Monday, June 11, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: A Different Purpose

Sunday I got to actually manifest something I've visualized since we decided not to get rid of our lovely little red wagon that was definitely meant for a different purpose but instead had been languishing in our back room:

We walked from our home to a local farmstand that was bought by a nursery nearby, and brought the little red wagon for transporting plants. The two hanging baskets of purple scaevola pretty much filled the whole thing up, so we laid some basil and rosemary on top.

We saw neighbors on our way down our street, and they said, "Where'd you get that adorable red wagon?" and we replied, without [visible] sadness, "At our baby shower!"

You know these are our people because they said, "Good for you! What a perfect way to use it!"

I'm mostly not sad about it, because now I can see this wagon filled with glorious flowers for my garden, instead of filled with board books and prizes for a baby who didn't make him- or herself known before the [emotional, physical] cost was too high to continue. (I won't lie, it did make me a little sad when not an hour after we emptied the wagon of its botanical load, a couple came down the street with an actual small child in their wagon and I felt the contrast, briefly...)

It brings me joy, though, to repurpose things this way, to take things from a time filled with hope and fill them with a different kind of hope, for a different kind of future.

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

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Liver Plan Update

It is June, and it's almost time to go to the doctor again and hope that his scale is not of the devil again, and shows the progress that my at home scale shows.

I am down TWELVE pounds as of Sunday. TWELVE!

It is apparently starting to be noticeable, and some people at school have commented on it. I can see it in the shape of my upper belly, which was definitely distended and now is not, and in how my clothes fit. I am less lumpy. I have less fat around my ribcage, which is the dangerous fat, the stuff that infiltrates your organs and makes you more likely to have cardiac issues (in addition to the lovely liver thing).

I would love to lose the whole 20. It's only 8 more pounds, but that doesn't seem so "only" to me. I have done this in a slow and methodical way, where it's mostly changes in habits and a whole lot more exercise -- not any faddy diet or structured program that just may not be sustainable for me. See, I don't want to give up my occasional buffalo dip craving, or summer ice cream, or glass(es) of wine. I want to be able to go out for fancy meals that are decadent and yummy. I just have to work out a lot and watch portions and make it a balance.

I sucked at bullet journaling in May, and didn't write down hardly anything, but I really do think keeping a food diary is incredibly effective. Eating fruit when I'm hungry for a snack more often than anything else is helpful. Getting at least 10,000 steps a day, doing 45 minutes of heavy cardio 3 days a week, walks on the other days, and 1-2 days of sculpting pilates/yoga "tapes" has been a good fitness plan for me. Oh, and once per week tap classes, which is a topic for another post...

I am so hoping that the doctor's report shows what I see. I feel healthy, and more fit than I've been in years. I'm wearing clothes I've not been able to wear in two years. I'm hating my body a little less when it proves it can actually do something I'd like it to do. It feels so good!

Monday, June 4, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: As Good A Chance As Anybody Else

I love Melissa McCarthy. She's funny, she's smart, she's honest, and she's a powerhouse in her industry.

I was reading an article about her in my very intellectual People magazine, and I came across this gem about how her parents raised her to aim for her dreams:

"When I wanted to do something, they didn't say, 'You can do anything, you're perfect!' Instead they said, 'Well, if you work really hard, you've got as good a chance as anybody else.' "


"'Why not you?' is an unbelievably great sentiment to give to a kid. Not entitlement but instead: Work your butt off, and you have a decent chance at this." 

Is that not amazing? It's not a dream-killer, but it's also not "you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to if you just NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP." Which while it sounds great at first, does an incredible disservice to kids (and adults) by denying them the right to fail, to stumble, to have one path not work out and then find another one, perhaps towards a different destination than they'd originally planned for.

Melissa McCarthy's version acknowledges the chance aspect of things in life -- sure, hard work is worth A LOT, but chance plays a bigger role than many would like to believe (being born in particular place, or time... having the person interviewing you for a job be from the same small town or have gone to the same college, the amazing miracle of conception no matter how it was achieved, and a zillion other serendipitous things that can be influenced with effort but really come down to right place, right time).

It takes away the illusion that there are answers for everything, or that anything is deserved, pushing you to do your best and go for what you want.

It's a shame I can't pass this nugget on to my own children, but I can certainly do something to incorporate it into my classroom...because it is a great message for a kid to think on.

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

Sunday, June 3, 2018


It is gloriously cool out, finally, after a week of near-90 (and sometimes above-90) temperatures and humidity. Which wouldn't be so bad if my classroom wasn't on the second floor of an unairconditioned, brick oven of a building. I have come home from school every day with my arms sticking to themselves, in need of two showers per day and usually collapsing on the couch for at least an hour. It is awful, and makes everyone cranky. Hard to learn when there's sweat dripping everywhere sweat can drip.

But this weekend things turned around and a cold front moved in and the week ahead looks like it will be in the 60s or 70s, and we will all breathe a giant sigh of relief as we make our way through the last two weeks of school with kids. They are so ready. And honestly, so are we.

But it's sad, because in that year you become a family, and then it's over. As much as this past week was The Week of the Lunch Detention and the Fifteen Billion "Family Meetings" About Shitty Behavior, I will absolutely miss this group of kids -- I'll miss seeing them daily, I'll miss the fist bumps in the hall (and how I make them do the Big Hero Six "ba duh da DAH da da da" sound as they wave their fingers back), the genuine thank yous that do actually come sometimes, the handshakes after I've stayed after on a hot Friday afternoon so that students can finish their last index cards for the last research project that is slowly killing us all, the way I feel like a celebrity when they see me out in public and I hear "MRS T________!" from across the grocery store or Target or a local festival. It is the lovely thing about teaching -- you live your life in cycles, with kids coming and going in these 10 month periods, and you become close and like family. But then they move on to high school and maybe you see them again, and maybe you don't.

Yesterday I went to the Canal Days festival in the the town where I teach, where they shut down Main Street and have vendors all along the liftbridge over the Erie Canal. I normally avoid most summer festivals for a variety of reasons: a) a boatload of people in tight spaces, b) if ever you want evidence that THE WORLD can procreate where you can't, go to one of these where the strollers and pregnant bellies and baby carriers are literally EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK, and c) I don't want to run into people from a previous life, as I've been fortunate enough to have real limited run-ins with people who sometimes through guilt by association and sometimes through their actions trigger the PTSD from the whole of my twenties. Festivals are tricky that way; people come from all over.

Luckily, I didn't have too much difficulty with any of those (and none for c), thank goodness) -- I went this year to volunteer with a friend of mine at a booth where the teacher's union was giving out free books to kids. I mean, what better way to spend an hour of your Saturday than to hand out free books to children of all ages? It was glorious.

And then, as we walked down the street to check out one last section before walking back to my friend's apartment via the canal path, we ran into two students from two years ago. One of them was both in my consultant teacher English class and my small study hall, and we'd kept in touch via email for a while. She was my student in 2015-2016, the Hopeful Year of Adoption.

Midway through our small talk about life at the high school, she said, "OH! Did you get your baby?"


"Oh! Um, uhhhhh..... well, NO. No I didn't. Last year was...last year was AWFUL. It didn't work out. So, um, no." I stuttered through my reply and hoped it wasn't as awkward as it felt.

Her face fell and she looked, panicked, at her friend and mumbled, "Oh god, oh sorry."

"No no no!" I said, "That is a PERFECTLY fine question to ask. You had no way of knowing that last year was terrible. Why wouldn't you ask? Don't feel bad. Honestly."

She looked a little skeptical.

"Seriously! I don't have a baby, but I have...I have CATS! And lots of energy to annoy my students even further!" That one got laughs from both students, who probably thought I was nuts at this point, but it was ever so SLIGHTLY less awkward than before.

I felt different emotions when later in the conversation one of the girls said who her English teacher was, and it was someone who was actually successful with adoption last June. She had gone through two agencies, one the same we'd used, and one from a different part of the state. That was the one that resulted in placement.

It was my turn to feel panicked, because while I'm sure they didn't even connect the two things, all of a sudden my evil voice in the back of my head started turning my thoughts in a downward spiral, fast:

"oh man, i must sound like a total loser. it worked out fine for HER, and they know someone who adoption DID work out for, and here i am going 'boo hoo it was terrible and didn't work out' and now i am a sad sap of the highest order. 
crap crap crappitty crap. i should have pressed another agency harder. i should have lasted longer. 
i sucked at adoption. i suck. 

I am actually still in a bit of a funk from that interchange. It nestled like a bean seed of sadness in the back of my mind and then sent out roots, unfurling its ugliness all in my subconscious until it took over my consciousness, too. 

Logically, I know it's not true. I know that we did the best that we could with what we were given, and what we were given was more difficult than I had anticipated. I know that it was the best choice for us. I know that I am truly happy with my life as is, and that there is so much to look forward to. 

But I also know that these moments will happen. They will come with their tiny stabby needles and jab me in my most tender spaces. It doesn't mean that I'm not happy. It doesn't mean that I truly have unlivable regrets. I can shut that voice up because she is NOT helpful and she lies. We did look into pursuing another agency at the same time. It wasn't for us. Between the two of us, we'd hit our limit at different points, with different elements of the journey, and we stayed true to what we could handle in terms of time commitments and emotional bandwidth and the expense of it all. And the expense became far, far more than just monetary and we had to end things, and that's okay. 

I'm sure she won't be the only one I'll run into who will want to know what ultimately happened with our journey. But she was the first of the students from the hopeful time. I think it went okay. I am unwinding the spiral and treating myself with gardening, and reading, and sitting outside in the glorious cool breeze. 

Because life is good. Just as it is. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Immerse Yourself in the Future

I was listening to the radio on my way up to visit with my mom and stepfather today, and NPR was running a feature by Adam Piore called "We've Never Been the Same: A War Story," about a company of soldiers in Vietnam who suffered through an incredibly traumatic experience, and how they dealt with the PTSD later. It was compelling, so much so that I found it later this evening to listen to the whole thing.

One quote in particular from a veteran named Jeff Wishik struck me: "Immerse yourself in the world in front of you, rather than the one behind you...Immerse yourself in the future, not in the past." 

This is a tricky thing, because for me the things in my past have contributed to the person I am now -- all the good, all the bad, all the ugly rolled up into everything that is my story. I don't think that I can totally let go of of the world in the past, but I don't think that's what he's saying. 

Immerse is the key word -- you can visit, you can reflect, but you can't be a functioning, forward-thinking, forward-planning person if you are forever immersed in the events of your past. 

Memorial Day weekend marks the last of the anniversaries regarding our decision to end our parenting journey, and since the spring is so very chock full of anniversaries that could easily turn me into partial goo, I feel like I have grief fatigue to a point. This is the weekend where we got all our nursery stuff into the living room so that I could help load it into the woman's car who came to pick it up for her organization. This is when we no longer had a nursery or any of the trappings necessary to have a baby, and so it was utterly, painfully clear that the decision was made and there was no going back. It was done. 

Although this was the hardest of the days last year, it was an anniversary time that did not make me feel horrid. And I think that is because we spent this weekend immersing ourselves in the world and life that is in front of us, and not what it feels like to carry bits and pieces of the life you thought you'd have out to someone's Buick to drive it all away. 

We went for a walk around the Memorial Art Gallery. We walked around Highland Park, and enjoyed the tree peonies, and locust trees, and what's left of the lilacs. I edited Bryce's qual exam paper (no easy feat as it is full of Fromm's paraboloids and photonic waveguides and eigenvalues, but I did it and we sat on a bench by a sculpture to finish going over the changes after starting the project over sushi lunch. I went nuts in the garden and weeded, planted, potted, and just made everything as beautiful as I could. I spent an inordinate amount of time hand-stamping the ASL alphabet typeface onto index cards to serve as bookmarks for my students when we start "The Miracle Worker" this week. 

I immersed myself in the future, and that made me less able to be wallowy and sad. Not that there's anything wrong with being wallowy and sad, but sometimes you just want to celebrate the life you have and not the one you were denied for inexplicable reasons. 

The end of the podcast spoke to me too: when they talk about how sharing stories helps to lessen PTSD, helps you to process traumas of many kinds, and makes it so that you aren't holding your pain alone. I so appreciate this community for those shared stories, for the communal holding of the pain (and the joy). 

Inside this incredible allee of trees at the art gallery

Our gorgeous art gallery castle

So much in bloom!

Home sweet home

My chair in with all the plants about to explode!

Pretty tree peony at Highland Park

Sunny yellow tree peonies

Gorgeous pink locust tree, like a sweet pea tree!

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Magnet for Misfortune: The Elevator Story

Ah, the delicate art of being Jess.

I have a knack for weird injuries:

I dislocated my knee in high school doing a dorky jump for joy at the sight of flat after flat of pansies in a nursery -- I also ran track but that is NOT how I busted my knee.

In P.E. class, if there was a ball in play, it would land injuriously somewhere on my body: a soccer ball to the gut, a foul softball to the head, a basketball to the head, etc.

At the dress rehearsal for my senior recital, I walked out onto the stage and fell into the footlights that were unsecured for some godforsaken reason, bashing my shin and narrowly saving my violin from a shattered doom.

I have slammed my other shin in my own car door so hard I still have the shadow of a bruise, a year later.

Bruises are like freckles to me, constantly appearing out of nowhere, peppering my lovely pasty white skin with fun colors.

The night before I left for the D.C. trip, I went to get my suitcase out of the crawlspace closet in our bedroom. Due to some shoddy construction (NOT Bryce's), the door came off its hinges and BAM! Hit me square in the arm, by my bicep. The bruise started blooming right away, and I thought, and so it begins.

Last year, the Year of Urgent Care, made it clear how accident prone I am at school. I was determined, though, not to be the person who ended up in the E.R. on this trip. And I didn't, although it's terrifying to think how close I came.

I sustained the normal bus bruises from being slammed against the seat row when the bus stopped or turned or went around a curve. I didn't get sick with gluten. I felt a little cursed, what with the bus breakdown and the having to be harbored by other buses until we got our own bus on the LAST DAY, but other than that it was fairly uneventful.

Except on the morning of the last day.

We had to run around knocking on our students' doors and make sure they were a) awake b) packed and ready to go and c) had cleaned their rooms. We were running late for breakfast, and were getting on the elevator on the Boy Floor (smart people, they separate the boys and the girls by floor), when I saw two straggler boys headed for the elevator with their luggage.

I held out my arm to stop the elevator, because, you know, electric eye and safety standards, and expected it to open back up so the gentlemen could get on the elevator and reach the buffet of scrambled eggs and bacon in a timely fashion.


I put my arm out (with my lovely Starbucks Latte with one pump of vanilla in it in my hand), and the doors opened back up a little, and then THEY CLAMPED SHUT ON MY ARM. There was an ominous beeping, and I sort of went into a bit of shock as my arm was vise-gripped in between the doors that had NO SAFETY MEASURES OBSERVABLE and it seemed that the elevator could start moving at any minute. I think I was screaming, "NONONONONONONONONO" as my friend was frantically trying buttons to open the doors (I think the floor button did it, Door Open did not). The doors opened enough for me to dart my arm back into the elevator, miraculously with only a little coffee spilled (unsure why my survival instincts didn't have me drop the damn coffee and try to get my arm inside with my hand flatedged...).

And then I cried. And hyperventilated.



Even the school nurse was like, "Holy shit, you could have ended up with an amputation."

Holy shit indeed. That would have one-upped the ice skating field trip fall or faceplant walking into school that resulted in Worker's Comp claims last year, right? It would even one-up the emergency room visit I had in Montreal on a Band/Orchestra trip in high school when I had an asthma attack and was introduced to Canadian healthcare in French (and reviled when I was seen earlier than people who had been waiting quite a while).

I still have a lovely bruise, and luckily it's just soft tissue that was hurt, no break or sprain or anything like that.

But, I will never, NEVER NEVER NEVER put any part of my body in the closing doors of an elevator, ever EVER again.

The one upside was that I caught a very small portion of the Royal Wedding live on a lobby TV while waiting for Security to come out to do an incident report. I saw them walking out of the chapel and into the stairs, and that amazing kiss.

It was almost enough to soothe my nerves after the Elevator Incident, and the fact that when I went to report it, the guy at the front desk said, "Oh, Elevator Three?" instead of shocked surprise. THAT IS NOT THE CORRECT RESPONSE, SIR!

I survived though, with more bruises and a memorable story. And that is how it is, living the Jess life.

On the bus, fresh and just blooming. Also, that's my Hogwarts shirt. 

Tonight -- the upper bruise is from the closet door, the one by my elbow is what's left from the elevator. This picture doesn't do it justice. Bryce is nervous people are going to think he pummels me. Nope, just doors. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Back to Being ChildFREE

When I wrote about Mother's Day, I said it was a day that made me feel childLESS, not childFREE, and I was not alone in making that distinction.

This week though, I am feeling some of the benefits of being childFREE.

I went on the 8th grade Washington D.C. trip as a chaperone for the first time, from 5:30 am.m Thursday to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, and holy hell was that a whirlwind of craziness. It was fun, but as I experienced clogged toilets and puking children and the endless energy of the bus ride (FOUR Disney movies, FOUR, despite having a bus breakdown an hour before Gettysburg and ending up sharing the three other buses all day Friday -- Zootopia Thursday, Monsters Inc/The Lion King/Big Hero 6 Saturday) -- I felt like, "ok, I can do this through school in small batches, I'm good with that."  I mean, I used to bristle a lot more when people would say, "Oh, you're a teacher, all your kids are like YOUR kids," but honestly it does feel like there is some truth to that statement. Having a boatload of 13-14 year olds at once is no one's dream, but while I have them, they are mine and I love them and I can take care of calling maintenance to help fix the toilet and advise children not to walk all over the soggy towels mopping up poo water to show me how squishy they are and soothe children who have puked in the recycling bin. Also, I got quite a lot of hugs.

But then, I got to go home, and instead of having to take care of children of my own, I could snag a little of Bryce's time and sleep until 11 on Sunday and not have to cook for small people or get them ready for school or lessons or whatever.  I could recover without needing to split my energy.

And, with Bryce deep, deep in his qualification exam prep, I can help out and not feel super resentful because I am doing all the childcare. I am picking up more catcare and housecare, but it's not the same as if we had small children. And I am grateful in a weird way for that.

I feel like it's major progress, to be grateful.

Especially since one of my girls on the trip said, "Do you have kids, Mrs. T?" and I realized I have her in Social Studies and so she hasn't been privy to my tale of woe, so I said, "I don't -- it didn't work out. Mr. T and I tried for 8 years in many different ways, but it just NEVER worked out." [mildly cringey, didn't clarify that we did IVF and then adoption and not 8 years of the creepy adult teacher sex]
"Even adoption? What about adoption?"
"Nope, not even adoption. Two years of adoption turned out to be all we could handle. Sometimes you just don't get what you want."
"Oh no, that's so sad!"
"Yes, yes it is. But it's okay. Sometimes things just don't work out."

I DID NOT CRY. It was all very matter-of-fact. And in my head, I thought, "And now I can give so much more to you guys, to my wonderful students who I love and embarrass and laugh with as if they are my own, but then I go home to my quiet house at the end of the day and recoup.

Which doesn't seem so bad anymore, actually.

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