Tuesday, July 16, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Other People's Kids

We've had a great couple of weeks for getting to enjoy other people's kids.

It's funny, this falls under "things that used to make me unbearably sad after" -- I would go to a house full of kids and all I could see and feel was what I didn't have. I felt the contrast of other people's chaos and noise and sticky hands with the complete absence of all that in our home. When that was everything I wanted and I still felt it was possible, maybe, for us to have a little of that life for ourselves, it sent me into a spiral of sadness to return to our quiet.

But now, I love visiting the chaos, playing racecars and chasing and soaking in all the silliness and the giggles and sticky hugs. Sometimes parents are like, "oh you don't have to get on the floor or keep playing with her/him," because this is their reality all the time and frankly it is exhausting. For them. For us, it's a window into the life we once strove for, a way to get a glimpse of the chaos... And then go home to our quiet, peaceful life, snuggling with the cats and reading a book and having a glass of wine and going for two hour walks without having to worry about keeping to a bedtime or dinner schedule.

Which doesn't seem so empty and WITHOUT anymore, just different.  I guess that's one of the gifts of resolution.

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Use the Rocks

It's weird how much of a contrast there is between my old gardens and these new "gardens" that I am having to start from scratch -- my old house had lovely, loamy soil, in part because I'd amended it with composted goodies for years and mulched it into richness, and in part because it was shady and had thick tree coverage in the back. The new house? It's sandy (like Dust Bowl sandy) and where it's not sandy it's clay, and in between that is a thick layer of rocks. Big rocks, little rocks, most of them around cobble size.

In short, it's real shitty soil for planting things.

On top of that, we have voracious deer who have discerning palates -- tons of black raspberry and weedy things EVERYWHERE, but nooooooo, they have to eat flowers. Mostly ones that are on the "deer don't eat" lists. So I have to plant things and cross my fingers that they will actually take.

Oh yeah, and we have black walnut trees, which make the soil toxic. The roots, bark, dripline, nut hulls...they all give off this compound called juglone, and it basically asphyxiates plants that are intolerant.

Finding a list of plants that are both deer-resistant and walnut-friendly is a little challenging, and then you add in the rocks, and the crap soil, and the vigorously growing poison ivy... it's not exactly super hospitable. More like a Garden Of Poisonous Things than the amazing opportunity for planting my own personal botanical gardens that I'd thought it would be.

But, I am slowly trying to work with this difficult canvas and make things pretty.

This week, my project was creating a garden out of this incredibly weedy, very steep hill along our driveway.

Oddly, I don't have any pictures of it as a weedfest. This was after it was (mostly) weeded and de-poison-ivy'd by the gardener lady I hire to do the highly unpleasant work I don't want to do...
After I dug everything for soil conditioner amendment, roots, and rocks. 
SOOOOOO many rocks. 

It was unbelievable how many rocks were in there. My shovel is all scratched up as evidence. I was so frustrated -- WHY SO MANY ROCKS? They slowed me down. They jarred my shoulders when I hit them and they didn't budge. They interfered with my hole digging for all the plants I wanted to get in the ground. It pissed me off. 

But then, I realized... I can be mad at these rocks for existing, or I could USE them for something and give them a purpose. They didn't have to just be pains in my ass. They could serve a purpose, help me retain soil on the slope. 

I am no mason, but I made little rock walls to try to mini-terrace things where I planted the plants that supposedly can handle deer and walnuts.

There it is, planted up so far with shady plants on the left and sunny plants on the right, and tiny rock walls in between.

Rocks! (and porcupine grass, yarrow, echinacea, and wild bee balm)

Sunny side with rocks! (and strawberries & cream ribbon grass, astilbes, and coral bells)
I hope when I mulch it all that I can retain the rock "walls" as I really like them. I like them because they are functional, and decorative, but also because they were something frustrating and unpleasant that I was fighting, and I figured out how to use them in a way that gave them purpose and even made me appreciate them in a weird sort of way.

I'm better at doing this since the whole infertility experience -- having things be not the way you expected, and then using the unpleasant things to build something beautiful. In our life, we took our sorrow and our loss at not having children (which is still there, just like the rocks), and then found a way to build a new life where we look at how we can enjoy the things that are the flip side to having children. We are fortunate, and have our lovely house, and our jobs that we love (but that take up much of our time), and the ability to have a pretty peaceful, low-key existence that I did not think was possible when we were striving for a different sort of life. I felt like it would be a barren field of rocks, horrible and craggy. When the rocks just kept coming and I realized I was not going to have exactly the garden I'd hoped for, I found a way to coexist with them. And plant pretty flowers around them that I can enjoy.

I guess what I'm saying here is, I could let the rocks piss me off and put them in a pile somewhere like a weird burial ground and have it ruin my day and my gardening plans, or I could take the rocks and try to use them for good. I was still ticked to have to dig them all out, but once I figured out the border idea I actually looked forward to finding more for my "wall."

Now that I'm further out from the rawness of our experiences, I can appreciate the power of this perspective even more. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: An Unfamiliar Funeral

Saturday we went to a funeral, the first of its kind I'd been to.

It was the funeral of a former student, who died of an inoperable brain tumor at just 21.

That alone was heartrending. He was diagnosed last year, and tried so many things to fight the tumor, but it killed him in the end, before he'd had much chance to do so many of the things that make up a life.

The funeral was a Laotian Buddhist ceremony, which was another first. We've been to a Laotian wedding, same family (I taught this young man my first year teaching 8th grade, and when we were having the "what did you do over the summer" conversation, he described a family wedding and I realized that we were at the same one -- we're friends with his aunt), so we've seen and participated in a happy occasion, but this was very different.

I am (somewhat) used to Protestant funerals where there is a program, there is a finite order to things, and you know what to expect -- there is something beautiful though about being thrust into the middle of a culture where you are a complete outsider, where you just sit in the grief with the family and try to absorb as much as possible.

Much of the ceremony was not in English. There were three monks, who chanted and sang in harmony, and there was a row of male family members who were novice monks for the ceremony -- wearing the orange cloth and with shaved heads and eyebrows. The women in the family sat on the floor in front of the (open) casket, wearing all white, a white sash, and white ribbon in their hair -- they were the white nuns (I looked it up afterwards, it seemed in poor taste to ask the mourners what they were doing and why). There was a ceremony where a long white cloth rope was tied to the young man, and then the monks and the novice monks held the rope and there were a series of prayers that repeated and had a cadence. There were tributes of orange cloth laid in the casket. There was a gold bowl of white rose flowerheads with scent sticks to put into the casket before the cremation, as the closing part of the ceremony (we did not go to the crematorium and cemetery, that felt too personal, but then in my online research I found that that is considered part of the funeral itself, and so I felt bad about ducking out early).

It was beautiful, and incredibly sad, and I felt so honored to be a part of it, even though it was so massively unfair that everyone came together to mourn the death and celebrate the life of someone so, so young.

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

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Not Our House Anymore

We weren't really sure what we were doing this July 4th, because we don't do the big community fireworks shows, and our new neighborhood isn't quite the community we had at our old house -- and then we got a call from our old neighbors, an invite to their backyard-and-street fireworks show! We were so excited -- this happened almost every year we were there, and neighbors mosey on over when the fireworks start going off in the street (smaller ones, sprays and aliens and stuff like that, no mortars), and then we move back to the backyard, where our neighbor has an insane lineup of multiple-mortar boxes from Phantom Fireworks. It's all the good stuff from a fireworks show without the crowds, parking issues, or traffic.

Except in years past, we just came out the door and POOF, there we were...and then at the end we helped clean up and POOF, we were back at home.

So it was real weird to drive 20 minutes or so to get there, and to have to find a place to park that wasn't likely to be hit with pyrotechnics gone astray, and to know that when it was over we had to drive home instead of walk across the street.

We showed up and waved, and our neighbors were excited to see us. "The new people don't wave from their car" one of our neighbors whispered, "so I thought that was you!" We apparently drive the same car. Weird.

I am happy to report that my gardens that are not my gardens anymore look lovely -- I had real plant envy. The neighbors said that the new people aren't gardeners, but from what I could see it looked like they were at least maintaining things well. I had to keep repeating to myself, "It took 13 years to get this looking this good. This is THIRTEEN YEARS of garden development" because my new garden spaces are so sparse and first-year anemic.

We were total creepers, looking in the windows (from across the street, we're not creepy!), trying to get a glimpse of what our house looks like when a family of four (and a cat and a dog) live in it.

We heard the familiar sound of the screen door opening and shutting, and a child came out of our house. Sorry, the house that's not ours anymore.

That was surreal.

The parents didn't come out, or rather they briefly came out to sit on the front steps and then went back in, and the younger son was in bed already, but their oldest hung out and watched the fireworks in the street for a good half hour. I guess it's good the parents didn't come out, because I'd think it'd be awkward to be like, "oh, we used to live here" and we couldn't really pretend otherwise since we were with all the neighbors, and we were worried they'd be like, "um, there's some issues with the basement/garage/any number of things that could be wrong with a house built in 1934."

It still felt very Twilight Zone -- here we were, watching evidence of someone else's life in our house, and it was a life we'd wanted but didn't have.

Something made very clear when another neighbor said, obliviously, "Ah, it's so great to finally have some life in the neighborhood, so wonderful to have a family and kids right across the street!"


I have to remind myself that even if people knew that we'd had issues (to put it mildly) with family building, we've moved away and people don't retain that information if they aren't in a closer circle. I don't think it was meant to be hurtful but it was not a good feeling. So sorry we couldn't oblige on that front, so sorry we were the lifeless neighbors across the street.

We saw the amazing fireworks display in the back (oddly many of the people had left to go home by then, which wasn't the case in years past), and it was truly experiential -- they exploded above us and rained down ash and bits of cardboard and even partial tubes from the boxes, and I felt gritty and covered in chemicals until I showered at home. But it was AWESOME. Bryce joked that next year he's bringing goggles.

The thing that was interesting was that we didn't feel sad that that wasn't our house anymore. There was no lingering sadness over losing that stage of our life. We loved that house, but it's funny how this new house feels just perfect for us, tailored for what we love to enjoy, and so the other house seems...less now. It served its purpose. It saw a lot of joy, but also a lot, a LOT of pain and loss and disappointment. It's fitting that a family lives there now, that we moved on to the house we were meant to have and it got the family it wanted. (Which sounds all weird and personified, but it makes sense to me.) It's like that house represented the life that we wanted to have but couldn't manifest, and now the life we wanted but don't have is there, and we live our new life, free from the expectations that were shattered, in our new house that fits the life we have just right.

It will be interesting to go back, since we do have friends on the street, and see how the house changes over time. I will try very, very hard not to be tempted to go dig up a bunch of my plants if it starts to look like the garden is meeting its gradual demise.

I'm glad that it feels like closure, like a closing of a door on a part of our life that was very difficult and filled with discomfort and fruitless striving. I'm glad that we came home to our home and felt that satisfied feeling of, "Ahhhh, we're HOME, really and truly home."

Monday, July 1, 2019

Microblog Monday: Me and My Boooooooody

(Please sing the title like "Me, and my shaaaaaaaadowwww...")

It is summertime (can I stop reminding you? NO), and it is time to get back in the swing of things with being healthy. Which is SO much easier to do when you have work lifted off your shoulders.

I was doing SO WELL with my weight loss/healthy living initiative until about January, when my uterus started being a rat bitch again. I had lost over 15 pounds, I was strong, I was doing the gym, and tap dancing, and pilates... and then a health crisis derailed me. AGAIN.

Let me tell you what is not conducive to losing weight (or keeping it off) -- six weeks of surgery recovery where you cannot work out but you can sit on the couch and eat delicious gluten free feasts and pastries that your husband makes for you. That is a formula that DOES NOT WORK.

So here I am, desperately trying to shed the pounds put on while I was basically veal.

My tap studio closed and is reopening in August, so that's a bust.

I am loving the Pilates studio where I'm going twice a week again, finally -- that makes me feel strong and stretched and as lithe as my body can get (can you really ever be lithe when you have giant boobs?), and to me STRONG is more important than SLIM. (Also, I love all the springs and bars and things; it makes me feel like a circus performer!)

I am walking in our neighborhood, which is freaking amazing and beautiful (pictures at the bottom), and walking fast can be just as good as running, so I hear, it just takes longer.

I am eating all the fruits that come with early summer, and trying to eat more protein and fiber and less carbs. I sort of returned to my carbmonster ways. I need to work out more and eat just a little less, but I refuse to totally restrict my diet because food isn't just fuel, it's a way of life and a special pleasure in our household.

I have NO IDEA how I'm doing other than how my clothes fit and how I feel, because I lost the scale in our move. Just kidding, I know exactly where it is, it's hiding under some stuff in the garage and just hasn't made its way inside, but I freaking hate that thing and so I pretend it's lost and gone forever.

It is so hard having this complex relationship with my body, especially because it failed to do what I so desperately wanted it to, and then fell apart thanks to stress during adoption... but now, with the freedom of having lost the organ that just HATED me, and much of the stress alleviated, and our new home and new life, and the freedom of summer... I hope to make buddies with my body again.

On a rail trail near the house

View from same trail, seriously right near our house

How is this walking distance from my house???

Secret special bridge on the rail trail! 

A street near our house, or I guess road is more accurate...

Magical swamp off the road near our house... it's gray/white here thanks to the evils of cottonwood trees

My buddies, the horses around the corner. This is from earlier in spring, I need a new picture for summer.

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

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Bucket List Moment

Wednesday was the last day of school. Huzzah, it is truly summertime now! I know this because the weather is hot, the flowers are blooming, I'm off work, but also because every single time I lie down on the couch I fall dead asleep for at least an hour. My body knows it's time to recharge and rejuvenate.

This past week or so has been the Jazz Festival here in Rochester, which is an amazing event that we don't take advantage of nearly enough. We actually had one of our first dates at the festival, 13 years ago -- we went to see Susan Tedeschi and Etta James in the same venue where we saw someone totally different on Wednesday night. It was a night of good music, and new-date-hand-holding that makes you all squishy inside.

I was listening to NPR on my way into school the week before this one, and they said that JEFF GOLDBLUM was here, playing the Jazz Festival, and that he had a new record released: Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, the Capitol Studio Sessions. Because he's a jazz piano player, and unbeknownst to me, he's been playing a regular gig in L.A. for 20 years, but now he's touring. Also, have I mentioned how much I LOVE JEFF GOLDBLUM?

He may be 66 and married (to a 35 year old former Olympic gymnast no less) with two small children, and he's a famous person, a movie star, but he's also someone that I have pined after for DECADES.

His portrayal of Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park clinched it for me, because he was smart, and sexy, and weird, and a little bit of a dick (unfortunately, that was a thing I was into at the time). God that was sexy. And then Independence Day --  he was smart, and sexy, and science-y, and NOT a jerkface... Ahhhhhh.

My first boyfriend in college, who was my first serious long-term boyfriend, had a real problem with the fact that I found Jeff Goldblum sexy. He was horrified. He said, "But have you seen The Fly?" How can you find THE FLY sexy?"

I hadn't seen The Fly.

So we watched it, and when he's at his grossest, face-peeling off, recently-vomited-on-someone's-arm-and-then-ate-it worst, he turned to me and said, "Is he sexy now? How's he NOW???" which was definitely bizarre and also hilarious, because I am not crushing on THE FLY, I am crushing on the hot, sexy, smart actor who PLAYS the Fly. Duh. This had nothing to do with why we broke up eventually, but it should have.

Anyway, my lust for Mr. Goldblum became a bit of a punchline to my college friends, who didn't appreciate his quirky charm (and hot lanky body) quite as much as I did. But this past birthday, one of my friends gifted me with a Jeff Goldblum mermaid pillow -- I was just thrilled to have a mermaid pillow (those sequins that flip and are ridiculously tactile), but then she told me to flip it down AND HOLY CROW THERE WAS THAT SEXY MAN'S FACE!

Then, to find out just a month and change later that he was HERE, in my hometown, and there were still tickets available? I was giddy. At dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant last Friday, I shared this info with Bryce, and he MADE IT HAPPEN. We got tickets. In the orchestra section. Now there is a man who is confident in the fact that I find HIM sexier than Jeff Goldblum, that my celebrity crush does not mean anything for my attraction to him, at all. (Doesn't hurt that Bryce is also tall, lanky, science-y, smart, quirky, and sexy... albeit in a different way than Jeff...)

The concert was the last day of school, and I got all gussied up and we ate a quick dinner and made our way to the venue, 10-15 minutes early. Oh man, I wish I had known that he does an audience-meet-and-greet thing for about 30 minutes before shows, and people were getting selfies with him and he was doing question-answer stuff, and signing things... Once I realized that's what was happening we were trapped in the middle of a row and I didn't feel I could get up to run up to the stage and be embarrassing.

Because in my purse, I packed the tickets, and...

Oh, is that a hint of mermaid you see? YES, YES IT IS! My friend told me the good news that the pillow was a pillow cover, and I could take it off and fold it in my bag! With a sharpie! I was on a mission.

The show was great -- he is SO personable, and stopped to talk with the audience (some might say more than he played), and did some interactive stuff, and played jazz with those sexy long fingered hands... but I couldn't seem to get my pillow in his face. I am actually very shy in public situations, which is a weird paradox because if I'm comfortable with you, shy is the LAST adjective you'd use to describe me. I couldn't bring myself to yell or shake my pillowcase in the air until the end, and he didn't see it. I felt a bit deflated.

But then, we left, and I asked if we could go around back. Because I had a feeling that he would be leaving out the back and there might be one more opportunity to meet the man. We turned the corner to the back entrance in an alleyway behind Eastman Theater, and there was a semicircle of fans clutching various things for him to sign. JACKPOT!

We waited probably 20 minutes at least, with manager-looking people coming out and scoping the crowd and then going back in (which was torturous), and then his band members started to come out. We clapped and hooted for them, too, because people in Rochester are generally nice and appreciative (or at least this group was!). And then... he came out! The semicircle swooped in, and Bryce helped me be a bit more assertive, keeping his camera out so I could clutch onto my sequined pillowcase and slide my way forward.

So close yet so far away....

Gaah, closer! 

That's the back of my head with the shadow of Bryce's phone on it, I am so close but his manager's getting twitchy and he started saying "Oh, I need to go soon," and I wanted to shout, "MUST GO FASTER!" 

I made it! That lovely police officer behind me helped me get his attention (it pays to be nice and not weird, although I was totally weird)... I did show him that his face was on the front, but still on  Facebook people thought I handed him a couch cushion... :) 

JACKPOT! Mission Accomplished! 

Holy holy guacamole! I may have been creepily touching his arm and then I KISSED him on the cheek! The sexy sexy cheek!

Super blurry, but you can still tell it's me and it's him and he did not mind that I smooched him at all! 

So, I may have, in the middle of invading his personal space, MEANT to say, "Meeting you is on my bucket list!"

Instead, what did I say?  "YOU are on my bucket list!"

Which, honestly, is probably more accurate. Ha.

It was fantastic. I was thrilled, Bryce was thrilled for me (again, secure in the fact that THIS IS A MARRIED CELEBRITY AND THIS IS ALL FUN FANGIRL SHIT, AND NOT A THREAT TO HIM WHATSOEVER...), and so excited that he could make the evening happen.

And now, I have this:

He was clearly rushed, as this looks like some kind of brushstroke character, but I can make out the J and the separated F and "Glm," and I have picture proof, so it's now a(n even more) prized possession!
Ahhhh. Perseverance for the win. What a great start to my summer!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Every Year I Say Goodbye

The end of the school year is a strange and emotional time. There is a relief that comes with it -- summer is almost here (teachers have 5 more days after students are done) and I've survived another year in a profession that I love, but that takes all you have to give and then some. Summer is a necessary benefit, to un-husk yourself and build your stores back up so you can give it all to a new group of kids.

This year was challenging for a variety of reasons, but it was memorable and many of my students ended the year in a better place than where they started.

It was a year where a student said the most hurtful thing to me they could, but then grew into a better human. (Seriously...a student said to me, "You don't have kids, you're NEVER going to have kids," and I did not try to hide the fact that it made me cry so that I could show him the impact words can have on another human, and I told him just how painful it was to have that not work out and to lose that dream, and he was visibly shaken up by it but he NEVER said anything like that to me again, and he chose a hug instead of a high five at the end of the year. WIN.)

It was a year where a Mrs. T fan club sprouted in Math class, and I had a group of young women who decided on things to sell in my name (Mrs. T piranhas, Mrs. T gluten free bagels, Mrs. T jetpacks) in dry erase marker all over the white board. Random children came up to me in the hall to ask, "What's up with the Mrs. T stuff all over the board?" They sent me off to my medical leave with a large display of Mrs. T wares, and on the last day of school they requested a picture and one of the pieces of swag on the board was "Mrs. T Sadness."

I gave an award at the Eighth Grade Award Ceremony, and for the first time I can remember, when I went up to the podium a bunch of kids clapped and hooted "Mrs. T!"

A student who I ate lunch with occasionally gave me one of her art projects, a ceramic avocado mug (regular mug shape, but with avocado skin-color-and-texture outside and creamy green inside), and surprised me with a handwritten letter on my desk about how much she appreciated our talks and my awkwardness and how she was worried about me falling since I'm so klutzy and that she was going to miss me. Then she and her friend got me amazing Harry Potter sticky note bookmarks, and a 9 3/4 pin plus an "I'd rather be a mermaid" pin to commemorate my favorite embarrassing story from 6th grade (that I will tell another time, but it involves wearing a swimsuit in front of the class).

I signed a gazillion yearbooks, some with my own Mrs. T products depicted in them.

In an effort to get to the end of World War II in my self-contained Social Studies Class, we worked ALL THE WAY to the last day of school on research poster projects and a gallery walk, and when one student complained that "You are the ONLY ONE doing work anymore, you know that? EVERYONE ELSE is watching movies and you are making us work!" and when I said, "Yeah, I know... but it's because it's good for your brain and I LOOOOOOOOVE YOOOOOU," while reaching my arms out, he smiled and said, "I know," and gave me a hug. A HUG! From an 8th grade boy pissed that we were still working!

Another student in my social studies class was thrilled when I showed her a picture of horses in my neighborhood and told her I wasn't scared of them anymore (at the beginning of the year I shared that I was terrified of horses close up because they are hairy and ginormous, not realizing that horses are her #1 special interest and it was so upsetting to her that I had to change one of my truths in 3 truths and a lie). She asked, "Do you think I helped you get over your fear of horses?" and I said "Absolutely!" (even though if I'm hiking and a horse comes on the trail it will probably still terrify me). Then she suggested I get riding lessons over the summer, because when you're riding a horse YOU are the tallest one, and I laughed and applauded her logic, but said "Let's not get crazy now!"

I made cards for all my Resource students, with a personal letter on the back about what I loved about them and what I was proud of and how I can't wait to hear about their amazing futures, and a hand-picked quote on the front.  Every single student looked touched and said THANK YOU, even ones who were super surly earlier in the year and wouldn't get caught doing something emotional/touchy-feely. I got a hug that I feared was going to make me wheelchair bound from one young man who I swear, had we been able to have biological children, would have been like what I imagined my son to be. Every so often I have these children who make me feel that way, and it is bittersweet.

Through all this, I feel so very fortunate to have this career that I love and that loves me back. I may not have children, but all of these children are a little bit (and some a lot a bit) mine, for a year. I take classroom climate super seriously and want students to know that I love them, no matter what, even when they are acting in very unlovable ways (that's usually when they need the love the most). The end of the year marks a weird Groundhog Day empty-nest moment -- they leave, a piece of my heart leaves with them, and then I get an all new group to love and nurture and help to become better humans, next September. It's an emptying and a filling on a yearly cycle.

It's always hard to say goodbye, but now I go to graduation so I know I'll see most of them again, and they really do come back and visit. Teaching is a hard job, but a beautifully rewarding one.