I’d ever had because I was so sick of growing it out), but had never gone pixie short. Then I entered the years of motherhood which messes with your hair on so many levels.

If you didn’t know, hair grows and grows and gets super lush and thick whilst pregnant and then about four months after baby arrives, it all decides to leave your head at once. Great fun, I tell you. I mean, thankfully mine always came back, but in the oddest growth pattern on my scalp that, according to my hair dresser, was like this strange halo of baby hairs on the crown of my head. That actually worked to my advantage with some of my new-mom bobs I rocked over the years because it gave a pretty decent amount of volume, but heaven forbid I actually try to do anything with my hair because the little fly-away, wispy baby hairs (on my head, not the actual baby at the time) were impossible to tame (actually, just like babies!). 

After four rounds of mass hair exodus, I decided to get ahead of the curve after Wilson was born and scheduled an appointment to get my hair CHOPPED when she was just a couple months old. My hair dresser knew I’d been thinking of this in the past so she knew it wasn’t a rash, totally hormonal decision, but I did keep it entirely secret from anyone but her until after the deed was done. 

Like some kind of fool, this meant going from hair eight inches past my shoulders to next-to-nothing left on my head in Nebraska in the dead of winter when it is freaking cold, cold, cold. I was not prepared for how miserable I was going to feel based on temperature alone (which turned out to be a LOT), but what also caught me way off guard was how much I hated pixie-short hair on me and the emotional reaction I had to the cut. 

Don’t get me wrong – I love women who rock short hair. I have plenty of friends who have done this over the years and they look like badasses. Who knows – maybe I also looked like a badass, but the problem was, I didn’t feel like I looked like me anymore. 

Back in the day, I loved watching America’s Next Top Model and I always marveled at the women during the makeover episode who lost their shit when the producers made them get a massive haircut as part of their new model look. What was their problem? But you know what happened when Ben walked in the door that day after school and I popped out from behind a kitchen cabinet to surprise him with my new lewk? I burst into tears! I instantly hated it and there was not a damn thing I could do about it but wait (for months and months and months) for it to get back to a comfortable length that felt more like myself than that shorty short look ever did in my eyes.

The funny thing was, the majority of people loved it. I had people stop me at church and exclaim over it and I had plenty of friends and acquaintances compliment the cut. But man, I just couldn’t ever rectify how it looked with how I felt about it. To this day, I look at pictures – both professional and snapshots – from that time and think, “Whoa. WTH was I thinking?” 

In the five years since, I’ve been growing, growing, growing my hair and for the foreseeable future, that’s still the plan. I suppose I shouldn’t say I’ll never go back to a pixie because maybe someday that will fit with how I see myself, but back then it definitely did not. So I can’t say never get a pixie, but I can tell you, don’t go from scarf-like hair length to a pixie during a Midwest Winter; that’s just stupid cold making!

*Post 38/52.

25 Things in 2022

Normally I give myself a few weeks or at least a few days to work on this list, but here I am, on Dec. 30 just starting it. Yikes. Here’s hoping I can figure out my 25 Things in quick succession!

  1. Came out publicly as bisexual. Doing that was an important step in showing my authentic self to the world, which is a primary motivator for me in this life.
  2. Tried a food sensitivity test and, as a result, gave up not just gluten, but eggs, peanut butter, and dairy, too. Had to learn a whole new approach to food but it has made a huge and welcome improvement in my health, so I’ll keep it.
  3. Started anti anxiety meds for the first time and after an adverse reaction to one, found the one that makes a big helpful difference to my overall world.
  4. Gave up black tea this Spring and did just coffee alternative except for special occasion emotional support coffees. Later in the year, lots more weeks required lots more emotional support. Starbucks instant coffee packets are a winner on those days.
  5. Finished up my Writing Center gig with BU, taught another handful of classes for them throughout the year, and taught one section of online Composition for CCC this fall. Dual institution work is a lot at times.
  6. Had my first mammogram. And then my second and then a biopsy which turned out to be OK, but required another mammogram six months later in September; now good for a whole year! Thank goodness.
  7. Read 67 books. My first and last of the year were total stinkers but there in the middle I read some really beautiful books.
  8. Wrote 47 blog posts, including this one. This was enhanced greatly by a year-long challenge I started after my birthday to write a post each week. Sometimes I write none in a week and sometimes I write three, but overall it is going fine.
  9. Became the Secretary on my first Board of Directors, the Hastings Community Music Academy – love the mission and programming associated with this new nonprofit in town!
  10. Turned 40. I don’t usually count my birthday on this list but 40 seems like a big freaking deal, so it seems worth mentioning here.
  11. Finished my first-ever Longfellow Elementary Year Book. Makes up for never participating in PTO while HD was there for six years, I think – yes? Yes.
  12. Took Harrison to see his first (off) Broadway show, Hamilton, in DesMoines, IA. My second time seeing it and once again, it did not disappoint!
  13. Completed a 5-week course in Ecstatic Breathwork (online, of course) with Scott Schwenk via Commune.
  14. Went to my first Pride with my family, all seven of us decked out in rainbows.
  15. Participated in a Sign Language Choir (see above about HCMA) – learned three songs in one week of morning sessions and performed them at the church on our final morning. Ben and the Big 3 all did the class as well.
  16. Saw Brandi Carlile perform at Red Rocks. Holy. Sh!t. Fantastic concert.
  17. Designed and executed the turning of our front coat closet into a Cloffice – my very own tiny but loved space in the house.
  18. Made time to nurture friendships, old and new. Coffee dates, scheduled phone calls, interstate meet-ups, evening gatherings, playdates with the kids, and a handful of other ways to stay connected with my people – grateful for each and every one of these humans and our efforts to be in each other’s lives.
  19. Got my ears re-pierced. Went along with RL as she got her first holes and had my old ones reopened. Wearing earrings again feels so novel and fun.
  20. Started a daily yoga practice in late October. Haven’t missed a day since.
  21. Navigated multiple stints of solo parenting while Ben was off on various trips around the country for his temporary job with NEA/NSEA. I realize some people do that literally all the time or even on a regular basis but it has been new for us and challenging for me at times.
  22. Helped direct a Christmas musical at our church. You can call me the Assistant to the Regional Director, if you like.
  23. Watched 8.5 seasons of The Office with HD (we got so close to finishing entirely but that will have to be a 2023 accomplishment), hence the reference in the previous Thing.
  24. Sprained my ankle just before Christmas; means I now do my daily yoga on my bed each night and with very little difficulty of or movement invovled in the postures.
  25. Took the children on a week-long trip to Texas for the holidays. First time we have been to Houston since 2016. Lots of walking and tourist attractions. This was both wonderful and tricky (see above about ankle and the timing of all that). Also, sooooo imany hours in the car. Holy moly cow. But also, saw my first professional ballet with the Houston Ballet, performing The Nutcracker!

That Baseball Life

Starting in early elementary and all the way through middle school, I played summer softball. I never tried out for a travel team (that also wasn’t really a thing back then like it is now), but instead just played the city rec league with fellow classmates and other girls my age for a couple months each summer. I liked it but it wasn’t never my end all/be all and I eventually gave it up for other sports (cross country) and activities (band) by high school. However, as my group of friends solidified in high school, I found myself hanging out with my best girlfriends and a whole bunch of guy friends who all happened to be baseball players as well. And so began a trend that would continue, well, the rest of my life. 

We spent so much time watching the guys at their Legion ball games and even traveled to watch them play some tournaments. I have never been a fan of watching baseball on TV but there is something great about being there live to see the exciting moments (and getting good snacks and having talk-time in the sometimes long stretches between said exciting parts). We were good fans and Post 12 was a fun team to root for during those years. 

Oddly enough, in college, I ended up once again being really good friends with a group of girls that was equally matched with guy friends who played baseball for Doane. So once again, I found myself parking my butt in the bleachers and on blankets in the grass to watch the Tigers take on their various division opponents. I don’t know that we traveled much/if ever to watch them play, but the baseball guys were our guys. The irony of this is that Ben was supposed to play ball in college but tore both hamstrings the summer before his freshman year, playing baseball, and didn’t get to become part of that team. Maybe if he had, we could have met earlier (or maybe not since we were in choir together for a year and had no clue – lol)! 

As it was, I didn’t have to know Ben for very long to know that he loves baseball and that the Kansas City Royals have long been his favorite team. This was an easy fandom to share with him and over the years I even, sometimes, acquiesced on my rule of not watching baseball on TV. This became especially true in 2015, also known as the year Truman was born, the October the Royals took the World Series crown, AND the one time we had a sports-themed Christmas card photo! I was up nursing a baby every few hours anyway, so staying up to watch nail-biter games with Ben was a fun way to pass the time; plus, by that point, I was a pretty committed Royals fan myself. 

Our family stayed #ForeverRoyal until shortly after Wilson was born when LT went rogue on us and became an Aaron Judge/NY Yankees super fan. While I attended my first ever MLB game while pregnant with Wilson, the kids all got to attend their first one two summers later when the Royals played at home versus the Yankees. Ben’s parents joined us in Kansas City for the game which was full of excitement (including a lost tooth for Raegan) and extra innings for the Royals to eek out the win (poor LT!). 
Though we are still a house divided when it comes to MLB teams, we are Welschies all the way when it come to our own kids. That means that these days, I’m still in the bleachers (okay, more like a bag chair) but now watching as a committed Baseball Mom with three boys who have played city league and two of those three also doing/starting travel ball. It makes for long evenings and wonky meal times, not to mention an absolute ton of scrubbing/laundry, but I love it (not the laundry; that’s for the birds). It is so fun to watch them out on the field, playing a game our whole family loves (the sisters do a good job of tolerating these long nights and get in on plenty of backyard ball sessions with Dad and the boys, too). I don’t always do the best job breathing when one of them is pitching, but I clap and cheer and jump for joy whenever something exciting happens, which is really what makes the baseball life so great – you just never know when one of those moments will occur! 

*Post 37/52


Whether I picked it up at home or school (probably both), I could sew with basic skills as a teen. In high school I started making scrunchies (hello, it was the 90s) and it became an annual tradition for a few years when I would make a large batch of the same fabric/design and gift that to as many friends as possible for that Christmas. I also made pillows both for myself and for my friends over the years, including large oversized ones for several of my closest guy friends when we graduated from YHS. It wasn’t until college that I upped my game and took my needle and thread skills to the whole next level by learning how to quilt during Interterm one January.

Called J-Term at some institutions, Doane used Interterm to describe the one-month hyper-focused classes you could take for 2.5 weeks prior to the start of second semester. These were often fun or kooky classes that still counted for credits but were a nice way to ease back into the college grind after the winter break. My sophomore year was when I decided, Lord only knows why, to sign up for Introduction to Quilting. Had I known how much work went into making a full-sized quilt in less than three weeks, I might have said pass; but as it was, I spent all day every day (most Interterm classes were just morning or just afternoon) getting it done.  

From start to finish, I used every minute of those three weeks (no kidding; one weekend I actually hauled the quilt frame to my dorm room so I could keep working on it there) to make my very first quilt – a Christmas colored Log Cabin design that I picked out with my mom’s help prior to the start of class. If you look at it closely, you can see that the stitching is terribly uneven but I pieced that entire top and then hand quilted the entire thing. In. Three. Weeks! By. My. Self! I’m insanely proud of it but have kept it hidden from the children all these years because I don’t want them to test the quality of the quilt (i.e. I don’t want anyone to break it!). 

Beyond the beauty of completing my very own project, that class opened me up to some other beautiful connections in my life, too. For one, it gave me another activity I could do with my Grandma Gert, a long time crochet fiend and hand-quilter herself, who was then on a quest to make quilts for all of her grandchildren by the time they graduated high school. When I was back from college that summer, I helped her between my busy social and part-time job schedules to complete the top stitching on my cousin Ashley’s quilt that she had already pieced together on her own. We spent plenty of hours at her quilt frame that was set up in my grandparent’s bedroom, talking and probably swearing from time to time when we inevitably pricked our fingers, even when using thimbles and finger guards. I didn’t get to help Gertie with all of her graduation projects but that time together holds a precious place in my heart and I am thankful the class provided me with that. 

Also special from that class was the teacher herself, Kay Hegler, who was then a faculty member of the Education Department at Doane and, obviously, an avid quilter. Kay and I learned that we had Yankton/SoDak connections and she was in general a delightful human being who also turned out to be a generous one, as she let me rent a room in her house during my Junior year when I had nowhere else to stay. The first half of Junior year was my travel abroad to Africa but we had no guarantee of a spot on our residential campus upon return, so several of us were granted special permission to live off-campus and it just so happened that Kay had a room for me. Ever since then we’ve kept in touch through Christmas letters, social media, and the practice of yoga, which we both became big fans and teachers of in later years. Any time I bump into Kay when I’m back in Eastern Nebraska is a special moment with a great hug attached to it as she wraps me up just like the quilts she taught me to make.

I haven’t tackled a quilt project since becoming a wife or a mom but perhaps it will be something that I revisit with age (and maybe more free-time?!) later in life. Either way, I’m thrilled that I took the time and effort to learn this skill when I did as it is one that has returned greatly on its investment. 

  • Post 36/52

“I’m 13 again/Am I 13 for good?”

Despite there being plenty that I don’t remember from being 13, the age is going will stay with me forever in part through the lyrics of an artist I started listening to when I was, yep – you guessed it, 13 years old. Alanis Morissette wasn’t my first CD ever (that was Hootie and the Blowfish, thank you very much) but it’s possible that her debut album, Jagged Little Pill, was one of the most played CDs of my adolescence. To this day, Alanis has a soft spot in my heart, and her music can still captivate and feel quite relatable to me. 

The particular line in question that anchors me to the start of my teens comes from the song, “So Unsexy” (not on JLP) where Alanis says, “I’m 13 again, am I 13 for good?” She then goes on to sing, “I can feel so unsexy for someone so beautiful/ So unloved for someone so fine/I can feel so boring for someone so interesting/So ignorant for someone of sound mind.” And that right there, folks, is it.

For as much as I have grown and healed and acknowledged about myself in the 27 years since I was 13, I can still find myself back in that prepubescent body and swirl of hormones and emotions on pretty much any given day, if the circumstances hit just right (or wrong, depending on your perspective). Some days, feeling 13 with the whole world of possibilities ahead of me is thrilling and I can still have those moments at 40, which is a real gift. More often than not, though, when these lyrics pop into my brain, it’s because I’m feeling like the awkward, out of place, unsure version of my 13-yr-old self, like the young girl who has no idea how things are going to work out or if she’ll ever move past the bullshit she currently finds herself facing. To still have those moments at 40 is, well, humbling. 

Had you asked me at 13, I would have said that yes, by 40 I would indeed have all my shit together and would be done with life and emotions pulling me sideways (or completely off the tracks). This is very similar to my feelings on parenting when I used to watch SuperNanny prior to having my own actual children and thought, “Man, I will be so much better at that than these people; what’s so hard about it?” (<— UGH. I knew nothing!) In other words, laughable at how wrong I was! 

At 40 I can tell you that I very much still struggle. And sometimes it is the fact that I am still struggling that pisses me off more than anything, including whatever said struggle may be! Recently I had a shame spiral over body issues that threw me for a massive loop and while I was upset by the body dysmorphia, I was twice as disappointed in myself for being disappointed as I was bothered by my thoughts about my body. 

That feels crazy making at times but I also am learning that that’s just life. It’s part of being human and I am never, ever – as much as I read or practice or meditate or affirm – going to rid myself of being human. I’d like to think that as I continue to age, I’ll go through longer and longer periods of time between when I feel the shame and uncertainty of 13, but I don’t know that I’ll ever get away from that part of me altogether. The real trick, I suppose, is to love that awkward little version of myself as much as possible, even when she rears her less than appealing sides. And who knows – maybe being 13 for good, when channeled as a little feminist rocker, isn’t such a bad thing after all. (seen here at a piano recital in a church, but still – a little rock star at heart)

*Post 34/52

Winner, Winner

In college I won crap all the time. And I say “crap” on purpose because it was never anything big, just random door prize drawings at events hosted on campus like speakers or performers, etc. The most memorable door prize was a giant tub of cheese puffs, so again, nothing of major note even though I was consistent as all get out with having my name drawn. This even continued after graduation when our family later attended alumni events and somehow I would still walk away with some little Doane swag like a foam mini-football (that became a favorite plaything of HD’s until some younger sibling literally took a bite out of it and we had to chuck it, pun intended). 

Beyond door prizes, I’ve never really entered myself in competitions. Even though my family, of origin and the one that I’ve created with Ben, is competitive, I’ve never been on a team or in an event that resulted in a nail-bitter championship moment. My favorite activities have always been more solo-based, and even when I did team sports, it was cross country which was a team, yes, but also entirely individual in terms of performance. It makes sense then that the one title I earned more than once growing up was Top Reader at our library’s Summer Reading Program.

With my mom the elementary teacher off for summers, my brother and I did a remarkable number of week-long lessons, including swim, tennis, golf, and art-based classes that she worked out for us via the giant matrix of offerings printed in the Press & Dakotan each spring. In the midst of all that, we never missed the SRP and our chance to log books read and earn little prizes in return. A lot of what we got was coupons for local fast food places: wooden chips that were good for a free taco from Taco John’s, or a slip of paper that meant a free ice cream cone at McDonald’s or Dairy Queen. I’m sure there were other items available, but to a kid who grew up in the country and didn’t have as direct of access to eating out as town kids, these were big treats. 

Also big was the list of books I put under my belt each summer. I spent so much time at the Yankton Public Library that I could probably still draw you a map of its interior, the children’s department in particular. As I aged, I had my favorite series that I loved to read which included, but was not limited to: The Sleepover FriendsSweet Valley Twins/HighNancy Drew, and some Babysitter’s Club, too. I wasn’t quite to that reading level, though, when I landed myself in the paper (along with a couple of classmates and other local kids), pictured together after a party to celebrate Top Readers. You’ve gotta love a small town that not only holds such honors but documents them in the local paper! 

These days I don’t do a good job of recording my reading through our local library (although my kids do participate in the SRP most years), but I have been keeping track of my books read for a handful of years now on the blog. More recently I also (finally) started using GoodReads, a website that helps you record titles and reviews of your books read which is super helpful for not reading titles again (a mistake I’ve made more than once). I typically set a 52 book annual goal which lands me at a book a week, but in 2021 I went wild and aimed for 100 books in 12 months time and hit it, even though it was a little dicey there at the end of the year to get all books done by deadline. 

I don’t plan to repeat that little stunt again any time soon, but I wear my Word Nerd/Top Reader status with pride and am always happy to talk books with people. Just don’t ask me for details because I am way more likely to remember how a book made me feel than I am plot points (and even character names, sometimes). Such is the life of a prolific reader! 

*Post 33/52 of year-long Writing Challenge.

“We are the Church”

Although the venues and the denominations have changed over the years, I have been attending Christian churches my whole life. Baptized Catholic, I spend my elementary years in the Methodist Church, my Jr./Sr. High years (including confirmation) in the United Church of Christ/Congregational Church (which is also where we got married), and then eventually landed, as a parent of my own brood of children, in the Presbyterian Church. The story of that evolution is nuanced and interesting, but mostly it boils down to listening to intuition and trusting that I would land in the right spot at each given stage of my life. 

Cleary I’m biased by my own experiences, but I’ve never been one to believe that there’s just one way to God or faith. Rather, for me, that coming together with others to celebrate God in church depends greatly on the the people who make up the congregation, the people leading the charge, and the way they all put their words and faith into action. This makes our current home at First Presbyterian Church of Hastings (“Where you will always hear a message of hope proclaimed” – something our pastor says each week) such a good fit because Presbyterians are lead not by one person, but literally by committee and groups of people, and the particular groups in our church are quite active about putting their hands and hearts to work to serve others. 

During COVID, like many churches, one way our congregation served the greater good was by live-streaming services only; we continued to do so for many months as society tried to navigate both germs and misinformation. I was able to get way more out of at-home church because I’d watch them on my own while folding laundry which is much different than when I’m dripping in children in the balcony and maybe catch 1/4 of each sentence being said during the service.  We never really forced them to sit in front of the screen for at-home church, but the kids would watch a bit, especially at the beginning and the end.  

Somewhere along the way, our two pastors started ending these live-stream services by singing acapella the hymn, “We are the Church.” In case you’re not familiar, the words go like this:
“The church is not a building;
the church is not a steeple;
the church is not a resting place;
the church is a people. 
I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!”

The little Welschies loved it (so did their parents) and, thankfully, even once we returned to in-person services, this little COVID life habit stuck around, I think because it had a big impact on many of us. Now we sing those words from the beautiful sanctuary of our church home, but it’s the last thing we do before the organist plays out the end of the service and it’s such a sweet little benediction to take with us into the world.  Connecting to God doesn’t just happen in the church. Acting from a place of faith (and hope) isn’t just for Sunday mornings. And, if I can take it one step more, I’d add that seeing the world as a place worthy and capable of love is not just for those who call themselves Christians. 

Spirit moves through all of us and we can feel that connection in so many faceted forms. For me that manifests as feeling God’s presence in church, but also in the greater world, often through the medium of light. Maybe it’s the prairie girl in me, forever obsessed with the clouds, the sky, and how the sun paints them both, or maybe it’s the little Midwest Christian girl in me who spent Sunday after Sunday staring at the stained glass windows of her various churches, paying attention to not just the scenes and symbolism they depicted, but also the way the light – the spirit – moved through them. Probably it’s both, along with the knowledge that light and love will always prevail. 

And should we need a reminder of God’s presence, of the Spirit that brings us all together, we simply need look to the light and see how it shines for each one of us, a little church and container of faith all our own.

*Post 32/52.

Country Roads

My first car was purchased from a sketchy looking little auto pace in my hometown that was too small an operation to even consider calling it a dealership. I don’t remember much about getting it except that my mom and I went together to test drive it and the sky was cold and dirty looking, much like the little tan Mazda 323 itself. Apparently, it passed the test though because that little car became mine which meant I could finally start driving myself to and from school and activities – a pretty big deal when you live eight miles out of town and do a lot of school and lot of activities IN town. 

That said, I was a reluctant driver. In South Dakota you could get a learner’s permit at 14 and then you had to take your written and your practical driving test before your 16th birthday, but I waited until the last possible day to do my actual driving test. In fact, I waited so long, the test wasn’t even being offered again in Yankton before my temporary license would expire, so my dad had to drive me to Tindall, a tiny town in our county that apparently had DMV hours on certain days, and that was were I did the excursion with the driving examiner. I can’t remember now if we even saw another vehicle out and about that day but they did at least have four-way stops and one stop light, so I got to show off some of my “city” driving skills all the same. Actually, maybe I was a genius for waiting so long and getting to do my exam there instead of the larger and therefore busier roads of Yankton! 

If I practiced much driving in town, I don’t recall it because it certainly got overshadowed by my country road driving. Our house was on a paved (pink!) road but all around us the land was divided up into mile-sections and those cross roads/back roads were a majority of gravel. That’s where I really learned to drive. And that’s what really freaked me out at times because gravel roads are narrow as all get-out and you’ve got to learn how to drive with one side of the car basically in the ditch when you meet another car/truck/or, heaven forbid, semi or tractor, which can get pretty dicey. Throw in a few rolling hills throughout the terrain where you always have to skirt the edge because you don’t know who might be coming up the other side straight at you, and you’ve got the stuff of nightmares – literally in my case as I can still remember some bad dreams I had about meeting semis on exaggerated versions of our gravel road grid that surrounded our farm. 

Before I got the Mazda, I learned how to drive in my parent’s old (blue!) Jeep Wagoneer. It was our former family car before we got into minivan life, and because we had space on the farm, we kept it for an extra farm vehicle and learning one, too. I don’t know why I didn’t just get to drive the Jeep and went to look for a smaller car, but perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I hit stuff with the Jeep and my parents weren’t too keen to turn me loose on the open roads with it. LOL. What actually happened was one of our neighbors stopped in to chat with my dad about something farm related and I was out by the machine shed, in the driver’s seat of the Jeep. I decided I was going to back up and drive over to see them in the main yard of our place, and, in the process, show off my cool new driving skills. Instead, I showed off my ability to back up into an electrical meter outside the machine shed. Again – LOL! 

Eventually the Mazda got passed on to my brother when it was his turn, two years later, to start driving. It wasn’t the best car and was known to die on us from time-to-time but between our dad and our friends (and probably each other), we got where we needed to be. From there, I started driving a little red, two-door Ford Escort which would be my car for the remainder of high school when I would then inherit my mom’s old (blue!) Toyota Camry for college. I loved my little Escort and it served me well over the years of driving into town for school, work, and hanging out with friends, and sometimes all three on the same day. 

I was a busy kid in high school and, once I got over my slight apprehension of independent driving, my little cars did a fantastic job to taking me here, there, everywhere, and then, of course, back “home, to the place I belonged.” (Sorry/not sorry for the John Denver earworm.) 

*Post 32/52 for year-long writing challenge.