The Crucible of Winter: What Has It Taught You?
“Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.”
— Katherine May
I have been through a very painful winter. Have you too?
Today, turning the calendar page today to March 1 felt liberating.
Then a walk in balmy, windy, air,
listening to birds, looking for crocuses and pansies, admiring the persistence of daffodils —
all these things provided more tonic.
My spirit wants to attach to these signs of hope and move right to spring.
But there are twenty days of winter remaining, and, if winter is a crucible,
as Katherine May says above, then now is the time to try to understand
the nature of the trial I (and you too?) have been through.
A crucible is a test.
Literally, it is a container for melting metal,
often precious metals.
When in the midst of the crucible, the searing pain seems eternal. It seems like death.
That’s how it was almost all of 2020.
The whole year felt like winter. Like a crucible.
First, my daughter fell seriously ill without a clear diagnosis.
Then, weeks later, a pandemic threatened to bring death and destruction to millions.
And loneliness and poverty to many more.
A pandemic made all other forms of suffering worse, and more isolating,
even when it did not infect us directly, it changed our plans and made it riskier to travel back and forth
between Pittsburgh and Harrisonburg.
I became caregiver, medical sleuth, mama and grandma,
letting go of travel plans, volunteer work, writing.
Eventually, I too became ill.
Not able to think straight or sleep well, I lost energy, weight, and hair,
but never lost hope.
Just at the time when that hope was hardest to hang on to,
a spark of new life appeared.
The daughter who had been hiding, even from friends and family,
began to use the computer again to research.
She found a whole world of people suffering from a host of symptoms with an alphabet soup of names:
MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities), EI (Environmental Illness), ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome),
CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome), MCAS (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome) . . .
Writers and filmmakers told the story of The Sensitives.
Memoirists and documentarians TED speakers told their stories.
This award-winning documentary describes Jennifer Brea’s journey with many of the above.
The stories of other courageous people led our daughter to tell her own story on Facebook.
She described the winter in her soul, and her friends responded with empathy and encouragement.
She learned of at least six other people who had similarly mysterious and treatment-resistant illnesses.
Instead of falling through the cracks and looking up through those cracks at the world carrying on around her,
Kate began to find a community of healers and those who are healing.
She began to believe she too could heal.
Slowly, steadily, she has gained strength every day since Christmas.
Winter has done its work but has not had the last word.
Spring has broken through in her spirit.
Stories have given her hope.
Food is her medicine, and I am her witness.
The fact that I am finally re-appearing here after my last blog post in August says
that I too am healing.
I too am reaching out to the community that has faithfully engaged with my stories,
and I am eager to hear yours!
Has winter been a crucible for you? How? What meaning have you found in the winter in your soul? I’d love to read your thoughts below.
While you think about your answer, here are wise words from Anton Chekhov:
“The snow has not yet left the earth, but spring is already asking to enter your heart. If you have ever recovered from a serious illness, you will be familiar with the blessed state when you are in a delicious state of anticipation, and are liable to smile without any obvious reason. Evidently that is what nature is experiencing just now. The ground is cold, mud and snow squelches under foot, but how cheerful, gentle and inviting everything is! The air is so clear and transparent that if you were to climb to the top of the pigeon loft or the bell tower, you feel you might actually see the whole universe from end to end. The sun is shining brightly, and its playful, beaming rays are bathing in the puddles along with the sparrows. The river is swelling and darkening; it has already woken up and very soon will begin to roar. The trees are bare, but they are already living and breathing.”
Oh my. BTDT. And yes, food is one important key and often the easiest to access.
It’s wrenching when daughters are ill.
Hugs to you…
Elaine, I remember feeling empathy for you when you were suffering with your daughter. I hope you are both well. And if you aren’t, my heart is with you even more.
My daughter’s family is currently living in Delaware, and I think she is doing fairly well, considering.
About 25 years ago I was buried by that alphabet soup you referenced. I had actually been diagnosed with fibromyalgia 41 years ago, but had managed to avoid the worst for quite a few years. But at one point I was unable to eat without triggering more problems. Looking back I guess I never did totally gave up and did eventually find the kinds of help to make gradual progress, but there were many dark days and nights. Unfortunately this is not something that ever totally goes away; it will always need vigilance and work to figure out what I might need to change to get back on course.
Thank you for doing the medical research for your daughter. I had no idea you had gotten so seriously ill… 🙁
I’m sorry it’s been rough for you. I can empathize. I am so very sorry. Thanks for sharing your story.
My son, his wife, and children, all fell ill with Covid, around Christmas. My daughter in law has had a very rough time. She is still gaining strength and is a longer time sufferer of Covid. The last meal I dropped off was January 27.
I had a bad fall and tore ligaments and fractured my left ankle that afternoon. It has been very trying. I could not shower or weight bear for 3 weeks. Crutches are no fun. That big old boot I wore got tangled in the bedcovers and sleep evaded me. Bill tries very hard to help me. I’m trying to be patient. Ups and downs are a normal occurrence now. I still struggle with fear that the ankle will be weaker. I had a knee replacement on that leg 10 years ago. I really need my ankle to be strong again.
March is here. I am glad to say goodbye to January and February. I am slowly getting better. I still have not felt like painting or attending Bible study by zoom. I tore up paintings ….
But a few days ago, on a warmer day, I sat on the deck and breathed very very very deep, and looked at the sky. I saw an eagle. Hope is peeking through.
Let us all care about each other and hope together!
Prayers for you, and Kate, and your family
Oh Lois, you have had a long, dark winter also. I am so sorry. I hope your ankle and all the ligaments will mend. And that you can get sleep. I know how much difference sleep makes!
And the long term Covid patients are as perplexing to doctors as are the sufferers from chronic illnesses depicted in the movie Unrest, above. In fact, I noticed on Twitter that there is hope that more research on long-term Covid will also help others, especially ME/CFS patients. Illnesses with well-established diagnoses and treatments are difficult. The ones without them feel even more burdensome.
Yes! Let us all care about each other and hope together!
Prayers for you, your daughter-in-law and all your family.
Thank you, Shirley! It helps. 💓
I had pondered once or twice why we weren’t seeing you show up here … oh my, what a heartache for sure! Thanks for sharing and hope she and you continue on a good trajectory. I kept thinking you were busily involved in something, maybe a writing project. I’m sure Kate was grateful for your help and care … and they have a very small girl, right?
We’re at Juniper right now after visiting Mother several days — did you know Greencroft has opened up for short visits by family – 20 minutes, with a rapid covid test before entering Healthcare. Anyway, she broke her shoulder Feb. 11 (last year it was a femur on Feb. 22 I think) … she’s now in rehab but they’ve spilled over rehab patients into the healthcare section, and I know staff are busy busy so it is hard for Mom too, to wait for the basics of life as you can read between the lines. At any rate, it was good to hear from you and I will keep your daughter and family in mind. I’ve appreciated April Yamasaki’s post with less-cliche lines from time to time: here’s one: May you all sense God very near.
Thank you, Melodie. Yes Lydia was three when her mom got sick. We hope to celebrate health on her next birthday in June.
I saw the picture of your mother on FB. She seems to be enjoying your visit. I’m glad the slight relaxation in Greencroft rules gives you the chance to be both nurse and daughter. I am looking forward to being able to visit my mother regularly. But that’s another story.
Thanks for sending us to April’s blogpost on thoughts and prayers. I offer you and your mom and sisters the same wish you gave to me: may you all sense God very near.
It’s been a hard winter for so many! HOPE is the greatest healing ! At 86 Years I still have hope thank you for sharing!!
You are so right, Jeannette. The hardest time for me was when my daughter lost hope. When she regained it, I began to heal also. I love that you have hope at 86 years. I will claim you as a role model.
I am so happy for Kate’s return. Although I don’t know her, her mother-in-law is one of my dearest friends and has told us of her story. What a story it is, but such a change. Hallelujah. The “winter of our discontent”, I am almost ashamed to say, has been a contented winter for me. My husband and I are well and have enjoyed each other immensely through this last year. Our shut down happened on St. Patrick’s Day last year, on my birthday, but instead of sad times, we have had a good time together cooking, reading, planning. I’ve made about 350 masks, journaled, practices yeast breads and connected with people in the community who needed help. There were days when we both could have thrown things at the wall, but I believe our love for each other grew through these last hard months. The politics and pandemic seemed to go hand in hand, but we are relieved and grateful for the family we have seen and the the California family we have not seen. I have enjoyed the writing of Laurie R. King, her first book being The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, visits to old favorites like E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia and Delderfield’s To Serve Them All My Days. All old friends, treasured old friends. I have also had the joy of reconnecting with Goshen College friends, class of ‘67. We were referred to as the Motley Crew then and now. We have Zoomed several times and plan more. I don’t think this would have happened as easily without the pandemic to push us. I have had the courage to leave a congregation who have mixed too much spiritual life and politics. I don’t know if I’ll go back, but I have expressed my opinion when I didn’t think I could. A recent spate of my illness only seems normal with all that has gone on; at least it isn’t Covid. Blessings to you all. May you grow strong physically and mentally and embrace the changing seasons. When it is safe again we shall go to Iceland. I’ve always wanted to see a volcano. It’s on my bucket list. Thank you Shirley. I’m glad you are recovering and I’m so glad for Kate.
Norah, your valiant and loving spirit shines through this response. Thank you for your concern for Kate and me and all our family. And I am so glad that you have had many good times during the long winter!. Sounds like Covid has brought you some positive gains in connecting with husband and friends. I hope all the good continues even after the pandemic abates. I hope you get to Iceland. BTW, Lydia’s favorite playmate in school is named Norah. I hear your name often.
Shirley — I knew that something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. I thought perhaps you’d become a caregiver for your mother. I was wrong. I’ve clothes-pinned you and your mom on my “laundry line divine” each evening since you stopped posting (it’s where I keep track of people I’m holding sacred space for). It never even occurred to me that it was KATE. And then YOU. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so glad to hear that you and Kate are seeing light at the end of the long dark tunnel.
Ah, Laurie, you have a great sixth sense. I love the idea of a laundry line divine. Thank you for noticing my absence and for giving me a place of honor in your sacred space. And thank you for rejoicing with us now. I have kept abreast of your new book and your love of characters and mystery. I wish you all the best as you prepare (so creatively and carefully) for your book launch.
Shirley, my heart goes out to you and your precious Kate and this crucible period. I too missed your blog and my thoughts and prayers were with you even though I didn’t know what you were going through.
It has definitely been a crucible period for me as well. My husband passed in 2019. I moved twice in 2019, once into my son’s home and then into a little house I bought.
In 2020 just as COVID broke loose, I broke my foot. And then in November of 2020 I had to have surgery on my ankle to remove a nodule. I am grateful for the sick time bank that I built up.
I learned over this time to do some self care.
I will continue to pray for you and your daughter Kate and her recovery.
June, you have had many trials to bear since 2019. I hope your foot and ankle are healing and that you are enjoying your new home. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I will put your name on my metaphorical “laundry line divine” (see Laurie’s comment above). Hope to see you back here again sometime soon.
So happy to see you back again, Shirley. It didn’t occur to me that your absence was due to illness in the family, thought you had too many other projects going, or perhaps that your mother needed more care. It’s good to know that both you your daughter are on the mend now. It’s harder for a mom to watch her daughter suffer than to suffer herself! I’m sure Postpartum Depression must have been on the check list and ruled out, but it sure sounds like that from what I’ve read about it. I look forward to more of your posts!
Elfrieda, I actually did have too many projects going. I’ll be writing about my latest book news soon. But it was illness that kept me away from blogging. Kate did suffer mentally, as did I, but she is post-post-partum now. Lydia will be four in June. Thanks for caring and for looking forward to new posts. I am grateful to feel most of my energy back again. Hope you have yours too!
Shirley, so happy to read your writing again; you are such an inspiration. I feel terrible that I didn’t know, especially since Stuart was taking his time each week to meet with my husband. This winter has been difficult and made even harder because of Covid. But there are signs of hope: biopsy was benign, had our second Covid vaccines, Wayne will have surgery this summer, crocus are blooming and the world sounds like spring even if it is still 3 weeks away. I’m so happy that you and your daughter are feeling better. Sending thoughts and prayers for both of you.
Thank you for the kind words about my writing, Roveen. Covid has made a difference in the health crises in both our families. Hallelujah if that time is coming to an end. Soon we will have our second vaccine also. We have you and Wayne in thoughts and prayers also.
Oh my, dear cousin Shirley. We didn’t know that you and Kate were not well. So grateful to hear that you’re both experiencing God’s healing touch and improving strength. We will hold you in loving prayers, as you are held in God’s everlasting arms. Please take care.
Dear cousin Steve, thank you for these words of comfort and gratitude. We have witnessed a miracle, and my first response is to bow my head in thanks to God. Leaning on the Everlasting Arms is one of my favorite hymns. You take care too. So many people benefit from your pastoral care.
I am so sorry for this long journey in pain for both you and your daughter and very glad for the healing emerging from connections with others and the belief that it is not just experts but those with lived experience who can bring hope. As winter opens into spring, I hope for hope and for progress, small, larger, swift or glacial. I’ve missed your words and will be glad for then next week or in six months.
Maren, thank you for these words. I look forward to reading your wonderful poems again online. I’ve missed your words, too! I’ll be posting and reading and responding more again. Life is so precious. You know that in a deep way.
I have been wondering if I fell off your email list! So good to see and hear your writing again! I feel the Same Way about March 1st! I always think if the weather is cold and wintry, its days are numbered, because the world keeps turning and the days get longer! Winter has had it rough times around here, too. I have been struggling to keep my blood pressure down and my hubby has had a chronic muscle pain in his back. We are thankful for good care, but haven’t come through the tunnel, yet. I feel like all the years I worked hard and put my own body on the back burner has come to slap me and give me ‘what I deserve’. My husband is in the greenhouse business and those people are working harder than ever. It’s good work, but it takes its toll when the Spring Rush lasts all year. It was so refreshing to find this community of comments this morning!💕
Thank you, Melinda, for noticing and caring. So glad you are being inspired by these comments. I am too! I read an article in the New York Times about the K-shape of the Covid recovery. Either you are doing much better (flush) or much worse (floundering). Sounds like in the greenhouse business times are flush with extra demand but that the demand creates long hours and physical taxation. Hope you have help.
I hope to see you hear again soon. You did not fall off the list!
Oh Shirley, tears for yours and your daughter’s crucibles. I am so sorry that you’ve both been through this. But as you say “Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.” My tears are drying now, now that I hear that your and your daughter on the way to restoration. My we never tire of seeing the bursts of spring showing in their way through the compressed soil, popping up in bursts of colour, beauty, joy to see the sun again and bloom yet again. I watched the short video – golly, there are brave people everywhere willing to share, be seen and heard.
Our winter is yet to arrive, already the evenings have a nip to them. Last year’s winter weather wise was not too grim. Health wise we were ok, thanks be. Obviously the shut downs were difficult and life is much changed. Who knows what lies in store. Sometimes the greatest difficulty seems to me is embracing the uncertainty of it all.
Meanwhile, welcome back and I wish you and your daughter a full return to good health Shirley.
Susan, you are so empathetic. Thank you for your concern for me and my family. And I sincerely hope your winter will be better than mine was. It’s wonderful to have your opposite perspectives on the seasons.
I’m glad that you were able to take the time to watch the short video trailer. Until Kate got ill, I had no idea so many people were suffering profoundly due to chronic diseases.
I need to come check our what you have been doing online. I have a lot of catching up to do!
I’m convinced, from personal experience, the hard times in life are what form us. Without them we can’t know who we truly are. I had my own walk through a year of illness and near death 8 years ago with a cancer diagnosis and treatment that produced complications resulting in 3 surgeries, 42 days total at UVA and my friends convinced I was a goner. But I survived, and flourished again. This winter of Covid has it’s own gifts and challenges. Deaths of people we all know, my Mother must be visited at VMRC through glass, my dear sister now diagnosed with the same type cancer I survived and an aging husband who needs more of my attention and care. The meditation skills I learned through my own cancer experience are getting a workout. Shirley, it’s good to have you back. Your winter sounds excruciating and I also know it will give you more to share going forward. Best intentions for both you and your daughter.
Dear Karen, thank you for these hard words of encouragement and for sharing your deep experience of how suffering produces good things too. “The hard times in life are what form us.” Yes. I am so glad you survived that terrible diagnosis and treatment, and as a member of the Threshold Choir, I get to walk a tiny bit of your sister’s journey with her. I hope you get to visit with your mother soon without glass between you. Soon almost all the residents will have had two shots. I’m glad you learned meditation skills. They serve us well. Blessings to you and your family too.
I am happy to “see” you again, Shirley, and read your words. Grateful, too, for the healing beginning in your dear daughter and in you as well. As mothers, our children’s trials become our own and we do double duty in carrying their burdens as well as our own. It’s a lot to bear.
I did not come through 2020 unscathed and, in fact, ended the year in a metaphorical and literal pool of tears and despair. Depression’s tentacles wrapped around me tighter with each passing month in the latter part of the year until, thanks to wise counsel, I reached out for help. I stepped away from social media and my blog for a month, and could probably use more time away but I’m dipping my toes in now and then.
Welcome back, dear one. Lifting prayers for you and your family.
Also….my best friend was afflicted with ME/CFS many years ago when few people had heard of it. She endured a long, difficult battle but came through. I say this to offer hope for your daughter.
I am so sorry that yours has been a long, cold, dark winter of body and soul also. We can rejoice together as we notice the new place on the mountain where the sun rises or sets, and the longer days that result. I sensed, in my occasional forays into social media, that you were having a hard time too. As Lois says above, it’s always better when we care for each other and share each other’s burdens.
I don’t think Kate actually has ME/CFS, though she had some of the symptoms. I hope your best friend is still doing well. My hat is off to anyone who has to face such a difficult disease and so few people who understand.
Blessings and prayers for you also.
Dear Shirley, Of course you became ill, too. But, I did not know. I’m so grateful to know that you are ‘back’ along with Kate! You are dear to my heart. Forever in our hearts!
You are forever in our hearts too. We need to schedule a Zoom meeting again. So much has happened. Thanks for these words.
I am happy to join the chorus of well wishers here. You have been missed, and I see a lot of empathy here including the stories of others who have suffered. Someone has said that a mother is only as happy as her saddest child, and I know that to be true. Whether our children are in their 30s, 40s, or even 50s, the mother’s heart feels the pain. But though pain is real, so is hope, which I find in abundance here.
Another thing I know for sure is that isolation intensifies pain. Years ago at EMC, a counselor reached out to help me, but I resisted, succumbing to the fallacy “I can get through this alone’ I don’t need help.” But we do, we need community to heal, as your post so exquisitely reveals.
Thank you for all of this: quotes from Katherine May, Chekov, and the video, which I will view soon. Peace and joy to you–and blessings, Shirley! 🙂
So true, Marian. You have a mother’s heart too. Your counselor was wise to argue against isolation. I understand the impulse to retreat, and sometimes it’s necessary. (When you share the pain and have a lot of friends, you can end up giving updates to each one at a time. That’s exhausting too.) But community is always capable of finding better solutions than one miserable person is.
Glad you enjoyed the quotes. Katherine May was interviewed by Krista Tippet. And I found the Chekhov quote by remembering the line about Chekhov in the movie Groundhog Day. 🙂
Thanks for your blessing. I return the same to you.
Shirley, thank you for sharing your story of pain and suffering, yet ultimately, of hope and faith.
I am so saddened to hear about what you’ve been through. Along with so many others, I send prayers for continued healing and strength for you and for your daughter.
Marlena, thank you for these thoughts and prayers. I hope your book launch went well. Sorry it had to be in the midst of a pandemic! Thanks for sending me a copy.
Shirley, thank you for sharing so openly because it helps us all realize how fragile our bodies and souls can be. Being a mother and watching our adult children in pain is SO very difficult.It is such good news to read that Kate is regaining strength and on the road to a rich and full life again with her family. I will always remember the lovely Mother’s Day card Kate made for Kelly, Libby and me when we enjoyed their place in PIttsburgh. Blessings to her and to you both.
You know so well the heartache of chronic illness and the fragility of bodies and souls. Thanks for adding these words and for remembering Kate’s creative and generous spirit, now so much in evidence again.
Blessings to you and yours also.
It is so good to see you back writing your blog. I didn’t realize how sick you too had been. Above all else, your “job” right now is to heal yourself and I hope you will allow yourself the time to do it. That is sometimes long and hard. In 1980, it took me a year to recover from a serious illness.
“Mother Heal MySelf: An Intergenerational Healing Journey Between Two Worlds” is a very interesting autobiography by JoEllen Goertz Koerner telling the story of helping her daughter to heal. Koerner is a Russian Mennonite in North Dakota. Koerner’s medical background includes the following: Ph.D., RN, FAAN, past president of the American Organization of Nurse Executives and an originating member of the Center for Nursing Leadership. However, it was the help of the Lakota Sioux tribe that helped her daughter heal (and herSelf) after Western medicine had failed. The book is on Amazon.
Thank you, Erma. Your wise words have sunk in. I am taking time. I started healing as soon as Kate did, and I am feeling very close to my old self. I am eating mostly plants, taking long walks, and soon will be sitting in the sunshine. I wake up every day grateful for life itself.
Thank you for the recommendation. The book sounds wonderful, and I ordered a copy. However, this is the last order I will make on Amazon this week. I am standing with their employees who have the right to unionize and very good reasons to do so!
So sorry for your woeful winter. It has been beyond tough for so many. Loss and grief is more than difficult to live through. I am hugely grateful that though the past year has been horrible in so many ways, that things may be lightening up for some of us. Happily our family has not been touched by covid and I, myself, have been happy staying at home and being the artist I was, before I joined the cacophony out in the world. The political scene was more than terrifying and I’m so grateful for Joe Biden’s election. Both Bill and I have had our covid shots with no side effects. And for now the earth is still spinning. If anything it has been the emotional toll that hit me the most. Learning to turn off the news to stay sane was a tough one. We are aging however, and are learning to listen to what our bodies are telling us instead of the, “you’re still 25 years old,” crap that our egos spit out. We are so happy to find that Bill does not have dementia, but has ADD, which can cause lots of problems in older people but nothing near the perils of dementia. He is now on medication and has much more energy and is able to focus more than he has in a long time. I’m not writing much these days but have a daily practice keeping visual art journals and learning to draw comic figures which I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I hope and pray that this next year will find you and yours healthy and happy. I was so glad to hear from you and do stay in touch.
It’s wonderful to hear from you, too, and to know that Bill is doing well. You have made excellent choices during the pandemic. I see that the Virginia Festival of the Book is coming up March 16-20 and will be all virtual. I hope to take in some of the wonderful speeches online. I always think of you when I think of the Festival. You have been great hosts to me and Stuart over the years.
I hope you will share some of the comic figures in your journals. That sounds like a fun creative project.
I hope and pray that the next year will find you and Bill healthy and happy too. Stay tuned to the next blog post. There’s more news.
Shirley, what a winter you have had! So glad that Kate and you are recovering. So much to be said for what the impact of a pandemic can do to our bodies and minds, even though we’re never touched by the disease causing the pandemic.
Like many others, I suffer from mild depression on a somewhat regular basis. Following my 2019 spine surgery, the darkness slid into my world without any kind of announcement. It obviously came to stay because I am still struggling to reach the light again. My physician says the stress of the pandemic has hit many of his depressed patients hard, so we are not too concerned at this point. All the things I used to enjoy, like my writing, have become nothing to me at this point. I’ve also been experiencing the effects of too much anesthetic during the surgery mentioned above. Bob describes to my surgeon as “you sent home the wrong wife.” Sometimes there are lots of tears. Other times it’s no motivation to do anything. I’m tired of it, but don’t know what else to do. Truly, it could be something worse and I am thankful that it isn’t something worse. But the winter seems very long and dark this year. I’m ready for spring!
Dear, dear Sherrey, thanks for speaking your truth in this space. I know it was a major effort just to read my words and then respond. I am so sorry for the difficult winter in your spirit and hope that spring will ease some pain and bring more light and health into your life. It is going to be 70 and sunny here today. Hope you are getting some great weather too.
The connection between anxiety, depression and Covid is one that is probably stronger than has yet been fully examined. Counselors and psychiatrists were (are?) totally booked, and the isolation, which depressives seek, is not good and can even magnify the symptoms.
Blessings and peace, my friend.
Shirley, how distraught you must have been, to stand witness to Kate’s illness. And to fall ill yourself, and for a time, not be the strong arms that every mother wants to be to her child. And the loneliness of these COVID months layered on top. I rejoiced months back when Kate said she had started to climb up towards the light. And I feel the same jump in my heart now, to know that you have done the same. I am eager to hear more of your story. Food. Yes, there is a lesson there! Our winter has been mild. At the beginning of the pandemic, doctors diagnosed me with COVID, though I never tested positive. Beyond that, our new home–St. Paul, MN–seems like it has been shuddering all year. Amidst all of this, my greatest teacher has been my work as a 6th grade Reading teacher. How can I support these 10-year-olds through family members dying, food insecurity, missed birthdays and depression? And at the same time, how can I help them celebrate the joy of running their fingers through their pet’s fur, the excitement of creating music and art out of their boredom, and the hope that they will go back to school one day? And where is the curriculum in all of that? How can I reach kids when they are these black icons on my Google Meet screen? (They rarely turn on their cameras. But I have discovered that a smile and a hearty greeting that uses their name reaches through the inky icons and into their hearts.) So, my crucible has taught me to stay present, to listen for the spirit, and to remember to balance. Don’t you pick a word every year? I wonder what yours might be this year. Mine is BALANCE.
Karin, you named one of the deepest pains of those long dark days of winter — not being able to be the strong, wise, angelic mother I so wanted to be. I would love to trade stories with you of the last year and to see you and your family again. God bless you there in the Twin Cities as you follow your vocation and touch the lives of your students in this difficult year.