The Slow Slog

Although I’ve probably always considered myself a “high strung/Type A” person, it isn’t until recently that I allowed myself to consider just how much anxiety is a driving force in my life and in my body (and probably has been for, um, ever).

When my headaches returned at the start of the Winter Break, debunking my “New Kettle, New You” theory, it felt like a great source of them was indeed stress. We went through an insane day of Wilson in the E.R. followed by tornado sirens followed by COVID shots for three kids and then two days later my kids were all suddenly home all day and up in my business (and each other’s) as well and the noise and overstimulation and sudden return of pain in my head felt very defeating.

It’s been almost two months since then and while there have been some great leaps and bounds in finding more freedom in my head and heart, I am still struggling with the very concept of struggle. In fact, it feels like I am stuck in a pretty horrendous loop of anxiety causing my headaches and my headaches causing my anxiety which led me to reach out to my therapist about the idea of trying anti-anxiety medicine for the first time ever.

She’s well aware of all the plates spinning in my world and my mind and she’s also up to date on all the coping skills I have and use like yoga, breathwork, and walking. And she agrees that I’m in this stuck place and that some sort of medicine to help me move out of my head and away from the anxious ledge would be helpful right now. So I made an appointment with my primary provider and two weeks ago started the med we thought might do just that.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even make it the full 2-4 weeks to see if it was helping before things went very sideways on me. On Tuesday I spent 90% of the day feeling like a gorilla was on my chest/like I might have a full blown panic attack at any moment. I’ve had a mini-panic attack once, so it was pretty obvious that this was an increase in symptoms and not our desired effect of relieving my brain which led to some phone calls and messages yesterday to then going off that med as of this morning. I know this song and dance happens for a lot of folks and I also know there is a test that can help people avoid this (and yes, I’ve put in a request for the swab) but right now I am still stuck, not just in my normal anxiety but this near-panic state that’s been hanging out since Tuesday.

The plan is to let my body clear the old med over the next several days and then try another. I hope the swab happens and also helps guide us so we don’t have to keep repeating this for the next several months because Holy Hannah; I thought things weren’t awesome before but now I see just how much worse anxiety can be (and my too-fast-beating heart goes out to anyone who suffers from panic attacks on the regular or ever at all).

I share all of this with you because 1) that’s what I do and 2) I think a lot of us are struggling right now and I think things get better, not worse, when we share those struggles. Medicine is a great tool once you find the right fit and I hope to be there soon. For right now thought? I’m trying to ride out the storm, calm my body, and move through this slow slog (thanks, Kate, for that gem) of trial and error on top of some really busy days with work and life. I promise I’ll update when I know more.

Holiday Headache

Well this certainly isn’t the update I hoped to share here at the year’s end, but after hibernating from social media the last few days in an attempt to recover, I’m back on the computer to say that, unfortunately, all has not been well with my head.

It started the Sunday before Christmas with a little extra pressure in my forehead and then continued to build for the next three days until I was a weeping mess in the middle of the week wondering what had gone wrong.

To be fair, it could be a couple things.

For one, I started introducing gluten back into my diet. I went suuuuper slow so as to not throw my gut for a major loop but I really thought that we had solved the issue with the new kettle/new kettle hygiene routine (that theory still holds some water, pun intended, as the weird ache in my neck and head are still gone – now “just” the tension headache remains), and anyway, how does gluten take five months to clear a person’s system anyway? For the first week and a half, I thought I was good. But now, with the return of the headaches, I don’t know so I am once again back on the GF train and plan to stay there. For a long time. It may not be the root cause but reducing inflammation in my body is clearly not a bad idea.

For another, it really could be a build up of stress. We had the Day of Insanity the week prior that started with a 5A.M. ER trip for Wilson and ended with a 1:30P.M. Tornado Warning + Sirens and COVID boosters for our Middle 3 and then a sick kid the next day and then break starting the next day after that and I had legit zero time to process any of the extreme swings of emotion and stress from all of that until a few days before Christmas (as if those are stress-free for anyone!). But if these are stress-based then damn, I feel like a failure as a human because how can I not handle the ebbs and flow of my life better knowing all that I know about stress reduction and yoga and mediation and breathwork (and/and/and)? Stress is never going to leave my life, so if that’s really driving this, I have to find a better way.

Since Christmas I’ve been trying to take it easy. Well, not on Christmas because goodness, that was a full day, that I wrongly and naively thought was going to be chill but it turns out that my children still require a lot of parenting even after opening presents, and my head ended up flaring badly Christmas night, which brings me to the third of the things: fear. I am scared. Terrified, actually, that this is never going to go away. I had so many clearer days that I really thought this was done and dusted, and I want that so badly that having it return was incredibly disheartening, discouraging, and depressing. I cried more tears than I thought possible after putting the kids to bed on Christmas because this is just damn scary.

So, the day after Christmas I turned the reins over to Ben and tried to rest. That’s not easy to do in a house with five young children (see above about stress levels and how stress is never going to disappear from my life), but I spent most of the day in bed and have started up again with several cycles of Ecstatic Breathwork; it’s the best practice I’ve found to clear out stored stress and emotion, but it is indeed a practice that requires time and patience so not much more to report there beyond the fact that it is happening. Odd, upside down photo is from the yoga mat, post-weepy-EB session, done pre-Christmas.

I’ve been moving slow ever since the holiday and thankfully my head has been better, although I spent all of yesterday on the edge wondering if I was going to tip over into Headache Land, which is just about as bad as landing in the land itself. I’m taking the week to continue with the EB, rest, and some alternative treatments that I hope help clear my system.

In other words, I’m still here, but I’m reassessing and turning inward a bit as I try to navigate this setback.

Another Medical Mystery

Turns out, I’m not the only Welschie woman in our house to be dealing with medical mysteries as of late. Poor Wonder Wilson, the true superhero among us, has been battling some really strange and unexplained stomach issues for the last month(ish) which, if you’ve been with us for in the last four+ years, you may realize is a little scary given her health history and the need for stomach surgery that she had on Day 2 of being earth-side.

The gist of symptoms is this: early morning (like 3A.M., pretty damn consistently) urps that last until the mid-morning at most and then maybe go away for a day or two or even a week or more.

At first we chalked this all up to the switcheroo of bedrooms we pulled after the Pee Problems. Her bed got placed in a part of a room in our upper story that is old-house-wonky with an uneven floor. We know this about the floor but in our tired, stressed out stupor, we forgot to make sure the bed was level and the poor kid slept with her head lower than her tummy for a week+ before we realized it, and yeah – made sense that her system was mad and revolting on her/us.

We fixed the bed and thought we had fixed the problem until a couple(ish – who knows; time is weird) weeks passed and she got sick the morning after her birthday in a very similar fashion. And then again a week(ish) after that. Never lasting, never contagious (although two of our seven, myself included, did get hit with the stomach flu last week and holy moly cow, it was awful). Never explained.

Someone suggested to us that it might be acid reflux which can apparently be caused by chugging too much water too close to bed which is definitely something Wilson tends to do. So we made sure she was drinking from a real cup with dinner, not a straw cup, and again, thought we had solved the problem.

Then this morning happened. The 3A.M. Urps hit again but this time with more intensity and frequency and it got so bad (and we were still too many hours away from a pharmacy being open to get some anti-nausea meds), that we made the call to take her to the ER to get some Zofran and fluids, if need be. Turned out that the IV was not necessary (thank goodness) but they did a bunch of tests, in part because of her gut history and found, like us, no answers.

In a way, this is good because nothing scary showed up in any of those tests; that is reassuring. But as I know very well, not having answers is equally HARD. She is home now with her new little doll from the hospital and, true to form, is doing much better.

And so, we will continue trying to get to the bottom of this by seeing our regular family doc this week, in hopes of getting her some relief and all of us some much needed rest. We have a few theories to test and perhaps he will, too. As always, prayers for answers and relief are much appreciated.

For now, we’re going to curl up in jammy jams and watch the heck out of some Kids Netflix because some days (too many days here lately, but we’re working on that) start at 3A.M. and call for not much else.

Pee Problems, Part II

Right. So the first time I wrote about this (see bottom of this post for all that), I ended up not publishing it here but rather just threw it out there as a super long social media post and I’m glad I did because folks gave me some good feedback such as 1) this sounds like a sleepwalking issue and 2) I should get this product to combat the smell and potentially save our carpet: I agreed on both counts and ordered a bottle.

We also took measures to move some folks around in bedrooms hoping that might help the problem as well. This included strategically leaving the child we most suspected of the nocturnal-carpet-equals-urinal situation in the room with the already yucky carpe because, obviously, we didn’t want that problem spreading elsewhere. Literally.

Our bottle of spray arrived and I started using it on the floor each morning, not because there were new spots each day (hooray!) but because that’s how it works – you use it every 12-24 hours until it the smell is gone and they flat out tell you it might get worse before it gets better because, again, that’s how it works. I am still recovering from my stupid month-long cold but can smell OK and thought things were trending toward better this week until this morning when it definitely didn’t smell great when I went upstairs to spray. But nothing felt wet anywhere so I figured, well, OK – let’s just play the patience game by keeping calm and spraying on.

Decent strategy, right?

Yep, sure, that is until this evening when Ben went into the bedroom ACROSS THE HALL to adjust an alarm clock and STEPPED IN A FREAKING WET SPOT ON THE FLOOR.

So yeah. It didn’t smell worse because the spray wasn’t working, it smelled worse because the problem child we tagged and kept in the room with the old carpet WAS THE WRONG CHILD. And seriously, he has no recollection of it whatsoever and is horribly offended by our “accusations” and clearly ordering just one bottle of the spray wasn’t enough because this is far from done and for the love of God and all things holy, HOW DO WE MAKE THIS STOP?!

I’m sorry for all the shouty caps, but this is just too much. Life is hard enough with out a sleepwalking pee-er in your house.

ORIGINAL POST THAT DIDN’T END UP ON THE BLOG, JUST ON THE FACEBOOK:

An excerpt from Chapter 317 in my new parenting book/memoir with the working title, You Can’t Make This Shit Up*: For a while now, we’ve noticed an unpleasant odor upstairs. We attributed it to weird late summer/sort of fall weather when the air doesn’t know if it should run or not because is it hot (yes, way too often)? Is it cold (no, not really)? Is it stuffy (seems to be all the time)? But the funk just wouldn’t lift so we got to investigating (i.e. literally sticking our noses in places and sniffing deeply if also unwillingly) and found a spot in a bedroom that smelled. like. PISS.

EWWWWWWWW. And also:

WHO peed on the (carpeted!) floor? WHEN did they do it? WHERE did it all land? WHY didn’t they tell us? WHAT can we do about this? And, HOW does shit like this (OK, grateful it was just pee and not literal shit) happen?

Clearly I had so many questions but the real task was to clean it and try to make it better. We tried the carpet cleaning function on our vacuum and then two different types of spray cleaner and folks, I’m not sure we made a dent in the problem because I’m also not sure how damn old the problem is and that is FREAKING GROSS and doesn’t bode well for the carpet’s future, you know?

Also, it would appear that the problem is NOT done.

This morning I was up in that same bedroom looking for dress up clothes for the oldest for an upcoming spirit day at school and happened to step a literal foot in the same spot I spent days trying to clean. It was wet. WET. And yep, another hesitant sniff indicated that it wasn’t just a stray glass of water that got spilled.

But here’s the kicker. No one who sleeps in that room (and there is more than one) will fess up to said damp carpet. Other sniff tests in beds, because surely they crawled back into their bed and so it too should smell because I just cleaned their sheets yesterday, also gave no clarity.

So now, not only did I have to spend another 30 minutes this morning cleaning in vain (that carpet is gonna have to go; we know this, right?), I’m now left to wonder if maybe we have a random peeing ghost roaming the top floor of our house because, for the love of God, who is peeing on the carpet and how do we make it stop?! I can’t rip out or replace carpet if this is just going to continue. Someone, please, tell me how to course correct here!

(*yes, ending with a preposition drives this ENGL teacher nuts, but so does piss carpet, so, you know, let’s roll with it)

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.