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!