Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Travel That Wasn't

Last October was our 10th wedding anniversary, and we celebrated with a weekend away at a bed and breakfast not too far away (but far enough to FEEL like a getaway). But the plan was to have a bigger trip this summer, to do our 10th wedding anniversary trip less like a weekend getaway and more like our Resolution Honeymoon two-week California adventure. 

At first we were thinking Washington State, the Pacific Northwest, the Olympic Peninsula. Our thought, because we are nerds, was to spend some of the time hiking on the peninsula and in all those insanely green and mossy forests, and some of the time visiting Snoqualmie and doing a bit of a Twin Peaks tour. Bryce has been obsessed with Twin Peaks and David Lynch in general (he watches his crazy weather reports fairly reliably and our wedding vows include me watching at least one David Lynch film per year), and the outside of the Great Northern Hotel is actually the Salish Lodge & Spa.

Seattle Luxury Hotels, Washington State Luxury Hotels, Seattle WA
Image from salishlodge.com

The inside doesn't look anything like the show, but we figured we could find some awesomely nerdy places to go and enjoy a fancypants getaway either before or after hiking all over the Olympic Peninsula. 

We also thought about sneaking up to British Columbia for a few days, but then it turned out there was so much to do in Washington State that maybe British Columbia should be its own trip. Especially since apparently there's an amazing botanical garden there, and I am a sucker for a good botanical garden. 

Anyway, I had started planning some Washington-trip stuff via Pinterest, when Bryce surprised me over blueberry pancakes one Sunday morning in January, and changed our destination. 

"What would you say about going abroad for this trip instead?"

We'd talked about going overseas before, to Norway, or Finland, or Iceland, or Tuscany, or Provence, or Ireland, or Scotland... but I hate flying and am terrified of terrorism. Bryce argued it was time to live a little, and to do the stereotypical privileged childfree traveling everywhere, and that while the U.S. has a lot of great places to go, there was no reason why we couldn't expand our horizons and cross an ocean. I've done that exactly once in my life, and it was when I was 19 or 20 and my family took a trip to Yorkshire and Bridlington to visit my stepfather's family and see the Bronte's moors and the walled city of York. So, uh, yeah...maybe it was time to go to another country. I could find some way to cope with being super high in the air over an ocean for hours.

So, we started planning a trip to Ireland and Scotland (Ireland for my distant heritage, Scotland for Bryce's) and then the more I started to look into the trip the more I wanted to spend more time in one country and so we shifted to all Scotland for this time. 

I got REALLY into it. It was a good start, since they speak English in Scotland, and so we could get international travel without the fear of not knowing the language well enough in case of emergency. I started watching all kinds of youtube videos on various areas of Scotland. I watched a ton of Rick Steeves. I pinned things like mad. I discovered Scotland is a really great place for Celiacs to go, as there is a LOT of gluten free stuff and their regulations make it super easy, which was a relief. I reread all of Mel's Scottish Trip posts and salivated over all the Harry Potter places. And the hairy coos, of course. 

I started planning an itinerary around seeing puffins, seeing the Jacobite train, and visiting the Loch Ness Monster museum. We also wanted to go see a castle that is apparently some long-ago relative of Bryce's family, so like a super removed "family castle." There was a castle you could stay at but it looked super haunted and while that appealed to Bryce, I did not feel that our vacation needed to include millennia-old ghosts. I bought travel guides.

We were messing with when to go, and basing it off of the dates puffins are most reliably on the island of Staffa. Because I have been dying to see puffins in person forever, and in Maine you can go on a boat and see them on their rocky outcroppings, but in Scotland YOU CAN GET OFF THE BOAT AND WALK AROUND THE ISLAND WITH THE PUFFINS. So that sealed the deal. 

Except... 

Bryce had his Candidacy Exam (which sounds not scary but is basically "Here is my PhD proposal and here is all the research I've already done, here is my plan for finishing this out, here are my publications and my plans to have more publications, and here is why this is useful to humanity...please let me continue towards my dissertation and acquisition of those three amazing letters." His advisor asked him to take more time off from work in order to finish his presentation and proposal and have ample time to prepare. So that started making the Scotland trip sound a little less likely. 

Then the first big US cases of coronavirus hit Washington State around January-February. And it just blew up into an epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, so we were like, "WHEW! Thank goodness we didn't decide to go THERE!" 

And then Europe blew up, and Italy was in terrible shape, and we were glad we hadn't picked Tuscany. 

In March Scotland started reporting cases. 

It became clear that while we may not have gone because Bryce used up his vacation time for his PhD, we were DEFINITELY not going now because there was a full-tilt pandemic, we lived in New York which fast became a new epicenter, the idea of getting on a plane seemed ludicrous, and then we were working from home for the foreseeable future, getting groceries delivered and going nowhere. 

Let alone Scotland to see puffins, the Hogwarts Express, and Nessie. 

I am just not meant to see puffins. We went to Bar Harbor a while ago and went to see puffins on a Puffin and Whale Watching boat tour that left early in the morning, and it was unusually foggy. As we sat huddled on a bench in our sweatshirts, the announcement came over the PA that "If you are here for whales, you will definitely see whales. We're a go for whales. If you're here for puffins, the fog is so thick that it is not safe for us to try to get near the rocky outcroppings where they are, so you will not see puffins today. REPEAT: YOU WILL NOT SEE PUFFINS TODAY. Please exit the boat and get a refund if you only wanted to see puffins." Well, crap. 

And now, I had the chance to see puffins very much up close, and there's a pandemic. Do I think my desire to see puffins caused the pandemic? Absolutely not, I'm not delusional. But I do think that every time we try to do something exciting there seems to be some kind of cosmic shutting it down. 

I have a plan for puffins though. It's real weird but I'm very excited and it's not at all a boat trip through the Hebrides islands, but it will make me feel a little better. Here is a sneak peek: 



Also, we found an interesting video that has given us ideas for an actual Twin Peaks themed vacation to Washington State, whenever we can actually travel somewhere and not fear dying. Our fear of dying is pretty high, and given the United States' response to things like universal mask-wearing and staying home and social distancing, it's not likely that we'll be able to comfortably do that anytime soon. However, the video gave us a vicarious moment where we could, with a lot of willing suspension of disbelief, pretend we were somewhere else. Enjoy, it's 28 minutes but will send you virtually to the impossibly green Pacific Northwest, many locations from Twin Peaks, including the TWO hotels that were used for the Great Northern, which now that we know that maybe we can try to stay in both. 




I'm sad we didn't get to go to any of these places, but I'm glad there are ways we can still plan and dream for a day when we can. Even if it seems that day is ridiculously far in the future. In the meantime, we'll enjoy our peaceful home and the slightly less exotic wildlife we have here. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Quite the Scare

This is Lucky.

He loves boxes. He claims boxes for his own use pretty much immediately upon arrival and vacancy.

Lucky is our furry child who we can legally ignore when he's being an attention hog, at least until he strategically knocks things to the floor. 

Lucky gave us quite the scare -- he was yowling, unable to get comfortable, not eating, and then projectile vomiting across the floor Wednesday night (always night). So I took him to Emergency. 

I did not know two things: 1) he'd be hospitalized for three days and 2) my car battery would die for good and I'd need to get a replacement from AAA in the parking lot of the Emergency Animal Hospital at 2 am while a lovely chain-smoking family, NOT wearing masks, shouted expletives at the billing staff. A fun side effect of curbside waiting is apparently dead batteries (I was one of two in the Emergency parking lot). Also, they kept referring to Lucky as an "older cat" and as a 13 year old I guess he is newly "senior," but it was weird since he is so very playful and snuggly and spry.

Now my battery is brand new and Lucky is home, with a lot of medications to help his mild pancreatitis, inflamed bowel, and apparent monster hairball that has wreaked havoc on my poor sweet boy. He's eating now and seems better every day, an exorbitant amount of money later. Worth it though, because he's our snuggly boy.

Mildly obscene photo of Lucky "helping" with my puzzle and showing off his funky barber job.

Holy crap, 2020, give it a rest already. I can't take all the nonsense you're throwing like confetti.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! (tried to post last night from my phone and it was not having it.)


Monday, June 29, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Garden Therapy

When summer hits, I spend a lot of time in the garden. And a lot of time taking pictures of my plants. I ordered a lot of plants online, because I'm not comfortable going to garden centers even though they're open. Maybe if I go right when they open for the day... They were doing curbside but then it got busy and they stopped (ugh), so I haven't been even though I desperately need mulch and I really want a few more plants. 

I get such happiness from gardening -- from weeding and seeing tangible progress from my sweat equity, from amending soil and clearing new spaces, from carefully planting new flowerbabies and watering them and topdressing them with compost... And then seeing them grow and bloom and return.
 
Yellow columbine with blue brunnera


Pretty pink columbine, like a rocket (covered in cottonwood fluff)

The moon garden, the night blooming phlox is out and the moonflower is covering the trellis, can't wait for that to bloom with its big white fragrant flowers... night blooming phlox smell like cookies. 

Brand new butterfly bush just starting to bloom

Freya bellflower starting to bloom, and plum smokey verbascum in the back (this is a new garden space that was covered in daffodils earlier)

Ooooh, first try with helenium... so pretty and sunny!

The corner garden, the lavender is REALLY happy there

Sea holly "blue glitter" with the purple salvia, so spiky and purple and interesting

"African Sunset" black eyed Susan vine getting started up the tuteur trellis, and you can see the yuccafolium globe thistle behind it like a piece of desert hanging out in NY

The corner garden, just taking off -- still to come are orange and yellow hummingbird mints, purple veronicastrum,  giant blue globe thistles, and echinacea -- most of the coreopsis is blooming but soon there will be magenta ones too. No foxgloves this year, hoping they come back next year.

It's a good reminder that some things will thrive no matter what, but they things you tend to will thrive better. That patience is important because my old gardens took over a decade to get where they were when I left them (sniff sniff) and these are only in Year Two, so any progress and filling is awesome. It takes time and care to rebuild life from scratch. And you have to keep checking back, because it changes and grows every single day. 

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Adoption, Discomfort, and Ethics

I've been thinking a lot this week about our experience in the adoption process and about ethics in adoption in general. Some of this mulling is because of Lori Lavender Luz's excellent post about the Paul Peterson case and an instagram video response from Ashley Mitchell, a birth mother and advocate. Watch the whole video, it is well worth the time. 

It is also uncomfortable. And uncomfortable is important, because it means that you are taking a hard look at things that exist in society that benefit you but that oppress others. It's a common theme in the antiracist books that I am reading and the work I'm doing with my district's Diversity & Equity Council and SEED project (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) -- that if something makes you uncomfortable, if it makes you feel "icky," then that's a sign that it's a practice you need to dive deeper into. The spidey sense is real. We know deep down when things strike an unethical chord, and to examine that can be painful, and uncomfortable, and bring up a lot of "but I don't/wouldn't..." moments, but I am sitting in this discomfort big time, for race and also for adoption. 

You see, this is a conversation Bryce and I have had more than once, and I don't always have it outwardly because I fear that it will sound like sour grapes. That adoption didn't work out for us, so I'm saying the system is flawed. I'm jealous of those who got to parent. I'm bitter because I didn't. 

But the truth is, we started feeling uncomfortable with adoption within a year of the process. And I think one reason it took a long time for us was because we had certain things that we were very uncomfortable with, highest on the list was placements due solely to financial hardship. It didn't seem right. It felt icky, that we could parent a baby because the biological parents couldn't afford it but we could. Seemed a little like there should be other supports in place if financial was the barrier to parenting. The ethics definitely seemed...off. 

Then, we were profiled in a situation where an expectant mom was due in March 2016, and she was in her late 30s and had no other children, and it was a situation (sorry, "opportunity" is how it is presented to hopeful adoptive parents) where the father wanted nothing to do with the baby. There was no financial aspect to the situation, that we were aware of, but it did ring some warning bells -- she was late 30s, no kids, a recent breakup, maybe a sense of panic...it seemed like this could get sticky. We "came in second" and weren't chosen to be matched prospective adoptive parents, which was sad because we knew it was a boy, and I could stand in my nursery and touch the blue and grey onesies I'd bought and dream a little more specifically. Later, in July, our homestudy social worker came to do the renewal, and asked how things were going and if we'd been profiled at all. When we mentioned the March baby (because we always thought about it in terms of the baby more than the expectant mother), she visibly blanched. 

"Oh, you dodged a bullet on that one, that's a very sad situation." And then she told us that the birthmom had changed her mind and decided to parent a few days after the birth, that the baby was already with the adoptive parents and the parental rights surrender had been signed, and it went to court and was acrimonious and, DON'T WORRY, it's really hard for a birth mom to prove to a court that something substantial in her situation has changed once she's signed surrenders, so it's a really small chance that the baby could be returned, but in NY it's 30 days you get to contest, and it was well within that time. In the end though, the court found in favor of the adoptive parents. But now they have to have this open adoption relationship with this woman and it's going to be so difficult. 

You know what was interesting in that moment? In that moment, we immediately felt for the birthmother, and for the baby. That this woman realized too late that she DID want to parent this baby, and that she fought to reinstate her rights, and was denied. And that the adoptive parents were going to, at some point, when their son asked, "Why didn't my mom want me," have to say that his mom DID want to parent him but that they fought it. Of course I feel for the adoptive parents, that they had this baby in their home and were parents and I didn't know their story, but it all sounded so awful on so many levels. 

I would like to think that if that happened to us that we would not have fought it, as hard as that would be, because she wanted to parent her baby and I don't think I would want to parent a baby whose mom fought to keep him, because what would that say about me? What would be best? There were no drugs involved, no financial pieces that we were aware of. It seemed to be one of those "wrong time" situations where it would be hard to say someone wasn't "fit to parent." But I don't know what I would truly do in that situation, because it did not happen to me. But it definitely made an impact in our perspective. 

It made us think, hmmmmm, that's a really ugly situation and does it make us feel ethically awesome? NOPE. We felt like we dodged a bullet but we also felt like if we had reservations for any reason, we should probably honor that because there was likely some spidey sense thing going on. 

The second thing that chipped away at our sense that adoption was an amazing option for everyone was when we did our private path exploration training with the agency. And it was literally said, "put your advertisements in laundromats, check-cashing places, where they're likely to be seen by women in crisis." 

SAY WHAT? 

We left that training not feeling jazzed about new opportunities to find prospective birthparents but horrified that we were basically being trained in how to prey on and exploit someone's financial crisis. Nothankyou. Also, they said that doing the private path meant more opportunities, but not necessarily a higher success rate, and you'd be doing all the fielding of calls and speaking with someone in crisis and deciding what was ethical or not, and that just did not seem a viable option for us. Because, ethics. And needing to dedicate time to my career of helping kids in crisis and who need academic support, not doing the job of a social worker that I was wholly untrained for and also too vested in the outcome to do ethically. 

So it really irked me when people said "it's so worth the wait" and "you will make this happen if you want it enough." Because we were starting to feel like, DID we want it enough to prey on women in crisis? Did I want a baby enough to feel okay with practices that DEFINITELY felt exploitative? 

And that's where Ashley Mitchell's video hit home, because talks about the fine line between adoption and trafficking, and puts out five aspects of trafficking that can apply to unethical adoption: 
  • Propaganda
  • Grooming
  • Trust-Building
  • Disempowerment
  • Exploitation of economic and social class
She says repeatedly that what is shown to hopeful adoptive parents is often very, very different than what is shown to birthparents. And I believe it. I felt like we were frequently being pushed to go outside our comfort zone for the sake of shortening our wait. That we were asked to consider exposures and family histories and situations that we knew from training (and my experience teaching special education) that we weren't comfortable with, because it would "open more opportunities" -- which to me felt like two things -- it would give me more opportunities to weigh ethical choices against my desire for a baby and more heartbreak in saying NO, and it would make it so we had more opportunities and so felt more "cared for" by the agency and more likely to say yes to an opportunity which would result in money. The money definitely felt like more of a central feature than we were hoping it would be. 

Especially when I had my autoimmune flare with my eye and the Prednisone doses made me mentally fragile in addition to the cumulative stress and grief of all our family building processes and losses, and I could not handle my own life let alone the prospect of weighing another life against our options, and Bryce called to say "put us on hold" and our caseworker basically said if we went on hold we'd miss out on valuable opportunities. It incensed Bryce, because WHAT COULD BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN MY MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH and did they not listen when he said I WAS IN CRISIS? Wouldn't it be unethical to try to place a baby with me in that state? WHAT THE HELL? It definitely felt like money and success rate statistics were taking a front seat in that conversation. 

To be fair, there was a lot of talk about "Adoption is about finding a family for a baby, not finding a baby for a family." But it did feel like the talk and the actions didn't always match up. And it felt more business-transactiony than we really felt comfortable with. 

Deciding to end our adoption journey was incredibly painful. It felt like a failure. It felt like a horrible end. It felt like we were saying no to a possibility that COULD happen at any moment. It felt like no one would understand it (and many people didn't). 

But at the same time, it was a relief. It was a relief to resolve, for sure, but it also was a relief because we'd realized that maybe adoption wasn't our cup of tea. It was great that many of our friends were successful in building their families through adoption, and I don't know the intricate details of everyone's situation, but I do know an awful lot of stories that did not sound real ethical. Stories of "winning" against birth parents, stories of birth parents stating that they did not feel remotely supported by the agency, people who had finalizations complicated by fuzzy issues...Issues with dishonesty about birthparent exposures or health history... So many things that were ethically fuzzy. Including stuff outside of the agency, where well-meaning people suggested that we "pretend to go to a church" for the sake of our profile book if our non-religious status may have been a barrier. Because lying about who you are makes a GREAT foundation for a trusting relationship. 

It's easy for me now to say "I would never have," and I don't think I can say that. The desire to be a parent is incredibly strong. But the ethics can be so sticky when it comes to adoption and I can say that there were many, many things that made us very, very uncomfortable. And we were not willing to enter into situations where it felt ethically icky, which probably made our wait longer and then made it so that we no longer had the stamina to continue. We don't really look fondly back at our adoption experience. I don't think it was right for us, as much as I wanted it to be and wanted it to be like it is in movies and TV shows. That is not reality. 

I don't want the takeaway from these thoughts to be "Jess is anti-adoption and looks down on those who adopted." I'm not, and I don't. But I think it's okay to take, "Jess thinks adoption CAN be unethical but it can be done better, for kids, for birth parents, for adoptive parents." That's what Ashley Mitchell and Lori Lavender Luz think, too. Here are some resources from both of them: 

Ashley Mitchell: Big Tough Girl (including adoption education and profile book reviews):
 http://www.bigtoughgirl.com/
Lifetime Healing Foundation: https://lifetimehealingadoption.com/
Under construction, so here is Sit Knee to Knee: https://www.sitkneetoknee.com/
Family to Family Support Network: https://www.familytofamilysupport.org/

These are organizations and individuals who are working to make adoption better, more ethical, and to help unique families navigate delivery. These are organizations that work with hospitals, adoption agencies, birth/expectant mothers, prospective/adoptive parents, and adoptees. I'm sure there are more, please feel free to share in the comments. Thanks for sitting with me in the discomfort. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

What Are You Doing This Summer?

This is my first Monday of summer -- glorious, glorious summer. The end of the school year is always hard, there's a sort of cathartic body release where all the stress (well, most of it?) of the year is suddenly let go and I find myself utterly exhausted and needing naps, and also with migraines. The heat could have something to do with the migraines, too, but I've pretty much been battling them since Friday. 

Of course, last week also had two huge emotional punches to the gut -- I did my car driving parade for my class and we went up to my student in foster care's home that's 30 minutes away now, only to find that she wasn't there, and the other girls who were hanging out the window said "her CPS worker picked her up" which didn't fully compute for me until the next day when her guardian called me and let me know that she no longer lived there and was in a new placement. Again. So I drove up there to pick up the end-of-year swag we'd dropped off and today I got the info for her new foster parent so hopefully I can see her to wish her good luck and see you later (I am trying to set up a mentorship type relationship there). 

Second punch -- I'd been trying to get in touch with another student to give him his end-of-year swag, as well as his locker materials, gym locker materials, pick up the district laptop, and give him his book that I inscribed for him... and it just kept getting pushed back via text until finally, on Friday he said "you can come by around 6." Well, that was an education on the completely demoralizing low-income-housing complex he lives in -- I'd been there before (it's literally set up like pods, it's DOWN IN A VALLEY so you literally "look down" at it, and all my students who've lived there absolutely hate it) but I did not realize they had living spaces that were so devoid of light and humanity. I ended up leaving the stuff outside the door as no one answered but I could hear someone through the peephole, and I did text if he wanted to come down so I could see him, but he asked for me to drop the stuff at the door and to have a great summer and I cried the entire way home at the injustice of it all. 

But, new week, first week of summer, and everyone I talk to says, "So what are you doing this summer?" 

And I really want to say, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Can I just do absolutely nothing? Can I lie in a puddle with a book and my cat and reconstitute myself from this year? Do I have to be ambitious right out the gate? 

But then, to be fair, I do have a lot of stuff that has piled onto my plate in just the last few days: 

- two tutoring clients, to do online
- facilitating at the Leadership Retreat for administrators on topics of race, equity, and privilege
- possible curriculum writing
- A reading list to help me better understand how to be antiracist and understand the state of systemic racism in the United States
     - White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Race by Robin Diangelo
     - Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad
     - Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD
     - Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
     - How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
     - So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo 
     - The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Plus other reading, gardening, GETTING BACK TO REGULAR BLOGGING, and writing. And planning for next year, whatever that looks like. 
    
So, uh, right now my answer to "What are you doing this summer?" is nothing, but I guess that's not strictly true. Seeing it all out in a list like that makes me feel a little overwhelmed, but the important thing is that most of the things on this list are a) on my own time, b) of my own choosing, c) things that I will enjoy, even the work related stuff. 

What are you doing this summer? 

Want to read some #Microblog Mondays that are actually micro? Go here and enjoy! 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Microblog Mondays: The End Is Near

Although I could mean that figuratively, that we are in end times, because it sure feels like that most days, I mean it literally. This is the last full week of school, HALLELUJAH.

I am days away from being able to collapse into a pile of goo. 

I remember back in March when all this started and thinking, "well, I'll have extra time to blog and do stuff!" Umm, no. 

I feel like I'm the final stretch of a marathon I didn't train for (also I don't know what thinking a marathon feels like but I would imagine it's unpleasant by those final miles). 

There are positives, for sure -- I've been able to reach students far more personally and it's created an amazing bond. I have learned new ways of interacting with and instructing and engaging my students in online platforms. Family communication has been frequent, supportive, and better than it's ever been. 

But I. Am. EXHAUSTED. 

Emotionally, physically, intellectually. It's worth it, but I am going to need a good 3 weeks of jack nothing to recover. 

And then plan for another year, that could totally look not so different from this one. 

Except for the luxury of time to plan and reflect. 

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

Thursday, May 21, 2020

My Heart, It Hurts

In all this fervor of distance learning and 1:1 Google Meets with students, sometimes all a student wants to do is talk. Which is arguably an incredibly good use of our time.

I have students who will spend half their time talking about a new LEGO project, or the Nintendo Switch they're hoping to get so they can play Animal Crossing outside. I have students who will tell me about a feral cat they're feeding, or frustration that they have become a primary caregiver for a younger sibling and aren't really allowed to be 13-14 right now. One student said that she keeps seeing other students on their SnapChat stories, having sleepovers and getting together and taking selfies and THEY'RE NOT WEARING MASKS. She said, "These are the people who are going to make the second wave come and keep us from going back to school." There was loneliness under her justified self-righteousness.

But yesterday, yesterday was something else entirely. I am still recovering, as it has thrown me back into a very, very sad place. 

My student in foster care is in a new placement (fun fact: the week we had our last day of in-school, she had her permanency hearing court date, and the SAME DAY her previous foster guardian put in for her to be removed and placed in a new home, so the day after that she had to pack up all her stuff and go from visitation to her new home, and adjust for two days before our worlds changed. Ugh.), and that new placement is still in the county but not remotely close. With distance learning, she can still attend our classes and meets and be a part of the school community she'd adapted to. 

But yesterday, she did not want to do any work. She was in a funk, and she said, "you can try all you want, but we're not doing any work today," and then she was silent. Which is unusual. 

I asked her if she wanted a break, if she wanted to have this time free and come back to work later, if it was all getting to be too much. That we all can need a break sometimes. And she said yes, but then stayed on. So then I said, "Do you just want to talk? We can stay on and just talk, too." 

And this is what happened: 

Student, after a silence: "You know how you said you and Mr. T couldn't have kids? Why didn't you do foster? Why couldn't you take in foster kids?" 

Me, after a deep breath: "Oh, oh boy. (Tearing up) So, normally at this point in the year you guys have more chances to ask me questions, and I'm happy to answer you but it's hard, it's so hard. We did five and half years of medical trying to have a baby -- I had to take so many injections, and have surgeries, and so much went wrong. Like, seriously wrong. I had a couple things that could have killed me, and I lost two babies. It was so hard. And then we tried to adopt, and we didn't know, we didn't know how hard it was going to be. Medical stuff was hard physically and hard emotionally, but adoption was really, REALLY hard emotionally. We kept not getting chosen. We had a long time where we didn't even have the opportunity to be up for choosing. It felt horrible. One time, we got a call and I was at school and had to keep the kids out of my room and there was a baby born in Buffalo that if we wanted to be considered we'd be reviewed that evening and then if we were chosen we'd have to go the next morning... It was so exciting to think we might be parents overnight, and then we weren't picked and I got that call at school and I had to go talk to the school psychologist because I was too sad to teach and she sent me home. It was awful, and then I got sick and I had to decide to stop. And I had to make a new life where we didn't have children, and have that be okay. 
Because foster, you know, you don't always get to raise that child for keeps -- and the thought of that temporary-ness, of all that possibility of loss after so much loss, I can't handle it. So we moved forward." 

It was a little unfair, because she had her icon up, and I was on the video, and I had zero visual cues for how she was taking this information. but then...

Student: "Well, what about me? If I go to foster adopt, you could adopt me, and my mom would be okay with it and she'd love you and I could be your kid."

THIS IS WHERE MY HEART BREAKS IN A MILLION PIECES BECAUSE WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT? Well, first I welled up with tears that just wouldn't stay in my eyeballs and leaked down my face. 

Me: Oh, honey. Oh, wow. I would be SO PROUD to have you as a daughter, that would be so amazing, but I can't be anyone's mom right now. I am not even qualified anymore. --" 

Student: "--You just have to take some parenting classes, and then you can be a foster parent and adopt me."

Me (pretty much failing at hiding any tears or sadness at this point): "Oh, yes, I know -- we had to take parenting classes before, and a social worker came and made sure our house was okay and we were okay, but for foster it's a totally different process and I am just not in a place to do that. I needed to leave that behind to be healthy. All those things that happened, they took something from me. But I would have loved to have you for a daughter, and I can be your friend -- I can be like a crazy aunt when you're not my student anymore and stay in contact and have another _____ Day like we did over Christmas Break, when it's safe. I would love that, I just can't be your mom." 

Student: "Another ____ Day would be amazing, and if you're my aunt I could come sleep over your house..." 

Me: "Um, probably not, but we can do a lot of fun things and I would love to stay in touch way past this year." 

Student: "okay, that sounds good." 

And then the conversation went to other topics and I got off the call and went to my next one, and my next one, and then I had a lunch break and fell spectacularly apart over my avocado toast. 

Raw, heaving sobs that came from a place deep inside that was newly exposed in a way it hasn't been in years. This wasn't a small tear, this was a motherfucking rupture, a hemorrhage. 

First of all, it was immensely difficult to recount my struggles, to summarize over 8 years of hideous pain that has changed me, that left me feeling cored. 

But then, to spend SO LONG not getting chosen, to be passed over time and time and time again, and then to have this beautiful child choose me, oh god that hurts so much. 

Emotionally I want to scoop her up and bring her home, for a hot minute, but then the logical and sane part takes over and I know that this is a beautiful child who is an incredibly hurting child, who has a trauma history that is sooo significant, who has needs I'm not prepared for, and our life is just not set up to upend it and go down that road again. 

I also had the chance to say that our house would be lonely, that she always said she wanted a family with lots of kids because she has so many siblings and she misses them, and my neighborhood doesn't even have a lot of kids, so she'd be so, so bored. That the idea of living with me is very different than the reality of living with me. We love our life but it's not very exciting. And I also said that all that mothering energy I have, all that love I have to give, it all goes to my students, and into school, and so she gets that...just differently than she asked. 

This was so, so, so hard. I still feel hollowed out by it. I feel so lucky to have the trust of this young lady that she felt she could ask. I feel lucky that she would want that. But I feel such a sense of stars misaligned, and guilt, and that push-pull of what's logically possible and what's driven by emotions. 

I called the school psychologist to tell her what happened, so if it comes up in a session it's not a surprise, and also because I wanted to make sure I handled it okay and nothing was inappropriate. 

She was so sad for me, but also said that I did it absolutely the best I could have (and Bryce said the same -- he said "you made it all about how great she is and what she would want, and how you can still have a relationship with her"), and then she said, "You know, no one has a relationship with her the way you do. No one. You can be really, really proud of the relationship and trust you've built with a student who needs that so very badly. And absolutely, you can have that relationship moving forward." 

Well, that's a relief. I'm still crying though. And feeling so sad about a world where kids like her get stuck with shitty family situations, and people like us don't get to be parents. 

Those stars just never quite aligned.