13 Years!

Today is a lot of things -- Martin Luther King Jr Day, a day where we FINALLY have boatloads of snow, a day off from work, but also...our 13th Engage-o-versary. 

Thirteen years ago today I was home, planning a romantic dinner for when Bryce got home and nervously plotting my proposal. It was a letter, carefully crafted and typed in a file called "merrime." It was a persuasive essay of sorts on why we should get married. 

It's so strange to look back on a time when I felt I had to convince Bryce to get married, but it existed. He was burnt from a first marriage and was like, "let's just live together, why do we have to get married?" While I know people who made the choice to have a life partnership and never get married, and have been together for more than 20 years, that isn't what I wanted. I'm not sure if I wanted the chance to do marriage again the right way, or if the idea of a legal partnership was somehow romantic, or if I'm just so much a rule-follower that I needed the traditional route if we were going to try to have children, but I wrote a whole page on why marriage was a good choice and we should do it and then let the nerves take over while I waited for him to read it to the end. 

Spoiler alert: he said yes. 

I'm proud of a lot of things, but our marriage is definitely towards the top of the list. I love our partnership, our relationship, the way we've grown together through so much. The way we support each other and enjoy each other's company, something that could be seriously tested in a global pandemic where there is a LOT of togetherness time! We respect each others' need for quiet alone time as much as the need for time together, snuggled on the couch. We've devised a sort of playbook that includes things like "We can't both be crazy at the same time, someone's got to dial it back and be the calm one," and "Just make food for Jess when she is insanely crotchety, because she's hungry but will likely bite you if you ask her" and one I stole from Brene Brown about the lie of 50-50 -- "when someone is overwhelmed, take on more of the household responsibilities and shift the split, because it always evens out eventually." 

I am so grateful for our life together, probably more so because we are a family of two (plus cats). 

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Surreal Parallel

Well, I've made it one week into Omicron School  and so far (knock on wood, lots and lots of wood) I've avoided the COVID. Kids have been out, staff has been out, and in one surreal moment last week we handed out rapid testing kits to students to take home to their families. 

One student asked, "how do you know if you're positive or not?" I examined their box (because of course kits weren't handed out to teachers, and the low accuracy rate of the rapid tests wasn't addressed), and saw the lines... 

"Well, it looks like if there's one line it's negative, sheet two it's positive, if it's anything like a pregnancy test." A girl squealed "oh my GOD!" and I said, "What? A second line means it detects something. One line means it wasn't detected. True with pregnancy, true with COVID too, I guess." 

I then wondered if you leave it out too long if you can get an evap line that fools you into thinking it's positive when it's not. Or if the first snot of the day yields stronger results. I saw something in my Google feed about a faint line meaning you should test again a day or two later. 

Ugh, ugh, ugh. Not enjoying the parallels. 

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One of my Christmas gifts this year was a set of colorful fountain pens with refill ink. 

Photo courtesy of Basbleu.com

I've eyed them for a while, and put them on my list for my mom and stepfather. They do a thing where they ask for and want us to do a 3 things gift exchange -- something you need, something you want, something to bring you closer to the divine. We love this because it limits the number of prizes -- we are trying to reduce our "stuff" just for stuff's sakes. The pens went on as my "want." (My "need" was a pair of slippers with arch support, and my "divine" was a donation to FoodLink, a food bank that helps supply all our local food banks, including the one in the community where I teach.)

So far I love them, although there is a tiny bit of smearing with the dark blue and a little leak on the side of that one, too, but nothing catastrophic. 

Except, you have to load the ink, so you unscrew the bottom of the pen, flip the ink cartridge, and push it in with your thumb with a click: 

OH MY GOD. As I clicked them in all I could think of was so many Follistim pens over a different sink, in a different kitchen. I had to stop and take a breath. 

And then it passed. 

It's amazing how such a seemingly innocuous thing could just trigger an anxiety response because it flashed me back to the time of loading and clicking and dialing and injecting. But that time is over, long over, and all this pen promises is to write smoothly with colorful ink from a retro metal nib. Nothing more, nothing less. 

It just caught me off guard, is all. 

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The Books of 2021

I love lists. I also suck utterly at Goodreads. I tried to be more on top of logging my books there this year, and did well over the summer and then... fell off. But I always log my books in my Google Keep lists, for School Year and Summer and then track the calendar year.

I started doing this when I took my grandmother's lists of books and digitized them into an Excel spreadsheet. It was fascinating to see what she read when, and to know that the books you read tell a story. 

At the end of the year, I take my Google Keep lists and I write down the books I read per month, and then do a genre grouping to see what I read the most of. There's overlap in that, because of course books don't always fit in just one category. 

So... in 2021 I read a whopping 106 books. I have no idea how many pages that is since I suck at Goodreads, but I can say that some of them were lengthy for sure.

In terms of months, I read the least in November (5) and the most in July and August (12 each). Go figure, the months that were entirely summer break were the most plentiful, and my most stressful month at school so far had me struggling to focus. I read 7 books in September and October, 8 in January and May, 9 in February, March, and April,  and 10 in June and December. 

Here's my genre breakdown: 

Young Adult: 33

Nonfiction: 20

Poetry/Stories: 3

Realistic Fiction: 15

Historical Fiction: 8

Mystery/Twisty: 23

Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 31

Books Bryce Bought Me: 15

Books by Diverse Authors/Diverse Characters: 40

My favorite book each month: 

January: I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

February: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

March: Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

April: Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson 

May: Starfish by Lisa Fipps

June: Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

July: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

August: The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson

September: The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall

October: The Fisherman by John Langan

November: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

December: The Last House on Needless Street by Cariona Ward

My favorite books all year (top 20): 

The Fifth Season (and entire Broken Earth trilogy) by N.K. Jemison

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This is My America by Kim Johnson

Finna by Nino Cipro

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Tender Is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagowski, PhD and Amelia Nagowski, DMA

The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

The Fisherman by John Langan

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

A History of Wild Places by Shea Earnshaw

The Last House On Needless Street by Cariona Ward

The Weirdest Book I Read This Year: 

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

The NUMBER ONE BOOK of 2021: 

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Seriously, If you haven't read this book yet, please go read it. It is phenomenal. And I realize now that I never wrote my post dedicated to it, so I will have to remedy that soon. 

And there it is, my reading life of 2021! Really, out of all 106 books there were only THREE that I didn't like. So much good reading! 

Loving My Body Again

One of the things infertility and all of the associated fallout did was challenge my relationship to my body. Everything was related to my body not working, my body changing in unpleasant ways because of medication and hormonal manipulation and just plain stress. My relationship with my body has been somewhat turbulent throughout the years. I used to have a silly fondness for my belly, because no matter how slender the rest of me was (even when running track and cross country), I had this little round, rolly belly. This is the picture I had on my dorm room door in college: 

Photo by Anne Geddes, "The Discovery" 

It was strangely appropriate. It reminded me that I loved my belly (named Marge) and she was fun. I had minimal shame. 

But then, increasingly, I was told my belly was fat. I was called a "bigger girl" by my ex-husband's family and worse names by my ex-husband. I was told by family members I was too big to wear a bikini, when at the time I weighed quite a bit less than I do now. 

When I met Bryce, it was revolutionary to me that he loved my curves. He found them sexy. Nothing about them said "lose weight" or "watch it" or "fatass" to him, quite the opposite. 

And then, when I wanted a big round belly with a baby in it more than anything, I couldn't make that happen. And the drugs I pumped myself full of made all of me puffier. I gained weight. I felt unattractive. I felt deficient. And it continued as my body rebelled against me, first with infertility and then all the ripple effects leading to my hysterectomy. 

I am at my heaviest now, and I try so hard to be at peace because it is partly a product of my genetics, partly a product of my PCOS, partly a product of my age, and partly because I love good food. I work out, I'm strong, I'm flexible, but I'm also muscly under a layer of cultured butter and cheese. 

Which leads to the project I embarked on for our anniversary, that became a Christmas present for Bryce and ultimately a gift for myself. 

I set up a boudoir shoot. 

It seems so self-indulgent to take sexy pictures of yourself. I'd wanted to do it but felt...not enough for so long. "I'll do it later," I thought. "I can't justify the cost," I thought. And then, this fall, I was like...WHAT AM I WAITING FOR? I decided to go for it. And I am so, so glad that I did. 

I showed up for the shoot wearing sweatpants, a tank top, and a light sweatshirt. I brought a bag full of all the lingerie goodies that I'd bought for the shoot, secretly spiriting them away into hiding places until I could bring them out. I brought Bryce's sweatshirt, which is for a Dungeons & Dragons podcast, which turned out to be the best thing ever. And after they looked at all my stuff and chose the best outfits, and I was made up all glamorously and had my hair all beachy-wave curled, we got to business. 

There was a white flokati rug, a gorgeous emerald wall, and an at-the-time ridiculous inflatable bed. I slid right off that thing more than once. The photographer, Natalie, was AMAZING. She posed me just right, artfully draping and angling and getting me to make smoky, smoldering looks at the camera. She showed me photos on the camera as we went, and I was pretty well shocked with what I saw. It was such a confidence boost. By the end I felt like a freaking supermodel. I felt like my curves were assets. I felt more comfortable with my body than I ever have in recent times. It was insanely empowering. 

And then, I got the pictures... HOLY CANNOLI. I love them, Bryce loves them, and now we have this strange time capsule of me at 45. Natalie kept saying, "my goal is to help you see yourself the way Bryce sees you. THIS is how he sees you all the time." Bryce confirmed that when he saw the photos. :) I also love that her philosophy is "You are already enough exactly as you are today." That you don't need to wait until you've lost weight, you don't need to think you're too old, or too chubby, or too anything. Just do it. Do it for yourself, do it for your person, but mostly...do it for yourself. 

Here are a few of the photos: 

Love the movement

I felt so "old Hollywood" here!

Thank you, Pilates, for making this pose even remotely comfortable


There are so many photos, none distasteful and no naughty bits visible but these are ones I'm okay sharing here. :) Thank you, thank you, thank you Natalie Sinisgalli Photography and Adore Me lingerie. You helped me rekindle my appreciation for my body, newer curves and all. This is a body that has gotten me through 45 years, through difficulties and losses and the best love I've ever had or could have hoped for. I love you, body. You are the best. 

Exactly as you are today.

Happy Holidays in Pictures

 Ahhhh, holiday break is here! It was one of those breaks that comes up suddenly with Christmas Eve on a Friday and so it feels a bit like workworkworkworkBOOM! Christmas! But, so far it's been lovely, mostly relaxed, and cozy. And not one bit sad. Literally, did not have a single moment where I felt melancholy over not having tiny humans at the holidays, and even survived the veritable flood of families in pajamas by the tree on Facebook. Progress. 

Here is our holiday in pictures: 

1) Holiday Card: 

Unclear why the print is so tiny on the back. Photos from Boothbay Harbor, our neighbor's outdoor wedding this September, and kitties at home. 

2) Living room with tree and stockings (and Eggi) on Christmas Eve morning while I enjoy my first day of no alarm clock. 

3) Christmas Eve coffee in the mug my friend gave me that Bryce keeps threatening to steal: 

4) Christmas Eve photo post-yummy-wine (hence crazy eyes), and Christmas morning photo all relaxed and in pjs on the other side of the fireplace. 

5) Remember how things at school have been challenging? Well here is a gift from a student, that was taped shut and said MERRY CHRISTMAS MRS T and DON'T OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS written on the front, and this is what it said inside which made me feel so much better about everything: 

6) Speaking of "book vendor," this is my stack from Bryce this year -- not a ONE of them bought from Amazon, all ordered and bought from our favorite local independent bookshop, The Dog Eared Book. There is SO MUCH GOOD READING coming my way. 

7) Christmas Day dinner fire and Bryce's Boulevardier (a negroni but with bourbon instead of gin). 

8) Another great mug, this one from Bryce -- HOW DO THEY KNOW ME SO WELL ON ETSY? 

9) Christmas cats with hats (Eggi stole a pom-pom hat from the Christmas bin when we were decorating and so Bryce's mom knit them mini hats of their own which may or may not feature into next year's card...tee hee)

Happy holidays from our home to yours, and here's hoping for a peaceful and healthy rest of the week leading into the New Year. 

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Been a Rough Couple Weeks

Well! It's been a while, and since I don't want to put all the womp womp stuff in my holiday related posts, I'll just dump it here and get you caught up. The good news is I'm on break, hallefreakinglujah. But it felt like it took everything I had to get me here. 

1) My laptop died. Like, DIED. I normally am able to do a fair amount of blogging on my phone, but these past two weeks have been so crazy that I just didn't have it in me. So, now I am typing on my lovely new laptop that hopefully lasts a really really long time. I could have cried when it just up and died on me. 

2) School has been bananapants. First, we have no subs. Which means we are all subbing for each other, a weird cobbling together of prep periods to cover peoples' absences. It is super frustrating because a) it makes people like me feel horrendously guilty if we have to be out because we don't want our colleagues to have to sub for us, and b) it takes an already stressful year and then amplifies it because you just don't know if you'll have your prep time on any given day, so the days are squished. I have taught 6th grade math, 6th grade 12:1:1 ELA, and 7th grade resource lately. I don't mind helping out, especially since we are so short staffed and our principal had a personal emergency and he does anything for any of us so really, how could I ever say no? The thing that sucks is that other districts pay teachers a prorated sub pay for covering classes, since they didn't have to pay the sub. NOT WHERE I WORK. It's all goodness-of-our-hearts, be-a-team-player kind of stuff. So, that ups the stress levels because if you counted on getting stuff done during the school day to try to have work-life balance, GOOD LUCK WITH THE SUB ROULETTE. 

3) More school is kookoobananas: I got embroiled in a situation where my personal safety was at risk and then something happened where the union got involved on my behalf and then there was an emergency CSE and now I will no longer be involved with this student moving forward. I had a week of taking my emergency anxiety medication because it was just so awful on so many levels, and clearly I can't go into any more detail than this but holy hell that was exhausting. And December was like, Full Moon/Holiday Wackiness/EveryoneLoseTheirDamnMind time in general. BUT, when I go back in January I will have slightly less challenge, which is great because we'll be diving right into Annual Review season (Parent meetings! IEP writing! Paperwork galore!), and I got a new student pretty much at the same time I was losing the other one, but I think this will be a very good thing. A different kind of challenge. 

SIDEBAR: I don't want you to think everything is miserable at school. There is a whole lot of awesome, too. It just temporarily got way overshadowed by the most difficult situation I've ever had in my teaching career. AND THAT'S WITHOUT COVID FEARS. 

4) Remember when I fell and my arm looked terrible? Remember how some of you were like, "oh man, I'm so glad you didn't break your arm?" Well, a couple weeks after I fell I noticed that as the bruising was getting less painful I had limited range of motion in my shoulder, and pain from my arm up into my shoulder and sometimes my armpit. So I went to Urgent Care (great place to go when cases are rising but they were super swift about getting people into dedicated rooms) and got an x-ray. Good news: not broken or fractured! Bad news: got a referral for an orthopedic surgeon to check it all out and get different imaging, as they agreed something wasn't right. 

5) Good news: I don't need surgery at this point in time. Bad news: I have a partial tear of my rotator cuff. WHAT THE FUCKITTY FUCK. And, unfortunately, it took FIVE WEEKS to get an appointment from the referral and call. But, I got a cortisone shot, which was awful for a couple days and then worked some magic, and I start PT this week, since I literally had no time to call and make the appointment for two weeks. TWO WEEKS. Because school is bananapants. I'd had a cortisone shot in my knee a couple years ago, and that was also awful, but this I could feel in my elbow (thank you, nerves) when he was giving it to me, guided by ultrasound. I am grateful that he did it all behind me, so I never saw the needle. I am starting to feel better, pilates has actually been really great and there's a large number of women who have had shoulder injuries and surgery who my instructor works with, so that's been great to keep that going, although gingerly. 

6) This is just today, but I got glutened eating lunch at my own damn house. I got complacent and bought honey roasted turkey breast from the grocery deli, and apparently that is not safe for me. Which sucked because my sandwich was really, really good -- soft, non-frozen LaBrea GF white bread, mayo and honey mustard, tomato slices, turkey, and cheddar. But then the rest of the day I've been a mess. Sadness. 

Okay, I think that's pretty much all the womp-womp I have to give right now. Well, other than the fact that it feels distinctly like March 2020 and the whole Omicron thing has our numbers skyrocketing and I fear we're going to go virtual at some point because too many people will be sick at once, and people are saying "it's not a question of IF you're going to get COVID with Omicron, it's WHEN," which makes me want to vomit and hide in my house for the foreseeable future. We are going to be in self-imposed lockdown over break, and I'm not going to lie, I'm feeling pretty good about it. Quiet time won't be something I'll complain about! 

There are so many good things coming -- Christmas, break, books, boudoir photos, end-of-year reflection. I hope you had a great holiday if you celebrate, and are safe and healthy and able to take a bit of a break. If you are working in healthcare, I'm thinking of you. Thank you for letting me cleanse myself of all the suck!