I Have the Power!

I am so stinking proud of myself. 

On Sunday, I was going through my shameful (but small, I am improving!) mail pile, and there it was. 


I don't know when they decided that I was old enough to have a child in college or going off to college, but sometime in the past year or so I started getting offers for "My student." At first I thought it was for me, like if I wanted to go back for another degree or something, but nope. MY STUDENT was clearly meant to be MY CHILD. 

Until Sunday, I passive-aggressively ripped them up and recycled them, and let a little fury burn in my belly each time they arrived.

But yesterday, I had a revelation -- I don't have to see this completely irrelevant mail in my mailbox! I have the power to call and cancel that mailing! 

I felt a little silly for not having done it sooner, because it was so easy. 

I simply said, "please take me off your student loan offer mailing list. I don't have children and I'm never going to use this service." 

BOOM. Done. Next up: the stupid coupon envelopes I get since I moved that say, "Best Deals for Moms" but are everyday things like bedding, pillows, clothing, THINGS ANY HUMAN WOULD NEED. Gonna snag it before I toss it in the recycling, get the unsubscribe (don't recall ever subscribing) info, and BUH-BYEEE. 

It feels lovely to take control. 

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

What I Read in July



This is the stack of books I read in July (Actually, summer in June/July, so July starts 4 books up the stack). Caveat, I am a teacher and I try to dedicate most of July to just REST, RELAX, RECOUP. I was pretty successful with that this year! In the spirit of Mel's post that is in the spirit of Jess Lahey's post, here are my thoughts on the books:

The Green Man by Kingsley Amis
This was a Bryce Pick, from my birthday when he realized he didn't get me any books and it really upset me that that tradition of ours was disrupted. It is totally weird, and from the 1970s, around the same time as The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby, and takes place at a sort of haunted inn called The Green Man (and also there's a mythical creature called The Green Man). The main character is pretty despicable, he drinks way too much and cheats on his wife and his great goal in life is to finagle a threesome with his lover and his wife, but there's some good atmospheric stuff and it got real creepy in the second half. Not necessarily a page-turner, but an interesting look at 1970s horror fiction.

The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon
This was such a great gothic-style thriller-slash-ghost story, which is where Jennifer McMahon shines. There's sisters who are estranged due to difficult dynamics, and a house with a natural springs pool that one sister inherits over the other, but disastrously. The pool is kind of evil. The wronged sister is called back when the mess-up sister who inherited the house turns up dead in the pool, and it turns out she was researching the history of the property and the pool and this is not an isolated incident. SUPER creepy, great flawed people, and really reminded me of a inn that we stayed at in Damariscotta, ME, that had a pool and was equally creepy. Love Jennifer McMahon, put this one right up with The Winter People and The Invited for delicious, well-plotted creepiness. (NOTE: infertility subplot)

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
This book is getting its own post. This book is probably my FAVORITE book that I've read all summer (and maybe in a very, very long time). It is just so lovely. It involves magical children, a caseworker who doesn't wish to get too involved, and a situation with a particular "difficult" group home of sorts that changes his mind about how he approaches his job and his life. IT WAS SO GOOD. I have recommended it to a million people, and everyone, EVERYONE has loved it. I think anyone who works with children should read this book. Post forthcoming! 

Bluets by Maggie Nelson
This was recommended in a writing class I took, and it was such a quirky little book but enjoyable. It's basically a love letter to the color blue, written in 240 tiny numbered snippets, that then give you a look into Maggie's life. I learned that there's a tool for measuring the color blue of the sky, a cyanometer. I learned that food photographers typically didn't use blue dishware because blue inhibits appetite (somehow). There's a lot of art and film discussed, and a lot of sex. I've never read anything quite like it.

Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's heartwarming, funny, adventurous -- just wonderful. Miss Benson is a woman of a certain age who has found herself in a life she is disappointed in and decides to make a change and follow her dream of finding the golden beetle of New Caledonia, but she needs an assistant. The assistant she gets is not at all the practical person she'd hoped for, but a sexy woman with terrible spelling named Enid Pretty. Enid turns out to have her talents though, and they go off on a wild adventure. It was great fun, lovely strong women, and I learned a bit about beetles and New Caledonia. It was sort of in the vein of Where'd You Go, Bernadette and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. (NOTE: miscarriage/baby loss subplot)

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Did not love this book. I see it everywhere, I got it through Book of the Month Club thinking it was sort of a thriller...it wasn't. It didn't hold my attention. 

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
This book did get its own post, which it thoroughly deserves. It's a slim memoir written in lyric essay about the simultaneous transitions both Maggie and her spouse made -- her pregnancy, and her spouse's transition. Maggie writes about their love, their marriage, their baby, but it's just so poetic and gives a window into a different experience than I am familiar with. 

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemison
This is the third book in the Broken Earth Trilogy, which starts with The Fifth Season and continues to The Obelisk Gate before concluding here. It is a very, very dense read but worth it -- the world that N.K. Jemison creates is just incredible, and there is so much about grief, and identity, and fear, and racism, and love. Excellent world-building. 

The People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
This was another Mel recommendation, and it was glorious summer fun! It felt very When Harry Met Sally, and I just adored the friendship and dynamics between Poppy and Alex. I loved how goofy Poppy was. It was like a perfect beach read! 

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
This was a YA recommendation from my school library, who said, "I feel like YOU are the main character!" So, the main character is a girl with anxiety who gets hives when super anxious and needs to have a plan for everything, and she has curly hair and is very clumsy. And sarcastic. It was so weird to read this one after The People We Meet on Vacation because it was very, very similar in many ways (friends! A rift! Will they-won't they?). But, this one involves a hiking trip in the Sierra Nevadas and the main character is obsessed with art stronomy, which was super cool. And there were bears, which was funny because it was right before we went to the camp in Maine. It was an adorable read. 

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
This is the first of an upcoming trilogy, and I've had it for months and months but hadn't started it, and then it was EVERYWHERE on NPR and in my google feed. It is a fantastic YA fantasy that takes you to the Early College program at UNC, where the main character, Bree, has gone as a high school student with her best friend from home. Bree is grieving her mom, who died in a car accident, and has a weird feeling that there's more to that story. She gets involved in secret society stuff when she stumbles into a fight with magical creatures by a secret society that is TRULY secret and connected to Arthurian legends. That and institutional racism that's always been a part of UNC and Bree's existence as a young Black woman swirl together in a delightful adventure with magic and love triangles and Chosen One tropes galore. I can't wait for the second book to come out! 

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
I love SOME Fredrik Backman books -- My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry and Britt-Marie Was Here were wonderful, but I absolutely hated A Man Called Ove. Which I know is an unpopular opinion, ha. But Anxious People? Went on my special shelf (along with The House in the Cerulean Sea). It was soooo good. I love when authors can interweave things masterfully and make connections that you don't see coming, and this had all of that. Also, gems of wisdom like, "Some people accept that they will never be free of their anxiety, they just learn to carry it," and, my personal favorite: "The truth of course is that if people really were as happy as they look on the Internet, they wouldn't spend so much damn time on the Internet, because no one who's having a really good day spends half of it taking pictures of themselves. Anyone can nurture a myth about their life if they have enough manure, so if the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it's probably because it's full of shit." HA! 

So there it is, almost to September but those are my July books. Some really, really good ones! What books have you read recently that you've really enjoyed?

Accepting the Mess

One of the most awful things about taking medication for anxiety and depression is that once it is actually working, you feel great and you start thinking... do I really need this? I'm fine! (Yes, you really do need it, and no, you're not fine without the meds. Notes to myself.) 

I have always associated my medication with shitty times in my life. The first time I was on anxiety medication was at the tail end of my horrible first marriage. I got divorced, and I was like, "Don't need this anymore!" (Guess what? I totally needed it. And I replaced it with cigarettes for a time, not the healthiest.) 

When we were deep in the throes of IVF, a friend asked if I would consider going on medication for anxiety and depression, that it would probably help me. I was like, "NO! I am HAPPY now, this is a temporary glitch, I don't want to be on medication while I'm trying to get pregnant, I'm fine, that's for when you're in a crap marriage, no thank you, I can do this on my own!"

Hmmm. I think April of 2017 proved me wrong on that one. I made it from 2009 to 2017 before breaking, but the cumulative impact of all the losses and my body screeching at me to stop putting it through so much stress and emotional trauma was just too much. And I caved. That's how I saw it, as admitting a weakness. 

But I felt SO MUCH BETTER after I'd been on my meds, and being in a constant fight-or-flight was just so awful that I felt like, FINE, I'll take the meds, it's chemical, it's not a weakness, I get it now. 

I didn't get it long-term though.

I've messed with my meds a couple times, and I'm constantly trying to reduce my dose -- which I thought wasn't the same as stopping them, but ends up being just as bad. (When you lower your dose and it stops working right, you have to go up to a higher dose to get the same effect you had before. Which I learned the hard way.)

The reason why I keep doing this to myself is so very sad. 

When I take my meds and I'm at a dose that works for me and makes me far less fluttery and I don't have to take fast-acting anxiety meds that knock me out . . . it makes me gain weight. 

On the correct dose of my medication, I am easily 10-15 pounds heavier. Even though technically my cortisol levels should be lower, which should count for SOMETHING. 

It is beyond frustrating, because I want to feel comfortable with my body AND feel comfortable within it, and it seems I can't have both. And, I am NOT interested in any kind of diet or "miracle" solution -- I love food, and I love wine, and I am not willing to live a life of restriction. Moderation, yes. But one of my great joys is eating something delicious that Bryce has made and washing it down with a tasty wine.

I have never been skinny (ahem, PCOS, ahem). Even when I weighed 125 pounds in high school and was running track, I had a little pot belly, I had tummy rolls. As an adult in my 20s, I weighed around 150 pounds. Which was fine -- I have giant boobs and I look stupid when I weigh too little. At one point I was a size 6 or 8 after my divorce, and I weighed 145, less than 150, for the first time in a decade. I was also smoking, which is not exactly a healthful way to regulate weight. I weighed around 150-160 when I met Bryce, and then we started trying to have a baby. 

Infertility treatments just wrecked me. My belly never really recovered, and the stress was terrible, and then there was adoption stress and my lovely little breakdown and then weight gain from the meds. And then I had a hysterectomy that cut through my abdominal muscles. And during all this I had entered my 40s, and literally watched my metabolism take a long nap. 

Knowing that going down on meds helps me to shed 10-15 pounds led me to some very poor decisions. It doesn't help that my doctor had said a few times that maybe we could lower my dose if my weight kept creeping up. Which is kind of fucked up, because which is more important, my mental health or my weight? 

Especially considering that even though I weigh more than I ever have, I am stronger than I have ever been. I absolutely love Pilates, and I've been doing it 2x/week for years now, and I have been put in a more advanced class because I am progressing so well in it. I have amazing flexibility and strength and it's so good for my hips, ankles, feet, balance. I walk and hike and ride my stationary spinning-style bike. But none of it really makes much of a difference in how I look, especially in the middle. 

So this is the challenge. I know that when I mess with my meds I end up in a crisis situation and feel awful. I know that I am doing all the things I can to be healthy. Not skinny, healthy. I am trying, SO HARD, to love my body as it is. To exercise because it feels good, not to lose weight or burn calories. To eat mindfully and really enjoy what I put in my body, but not overeat. Which really isn't my issue. To advocate for myself with my doctor and tell him, at my next appointment, that regardless of my weight (which is sure to depress me), I am really strong and healthy and this is just what's going to happen at this point. 

I can't both have good mental health and a "normal" BMI. And, you know, BMI is bullshit. 

So, body, I love you. I am sorry that you've been through so much. I appreciate all you do for me, and how strong you are. I aim to be healthy. My healthy mind is my top priority, followed by a strong body. Please be patient when I make faces in the mirror and squish the fat around the middle like somehow I could tear it right off my body. I am doing the best I can, and so are you. I am going to accept the mess, to quote the book Burnout

This is my goal -- accept the beautiful, strong, gushy mess. 

A Book You Need to Read

I don't take that claim lightly. Rarely do I read a book and go, "Oh my goodness, EVERYONE needs to read this book!" but I recently read one that pretty much any woman will find insanely helpful. 

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

The book is Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA. 

A friend of mine (who I also teach with) recommended it to me and pretty much anyone, so I bought a copy to read over the summer. I read it in one day and highlighted the bejeezus out of it. I CONSUMED it. I will re-consume it. It's that good.

It is not specifically directed at teachers, in case you were wondering, although it's definitely a good read for those of us in "helping" professions. It is specifically directed at women, any women, and has a very un-subtle "smash the patriarchy" vibe that I enjoyed. 

It's in three parts: What You Take With You, The Real Enemy, and Wax On, Wax Off. Yes, those are all movie references (The Empire Strikes Back, The Hunger Games, and the original Karate Kid). Another reason to love the book.

AND, it's a self-help book aimed at women that is thoroughly research based, a little bit pop-culture nerdy, a little swear-y, and DOES NOT ASSUME EVERYONE HAS A PARTNER OR CHILDREN. Woop woop. 

The book starts like this: 

"This is a book for any woman who has felt overwhelmed and exhausted by everything she had to do, and yet still worried she was not doing 'enough.' Which is every woman we know -- including us." 

Rather than take you through all the things, I will instead share some quotes that I absolutely loved that will show that this book is a) awesome, b) written by people who do not belong to the Cult of Positivity, c) a practical reference for living your best life AS YOU ARE, and d) totally appropriate for infertility/resolution. 

Okay, let's do this! Soooooo many of these quotes apply to resolving without parenting, or honestly resolving from anything that did not work out as planned, and to social justice, and to self-love:

 "To be 'well' is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you, being stuck is bad for you."

"Wellness is not a state of being, but a state of action." 

[in a section labeled "Redefine Failing"] "You may do all the things you're supposed to do, without getting where you're trying to go, only to end up somewhere else pretty amazing." 

"Part of recovering from a loss is turning toward your grief with kindness and compassion, as well as completing the cycle of stress brought on by failure."

[In a section labeled "When to Give Up"] "If you want to try using this principle [explore/exploit problem] rationally, all you have to do is write four lists:
       What are the benefits of continuing?

       What are the benefits of stopping?

       What are the costs of continuing?

       What are the costs of stopping?
And then you look at those four lists and make a decision based on your estimates of maximizing benefit and minimizing cost."

"We have been taught that letting go of a goal is the same as failing."

"We share stories of people overcoming the odds to achieve remarkable things in the face of great resistance, which is inspiring. But these stories too often imply that we are the controllers of our destinies...If we "fail" to achieve a goal, it's because there is something wrong with us. We didn't "fight hard enough. We didn't "believe." Our tendency to cling to the broken thing we have rather than let it go and reach for something new isn't just a result of social learning. The stress (fear, anxiety, etc.) underlying the belief changes our decision-making, so that the more stressed we feel about change, the less likely we are to do it." 

 "'Meaning,' in short, is the nourishing experience of feeling like we're connected to something larger than ourselves." 

"...rarely is meaning something that we find at the end of a long, hard journey. For most of us, meaning is what sustains us on the long, hard journey, no matter what we find at the end. Meaning is not found; it is made."

"With compassion for the wounded parts of our hearts, minds, bodies, and communities, our recovery from adversity can include an increased sense of meaning in life, moving us from coping to thriving."

"We can't 'believe' our way out of oppression, exile, or despair. But when we make meaning, we can sustain ourselves through worse things than we can imagine." 


"The quality of our lives is not measured by the amount of time we spend in a state of perfection. On the contrary, people of vision -- think of the principal social justice leaders of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries -- see the largest gap between what is and what ought to be, and they know they will not live to see a world that fully achieves their vision of what's possible." 

"This sort of bias is called the 'headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry,' because people tend to notice their adversarial headwinds and not their helpful tailwinds. ...most of us tend to ignore or forget about advantages we've received, but remember the obstacles we've overcome, because the struggle against the obstacles requires more effort and energy than the easy parts. ... People in any dominant group find it impossible to believe that the road isn't as flat for others as it is for them; they only know they're working really hard." 

"People who live through traumatic experiences are called survivors. People who love and support people who live through traumatic experiences are co-survivors. They need all the support and care that a survivor needs. If they don't get it, they run the risk of burning out, dropping out, and tuning out. If we want to change the world, we need change agents to know how to receive care." 

"...your goal is to stabilize you, so that you can maintain a sense of efficacy, so that you can do the important stuff your family and your community need from you. As the saying goes, 'Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.' And 'something' is anything that isn't nothing." 


"What if the shape of our bodies was peripheral to our relationship with our bodies, and we could pay compassionate attention to our body's needs without assessing whether it 'deserves' food or love?" 

"The body mass index (BMI) chart and its labels -- underweight, overweight, obese, etc. -- were created by a panel of nine individuals, seven of whom were 'employed by weight-loss clinics and thus have an economic interest in encouraging use of their facilities.' ... "BMI is nonsense as a measure of personal health. It's literally just a ratio of height to weight."

"...rather than aiming for 'body acceptance,' practice 'mess acceptance.' Turn toward the mess of noisy, contradictory thoughts and feelings with kindness and compassion. ... When you engage in physical activity, you know it's good for you, because: completing the cycle and also: doing a thing. You also know that most people probably assume you're trying to 'lose weight' or 'get in shape,' and part of you might still actively want to change the shape of your body. That's all perfectly normal. Move your body anyway -- because it really is good for you -- and smile benevolently at the mess."


"What makes you stronger is whatever happens to you after you survive the thing that didn't kill you. What makes you stronger is rest."

"...women live with the expectation that we give every part of our humanity, including our bodies, our health, and our very lives. Our time, energy, and attention should go toward someone else's well-being, not be squandered on our own." 

"Diligent practice of self-compassion works; it lowers stress hormones and improves mood." 

"Being grateful for good things doesn't erase the difficult things. Women have spent centuries being told to be grateful for how much better we have it now than we did before. This 'gratitude for what you have' has been used as a weapon against us, to silence our struggle and shame us for our suffering. Gratitude is not about ignoring problems. If anything, gratitude works by providing tools for the struggle, for further progress." 


And this is just a TASTE of what's in the book. In facing this next, yet-again-unprecedented school year, I feel that this book has given me real, actionable tools to protect myself and keep myself healthy in the face of stress. No matter what you face, if you have ever felt overwhelmed or literally wanted to (or did) lie facedown on the floor, this book is genuinely helpful. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

The Existential Dread of August

I saw a meme once that said, "For teachers, August is just one loooong Sunday night." If you are a teacher, I don't have to explain this. But if not:

Sunday nights are when you realize how much has to be done for Monday, and you end up planning/grading on the last night of the weekend, and the totality of the week ahead kind of smacks you in the face. 

August is preparing for the whole year after a period of much-needed rest, and the countdown begins in earnest. 

This August, we are facing ANOTHER unprecedented year, where the priority is on having 5 days of instruction in person with all kids, but also NOT SPREADING/GETTING DELTA. Should be easy! (blergh)

I'm thrilled we're with the same kids every day. I would be a hot mess if we were hybrid again... That was exhausting and good for no one but done out of necessity because... GLOBAL PANDEMIC. 

I'm just really, really nervous about it all; not to mention how to do another crazy year and keep sane. I'm also really excited for a new year and fresh start and all that too -- it's just frosted in a thick coating of dread. 

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

Not Murder Camp After All

We went on vacation! The last time we left town was February 2020, to Vermont to meet up with Bryce's mom and stepdad. This time, we went to Vermont on the way to Maine...to meet up with Bryce's mom and stepdad. 

The first part of our trip was 3 nights at Cobbs Camps in Pierce Pond, north of Rangeley in the mountains. I was soooo nervous about it because it's pretty rustic, there's a generator that's on only a few hours a day and otherwise no electricity, and no WiFi, internet, or cell service for 27 miles. I was jokingly calling it Murder Camp beforehand and imagining all the ways I could end up in an emergency with no way to call to help. Good times, anxiety.

It was actually fantastic -- to have utter darkness (stars galore!), to have just water and loons and hiking and lichen... so beautiful. And super COVID-conscious, masks in the dining area, sanitize before you enter, but everything else was outside or in your own cabin. And they did great with making the food gluten free for me!

Bryce's parents have been wanting us to go there forever, it's their special spot (they've been going at least 21 years), and I have to say we'd love to go again. But with our own cabin this time (we had no choice due to the timing of things this year, we were lucky they could swap their 2-person cabin for a 2-bedroom cabin at such short notice). A little more privacy is the only thing that would have made it better. 

One thing that was nerve-wracking -- THEY WAITED UNTIL I GOT THERE TO TELL ME ABOUT THE BEAR DUMP. Yes, "bear dump," as in a compost pile of food scraps way behind the cabins for the bears to eat so they don't come closer to the cabin area itself. I didn't see any bears, or moose, but the idea that they were chowing down close by was a little unnerving! 

I think that's as close to camping as I'll get for now. I love me a toilet and shower I don't have to walk to outside (when the bears are marauding), and a nice crisp bed. 

And no murderers. 

The logging road in to the dock where they ferry you over

Cabin #5

The dock at twilight, that was a great place to sit and read (and then see the Milky Way when it got dark)

A bit of cove on a rainy day

Love that rain hat. He looks like a gunslinger or something.

Happy feet on the boat!


My buddy sunning himself on the porch

Near the top of Cobb's Knoll


Insane lichen that looked like snow