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.


Friday Library Stories

Fridays are my long days at the library, and yesterday I worked an extra hour. That really shouldn't feel that difficult but man, nine hours felt long even in a space I love.
 
As the day progressed, though, I found myself paying attention to the good vibes I was feeling. Someone thanked me sincerely for helping him print his document. A cute little girl in a black Friends t-shirt waved at me and said "I love the liberry!" The morning light through the east windows was perfect.
 
Despite it being a long day, it was also full of lovely little moments, so I thought I'd jot them down.
 
I helped a patron who needed some copies. He had one of those open and energetic vibes, and he told me several stories about his life adventures. He looked nothing like them, but reminded me so much of my dad and his brothers. They were always ready with a story to tell, and told it with the assumption that A---you knew exactly who they were talking about and B---they were the most interesting stories ever. (Quiet often they were!) And they could always talk about art. This gentleman had that same spunk & spirit &  innate storytelling vibe. I enjoyed his stories and I enjoyed feeling that connection to my dad.
 
I helped another patron find a book in Spanish...in Spanish! My Spanish is definitely not the greatest but when I manage to help someone in the language they understand best it makes me feel accomplished and somehow more...welcoming, I guess.
 
Our library tarantula, Libby, is a little bit anti-social and spends a lot of time in her burrow. She was out today though (I think she likes Fridays because when I see her out it is almost always on a Friday). Whenever she's actually out, if there are kids downstairs I'll let them know. One little girl was looking in the terrarium while her mom used the computer, so I walked over to point her out. When she spotted her—a little bit behind a leaf—she grabbed my hand and squeezed because, as she said, "I've never gotten to actually really see her in real life yet!" So cute!
 
An old family friend—she has known me since I was four—came into the library today and we had a really lovely chat. She told me that she always checks my staff displays and takes home at least one. A few months ago she took The Awakening and she told me it gave her so much to think about in relation to her decisions within the church. As I feel like every LDS woman in Utah County should read it simply for that reason, this made me feel super validated. Also I just really love it when people tell me they like my suggestions!
 
Another patron this afternoon asked me what the name of the statue by the reference desk is, so I told her  the name ("Incoming") and the story of the piece. In another life I'd like to be a museum docent, please. Preferably in Italy. I love talking about art (even if my knowledge is limited) because I LOVE art!
 
I survived my long day by just paying attention to the little good moments!

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.

Amy selfie 4 23 2021

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!


Random List of Happiness

One of my goals this year is to share my every day joys on Saturdays. I just pay attention to the things that make me happy, watch for some sort of photo op (I try to not have it be a selfie) and then post a list on Instagram at the end of the day. (You can follow me on Insta! amylsorensen )

But of course there are happy things that happen all the time, so just because, today I’m making a list of some random stuff that made me smile, laugh, or feel happiness in some form during the past week.

  • It rained! And rained some more! It’s actually been really chilly for last week, so no warm afternoons spent reading in sunlight, but I will always be happy when it rains here. It also snowed in the mountains and if I could I would be up there hiking in the last of the powder.
  • Speaking of rain. Yesterday it was raining, and slowly turning to snow, and I looked out my window when something caught my eye. (Had to lower my reading glasses to understand what I was seeing!) There was a guy on my neighbor’s roof. Washing windows—in the rain. “Like a man washing windows in a rainstorm” feels like a line from a poem to me.
  • Cooking with Jake. I made a roast on Tuesday and since I worked that afternoon, he peeled the potatoes for me. Then he hung out and made biscuits while I made the gravy. We listened to his playlist and talked a bit and it was just…nice.
  • On Sunday I was pondering what to make for dinner and I was like… “it’s going to cause an argument but I really want spaghetti with red sauce so that is what I am going to make.” (Kendell doesn’t like spaghetti, even though I make a scrumptious red sauce, but it is my favorite meal and yes, we have had several arguments during our marriage over spaghetti.) And just as I was finishing the sauce, Nathan walked in! He had his Guard weekend so I didn’t think I’d see him, but he surprised me. And then I surprised him with perfectly-timed spaghetti! (He does not share his dad’s spaghetti opinions.) After eating (kind of a late lunch because no one had eaten anything yet), he took a long nap in my bed and it just made me happy. Happy to have him home and to be able to take care of him.
  • Sharing poems on Facebook for National Poetry month. Almost no one responds with comments but I still like the thought that I'm putting poems out into the world. 
  • Nathan sending me pics of his drawings. And a good, long phone call with him.
  • The social media trend I’ve been seeing here and there (I don’t know if it’s even a trend) of writing a poem with the titles of the last books you read. I am totally working on mine!
  • A few days ago, the city I work for posted on Facebook the requirement to still wear a mask in all city buildings. Holy cow. I thought the anti-mask crazies had found some sanity, but apparently they’ve just been being quiet because there is a bunch of vitriol in that thread. I posted my thanks to the city for protecting its employees and things got ugly. But Haley waded in and started arguing in my defense. (I can’t really say much, as a city employee, even though I have some strong opinions.) My daughter kicking ass and counting names for me? Ummmm. So good.
  • I took Kaleb to get dinner one night at KFC. We had to wait a bit for his order and so we just hung out in the car and talked. He makes me laugh.
  • I drove! First time since January. It felt weird at first but muscle memory is a thing. SO NICE to have my independence back!
  • At PT this morning, the tech told me he used to play a game with his dad, trying to be the first to say who sang whatever song came on the radio. So for the rest of the appointment I called him out on songs. I was a bit disappointed he didn’t know Prince or Michael Jackson (and it made me feel old) but it was the first time I’ve really laughed during PT, so that was great.
  • Listening to Kendell’s story about his first trip back to the (newly remodeled) gym. There’s a slide and an uphill ramp and let’s just say neither of those were great for his 50-something body…
  • I finally got the quilts that have been waiting to be sandwiched pinned together. The pinning did not make me smile. (That is my least-favorite step of quilting. I actually detest that step.) But having them pinned did! And I started quilting one.
  • My audio book was making me so happy. I have been listening to N. K. Jemisin’s “Broken Earth” series because I never read the third one and I decided I want to, but I couldn’t remember enough details. So I’ve been listening and oh my. They are so good. I mean…a world with a community that lives in a giant geode? God, she’s brilliant. Sewing and listening to audio books is just a little piece of peaceful nirvana. BUT THEN. I have only about 90 minutes left in the second book, The Obelisk Gate, and my check out expired! NINTY MINUTES. And now I’m #13 on the hold list. I mean, I own the actual book. I could just finish it. But I was so enjoying listening to it!
  • I cooked dinner. I cleaned the kitchen. I did laundry. I vacuumed. None of which usually find themselves on my happiness lists…but having not been able to take care of anything much lately, it did make me really happy. To just walk around my house on my own two feet and do all of the normal things.

What made you happy this week?


Messy Craft Table as Self-Portrait

This morning my plan was to add the border to the baby quilt I’ve been working on, so I can get that one and the other two that I need to finish sandwiched and quilted. I got derailed by laundry, though, and needing a quick trip to Target for the laundry and since I’m still not driving I had to wait until Kendell had a break in his calls and then…

I walked into my crafty space and just kind of had to laugh. Because look at my table:

Messy crafty desk 4 8 2021

I’m not the kind of person who’s bugged by some clutter. I’m OK to work around it. But this is ridiculous…all the useable space is used up! So before I did anything, I needed to clean up my space.

But then I really looked at it, and I thought….hmmmmmm. That’s kind of a self-portrait right there, isn’t it? My desk says a lot about me, my personality, my affections, my obsessions. So before I cleaned up I snapped a pic. I know it looks like a cluttered ridiculous mess, but here’s what my table mess reveals about me (starting from the left and working to the right.

  1. I make quilts. I make baby quilts. If you are my friend or my family member and you have a baby, I’ll probably make a quilt for you. SOMETIMES I will buy the fabric but never make or actually give the quilt to you. But I still thought about it, that counts, right? It’s probably me overthinking, but the making of baby quilts is not just a shower gift for me. It is a love language that I speak to other people, a way of giving them my time and something tangible. It is because of Aunt Merle making me a baby quilt, and I can’t actually remember Aunt Merle but I can remember loving that baby quilt she made and so in essence some part of her is still here. Still remembered. Am I saying I make baby quilts to ward off my fear of death? Maybe. Don’t tell the new moms that though.
  2. My ginormous paper cutter. Kendell surprised me with this Rotatrim in 1997 or 98 and 20+ years later it still works perfectly. It felt obscenely expensive at the time but the long-lasting nature has made up for the cost. It is one of my most useful and most-used scrapbooking tools. And there on top of it is a quilting ruler, which I use interchangeable for quilting and scrapbooking.
  3. There are actually four things for placing cups on on my desk. The one I’ve used the longest is the one Elliot made for me. I think about him every day, partly because I have this beautiful and useful object he made for me. (Translation: my favorite gifts are the thoughtful and useful ones that carry some of the giver’s personality.) Also Monet’s Water Lilies, which I bought at the Denver Art Museum after seeing the exhibit. The corner is chipped because the airport security made me empty my entire carry-on bag (as has happened every time I’ve flown out of Denver) and the woman handling my stuff dropped it. Guilty of transporting art over state boundaries I guess and there’s always a price to pay for that. I’m not bitter.
  4. I didn’t think I would love having a laptop. I like the sturdiness of a desktop. But since Kendell’s been working from home (for the past four years, folks, don’t complain about your year-long time of never having any solitude or peace or quiet until you’ve done it for almost half a decade) and he uses the desktop, I’ve fallen in love with my laptop. Poems, essays, blog posts, political diatribes, editing photos, chatting with friends, writing scrapbook journaling and in my journal and bits & pieces of unfinished stories and…I use it a lot. So much so that I’ve worn out the left arrow key. (I don’t know why it’s that key.) Yes, I do have a purple mouse.
  5. The last scrapbook layout I finished, some supplies I still need to put away, my box of pins (unapologetically pink), a pile of purple pens. Just pretty and fun and colorful stuff I use.
  6. A couple of the border strips. I’m not 100% sure I can make the vision of this border actually work, but I’m going to try! I’ll let you know!
  7. My surgery amulets. I like Alex + Ani bracelets. During my recovery I wore those two gold ones. One has a seashell and it reminds me of the moment on the beach at Carmel when I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t muscle my way through this injury but would probably have to have it fixed. I cried a little but then I felt a deep sense of peace. Maybe the ocean waves were fooling me, but I felt like it would eventually be OK. The other has a charm of a gymnast doing a pose similar to dancer’s pose. I wore that one to remind myself that I have been strong and flexible in the past and those traits will help me be strong and flexible again. I’ve worn them every day since my surgery.
  8. Burt’s Bees. My favorite line stamp for journaling. My only real “mixed media” supplies that I actually use (the Heidi Swapp Color Shine spray). A box of new stuff from Felicity Jane, one of my favorite scrapooking companies. A book I’ve partially read.
  9. A headband and a scrunchie. Head bands are starting to show up around the house again, proof that I am doing more outside movement. I have some longstanding and fairly deep Forehead Issues, friends. It’s a story. I can’t stand to have my forehead exposed to sunlight. So I have a, well…a generously-sized collection of Bondi Bands. I keep them handy in all the spaces just in case.
  10. That clear tray holds new photos and supplies I want to use ASAP. The smaller pink one holds scraps I’ll use to make cards. As soon as I make cards. I still need to make, write, and send thank you cards to the many people who helped after my surgery. Three months later isn’t too late is it? 

I had to slightly clean off my desk just to write this post. Now I’m going to put on the border. Except I just heard the laundry machine ding…


Just a Rambly List about Us Right Now

Recently I’ve been digging in to some older photos for scrapbooking. This is partly because I still have so many stories to tell and partly because I have so few photographs of right now. (Kaleb hates having his picture taken and basically just scowls in every photo I take. Jake is at least past the scowling phase but if I hit it at the wrong time, asking him for a picture will spark an anxiety attack. Haley’s in Pennsylvania, Nathan’s in Salt Lake City, and since I still can’t hike yet…yeah. Not many new pictures.)

One thing I’ve really appreciated in this process is being able to go back into my blog to find stories I’d forgotten. Like the first time I made chicken curry, and Nathan literally HID because he was afraid it would be gross and didn’t want to eat it, and then ended up loving it. When I blogged more consistently, and about my regular, everyday details (instead of only book reviews and political rants), I ended up saving so many great stories. And even though I don’t have many photos, there are still stories to be told. (Although…to be honest: even some of the stories are not scrapbook-able, really. I’m not one who shies away from telling hard stories, but as the kids get older, their stories are sometimes harder and they don’t really feel like mine to tell.)

So today I thought I’d throw it back to early 20-ought-style blogging and just writer a right-now list about our family.

Feb 26 2021 fam

Kaleb is learning to drive. (how is my baby this old???)  He has his learner’s permit and is taking driver’s ed online. He tells me quite often how much he wants his own car. It doesn’t have to be nice, though….he’d be perfectly happy with a “butt car” as he calls it! It’s crazy how things change over time. When Haley was learning to drive we had zero intentions to buy her a car and we’d never actually purchased a used car before. It just didn’t seem within the realm of possibility somehow, and we made it work between the minivan and the Corolla. Ten years later, here we are: Kendell’s pretty good at finding the PERFECT used Corolla (not just for our kids but for Cindy’s as well) and he is starting to search for one for Kaleb. 

Nathan is finding his place. Or trying to figure it out. He has struggled a bit with different things since coming home in December. (See… “different things”… not stories I feel responsible to tell.) But I think this is all pretty normal after two years of being away in Army training. He has to make a new normal, and that is hard. But it is so nice to have him so much closer. He comes down usually on Sundays, to eat with us and hang out, and Jake has started spending some weekends at Nathan’s apartment. He sends me pictures of the art he is working on and asks for help with cooking and tells me funny stories about his job (he works in a salon right now). I have loved that he is growing closer to his cousin Abby, who he works with. And hugs on a more consistent basis are pretty awesome!

Jake is doing so much better. Sometimes I even hear him whistling again. I think the fact that he had to do more stuff around the house because of my surgery (he did all the laundry) actually helped him. Navigating his mental health issues has been hard on my mother’s heart, but then I just think about how hard it is for HIM and I know my heartache is far smaller. But he is so much more than depression and anxiety, and I feel super hopeful that this year will be a turning point for him.

One thing I just adore about Haley right now is her affection for plants. She LOVES them and is super knowledgeable about different varieties, what is rare, how to care for them. I had a little ah-ha moment recently about hobbies, which probably was always obvious but I never thought about it in just this way. As adults we have All The Things we have to do. Work and housework and the to-do list and washing the car and paying the medical bills. If that is all life was…that would be kind of sad. Hobbies are one of the things that give our life meaning and depth. And I am glad she has found a hobby she loves, even in the midst of all of her med-school stress. Work or school can be meaningful, our relationships are meaningful…but hobbies also bring us a level of pleasure.

Kendell is aching to be back on the trail again. He went hiking a couple of weeks ago with Cindy and I swear…as he bustled around getting ready there was sunshine coming from his pores he was so excited to be getting out. He’s had some ankle pain and started wearing his orthotics again. I think he’s getting pretty tired of me not being fully functional, but he has really helped out a ton.

And me…I just don’t know. I am feeling stuck. I saw this image today and it made me cry:

Bird against glass

Because I AM just like the bird hitting the window, but I don’t know how to turn around. Part of it is, of course, just being immobilized by my foot, but it goes far deeper than that. It’s also my job and my marriage and my…my lack of definition. I want to find a way to feel accomplished and self-sufficient but I don’t know the route. I want to feel proud of my life instead of slightly embarrassed, like I do now, and I want some….some richness. Not really in the sense of money, but in experiences and relationships. Everything feels so thin right now (yes, like butter over too much bread).

As I went back over this post to proof it, I realized…these aren’t really stories. They are little…snapshots, I guess, of who we all are right now. Hopefully on the downside of the pandemic. Each of us in our own way trying to figure stuff out. Which is just life, I guess. And even though I didn’t write any actual stories, I’m glad I wrote this today because it brought me a sense of peace. Our life is not perfect (far from it) but I DO feel the sense of how lucky we are to have each other in the ways we do.


Thoughts on Glue and Fairy Wings: 2020 in Review

My Facebook memories reminded me of THIS POST I wrote last year, a summary of the previous decade. I had totally forgotten I wrote it, but rereading it made me stop and think. I have a selfie I took last year when I was taking down the tree, and I meant to make a layout about a note I wrote to myself that day for this December: remember to buy glue for the fairy wings. Glue for the fairy wings (some broken Christmas-tree ornaments) seemed hopeful…I can fix broken things, even if they are ephemeral, even if the will forever be repaired now.

A year later, I’m not so sure.

This year. This year. 2020 was pretty damn awful, wasn’t it? Here’s my personal list of what felt the most awful to me:

  • A super dry January and February. Maybe that sounds ridiculous but the dry, brown winters make me feel nervous and sad. They set a tone right from the start of the year, of unfulfilled hope and of fear of devastation.
  • The pandemic. In Utah, things shut down in the middle of March. For me, at first this was mostly just strange—everyone working from home, the library shut down. I had to cancel a trip to St. Louis that I very much wanted to take. As it went on, I grew more fearful, especially as we started to realize the effects the virus can have on hearts. My brain started planning various people’s funerals and I, for the first time in my life, had regular sleepless nights.
  • I injured my toe. This happened on the day we hiked to Silver Glance lake in the snow; I’m not really sure why, but when I took my boots off after that hike, my second toe on my right foot was swollen and throbbing. I cut back on running, then took a three-week break. I had cortisone shots. I stretched, I strengthened my feet, I murmured encouraging thoughts to my toe. Every time it would start to feel a little better, it would flare up if I tried to run (or, you know…even if I tried to walk around my house in bare feet). Then, the day before we left for California, I was running and something popped. Turns out, after an MRI (that took SIX WEEKS for my insurance to approve) that I tore my plantar plate. Solution? Surgery. Which I’ve had to wait for until next week, so basically I’ve been walking around with a toe that slips in and out of joint since August. And NOT RUNNING. I haven’t run since July.
  • I had several painful and ugly confrontations with people in public. The first one happened at the post office when another customer yelled at me for wearing a mask. There were several “discussions” with library patrons. A lady at WalMart got in my face. I stood my ground but it felt…those experiences chipped away at my confidence in humanity.
  • I had several painful and ugly—but more subtle—confrontations with friends, families, and neighbors about my decision to stay at home as much as possible, to wear a mask, and to expect others to wear a mask. I have been called a coward and weak because I am “living in fear.” I’ve been told I am brainwashed by the liberal media. I have been told if I had enough faith I wouldn’t worry, because God’s gonna do what God does regardless of whether or not I wear a mask.
  • The trump trains. Again…this might seem like a small thing, in the scope of such an awful year. But seeing miles of big trucks waving that flag along with the American flag broke something in me. My body had a physical reaction, as if my heart were circulating thumbtacks instead of blood. I still get a little bit jittery at the sight of a US flag. Such blind, thoughtless admiration of a horrible man whose decisions have cost so many lives…I can’t understand it.
  • Family drama. Actually, “drama” isn’t even the right word for it. None of it is my story to tell, but it still affected me and I don’t know how to figure out a new normal.
  • Kendell had to start a new medication for his heart. He hates it and it makes him grumpy. But his heart will slowly fail without it. This is why I get so hurt by people telling me I am a coward for taking the corona virus seriously. I’m not a coward. I just know the very real results of living with a repaired body, and as I worry about my husband I also feel sorrow for all the people who didn’t die from COVID but will bear its scars in their bodies for the rest of their lives.
  • Over and over, our nation’s “leaders” disappointed me.
  • The wildfire that burned through some of my favorite hiking areas. The wildfires in California and Colorado, too. I don’t know those mountains as intimately as I know my own, but so much burning of beautiful places just ripped my guts out.
  • Watching the way the pandemic affected my kids. Each and every one of them has had their lives impacted by it. Again…not really my stories to tell anymore, but damn if I don’t wish I could fix it all for them even as I know just how much I can’t.

So many broken wings. Maybe there isn’t enough glue in the universe to fix what is broken.

But at the same time, there is also this:

  • We all kept our jobs. Mine even let me work from home so as to minimize Kendell’s risk of exposure. Financially, the pandemic hasn’t hurt us yet, and I am so, so grateful.
  • We all stayed healthy. Not only did we not catch the corona virus, no one even had a cold or the stomach flu all year long.
  • Working from home gave me a more flexible schedule, which translated into more hiking time, which meant even with my injury and taking time off from all exercise, I still got in 51 hiked this year, 48 of them with Kendell. One with Jake too!
  • I got the opportunity to learn how to use my new sewing machine by making face masks for others. I also made a lot of baby quilts and celebrated several of my friends becoming grandparents.
  • While many of my friends and extended family members got sick, no one I know closely was deathly ill or killed by it. I say that with the utmost sense of gratitude and sorrow for those who DID lose loved ones.
  • We remodeled our bathrooms.
  • Haley got vaccinated. So did my sister-in-law who is a nurse.
  • Haley got accepted to med school and moved to Pittsburg, where she is kicking butt at her classes, even while having to take them mostly online and without the benefit of a cadaver lab.
  • Nathan survived one the most difficult Army training programs, taking most of his classes via a laptop in his tiny barracks. He passed his tests and graduated and he is home for a while!
  • Elliot finished his PhD and got a job at MIT.
  • Jake and I had some important conversations and understand each other much better. He is SO ready for the restrictions to be lifted so he can move forward in his life.
  • Kaleb finished jr. high, made the basketball team for his sophomore year, and got two 4.0s. AND is learning to drive.
  • I grew closer to several of my friends via texting, even though we couldn’t see each other in person. And I had several opportunities to help other people while they were quarantined.

So…many good things this year, too. What is broken? What is too fragile or too torn to repair?

If I think of myself at the start of 2020 and here at the beginning of 2021, I feel like I am a different person. I feel, honestly, more than a little bit jaded and even more bitter than normal. Not because I don’t recognize and see the blessings in my life—I do. But the thing that makes a fairy is its wings. The things that made me who I am, or at least some of those qualities, have been severely challenged this year. What I am not sure I can repair is my belief that logic and kindness will always win out in the end. There has been so much ugliness this year and I feel…I feel like my wings are tattered. (And even as I write that I remember the memes about how the dufus wasn’t elected to tiptoe around my feelings.)

So as I start 2021, I am not sure. I want to glue my wings back—I want to figure out who I am now, and not let what is unique to me be discarded. But honestly? Honestly, I am not sure how. I don’t know where to get that glue.


Three Baby Boy Quilts

In the quilting group I’m in, lots of people have been posting their “quarantine quilts.” Things they finally finished during the shut down, or even started AND finished. Some people have finished five or six! I’ve also been sewing a lot. I think I made about 100+ masks before I got so tired of making them and gave it a break. I’ve made several quilty things, a few I can’t share yet because they are gifts, but here are the three baby quilts I made.

Board Books
I made this one for my librarian friend’s new baby. In the spirit of the age—ie, not shopping unless it was necessary—I tried to only use strips from my scrap box. I only partly succeeded…I think there are 4-5 totally new fabrics in there, and I cut into some fabrics I already owned because I needed a bigger variety of colors. 2020 quilts board books front
There are lots of book- and word-themed fabrics because she’s a librarian! I just sewed together random strips until they were about 8" wide, then trimmed into 7.5" squares. Since this is a mixed-media quilt (flannel AND cottons), I used a 3/8" seam to make it sturdier.

I was a little bit worried as I made this one that it would be TOO scrappy, but I think it turned out OK. I debated for a good while with myself about whether to make all the patterns run in the same direction (so there is a top and a bottom in the sense of "reading" the quilt) but in the end decided a random approach was better. 2020 quilts board books detail
One thing I love about making scrappy quilts is being reacquainted with older pieces. I had bits & pieces from quilts I made all the way back to Kaleb’s baby quilt. Quilts I’ve made for friends, family, neighbors, and my own kids. Seeing them again takes you back to how it felt to be making that first quilt. I love that!

For the back I used a panel. I had planned on framing it only with flannel, but when I dug into my stash I discovered a little piece of ultra flannel so I used that, too. Ultra flannel is a very thin flannel on the back side and silky on the front. My mom used to make us nightgowns with ultra flannel! I like using it in bits and pieces because it adds a different texture, both with the literal feel of it and the "visual" texture as well.

2020 quilts board books back

Mama Elephant

2020 quilts mama elephant front
I made this one for my neighbor’s daughter. Ha—writing that out sounds a little bit crazy. I love my neighbor, though, so even though I only know her daughter a little bit, I still wanted to make a quilt for her. I made this one with some of the 7.5" squares I cut when I did my big fabric organization last year. (I meant to cut 8.5" squares but for some reason, one day I cut a pile at 7.5" instead.) I’m so glad I finally conquered my fear of triangles! Half square triangles are so fun to make and come together really quickly. And there are so many options for how to piece them together. This was another quilt I tried to only use my stash for, and I achieved that with the top. The back, though, is new. So cute! 2020 quilts mama elephant back
The mom wanted African-themed baby items, so this seemed perfect. I tried to find every elephant-themed print I had. I have been experimenting with mixing low-volume prints so I tried that with this quilt. I didn’t get it exactly right…I think there are a few that aren’t low-volume enough, but it works.

Arthur’s Court
One of the girls who grew up in my neighborhood was having a baby named Arthur, and she was doing a dragon theme for the nursery. When I saw this panel I could. not. resist! (I got it from Hawthorne Fabrics.) I wasn’t sure how to cut the panel, though, because they aren’t the same size. I framed them each on one side to make the sizes the same, and since nothing in my patterns really matched, I went for solids on the other two squares. 2020 quilts arthurs court front
I LOVE that grey fabric! I bought it for masks and am glad I got three yards because it is the perfect grey. I *think* it is a Moda Bella solid called Silver. Sometimes greys are too something (green or yellow, usually, but sometimes purple) but this one seems to be right in the middle. Anyway, I quilted around the castle and the dragon to help them pop. The back is mostly flannel from my stash, except I had to piece a strip in the middle to make it big enough. I used dark grey thread for the back of the quilt so that the shapes would stand out against the light grey fabric, and then on the front I used light blue, dark blue, and light grey thread.

 

2020 quilts arthurs court back

Right now, I need to quilt two mini quilts I’ve made just the tops for, along with three hot pads. Once I get those done I am finally going to start on Kaleb’s quilt. I keep putting it off because I’m nervous about matching corners. Wish me luck! (Well…luck and precision!)

Did you make anything during the quarantine?


2009-2019: A Summary of a Decade

I love how, on social media, so many people are using the end of the decade to look at how their lives have changed in ten years. Comparing changes over time is a thing I am fascinated by and I like the way a designated span of time—here, the construct of a decade, but really, it can be anything—helps you see experiences in a different light.

Card
December 2009 family photo

But every time I thought about doing it for myself I felt a little bit frustrated. Here is the list I was making in my head about what has happened in the past ten years:

  • The litany of Kendell’s surgeries. At the end of 2009 he was starting to feel recuperated from his first heart surgery; after that he had two more heart surgeries, cardiac arrest, gall bladder removed, deviated septum repaired, a knee replacement.
  • All of our parents passed away.
  • Kendell graduated from college.
  • Haley, Jake, and Nathan all graduated from high school. Kaleb finished elementary school and started junior high.
  • Haley graduated from college.
  • Kaleb was diagnosed with his heart issue, a bicuspic aortic valve with an aortic bulge.
  • Each of my Bigs had their first significant romantic relationships.
  • I went to countless events for my kids. Soccer, basketball, and volleyball games. Choir concerts, orchestra concerts. Track meets.
  • Also countless: how much we used our health insurance. Kids’ broken bones, trips to the doctor or ER for stitches, and different illnesses. Nathan had shingles, Jake was treated for depression and anxiety, and all of us were in a long-term relationship with our dermatologist.
  • Jake, Haley, and Nathan all started wearing glasses. They also survived braces.
  • We had some family vacations: Disneyland more than once, Yellowstone, California beaches, Hawaii, Florida.

As I thought about my list, what hit me was how I was framing myself: in the context of everyone else. The big things feel like the ways I have helped and been involved with the people I love, and I do love them. Helping them and taking care of them and cheering them on is a huge part of my identity and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. But I was frustrated—and, frankly, startled—by how my first instinct was to think more of the experiences in other people’s lives than the experiences that I had. This train of thought at first took me to a sort of dark place. Sometimes it feels like, when you’re deep into your midlife years, the only exciting things left in your life are things that happen to other people. Things you are proud of them for accomplishing, or joyful for them being blessed in that way, but it is all other people’s experiences.

That left me feeling fairly…well, probably there is a German or Swedish word for “the feeling you have when you realize all of your big life experiences are past and all you have to look forward to is aging” but I don’t know what it is.

But then I took a deep breath and tried to think: wait. I also had experiences over the past decade that were MY experiences. That happened to me. Maybe they are smaller experiences, but they are still valuable. And even though there is this voice in my head saying it’s selfish of me to want to highlight my experiences over my family members’ (because isn’t that what a woman and a mother is supposed to do? Define herself in the context of the people she loves and not think about who she is outside of those relationships?), I’m still going to list them. It’s still valuable to celebrate the experiences the Universe brought ME over the past decade:

  • I got to visit Europe twice. Italy and then a whirlwind tour of England+Belgium+The Netherlands+Paris. It’s barely enough Europe but here’s a whole new decade that I hope includes much more travel.
  • I got to see so much art. I stood in front of Van Gogh’s paintings and wept because beauty can still come from darkness. I stood in front of Michelangelo's Slaves and felt understood by the world. I fell in love with obscure paintings for entirely personal reasons. I have always loved art but in this decade I got to experience it rather than only seeing it in books.
  • I went to New York City twice. For this person who is thoroughly From The West, New York was thrilling and exciting and enlightening and terrifying and like a whole different place.
  • I went running on beaches on both the Pacific and the Atlantic. I ran in Niagara Falls, Amsterdam, and Paris. I did a half marathon in New York and one in Denver. So long as I can run and travel I will always pack my running shoes.
  • I traveled to Mexico (Cabo San Lucas), Washington, Hawaii, California, Colorado, South and North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I am far from a world traveler but I got to see a lot this decade. San Francisco, Seattle, and Charleston are cities I got to walk around in and, as funny as it sounds, I can now say I can get around in a city if it has decent public transportation.
  • I hiked Half Dome in Yosemite. This was a significant turning point for my hiking confidence.
  • I got to be reunited with Elliot, the baby I placed for adoption in 1990.
  • I ran two full marathons and 8-10 half marathons, and many, many miles. I actually started running at the turn of a decade, in 2000, so this year marks my 20th year of running. I’m not always as consistent as I should be, but I am always in love with running.
  • I hiked. I hiked a lot. I fell in love with hiking and I found I have always loved the mountains but actually moving upon them has fulfilled me in so many ways. I’d hiked a little bit by the end of 2009, but 2010-2020 was a decade of hiking.
  • I healed from several running injuries. The two worst were my ankle sprain at the 2012 Ragnar and my torn femoral condyle which led to a cascade of knee issues. I also worked through a nagging hamstring strain (which was tied not to nothing physical but to the emotional struggles I was having at the time; once some situations with my kids got better, the hamstring pain stopped) and years of sacroiliac back pain. I also broke my finger, which wasn’t a running injury.
  • Both of my parents died. Yes, that happened to them, but it also happened to me. I’m an orphan and I’m also now the oldest generation. A co-matriarch with my two sisters.
  • I had a very few pieces of my writing published. (This is the thing I want to change the most over the next decade.)
  • I became a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.
  • I taught the teenage Sunday School classes at church; I also taught Relief Society (the women’s organization) and doctrine classes. I’m grateful for those opportunities I had to teach.
  • My relationship with my church (I am a Mormon, if now far, far on the fringe) has changed utterly in the past decade. This has been painful; a time of mourning. But it has also freed my soul from some very unnecessary fetters of guilt. I am now trying to understand what my spirituality looks like. I think this will be a process I experience my whole life.
  • I fell in love with national parks. I got to visit Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Congaree, and all of the Utah parks. I hope 2020-2030 will include many more fridge magnets.
  • I have learned—am continuing to learn—what it means to be the mom of adult children. It is far different than I imagined, in both difficult and amazing ways. I am excited to see what their upcoming decade brings them, too.
  • I worked at the library. I became a librarian, in fact. This is the longest job I’ve held in my life. It is sometimes frustrating (working with the public can be exhausting) and my small salary makes me feel a great deal of guilt and anxiety, but I love my job. It has brought me some of my closest adult friends and given me some amazing opportunities to interact with and learn from people. And of course brought me to so many books. I never imagined myself as a librarian but it really is perfect.
  • I read books. I guess I could go back and count how many, but I'm not going to. I didn't write about every book I read, I didn't love every one. But so many of them have helped me in different ways.
  • I made a lot of things. I wrote hundreds of blog posts and made even more scrapbook layouts. I cooked meals and baked cookies and pies and cakes. I made quilts for my kids and my house and for other people’s babies. I wrote poems and journal entries and essays. I planted and nurtured my flowers. I hope I also made my relationships stronger and nurtured the people I love.

Making this list makes me wonder, of course: what will the next decade bring? In ten years, what will my list look like? I have many hopes. Maybe I should write that list down, too. The things I hope 2020-2030 will bring me. But I’ve also learned that life is always throwing unexpected things at you, and so there will be many things that happen in the next decade I can’t even imagine now. Right now, I am trying to reach back in time to that Amy at the end of 2009 and tell her…tell her what? That things will be harder than she knows but there will also be so many good things, maybe. And I am also trying to reach forward to the Amy I will be in December of 2029 to hear what she can tell me.

But I bet it’s the same advice. Things will be hard. Things will be wonderful. And all I can do is savor and experience and act and create and love.

Family photo 2019
Family photo 2019

Goodbye July!

I can’t believe July is already over. We are still in the heat of deep summer here, and honestly, July isn’t my favorite month. It’s hot and almost no flowers are blooming and even the grass just seems drained.

But if July ends, then it’s August. And if it’s August, can autumn be far behind?

Time, though, moves too swiftly, so I’m trying to savor summer before it ends. I’ve tried since Kaleb got out of school, in fact, to just enjoy the days, even though they’re hot. One thing that’s helped is that this year I’ve mostly abandoned trying to wear shorts. I just never feel comfortable in them. I’ve worn a lot of dresses and a LOT of running skirts and yeah, my elephant knees are exposed but I’m just so much more comfortable this summer. I didn’t post on Instagram every day for 31 Days of Skirt, but I did actually wear Skirt Sports every day!

Heat aside, July was a pretty good month. And before I turn my calendar over to August, I wanted to write a recap.

Solstice to Equinox Streak:
I exercised every day this month, except for the Saturday I was sick. I didn’t do cardio every day; on some days I lifted weights or did resistance training for a half hour. I had a little exercise epiphany: there is almost always time. One day I went for a walk at 1:00 in the afternoon, when it was blazing hot, but I wanted to get it in. So I went to the shadiest part of a path by the river and I got it in. Several nights I did my resistance/weights at 9:00 p.m. But committing to the streak has helped so much, not just with my consistency but with my mindset about exercise. I can really do it every day. And while I have yet to see any weight come off (it actually is continuing to bulge around my belly…I have an appointment with my doctor next month because I’m so frustrated by this!), I feel like I am stronger.

I added cartwheels to my workout strategies. I know: that sounds totally weird, and is a cartwheel really a workout? Surprisingly, yes. More of a plyometric thing, but a simple cartwheel asks a lot of your upper body, your core, and your flexibility. Plus it’s just so fun! I visited for a little while one night with my niece and her daughter, who was trying to do ariels in the grass. My body totally remembers how to do them, how it’s not really about the speed you put into it but learning how to swing your arms correctly. I gave her some pointers, and she said “but you can’t do ariels Aunt Amy!” and I said “not anymore, but I can still do a pretty good cartwheel,” and she said “NO WAY! Show me! I think you’re too old!” and so when I was done holding her new baby brother I did a cartwheel for her. Never too old!

Cartwheels

I also achieved a milestone this month that I haven’t done in two years: I had a 100-mile month. 103.7, to be exact. (To compare, I ran 90.5 in June and 75-ish in May.) And, I know: that’s not a lot to many people. Lots of runners have 100 mile weeks! But for me, it is a little reward to see my count for the month go over 100. Even last summer when I was in marathon training I never had a 100-mile month (whooping cough!). It feels like I accomplished something. Not all of those miles were running, but that’s just fine, because I also hiked a lot!

Running:
I ran a total of 50 miles (it’s actually 49.98 but I think I can round up). I had my longest run since my marathon, 6.5 miles around where I live. I had the fastest mile I’ve had in a long time, 8:48. (Again…I know that’s not fast in comparison to many runners. But it’s fast for me.) And, guess what?

I TOOK UP TRAIL RUNNING!

Trail running

Well, maybe “took up” is too intense. I started trail running. I didn’t buy any trail running shoes so I don’t feel like I can call myself a “trail runner” yet. I was cautious and I went on very safe trails. But I just decided one day: I want to run trails too. (A longer blog post is coming on this topic.) I did two trail runs and I’m really itching to do more.

Hiking:
Big Springs with friends twice
My friend Wendy and I got out three times for hikes in the foothills.
Kendell and I together: Great Western Trail, Scout Falls and part of the TImponooke Trail (until the snow got too risky), Buffalo Peak, Rock Canyon, and Silver Glance Lake. We are up to 28 hikes together this year. I’m hoping we can make it to 50 but we’ll see.

I am more in love with hiking than ever. The best thing this year is the wildflowers. They’ve been amazing from all the snow we’ve had! I just wish that I were a better photographer and could capture images that communicate how beautiful they are. But instead of carrying my big camera to photograph the flowers, I have tried to focus on being present and fully admiring the meadows.

20190719_200502 wildflowers buffalo peak 4x6

Family:
I had a couple of conversations with my kids this month that helped me get rid of some unnecessary guilt I’ve been carrying for a long, long time. Well, maybe the guilt wasn’t exactly “unnecessary,” but these two conversations just helped me to see my choices in a different light. My heart feels so much lighter.

I took Kaleb to swim in a little local pond this month, with some of his friends. He loved it. I had taken him there five years ago, when he was only 9, and I had to pull up my pictures of that day. It was amazing to see how much he has changed. (Sometimes I just have to stop thinking about how utterly strange it is that Kaleb, who was the baby I waited the longest for, is becoming a person. Even though he’s been a person (by which I mean, not a baby) for a long time, it still just sometimes hits me hard. I waited and prayed for him for so long, and then, BAM, all of a sudden he’s grown up. I had a lovely time relaxing on the grass by the pond, reading, but I got so fried on my legs. Three weeks later, they are still so tender and itchy.

Kendell and I had a fun date night when we had to drive north to pick Kaleb up from Lagoon, an amusement park about 90 minutes away from us. We brought Kaleb and his friend some pizza for dinner, and then he and I went out to eat, went shopping, and then saw The Lion King. We haven’t done enough dating in the past little while. We hike together a lot but it was nice to get out and do something a little bit different.

I got to meet my two newest great nephews. I just love babies and am so happy they are here safely. I love that both sides of our family continue to grow.

Hobbies:
While I managed to buy a lot of new supplies, I didn’t ever get around to making any scrapbook layouts this month. I haven’t, in fact, made a scrapbook layout since February or March. I’m not really sure I can explain why, but this is the longest I’ve gone without scrapbooking since I picked up the hobby in 1996. I scrapbooked as a mom with young kids, as a mom with young kids working on her degree, as a mom with young kids doing student teaching and then being a teacher. I scrapped around Kendell’s many surgeries. I scrapbooked while I stayed up late waiting for teenagers to come home from dances and jobs and dates. It’s been a central part of my identity for as long as I’ve been an adult. Kendell working from home has something to do with it, as does the process of cleaning out my mom’s house. (By scrapbooking am I just creating a huge burden for my kids to deal with when I’M dead?) Some of it is that I feel like all the pictures of my mom’s that I need to scan are hanging over me, a project that is zapping all of my creative energy. Some of it I don’t understand. I still want to make scrapbook layouts. I still shop for supplies. I just…haven’t done it.

But! I have quilted a ton. I’ve got all my scraps managed and organized. I am almost done with the quilt I’m making for Jake and then I can start the one I’m making for Kaleb. I am actually, finally sewing together all the billion half-square pink and black triangles I’ve made over the past 7 or 8 years. (I’m trying to decide…is 90x90 too big for a quilt that won’t be used on a bed? I just have so many squares I love. And I live with tall people. But on the other hand: How much will a 90x90 quilt weigh once I back it (with minky!) and add batting? Will it even be useful or just a big pain in the butt?

July has not been a great reading month for me. I’m stuck in a book with characters I like and am interested in…but the story is moving so slowly I keep putting it down for other things. But I don’t want to not finish it because I want to know what happens to them all! Maybe I need another sick day just to get through it. I am also re-reading the novel Contact, which I read about 18 times as a teenager. I was a little bit nervous about the re-read because what if my adult tastes found it lame or inane or narrow minded? But what I am discovering is just how much of my beliefs about the universe/religion/is-there-anything-after-this-life was shaped by this book. Which is really strange, but also fairly liberating.

Finally, writing. I’m continuing to work on the poem I started. There is a deadline and a place to submit so that is pushing me. I still haven’t written the perfect transition I need, but I DID dream I wrote it, and then in the dream repeated it over and over so I wouldn’t forget it when I woke up. But I don’t remember it. I want to write more—I have an essay about pie crust that’s partly formed, too.

Tomorrow I am going to write my goals for August, but right now I am going to go sit out on my back porch. I’m going to listen to the crickets and admire the scent of the summer air, which is especially delicious tonight because it rained today. I’m going to breath in this deep-summer night and try to store it up as a hedge against winter darkness.

How was your July?