Sunday, June 3, 2018


It is gloriously cool out, finally, after a week of near-90 (and sometimes above-90) temperatures and humidity. Which wouldn't be so bad if my classroom wasn't on the second floor of an unairconditioned, brick oven of a building. I have come home from school every day with my arms sticking to themselves, in need of two showers per day and usually collapsing on the couch for at least an hour. It is awful, and makes everyone cranky. Hard to learn when there's sweat dripping everywhere sweat can drip.

But this weekend things turned around and a cold front moved in and the week ahead looks like it will be in the 60s or 70s, and we will all breathe a giant sigh of relief as we make our way through the last two weeks of school with kids. They are so ready. And honestly, so are we.

But it's sad, because in that year you become a family, and then it's over. As much as this past week was The Week of the Lunch Detention and the Fifteen Billion "Family Meetings" About Shitty Behavior, I will absolutely miss this group of kids -- I'll miss seeing them daily, I'll miss the fist bumps in the hall (and how I make them do the Big Hero Six "ba duh da DAH da da da" sound as they wave their fingers back), the genuine thank yous that do actually come sometimes, the handshakes after I've stayed after on a hot Friday afternoon so that students can finish their last index cards for the last research project that is slowly killing us all, the way I feel like a celebrity when they see me out in public and I hear "MRS T________!" from across the grocery store or Target or a local festival. It is the lovely thing about teaching -- you live your life in cycles, with kids coming and going in these 10 month periods, and you become close and like family. But then they move on to high school and maybe you see them again, and maybe you don't.

Yesterday I went to the Canal Days festival in the the town where I teach, where they shut down Main Street and have vendors all along the liftbridge over the Erie Canal. I normally avoid most summer festivals for a variety of reasons: a) a boatload of people in tight spaces, b) if ever you want evidence that THE WORLD can procreate where you can't, go to one of these where the strollers and pregnant bellies and baby carriers are literally EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK, and c) I don't want to run into people from a previous life, as I've been fortunate enough to have real limited run-ins with people who sometimes through guilt by association and sometimes through their actions trigger the PTSD from the whole of my twenties. Festivals are tricky that way; people come from all over.

Luckily, I didn't have too much difficulty with any of those (and none for c), thank goodness) -- I went this year to volunteer with a friend of mine at a booth where the teacher's union was giving out free books to kids. I mean, what better way to spend an hour of your Saturday than to hand out free books to children of all ages? It was glorious.

And then, as we walked down the street to check out one last section before walking back to my friend's apartment via the canal path, we ran into two students from two years ago. One of them was both in my consultant teacher English class and my small study hall, and we'd kept in touch via email for a while. She was my student in 2015-2016, the Hopeful Year of Adoption.

Midway through our small talk about life at the high school, she said, "OH! Did you get your baby?"


"Oh! Um, uhhhhh..... well, NO. No I didn't. Last year was...last year was AWFUL. It didn't work out. So, um, no." I stuttered through my reply and hoped it wasn't as awkward as it felt.

Her face fell and she looked, panicked, at her friend and mumbled, "Oh god, oh sorry."

"No no no!" I said, "That is a PERFECTLY fine question to ask. You had no way of knowing that last year was terrible. Why wouldn't you ask? Don't feel bad. Honestly."

She looked a little skeptical.

"Seriously! I don't have a baby, but I have...I have CATS! And lots of energy to annoy my students even further!" That one got laughs from both students, who probably thought I was nuts at this point, but it was ever so SLIGHTLY less awkward than before.

I felt different emotions when later in the conversation one of the girls said who her English teacher was, and it was someone who was actually successful with adoption last June. She had gone through two agencies, one the same we'd used, and one from a different part of the state. That was the one that resulted in placement.

It was my turn to feel panicked, because while I'm sure they didn't even connect the two things, all of a sudden my evil voice in the back of my head started turning my thoughts in a downward spiral, fast:

"oh man, i must sound like a total loser. it worked out fine for HER, and they know someone who adoption DID work out for, and here i am going 'boo hoo it was terrible and didn't work out' and now i am a sad sap of the highest order. 
crap crap crappitty crap. i should have pressed another agency harder. i should have lasted longer. 
i sucked at adoption. i suck. 

I am actually still in a bit of a funk from that interchange. It nestled like a bean seed of sadness in the back of my mind and then sent out roots, unfurling its ugliness all in my subconscious until it took over my consciousness, too. 

Logically, I know it's not true. I know that we did the best that we could with what we were given, and what we were given was more difficult than I had anticipated. I know that it was the best choice for us. I know that I am truly happy with my life as is, and that there is so much to look forward to. 

But I also know that these moments will happen. They will come with their tiny stabby needles and jab me in my most tender spaces. It doesn't mean that I'm not happy. It doesn't mean that I truly have unlivable regrets. I can shut that voice up because she is NOT helpful and she lies. We did look into pursuing another agency at the same time. It wasn't for us. Between the two of us, we'd hit our limit at different points, with different elements of the journey, and we stayed true to what we could handle in terms of time commitments and emotional bandwidth and the expense of it all. And the expense became far, far more than just monetary and we had to end things, and that's okay. 

I'm sure she won't be the only one I'll run into who will want to know what ultimately happened with our journey. But she was the first of the students from the hopeful time. I think it went okay. I am unwinding the spiral and treating myself with gardening, and reading, and sitting outside in the glorious cool breeze. 

Because life is good. Just as it is. 


  1. This post is amazing. I can feel how you feel... content with how things worked out but all the underlying shit and hurt is still there. I’m going to come back to this one as I can relate too well... from both the infertility parts of my life and oh so much more. I hope you had some good taking care of you time this weekend. Hugs.

  2. This post really captures the sort of duality that happens in the "after" of a major, life-changing situation. makes so much sense, both the happiness and the kernel of sadness that can grow suddenly. Glad that you are taking the time to unwind, care for yourself, and honor the struggle and the goodness. (Commenting from a different account than usual, Katherine A/inconceivable)

  3. I am in awe with the authenticity you life your life with, the ways you find and are aware of joy, and how mindful you are of your own inner workings.


  4. Agreeing with Renee. Your life is beautiful and it’s clear you and Bryce are happy. But just because you are happy doesn’t mean you are no longer allowed to be sad about what was lost and all the heartache you lived through. I would be surprised if you weren’t in a funk after that interaction, given that last year involved one hell of a trauma and a lot of rebuilding.

    I’m so proud of you for how you handled that interaction. You were honest, recovered well for all involved and demonstrated that happy endings don’t all look the same. And also that even though there is sadness, there is joy.

    Please be kind to yourself in the days to come.

  5. Thank you for helping me feel not so alone. One of my friends that I've known the longest just had her baby. I don't know how many IVF cycles they did, but when she announced her pregnancy with "Never Give Up" I honestly felt like a loser. Do people think I gave up? I did everything I could until I couldn't anymore. It wasn't a difficult decision to stop trying because I didn't feel like it was a decision at all. It was a necessity. I know I tried hard and I tried "hard enough" but that voice of doubt still nags me sometimes. And I know life is good now. Life is GOOD now but I still feel pain sometimes about not being a mother. Just... Thank you. Thank you for writing and for sharing all that you share. <3

  6. Jess, this is so moving. I'm glad you're able to turn things around a bit and celebrate what you do have, although I'm sure your pain and loss will walk with you for a very long time. I can relate to the joy of seeing former students...I once heard the cry "Wheeeeeel!" in London's Heathrow Airport. Yes, it was a former student...And now I'm FB friends with a whole slew of former students, who are all grown up and everything. It's weird when you realize that they are now adults, and I am really old. But it's still a joy. That old saying "Teachers touch lives forever" is so true. And yes, students are a family, as is a school. Enjoy it all, embrace the good, and let go of the you are doing. Love you.