Bits about this and that

Did you know that the state of Wisconsin is shaped just like your hand? Whenever I try to explain to people where I grew up, I simply turn my hand to them and point.

(See, my thumb is Door County, right?)


So, you’d find Sharon, the teeny-tiny town in which I grew up at the very bottom of that mitten. As in, if you rode your bike to the end of my street, it intersected with State Line Road. So, I’d go there and I’d hop over the center line, yelling, “I’m in Wisconsin! I’m in Illinois!”

And, yes, I was hopping the center line on a major road and I should not have been. My mom had no idea.

Sharon is a quiet town, one that has changed very much since I was a little girl. I find myself gravitating to memories from there often, though, especially lately. The pandemic has me so nostalgic for — maybe, simpler times? Happier times? I don’t know exactly what, but I find myself drawn back consistently. I’m writing essays about things that seem so unimportant, but I just need to get those words down.

My small town had its own newspaper, the Sharon Reporter. It was run by Mabel Jackson, a local journalist who also edited the newspaper. If I close my eyes and think of any event I ever went to, Mabel was there, with her camera and her tiny spiral notebook.

Each week, she had a column titled, “Bits About This and That.” It was basically the gossip section. She’d talk about her gardens, I remember, her family, if someone was moving or had gotten a new job.

I’m not exactly sure why, at 39 years old, years and years after that paper has been out of production, I still think about that column. However, here is my pandemic version of Bits About This and That:

Yes, my neck hurts all the time. ALL the time. I’m popping ibuprofen, using a neck hammock that I bought on Instagram, trying out new pillows, and trying so hard to put my phone down. It still just hurts.

I am LOVING the new album by the (Dixie)Chicks. It’s on repeat!

Well, today it is cool and breezy and suddenly feels like Autumn. Autumn makes me think of school. Of course. My whole life feels like it has been defined by the start of another school year. This year is so different. I’m so … unsettled. I don’t feel confident about school at all, and not because I don’t think I can figure out the technology, and not because I don’t think I can teach content, but in the way that I am afraid of missed connections. How can I do this with brand new students who I have never met? How do I do this? This weekend I had a surprise visit from two students I had as 4th graders who moved out of state several years ago. What a connection we have, right? Is it even possible over the computer?

I want a puppy.

Mental health wise, I am STRUGGLING. Being a parent in these 4 walls and trying so hard not to show my worry is hard. My kids are having a very hard time. I’ve started taking them to see a therapist because I am seeing changes that concern me. A friend of mine who is a therapist told me she is seeing many, many kids coming to therapy that normally would not be there. I feel so grateful I have this at my fingertips, and so weary that not everyone does. I hope it helps.

I finally got back my ability to focus long enough to read a book. I’m reading one after another after another.

Even though I’m with my family all day long, I feel disconnected. I long for a date night with my husband, but even if I had one, all we would talk about is the pandemic and politics and the opening of schools because it overshadows everything I do. We are not away from each other ever to have anything to tell each other and it makes me feel so sad. I feel like a broken record.

We are, however, binging the West Wing, and I recommend it.

I don’t know what to make for dinner anymore. Ever. Also, I hate cooking.

My social anxiety is growing. You know how the longer you don’t do something, the harder it is to start (think exercise)? I’ve been at home without people for so long that when the doorbell rings, I tense up and want to literally hide.

Several dozens of times a day, I think of things I’m grateful for. This pandemic has me clinging to the things I know are the most important. I feel oddly at peace, a little more solid than normal. Annoyances are let go, I don’t have the energy to give. I go for walks and I breathe in the air and think of how grateful I am for the weather, for the sun, for long walks and my legs that carry me.

I killed almost every plant in my garden. It’s a special skill.

I suppose I could go on forever, but I’ll stop here, yo.




That’s me, the fat one.

I scroll through Facebook, pausing at a picture of sun-tanned friends, in bikinis, together on the beach. Their kids are playing nearby in the sand. My fingers pinch the picture to zoom in on their tummies. How did they even have kids, I wonder. I see no signs of that!

I pause next at a photo of a friend, standing next to her husband. She’s wearing a sundress, her teeth are gleaming white. She could shake her hair and be in a commercial. ┬áIt’s thick and wavy-it looks put-together even if it’s just tied in a knot on her head.

I see a comment that an acquaintance made about stubborn belly fat and how she’s gained 6 pounds from the beginning of cover, now weighing in at a whopping 120 pounds.

I read a thread on reddit where a guy is asking if he’s the asshole for wanting to dumb his girlfriend of 2 years because she now has love handles and he’s too grossed out to touch her around the waist.

I watch someone who has confided in me her struggles with anorexia post weekly side-by-sides of her weight loss while men comment with fire-emojis and women comment #goals! #perfection

Selfies everywhere. You are so beautiful. Look at you. Amazing. Gorgeous.

I would not even be able to give you an estimate of how many times a day I wish I were beautiful.

If you follow my facebook page, you may have noticed that last night we had a little chaos with a mouse loose in our house. I was chronicling it online so all of you could laugh at me, and my husband said, “Turn on your air drop. I have the BEST picture of the night.”

So he sends me this picture. My mom is standing on a chair. Avery is mid-run. I am standing on a chair, with the phone to my ear, making a horrified face like I’m screaming into the phone, while also bending down so the ceiling fan didn’t chop my head off.


And all I could think?

I am so fat. Look at my disgusting stomach.

Look at how it hangs there. How can anyone look at me?

You better believe I did NOT share that photo on social media.

This has been my thing for so long that it’s just become a part of me. I dream of being beautiful. Of being thin. Of having hair that isn’t so thin it shows my scalp. Of being someone who actually got to have style when it comes to fashion instead of “whatever fits from the plus size section at Kohl’s”.

Brian chronicles our summers on Instagram. He’s done it for years now, taking pictures all day long of our activities and posting them. Twice this week I have angrily grunted something in his direction for posting candid pictures of me. I cringe when I see them and demand them to be removed.

This morning in the shower, though, I really wondered. How would my life change if I were beautiful?

Would I get more superficial compliments? Sure.

Would my author page go viral if I had a thinner face and a thin body? Maybe-but for how long?

Would my husband love me more? Nope.

Would I gain more respect from anyone? Big nope.

It’s time for me to be done.

To be done desperately trying to explain to people how UNlazy I am, how I eat the same as you, exercise, yet I stay fat. Even now, I want to tell you, when you see me–I walk 3 miles every day! I dance with my kids and swim! I drink a protein shake for breakfast and limit my carbs! I’ve been to all the doctors!

She’s lying. She’s lazy. She’s setting a bad example for her kids. She’s this and she’s that.

I’m done wishing I could fit in with everyone else. Done carrying it around like even MORE weight.

I’m done wishing that men would notice me, hold doors for me, want me. I don’t notice them, LOL! My life is amazeballs and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! Isn’t it strange to think I want to be wanted just for funsies? To feel desirable.

Why do I spend so much time trying to be thin, fixating on it, worrying never endlessly? Sure, I’m trying to be healthy! But that’s not my main reason. Nope. It’s the shame I feel from others. The moral hierarchy where if you’re thin and beautiful your life is worth more.

Isn’t it about time I just enjoy what I’ve got? Dang, this all goes by so fast (minus perhaps the groundhog’s day feel of quarantine) and I think it’s about time I move on from all this self-loathing. It’s not a very beautiful quality, after all.







You are not alone (sung in the michael jackson song way)

Several years ago, I was riding in the car with my mom, and, as usual, tears were streaming down my face. What was I upset about? Who knows. Was the reaction I was having too big for the problem? Probably.

She gently mentioned that she thought meds for my anxiety might help.

From there, it took me a year to call and make an appointment.


And then, guess what? I canceled and rescheduled. Canceled and rescheduled.

Funny how when you have so much anxiety, you have too much anxiety to make an appointment to help with said anxiety.

I had just had a thing at school, the day I finally decided I had to do it. Enough was enough. I’d been accused of doing something that not only did I NOT do, I felt so angry and ashamed that someone could even THINK I could do something like that. I was sat down in an office and a parent was allowed to scream at me. I was sitting down, he was standing up. The whole thing was a NIGHTMARE.

And it rattled me. My dad used to yell at me like that. Scream. I yell at my kids from time-to-time. My dad was different. It was sharp. Angry to the point of scary.

I honestly felt like it rattled something loose inside of me. Things that I had bottled up for years and years. Things that I had stuffed down further to make room for grief.

A doctor said to me once that since my childhood was lived in fight-or-flight, that my body couldn’t really discern whether something simple like calling to make an appointment I didn’t want to have from something truly harmful.

So, I went on anxiety meds. I was one of those people before that said, “They are great. People should take them. Just not me.” The first 6 months were so horrible. I tried 3 different kinds of meds.

One made me literally fall asleep sitting up in the middle of the day, as though I as on actual drugs. One caused some trouble in an area I probably shouldn’t talk about, and one literally made me constipated.

I finally settled on one, and at first the difference was incredible. I didn’t feel so irritable! I didn’t want to yell! I hardly cried!

But then, after a while, I felt like they weren’t working. My dosage was upped.

And then again.

And then again.

And pretty soon I was on 150 mg of an SSRI and I felt like a walking ghost. It took me a while to realize that I was depressed. I was having the worst school year ever, and the stress was overwhelming. Some of my friends were pretty much done with me. Inter-personal relationships all around me were failing. I was having vivid, terrifying nightmares and not sleeping.

What’s funny is I was so close to upping my dose again, when something nagged me. Maybe, just maybe, these are the wrong meds for you.

I also bet you’re wondering what the heck my point is right now.

Today, I’ve been off anxiety meds for 5 days. I went from 150 mg to 100, to 50, to 25, to 25 e/o day, and now none.

And it’s possible because … drum roll … I haven’t been at work since March 13th. Teaching is STRESS. Our work is STRESS. During this quarantine, I’ve walked 3 miles every day (sometimes 6!). I’ve run and jumped into the pool with my kids to cool off when we arrive back home. I’ve slept in and read books and listened to podcasts and not sat with anxiety, wondering how I could cancel the thing I should never have agreed to. Ha ha, suckers! I don’t even have to answer the door, because quarantine!

Am I anxious about things? Heck, yes. But I’m not stressed. And I have laughed SO MUCH in the past 5 days. The thing about antidepressants is that they level you out. So there aren’t so many lows, but I wasn’t feeling the highs either. And the highs are what make me who I am!

I’ve been stressed since I was a small child. Will my parents divorce? What will my dad say or do next? Then a boyfriend who gaslit. Then my parents did actually divorce. Then infertility. Then cancer. Then the twins died. Then my mother in law. Then my family members hate me, what did I do?

Type II diabetes. Anxiety. Stubborn belly fat that won’t go no matter what.


It’s time for me to attack the problem at the source. I HAVE to say no to things that don’t bring me joy. I have to say NO. I have to focus on my health. Exercise. Meditation. Nature. TAKING BREAKS FROM SOCIAL MEDIA!

If this doesn’t go well, I will 100% go back on anxiety meds. When school starts in the fall, and I have to go back in the building, which causes me to actually feel the stress rising up, and I need them again, I will take them. This post is not me advocating “Everyone go off their meds! WAHOO!” Not even a little. I’m not actually sure yet if this was the right thing.

But, like always, I share this to let you know that you’re not alone. Therapy. Meds. Stress. Sadness. Wondering if you’re normal.

You are, yo.

You are.




When failure is worth it

On any given day, I fail to meet expectations of SOMEONE.

On every given day, I fail to meet the expectations of MYSELF.

My goodness, as a teacher and a mom of two young kids and a wife and a board member and a writer and a friend and a sister and a daughter and this list could go on and on and on and on, there is no way to keep up.

Phone calls go unanswered, text threads are picked up days later, I have 92 unread or unanswered emails in my inbox which is SO NOT LIKE ME, I can’t keep up with Facebook notifications, I’m missing contest deadlines, and my husband is reminding me I promised him I’d edit something for him, and my daughter is asking me when I will go watch Anne with an E with her like I said I would.

And the minute–the very minute I let one thing slip, I hear about it. In no uncertain terms, I am told that I have failed.

I carry this around with me. I carry the unmet expectations and the fear of messing up and the knowledge that no matter how hard I try, I am letting somebody down.

But–BUT–you guys. It is all worth it. It is. Because every once in a while, something comes along that reminds you that your struggle matters. Your struggle to keep up has paid off because somehow along the way you have made an impact. You’ve touched someone. You’ve given someone hope or strength.

I teach 4th grade, and I get Christmas gifts. I’m very lucky. It’s not every kid, but it’s most of the kids, and they get me incredibly thoughtful things like gift cards and candy and classroom decorations and my coveted Harry Potter Pop figures.

They are seriously so thoughtful, that sometimes I just can’t handle how much they listen to what I say and they remember it and pass it on to their parents. It’s humbling.

But then, every so often, there are gifts that just wreck me. On the day before break, one of my students came up to me and handed me this box:


He grinned at me, and stood there waiting for me to open it. This boy, he’s incredible. He’s sweet, and kind and smart.

I have to say that I was surprised to get a gift from him. Why? Because kids don’t have money, parents do, and parents are who give gifts to teachers (based on what their kids pick out sometimes, sometimes not). And in this family, like a LOT of the families at my school, I just happen to know that they don’t have extra money for spending. At all.

So, he hands me this box and says, “I think you’re going to love these. They are so pretty!”

And then … and then, I opened it up to see this:

I managed a thank-you, and gave him a hug and as soon as he was in the classroom, I started ugly crying and had to go hide in the computer lab.

You and I both know that this box of candle sticks came from a rummage sale. The yellowing newspaper (the date on one of the pieces was 2008). Or from the dollar tree, or just wherever. They were yellowed and full of dust, and one of them had a half-burned candle still inside.

And yet, it was the most beautiful gift.

The gift of knowing that this child wanted to do something kind for me so badly that he (I’m inferring here) scoured the house, found these old candle holders in a shoebox, and decorated it for me.

There was a note inside, too and it simply said:

“Merry Christmas, Mrs. W. You are my best teacher. You make me feel safe. Love, …”

The love of a child. The very best gift that there ever could be. So simple.

So humbling.

So extraordinary.

That makes the struggle worth it. A million times over.

Hang in there, teachers and mamas and wives and daughters and pastors and uncles. You might mess up. You might let people down. But you gotta keep going, for all the ways that you make change. For all the ways that you fill hearts of little people. For ALL the ways you give hope.

You got this!