Friday, November 27, 2020

On Thankfulness and Grief

Sometimes Facebook throws out gems of wisdom, and this week I saw one worth sharing: 

 



It's meant to apply to this pandemic holiday, but oh man does it apply to infertility, too. LITERALLY ALL OF IT. 

The tiredness. 

The missing normalcy. 

The grieving heart. 

Swap out "It's okay if you wish the holidays would be the same as they have been in the past" with "It's okay if you wish the holidays looked different from what they have in the past." 

My favorite is, 

You can cry for what you are missing, and at the same time give thanks for all you have.

It's a double whammy, I would imagine, for people fresh in the throes of the pain and loss of infertility, adoption, resolving differently than you'd hoped -- those losses AND the loss of the pandemic (and the pandemic amplifying the uncertainty of treatment, of finances, of stability, of the ability to pursue parenthood). 

This sums up my feelings on loss. You can BOTH see the things that are missing, and be happy about what you have. One does not cancel out the other. I can be grateful and happy for my health, my marriage, my home, my job, my family, and my friends... and also feel the loss that the holidays usually bring because my immediate nuclear family is me, Bryce, and the cat. I can be grateful for that reality, and also mourn my 35 ghost embryos, two that got further than the rest but still didn't stay, and 8 of which became a double lost dream through embryo adoption. They didn't thaw, they didn't take, they were our loss and another couple's loss, and added some hefty guilt to the mix as well. I can mourn the adoptions where we weren't chosen, those moments where we thought we could become parents imminently but just weren't quite right for anyone to say, "I want THEM to parent my child." 

I really dislike the culture that shoves gratitude down your throat. The "Well, at least you..." culture. It diminishes grief. It diminishes the fact that grief doesn't have an expiration date, that it is ever-evolving and cyclical and able to be triggered at any moment, no matter how happy and grateful and fortunate you are in other arenas.

When I commented on Mel's Thanksgiving post, I realized... It's been THREE AND A HALF YEARS since we made the decision to resolve childfree. It blew my mind. In some ways it feels like a lifetime away. In others it feels more fresh. In the comments you say what you'll bring to the virtual table, and you say where you are in life (usually infertility but doesn't have to be). It amazed me that I am in such a different place than holidays past -- that I feel truly resolved, that I can look at my house and see the life we have and not ghosts of the life that just never came to pass. 

But. 

It doesn't mean that grief doesn't live there, inside my rebuilt life. It just has further to go to seep to the surface, unless something cuts deep enough to cause an immediate bleed. 

It doesn't mean that while I will enjoy the (increasingly dwindling) cards that will be coming through the mail, that I won't also notice fertility friends' kids who are now nowhere near babies, signalling a passage of time and a widening gap between my life and theirs. 

It doesn't mean that while I will decorate my house for Christmas and participate in traditions Bryce and I have cultivated over the years, that I won't also feel a twinge of sadness that we will have no one to pass these traditions on to. That much of our collected treasures will likely end up donated and enjoyed by people we don't know, we hope. 

It helps a lot that we're not in the house where I had a room set aside for a nursery, where I had a room that WAS a shell of a nursery. It helps that I don't have to go down the steps and see the Christmas tree and stockings on the hearth that I imagined each year would NEXT YEAR be joined by a third stocking, presents for a baby, some year a child or children racing down the steps to see the magical transformation. Our house now has never had that dream living within it. It's harder to see what we lost quite so viscerally. And for that I am so very grateful. 

This is a hard time for many people, harder now that we are in a pandemic, people are grappling with family loss and financial hardship and isolation and health worries, on top of other issues that complicate the holidays. 

Give yourself grace. Give yourself (and others) the right to both enjoy the happiness and gratitude of the holidays AND feel those losses. To not slap a smile on all the time or always answer with "I'm good! Great! Okay!" all the time. To be honest about where we are in these unprecedented pandemic holidays. It was hard enough before, to feel the pressures of so much joy and togetherness when inside you might at times feel sad and alone. 

I hope you have space for the grace, for the love you can give yourself and others who need to remember that it's a balance, that you can be both happy and sad, both grateful and feeling that something/one is missing. Being able to sit in both of those feelings is what makes us beautifully human.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Home and Adventure

I was tooling around Pinterest (trying to waste my time there instead of Facebook, ha), and I came across a farmhouse-style sign that looked strangely perfect for us. 

I'm not going to lie, I hate most farmhouse-style signs. Like the ones that say KITCHEN or LOVE LIVES HERE or IN THIS HOUSE, WE (and then list of things that family does or doesn't do, and for some reason, not cleaning sticky floors is a common bullet point, which makes me wonder about ant infestations, which doesn't make for good decor if you ask me). My least favorite is ALWAYS KISS ME GOODNIGHT. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before... I see this advertised as an over-the-bed, romantic-type sign, but all I can think is if you need a sign to remind you to give your significant person a goodnight kiss, then you have bigger problems. By all means, if goodnight kisses aren't your thing, that's fine, but a reminder sign on a two-by-four seems like a sad commentary. 

I have bought the occasional farmhouse sign though. I bought this one, when we were going through our transition of trying-to-adopt to resolving child-free. Which was a BIG transition that took a full year (maybe even two) to feel like a reality we were living and learning to love and then loving (mostly).


It was small, and it had a message that spoke to me in the moment. I still have it on my desk in our new dream house, which makes it sound a little obnoxious from the material standpoint, but from an emotional standpoint it's perfect. The gratitude is for our little family of two. 

The sign I found more recently on Pinterest haunted me, and eventually I tried to find it to buy. Of course the link was dead (oh Pinterest, your dead links or links to weird unrelated sites/products kill me on the inside). So a couple of weeks ago I did a search, and found one on Etsy that was just perfect. 

This sign is small too, but bigger than the Gratitude sign. It's hefty, framed in rough wood. But it's only maybe 12" square. It came from a shop in Mississippi, that apparently has many religious and faith-based things (which this in my mind is not). When it came, much like the Love Bats, I couldn't hold off until Christmas. I had to give it to Bryce RIGHT NOW. 

Because again, it wasn't solely a gift for Bryce, it was gift for us and our life together: 



Doesn't that just sum it all up. It was like an extension of our wedding vows, and our way of life, really. It's hanging in our bedroom, and makes me insanely happy when I see it. 

It feels particularly appropriate given the pandemic, as our adventures pretty much have to be at home. And we've done a great job of that, with making our spaces adventurous, like our backyard adventure area with the pond. And all the hiking adventures that we take locally. And all the adventures that we will hopefully get to take when this pandemic is over (which I hope is a reality-based statement). And in all those adventures, no matter where we are, we will be home. Because we're together. 

Life has been quite the adventure for us, and not always pleasant. The years of pain and setback and lost dreams were incredibly difficult. But we had a home in each other, so we came out the other side of it. We have had amazing moments, like building our new life together and finding the house that is our dream home and perfect for the life we now have, not the life we'd hoped for. But a beautiful, beautiful life all the same. We are both adventurous in our ambitions, and in our desires for fun (food, hiking, vacations with adventurous things, but not too adventurous, because honestly we're big homebodies). 

It's so lovely to have a little sign that affirms all of that, to hang in our bedroom, like a secret lovenote to each other.

Monday, November 16, 2020

#Microblog Monday: Beauty in Letting Go

I saw this on social media and it spoke to me:

Found on Pinterest

This was one of the most beautiful Autumns I can remember. I actually got distracted driving because the trees were so insanely gorgeous: vibrant reds, oranges, golds, russets, and even purples, sometimes all on the same tree. It was breathtaking.

It never lasts, though... Even though it was SO gorgeous for SO long, the wind eventually came and the leaves fell and swirled about on the road and now we have the bare stick trees of winter. 

But now we have winter proper to look forward to, and while there's things to grumble about for sure, it is a season of intense beauty in its own right. The snow that sparkles when the sun hits it, ice glazing the trees, frost on the windowpanes, downy flakes floating slowly from the sky, cozy warmth inside while snow blows and swirls outside...

The lesson I take from this is that it is gift to receive the beauty of each season and see that over the annoying things (raking, shoveling, allergies, frozen toes). To enjoy it while it lasts and then look forward to the next beautiful thing. To let go of things that can't stay the way you'd like them to, which is a hard but necessary lesson in a pandemic. At the same time, the little things can be appreciated and celebrated more when they aren't around all the time. It makes them even more special.

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



Sunday, November 15, 2020

A Completely Amazing Anniversary Gift

When I gave Bryce the Love Bats for our anniversary, he absolutely loved them. He also weirdly took it as a challenge, and kept bemoaning that he didn't have anything nearly as thoughtful, and was at a loss, and our anniversary was going to suck because he was meaningful-giftless. I sort of felt like taking the Love Bats down, because the intent wasn't to make him feel lacking but to be a present for the BOTH of us, but I resisted and eventually he hatched a plot. 

Every October Bryce takes a week, just for himself, to do projects around the house and just plain take a breather. Doing his PhD at the same time that he is working a significant corporate-y job means that a lot of things go by the wayside, like hobbies and house projects and stuff like that. The October week has been a staple of Bryce's life before his PhD, but it's even more important now that he's so stinking busy. 

I totally forgot that he had that week off, which was working out great for him and his gloriously nefarious plans, until I came home early that Monday with shingles pain and informed him I was pretty much out the rest of the week and would be home. 

He was so upset and I couldn't figure it out, and then he said, exasperatedly, "YOU FORGOT THAT I'M OFF THIS WEEK, and I'm working on your present. You being home is kind of making it hard to keep this secret... I'm so disappointed because the secrecy was EVERYTHING." He was actually quite bereft over it. 

I promised him that I could put myself in just my office or the bedroom, and I did have to teach a couple virtual kids and Wednesday I'd be teaching the virtual day from home (although in pain and probably that wasn't the best idea), and the rest of the time I could hole up in the bedroom with a book or Netflix. He was like, "ok, but you can't look out the windows. At all. Any of them." 

I was SO INTRIGUED. What on earth was he doing? I also had to promise not to ask questions, so I was dying of curiosity and also really really trying to honor his wishes. Which I did, except I had to eat lunch on Tuesday and I thought it would be nice if I did my own dishes and when I was doing that, I accidentally looked out the kitchen window and saw him in his bright yellow slicker near the brush pile. I felt terrible and looked away, and then later that afternoon, Bryce came in, disgustingly muddy, and said, "I have to shower and change, but then I can show you your present. But no questions until then." 

SO CURIOUS! 

It was almost dark and he was like, "Meet me outside." I was on the phone with my best friend and she was like, "he's not taking you in the woods to kill you, is he?" And I said,"That would make a TERRIBLE anniversary present. Unlikely. But I will text you after just in case." 

 He handed me a heavy MagLite flashlight, and we walked around the front of the house to the street and down the little dead end road that has an entrance to the flatter part of our backyard. We walked onto the grass, and I could see a light in the little tunnel-like part of our secret path behind the magnolia tree. 

As we got closer, it turned out to be a little red oil lamp hanging from a shrub. Bryce told me to take it, and we continued down, past a spooky ghoul and towards a squat pottery owl garden thingamabob. That marked the path that we were to go down, that and my skeleton bat Halloween decoration. 

Oooooooo, spoooooooky

This was a new pathway, and it was littered with all the gravestones that I had been looking for (normally we have quite the graveyard in my corner garden, this year I could only find one headstone which was a mystery now solved) and other fun treats: 




 
 


With the exception of the owl (which had been missing since the move), it was like all our Halloween decorations that I hadn't been able to find (or sadly had been relocated and I hadn't noticed, but in my defense, SHINGLES PAIN). All along a completely new path that Bryce cleared over Monday and Tuesday, with a brand new mini chainsaw he'd bought, to uncover the area by a pond we didn't realize was quite so pond-y, where the people who built our house had had a spot to sit (the bench was theirs, it needs some TLC and rebuilding of boards, but it's in great condition for the amount of neglect it's seen!). 

It was amazing, because of the effort and also it was basically our own haunted wood tour, which was lovely because we've been going to this night walk tour of the Genesee Country Village Museum at Halloween time and they do period reenactment vignettes by candlelight (we've seen Edgar Allen Poe and vampire themes pre-COVID), and we can't do it this year because of the stupid pandemic. So we got a little taste, minus local actors, in our own back-backyard! 

What's great about this gift is it's not just for Halloween...it's like a new little campsite that we just have to walk down the hill behind our house to get to. No trip necessary. We've used it twice and it's just lovely! 

You can see the trail here, and through the trees our house up top

I had my chair facing the pond, and Bryce had his by the cooking firepit he built

Our pond! We apparently share it with our neighbor.

Cooking firepit's virgin voyage

November sunset, from our backyard camp

It's kind of crazy that this is in our backyard. It's the far reaches of our backyard, to be sure, and it definitely underscores that the house we moved to when we remade our life is definitely more country than anything I've ever lived in. (Bryce is from Maine originally, so he's used to this sort of thing without the highway noise, ha). This was a short enjoyment visit, as I was in quite a lot of pain still and had vacuumed and cleared some vines, which was ill-advised, so we stayed until it got dark. 

Last night, though, we had a full on camp night from afternoon to early evening. Glorious that it gets dark so early and we can pretend we've had a whole night out there and then have time to have dinner inside and get into cozy clothes. It is so fun to walk back to the trail in the back and go to our "campsite." 

Bryce's bushcraft setup for splitting wood

Hot log-splitting man!

Oh hey little pond

A nice fire in the firepit, the non-cooking one

Just us chickens, hanging out by our campfire in our own woods...

Something fun and kind of magical about having tea from a "campfire."

We stayed long enough to see the stars come out, and to hear a great horned owl hoo hooting away in the pines across the marsh.

It is so special to have this space. To feel like we can get away, but still run up to a running toilet if we need to. That's a huge plus! I am not a camping girl (I like minimal to no creepy-crawlies, a mattress, indoor plumbing, and zero killers), but I think this is a slow grooming process that Bryce is sneakily doing to get me used to the idea. Maybe a camper thingie would be a nice compromise. It is awfully fun and almost meditative to hang out by the fire and watch the embers glow and burn down to ash. 

Well done, Bryce. You gave the Love Bats a run for their money, and gave us a different gift that we'll have to enjoy for years to come. Even though we're in a pandemic, even though things have been beyond stressful and I came down with the stupid shingles, this 11th anniversary was one of the most delightful and memorable in the books. I love this quiet, lovely life we've built.




Monday, November 9, 2020

Recovery Mish Mash

I'm still at home, recovering from shingles -- the rash is not an issue, but the continuing nerve pain certainly is. However, now I am medicated within an inch of my life and home for the week (I've been out consecutively since Thursday, I taught virtually last Wednesday and was home tuesday, so sorry if going into week two?), with the possibility of more time if I need it. 

This weekend I made the mistake of vacuuming and swiffering while enjoying the effects of multiple pain meds. That was a mistake. I was so excited at the news that Biden and Harris were announced as the projected winners that we went through the house cleaning, to get the actual dust and metaphorical dirt of all that came before in the trash. I just forgot that nerve pain will have its revenge if you overdo it.

Today I did a better job of laying low, but I still checked email and set up stuff and had a meeting about the social justice club I'm co-leading. So I guess maybe not so great. I was like this in infertility treatment, it's hard to truly do nothing. I want to, but I always feel guilty. And now, with our cases rising (over 400 new over the weekend in the county alone)  and being in a Yellow Zone for microclusters, I'm worried we may go virtual before I can see my kids in person again.

Why am I so stressed I got shingles? Ha. 

Leaving you on a funny note. Today we went to pick up an instacart order at the grocery (I was NOT driving) and I got a phone call that said enthusiastically, "HI! THIS IS JERRY AND I'VE GOT SOME FLOWERS FOR YOU--" and I hung up. Bryce was like, "Why did you hang up? That was REAL!" I totally didn't register "flowers" and thought it was one of those hotel special calls or other such scam. I was so embarrassed, I had to call back and say I hit the wrong button, and sure enough a coworker sent me flowers! Whoops. 

Then we ordered pizza for dinner and I got my yummy Caprese gluten free pizza, and I was eating out when I was like, "what the hell? There's no pesto on this!" So I called to complain and they were like, "umm, ma'am, the Caprese doesn't have pesto on it, it's garlic oil for the base." Oh my gracious, I forgot that when I got it last time I swapped the base with pesto. "I'm sorry, you made it right, I'm so sorry for wasting your time! I'm just heavily medicated right now..." Luckily he laughed. 

I hate feeling slow, and a little stupid, and unable to concentrate. I do hate the pain more though so I'll deal with it. Maybe tomorrow will be better! I just have to stay away from the news, ugh. That's some stress right there. 

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



Monday, November 2, 2020

Manifesting

Throughout infertility, I was encouraged to manifest my desired outcome -- to buy onesies to show I was serious and imagine them, like the exorcism scene in Beetlejuice, puffing out into a real live baby; to only allow positive thoughts during transfer and the 2-week wait; to listen to guided meditations that helped to visualize plentiful follicles, and firmly rooted embryos in my plush lining. 

It didn't even seem to work, no matter how hard I tried. It often made me feel worse, actually. 

Well, apparently I could not manifest a baby but I am a champ at manifesting stress, physically in my body. 

I have freaking shingles. Which for me, manifests in a nasty colony on my spine that reaches up to my shoulder blade, but the rash isn't there thing that's awful. It's the nerve pain. It goes from my spine and wraps around my right side along my ribs, along my braline. It hurts to breathe. It is fairly impossible to sleep. 

They told me it was likely caused by stress (REEEAAAALLY? YOU DON'T SAY! WHAT COULD BE STRESSFUL RIGHT NOW???) and I laughed and laughed. And then cried. Because I need this not at all. And it's been going on a week already. 

I need some time, I think. The body is real talented at letting you know when you've overextended yourself. Last night scared me because it was return of insomnia, and insomnia and pain together make for crisis. It just feels like sub plans are also painful, but I think there balance is shifting to STAY HOME, DAMMIT. When you're crying into your planning binder at your desk it's no good. 

Be kind to yourself. Know that stress is great at manifesting in your body. Put your own oxygen mask on first, yada yada yada. I'm off to take some pain meds. Sigh.


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

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Love Bats

 This weekend marked 11 years since Bryce and I got married at our favorite Mexican restaurant -- we are dorks and have SO MANY anniversaries (our date-o-versary, our engage-o-versary, two wedding anniversaries, 10/23 and Halloween)... but I figure nothing's wrong with extra celebrating. 

Usually we do something where we go away for at least one night, typically local, and have a lovely dinner and enjoy each other's company. Well, with COVID that isn't happening. We have been enjoying each other's company pretty much exclusively since March, but we wanted to somehow mark the occasion with something special. 

So, I did a thing. 

I have a friend from grad school who has turned out to be an insanely talented watercolor artist. She has done a lot of songbirds, some lovebirds, a friend's fluffy gray chick... I love her style and had an inspired thought. 

What if, instead of lovebirds, she painted us LOVE BATS? 

What is a love bat, you may ask? It's just like a lovebird but nocturnal. Bryce LOVES bats. He adores them. We both get excited when the little brown bats in our neighborhood go whooshing around in the summer, and we're sad when they go away. A bucket list thing for us is to see the kajillion bats that live under the bridge over the Rio Grande in Austin, TX fly out at dusk. It's supposed to be AMAZING. We did go to Austin once, but for a day trip and had to leave before the bats came out. It was a bummer. 

So anyway, I was like, "can you paint us some bats? As a secret anniversary prize for Bryce?" 

She did not disappoint. This was the hardest secret to keep. Like, legitimately, Bryce got his love bats as soon as I brought them home because I was SO EXCITED that I knew I wouldn't keep it secret. So he got them 10 days early. 

My friend and I settled on flying foxes, because they are adorable and actually Bryce's favorite bat. (Yes, he has a favorite bat.) They're kind of like cats with leathery wings. 

She got going on some sketches, and every time she sent me a text with progress I just couldn't stop giggling. I am great at other people's secrets, but HORRID at poker-facing my own. 






I know flying foxes are technically tropical and so they wouldn't have fall leaves nearby, but the lady bat also wouldn't be wearing an autumnal crown so I just don't care. Suspend that disbelief! 

It was so cool to see them take shape. And then, I got to pick them up. And catch up with my friend, which was lovely (from a distance, tailgate-style, in the parking lot of a Starbucks). 

Then, it was time to give them to Bryce. Like, an hour after I brought them home. I just couldn't wait! 

It kind of looks like a 9 year old decorated that.

I think he likes them...

Love bats in their new home! 

Anniversary shot with the love bats. And of course I'm wearing my bat dress. 


Anniversary prize success! I love it because it is not just for Bryce, it is for our home and for both of us to enjoy every single day. It's unique to us. I can't say there are other people jumping on the Love Bat train! 

If you are interested in my friend's work or commissioning a piece, she can be found at @free_bird_artistry on Instagram. If you have not the Instagram (I don't) I can email you get contact info! It was such a fun process and so cool to have a gift that is so personalized to us. 

We may not have been able to go out for our anniversary, but it was a great weekend of celebration, hiking, food, and wine. And love bats! We really couldn't ask for more.