2021: The Good, The Bad, and The Other

When I started writing this blog post on New Year’s Eve, I was not at all excited to remember most of 2021. 

Last year, it was easy (and helpful) to believe that most of the clusterfuckery of 2020 would pass at some point during 2021. I ended the year with some small hope that things would change in the near future. That the world would return to some small semblance of normal even if that was a little different than what we now wistfully call the “before-times”. But now, thinking about the past year, for the most part, just makes me sad. Maybe I’m just cynical or negative or bitter… but it’s been really hard not to feel that way. 

But that, I suppose, is the whole point of these annual posts. To remember that it hasn’t all been bad. There were many good things and a whole lot of other things in 2021, too. Our lives are made up of all of these things and it is important to honor the entirety of our experience as living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings.

We recently started a ritual of listening to John Green’s Anthropocene Reviewed essay, Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve. The overall mood of his essay is somewhat melancholy, but this year managed to bring me hope and a sense of perspective. After listening again to his words, I started to think differently about last year. 

“We’re here because we’re here because we’re here…” Being here, together, alive is no small miracle. As John Green says, “We are part of a vast and interconnected US. And we are HERE, if only for a little while.” If nothing else, I am so (SO) incredibly glad to be alive on this planet. I can celebrate having spent the last year with Walker, with Finn, on this strange and beautiful planet full of strangers and friends and family and awe and wonder. 

On that note, here is my pile of good things, bad things, and other things from 2021! 

(Buckle up! It seems I’m feeling very wordy this year since I haven’t written on my blog in a year… )

  • We are pregnant!  This deserves the first spot on the list because it is so life-changingly huge… baby is due to join us in May 2022! We started trying to get pregnant at the beginning of 2019, and started fertility treatments in June 2021, so this has been a long time coming. Pregnancy has been exciting, (sometimes) nauseating, and (often) existentially scary. It’s hard to imagine what life will be like after this, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
  • At some point in 2021, I reread all of my journals. I have 16 in total, starting in the year 2000. when I was in 6th grade! It was an interesting, enlightening, and sometimes painful experience. All I can really say is that I’m so grateful to all the people I’ve been to become who I am today.
  • I quit my job in June! When I reread my journals from the past five years, I realized I have disliked my job as a school psychologist almost from the very beginning. I tried changing schools, changing districts, and changing roles… and none of those things made much difference. So I decided it was time to quit. I still don’t have a plan for where my career will go next (which is scary). I was about to start looking for jobs (or at least potential next steps) in September…. buuut then we found out I was pregnant. We are fortunate enough to not need my salary and it turns out that being a pregnant Type 1 Diabetic is a lot of work, so I’m putting off career decisions for a while.
  • I can’t (honestly) write about 2021, without writing about COVID. The experience of living during a pandemic over the past two years has really damaged my faith in humanity. This could have been a moment for the world to really come together. To make decisions based on mutual respect and love and care for one another. Instead we’re drowning in greed and misinformation and general exhaustion.

    Two years ago, I wrote about “my childhood friend and your relative and that one guy from my college classes and your neighbor down the street (and… and… and… and… ) disregarding science and perpetuating conspiracies and misinformation in order to prioritize their “freedom” over the survival of their friends and families and neighbors.” It is exhausting to know that this hasn’t changed after witnessing two years of suffering and death. The biggest difference now is that I have seen many of those same people refusing vaccines and dying. Or spreading the virus to their own vulnerable loved ones and then watching them die. It’s heartbreaking.

    I am just so (SO) tired of COVID. I wish more than anything that I could just carry on with my life, you know? But I can’t ignore reality and I refuse to be irresponsible. The longer we’re in it, the harder it is for me to feel hopeful. It’s painful to live in the world as it is today.

    I know there are so many good people doing so much good in the world. I know healthcare workers who have been traumatized over and over again who still show up and still care. I know so many who have made sacrifices in order to help limit the spread. I know there are scientists who have done incredible things to create vaccines and treatments to make this pandemic more survivable. I take some small hope in knowing the world is not without really (REALLY) good people. 
  • In February, we got snowed in on a weekend getaway to a cabin on the Olympic Peninsula. Finn absolutely loved frolicking in the snow and I loved being in a cozy cabin. It felt super idyllic (even though I was stressed the whole time about whether or not our car would be able to handle the snow when it was time to leave… thanks, anxiety!)
  • I experimented more with writing poetry and wrote a handful of poems. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of my poems end up being melancholy (a throwback to my teenage poetry, maybe???) I really enjoy writing haikus – it’s fun to see what you can conjure with only a few words.
  • In 2021, I set a goal to walk an average of two miles every day. I kept track of how far I walk every day on a spreadsheet and at the end of the year clocked in at an average of 1.77 miles/day and 645 miles total this year. Even though I didn’t quite reach my goal, I’m really proud of myself for adding more movement into my day. Bonus: I got to spend LOTS of quality time with Finn!
  • At the end of May, we were able to visit my entire family in Utah for the first time since December 2018. It surprised me how emotional it felt to hug my parents. We got to meet my brother’s fiancee (she’s lovely!) and had lots of fun outings. I somehow always forget just how beautiful Utah is. I’m so grateful that all of us were able to get vaccinated and navigate that trip safely and with confidence. Yay science!
  • On a related note, my brother and my sister got engaged this year! I’m so excited to welcome new siblings-in-law to our family. They will both be getting married in Fall 2022, just a few months after our baby is born. 2022 will be a busy year for the Snow Family!
  • In July, we went on a trip to the Oregon Coast with three of our close friends. Our Airbnb rental overlooked a bay, had a luxurious hot tub, and an incredible view of the stars at night. We played lots of board games, took turns cooking delicious food, and generally lazed about and enjoyed the view. It was absolutely lovely and so nice to spend time with friends who really have brought us through the last few years.
  • I started acting as Game Master for a group of friends playing the Kids on Brooms RPG! I haven’t been in any RPG groups since last year and I really missed it, so I decided to give it a try! Kids on Brooms is set in sort of an off-brand Harry Potter world, but we really have made it our own world. It has been exceedingly silly and fun.
Finn usually made a guest appearance at our Kids on Brooms RPG!
  • Inspired by Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, Walker and I started watching Star Trek TNG on date nights and discussing the episode using sacred practices to see what we can get out of it. We’ve been recording our conversations with the thought of maybe making something out of it someday. Even though it feels like we are playing pretend at podcasting, I’ve really enjoyed our Sacred TNG conversations and it’s made me love TNG even more. We’ll probably never do much with the recordings, but I like the idea of having them around. 🖖
  • At the end of October, Walker’s stepfather, Perry passed away. Though his death was not unexpected (he had been in a memory care facility for a little over a year with dementia), it was still a huge loss. Perry was diagnosed with early-onset dementia not long before Walker and I met, so I never really got to know him before his memory loss. At his funeral in Oklahoma so many people told stories about his life and what an incredible man he was. I wish I could have known him before dementia. My heart breaks for Walker’s mom. Losing someone is never easy and it’s never fair. 
  • We returned a second time to Oklahoma to celebrate Thanksgiving with Walker’s family. It had been almost two years since we had seen many of them in person, so it felt quite lovely to be together again. Highlights included  a trip to Walker’s granddad’s home and farm in Altus, early morning walks with Walker’s dad (who very generously loaned me several warm layers since I foolishly didn’t bring my coat!), Walker and his nephew sword fighting and wrestling, and playing board games with everyone.
  • We had to cancel our New Year’s trip to Utah because of the surge in COVID cases. Since I’m both pregnant and Type 1, my doctor recommended we postpone our travel. We were so excited to see my family all in one place again and were so disappointed to have to cancel. I’ll say it again… this pandemic sucks.
  • This year, I read 47 books! Not quite the feat of last year, but still pretty good! My favorites?  The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, and Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I’ve already started reading the Anthropocene Reviewed a second time. 🤓
  • [Still] no shame:  We watched a lot more tv this year. Highlights include a lot of Critical Role (yes, I’m a fully qualified nerd), She-Ra, Clone Wars, Rebels, Ted Lasso, Steven Universe (again), alllll the Marvel shows, and (the best show of the year, imho) Only Murders in the Building. 
  • All the small (but not unimportant!) things: Chopped off my hair and dyed it red, new plants, Walker’s new dice-making hobby, several organization projects, braved the movie theater twice for Marvel movies, learned how to play the ukulele, learned to crochet, baking projects, coffee walks with friends, refinished backyard, virtual Harry Potter and the Sacred Text classes, better exercise habits, and lots of board game nights with friends.

2020: The Good, The Bad, & The Other

Y’all. 2020. Was. A. Clusterfuck. 

When I sat down to write about this, I was reminded of the original inspiration for these annual posts: 

Yeah… 2020 was a collective pile of like… really bad things. I can’t even begin to write this post without mentioning them.

COVID and mismanagement of the COVID response has killed hundreds of thousands of people in America and millions of people worldwide. COVID exacerbated social injustices everywhere and forced us to see things in a brutally clear light. The scale of the loss of life, of livelihood, and of stability as a result of COVID and its fallout are unfathomable.

We witnessed the police murders of innocent black men and women: Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, Casey Goodson, and so many more. In response to this horrific and ongoing police brutality, protestors demanded justice and change (yet again) and were met with more brutal state-sanctioned police violence. The pain (and the resilience and the vision) of BIPOC cannot be ignored, nor should it ever have been. 

The collective pain and grief and loss and fear and anxiety of 2020 is incalculable. We must not forget it. We must learn from it, find our strength, and carry one another forward. 

Though good things in 2020 cannot soften or cancel out the bad things, we can still acknowledge and appreciate that they exist. There were many good things in 2020. And joyful things. And boring things. And nothing things. The bad things cannot spoil any of these. This year writing about and honoring all of the things seems more important than ever. We are complete beings and so we must tell complete stories. 

So without further adieu, I present:

2020: The Good, The Bad, and The Other:

  • We traveled to Iceland in February! I often reflect on how incredibly lucky we were to have taken this trip right before pandemic really set in. Iceland was stunning and  other-worldly. I can’t wait to go back.
  • COVID-19 turned my world topsy turvy in mid-March. When schools closed in Washington on March 13,  I started working from home. Being a school psychologist from home is… weird. I’ll be honest and say I still don’t really know how to do it well. It’s certainly been a year of stretching and trying (and failing… and failing…) and struggling. It’s been challenging to find any joy or fulfillment at work. 
  • I played more RPGs this year, with two new characters: Petranella Petrichor (an eccentric scientist on a space adventure) and Belba Tealeaf (a chaotic halfling tea merchant trying to save a town). 
  • Nearly every Friday since the pandemic started, we’ve had a video call with a small group of friends. We play online board games and share memes and laugh and rage about the state of the world. It’s been an absolute joy. I love these folks and am grateful they are part of my chosen family.
  • I have always wanted to be in a book club… and this year I started one with my friends from grad school! We’ve met every month since June! I have loved talking about books with friends and having a built-in excuse to hang out once a month.
  • I had a miscarriage in June. Walker and I have been trying to start our family for a couple of years now and thought we would need fertility treatments in order to get pregnant. We had put those treatments on hold due to the pandemic, then found out a couple of months later that we were expecting. We discovered the pregnancy was not viable at my first appointment and miscarried at home a few weeks later. It was physically and emotionally painful. I still grieve a little at the loss of that particular possible future for our family. The experience was an absolute rollercoaster – and I know it’s not an uncommon one. I mention my miscarriage not for pity, but because I know there are so many others who have experienced the same thing. You are not alone. It’s okay to talk about it.
  • In July, we replaced some of the flooring in our house. To avoid being indoors with the people working, we decided to rent an airbnb in West Seattle for a staycation. We played board games, ate takeout from new restaurants, walked along Alki Beach, and read books on the beach in the sunshine. It was absolutely lovely
  • At some point this year, we started having very physically distanced driveway happy hours with our neighbors. We live on a lot with four townhouses that share a large driveway in the middle and so we started setting up our lawn chairs in front of our garage doors about once a month. It’s been lovely to get to know them better and to build up our little community. It’s a tradition that I hope continues even after the pandemic is over.
  • In a joint effort with our neighbors, we hand-addressed and wrote a total of 633 postcards to voters. From July-October, we sent 373 postcards with Postcards to Voters and Reclaim Our Vote for the general election. From November-December, we sent 260 postcards to Georgia voters for the January Senate Run-Off election. 
  • I also volunteered for the Biden campaign with the Wisconsin Democrats. I phonebanked, textbanked, and served as a Virtual Staging Location Director for the WisDems Text Team. All together, I spent 160 hours volunteering.  I met so many remarkable and inspiring people. And Biden won Wisconsin by a field margin! Of everything I did in 2020, this was the thing I was by far the most proud of. 
  • JOE BIDEN AND KAMALA HARRIS WON THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION! (I am so, so, so relieved. The work is not finished, but this is absolutely a reason to celebrate).
Walker and I dropping off our ballots and voting that nightmare out of office.
  • I finished the year off volunteering with the Ossoff/Warnock campaigns and Fair Fight to help turn out Georgia voters for the runoff election. I wrote 120 letters to voters and spent a few dozen hours phonebanking and textbanking. 
  • I am growing to understand more about systemic racism, white supremacy, and my own complicity in the system. I am learning silence is violence and it is the responsibility of white people to fix these problems (we are the cause). I’ve been learning about systemic racism for several years, but learning is not enough. Awareness is not enough. Action is required. Reparations are required. I am committed to doing better. 
  • I cataloged our entire home library of books this summer. (All 289 of them, e-books and audiobooks included!) I believe that what we read shapes how we think, so I wanted to be sure I am making space for all voices, not just straight, white, cisgender voices. I learned that I have a lot of work to do! I’m committed to bringing more BIPOC and queer authors space on my bookshelf.
  • Speaking of books, I reached my reading goal again this year! I read (drumroll please…) 53 books! My favorite? The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. Her writing and world-building is STUNNING and I am honestly obsessed. Her books showed me the infinite and revolutionary possibilities with fantasy writing. Also, because I can’t help it, an honorary mention: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. This book gave me a lot to think about what it means to live a life.
  • I transferred to a new position in a different school in September and reduced my hours to part-time. I was really grateful to start fresh after three very challenging (and, honestly, sometimes soul-crushing) years in my previous school. I’m also very grateful to be able to work reduced hours in order to spend more time taking care of my mental and physical health. For the first time ever, I feel like my work/home life is balanced.
  • [Still] no shame:  We watched a lot of tv this year. It was 2020, after all. Highlights include Star Trek Voyager, Steven Universe, Avatar the Last Airbender, His Dark Materials, The Mandalorian, and Star Trek Discovery.
  • I dabbled in creative writing! I took a fanfiction writing course this fall from Harry Potter and the Sacred Text and attended a workshop about blackout poetry over the summer. Practicing creative writing really stretched my mind and imagination. I’m excited to continue this practice.
I have been melodious, fitful, fiery-eyed, menacing, and impulsive. I live so entirely that I really don’t know how to behave. I think I may look like danger.
  • I have attended a lot of Harry Potter Sacred Text online events, including a week-long summer camp. Y’all it was incredible. It was joyful. It was insightful. I learned so much about myself. I met so many cool people.
  • My friend Chris made this picture of Finn on a bicycle in photoshop and it is my favorite picture of all time.
  • I was (marginally) more successful at staying in touch with friends and family. We scheduled more video calls with both of our families. I caught up with a few friends I haven’t talked to in ages. I hope to do better in 2021; I’m (still) sorry for not staying more connected.
  • All of the small but notable things: house plants, backyard coffee, friluftsliv, spice cupboard organization, teal door, homemade masks, embroidery, herb garden, standing desk, feet-up yoga, at home pedicures, pupusas, pink hair, Gloomhaven, (too much) social media, (not enough) exercise, smoke season, online concerts for AJR and Jason Webley, so many walks, online cooking classes from The Pantry, frozen cookie dough, the friendly neighborhood robot, and Winter Solstice. 

Click here previous Good/Bad/Other posts: 2018 & 2019

Friluftsliv

I didn’t know it at first, but when the pandemic started in March, I started practicing the Scandinavian concept “friluftsliv” (free-loofts-leev). Directly translated, it means “free-air life,”  but it’s basically the concept of spending time outdoors in all seasons, having space from other people, and being able to wander freely outside. 

Since March, I’ve wandered the streets of my neighborhood frequently, usually without a destination in mind. I was surprised, at first, at the perspective this practice gave me. Even as 2020 took turn after devastating turn, there was still so much beauty. The world hadn’t, in fact, stopped. The trees still blossomed, right on time. Tiny green buds still sprang up out of the soil. The birds still went about their business as usual. (I grew particularly attached to a blue scrub jay that nested in the trees about a block from our house).

I thought, at first, that the novelty of walking around my neighborhood would wear off. That I would get bored when the stunning beauty of spring faded and summer arrived. But I was wrong – there was still much to appreciate. 2020 continued to be a perpetual and somehow worsening trainwreck… and nature just kept nature-ing. The sun continued to shine. The grass continued to grow. Flowers continued to bloom. The sky was as blue as ever.

Something about the natural world continuing on without a care-  in spite of everything – was incredibly steadying to me. I wasn’t disappointed when summer turned to autumn. The trees exploded with bright orange, glowing yellow, and fiery red foliage. The leaves carpeted everything, making a walk down the sidewalk more like a walk down the red carpet. I didn’t even need to leave my neighborhood to see it.

As all the leaves began to fall, I grew increasingly anxious about what a long, cold, dark, and lifeless winter might do to my spirit. Seattle winters can be tough. We don’t get much sun. The color is leached from everything and the world turns to a dull, muted grey for months. In an effort to prepare myself for the winter ahead, I started mentally cataloging things in nature that I thought might make the season bearable. To my surprise, I found incredible beauty in what I thought was emptiness:

It’s easier to see birds perched in the tree in my backyard when there are no leaves in the way. I’ve learned that song sparrows, house finches, black-eyed juncos, and hummingbirds like to socialize there. The frost on the grass in morning looks glitters like fairy dust. Red berries cling tightly to exposed branches, a burst of color against a darkening blue sky. A small tree I walk by daily has knotted, gnarled, and warty branches that curl around themselves in tight spirals. You can only see this chaotic beauty in the winter, when there are no leaves to obscure it. 

About a month ago, a dear friend told me that she loves the winter months because it’s only during winter that we get to look forward to an imminent spring. We get to see the world at rest, preparing for the burst of life that is to come. Sure, winter can be cold (so bitingly cold). It can be dark. The sun can hide behind curtains of rain and gloom for days and weeks and sometimes even months on end. But winter is also a season of anticipation, of hope, and of certainty that – yes – there is light and life and warmth just ahead.

With that in mind, I bid you all a Happy Winter Solstice! Here’s to the light and life and beauty that are just ahead. We’ll get through 2020. We’ll get through this winter. We’ll get through this pandemic. And as we do, the world will keep on doing what it does best; winter turning to spring, turning to summer, turning to fall, turning to winter…

(P.S. I learned about friluftsliv a few weeks ago from a daily Seattle podcast I listen to. You can listen to the episode here.)

We Belong To Each Other

Credit: Kimothy Joy

This week, when I read this quote, my heart felt a familiar but persistent insistence to speak. So I opened my computer and began to write. But the result was a lot of swear words and ALL CAPS sentences because I am mad. Like really mad. And also, so, so heartbreakingly sad. This is not a new feeling. It’s been bubbling, roiling, and building up for weeks, months, years. So, yeah, swearing and all caps seem appropriate.

Our world is broken. Incredibly, terribly, horribly broken. (This is not new). 

Our planet is suffocating, dying. People (I am guilty) are prioritizing comfort and convenience over the future of our entire world.

Credit: Giovana Medeiros

Racism is ever-insidiously-rampant. This week, we learned the name of Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered in cold blood for jogging while black. Black and brown people have been suffering and dying by white hands and white systems for centuries. (I am complicit. So, my white friends, are you.)

Courtesy of Illinois People’s Action

Coronavirus is highlighting ugliness and inequity everywhere. On social media, I see my childhood friend and your relative and that one guy from my college classes and your neighbor down the street (and… and… and… and… ) prioritizing their “freedom” over the survival of their friends and families and neighbors. I see them disregard science, preferring to perpetuate conspiracy theories and blatant misinformation. (This, by the way,  is not new, either. We are seeing it under bright lights now and can quickly – so terrifyingly quickly – see the consequences of ignorance).

Credit: Artist Lacuna; Berlin, Germany

I see politicians (and thus, their followers) prioritize capitalism over human lives, often equating or conflating the two. (Again, this is not new. This country was essentially founded on the prioritization of capital over human lives. We were built on the backs and the bodies of black and brown people. This did not stop with the end of slavery and it did not stop with the end of Jim Crow laws and it has not stopped today).

I cannot list all of the ways in which our world is broken. And I don’t think it would help to try. 

But. 

(Open your eyes).

(I believe this, I truly do).

We belong to each other.

“My humanity is bound up in yours for we can only be human together. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.” (Desmond Tutu)

We are not acting like a “we”. 

We have forgotten.

and so

we have no peace.

I do not have the answers to fix our broken world. 

And yet.

If we can imagine ourselves as “we” instead of “me” and “you” or “us” and “them”… 

If we remember to value one another as precious and wonderful…

If we can hold all lives as sacredly as we hold our own… 

If our actions can reflect this…

Then maybe there’s hope. 

Perhaps, since we have all been complicit in the world’s brokenness, we can also be part of the work of healing.

I have a lot of work to do. We all do. 

From the 2018 Seattle Women’s March. I may not be able to march right now, but I can still write. I cannot be silent anymore. 

Write hard and clear about what hurts.

I was doing mostly fine, honestly I was. I was just barely surviving at work after several discouraging and exhausting months. I was starting to feel pretty significant shame and uncertainty about whether my body was healthy enough to get pregnant. I was tired and burnt out from managing a chronic illness. But, really, I was fine. I was functional. I was okay. Ish.

I heard about coronavirus on the news every day, but it was difficult to understand the impact. The number of confirmed cases and deaths climbed daily. It sounded scary, sure. But it also sounded familiar. I still remember other epidemics like SARS and H1N1. The world survived that. How different could this be?

But then, a whisper. Of course, there was only one person here in Washington. And he was quarantined, so there was no need to worry. They caught it early. Everything was fine. Then there were a few more. But still, it was fine. Seemingly overnight, the panic began. 

I started operating under the assumption that everything I touched was contaminated. My mind began playing out worst-case-scenarios: Losing my husband. Getting sick and my blood sugar going crazy and being unable to get medical care. Over and over and over these scenarios played out in my mind. But I was still required to go to work. And be present and compassionate for those I work with. And function like an adult. 

I could do it. Sort of. But I was falling apart at the seams. 

As someone with Type 1 Diabetes, I am among those listed in the “high risk” group for COVID-19. Very suddenly, harmless things became possibly deadly. Doorknobs, high fives, grocery stores, card readers, gas pumps. All potential threats. All terrifying. I was perched on the edge of a kind of existential panic, and yet required to masquerade as functional. I knew I couldn’t manage for long.

I still feel guilty about the relief I experienced when school was cancelled for over a month. I know the implications for the students I work with. I understand that systemic inequities perpetuated within our society and our education system are being magnified a hundred fold. I know there are people who have no choice but to continue living “on the edge of existential panic”, day-in and day-out, because if they don’t, their families won’t eat. Or because people are relying on them for care. I get it. 

It is unfair that I get to feel some relief when others do not. We should all be able to stop and focus on keeping our communities well without fearing a loss of income, of food, of shelter. (Can I get a PSA for Universal Basic Income & Healthcare for All & Mandatory Paid Sick Leave? Do we understand that these are human rights and that we are better off as a community if all people are given basic human dignity? How can we possibly see this more clearly?)

We already have so much work to do to begin healing. Wounds that already ran deep in our communities are now festering. The path forward is unclear, but I believe we are resilient. I believe we will grow stronger as we lean on one another. We have to. It’s going to take all of us.

I’m doing my best to continue supporting local businesses, to donate to relief funds and food banks, to protect my community by staying home as much as possible, and to check in with friends and neighbors. I still feel helpless and afraid and a little like I’m falling apart. But we are in this together. Despite everything, I still believe in humanity.

Please let me know if you have more ideas about how to support our communities during this crisis. Because I am in a high risk group, I can’t go out and volunteer, but I can’t sit and do nothing while I watch this unfold.

Stay healthy. Stay connected. Stay compassionate for those who don’t have the same privileges you enjoy. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Wash your hands. Stay home if you can.

Deep breaths. I love you all.

A picture of Finn to make you smile

2019: The Good, The Bad, & The Other

Hi. Hello. How are you?

It’s been a while, but I haven’t forgotten you. I’ve just been distracted. And tired. But I’m back for the annual wrap-up. It’s going to be a long one since I haven’t posted much this year, so buckle up!

Like most years, 2019 has been wonderful. And exhausting. And gratifying. And ugly. And discouraging. And boring. And beautiful. And painful. (etc.)

On that note, it’s time for…

(cue theme music and live audience cheering)

2019: The Good, The Bad, & The Other:

  • We survived Seattle’s Snowpocalypse” in February. And by “surviving”, I mean we lounged around in our pajamas for a couple of weeks, watching Netflix, and cozing on the couch.
  • Immediately after Snowpocalypse, we left for a week-long vacation to visit my friend Emily in Maui. It was a-maz-ing… the warm rain, the sunsets, the sea turtles, the whales, the food. Everything was perfect. (…well, everything except for the part at the end where I got a migraine that lasted our entire flight home plus about 48 hours. That part I could’ve done without.)
  • I TURNED THIRTY (what?!?!) and discovered that this might be the age when you start to forget how to respond when people ask you how old you are. 
  • We said goodbye to Waldo, the dog who has been a part of my family since I was in middle school. He lived a good long life and we were lucky to be a part of it.
Waldo, circa 2013
  • In June I attended a retreat for people with Type 1 Diabetes. It was incredible to be in a room full of others who intimately understand the relentless daily struggle. Also, being in a room with other cyborgs whose device alarms sound exactly like yours is – to say the least – confusing. But also hilarious
  • Also in June, I finished  up a pretty challenging school-year. I stressed a lot and grew a lot and learned a lot about how much I still have to learn. (How does that saying go?  “The more I learn, the less I know.”)
  • In September, I started an even more challenging school-year. It’s been utterly exhausting. Full disclosure: I have struggled to maintain my mental and physical health. Self-care and boundary-setting have become (even more) essential to survival.
  • We’ve continued our obsession with cooking classes at The Pantry in Seattle. Favorites included The Spanish Table, The Icelandic Table, Chicago Pizza, Summer Farmer’s Market, and Salvadoran Pupusas. 
  • Some time over the summer, we started hosting our friend Chris for Monday night dinners. This has been a highlight of the year for many reasons… Chris has always been close with Walker, but sharing a weekly meal has really made me feel like he is part of our chosen family. Also, Chris is vegetarian, so I’ve really enjoyed eating more veggies and expanding my veggie cooking skills. We also used these dinners as an excuse to watch all the Star Wars movies in narrative order before the final movie was released last week. It was epic and felt equivalent to the nerd version of Monday night football leading up to the Superbowl. 
  • As is pretty obvious, the blog fell by the wayside at some point mid-year, which makes me feel sad. I think the truth is that I’ve been exhausted (I blame my job) and haven’t prioritized many of the hobbies that bring me joy. I hope this year is different.
  • I was finally fully initiated into Nerdom. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons over the summer with Walker and two of our good friends. My character is a forest gnome druid named Ydania (Edie) Cheeh Wazogloh who forgets everyone’s names, loves animals enough to become one (or two or three) on a daily basis, has a tendency towards impulsiveness, and hopes to avenge the deaths of her parents. 
  • In August, I visited my sister in Boise and met her darling dog Mia. It made me wish we lived closer. We would certainly have some shenanigans. 
  • In September, my parents and sister flew to Seattle and drove with us to Victoria, BC. Before this, I hadn’t really been on a vacation as an adult with my family as an adult, but this road trip was wonderful.  Highlights included Butchart Gardens, High Tea, and an outing on an eighty-year-old passenger sailboat.
  • In October, we attended the annual SHUX Board Game Convention in Vancouver, BC with two of our good friends. It was hands down the best convention I’ve ever attended. Just imagine a convention center full of thousands of introverted nerds (mostly) quietly playing board games for three days straight. It. Was. AMAZING. (Also we stayed on a FLOATING HOUSE. Which was maybe the coolest place I’ve ever slept. 10/10 would recommend.)
  • [Still] no shame: I watched a lot of TV this year, including (but not limited to) Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and dozens of episodes of the youtube show Binging with Babish.
  • This year for Thanksgiving, we went to Washington, D.C. for a week. We stayed with my brother (who will soon be moving abroad) and Walker’s good friend (who just adopted a son). It was wonderful to spend time with all of them and (unsurprisingly) made me wish we all lived closer to one another. (We also did a tiny bit of touristing, including walking down the National Mall, visiting the Library of Congress, seeing Obama’s portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, and catching a glance of the U.S. Constitution.)
  • 2019 was the year of many of our friends having their first babies. It was really lovely to watch them become parents… 
  • … it was also the year of us beginning to try to grow our own family. We aren’t there yet. The monthly cycle of trying, then being disappointed (12 times now) has been disheartening, but we are still hopeful and making a point not to stress about it. 
  • I’ve been riding the Type 1 Diabetes struggle bus for several months. I’ve found it pretty challenging to stay on top of blood sugar management during stressful months (and months and months) at work. Balance has been difficult to find, but I’m working on it.
  • I [still] failed to keep in good touch with many people I love. I’m [still] sorry everyone!
  • I also [still] struggled to maintain an exercise routine, despite several started and restarted attempts. 
  • In January, we stopped using Blue Apron meal kits and started meal planning better kitchen adventures. We had a lot of fun exploring new cookbooks (our favorites were Jerusalem and Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi and Tuesday Nights by Chris Kimball).
  • I achieved a personal goal of reading 36 BOOKS IN ONE YEAR! Here are the stats: 15 were audiobooks; 10 were e-books; 11 were physical books. 11 were non-fiction; 25 were fiction. Best book of the lot? Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Click here for 2018: The Good, The Bad, and The Other.

Florilegia: The Whole Brain Child

One of the benefits of working as a school psychologist is that I spend a lot of time thinking and learning about mental health. Though I read many books and attend annual conferences in order to improve my professional practice, I also learn (and re-learn!) so much that applies to my own day-to-day life.

Consider this quote from The Whole Brain Child, by Dan Siegel:

Feelings are like the weather. Rain is real, and we’d be foolish to stand in a downpour and act as if it weren’t actually raining. But we’d be just as foolish to expect that the sun will never reappear.

How often do I feel stuck in a feeling? In anxious or sad moments, it’s so easy to believe that those feelings will last FOR-E-VER. This book explains, however, that on average, a feeling comes and goes in 90 seconds.Yes, really. 90 SECONDS.

Okay, sure. 90 seconds is not the whole story: our feelings can be re-triggered over and over by our thoughts and environment. But here’s the thing. It’s not infinite. All feelings are inherently temporary, just like all clouds, all storms, all sunshine.

A few months ago, I visited a friend who lives in Hawaii. One night we drove to the beach to watch a sunset, but by the time we arrived, it was R-A-I-N-I-N-G hard. Despite the weather, we still wanted to watch the sunset, so we decided to try waiting and watching from our car.

I know that the “rain” of our lives can be unbelievably painful. There are times when the rain becomes a hurricane and the devastation is inescapable. It is helpful to remember that even those moments – perhaps especially those moments – are not permanent.

After only a few minutes of sitting in the car, the clouds began to clear and the sun came out just in time to set. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed.

So… we’re never stuck. Never ever. Eventually – probably sooner than you think – the clouds will pass and we’ll all find ourselves standing on a beach, watching a glowing sunset

Florilegia: Oathbringer

I read a lot of books. I always have and I hope I always will. There’s nothing like experiencing an entirely different life or seeing brand new worlds or diving into the depths of knowledge books contain.

Whether a book is fictional or factual, I always learn something about myself or the world that is worth remembering. To help me remember all of those things, I’ve kept notebooks where I write down my favorite book quotes or “sparklets”. I recently learned that these notebooks can be called florilegia … isn’t that a pretty word? I feel fancy just saying it. By putting sparklets from different books together in a florilegium, you end up finding wisdom and insight that you might not have otherwise.

I don’t think I want this to be a book blog, but I do spend a lot of time reading. It’s a big part of who I am and I want to share that with people. So I had an idea…

Without further adieu, here is my very first Florilegium post:

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

“He’d once believed he had been four men in his life, but now he saw he’d grossly underestimated. He hadn’t lived as two, or four, or six men – he had lived as thousands, for each day he became someone slightly different. He hadn’t changed in one giant leap, but across a million little steps.”

Oathbringer, p. 1185

Every morning, I wake up as a brand new person, a version of myself that didn’t exist the day before. Our entire beings are constantly in the process of imperceptible changes that add up to monumental differences over time. If the past-Amandas from 5 years ago or 10 years ago were to meet me today, I’m not sure they would recognize me. I’m not even 100% sure they would like me.

Almost two years ago, I got a small tattoo on my right forearm, in part to remind myself that change is a part of life, and that it’s okay to allow yourself to become someone new.

(If you’re wondering, the tattoo was inspired by the eleventh doctor in Doctor Who… he wears a bow tie and bow ties are cool.)

I don’t think I spend enough time honoring all of those people I have been. My past selves spent a lot of time trying and working and laughing and suffering and learning and crying and dreaming… and without all of that, I would be a completely different human than I am today.

Regardless of the mistakes my past selves have made and the ones my future selves most certainly will make, they deserve to be celebrated and thanked. Same goes for you and all the people you have been or will be.

Shout out to my fave podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text for teaching me about florilegia. ♥

10 Years

10 years ago today, I was diagnosed with diabetes. 10 years is a long time to live with any chronic illness…It never goes away. It is sometimes terrifying. It is sometimes sad. It is sometimes just running in the background, unnoticed. But it’s always, always there.
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I’ve always been an avid journaler and when I was diagnosed, I wrote down everything about how I felt about it as it was happening. When I thought about living for 10 years with diabetes, I wanted to remember what it was like at the beginning, when I was first diagnosed.

I had no idea that re-reading these journals would be like re-experiencing a trauma. With more distance and more knowledge about diabetes, I now realize that I received pretty terrible medical care. I was misdiagnosed as having Type 2 Diabetes (presumably) because I was not thin. Even when it was confirmed that I actually had Type 1 Diabetes, I was treated with medications intended for Type 2 diabetes for 6 months before finally getting a semblance of proper medical care.

At that time in my life, I was pretty vulnerable. I had serious problems with body image, self-esteem, and depression.  No one took the time to explain that this wasn’t my fault. No one told me that this was not a sure-fire death sentence. No one referred me to a diabetic educator or mental health professional or even an endocrinologist.

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This is me with my roommates, just a few days before being diagnosed with diabetes. I’m the second from the left in the front.

Looking back on it all, I actually feel quite angry. I deserved so much better.

But you know what? I am surviving. I’m still here. Yes, diabetes is still a pain in the ass. Yes, I still struggle with highs and lows and sometimes guilt and shame. But diabetes doesn’t define what I can do or who I am. It’s just one part of me. In some ways, I’m grateful for it. It makes it impossible to ignore my body. It gives me opportunities to be strong and brave.

The night I got diagnosed, I watched the Chronicles of Narnia and wrote this quote in my journal:
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I don’t know what might have happened if my diagnosis and early treatment would have gone differently. Maybe I would have felt less embarrassment and shame. Maybe I would have had better-managed blood sugars for years following my diagnosis. Ultimately what might have been is not important. What is coming, on the other hand, is another matter entirely.

I’ve got this.  

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I like to think of myself as a cyborg with all my diabetes gadgets.

My Diagnosis Story

My 10-year “diaversary” (10 years since being diagnosed with diabetes) is coming up in a few days. In preparing a post for that day (stay tuned!) I decided to read through some old journals from 10 years ago.

I debated whether or not to blog about my story, but I feel like it might actually be useful to someone, someday. I hope my experience can help someone know that they are not alone, that diabetes is not their fault, and that they deserve the best medical care available.

What follows is an account of my first 6 months of having Type 1.

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2.15.2009

I am visiting my parents’ house for a long weekend away from college. I off-handedly remark that I’m annoyed about having to pee so much. My mom (who is a nurse) wonders if I might have high blood sugar. My dad (who has Type 2 Diabetes) has a glucometer. They test my blood sugar, which is off-the-charts, too high to be read by the meter. I avoid carbs for the rest of the day and go on several long walks, which brings my blood sugar down a little bit. They decide against taking me to the ER because being admitted would be expensive and time-consuming. I don’t know any better and spend the night swimming in confusion and self loathing:

[Excerpt from my journal dated 2.15.09]

Honestly, [this] all seems slightly ridiculous to me, really I feel like I’m in ship-shape… Basically, it’s about 100% guaranteed that I have diabetes.

What can I say about this? I guess my first reaction is – wow, am I really that unhealthy? I know that I am not the best person in the world at healthy living, but I didn’t think I was so bad. I guess I was wrong. I’m sort of angry at myself to be honest. I know better. Why didn’t I take care of myself? This is all my fault, I have no one else to blame.

2.16.2009

My parents take me to Urgent Care where I am (mis)diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. They don’t even complete lab tests to see if I might have Type 1. I continue spiraling in self-loathing.

[Excerpt from my journal dated 2.16.09, right after being seen at an Urgent Care]

Well it’s official, I’m diabetic… I can’t help but feel ashamed of and disappointed in myself. I know that it is not completely my fault, but I can’t help but wish I would’ve prevented this from happening. I don’t know. I’m embarrassed, ashamed, afraid, and confused.

I don’t like feeling “diseased.” I feel tainted, freakish, abnormal. I just want to be healthy and now I feel like that will never be an option. I don’t understand one bit. Why would this be a part of my life? I know that things happen for a reason, but what possible reason could a disease have? Why, why, why?

I know I need to change my attitude about this, but I can’t seem to stop struggling…

2.17.2009

I visit my parents’ primary care provider who tells me he thinks I have an autoimmune disease and that my immune system is attacking my pancreas, causing diabetes. I am given long-acting insulin and start giving myself a shot once per day. I also start taking Metformin, a medication usually used for Type 2 diabetics. The pills make me nauseous. I am told to restrict my diet and feel I can “hardly eat anything at all.”

2.20.2009

I get the results from the blood tests, confirming that “my immune system is attacking my pancreas, causing Type 1 diabetes.”

2.23.2009

I return to my primary care provider to get a new treatment plan, since the results show that I have Type 1. He prescribes a larger dose of long-acting insulin in the morning and a smaller dose of the Metformin to get rid of the nausea. I still am not given fast-acting insulin to use with meals and am essentially following a treatment plan for Type 2 Diabetes.

2.27.2009

I see a dietician on campus to see if she can help me figure out what I can and can’t eat. I’ve kept a log for several days and she tells me I need to eat more carbs. This is confusing, but also exciting because it means my diet can be a tiny bit less restrictive. I thought I was supposed to basically avoid carbs at all costs, since they wreaked havoc on my blood sugar. What I really needed was to be able to eat carbs, but also cover those carbs with fast-acting insulin. I still had no prescription for this.

3.12.2009

I return to my primary care doctor and am told to increase the medication I’m already taking. Even though my blood sugars had been “a lot higher in the last week or so, despite my efforts to keep it under control,” I am still not prescribed fast-acting insulin. Bizarrely, the doctor tells me that most people with Type 1 diabetes have trouble having kids.

6.3.2009

I’ve been living with Type 1 for almost 4 months and I am feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and hopeless.

[Excerpt from Diabetes Daily Forum, dated 6.3.2009]

… I’m just getting tired of it. I don’t want to deal with it anymore, you know? I know it will never ever go away… but I just don’t want it anymore. I don’t want to think about it, I don’t want to have it. I’m just exhausted by all of it…

I’m tired of feeling like I’ve got something to be ashamed of. I’m tired of everyone asking questions. I’m tired of feeling like this is somehow all my fault and that if I would have just done something, anything, different in my life before I got diagnosed, then I wouldn’t be in this mess. Some days I just want to quit…

I want to be in control of my life again, but right now I just feel like everything is so out of my control and there’s just nothing I can do about it…

I want to conquer my diabetes, but it’s not exactly conquerable if its chronic… I feel defeated… I just wish it would simply go away. That’s all.

8.12.2009

I finally start a treatment plan for Type 1 diabetes and am prescribed fast-acting insulin, so I can eat without fear of skyrocketing blood sugar. I’m also going through a period of depression and the doctor tells me that diabetics are even more likely than the general population to suffer serious depression. They offer no support, referral, or even a recommendation to see a mental health professional.

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The commentary in my journal about diabetes falls off a bit from here, making only occasional appearances. In a lot of ways, I think that was a good sign. It meant that I was finally getting proper medical care and that diabetes was starting to become a normal part of my life. It stopped being quite so constantly overwhelming an became more like the annoying background music in my day-to-day life.