I'm Still Here

We have a paper chain in my classroom with a link for every day before the four-day Memorial Day weekend. We put it up when we returned from spring break, which was the last week of March. It was the longest chain EVER. There will be only 3 links left tomorrow, thank all that is good in the world.

This is not to say that we don't love our jobs, it's just that autocorrect has it right and we are LIVING our jobs. And we are EXHAUSTED. I feel like so many vegetables sucked juiceless by Bunnicula. 

So I'm still here, I just get home after school and I feel completely depleted, and either read or lie facedown on the couch, after Pilates (which makes me feel better once I'm doing it). I can't seem to open the computer once I get home. And on  the weekends, when I don't have a migraine or other such ilk triggered by stress, I want to be outside. 

Outside, gardening or hanging out in our camp area at the back of our property, my anxiety melts away. I don't have flutters. I don't feel the weight of all I'm carrying. 

I'll be back more regularly soon. It's got to wind down sooner than later.

A deer friend who came by while I sat by the fire

The trail Bryce made us for our anniversary that's now woodchipped and glorious

Cooking an omelet over the fire

Bryce tending the fire

New shade garden area pre-mulch

Brunnera, carpet phlox, bleeding hearts
I expanded my birdbath garden down the hill (so many dug out roots and weedy shrubs)

Upper part of the birdbath garden, really needs mulch

These are the things that fill my bucket in a time that feels like someone is drilling holes in the bottom that I can't plug fast enough. 

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I have mostly boys in my caseload at school, and boys don't tend to ask personal questions. 

But in March, I got a new girl, and she's is delightful -- quirky, gets my weird sense of humor, and makes me alien octopuses out of post-it flags to hang on my desk.

This is Bob. 

And on my birthday, when I said I was half of 90 and she said that didn't make sense because I was way too hyper to be 45, she followed up with the question the boys hadn't asked all year:

"Do you have kids?"

And I was so, so proud of myself because I said "no, that didn't work out" and she then shared that her mom is an egg donor and has helped a lot of families have babies and she's always had success, I said that we'd tried that route too and it just didn't work out, and our egg donor was described as a "proven donor" but we were her first failure (and then thought how weird it would be if her mom was our donor, but that didn't make sense given it was 8 years ago). I didn't get teary. She felt horrible and said  that she was so sorry to have brought up something so painful, and I said no, no need to apologize because it's been four years since that ended and I'm okay, I have a good life. A beautiful life. It's just different than I thought it would be.

I didn't cry when one of the boys said I could have adopted and I said, "yeah, we tried that, too, it didn't work out either" and a different boy said "I thought it was like picking out a puppy at the shelter" so CLEARLY I had educating to do especially since one student in the room who was silent was adopted and I didn't want THAT misconception to stand. Do I explained how it really worked, and how you are evaluated and have recommendations and classes and home visits and fingerprints, and then make a photo book of your life, but then expectant parents are presented with up to 9 of those books at once. And we were never chosen. 

Well, we what chosen once but the expectant mom changed her mind before we knew about it, and one boy said, "they shouldn't get to change their minds or pick" and another said, "umm, it IS their baby" and I said absolutely, that you don't know people's situations and this is a huge decision. It's hard for everyone. We did it over and over until the heartbreak was too much and we just couldn't do it anymore. 

She looked stricken. She said, "I think you would have made an AMAZING mom." I said, "thank you, I like to think so. But I get to take all my mom energy and give it to you guys. And then go home and drink wine." And she laughed and said, "that makes you more like a mom! My mom is like, Go to bed, Go to bed, Go to bed, WINE FOR ME." Haha. 

Then she said, "I could be like your daughter, or your niece, or something..."  And apologized again for bringing it up, and I just said thank you and told her she was a kind soul. And before everyone left for their next class, I made sure to say that this was MY adoption story, and there were many ways to adopt and other people could have totally different experiences. 

And I was fine, so fine. So very proud of myself.

But the next day, after class, the same girl came up to me and said, 

"I was talking to my mom about you last night, and about your story, and I just really thought about it hard, and I don't want to make you sad... But can I make you a Mother's Day card?"

Oh. Oh oh oh oh OH. 

I teared up and said yes, of course, how lovely and how compassionate. I would be HONORED to get a Mother's Day card from you. 

She left and I fell spectacularly apart. I was already tired and overwhelmed and reeling from a highly unpleasant encounter with a different student that left me utterly drained, and I had already had to explain that my feelings were escaping my face and I couldn't stop they leaking but I was okay, since I couldn't stop crying in time for Resource class.

What a sweet, sweet girl. How thoughtful, how empathetic. I was pretty much done for the rest of the day. I stopped in the library on my way to my next class and ended up crying, and then made the librarian cry in telling the story. It was sad but also deeply moving. I couldn't tell this girl that if she made me a Mother's Day cards, it would be the first and only one I'd ever received. It was beautiful and so bittersweet. 

She stopped in this morning, and apparently her dog chewed up the card she left on the coffee table this morning. She was so upset. I told her it was the thought that counted, and she said she'd make me a surprise card sometime. I said there was no expiration date on her offer and she smiled. Honestly it was the offer that meant more to me than there actual piece of paper, anyway.

I have renewed faith in humanity. 

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How I Spent My Mother's Day

Mother's Day doesn't have the same stabbiness it used to. Then again, I've developed some strategies for dealing with the day so it doesn't end up being a sad sap day for me. 

My strategies have changed over time -- I used to sit in the backyard and have a cocktail in the afternoon because I could, and celebrate Mother's Day with my family on an alternate day. Maybe I'd garden, but I'd do it in the backyard where I couldn't see all the happy families shedding their happiness all over the place. I'd stay away from radio, TV, and social media. I'd spend a fair amount of time feeling sorry for myself...which was totally appropriate. 

When there's an entire day for celebrating moms and you have spent insane amounts of energy and dollars trying to be one because it wasn't going to work any other way just to find out that it wasn't going to work ANY way, and that loss is fresh or ongoing or you are still feeling that maybe, just maybe, this will be a day for you someday... it's a lot to deal with. So having a nice cocktail while sitting with a book in the backyard and ignoring everything around you? Perfectly fine solution. 

This year, I am in a very different place. For one, it's a pandemic, so there's no going out anywhere anyway. I made my calls and wished people Happy Mother's Day, and received some very lovely texts from friends who know this day can be challenging.  

But the rest of the day? Time to do things for me. 

I put my Mother of Cats shirt on and made a delicious breakfast, which we ate outside on the deck. 

Then, I sat on the Adirondack chair and went through my plant binder, as I had received the vast majority of my plants I'd ordered in February on Saturday, to make sure I'm not missing anything (just the Meadow Rue). 

Happy Mother's Day to me! 

It actually didn't rain earlier in the day, so I took advantage and went outside to garden. 

I started with the corner garden, which has been a bit neglected and needed some cutting back/cleanup TLC from overwinter. While I was working out there, a family walked by with a little girl and a mom wearing a t-shirt that I'm pretty sure said "Little Sister" with an arrow pointing down. I was pleasant but also like "I am very busy please ignore me" and then had an imaginary conversation where they commented on my Mother of Cats t-shirt and I said "Well, Mother of 35 Embryos isn't on a t-shirt. Yet." I finished up on the corner and went to safer areas as maybe I wasn't actually fit for public consumption. 

So, on to digging up massive amounts of garlic mustard weed and planting some of my bazillion things that came this week. 

Coming alive!

New narrowleaf mountain mint, Sahin's Early Flowerer Helenium, two kinds of fall-blooming anemones, and Cappuccino astilbes.

Not so exciting yet, especially because some new things are bareroot, but in a few weeks... it's going to be amazing. Also you can't totally see where I pulled SO MANY of those weeds.

I kept going until the rain grew heavy, wrangling some more vines and weeds and planning new spaces for new plants. 

It was great. 

Now I am sitting here in my Mother of Plants t-shirt with a heating pad against my low back/hips because it was good hard work and my body likes to remind me of that, more so now that I'm half of 90. 

I stayed away from Facebook (no scrolling on this day!), except to post this message: "Happy Mother's Day, but especially to the childless mothers and the motherless children who often feel unseen today." 

Finally, before settling in to finish my schoolwork and retire, Bryce made us an amazing pot roast/beef stew in the cast iron dutch oven with coals in the grill outside, and it was fantastic: 

Not a bad Mother's Day. It took me years to be able to do this, to enjoy the day and not be sad, but IT HAPPENED. I have protected myself, I have done things that nourish my soul, and now it can just be Monday. 

Take care of yourself today.

Half of 90

Wednesday is my birthday. My 45th birthday. 

I used to have a complicated relationship with my birthday, as there was an inverse relationship between my age and the probability of success in building our family (even in adoption). Every year older without a child was a harbinger of doom. It didn't help that the Sunday after my birthday is always Mother's Day. 

But now? My birthday is just... My birthday. A celebration of my years on the planet.

I remember when my best friend's mom turned 45, I teased her by saying, "oooh, you're half of 90!" She didn't like that so much, and it's come back around to me this year.

But, for me, being Half of Ninety isn't an insult, or a scary prospect. I have had a lot of living in my 45 years, and the last 15 in particular have been lovely, minus the heartbreaking infertility part. If I have a whole nother set of 45 years ahead of me, if I'm lucky, that is SO MUCH living. And I can skip over the sucky parts like my 20s. I can hope that it just gets better. 

The superstitious person in me is knocking on SO MUCH WOOD right now, but also... Why NOT look forward to the next 45 years? 

I'm excited for my birthday, even though it's my second pandemic birthday. Bring on Half of 90. 

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Not Obviously Sad

I was looking at photos recently (again with the photos), and I came across some photos from April 29th, 2017. To anyone else, the pictures are not obviously sad: 


To me though, these pictures were a bit of a gut punch. 

This was a walk we took on a late April day, after torrential rainfall flooded Ellison Park, right where we used to live. We walked through the ravine behind our house and then tried in vain not to get wet feet as the ground where we came out, near a party pavilion, was pretty well saturated. There was a strange beauty in the trees reaching up out of the pools of water, new leaves that pretty chartreuse that doesn't last. The flowering trees were bursting, and the park's roadways were lined with them. 

What you cannot see in these cloudy day, flowering tree flood photos is what we were doing on that walk. 

Over the course of looping around the park and taking in the spring beauty, we made our decision not to renew our home study. This is the moment where our parenting quest effectively ended. 

We had already placed ourselves on hold from any profile calls since my emergency room visit and subsequent anxiety attack and breakdown at school. That was hard, but Bryce did it and held firm even when our case worker said, "Are you sure? I'd hate for you to miss an opportunity" even though Bryce had just said IF THEY CALLED AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME WE WERE NOT IN A POSITION TO MAKE DECISIONS AND DEFINITELY NOT IN A GOOD PLACE TO MANEUVER AROUND POSSIBLY GETTING PICKED OR LIKELY NOT GETTING PICKED. If you tell someone that even if there was literally a sure-thing profile opportunity, the state of physical and mental health was so precarious and it probably wouldn't be ethical to place at that moment, you'd think people would listen. But, Bryce didn't fall prey to the "what if you miss your one moment" thought and insisted that they take us out of the running, and that was the second to last time he spoke with our case worker. 

Our home study was up for renewal for June, and we had to make the decision to say that we had hit our ENOUGH. This walk, this beautiful spring walk, was tear-filled and terribly difficult. These photos were my brain breaks. I would see something beautiful and need to pause the conversation to capture it, so that I could breathe and step away, even for 30 seconds, from the end-of-a-journey decision we were making. 

I forgot how pretty the pictures are. 

This walk was followed by the last call, the one Bryce made saying that we were going to proactively take ourselves out of the game prior to our home study expiring. We didn't want to find ourselves in a position where we'd be pressured to renew, because we absolutely had had enough. We could not take any more heartbreak and needed to move forward to enjoying the life that already existed, instead of living in a horrible limbo for a ghost life that didn't materialize and took pieces of us in the haunting. 

I love this last picture, a fern unfurling out of the dead leaves on the trail through the ravine back to our house. Our decision was made, and while we both cried and it was sad, there was relief in the decision. It wasn't the final final decision, but it was the most definitive one so far. We had been coiled tight in anticipation of something that just seemed never to work out, but now we could unfurl and expand into a new existence, different from what we'd imagined but filled with so much possibility. 


These photos have beauty and pain all at once. Looking at them I felt sad. In writing about them, I feel the power of what happened after -- the transformation that continues to be a work in progress. The pain of the dream lost, but the beauty of a new start and knowing, looking back, that we had no idea just how wonderful our life could be after the utter rending of the life we'd wanted for so long. How awesome that this happened in the spring, a time of renewal and new beginnings. What a beautifully strange mix of honoring the grief and the sadness while also celebrating just how far we've come in four years.