Victoria's Secret

Last week this video popped up over and over in my social media feeds:

It’s a recording of a flash mob outside of a Victoria’s Secret, and the singer/songwriter Jax is performing her song “Victoria’s Secret,” which is about how our perceptions of what women’s bodies are supposed to look like are manipulated by marketing. I think it’s a fantastic performance and has a great message.

I noticed, though, as I read the comments of strangers on my friends’ feeds, an overwhelming similarity: so many of the comments went along the lines of “I hope I can teach this to my daughter.” And while I am 110% behind young girls learning body positivity, and I hope I taught it to my daughter better than my mom taught me, I started to feel like maybe there’s something wrong with me? Have all the other 50-year-olds gotten over their body negativity?

One of my very strongest memories from childhood might be the last time I loved my body unequivocally. I was sitting on the lounge chair on the patio in our backyard, reading a book. It was a summer afternoon and that morning I had done my three-hour gymnastics workout. Lying there in the shade with my book, I pointed my toes, lifted my straight leg in the air, flexed my biceps, all because I had finally mastered something at the gym (I don’t remember now what skill it was). I felt strong and skilled and, most importantly, light. So small and compact the summer wind could lift me. I thought this is exactly how a body should feel.

I was ten or eleven.

After that summer afternoon, I wanted to keep the feeling of being both strong and small, so I worked harder at the gym. I don’t think I really matched up what I ate with how small I might be, but I never stopped yearning for that feeling. And for whatever reason, I never felt it again.

I mean, this girl could do fifty pull ups and then fifty dips and then one hundred sit ups in a row; she could do flips on a 4” wide balance beam and swing around the bars.

AmyGymnastics11

But she hated her body. Her boobs were too small and her butt was too flat and her thighs were too big.

In my 20s I had three magnificent pregnancies with no complications and perfectly healthy babies who I nursed without issues. But I hated my body. I wanted slimmer hips and a flatter belly and bigger boobs and smaller thighs.

In my 30s I was a strong runner with no injuries. I was busy with three, then four kids who I had plenty of energy for. But I hated my body; my belly was even bigger, my boobs saggier, my hips wider. I started to struggle with weight gain. My thighs were still too big and my running pace was too slow.

In my 40s I fought through several injuries and kept running. I began hiking on a regular basis and discovered I’m a pretty fast uphill hiker. I trained for and ran a marathon while recuperating from pertussis. But I hated my body, because losing weight became impossible and I got a good growth of back- and side-boobs and my skin began to sag and wrinkle.

And here I am, 50 years old. Still hating my body. Don’t get me wrong: I have gotten better. A huge part of me accepting my body was finding running clothes I love (which might sound like a marketing gimmick but for me it was an answer. Girls without thigh gaps are never going to be comfortable in tiny running shorts). Now if you gave me three magic wishes to use on my body, I’d wish for healthy knees, painless feet, and a better memory rather than slim thighs, big boobs, and a flat belly. I know it’s imperfect, especially by society’s standards, but my body is the only thing I have to experience this world with, so I try to cut out the negative self-talk and accept it for what it is.

But I’m not sure I will ever not have this deep-down body shame.

I don’t think my mom ever got over it. During her last illness, she told me once that she hoped, once she got better, she could keep off the weight she’d lost. The weight she’d lost suffering with intense abdominal pain, several surgeries, and a limited diet: that lost weight was her silver lining. And I don’t write that with judgement but with sadness. I’m not sure she ever thought her body was good enough.

A friend once told me that she was surprised to read (in a blog post) that I struggled with my body image. “But you run all the time! You’re strong and you’re not overweight like me.” I don’t know—do I carry around this shame out of conceit? Is there a body weight that’s too small to express your embarrassment over, like cultural appropriation except with body issues? I don’t think so. I know plenty of runners who are faster than me, who have that stereotypical “runner’s body,” chiseled muscles and a flat belly and a thigh gap, who also carry around the same shame. (And, in some ways, running makes it…not exactly worse, but adds another level. How silly of me to call my soft, slow body a runner’s body! Is a 10=minute-mile even running or is that just jogging? If I were more dedicated, I’d be faster, thinner, stronger. Can’t have carbs and a fast-run summer!)

So yes: I am here for songs and social movements that celebrate real bodies. The shapes of all the bodies. More, the concept that who we are should be determined by…who we are, how we chose to live our lives, the way we love our people and try to take care of the world, rather than what size our clothes our, how flat our bellies, how gapped our thighs. I am so much here for teaching this to our daughters and granddaughters. I long for the existence of a generation of women valued for what they contribute to the world, not for their level of sexiness.

Oh how I want that for younger generations.

But I grew up in an era where these ideas didn’t even exist, raised by a mother from a generation that was very much about how you look. (I will never not hear her saying “Amy sure is looking heavy” when I look in the mirror at my body.) For myself, all I can do is continue to fight it. To acknowledge the thoughts are there and then to take my sub-par but alive body out into the world, dressed in a skirt that might be too short for my Mary-Lou thighs and a tank-top that might show way more side-boob than is visually comfortable, and do things. Run, hike, walk. Fumble at climbing, swim poorly. Hold my husband’s hand, hug my children. It’ll never be perfect, this body. Just like I might never rid myself of the shame in order to love it completely.

But I’ll keep trying.


Thanksgiving 2021

This Thanksgiving I found myself a bit…well, “sad” sounds kind of pathetic, but there you go.

I remembered so many past Thanksgivings, when we’d go to one relative’s house or another, and the house would be full of babies and toddlers and teenagers and grown ups.

Slowly, over the years, that has changed.

Parents have passed away.

Siblings’ kids have grown up, gotten married, and started their own families, so it’s just gotten difficult to have so many people, and more in-law families for everyone to rotate through.

I think that is normal with time passing, but it still makes me ache a little bit. (Having some family members’ various comments in my head also doesn’t help. “You’re alone because of your choices” and “if you were nicer and stopped sharing your politics on Facebook more people would want to spend time with you” are the two common ones that pop up at random.)

I’ve adapted, though. Over the past decade or so, I’ve made the Thanksgiving meal for just my family, plus a significant other or two, four times. I’ve established our own traditions (pecan bars, Italian sodas, mac & cheese which would horrify my mom) and enjoyed the time with my kids.

But I never stopped missing the big Thanksgiving meals of my kids’ childhoods.

The last one with my side of the family was in 2016, at my mom’s house. It was the last time Haley had Thanksgiving with her last living grandparent. Also the last one I ate with Becky. Most of the grandkids were there, even the ones who live in Texas.  I got this photo of all of the littles, but not a big group picture. (I continually learn this lesson: Even though everyone will grumble, even though maybe you did a group photo last time, take a group photo THIS TIME too.)

Thanksgiving 2016 kids

The last one with Kendell’s side that included everyone was in 2009. I got some great photos that day of my kids and of Kendell with his parents (which is awesome because his dad died the next year) but not a group photo.

2013 was the first year I made the entire meal all on my own.

Thanksgiving 2013

2017 was the last year that Haley was home for Thanksgiving and thus the last year the six of us all ate together.

Thanksgiving 2017 with haley

2019 was a dismal year, because not only were we missing Nathan and Haley, it was the first Thanksgiving after my mom died and Kendell talked me into going to a restaurant. (Never again!)

Everyone’s 2020 Thanksgiving was a COVID holiday I suppose.

For 2021, I had just planned on it being at our house with my boys and some video-call time with Haley. But, a few days before the holiday, things shifted around and my sister-in-law, Cindy, invited us to come to her house. It wasn’t the entire Sorensen clan, and there weren’t any babies, but it was enough. A crowd. Food from many different kitchens. A guest (Nathan’s friend Abe who didn’t have another house to go to). Family members admiring each other’s cooking. A group photo! (YES, someone grumbled, but I chose to just thank that person for putting up with my photograph proclivities.)

Resized_20211125_155633 thanksgiving everyone 4x6

Who knows what next year will bring. I have made peace with our smaller festivities (and appreciate that when I make the whole meal I have all the leftovers!) so whatever it looks like, big or small, I will love it.

But I feel like I learned something this year.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I always say I love it the best because it’s only about food and hanging out with your family, which remains true. But it is also, I realized, more. It’s about recipes, both the ones you’ve made for the past two decades and a new one you tried just this year. It’s about passing them down, too: this year, Haley made her own rolls (which she modified into a vegan recipe successfully!), Cindy tried apple pie the way I like it (with cheddar cheese on top), and I brought the pecan bar tradition to Kendell’s family. It’s about textiles—the tablecloth and the hot pads and the towels. And dishes, inherited from my mom and from Kendell’s and some that I’ve bought myself that maybe one day, when I’m gone, someone else will cook with. The scent of cranberry and cinnamon, the cubes and cubes of butter, the hiss and steam and whisk of preparation.

It’s about missing those who aren’t there while simultaneously loving the time you get to spend with those who are. Watching your son laugh with a friend, your husband with his brother, your sisters-in-law at each other.

Life changes so much. Sometimes, at this phase, I feel like all the good changes of my life are in the past. But I also have to acknowledge that I have no idea how it will change again over the next twelve months. And if Thanksgiving is about being grateful, I think that tug and ache is part of gratitude. If you’ve lost people you loved the heartache means you were blessed enough to love them. I think when I was a kid, Thanksgiving was just about eating a meal with my sisters, parents, and grandparents. (I actually have only very vague memories of Thanksgiving before my late adolescence, which is odd, and literally not a single photo of one.) When I was a mom with growing kids it was about seeing them interact with their cousins, aunts & uncles, and grandparents and knowing that they were experiencing holidays they will someday remember fondly. (I hope.) Now that I am nearly an empty nester, it is about remembering, but I am learning it is also about savoring now. Who knows what the future will hold, so on Thanksgiving 2021, I just lived. I just felt what I felt, the missing-ness and the bitterness and the sadness over what has been damaged. The absolute joy of what exists right now. The deliciousness of food prepared with love, the compliments from others and the giving of them as well. The ghosts and the living.

And so Thanksgiving remains my favorite


Twenty Years Later, Maybe I Can Start Writing about 9-11

Almost exactly 21 years ago, my family’s life took a turn. At that point, I was a stay-at-home mom, loving my days with my little ones. Haley was five and thriving in kindergarten, Jake was two and loved going to play with his friend Ben, and Nathan was almost one, a happy, chubby baby who made me laugh with delight every day. I had a big circle of friends who also had littles, so we took our kids on outings together to the park and to community events. Kendell and I were starting to talk about maybe selling our house and moving to something larger in an area with better schools. I had started running that summer. My parents were healthy, my kids were learning and growing, we were doing OK financially. It felt like we had been given a happy, good life. (Did I think, deep down, even though I would’ve never said it, that we deserved this good, happy life? Because we were good people, because we went to church, because, I don’t know, we paid our taxes and voted in elections and kept our yard pretty? I did. It is uncomfortable for me to admit to, but it is a part of this story. I thought I had somehow earned the good things in my life, that they were rewards for me trying to be a good person.)

And then, on the Tuesday after Labor Day when he was driving his mom to a funeral in Idaho, Kendell got a phone call from his job, letting him know he’d been laid off.

I didn’t really understand, at first, how sharp a turn in the road that would be for us. Kendell immediately started looking for jobs, of course, but discovered that his lack of a degree was a hinderance. (The tech world can be a bounteous industry to work in, but it can also be brutal, and twenty years ago, aside from several big companies, Utah County was just starting to become the tech-rich place it is now.) So he went to work for a friend who had just opened a start-up company, all of them with big dreams about creating a company that would thrive. He worked there for 15 months and was paid four times. We didn’t have health insurance. I stopped buying orange juice. The severance package he had received from his old company dwindled rapidly. My group of friends dwindled, too, as it grew harder for me to go and do things with them. I’d listen to them talking about their new Dooney & Burke purses and Ugg boots and upcoming trips to Tahiti and then think about the panic I had every time I went to the grocery store; there was too much contrast. I’m not sure if I pulled away or they didn’t want to be friends with a poor person, or if it was a combination of both, but almost all of those friendships faded.

A year later, in September of 2001, I was a much different person. I had started trying to find a job and discovered that having an English degree was fairly useless unless I wanted to teach, so I was figuring out how to go back to school to get my teaching credentials. I had an intermittent gig with a scrapbooking magazine, which meant sometimes I could write an article and earn a bit of money. Kendell grew angrier and angrier over our situation. We had registered for CHIP, the free insurance through the state, and WIC, which was a way to get some groceries for free. We had started considering selling our house and downsizing. We fought every time I spent any money. One time a friend left groceries on my porch, and that Christmas my sister-in-law played Santa for us. It was a horrible, horrible time. Not only because of the constant thread of “what will we do, what will we do?” always running through my mind. But because I had been thoroughly stripped of any sense of value. That beautiful, happy life I had had was taken away from me, and all I could feel was self-hatred. I combed through my memories of everything I had done in my life, trying to understand what bad thing I had done to make God take so much away from me.

On the second Tuesday in September I had an 8:00 a.m. appointment. Kendell stayed home from his job (could we even call it a job at that point? After all the promises continued to fall through, after so much time of working as an “investment in the future” that never actually put food on the table or paid our mortgage?) that morning with the kids so I could go alone. Everyone was still asleep when I left at 7:30 to drive to Provo, where I would do something I had so far been far too proud to do. I drove in silence, with the radio off, and cried the whole way. My appointment was with the Department of Workforce Services and I went there to apply for food stamps. I had told literally no one that I was doing this, except my husband. I was so humiliated.

When I walked into the office, the TV over the receptionist’s desk was on. And that was the moment I found out about the attack.

Like everyone else, I watched in horror and couldn’t make sense of what was happening. I stood watching until they called me back for my appointment, when hearing my name brought me back to my little part of the world with a jolt. Isn’t that strange—New York City and the Pentagon were exploding but I still went into a cubicle to talk to a person about getting food stamps. I went through the motions, filling out the application and waiting for the woman helping me to look at it. I found out that I didn’t qualify, because we had too many assets: we still owned a car, we still had a mortgage rather than renting the place we lived, we still had a bit of money in the bank left from the severance. Once all of those things were gone (she said this like a fact, like it was a thing that would happen, not that might), I could come back and apply again. All of this conversation felt muffled and far away, my thoughts still in a city I had never actually stepped foot in.

Before I drove home, I sat in my car. I tried to name the emotion I was feeling. I didn’t have one word for it then, and I still don’t, and it took me a long time to understand it. Partly this is because I don’t feel like 9-11 was my thing to write about. I mourned for the strangers who died that day, but I didn’t know anyone personally who was lost. Me sharing my emotions about it felt like grief appropriation. The people who lost people are the ones who own the grief, and my sadness and mourning felt like an offering to them rather than my own trauma.

I have thought about that day so many times over the past twenty years. I do still feel reluctant to write about my response, but I also understand that this was an American tragedy, even for those of us who didn’t lose people we loved. What we lost as a nation was similar to what I lost during those long two years of rebuilding from Kendell’s unemployment: the sense that because our nation was “good” (freedom-loving, built on democratic ideals, a place where anyone can  succeed if they try hard enough), truly bad things wouldn’t happen here. We didn’t deserve it.

I have learned, changed, and grown so much since I was that 29-year-old woman crying in the Workforce Services parking lot, in both good and negative ways. I had no idea how many more difficult things I would go through. I have never fully regained my belief that good things happen to people simply because they are good, nor that sense of confidence and hope I used to have. My inherent belief that the Universe rewards goodness is very, very dented. I now understand that good things happen because they just do, same as difficult things. There is hatred, greed, resentment, violence, and anger inside of people, racism and sexism and ignorance, and these sometimes drive people to make destructive choices. Some people who do negative things still thrive financially and seem to have an abundance, while many, many good people struggle their whole lives. The same goes for nations; the United States does good things and horrible things and is no more immune from the violence of others than any other country in the world.

These are wounds that perhaps never heal. Even as I write this I have tears streaming down my cheeks, feeling again what I felt at 29, the desperate hope that if I just did something better, prayed more or read more scriptures or served others better, I could get back what I had so briefly, my perfect few utopian years before everything changed. (I did not get it back.) The World Trade Center attacks are not about me, but in a sense they are because they mirrored, very largely, what my small life was also experiencing. An innocence was lost, along with all of those lives, that day for this country where I live at the same time I was losing a similar innocence of my own.

Fifteen years after 9-11, I finally made it to New York City. I visited the 9-11 Memorial Museum, and as I walked through, I again found myself crying. I’m a museum crier no matter what, but this was different. Being so close to the actual iron and steel that was brought down by airplanes and hatred, I again mourned for those who died. My husband just moved away from me and left me to my crying, and I’m not sure anyone else noticed or cared, one weeping woman in the crowded memorial obviously not the point of anyone’s experience. I also mourned for myself and for how I have changed, for how hard it is to move through this life and not have parts of yourself decimated along the way.

And just as I am not the same, the United States has changed. There is more hatred and division now. That unity we had for a few brief days after the attacks is long gone. We have all had to learn to live with difficult truths. What will happen in the next twenty years? I wouldn’t begin to hazard a guess, not for myself or for the country. I can only continue forward, trying to find the goodness that is also here, even if I can never be free of the sadness.


Your Garden Always Loves You Back

From the window behind my laptop, I can see one of my big sycamore trees and two of my rosebushes. The sycamore has many dead branches that are just dangling, lodged or stuck against other living branches. After wind storms I examine the tree (from my perch behind my computer) to see which ones might’ve budged. There’s always one that gets blown out, but never all of them, and for six weeks I have itched to climb the tree and free them all.

View from my window summer 2021

And the rosebushes! They were both given to me by my parents, and during my recuperation I’ve watched them go from blossoms to bare stem heads, a process that left them in all levels of flower: bud, bloom, faded petals, naked. I could only watch the progress and do nothing.

But yesterday—yesterday I got to work in my garden.

It was awkward. The walking boot is definitely better than crutches but it’s not me on my own two feet. I nearly tumbled over at least twelve times and I couldn’t reach everything I wanted to. I could feel that in my weeks of healing, my body has grown weak and tight; my back ached and my hamstrings protested a bit. I couldn’t use a shovel and I definitely could not climb the trees for errant branches.

But I pruned the rosebushes. I pulled weeds. I thinned out the cosmos which have taken over my front flower bed.

And I discovered that two pumpkins have grown! I planted pumpkin seeds in April, on a whim because they were displayed right next to the Coban at the farm store where I buy it. (Technically it’s tape for horses if you buy it at the farm store, I guess, but I don’t care. It’s four dollars cheaper there, so horse tape it is!) I’ve often thought about planting pumpkins but never actually done it.

When I told Kaleb what I was doing, he said “Mom, don’t get your hopes up. If any do grow, the neighborhood kids will steal them.” Such cynicism in my baby! But, to be safe, I planted some in the front bed (which is, yes, a temptingly accessible spot for a pumpkin to grow) and some in the east bed, which is behind our fence and so would require much more shenanigans for theft to happen.

I’d seen a few blossoms before my surgery, but the vines had grown too thick for me to see if any of them grew into pumpkins, unless I got down on my knees which I definitely couldn’t do with my crutches and splint and my other knee sore from my pre-surgery tumble.

So when I pushed back the leaves yesterday, I discovered this cute pumpkin:

September 2021 pumpkin no1

And then I made a sound like a little girl excited about her birthday cake because seeing that just—well, it just brought me this little, sweet spike of pure joy.

All the time I was in the house, looking at the world, looking at my little part of the world, it was still making progress. I couldn’t witness all of it, but it didn’t need me to. It kept growing all on its own. I was healing, my garden was growing. There is something rejuvenating and hopeful in that thought. It makes me feel less like this year has been a sort of wasteland I’ve wandered, getting chubbier and sadder. My garden still had flowers.

My garden grew a pumpkin.

Two, in fact; there’s also this perfectly round one in the east flower bed, safe from thieves:

September 2021 pumpkin no2

I’d only gone out there once during my recovery because crutches+grass=nope. It was a riot of color, the zinnias and sunflowers I planted in the spring at their full, beautiful peak, and that bright orange pumpkin!

I know not everyone loves gardening and the work it takes to have flowers. But I hope I can always have a little piece of earth for my own, partly because I enjoy nurturing it, partly because of how often it nurtures me right back.


Welcome September!

September is here!

Sunflowers september 2021
In Utah we still have weeks and weeks of hot weather coming, but at least not as hot as July and August were, and with breaks of cooler days and rainy weather. Autumn is my favorite season and every year I think “this year I will savor every second” but it still slips away. The colors come and are gone so fast.

This year will be harder than ever to savor, because I can’t get on the mountain trails like I usually do. This week I graduated from crutches and no weight bearing to being able to walk in a boot. But you can’t really hike in a walking boot, so I have at least three more weeks of not getting on any trails. And then when I do I’ll certainly not be in any condition to deal with much vert. Hopefully by the end of October I’ll be back to longer hikes (and running! oh how I have missed you, running!) but by then the colors will be long gone.

Which is sad.

But I’m making a list of things I want to do to help me savor fall this year anyway. Even without hiking boots and dirty feet.

∙ Drive the Alpine Loop. This is a mountain road in Utah near where I live. I get on it quite often to access hiking trails, but it’s been a few years since I drove it just to drive it. Stop and admire the view, get close to yellow aspens and orange scrub oak. Just enjoy the drive. Not sure if I’ll do this on my own or go with Kendell—that choice totally changes the experience. Or maybe I’ll do it twice.
∙ Visit Cascade Springs. This is a spot in our mountains that has short trails that are mostly boardwalk. I haven’t been there since 2006. After wandering I want to leave by the new Heber side of the road and find a fun little spot to eat lunch.
∙ Learn to like green tea. Recent gastronomical adventures have brought me to a horrible place, where almost all caffeinated beverages can no longer enter my body. Except green tea, which is actually supposed to help heal gastritis. I’m really not a fan of tea, but I am a dedicated fan of the ritual of a warm drink in the morning (even in the summer!). So I’m trying to learn to like it. Right now, in fact, as I write this I am drinking a green tea latte which I made with green tea, almond milk, and a titch of vanilla. Tomorrow I will try it with honey instead. Any advice or tips on this appreciated!
∙ Bake. Oh baking, how I have missed you too! It’s just too complicated to do while on crutches. I have a delicious pumpkin bread I will just keep in permanent rotation for a little while. And I think this week I will get my hands on some peaches and make a peach crisp.
∙ Start working on my “get strong” goal. During the Olympics, I remembered how it felt when I had a strong gymnast’s body. I will never be that lithe and strong again, of course, but I had one of those nudges from the universe that I need to concentrate on getting strong. This won’t be able to happen immediately (see: walking boot) but I started yesterday by just stretching and reminding my body how to move. I have two smaller goals to help me reach the bigger one: get strong enough to do pull ups and to hold a handstand.
∙ Go outside every day. I did not do this in the summer. The air quality here has been so awful, the result of the wildfires on the west coast. I’m hoping by the time I can run, it will be manageable. But even before then: go outside. Work in my yard. Waddle down the street for a little walk. Admire the last of the flowers. Sit on my porch with a beverage (my choices: water, green tea, apple juice) and read. Just get outside every day.
∙ At least one box of pumpkin spice donuts. Probably two.
∙ Make a big meal for my kids and wish Haley could be here with us.
∙ Make some curry. I know that in theory curry isn’t seasonal, and I make it in all seasons except summer (just too hot for so much stove time), but in my mind curry is an autumn tradition.
∙ Actually get out my Halloween decorations. I didn’t last year and it was a sad, sad October.
∙ Quilt my other Halloween table topper. I can freeform quilt now on my machine, without much terror, and think I can manage something appropriately swirly.
∙ Harvest my pumpkins. Can I carve them? Who knows. Don’t care. I’m just excited I have some I grew all on my own.
∙ New cardigan acquisition. Do I need more cardigans? Absolutely not. Do I need a new one to celebrate this fall? Totally. Perfect cardigan for me: longish, with pockets, elegant shape, soft fabric. I’m going to try to not go with black.
∙ Sewing challenge with my sister.
∙ Fall reading challenge. I’m not sure what that will look like but I’ve so enjoyed my summer challenge (which I am finishing next Tuesday as the first day after Labor Day feels like the start of fall). It’s helped me read more and I am all for that.
∙ This blogging challenge (I’m trying to blog every day in September) and an October Daily challenge on Instagram. I find that if I have some social media impetus I record more and thus seek out more things to do to record.
∙ More pancakes. Before I started hiking on Sundays we used to have pancakes at least twice a month. Now I’m back on my feet again I am going to institute pancake Sunday more often. And switch it to Saturday once I start hiking again.
∙ Start walking again as soon as I can. I’ll set some fitness goals once I can wear two regular shoes again.

What are your plants for the fall?


A Choice that Bolsters All of Us: My Thoughts on Simone Biles and The Tokyo Olympics Team Gymnastics Competition

During my last season of gymnastics (four months of meets and intense training for those meets, stretching from January to my birthday in April, 1987), my closest teammate had a mental block. Her beam routine included a front flip, and for whatever reason, she became afraid of doing it. As I had my own block (the round off on my beam dismount) I had all sorts of empathy for her. As meets grew closer she would grow more and more anxious, but she always showed up to the meets and almost always nailed that front flip. But then, once in practice, she fell and injured her shin. She got x-rayed and since there was no break, she got taped up and kept going. That’s what gymnasts do.

AmyGymnastics11But as the qualifying meet grew closer, she struggled more. Then, at the start of one of our workouts during the week before the meet, the beam coach gathered us all to sit on the floor. She had this teammate stand in front of us, and told us what she’d done. At school a few days before, she’d walked through the halls, asking boys to kick her on her injured shin. Our coach didn’t explain why she might’ve done this, but she did say it was a disgusting thing to do; if she ever heard of anyone else doing such a thing they were now warned that they would be kicked out. This teammate was only being allowed to stay because no one had ever expressly had to say “don’t try to make your injury worse by having others hurt you.”

My teammate sat down next to me and I put my arm around her shoulder, but we could both hear the other gymnasts whispering. “Weird” and “creepy” and “gross” and “what’s wrong with her?” But as I had already also discovered self-harm, I didn’t have that response. Mostly I was grateful to know that I wasn’t the only one who was weird and gross in the same way.

The season continued, my teammate’s shin stayed taped, I never did get over my fear of my round off dismount. It was one of the reasons I got second in the all-around on my life’s last meet, instead of first like I was supposed to. Like real winners do. I did win first on bars, which was my favorite and best event, so I was OK because my beam coach was already disappointed in me, but my bars coach still had some respect.

After that meet, my teammate and I both left gymnastics. You’d think we’d stay friends, but somehow we didn’t. (I have searched for her on social media more than once and haven’t found her. I’ve also changed some of the details of her story, just in case.)

This story is both unique and commonplace. Unique in its details but commonplace because every gymnast has a similar story. More than one. Things that happened to them, things that happened to their teammates. I’m telling her story because it greatly affected my outcome as well, in ways I am still trying to understand.

Because here’s the thing: gymnastics is a complicated sport. It’s not just about back handsprings and front flips, Yurchenkos and Tkatchevs, wolf turns and triple pirouettes. It requires an enormous amount of mental energy to get your body to do things normal people would never try. You have to conquer rational fear and then train your body to work towards defying gravity for a few seconds, twisting or flipping all the while. With pointed toes and smile.

It is also politics: not everyone gets the same level of attention from coaches.

Who had the most expensive leotards. Whose parents put the most money into the booster club. Whose enormous cabin could be used for team retreats. Who the coaches like the best and think have the most potential (usually the ones with the richest parents). Who’s been loyal to the club for the longest. Who is most likely to do great things like become Elite or get a college scholarship or make it to Nationals. Who is willing to try anything, doesn’t express fear, does everything the coaches tell her to do.

Despite that, it’s also the deep connections you make with your teammates. The way you know the history of their injuries and how to tape them if a coach isn’t around. You know your teammates’ floor routines as well as they do. You cheer for them even knowing it means their win is your loss, because it also means their success is a win for the team.

I loved my decade in gymnastics. I learned skills that I still use today: perseverance, toughing it out, encouraging others, bravery. A sense of my body within the world and a sort of confidence that still helps me keep my head up. How to tape a sprained ankle and how to care for a deep bloody blister. A precise cartwheel.

But I also carry some pretty good scars. Self-doubt. Despair over every ripple and lump and extra pound on my body. Guilt that my parents paid so much for my gym time and then I didn’t get a scholarship like my mom so desperately wanted me to. A bone-deep shame. The ever-present feeling that I was destined for greatness but I didn’t get it because I was a coward, even while I’m the first to acknowledge that I was never going to be an Olympian or even an Elite. I was a mediocre gymnast who never conquered her dismount fear; I was the support staff whose time, fees, and body supported the real winners.

All of those feelings, positive and negative, are still here in my body.

So when I watch gymnastics, I always cry. My body remembers exactly how it felt to move in some of those ways. I wish I could still move in those ways, could still be lithe and strong and graceful. My psyche remembers the negatives, the bloody hands and wrists, the shame of not being great like those girls on TV are.

But I’ve never cried like I did last night, watching the Tokyo Olympics team round and Simone Biles walking off the floor.

***

Kendell walked in and caught me crying and asked me why. I couldn’t explain for a bit because the lump in my throat was so large.

After her vault, when she is talking in that rushed way with her teammates, Simone says “I don’t trust myself.”

That was when I started crying.

Simone Biles does some amazing gymnastics. She is strong, talented, and skilled, but no matter what it still takes bravery to do what she does.

Unless you have been a gymnast, it is hard to understand how brave she was to do what she did at the team competition.

All of those entwining emotions that go into gymnastics. The idea that your body must be sacrificed on the altar of gold medals. The way your coach can humiliate you by simply seeing you make a mistake you shouldn’t have. The way you both support and lean upon your teammates. Not to mention the fierce public eye, which must feel like it is always on her.

As a gymnast, you do your routines and your moves, you compete because at one point you loved this sport. It was fun and it brought you bliss, learning how to flip and spin without getting (too) injured. Defying gravity without a space suit. Dancing across the floor in a sparkly leo. That joy stays with you, but it isn’t always there. For coaches, for gymnastics clubs, it’s still a business. It’s still and always about winning, the work of winning, not about the joy of moving your body. It’s not completely or even mostly about you as a person or as an athlete, but about you as a winner. You are really, simply grist.

So there is Simone, at the Olympics. The Olympics team competition. There she is, and she is struggling. In an invisible way, in a way you can’t tape or stitch together, a way you can’t shake off. In her head. In her gymnastics self, which knows how to do the things she does with her body, she cannot make that connection.

Everyone knows the stories. Everyone thinks of Kerri Strugg doing her second vault despite her ankle injuries. Gymnasts just go on, anyway.

By withdrawing from the competition, Simone Biles did something so mind-blowingly brave. So brave.

By walking away, she said that she would not risk her body for anyone. Not for her teammates, who I know she loves. Not for her country, who loves her. Not for her coaches, who helped her get to that point. Not for that gold medal. Not for fame or adulation or endorsements.

Because her mental game was not there, she knew she was risking her body if she continued. And she was brave enough to break the gymnastics rule that says “you must always risk your body.”

That was why I cried while I watched it. Because I know how much courage that took. And because I know most of the world will not understand it, and will say awful things about her.

Because taking care of your own body as a gymnast is only supposed to be something you do to become a winner, not to not compete.

***

Many people will write about what happened in gymnastics during this Olympics. My contribution to this discussion is miniscule. But all night, I couldn’t sleep. I was full of…something. Both dread and awe. The memory of my teammate’s bruised shin. When I slept I dreamed round offs turning into cartwheels, over and over. 

But I am still adding this little bit. My voice to this conversation, because something shifted in me, watching her last night. Honestly, she’s never been my favorite gymnast (no one will ever replace Julianne McNamara for that spot in my heart), but that doesn’t matter. Last night, her bravery gave me just a tiny bit of grace for myself. For that part of me who is still 15, still facing down that dismount with my taped-up ankle and tiger claws on my wrists and perpetual wounds on my palms, who was lithe and strong and graceful but who boiled in shame anyway. The coaches and the teammates and even my parents couldn’t quite give me that grace to say I was anything worthwhile. I wasn’t great enough to matter, so what I did do was pointless: that feeling was what stretched and started to dissolve a bit, last night.

I wasn’t an Olympian. I didn’t earn a scholarship. I was a lowly class II gymnast. I didn’t sacrifice hard enough, I didn’t give enough, I wasn’t enough: I have carried that feeling for my whole life.

Her decision last night helped it weigh a little bit less.

Her decision bolsters all gymnasts.

In that moment, she chose what was right for her. That is never allowed in gymnastics, but she did it. Her choice tells us that we matter. Not because of medals or scholarships or rankings, but because we are individuals with bodies in the world. Because she matters—as a person, not as a medal winner—the rest of us matter too.

And it is why—not because of the five moves named after her—that she will always be the greatest of all time.


"And Yet You Will Weep and Know Why": Thoughts on My Dad

Yesterday I listened to a scrapbooking podcast while I worked in my flowerbeds. The topic was documenting your dad’s stories, and as I listened I had some realizations. The timing was odd for me, as it is June, which holds both his birthday and Father’s day, when I already think about my dad more than usual. This July marks a decade since his death, but since he had an undiagnosed type of dementia, he has been “gone” for much longer…I think we had our last semi-real and meaningful conversation in 2006.

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A few days ago, I was at the grocery store, and in the produce section I realized I must’ve come at the grandparent hour, as I was surrounded by old people. Mostly couples, one pushing the cart, the other gathering apples or onions or romaine, but there was one man who was by himself. He looked nothing like my dad but he made me think about my dad. What-ifs starting filling up my mind. What if his marriage had been happier? What if he had found fulfilling work after the steel mill closed? What if he could’ve recognized his inaction not as laziness, as my mom labeled it, but as depression? What if his dad hadn’t died when he was in high school? What if his parents’ marriage had been happier? What if his mom had loved him more? What if he’d skipped football on whatever day his skull was hit too hard, what if he’d skipped football altogether? What if he hadn’t stood in the open refrigerator, depression-eating mayonnaise out of a jar with a soup spoon bent by scooping ice cream from the container?

(I believe all of these things contributed to his early dementia.)

I looked at that old man putting a small bag of red potatoes in his cart and I wondered. What would my dad have been like as a real grandpa? What if he could’ve grown old and achey, his hair entirely white, still talking and telling stories and laughing at off-color jokes? What if he could’ve really interacted and known my children—how would he have loved them, how would their lives be changed? How would I feel, right now, nearing 50 and empty-nesthood and my own aging, if I had a dad I could turn to for help or advice or maybe just a good long phone call about a person he knows from down at the coffee shop?

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When I sat down to write this blog post, I thought it would be a list of questions I wish I could ask my dad. Did you ever wish you had a son? How did you really feel about your marriage? Why didn’t you try harder to spend time with my kids when you could? Tell me a good memory about your dad. Tell me a good memory about your mother. Why did we never visit your grandparents’ grave even though we were in the same cemetery every Memorial Day? What did you love about football? What did you love about wandering around in the desert? Were you, like mom, disappointed in how my life turned out?

Or maybe I would write about the realization I had. When I dig into my family history, I am consistently disappointed by the lack of stories about my female ancestors. Even the short life-story someone wrote about the person I was named for—titled “Amy Simmons’ Life Story”—is mostly about her husband and sons. So I have told parts of my story, and of my mom’s and my grandmas’. But I have told very few of my dad’s stories, and all of what I have written down is about me interacting with him, not him as a person independent from being my dad.

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What surprised me about writing this—knocked me on my back, so to speak, with an absolute flood of tears—is how raw it all still is. How I have put away unexamined so many ugly and painful truths about our family, simply because he died. I haven’t really processed any of it, my parents’ shaky marriage and how it impacts still, to this very moment, my own. The way I loved my dad and I know he loved me but how I also have a lot of buried anger at him, and how if I could hold it up and look at it, I think it would look a lot like the anger my own children must have for me. How I am just like him in many ways, not all of them positive.

Ten years ago, my dad died. I thought it was a life event, a thing that everyone has to face, and while it was unfair that I had to do it at 39, at least I had good memories to hold on to. Those summer weeks in Lake Powell, the look on his face when I stood on a first-place podium after a gymnastics meet (which was the same look when I stood in 9th place or in no place at all), that one time in the car driving him home from the airport with Haley in her carseat and he sang “you are my sunshine” with her and that’s the only time I ever heard him sing.

I thought: he died and I miss him and so I have to let go of all of the rest of it, the complications and the disappointments and the wounds and the struggles. But ten years later, if I let myself think about it, if I stop to be within it:

I only put the things on a shelf. They are still there, unprocessed, unspoken, still being carried around. His death didn't negate them and it didn't heal them.

I still miss him.

It still doesn’t feel any better since he started leaving by stopping speaking.

None of it is resolved, none of it is repaired, and it can’t ever be. Not really. I can work through my own issues over our history, give voice to my own angers and sorrows, write down what I loved about him and my favorite memories and the fact that I will likely never go back to Lake Powell because Lake Powell is my childhood and so it can’t exist without him.

But me processing it doesn’t help him. It doesn’t fix his wounds and his damage and his anger (which he never, ever voiced).

Me processing it doesn’t give him the chance to go to his brother’s 80th birthday party last month.

It doesn’t let him be at my kids’ graduations.

Or let him have a good, long, loving but hard conversation with my son who is his generational twin.

Or stand in the grocery store as an old man buying potatoes.

You live with it—grief, loss. Sometimes it feels less heavy, but I think that is only because life, the living of your life, lets it weigh less. And then something happens, some small thing, a stranger in a store, and you start to feel the weight of it. I don’t want to not feel it, honestly, because it is the only way I have of interacting with my dad anymore. I miss him and part of me will always be mad at God for not letting him have more joy in his life.

And I guess I just needed to put this out into the world today:

I wish my dad was still here.

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Struggling to Fit the Pieces Together

Sometimes this happens: small pieces of things over time influence me but they are random and don’t make sense, until the final piece is found and I see how they all fit together.

Over the past three or four weeks, I have been struggling. I know what depression is and how it feels, and this is partly that, but not exactly. It is more the process of seeing who I am at this time in my life and realizing I do have regrets, I do feel trapped, I do wish I had made other choices. I will turn 50 next year and this just keeps hitting me, over and over. When my dad was my age, he only had about nine good years left before his dementia started. My mom was 75 when she died.

Five sevenths. 5/7. I keep seeing it, a fraction, a narrowing pie chart, 8:35pm on the clock.

I want to give myself grace. I want to say I made the best decisions I could within the context of my life. I want to let myself think “no one life can have everything.” I run the checklist in my mind:

I have a husband who has evaded death more than once (more than thrice, truly) and at least once a week we hike together.

I had four amazing kids and I get to have Elliot in my life.

I was blessed to own a home where I raised my kids safely, cooked meals, baked cookies, grew flowers, raked leaves, shoveled snow.

I have a handful of close, true friends who I value with all my heart.

I got to travel a little bit. I’ve put my toes into the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Sea of Cortez, sobbed in art museums, walked inside European cathedrals, ate slices of pizza on New York City streets.

I have run marathons and half marathons, climbed Half Dome, hiked countless miles.

I lucked into a job that allows me to use my skills and interests in ways that sometimes feel like they are helping my community.

I know I have had many good, fantastic, amazing, and truly lucky experiences in my fifty years.

But I still find myself mourning—yes, mourning. That is the word for what I am feeling.

❦ ❦ ❦

One of those stupid “choose two” memes.
It was a list of ten compelling things you might have in your life, and you’d respond with the two you would pick. I don’t remember all of the options—I would’ve chosen wealth and a healthy body—but one I can’t forget: One million followers. I scrolled through some of the answers and was shocked at how many picked that option. My mind keeps going back there, trying to understand (not judge). Why is social media fame important to people? Am I motivated by wanting more followers? Why do I spend time on Facebook and Instagram? I will always say I don’t really care about my miniscule numbers, but if I am honest I am still bitter that I am not one of the cool girls on Insta or a successful blogger. Given the actual choice in reality, I wouldn't pick a bunch of followers over other things, but there is still some part of me that wants to be seen in that way.

Running friends are racing again.
I swear…over the past week my Insta has been filled with running friends doing amazing things. Finishing marathons, running solo virtual marathons. 50Ks and 60Ks and 50 milers. Rim to rim to rim runs. Hard things that they accomplished and I am proud of them and happy for them. But then I turn my thoughts to my “hard” things…this week I will bump up from five one-minute running intervals to seven. I am finally walking without a hitch if I concentrate, so my next goal is to walk correctly without thinking about walking correctly.

Even a 5k feels out of reach for me right now.

Do I want to run races for the likes? Not really, although I would share. I want to run races for the experience of it…for the training and for the day itself. For dirty ankles and tired calves and a runner’s suntan line on my thighs. But mostly it is for that feeling of confidence in my body. In knowing I could get myself home on my own two feet if I had to. In trusting that my legs are strong, if not fast, and take me to places you can’t get to in a car.

I miss that desperately because it was a thing that made me feel like I had succeeded in something. I mean, I will never win a race. I’m not fast. But knowing I had challenged myself and then risen to it—knowing I had accomplished something—gave me a way to feel proud of myself. I can do hard things.

No: I could do hard things. Right now I can’t.

So where do I find any positive thoughts about myself?

Reading Oona Out of Order
This is a time-travel novel, of sorts. For unknown reasons, the main character, Oona, begins “leaping.” At midnight on each New Year, she finds herself as herself, but her body and her life are in a different, random year.

Just the kind of novel I love.  (Just the kind of novel I wish I were talented enough to write.)

There is a scene where Oona’s mother is dying, and she tells her daughter some graceful and grateful things, to keep with her once she is an orphan. I sobbed as listened to this scene (I was reading it as an audio book) because I also had one last conversation with my mom as she was dying, but it was neither graceful or grateful. She was dying but she was still disappointed in me, and so I had to pause the audio, sit on the rug on my kitchen floor, and weep. Because my mom is gone, because I don’t get to go back and fix things, because I let her down so much that even in death her love for me was qualified. I wasn’t who she wanted me to be and I will know that for the rest of my life.

Maybe my people love me because I am kind to them and don’t always bash them with my opinion.
This is a memory of a conversation I had in the fall of 2020, when we were deep into the pandemic and the US election and a fractioning of my extended family. Unlike most of my family (on both sides), I don’t have grandchildren. I don’t have in-laws. And my political beliefs are different than many of theirs. But to be told so bluntly that the only way I can be loved and appreciated by others is to stay quiet, to pretend to be something I am not…it continues to eat at me. I can hear the tone of that statement still, and the words come to me at odd, random moments. What they mean is that I am unlovable the way I am, and that other people have big families they matter to because they are lovable.

That someone I love told me that makes it even worse. What do I do with this knowledge?

Two Instagram posts.
Isn’t this crazy that the two missing pieces were on social media, when it is often also social media that sends me spiraling? Nevertheless, here they are, the two pieces I needed to finish this small puzzle.

1.  A runner I follow wrote a post about the challenges she has overcome, but how she still sometimes compares herself to others. Then she realized that challenges are only about yourself. The people running 6-minute miles are strong in visible ways, but many others are strong in ways that are harder to see. But we are all still struggling with something, and what matters is pushing forward. My hard thing, small as it seems, is still something I am striving to overcome, and I still get to take a sense of pride in that, even if it’s invisible on social media.

2.  This morning, I stumbled upon the IG of an artist, Annie K. Blake, who passed away earlier this year from pancreatic cancer. I am not an artist but I am deeply drawn to art, especially that done by women. Her page touched on some of my insecurities—she belonged within the Utah artist community, she was seen and known—but as I scrolled and looked at her images and read her words, I found myself (again!) crying on the floor of my kitchen. Not because of despair, though. I mean, I didn’t even know about her work before she passed away, but I will never get to know her at all now, but it still wasn’t despair, not really. It was a click, somehow. Maybe in the fifty years of my life I haven’t accomplished anything of merit. If I died tomorrow I would leave behind no art and many of my goals unfulfilled. Maybe I only have a couple of decades left, maybe even fewer.

But I also felt a…a lightening, perhaps. A shift in my mourning. Because at least I am alive today.

❦ ❦ ❦

I don’t turn easily towards optimism. I want to be hopeful, to look on the bright side of things, but it isn’t a natural part of my personality. I have a hard time letting go of negative experiences but am highly skilled at downplaying the positives. That means that my mother finding me disappointing in the end and someone else telling me I can’t be loved unless I act like someone I am not doesn’t feel like a bruise but a tattoo.

It means that yes: I did train for and finish a marathon while recuperating from whooping cough. I did qualify for regionals by competing with a freshly-sprained ankle. I have continued to increase my uphill hiking speed even as my age increased. I've done many hard things in the past. But I still need to prove to myself that I can do hard things by continuing to try to do other hard things. I can’t rest on my past hard things.

But since I know these things about myself, I know I have to work to see experiences in other light. To seek out different pieces of knowledge that aren’t only dark. That the puzzle only comes together with both, with self-doubt and self-belief, with shadow and sparkle, with despair and hope.

I am still struggling. But this little puzzle of random things I have assembled lately helps remind me that it is just that: a process, not a destination.

Maybe there will still be good within the last 2/7ths of my life.


Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in more than a year: I met people at a restaurant. I’ve been looking forward to this for two weeks, since my friend, sister, and I planned it.

Just lunch.

Just talking with people I love.

But after so long of not seeing anyone or doing anything, it was…

well, I don’t really have a word for how it felt.

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I was seeing faces. I was hearing their voices, learning new stories. Laughing. Tearing up. All over a meal.

We admired bracelets. We brought gifts. We exchanged books. We showed each other photos.

We were together, and I was renewed. Enlivened. Happy in a specific way that involves being loved by someone who has known you for a long time, who knows the shorthand for all the stories, who you can be yourself with. Who you absolutely adore and who has saved you more times than she knows.

But after we finished, after we’d hugged and said our goodbyes, I slowly filled up with…sadness.

Not a darkness, really. Nothing sharp. Just a gentle, persistent ache. And when I got home, I curled up in bed, had a long cry, and took a nap.

❦❦❦

I am an introvert. And, throughout my adult life, I’ve had some experiences that have brought me to a choice of withdrawing. I love and value my friends, the real ones, but I have a hard time with casual friendships. In most social situations, I keep my shields up.

I’ve made this little world for myself, where I have my family and my close friends, my running and hiking, my flowers. I spend most of my time writing, crafting, quilting, or reading. Part of my shield is telling myself I don’t need people. I am happy in my own miniscule universe.

But deep down I know: I do need people. Even if I don’t need a whole squad like others have, I need my people. To see and be seen, to tell stories and to listen to them.

I think the sadness came from knowing how long I just put my head down and didn’t have any interactions like yesterday. I survived and I was fine and I could continue surviving and being fine. But I also didn’t have that specific happiness of being with people I love. So the sadness is kind of a retroactive one, I think. For the hugs we didn’t give each other, for all the days we didn’t see anyone else’s face.  For all the times we could’ve used a living, breathing person across the table from us, listening or speaking, but we couldn’t.

For the way we all carried on on our own.

❦❦❦

There will be other days. There will be more lunches. We will go shopping or hiking or to the bookstore with our friends. But the blank spaces of last year: we cannot get those experiences back. And we are changed. Some relationships won’t ever be the same. We lost many things during the pandemic in addition to the actual lives that are gone.

Those lost things require—deserve—to be acknowledged and mourned for.


My Favorite Flavor of Truffles and Other Random Bits

One of the scrapbookers who inspires me, Heba Alsabai, has a series on her Youtube channel called "Me, Myself, and I," where she makes a scrapbook that is completely about her stories, using a list of 31 prompts. I'm all in on women realizing it's important to tell our own stories. When you first start it can feel like it's conceited or weird but really, if you don't tell your stories, no one else will. There are so many things I wish I knew about my mom and my grandmothers. It is a sort of void in my psyche, honestly. And maybe there won't be a granddaughter or great granddaughter (or grandson for that matter!) who has my same need for stories about her ancestors, but if there is, I want to fill it.

In thinking about Heba's prompt list, which you can see HERE, and my own process of telling my stories, I am inspired to tell some stories I hadn't thought of. Maybe on a scrapbook layout, maybe on my blog. And since all this thinking happened around my birthday, I decided I'd do a list. Just some random bits and pieces about me right now, just for fun, like I used to do with my kids around their birthdays. Some of the prompts are from Heba’s list, some are my own ideas, but the spark came from listening to her on the Scrap Gals podcast.

Me right now, as I’m writing this post. Home from my long shift at the library. Home from getting my second Covid vaccination. I have blisters on my forearms, hamstring, and finger from spot removal at the dermatologist and another bandaid on my neck from a mole scraping. I’m wearing my newest t-shirt, which I bought from Stately Type. I couldn’t resist it because that is the old logo from Lake Powell, from the 80s, when we went to Powell every summer. It made me miss my dad.

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My favorite donut: a chocolate old-fashioned from Daylight Donuts. Almost any old-fashioned donut, really, but the Daylight ones are the. best.!

Silly things I say are my love languages: getting cards in the mail, sending cards in the mail, photographs, baking.

My actual love language: None of the five love languages in Gary Chapman's book really feel like mine. Like, I love getting gifts but I don't need them to feel loved, and none of the rest fit me either. My love language is, I think, being seen and appreciated for who I am. I don't know for sure if that is unique to me or if, when you boil it down, that's everyone's basic need. 

Something I miss: The Exponent II Facebook group. It kind of imploded over issues of intersectionality. It was the perfect place for me because it's far less intense on vitriol than other post-Mo spaces are. I don't want to be angry and hateful while I work through this process (although I understand the anger and the hatred) and I miss having a place I could engage in discussion with people who understood and didn't judge me. 

Something everyone seems to care about except me: The British royals. Just don't care about the lives, even the actual struggles, of these powerful, wealthy people. Not when the vast majority of the world is also struggling, but without the wealth and power.

Something contradictory about me: I love poetry but I cannot stand novels in verse. 

Something random that makes me happy: getting packages in the mail.

Thoughts about what I am reading right now: I'm about 75% through The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow. I LOVE the story, the characters, the setting, the time period, the main conflict. But, a story based on three sisters who don't understand each other has hit too close to home so I delve in and then I have to scurry out again...

Thoughts about the audio book I am listening to right now: Recollections of my Non-Existence be Rebecca Solnit. I LOVE AND ADORE everything Rebecca Solnit writes. A favorite quote from this book, which is a memoir about the experience of being a woman in contemporary America:

"I remember once looking at the Pacific Ocean, to which I often reverted in trouble, and thinking 'everything was my mother but my mother.' Books were my mother, coastlines, running water and landscapes, trees and the flight of birds, zazen and zendos, quiet and cellos, reading and writing, bookstores and familiar views and routines, the changing evening sky, cooking and baking, walking and discovering, rhythms and blues, friends and interior spaces and all forms of kindness, of which there has been more and more as time goes by."

However, I don't love her actual voice reading the audio, which in turn makes me not love my own opinion because I love her writing so much...

What my friendships look like right now: Lots of messaging. After getting my second COVID-19 vaccination today and so in a few more days (OK, 2 weeks) I'll feel safer about meeting up with friends. But probably will still want to be outside with them. But I can't wait to do something in person with Wendy, Julie, Chris, Becky, Cindy and many others!

A song I love: When I upgraded my phone this winter, my music app stopped playing WMA files. I have yet to figure out a different app (please note that YES I am that old-fashioned person who listens to music she actually owns, rather than via streaming service) so right now I just shuffle all the songs on my phone and it's playing music I have forgotten about. (Don't you think "shuffle" should be fairly random? And yet, it isn't. I think it circles through the same 100 songs or so, and ignores the other 357 tracks.) A few in particular: "Never Stop" by Echo and the Bunnymen, "When the Stars Go Blue" by The Corrs and Bono, "Nothing's Wrong" by Echosmith, and "I Found Out" by The Head and the Heart.

Books I currently have checked out from the library: The Once and Future Witches • We Run the Tides • The Lady in the Lake (I am actually halfway through this, but I put it down to read OAFW, but then I haven't picked it up again) • On the Way Out, Turn Off the Light: Poems • The Witch's Heart • The Charmed Wife • Kate in Waiting • The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Books on the hold shelf waiting for me to bring home and add to my pile of library books: The Nine Lives of Rose NapolitanoSharks in the Time of Saviors

Something my husband and I argue about: How many books I have checked out and scattered around the house.

What I am making right now: Four baby quilts in various stages. I can feel them tugging at me, wishing to be finished, but right now I am in the middle of moving into a different room for my crafty space so they will have to wait. One baby is five months old now...is that too old for me to give it to her? 

Something I've recently finished: This layout with some pretty bad cell phone pics from 2013:

Layout nathan at the library 4 23 2021
(clearly inspired by Shimelle!)

and this hot pad, which I made for Haley's birthday:

Succulents hotpad

(I am still fairly new at doing paper piecing. This was REALLY fun to put together but involved some seam ripping as paper piecing requires you to think backward and my brain is still learning the tricks.)

Something I need to buy: A pair of shoes with stiff soles that I can wear to work. I'm currently wearing my hiking boots to work to support my healing toes but I don't think I won't need such support for awhile.

Something I have too many of: Shoes I can no longer wear. I've actually never been a "pointy-toe high heels" kind of girl. I like thick stacked heels and open toes, but I do have a few pair of high heels I just won't put on my feet again after my surgery. 

Something I'm finding ironic: red-hued politicians who simultaneously ban books and decry the "cancellation" of Dr. Seuss.

My current favorite treat: latte truffles from Lindt

A suggestion for better writing that I clearly can’t follow: Brevity is the soul of wit.

Tell me something random about you right now!