No Shame in Stepping Away

I'm not really watching the Olympics this year, but I do track what's going on. Today I followed the news that Simone Biles, arguably the best gymnast of our time (if not ever), had dropped out of the team competition for the Olympics, citing mental health concerns. 

My favorite article is from NPR: Simone Biles Reminds Us That Even Superstars Feel the Pressure

I enjoyed the focus on increased awareness of mental health in athletes, and an increased willingness to take a step back to preserve wellness of all kinds. 

At first when Simone Biles changed into her warmups from her performance leotard, people thought she'd been injured physically in her vault showing where she dialed back the turns and seemed to falter on the landing. But, she made it clear later in the day that she was not physically injured. 

She needed to step back and take care of her mental health, she said. She wasn't in the right headspace to compete, and wanted her team to succeed, and the pressure was getting to her in an unhealthy way. 

She chose to duck out of competing due to pressure, prioritizing her mental health so that she did not find herself in a situation where she could become seriously injured. And then she spoke candidly and unapologetically about it.  

I don't love that she is struggling, but I do love that she is a role model for not pushing through no matter what because it is harmful for body and mind. For making the choice that was right for her even though she knew that the public could and would see her as a quitter, as as someone who failed under pressure. (I avoided giving any clicks to articles that presented it that way, that gleefully showcased her face looking pained and didn't see her decision as a strength.)

This is the message that needs to be more visible. That if you are struggling and there is a possibility that continuing on could result in disaster (an injury that could end your athletic career, a mental breakdown, losing love for your passion), there is no shame in stepping away.  In fact, it takes far more strength to step away in the face of possible backlash and do what's right for you, than to keep plowing forward. 

I may be sensitive to Simone Biles' decision because I myself have made the choice to stop pursuing parenting, something that I had been hyperfocused on, although not before damage was done, because it was no longer healthy to continue with the toll it was taking on body and mind. And I had a paralyzing fear of being seen as a "quitter," of facing the backlash of people thinking I didn't try hard enough, I gave up too soon, and the myriad what-ifs that didn't take into account all of the trauma we had incurred in all the various processes we undertook. 

It turns out Simone Biles is also dealing with trauma, and that played a part in her decision -- she was a survivor of the abuse perpetrated by the team doctor for USA Gymnastics and revealed her personal story in 2018. When the Tokyo Olympics were postponed due to COVID, it meant one more year of working with USA Gymnastics, and she hadn't wanted to continue that relationship longer than necessary. She is dealing with so much, not all of which is always known by those so quick to judge, so quick to salivate over the perceived fall of an amazing athlete (and unfortunately I'm sure racism plays no small part in that too). It's been wonderful to read about how supportive Simone's teammates and coaches have been, and the understanding that she's received by those some are saying she "let down." And I love that she gave credit to Naomi Osaka, the tennis phenom who also publicly stepped away from competition for her mental health, as someone who shined a light for her to make similar decisions. Women supporting women.

I have so much respect for Simone Biles. It must be so hard to be in the public eye and make these decisions, but I think for the sake of all the people who need to know that it is okay to step away when your health is on the line, that trauma and its impact on mental health are very real threats to well-being, and you can be successful but also make unpopular decisions because you are doing what's right for you.

I love what Simone Biles said after she withdrew: 

"So, it's OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person you really are -- rather than just battle through it." 

Yes. That. Let's give respect for those who are strong because they prioritize their health and walk away, and stop the the "never never never give up" cult of battling through no matter the cost. 

But You Could Have...

The other day I got my face waxed for the first time since the pandemic started. Thanks to PCOS, if I don't get my upper lip and cheeks/chops waxed, I look like a cross between Frida Kahlo and Wolverine. 

I've missed my waxing lady; she's very understanding and personable and is as gentle as you can be whilst ripping hair from the follicles with something that looks like honey on gauze. 

But for some reason, the lapse in time left us a little off-kilter. 

"So, are you guys definitely not adopting anymore?" 

"Uh, yeah. It's been four years. It just became too much, unhealthy, we had to stop. We've moved forward, we've created a new life in our new house. Done-done-done-zo." Weird, because she's heard it all before, but maybe the pandemic induces some kind of amnesia. 

After a little more discussion on how and why we ended, she said, "But you could have adopted overseas, right?" 


I was patient and said "Well, yeah, but that's not what we chose and there's reasons for that. And, we were done." 

Adoption is not Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, where if one storyline comes to a dead end then you just start over and pick a different option. People are so quick to offer up all the ways that you can adopt without truly understanding what it takes to go down any one of those roads. 

We were up for the challenges of domestic infant adoption because the positives for us outweighed the difficulties (until we couldn't feel any positives anymore and left). Of course we weighed other options, but they weren't right for us. And you can't just transfer one kind of adoption training and home study and paperwork to another -- they are all completely different processes. Even adding a second agency in the same process would have meant more money, more paperwork, more liaisons, different state laws. Even though society loves to say there's no limits and possibilities are endless, if you really want it, it's horseshit. There are limits. You can want something and no longer be able to pursue it. That should be respected. 

Thankfully, she let it go and didn't press, and I didn't actually share a ton of details because I AM TIRED OF FEELING LIKE I HAVE TO JUSTIFY OUR CHOICES AND EXPERIENCES. And I am getting way better at not verbal-vomiting out all rationales for all options because that is not something I should feel I need to do. Our decisions were our decisions and they were meticulously researched and weighed up until and including our decision to stop. 

Who knew I'd feel 25% frustrated and 75% empowered when leaving my appointment to de-fur my face? 

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

What I Read in June

I love Mel's monthly posts about the best books she's read that month, and they often inform my To Be Read list (or push books already there up in the reading queue). Instead of commenting on her June post with my list, I thought I'd join the movement with a post of my own. Now that July's on the waning side.

June was a funny month because most of it was the tail end of the school year, which tends to be less stressful but more bittersweet, and is filled with events and celebrations -- 8th Grade Luau! Retirement Gatherings! Graduation Car Parade! End of Year Celebration Parties! But, the last week of June was the first week of break, and boy did I utilize that to catch up on reading and just melt into stress-recouping. That week I averaged a book a day. Here are my books:


Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
The Toll
by Neal Shusterman

These three books are a trilogy, Arc of a Scythe, and they were re-reads for me. I absolutely love Neal Shusterman and this is one of the most satisfying and thought-provoking trilogies I've EVER read. The concept is that humankind has evolved technology so that death no longer exists naturally, so there need to be Scythes whose job it is to kill and keep the population under control (and give some semblance of mortality, because...where does motivation come from if you can live forever?). The world is sort of governed by the Thunderhead, a maybe-sentient "cloud" of AI that makes sure if you die accidentally, or "splat" as teens like to do (jumping off high places knowing you'll be revived for the thrill of it), you are taken to a Revival Center and back good as new. If you are gleaned by a Scythe, you don't get revived. You're done. There's a sort of new Scythe faction that thinks they should have fun with it and not have quotas, and others who find that distasteful and an abuse of a sacred duty. Anyway, this follows two teens who are chosen to be Scythe apprentices and then get embroiled in all the drama. It's AMAZING. My favorite is Thunderhead because it's absolutely bananapants. But not in a way that makes you scream "COME ON!" and throw the book across the room. I reread because a bookclub I sort of muscled my way into chose Scythe, and I fully intended to only reread that one, but found myself going all the way through. Because it's that good. Also, the cover art is amazing.

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed 
I actually read this between Books 2 & 3 of Arc of a Scythe, because the author did a Zoom-author-visit to our school in June. Normally we have an author come and we do three presentations, one for each grade level (6, 7, 8) in the auditorium, but...COVID. This is an assigned novel for 7th grade, and it was so good -- a feisty girl in Pakistan has to leave school when her mother has another baby and it turns out to be another girl, which puts her into a deep postpartum depression. Amal must take over household duties even though she dreams of finishing out school and going to college. Frustrated with the situation, she goes to market and has an altercation with the crooked landlord who terrorizes her whole town over a pomegranate, that results in indentured servitude for Amal. It's a great book about a practice that STILL EXISTS around the world today, and explores what everyday life is like in Pakistan, and gives hope that with the strength of ordinary people, corrupt systems can be overturned. In her talk, Aisha Saeed talked about the importance of having positive stories from countries that are often only shown in a negative light, and how important it was for her to show that you don't need to be Malala to make a difference, small heroic acts matter as much as the big ones. (She has nothing against Malala, just wants kids to know you don't have to be a public figure to be important.) She also talked about the importance of diversity in books and authors and how she was published by her TWENTY-SEVENTH publishing house, the last one she had to submit to, because all the rest originally said "oh, no one wants to read about Pakistan. That doesn't sell" WTF. 

Tender Is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica
This was a Bryce Book, a belated birthday present. It stuck with me and is very, very disturbing but also insanely thought provoking. Basically... in the future there is a virus that makes animals unfit for consumption and so instead of going to an all plant protein source...there is a change. Humans specially bred for consumption, renamed "Head" (like head of cattle), are now raised, processed, and sold for meat. It's basically...what does it take to make the unthinkable...possible? Palatable? Ha ha. There is an infertility subplot in here and the way it is described is definitely...accurate. It does feed into some of the more disturbing aspects of the book. There were times when I felt like I was reading Upton Sinclair's The Jungle...but with people. The end is one of the most shocking I've ever read, I literally sat on the couch with my mouth open for probably a good twenty minutes and then went back and read a bunch of passages to Bryce. It's so, so good, but definitely not for the squeamish. 


Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey
Holy crap! I didn't realize until JUST NOW that this book is by the author who INSPIRED MEL'S MONTHLY BOOK LIST POST! Small, small world.  This book initially sounded like it would have a supernatural element: kids are being taken and they come back changed, and the narrator calls it "the darkness." However, very early in the book you realize that the monster is humans, and what they are capable of doing to other humans. There's abuse of different kinds in the book, handled sensitively and thoughtfully. There's a sort of whodunit aspect. There's a boatload of suspense. And, family dynamics that are...interesting. It was a good read, left me a bit disturbed but in a good way. 

House Of Leaves (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) by  Danielewski, Mark Z. (March 1, 2000) Library Binding: Books

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
This book is hard to classify. It was a Bryce pick, and it was WORK. But delicious work. Basically, the book goes back and forth between academic-style analysis of a documentary film made about a house that was bigger inside than outside and contained...some kind of force you don't really want to contend with; footnotes that are the sort of lost soul, druggy sex-y guy who found the manuscripts and is editing/compiling them; and notes/footage script from the actual forays into the house. There's some Greek Mythology (minotaurs and labyrinths!) there's a lot of sex and drug references and descent into un-reality on the part of the guy compiling, density in the academic analysis parts, and then the actual story of the house that grew a closet that grew the inside into some sort of dark Narnia, with fascinating typesetting choices that leave the reader feeling disoriented, just like the people in the expanded parts of the house. It was really, really good, but really, really time-intensive (over 700 pages) and required patience (and a lot of flipping the book around), but the concept is awesome. 

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
A former student recommended this book to me, it is a sort of twisty YA story of a girl, Flora, whose memory is damaged from a childhood health crisis. Think 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, but young adult and a bit less romantic. Flora has a fight with her best friend over a boy (Flora has to write everything that happens on her arms or on post-it notes, sort of like the movie Memento, so when she smooches her best friend's supposedly ex-boyfriend who's about to go to the Arctic Circle in Sweden, she sort of blows herself in), which results in her being unsupervised while her parents fly to Paris to be with her older brother, who is very ill. She decides to go after the boy and discovers a lot of things in the house that make her question her own reality (she DOES have a passport! She could have gone, why did they tell her she had to stay home because she doesn't?). It is adventure, a little tiny bit romance, mystery, and ultimately about the power (for good or bad) that other people's expectations can place on you. It was absorbing!

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
I have had this book for a while, it called to me from my tiny independent bookstore nearby with its groovy cover and blue edges. A murder mystery that starts with a confession and works backwards, it sort of reminded me of the first season of the Serial podcast. Anna Cicconi has confessed to killing Zoe Spanos, but the how and why (and if) are revealed through flashbacks to when she first went to the Hamptons to be a nanny in a fancy neighborhood, a podcast by a student who is friends with Zoe's younger sister, both when Zoe disappeared and after her body was found and Anna confessed. The kicker is that when Anna went to the Hamptons, a place she'd never been, she found people doing double takes because she looks just like Zoe, the girl who's already disappeared. Not only does she look like Zoe, she seems to have freaky knowledge of things that she shouldn't if she's truly never been there. It sort of goes modern gothic, and it was super absorbing and twisty. It did take me a moment to get into the book the first time I picked it up, but I think that was just the anxiety during school, because once it was summer I flew threw it. 

you don't have to be everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves edited by Diana Whitney
Picked this up in my tiny but insanely well curated bookstore, because I was like, "THIS WOULD BE GREAT TO HAVE FOR STUDENTS." I read it, and immediately was like, "where was this book when I was growing up???" I immediately gave it to my former student who was in foster care and who I still see for outings (think Big Brother Big Sister, sort of), because she's 14 and 14 is a confusing, sucky time. And then I ordered another to have in my classroom. 

Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Thank you, Mel, for recommending this book in one of your Best Books of posts! Guess where I bought it... (Tiny bookshop for the win! Trying to give as little of my book money to Amazon as possible.) It was definitely a quirky read, with the concept that there's a little coffee shop that has magical properties. Basically, you can go back in time if you sit in a particular chair, but there are caveats. You have to first get the chair, frequently occupied by a woman who generally doesn't want to give it up. Then you must think of a time you want to go back to, but it has to be in the coffee shop, with someone who's been in the coffee shop (so no going back to a wedding or a conversation you had in college), and you can't leave the seat while you're there. You have from the time the coffee is poured to the time the coffee gets cold to drink the cup and return back. And, you can't change anything that's already happened. SO WHY WOULD YOU DO IT? You get four people who do it for very different reasons, and get to decide if it was worth it. It really makes you think about the consequences of events and what is changeable and what is not, and the power of things unsaid. LOVED it.

There it is, the books of June! A lot of thought-provoking stuff, actually. And mostly books you can just disappear into, which for me is what summer is all about. A vacation between pages. 

What have you read recently that you've loved?

The Stories That Need to Be Told

I heard a piece on NPR radio* where the host was talking to a variety of authors about growing diversity and representation in Young Adult books. The part I remember most was a gay, Puerto Rican author who wrote about a gay Puerto Rican teen in (I think) the Bronx, and how he had a hard time shopping it around to publishing houses a few years ago. It stuck with me that he said they kept telling him HIS OWN STORY was "unbelievable" and "hard to consider authentic" and that it wouldn't sell. 

His response was amazing. He said, "You publish books about unicorns and dragons, but my reality is what is unbelievable???" 

Great point. 

This is one of several similar stories about diverse authors who have their worked deemed "inauthentic" or "won't sell" because their experience is outside of the stereotype, is outside of a largely white, Christian, heteronormic, "common" experience. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose amazing Ted Talk "The Danger of a Single Story" should be watched by everyone, noted that her MFA graduate professor criticized her first book for not being "authentically African" because the characters were "too much like him." Aisha Saeed, author of Amal Unbound and others, who was told "stories about kids in Pakistan don't sell" and only had her book about a girl in Pakistan published after 26 other publishers said no (but now she's been on the New York Times Bestseller List and is required reading in many schools, so suck it, naysayers).

It's great that it's changing, albeit slowly, but it just underscores why we need these stories that either a) are unfamiliar to the kids publishers think are reading, or b) are very familiar to the kids who CAN'T FIND BOOKS THAT REFLECT THEIR LIVES, and they are missing these opportunities because of that narrow definition of "what kids will read, what parents will buy." There are so many people who want to see stories that reflect their lives, or to peer through a window into a different existence, but they don't seem to be listened to as much.

It reminds me of the story most frequently told about people struggling with infertility. The "success" stories that sell services or clinics or acupuncture, the stories that keep people spending more and more money on treatments or renewing adoption home studies/signing on with multiple agencies because there's always someone who had a baby or were placed with a baby because they just hung on a little longer, and that it was so worth the wait, waiting is the hardest part. The rainbow babies that most people think always follow a loss, because we hear so little from the people who lost and didn't parent. Whose success stories are outside of the norm of "and then I parented children" and look more like "and then I rebuilt my life from the destruction of my dream and it is BEAUTIFUL." There's also not as much of the success story that is the pregnancy, or the birth, or the placement, that then leads into other challenges. It can seem that people stop wanting to know what happens after the newborn shoot, that they see the family picture and fill in the rest. Maybe it's like a friend of mine who finally got pregnant and then complained about the aches and pains of pregnancy to a family member, and was told "I don't want to hear it, you got what you wanted."  There's no patience for anything that's not the fairy tale, even though fairy tales aren't actually real. I wonder if people don't feel free to share the troubled reality, because it messes with the standard narrative.

I would love to see more stories about all sorts of experiences, all sorts of identities and lives, in the mainstream. I mean, what does it say about our society if we can accept dragons and wizards and time travel but not lives that don't fit a prescribed narrative, lives the majority hasn't lived, stories that need to be told? 


*It is killing me slowly that I can't find the NPR interview that I'm going to write about, so if you heard it or can find it, please link in the comments!

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

Biological Sexism in Trees and Uteruses

I have a cold: a nasty, chesty, hard-to-breathe summer cold. But also, allergies probably are doing their part to make my lungs feel awful. And when I posted on Facebook about my cold (horribly exciting stuff, that), a friend said that there's something about planting only male trees that makes allergies horrible. 

Wait, what? 

Then she continued, and explained that she saw a thing on TikTok about how urban planners have exclusively planted MALE trees, because they don't have as much "mess" as female trees. Female trees produce seeds, and fruit. They create messy sidewalks when flowers and fruit laden with seeds drop. Male trees do not fruit, because fruiting is women's work. 

But male trees spray pollen everywhere, in huge clouds, basically coating the world in tree sperm. And this is why allergies have been worse in the past 15 years or so -- this proliferation of male trees because they're SO MUCH BETTER than female trees. 

Can you believe that? Major sexism and misogyny, in tree landscaping form. There's so much on how women are messy, all the periods and mucus and pregnancy and hormones. 

But, uh, men are messy too with their protruding organs and their semen and their own hormones, which don't seem to get as much negative play as women's. 

I love the Lume body deodorant commercials, but especially a recent one that points out that most crotch stink comes from the butt. And women are constantly being barraged with products to smell "fresher" and are shamed into thinking that vaginas are stinky and repulsive in their smell. But the Lume lady says something like, "MEN have butts too, and you don't see them having these products shoved down their throats!" Lume addresses crotch stink in everyone with a butt, and doesn't blame vaginas for being messy, or smelly. It's refreshing.

IT'S THE SAME BLAME WITH TREES. I found an article in Atlas Obscura, "Botanical Sexism Could Be Behind Your Seasonal Allergies," which validated what my friend saw on TikTok. It is a great read, and explains in gory detail what's happening to cause these "pollenpacolypse" allergy seasons. 

It also explained, maddeningly, that if the landscapers had planted ONLY female trees, you would have no mess, no fruiting (because there's no males to interact with and get all messy with), AND NO POLLEN. 

But no one looked down that option, did they? They just went with male is better and what's a little tree sperm here and there? 

It reminds me of the lack of research on women's health, like impacts of endometriosis, adenomyosis, PCOS, and birth control/pain management in general. 

 A friend of mine recently had an IUD put in and then subsequently removed. She had it to help control her insanely heavy and frequent periods, but two things happened -- first, it took FORTY-FIVE MINUTES to install the thing because the doctor had difficulty with my friend's cervix and accused her of not taking the cervix-thinner the night before (she had). If that seems like a crazy long, even inhumane time for someone to be pushing something INTO your cervix, you are correct. Especially if all she had in her system was Advil. It was traumatic. They should have stopped. But, they got it in and left my friend to her trauma. Except it started giving her migraines with aura, multiple over the course of two weeks, and so she had it taken out. The doctor, instead of being empathetic or even mildly understanding, was highly defensive and unhelpful. She actually said, "you should really give it a couple more months, but I guess we'll remove it if that's what you want." My friend won't be going back. 

My point is, if a man had to have an IUD like thing put in, IT WOULD NOT EXIST AS AN OPTION. Why is the question asked of women to put up with more pain, to "push through it" rather than have options that actually work? And how about pain management for these procedures? There need to be better options. There need to be better treatments. There should be something between an IUD and hysterectomy (although I am a big fan of that option, since feeling the absolute freedom of no uterus post-fertility-trauma, but clearly that's a drastic solution). An IUD shouldn't feel like an assault. The other option (ablation, or burning the lining away and basically mutilating the organ instead of removing it) just sounds barbaric, and has no guarantee of working either. I know from my endomyometrial resection failure that it can be even more painful when it doesn't work).  There needs to be more understanding of the intricate, messy, and sometimes painful realities of being female. 

So when the tree thing came up, I couldn't NOT share it with you. Even ALLERGIES are made worse by the patriarchy. Messy indeed.

Everlasting Snowdrops

I love snowdrops, those early spring bulbs that are some of the first to bloom and offer hope that spring is coming. They often push right through snow. Inevitably, there's a big snowfall that crushes and buries them, but they always pop back up, often stronger than before. 

Snowdrops are an ultimate symbol of resilience. Of surviving all that life can throw at you and thriving in spite of it.

I've been planning on a snowdrop tattoo for a while. My phoenix and butterflies are 3.5 years old, so I thought it was time. Here is the image I've been saving in my Pinterest:

Credit Sofia @

And here is the image on my inner left ankle:

Right after I got it last week, that's not red ink. It's my sad abraded skin. 

Today! The red is fading, albeit slowly. It will be all black and gray when it fully heals.

I love it so much. Thank you, Pyramid Arts Tattoo! Snowdrops, everlasting.

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

"The Argonauts" by Maggie Nelson

I am deep in the Summer of Reading, and having a great time reading through my TBR shelves and piles that seem to grow faster than I can read them. I struggled with Marie Kondo's The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up because of how she discussed books (I guess she recanted this later, maybe on her TV show). Her insistence that no one needs to have a ton of books, just a shelf or two of special books, because you don't re-read books and any book that you haven't read 3 months after you've bought it will never be read. 


I love going back into my TBR books and finding something that I purchased or was gifted YEARS ago. 

One of those books is Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts, which I bought at Parnassus Books in Nashville while visiting a friend three years ago. We'd swapped lists of favorite books we'd read, and this was one from hers. 

The book is slim, which misrepresents the time it takes to read it. It's a book you have to read slowly, savor, reread passages, think on, and then continue reading. It has parts that are written in a highly academic style that analyze art or philosophy, but the whole book is a love letter to her family. Namely, Harry, her nonbinary spouse, Iggy, their child conceived with donor sperm, and the simultaneous bodily transformations of Maggie as she navigates both getting pregnant and then the whole pregnancy, birth, and postpartum shifts, and Harry as Harry gets top surgery and testosterone injections to be able to live more freely. Maggie explores motherhood, aging, transformations, love, queerness, what it means to write your life, what it means to truly be there for a person... there's SO MUCH in this slim volume, written in short vignettes with no chapters, no parts, no delineation other than a single line of space. 

These were quotes that stood out to me: 

You think I'm not worried too? Of course I'm worried. What I don't need is your worry on top of mine. I need your support. (Nelson, 52)

This is Harry, responding to Maggie's worries about the effect of T (testosterone treatment) on Harry's body and overall health. It's a great response when someone is worrying out of love but it is the last thing you need to hear when you're going through something difficult, or taking a path that you know has risks but also has tremendous benefits. 


Flipping channels on a different day, we landed on a reality TV show featuring a breast cancer patient recovering from a double mastectomy. It was uncanny to watch her performing the same actions we were performing -- emptying her drains, waiting patiently for her unbinding -- but with opposite emotions. You felt unburdened, euphoric, reborn; the woman on TV feared, wept, and grieved. (Nelson, 82)

This really made me think on experiences that are similar but with widely different context. I'll never forget when I wrote a post during my quest for parenthood and I was done with using my body towards the goal, but my body wasn't done with abusing me. I said that I wished I could just go through early menopause and be done with it, and a commenter excoriated me because she was going through early menopause and it was robbing her of everything, and she was in her early thirties (I was in my early forties), and she was SO ANGRY that I could have looked at menopause like a freedom. But to me, it would have been, in my mind at least. And when I had my hysterectomy at 42, to me it was finally that freedom. Freedom from a part of my body that only caused me pain, freedom from periods whose only purpose were to show fertility but that was never the case for me, freedom from being a failed reproductive entity. But then you have people who have to have a hysterectomy and it's due to cancer, or an emergency, or other health concern, and that same surgery is not a freeing exercise but a horrible, horrible loss. The context is different. The fact that the uterus is removed is the same, but the emotions are vastly disparate.


This little boy lived by the maxim that if you could imagine the worst thing that could ever happen, you would never be surprised when it did. Not knowing that this maxim was the very definition of anxiety, as given by Freud ("'Anxiety' describes a particular state of expecting the danger or preparing for it, even though it may be an unknown one"), I set to work cultivating it. (Nelson, 118-119)

That is a great definition of anxiety. It made me laugh out loud, because it meant that this has always been a part of me -- I have ALWAYS been a catastrophizer, a worst-case-scenario-imaginer. I actually used to say in high school that "I would rather be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed," and so would always think the worst would happen. Because if it didn't, yay! and if it did, well, I saw it coming. I am still working on this. To see things for their opportunities more than their challenges. To have Bryce take longer than usual to get back from a walk and when he doesn't text me back right away, and think "He must be enjoying his walk on this beautiful day" and not "OHMYGOD HE'S DEADINADITCH, SOMEONE HIT AND RAN HIM, EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO CHANGE, AAAAAAAAA." I go straight to the disaster. I don't always know what the disaster is, I just know it's coming. I really have to get better at managing that (although since school has ended and my medication has evened out at the higher dose, I am not feeling fight-or-flight all the time, which is lovely). 


Thank you for showing me what a nuptial might be -- an infinite conversation, an endless becoming. (Nelson, Acknowledgements)

I love this description of a relationship, of a marriage. Especially "an endless becoming." Who you become as yourself, who your person becomes, and who you become together. That give-and-take of conversation. God I love this quote.

I recommend this book in all its brutally raw and honest glory. Caveats: it can be sexually explicit, but not gratuitous; there's also a very detailed description of labor and birth. It's such a great thinking book, one that will possibly stretch your thoughts on identity.

What's Next?

The pandemic has brought a new tradition to my district, one I hope continues -- the Graduation Car Parade. It's a weeknight, the last week of school, just days before graduation, and the student parking lot at the high school gets assigned spots for each school in the district -- the graduates-to-be, in their caps and gowns, form a train of cars with families or friends, decorated up, and weave through the parking lot so we can wave and cheer and wish them well. 

It is so much fun, and you get to see students you had years ago all grown up looking (and sometimes unrecognizable, so we're grateful when they write their names on their cars or signs). There's something insanely special about having an adult-looking student suddenly light up when they realize who you are, and vice versa. 

Our superintendent and various principals walk around emcee'ing the event. This time, it was mostly our superintendent, going up to cars in line and asking about future plans. 

At the start, he asked, "Where are you going?" or "Where are you headed?" 

A fine question, but it assumes that everyone is actually GOING somewhere, and that somewhere is college. Many cars have flags and signs for the colleges that students are headed off to, but there are students who are not "going" to that traditional next step -- they are going into the armed services, or taking a gap year, or going into the workforce, or a vocational school, or an 18-21 program, or one of our excellent local community colleges. But it always feels like the expectation is a four-year college, which isn't for everyone. 

I was thrilled when the question morphed and he began asking, "What's next?" 

How easy that shift was! How much more inclusive! 

I've read about how in Germany (correct me if I've got this wrong), there is even more esteem placed on apprenticeships than college acceptance, and there are newspaper announcements of apprenticeships. I wish we did this, and it didn't feel "less than" for kids to have a different plan than college, less worthy of WOOOOOOs, more likely to garner a small awkward silence and then "oh, well, great! Good for you!" And it's funny (but not really) that GOING to college does not mean that you will GRADUATE from college. That students who know themselves and choose community college with the option to transfer may ultimately have an equally or even more successful life later down the line, or kids who go into trades could be more immediately financially solvent with way less debt and way more job security. It speaks to how we view success, or the appearance of success.

It makes me think about how often there are assumptions made of "next steps." But, also, how there has been incremental change in the idea of life moving linearly or even in a binary fashion. That it's more accepted to have "alternate" paths, and as we evolve even the idea that these paths are "alternate" is fading. 

I love the phrasing of "what's next," because it doesn't immediately plunk people in predetermined boxes. It acknowledges that there are many pathways. That success can be more than one thing.


 See this? 

This sad clump of fernlike leaves is what's left of my yarrow (this is the last bed I have to mulch, and I haven't yet, so it looks even sadder). 

Last year, it looked like this: 

Well, the mulch is way better and there's actually flowers on it.

This year, I have an influx of adorable but insanely destructive baby critters that are decimating certain plants in my garden, yarrow among them. It's hard to be mad at these guys, but I am: 

Awww, baby bunny (responsible for lobelia murder)

Awww, twinsies fawns (responsible for eating SPIKY and POISONOUS plants because they don't know better)
Awww, begrudgingly cute baby groundhog (responsible for so much destruction, yarrow included, but they look like funny fat little otters running across the yard)

Grrrr. You can see that in the back, there is NO SHORTAGE OF GREEN THINGS TO EAT, but all these babies just love the gourmet stuff I've apparently put out just for them. 

However, the other day, while bringing weed refuse down to a pile we have at the bottom of our hill, I found THIS: 

Snuggled in the weeds, and so much poison ivy, was YARROW! Tons of it! I have two theories: 

1) When I deadheaded the old yarrow seed pods, I brought them down here with the refuse and they sprouted

2) Baby destructo rodents POOPED OUT yarrow seeds and BAM! new yarrow they don't eat in an unexpected place! 

It made my day. I was so upset about the loss of my carefully cultivated plants, chomped on by the abundant wildlife that, to be fair, was here first, that I totally missed this resurgence of pretty plants in a totally unexpected place. 

I was stuck on what I wanted things to look like that I ignored what works in this wild place, but the beauty erupted elsewhere, where it was more suited to thrive. Maybe even growing out of a pile of shit. 


There's that whole "bloom where you're planted" saying, but I also feel like you could upend it to "don't force things that don't work out, instead go with what blooms where it ends up." 

What's frustrating is that a lot of plants that are being devastated this year were fine last year, but that works too -- sometimes there are unexpected setbacks. Learn from them and adjust. 

I appreciate the wild flowers that crop up unexpectedly and don't get eaten: 

milkweed (asclepias incarnata)

wild bergamot or bee balm (monarda fistulosa)

Purple vetch (grossly known as hairy vetch or vicia villosa, an invasive weed when not naturally prettifying a meadow)

Butterfly weed, a type of milkweed (asclepia tuberosa) you can actually buy but grows naturally in our meadow hill

Black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia hirta) that the groundhogs chow down on in my garden but leave alone in the pretty meadow hill where they grow naturally

I won't get more of what was clearly a very expensive salad bar, and instead will focus on the plants that clearly do well, which is a shrinking list due to deer, rabbits, groundhogs, crappy soil, and walnut trees (they make the soil poisonous, yay). 

There is beauty though in all the things that thrive wildly here in this somewhat inhospitable plot of land. I will focus on that rather than mourning (too much) all my pretty plants lost.

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