So Many Firsts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Running

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve been feeling the urge for a while.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Books

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

 

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Careful What You Wish For

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Blowout by Rachel Maddow

 

ENOUGH

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

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

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

Enough. Enough. Enough.

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

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

Behind the Screen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did You Grow Last Night?

Since Wilson decided to potty train 10 days ago, it seems the milestones keep flinging themselves in our faces and three years and almost three months after our last baby was born, it is really hitting me how much my family is this solid unit moving forward at break-neck speeds.

Before, as we kept adding person after person (after person after person? did I do that right?), we had to revert continually and learn how to be a new family as a unit of 3, 4, 5, 6, and then 7. Each time we revisited the newborn stage and the teething stage and the crawling/walking/running stages, only to start all over again when the next little new person came along.

But for three+ years now, we’ve been working through those early stages for the last time, and even though this isn’t news to me or you, it’s hitting me in all my feels lately.

Case in point, today in the mail we received information regarding Truman’s Kindergarten registration for this fall and I about fell over when I opened the envelope because how can my littlest guy be so big? When I made that same comment to my husband he promptly reminded that my biggest little guy is about to get info on MIDDLE SCHOOL registration and then I really did feel the shock in my physical body because, what? Are you serious? Already?! Again, I’m here every day, day after day, raising them and helping them and watching them but somehow this growth still manages to sneak the heck up on me.

Ask my kids and they will tell you, one of the questions I ask most often is, “Did you grow last night?” because they honestly appear taller some mornings than the night before when I kissed them goodnight. How do they do that? I have yet to solve the mystery, but if their ever-creeping-highwater-pajama-pant-legs are any indication, I really am on to something.

In addition to nonstop growing, this moving forward as a Family of Seven means we’re actually reaching stages where we can really get rid of baby stuff. I realize I should have started that process a long time ago (I have done some) but a year+ of house reno added to almost a year of a pandemic and you know what, sorting through toys and gear just hasn’t been a priority much less a possibility amidst all the chaos and people in this house that needs such organizing. But I do want to get to that task and we made a giant leap this week by kicking our highchair to the curb.

Now, I didn’t cry but it was bittersweet to see it go. We’ve had that thing as long as we’ve lived in this house and all five kids have used it over the years. But for months now Wilson has been eating meals at the island with the rest of the Bigs and even though she’s a holy terror mess maker while doing so, it really is much easier on my back than lifting her into that seat. Normally we give away our baby gear or sometimes try to sell a bit through FB, but not this time. That thing was nasty and even if I took my dad’s power sprayer and a gallon of soap to it, it wasn’t going to be worth trying to salvage. So it went “buh-bye” and we had to have a little Marie Kondo moment of thanking it for its service through all those meals and messes along the way.

And on we continue to roll, into a year that seems poised with firsts and lasts, all of which come with some happiness and some mourning and sometimes a mix of both because that is the privilege of getting to fill the roles I do of forever getting them to the next step.

25 Things in 2020

This is a hard list to write in a normal year and I think one thing we can all agree on at the end of this insane ride of the last 123 (typo; leaving it) months is that 2020 has been anything but normal. So how is a list of 25 things, both big and small “accomplished” going to go? I have no idea but I committed years ago to doing this annual round up, so here I am to claim the tradition, even in the midst of chaos.

  1. I came through 2020 with my head and my heart both still intact. Pretty sure that should be the first thing on the list and really could be the only thing on the list because riding the waves of this COVID-year coaster has been so head spinning and heart breaking, just making it to this day is accomplishment enough, don’t you think?
  2. I became an ardent mask wearer. I’m not always an early adopter in life but I was this time because I believe in science and I believe in epidemiologist experts and we’ve been wearing masks in public since, I don’t know – April? Plus this fall I’ve witnessed with my own family how mask wearing works and has kept them safe at school. My favorites are the 5 for $25 masks from JohnnyWas that started out as buy one/give one to essential works.
  3. Started walking daily in mid-ish April. Didn’t miss a day until November when I had to take 10 days off after tweaking my knee (whilst trying to avoid, of all things, a Lego). I listened to music, I listened to books, I listened to my friends on Marco Polo, and sometimes I even just listened to my own breath and heartbeat. I needed a way to keep active and sane and thankfully I live in a place where I can get out and do that away from groups of people. Post knee injury, I’m learning to be OK with not doing this every day and still feeling OK in my body and in my brain; balance (mental and emotional, not just physical) is a forever practice.
  4. Threw in some running this year, too! Social media eventually pissed me off so much this fall that the only way I could process was to run it out. I started low distance and awfully huffy (why am I suddenly a mouth breather when I run?) and worked my way up to a nice 3 mile distance before aforementioned knee injury. I’ve only run a couple times since then but hope to keep getting back to it more and more in the coming year.
  5. Voted for the first woman (and woman of color) Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris! What a joy it was to place my absentee ballot for her, even if there was no chance of my district falling their way. I am overjoyed at the prospect of all that the Biden/Harris administration will accomplish and am so grateful that we finally have a woman in the top leadership in this country.
  6. Said a tearful and unwilling goodbye to my hero, Ruth Bader Ginsberg in September. I sobbed for the loss of her battle with cancer and the profound example of justice, determination, and impact that was her life and life’s work. May her memory be a blessing.
  7. Rebooted my yoga business in a new way for a new year. I haven’t taught an in-person class in almost a year and a half but this fall I started recording classes that are now available for purchase and download from Grounded Sky.
  8. Taught six sections for Bellevue this year which included two at the very start of the shutdown in March, one over the summer and fall, respectively, which was a helpful, lighter load, and then back to two this winter like I had to start the year. I realize that’s confusing, but we run on 10 and 12 week terms, so it’s not the traditional semester system and you flip the calendar in the midst of Winter Term, so it’s not an easy count to make or explain.
  9. I read 80 books. I had a huge slump at the start of the pandemic, so I’m really pleased that I was able to recover that and read so much this year. Combining audiobooks and my walks helped a ton here.
  10. I wrote 46 blog posts. This definitely came in slumpy to end the year. It has felt harder to wear my heart on my written sleeve in the midst of so much division and Internet suckage this year.
  11. Introduced my Big 3 to Star Wars. That franchise has never been Ben’s cup of tea, but I grew up with a brother who loved it, so I had some background knowledge going in and we were gifted Disney+ last year for Christmas anyway (which we didn’t use nearly as much pre-pandemic as we did after sh!t started) so we went for it. Big! We made it through all nine episodes (in order by release date, thank you very much) before summer came and then shortly before Christmas break, we enjoyed both seasons of The Mandalorian. Such a delightful rabbit hole to fall into with them.
  12. Joined a new book club that met weekly online for most of the summer months and has continued to do a few monthly online gatherings since school started. I did not know everyone well (or even at all) in the group before starting, but I greatly appreciated their time and insights in our discussion and getting to know each of them better.
  13. Finally experimented with temporary hair color. I’ve been wanting to play with that for some time now and if 2020 itself wasn’t the best year ever to just say eff it and find a little joy via hair dye, when would be? I have so far used purple (loved it!) and blue (didn’t work as well and turned my dang hand blue instead when I was blow drying it after the fact), and still have a hot pink left waiting for me in the new year. Ridiculous but fun, which was very much needed this year.
  14. Saw Bonnie and Taylor Simms in concert at The Lark for Valentine’s Day and saw Waitress performed at The Lied Center the first weekend in March, and then that was it – no more live music or shows the rest of the year, obviously. But we did live stream concerts from The Talbott Brothers, Tobe Nwige, and Rising Appalachia which were all very different and sort of a band-aid to my live-music-loving-heart. Hoping our postponed Trevor Hall tickets for next spring actually get to be a thing, and I hope to see both RA and Towr’s live in 2021, too.
  15. Learned how to make killer, from-scratch broccoli cheddar soup. It’s phenomenal.
  16. Participated in a Zoom book club video/podcast/round table for our church with two former HC Lit professors along with our two pastors in a six-week read of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It was such a pleasure to partake in the discussions plus I loved all the effort our church exerted to keep folks connected this year in new and creative ways with this being just one example of how they did that.
  17. Went six months without wearing jeans or any real pants beyond leggings, PJs, or workout pants/shorts. I don’t actually know if that’s an accurate statement but it really was a significant part of the pandemic/year before I bothered putting those on again and I feel like six months is an honest estimate.
  18. Watched way more TV than normal, including the entire SERIES of Parks and Rec, The Watchmen, The Mandolorian (both seasons), the docuseries On Pointe and season one of Little House on the Prairie (those last three were all with the Big 3 or some combo of them). I’m saving a re-watch of Schitt’s Creek for the long cold months of Jan/Feb 2021.
  19. Painted the final walls of the reno project in the basement (remember when that started over two years ago? Pandemic life slowed us down on that front, too, but now all spaces are totally useable if not 100% done). This included two coats on two sides of five damn doors in the new hallway down there.
  20. Discovered the sheer amazingness and utter shocking WHOA of using a foam roller. A friend suggested it after I started running again and she was not wrong. I love that thing and use it all the time!
  21. Went to Harlan County Reservoir for the first time. We splurged and rented a cabin near there last minute before the 4th of July so we could escape the boom-booms in town and while there we drove over to the lake and discovered that we just love it for day trips which we continued to do throughout the rest of the summer.
  22. Used the “snooze for 30 days,” “unfollow,” and even “unfriend” buttons a fair bit on social media this year. Boundaries and mental health are important and social media is often not helpful in these realms.
  23. Still haven’t found a way to fix my sleep so I don’t wake in the mid-to-early morning hours. And trust me, I tried a LOT of things this year including staying up for an entire day/night/day to try to reset my system. Didn’t work but it was interesting to accomplish. Of course, this was before 2020 really turned into 2020, and I figure most people are struggling in some ways with sleep and anxiety this year, right? Perhaps not the best year to try to “fix” what has been a lifelong issue for me.
  24. Learned how to drink black coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a fancy concoction from a coffee shop and I also still doctor up my own at home with random forms of sugar and milk (like eggnog this winter? yum!) from time to time, but for the most part, I now just drink plain coffee. I feel like such a grownup!
  25. Bought my first-ever case of wine. Not even one bit sorry about my choices. The backstory of how we found this (I may have accused my husband of not knowing who Snoop was) and how three of my friends also bought cases is just too funny not to add it as the last (and always one of the hardest items on this list) to write. (One of those pictured here belonged to a friend, I promise!)
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That’s it, folks. An odd collection of musings for an equally odd year. I know 2021 isn’t going to be an instant fix, but here’s looking forward to some good things coming as we know they must be after the muck and mire of 2020.

Return to Decency

Last week my children, like many of yours I would assume, participated in a school-wide mock election. This of course included the vote for POTUS. While I had prepared my children that not many people around here share my politics (we live in what fivethirtyeight.com deems the reddest electoral college district in the nation), I did not prepare them adequately enough for the ugly responses they would receive for sharing who they voted for in that fake election.

One of my children was called dumb and stupid for voting for Biden. Another was called “gay” (don’t even get me started on how much I can’t stand that particular misuse of language). And the third was shamed for their vote, being told by a classmate, “You shouldn’t vote for Biden. He kills babies after they are born.”

It may come as no surprise, then, that one of the first responses I heard from one my kids yesterday, after the initial JOY, was, “I’m so glad this happened on a Saturday so the kids at school couldn’t tease other kids.”

That *that* is the particular relief my child felt makes my heart heavy. It also makes me ache for those children who have been fed such lies and hatred and who now feel compelled to take it out on others. That this behavior rings true in the same nasty ways the president has modeled for four years hardly excuses it.

Folks, we need a hard shift in our rhetoric. I don’t care about politics near as much as I care about basic human decency and we simply must realize that how we speak to our kids about this election and those who participated in it matters in regards to how we speak to and about one another. Just because my politics differ from the majority around me doesn’t mean my children should have to worry about how they will be treated by their peers at school as a result of their “vote.”

We have to move beyond this polarization and start treating others as we wish to be treated. Our children are watching and listening and parroting what they hear and see us do. For their sake, as well as our own, we have work to do.

Let us return to decency and empathy.

Let us not mock or belittle.

Let us lead with kindness and compassion always.

Social (Media) Distance

Just shy of two weeks ago, a friend challenged another friend and I, on a Friday morning, to just perhaps, just maybe stay away from Facebook for the day. No scrolling. Just no time spent at all if we could help it.

And I while I couldn’t help it 100%, I took her challenge that day and ran it with it for over a week.

I still continued to post articles, memes, and pictures of my life, from both Instagram and Facebook. I thought I would just check and respond to notifications, but then, since bad habits are hard to break, I allowed myself 2-3 minutes tops of scrolling a few times throughout each day, thinking that would help.

Of course it didn’t.

Naturally I would see something that would either hurt my tired heart or make my blood pressure sky rocket and then I would chastise myself for falling into the trap of still being on there. And even though my phone informed me that my screen time from last week dropped by an embarrassingly high percentage number (think: a passing grade on an assignment), I entered this week still feeling like the games of comparison and judgement that come with social media use were taking far more than they were giving me in return. 

So, I stopped.

I turned off all notifications for FB, IG, and Marco Polo. I kept Messenger because I still wanted an easy way to connect with people who might not be able to text me. I didn’t delete the apps entirely because my “click impulse” was already relaxed after last week to not be touching those little icons as much (although I fully reserve the right to go back and delete them or move them to a back screen on my phone for good measure).

I then messaged a handful of people who I knew might be wondering about my sudden radio silence, letting them know that the next week will be a no-social-media zone for me.

And then I semi-failed because, Lordy,  I still posted several things throughout the next day! (insert palm to forehead emoji here) Apparently my fingers and brain are twitchier about this than I realized but I did manage zero scrolling, responding just to whatever was said on those posts and that’s it. So, baby steps?

Maybe it will last longer than that. Maybe I will continue to cheat (I’ll have to in order to share this post or others that I write in the future). But if you’ve read this far as to why I’m not online as much, perhaps you’ll understand my spotty response and my attempt to get to full SM shutdown, at least for a little bit, before this summer is over. There’s just too much noise in my head and heart these days and I need to sit with that without the distraction or the addition of all that is social media land. Will it work? We shall s

How Are You Doing *Really*?

Has anyone else noticed the awkward pause these days that has started happening when a conversation starts with the classic, “How are you doing?” question? This has always been a loaded inquiry that most of us never really answer truthfully (because who has time and usually the person asking isn’t a) looking for a novel-length amount of truth or b) a safe place in which to give such), but wow is it a total load of crap in COVID life.

And I say this as someone who still finds the words falling out of her mouth upon seeing people across the street or in a driveway (at 6+ feet of social distance)! Just like I can’t seem to kick the habit of asking, I also can’t help but sad-chuckle when it happens because you can see the truth written all over people’s faces (with their raised eyebrows and sort-of-there smiles) and you can definitely hear the disbelief in their “suuuuure, fine, yeah, you betcha’s” that now always comes after a pause as we all consider the absurdity of even asking or answering that.

Yesterday, though, I caught a twist on this question when I happened to see an Instagram story from my beloved Sara Bareilles in which she was participating in a tag-each-other challenge of answering the question, “How are you doing *really*?” which is to say, if you were going to answer that honestly, what would you say?

My answer has been rattling around my brain for the last 24 hours and if I’m being honest, it keeps landing back at “not great.”

For one, I live in a state that is already opening back up even though we never really shut down and have yet to see verified, complete (i.e. transparent) numbers of COVID cases decreasing.

For another, I live in a county that lives next to another county that both have some of the highest number of cases in our state and originally we were told we’d all have a couple extra weeks (until June 1) to keep restrictions in place to all of the sudden having that ripped out from under our feet by the Governor last week when he decided, “J/K” and said that our counties too would be loosening guidelines starting today. Excuse me, what?! The whiplash on that one sent me on a tailspin last week that has yet to let up.

For yet another, we now have to be the ones calling the shots about where and what our kids will be doing as some summer activities begin in the next couple weeks. We are of course always in charge of that and ultimately still are, but as things like baseball and dance start up again in June and some families around us start to participate, we have to explain to our kids why that won’t be the case for us. And sorry folks, but we won’t be doing either because to us the reward doesn’t outweigh the risk and that’s coming from two parents who very much love to watch their children do these very activities. I don’t know how we’ll explain to them that we aren’t when others are, but instead of as a state reevaluating at the end of the month, supposedly, here we are, being forced to send those emails of decline. Now. Two weeks before any sort of evaluation and real look at the state of affairs in our state.

And for yet one more, in a comedy of errors that has dragged on for a year and freaking half, we are still faced with what to do with our unfinished house projects. The carpet that we ordered in late February and have been putting off installation of for months now comes next week. Do I feel great about that? Nope, but I also want very much to have my house put back in order so I can actually put stuff away and have my house the way I haven’t had it (a.k.a. mine and done) since December 2018. DECEMBER 2018!!!

img_7893And I can’t think of a better metaphor for quarantine life than this: six weeks ago our side door, the one we use All. The. Time. broke. Just broke. I came in it. Ben went out it. And then it never opened again. Thankfully this less-than-a-year-old door was still under warranty and it didn’t cost us anything to fix, but that break happened SIX WEEKS AGO so all this time we’ve been without that, feeling even more trapped in our own house than we would have otherwise in this bizarre time. The good news is that the actual fix only took 20 minutes and the dude who came to fix it was super nice AND (even better) wearing a mask, so that helped alleviate some of my tension, but y’all, the anxiety train is running fast these days with the thought of what it will take to get to the point of actually being done with all this (renovation and Coronavirus, to be clear).

So how am I doing, really? I’m a mess. I’m wondering who to trust and what to believe, questioning what is safe and what is right, unsure of what to do and anxious about pretty much every choice we make. Are they the right ones? Who knows. Is this really any different than normal life? Maybe not. But it sure feels like the stakes are higher and the tension DEFINITELY is, so even if this isn’t all that different than the typical uncertainty of life, trying to figure out how to move forward from “this” has left me spinning.

I hope you get a second to think about how you are doing, really, and maybe even get a chance to share it with someone or write it out a bit. I know that’s not the magic bullet for everyone, but these times, they are worth a ponder and finding a writing utensil to document, that is for sure.