Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Story Behind the Picture

Open House Night was last night, and that makes for the longest two days in my opinion of the teaching year. I worked a full day yesterday, from 7:30-5, then raced home to shower and change (it was DISGUSTING in the school yesterday, high heat and humidity) and come back for 8 minute presentations to parents mimicking the school day from 6:30 - 8:30. So that day is long, and then you come in Thursday morning exhausted and braindead, and so the day seems to drag again and your stores of energy are depleted. It can't be just me who feels so utterly drained the day after Open House.

I've written about Open House before, and how torturous it was when going through infertility treatments and then adoption. I've had full on anxiety attacks while making it through this night in the midst of my own personal tragedies.

But, I didn't expect to end my night last night in tears on my couch. I thought I was "past that." Hmmph.

Here's what happened.

Everyone loves to include their children and grandchildren on their slides for Open House. Let the parents know who we are! Who are we as PEOPLE, not just teachers! It quickly becomes a litany of baby pictures, adorable children pictures, and presenting new grandchildren. Which is great, for those who have those sorts of things. To be the coteacher who has to follow slides full of extensive family trees with pictures completely devoid of children (look at my husband! my cat! my books! my garden! a trail near my house!) is a little...painful. It feels like an amplified contrast.

This is my first year coteaching 8th grade Science, which is an exciting new adventure. I decided for that class, the last of the night (I cheated and talked about my 9th period Study Skills class during lunch so we could all leave ahead of the traffic crush), my slide would be nothing but a picture of ME. As a 7-8 year old. With my chemistry set.

Me, circa about 1984
I felt I could make a joke about poor lab safety (look at those chemicals near the pancakes and bananas!) I thought it would be adorable. Maybe it would even distract from the fact that I have no adorable tiny people who look kinda sorta like me (or not) to share with the other parents.

It sucks to feel so Other. I may have mentioned my National Board Certification more times than was truly necessary because I didn't get to say I had kids in the district or who went through the schools or that I could also say "As A Parent."

So when this picture came up, I said, "This is not my child, this is ME." And then went ahead and made all my corny jokes.

It didn't catch up with me until I got home, and the thing that I felt was so empowering just moments ago felt instead a little hollow, and sad. Like I am my own small child to share to feel like I'm like everyone else. I also felt a pang of empathy for those who also don't have kids, or who aren't married or coupled, and may or may not feel even more Other on such nights.

I cried when I got home, for that little girl who once wanted to be a scientist and was slowly discouraged at school from pursuing math and science. For the woman who wanted a small child to encourage and raise into a good human at home. For the couple who wanted to share their passions and help a small human discover theirs, but it just wasn't to be. For feeling apart on a night meant to be unifying. I felt that loss acutely last night.

I feel lucky that I can love on my students and devote all my "mom-ing" energy to them. I loved that I inserted my own childhood photo as a sort of seditious act, a sort of "I don't have my own kids but look at me as a child, just as relevant even if it's a little weird."

I was just caught off guard that that picture ended up sparking such a wave of sadness afterwards. Maybe it was fueled in part by exhaustion. Maybe it was fueled in part by the onslaught of "my kids my kids my kids" from other teachers, the slideshow at the beginning of the year, and Facebook Back to School posts that are STILL COMING thanks to Preschool.

Honestly, it's probably both.

Monday, September 9, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Lucky Guilt

So, I was one of the lucky 800 people who received a copy of Margaret Atwood's The Testaments from Amazon, early.


I was super excited at first, but then I found out my gain was the result of Amazon breaking the embargo set by the publisher to release 9/10... They released some a full week early.

My gain was the indie bookstores' loss, although I did preorder from Amazon so I can't be too sanctimonious about it. Although I do love supporting my local bookstores, I wanted it delivered to my house.

But I did decide not to read it until tomorrow (but also because Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake came out the same day and I've been clamoring for that last installment in that series!).

Tomorrow night I'm also going to a streamed live interview with Margaret Atwood at the theater nearby with friends, and that will be the breaking of the Testaments seal.

Would you have waited, or taken advantage of the windfall of a book released too early?

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

Friday, August 30, 2019

Living With Anxiety

I have generalized anxiety disorder.

It's something I've struggled with for a long time, but it's reared its ugly head at key moments in my adult life -- in the year before my divorce, throughout the hell of infertility treatments, and it exploded spectacularly at the end of our adoption phase of trying to become parents.

I resisted going on medication for my anxiety when it rose up during infertility. I associated that with failure, with feeling miserable in a bad marriage, with not being able to cope, and I felt like I COULD CONTROL THIS.

Which, ironically, was the anxiety talking.

I can look back through my life and see all the ways that anxiety has shaped who I am -- the need for predictability and control, the "creature of habit" things I do that make me feel better especially when everything around me seems so wildly out of control, making bad decisions because I think that I can control the uncontrollable, not being able to turn my thoughts "off" and constantly going over scenarios in my brain, my absolute terror that the worst is always going to happen (Bryce is late coming home from work and hasn't called, he must be lying bleeding and crushed under his upended car and his cell phone was destroyed and so they have no way of contacting me and I'll find out later when the police come to my door and tell me that my husband is dead and my life is destroyed, and when he does call or show up I am relieved but also so mad that he put me through his horrible death that never happened)...  Sometimes I'm so overwhelmed by things that my best option seems to be lying face down on the floor, or lying on the couch under a blanket unable to read because my mind is racing and I really should leave the house and go do something but I can't bring myself to move; I say yes to social commitments and then feel absolute dread when the day arrives and sometimes I go and sometimes I cancel because I've actually made myself feel physically ill over it, something that's doubled when it's a large group event (I HATE large group events), with the exception of some teacher-social-committee events and my book club (although I've cancelled on book club, too).

You know, stuff like that. It's exhausting.

A friend asked me if I'd considered going on antidepressant/antianxiety medication in fairly early stages of infertility, and said there was no shame in that, but I DID feel like there was shame in it for me, and so I said no. I can handle this. But then April 2017 happened and I couldn't pretend that I could control it any longer, so I went on the medication and it really did make a huge difference. I don't like being on medication, but I think I have to make peace with it because it makes everything so much more bearable.

Then I came across this book in a bookstore, and it was just so physically beautiful and it spoke to me:




I mean, look at it -- it's clothbound, the paper inside is lovely, it's tactile, it's a beautiful smaller-sized hardcover... so I bought it.

I love this book, so much. It is not about CONQUERING anxiety, but LIVING through it. Because, the author says, anxiety is part of what makes you, you -- and while there is a LOT of negative, there's also positive things.  The book is part Sarah Wilson's own journey through anxiety, part examination of the research surrounding anxiety, part toolbox of coping skills and helpful practices to soothe the beast, and really a manifesto on embracing anxiety and coexisting with it after you've transformed it into a thing of beauty.

Quotes I found particularly interesting:

"Many of us with anxiety don't look like we've got a problem because outwardly we function ludicrously well. Or so the merry story goes. Our anxiety sees us make industrious lists and plans, run purposefully from one thing to the next, and move fast up stairs and across traffic intersections. We are a picture of efficiency and energy, always on the move, always doing...But beneath the veneer we're being pushed by fear and doubt and a voice that tells us we're a bad husband, an insufficient sister, we're wasting time, we're not producing enough, that we turn everything into a clusterfuck." (Wilson, pg 30)

I can so relate to that. I have spent an insane amount of time getting my classroom ready for this year, and while I enjoy getting things ready and laminating and command-stripping posters up and organizing books and paperwork, is it really necessary for me to be a weird zoo display of a teacher in her classroom at 6:30 while families are coming to set up lockers and little sisters/brothers are like, "look Mom, it's a TEACHER!" as I hand letter a replacement reading tip for a poster that had one I disagreed with and painstakingly fit it over when normal people are having dinner with their families? It makes me  feel more in control. It makes me feel like I am ready, when really the dream in the middle of last night where I forgot to bring my first-day-instructions packet up to my room in time for extended homeroom and so instead I ended up doing some weird phonics thing with 8th graders when my principal and superintendent walked in to see what I'm up to and I am gripped with the certainty that I WILL BE FIRED until I wake up and vow to add "bring first day packet up to room" to my to-do list... Ummmm, that says my subconscious is not fooled by my "busy-ness."

"Anxious behavior is rewarded in our culture. Being highstrung, wound up, frenetic and soooo busy has a cachet. I ask someone, 'How are you?' and even if they're kicking back in a caravan park in the outback with a beer watching the sunset, their default response is, 'Gosh, so busy, out of control, crazy times.' And they wear it as a badge of honor. This means that many of us deny we have a problem and keep going and going. Indeed, the more anxious we are, the more we have to convince ourselves we don't have a problem. This is ironic, or paradoxical. And it seems awfully cruel..." (Wilson, pg 27)

Ugh how I hate the Cult of Busy. I was horrified when someone said, "oh man, I felt like I had pressure to start going in because you posted about working in your classroom so early..." and I was thinking OH NO I'M ONE OF THOSE! Really, the post was about how I'd made the horrible mistake of wearing a white shirt to move furniture in my grubby classroom, but then I'd ruined it with watermelon at home after all, but I guess it sent the message I AM WORKING IN MY CLASSROOM, LOOK AT ME WORKING! I actually don't want to be busy. I would rather brag about a day spent reading and doing "nothing" than how many hours I worked, but unfortunately I have a really hard time doing nothing. Except during the middle weeks of the summer.

"Depression is stigmatized, anxiety is sanctified as propping up modern life, which ironically sees depression treated as a legitimate illness, and the anxious left in a cesspool of self-doubt and self-flagellation for not being better at coping with life. And so we buy each other Keep Calm and Carry On mugs as though that's something you can just do. But it gets worse, you see. We then try to cope by revving up the angst, don't we? We use coffee and fast-speak and sugar and staying back at work longer. We grind harder. Try harder. Think harder. We should be able to work our way through this. We think this is what will fire us up out of our funk and get us back on our game. It's a self-perpetuating pain -- we use anxiety to fight our anxiety." (Wilson, p 28)

Good god, yes. This pretty much describes how I felt throughout infertility and adoption, that I could just work through it somehow and make it turn out how I wanted it to. I do the same with school. Also, one of Sarah Wilson's things is that she quit sugar, and she's very anti-sugar as a substance that puts your body at an imbalance. I try to be aware of my added sugars and choose foods based on lower sugar content that have no chemicals to make up for it (Cheerios instead of Honey Nut Cheerios, low-sugar hint-of-fruit yogurts or plain yogurt with fruit mixed in, etc.) but then I also love ice cream. And margaritas.

She talks about the autoimmune connection with anxiety and depression -- that 80-90% of those with anxiety/depression ALSO have an autoimmune disease, and inflammation impacts the brain, too (back to the sugar thing). She was diagnosed with Hashimoto's, and said this:

"But Hashimoto's also serves a very important function. It stops us when we can't do it ourselves. It's like our bodies step in and say to us, 'Well, if you won't stop, I will. And I'll collapse right here, in the middle of everything and prevent you from going any further down this path until you get a grip on yourself.'" (Wilson pgs 84-85)

OH HOLY JEEZUM. I don't have Hashimoto's, but this totally speaks to April 2017, when my body shut down our relentless pursuit for parenthood with a raging case of Scleritis, which is an autoimmune disease of the eye (and resulted in my having to visit the Eye Center of the hospital once yearly forever to make sure it doesn't come back). My body forced us (me) to stop. I also have Celiac, which is autoimmune, although that doesn't really stop me except when I get glutened and am out for the count for days. However, apparently autoimmune diseases gravitate towards each other and once you have one, your likelihood of developing another is fairly high. So I've read.

Another thing I loved about this book was that she offered practical strategies for managing anxiety, such as specific breathing exercises, how walking helps her and how exactly she walks as an anti-anxiety activity, various meditation exercises, writing down your worries, and something as simple as asking yourself "what's the problem" to get down deep to the root cause of physical symptoms of anxiety and see if there is something you can actively do to solve the problem,

She believes in medication, but not in over-medication, and she believes in trying non-pharmaceutical ways to manage anxiety along with appropriate medication. Which I appreciate, because I am wary when people claim that meditation, or breathing exercises will cure all your ills. But I do think it helps.

I used some of the breathing exercises (part this book, part deep belly Pilates breathing) when on a trip to Niagara-On-The-Lake with Bryce's dad and his wife -- the second bridge over Grand Island is terrifying, and the last time I crossed it I literally cried for about 20 minutes. I breathed like a monster through the whole bridge (because there was traffic to boot and we were stuck on it like molasses), and while everyone wondered if I'd lost my damn mind because it sounded so weird, I felt AWESOME. I made it through, I didn't feel any lingering  anxiety after we'd passed it, and my heart rate didn't go up hardly at all. Win, win, win. Now I have to try it over train crossings, because I will drive longer to avoid those as I can always see myself in my car crushed like a tin can and pushed down the tracks a mile because of a malfunctioning gate, every single time I go over one. This state of mind is SO FUN.

I do like the idea of harnessing the energy for good though, and celebrating the parts that are positive -- I do get things done, I do make lists and accomplish things on them (most of the time), I am a hard worker, and I do like routines and plans, which is super helpful as a teacher.

Sometimes when kids tell me about their anxiety, I tell them -- I'm in your tribe, friend. I don't know how you feel, not exactly, but I also struggle with these things and need medical help to manage it. Which makes me vulnerable (and I don't do it in large group situations, only when talking 1:1 with a student who feels alone in their struggles), but I think it is appreciated and helps kids feel less alone. And when I talk about self-soothing strategies for when you're really stressed, I can share the ones that definitely work for me. Which is lovely. And that is what this book did for me -- it was enlightening to see little things that have always been a part of me all add up to a big "OH, that's all part of my anxiety!" (And a little annoying to share them with Bryce and have him say, "oh, I've known that's part of your anxiety." Hmph. But also, how lucky that he SEES me.) Things as tiny as always having to sit in the same seat at the dinner table, and when it's okay to have French beef stew (Bryce wanted to have it in July once, and I was like NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT, that is not a summer food. Not allowed.), and needing certain rituals to make me feel better in times of high anxiety. I really liked that there was a section when Sarah Wilson said (I'm paraphrasing), "maybe leave this page out open for your loved ones to see, it will help them understand things they may find annoying that are part of your strategies to get through the day or cope with life." Ha.

So, if you also live with anxiety, or you want to understand someone you love who does, check out Sarah Wilson's book, first, we make the beast beautiful

Monday, August 19, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Organizing My Library

This summer, I did a little book re-organizing. Never you mind that we just moved here in December, and so the shelves have only really been organized less than a year, because one of my favorite things to do is to rearrange books. I know it's only a small part of being a librarian, but it makes me think I would love to be a librarian in another life (all those books! All the opportunities to talk about the books and direct people towards books and display the books! Yeah, I could dig being a small town librarian, at least the kind that lives in my fantasy of what that would look like). 

I moved my to-read shelves from one of the big bookshelves on my office wall to the 2-shelf bookcase that matches my desk. 

They were here, the 3rd shelf and 4th shelf down from the top, in easy reaching distance from the chaise lounge
And now they are here, in arms reach from my desk, but way more visible. 

I read a McSweeney's Internet Tendency piece that describes how you shelve your books says something about you, and by color was a category, although I disagree with what they say it means (although others are oddly accurate). 

My To-Read books are grouped in a way that is pretty, and puts things next to each other that encourage me to read something a little different each time. Just in the small yellow section alone, I have Mudbound (Hillary Jordan's multifamily saga historical fiction), Born a Crime (Trevor Noah's memoir about growing up in South Africa under apartheid), Okay Fine Whatever (Courtenay Hameister's chronicling her year of doing things she was afraid of), There There (Tommy Orange's debut novel told from 12 voices about the urban Native American experience), and I Saw a Man (Owen Sheers' suspenseful thriller involving the widower of a journalist killed in a drone strike), all coexisting in the same space -- totally different books, living in same-hued harmony. Paperbacks and hardcovers, side by side. 

This does not happen on my other shelves, which are grouped by genre and then alphabetical by author, with the exception of my "Special Shelf," a small bookcase dedicated to only my most special books and authors. I have a separate space for hardcovers in all but my Special Shelf, Natural History, and YA Fantasy/Sci Fi Series shelves. 

I may have some control issues. I like things just so. It doesn't bother me, though, that I do have a handful of to-reads scattered in other sections, mostly Natural History, Memoir, and hardcover fiction. It's a little sick that I know where they all are without looking. 

Also a little sick that all Bryce's Stephen King books are shelved in the order they were published, with hardcovers separate from paperbacks.
This bookshelf has Harry Potter and Series of Unfortunate Events, Stephen King paperbacks, then travel in lower left and music in the one with the music art. I like to think that guy up there is keeping watch over that shelf for when I need to start filling it with more books. 

I love bringing this order to my own personal library. I love shopping for my next read on my own shelves (although clearly I do a fair amount of shopping for books on store shelves as well), and having such a variety of genres and titles. I feel lucky to have my to-read collection be so extensive (and always shifting as I read them, shelve them, and put new ones in their place), and to have the time to read and enjoy what I'm reading in a space that clearly values literature of all kinds. 

How do you organize your books? 

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

Saturday, August 17, 2019

How Can You Be Happy?

Has this ever happened to you:

You are out with a friend, someone who knows you decently well and whom you met through infertility, and she says something that is prefaced with "I don't mean this to be judgmental or anything" and you really do believe her, but then the thing that was said sort of eats away at you for over a week until you find yourself all tied up in sad little knots about it?

I can't be the only one, right?

The thing that was said in this instance was twofold.

First Thing
We were talking about my life now, and I said that I was happy -- that I really do love my life and I am (now) happy.

She said, "I just don't get it. I say it to my husband all the time, I just don't understand how you can be happy. You didn't end up with what you were fighting for for so long, how can you be happy?"

It took me a little off guard, and I was quick to explain that yeah, I'm happy NOW, but that doesn't mean that I don't get sad and it didn't take me time and work and serious healing to get to where I am satisfied with my life and don't want to examine alternatives. I was a HOT MESS when everything went down the tubes. My health, physical and mental, was on the line. Which she acknowledged.

But then...

Second Thing
This is where the "I'm not being judgmental" thing came into play.

"I just don't get it, you went through so much with infertility, and it really didn't seem like adoption was that bad for you."

Oh. Oh dear.

This is a friend who went through her own horrific infertility experience, and who pursued adoption, and who never got a profile call from the agency, but after THREE MONTHS of being homestudy approved was matched privately through a friend's son's birthmother who knew someone, and was looking for someone willing to do private, and BOOM, match. The end.

I am not saying that it wasn't difficult, the waiting, the being matched and having the scary uncertainty of not knowing how it's all going to turn out, the not-real feeling of it all... but it was different. There was no getting a profile call and going through all the information under a time deadline to decide if you wanted to be in the mix, and then waiting and finding out you weren't picked. Or finding out after the fact that you were picked in a last minute situation but that things changed before you even knew about it. Not getting a call for over 6 months at a time. Doing this dance for two years.

I may have said something along those lines, like, "It may have seemed like it wasn't 'that bad,' but we did get profiled 6 times, and we did have to make tough decisions, and we did find ourselves facing situations where it was down to very few people and we weren't picked. Infertility was physically hard and emotionally hard, but with adoption, it's your LIFE that is being deemed a good fit or not, and to not get picked over and over was incredibly difficult."

I may have had flashbacks to a baby shower for this friend that I was happy to attend because I was glad, SO glad that her incredibly shitty infertility journey had led to a relatively swift adoption experience, and she and the woman whose son's birthmom was the connection for this joyous occasion kept telling me what a mistake it was to not do private. Which was incredibly insightful and eye-opening, and super helpful. OH WAIT. No it wasn't, and I left early and cried the entire way home, and vowed I would never go to another baby shower again. Also, I felt righteously angry, because how could someone pressure me to do private who never, ever had to answer any phone calls or actively advertise? Not everyone has the coveted "friend of a friend" situation.

How This Made Me Feel
All of this rattled around in my (slightly stressed, second-half-of-August) head, until it got tied in with the fact that we are actually going to surrender Maebe back to the shelter where she came from, and I felt like everything was just making me feel like a loser/failure/person-who-gives up.

Do you want to throw things at me? My therapist said as much when I dissolved into a puddle in her office for the first time in a long time, but she got it when I put everything together for her.

I know, I KNOW that in both of these situations I did everything that I could do to pursue things, and despite my efforts it is just not working. The lady at the shelter agreed when I talked to her about our heartbreaking decision to surrender Maebe, when she was clearly in disbelief that we'd done as much as we had for a cat who takes any opportunity given to leave an insane amount of shit in our laundry baskets. "In all my experience, I've never had someone do this much medically and behaviorally for a cat with these issues, so you can rest assured that you've done everything you could and more and this is not because of you."

I so appreciated that. What a beautiful release, to hear those words and feel like okay, you're NOT a horrible monster who "can't handle" the older cat you adopted on purpose.

And then I thought how nice it would have been to have someone say that to us when we left the adoption process and decided to resolve childfree -- to have someone from the agency or whatever say, "you did everything you could and more, given that you landed in the emergency room and had to take medical leave from your job because stress and anxiety was literally trying to kill you. You can rest assured that you are not a quitter."

You can hear that from your loved ones, and from people who are empathetic who've been in the trenches, but it is incredibly painful to get the opposite message from people who've "been there."

Because, NO ONE HAS "BEEN THERE." Just you. People may have been in general proximity to your "there," but your situation has its very own GPS coordinate.

Why This Drives Me Crazy
People love to tell you that they've been where you are and it could have turned out differently. Or WILL turn out like theirs did, if you're still in it. It's like the lady who wanted to meet me out for coffee to talk about our journeys, but really wanted to assure me that if she could adopt a 4-year old internationally at 46, my journey didn't HAVE to be over. That clearly I wasn't all that happy and settled into my decision. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? First off, I didn't know this person hardly at all. And second, who are you to tell me how happy I am in my decision? Because you see maybe a tenth of my posts on Facebook? Because I write about grief?

It's that whole thing, where HOW CAN YOU BE HAPPY seems to have the unsaid "because I can't imagine my life without my child, and I can't imagine being happy without what what I have, and there's no way that I could make the choice you made and be actually happy."

I can be happy because I'm also sometimes sad. I can be happy because there's more to me than the desire to be a mother. That was never going to be the only thing that defined me, and the further into our quest that we got the more that I realized that I wasn't actually willing to sacrifice everything just to be mom, NOT BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT TO BE A MOM, but because I wanted there to be more about me than parenting. I wanted my marriage, my teaching, my writing, my reading, my gardening, my cooking, my cats -- I wanted all of it to be a part of my parenting experience. I've seen people do it. But the further in I got the more I felt like I had become singular in focus, that I was losing sight of who I was and what my life could be, and in the end the cost was too great. Getting sent to the ER from Urgent Care because they're just not sure if you're having a cardiac event or not and having it be a stellar combo of heartburn from the prednisone for the autoimmune eye disease you've developed and crippling anxiety... that tends to speed up a serious discussion about priorities.

This is my fear, though -- that comments like "how can you be happy" or "it didn't seem that bad" (again, WTF?) or "there's still hope for you, I can tell you want it!" are really saying, "I think you gave up." They're saying that my choice is unfathomable. And even though it was a choice to step off the ride, I hate to say "choice" because an awful lot of things outside my control led to that decision, and it wasn't one we would have made earlier.

Maybe it's scary to think that you could be fulfilled in a life without children. Maybe it's somehow offensive that my husband and my home and my job and my interests could be enough to make me feel like a worthy human whose life is full and satisfying even without having someone to raise.

My therapist (and Bryce, separately, when I told him about my sadness) said, "comments like that say more about the person's perspective who said them than about you." Logically, I get it. But it still has echoes of being judged on my life, and having it come up wanting somehow, and of feeling massively misunderstood.

It brought back another memory from earlier, of talking with someone who had been successful with the adoption agency and had a complicated story, but who talked to me about the process when we were first starting out on the adoption path. She said she'd had profile calls every 2-6 weeks until they had their situation that came through, albeit after a heartpounding time where the birthmother decided to parent and then found she had no support and ultimately placed with them. She said that she'd bonded with people in her homestudy class group, that she'd kept in touch with a bunch of people (we did not have that same experience). And that a couple from New York City decided not to renew their homestudy after a year, because they'd received absolutely no profile calls and it was just too brutal of a process, that they were going to resolve childfree. She was incredulous -- HOW COULD ANYONE GIVE UP SO EASILY? Stay in the game and it WILL happen! I was super uncomfortable. It seemed super judgy to me, because, um, they had ZERO profile calls. She didn't know what that felt like. They didn't have a child from infertility treatments, like the woman I was talking to. This was their last shot at parenthood, and it hadn't gone how they'd thought it would and it was hard and we didn't KNOW what came before that informed their decision and we SHOULDN'T HAVE TO KNOW in order to simply be empathetic. To be like, "wow, that's rough -- I'm thinking of you. I'm sure you're making the decision that is right for you, and it will be okay eventually."

HOW FUCKING HARD IS THAT?

Instead, they were met with judgment that probably didn't always come straight to their faces but I bet surrounded them like a stinky cloud. They quit. They didn't try hard enough. They didn't "seem to have it hard enough."

Why do we do this to each other? Why do human beings want to put their own decisions and timelines on others, and feel so sure that they know the answers to everything? And that any alternative that isn't like theirs is not acceptable, lesser, a shame?

I don't want to feel like I need to justify my decisions. I shouldn't have to. But situations like these make me feel like I need to make it clear that I did all I could, when really what I'd love to do is just hand people a gift-wrapped box filled with empathy and the capacity to see that you don't actually know what someone else has been through. Even if you don't mean to be judgmental, maybe the right thing is to say, "I'm glad you made the decision that's right for you."

Monday, August 12, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Feeling Like a Failure

Oh, Maebe. It's been a rough go, and once again we find ourselves wondering about that point in time called Enough.

At this point, Maebe is on three medications (blood pressure, thyroid, Prozac), which now she is refusing to take. She isn't eating -- sometimes not nearly enough, sometimes not at all. She went back into confinement in the guest/craft room again after using my dirty laundry basket as a litterbox and actually peeing UP the wall of the closet in July. That's when the Prozac started, as well as the Feliway diffuser (it puts out "happy cat" pheromones and is supposed to help ease stress).

But the problem is, is that Maebe isn't really happy here. She and Lucky are both the same age, 12, but they have very different personalities (probably since they've had very different lives). Lucky is like barely reined-in playboy, like a George Clooney sort of cat, and Maebe...she's more of a dowager Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey type of crotchety duchess. So when Lucky wanted to play, she was not having it, and then she became a hunting game where he'll corner her under a dresser and just lie across the floor in front of it to nonchalantly block her exit. The laundry basket incident was at least in large part because she was hiding in the closet from Lucky, and she probably thought "well, this is a gray box, and it's a lot softer than my (special nontracking nondust corn litter) box in in the other room, so I'll just go here."

I am so sad, because we really just wanted to get a playmate for Lucky and save an older cat from the shelter, but I don't think she's feeling super "saved" right now. We have to find another home for her, and I don't know how to do that when she is so medically complex and has the dreaded litterbox issues (although, to be fair, since the Feliway and the Prozac, she's been consistently in the litterbox, no accidents, no near-misses in the washing machine tray her litterbox sits in).

It feels like a terrible failure, although I don't know what else we could possibly do. She still won't come downstairs, she hides, she's getting skinnier every day. She's a sweet cat, when not terrorized and on a hunger strike. It's not kind to keep her. It just sucks.


Mid July, before the Laundry Basket Incident and the food issues.

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Camp Day

This summer, we didn't do any traveling. Bryce has a new job and doesn't really have the opportunity to take a week off yet (as he's only been there for maybe two months), and the summer got surprisingly busy, even without a trip.

I went to visit my best friend in Poughkeepsie, and we had my niece-ish and nephew-ish from Canada stay with us for a night (my stepfather's brother is only 7 years older than me, so even though these awesome kids are technically cousins, I feel more aunty-like with them), and Bryce's dad and his wife are coming for a long weekend later in August. I have been gardening up a storm, and taking classes for school (real light things like Therapeutic Behavior Management with Physical Holds and Youth Mental Health First Aid).

But I've missed going away somewhere.

So, we had a Camp Day yesterday.

What is a Camp Day?

It is a day with no phones, no computers, no devices (other than the Google Home that runs our thermostat (although that was off because it was lovely and cool) and our music through the creepy Google wiretap devices we have all over), no work that you wouldn't do if you were away at a camp in Maine.

It was real weird to lock my phone away, for the first couple hours, and then it was lovely. We read, played ping pong, went for a walk, went out to lunch, took a nap, rearranged some bookshelves in Bryce's office (okay, that one was sort of cheating, because we wouldn't have had our shelves at camp, but Bryce made the point that it's something he's WANTED to do for a while and work and PhD obligations make it impossible to get to, so could we pretend we had a portal to his office? Um, sure.), cooked a completely delicious dinner of scallops and farm stand produce salad and potatoes gratin and dry aged ribeye and some fancy wine from the rack in the "basement" -- and then we went to bed, full and tipsy and relaxed.

It was a beautiful day. The weather was perfect (chilly, clear, and sunny), the food was perfect, the relaxation and enjoyment of our home was perfect. I realized how much I use my phone to waste time, and to take photos of what we're doing. I like having those photos to look back on, but it was oddly freeing to not be my own paparazzi.

I wish we could do a Camp Day once a month, a sort of technology detox retreat right here in our home. I feel so grateful to have the kind of life where a day with my husband in our house with nothing but books and music and food and wine (and ping pong) feels like a terrific vacation.