Thursday, February 21, 2019

Sometimes It Just Hurts

Last weekend, I gave away a bunch of the books I had been carting around in my car, leaving them at the cabin in the woods where we had our mini respite weekend. It felt freeing, and there was zero crying involved.

I can't say the same for this past week.

We went to our favorite spot in Grafton, Vermont, and as we were leaving I had the thought that I could probably find a home for the rest of the things in my car that I'd been toting around... a few more books, the tub of blankets, a first aid kit, unopened.

After we'd checked out, I ran back inside to the front desk with my stuff.

"I have a weird question," I asked of the front desk lady, who was also talking with the manager.

"I have these things, baby blankets that are handmade, some baby books, some first aid/hygiene stuff, all never used... do you know anyone who could use them? Or an organization nearby that could use them?"

They looked at each other and said that they didn't know of anyone who'd recently had a baby, but then the front desk lady said,

"You know, I pass an early childhood/infant care HeadStart on my way in every day, they are always looking for things for the babies there. I could bring it there if that works for you?"

"Oh, that's perfect," I said. "I really appreciate it."

And then, and then.

The manager guy said, "How did you have this stuff with you?" Not in an interrogative sort of way, but in a curious sort of way.

I took a breath.

"Well, we tried to have a baby for 8 years, and it didn't work out, two years of adoption didn't work out, and we had a shower and everything because we were so hopeful, but now I have these things I keep in my car because I don't want them in the new house we moved to, and I've been looking for a good place for them to go where they'll be used, so... yeah." I did not cry.

He looked stricken. I said, "It's okay," not really meaning that the situation was okay but that I was okay with how things were now, and he said, "It's not, though. It's so not okay."

And then he hugged me. And the front desk lady teared up. And they both said it was a great thing to do; it was very nice of me. And I thanked them.

I kept my shit together until I exited the building, when my face just crumpled, and I started to cry as I walked down the granite stairs to the car, where Bryce was in the driver's seat, and I sobbed and sobbed and cried a particularly ugly cry since I was into my traditional school-break cold.

Bryce asked, "What's wrong?"

I wailed, "What do you think?"

I cried, and cried, and cried.

It felt like something inside me had cracked open and was gushing grief out my face.

Once I was calmer, Bryce said, "It's kind of like a bandaid, right? It hurts, it really hurts, but then it's gone and it was the right thing to do."

That's true. This hurt more I think because those blankets were hand made, they represented hours that several people put into hopes and warm thoughts towards our baby who didn't exist, who was a "yet" for so long and then became a "never." It was the last thing I'm giving away. All that I have left fits in a small tub that is actually in my "attic" closet. Most of them things I bought myself. All of them things I don't want to give away. I want some things to remain from these years, from this period of time filled with hope and despair.

It feels better now, now that it's gone and I've grieved it. I think guilt factors in, too. It wasn't just us that hoped and wished and dreamed. It wasn't just us that waited for someone who didn't appear before we couldn't do it any longer. Other people were invested, too. To let go of those things has a scent of finality that echoes back to those moments of packing up the nursery, of disassembling a dream and giving it away. The blankets felt more personal for whatever reason.

And they hurt more.

But now, the scab is healing over, and my backseat is left with just a small smattering of Maine-related board books that are beautiful and I'd like to keep for the art aspect. Not as a relic of an alternate reality, but for their own sakes. It's easier to do that because I bought them.

Sometimes the healing is smooth, and uncomplicated. Sometimes it's harsher, and leaves more of a sting behind. Both experiences are valid. Both are part of the process that I'm pretty sure is going to continue on indefinitely, long after the relics are gone.

Monday, February 18, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: A Home Away From Home

Last weekend at the cabin in the Finger Lakes felt like a dress rehearsal for this week -- our much needed multi-night long weekend in Grafton, Vermont.

It's bothering me that I can't remember exactly when we started coming here, but I think it was 2008 or 2009, then 2010 for February Break, then Christmas three years in a row, some summer weekends on the way home from Maine, an Easter weekend getaway, and now this glorious February extravaganza.

Grafton is one of our favorite places, a romantic spot that is truly away from most things stressful and is all about eating, drinking, reading, and hiking. As soon as we descend into the valley, we feel this immediate dropping of the blood pressure and a sense that we are at our home away from home.

This time, we've read books by the fire, I've done three mini puzzles, we've played Movie Memory, had delicious dinners, gone to two independent bookstores, and hiked around town.

It is pure relaxation. Which is good, because the rest of break needs to be spent writing IEPs. Balance. Rejuvenate first, then go back to work work working.

Happiness, foggy glasses, snow, freezing just a bit

Picturesque Vermont barn in the snow

Snowy frozen river footbridge 

I am in love with this barnside mural

The Tavern and Historic Inn... We stay in the cottage across the street in a quiet, our of the way room

View from our room in the morning

Mini puzzle in a tin!

This one is called "Silver Birches"

And this one is "Red-Eyed Vireos" by Charlie Harper. I may be addicted to these travel puzzles! 

Ahhhh, reading by the fire after a Vermont country breakfast

Hiking up Bear Mountain

Not bad for a shot out a moving car... This moon was truly spectacular and barely captured here.

Books from Misty Valley Phoenix Books in Chester

Books for me bought at The Northshire Bookstore in Manchester

Bryce's book stack from the Northshire.

Delicious Italian wine at fancypants dinner

I really do feel so fortunate to be living this beautiful life.

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Things We Left Behind

Sometimes when you go to a place like the cabin we stayed at this past weekend, you leave things behind -- magazines for someone else to enjoy, a note in a guest book, perhaps a razor or toothpaste by accident.

We decided to leave a little more behind than I'd bargained for, and I am proud to say that I felt a lightening of the load rather than a sitting in sadness.

I've had the things I didn't want to bring into the new house in my car in bags and small tubs -- books and blankets, mostly. I hadn't had the wherewithal to find a place for them yet, so I drive around with my scabbed-over wounds underneath folded reusable grocery bags. When we were packing up and checking all the rooms, I saw a bookshelf with books for small children, and had an idea.

I could leave some of the books that have been in my backseat for months here, where tiny guests could enjoy them. We don't really know the people who own the cabin, and so the ones that had nameplates from our shower with notes for Baby T___ won't be an issue -- they won't know that's a sad thing, a life event left unfinished and unfulfilled. I still felt guilty momentarily, leaving them when there are SO MANY loving notes to a baby that didn't exist, not for us.

But then I thought -- the people have grandchildren who come, and the guest book had a lot of families with babies. This was a way to give those books a home where they'll be loved in a getaway setting, loved by lots of tiny hands.

And it got my backseat to be a little less weighed down with sadness and heartbreak.

The letting go is still a work in progress, but I felt like the fact that I didn't cry my way home and I smiled as I shuffled them in amongst the other books and set up the "Little Owl" and "Little Bat" finger puppet board books I bought for us YEARS ago on the child's desk in one room means that healing is definitely happening. It felt good to leave those things behind.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sweet Sweet Respite

Thank you so, so much for the love and encouragement you've given me in response to this incredibly draining school year. This past week did NOT get any better, unfortunately. Every day felt insanely crazier than the last. There was a meeting for the student who is emotionally disregulated where I was at odds with administration and had to go find my principal at the end of the day to make sure I wasn't fired (good news, I'm not, he even said he'd hire me 5,000 times over and then sent me a very nice text later in the day to reiterate that I am valued and respected, even when we disagree, which is quite something). I did hear from the student's parent who thanked me for my advocacy and for "seeing" the child through his behavior. So that's something.

But all in all, the week was super crappy.

I had to skip Tap on Wednesday because it was icy and I was worried I'd regret it if I went and ended up in an accident, so instead I ended up staying at work until 6:00, pretty much every day. Except Thursday, when my stomach decided maybe it would join in on the stomach bug fun and I experienced horrific nausea and stomach pain and exhaustion, went to bed at 8, and then went to school on Friday only to have hideous diarrhea attack me at the end of the day along with the pain, which was a) embarrassing and b) no fun at all. Awesome to leave Math class multiple times for the toilet, and to want to leave at 3 because we were going away for the weekend, but then actually leave at 3:30 because my ass and the toilet were best friends after school.

BUT, we made it to our weekend destination, which was so well timed and perfect it was like a little glimmer of positive karma.

We won a weekend stay at a log cabin in the Finger Lakes through the silent auction for our previous fertility clinic's fertility preservation for cancer patients program fundraiser, which we attend and support almost every year. We were supposed to go in December, but selling the house and moving proved to be impossible to get away from, and the weekend we were supposed to go turned out to be the weekend where the offers came in, so it was a good call to postpone until things were more settled.

The drive down was harrowing -- we had insanely high winds Thursday through Friday, and even into Saturday, gusts up to 55 mph, and there were snow squalls to contend with. On top of the weather, the way that our GPS took us from the cat boarding place we found (amazing, they had their own room with an electric fireplace and we could spy on them through a video camera app) was less than scenic, full of dilapidated barns and a whole lot of nothing for the snow and wind to swirl around in, and at one point I was fairly certain our car would break down and we would be eaten by people wearing human skin face masks.

But that didn't happen, and we made it to the cabin, and the owners showed us around and gave us the lay of the land, and we were THERE.

Except we hadn't gone grocery shopping, and the restaurant that was recommended to us said they couldn't at all accommodate for a gluten allergy, so we drove 30 minutes to the nearest Wegmans, ate at the burger bar (gluten free buns! heaven!), and got groceries for the short stay at the cabin because we had absolutely no intention of going ANYWHERE once we got back.

We made the cozy  bed, had our customary first-night champagne, read by the fireplace, and got to know our taxidermied friends in the cabin.

Ahhh, finally in pajamas, bed made, and sitting in front of the fireplace. 

Lovely living room. That TV never went on, not once.
Would have covered it with a blanket if we could!

This is Charlie.
We made friends with him after getting over the shock of 1/3 of a deer carcass hanging on the wall. 

Bryce really took a shining to Charlie. 

This is Baz. He may not be as well crafted as Charlie, but he had his charms. 

I am ashamed to say that I did not notice Charlie until after we got back from the grocery store. How I missed the front third of a buck, I'll never know, but I blame exhaustion and a hangover from the week.

The next morning we got up, had a lovely breakfast, had coffee, relaxed a bit. I did a puzzle (I am in love with 100 piece "travel" puzzles, just the right amount of challenge, done in one sitting), and then I had to go take the roughly 2 hour round trip drive home, because I forgot my medicine. If it was just my blood pressure medicine, maybe I could have skipped it and took it when I got back, but I forgot my anxiety medication, and that is not something you can mess around with. I was PISSED.

But I did a good job on the puzzle...

That fish looks like it is thinking, "awwwww, fuuuuuuuck." 

When I got back, we had a snack and then got ready to go for a walk. It was freaking freezing, but there were trails around the 23 acre property and three ponds, and we were planning on ribeye and roasted potatoes and green beans for dinner, so we figured we should get out. The directions said, "follow the mowed path behind the red cabin," so that's what we did, except we were in the log cabin, but there was a mowed path behind us.

It went up into the woods and then spit us right back out by the first pond.

There was another path, that you can sort of see to the right and north of the icy slope leading down into the pond, and so we took that. Which took us through the woods, where we saw a LOT of tree stands for deer hunting. It didn't phase us, because Charlie, so we kept on going. There was another pond that had bird houses around it and signs that said things like "Daniel Tiger's Restaurant," which I thought was cute. The couple who owned the three cabins had grandchildren and there was a high chair in the mudroom, so I was like, "isn't that cute!" There was a red cabin, that looked a bit more like a house than a cabin, and a playset that had names painted on it. Bryce was like, "um, this looks like someone's house..." and I said, "it said behind the red cabin, and that there were three ponds... this has to be it! And look, there's another trail!"

So we kept going, and saw another cabin that looked suspiciously like a house. With a Dish and everything. Bryce wasn't feeling good about it, but it didn't look lived in necessarily, so I was like, "this is another cabin, maybe?" but we were pretty far into the woods and had no clue where we were in relation to the log cabin. The clincher for hightailing it elsewhere was a stack of logs with a metal band around them, peppered with bullet holes. Hmmm. People-leather masks seemed a little more likely.

We went in a different direction and passed a beautiful pond, and some pretty running water under ice, and an insane number of tree stands.

The pond with the bird houses, not pictured

Pretty water under lacy ice! The shot-up logs are to the right, not pictured

Beautiful frozen pond with lonely tree and cattails. 

Another lonely tree in the marsh beyond the frozen pond, and a moody sky

Freezing our tuchuses off, but having fun doing it
Then, we came across the ACTUAL RED CABIN. And realized that we had just spent a fair amount of time trespassing all over land belonging to people who had, no joke, at least 50 tree stands, a fence made out of a giant mess of felled trees, and a set of shooting target logs at the end of their driveway. We heard a rifle report at one point and thought... oh jeezum, that was real stupid of us.

To be fair, there weren't really markers on any of the trails, and we are a VERY VERY BAD JUDGE of what constitutes 23 acres. Hint: it doesn't take an hour to walk around 23 acres. But, we made it. We didn't get shot by a rifle or an arrow, we just froze our faces off. Which is better than having our faces eaten off.

We read by the fire, Bryce doing a bunch of his PhD math things, and me reading Disrupting Poverty: Five Powerful Classroom Practices before finishing my book of short stories by Denis Johnson. That may sound awful, but it was lovely. We had some wine, and a yummy steak dinner, and just relaxed, relaxed, relaxed. It was LOVELY.

Before we left, I did another mini puzzle and we had some additional fun with our dead animal friends.

Love this one..."Loonscape" by Charlie Harper. Definitely challenging but also doable!

Which one is Charlie? Hard to tell...

Putting our best Baz faces forward

Then we came home, picked up the cats, and got back to reality. Sometimes all it takes is a little dose of relaxing retreat somewhere elsewhere to recharge for the week. Seeing as how it's the last week before February break, I'm going to need this extra recharge. Whenever I'm stressed, I'm going to just envision this:

Our new home is very relaxing and awesome, but going somewhere different where no laundry awaits, no lesson planning is anywhere nearby, no cats need to be fed or moved off the bed so they don't puke on your bedspread...that's priceless.

Monday, February 4, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: This Year Is Trying To End Me

I know I've mentioned before that this has been a tough school year, but HOLY MOSES it feels like it is just taking everything I have.

Today was a terrible day.

I probably cried at least 4 times, in my room, in the stairwell, in a friend's many things went wrong. I cried for the students whose home lives are beyond hellish and who seem to have whole warehouses of decks stacked against them, yet are still told "You have to learn to be responsible and manage your time" when they don't get assigned work done at home (clearly NOT by me). I cried for my student who is horribly emotionally disregulated and who can be such a sweet boy, such an insanely intelligent boy with a goofy sense of humor, but morphs into an explosive, almost superhero-who-just-got-his-powers-and-doesn't-know-how-to-control-them-and-might-destroy-everything-trying-to type person who flips tables and screams and then is remorseful but it's too late, the room has been wrecked and you can't stay at public school if you can't be safe and school appropriate, but there's no other program for him this year and going home this week means lots of time alone.

I feel ineffective, and exhausted, and like I could spend 20 hours a day at school, trying to keep up with the meetings and the parent calls and the planning and the grading and the paperwork as it IS now annual review season and I will be writing IEPs imminently. (Luckily this year I only have 9 to write, thank goodness for small favors.)

But good news in the muck and the suck -- I had an amazing opportunity to use Virtual Reality headsets with my social studies class to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island museum, and they LOVED it. My 12:1:1 social studies class is the absolute highlight of my day. Also, I am supremely thankful that I don't have other crises going on at the same time as this year -- I probably would have had to take a leave if I was also going through infertility or adoption with this caseload. I can give all my mom-ing to these kids, and my energy, without having to save any for a process that sucks the soul out of you as well.

I just feel like I don't have much left at the end of the day, today in particular.

I can only hope tomorrow is better, and hang on to the fact that February Break is two weeks away and we are in the second half of the school year, and know that I am doing everything I can to try to love on and support and do what's best for these students and the loads they carry that no 13-14 year old should have to. I hope that's enough.

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

Monday, January 28, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Authenticity

I've noticed an icky trend on social media -- the airbrushing/photoshopping of photos. I also dislike the Snapchat filters (for the love, no one has eyes that big! Or looks like a deer, either), but at least those are pretty obviously fake.

I think what makes me sad is that women feel that they can't present their authentic selves -- that fine lines need to be erased, any signs of actual aging whisked away with a blurring tool. And what makes me sadder is that people tend to compliment others on these altered posts -- "You look amazing!" or "Beautiful!" or "Wow, you don't age at all!" UM, THAT'S BECAUSE THE EVIDENCE OF TIME HAS BEEN DISAPPEARED WITH MY MOUSE. And it reinforces that a woman (because I have yet to see a photoshopped man) is more beautiful when your hairline is fuzzed out because you smoothed out your face of all your history, while I think history is what makes you beautiful. 

I wear makeup -- nothing crazy, no contouring or lash extensions, but I can't imagine going beyond enhancing what's there to actually altering a picture of myself to make me look younger or different. Tilting a smartphone camera to take from above a bit more for the sake of the jawline...sure, but everyone knows that trick and the background of your photo gives it away (what, more floor than wall? HUH, weird.). 

I decided, along with a lot of people lately, to stop dyeing my hair (for a while at least), setting the silver free. I'm curious just how much I have, and I'm enjoying the silvery "highlights" at my temples (random wiry grays around my part, not quite as much). So that goes with authenticity, but is not to say that I wouldn't go back to dyeing if I decide that maybe it's a bit too much silver for 42. I'm thinking though I might dye just the ends, and let the silver fly and do an ombre type thing for fun, but honestly I am enjoying not having a colorist salon bill. 

But, at the same time, I do get facials from time to time in the name of self care and attempting to avoid the dreaded Crepe Neck, and this last time I was snookered into doing a chemical peel. Which sounds horrific and terrifying and medieval, but it was just like having multiple layers of toner put on and exfoliating the crap out of my outer layers of skin. Is that cheating? Is it weird to embrace the gray hair but try to stave off evidence in my skin? 

I don't think so, but tonight I thought it was kind of funny that I am letting my hair go back to its silvery roots while peeling off my skin to look younger there. I guess what makes that different from the photoshopping is that I'm more than happy to tell you all about the various concoctions and products that are working to make my skin all (hopefully) radiant (and not just a leprosy'd mess). I would never pretend any of what I do is natural, unless I was lucky enough to come by things naturally, like all those supermodels I see in magazines (ha HA ha ha, SO REAL). 

Here I am, in my silvery peeled-face glory, nary a blurring tool in sight. 

Look! More wall than floor! Also perhaps some red wine residue on my teeth... So far, my skin is not ACTUALLY peeling. Fingers crossed. 

Oh dear, more ceiling than wall is DEFINITELY not the way to go. HAHAHAHAHA

I guess what I'm getting at is that I am sad that social media rewards inauthenticity, and that it makes people want to put forth a "better" version of themselves than reality, which I don't find attractive at all. I would hope that most people would prefer beauty that's imperfect, that has laugh lines from good times and crinkles from  years of good living.

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Ten Years

Ten years ago today, I polished up a letter I'd written to Bryce, cleaned the house and made a tasty dinner while he was at work (I had the day off due to the holiday), and got ready for the most stressful 15 minutes of my life.

I had written a letter to him while visiting my best friend, and that letter was basically a treatise on why we should get married. We had talked about getting married before, and Bryce was feeling down on the institution and at one point said in frustration, "Why does it always have to be the guy that proposes?"

Well, I fixed that.

The letter talked about how good we were together, how I believed that marriage would create a deeper partnership and the basis for our family. I included some very unromantic details about how it would be helpful legally, but most of it was why I really, really wanted to officially become husband and wife.

Bryce is a slower reader, and he didn't know exactly what was in store for him, so when I gave him the letter and said "Read this" and then tried (and failed) not to stare at him, he said, "could you go do something for a little bit? You're making me nervous!"

At the end, he got teary, jumped up from his chair, and yelled, "YES! YES I will marry you!" (I was pretty sure he'd say yes, but I was still super nervous myself.)

It was a beautiful moment, and another milestone in our beautiful life. It is crazy to me that it's been 10 years since that moment, and to think on all we've experienced -- the joys and the suffering, the transformation, all that life lived together. We don't have fancy plans for tonight, but I feel like just sitting in our new home, surrounded by our books and cats and cozy nooks and music and yummy food (and maybe a little champagne), that will be celebration enough.

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