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. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

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! 

My Anxiety Brain

My anxiety is spiking again, probably mostly due to a situation at school that has been stressful and then absolutely escalated this last week, leaving me a bit of a wreck. It's better and on the way to being resolved now but I'm still experiencing aftershocks.

So when we had a windstorm Saturday night (thankfully not anywhere near the horrific tornadoes Midwest), Bryce was trying to distract me by talking about how he's been thinking about how he thinks -- in pictures, in sentences, in chunks... And he asked what I thought.

Good gracious. I basically said, "well, every time the winds hit the sliding glass door and it pops and crackles, I can see it blowing in and shards of glass everywhere and I think in should put my glasses on to protect my eyes and then I wonder if we could grab both cats so they wouldn't run out and then one of us could go in the garage and get the plywood to shore up the gaping jagged edged hole in our house." 

And that's when Bryce said, "oh yeah. That's your anxiety brain alright!" 

I guess I think in horrific images paired with rapid fire stream of consciousness What-ifs and contingency plans. Fun. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

CNBC in the News!

It is a very strange thing to go to your Google feed and scroll through the usual stuff (surfing videos, tiny homes, book reviews, COVID news, etc) and FIND YOUR FACE BETWEEN A NYT BOOK REVIEW AND A STORY ON "WEST SIDE STORY". 

I knew the story was out, but to see it randomly (although it's Google, is ANYTHING truly random anymore?) was a shock to the system. 

The article itself can be found here and also features Pamela Tsingdos of The Silent Sorority and another CNBC woman telling her story.

A featured story on women resolving without children after infertility! With absolutely no surprise-miracle babies anywhere in the article! In a section meant for women, "Know Your Value," that typically centers on mom-stories! Hallelujah. 

The author is a Facebook friend who I went to college with and we had exactly one class together. She is now a writer and editor, and contacted me after reading the piece I wrote for World Childless Week in September. She wanted to do a piece on her MSNBC platform, to amplify the voices of an outcome that is way too often relegated to the darkness, shuffled off to the attic like a shameful crazy wife whom you know exists but don't really want her existence acknowledged. 

And so I was interviewed for the story, along with Pamela  Tsingdos (!) and another wonderful childless survivor of infertility who lives in the U.S. It went live Thursday. WHAT!? 

I absolutely loved the article, but unfortunately the banner image at the top was this:

Yuck. It's related, I guess, but also far from the most sensitive choice. If you want people to pass it to those struggling, that image is a major turn off. Soooo... I contacted the author and mentioned that, and BAM! they changed it. They changed it to my face (see above), which is mildly horrifying,  but it's no longer a pregnant woman and ICSI! Yay for self-advocacy. 

I am so excited that this outcome, this resolution, this hard-won life after infertility and adoption is featured on a national, mainstream-media platform. I hope it gets to people who need to hear these stories, who need to see the hope and the beauty that is possible with stepping away.

Bonding over Books

I just lent my copy of I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick to a student. Not one of my own students in any of my classes, but a student I have bonded with over books and a shared love of twisty, dark books and humor. 

I first met this student because they have lunch daily with the teacher across the hall, and I saw them reading a book that had been haunting me everywhere -- The Whisper Man by Alex North. Does that happen to you? Where you see the same cover over and over, and you don't buy it but you just keep running into it until you can't NOT buy it? Well, this was one of those books. 

Anyway, they had a zillion skinny flags in it, and when I asked about them they showed me the color coded key at the front of the book with what each passage flag meant. I think that was when I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. I got the book, read it (SO deliciously creepy with some great twists; SO not appropriate for your typical 8th grader), and we had fun book discussions about it. 

Then last Friday, after a really crap day Thursday, I ran into them at the front entryway before school and we started talking about book lists and bookshelves and their love for Victorian murder mysteries, and how they barely read before this year but now are obsessed and even writing their own Victorian murder book. 

Let me tell you, moments of connection like this feed my soul in a difficult year. This is a student who isn't typical in any way, and I tend to gravitate towards kids who are probably kind of like me in middle school, maybe in part because I wish I had consistently had someone like that at school myself. 

Now I get to be that fellow weirdo, trade book recommendations, talk all things books...and it's authentically enjoyable. Connections like these remind me why I love teaching middle school.

Want to read more #MicroblogMondays? Go here and enjoy! 

Holiday Traditions

Bryce and I had a quiet Thanksgiving -- dinner just the two of us on Thursday after a relaxing day, Bryce's duck breast with blueberry port sauce and potatoes gratin and asparagus, and completely delicious and tart lemon chess pie (gluten free of course). Friday we went up to my mom's and had drinks and appetizers in the garage with the door open to assuage our COVID fears, which was great except the real feel outside was TWENTY DEGREES. I appreciated the flexibility in the name of peace of mind even though we felt like we might lose some toes in the process. 

On the way home, we saw something we haven't really seen before -- Thanksgiving decorations! There were multiple homes that had the Giant Bags of Ugliness (big blow up lawn ornaments, can you tell how I feel about them?) but instead of early Christmas stuff it was a TURKEY! A turkey in a pilgrim hat! I have conflicted feelings about the pilgrim hat, but I was like, "Yeah! Giving the turkey his due!" 

This morning I talked with my best friend on my way in to work, and she was thinking on when was the latest she could get away with putting the Elf on a Shelf out. Her kids are 14, 13, and 10, but the 10 year old is still gung-ho about it. Now THAT is a holiday tradition with kids that I am glad we don't have to do (you move the little elf doll around each night, it's watching the kids and reporting to the North Pole, and if anyone touches it Krampus comes and devours the whole family or something like that). Some holiday traditions seem to have exploded in the way of gender reveal parties and promposals and "Will you be my bridesmaid" elaborate exploding boxes with confetti. 

We haven't put our tree up yet, even though I wanted to on Sunday, but it will go up by the end of the week. Ahhhh, fake pre-lit tree, year two. It will be interesting to see how Eggi does with the tree since this is her first Christmas with us. I thought I'd be sad with the fake tree, but it is actually gloriously easy to put up and turn on and I don't have to worry about setting the house on fire by accident. 

I think this next weekend will be our Christmas Decorating Extravaganzaaaa, and we'll get our Woodland Critter Countdown out for Wednesday. So far I've just changed out Pumpkin Bourbon candles for Balsam Cedar and Winter Clementine. We're a bit behind, but there's no pressure from tiny people to have stuff ready. 

The holidays used to be a source of deep, deep sadness. Christmas is literally about a miracle baby, and families and family things are flung in the face willy nilly (oh how I hate "the magic of Christmas is all about children" and similar comments accompanying Christmas photo shoots on Facebook), and it used to be a horrid reminder of all we lost. But, I think about our new house and our new prelit tree and all the ways that we have made the holidays ours, enjoyable for what they are and not what they could have been but weren't. I don't think I would have believed 5-6 years ago that we could be in this space of acceptance and flourishing. It is good to remember how it felt that that sadness would never end, and now it's more of a hum I can only hear on occasion when a song or movie hits just right, and not our whole experience. 

Want to read more Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Holiday Card Hurrah

It's time for me to start thinking about our annual holiday card -- the closer to Thanksgiving you do it, the cheaper, and it's something fun to think about and put together. We've done a photo card every year since we got married in 2009. It's a fun exercise and a time capsule -- I have a box with all of them in it so far. I also feel like they should be for everyone -- not just people with kids. 

I've noticed an increasing trend of only putting kids on the holiday card, which bothers me. Mostly because it seems to make more tangible this idea of losing your identity to the process of child-rearing, or of saying, "this is what truly matters" and taking yourself out of the picture. I enjoy so much more when the whole family (especially dogs and cats and various critters) are featured, too. 

Something that has always bothered me is the lack of diversity in the card offerings. Not race as much as age and relationship status/family types, since they are doing a great job with representing a variety of ethnicities. I'm seeing more and more same-sex couples with children, and single parents. 

The biggest change I saw this year though, thank heavens, is the inclusion of more people without children. There's always been young couples who've just been married, and of course the horrid pregnancy-announcement-holiday-card, but on Shutterfly I saw middle-aged couples without kids, couples with dogs, and a single woman with her dog. HALLELUJAH! I saw a couple where the man had a hearing aid visible, which was lovely too. And some older couples who did not have a bevy of grandchildren with them -- older couples that seemed to be without kids. 

It is about freaking time. 

Representation is important in every sense, and it has felt very much like "these cards are not supposed to be for you, what the hell are you doing here?" in the past. I got a National Wildlife catalog and they are now doing photo cards that support their work, but ALL OF THE CARDS HAD KIDS. Which made me titchy. 

So imagine my happiness to see such a diversified set of families featured on Shutterfly! (TinyPrints, you have some work to do, even though you're related.) And, couples without children were labeled "The ___ Family!" 

I know not everyone WANTS to do photo cards, and cards in general seem to be falling out of fashion (which is sad and indicative of the end of civilization I think), but everyone should be able to see themselves in something you create to wish others well at the holidays. If you want to do a card, you should be able to envision yourself on an example without erasing tiny humans from the picture. It should put the message out there that you are worthy of a photo card, too. That it's perfectly acceptable to have a photo card with you and your dog, or you and your significant other and cats. 

So appreciative for these very easy fixes that have been a long time coming. 


I am feeling just so...blah. Depleted. Zonked. Wiped out. 

My arm is healing in terms of the bruising fading -- THREE WEEKS LATER it is still visible. But, my shoulder is all messed up. I must have done something to it when I fell because I don't have full range of motion, it feels "stuck." I actually went to Urgent Care last weekend and got my arm x-rayed because so many of you were like, "I was worried you broke it!" and I realized I never got it imaged. Good news: it's not fractured or anything. 

Question: how old do you have to be for them to stop asking you if you could be pregnant? They said, "Any chance you could be pregnant?" and I said "No," and he said, "Are you sure?" and I said "I DON'T HAVE A UTERUS," which is now my stock answer for everything pregnancy related. But when is that? 50? 55?)

Bad news: I have to go to an orthopedist for follow up as I may need an MRI to check for shoulder damage. Arghhhh. 

School is just exhausting. The teaching in masks all day is tough but doable, but the emotional toll is so great. I have students who I have to shut off the emotional piece of things. One with many significant issues has decided she ABSOLUTELY HATES ME, and we've tried so many ways of engaging and stepping in and out and I pretty much feel like my job is to keep a paper trail and document like mad so we can get her what she really needs, but in the meantime it just feels awful. It all takes a toll after a while. I'm not the teacher who needs everyone to like her, liking me is besides the point and really my big thing is to love everybody even when they show their need for love in horrifically unlovable ways, I don't need nor do I want to be students' best friends. But hearing "I effing hate you" daily can be...tiresome. It also feels like pandemic teaching is just never. going. to. end. I could cry.

I feel like I need a lot of restorative time. Puzzles are great but then I get obsessive and lose myself in them for a whole evening (I can't really do them on weeknights because then I don't go to bed early enough). I'm reading, but am finding that my concentration isn't what it used to be. I want to just lie on the couch. I'm trying to do the bike or a walk as soon as I get home to move my body, but in addition to my arm/shoulder I hurt my left foot on a walk where my orthotic met bar inserts seem to have slipped and so pressure was put on a metatarsal that wasn't good. I feel like I am being sabotaged in that department. I still go to Pilates, it's my saving grace, but I'm super modified with my stupid shoulder/arm. [insert not-so-silent screaming here]

Anyway, I'm sorry for just dumping all this here but it just feels like a lot, you know? I am SO looking forward to the Thanksgiving break... today was Monday and tomorrow is Virtual Friday (I have Wednesday-Thursday-Friday off, thank goodness). I can do this. I can make it through one more day and then rejuvenate and reconstitute for the break.

Want to read #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

A Heavy Shelf

Part of my decluttering (read: procrastinating along with de-funkifying) yesterday was to move a shelf in my office. It's kind of hidden by my chaise longue/unfortunate cat scratching post, so I'd put a bunch of picture books there. 

These are books that fall in a few categories: 

- Books I took home from discard book boxes when I worked at Scholastic Book Clubs over TWENTY YEARS AGO. Holy hell, that makes me feel old. 

- Books I bought because I liked them, but also because I thought I'd share them with my own child at some point. Some Bryce bought, too. 

- Books from our baby shower 6 years ago that have dedication stickers in them that say who they are from and a message to our FutureBaby, who turned out to be in an alternate reality that never came to pass. 

- Books that were mine that I loved, and that I wanted to keep for my future children. You know, the ones that don't exist. 

Perhaps this wasn't a task to take on while fighting a funk. But, I did. I don't know what to do with them, but I do have a shelf in the hallway upstairs that has some old picture books of mine, and they are going up there. Except the Maine ones, those go on the Maine shelf in the living room. They don't need to be in my inspirational space. 

It made me think... WHY am I keeping so many? I have actually given a bunch away to friends with actual children, and most of the ones left I still have for reasons. I love picture books. They represent more than just the kids we never had. But, they don't have to live so close to where I spend so much time. 

I decided to donate a bag of them to the organization that helps with tutoring and chubby services for a large low income housing development in my district, where there are also a lot of families involved in refugee resettlement. Who doesn't need books of their own? I'd rather more go there and get used than be sad in a shelf I keep slowly moving and winnowing. 

It's still hard, though.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy. 

How to Get Out of a Funk

It's been a rough couple of weeks. 

I have a bad habit of sort of disappearing when I'm having a hard time. It's probably not the healthiest. I've done it before in moments of crisis, and all it does is isolate me and let me sit in a cycle of suck. It makes me believe my inner voice that is a constant spin of "everythingisterrible." 

There's no one event. It's just...everything. I am completely overwhelmed at school. It spills over to home. I work and work and work and never really feel ahead and then I come home and just feel...paralyzed. I have a million things I want to do, but I'm just overtaken by this bone tiredness and ennui. 

I'm upset that I got Shingles again, but catching it early and slamming it with medication (that, yeah, made me feel bone tired and out of it) made it a LOT less painful this time around. Which meant I didn't take any time off for it. Probably not a great move. I missed some Pilates classes because of it, but then was like, "I feel so much better!" and went off the nerve pain medication for our anniversary (more on that later), and then felt shitty again on our actual anniversary (Halloween) and had to go back on. 

But then, I had a really bad day on this past Monday, and I was completely exhausted from my tough caseload and a week where we were facing a TON of tests and we're shortstaffed and don't have a test center for accommodations, so I am taking it upon myself to help out and read tests during my prep periods. (Yes, I can hear the sound of so many hands slapping foreheads at this. I realize it's not up to me to fix everything, but I feel this weird compulsion of I'LL DO IT that serves me not at all.) I came home, exhausted and cranky, writing my daily email to one students' parents because of the heavy heavy behavioral component, and my laptop started dying so I got up to plug it in in my office and then...

I tripped on Eggi, who was sitting next to my chair, and slid out of my puffin slippers, and tried to grasp at something and grabbed my chair THAT HAS WHEELS and fell with all my weight on my left arm into the knife edge of my desk. It SUUUUUUUUUUUCKED. I started crying right away, and then it became howling (because of course it was Shingles Side of my body), and then I no joke cried like Sally in When Harry Met Sally for about an hour. Bryce held me and then when it didn't abate at all, he said, "This is so not just about your arm." He then said, "THAT'S IT, you're going to go put pajamas on and your office is off limits and you're going to read and do a puzzle and take care of your damn self this evening. ENOUGH." 

My arm hurt so bad that I had tingling and numbness in my left hand, and had to skip Pilates all week because I tried the stationary bike and it left me tingling and shooting down my arm and I really didn't need to be balancing on equipment like that. 

2 days after I did it

Ooh, pretty colors. Today, almost a week later.

Wait, the title of this is "How to Get Out of a Funk." So far I've just told you how to get solidly stuck in one. 

Fast forward to this weekend... yesterday I felt just blah and then angry that I felt blah, because IT'S FINALLY THE WEEKEND AND MY TIME TO RECOUP and I keep feeling shitty when my body has permission to let go. I spent some very mopey time on the floor of my office (the carpet's really soft and Eggi came by for some purry pets) and did some dusting and organizing, and then was like... ENOUGH. 

So here are my tips: 

1) Get off the damn floor. It's great for about 5 minutes, any longer and you start sinking into it and your thoughts go haywire and just keep you down there. GET UP. 

2) Put some makeup on. I love how makeup can make you feel more put together, not BETTER per se but just, decorated, maybe? Not everyone loves the makeup, but I do and it's sort of like coloring. On my face. It makes me feel brighter and happier. 

3) Get out of the damn house. Get outside. Do something physical. We went to this trail behind our local SPCA, and it is like a little hidden gem. You go up a huge hill past the rescue horses and some paddocks and then a memorial garden, and then you enter this beautiful golden wood that then goes down into a basin that is ALWAYS filled with a magical mist when we go. Which apparently is every early November. It's quiet, there's no other people, the light is spectacular, and in early November it's crisp and exhilarating. 

Wearing my "Stay Sexy...Don't Get Murdered" t-shirt (My Favorite Murder Podcast)

4) Connect with people. Don't hide away like an injured forest critter. It's not good for you. 

I'm kind of in a funk again today, probably because I can feel the crushing weight of all I have to do to get ready for the week later today, but I'm doing some book organizing and rearranging in my home office and that's making me feel better. I did that after school on Friday, too -- I am so ridiculously busy that my desk gets covered in piles of paper each week and it feels completely overwhelming. Friday I stayed until it looked decently clean, and it made me feel so much better. Doing the same at home now. 
And so, 

5) Do some organizing and decluttering. Decluttered surroundings really do help with having a more decluttered mind. 

We have a day off on Thursday, for Veterans' Day, weird midweek day off but I WILL TAKE IT. Having a sub shortage makes me feel like I can't take a day. I am going to have to get over that because no one else seems to have a problem with taking a day if they need to. And I am in a place where I feel like I need to make some changes or else I am going to end up in a world of hurt before December. But at least I have tips, some of which I learned while spending lots of time facedown on the floor during my health crisis that ultimately ended our parenting journey. Get up. Get out. Get dressed and do your face, even if you're just tromping around the woods. Harder....stop feeling like you have the power to fix all the things and everything will be awful if you actually stop and take care of yourself. Remember how good your body is at making you stop completely when you don't. 

Breathe. And know that awful times pass eventually. 

Not Doing Great With the Stress Thing

Guess what? 

I have shingles. Again. Almost exactly a year after the last time I had them, for the first time. 

What causes shingles? The chicken pox virus living in your adult body, just waiting to, come back out and run amok and cause nerve pain and generalized awfulness. 

What triggers it to come sneaking out on your skin, on one side of your body, usually in the MOST PAINFUL PLACES EVER, which for women is anywhere your bra touches (and it can go on your face, which is super dangerous near your eyes, but thankfully I just get bra shingles)? 

STRESS. Lots and lots of stress. 

I am struggling to stay on top of things. Probably because I've piled up a mountain of things I need to stay on top of. I am bad at saying no. I actually have said no to a whole bunch of stuff, but I made a list and the things I am still yessing are...many. 

This school year is complicated and challenging, as every school year has been it seems, but the extra layer of COVID and students whose last normal school year was 3 years ago adds to it. My 8th graders haven't had a normal Sept-June school year since 5th grade. Which means there's a lot of teaching about how to do school and how to interact with other humans in acceptable ways. Which is not too far from the normal 8th grade experience, but this year it is particularly exhausting. Other teachers I have talked to have said, "It seems a bad sign that we are in October and feels like the bone tiredness of March." 

I have a caseload with a lot of social-emotional needs, a lot of kids who ask for help in the least appealing ways, who speak through behavior, who have many more needs than just academic. I will confess I wanted a number of these students because I enjoy working with "tough kids." And while I don't take the hard parts personally, it is exhausting to stay patient and firm but kind but holding kids accountable all day long. And then to manage the lead teacher pieces with my department, which I really enjoy but there have been a number of Union issues and things that are frustrating about communication from district level, and needing to do more things with fewer resources, and I am the  person to come to who then goes to the higher up people with proposals. I really like advocating, for students and teachers alike, but again... it's exhausting. 

And then there's the tiny piece that came out while crying to my therapist about my shingles and my exhaustion -- I feel like I HAVE to do more because I CAN do more, because. . .  I don't have kids. That somehow it's an unspoken responsibility that I have to take up time and do as much as possible since there's no small humans depending on me at home. I've been going home late every day, because Bryce works late and has his PhD work, and so if we eat dinner at 7 or 8 that's fine, but I have soooo little down time. Which I am not saying to be like, "oooooh, look at me, I'm just so BUSY!" like a badge of honor...I'm legitimately upset about it and need to make a change.

My therapist actually said that when she was raising her daughter, she was an excuse to not do more -- that of course she wanted to spend time with her and mother her but also she could be like, "NO, I'm not staying later because I have to pick my daughter up/take her to dance class/help with her homework/whatever parent-y thing." It helped her set boundaries. And granted, then she had this other responsibility at home to take care of, but she was like, "That was my home time. That was enjoyable for the most part." She was like, "just because you don't have kids doesn't mean you have to take on more because you have that time, you can do other things with that time. You can take care of yourself with that time. You need to let some shit go. You need to maybe adjust your expectations of what you should be doing, because it's literally showing up in your body." 

You would think I would learn this lesson. I'm smacked in the head with it way too many times. 

So today I left at 3:45, a rarity for me, but mostly because I had my image review/ordering session for my boudoir shoot. And that was awesome -- I had to pare down 100 images to 20 (I was between two packages, one with 30 and one with 20). I decided to go with the cheaper package at 20 images and a smaller book, but then add in a travel kit (7 wallet sized photos with envelopes) and a wall piece (I did a triptych). It was a good boost to see all the amazing photos and pick out what I wanted for each element. I cannot WAIT to have everything in hand to give Bryce. 

I'm also super grateful the shingles chose to erupt AFTER the shoot, because that would have been awful. For the actual rash, and also because I'm on a boatload of medications including my nemesis, Prednisone, therefore I feel insanely gross and not sexy at all. Which sucks because our legal anniversary is Saturday... so we rescheduled our fancy dinner out for Saturday the 30th. Bryce will cook this weekend and I will hopefully feel better, not worse. I caught the shingles faster than last time (it only took me two days to realize that I didn't have an invisible spider biting me in a linear fashion on only one side of my torso, that it was indeed shingles again), and so I got to the doctor WAY FASTER. Which means I'm on the heavy drug cocktail faster, which hopefully prevents the level of pain I had last year. So far it's not fun, but it's not excruciating. I hope it doesn't get to that level. 

So, my mission in the next few days is to figure out what I can do to lessen my load and do...less. Without feeling guilty, without feeling like I'm letting myself and everyone else down. I have to, or I'm going to get the shingles every damn year until I can get the vaccine at 50. 

Anniversary Gift

We are celebrating our twelfth wedding anniversary this month -- TWELVE! It's also our 5th anniversary post-resolution. When we hit our 15th anniversary, we will celebrate having more years out of infertility/adoption than in...which is exciting to look forward to. 

Last year, I gave Bryce the Love Bats, a painting I commissioned from a very talented friend. I kept it secret until I picked it up in the parking lot of a Starbucks, like some sort of suburban-bougie heist setup. I made it to October 13th, 10 days before our "legal" wedding anniversary. 

This year, I did something else secret, and I kept it totally quiet until today...but there are still secrets until I have something physical to share with Bryce. 

I did a boudoir photo shoot. 

Before you think this is creepy, or smutty, or whatever, I chose to do this because the Natalie, woman who runs the studio and does the shoot is amazing -- she has a philosophy that this is primarily for YOU, that it is a way to see yourself the way your significant other sees you, and that every woman deserves to do something to celebrate their body and sexuality AS YOU ARE TODAY. Not 15 years ago, not after losing 25 pounds. NOW. I could not love this message more. 

I have thought about doing this for years. And this year, I decided... it's time. 

I sneakily bought tasteful lingerie from Adore Me that fit my body just right and highlighted just what I wanted highlighted. I love that they are size-inclusive not just in their advertisement but in reality (sometimes you get things that are more full-figured that look great on the model and they look absolutely dreadful on an actual curvy body, because not all curvy bodies are made the same). 

I said I was going for a massage (SHOULD HAVE SAID HAIR APPOINTMENT/MAKEOVER to continue sneakiness), and then went this morning to the COVID location in an adult education warehouse sort of place. My best friend said, "Sounds totally up-and-up that you went to an abandoned warehouse to get photos taken of you in your underwear." That sounds very murder-y and shady, but it was anything but. All-woman team -- a logistics lady who got me set up and spreading out my fancy wares on a long table that people probably do watercolors or flower arranging on during other times, a hair/makeup lady, and then the photographer lady. They were all masked and we were all vaccinated, and it was a very airy, ventilated space so I felt super safe. When it was time for the shoot it was just me and Natalie, two women having a blast. 

I wore a dusky plum babydoll set, a black bra and lace panties set, prop 7" platform stilettos that tried to kill me even though I just stood and sat in them for less than 10 minutes, a lace-and-jersey nightie thing, white cheeky panties with a very nerdy Dungeons & Dragons (Critical Role) sweatshirt I stole from Bryce's closet that was literally my favorite thing ever (the back says How do you want to do this? which is literally perfect), and then an artfully draped sheet. At no time did I feel anything but sexy, beautiful, celebrated, and maybe a little goofy. There's only so many times you can toss your hair and laugh amusedly at your left shoulder without laughing hysterically and probably unattractively, but that was part of the fun. 

I cannot wait for the image review next week. It is so exciting, because what I saw on the camera screen was just crazy -- I looked like me but like some kind of magical sexified celebrity-ish me. I have so much more to write about this experience, but I'm already way over Micro for a Monday. 

I felt empowered and beautiful. I fell in love with my body again. And then I went home looking like this: 

Cover...blown. Could not keep it secret any more. Natalie suggested I say I popped in to the mall for a free makeover, but I don't think Bryce would ever believe that I'd go to the mall voluntarily. Honestly, now the intrigue will make it even more fun when I actually have the photos to show Bryce. I can't wait to see how they turn out. 

Want to read an actual #Microblog Monday? Go here and enjoy! 

A Fantastic Realization

So, a while back I wrote about "accepting the mess" and being okay with my body as is. I was feeling powerful. Then I got my blood work results prior to my physical and... Ooof. Cholesterol high (always has been but this was a new record) and glucose on the cusp of elevated. 

I dreaded going to the actual doctor appointment -- I was going to get lambasted, shamed, told to go vegan. 

The day of my appointment though, I made a decision. I wasn't going to bring my weight up at all. Not once. I was going to focus on health and not comment on it AT ALL. 

I also decided to assume my weight was going to be way over my last appointment. It was 5 pounds less. Before, that would have frustrated me, but this time I was relieved. 

And then I made it through the entire appointment without mentioning my weight once. And when I didn't bring it up, my doctor didn't either. I started to wonder if all this time I'd felt judged by my doctor, I was actually initiating the conversation. Judging myself.

It was such a powerful realization. (And as for the scary blood work, I dodged pre-diabetes and my overall risk of a cardiac event is less than one percent for the next 10 years per my risk factors, so yay for health and weight not necessarily being the same!) Phew.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

I Have the WORST Luck

A couple of weeks ago I saw an article in my Google news feed that was titled "Rochester Fertility Doctor Used Own Sperm." 

Hmmmm. I live in the Rochester area. I had fertility doctors. I was like, "please don't let this be anyone I know..."

Well, it wasn't any of my fertility doctors. Whew. 



This is the doctor who did my "melonballer" surgery, the endomyometrial resection  I had in 2017 to address my abnormal bleeding. Unfortunately it failed (likely because I had adenomyosis and my lining was growing into the muscle of my uterus, so eliminating it and the root layer of muscle didn't keep it from growing back), and I got a hysterectomy with another doctor although I was pressured to try the procedure again as it would be less radical but I had no guarantee it wouldn't fail insanely painfully again. So out with the uterus. 

I still kept him as a doctor after that because the practice had no focus on obstetrics at the time I've been going. I never saw pregnant people. There were no statues or paintings of big bellied mamas or nursing women like in other practices I've been in. That was appealing, for obvious reasons. 

AND NOW I HAVE TO FIND A NEW DOCTOR. Why? Please see this article and this article for specifics, it's now even in the Washington Post and the New York Post and the Guardian, for heaven's sake. 

I can't continue going to a gynecologist who, as a fertility doctor who helped women with donor sperm inseminations USED HIS OWN SPERM and fathered a whole bunch of children whose parents thought they were getting different genetic material and then the one suing him was treated in his office as a gynecologic patient AND HE KNEW HE WAS HER BIO FATHER. Big steaming pile of EW. 

So now I go in search of a new doctor, and hopefully beat out what I imagine will be a swarm of people jumping ship, because, um, NO. It sucks because there are great nurses and nurse practitioners there. 

Also what sucks is doing an initial doctor's appointment with a new gynecologist, and going over allllll of my sordid history. Again. Having new nurses ask new awkward questions. Writing NO NO NO NO NO when it says "are you pregnant?" and having to write a big ZERO under live births but 2 for pregnancies. Having to list the insane number of times something sharp has been in my nethers. At least now I have less equipment to deal with. I'm down to 2 ovaries, a cervix, and a vagina. And breasts, of course. Lots of things that could one day try to kill me. 

It makes me really angry. For the families who were bamboozled, for the children who were lied to x2 (not everyone was honest about using donor sperm, but now you can get a DNA testing kit for Christmas, so that makes it impossible to keep such secrets for long...), for the woman who realized her biological father, a family friend, had been treating her most vulnerable parts. There's a lot more to this than my frustration over having to find another doctor. 

But it does just seem like you can't make this stuff up. I have the WORST luck. 

Nope, I Don't Have Kids

School is officially sucking the life from me -- I am falling hard at work-life balance. Partly this stems from being out for three days at the start of the year, which put me behind from the outset. 

But Sunday night two weeks ago, we had dinner and wine out on the deck, and our friendly neighborhood screech owl serenaded us. It was beautiful and serene, perfect for setting the tone for a new, hopefully less crazy week. 

Monday I had a professional learning, and we were talking about how lovely the previous evening was. I mentioned my relaxing dinner on the deck, and what do you think the first response was from a 30-something colleague from another building? 

Do you have kids? 

Nope, it didn't work out. 

She immediately turned to the next person who did have kids to continue on.

What did I get from this? 

a) I must not have kids if I can have a relaxing al fresco evening with owls


b) if I don't have kids, I'm not interesting to talk to. 


Sigh. I know that those in the throes of young child parenting can feel insanely jealous of my quiet, woodsy, boozy evening. But I wish that they could also see that they have hugs and bedtime stories and all those pieces. 

I have my husband, and my owls. I have a deck with a bistro table and Bryce's delicious culinary feats. I'm more than content with our quiet evenings. And I'd like to think I'm interesting to talk to! Oh well. Her loss.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

#WorldChildlessWeek 2021 Day One: Our Stories

I wish I had known that my story would have a happy ending, no matter what. 

My husband Bryce and I had a long, hard road of infertility treatments, IVF, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, donor egg IVF, donor sperm IVF, and then domestic infant adoption. We did 13 cycles of IVF (some frozen, some canceled before we could transfer at the end). We had 35 embryos, 27 of which were transferred and 8 of which were placed for embryo adoption. None of them made it. We were in the domestic infant adoption process from February 2015 to May 2017, and actively profile-able for just under two years. Six opportunities. No matches. So much heartbreak in that space of time, so many possible happy endings, thwarted.

It was a lot. If I lived my whole life reliving every sad moment, every loss, every time things just didn't go our way, I would never be able to leave the house. When we were in thick of it, I honestly don't know how I was able to teach full time through it all. Those last two years of adoption were also two years that I got my National Board Certification in Exceptional Learners, which is crazy. But I did it, somehow. 

BUT. While we've been childless our whole marriage, we didn't truly become childless not by choice until that May 2017, when we chose to end our home study early after a health crisis brought on by insane stress made it so that we couldn't keep going. All of that "I'm fine, everything's fine, I can keep doing this" came to a head and I shut down completely. It had been an unhealthy situation for some time. 

When we decided to end our parenting journey, it was sad and hard, but it was also strangely empowering. We spent so long having things done to us: fighting against a current that seemed to unfairly, aggressively push against us and take us farther from our hopes. Instead of letting our home study run out, Bryce felt strongly that we should take control and actually say we are not doing this anymore, that we should actively end our adoption journey. And he was right. It took immeasurable strength to say goodbye to our dream. 

It was a dream I'd clung to until it was pretty well shredded. When it came to IVF, I was willing to do just about ANYTHING to get it to work. I took wheat grass shots every day. I did acupuncture, abdominal massage, and took weird supplements. I steamed my vagina with a witchy concoction on the stove that resulted in more than a few inner thigh burns. I did scores of guided meditations, some meant to follow each day of the IVF cycle. I did infertility yoga. I had a vision board. I begged my doctors to do experimental protocols. I shot 1 1/2 inch needles of Progesterone into my thighs when the number of shots in my butt resulted in nerve damage. I had one doctor basically take a vegetable peeler strip of my uterus to test it for receptivity. I was 33 when we started all this, and 38 when we stopped the medical piece and moved to adoption. Along the way, one doctor told me that maybe this wouldn't happen for me, and I switched to another clinic because I didn't want to hear it. He was right. I owe him an apology, because he was the only one who was willing to tell us that there wasn't an answer to why I couldn't get pregnant. I didn't get that answer until I had a hysterectomy at 42 and found I had adenomyosis and the chances of me carrying a baby were fairly infinitesimal. 

I started getting that way with adoption, and Bryce put his foot down. NO we weren't going to sign on with an additional agency. Both of us agreed not to do private, because we had serious ethical concerns and did want to feel predatory. The further into adoption we got, the more uncomfortable we felt, but I did not want to let go. 


Because it seems like no one looks at childlessness as a success story. If you go through any of that and come out without a child, you don't often get to see your story in the news as a happy life. There are no People magazine profiles of people who didn't end up pregnant and didn't end up adopting. Almost every story out there about couples who do IVF or adoption ends with a baby, usually a miracle baby, or a rainbow baby, or a last-minute situation that was just "meant to be." This is a true story for some people, but it needs to not be the ONLY story. 

Obviously, I really wanted children. I fought to have children at the cost of my body and my mental health. But maybe it would have been easier to accept a life without children before I'd gone so far if that was presented as an equal option. If the childless people out there weren't so frequently looked at as "selfish," or "odd." I looked for and found childless not by choice role models in the blogging community (hello No Kidding in NZ and The Road Less Traveled!). I could try on the idea of resolving without parenting. I could see how it fit. I could acclimate myself to the idea that you can have a lovely life without children after infertility. But initially? I didn't even want to explore that route. I felt like it was NOT a choice, it was giving up, it was disappointing EVERYONE, it was the last-ditch thing you did when everything else was exhausted. Including your health, physical and mental, apparently.

That is so WRONG. But it is also what is out there in the media, in support groups, in the endless parade of "never never give up" and "just when they were about to give up, BAM! It happened!" I did 13 cycles of IVF because everyone had a story about someone who got pregnant on their last cycle. I literally had to be physically unable to transfer in order to end that part of our journey. Had I seen more success stories that included people who were surviving and thriving after infertility and/or adoption WITHOUT parenting, maybe I wouldn't have beat that very dead horse quite so soundly.

I have now been childless not by choice for four years, and it amazes me both how long and how short a time that is. It's been four years of knowing we'll never have children, but also four years of figuring out what to do with this life we have. It's been four years of healing, and acceptance, and celebrating all that we can do because we don't have children. Sometimes things make us sad and remind us of what we've lost. But most of the time, we enjoy all that this life has to offer, and make the most of what we've got. It did not happen overnight. It took time, and I think that some of the work towards resolving without children happened before we actually made that decision. It was a slow march, a slow acclimation. I wish I could have known then what my life would be like now, because it might have made it so much less painful. 

I'd like to leave you with this -- my life is not sad. When you want children and they don't come despite efforts, it's devastating. Resolving as childless not by choice was very difficult, because it meant the end of a dream and reframing our life into something we'd never really considered. But it was also freeing, and has opened up a very happy, fulfilling, meaningful life. I am amazed at how we have rebuilt our life into something I would have never imagined but is just perfect for us. A life without children doesn't have to be a sort of hellscape alternative reality. It's not. I love pouring energy into school and my students and then coming home to my husband and cats. I love being an example of resilience, of surviving and thriving after things didn't work out. I love talking openly about my experiences with students, so that they know that my life is possible and it's a really good one, despite loss. It is an accomplishment to come out the other side of infertility and loss and the adoption process in one piece, whole, and dedicated to living a life of purpose. Whether you have children or not, both options should be seen as viable choices to a fulfilling life. I wish I had fully known and accepted that before I literally became nothing but a husk of myself in the quest to be a parent at all costs. 

I am so much happier now than I was when I felt not enough, not worthy, not valued unless I could be a parent. I am proud to share my story as one of resilience, and rebuilding, and yes -- a happy ending...that's just beginning.

Ten Years Ago

I have good news and bad news. The good news: I don't have COVID. The bad news: I still have some kind of horrid respiratory infection that has left me voiceless, and so I am MISSING THE FIRST TWO DAYS OF SCHOOL WITH STUDENTS.

I am heartbroken over it, because this is yet another unprecedented year and these two days are not heavy academically, but are heavy in connection-building. And I am missing it. But, I am no longer freaking out that I somehow caught COVID. That was a sucky 24 hours. I basically woke up yesterday after having allergy symptoms for a couple days with a raging full-head headache and a super sore throat, and that combined with activated asthma had me freaking out. We cannot be on school property if we have any COVID symptoms without an alternate diagnosis from a doctor or a negative test. I missed the last day of preparation. And now I'm missing the first days with students.

What is interesting is I realized, after literally crying over my inability to start the year, that I'VE DONE THIS BEFORE. 

Ten years ago I missed the first few days of school because of my ectopic pregnancy and complicated recovery from my emergency surgery. TEN YEARS AGO. That is so crazy. 

Maybe this is like a comet, and every ten years something will come up that disrupts my first days of school and reminds me that the world will keep turning even if I can't come. It would be great if it wasn't, though. 

I wrote about the last time I missed first days at My Path to Mommyhood. Then, I was starting a new teaching position as a Resource Room teacher across two buildings. I was new, new, new, and so being out was just awful. 

This time I am well established in one of the two buildings from ten years ago, I am lead special education teacher, I am National Board Certified, I am secure in my skills. 

BUT I AM STILL FREAKING OUT. The technology isn't working. I was so busy being sick in the past couple of days that I was scrambling to assemble all my stuff. My sub is not tech friendly. Everything is terrible. 

But I am being reminded to breathe, BREATHE, BREATHE. It will be okay. Even if it is a total clusterfuck at the moment, I guess it will just make me look amazing next week? I am trying to convince myself. It will be okay, it will be okay, it will be okay.

I guess I always have to expect the unexpected. Sigh.

Define "Resilience"

We've had the first two days of teachers-only school; it's very strange to have FOUR days before students come on Thursday. But also kind of nice, because we're all there at the same time. Normally, people come in on their own timetables to work in classrooms, so it's a crapshoot who you're going to see, and then we have one day before kids for RAH RAH GET PUMPED FOR A NEW SCHOOL YEAR YEAH! 

Part of these additional days is training and a district initiative to recognize and offer strategies for the collective trauma everyone's experienced, teachers and kids and parents alike. There's been some presentations focused on our students and families, but there's a program my district is embracing called "Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators." It's based on a book by Elena Aguilar, and it is supposed to help us not burn out. 

A friend of mine was a little put off that now we are supposed to get trained in how to deal with all of our new roles and vicarious trauma and the difficulty of 21st century pandemic teaching in a world of inequity, rather than programs to FIX THE ROOT PROBLEM. Touche. But then, part of the presentation introducing Onward explained that part of the strategies it offers is to look at what you can control, which is your reaction and habits to all the difficult pieces. 

Interesting. Tell me more. 

The definition of resilience that was presented first was this: 

A way of being that allows us to bounce back quickly from adversity.

Hmmm. I immediately drew a box around quickly and wrote a tiny "ew" next to it in my notebook. The problem I have with "quickly" is that it's so subjective. It reminded me of how, if you've experienced a loss (of a person, of a dream, of a life  you thought you'd have), society wants you to just get over it. MOVE ON. 

But when I talked to Bryce about it, he agreed with quickly, at least from the perspective of not getting stuck. That moving forward from adversity can't take forever, or else you're not really bouncing back. But what counts as quickly can be different in the situation -- maybe for one it's a month, maybe for another it's years. 

The other piece I struggled with was the phrase bounce back. I feel like that also has a get over it undertone, because it assumes that you can a) bounce, which is a sort of jolly little verb, and b) get back to where you were before. In my experience, grief, trauma, and adversity change you -- you simply cannot be the same person you were before. You can't just bounce back up and be like, "Gosh that was terrible, but I'm all good now! Just the same as I was before!" I prefer the idea of bending, of returning to a kind of normal but knowing that there's some scar tissue there. I don't think this is negative, because scars remind you of the trauma but also how you've overcome it, and maybe even what you've learned. I have a big scar on my left knee from surgery to repair a dislocation with grinding damage (ew) that I sustained in high school while jumping for joy over the sight of beautiful spring pansies. When I see it, I know that I can survive the pain and weakness that came with recovery, but I also unfortunately am less exuberant in my jumps for joy. 

Later in the day there was another presentation about Trauma-Informed Care Post-Pandemic. I very much appreciated that the presenter admitted that unfortunately we are not POST pandemic, that we are very much still in it. But what I liked about this presentation was that there was a different piece of resilience defined: 

Resilience is a process that unfolds over time. 

Oooooh, thumbs up on that one. I wrote it in my notebook, upside down and wonky since it was dark in the auditorium. First, the acknowledgement that it is a process. That it's not something cut and dry that you either have or don't. A process can be developed. And, the unfolding over time: it isn't a linear thing that is the same for every person and every situation.

Then I went to the Onward website, curious what that had to say about resilience: 

 With resilience, we not only rebound from challenges, but are stronger, kinder, and even more alive because of them. Resilience is about THRIVING, not just surviving. It's about learning from suffering so that we experience more joy, calm, and tranquility and more meaningful connections with others. Resilience allows us to experience the full spectrum of emotions and to move more quickly through uncomfortable emotions.

Winner winner chicken dinner! I love these thoughts on resilience, mainly because they echo so much of what we say about surviving and thriving after resolving without parenting, or going through infertility. It's not like you have to be "oh man, I'm so grateful for this shitty experience," but it's nice to be able to say, "I've learned from this and it has changed me, but I feel stronger for it, and have new connections that maybe I wouldn't have had otherwise." It is powerful to know that you have survived something difficult, that you have bent but not broken under the trauma. Maybe you bent nearly in half, but it's great to know that you can survive and thrive in spite of it.

So interesting that there are so many different takes on resilience. How do you define resilience for yourself? 


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World Childless Week Is Coming!

World Childless Week is September 13th - 19th this year, and it looks to be amazing! I had heard about World Childless Week through Loribeth at The Road Less Traveled and Mali at No Kidding in NZ, but I'd never participated other than checking out a link because it is always at the start of the school year, a time where there's not enough me to give to all the things I want to do. I've also only been officially childless not by choice since spring of 2017, which is the first year World Childless Week existed! My childlessness is the same age as WCW, ha.

This year, I decided that I was GOING to participate, first full week of school or not! I submitted a piece for Friday September 17th's theme, "Have You Considered Adoption?" and made an #IAmME photo: 

But, most exciting of all, I am on the panel for the discussion on Friday September 17th at 7pm London time, "Ooops, I Completely Forgot Adoption Was An Option, Thanks For Reminding Me" -- which is AMAZING and also making me feel a little like vomiting. Which is how I felt before a race when I ran in high school, so that's a good stress energy, is what I'm telling myself. Also, my best friend said, "If it's making you feel that way, it's probably a really great thing for you to do." True. You can sign up for the webinar by clicking the link in the title above, it should be a really powerful conversation! 

I am thrilled to participate because I am a person who both considered adoption and was considered in the adoption process, but to no avail. And then just couldn't continue...the emotional, physical, mental, and financial costs were too great. The stress literally attacked my body. But, that doesn't stop people from asking me if I thought about adoption, and then when I say "Yes, and it didn't work out for us," it is never, EVER left at that. Usually the menu of adoption options folds out and I am interrogated on why I didn't do international, or this country or that country, or foster, or why don't I adopt an older child, and every one of my choices is examined. I didn't wait long enough. I should have stayed in the game. I should have added another adoption agency. I should have done private. And sometimes these suggestions come from people who are well-meaning, but who had success with these other options and can't fathom how you could leave the game. It's a problem that happened during infertility treatments too -- it seemed so many women who were successful had "just the right thing" to guarantee success, because they had done this or that during their treatment cycle. It doesn't seem to be acceptable to just say, "I got lucky" and "The timing just worked out, there is no special sauce, not really." Sigh. 

I am so excited to join other women who are childless and have faced this question from different perspectives. Please check out all that World Childless Week has to offer, a full list of events are here. If you want a great overview of the topics and a treasure trove of related posts, check out Mali's thoughts here

See you there!