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?


Working My Way Out of Sadness

I was full of sadness this morning.

I had planned on going with Kendell to his INR check and then running home, but my knee was unhappy, so I didn’t. I waited outside for him, though, and the air smelled so fresh and felt so cool it made me distrust it. Like it might be the last good thing I could remember before something bad happened.

We went home and I listened to a little bit of the news, and then I read again about Emmett Till to refresh my memory of what happened to him, and while I tried to read it out loud to Kendell I started crying. Why are humans so awful to each other? Why are cruelty, meanness, judgment, racism, violence our first responses? Why is the world so ugly when it doesn’t have to be?

Next I cleaned the kitchen and I texted with Nathan and I started crying all over again. Not only because I miss him—I miss him, and I thought while I stirred up some protein pancakes about how he is so good to me, how he is sort of my Person, in the sense that he tries to understand me and is gentle and kind to me and takes me for who I am, but how that isn’t fair to him because his Person should be his one-day spouse—not only do I miss him, but because of how his absence is a symbol for how everything changes, how I am at the cusp of not having any kids living at home, and how I want that to be a good time in my life, how it can be good, but also how I miss it when everyone was still at home.

While I ate I read some poetry and this line made me feel a little less alone, from a poem by Oliver de la Paz about small towns: “as though//the little things we tell ourselves about our pasts stay there,/rising slightly and just out of reach.” I had almost skipped reading this poem when I turned the page because it is long, but I read it and it both devoured and fed me. Fed because yes, I too will never be done being haunted by the little town I shook loose from and I thought it was just me but of course it isn’t. Devoured because the poem is so good, and I want to write good poems but I’m not sure I really have the capability or skill or talent or ear.

But I took my drink out to the porch and tried working on a poem I have been working on for weeks now, a poem about finding my own voice, and I got stuck at the same place I always get stuck in this poem, which is the transition between the persona in the poem listening to others and then deciding to listen for her own voice instead. In my real life, this transition was marked by so many things, too many to cram into one poem—the Kavanaugh hearings and the way the Mormon men upheld him, my growing understanding that the bridge between my mother and me was starting to burn, her illness and the way my inability to help her the way she thought I should was a match, a thing to see with briefly but then a thing that started the fire. It wasn’t one thing, it was a process, it was a slurry of things, a flood, and I had always been living in a flood I just hadn’t noticed how hard I was trying to stay on top of the water. All the things that had kept me floating before were punctured. And in the poem I want a line that captures that transition. I have the beginning and the end, but not the transition.

So I sat on my back porch with my orange notebook and my “feminist” mug and I tried to figure it out. The air was still deliciously fraught and then, very gently: it started raining. A delicate rain, consistent enough I had to move back under the overhang so my notebook didn’t get wet. I smelled the air and worked on my poem and sipped my drink.

I didn’t figure out the transition yet.

I didn’t write a good poem.

I couldn’t hug Nathan, or run downstairs to see Haley working on homework somewhere. I still don’t know how to help Jake or what path Kaleb will find.

My house is still too empty and at the same time I want it to be completely empty. I crave solitude but I am lonely.

But as the rain fell my heart lifted. A little, a little. The smallest bit of hope crept up as the rain tickled my toes. Maybe I won’t always be lonely. Of course Jake will figure out his life. How can a world that smells like that—petrichor and water and petunias and the green scent of the catalpa leaves giving off a little bit of their summer heat into the cooling air—only be filled with ugliness, despair, and violence? It’s not. There is good here, too. Even in my little corner.

I smelled the air and then I turned back to my notebook.

Maybe there is a good poem in me, too.


April in Review

Next to October, April is my favorite month. Not just because it’s my birthday month, and my daughter’s, and my best friend’s (also one of my grandmother’s and two of my great nieces’), but because it is beautiful. I love spring flowers so much. Especially hyacinths! We’ve had a cold, slow, Spring hyacinths
rainy spring here in Utah this year, so everything has bloomed later than usual (which is fine by me because there’s less chance of flowers being withered by late snows), the grass and trees are bright green, and even the foothills are verdant (I love my mountains but they’re in a desert; temperate, yes, but often and usually brown and dry). The valley is full of color in April, flowering plum and almond trees in shades of pink, yellow forsythia, sometimes even a few early lilacs. Daffodils in every shade dot yards and even the dandelions seem beautiful, it’s just so lovely to see color again after the grey, dun shades of winter.

I’m always sad when April comes to an end.

So here’s a list to help me remember this beautiful April before May starts in with its certain lilacs and vibrant iris.

  • My sisters and I finished emptying my mom’s house. We spackled and painted and got it up for sale. While I am glad this is finished, I am also really sad this is finished. There are no more treasures left to find and I don’t get to see them every week.
  • Kaleb spent a Saturday afternoon straightening up my mom’s yard. It looked so much better when he was finished.
  • After a rough start, Kaleb started enjoying his soccer games again. The start was rough Kaleb soccerbecause he has really fallen in love with basketball, and the rhythms of a soccer game are definitely different. Once he remembered he loves it, though, he loved playing again.
  • Haley went to Mexico to celebrate her birthday. I loved seeing her pictures come up on Instagram and now I really want to take a trip to Cozumel, too!
  • Whenever my schedule and the weather let me, I went outside to work in my yard. Last year I let it get ahead of me, but not this year. (I think I will always be grateful now for springs without whooping cough!) I’ve weeded and planted a few new things. All of the rain has made it more difficult, though, so I still have some seeds to plant.
  • Nathan settled in to his training at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. He struggled with shin splints and with knowing how to negotiate getting medical care. This military experience is new to us. He didn’t want to seem like a wimp. But eventually he had to take some time off of running (which really is the only way to conquer shin splints) to let them heal. I hope his fellow soldiers didn’t give him too much grief. To help, I sent him a bunch of different things: another tube of Deep Blue, some compression socks, two new pairs of running shoes, new combat boots. He has just started running again and I am hoping the time off will have helped.

  • Spring hiking desolation pointKendell and I hiked four trails: Desolation, Johnson’s Bowl (new to both of us!), Battlecreek Overlook, and Grove Creek. I loved the winter hiking but it is pretty nice to not need so many layers anymore, and to see colors in the mountains again. Our last two hikes even had a few wildflowers! 75 miles of hiking, 7000+ feet of combined elevation gain.
  • Spring runningI ran just over 40 miles in April. As my March total of hiking and running was just under 40, I’m happy with that. I ran longer than I have since my marathon in July; when I told Kendell that he pointed out that running 5.5 miles isn’t as impressive as running a marathon and then I had to remind him that I’ve been fighting an injury, duh! I am grateful every time I go out for a run that I’m still running.
  • We tried a couple of new restaurants. Bam Bam’s BBQ is a place my sister recommended for their nachos. We didn’t love them and will continue looking for a good place for take-out nachos. (Our favorite place, El Azteca, closed over a year ago and we’re still sad about it!) We also tried Bajio’s, again for nachos, which were better but still not fantastic. We went to Rubios on National Burrito Day. My burrito was delicious but they were out of almost everything (even though we got there at barely 5 pm) so I was disappointed not to have the steak burrito I first wanted. (While we were there they also ran out of chips, guacamole, and sour cream; seems like someone forgot to check inventory!)
  • Some meals I made: chicken alfredo, chicken with cream sauce (I made this with ricotta and romano, so the flavor was different from alfredo), cream of broccoli soup, chili with savory corn cakes. Also, of course, tacos, which are Kendell’s favorite. And red bean burritos, which I usually only make when Haley’s home. I am trying to cook more, not always successfully, as sometimes it’s just me and Kendell eating dinner and it seems like a waste of time to cook just for us. One thing that’s helped me a bit is trying to prep a few things on Sunday. A recent favorite is to dice a whole package of chicken breasts (the big package from Costco) into bite-sized pieces, toss it in olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic, red pepper flakes, and basil, and then bake it. I like this so much better than cutting the chicken after it’s cooked, because then all the edges are a little bit crispy. I make a meal with some of the pieces, save some for another meal, and then freeze the rest.
  • Kendell and I finished up watching The Walking Dead and started watching Game of Thrones. My favorite thing about this season so far: the song in the second episode, and talking about each episode with Jake. He watches them with friends and we’re sometimes watching a day or two later, but he’s careful to not give any spoilers.
  • I did pretty well with my goals: I ate more veggies (not every day, but way more), I only had two days when I didn’t reach my water goal, and I think I rocked it on my blog-every-day goal—I only missed three days.
  • Things I bought: A new Hydroflask (the watermelon color!), new regular shoes for Kaleb, new basketball shoes for Kaleb, new soccer shoes for Kaleb. New bras, yay! A few Skirts. A red dress that I’m not sure I’m going to keep. Sprinkler parts for the sprinkling system. A new blade for my rotary cutter. A bunch of storage containers.
  • I used my DSLR. I haven't done that since November! I took it to Kaleb's Alpine Days track meet. He won fourth in the high jump and I got some great pics. I think I'm going to add "use DSLR" to my goal list! Kaleb alpine days
  • I read two books: Ammonite by Nicola Griffith and The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.
  • I only read two books because I spent all of my free time doing stuff with fabric. I shopped, I bought, I cut, I pieced. I made it more complicated than it needed to be but I think I just needed the process of a more intricate quilt (two, actually). I think it was my way of dealing with my mom’s death. She didn’t teach me everything I know about quilting, but she taught me to love fabric and to give pretty gifts. I can’t say I gained any resolution or much peace…but some. A bit. (I will share more of these two quilts once I finish them and give them to the moms of the babies they are for.)
  • Actually, that’s not true: I worked on three quilts. And I shopped for four. I started a new quilt for Jake, as the one I made him oh…four years ago, I think, or maybe five, was totally worn out. I’m doing it in shades of blue and grey, all flannel except for a little bit of minky. And I’m still picking up pieces for Kaleb’s quilt, which he needs because he’s now sleeping in a queen-sized bed. I’m excited to see both of these quilts come together!
  • Kendell had a heart check-up in April, and everything is looking good. This will of course never not be scary for me, AND to make it more difficult I also talked to his surgeon about Kaleb’s heart issues. I managed to not start sobbing, but only just. Every single one of you reading this right now, stop and give thanks for your healthy heart to whatever deity or spirit you believe in. Hearts are scary and the fear is pervasive.

Now on to May!


Life Right Now

 

Here I am, just past three weeks into my 100-day project of blogging every day. I’ve missed a few days, but not many. As I’ve continued to write my posts, I have begun asking myself: Why am I doing this? Not in an existential “why” sense. But, what do I hope to gain? What can I learn from this process?

One thing I wanted to do was re-establish a writing habit. In a sense I have done that, as I’ve blogged nearly every day. But it hasn’t been at the same time or with any predictability. I’ve written some of my blog posts while watching TV at night with Kendell, which really is just fulfilling my self-imposed requirement rather than dedicating myself more fully to writing. I started out doing this project with the hopes that I would find my writing personality, my writing identity, again. I’m not sure I’ve done that. I think I need to find ways to explore other topics and look at things in different lights. Not because I’m trying to capture more readers or followers, but because of that search for my writerly self.

But this post is not going to be one of those kinds of posts.

Today while I was gardening, I was listening to a podcast about scrapbooking. (The Scrap Gals podcast.) In this episode they were talking about telling our stories (as opposed to feeling like everything you make has to be about someone else, an idea I am thoroughly a fan of), and one of the ways to do that was to make a layout about who you are right now. I used to do this with some regularity, mainly about my kids but sometimes about myself. Often enough that has an abbreviation in my scrapbooking spreadsheet (YES! I do have a spreadsheet about scrapbooking; two, in fact): LRN (for Life Right Now). Sometimes I did this on my blog, sometimes in my journal, sometimes on scrapbook layouts. I really do love looking back on those past ways of being and thinking, and while yes: it isn’t really fantastic writing, I do think there is also merit in it, simply because my own story matters, too. So here it is, the long-awaited and very popular post about my life right now.

My biggest complaint about my body right is my unreliable knees. (Ten years ago, when I was in my 30s, I’m not sure I had any complaints about my body, except the usual my-boobs-are-small-my-thighs-are-big vexes.) They aren’t really painful, per se, except for occasional stabby pains and right at the start of a run or a hike. More, it’s just that they don’t work like they’re supposed to. They just don’t bend normally, and the right one (the one that suffered from a crackled femoral condyle) won’t straighten all the way. But still: I am running and hiking. I am trying to find exercises to strengthen my quads that don’t require lunges or squats (harder to find than you might imagine). And I’m just going to keep on keeping on for as long as I can.

I am pondering going back to physical therapy though. Maybe once a week e-stim and stem would be good for me.

While my identity is not only tied to my kids, no life-right-now list would be complete without them. Haley is living in Colorado with her boyfriend, Austin. She is working at a pharmacy at a hospital. She recently figured out that she applied to med schools too late last year and so will have to reapply this spring. So, one more year of working, saving money, and (I hope) resting and building up her energy for med school. Jake is living at home and sorting out his life. So much of his story right now is just that, his story, not mine to tell. But he is doing so much better than he was a year ago. I have every faith in him that he will figure it out. Nathan is at his AIT in Arizona. It is so nice to be able to communicate with him so much faster now; when he was at Basic we could only send letters. Now, in the evenings he can call or text. He is struggling with shin splints and has discovered the magical inefficiencies of military health care. Kaleb is enjoying his soccer season finally. He wasn’t thrilled when it started again, as he has a new love: basketball. He loves basketball. He even watches basketball games on TV. His track season ended yesterday with the regional meet, called Alpine Days. He got 4th in the state on high jump, matching his PR of 5’2”.

Stuff I really like right now: half square triangles, dark chocolate toffees from Trader Joe’s, hazelnut-flavored beverages, my new big pink mug, being outside doing almost anything but especially working in my garden, the last Game of Thrones season, talking about the last Game of Thrones season with Jake.

Things I am grappling with: My faith. (Right now I don’t have any callings and am not going to church very often. Am I happier this way? I’m not sure yet.) Whether or not we should move. (I know exactly what I want my new, imaginary house to look like. In my head it is designed to accommodate the next 25 years of my life, which I’m hoping will eventually include sons and daughters-in-law, grandchildren, family parties, as well as Kendell’s OCD issues. But…I love this house, too. I love my memories here. I love my trees and my yard and my view of Timp. But I want to live somewhere I feel like I fit in. But that’s a lot of effort and expense considering the very large possibility that maybe I don’t fit in anywhere. But that vision in my head of my beautiful new house!) How to fulfill my goals. What will happen if I really do need knee surgery. Selling my mom’s house. Coming to terms with the reality of my relationship with one of my sisters. (Despite what alcoholics and addicts think, their actions, words, and decisions don’t only influence them.) How to help my adult kids in their adult lives. Whether or not I should let Kaleb play ninth grade basketball. (He is really good at basketball but his pediatric cardiologist doesn’t want him to play and that’s all I can write about it for now because I am filling up with terror and despair.)

What I am wearing right now: (I don’t mean literally right now as I write this, but if you’re curious: a black running shirt and the long sleeve from the half marathon I ran in Brooklyn; Kendell just walked by and said “you stink!” which is true as I just finished running and haven’t showered yet.) My knees feel so much better if I wear compression. So lately I wear a loose dress (almost all of them are like this one by Karen Kane) with black running tights or capris. Do I look weird in these outfits? I don’t know. I think I’m old enough that I don’t care. I also wear my workout clothes when I work in the yard. Or do housework. Sometimes I make myself put on actual jeans or pants, but honestly I just want some compression.

The story of my shoes: I have to wear orthotics because of my bunions and capsulitis. So I’m still wearing my Dr. Martens a lot. I know, summer is coming. (I dread the coming of summer because I look so awful in shorts.) But my feet are happier in shoes with tons of support. BUT I’ve got my Chacos out of the summer-shoe storage and my feet are also happy in those. Don’t tell anyone, but because of an awesome deal at the Rack, I currently own five pair of Brooks running shoes. And, because Kendell is slightly obsessed, I have three pair of Keen hiking boots. But one has purple laces so how could I resist?

Hormone status: I’m forty-freaking-seven. I am starting to have…I don’t think they are actual hot flashes. They are hot sleeping. My circadian rhythms are a freaking Katie Perry song. Also, losing weight: that’s a myth, right? From here on out it’s just gain, gain, gain, no matter what I do???

Stuff I do: work (poetry & essay collections, book group everything, reference desk hours), laundry (it is so weird how easy it is to do laundry for just three people—Jake does his own. Sometimes the easiness gets me behind, though, because I’ve started thinking, ehhhh, there’s almost nothing in the baskets, I’ll wait until tomorrow and then I wait too long.), running, hiking, gardening (OH how I love spring gardening!), cooking (but only sometimes, see note about 3 people’s laundry; it’s the same with food and, actually, I need to be better about cooking). Every morning I drive Kaleb to school, which is kind of a pain because it means I have to haul my butt out of bed, now that he’s at a different junior high and can’t walk. But once I’m awake I actually really love it because it gives us some one-on-one time to talk or tell stories or fight over the radio station. I’ve been sewing a lot and honestly, I think it is my way of coping with my mom’s death. A little bit of scrapbooking, but not much.

One last thing: I got a new curling iron from my friends the McAlisters and it is the best thing ever. Smooth curls, not too tight or loose. Swoon!