Discouragement and Determination

I went to the injection specialist orthopedic guy last week, and the messaging left a lot to be desired. Words like "degenerative disease with no cure" were used for what has been deemed post-traumatic osteoarthritis of the knee. I am bone on bone at the patellofemoral joint, and the weight-bearing joint is not there yet but I am growing bone at the friction points (apparently not a superpower but a source of spurs), the space is collapsed and putting pressure on my meniscus most likely, and that is going to degenerate further. 

I was told I should not get on the treadmill anymore, not even to walk. I was told that hiking with any elevations is a very very bad idea. I was told that biking could be good, but oh wait, the patella is involved and so actually, no, don't bike either. How about swimming? You could swim (chlorine aggravates my asthma). Pilates is thankfully still on the table. I'm guessing tap dancing is way, way off. 

And then he said "you won't be eligible for a knee replacement until SIXTY." WHAT? What happened to FIFTY? I was pissed at that, but now a whole additional decade has been tacked on? 

He said that the lifespan of the replacement is 20 years, so I'm way too young to get one. The gel injections aren't the wonderdrug I thought they were, they are marginally better than cortisone shots.

He also said that it would help if I lost some weight, but HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THAT IF MY MOVEMENT OPTIONS ARE SO LIMITED? 

I left crying. 

I am going to get a second opinion. Another teacher at my school had a replacement in her late 40s and her doctor has a new technique with a life span of 30 years, and he believes in "quality, not quantity." 

Because honestly, Bryce and I had plans when he was done with his PhD to go hiking and go to Scotland and Italy and Nordic countries. Places with, you know, ELEVATION. Why would I wait until I'm 60 to be able to do those sort of things when 60 frankly isn't promised to me? To anyone? I don't want to be facing a busted bionic knee at 60 or even 70, but I don't want to take my years where I want to be the most active and adventurous and be like, "oh well, you go hike and go up that Scottish castle, I'll just pop wheelies in a scooter in the parking lot." NO. 

Frustrated. Disappointed. But also determined to find a better solution. I'm so angry that my body just keeps letting me down. 

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

Relieving Pressure

I have the propensity to be a bit... Obsessive. Or maybe the word I'm looking for is compulsive? I get sucked into things that I feel I HAVE to do, or get started on something and cannot stop. 

Puzzles, for example. I love the satisfying problem solving in a very low-stakes scale with the added benefit of listening to a podcast while I puzzle. The problem is, once I start a puzzle, it is very, very hard for me to stop. First, I sort the pieces by edge/not-edge. Then I sort the remaining pieces by color as best I can, using handy dandy puzzle sorting trays. Then I put the edge together, and then I pick sections to complete. I had better have nothing pressing to do when sorting or doing the frame, because it is near impossible for me to stop. I can literally lose hours. Bryce has had to turn the lights off in the room I'm in to help me step away. 

I try to find puzzles with sections, puzzles with mini-puzzles inside them (like book covers), so that I can chunk it a bit. And, the other day, I started doing a puzzle and it frustrated me so I said, NOT TODAY, FRUSTRATING MONARCH BUTTERFLY PUZZLE and put it away. Progress.

Another thing I wish I hadn't known about (and now curse you with) is peeling canned chickpeas. They are so much less gritty without their skins, and they taste somehow "fresher," and it is SO SATISFYING. Slipping them out of their skins with a gentle pinch is glorious. Now I can't NOT do it. I do think the texture is worth it. 

I quit doing Wordle, Quordle, and Worldle. It became something I had to do, and especially with Wordle I would get obsessed with my high win record. Which you lose if you forget to play. After a while, it would be 10:00 pm and I would realize OH SHIT, I FORGOT TO WORDLE! and I would do it, joylessly and under a clock when I knew I should be in bed. No fun. It took a lot to miss the first one on purpose, but I haven't been back. It caused me too much stress for something that is supposed to be something entertaining. 

I also took a hiatus from Facebook for January. I typically don't feel great while scrolling through (and the ads keep convincing me to buy crap! Although I stand by the Uproot thingie for cleaning cat hair from carpets and upholstery, that thing is magical). It can easily suck time away. I'll probably go back, but it's nice being on a bit of a cleanse. A dry January for social media, since I don't see the value in actual dry January. Damp January, maybe. 

This propensity to take things to a stressful level is a pattern for me. I think. I'm trying to let things that are meant to be relaxing diversions actually be that without putting all that pressure on myself and undoing any possible relaxation. 

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

"Without Children" Book Review

I went to my local indie bookshop on Small Business Saturday, and as I checked out, the bookseller handed me an advance copy of Without Children: The Long History of Not being a Mother by Peggy O'Donnell Heffington (So sorry to report, it is not to be published until April 2023, but you can always preorder! Authors love preorders!).

"This advance copy came in and I immediately thought of you!" she said as she slipped it in my bag. How cool is that? 

I looked at the table of contents when I got home, and it made me even happier: 

Introduction: We're not having children
Chapter 1: because we've always made choices
Chapter 2: because we'll be on our own
Chapter 3: because we can't have it all
Chapter 4: because of the planet
Chapter 5: because we can't
Chapter 6: because we want other lives
Conclusion: And, if you'll forgive me for asking, why should we? 

I was FASCINATED. This is not a memoir, although parts are the author's experiences. She is a history professor, and it is a history of how women have, throughout CENTURIES, not had children for various reasons, and how society has looked at it over time. It was interesting to have a historical lens for the topic. 

Here are some of my favorite nuggets to give you a taste.

From the Author's Note: 

"We have a term for women with children, which is mother. What we don't have is a great term for a woman without children other than "a woman without children"; we can name her only with a description of what she does not have, or what she is not (i.e., a non-mother)." 

Another note that the author agrees with but comes from the sociologist Adele E. Clarke: "we need legitimating vocabularies for not having biological children -- both 'childless' and 'childfree' are already inflected/infected. We need an elaborated vocabulary for making kin and caring beyond the 'pro- and anti- and non-natalist,' and that does not use the binary-implying 'choice.'"

Heffington ends the Author's Note with this: "The fact that we lack good terms for a life lived without children--that it is on us to explain and define and invent words for this sort of life, a life that has never been uncommon and is becoming increasingly common -- is part of why I wrote this book in the first place." 

AMEN, lady. Call me hooked. 

From the Introduction: 

"In my own life, I have felt a creeping distance between myself and mothers my age...Women I got graduate degrees with, drank too much whiskey in bars with, ran marathons with, have been transformed, literally overnight, into Adults, with Real Responsibilities and Meaning in Their Lives. Meanwhile, I have remained a child, failing to feed myself properly on a regular basis, killing houseplants, and indulging in wild, hedonistic pleasures like going for a run every morning and having a clean living room." 

I literally snorted my coffee on that. But, the point is that there's been a divide that's been perpetuated by society, in particular patriarchal society. Heffington explores how women are put into a category of population-creators, that "mom" becomes the most important role because it creates more humans and so more hope (but also more voters, more patriots, more people like you, etc) and women who don't have children are somehow less, deviant, broken, because they aren't contributing to society in this way. Ew, society. So much elaboration on the social, political, and historical contexts of these beliefs. 

She brings up sexism too -- "It is, of course, equally possible for a man to live his whole life and produce no children, and if fewer women are having children, presumably fewer men are fathering them. But a man who produces no children is not usually identified with that lack." Hmmmmm, so true. Why is not having children always put on women? (hint: patriarchy) 

As I read on, I felt like I was reading a kindred spirit. 

For instance, this piece that explores how we look at the word "mother":  Today, we benefit from the wisdom of Black, queer, and Indigenous feminist thinkers who have taught us that "mother" is best used as a verb, not a noun: mother is something that you do, not something that you are.


And, "As [social scientist Stanlie M.] James frames it, mothering need not have anything to do with a uterus producing a child, or even with whether the person doing the mothering has a uterus or identifies as a woman. bell hooks called this "revolutionary parenting," stripping gendered associations from her term altogether."

Heffington also talks about how not having children is increasingly common: "Overall, nearly half of millennial women, the eldest of whom are in our early forties, have no children, and an increasing number of us don't ever plan to." HALF! No wonder the patriarchy is freaking out! 

The author then introduces the WHYs of this statistic -- the cost of childcare and the shrinking of the middle class, the impact of a rougher economy on prioritizing careers over family building for survival, the impact of the pandemic on people's plans to have more children or children at all because of uncertainty (economic and otherwise), and fears for the future planet that future children would inhabit. 

Heffington pulls apart the stickiness of the word "choice." "The word "choice" has since become a rallying cry of progressive women's movements, a synonym for abortion access expertly pitched to a society with a soft spot for claims to individual freedoms. ... The choice to have an abortion. The choice between career and family. The choice to not have children. Choice was concrete, a specific ask that didn't require making any larger, vaguer, harder changes to the world women made choice in -- or to the world they would have to raise their children in. ... Today, this apparent freedom to choose makes any individual's motherhood or non-motherhood appear entirely deliberate."

This was interesting to me, because I sometimes struggle with the word "choice" myself. I made choices along the way of our journey to have children that ended without them, but each of those choices was due to circumstances beyond my control. Non-choices. There were options, so many options -- but when they didn't work or the existential cost became too great, it didn't much feel like "choice."  Not to mention that the ability to choose fertility treatments or many adoption paths is so dependent on financial means. It's not a choice for so many. 

The problem with options is examined, too -- "Some of us tried fertility drugs or IUI or IVF, decided to stop when it got too expensive or physically grueling, and exist in a gray zone between choosing not to have children and not being able to."


The book is incredible. It examines not just why people aren't having children, but the problems in society and the world we live in that contribute to these "choices." She examines disparities, and the way COVID exposed how American culture loves to say how important family is, but does so very little to actually support and provide networks for actual families, especially in times of crisis. That the whole system is broken, and perhaps we need to look at parenting as a less individualistic activity. 

I could go on, and on, and on. What I love is that there isn't the pitted "us vs them" mentality -- there is an examination of where that came from and why it is counterproductive. How the binary hurts everyone. I loved this book because of the voice, the lens, the validation of different reasons people do not have children, and the insistence on deconstructing a norm that hasn't truly been a norm. A call to do better as a society and value everyone for contributing to the present and the future, whether they have children or not. 

I feel so lucky to have a (heavily underlined) copy of this book way early. I will admit that I was initially nervous about the history aspect of it, that it would be dry or fusty, but I cannot recommend it enough. Heffington writes with a clarity and sense of humor and compassion that makes this an informative and entertaining read. 

My 2022 Reading Year

Part of our New Years goal and wrap up is taking a look back at all the books I've read in the year and categorizing them. While I'm reading, I keep titles in a Google Keep list with the dates I complete them. Then, at the end of the year, I put it all into my journal. 

This wasn't a banner year for reading # of books, compared to past years. I read 77 books, which is low by at least 23 titles. And, when I went through them all, I wasn't as excited about them. I did have some longer books that were out of character for me and I had decided I didn't care if I read fewer books because of the choices I made, but sometimes those were also somewhat less enjoyable. 

Here are my numbers (categories have some overlap so they won't add up to 77): 

Total books: 77

Months with most books read: January and December, each with 9

Months with least books read: March and May, each with 4

Poetry: 1

Graphic Novel: 1

Realistic Fiction: 6

Historical Fiction: 7

Books Bryce Bought Me: 10

Nonfiction (essays and informational): 11

Young Adult: 13

Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 17

Twisty/Mystery: 23

Books by Diverse Authors/Themes of Diversity/Diverse Characters: 30

I had a couple stinkers in there. I almost abandoned Where the Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky (at one point I thought I was going to make a tally for how many times the word "pubis" was used) but then hit that point where if I abandoned it all the time I'd spent reading it would have been wasted. I kept hoping for it to get better. It didn't. Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney annoyed the heck out of me. I found it derivative and lazy, and felt that the author peppered the text with little sayings that were supposed to be "very deep thoughts" but it was like being interrupted by a million bumper stickers while reading. 

In terms of best books, there were actually quite a few, and it's really hard to put them in order. I wanted to keep going, but these were the ones that grabbed me first.

1) The Book of Delights by Ross Gay which I've already reviewed. It was, to be cheesy, simply delightful. (Essays) 

2) Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother by Peggy O'Donnell Heffington. A post is forthcoming dedicated to this amazing book that will be out in April 2023. I got an advance copy from my favorite small indie bookstore, and WOW. So much good stuff there. Next post is all about it! 

3) The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda. A really cool concept breaking down a horrific murder mystery through interviews. Well written and thinky. 

4) The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera. This is a Newbury Award Winner for YA fiction and is a really inventive speculative fiction book that also weaves in Mexican folklore. It's also a really satisfying compact hardcover format (just feels good in your hands). It feels a little Don't Look Up plus The Giver and has just really great storytelling in it.

5) They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. Gorgeous. Interesting concept. I wept openly when I finished it even though DYING IS IN THE TITLE. It's not a spoiler! But it was just gorgeously emotional. 

6) The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey. Oh wow, so inventive and a mix of twisty + sci-fi. To describe it is to ruin some of the wonder. There is a pregnancy pretty prominently featured but it didn't bother me in this context. A thinker. 

7) Everything Is OK by Debbie Tung. A beautiful graphic novel memoir (or memoir told in comics?) that is part inspirational, part a delving into the experience of living with severe depression and anxiety. 

8) Little Weirds by Jenny Slate. Yup, they were little weird essays, but man, I related. They were funny and heartwarming and strange. I adore Jenny Slate and I adored her more after reading this book. 

9) The Hacienda by Isabel Canas. Straight up one of the creepiest books I read this year, and full of Mexican history. It felt a little like a combo of The Thornbirds, Jane Eyre, and The Haunting of Hill House. So good. 

10) The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. I avoided this one forever because it was "popular" and I saw it everywhere. Oh man, was it fun. It was unexpected and quirky, sometimes creepy, and altogether a delight. 

For this next year, I want to read books I want to read, and I'm going to abandon ones that don't feel right to me so I can read the ones that are enjoyable. I'm going to aim to read one Bryce Pick a month, minimum. He got me some really good ones for Christmas and I have a bit of a back catalog going of unreads from him. Other than that, I want to continue diversifying my reading lists. 

What were your favorites of 2022?

Want to read some #Microblog Mondays, perhaps ones that qualify as Micro? Go here and enjoy! 

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Happy New Year! 

For the past few years, Bryce and I have spent time on New Years' Eve with three connected rituals. First, we do a roundup of the year -- what did we accomplish? What was good? What was shitty? Any notable events (including things like "bought a treadmill" or "hired a cleaning lady" or "started ordering Hello Fresh) go on the list. Then, we look back at last year's goals and evaluate -- what did we do? What didn't happen? What needs to be either abandoned or made into smaller, more manageable goals? Lastly, we make our goals for the coming year, broken down into categories (Home/Garden, Finances/Future Planning, Health & Wellness, Writing, PhD, School, Leisure, Family/Travel, and Things to Buy (like big purchases to plan for). 

The roundup is generally fun, especially now that we aren't regularly filled with angst. We referenced calendars and Google Photos for some of it. It's a good way to acknowledge the year that's ending and fully remember everything that happened, for better or worse. I did this sitting at the kitchen counter while Bryce made a Hungarian mushroom soup for our dinner (it was sooo good, creamy and tangy and forest-floor-y.)

Looking at last year's goals can be a mixed bag. There's pride about the things we managed to check off, and then a hint of shame about things that didn't happen, especially if they've been on the list for several years in a row. It made us realize we need to maybe do quarterly checks on the goals, so those pesky ones that aren't so fun (but are totally necessary) can finally get off the list. 

Setting the new goals is fun, and this year everything was about... SIMPLIFYING. Make them smaller, more attainable, but moving towards larger goals. Leisure had the most goals at 13, followed by Home/Garden with 12. I think this is because of the "on hold" feeling we've had from Bryce's PhD, and the anticipation of having that resolved. There will hypothetically be more time to "leisure!" We were talking about how everything we do that puts us "on hold" is a 7-8 year journey -- the PhD is almost exactly the same amount of time as infertility & adoption, and both put us in a holding pattern of sorts. Big difference...we'll have something to show for the PhD! Har de har har har. Ha. I'm excited about the projects to come.

I did start getting a little overwhelmed and anxious towards the end of our goal-making, and I couldn't put a finger on why. Maybe because there's change coming. Maybe because once the PhD is over, we can do more things. Maybe because we were thinking about travel, and all of a sudden all I could think about was COVID and war and fear fear fear. But, that's just something to work through. And something to consider... maybe the goals can be a New Years' Day thing, so we're not doing ALL the things at once. It becomes a reflection marathon.

It's good to have goals, but it's also good to not take them so seriously that they become stressors. I really love looking back at the year before we look forward to the new one. It's a good tradition that marks time and what we did with it, which I think is especially important as people without kids. Our milestones are important too, big and small. 

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

Abandon Book!

It's been a long time since I've abandoned a book because it made me super mad. I'm not against book abandonment -- I used to doggedly finish every book I started until it dawned on me... Life is way too short and there is way too much GOOD literature out there to waste any time on something that isn't clicking for you. 

I wanted to read something light and fluffy for my last book of 2022, because I'd just finished a pretty unsettling (but excellent) read on 12/30, and I wanted a sort of palate cleanser. 

Okay, now that I'm looking at it that way, I'm not sure why I picked Stacy Willingham's All The Dangerous Things for that because while it's twisty and I really, really enjoyed A Flicker in the Dark, it is about a baby abduction (but also sleepwalking and tracking down the person responsible). Not exactly light material, but usually a sort of twisty, low-effort read. 


I got to page 27 and read a line that made me instantaneously furious. I kept reading to page 51, but it just kept coming back to me. Taunting me. Pissing me off. Here is the offender, emphasis mine: 

"It's always the same: searching for them on Facebook, sifting through profiles and trying to determine where they might live. I look for childless women, maybe. Lonely souls with too many cats and too much free time..."

What. the. actual. FUCK. How insulting. 

And a boring, overdone trope. Ohhh, it must be the desperate childless woman sneaking into the nursery to get a baby of her own. GUESS WHAT, ASSHOLES? The person who climbs into windows and steals babies/children from cribs is pretty much always a man. And it has nothing to do with childlessness, or how many cats you have, or how much perceived "free time" you have, or the perception of loneliness. 

It was almost a throw-it-across-the-room moment, but then I just...decided. Would I rather end 2022 with a disturbing but well written book about an increasingly unhinged woman with mother issues? Or with a book that is diametrically opposed to EVERYTHING I STAND FOR? Even if it only shows (so far) in one line?

I started our Young Adult Book Club's pick, Eight Nights of Flirting by Hannah Reynolds, a light and fluffy (but longish) YA Hanukkah rom-com, knowing I wouldn't finish it. And resolved myself that my last book of 2022 was Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth (again, excellent, but very much like Tender Is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica in that you have to sit and think in silence for a good 15-20 minutes after you finish it, and you feel a little like you need to jump in the shower, but you admire the ingenuity and the way it's written). 

I'm mad that my first post of 2023 is a rage against a book, but that's the way it goes I guess! 

Please, please, PLEASE authors... find some way to NOT be horrifically insulting and outdated with how you portray women that don't fit into a neat and tidy heteronormative mold. Ugh. 

Have you ever abandoned a book that made you mad? Or did you rage-read it to the end?