Holidays, Our Way

I am so glad that the holidays aren't as painful as they used to be. I do think one reason for that is the way that we do them. 

It started with celebrating my mom's birthday, which we were originally going to do on Thursday (her actual birthday). They were coming over, and I was getting pizza and we'd have birthday and then family Christmas at our house by the tree. Then I'd give them the presents for my sister's family and they'd deliver them as they go up north to their house to celebrate the actual holiday. 

But, then this monster storm approached, and I thought maybe we should last-minute switch to Wednesday night so my mom and stepdad didn't have to drive Friday, when a flash freeze and snow and wind was supposed to whip across the Northeast, especially the Great Lakes region. So we did that, and while it was a little more harried getting everything together, it was a lovely evening. 

Thursday we got notice that we had a SNOW DAY on Friday, at noon no less! Snow days are the best. It's a truly free day -- unscheduled, no sub plans required, no appointments scheduled -- just pure freedom. And to know ahead of time! Literally you heard whoops and people running out into the hall when the email and text came through (not gonna lie, it was during my lunch and I was one of those people running out in the hall, cheering and hugging anyone who was nearby and generally causing a very distracting ruckus). It did pretty much kill any hope of getting anything remotely resembling work done, since it was officially "the day before break." The energy level was bananas after the kids found out, and frankly the adults were all crazed as well. I did manage to get students to play actual board games, which was nice ("Can we go on our computers or phones?" "NO! You can INTERACT with REAL LIVE HUMANS, and HAVE FUN without a SCREEN! BWAHAHAHA"). We'd already had our celebration during English, since it's the only time my group is all together, undiluted. We had donuts and hot chocolate and a Spongebob holiday special. I had to do it Thursday because the holiday hoe down was supposed to be Friday during English, so that turned out to be great timing. (My students are sad they rescheduled the hoe down for the Tuesday we get back, they were downright protesting having to square dance with each other.)

Friday was sweet, sweet pajama time. And a fair amount of stress over the winds. If you've seen the news out of Buffalo, it was absolutely apocalyptic there, only an hour west of us. We had high winds (sustained 50 mph, gusts up to 70) and a sudden drop in temperature that turned the roads into sheets of ice, but the blowing snow didn't accumulate hardly at all. I hate the wind. It is insanely stressful. Just pure chaos shrieking in the chimney and literally bowing in the windows. I actually hit the floor at one point because I was certain the windows in our living room were going to blow in. They didn't, but it did not make for a restful sleep later! 

Bryce made a request to change our routine for Christmas. In the past, I've been pretty tied to the following routine: 
1) open one present on Christmas Eve
2) have stockings with coffee but before breakfast
3) breakfast is pancakes and bacon and a citrus salad
4) then we open presents, one at a time, and take time to write down what we got from who so thank you notes are easily done. 

Well, what happens every year is that our family is all over the country, so we end up doing tons of phone calls and zooms, and everyone else is done with presents far before we are, so we feel like we are constantly in a state of interruption and stress and feel the weight of calls we should be making and then we get irritated. 

So, Bryce wisely suggested we do our Christmas on Saturday. Have a leisurely Christmas on the Eve, and then do our calls on Sunday without feeling stressed on either day. BRILLIANT. I don't know why we didn't do this before! (Well, I do... I hate change and can be a little, um, rigid...) It was glorious. We saved stockings for Christmas Day and presents that people wanted us to open with them, and I decided to scrap the citrus salad and sleep in a bit more. 

It's funny, because for a while towards the end of our family building journey, we preferred to go away for Christmas, to do it in Vermont where it was something different and less painful. That was in the house that we thought we'd be pregnant in, that we thought we'd bring a baby home to. The thought of coming down the stairs to a tree with presents and having no children, no extra stockings, none of that was too painful. 

Then, when we moved to our new house, we didn't want to go to Vermont for Christmas anymore. After, sure. But we wanted to celebrate the holiday our way, in our new house that fit our new life. Just us and the cats. 

This may seem strange. Why don't we get together with family on Christmas? Isn't it sad and lonely, just us two? Wouldn't it be in a way easier than all those phone calls and zooms? 

No. We enjoy celebrating around the holiday with people who are here, and having zooms or phone calls with those who aren't. To have a big family Christmas is pretty impossible, given that our family is so spread out and there would be no way to see everyone (both our parents are divorced, so there are 4 parental locations, not 2). It would also be a reminder of the family Christmas we wanted to have ourselves but don't. My extended family is even more spread out than my parents/inlaw situation, so there's no big family holiday with tons of little kids running around. Bryce does have a stepbrother with a young son, 4 or 5 (who we've met once). I think my mother-in-law would love for us to have a big family holiday all together, which is probably more of a fantasy thing than a reality thing, as the situation is complicated. And, frankly, I don't think we could do a tiny child's Christmas. We are well-adjusted(ish) in part because of the boundaries we set, the situations we simply do not put ourselves in. Grief is funny because there's no expiration date, and while sometimes it can sneak attack you unexpectedly, it's also good to know what you know will be triggering. No thank you, not for us. I am glad that they can have new traditions with a small human though. I'm also kind of glad I don't have to witness it too much. 

I love our quiet Christmas. I love our traditions and that we can mix it up if we want to. I love that we have established that we are a family, and we can connect with the greater family while preserving our own celebration and sanity. I hope the same for you -- balanced holidays and extra care for your hearts. 

Christmas Eve

Cozy Eggi

Cozy Lucky

Magic Pinecones make the fire all Harry Potter-y

2022 Holiday Card

In Defense of Fake Trees

I never thought we would be Fake Tree People.

I grew up going out and picking out a tree from a lot, tying it to the roof or in the trunk of the car. 

Bryce grew up in Maine, and real trees were everything. 

But when we resolved without children, we eventually got a fake tree. A 7 foot tall prelit beauty. At first it felt weird.

But then, it was...AWESOME. 

We could put it up and take it down with ease. There was no handling sap (it gives me hives). No vacuuming a neverending parade of pine needles. No worrying that the cats would drink the water and get sick. No worrying that it was a fire hazard. No dragging it out to the woods in January. 

And also, no picking out a tree out among families. No feeling like we're doing something we would have done with our children. 

It's nice to break with tradition and make new ones when you remake your life. This tree fits us and our life now. And it's beautiful.

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How To Respond When Someone Says They Don't Have Kids: Medical Edition

Infertile Phoenix wrote recently about an experience at her mammogram that included a lovely response to the "no" when asked "do you have kids?"  It was refreshing to have someone say "I'm sorry" and end it there. In that case, the medical professional said she also didn't have kids, which was an additional bonus. It's lovely when you're not a total outlier. 

It reminded me that although unfortunately, I've had multiple experiences with medical professionals lately, they have all been positive on the no-kids front. 

Colonoscopy Nurse

When I got my colonoscopy last month, the office was in the same complex as the primary fertility clinic we spent time at to no avail. It was around back of it (ba dum-bump) and I could see it from the parking lot. It came up when they absolutely could not get my IV in a vein easily, and I said, "it's probably all the time I spent at Strong Fertility getting poked, my veins haven't really recovered from that." She said, "Oh, how long were you there?" and when I answered she said, "Did it work?" and I said "No." And steeled myself for a litany of things I could "still" do or should have done. 

But it didn't come! She just said, "oh, I'm really sorry." And I said, "Thank you, it was really awful when we were going through that but we have a beautiful life now." AND THAT WAS IT. There was no invasive magnifying glass into my personal life or choices. There was no overselling of having children in the first place. The subject got changed and we talked about teaching instead. It was glorious. 

X-Ray Technician at Urgent Care

When I left school to go to Urgent Care because my knee blew up, they did an x-ray. And you could have blown me over with a feather because THEY NEVER ASKED ME IF I WAS OR COULD BE PREGNANT. Before concerns about that come up, here's what happened: 

Bryce had met me there and was in the exam room, so as they got me on the x-ray table, the technician said, "Is that your husband?" and I said "Sure is!" She said, "he is very nice, do you have kids?" 

"No, that didn't work out for us." 

She looked at my chart before starting the x-ray and said, "You are not too old...maybe..." and I said "I don't have a uterus," and she said, "oh, okay." And then, she launched into a personal story.

"Oh, that happened to my sister! She got married at 35 and then found out she had the endometriosis, and went through the IVF but then was told she would never have a pregnancy. I was very sad for her, but she seemed like she just went in a different direction and she is very happy, so I am very happy." 

This led to a rare and wonderful conversation about how IVF fails ALL THE TIME but if we don't talk about it nobody knows and just sees the stories where it does work out, and clinics are certainly not going to highlight failures. That more people are talking about it and making it clearer that IVF sure does fail and you can end up without kids AND have a happy life. She told me about another person she knew who doesn't have kids and tried IVF. IT WAS SO REFRESHING! She ended by saying, "Well, he takes care of you and you take care of him, it's good you have a happy life." Amen. 

Not once did she ask me if I adopted or why I didn't. And she didn't make me feel like I was a sad sap. And, she made the inference that I'm not pregnant and didn't have to ask me explicitly! 

Orthopedic Visit

This is less a story about handling it well, and more about NOT ASKING AT ALL. When dealing with my knee, the aspiration, the cortisone shot, the fitting for a new jointed brace, and discussions about what I can do from a non-surgical standpoint at this time to mitigate the INSANE AMOUNT OF ARTHRITIS I have in that knee (pretty much bone-on-bone), no one asked me about kids at all. You know why? IT WASN'T RELEVANT. No one asked if I had them, there was no need to go into my medical history. I never even had to think about it. 

I do think one reason is because all of the appointments (minus colonoscopy) were through the same hospital system, and they have all my records there. Like, why ask me to fill out my long and sordid history if you don't look at it? It seemed like they actually did in all these appointments. Also, interestingly, the orthopedic appointment was with a younger doctor, and I feel like (generalizing of course) younger people are far less likely to ask about kids in part because they are generationally less likely to have them. 

So what do these experiences all have in common? 

  • No one pried into my personal business. If it came up, it was because I brought it up. 
  • No one offered me pity. 
  • No one offered me "solutions," they accepted my reality.
  • No one responded in judgment or examined my choices.
  • When it wasn't relevant, no one asked. 

I wish all medical appointments were like these. I am increasingly appreciative of when I don't have lay out all my trauma, or feel judged, or have to explain why I didn't do this or that, or... it's assumed that I have kids. That used to happen a few years ago, where the assumption was that I was a certain age and married and so doctors would be like, "oh, you're running after your kids, that's why!" or "you grind your teeth like all mamas do!" Ugh. Glad that's not a thing anymore. 

I hope this is a trend, and people are realizing that a) not everyone has kids, b) not everyone wants to talk about why or how, c) we don't want your pity or suggestions, and d) it's not necessary to ask in every context. 

Pronatalism in Dirty Jokes

I have very...rambunctious students this year. Lots of immaturity combined with dirty jokes, and I am being tested in my ability to keep a straight face while cracking up inside. 

Today, I worked with three of my students while doing a lab on boiling point. I think they thought the tubing that ran from the test tube that boiled with the thermometer in the stopper to the empty test tube in cold water (for collecting condensation) looked somehow sexual. Which is strange as it didn't look remotely sexual. 

Anyway, they kept making veiled jokes about "D" this and "D" that, and I said, "okay, enough with the Ds. No more Ds."

And one of my spicier students muttered, "Well, then how did you get your kids?" 

I said "what?" and pretended not to have heard, and he said, "well don't you have kids?" I guess insinuating that I then needed a D to accomplish that and so could not ban the jokes about it without hypocrisy. 

"Oh, I don't have kids." 

He just stared at me. His mouth silently opened and closed a few times, but nothing came out. 

"Kinda takes the steam out of your joke, huh?" I said, laughed, and walked away. 

It made me laugh, in part because I think he thought he could shame me into being like, "yes, my children came from sex, sex with a D." But instead he ended up uncomfortable because I don't have kids, and so no "utilitarian" use for sex. With a "D,*." And I hid the fact that that made me cackle insanely inside, behind my straight face.

*In case you didn't figure it out, D = dick.

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Rambling 3 am Updates

Ugh, ugh, ugh. It's 2:30 am and I am wide freaking awake because... Prednisone. WTF? Why is this the year of steroids??? 

Let me back up a bit. 

The weekend after my fun published essay excitement was my extended prep for my screening colonoscopy. So I celebrated with mugs of chicken broth, Gatorade, and jello. Mmmm. There procedure was 3:30 on Monday, so I had almost three days of no real food. I went in, and big surprise... the IV process was a nightmare. I swear my veins were never great, but it feels like IVF just blew them all. The first attempt went right through.

The second, after at least 15 minutes, many open-and-closed fists, and heat packs, ended up in my left bicep. With a pediatric catheter because tiny veins. This proved problematic as the sedation then didn't work well and was delayed, but I think because I was the last procedure of the day, and IV prep delayed things, they just full steamed ahead. So I FELT EVERYTHING. It was a bit traumatic. Also they removed a large polyp which was thankfully benign. What sucked was I woke up in terrible pain the next day and had to call in. I couldn't bend over. I spent the day in bed.  I was convinced I was bleeding out and something was horribly wrong, but when I called they said, "that can happen with extended prep" which filled me with fury because had I known I would have taken two days and actually had a sub. I ended up out for THREE. WTF.

So that sucked. 

Then, fun thing... Colored my hair vibrantly:

I am a sugar plum fairy, dammit

Then I got sick with a cold over the Thanksgiving break. 

Then, visit with my former student from the year the world shut down and she was in foster care, we had a day of fun to celebrate her 16th birthday of bookshop, food, and animal rescues. 

And finally, this past week my knee blew up. 

I left school on Friday in a wheelchair, for what is embarrassingly the umpteenth time. I'm going to put a bumper sticker on it. My left knee and ankle swelled up like mad and my knee was very unstable and painful, and I had shooting pain down my leg from the back of my hip. It started Wednesday when I had weird weakness in my left leg at Pilates, then continued into Thursday with swelling and pain that increased into the evening and then went positively catastrophic Friday. Could not stand on it. Was swelling visibly at an alarming rate. Thank goodness for jeans with stretch.

The science teacher I coteach with drove me to urgent care and Bryce met me there, a friend drive my car home, people covered for me. My new principal kept checking to make sure I was actually leaving. Most of my students were offering to get me ice or call the nurse or making bids to push be in the wheelchair. I felt very supported and loved. 

But, x-rays showed significant degeneration in the arthritis in my knee (I had a catastrophic knee injury when I was 16 that resulted in a horrible surgery at 17 that has haunted me ever since). They were like, you have sciatica, but also there's a lot going on here and we're giving you pain meds, an immobilizer, crutches, Prednisone, and a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. YAY. My appointment is Tuesday. My knee is still swollen (thankfully not my ankle anymore, and a blood clot was ruled out) and painful and the Prednisone has me all riddled with insomnia. Good times. 

They saved us an extra long booth at our favorite Mexican restaurant yesterday so we could still go.

MAGNET. Of MISFORTUNE. Wish me luck, I am afraid this is going to be a doozy. Also, I really hope I can sleep at some point. I really, really hate Prednisone.

Using My Voice

So, last week was exciting! In the wake of the Jennifer Aniston interview, which I initially didn't know about because last week was crazy at school and I had a raging migraine on Wednesday that sent me home early, I got a message from my journalist friend, the one who did the piece on MSNBC on embracing life without children post-infertility. 

She'd seen a call for pitches from an editor at for an essay on the difference between being childless and childfree, and would I like to pitch it? She introduced me via email to the editor, and I wrote up a pitch. (Yay, networking!)

I didn't want to do a "this vs that" story. I find both terms problematic. I have a preference, but I wanted to write about how it felt to confront those labels and then where I landed, and how perhaps we shouldn't be so interested in the labels but instead look at the value that women bring REGARDLESS of whether they are parents or not. 

She accepted the pitch! I wrote up and finessed a draft in my dark office with my brightness turned way down on my laptop, and slept on it. I left a printed copy for Bryce to review when I went to bed, and read through his edits and suggestions, which were quite good. I came home, finessed it up, and hit send. 

It was published on Friday! I will admit  that until I got confirmation that it went live I was riddled with anxiety and self-doubt, They hated it, they are going to do a kill fee, I knew I shouldn't have put myself out there, etc etc. My nasty inner voice is relentless. I'm glad I didn't listen to it (much). 

But here it is! I hope I did us justice. I hope my voice continues to call out the way women are minimized or discredited for not having children, no matter the reasons why. I hope I was successful in sharing my thoughts without denigrating others. 

I didn't realize when they asked for a headshot that it was going to be MY GIANT HEAD at the top of the essay, but I do actually like this picture, so...okay? :)

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So Grateful for Representation

I was so excited to find out about the Allure interview with Jennifer Aniston, the one where she reveals that she is a CNBC woman, too. WOW! What an amazing interview. How awesome that she chose to share pieces of her very personal, very vulnerable history with infertility and IVF failure. Thank you, thank you for being a very public figure who shares that IVF did NOT work. And that it is hard, and lonely, and awful to go through the process and face judgment for choices known and unknown. My favorite part of the interview is when she talks about her resolution: 

"Coming out on the other side is what she calls “a little mosaic. It gets blown apart and then somehow gets put back together into this beautiful mosaic.”"

Okay, I am in love with that phrasing. I tend to go back to the caterpillar-goo-butterfly analogy, but a "beautiful mosaic?" PERFECTION. Broken and whole at once, taking what was dismantled and rearranging it into something new and beautiful that honors what was while being something new. Just gorgeous. 

You can read other takes on the news and the beauty of representation in the media, representation that Jennifer Aniston did not have to provide but chose to, and we appreciate it SO DAMN MUCH: 

Infertile Phoenix: One of Us: Phoenix Rising

Silent Sorority (Pamela Tsigdinos): Jennifer Aniston Is Officially One of Us! 

The Road Less Travelled (Loribeth): She IS "One of Us"!!

I loved Pamela's take on the egg freezing bit. I have bristled at the idea of egg freezing as an infertility failsafe. It is not the Hail Mary it gets touted as, and she goes into more details on that. It annoyed me when Mindy Kaling said that parents should give college graduates egg freezing as insurance for their future. Even when you freeze your eggs, you're susceptible to the same success rates as "regular" IVF -- which ALSO aren't great. And it's super expensive, which brings in issues of privilege and equity. 

I digress. 

I always felt a kind of kinship with Jennifer Aniston, for all the times she spoke out about how motherhood is put on a pedestal, and you can mother in different ways, and how maybe society is broken. My favorite (until the Allure interview) is: 

"We don't need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own 'happily ever after' for ourselves." 


"There is a pressure on women to be mothers, and if they are not, then they're deemed damaged goods. Maybe my purpose on this planet isn't to procreate. Maybe I have other things I'm supposed to do." 

The "beautiful mosaic" quote though -- my ultimate favorite. Thank you for putting yourself out there even though you owe it to no one. Thank you for being a very public story of "I tried to have kids and it didn't work out and it was awful but my life is beautiful." 

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

 I recently read this book: 

I didn't love it quite as much as The Book of Delights by Ross Gay, which is still tops for me, but I found a lot of really great wisdom in here. I was reminded that I had it when I saw a picture of it in a post by Klara at The Next 150000 Days, and I put it into my short TBR pile. 

Here are some of my favorite gems: 

"We are not what we experience. 

If we stand in a hurricane, it doesn't matter how violent or terrifying the hurricane is, we always know that the hurricane is not us. The weather outside and inside us is never permanent. People talk about dark clouds over them. But we are never the clouds; we are the sky. We just contain them. The clouds are just the present view. The sky stays the sky."  - pg 184

"I used to worry about fitting in until I realized the reason I didn't fit in was because I didn't want to."  - pg 150

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." - Heraclitus (pg 90, someone else's quote but I'd never heard it before and it resonated)

"You don't need to know the future to be hopeful. You just need to embrace the concept of possibility. To accept that the unknowability of the future is the key, and that there are versions of that future that are brighter and fairer than this one. The future is open." - pg 77

From a piece on "Possibility," quote from existential philosopher Rollo May: 

"Joy is the experience of possibility that the consciousness of one's freedom as one confronts one's destiny. In this sense despair . . . can lead to joy. After despair, the one thing left is possibility."     
 - pg 240

"It is easier to learn to be soaked and happy than to learn how to stop the rain." - pg 128

Pretty relevant stuff, no? 

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October Anniversary

How is it November already? October kind of came and went with a blur of activity, lots of it Halloween- and anniversary- related. 

School has been very, very busy and there have been a few draining situations, and I've been trying to keep some semblance of balance but pretty much collapse into a heap when I get home. One exception -- I am doing better at keeping up with The Handmaid's Tale by taking that time to get on the treadmill, walk speedily both flat and on an incline during the show, and then running (jogging if I'm being real) during commercials. It's great. But man, I am exhausted. 

So, instead of belaboring the sucky at the moment, I want to celebrate the wonderful -- THIRTEEN beautiful years of marriage with Bryce. What a gorgeous life. 

This year things were crazy with his PhD (he actually took a leave of absence to finish it out, SO CLOSE TO BEING DONE), and so we decided nothing extravagant for anniversary presents. We basically bought Halloween decorations for the house, for each other. Which was wicked fun. 

So, here is our anniversary in pictures: 

Harold and the haunted house are not new, but those amazing bats are!

Isn't she lovely? A Bryce prize...

It isn't Halloween without The Great Pumpkin, so what a find this was!

I found the fence and the new gravestone with the vulture on top in the middle, everything else is older. 

We had a beautiful fall walk on the Erie Canal

Bryce got us these fabulous mugs (I got the flowers at a farm stand)

Fun skeleton martini glasses from Bryce, with yummy Manhattans inside

Bryce got us some fun new art for the walls, and we framed some I got him last year... these are my favorites: 

And then the celebrations themselves! Our "private" anniversary, when we were legally married: 

Mmmm, lobsters from Maine with delicata squash and brussels sprouts... the towel is to save the table from water as we, um, dismember them... :)

Pajama anniversary! 

Wouldn't be us without an insanely unattractive weird face picture, hahaha

Fancy dinner out for Halloween anniversary over the weekend

My 2022 ghoul! Bryce is amazing. This was a "quick" drawing... and the "I chu-chu-chupacabra you!" is hilarious... let me know if you get the reference! 

And there it is, another anniversary in the books. We have a lot of fun. I can never feel fortunate enough for having such an amazing partner in life, and for weathering all the horrors we waded through to get to this space where we are a happy family of two. 

Why Do We Say "It's Okay?"

Just about immediately before my run with COVID, I had my consult appointment for my colonoscopy in November. Ahhh, mid-forties, what joys you bring... 

I HATE GOING TO NEW DOCTORS. Mostly because I have to recount the almost comically sad laundry list of awfulness that is my medical history, that is almost entirely centered on my now-defunct reproductive system. It is EXHAUSTING to go through all the procedures. I keep saying I am going to type up a handout so I don't have to do it verbally, and I think this last appointment definitely cemented that I need to buck up and just do it, for my own sanity. 

When I finished the emotionally draining recounting of my personal tragedies, the wonderful PA looked at me with pure empathy and said, "I'm so sorry you had to go through all that." 

And what did I say? 

"It's okay." 


I mean, it's such a knee-jerk reaction that speaks to how culturally primed we are to wave away any kind of unpleasant feeling at any cost. "Oh dear, you are sad at my experiences, I need to make it go away so you are not uncomfortable." And thus... "It's okay." 

I actually paused and quickly said, "well, it's NOT actually okay, but I am okay with it and have a good life, so there's that." 

I felt a little better about that response. I feel like I need to really practice saying "thank you, I appreciate that" instead of the dismissive (to myself!) lie, "it's okay," or my amended verbal vomit.

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Easier, Not Easy

Remember that baby shower that I was going to attend, if only for a short time? Well, it was supposed to be this past week, and I was still out with COVID, so I was like, "ok, decision made for me." 

But then it got rescheduled, and now it's this coming Tuesday. So I had a choice. I could show up, put my gifts in the pile and give a hug and eat a treat and skedaddle weirdly. I could drop my gifts off and bugger off because frankly I suspect that Tuesday (my first day back after two weeks) I will be exhausted by the end of the day and so I have a great, legitimate excuse. Or, I could stoically try to make it through the whole thing to be "nice." 

I chose to just open up to the event planner and be honest: 

"Full disclosure, I am very very happy to celebrate J, G, and their baby, but cannot be there for gift opening. I'm not sure how much of my personal history you're aware of, but Bryce and I had a shower where people wrote in books and I still have a number of books for Baby Tennant (that never came to be)... I love the idea (obviously) but it is a little too scar-opening for me to be there for it. I hope you understand the dichotomy of "happy for you, but not willing to reopen trauma and no one wants someone crying at a baby shower."  

DID YOU NOTICE? Not once did I apologize. I did not go into a lot of detail, just the relevant. Mostly, I am proud of not apologizing. 

It occurred to me that it's been long enough (5 years and change) that there are people I work with who have no idea about my saga. They weren't there when we had our school shower. They weren't in the building when I sent out the heartbreaking email thanking everyone for their support and revealing that we had decided to end our journey and had donated (almost) all of the beautiful gifts for the nursery to a charity supporting new moms with a fraction of the support we had. They weren't there when I mysteriously went on a short leave thanks to a Prednisone-fueled breakdown brought on by autoimmune response to incredible stress and trauma. 

I am getting better at sharing less (outside of this space, of course!) -- no one is entitled to my story. I decide when and if to share any part of it in everyday life. And I am definitely getting better at not apologizing for my feelings or my needs based on my experiences. I hope people understand, but if they don't, that's on them, not me. (The event planner understood. I feel like most empathetic humans would.)

I was talking with Bryce about it after I sent the email, and marveling at how far away the raw parts are now. And what he said was amazing, and so wise. He said, "Well with time, it's going to get easier. But easier doesn't mean easy." 

How I love this man. How perfect. It is definitely easier. But, for me at least, I don't think it will ever be "easy." It's trauma that is a part of me, but not all of me. It is woven into my identity, but deeper under the surface. And I am just tickled that it is getting easier over time to own my story, to own my responses to these little stabby moments, and to own my right to self-care. 

COVID Updates

You know that saying, "we're in this together?" Well, Bryce and I sure are, because yesterday he also tested positive. Good news, now we can see each other again, bad news...we both have COVID. Luckily Bryce's case seems pretty mild, so far. Today he said, "I'll take this over a cold, I'm sorry to say." 

He's sorry to say because I am a disaster. I am nebulizing multiple times per day and STILL struggling to breathe. I'm on the benzo pearls (which don't touch the cough). I'm guzzling Gatorade, after discovering that Pedialyte is absolutely repugnant. (Bryce likes it though, which is great, because it made me gag.) I'm a couple days into Paxlovid. 

Oh, Paxlovid. Fun fact -- it makes your mouth absolutely disgusting. Everything tastes bitter and like you're sucking on a rock made of copper. Hot Tamales apparently help, so now I'm going to have cavities AND COVID. Ha. I also find that ginger anything masks it. It's horrific when you wake up. Imagine morning breath, x100000. I am pleased though that the other symptoms that were awful -- awful headache, body aches, fever -- are pretty much gone. I still get chills though and I am super duper tired. I got winded getting our Hello Fresh package from the front door. I had to stop twice going up the stairs to catch my breath. 

If the breathing doesn't get better I have to get back in touch with my doctor and get put on a Prednisone taper regimen. Gross. I absolutely hate Prednisone. The good news is that it won't be anywhere near the amount I had with my eye issue in 2017, so I should avoid having a breakdown this time. Ha. Ha. 

Otherwise, I'm sleeping, popping in on my work computer too much, reading, watching TV, and doing puzzles while I nebulize. I have to make it entertaining somehow! I am catching up on The Handmaid's Tale (new episode today!). 

I am seriously hoping that I will be able to come back to work on Monday. I was real proud of myself for calling in for the whole week instead of a bit at a time, but now I am hoping that this week is all I need. I have a bit of a squirrelly group (I feel like I say that every year) and apparently they are terrorizing the subs. Which, because LOTS of people are sick, many with COVID, has been a different sub each day and even each period. Not great. 

I am eternally grateful that I don't have to be primary care for anyone else right now. I am not grateful for parenthood not working out, but in times like these I am very much at peace with having no children to take care of while feeling this way! 

SOOOO attractive! I can pretend it's the world's worst hookah.

First COVID puzzle, I got to do it twice because the cat got startled and knocked it on the floor when it was 5/6 done. 

PS - I typed this on my laptop, so there will be no more hilarious and naughty typos! 

Attack of the COVID

Remember when I had a very faint line and a mild case of COVID in July? Well, that is about 1/1000 of the case I've got now. Booooo, hissss. 

Friday I felt fine, just a little wheezy (my asthma always kicks up in the fall). Saturday I woke up and felt crappy, achy, chills, headache. I was supposed to go visit with my sister who was in town, so I tested. Negative. Thankfully, I felt crappy enough to cancel because I honestly didn't feel comfortable driving. I went downhill fast.

I thought I had an early flu case. I got a fever, my lungs continued to decline, my joints and muscles were on fire, I couldn't stay awake. The chills had me shivering and teeth chattering. Bryce set up the downstairs bedroom on the off chance it was COVID. 

Aaaaand, Sunday morning when I retested, it lit up immediately. Like before the control line. Bright dark blue. Boom. SO glad I didn't go up, my parents are flying to Ireland. Not the parting gift they'd want.

Holy hell this is awful. I'm better today, fever broke, but my hips and knees are so angry and I can't stay upright for long. I'm eternally grateful that the headache has lessened... It was so bad Saturday and Sunday that I could not read. I. COULD. NOT. READ! I also had no appetite, which for me is a sure sign of illness. This girl can eat in the weirdest of circumstances! It's a little better now.  I sound like a dinosaur when I cough and I can stay upright for maybe an hour (improvement).

So, uh, watch out for the COVID. Just because the government says the pandemic is over doesn't mean it's done with us.

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

Do I Know How You Feel?

I had a conversation about grief recently, which made me think about how we talk about grief in groups of people who have experienced it. and how often there's a statement like, "we all know how this feels, we've all dealt with it before." 

I agree to some extent. I think that if you have experienced grief and loss, and you process and deal (of course ongoing) with that grief and loss, there is a collective wisdom and solidarity there. You can see someone else who has experienced grief and know that you have both had a loss of some kind and there are probably similarities to how you felt.  

BUT, and this goes back to fifty billion posts I've done about "we're all in the same boat" and "I've been in your shoes," I know MY grief. I know what feels right to me in moments where I am deep in the pit. I can offer that to someone else, but it might not work for them. 

While I have experienced losses and that gives me heightened empathy (in theory), I haven't experienced your particular brand of loss. I know what it is like to have parents divorce, to have a parent that you don't see more than 2 weeks per year, to have a bad marriage, to go through a divorce of my own, to lose my identity and remake it, to lose the idea that I could have a baby unassisted, to lose pregnancies, to lose genetic connection, to lose pregnancy as an experience, to lose parenthood as an experience, to lose a grandparent, to lose so many things. 

I do not know what it is like to lose a baby to stillbirth. I do not know what it is like to lose a pregnancy after a heartbeat has been detected. I do not know what it is like to lose a parent, a child, a friend, a sibling. I do not know what it is like to lose someone I love very suddenly. I do not know what it is like to be estranged from family. I do not know what it is like to be in someone else's proverbial shoes, because even if we've had a similar loss, our feet have traveled different paths which make it not. the. same. 

This is not to make it Pain Olympics. It's to say that there is a huge difference between "I know what it is experience loss, and I feel for you in your loss" and "I've experienced loss, so I know EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL." I don't. No one does. 

But, we can gather in our collective wisdom and experiences to offer empathy, and support, and a listening ear. We can use our experiences to be there for someone else in their experience. 

A Step Back or a Step Forward?

I am back to school, which means I am in that first-couple-of-weeks exhaustion. I need to make a video message for myself that shows me, in my eye -bagged September glory, saying, "THIS HAPPENS EVERY YEAR. IT IS NORMAL. AND TEMPORARY." 

Unfortunately, this year is one of transitions -- new building leadership, three new special education teachers, many new processes... Which makes it much more, to quote the kids, extra. 

So I missed much of World Childless Week this year in live terms due to first-full-week exhaustion, but the good news is it all lives in perpetuity on -- just click "Menu" and you can see everything for this year's and previous. Stephanie Joy Phillips is amazing and it is free (although donations help keep it going!). 

Otherwise school starting was lovely -- we don't have the slideshow anymore (do not miss that!) and there was no speech that put parenthood as "your most important job." Win! 

But then... I got an invite to a baby shower for a coworker who is due in November. Which I can do! I'm all good with work showers now! So well -adjusted! I opened it and the invite was adorable -- an old fashioned pickup truck filled with pumpkins that said "a little pumpkin is arriving in November!" Awww. So sweet. I was like, "cool, this is cute and I don't feel sad! WIN!"

And then...

A smaller piece of paper fell out of the envelope with the same image. And it said something along the lines of, "instead of bringing a card, bring a book for baby and write your message in it." 


I teared up at my desk IMMEDIATELY. Do you know how many books I still have that have book plates made out to "Baby T____" with a message of joy and anticipation? SO MANY. I don't know how to donate books that have personal messages in them. It was a wonderful idea but ended up extraordinarily painful. And seeing this idea again, for an event that will involve opening and reading and admiring books for baby, it sent that pain right back to the surface. 

I can get books for my coworker's baby. I can get presents. I CANNOT be there for that part. 

And you know what? It's okay. It's okay that it hit me like a sock full of quarters swinging at my head. It fell on the heels of going to a local bookstore and seeing little board books with finger puppets, and they had Halloween ones like Little Ghostie, and a Little Octopus. We used to have the bat and the black cat. That was a little stabby, but then the echo of our own baby shower for a baby that never turned out to exist... It all culminated in a very sad moment that caught me off guard. 

But also, a realization. I can feel that sadness, and not torture myself with going into a situation I know will make me very sad. I'll go, and then leave. Because no one wants a sad crying lady at a baby shower.

And I don't have to "be brave" and prove myself by staying and shoving my split-open grief deep down so it can erupt later. 

What felt like a step back in the moment I saw that smaller paper slip that took my breath away, is actually a step forward. 

Summer Highlights by the Numbers

It's Labor Day, which means summer is over (yeah yeah, it goes until September 22nd or something, but when you're on a school calendar, it's over now). It was glorious and recharging and I did an AMAZING job of keeping July pretty sacred, and then August was pretty much school stuff from the start. But, I feel excited, and rejuvenated, and ready. 

Books: 22 (summer is defined by time out of school, so 6/26 - Labor Day)

My absolute favorite was The Book of Delights, which I wrote about here. Lots of great books, only a couple that were stinkers in my mind (but books are very personal! my stinker might be your ooooolala!). And a wide range of nonfiction, realistic fiction, twisty/murdery, fantasy, young adult, romance, essays...lots of variety. 

Puzzles: 6

Kind of appropriate that I ended on the Summer one. Hand in hand with puzzles is podcasts -- I zone out completely when I puzzle and listen to podcasts. The three I listened to most were My Favorite Murder (Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff's true crime/comedy podcast), Outrageous Love (Dr. Sharokky Hollie's Culturally & Linguistically Responsive Teaching podcast), and The Daily (NY Times). 

Adventures: 4

First adventure: my very first conference as a teacher leader where I got to stay in a hotel, in Ithaca, NY for the Diversity Symposium of Thought Leaders and travel with three other awesome women in my district. We had an amazing time and I left energized and excited (albeit with a mild case of COVID around 5 days later. Not counting COVID as an adventure.)

Second adventure: Stand-Up Paddleboarding in a water trail area of Bay Creek with my friend. So much fun I bought an inflatable board so now I can go any time. Also, I learned that if you must choose between a flock of swans and geese that could nip you and steering into reeds, choosing the reeds puts you in the water with the birds and they just fly away. So, um, yeah. 

Third adventure: I went to a football game. A real, live, SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS adventure with tailgating. I was invited by my newly retired principal (who has season Bills tickets) to go to a preseason game with another teacher I work with, and the game started at 1 but for some reason we left at 8. Apparently there is tailgating in the parking lot and you drink and play cornhole for hours before you watch men in tight pants throw a ball and throw each other to the ground. It was HOT, and SUNNY, and I had way more hard seltzer than water, and my shorts were pretty much soaked in sweat by the time we left, but man it was fun and the Bills won over the Colorado Horses by a landslide. YAY SPORTS! I'm not sure this is the life for me but I was proud of myself for doing something not in my comfort zone. Definitely an adventure! 

Fourth adventure: Driving 1000 miles round trip to southeastern Indiana and back. I drove through Western NY, a corner of Pennsylvania, pretty much the length (height?) of Ohio, a little swerve of Kentucky and into Indiana. By myself. I did not mind (more podcasts!), and Bryce had to work, so off on an adventure I went. I saw a lot of family and enjoyed my new car very much. 

New Car: 1

Helloooooo, Bluebird! Finally! Accident April 22nd, car arrived around August 3rd. Thank goodness for my mom letting me borrow her Subaru in the meantime. I was real glad to have a backup camera again and all the fun bells and whistles, and I've gotten used to the nice middle blue color. Ahhhh, glad to put that behind me (knock on all the wood ever). 

Pretty, no? I also put my Ravenclaw sticker on the opposite window from the magnet on the gas cap that says "Not to spoil the end, but everything's going to be okay." Yay. 

Actual Vacations: 0

This is okay, because Bryce is in the FINAL STRETCH of his PhD and he completed his Research Review this summer. So he worked and worked and worked and we basically staycationed and I went on my fun adventures and homebody times and it was just fine. I am looking forward to having a PhD-Moon when this is all over, which should be before the end of this year! 

And that's a wrap! Off to a new school year, last teacher onboarding day tomorrow and then the kids come on in on Wednesday. Here we go! 

Sometimes Sad Bubbles Up

Last week I missed Microblog Mondays because I was driving to southern Indiana, by myself, to go to my grandma's 85th birthday. (Nope, that's not a typo, she was 18 when she had my dad and he was 20 when he had me, so I'm lucky to have a young grandparent, even if the math makes eyebrows jump sometimes.) I did not mind driving, I prefer it immensely to flying, and plus I had my trusty new Bluebird to get me there. 

It was a whirlwind. I got to see my dad, my sister and her husband, many aunts, and uncles, and cousins, and my cousins' kids. It was a lot of activity and fun to see people I hadn't seen in 5 years (at my grandfather's funeral) -- and so nice that we were celebrating a life together while that person was still alive to enjoy it. 

I came home pensive, and was struck with the magnitude of what we've lost. I am so grateful for the life that we live, but it doesn't erase that when we turn 85 (hopefully), there will be no giant picture of all the descendants. Because there will be no descendants. There will be no family to throw a party and make a speech about the impact our lives have had on the family. 

Also, I enjoyed running after the kids and counting spiders in the windows of the hotel event center with one cousin's little boy and putting the bubbles from the wedding a few weeks ago to good use. It was a lot of activity, and then I came home and the house was so... quiet. 

Now, I also enjoy the quiet. I enjoy the time I get to read and do Pilates and garden and just sit out on the deck in our Adirondack chairs, drinking some tasty Bordeaux and watching for shooting stars like we did Saturday night. Quiet is nice. 

But I did have big fat tears rolling own my face as I talked about how my being sad at the loss of descendants, of the children who look somewhat like the children we might have had that I got to spend time with. And I felt like I had to caveat those tears, and be like "I LOVE OUR LIFE. I'M NOT SAD ABOUT OUR LIFE." 

It's just those two things can exist together -- the resolution and the loss. The joy and the grief. Sometimes it bubbles up and demands to be felt. 

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

Congratulations! (But Also This Card Is Judging You)

I went to a wedding this past weekend, of a friend from school. It was a beautiful wedding, small and meaningful. I have a soft spot for small weddings, and a grouchy-old-lady take on the bonanza that weddings have become in recent years -- so much money and time! This one was just perfect. 

I went card shopping beforehand, and holy WOW. 

You know how when people announce they are pregnant and it's like "welcome to the club" and "yay, momma!" and "This will be the greatest work you ever do?" I feel like most of the time those sentiments don't make it into greeting card prose. Or I've blocked it out. 

But imagining myself as a unpartnered person, shopping for a wedding card? UGH. Soooo many cards that said "Two is better than one" or something along those lines. Seems a big flipped bird, huh? It would be like if new baby cards were like, "Oh finally, you've made a REAL family" or "Now you're a valued part of society!" 

It got me thinking.... There's got to be ways to congratulate people without making one life out to be better than another.

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

My Corner Garden

When we moved into our new house, pretty much everything inside was all set, minus paint, but the outside was a blank canvas. It turns out it's a canvas that's very difficult to paint, as we have poor soil, invasive Jumping Worms, rocks, invasive weeds/vines/root systems, poison ivy galore, deer, rabbits, groundhogs, chipmunks, walnut trees (poison the soil with juglone anywhere within the dripline/where leaves fall/where squirrels put the nuts...which is EVERYWHERE), and now a pervasive drought. 

I have made the best of it and planted all the spiky, aromatic things with good survival skills and taken note of what works and what doesn't and chalked it all up to learning curve. 

One of my favorite garden spots is the corner garden. You can't see it from the house. This prompted a garden guy who was pitching to help with some hardscaping to say "Why would you ever plant a garden there? You won't ever see it!" We did not hire him. 

Corner garden earlier in the summer

Because, I had a vision. I wanted a garden that would be for everyone to enjoy. I might not see it from literally any windows in the house, but I see it every time I leave or come home. Anyone walking on the street can see it. And when there are no humans around, it is enjoyed by pollinators galore including honeybees, bumblebees, wasps, hoverflies, various butterflies and moths, and hummingbirds. Unfortunately the deer and groundhogs seem to enjoy it in the spring also, but once all the spiky/herby plants mature, they pretty leave it alone (although I probably just jinxed it). 

Spiky stuff

I love this garden because it is not just for me. It's for everyone, human and not. It is enjoyed regardless of whether humans go anywhere near it.

I also bought a bench recently, that I envisioned going against the house by my birdbath garden so I could sit and enjoy. It turned out that it was a weird space for a bench, next to a heat pump/AC unit, and so awkward and not really such a great place to sit. Oh well. 

But then, today, I moved it to the corner garden. Originally when I said I was going to move it there, Bryce said, "but will you actually sit out there?" And the answer is yes. I sat there for a good 40 minutes, despite the heat advisory and sweat EVERYWHERE. It's in the shade and it gives me a great view (and a sort of secret hidden feeling). I can see sitting there with a book, with a notebook, or just watching the bees and the visiting hummingbird. It's a lovely spot. 

Ahhh what a lovely spot! 

It's funny, because the first plants that went in were dug by my mom, because I was recovering from my hysterectomy and could not do any digging. Then, when I recovered, I dug a bed around those plants, and planted more. It's a little island with pollinator activity and public beauty. It's a labor of love. Every year I amend the soil (AGAIN) and weed and mulch and inspect what is surviving and what is not. And then I do maintenance. It was is a gradual process. I had a vision, which I then had to adjust, and now, slowly but surely, it is starting to look like I'd hoped it would. This is the thing with gardening. It requires patience, a long-term vision, and flexibility. All things which make it so very rewarding when it works.

I always wanted a place to sit and rest when working out there. And now I have it! So awesome when you have a vision and it can be brought to life... not by a miracle or fate, but because of hard work and flexibility and adjusting a plan as you go instead of hard-headed-ly continuing down the same path that isn't working. (Get the metaphor?). Now it is a place of peace and beauty and purpose.  

Look! Bees! Spiky things! A snake about to gobble a globe thistle! 

Chronology of a Corner Garden:

Back at the very beginning... April 2019

May 2019

August 2019

September 2019

July 2020

July 2021

And today! August 6, 2022