Friday, January 15, 2021

2016 to 2021

 I realize it's been a long time since I've posted here.  I got caught up in all sorts of things and just didn't make time for the things I used to love, like blogging.  And a lot of blogs have been abandoned over the last few years, mostly because Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are quicker and easier.  I fell into that little trap, I guess.  And the truth is, being a mom has taken up a lot of my energy.  Being a mom, helping my husband take care of his mom during her cancer treatment and subsequent health issues, working toward being healthier myself, and accomplishing other goals have taken priority and pushed writing and even reading to the back burner.  But I'm trying to revive my passion for these things and this blog is a big part of that.

But first, an update.  Yikes.  

Okay, so I joined the local Y and started going to group fitness classes.  I discovered a love for them and they helped me lose 80 pounds.  I felt better than I ever remembered feeling in my entire life.  I even trained in 2019 to teach one of those classes, a mixed martial arts class set to music called Body Combat.  It was thrilling and exciting and I loved doing it.  I only got to teach for about six months and then a global pandemic hit.  2020 was truly a difficult year.  The gym closed for several months and when it opened back, only a few classes were available.  I didn't go to any of them because we decided to remain isolated due to health issues that caused several family members to be high risk for covid-19, the virus that changed the entire world.  We started virtual school in March of 2020 and are still in virtual school today.  A lot of the kids went back in August of 2020 for the next school year, but we opted to stay virtual to minimize exposure.  It was a good decision and I don't regret it for a moment.  But minimizing exposure meant staying away from crowds - especially ones that had people breathing hard while doing intense cardio.  Bye bye, teaching fitness classes.  :(  I've been in a love/hate relationship with working out at home since then.  I do love it and I'm excited that I have access to all the programs, even those my gym didn't offer, but working out at home as not as much fun and I've gained some of the weight back.  I loved the gym for the interaction with people as much as for the exercise.  I hope I can go back at some point.  I've started some new hobbies and have enjoyed them.  I got a lot more proficient in crochet and even taught a few classes at a local yarn shop, but again, covid messed that up.  I started an art journal and tried a few different types of art.  I've realized I really like painting and using oil pastels and drawing.  I'm not great at any of it yet, but maybe one day.  I may post some pictures of my art pieces here just so people can laugh.  ;) 

I've come to the realization that I've always been a progressive Christian.  I just didn't know that was actually a thing.  Over the past few years, I've found some amazing support and resources to help me grow in this faith and meet others who also feel this way.  It is freeing and wonderful and I finally feel at peace with my faith journey and how it's going.  Podcasts and Facebook groups have been so helpful here.  I've started following various people on Twitter and Facebook for their wisdom and insight.  I've realized that there are other ways to love Jesus - better ways.  I haven't been to church in several years because I haven't found one that works for me, but mostly because I feel like I need to work things out on my own first.  Some of the podcasts I've really learned from are: The Bible for Normal People, For the Love with Jen Hatmaker, Straight White American Jesus, and Evolving Faith.  I've been reading a lot, too.  I'm just trying to figure out where I stand and how American Christianity fell so far.  It has been a disappointing four years in faith and politics, and I've had to confront some things I didn't want to deal with concerning the beliefs and attitudes of people very close to me.  They call it deconstruction and reconstruction and I feel that with every fiber of my being.  But, in the midst of all the deconstruction and finding faith again, I do feel closer to God than ever.  I feel like a follower of Jesus, rather than a follower of a pastor or politician or someone else in the public eye.  Reading those red letters in my Bible and trying to understand the cultural and historical context, as well as approaching the Bible as a whole as a book about the way people have related to God historically instead of an instruction book for the way we should always relate to God has been eye opening and very life giving.  I have a long way to go, but I'm hanging in there.  

Jon's mom was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and went through chemo, radiation, and surgery.  She wasn't able to drive because had begun to lose her vision.  We drove her every day.  It was brutal for her and for us, honestly.  The kids came with me when they had to, but mostly my mom watched them while I went and picked her up and took her to appointments.  Sometimes, Jon had to meet us at the doctor's office so I could sit outside with the kids while he went in with her.  She was in a wheelchair because she was too weak to walk at that point and couldn't see well.  Her decline was sharp and startling.  She needed almost constant care.  Our lives were very different for about three years.  Jon had to go over there a lot, and I did, too.  Making meals for her, getting her groceries, paying her bills, and changing her colostomy bag.  It was overwhelming for him and the stress was so, so hard.  We did our best, though, because she wanted to live a few more years so the kids would remember her.  I'm not sure those memories are really good ones, but at least they have them.  She passed away from kidney failure in November of 2020 after spending about a month in the hospital and a few weeks in hospice care.  Now Jon is dealing with all the estate stuff because she never did a will and there's a house and some medical bills to deal with.  His brother is doing nothing to help, of course, and has even accused Jon of trying to "screw him" even though Jon has now spent thousands of dollars on lawyer fees and other assorted expenses.  My fear is that he will cause trouble with the probate case.  In the meantime, we are working on cleaning out the house Jon grew up in so we can sell it.  His mom sold it to him after her diagnosis because she wanted him to have it.  It is full of "stuff" and we've already filled a large dumpster with two more rooms to go.  We've been going over there on weekends to clean and while we are seeing some results, it's a little bit daunting.  But once we are done, we have a realtor friend who is planning to help us sell the house as-is, and we can hopefully use that money to get ourselves into a better position and maybe even close in our garage so we can use that space for indoor/outdoor living space.  I have some major plans for our back yard.  Otherwise, we are doing well.  The kids are growing like weeds.  Nathan is 8 and Nicholas is 6!  I love these ages, but could do without some of the sass.  They got it from me, so I can't even be mad about it.  Going through all this together has made us all stronger as a family.  I'm grateful for that, since it could have gone the other way.  I know a lot of families are torn apart by this kind of stress, so I'm glad we are strong and still happy together.  I feel like I've aged 10 years in the last 3, and I'm sure Jon feels the same.  I'm hoping we can focus on having fun as a family this year.  That we can take back some of the lost time from the last few years and start to really enjoy each other again.  

Dumpster fire.  Since 2016, that's all it's been.  But there have been some positives.  I'm pretty fully in the progressive democrat camp now, and Jon is more progressive than I've ever seen him.  Watching his mom go through the healthcare system really changed his feelings about things like Medicare for All and other more progressive ideas.  Trump was exactly the president I knew he would be - a disaster.  And the evangelical group has become more and more like a cult for Trump than a Christian denomination.  It has been heartbreaking to watch.  I have gotten more active in politics than ever, and I honestly don't care what other people think about my political views.  I've been called names by people I thought were good, reasonable, adults.  I have had people question my Christianity and morals.  But it's okay, I know where I stand.  I feel certain Jesus would be a progressive too, since He literally turned all the religious believes of His day on their heads.  Caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, the voiceless, and those who need our help is his most prominent message, and somehow evangelicals think their policies of tax cuts for the rich are "Christian"?  It baffles me and saddens me at the same time.  We are only a few days away from a new administration, and while Joe Biden is not the candidate I supported in the primary, I fully support him and intend to hold him accountable for all he has promised.  We need to move forward, not backward.  And there needs to be no room in our country for racism and racists.  

I think that's all for now.  It's been a crazy few years.  I'm sure there's more that I have forgotten, but I'll fill in those blanks later.  

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Reading World Tour: Pakistan

Reading World Tour - Book 1
Country: Pakistan
Book: I Am Malala
Author: Malala Yousafzai
Genre: Nonfiction (Memoir)

This was an absolutely fascinating and inspiring story.  Malala is a strong and important voice for education (especially for girls) in her country and in the world.  She began speaking out at a very young age and was targeted by the Taliban for using her voice.  

This book begins with the shooting and then goes back in time to her birth, telling her story as only she can.  

Several things struck me while listening to the audiobook.  The first was how very different her early life was from mine, but how similar too.  The conversations and competitions between the girls at her school were very much the same.  The customs and rules were very different.  I enjoyed hearing about the everyday details of her life and her family, especially the parts that were so different.  I cannot even imaging living in such circumstances, but what really struck me were the moments of joy she found even in the difficulties.  And her determination to live and learn and dream and achieve.  What an inspiration! 

I love that she has continued her work and there is even a way that we can help with her mission, by donating to the Malala Fund. This organization helps create safe spaces for girls in northern Nigeria,  train young Pakistani women as activists and provide STEM education to Syrian refugees.

I hadn't planned on starting with Pakistan.  I didn't really have a plan.  My order will be determined by availability of books, for the most part.  I have a few on my Kindle waiting for me and some are on hold at the library.  This audiobook happened to be available to borrow on the Libby App, so I started with it.  I'm so glad I did, because I feel like it was a great place to start.  A story about a girl who stands up for education and is shot by the Taliban being the first book to read for a project that is meant to broaden one's perspective by reading books from other countries?  Perfect.  

A little bit about Malala from Wikipedia:
Malala Yousafzai (Pashto pronunciation: [məˈlaːlə jusəf ˈzəj];[3] born 12 July 1997),[1][3][4] often referred to mononymously as Malala, is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.[5] She is known for human rights advocacy, especially the education of women and children in her native Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northwest Pakistan, where the local Pakistani Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. Her advocacy has grown into an international movement, and according to former Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, she has become "the most prominent citizen" of the country.[6]

A little information about Pakistan from Wikitravel: 
Pakistan (Urdu: پاکستان) is a large country (1.5 times the size of France) in South Asia at the crossroads of Central AsiaEast Asia and South Asia. Located along the Arabian Sea, it is surrounded by Afghanistan to the west and northwest, although Tajikistan is separated by the Wakhan CorridorIran to the southwest and also shares maritime boundary with Oman, The Republic of India is to the east, and China to the northeast. It is strategically located astride the ancient trade routes of the Khyber and Bolan passes between the countries of South-Central Asia and rest of Southern Asia.


There are many other options for Pakistan, and I will likely grab a few from this list to read when I have a chance.  I've been wanting to read I Am Malala for some time now and I'm so glad I did.  I highly recommend this book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot from her perspective.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Word for 2021


My word for 2021. Embrace.
1a : to clasp in the arms : hug. b : cherish, love. 2 : encircle, enclose. 3a : to take up especially readily or gladly embrace a cause. b : to avail oneself of : welcome - embraced the opportunity to study further.
Embrace the moment
Embrace those I love (when it is safe)
Embrace life
Embrace change
Embrace challenges
Embrace truth
Embrace hope
Embrace opportunity
Embrace love
Embrace faith
Embrace the chance to help others
Embrace the chaos
Embrace my home
Embrace myself
Embrace my body
Embrace the differences between us
Embrace important causes
Embrace activism
Embrace peace
Embrace the earth
Embrace knowledge and wisdom
Embrace art
Embrace creativity
Embrace adventure
Embrace fun
Embrace joy
Embrace rest
Embrace my own weirdness
Embrace the unknown

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Reading World Tour

I'm starting a new "little" project concerning books and perspectives.  It has to do with my word of the year, which I will post about later, but first I want to talk about this project because I'm super excited about it.  

Reading World Tour!  

So what is this?  What does it mean?  Well, for the next few years, I'm going to try to choose at least one book from each country in the world to read.  I'm going to focus on books by writers from each country and will choose books that are set in that country as well, or at least mostly in that country.  I want to find books that will help me broaden my awareness of different perspectives and cultures from someone who actually knows, rather than someone who did some research or whatever.  I don't have a system for choosing books or what order I plan to go in.  I do have a few books in mind for different countries, but that may change. One thing I absolutely want to do is research the country as well, so that I can learn more about each one.  I think having some background before reading will only help to understand the perspective.  There may be countries that have no books that have been translated into English.  Maybe?  If that turns out to be the case, I'll try to find something else - short stories, articles, or anything else that helps me understand the perspective of someone from that country.

I found this site for tracking, Read Around The World Challenge, but I think I'm also going to use an app I found for my phone that is really meant for which countries you've visited, but I think I'll be able to adapt it to use for my reading challenge as well.  Either way, the site above has some suggestions for books for many of the countries, which I'm sure will help.  

Any suggestions are welcome, if I still have people visiting this blog. I'm hoping to revive it with this project and some other things I'm working on.  

Check the Reading World Tour page here on the blog for updated info, reviews, and maybe even some surprises from each country/book as I finish each one.  Would you like to join me? 

Saturday, January 02, 2021


Oh, how things have changed in my world.  I'm ready to start writing again, I think.  And reading.  And creating.  And being me.  

Stay tuned for some updates.