"Take Up Your Spade"

Found this little diddy, "Take Up Your Spade" by Sara Watkins, tonight as I listened to music on Spotify. It's a beautiful melody with inspirational words. It reminds me to keep going and to be thankful for life. Do yourself a favor and listen to the song while you read the lyrics. Enjoy.

Sun is up, a new day is before you
Sun is up, wake your sleepy soul
Sun is up, hold on to what is yours
Take up your spade and break ground

Shake off your shoes, 
Leave yesterday behind you
Shake off your shoes, 
But forget not where you’ve been
Shake off your shoes,
Forgive and be forgiven
Take up your spade and break ground

Give thanks, for all that you’ve been given
Give thanks, for who you can become
Give thanks, for each moment and every crumb
Take up your spade and break ground
Break ground, break ground, break ground


Homesick Blues

Tonight I'm homesick for western Nebraska. It hit me last night as we pulled off I-80 onto 680 that was surprisingly busy for 12:30 AM (we were driving home from a day trip to Grand Island)--Tom Waits crooned through my speakers as I navigated a web of construction and cars and made my way to the Maple Street exit. I was too tired to think much about being homesick last night. But as the sun crawled higher into the sky this afternoon while we spent the day lounging around, I realized just how much I miss western Nebraska. I miss the flat running routes, gravel roads, turning a 5 minute grocery trip into a 25 minute trip all because we ran into students or their parents. I miss open spaces, stars that pepper the black sky, the sleepy rooster down the street from our old house that crowed at 9 am on Saturdays, driving out to the lake just to dip our toes in it and enjoy the beauty. But mostly I miss the people. I miss my students--how open (mostly) they were to watching TED Talks and discussing current events and how they indulged me by halfway listening to my crazy rants about poetry and writing and being change agents. I miss my students' families--there were a few who really embraced us and made us feel valued as teachers. I miss my running partner--the BEST running partner--who got up at ungodly hours to run with me before school--who ran stupid distances with me and listened to me, truly listened to me and withheld all judgement. I miss Ryan and Tracy--two of the most down to earth people we've had the pleasure of meeting. I miss the few visits we took to their family's ranch seeing them in their element. I miss Bob and Shannon--staying up too late indulging in simple pleasures: talking, eating, and laughing--pleasures that are unfortunately rare in today's culture. I've never enjoyed myself so much as when I'm chatting with them. These two are the only people (besides our parents) who we've ever felt comfortable with enough to send a text asking, "What's for dinner?"

Up until recently, I've found it difficult to identify a place as "home." I lived in Crete for long enough to complete elementary school, Columbus from middle through high school, Kearney and Lincoln for college...none of these places ever really felt like home to me. Even Ogallala didn't begin to feel like home until the last two years we lived there. The moment we left, though, I realized Ogallala was home.

Going Gluten Free

A few months ago I caught myself mindlessly eating one Saturday afternoon. Six frozen waffles smothered with Nutella and peanut butter later, I realized that I wasn't even that hungry. The waffles just tasted good, so I kept eating them. I noticed this mindless eating was common for me on weekends and evenings after Joon was in bed--especially while grading papers. Frozen waffles, crackers, cheese, tortilla chips, cereal, you name it...I grazed non-stop. I was consuming calories like I was an ultra-runner, and I justified my eating with my running habits. I didn't notice a change in my weight since I have a high metabolism and I run a good deal, but I did notice that I was feeling sluggish. However, I chocked this up to being a working mom. Some weeks later I was at a dinner meeting with colleagues from the Nebraska Writing Project, and two of the teachers at my table began talking about how one of their families went gluten free. The two engaged in a chat about how much wheat has changed in the last 50 years and discussed the book Wheat Belly. Intrigued, I asked for more information and later that night purchased the book on my Kindle. About a month later, I purged our cabinets and freezer of wheat and decided we'd try this gluten free thing.

The bulk of this book is devoted to explaining the evolution of wheat over the last several hundred years and its impact on Americans' health. I won't bore you all by going into detail about the book, but the most fascinating element of the book was the explanation of the addictive properties of our modern day wheat because it explained my mindless eating and constant cravings for carbs and sugar. I wanted to see if going gluten free would curb this bad habit.

It was a difficult decision to purge the wheat (it still is!) because honestly, there are so many common products that have wheat as an ingredient. The obvious culprits are breads, cereals, pastas, and crackers, but wheat also has snuck its way into salad dressings, soups, condiments, candy, etc. We had a few grocery bags of food to donate to the food pantry by the time I was done cleaning out our cabinets. We replaced our bread with gluten free bread that we only eat every now and then. Our pasta was replaced with corn pasta. Our cereal with Chex. But the biggest change I've seen is in our snacking--no longer are we munching on processed crackers, cookies, or chips. Now we eat nuts, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, meats, cheeses, and the occasional veggie chip/rice cracker for our snacks. All of our snack foods are now more wholesome foods. And guess what? My mindless eating has diminished. I no longer feel constantly hungry either. Don't get wrong, I still want to eat cookies (for the most part, packaged gluten free cookies really suck), and each time I drive by a donut shop, I resist the urge to pick up a few. Eating out is difficult--especially fast food. I did find an app called Find Me Gluten Free that is super handy, but for the most part, we just don't eat out. We're not super crazy about this and expect our friends and family to cook gluten free for us, so we have indulged every now and then when traveling...but we've paid for it with stomach cramps and frequent trips to sit atop the porcelain god.

While it's sometimes a hassle, this gluten free thing has helped me to become a more conscious eater who has traded processed foods for more wholesome foods.


Thoughts on the Vibram Settlement from a Self-Proclaimed Cynic

A friend of mine sent me this article from Runner's World about a lawsuit against Vibram (the maker of the weirdly popular Five-Finger gorilla-looking running shoes) for making false claims of the health benefits of its shoes. I own a pair of Five Fingers. I bought a pair four years ago out of pure curiosity. I did no research before I purchased them. I just knew that my prefered running shoe is a minimal one--low to the ground, not a lot of padding, thin fabric, so the Five Fingers seemed perfect...plus they were on sale...who am I to turn away from a stellar deal on running shoes?! Once I eased into these shoes, I really liked them. However, they were not good for anything more than an easy 3-4 miler. I wore them once for a 4 mile tempo run, and I paid for it the next three day with sore, stiff muscles. That was my fault. Anyone who has been running for more than a few years knows that it takes time to ease into new running gear (shoes, socks, fuel, even clothes...). 

What I find disturbing about this article is the implication that we no longer need to be responsible consumers. The article states, "Bezdek [the woman who filed the lawsuit] Bezd alleged that Vibram deceived consumers by advertising that the footwear could reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles, without basing those assertions on any scientific merit." Folks who bought Vibrams during a certain time frame can file a claim and receive reimbursement for these shoes without even a proof of purchase. 

I do believe companies have a responsibility to be ethical in their advertising. Vibram should have provided research to support their claims. Maybe I'm cynical, but I just don't think that consumers should be able to simply return the shoes because the company didn't provide sufficient data. Shame on the customer for not being a critical consumer. We have a responsibility to be conscious about our purchases, don't we? This lawsuit just seems like an easy way out for irresponsible consumers. I tried accessing Vibram's website for more information on the settlement via the link in the RW article, and it wouldn't work. I did a Google search and sifted through three pages of articles on the settlement, but no actual website where I could find the claims to file. Needless to say, I will not be returning my Vibrams...


Sensitivity on Mother's Day

As a teenage girl, I didn't dream up my wedding; I dreamed up my life as a transient, bohemian actress/writer who was married to a music teacher (this is no joke) and had a hippy daughter named something like Echo who wore mismatched clothes. While this fantasy wasn't realistic, after I married Nate (a music teacher!), I hung on dearly to the last part of the fantasy: having a daughter...which quickly translated to a desire of simply having a child. Each failed attempt stung more than the previous. After a few months of marriage, people began asking when we'd have kids. We'd respond with the obligatory: "Whenever God wants us to." One of our acquaintances even said, "Having kids isn't that hard, you know..." I reigned in my desire to sucker-punch this guy in the teeth. The final blow for us came at a doctor's office in North Platte when we heard we would likely never have children. I remember wandering out of the office, my body numb. Nate and I drove to a nearby lake despite the day being cold and appropriately dreary. He sat on a picnic table while I sat on the cold sand. We both stared into oblivion. The sobbing eventually came. What was my purpose now? I was a married woman...by society's standard, married women are supposed to have children. Now what do we do, I thought?

Eventually we moved on, but each Mother's Day opened the wound of infertility. While I hate to say it, church made it worse. Pastors calling for moms to stand and be recognized in a thunderous round of applause, pastors handing out flowers or candy bars to moms, a special sermon for mothers....I spent these moments sobbing violently in church bathroom stalls. Eventually Nate and I just stopped going to church on Mother's and Father's Day. While I value the work mothers do (even more now that I am one), this action meant to celebrate also alienates many women--women who can't have children, don't want to have children, have had children but lost them, etc. I do believe moms should be recognized but not at the expense of others. I ran across this blog this morning that offers a suggestion for recognizing the "wide continuum of motherhood." The list does not, I'm sure, recognize every possible scenario, but does honor a wider variety of women.

This Mother's Day is different for me: I am a mom to a beautiful little boy who I thank God for every day. But I still remember the pain of the day--my prayer today is for kids without moms, for the women who desperately want children but don't have them, for the women who don't desire children and seem to be outcasts in society, and for moms doing the tough work of raising kids in a broken world. I pray this day would not be painful, but would be a celebration of the women in our lives or in history (whether they are moms or not) who have come before us to shape who we are and what we stand for.


Mother's Day

Ah, it's been a while since I blogged. This motherhood business has obviously forced me to adjust my priorities a bit. Hence, not a lot of writing going on here. I'm actually doing some writing, but much of it is processing through our recent adoption and the losses our little guy has experienced through the process. I've actually been writing about it, but that writing is just too much for a space so public. Something I've been meaning to write about, though, is Mother's Day.

Today I joined J-man at school for "Muffins with Mom." The kids served us muffins while we sat awkwardly on tiny chairs, read us a poem, sang us some songs, presented us with some handmade gifts, and then the moms got to pick out a book to read to our little people. It really was a great morning, and I held back tears much of the morning as I was overwhelmed with love for my little boy. But I also couldn't help but wonder about J's birth mom...our contact with her has really fallen off. We've written letters and sent pictures to get no response. I never know if I should keep sending the updates or if I should back off. I've contemplated sending her a card for Mother's Day, but I just don't know if that would be too much like rubbing salt in a wound. Sometimes I think of what I would want, and then I realize that what she wants and what I want are likely two different scenarios.

I'm so thankful God gave us J, but it's heartbreaking to know that J was removed from his biological parents' care...for various reasons, we don't talk much about his birth parents. And really, he doesn't either. Once every three or four months, he'll say something about one of them. When J gave me the book he made about all the things he loves to do with me (his mom), I couldn't help but wonder if, when he was making it, he thought first or at all about his birth mom. It would be fine with me if he did, I don't feel like a second-place mom or anything, but I just wonder what goes through his mind on holidays like Mother's and Father's Day. I wonder if he thinks about them more than he lets us know.

I don't know what J's birth mom is up to. I'm not sure where she's at physically, mentally, or emotionally. I don't know how she'll spend her Mother's Day. I do hope she thinks of Jonathan, and I hope she knows he is loved.