2022 Book List

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

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

A partial glimpse of the birthday book collection.
  1. This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi — this book was such a weird way to start my year given that it is Empire Records set in a modern-day bookstore instead of music shop but is not billed or acknowledged as such until the author’s acknowledgments at the end of the book. I don’t like books to gaslight me, and somehow it feels extra painful that it was my initial read of 2022. At first I didn’t get what was happening but the second Imogen shaved her angsty head in the bathroom, I thought WTH?! and then from there it was just an onslaught of similarities and comparisons. Would I have enjoyed this more if I had known I was reading a retelling of ER? Probably because that movie was my go-to favorite in high school but instead this was just odd. That said, I’d still like to try another title from this author to see how that goes instead.
  2. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally — I love to read romance/rom com type books before bed because it helps my brain stop thinking quite so much but this had the opposite effect as it was just so bad that it made my brain mad instead of calm and quiet. I had hoped this would be a cute series but nope. I only finished it because it was short and I had already read too much the first night to give up on completing the whole (terrible) thing.
  3. Sistersong by Lucy Holland — This book is incredible. It’s a bit fantasy based which isn’t my normal genre but it is so beautifully crafted and includes family stuff, gender stuff, magic stuff, love stuff, betrayal stuff, and being true to yourself stuff. In other words, it is all the things and the things are all phenomenal. (finished 1/13/22)
  4. Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford — Ford’s first book is powerful and intense. She writes in such an open, honest way that puts you right there in her experience but also shows the universal struggles of families, abuse, rape, and more. This was a heavy read but one with multiple lines that took my breath away for their beauty and truth.
  5. The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin — Not a huge fan of this one. The 2001 pop culture references felt so forced and even though I get that lying was part of the package given the title, the overall storyline was cringe-y with an odd 9/11 element that both was and was not relevant to the story at all.
  6. Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey — How I ended up with a second book about teenagers and struggling indy bookstores this month is beyond me, but this one was OK. Nothing stands out about it but I’m one of those people who likes to read books about books, so it’s a win in that sense
  7. While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory — Love this series so much! May it continue forever! (finished 1/29/22)
  8. The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall — Another fantasy read with fascinating characters that include gender fluidity, queer relationships, and of course a little (or a lot) of magic. The switching perspective that not only moves between characters but that also includes the Sea as a character herself is well done here.
  9. Broken by Jenny Lawson — I love Jenny Lawson so much. She’s great in audio format but her stuff is just as funny when read in your own head, too. This one covers so much mental health and serious ground and yet it had me in near tears from laughing so hard more than once. (finished 2.13.22)
  10. Confessions of a Curious Bookseller by Elizabeth Green — I didn’t realize this would be all written as correspondence – mostly emails but also notes, texts, and Journal entries – nor did I know the main character would drive me nuts from start to finish either. I kept at it because a reader friend liked it so much but having read three books now about bookstores in the first two months of this year, I think this one found me at the wrong time when I just didn’t find it all that enjoyable or entertaining.
  11. No Judgment by Meg Cabot — Easy, breezy (I mean, literally – it is set in the midst of a hurricane on the Florida Keys), this was a fun little read with an animal lover twist to it as well.
  12. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson — Listened to this one and enjoyed it quite a bit. There’s a lot of good food for thought here but it would also be good to see this in hard copy, too, to remember all those tangibles and takeaways. I listened over a longer period of time than I would a fiction read and I noticed that I find myself asking, “Does this deserve giving a f*ck about?” more now which is probably a pretty good takeaway of its own. (Finished 3/9/22)
  13. Where It All Lands by Jennie Wexler — There’s a clever approach to the narrative style with this one that I really enjoyed and that added several unique twists and turns throughout the reading. At times it felt overly teenager-ly dramatic, but with all due fairness and respect to teenagers, that actually also felt fairly true to life.
  14. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins — Second read for me, first for my oldest. We love our read-aloud time together and this series is proving to be another hit for him (and a fun revisit for me).
  15. The Singles Table by Sarah Desai — Although I liked the first two in the series better, I still love Desai’s stories and relationships and way she weaves in work and family and friendship to each of her books, bringing together multiple sides of her characters and what makes them tick. (finished 3/24/22)
  16. West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge — This was such a different novel and one I really enjoyed, in part because it was well written historical fiction and also because giraffes are just my favorite animal ever. The unique story and the characterization of the narrator were fascinating and told in a way that was compelling and page turning. I don’t think I have ever read anything quite like it!
  17. Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown — I have never read a Brene Brown book that I didn’t love, nor one that didn’t challenge me. This was a slow go because even though it touches pretty briefly on each of the 87 emotions covered within it, it is dense as all get-out when it comes to the concepts and mental chewing that needs to take place after reading a section. This is definitely going to be a re-read because wow – so much depth and consideration involved in this book. (finished 4/23/22)
  18. Slingshot by Mercedes Helnwein — OK, the “for fans of Rainbow Rowell” with this one got me and I stuck with it the whole way through waiting to see that come to life on the page, but nope; never saw it. While it was probably fairly accurate to teenage life and angst, I just wasn’t feeling it.
  19. No Offense by Meg Cabot — Just like the first in the series, I found this fun, light, and a little less drama filled than some other romances which is often a welcome shift.
  20. Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai — My 10yo brought this home from school and I have always wanted to read it, so I did that today. It is so beautifully written and tells so much story with so few words on each page. This is a great read for kids and grownups alike.
  21. Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon — Like Yoon’s other books, I LVOED this one from the very start. There’s just enough mysticism woven in to make the story unique but not cloying and the writing style made me want to stay with these characters longer than the book allowed.
  22. The Story of You by Ian Morgan Chron — This was such a great read to learn about both myself and so many people in my life who have studied and discovered their Enneagram numbers. I was underlining like a fiend during it! I plan to revisit the ideas from this one often because they are such good reminders of that even though we can’t change the past, we don’t have to live stuck in it forever either.
  23. Oona out of Order by Margartia Montimore — This book surprised and delighted me even though there’s plenty of hard and challenging moments within it. I found myself wondering, even with less than 10% to go (that’s what happens when reading on a Kindle, I guess) how it was all going to resolve itself which is always a treat. Definitely worth a read!
  24. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo — This is a great YA read that takes on some very adult concerns and transitions from high school to the world beyond, but also looks at family and listening to one’s own self. Love the title, the protagonist, and all the food descriptions sprinkled in the midst of this one.
  25. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen —

Out Like a Lamb?

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Like a Lion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Both/And, Not Either/Or

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Integrate

In a not-surprising shift, I’ve moved away from resolutions in recent years and settled on words to guide and focus each new year instead.

The first potentials that came to mind when putting words to 2022 were wholeness and healing. They were part of my HNY post to family and friends online and both are very much what I am seeking in my life; however, neither one quite encapsulates on its own what it is I hope to cultivate with this calendar flip. I needed a word that could help carry the weight of all that I am and all that I am trying to do, but not one that necessarily gives me new tasks.

Welcome, Integrate.

I stole it, in part, from the Ecstatic Breathwork classes that I use and am currently doing in a 15-day loop, doing the five-part series 3x in a row. Yesterday was Day 10 of the process and my second time (this time) of doing Day 5, which is called, (again, no) surprise, Integration. In it the teacher speaks to letting the breath help the other pieces fall into place without chasing any sort of experience or outcome, and for a controller like me who has been facing months of hard shit out of her control, I realized I need that word around me more as a reminder of all the pieces I already have that can still slot into place beautifully as my journey with healing/wholeness continues.

And even though I cringe when my students pull this in their formal writing assignments, it was when I read the official MW definition (“to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole”) that I knew I had the right word and idea for me and for this year. Being a functioning, unified whole? Hell, yes. Sign me up, please.

The good news is, I’m already on this path. I have the tools I need to be my authentic self.

I am continuing to learn ways to work with and possibly even manage what is happening in my body.

I know that just as my problems don’t stem from just one point, neither do their solutions.

There are many elements at work. There are many facets that need to be addressed.

I can give myself the time and space to deal with this. The entire new year, if need be.

To integrate is to bring together, to unite.

Every day I can pull from my toolbox and give myself a chance to invite this in, to see the integration already in process. To let some things burn and others build.

If some wholeness and healing pop up along the way? All the better.

25 Things in 2021

This year can basically suck it but here I am, keeping up the tradition because life needs to be documented through all the ups and downs and ins and outs. And even though the hard feels heaviest, there’s still a lot to celebrate:

  1. Came to know myself in the most authentic way possible.
  2. Survived 8 months of chronic headaches. There has been nothing fun about any of it but not giving up in the face of it is proud-making. Thought they were gone; they are not. But I am still here.
  3. Gave up alcohol in April. Had one glass of wine in mid-December (when I thought I was feeling much better from the headaches) and it was terrible. Back to AF for me!
  4. Went Gluten Free in July. Same story as previous point about trying it again in December and then backing off again. Not sure how long GF will be, but for the foreseeable now, it is.
  5. Fell in love with two podcasts: On Eyre from Hot and Bothered and We Can Do Hard Things from Glennon Doyle, Sister (Amanda Doyle), and Abby Wambach. I adore(d) both so much and I can’t tell you how many times WCDHT made me cry/gasp/nod my head in emphatic agreement.
  6. Read 100 books. I’m actually at 99.5, but I will make it happen. I actually hope to read less in 2022 as I spent a lot of reading time as numb out time and that doesn’t feel great.
  7. Read Jane Eyre for the first time – obviously related to the above two points, but a feat unto itself given the state of life and the world.
  8. Saw live music again. Rising Appalachia + LVDY in Denver and Guster at Red Rocks in late July were life affirming. I have missed live music so much and it was the perfect 15th anniversary trip for B and I.
  9. Went away with B for more than one sleep for the first time in over four years. See #8.
  10. Got a new job-ish. On top of my online teaching for BU, I am now also an online Writing Consultant for their Writing Center; I’ve learned a lot already in the first month of doing it.
  11. Set up my very first Zoom meeting (in Dec. of 2021). I don’t know how many people can say they made it this far in the pandemic without doing that, but now I’m a pro at running them. (*Knocks on wood to prevent Zoom gremlins in very next WC session*).
  12. Cultivated some deep and true connections with several friends, old and new/near and far.
  13. Wrote 24 blog posts. That’s way less than normal but it’s hard to write when not feeling well.
  14. Sent my first baby off to his first year of middle school; it feels weird and unknown but he’s navigating it well.
  15. Sent my last baby off to her first official year of preschool. She loves it. I use up my “free time” in the mornings quickly to say the least.
  16. Said goodbye to Grounded Sky. I don’t have it in me to keep teaching yoga anymore, so that all is officially shutting down with the year’s end.
  17. Increased my own home practice for yoga. I started the year with 30 Days with Yoga with Adriene, and then once the headaches hit, switched to much more practice of yin yoga, ecstatic breathwork, and tapping. However, even with the headaches still going, I did 30 days in November and 20ish in December. Hoping to complete 30 again to start the new year.
  18. Gave up coffee. It’s possible that my old tea kettle tried to kill me a bit but unfortunately switching it out was not the 100% fix for my head. I now drink Irish Breakfast Tea and Dirty Rasa (a coffee alternative that I adore).
  19. Officially learned how to use a French Press. Fussy but necessary for the Rasa.
  20. Navigated a five-week fall sports season for five kids (soccer and flag football) that included coaching (with B) two teams and trying to still watch the games of the other three kids, too.
  21. Finally went for my Gloria-Steinem-meets-Steven-Tyler dyed streak in my hairs.
  22. Painted our living room. Love it dearly. Ten years later in this house and we finally have the perfect wall color for this space!
  23. Started wearing readers. Also bumped the font size waaaaay up on my Kindle. #ExcessiveReaderProblems #Almost40
  24. Killed several house plants. That’s not a happy list item but true all the same.
  25. Achieved #LifeGoals of matching Mommy & Me dresses AND Family Christmas Jammies this year.

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.

Giving Up Coffee Tried to Kill Me

After seven months (SEVEN MONTHS) of chronic headaches and trying to do allllll the things to suss out the root cause/fix the situation/feel better, it’s possible that we’ve found a culprit, or at the very least, a Not Helper in the journey back to well being: my freaking tea kettle.

Note, the kettle shown here is not the offender but rather its replacement, and, to be fair, it’s not really the old kettle’s fault either so much as User Malfunction.

The quick story here is, roughly a week and a half ago, I discovered some sort of flakes/build up coming out of my kettle into my hot water. I had a sore throat that morning and wanted just some warm water to drink, nothing in it (rare), and happened to pour it into a not-white mug (also rare). Except when I went to take my first sip, I saw white shit floating in my red mug and stopped short. WTAF? I immediately turned into an 8th grade science student, trying different mugs, new water, different water sources, and while the results were not totally conclusive, clearly something was not right with the dear (white) kettle we have had since our wedding 16 years ago.

Is that too long to keep and use a kettle? I don’t know because until January of this year, I would use words like sparse and sporadic to describe my kettle usage, so I saw no problem starting to use it on the (at least) twice daily, despite its age, as I made the switch from coffee to tea. But apparently my kettle was too old and started flaking enamel, OR my kettle hygiene of assuming that boiling the water meant I didn’t have to worry about cleaning said kettle often ever, OR my choice of tap water instead of filtered water because, again, boiling created some mineral or residue buildup and FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE THAT I HAVE BEEN INGESTING CRAP FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS AND MONTHS WITH MY TWICE DAILY CUP OF TEA.

No wonder I have felt like shit for so long.

Of course, no one can tell me for sure if this is what caused the problem. The headaches didn’t start until a couple months in to the switch from coffee to tea which was also at the time I got my COVID vaccine. However, no one could ever tell me that was or wasn’t the cause of my problems either, so I have just been wandering in the dark (and many, many medical offices) trying to figure this out, all whilst sipping on my MADE-THE-CHANGE-FOR-MY-HEALTH,-OH,-DEAR-GOD-THE-IRONY TEA (sorry; at some point I will get over the shouty caps, I promise).

Maybe I did have a bad reaction to my vaccine but maybe my damn potentially contaminated water is what made it so hard to get past, especially given the months and months of the special diet and all the physical therapy and the supplements taken and MRI completed and all. that. shit. that I tried to do RIGHT (oops – more shouts) that somehow still couldn’t seem to get me over the headache hump.

You might be wondering, am I over it now? Well, possibly. I haven’t changed my gut reset protocol at all, in part because clearly something in my system still needs to clear. And we didn’t do a heavy metal test this summer, so again – hard to say when this started. However, I did that very afternoon get a new kettle (see the beaut pictured above) and started using filtered water (like we did for our coffee maker) and I am also now wiping out the kettle on a regular basis so it isn’t sitting there wet/partially filled all the time. While I don’t feel 100%, I do feel better than I have in a long time because that lingering tension/pain in my shoulders, neck, face, and head has indeed lightened and lessened. I’m giving it time, of course, because this clearly took time to build up in my system, but holy moly cow. What a roller coaster this (ALL OF THIS – okay, last shouts) has been.

I have spent a fair amount of time beating myself up over this potential discovery in the last 10 days but also, I have learned that I am not the only one who treats kettles this way, so my PSA is this: check your kettles, friends! And, perhaps, replace them! Which leads me to the other real and painful irony here – that a $16 kettle may have been the answer all along, not the thousands that we’ve paid out of pocket trying to figure this out/treat it over the last seven months.

Of course there is nothing I can do about all that at this point but keep moving forward, keep working to pay off those bills, and keep taking care of my system that is hopefully, finally on the right path with the right damn tools* (and kettle; sheesh).

*for the record, I still think giving up coffee was the right choice for me. I don’t miss the jitters or amped up anxiety at all, even if I do still miss the smell of it brewing.