Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Paved With Good Intentions

I am struggling hard with Facebook lately. It's been a love-hate relationship for a while, but I truly struggle with some aspects of it.

Not the connecting-with-other people, although I am starting to wonder how much actual quality connecting is going on. I have this worry that people THINK they are connected, but in fact interactions have become super shallow thanks to a sense of connectivity on social media that doesn't go deeper than "I like this photo of your dog" or "that post was ha ha funny." Not even the sharing of information, of news-related things, current events, things to be aware of, essays to read, human-interest stories to watch or read (I am very interested in the fact that my feed has quickly shifted from pictures and text shares to more than 50% videos, which I think speaks to the shifts this technology has made in human attention span in some ways). Those are great, and I am a sucker for a good panda-bear-rolling-backwards-through-the-week short video, in moderation. These are all things I can stomach about the book of face.

It's these other things I see spread all over Facebook that put me on the hate side. Things that seem to give a false sense of DOING SOMETHING but in actuality seem to be a 21st century iteration of the chain letter email. It's the cut-and-paste things that are driving me CRAZY, and the proliferation of sharing without a) thinking or b) ACTUALLY READING what is inside.

I cannot keep track of them all, there are so many, but I am going to focus on three in particular that have my ire up for various reasons. Before I go on, please know that I am not against cancer patients or foster adoption. I am also not for #45 in any way (I have yet to find a reason to "give him a chance" since every single new thing I learn gives me more reasons to mourn for humanity). But I just cannot get behind these cut-and-paste things that are spreading like wildfire.

Anything that is supposedly in support of people going through a horrible disease like cancer without actually linking to anything helpful to the cause and/or includes manipulative language. 
I see this one ALL THE TIME, and it irritates me EVERY SINGLE TIME. It literally starts with "I'm going to say goodbye to some of you right now..." and ends with something like "95% won't cut and paste in support of those fighting cancer, will you?" Please tell me, how many chemotherapy treatments were funded through cutting and pasting? Where is the link to donate to scientific research, or organizations that support families dealing with a cancer diagnosis? Oh, that's right. THERE'S NOT ONE. Where is the advice on how to call your representative to insure health coverage for various cancer treatments or screenings to prevent it? Where is the information on how to actually support someone who is going through this experience? It doesn't exist. Instead, the cut-and-paste thing bullies you into spreading it about (and I have news for you, not once have I been unfriended because I did not copy-and-paste, despite the threatening language inside the post). And it "spreads awareness" without actually giving you a concrete thing to do to help at all. This one drives me nuts. On a separate note, the ones about the Suicide Prevention Helpline do NOT drive me nuts, because there is an ACTUAL ACTION ITEM in it. You are spreading the actual 1-800 number (incidentally, 800-273-8255) that someone might need on that day or in the future. Give me a phone number to call, give me a website to go to for more information, give me places to donate money or items to actually help. But cutting and pasting by itself? That is not actually doing anything. And yet, they spread.

The post about how much it costs for Melania and Barron Trump to stay in NYC while the skinny budget cuts the National Endowment for the Arts.
I agree that this is good information to know, and it is hypocrisy at its worst. Self-interest of the wealthy at its worst. HOWEVER. Where is the source? Are those numbers accurate? I mean, I've seen a variety of reputable things about the infinitesimal cost of PBS and the endowments for the arts and humanities among other programs that are being slashed "because we can't ask people to pay for them," but I don't know about the cost of secret service in NYC because of living arrangements I can't comprehend. I am aggravated, but I refuse to copy-and-paste or even "like" this one. You know why? SEMANTICS. There is a line that bothers me enough to not want to have anything to do with it. And that line is this, "So in essence the Federal government is giving the Trump family a $183 million annual voucher so Barron can attend the elite private prep school of his choice." Did you catch that? HIS choice. A ten-year-old's choice. I can understand being super upset at the fact that someone who ran for president did not plan or follow through like EVERY OTHER PRESIDENT WHO HAD SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN IN THE WHITE HOUSE (which is a lot, actually). I do not want to debate whether it's a decision that's best for families one family, yada yada yada, because you know that if a certain 44th president had done this a zillion people would be focusing on being irate about the money and not the "Importance of Family Values." BUT. I do not agree with spreading about something that makes it seem like this is at all the fault of or in the hands of a child. It's not his decision. These are adult decisions. Ones I don't necessarily agree with, but leave the kid out of it. So, um, not gonna do that one, either.

The article about the five siblings in Kansas who want a home where they can stay together. 
Wait, what? What possible issue could I have with this one? SO MANY THINGS, that rub me the wrong way to the point of painful chafing. Hear me out. First off, I have absolutely no issue with the article itself, which is about five siblings in central Kansas who are seeking to be adopted together. It is a pull-on-the-heartstrings story for sure -- they range in age from two to eleven and were featured on a TV show, pleading to be kept together. The older kids talk about their wishes for the family that might be theirs forever -- that they be able to do sports, and activities, and go on vacations and have a loving Christian upbringing. The reason for their presence in the foster care system is not given out of consideration for the children's privacy (this sentence was a big DUH in my book, but I'm sure they had to include an obvious confidentiality concern in the article due to the inevitable morbid concern of humans, and I'm sure they still got a lot of conjecture in the comments, which I did not read). The article also says that the response to their plea went viral, with inquiries coming from as far away as Ireland, and the it concludes with the information that the inquiries have been narrowed down to seven serious contender families who are in the process of being considered.

And this is where I have SO MANY PROBLEMS, because this article is being shared all over with the comments and taglines, "Oh, I'd take them all" or "I would if I could!" or "Anybody?" and I don't believe most people who share this story have actually read the article, or they would know that there are already families who have committed to adopting five children and it is down to deciding, I imagine, who is most qualified and prepared for the task of raising FIVE CHILDREN WHO HAVE SUSTAINED SOME SORT OF TRAUMA IN ORDER TO BE SEEKING A HOME. I don't believe that any of these families put themselves in for consideration on a whim. And yet, people who share or comment seem to think that you can just scoop up these children. In fact, someone I know TAGGED ME in the comments of one iteration of this article. As if I could go, "Oh, you know what? We really want a family, and we think that going from the two of us to SEVEN ranging from a toddler to a middle schooler sounds like the perfect solution, 1650 square foot home be damned!"

I did not know how to respond to that one, so I didn't. I pretended that my name is not attached to that article on the interwebs, in the comments. I don't know how to remove it. The story is a human interest one, and it is wonderful to think that they could all be placed together. But holy jeezum, does it add to the trivialization of adoption in the media, to this Orphan Annie fantasy of scooping up children without homes and you'll all be tap dancing into the sunset together. It makes it seem like, "well, you want a baby, you could have FIVE if only you'd consider these children from Kansas!" It completely erases any belief that we have carefully thought out our adoption plans. It makes it sounds that we are selfish somehow for not wanting to take on ANY situation that comes by. And that we are waiting so long because we want to have a little baby.

My ire, explained.
1) Never in my life has a family of seven been in consideration. Some people dream of giant families. At my most optimistic and idealistic, I never wanted more than a family of four -- two children, two parents. More children, more responsibility. More financial pieces, more space requirements. You know we live in a hobbit house. I have space for one child. Once upon a time we would have made space for two had that worked out, but it didn't and so now we plan differently. I have space currently for one that can be in a crib. Wanting to have a family does not mean wanting to suddenly become the Von Trapps. More is not more for us in this arena.

2) Adopting from foster care is not our choice. This may sound harsh, but it's not. We don't have the correct certification for foster, and we did not choose that path for a multitude of reasons, all of them very well-thought out. There are generally no good reasons why children are removed from a home. There is trauma -- whether it's parental death, parents in prison, neglect, abuse, or a variety of other possibilities, none of them trivial. Those are experiences that require working through, and if you decide to adopt through foster care, you need to be prepared to support those needs. I do not apologize for wanting to work through a process that skips over the foster care system, finding a home for a baby before an intermediary is needed. I do not apologize for wanting to start my family with as much early environment influence as humanly possible. I have so much respect for those who choose foster adoption, and I can tell you that it is not a choice made lightly.

3) There is no acknowledgment that adoption, especially foster adoption, is a difficult, complicated process. For those who read the article before offering it up for other people, obviously not them, to take up on the offer, there are actually SEVEN FAMILIES being seriously considered for these children. Only ONE of those will become their permanent family, and it won't likely be someone who was tagged on Facebook. It will be after significant vetting and foster certification and home study activation, and careful consideration that the family in question is prepared to take on five children, ages two to eleven, who have suffered whatever trauma has them in this situation. We are not that family. Anyone who said, "oh man, if only!" is NOT THAT FAMILY. There are also likely to be court proceedings, possibly intricate ones, depending on the circumstances. So it irritates the piss out of me when people think that it is easy to scoop up five sandy-blonde-haired midwestern children pleading for a home,  that then we'll all be sitting around a farm table in our new giant house before going to gymnastics practice and soccer games together, easy peasy. Cue hazy sunset end credits.

4) Out of curiosity, when did you see such a public plea for a group of black siblings? The children featured are in a picture of white, sandy-blonde, mostly smiling kids. I am not at all saying that white children don't need homes, but there tend to be a hell of a lot more children of color who wait in foster care and age out, and where are the public pleas for them? It reminds me of something I saw (ironically on Facebook) about the epidemic of missing black teenagers in D.C., and that there has been very little media coverage of this. Except now that it is being spread on social media there is more awareness, and the police said that actually this isn't unusual. Which should have people really, really angry -- because a lot of children who aren't white go missing and it's considered just another day, and not really news? What the what? There is disproportionate coverage of human interest stories based on race. There just is. And it's something harder for me to put a finger on for why it bothers me in this case, but I think on all the older children who can't garner morning shows to plead for a home and have families clear in Ireland lobbying to be their parents, who don't have sandy blonde hair.

The point of all this is that I am seeing a lot of information spread about without a lot of thinking first. I feel like social media can be very helpful in knowing things that are going on, as long as you realize that you are probably only going to get the perspective of like-minded people if you get your information from Facebook sources. You are more likely to find things that are biased, or manipulating you into spreading information that may or may not be true or helpful. You are more likely to see something and react immediately, rather than thinking on implications or consequences.

I would far rather support causes I care about through actions than spreading a post around. I would rather send a friend fighting cancer a care package, or donate to the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, or give money to the ACLU or Southern Poverty Law Center to fight injustice. I am short on time, but I have sent letters and called my representatives, who thankfully are in support of the things I care about. If you have time but not money, look into ways to support that are volunteer based. If you know someone who is in the adoption process, do not assume that they are just waiting to have a large family dropped in their lap (not always true, but also not actually realistic or possible).

If I had an adoption website, sharing that would be far more useful than including me in a post about children a thousand miles away who already have families in the process of trying to adopt them. I don't, because we are not pursuing private adoption, so just ask me how things are going. Tell me you're thinking of us. That works out better for everyone.

Monday, March 20, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: (Less) Creepy Eye Update

My creepy eye has had quite the workup.

I managed to get into the ophthalmology specialist on Friday, although had I known that a 9:00 am appointment would have me at the hospital until noon, I would have gotten a full day sub from the get-go.

So, it is scleritis, and not the nicer epi-scleritis surface version I was hoping for. It's inside the eye, and the ibuprofen did bupkus for lowering inflammation, so now I am on a regimen of predisone. I HATE prednisone. It gives me hideous heartburn and messes with my stomach. I also have prednisone eye drops, which don't have as many side effects other than somehow being taste-able 10 minutes later (I guess from leaking into my nasal passage or something? Ear-nose-throat stuff is so creepy). The meds are already making a difference, though.

Eye see you! Better, though right?
FEELS better, and that makes all the difference.
(This picture is from Saturday)
The reason I was at the hospital for so long is that scleritis is often associated with underlying conditions that need management, and they tested me for all of them which meant bloodwork, urinalysis, and a chest x-ray. I am clinging to the other side of the word often and hoping that this is just eye inflammation and nothing more, because otherwise I will need to have serious words with my body.

Buck up, body. Quit impressing me with your ability to do weird shit. Just DO WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO, in SOME arena, PLEASE.

Even better after 3 days of Prednisone!
Still not clear all the way,
but not horror show anymore, either. Finally.
Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Okay, Fine, Some Things Have Changed...

I was thinking on the post I wrote yesterday, about being so frustrated at having these markers for the school year go by and having nothing change, to still be waiting, to be staring down the barrel of the end of another year and relationships with students and parents, but also to be staring down the timeline for yet another homestudy renewal.

It is frustrating, yes, and it makes us feel like everything has stood still for us, and it really, really has in the family building arena. I mean, we do have two more profile opportunities under our belt, one reviewed and one blind, but those were both times that maybe we could have become parents. So that's something. We also found out that we are being shown electronically in one more state thanks to a newish agency partnership with an extensive adoption attorney firm. Who knows what that will bring, but it's something new...so that's movement. Sort of.

We still don't have a baby in the house. That's stagnant. We did bite the bullet and buy the stroller and conversion kit for our car seats, so that's growth (even though yet again there's no real baby to use these things yet and it makes for a very depressing back storage room). There's tiny little steps that could bring us closer to our baby, but we just haven't had anything pan out in 19 months, so that makes it feel like we are totally on hold. Because we are. There are times when it is hard to imagine a day when we could become parents, because it's been in the realm of possibility for so long. It's so longed for, but also so fuzzy around the edges, harder to see for all the waiting.

But outside of the family building arena, we have progress of sorts. There are things that have changed, and things that push us forward, baby or not.

- Bryce is nearly a whole year into the pre-qualification exam coursework for his doctorate. He has informed me that I need to stop saying that he's pursuing his PhD, because you're not technically a PhD student until you pass your qual exam, and he's not slated to do that until next year (timing is tricky, his advisor went out on sabbatical which is fine for coursework but not so great for prepping for that pesky qual exam). So while I consider him a doctoral student, he feels he's not QUITE there yet. But, he's moving forward into the program, course by course. And while it's a lot of hard work, especially on top of work-work, it's the kind of stuff that he really enjoys. Being in a university setting, learning and messing with all these neat new technologies and feeding that intellectual curiosity suits Bryce.

- I am trying to finish up my National Board certification. I have two components down, two more to go. I am starting to think that I bit off more than is reasonable doing two writing components totaling over 50 pages at once, but once all the IEP stuff is done then I can dedicate all my extra time to getting that done. And then, if I achieve it, I have five years before I have to renew, and it's one component at a time every five years. Which sounds reasonable. So that's an accomplishment that I am working towards that has forward progress.

- Bryce has been doing some little surprises from time to time, which is new (and lovely given how busy he is and we are, actually). He's always been romantic but in a very pragmatic way. I received real live FLOWERS in February for absolutely no reason other than that I had been very stressed and he wanted to do something nice while at the grocery picking up Prozac for the cat (our life is never boring). He's been trying to make things pleasant when I have the long, LONG school days this busy time of year when I get back home tired and cranky and utterly out of patience and will to cook/do dishes. And just recently there were packages that came, and it turned out that they were BOOKS for me. This doesn't help us declutter, but fun book prizes in the mail are always awesome. I've been helping out when he's having stressy days, and have had the opportunity to go bring lunch to him at his office at the university when I have a break or an unexpected day off thanks to power outages. (The recent snow had us both home.) We balance it out. Things have been quite lovely, despite the stress. And I don't have to tell you again how much that surgery in December improved things -- but I will anyway (not bleeding for months at a time is definitely a boon for my mood and romantical moments). We are fortunate to be in our 7-year anniversary year and more gushy than ever. Maybe more so to make up for the shitstorm that is our family building efforts over time...

- We are trying to make plans to simplify our lives a bit. We stalled out on the "clean a room every weekend" initiative, but plan to pick that back up shortly here. We're going to maximize our space and make our house more livable with the space we have, while making it easier to put it on the market if that perfect house comes along. (Yes, the stagnancy ruins this one a bit because I don't want to move unless we are resolved one way or another, but the market's getting weird and if that perfect house comes up I'll figure out a way to make it work somehow.) I am pushing hard for a cleaning lady. If Bryce is pushing for a landscaping service, I want help with deep cleaning, even if it's just once a month. It will also help us to simplify since the less tchotchkes you have on surfaces the easier they are to clean. This might be a pipe dream, but even if we can divvy up cleaning a little more regularly and evenly it will make a difference.

- We are going to buy some new furniture. I freaking hate our couch. It's an oversized love seat, with an ottoman that we've fashioned into a sort of fake seating bench with pillows from the oversized love seat, and it is WAY TOO BIG for our space and yet too small at the same time. It's deep, but you can't lay down on it all the way. It is a big space hog. And I hate it. We talked about getting a new couch, and I want to push it. Because it will feel like change. And I need some kind of change, even if it's just a streamlined classy new couch (that doesn't collect cat hair in the weave and is stain resistant). I also want a new dining room table, because we are still using the Target set I bought when I thought I might have my own apartment in between living at my parents' and moving in with Bryce after my divorce. I didn't, and so we set it up, but it's a weird sort of dated counter height thing that is beat to crap, and I want something with a leaf that can expand when we have a bigger house and/or for when we have more than two people over. Which is admittedly rare, but in part that's because THERE'S NO WHERE TO PUT PEOPLE. God I have a love-hate relationship with our little hobbit house.

- I am going to plan some plantings. I did a shit job of cleaning up the garden this fall, and I feel like I've been all, "ack, where does all the time go," but I need to plan for some pretties and change up the back garden, which is pretty crappy looking. Bryce made me these great raised beds for vegetables years ago, and the weird weather and time have destroyed them. I have monster herbs (who knew winter savory could become a crazy bush?) that need a new home, because I want a cut flower garden back there, dammit. They edge the patio that we used hardly at all last year, and I feel like they have been ratty and run down long enough. Some pretty tall flowers and pots will make it feel like a little paradise. I am already looking forward to planting it up and moving those herbs. (I just have to inform Bryce that he needs to fix up the walls so he's got a project too, heh heh.)

Okay, so some of these areas of progress are planned progress, but I feel like that makes me feel better. Make plans even though they could get disrupted. Because this on hold business is making me crazy. I sincerely hope that there is a baby waiting for us at the end of this journey, but if there isn't I would hate to have waited to buy a new couch or plant up the patio because I felt paralyzed and stagnant.

Please help hold me to these plans... even just typing them up made me feel better, more like we are experiencing forward movement, if not in the arena where we really, really hoped we would be. We're actually very fortunate in all the other arenas of life. It helps to remember that from time to time, take the sting out of that piece we'd like to fit in to our puzzle. It helps to know that we can rearrange the pieces a bit and make a slightly different picture in the time being, and expand upon those shifted pieces if this just doesn't work out. It helps to know that we aren't just gaping empty holes waiting to be filled with a baby, and that there is more to us than possible, incredibly hoped-for, frustratingly elusive parenthood.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

When Time Speeds By But You Stand Still

I am almost out of the hectic chaos that is annual review meetings, where you go over this year for your students and the plan for next year in the form of IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) -- roughly 13 page legal documents that spell out strengths, needs, modifications, accommodations, goals and for many of my students, plans for post-high school. They are intense. I actually felt lucky to have the days we had off for the giant snowstorm because it gave me time to work on them and get them finalized up, although I spent a fair amount of one day making parent calls to go over plans prior to my meetings. I was happy to have the parent calls I've had so far go well, to hear "yes, that sounds like my child" from parents -- I pride myself in really knowing my students and how to best support them yet push them, too.

This is, although in March, the culminating event of the year in special education. It signals a shift from this year to next year. I also sit in on the incoming 7th grade meetings for the program where I teach Reading and English.

These meetings have me feeling more than a little sad though.

I cannot BELIEVE that here we are, in March, talking about transitioning to next year and I AM STILL THERE. I am not on maternity leave. I do not have any exciting news to share.

When going into the 7th grade meetings, I had to decide -- do I tell parents about the adoption process now? If I was pregnant, it would be apparent that I might not be there next year. But I'm not, and in actuality I've been expecting for 19 months, but without any kind of notice and lately opportunities that are whiplash fast, so do I need to tell them now? I decided not to.

Because if I have to tell ONE MORE GROUP of parents that I may or may not be there the whole year, that I am in the adoption process, to receive CONGRATULATIONS that are well intended but then ward that off with, "well, it's been a while and the process is long and unpredictable, so there's no real baby yet...it's a fake baby right now" which just makes parents look at me like I'm insane...I will literally lose it. I have had to tell people in some shape or form for THREE SCHOOL YEARS that I might go out, but then the year goes by and time passes on (faster and faster I might add) and absolutely NOTHING changes. For me, at least.

I get new groups of students. I get new hopeful faces when my phone rings during class (and shared frustration when it's just an appointment reminder or worse, a telemarketer). I get new sets of parents who are either openly excited for me or worried for what that might mean for their child in terms of consistency, or a mix of both.

I get it. But at the same time, here I am, IN THE SAME PLACE, and nothing has changed. Not yet. So I don't really feel like telling another group "oh, I might be here next year or I might not." Why cause anxiety when so far, I tell them and things remain the same?

It is very hard to cycle through school year after school year and have very little progress on my end, and have to explain the process over and over and over...only to have it not actually matter in the end. There's still time for this school year...I am hopeful that something will pan out before June. Maybe. It's hard not to be a little jaded at the prospect of things working out. And at this point, I kind of hope for a summer placement (although I would take one RIGHT NOW if it was available) because then I can take the whole school year off and not have to have that conversation ripe with hypothetical instability. How luxurious it would be to just have an uninterrupted space of time where I can pretend I'm like anybody else who is expecting a baby, to have it neat and encapsulated.

Except my gestation is hypothetical, and recalcitrant, and unpredictable, and causes mass confusion.

And when the calendar goes to the next month, when the meetings are upon us, when there's nearly only one quarter left of the school year, it just reminds me of how quickly time goes by and how cruelly it leaves us in the dust, standing still and empty-handed, watching other babies get born and my friends' children grow up until it seems we are in some kind of awful time loop.

I still hope, though. Time can't stand still forever. Something will change at some point. I have to believe that or else lose my sanity.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Do Something That Scares You

I am terrified of spiders. Little ones aren't too terrible, but we live tucked into the woods and get all kinds of creepy spiders, including ones in the tarantula family that show up in the garage and occasionally in the basement. Thankfully most of the time I only see them when they are dead because a cat got one, but even dead and curled up they are the size of half dollars at least. Shudder.

A few weeks ago in the English class I co-teach, we were working on 5 minute presentations that the students needed to develop, on any topic. When figuring out thesis statements, I had used the bird-eating spider of the Amazon as an example. So when it was time to give an example of a good versus bad presentation, I offered to do one. On the bird-eating spider. The teacher I work with had one for the classes I'm not in (he teaches five sections and I am in only two), and it had been a tricky week with adoption stuff and migraines, so he said to do it if I had time. 

Well, I tried to put one together but just googling pictures of the damn things had me in tears. Literally in tears, because those things are HIDEOUS. I felt like giant hairy spiders with eyes you can see were crawling all over me. It was terrible. I choked and didn't get past three slides (that I even got to three slides was fairly miraculous, I think). 

Fast forward to last Thursday, when we had no school due to the giant windstorm that devastated our area. It's the busy season for special education, and we had no internet, so I had to go in to Bryce's office at the university where he's getting his doctorate to get anything done. He has a coworker there who, no joke, RAISES SPIDERS. Big ones. Horrific ones. To him, fascinating amazing creatures. To me, a zoo of death. 

He brought in shells of various tarantulas. Shells, you might say? YES. Shells. They molt, like lobsters or crabs. They leave behind hollow simulacrums of their hairy, leggy, multi-eyed selves every so often. That right there made me yark in my mouth a bit. We stopped down on our way out for a walking break, and he said, "You want to see them?" 

Here is where I feel proud, and like I am doing my New Year's Intentions justice. Maybe I'm falling down on the decluttering right now, but I am certainly doing things that scare me. 

I not only said "sure" to seeing horrible hairy shells of spidery doom, but I TOUCHED THEM. I'm not crazy, I didn't hold any of them, because nightmares forever...but I give myself huge points for touching the hairy, sticky legs of giant spiders from Eastern Africa and the Middle East. I touched the hairs one way and then the other (surprisingly soft one way, sticky the other for CLIMBING ON THINGS...), and felt the creepy claws at the end of the legs to help with climbing (bigger on the arboreal tarantula that lives in date palms and is "rather aggressive" according to the spider guy), and felt the sticky pads that were bigger on the arboreal meanie for climbing on trees and such. While it was genuinely interesting, it did not improve my relationship with spiders. Still terrified. 

Another thing that I did that pushed myself in the fear department was audition for Listen To Your Mother, an annual event Mother's Day weekend involving a show where people read pieces about some aspect of motherhood. It's a woven tapestry of pieces with a theme that presents itself to the directors as they hear all the audition pieces, and you just don't know what that thread is going to be. 

I auditioned March 5th, after working my behind off writing a piece. I wrote two, actually, as the first one I had worked and worked and worked and edited and edited and edited (can't be more than 5 minutes) and in the end, didn't like. I had tried to fit too much in. I was not taking all my own advice for students about narrowing my topic and finding a focus. So I rewrote it a week before the audition and then read it aloud to virtually anyone who would listen. I was a reading bully, and I thank every person who listened and timed me and gave feedback. 

The day of the audition my best friend was visiting. She said, "I don't think I've ever SEEN you this nervous!" And she was right. I can talk in front of students all day long. I get more nervous with adults, but I am not afraid to be the person who shares out in awful group activities in faculty meetings or professional development, and I am a participator possibly to the Hermione level. But this was different. I put my story out there in this space all the time, but I don't have to read it out loud. I don't have to perform it, per se. You read it if you like (and I'm always amazed at how many people do read what I write), and I stay in my pajamas or whatever, clicking away over here and not having to see your face when it's read. 

The audition was different. It was baring myself in a way I don't usually. It was opening myself up for rejection (even if that rejection is presented in the most supportive, kind way possible). It was way, way out of my comfort zone. 

But I did it, and I am very proud of my piece. The women who listen and put the show together said lovely things about it afterwards, that it was powerful and an important perspective to share. 

I didn't make it into the show, though. The email letting me know was incredibly kind, and was not (entirely) a form letter as they again noted specific things about my piece. I won't know if it wasn't up to snuff or it just didn't fit the thread, and I sort of don't want to know. 

Because what I want to take from this is how proud I am of myself for stretching myself beyond what's comfortable. For actually writing a piece to audition with and then giving it everything I could in front of those ladies, even if my voice was trembly at times and I was clearly nervous. I did something out of the ordinary for me. And so even though I didn't make it into the show, I feel that this is a first step in taking more risks, in opening myself up to "no" so that maybe I can get some "yes" when it comes to my writing. 

It scares me, not quite as much as giant hairy spiders, but I think it's good to do things that scare you every once in a while. It's good to take a risk in order to possibly have more opportunities. 

Sometimes just taking the risk at all is an accomplishment in itself. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

More Reasons Why My Body Hates Me

One thing I really enjoy about having to renew our adoption paperwork for a third time (some seriousness, some sarcasm) is the medical form.

I get to go my doctor and have him sign a form that says that I am likely to live until my mythological child is 18.

I HAVE A PIECE OF PAPER THAT GUARANTEES LONGEVITY!

Sort of. I like to think of it that way. A benefit of having to be stuck with a TB test yearly is that I will LIVE FOREVER (okay, 18 years) according to my paperwork.

This year I got demerits though, because the box for hypertension had to be checked off next to YES. Which is sucky. My blood pressure has been creeping for a few years. I feel like it started in the death throes of IVF, which makes sense, really, that all that manipulation and stress would raise my blood pressure, but now that's done and it's still high. I do have a stressful job (I love it, but it is not low on the stress until summer), and this whole waiting for adoption thing can be tough on the ticker in more ways than one. But, the past few months have seen my blood pressure in higher brackets than anyone is comfortable with, so I went on medication.

It's a medication that also works to prevent migraines, so it's kill-two-birds thing. Those have also been getting worse and more ocular in nature. Probably, the two things are related. There's another medication that is even better at preventing migraines and does a good job on the blood pressure, too, but that one exacerbates asthma so it was a no go. My lungs don't need to be exacerbated, as proven by my horrific flu experience last year.

Anyway, I started up the meds, and everything seemed to be going okay.

Until the week that just kept throwing me curveballs. I wrote about it on Thursday and was like, "hopefully everything will be fine now!"

Except the week just kept being a jerkface, and Friday had me calling my doctor about a very red eye.
Courtesy of a student who wants to be a surgeon. "I zoomed in!" she said. Also, this is the last day I wore eye makeup. Isn't it sparkly?

In fact, I called my pharmacist first, because the inflammation in my left eye had been steadily increasing since Tuesday, yet I had no signs of conjunctivitis (no pus, no crustiness, I hope you're not eating anything right now...), and I finally figured out that there was a new element that had been introduced. My blood pressure medicine.

The reaction I got from the pharmacist when I described my eye and asked if the meds could have anything to do it was disturbing at best. "CALL YOUR DOCTOR NOW," she said. "STOP TAKING THE MEDICINE UNTIL YOU SPEAK WITH A DOCTOR!" Apparently a lesser-known rare side effect of my medication was a localized glaucoma thing that can steal your vision. Awesome.

So I called my doctor, and they told me to stop the medication and call Monday for an appointment if it wasn't any better. And if it got worse or painful over the weekend, to go to the emergency room.

Okay...that's not freaky at all.

On Saturday, when we were trying to do the whole birthday mystery thing, it looked like this:
Hmm, that's not any better. 
It started to feel a little sore, but I didn't think "a little sore" qualified as an emergency room visit, so we did the birthday thing and Bryce pretty much worried about my eye THE WHOLE DAY. 

And then, Bryce's birthday proper on Sunday found my eye looking like this: 
Ewwwwwwww. Also, least. flattering. picture. ever.
Bryce at this point had googled all sorts of horrific things, some having to do with blood pressure destroying your eyes (although I was mystified as to why my body would choose to destroy just the inside portion of just my left eye), and the soreness started become more noticeable. I couldn't read for more than 5 minutes because the tracking motion back and forth hurt. So I called the on-call doctor to see if they thought the ER was necessary. 

They did. "You don't want to mess with your eyes," they said. Yeah, eyes are pretty important. 

And so we spent nearly 8 hours of Bryce's birthday in the emergency department, not seeing anyone who would peek at my eye until about 4 hours in. 

They called in the ophthalmologist on call, who I'm sure was super excited to come out and see my red eye at 6:30 in the evening. He looked at my eye, checked again for surface damage or to see if the veins were inflamed at the surface level, and dilated the crap out of my poor eyes. Then I REALLY couldn't read. There is nothing sadder (almost) than being stuck in a situation where you have a really good book to finish and you CAN'T READ, first because it's painful for more than 5 minutes at a time and second because the world is a blur. 

I feel like this is a bad Snapchat filter. That yellow business is an eyedrop that was supposed to show if I had surface damage. I didn't, but it stained my face like I had cried pee. Mmmm.
The upshot was, the veins that were inflamed were deep inside my eye. The on-call eye guy decided that it's likely scleritis, which is an autoimmune disease of the eye, which has a slight connection with celiac, my autoimmune disease of the gut. AWESOME. He told me to put myself on 1800 mg of ibuprofen per day (600 3x), and that the inflammation should go down. I asked about the blood pressure medicine, and he said it wasn't a glaucoma thing, although the pressure in that eye was at the high end of normal and higher by several points than my other eye. Hmmm. I asked about the fact that ibuprofen raises blood pressure, and mine was through the roof that day (probably because I couldn't read, har de har har har), and he said it wouldn't be forever. 

Bryce was wildly unsatisfied with the whole thing. He is very nervous there's something else going on. 

I called my family doctor on Monday and went back on the blood pressure medicine, which I feel is just being cancelled out by the ibuprofen. No joke, just two weeks ago when I had my appointment that put me ON the blood pressure medication he told me to stop taking ibuprofen or Excedrin Migraine for my migraines because they don't treat the deeper cause, just the symptoms, and they RAISE BLOOD PRESSURE. So I'm real happy about that. 

Now it is Wednesday, and I have been on the insane amount of ibuprofen since Sunday night. THERE IS NO CHANGE. Literally, take a peek: 

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY
Okay, now my hair is a mess because we have about 2 1/2 feet of snow and so I was able to sleep in due to a second snow day. But the eye is pretty much the same.
What the freak? Maybe it's a little better, I can't tell anymore and my photo album on my phone is disturbingly full of bloodshot eye pictures. I have SO MANY pictures of my eye. 

I have an appointment tomorrow with my regular eye doctor at the glasses place, which I was due for anyway, and they can do the glaucoma puff thing and the eyemapping with a picture and maybe see what the hell is going on. I have an appointment with an ophthalmologist NEXT WEDNESDAY to do further testing. Hopefully my eye doesn't explode before then. That is my worst fear, that I will wake up to goo on my pillow and no left eye. (Sorry, that was gross. But it's a very real fear.)

I suppose I'm happy that the blood pressure medicine that was supposed to help me out isn't trying to kill my eye. I can't help but feel like my body just has it in for me, thought. First the blood pressure, then the eye, now the ibuprofen coursing through my sensitive gut... And no definitive answers as to why there's not any improvement. My body needs a behavior plan -- it attacks its own reproductive function, it attacks its intestinal lining, it attacks its lungs, it attacks my head and vision with evil migraines, it attacks the pressure of the blood in the veins, and now my eye. I JUST WANT TO HAVE SOME TIME WHERE MY BODY DOES WHAT IT IS EFFING SUPPOSED TO. 

I think it will be fine. No one is rushing me into the hospital when I call, and they let me out on Sunday. I just don't want to look like a horror show. I don't want to have a sore muscle IN MY EYE. I want to wear sparkly eye crayon again. 

I don't think that's too much to ask.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Birthday Gone Wrong

Today (well, this past Sunday) is Bryce's birthday. He is 43, which is not a milestone number per se but a respectable one. And I had magical mystery plans for his birthday weekend.

So, so little of those have come to fruition. But like the rest of this past week, it's been a mix of good and bad.

We went to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner Friday, and had a surprise(ish, since the invite was open) visit from an old friend. It was a great evening, despite the fact that one of our servers we're friends with exclaimed, "Wow! You guys NEVER have friends, like EVER!" Thanks, lady.

Saturday I had a smorgasbord of experiences planned. Bryce didn't want presents this year (any year really) and so I planned out a whole day of fun things. Ithaca NY is just over an hour from here, and there are so many fun things to do there that we take day trips or overnights on a somewhat regular basis. Something we haven't done in a while is go to The Museum of The Earth, a really cool paleontology/evolutionary science museum tucked away outside of Ithaca. We went there a few years ago and it was really awesome and timed with some kind of Darwin anniversary, but we just haven't made it again since then despite wanting to and having good intentions.

My planned mystery itinerary went like this:
- Wake up whenever Bryce wants
- Have delicious breakfast involving bacon
- Get in car towards mystery destination
- Arrive at Museum of the Earth
- Enjoy Museum of the Earth
- Go for a walk either near the museum or in Ithaca proper
- Warm up and have lunch at the Moosewood Cafe
- Walk around/hike around Cornell Campus even though it's freezing
- Go to the art museum on the campus
- Walk some more and then hop in car
- Drive to Canandaigua to eat dinner at Rheinblick, a fabulous German restaurant that doesn't mind casual clothes
- Go home!

It sounds like a great day, no?

Except. We got up later than usual Saturday morning, and my eye was bothering me (more on that later). We ate our delicious breakfast that was more like brunch and I figured we could skip Moosewood and just do the other things, mostly indoor, and then go to dinner. There was still time.

And then our power went out.

We had been extraordinarily lucky, because there was a ginormous windstorm that swept through our area last week and it involved up to 81 mph gusts but sustained 60-something-mph winds, and it tore trees up and roofs off and put thousands upon thousands of people out of power. Not us, though. We had power but no internet, but even that came back on after 24 hours. I had a day off school thanks to widespread power outages and so many trees down. Although we had power, there were five big trees that had fallen but were leaning on the big power lines on the main road by our house, and we were afraid one would fall or something would happen when they were fixing things and we were going to lose power, just later.

So when the power went out on Saturday, Bryce freaked. I saw a neighbor walking his dog and he said that there were a few work trucks by where the downed trees were, so maybe they shut off the grid here so they could work safely. That made sense.

Bryce went into full prepper mode though, grabbing all the batteries and candles and a headlamp he got for Christmas and unplugging all major appliances...and he said even if it could be temporary, we had to be ready for the long haul and that meant we shouldn't go off gallivanting elsewhere. Also, he was worried about my eye.

So I helped get a zillion candles out from the candle drawers (yes, candle drawers) and then I told him what my plans were. I guess since the windchills were -10 all that outdoors stuff was ill-fated anyway, but how disappointing.

The power came back on after a bit over an hour, but then it was too late to make the trip for sure. So we decided for sure to postpone my day of fun for a warmer, less crazy day.

We went to see "Hidden Figures" and to dinner at Rheinblick as a partial substitute, which wasn't too shabby! I'd seen "Hidden Figures" when my best friend came to visit, but I was more than willing to see it again. So good, and it got the Bryce Math stamp of approval -- all the equations were real, and there was only one he thought was iffy but "It could just be a difference in notation." Such a smarty I married.

Dinner was completely delicious, with gluten free Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes with chunky homemade applesauce), yummy house salad with a red wine vinaigrette dressing, Schweinebraten (pork roast with gravy, braised red cabbage, and spaetzle) for Bryce and Schweinemedaillons (roast pork medallions in a white wine and mushroom cream sauce with veggies and pan fried potatoes) for me. Definitely not an everyday sort of meal, as the arteries would probably protest, but so, so yummy.

I brought my silly card and a small present to dinner (a silicone mold to make ice balls for whiskey/bourbon). The cards were memorable this year because everything was so crazy with freezing cold and fear of blackout, and it occurred to me how we have both stopped writing about family building in our cards. We used to say something about having gone through so much this year, blah blah blah, or "I can't wait to add to the love we share!" or something equally as forward-looking and hopeful. But after so many years of writing that message and having it BE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME year after year after year, we've decided just to focus on what we have now. The things we're proud of in each other, rather than what we wish was true. There's a sort of freedom in that.

The birthday REALLY went wrong when I woke up in the morning and my eye started to hurt. To be honest, it was sore all day Saturday but in a "I'm super aware of my eye" way instead of an "Oh GOD, my EYE! kind of way. But, I had spoken to my doctor about the eye that is still really quite unattractive on Friday and the office said if it started to hurt I needed to go to the ER.

So guess who spent 8 hours of his birthday in the Emergency Department of our biggest local hospital? This guy.

Worst. Birthday. Ever.
And it was because my eye looked like this:

Not my most flattering picture, but look! My eye matches my shirt!
I sort of like having two eyes. Two is better than one. And Bryce is incredibly protective of my health, sometimes in a way that makes me aggravated because I can actually advocate for myself and manage my own care, but it's sweet that he's so concerned.

And that is how we ended up having pizza for his birthday dinner and rushing through his presents so he could call his family, who had called throughout the day but not spoken to Bryce as WE WERE IN THE HOSPITAL. So you can imagine those calls took a little time.

I felt badly, because not only were my magical plans disrupted on Saturday, but Sunday was THE WORST and we didn't get to have the delicious dinner I had planned (because there was no time for the grocery shopping, which also turned out to be a disaster of sorts since there's this giant snowstorm sitting over us today). He didn't get to watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 on this weird channel we now get on local cable that he'd been looking forward to all day. And neither of us got any work done.

However, I can say that it will be a MEMORABLE birthday, that's for sure. And all things considered, we didn't do too terribly badly:

- Dinner at our Mexican restaurant Friday night with a surprise(ish) visit from an old friend
- Sleeping in on Saturday
- Going to a math-y movie
- Going to a delicious German restaurant, where Bryce wanted to go in the first place
- pizza for dinner Sunday night so no dishes (that one's a stretch)

So, happy birthday, Bryce -- 43 may not be a milestone but it sure got off to a wonky start. May the rest be smooth sailing!