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Life with Liz: Looking back

Month 11. Ish. Give or take a couple of days. At this point, who is counting? When our lives were crazy busy and we were in 1,000 directions, it was so easy to find things to write about every week. The problem then was finding the time to sit down and collect enough thoughts to pull together a column. Now, my problem is how do I write about another scintillating week of staring at paint drying?

One of the many mentors I’ve had over the 20 years I’ve been writing for various local publications once told me that when they (gender neutral pronouns are being used to protect my sources … wink, wink) ran out of ideas, they went back through their archives and recycled a popular column. While I’m sure I have recycled topics over the past few years, there are certain themes that do keep repeating in my life, I had never gotten that strapped for a topic. Until this week. I had nothing.

E’s been begging me to write a column about her newly acquired guinea pigs, S’mores and Ellie. I’ve started that column for about five weeks now, but unfortunately for the pigs, their antics, or lack thereof, fetch me about a paragraph and a half of action, and that’s including a lot of unnecessary adjectives.

The Wonderful Husband and G wanted me to write about their recent ice fishing escapade. They went to a pond, drilled some holes, caught some fish, which the dog carried around in his mouth and then came home smelling like a swamp, and that was about it. While they may all have had a blast, my enthusiasm for the adventure was limited to making fun of their big furry hats. They assured me that the warmth was worth them looking ridiculous.

And, A, who is now in possession of several social media accounts, and apparently has a penchant for telling me how not funny I am on the internet, has forbidden me to write or say or post anything that can be directly linked to him. Unless, of course, it’s him doing something “cool,” and then he’ll consider it and “get back to me.”

Since TacoCat and Duncan haven’t exactly been breaking out any novel, exciting stunts, I guess I can surmise that they’re in the “don’t look at us to write your column for you” camp. So, down the rabbit hole of “Life with Liz” I went. The first thing that hit me was the dates on my first columns. January 2016. How is it possible that I’ve been sharing our adventures for the past five years? That’s half of E’s life. That’s also about 1/3 of the length of my marriage. It’s been two houses, three vehicles and five schools. I’ve been writing through three presidents! I’ve been writing this column since before we ever heard the words asynchronous learning days! It’s been some of the best of times, and some of the worst of times.

I started out my first column with a vow “to laugh often and to love much.” I never planned to write serious columns. Most of the time, I think there’s more than enough somber, bad news in the paper, and I really wanted to share stories that could spark joy or provide common ground for people. But, there were too many times that I couldn’t ignore some of the darkness around me. I never expected to have to write about #metoo, or racial tensions, or even share some of the more intimate details of our family’s battle with congenital heart disease, but when those things became topics for my family to discuss, parts of them found their way into my columns, too.

Surprisingly, these types of columns are the ones that inspire the most people to reach out to me and share their own stories. It’s such a powerful reminder that everyone has a story to tell, and of how important empathy is. I’ve received many lovely letters over the years, usually someone sharing a memory of their own, sparked by a shared experience.

It is so humbling to think that I’ve been able to reconnect someone to an experience they’d had in their childhood, or when they were raising their own kids. Of course, I love hearing from people who tell me that “they remember when their kids did that,” because it means that they survived teenagers and attitude, and that means that I can, too.

Digging through my archives made me realize just how many adventures our little family has packed into the past five years, and what a privilege it has been to share them with you. It also has me just a little bit excited for what the next five years may hold. While the kids are excited that they may actually be allowed to go to the grocery store again, I’m hoping we can go a little bigger. We have a family vacation planned that should be both pandemic friendly, and somewhere besides our backyard. Sleepovers, trips to Knoebels and Kalahari, birthday parties, packed football stadiums on Friday nights. Actual first day of school pictures where we don’t walk back into the house and go to our study corners!

Speaking of school, over the past five years, we’ve survived a few kindergarten and grade school graduations. Our first attempt at a middle school one was a complete bust, but five years from now, we will have conquered one high school graduation and have another coming right up.

I’ve already been informed that regardless of the pandemic situation, a summer job will be had by at least one teenager this summer, so I’ve got that going for me. Certain other people have begun subtly sneaking phrases like “when we get another dog” into the conversations.

And, let’s not forget, we’ve got driver’s licenses coming up! With that thought, I may have just convinced myself to extend quarantine indefinitely. At the very least, I’m going to have to schedule my hair coloring appointments a lot more frequently to keep up with the gray hair production.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.