Monday, November 11, 2019

#Microblog Monday: Oh, Seth Meyers

I love Seth Meyers. I think he's hilarious, and smart, and maybe even hot. I love his show, and those videos where he invites Melisandre to his wife's baby shower and Jon Snow to a dinner party and coaches them in social graces.

So I was super excited when I saw he had a Netflix comedy special called "Lobby Baby." I feel like a total tool now, but at the time that I suggested Bryce and I watch it while eating pizza on a Saturday night before we played an hour or so of ping pong, I honestly thought it was a political title.

Like, "Lobby, baby!" in terms of pushing for a political agenda in Congress. Not a total crazy thought, right?

Instead it was 90% adorable and hilarious, but 100% about his wife and then two children, and how his second child was literally born in the lobby of their apartment building. Once that story came out, I had this "Ohhhhhhhhh yeahhhhhh, I totally remember reading about that in People magazine" moment of clarity, and realized that I had willingly yet unwittingly watched an entire special on new parenthood.

I knew what I was getting myself into when I watched (both of) Ali Wong's specials while pregnant, and Amy Schumer's special while she was also pregnant.

For some reason I was caught off guard by Seth Meyers. Maybe it was because once I realized, I was feeling all well-adjusted and like, "Yeah! I can watch and enjoy a comedy special on parenting and babies and not feel sad! Look at us!"

Well, until this nugget was dropped:

"It's fun to be a parent, because I think in a lot of ways it makes you a better person in general because you just have more empathy; you care more about the future of the world."

It's followed up by "In other ways it makes you morally a worse person, because now there are things you would never have done before that you will do for your kids." Which is a setup for a joke about entertaining the thought of stealing a missing toy piece from his son's playmate's house, but... BUT.

I don't think he had to go there. I do not think that having children is the quality that makes you more empathetic than someone who does not, and that caring about the future is not limited to people with progeny. It makes me super prickly.

Also, at one point he talks about how he and his wife don't like to hang out with couples who have just one kid, because they're too uptight (not having the other kids to mellow them out), and parents of two kids is just too much... but he loves hanging out with parents of 3 or more kids because they are super relaxed and don't worry at all about bangs or sounds in the other room. Which is funny, but also left out "people with no kids" entirely. I mean, I get it, as new parents you want to hang out with people who have similar experiences as you, but people with no kids being mentioned not at all sort of left me feeling icky.

I get it. It's a comedy special, ha ha ha, don't take things so seriously, blah blah blah. I won't lose any sleep over it. But I will say that it knocked Seth down a few notches in my regard. (He's still hot, though.)

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

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Three WOMP WOMP Moments

There are some times when I feel like the soundtrack to my life could be Debbie Downer's WOMP, WOMP. Recently, there were three that left me feeling like I need to get placards for me and Bryce to wear that say "REALLY, our life is NOT SAD, we are QUITE HAPPY!"

1. Where I Am Socially Awkward

A few weeks ago, I was delivering copies of the teacher's union newsletter to classrooms. When I volunteered for the newsletter, I thought I was volunteering to help write and edit it, but instead what I had apparently signed on for was literally just delivering it in my building, which I guess is a fine way to serve the union but not exactly my intent.

I went to one person's classroom, wearing my TEACH THEM KINDNESS sweatshirt, and I swear to the heavens that she asked, "Are you pregnant?"

I was, understandably, put off by this question, and I was like, "NO, um, WHY would you think that?" I was thinking my maternity sweatshirt wasn't so sneaky after all.

Then she said, "Well, I just thought that because you were passing them out that you were a part of it, that's all."

OH. She said "Partofit," not "PREGNANT." That made a lot more sense.

I fumbled through saying "Well, I'd like to be part of it, but as of now I am just the delivery person." And then I left, feeling like I had a) misheard weirdly, b) had no idea how to fix it without being weird, and then c) made a plan to try to fix it, that apparently was DEFINITELY weird.

I sent a message through facebook -- I am not friends with this teacher (and I fear I never will be now, ha), so I sent a friend request and a terribly incoherent, rambly message that basically said, "Hey, sorry, I feel like I was super snippy and it's because I thought you said "Are you PREGNANT?" when it turns out you said "Are you part of it," and I was wearing a sweatshirt from Target that just happened to be a maternity sweatshirt, and I was super confused because I had a hysterectomy last year, and that's why I was out for 6 weeks, but I am excited to be a part of the union newsletter and I'm sorry I was awkward. Actually, you probably think I'm crazier for sending this message, so I'm sorry about that too, but I just wanted to explain myself."

Are you shocked that I never heard from her and that the few times I've run into her she (in my crazy mind) makes a concerted effort to not make eye contact with me?

Sigh. Verbal Vomit for the lose.

2. Where Someone Else Is Socially Awkward

When we went "away" (a whopping 20 minutes, but it was enough) for our anniversary, we met another couple at the bed and breakfast. We are REALLY bad at meeting new people in situations like that, but this time, we hit it off with another couple who just happen to live 15 minutes from us. So much so, that each breakfast we ended up chatting with them for a good hour past everyone else.

Our first interaction was a little rough, though.

Everyone at the table was talking about kids and grandkids, and then all the guys were talking about work and military stuff, and then the woman asked, "So, you guys don't have kids, right?"

First off, that's an interesting way to ask that I didn't hate but wondered how it came to be, and then I said, "Nope, we don't have kids."

"Well, as a teacher, you must have your kids at school and that's enough." (I cannot tell you how much I hate this statement, even if it has a note of truth to it, teaching and parenting are very different beasts and one doesn't preclude the other).

"No, actually, we did want kids, it just didn't work out." (See me trying to give minimal information?)

"Oh, I'm so sorry. Did you try adoption?" (I can see that she is honestly, in her mind, being kind and thinking of solutions to this problem, but I can see that this is not going in a direction that I like.)

"Yes, actually, we did do 2 1/2 years of domestic infant adoption..."

"OH! Are you waiting now?" (obvious excitement)

"NO, actually, we DID do the adoption process and it was brutal and followed 5 1/2 years of awful medical treatment experiences and we're actually 2 years or so out from leaving that process behind."

Stunned silence.

"Wow, I'm so sorry... friends of ours did international adoption, do you ever think of that?"

(I would like serious credit for self control here) "Ah, yes -- we did consider that, but everyone chooses different processes for different reasons, and we really wanted to do infant adoption domestically. I don't think a lot of people know how that process actually works, it is so, so hard on the heart. You know, we were considered 6 times and to have that up and down and possibility and then have it dashed over and over, it was just too much. But we are happy, now. Honestly. It took a lot to get to a place where we can be happy after the losses, but we are. It's seriously okay."

"Oh, wow, I had no idea. I'm so sorry. Well... you never know, it could always happen naturally!"



Well, that shut that conversation down. I felt backed into a corner, and she was actually just oblivious and trying to be helpful, so I decided to go the education route, and then I resorted to yelling about my missing body parts in a quaint historical inn.

The happy ending is that the topic never came up again, we chatted again the second day, exchanged information, and even went out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant last night with their 9 year old daughter, who was a super book fiend and so we had a great time, and this was an unfortunate blip at the beginning of what could be a lovely friendship. But HOLY JEEZUM, that was rough!

3. Where Bryce Faces The Awkwardness

Bryce had a meeting that ended at a local bar where you can play giant Jenga and ping pong and go bowling, all at the same place. It's like a quarter-end thing, a celebration of stuff that's gone well.

He left as they were cutting cake, and was like, "Sorry, I have to go meet my wife at home for dinner, and I'm not a big cake person."

His boss said, "Well, take some cake with you! Bring some home for your wife!"

Bryce said, "Oh, I can't -- she has Celiac disease, so she can't eat it. It wouldn't be nice to bring home cake she can't eat, ha ha!"

Then they said, "Bring some home to your kids!"

Bryce said, "We don't have kids, it's my wife and I at home."

Silence...then, "Bring some for the dog, har har har!"

Bryce sighed. "We don't have a dog, either. I don't think the cat will eat cake, ha..."

He said he felt a palpable WOMP, WOMP in the room, this sort of "Your wife can't eat cake, you have no kids, AND you have no dog? HOW SAD FOR YOU."

It's not often Bryce gets hit with the same sort of stuff I do on the social front, engineers aren't nearly as big on sharing personal details at work the way teachers are, but this one made him frustrated.

"I just wanted to say, BUT OUR LIFE IS AWESOME, PEOPLE!, but I knew they wouldn't believe it."

And that's the thing -- sometimes the awkwardness is ours, sometimes the awkwardness is other people's, but it all stems from this same idea -- that the idea of a life without children is somehow sad, or in need of explanation. I feel like I always want to make it clear that it WAS sad, that it was something we wanted, but that it is no longer quite the tragedy it once once. Because you can't go around being a walking tragedy forever, or no one will want to be near you. It will swallow you up. Eventually, you have to figure out a way to adjust and embrace the new life, whatever it is, because that is what you have.

Maybe I will get a button made that says, "Having kids didn't work out, but LIFE IS GREAT!"

Maybe...not. But yeah, it is, most of the time.

Monday, November 4, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Ten Years!

Having two anniversaries is sort of confusing.

We have our Legal wedding anniversary, which is October 23rd and commemorates the signing of the papers and the waving of the Justice of the Peace's wand (or whatever that actually looked like), and October 31st commemorates our very small backyard wedding. They take place within 8 days of each other and we celebrate them both -- the Legal Anniversary usually with a dinner out and our "serious" cards, and the Halloween Anniversary with a tasty home cooked meal and our Halloween cards and ghouls. I don't quite have ten ghouls, but I have a transforming werewolf arm, a walking dead zombie, the Babadouk, IT, a creepy Donnie-Darko-style rabbit, a highly detailed spider, and this year I got THREE, so that makes... ten!

We went away for a romantic weekend away this year, too -- it is ten years, after all!

It is wonderful to think of the next ten years -- eight of the past ten were spent striving and losing and coping with our family building debacle, and yet they were ten great years. The next ten, I hope, will be untainted with that heavy grieving and remaking our dreams and our life into something different than we'd hoped.

Different, but beautiful.

Out to dinner on the Legal Anniversary

Hiking up a ski mountain for foliage peeping before check in at the romantic B&B

Doesn't do it justice

Cozy reading area of our room



Even though it's blurry I love this picture because he made me laugh right before

Awww, Halloween (post wig hair) looove

Bryce surprised me with a DELICIOUS meal, Berkshire pork chops and white sweet potato puree and red chard

Envelope Ghoul, if Mickey Mouse was a bat

Second ghoul, appetizer inside card

AAAAAAA! Super creepy Marianne ghoul (from the French Netflix series which was so good but so scary)
I am NOT an artist, but I was stupid proud of my envelope Ghoul of many monsters.

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

Monday, October 14, 2019

#Microblog Monday: Getting Some Me Time

This first long weekend of the year is sacred to me. It is a time when I can rest, and rejuvenate, and get some me-time that is sorely needed. This year, I decided not to make any social plans, not to make any appointments, NOTHING. I spent the day with myself.

It was lovely.

I needed to do a lot more school work than I did, but you know what? It will get done, and it was worth it to feed my soul and rest my bones.

Except I didn't do a lot of resting after having a leisurely breakfast and snuggling up with the cat and my book in the morning.

Instead, I hauled ass on my side garden -- I did the whole retaining wall side over the summer, but the rest of it down the hill towards the street was a hot mess of weeds and blecchhh.

Summer work, my garden lady cleared all the evil weeds and then I did all the amending of the soil and the planting and the using of the rocks that PEPPER THE SOIL LIKE POTATOES IF I WAS A DAMN POTATO FARMER

There, you can see the liriope I planted to the left of that honeysuckle bush. Everything behind me, behind that liriope? TRASH. 

So today, today I tackled it. I bought a whole bunch of plants on sale and some mushroom compost at the garden center lady's suggestion, since I discovered yesterday while planting a grass near the liriope that everything to the left of that is straight up solid clay. Full of rocks. And roots.

I did all the pulling of the weeds myself.

Holy shit, I am exhausted and in a lot of pain in my legs and lower back, but I am pretty damn pleased with my time outside in the chilly cloudy air, covered in dirt, swearing at the rocks and roots and clay. And I just enjoyed a lovely whirlpool bath (embarrassed to say our new home has one and I've never used it before), and all is right with the world.

I suck at "before" pictures. I'd already started digging out the stuff to the left of that post, but you can see all the crap still to be ripped out. 

SOOOO MUCH WEEDINESS. This is a pretty good "before," actually

FOUR wheelbarrowsful of roots and weeds and stuff. Kept the rocks though, for wall-ish stuff. 

Hoo-eeee! No more crap weeds! And look at all that lovely stuff! 

Hard to see, but there's 3 hummingbird mints, a false ageratum, a russian sage, 3 Cheyenne Sky switchgrasses, 1 ruby slippers switchgrass, and 3 ice dancer sedge grass. Plus two bleeding hearts you can't see. 

Trying to fake a retaining wall of rocks from my rock farm. I fear my driveway will never not be muddy. I also realize that now I need to mulch all this... 

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

Saturday, October 12, 2019

What to Say and When

I am (clearly) an open book about my life experiences. Even at school, within appropriate boundaries, of course. It's important for kids to see you as human, and also for them to know that you've dealt with some shit, too, and survived. Sometimes they think of teachers as these entities that fit into one box, and it's good for them to have that disrupted a bit.

My tattoos do that on a surface level -- I don't (often) intentionally put them on display, but I do have dresses that make the phoenix and butterflies visible, at least parts of that massive back display, and when it's hot I refuse to wear a sweater to be sweatily demure. They are part of me, and do not have any bearing on what kind of teacher I am. It is interesting though when kids see a peek and want to know more, and I either get a weird look or a look of surprised respect (I especially love when this happens with the "naughty" kids, like I go up a notch in their eyes because I have art on my body). Then winter comes and everything is wrapped up for months and in the spring it's like they've forgotten entirely that their teacher is inked and it's surprising all over again.

It's also good for students to know that sometimes, shit does not work out (unfortunately so many of my students this year already know this), but that despite that, you can have a great life. Which is why I am brutally honest in my September Who I Am essay. I tell them we wanted children. I tell them it didn't work out, and we had to finally make the choice to live without children because it was no longer healthy to keep trying to make it work. Obviously I don't tell them what medical treatment involved or intricate details about either IVF or adoption, but I do put it out there that those options are a lot more complicated than how they are typically portrayed in TV shows or movies.

This year was tough, because to say that adoption ultimately didn't work for us when you have a room that has more than one child adopted through processes we chose not to pursue... you feel a bit like an asshole. But, like other years, the children are mystified by the idea that you can go into the adoption process for two years or so and NOT come out with a child. When I do the Who I Am Essay, I share mine before they start writing in earnest (they've done rough draft body paragraphs in their journals for homework without even realizing it), because I want to share pieces of me with them and I also want them to see the power of sharing your story and being honest. They return the favor, and I learn A LOT about my students from their essays. But after I read mine, I do give a bit of a Q&A session, and I tell them I will answer almost any question that they ask.

This year, I had mentioned that we don't have kids before Who I Am came up, and one of my students asked, a day later, "Mrs. T, can you tell us WHY having kids didn't work out for you? I don't really understand that." It was at the end of a very stressful day, and I took a breath and said, "You know, there is a day coming up soon where I will answer your questions on that, but today is not that day. Sometimes if I'm caught off guard and talk about it, it makes me real sad, and I think today is not a good day to talk about it. But soon, I promise."

I've never done that before, not answered it even a little bit. I was proud of myself, because it would have been a real bad day to travel down the rabbit hole, and I knew it. In previous years I might have been like, "I got this, I am strong and can control my feelings." But this year, this year I know better. If I give too much of myself away on days where I feel depleted, I run the risk of slipping into the dark hole of sadness and staying there for a little while. I run the risk of depleting myself further. I can control when and how I share things, because it is MY story.

This is important to teach kids too, because their lives are just so OUT THERE in social media and they so often spill things that cannot be completely mopped up, which leads to unbelievable drama and trauma. And especially this year, I have a student who is holding a very heavy load each day and dealing with some very disturbing things that have happened, and it has disrupted this student's life significantly. But the student wants to connect with others, and wanted to tell me what happened in a room with other students in it. I whisked this student away to a private room and said, "You know, you don't have to tell me anything, you can talk with your counselor and leave it at that. But if you do want to tell me, I want you to know first that what happened to you is YOUR BUSINESS. You do not have to tell anyone, and you should really keep it private -- I didn't want you to share it in the room because once other people know your business, you cannot make them UNKNOW it. It's out there. So we are in a safe space now, and you can tell me if you really want to, but I want you to know it's YOUR BUSINESS."  The student did tell me, and it was as awful as I feared, but he/she trusted that this was a safe place and I was going to keep his/her heavy load safe, too. What I love though is that when this student is sharing in a group or connecting to a story and the story could potentially come out, the student starts to say something, like "Life is hard, and... well..." (this is where the student looks at me and nods) "... it's MY BUSINESS." Yes, child. Yes it is. I'm so proud every time that phrase, "But it's MY BUSINESS" comes out of the student's mouth, because it's a protective shield that hopefully will prevent further horrors in the form of people taking his/her story and using it against him/her.

I did answer the questions that students asked me on the Who I Am day, and they asked very thoughtful questions and listened well. I put things into developmentally appropriate terms and kept it pretty general, but the main message was WE TRIED SO HARD TO MAKE THIS THING HAPPEN IN OUR LIVES, AND IT JUST DID NOT, AND IT HURT MY HEALTH IN MANY WAYS AND IT WAS SO HARD FOR BOTH OF US, SO WE HAD TO MAKE A NEW LIFE, A DIFFERENT LIFE. Which is a good message to hear.

A couple weeks ago a student from two years ago came to visit, and at one point he said, "So, I'm not your student anymore, so I'm wondering if you'd share with me how come adoption didn't work out because I really never understood that, why you couldn't become a parent."


So I did tell him, and I made it as real as possible. I told him that adoption is hard. That it does work out for people, but it can also feel like a death of a thousand cuts when it doesn't. That we'd had losses and years of hard-on-my-body medical treatments before we went to adoption, and so we didn't have as much left to give mentally to the process. I told him how hard it is to be considered 6 times and NOT be chosen. To think you might possibly have a baby tomorrow, and then tomorrow comes and your life was passed over. To optimistically set up a nursery so you're ready for those last minute cases, and then have that room lie empty for a year and a half. To develop an autoimmune disorder related to intense stress and then suffer a breakdown due to the stress and the medication and lack of sleep, and have to miss school for a few weeks because of it. To have to dismantle and donate the nursery you'd put together with so much hope. To reframe your life entirely, which is still a work in progress and was so, so hard but also so freeing after feeling so beat down for so long and watching so many people you knew come out the other side with "miracles" that you weren't worthy of, apparently. But then fighting that mentality and deciding that this is your life, that this is your survive all that and to thrive in your new reality.

He might have cried, even though I didn't by some miracle. He might have given me a hug. He might have said how sorry he was, but how wonderful it was that I had this beautiful life anyway.

I did not regret giving that story away. He was more mature than he was when I had him as a student, and I think when kids ask hard questions it takes courage, and depending on the situation it's a gift to reward that courage with honesty. Appropriate honesty, of course.

I'm still learning what to say, and when -- I tend to err on the side of saying too much and giving too much of myself away, of justifying my choices and feeling less-than. But I do think I am getting the hang of holding on to the parts that keep me whole, and giving away what will lead to empathy and understanding.

And then paying it forward and attempting to teach those difficult skills to my students.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


The other day I was looking around at things in my house and thinking how lovely it is that we have repurposed so many things that were originally meant for a tiny human. It is something that used to make me sad, but now makes me feel pretty damn good, and reminds me of our resilience in the face of our losses.

Exhibit A: Lawn Bottle Drying Rack
This is meant for bottles and all their tiny, moving parts... but it is a BRILLIANT wine glass drying rack. (Also works for mugs, normal glasses, and travel coffee flasks, though those are less fun.)

Exhibit B: Baby Food Storage Containers
 These came in a pack of four and are meant for storing baby food that you make yourself. They are also the perfect size for salad dressing on the go, sauce leftovers, a handful of almonds for a snack. I love the bright colors and snack size.

Exhibit C: The Glider
 We picked a glider that was upholstered so it could end up being normal furniture after it was used for feeding and rocking. It ended up just being normal furniture, and matches our guest room perfectly (okay, maybe we bought the day bed to match the chair so it was less weird). It was a great place to sit and read and do puzzles when I was recovering from my hysterectomy. It is a great snuggle spot for our cat. And when my mother-in-law stayed in that room, she enjoyed sitting and reading in that chair. So, win!

Exhibit D: Dresser
 Ah, the Fisher Price dresser that once had a changing table on it. It does still say Fisher Price on the back, but it makes a handy dandy guest bureau and holds weird odds and ends in a drawer or two. Plus it's a great place to put the lamp and stuff for guests. Are the drawers a little shallow and small for adult things? Sure. But for guests, does it matter? Resounding NO.

Exhibit E: Nursery Cube Organizer
The craft desk is new, but the cubes to the right are not. They had different colored baskets and held diapers and toys and receiving blankets and board books, but now they hold craft and giftwrapping supplies. It matches the dresser and the craft table perfectly. It's like all this stuff was meant to be in this room, repurposed and decidedly UN-nursery-like.

Exhibit F: Maternity Sweatshirt of Joy
How could I resist picking this baby up? 
My best friend came to visit! We were walking on a rail trail and some running girls yelled, "I love your sweater!" Me too, ladies. Me too. 

This I bought new from Target, just a week or so ago. But I thought it was amazingly ironic -- it's a maternity sweatshirt (why, Target, is your pajama section morphed into the maternity section so it is unclear what's what initially???) . Why, might I ask, is it necessary to make a soft cozy oversized shirt maternity? It doesn't look weirdly bagged out in the front (on me at least, unsure how to feel about that), and I love the message (and LIVE it this year in particular), so I BOUGHT IT. Even though it says MATERNITY and that's a section I never really needed to spend a lot of time in. I bought it anyway, and it gives me a perverse sense of glee to wear it.

I'm feeling pretty darn happy with the fact that we didn't just completely get rid of all things reminding us of our unsuccessful quest for children, that we kept what still made sense and can make good use of. It just all looks a little differently, like our life now.

Monday, September 30, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Vicarious Trauma

One thing that is making this year tough in terms of exhaustion is the sheer amount of trauma that my students are dealing with. We learned about "vicarious trauma" -- that when your students are going through traumatic events, that you worry about them and think about their situations and can only make school as safe and warm a place as you can but can't make outside of school not sucky, and then you are feeling some of the ripple effects of trauma on the body.

This year I have students who: have been sexually abused, are in mental health crisis, are dealing with new medications for anxiety and depression, are dealing with identity and birth family (especially mental health, drug usage, and death of birth family members), are in foster care, had a family member overdose and die recently, who were adopted from other countries and have attachment issues due to orphanage babyhoods, who sustained major health trauma as a result of their biological history and are dealing with the lifelong impacts of that, who have sustained up to 7 surgeries in 10 years, who believe firmly that their only future is a short one as a drug dealer, whose lives have been disrupted by a new baby in the house that's 13 years younger than them, who had a parent die when they were 2... the list just goes on and on and on.

I am doing some reading on Trauma-Sensitive Classrooms, because while I think I'm a pretty empathetic person I want to make sure that I'm doing all I can to support these kids as they try to get an education while dealing with all of those things. And I want to help others add to their toolboxes for supporting kids who hurt, and who ask for help in less than cuddly ways.

I also feel a little overwhelmed because my classes are full of students who are dealing with aftershocks of foster adoption and international adoption, and it is really driving it home to me how I did not choose those pathways to parenthood for a reason. I absolutely could not do what I do all day with multiple children if I was also helping someone navigate the same trauma at home.

It's weirdly vindicating, but also makes me sad. I do think though that I can give more of myself to help these students gain resiliency and have a safe place in a learning environment than if I was parenting one of them myself. I have to remind myself that as challenging as it is to hear about their trauma and have my heart hurt for their pain, it's so much harder for them to live it.

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