Go, Go Graduate School

Maybe it’s because “English major” doesn’t exactly lead to clear path forward for an undergraduate, but somehow I knew that I wanted to pursue graduate school right after completing my undergrad degree at Doane College (now University, but forever DC in my brain and heart). My senior year I started making plans, applying to four different university’s graduate programs: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, and somewhere else (lol – I honestly can’t remember the fourth one now). 

The spring I graduated, I received rejections from two and acceptance to two – UNL and ISU. Although ISU invited me to visit the campus, something about it didn’t sit right with me, so I ended up accepting UNL, even though I was not awarded a Teaching Assistant position which meant I would have to take out more student loans to complete this second degree. Their initial letter did say I was an alternate for a TA job, but I assumed they said that to everyone and I would be stuck with the loans and whatever odd jobs I could squeeze in around classes. Imagine my surprise the summer after graduation when I got another letter telling me I was in fact being offered TA employment and would essentially have all of my grad costs covered! To this day, I thank my lucky stars for that person who said “no” so I could say “yes” for my much more affordable two years of grad school that followed in Lincoln, NE. 

For a Word Nerd like me, grad school was a wonderful place. As an ENGL grad student, life was even more right up my alley, with tons of books to be read and papers to be written. That said, it was far from all fun and games as the majority of it was not novels which meant for dense lectures to consume and essays to produce, not to mention the prep that went into becoming a teacher for UNL my second year of grad school. TAs were all assigned one section of Freshman Composition to teach both semesters of their second year, as a way to cover that general ed class which helped out the full-time faculty by freeing them up for other classes. As a 23-yr-old young woman, teaching those two classes to kids just a few tiny years younger than me felt a bit like getting myself tossed directly into the fire, but I guess that is in fact one way to learn. And hey – almost twenty years later and I am in fact still teaching that very same class, so I guess it didn’t turn out all that bad. 

While I was at UNL, I didn’t just teach as part of my TA gig; I also worked in various English-related offices around campus. It was a bit like being Inspector Gadget because you had to have about that many tricks, bells, and whistles up your selves to accomplish all the various grad student tasks. I worked directly under an ENGL professor, proofreading his newest book on Shakespeare; I spent a handful of hours each week reading/rejecting poetry and short stories submitted to the UNL lit mag, The Prairie Schooner; I also lucked my way into hours spent working for the University of Nebraska Press; I digitized content for various projects at the Digital Archives; and I worked on the Cather Journalism Project, coding dozens upon dozens of periodical publications from Cather’s undergrad days at UNL. Those weren’t all simultaneous tasks but there we definitely days when I wished I had go-go gadget arms (and legs) to get me all over campus and through my lengthy To Do list, for sure. 

While my TA work was varied and remarkable, as an extra bonus, I was surrounded by some really fabulous humans and scholars during that time, too. My supervisors, my thesis committee, my office mate, my classmates – all provided support both professional and personal during my two year program. When I ultimately made the call NOT to do a Ph. D., a handful of them still traveled to South Dakota to celebrate our wedding the following summer. I also chose that spring not to attend the three-hour graduate programs graduation so it was special to have some of my UNL favorites with me on my other Big Day that year. 

I may not totally have understood what I was getting myself into by applying and attending grad school at such a young age, but it’s afforded me the work and career I’ve had since and I’m grateful for all the pieces that went into that component of my educational journey.

*Post 41/52.  


Friendship Over Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Post 40/52.

My Room of Requirement

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

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

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

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

*Post 39/52

Pixie No-No

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Post 38/52.

That Baseball Life

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

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

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

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

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

*Post 37/52


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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Post 36/52

The Bowls and Books of Christmas

Until high school, I don’t remember set holiday traditions in our family. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have them, but they just weren’t on my radar like the routines we adopted in my teens. I was probably too distracted by Santa, snow, and visiting our family at both sets of grandparents to be too wrapped up in the actual details that went into making those holidays magical. 

As I matured, though, two particular Christmas Eve traditions took hold in our world and in my heart: soups and opening one present of our own choosing from under the tree. The latter probably sticks in my brain because of the year my brother got an egg pan (that he asked for!) and all he could do was look at it in disbelief, saying, “I got a pan.” I don’t remember any of my CE gifts in particular because none were quite that funny; the soups, however, are still one of my favorite parts of the holiday, in part because we weren’t afraid to take it over the top with soup production.

Growing up I mostly remember two soups in rotation at our house – potato and chili. As a kid I didn’t care for chili (too spicy for me then) but loved potato soup so much (cheesy, creamy, and so delicious!). When we started the Christmas Eve Soups, it was probably just those two. But then, with time and advancing taste buds, we expanded our soup world and started making not just two soups for our family of four but FOUR soups on one night, because, why not? Ham & Bean, Chicken and Wild Rice, and the Christmas Soup (our name for it based on the colors of tomatoes, spinach, and cannellini beans) all got brought into the mix. I mean, why not, right? Leftovers are great and then each one of us got to pick our favorite. To this day we still make soup on Christmas Eve and it’s the perfect dish to warm you up before our other holiday routines of attending a candlelight church service, opening one gift, or setting out a plate of cookies for Santa. 

Seeing as we still soup it up each Christmas, that tradition is one my own kids will know and hopefully remember for years to come (we make just plain tomato for most of them still). The other holiday tradition that we’ve started in our own house that I know will stand out for them is our Christmas Book Countdown. Also over the top, this is another idea I found on Pinterest in 2013 (thank goodness for the blog to tell me that). That year, for advanced Christmas gifts from relatives, we asked for a collection of Christmas-themed books that totaled 25 in number so the kids could take turns (minus Lincoln who was still an itty bitty baby that winter) unwrapping a book from under the tree on each day of December  with the final one being opened Christmas Day. It was an instant hit and we’ve continued it ever since. The kids will tell you that the strangest thing that ever happened was the two years in a row that they opened Merry Christmas, Curious George! as the final book. Even funnier is when they engineered it being opened for a third year in a row by guessing and trying not to pick it until the very end to keep the streak going!

Now that we have five kids and our Christmas book collection has expanded over the years to a few beyond 25, we have each one of them select five titles, taking turns in doing so. Then I wrap them so they can again take turns each day picking and opening from youngest to oldest. The math on that works out great and keeps things nice and even, and the kids do a good job of remembering whose day it is. 2022 was the first time any of them asked to help with the wrapping, so while they were at school, I did the initial covering (so they couldn’t see what book it was) and then the kids helped fold and tape the edges which was great wrapping practice for them. 

Even though these are simple traditions, they’ve meant a lot to us over the years and we hope to continue them for years and years to come. 

*Post 35/52.

“I’m 13 again/Am I 13 for good?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Post 34/52

Winner, Winner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We are the Church”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Post 32/52.