Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination


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Language, Culture, and Land: Lenses of Lilies in Langscape Magazine

Waterlily painting by Pilawuk White, an Aboriginal woman artist from Daly River in Australia’s Northern Territory and a friend of Nerida Blair’s. Photo: Nerida Blair

I am delighted to share my essay “Language, Culture, and Land: Lenses of Lilies” was just published in Terralingua‘s Langscape Magazine.

Language, Culture, and Land: Lenses of Lilies

At a pond’s edge, a woman muses about waterlilies as metaphors for mother-tongue languages and their power to anchor story, wisdom, and heritage.

Waterlilies hold a special place in my heart. I did not grow up with them, though. I grew up on a remote ranch amid the sand, rocks, cacti, and dry beauty of the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern United States. I love the intense heat, the plants that thrive on periods of drought interspersed with torrential rains, and the vast open horizons that cup the wide basin of the desert. While I am sure that I knew of waterlilies during my growing up years, they remained something to be read about in books, not anything as real in my life as the towering saguaro cacti, rough bark of the mesquite trees, and treasured green of the rare cottonwoods found near water basins and rivers that only filled and flowed after the monsoon rains. Little did I ever imagine that those read-about and imagined waterlilies would have a profound impact on both my professional and my personal life. More…

A coy fish passes under a waterlily in my neighbor’s pond. Photo: Renee Upston

This piece was inspired by the amazing works of Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Nerida Blair.

Langscape Magazine was my first choice for publication of this piece for all the reasons detailed here:

Langscape Magazine is an online publication with a beautifully designed print and digital edition issued annually. It is an extension of the voice of Terralingua and supports our mission to educate minds and hearts about the vital importance of biocultural diversity for the survival of life on earth.

As Indigenous Peoples tell us, stories create and shape our world. Langscape Magazine uses the power of story to bolster our efforts to bring about a radical shift in human values that will make sustaining biocultural diversity a primary societal goal.

It features unique, authentic stories from all over the globe that celebrate the bounty of diversity in nature and culture — all told by the people who live and breathe the realities they portray. Novel insights. Stunning pictures, videos, and art.

That’s what Langscape Magazine offers that you can’t find anywhere else: a cornucopia of biocultural diversity. We hope that Langscape Magazine can help create and shape the just, sustainable world we so urgently need. Read, enjoy, and be inspired!”


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Wink Ranch 2022—Photo Journal

Thelma and Louise

Mom and I made a quick dash to the ranch together on her way back from Tucson. We headed out early for the drive to the ranch. The sun peeked over the horizon just as we crested the hills around Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Daddy called a little later and asked, “Am I speaking with Thelma or Louise?” Up through the mountains of New Mexico, over the plains of southern Colorado, and up to the sagebrush valleys of Wyoming, we drove. We in the Southwest have enjoyed amazing rains this summer, which has helped our drought-scorched country immensely. New Mexico hasn’t had our traditional summer monsoon rains, nor the heavy snows of winter for the past few years. The Rio Grande River is nearly dry.

Drought has touched throughout the West of the United States, with devastating results. The incredible rains of the Southwest has the dry desert literally springing to life! Our rivers are not yet filled, but we see wild grasses and wildflowers everywhere that we haven’t seen in years. Unfortunately, the rains haven’t made it very far north with devastating results that became obvious as we drove. So many heartbreaking sights. The green grasses of New Mexico gave way to the parched and bald lands of Colorado and the farther north we drove, the dryer the land. 

It has been two years since I was last on the ranch. I kept trying to make it, but work life and Covid had other plans. My big take-away from my own time with Covid was to embrace the philosophy of “Stop, Drop, and Nap.” A great philosophy for life when one thinks about it! 

Just arrived!

My time on the ranch was far too short, only three days. We fit as much as possible into that time. Mom and I pulled into the ranch exactly 14 hours (if you only stop for gas and coffee) after leaving Santa Fe. We tumbled out of the car just as the sun was setting to one of my favorite things—sitting outside on the screened-in porch on the East side of the ranch house to talk and just be together. In our family, it takes a ranch

The first morning on the ranch, Daddy and I drove around to check waterlines and cattle. Bouncing around in a pick up with my dad is one of my earliest memories, as I delved into here when I reflected on what it means when your dad’s a cowboy

Here, some photos of our time, both of the land and the ranch and the bits of beauty around the ranch house that I love. 

A majestic presence

When cows are introverts

When cows are introverts.

Ranch house

My ranch shirt — and life philosophy.

Bouncing around in the backseat with Mom and Dad on our way to the Cheyenne River breaks.

Read her shirt closely, “Just a Ranch Wife.” In sparkles.

Hauling water

A few bits of beauty—

Mom’s beloved Frankie

Window of beauty

Moss roses have a long history on the ranch.

Sunset on the ranch

Sunset on the ranch

Our time together ended way, way too soon. As I drove south in the early morning, the sunrise cast shafts of light through the clouds. It will be much less than two years when I return to the ranch again. My heart, spirit, and soul need it too much. 

For other prisms and lenses on ranch, academic, multilingual, and literary life with my incredible mom, please dive right in to WinkWorld.


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Running Deeper into Language

Did you take up running recently, Dawn?” I was asked recently.

“Not really,” I smiled. “It’s been 35+ years now.”

I started running when I began college and no longer played high school sports. Running was just so easy, and inexpensive, to pick up. I didn’t have to go anyplace else or be anywhere at a certain time. There were no monthly dues. All I needed was a pair of running shoes and out the door. I’ve been running ever since. I’ve run in several states, a few countries, and with a number of running strollers. I’ve run the cement sidewalks of Chihuahua, the cobbled streets of Oaxaca, through the dense green of Germany, and the humidity and heat of Costa Rica that made me feel like I was running in a sauna.

Wynn and Luke in the runner stroller.

Throughout these many years, I have never run while listening to anything except the musings of my mind and, for many years, the musings of the babies and toddlers in the strollers that I packed with books, toys, and goldfish. I loved, and continue to love, the time away from all to simply sink into whatever thoughts may come my way. Everything I have ever written has been mused, crafted, and refined while I run. Many of the emergent ideas came to me first to the rhythm of my footfall. Running has been my steady companion through good times and bad. Many a tear has been shed along the trails, along with laughter, dreams, planning, and more than a few choice words as I suddenly remembered something that I had forgotten or needed to be done. Through every season, I always ran in silence, until about a year ago…

About a year ago I started to listen to audio books in Spanish when I run. Some backstory—our family are big listeners of audio books. This began with cassette tapes of stories for the kids. We grew into hundreds of CDs of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and more stories and books than I can remember. The kids and I listened to books-on-tape (as I still call them) constantly—in the car, in our home, before bed. We all still have audio books going. Those free Audible credits are gold in our family

About a year ago, the thought came to me to start listening to my audio books in Spanish on my runs. I let that thought simmer for quite a while, but it didn’t go away. So, I started listening and have since that time fallen in love with this new rhythm.

We know that language is not learned, it is acquired through relevant and meaningful use. As I listen to the narrative, I focus on the story, as well as the pronunciation and cadence. Initially, I let myself look up three unfamiliar words in one run. To look up more would’ve made my runs take too long before the work day. So, for approximately 1 – 1.5 hours a day, I listen to gorgeous, oral Spanish. The voice of the narrator mades a difference. I’ve listened to listen to a sample first, so it’s a narrator that I like. Now, I have some real favorites.

Santa Fe sunrise run.

I have listened to books from Spain, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. Thus far, the narrators come from the country of origin, so speak with the particular rhythm and pronunciation of each country. I love this. I love sinking to the familiar sharp staccato of Mexican Spanish, hearing the crispness of Chilean Spanish, the iconic “zzzhhhh” of the “ll” in Argentina, and the “th” of the zeta and “c” of Spain. I have wondered what influence this may have on my own Spanish pronunciation. This, I do not know. What I do know is that the adventures throughout time around the the Spanish-speaking world in the past year deepened my fluency and fluidity in Spanish. I feel it.

For those of us who live in the world of languages, we know that language acquisition most effectively happens when there is a combination of natural acquisition and focused learning. The vast majority of my focus is on natural acquisition. I do season this with some specific learning when I hear something in the narrative that gives me pause, which usually revolves around the grammar rules that my high school Spanish teacher (aka Mom) says I rarely had much interest in, as long as I could communicate. I now dive into the details of the subjunctive and other grammatical puzzles that peak my interest. My Spanish teacher will be proud!

Aquí, hablo del tesoro del libro EL INFINITO EN UN JUNCO, escrito por Irene Vallejo:

This experience of sinking deeply into Spanish story for the sheer beauty of the language and narrative is one that I treasure. While running the trails of New Mexico, I have walked the streets of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War, revisited Berlin in the final days of WWII, absorbed Isabel Allende’s wisdom through a character, walked the literary streets of Barcelona at night, and so very much more.

As a learner of languages and teacher of language acquisition, this experience fills my writer’s spirit and informs my understandings of language.

This is a journey of joy, learning, and discovery.

What book shall I listen to next?

“If you can be anything in the world, be kind”
Thank you to my Auntie Ace for this shirt!


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Creative Processes—Follow the Spark

My most recent journal

I always love learning about others’ creative processes in all forms. I learn, I study, I weave some of those elements into my own. I find creative processes makes my heart smile and my spirit soar. I share some of my own creative processes here in hopes of contributing to all of us who love these.

My own processes take multiple forms with some common threads. They almost always begin with that energy spark of an idea that can happen anywhere and at anytime. Yes, it can be while I’m writing in my journal, often they happen when I’m running, and they are also equally as bound to happen while in the grocery store looking for my favorite tea.

What I have learned over the years is to trust that energetic hit that comes with the spark. That is the deciding factor whether I heed and pursue the idea or let it go. If I feel the resonance of the idea, I trust. If it feels flat, I let it go. These decisions are based on my intuition and my heart, not my mind or head. This is key for me.

When the spark hits, I scribble it down somewhere or text it to myself on my phone. This is also key. I have also learned that no matter how much I feel that idea is brilliant in the moment, life is FULL and it is likely to be lost in the tides if I don’t write it down.

From there, the idea goes into my journal. Once it is written in my journal, no matter how cryptic it may be, I breathe a sigh of relief. It is now safe. Of course, that is only the beginning.

After that comes many, many pages in my journal playing with these ideas in an intuitive way. Loads of circles, arrows, single words, quotes, and arrows drawn to connect ideas that may seem they flow together. It is all quite messy! And, I love it.

Right now I am working on several different pieces all focusing in some way on language, landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination. Those pieces are sketched out in my journal in varying stages, along with proposals for several presentations, along with books, essays, and chapters.

One I’ve clustered the ideas, I often add color to highlight emergent themes.

I sketch out main ideas to remember from the work of others to make meaning for myself.

Mother tongues as waterlilies by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Lilyology by Nerida Blair

I no longer take my journal to the grocery store with me. One too many times, I wrote my grocery list in my journal and took with me to the store. One time I left my journal, of course decorated with a gorgeous watercolor that I loved and choc-full of more ideas and sketched essay that I want to let myself think about, in the grocery cart. I did not realize until the next morning and when I returned to the store it was nowhere to be found. Never again. Grocery lists now go on pieces of paper ripped from a spiral journal.

I do travel with my journal. Leaving it behind feels like leaving my security blanket behind…or a limb. I have learned on planes never to tuck into the elastic pocket in front of my seat, no matter how tempting. It is on my lap or in my bag.

I often will then start playing with watercolors to add texture to the ideas in my own head. Plus, I love playing with these paints, colors, and textures. The visual adds to my own understandings, as well as for others (hopefully) to see visually. I take loads and loads of photos and play with those images, colors, textures, and what they convey, along with the words.

From there I move to the actual piece of what I’m writing, of what wants to be written. I follow that sparkling thread of energy to wherever it leads.

It is only now that I really begin thinking about shape, form, the craft of written pieces. Dorothea Brande refers to this process as “the advantage of the duplicity of writing,” in Becoming a Writer (1934). First the intuitive, energetic, wild, wonderful listening to ideas, open to all. Next, putting on one’s editor hat, using the skills muscles of the craft.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned along the journey is to trust that energetic, intuitive energy spark of an idea. I don’t have to understand it, just trust it, follow it, and give it oxygen and space to grow.

An elemental space that I create to listen to ideas are the early morning hours of coffee and candlelight, solitude and sanctuary, with my journal. This time is sacred. In these early morning hours, before the fullness of the day begins, I listen, write, muse, dream, play with ideas, and find connections.

Currently, I am at several different stages of the process on several different pieces. I keep track of all in my journal. I look forward to sharing more of the journey with you along the way.

Speaking of journeys, I completed one of my own with a virtual graduation. We gathered on Zoom as a family first and then I shared my screen, so we experienced as together as possible.

Gathered together
Flowers from Noé

What is now one of my all-time favorite photos of my parents—the moment when my name was read during the ceremony.

I mentioned that learning of others’ journeys with creativity makes my heart smile and my spirit shine! I think there are many of us. Would love to hear more about yours!

Love,

Dawn


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TESOL Int’l Convention — Layers of Ideas, Friendship, and Love

The famed Andy Warhol yellow bridges of Pittsburgh

I had not attended a conference in four years and I attended two in the past few months. They were simply glorious! I set conferences aside when I started the doctoral work, as I needed every single weekend to keep one nostril above the water of coursework. Then, came the pandemic. So, to attend conferences after such a long lull was a feast for all senses! I hope to share the spirit of the time, as well as some ideas that I took away from all.

First, TESOL: TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) International Convention, Pittsburgh, PA

TESOL has been a big part of my life for many, many years and in multiple ways. I believe my first TESOL was in Salt Lake City, 2002. Throughout the intervening years, TESOL serves as a foundational stone in my own professional understandings about all-things-multiple-language-acquisition.

Mom and me, TESOL 2018, Chicago

Ever since my first meeting with the Bilingual-Multilingual Education Interest Section that segued from the meeting to salsa dancing in New York City, I knew I met my people. Professional colleagues became dear friends.

Another layer of professional colleagues to dear friends happened when I studied at the School for International Training and became a member of the incredible SIT global educator community.

TESOL always happens at the end of March—it is so wonderful for the organization to plan such a grand shared birthday party for Mom and me with our birthdays on March 20th and March 28th. TESOL also means slumber parties and birthday celebrations with Mom in whatever state the convention takes place that year.

As with learning and language, all begins with relationships. I treasured the reunions with dear friends. Sandra Mercuri, Sandra’s husband, Alfredo, Andrés Ramírez and I talked, laughed, and shared stories in that beautiful way that happens when you’ve been too-long apart. Oh, did we laugh. Especially after the pandemic, it felt so good to laugh with dear friends from the depths of your soul.

Alfredo Mercuri, Sandra Mercuri, Andrés Ramírez, me

On my walk to the Convention Center:

Sandra Mercuri shared her creation and work with CLIFF (Content Language and Literacy Integration Framework):

Me, Sandra Mercuri, Andrés Ramírez

After Sandra’s presentation, Andrés proclaimed, “I’ve been CLIFFed.” Me, too!

A highly engaged conversation is happening around Academic Language. I attended a dynamic panel presentation on these ideas with Luciana C. de Oliveira, Ruslana Westerlund, Andrés Ramírez, and their colleagues. Luciana and Ruslana wore yellow in honor of Ruslana’s native Ukraine.

Luciana C. de Oliveira, Andrés Ramírez, Ruslana Westerlund

Memories of other TESOL Conferences lifted as I sat in sessions, including this time with my dear friend and mentor, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, when she gave me the author’s socks that she knitted for me. Yes, I still wear. Amazing what they do for one’s writing!

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, TESOL Salt Lake City, 2002

More time to connect with colleagues and friends from around the world, including Jorge Torres Almazán of MEXTESOL, of the incredible team from World Learning:

Jorge Torres Almazán, MEXTESOL
Evening light over downtown Pittsburgh
The World Learning Team, including Erik Tancorov, Danielle Mistretta, Kara McBride, Aziza ElKolei, Germán Gómez

When not absorbing the ideas of the presentations or connecting with friends old and new, I was taking-in the beauty of the daffodils, which bloomed throughout the city.

Daffodils of downtown Pittsburgh

Next, AERA


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Connection and Creativity on Place Well Tended

Oh, to take the time to sit with other artists and talk about how the land and life shapes our creativity. I had the complete pleasure to talk with Jodi Shaw and Molly Noem Fulton on their podcast Place Well Tended.

“You’re joining Molly + Jodi as we talk with folks about creativity in plains country: what it is, and why it matters that we’re here doing it. Place Well Tended is about love of a place, and tending that place through creative work.”

I was amazed—and momentarily speechless—when Molly read a piece that I had written that goes to the heart of my writing, creativity, life experience, and how they weave together. “I wrote that and put it out into the world?” I asked. I love how Molly and Jodi so beautifully describe our conversation.

Our conversation: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1923909/10391618

Jodi and Molly explore life through the lenses of artists. Jodi finds beauty and meaning in the landscape of the western South Dakota ranch where she raises her family and creates art gathered from the land and life.

Molly’s work of patterned lines and bright colors explores “the people and places that shape us, forming our identity and values.”

This sunset yesterday evening felt the perfect note for our conversation on creativity, place, and beauty.


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Stories of Language, Landscape, Wildness, Beauty, and Imagination

I sit in the early morning time of sanctuary and solitude, candlelight and coffee, darkness and dreams. My journal fills with an ever-growing list of Dewdrops pieces that to write—all swirling around language, landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination; the most recent trip to the ranch; Lilyology; Scholarly Personal Narrative; translanguaging; beauty; books; family; and so very many other musings and bits of beauty.

2022 is off to a grand start with loads of good energy around ideas. I share some of those ideas here, along with some beauty from my runs and other found beauty along the way.

The past few months have been a time of many presentations, writing, and sharing of ideas. My passion for all things language, landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination continues to grow. I spoke recently about these ideas and stories:

At last I held a bound copy of my dissertation in my hands.

Another year of the Wink Family March Madness (Luke-10th, Mom-20th, Wyatt-25th, Me-28th, and Wyatt’s girlfriend, Natasha-6th) has come and gone. We ran the Birthday Gauntlet and survived! So very many treasured memories and gifts. I had to share this piece from Daddy, who when he saw it months ago knew that I would love. He was right!


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Books, Tea, and Conversation

As we enter the New Year, I am thinking of what books this year will hold! A favorite afternoon over the holiday season was spent cuddled-up amidst stacks of books and cups of tea. We each brought stacks of books that we’ve been reading and dove into conversation, over tea poured from the new/old Christmas tea set.

Mom and I read loved The Elephant Whisperer years ago. The late author’s wife just came out with a marvelous book The Elephant in my Kitchen, which had us re-reading the original. I tried to read Water for Elephants years ago and just couldn’t get into it. I picked it up again a few weeks ago and loved. Mom shares more on these books and calves, instead of elephants, in the kitchen here.

There is something particularly entrancing in stories about libraries and bookshops for we bibliophiles. The Lions of Fifth Avenue and The Paris Library are wonderful. The Midnight Library has one of the best titles ever. Neither Mom, nor I, could get into this book as much as we wanted to love. I do know people who have loved. Perhaps just not the right time and will be another Water for Elephants for me. Mom loved The Personal Librarian and The Librarian of Saint-Malo. My turn to read them now!

The library/bookshop collection grew by two books this Christmas, The Library of Lost and Found and The Bookshop of Yesterdays. More of Mom’s stack here:

We brought out our favorite Christmas children’s books. Oh, the memories of the kids in their jammies reading by the light of the Christmas tree! “Where is the pavlova book?” Wynn asked. And, our beloved Christmas Tea book.

Angus peeks over the gate.

I love historical fiction that elegantly weaves past and present—The Things We Cannot Say and The Fountains of Silence do this beautifully. The Things We Cannot Say weaves a mystery between WWII Poland and present day. The Fountains of Silence sheds light on the darkness of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain.

Right now I’m reading Fresh Water for Flowers, a novel which apparently took Europe by storm during the pandemic. I love this lens of whimsy on wardrobe. I may play around with this a bit.

Luke and Wynn’s stacks included:

Then we started pulling children’s books off the shelves and we were lost… More and more books accumulated to create a nest around us all.

This is what books do, isn’t it? They create a nest around us. Here’s wishing you and yours a year of great books!

I spent many wonderful hours writing in my journal by the lights of the Christmas tree. Looking forward to writing 2022 into being.


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Stories at the Intersection of Language and Landscape Through Wildness, Beauty, and Imagination: A Scholarly Personal Narrative — Dissertation Defense (Video)

What felt like an impossible dream for so many years came true on October 6, 2021. I successfully defended my dissertation, “Stories at the Intersection of Language and Linguistic Literatures Through Wildness, Beauty, and Imagination: A Scholarly Personal Narrative.”

The journey of the past four years of coursework and dissertation writing held many explorations, discoveries, dear new friends, amazing ideas, unexpected challenges, and all else that composes life.

My inquiry focused on stories at the intersection of language and landscape through wildness, beauty, and imagination.

The whole experience of the defense was was so much more than I ever let myself hope for or dream. A truly joyous experience! I remain forever grateful to my phenomenal dissertation committee: May Elawar, PhD; Jennifer Wells, PhD; and Luci Tapahonso, Professor Emerita. A recording of my defense here:

The marvelous word for dissertation in Costa Rica—chifladura—expresses a powerful vortex of the coming together of natural powers and energies. This symbolizes my dissertation experience exquisitely.

After my defense, Mom and I cried… beyond words to be able to share this with her 30 years after her own dissertation defense. Dr. Wink squared celebrated in fine form on the swings!

And, I promise to take this t-shirt off someday…maybe…I’ll think about it…


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Luke’s Story–Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

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Luke and I traveled to St. Louis, MO last month for what we hope to be the culmination of a four-year health journey for Luke. We traveled there for Luke to have surgery for what was finally diagnosed as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Luke will write of this experience in his own words. 

For those of you who don’t know Luke, introduce you to him. Luke was born with a smile on his face that never stopped, always in a good mood, always positive. His strawberry hair and smile sparkled in the sun, whether the sun was out or not. Luke’s undiagnosed asthma had the two of us in the Emergency Room every month for two years, his ages one -three. His translucent skin slowly took on color as he took in oxygen and he came out of the semi-conscious state that these episodes brought on. He never complained. This kid is tough, tough, tough. 

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Generous of spirit, Luke loved books, reading, exercise, and sports. When people asked me how Luke was doing in college, I said, “That kid will thrive anywhere. It’s just who he is.”

Luke on Mother’s Day, 2017

 

2016

 

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Finish line of marathon, 2016

Luke tells his story in his own words:

“Hi everyone! Thanks for taking a minute to read my story. I apologize if it’s a little shaky. I’m writing left-handed, while recovering from surgery. Don’t worry, I still have my right hand; my arm is just sore.

Like Mom said, this surgery was a long time coming. If you’ve met me over the past four years, you’ll know I’ve been struggling with a chronic and mysterious pain that doctors, until recently, were completely unable to diagnose.

The U of A has a wonderful Recreation Center, and I made a point to lift weights a few times a week. While I was a sophomore, I was bench-pressing the same weight that I always bench-pressed, when something in the right side of my chest gave and tore. I racked the weight, left the gym, and scheduled a doctor’s appointment. There, I was assured the issue was a minor shoulder strain that would heal on its own with time.

Long story short, it didn’t. I spent most of that semester unable to open doors or lift my arm above my head, waiting for the injury to heal. Every time I visited a doctor, I was told that with rest and time the injury would heal, and that I was really too young to be in this kind of pain anyways. That was a phrase I heard a lot “You’re really too young to be having this kind of issue.”

2018

Years passed and the pain evolved, it went from being a muscular issue rooted deep in my chest to a burning pain that radiated up the entire right side of my neck and into my trapezoid muscles. It was motion-induced, which is to say that the more things I wanted or needed to do, the more pain I would be in by the end of the day. Activities that brought me pain included walking, sitting, lifting things, looking to my right, and just talking with people.

At this point, we were desperately looking for a doctor with an answer. We had appointments with orthopedic surgeons, and multiple pain specialists.  We traveled to the Mayo Clinic for a consultation. Almost every visit began with, “You’re too young to feel this way,” and ended with an order for some kind of medical scan, MRI’s, X-rays, EMGs: all tests to try and see some muscular or nerve issue. They all came back negative. At this point, we were trying everything we could think of, multiple courses of physical therapy, chiropractic treatments, orthopedic massage, acupuncture, CBD, a series of nerve ablations, and on and on. You name it and I have probably done it.

2018

At this point, it had been about three years of searching for an answer, while spending every day in pain. I was both embittered at the medical profession, and hopeless that I would one day find an answer. I have my family, and Mom in particular, for never giving up on the hope of an answer.

Roughly sixth months ago, my doctors decided that all muscular issues were examined, we turned to the brain. Maybe, the theory went, my brain had just gotten used to firing off pain signals and hadn’t stopped, even after the muscle in my chest had healed. Working on this hypothesis, we met with a neurosurgeon here in Santa Fe.

I won’t disclose his name, but he was and a different kind of doctor than I was used to seeing, and I’d seen a lot. When I told him the story that I just told you, he didn’t say, “you’re too young to have this problem,” he said, “I’m sorry that you have this problem so young.” He ordered another scan, which was again, negative, and then said that in his opinion I couldn’t have anything but neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS), and that he would refer me to a specialist clinic in St Louis, MO.

By this point, I was used to doctors developing a pet diagnosis for my problem that ended up being wrong. My personal favorite was one doctor’s diagnosis of early-onset-right-side-of-neck arthritis, for which I received weeks of treatment with absolutely no benefit. I’d learned to treat their theories with a bit of suspicion.

So, I looked up Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and the clinic in St. Louis, MO. I may also have read the book about Thoracic Outlet Syndrome written by the lead surgeon, just to be sure. What I found was encouraging.

I fit the patient profile exactly. Most TOS patients are young, otherwise healthy individuals with chronic pain induced by most activity. Most TOS patients bounce around the medical system for two or three years before receiving their TOS diagnosis, as the criteria for diagnosis is, get this, multiple negative medical scans. All those MRI’s and X-rays paid off after all.

Leaving for St. Louis

So, what is TOS, I now wanted to know. Well, it’s a condition that develops when the brachial plexus nerves, which run from you fingertips, up your arm, through your pectoral muscles and up into your neck and shoulder blades, are compressed by some obstruction. The obstruction can be anything, well, three things really. Either a permanent muscle spasm in the pectorals or scalene(neck) muscles, an odd growth on the first rib, or scar tissue built up from a previous injury.

Long story short, I had a video call with the lead surgeon who diagnosed me with TOS and scheduled me for surgery in St. Louis. Mom and I took what turned out to be a really wonderful road trip to the hospital, and I had my operation on April 2, 2021.

During the operation, the surgeon found a large amount of scar tissue around my pec minor, which he removed. Hopefully, this was the mysterious cause of the problem: the thing we’ve been looking for all these years. I’m still in recovery at the moment, and so it’s hard to tell if the new pain from the surgery is covering up the old pain, and where I’ll be in three months, but I can say that the burning pain, at the moment, is gone.

So, the story isn’t over, but hopefully this is the last chapter and we’ll have more good news for you soon. Before I go I’d like thank Mom for being the driving force behind my recovery. I definitely would not have made it through this experience without your help, and the help of all our family and friends, that’s all for now, thanks for reading!”

 This is Dawn again. Amidst all, Luke and I had a magical time together. Along the way, we were able to spend time with my Aunt Elaine (Dad’s sister) and cousins, Brian and Brett.

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We made the most of the trip and saw some of the sights of St. Louis between Luke’s pre-op appointment and the day of the surgery.

We took in the Gateway Arch, as well as the Botanical Gardens. We played a lot of chess, drank a lot of Tension Tamer Tea, and crushed it on the Harry Potter Trivia cards.

We loved the Botanical Gardens. It was a cold day. We entered the dome and I said to Luke, “This is exactly like Costa Rica.”

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We quickly shed our coats and wandered for an hour, taking in each exquisite plant, flower, waterfall, Chihuly glass sculpture, lizard, all. Pure magic.

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Surgery/Post-surgery

During his surgery, I escaped (somewhat) into my dissertation.

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Clearly, we needed flowers!

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When not in the hospital, I worked on my dissertation.

St. Louis bloomed with daffodils during our time there. My color, flower-loving heart and spirit drank them in. A dear friend in Vermont mentioned how her daffodils had poked their blooms up through the snow that week, “They’re so resilient.” These are the perfect flowers to be blooming during Luke’s surgery, I thought. Luke’s resiliency throughout this journey never ceases to leave me humbled and inspired.

Six days after surgery, Luke was discharged and we headed home.

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One day Luke will write his full story. One day, I will write the mother’s story of this journey. For now, we focus on his healing and we hope.

When Wyatt was two-years-old, he called me ‘the Mommy Lady’ and I’ve been the Mommy Lady ever since. This Mommy Lady’s heart overflows with gratitude for a diagnosis at long-last and with optimism for what lies ahead for Luke.

Mostly, this Mommy Lady’s heart overflows with love for the brave soul I am fortunate enough to walk through this life with as my son. Here’s to the next chapter, Luke. I know you will write it well.

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