Does It Make You Sad?

We had a quiet Thanksgiving this year. We had a yummy dinner of German food (Schweinemedallions, sweet and sour braised red cabbage, red Chard, and roasted potatoes), just the two of us. We had an afternoon of wine, cheese, and board games at my mom's with my sister and her husband on Saturday. Wednesday night we did a spontaneous thing -- I was in sweatpants all day since I just had PT, and was lying on the couch when Bryce said, "Let's get dressed up a bit, after dinner we're going to go have drinks at a bar." So we went to one of our favorite restaurants that's less than 5 minutes away and sat at the bar and chatted with each other and the waitstaff, and it was out-of-the-ordinary fun. 

But then, on Thanksgiving itself, Bryce asked, "Does it make you sad? That your friends have tons of family and they have the big traditional dinner and we are" 

Once upon a time it would have. But now? Nope, not sad. I didn't have FOMO, I had that lovely JOMO (Joy of Missing Out), because it is a lot to host a big Thanksgiving and that sounded very stressful to me. I liked our quiet pajama'd Thanksgiving. It doesn't make me feel sad. 

Another "does it make you feel sad?" moment came on Sunday, when I talked with Bryce's mom. She has a grandson, who is Bryce's stepbrother's son, and his arrival coincided pretty right on top of our ending adoption. It's been rough early on, and I will admit it was really hard to see this cute toddler and then 4-5 year old doing all the things we'd hoped our own child would do when visiting in Maine through social media photos. But we wanted Bryce's mom to embrace this unexpected Grandma-dom, and get joy from it (which she does).

When I talked with her, she was saying how the little boy has a LOT of energy and needs some active things to do both inside and outside, and I had a whole bunch of recommendations for places to get toys that involve building, and bouncing, and building so you can shoot marbles down your own design, and stuff like that. And she said, "I'm so sorry, I never know if it's okay to talk about {the boy} with you, because I don't want to make you feel sad." And I realized -- I liked talking about fun toy solutions and ways to keep him busy, appropriately. It didn't make me sad. 

Now, I would not want to be at a Christmas thing and do presents and have the experience we never had in our face. But, I can recommend activities. I can talk about him and what he likes. 

So, it was lovely to have two situations where a few years ago I would have been sad, and now, I'm not. Do I still have the grief of not having the children and family that we wanted? Of course. But it's not front and center. It's surrounded by a whole lot of appreciation for the life we do have. 

Mmmm, German food feast

Enjoying a pre-dinner power outage, reading by fairy lights and fading window light. SOOO glad we didn't have things in the oven yet. 

Skills, Not Pills

I've been missing a couple weeks. Is it a coincidence that it's the same couple weeks I've been building up on the ADHD medication that I finally launched? 

No, no it's not. 

I don't think it's for me. In the beginning I had stomach upset and indigestion, which is apparently normal for the whole messing-with-your-brain-chemistry part of it. But then in the past week, something changed, and not for the better. I started feeling...blah. Blah started feeling more melancholic. By this weekend, I felt downright depressed. I'm tired. I'm zonked. I feel flat and gray and unhappy without a cause. 

I am very fond of balanced brain chemistry, and I feel like I was at a good place with my anxiety/depression medication. This new addition? I feel it is messing with me without any positives so far. And I'm not sure I want to wait to see if positives erupt, because it makes me feel so yucky. 

Bryce said, "you just aren't yourself. You seem sad, and disinterested. Flattened." He only said it after I offered up that I don't like it, and that I didn't feel right. I so appreciate that he waited until I shared my thoughts, because he's trying not to influence my observations. 

I'm going to go off this med. I don't think it's a loss because it was determined that I have definitive generalized anxiety disorder, but that I also have quite a lot of ADHD traits and behaviors. The psychiatric nurse practitioner said "skills AND pills," but I feel  good about trying "skills NOT pills." He did say that I've compensated for a really long time, and I am a reasonably successful human, so working on those strategies to manage my difficulties with focus, and time, and organization, and rejection sensitivity (which is also an anxiety thing) should make for positive change. Previous sessions were in my home office, but the last session was at school...which was super helpful because I could unveil the disaster that is my desk and pretty much every available surface near a computer. I think that was enlightening. 

So, I'm going to use timers, and copy people with more successful executive function, and set better routines. And get my brain chemistry back to a lovely stasis. I have learned to listen to my body, and to believe myself when I sense that something is wrong. 


Fourteen years! Tomorrow marks 14 years of marriage, which is bananas. We love Halloween, which is why our ceremony anniversary falls on that holiday. 

We have been celebrating it up this week, since our "legal" anniversary was earlier last week. 

We get each other little prizes throughout the month, mostly decorations for the house (but also books for me and bat underwear for him, ha ha). We have an absolute BLAST decorating inside and out: 

Harold, with my prize book "The Witches of New York."

We changed the location of our cemetery, this is my favorite!

Ghouls above the graves and ghosts

My snake skeleton in the garden

Nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana BAT LIGHT (and seriously dead plants)

We have a lot of fun with it. And we don't even have kids who trick or treat in our neighborhood -- the driveways are long and dark and it's two dead ends with not a lot of houses, so it's not super efficient even if there were young kids here (which there are not). The cemetery, Harold (lit so he can be seen from the street), and the bat light -- it's all for us. 

Then, Bryce made me a prize for the cemetery: 

He even made the stencil for the lettering himself. That's love.

To celebrate our Hallowedding Anniversary, we went out to a fancy dinner on Saturday. I'd wanted pictures in the cemetery in our finery at twilight, but we misjudged time and so had to do it after, at night. Bryce had the inspired idea to park his car in the garden area to light it, which made for some seriously creepy photos that I adore: 

Christine... if the demon car was a Mini

I wanted us to look like a ghost picture, but I think Bryce had trouble with "serious face."

And here is my favorite, where I haunt the cemetery: 

If our neighbors were looking out their windows or anything, they would have thought we were bonkers. But we don't care -- it is fun, it's OUR fun, and we get to be our own kids in a way. 

This is the 7th anniversary where we knew we would never have children (the first was a very raw 2017). We have had as many anniversaries living with that reality as we had where we thought perhaps there were babies in our future. That's a pretty cool milestone, actually. 

So, happy 14th wedding anniversary to us! Behold, a "normal" picture of our wedded bliss. 

To Med or Not to Med?

Over the summer I made the burgeoning realization that I might have ADHD. That what I thought was solely anxiety could actually be something else (in addition) that I had been struggling with for pretty much my entire life. 

I talked to my therapist. I read articles and sought resources. I felt a tremendous relief that things about me that were hard were also...explainable. 

And then I went to a psychiatric nurse practitioner for evaluation. After talking with me, and my therapist, and rating scales and observations from myself and my husband, he came to the conclusion that there may be ADHD at play along with the dual plagues of anxiety and depression. And he prescribed medication, Strattera. 

I have yet to start it, even though I could have as soon as I felt better from COVID (which, thankfully, is gone although I have lingering fatigue and shortness of breath, blergh). 

It's weird -- I wanted the validation, and I wanted to see if maybe addressing ADHD might alleviate some anxiety, if it was a chicken-and-egg type situation. 

But now I am reluctant to further mess with my brain chemistry... am I trying to fix something that I am already compensating for in other ways? 

Bryce is nervous, because (and this is completely sweet and romantic) he said, "But I'm afraid that if you take the medication that you'll lose some of the things that make you YOU, and that are so loveable and endearing -- your frenetic energy is one of the things I love about you!" 

I am a believer in taking medication when you need it. I am a believer in outsourcing my serotonin, and it really works for me. Do I need to add norepinephrine into the mix? I've made it 47 years, and while my insides are significantly messier than my outsides, and I am a really proficient masker, which is exhausting, do I need to take something further to be a functional humanlike substance? 

I think because I am asking all these questions, it's good to press pause. I have a tendency to jump all in on things and fully commit, when maybe a pause is a better idea (like, um, all my full-steam-ahead cycles and protocols and always immediately going to the next possible thing, which ultimately wasn't the best). Maybe I'm trying to fix something that explains a lot about who I am and what's more difficult, but isn't actually broken. I'm not sure a pill is going to suddenly make my piles disappear or my grading happen before it piles up into a mountain of procrastination. And the risk that it might aggravate my anxiety, which is pretty well controlled currently... that would not be worth a change. 

Maybe I should focus more on the skills than the pills right now. I just can't tell if I'm procrastinating on it, fearing change, or doubting if meds are the right answer at this point. 

Goals vs Reality

My district has been offering a lot of thoughts and professional development with the theme of "work-life balance" and "resilience." I bristle a little bit at this, because often the reason why work-life balance is so hard is because the job is just never-ending and we keep getting new initiatives to implement and new hats to put on and new crises to avert. Taking a mindful minute is not really going to undo that structural house of cards. 

However, I did set some goals this year to help me where I can control things, since I am not single-handedly going to overhaul the educational system. 

1) Get up earlier. (Includes the opposite -- go to bed earlier.)
2) Eat breakfast at home. No more microwaving egg bites in your classroom microwave, announcing to the hallway and stairwell that you are indeed in school today. 
3) Eat lunch. Like, with people. Away from my desk and/or computer.  
4) Leave work at school except Sunday work. I haven't figured out how to NOT have Sunday work. 
5) Say NO more. Don't sign up for 80 billion things. Don't succumb to the guilt. 

I would give myself a solid B- so far. You can check my math though.

1) I am actually doing a pretty good job of going to bed and getting up earlier. Unfortunately, time seems to shift when I have more of it and I am still rushing like mad to get to school on time. This is a stumper. Do I live in a twilight zone where time does not exist the same way it does for others? (The answer is yes. See: ADHD.) So, I'm doing passably well, but it isn't making much of a difference. Grade: B

2) I have eaten absolutely ZERO eggs at school this year! I have, in a day where I hit "dismiss" instead of "snooze," brought yogurt and granola, but that's not offending anyone's olfactory and I didn't eat it in front of anyone. Grade: A+

3) Eat lunch as an actual break in the presence of other humans. This, ironically, was something that administration suggested. Take lunch to recharge! You'll have a better afternoon! And you'll get to spend time with colleagues! I have done this about 50% of the time. In part because COVID keeps whooshing through our building. I have been masking at school since the first full week because of COVID striking close, but you have to eat. And apparently eating not quite on top of other people for 15 minutes is enough time to get COVID. So yes. Spoiler: I have motherflipping COVID again. Maybe it's not time for social lunch yet. (The good news is that this round has been less severe than previous, but I DID NOT WANT IT. And it is NOT "just a cold." And with this variant, I didn't test positive until I swabbed my throat, which means everyone is swabbing noses and coming up negative while horribly contagious. SIGH. There is no way for me to avoid it as a teacher, I am starting to realize. Which is unbelievably shitty.) So, Grade: C, but F for COVID. 

4) I don't know how people get shit done during the day, during "prep periods." I honestly don't. I am doing okay with this goal, but honestly because I am cheating. I do it all at work and don't bring it home (or take work on a lovely round trip in my backpack without actually looking at it at home), but only because I'm staying until 5 or so. It does keep the separation up, but I am realizing there is literally no getting ahead of the to-do list no matter what. See: Structural Problems In Education. Grade: C+ (points deducted for cheating)

5) This one I am actually doing gangbusters at. I feel horrifically guilty, but I did not answer the call to do bus duty before or after school (it's a rare year where I have 1st and 9th "free," but I need every ounce of that time and being on my feet outside is probably not the best idea). I am looking to lower my "Yes, sure, pick me!" and I'm doing way better. Grade: A- (because I still signed on for a couple things). 

I have to remind myself that goals are there to push you, but not to be gargoyles looming over you, howling "oh look, you failed! BWAHAHAHAHA! Why did you even bother to try?" Shut up, inner gargoyles. 

Overall, I am trending upward. Which is progress, especially since I tend toward the obsessive (um, like all my years of infertility treatment and adoption goals and initiatives and pushes to the brink of reason). 

And I'm totally mad that good intentions = COVID.  This variant, while "milder," is insanely contagious. Maybe we should pull back on the social community stuff for a little while, lonely as that is. 

A Rough Transition

Well, I did not expect over a month to go by without a post. Eeesh. 

The transition back to school has been ROUGH. I always forget how tired I am the first month of school, but this year was exponential exhaustion. There is absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for the insane pace and activity that is teaching middle school. I thought with my PT and my return to movement and Pilates that I was in GREAT shape to come back and be raring to go. I walked 2.5 miles the day before I went back to school, and I felt amazing! Going up a hill did not hurt at all! I was like, I am ready. Bring it on. 


The first week of school was insanely humid and in the mid-90s, and we don't have air conditioning. Cue the swelling. I forgot that my floors are hardwood and carpet, and school floors are...concrete. I'd been elevating throughout the day, and that just wasn't practically possible. I came home every day completely exhausted, with elephantitis of the leg from the knee down to my ankle, which looked like a softball by the time the day was over. It was all I could do to just get home, lie on a couch, and recover. 

The weather improved, but it wasn't until today that I felt like my knee and leg were finally back on the up and up. It was so frustrating. 

So, I've been pretty boring. The second week of September was World Childless Week, and I wrote two pieces and participated in a Loss Ceremony that I ended up having to do from my classroom. It was powerful, and beautiful, and I underestimated how much of my defenses it would dissolve. 

WCW 2023: Our Stories

WCW 2023: Moving Forwards

Loss Ceremony

Go check everything out if you haven't already, all of the events and pieces are up for you, whenever you want to explore. 

I am finally turning a corner with school, and feeling like it no longer takes all my energy to just get through the day. The great news is that other than my leg (which I swear is heavier than it was before), everything is pretty amazing. My students are so much fun, sweet and willing to take risks. They need a lot of support, but they are delightful. And I'm teaching my favorite things, and having a blast. 

I'm just really really tired and dissolve into a pile of goo when I get home. It's good to be back, though! I'm going to catch up on commenting and reading. I've really missed this space. 

Back to School "About Me" Slideshows

It's that time again... the first day of school for teachers is two weeks from tomorrow, and the first day for students is two weeks from Thursday. So of course, I am making introductory slides galore. 

I kind of hate the first couple of days of school. It's kind of awkward, and repetitive, and expectations blah blah and routines blah blah and important stuff, just not the most engaging. I have tried different things over the years to make it more engaging, but it always feels like, good gracious when can we just get into the learning? 

So this year, I am going to just get into it. The first day I am going to designate as a Welcome Back, Getting to Know Each Other, What Do You Need to be Successful, kind of low-key day, and then the second day is going to be the routines and expectations and grade policies and blah blah but cut way back so it's not so godawful boring. 

I need to make the slideshow about me for both my English classes (two sections of 12:1+1), my social studies class (12:1+1), and the ICT (Integrated Co-Taught) social studies class. I think I won't do one for Core Support, which is like a study skills/progress monitoring/reteaching/social skills period, because they will have seen things all freaking day in those other classes, but I think I will do some sort of low-key quiz game about it. 

The slideshows I do for my own classes are pretty easy -- I talk about my interests, my family, and maybe a fun fact or two. 

It's the co-taught section that makes me feel a little anxious, because the general education teacher is VERY family-forward and has probably 5 slides about family (kids! weddings! grandkids! dogs!) and one slide about interests, and I always feel like my life is kind of...boring in contrast. 

Well, that's how I feel, at least. It's not true -- I have a fairly un-boring life, but somehow in the face of giant family reunions and grandbabies on laps and large group family outings, it's like ALL THE THINGS and then QUIET MICROCOSM LIFE. 

Probably some difficulty this year stems from the fact that my summer was, frankly, on the boring side. My main job was to heal. I do have those cool knee x-rays, and a giant stack of books I read and puzzles I did. And some photographic evidence that I can go on a fairly decent walk now, on a mostly flat trail. 

Anyway, this time of year makes me feel a little of that comparison nonsense as everyone shares their pictures of kids and busy hectic lives. It's too bad that I can't really put out there pictures of me in pajamas all day or drinking wine out on the deck, ha. I am eternally grateful that we no longer have the staff slideshow that is a parade of weddings and babies and fancy trips, that tends to feel awful for people who had a more, um, traumatic summer (like my friend who spent her summer getting divorced and dismantling/re-mantling her life), or who for whatever reason didn't do anything too terribly exciting. That slideshow used to make me horribly sad, and then when I'd made peace that I'd never have kids in the slideshow I made a point to take utterly ridiculous photos for the slideshow (one of my favorites below): 

I guess there's still time to figure out something kooky for at least one of my slideshows... and actually, I got distracted and started going through my photos from this summer just now. There's a lot of fun little things, quiet things, but photos that point to a full and beautiful life. Without kids or grandkids.