Monday, April 23, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: What Has Changed?

Today we had our Superintendent's Day Conference (so no school for students, but a day of meetings for teachers and staff), and the series of speakers started with a question posed, somewhat rhetorically, for our own, personal reflection:

What has changed?


I was actually thinking about this yesterday, when I was (FINALLY) outside in the garden, weeding. 

You see, last year  at this time I could not garden the way I normally do, because I was trying to scoop my goo together and back into something resembling functioning human-like form. We actually hired out some of the weeding (which killed me a little on the inside, because I really REALLY love to weed) because it was so overwhelming to me to be outside in full view of the neighbors whilst in my gooey state. I just couldn't do it all.

The difference between last year and this year is INCREDIBLE. Last year I was slowly crawling out of the deepest pit I'd ever landed myself in, and this year I stumble into smaller pits from time to time, but I am no longer in a place of horrid uncertainty, of the pain of feeling constantly rejected in our family building efforts, and not knowing how much we had left to give our quest (and knowing deep down that we had reached the point where the price was too high). 

I am whole this year. I am celebrating the climb out of the pit, the ability to reclaim my house and my yard and my life from years of "but what if..." that never became something real. 

So what has changed? EVERYTHING -- and while it's been a difficult loss that knocks me to the floor on occasion, it's been such a freeing thing to see how much lighter I am this year than last (and not just because I'm down 9 pounds now). I feel unburdened, and centered, and no longer unmoored. 

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: On Women's Magazines

I am a sucker for women's magazines. For the longest time, I read GL.AMOUR and Cla.ire, until I realized that I had kinda sorta aged out of their target demographic.

I know that women's magazines as a rule are pretty awful, presenting photoshopped images of women that are impossible to achieve in real life; giving advice on how to look more youthful, ever slimmer; and advertising clothing, shoes, and bags that the typical person can't truly afford.

But I do love a good beauty feature on lipsticks of the moment, and I love book recommendations, stories about relationships, tips on saving money and my health, yummy recipes, and stories about inspirational women.

So I got a subscription to Redb.ook in the last couple of years, because it seemed to have been rebranded a bit from the magazine of my youth that the middle aged ladies read and was a mix of recipes, and real-world fashion/beauty tips, and money management, and housewares.


For some reason, when I read Redb.ook, I don't feel particularly represented as a woman in my 40s without children. There are a lot of assumptions made that if you read this magazine, you have children. You're a mom. There's a lot of "we're all in this together" with reference to family trips and back to school and the stresses of mom-dom. There have been some infertility stories, but most if not all of them end with a baby, some way, some how. The message is that if you are a woman, you must also be a mom.

It irks me.

But I don't know of magazines that fit my demographic (not start-of-my-adult-life but also not quite AARP) that DON'T weigh heavily toward the parenting set. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the occasional mention of motherhood and the stresses and tips for that stage of life. But it's just not a stage of life that EVERYONE gets. Why is it necessary to have a section on looking less tired but only mention sleepless nights from little kids or the exhaustion of the carpool timeframe? Can't all women get a little you-time without making it always a "mommy's time out?"

I feel like there's an assumption made that MOST women are parenting in their 30s-50s, which seems to be the key demographic, and so most articles SHOULD mention motherhood as a given. Even a health spread on women's bodies and injury risks mentioned back pain from carrying boobs and pregnant bellies around. Not "you might carry a pregnant belly around," but "hell yeah, that pregnant belly EVERYONE carried around at some point wreaked havoc on your back."

So, am I missing a magazine out there that DOESN'T do this? I do love my Redb.ook, because they show real women frequently with many different bodies and ages and it covers a wide variety of interests, but the mom-centric bent is really getting to me lately. Isn't that what parenting magazines are for? I don't buy those [anymore] because they clearly don't apply to me.

Frankly, it's lonely to read a magazine that's supposed to speak to the woman's experience and feel so very left out, so frequently.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

I Am Not A Ballerina (but sometimes I think I am)

Let me take a little pause from the difficulties of April to tell you a story.

When I was in high school, my two best friends (let's call them Carrie and Hannah for simplicity's sake) and I decided it would be fun to go to a dance studio and take some lessons. None of us had taken any dance since we were maybe five, doing the obligatory ballet-and-tap combo where you run around with scarves, but we all thought this was an AMAZING idea.

When I was five, I sucked at the dancing. I was not coordinated. My joints were awful. I don't remember anyone saying, "Ah, she's going to be the next Anna Pavlova!" I knew who Anna Pavlova was because she was featured in this beautiful coloring book I had featuring her doing gorgeous arabesques in different costumes (Swan Lake! Firebird!). Despite not having done any kind of dance since I was a chubby little kindergartner, I still really loved dancing.

I remember a girl in choir telling me that I had dancer's feet, and in my head a little voice squealed, "I AM A CLOSET BALLERINA! This is my DESTINY!" I loved the book Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I loved the idea of being a sneak attack star. I had that picture book, The Little Ballerina, which made me want to install a broomstick barre in the basement and do all the positions with my feet. I mean, she had joint issues too, and turned out to be amazing! It could happen, right?

Look! She's in toe shoes, after less than a year of lessons!

So when we were deciding which dance classes to take at the studio that gave you a punch card and free reign to pop into any introductory classes, I was like, "LET'S DO BALLET!"

Hannah was totally with me on that one, but Carrie was more hesitant, saying, "I don't know, I think tap would be a lot more fun. Why don't we do tap?"

"Why don't we try BOTH and see which we like better?" I proposed, and so we went to a ballet class.

Ballet I.

As soon as we walked into the studio I knew I was in trouble.

The girls were tall, lean, and lithe, with obvious backgrounds in dance. They stretched impossibly at the bar and on the floor, and I felt like all of them were watching me and wondering why on earth I had wandered into this particular class. Carrie and Hannah were both thinner than me, and Hannah ran track with me (her idea to increase our odds of getting into "good" colleges, I did it because you didn't have to try out for track) and she was athletic. I didn't yet know I had PCOS and while I was much, much thinner than I am now, I had boobs and butt and my ever-present belly.

We started at the barre, and I was actually pretty flexible (although my hips turn in better than they turn out). We stood and did plies in different positions, and the teacher, who I remember as older and French and scary, came over and pushed on my stomach and my butt, hissing, "Suck it IN! Straighter! IN!"

I laughed and said, "I'm sorry, but this is as far in as it goes! There IS no more in!"

At this point I knew that ballet was NOT going to be my thing, I wasn't a secret ballerina, and I was giggling to the point of possibly snorting, along with my more lithe and coordinated friends.

The worst was yet to come.

One of the last things we did in class (because we were determined to stay the whole time) was to do this running leaping arabesque thing across the floor. I watched as all these other girls effortlessly ran and leaped, landing with a soft sound like they were sacks of feathers. And I felt a little dread at the pit of my stomach.

My friends went before me, and they landed louder than the others but were graceful enough.

And then I went, and I felt like as I landed the mirrors shook on the walls and the other dance classes must have stopped to see if there was an earthquake. I have to point out, I weighed probably 128 at this point in my life, but graceful I was not. I did not even remotely know how to land softly, like a delicate sack of feathers.

I landed like a tutu-wearing hippo in Fantasia.

When we left, we were overcome with giggles. I was totally ready for tap, where the more noise you made, the better. Maybe it wouldn't be as awful as I remembered from being five.

Tap was AMAZING. I felt coordinated(ish). I could do the steps, eventually. I made all the right kind of noises. AND, it was a much smaller class, with a lot of middle-aged ladies (oh god, probably middle aged ladies at that time in my mind were younger than I am now... sheesh) and a teacher who was a former Rockette. We belonged. And I stuck with it for a couple years, which helped me land a role as an Angel in Anything Goes my senior year of high school.

I still wasn't the most graceful of the bunch, but I loved it. Surprisingly, I was relatively good at it. I didn't fit AT ALL as a ballerina, but I did pretty okay as a tap dancer. I just had to wear a good sports bra.

Now, I find myself itching to dance again. I still remember parts of routines from high school, and I love pretending to be a ballerina in my house, since so many of my pilates/yoga/dance fusion fitness DVDs have ballet-like moves in them, and we listen to a lot of classical music. I am probably going to injure myself leaping around the living room, but I have this urge to do it. And so I do. I also dance around my classrooms frequently, which makes some students say, "you are the happiest teacher I've ever had; you're always dancing around" and others say, "Oh god, why is she dancing again? Aaaaargghhhh!" After the talent show when some girls did amazing Irish dance routines, I tried my hand at it. I ended up on the floor. So maybe no Irish dance. But I must say, I am capable of good balance and I can do a mean high kick.

There is a studio near me that opened up that is women only and has various dance classes, including...TAP. I feel like it could be really fun to sign up for a class, but I am a little afraid of feeling like I did in that ballet class -- like I have the wrong body, the wrong skill set. And now I'm old(er). More prone to  busting up something. But, what do I have to lose? Did being a Fantasia hippo kill me? No. So I should totally look into starting the next session. I should get myself some tap shoes. What I like about this studio is that it sounds like the place I went to in high school -- not a super competitive dance studio, but a place to go have fun and dance your little heart out, once a week for an hour.

I have an inner dancer, and she's dying to come out. Maybe this studio will be the right fit. Maybe I can let her out without breaking any bones or spraining any muscles. Maybe this will be the ticket to [continuing to] get my body in better shape, along with the gym and my tapes. I just have to get over my fears and commit. Maybe I am a secret 40-something tap prodigy. How will I know if I don't sign up?

Monday, April 9, 2018

Little Bits of Spring

Thank you, thank you for all the love and support since my awful shaky Saturday (that led to an awful, shaky Sunday). I definitely think that one of the things that contributes to this being a tough time is that spring seems to be on hiatus, and it's really not clear when she's coming back.

I had some beautiful crocuses, squirrel-planted, but the deer ate them this morning (or last night)...can't say I blame them, there's precious little for them to nibble on right now.

In memoriam...

I have some snowdrops that are lasting a real long time, thanks to the cold weather -- they were covered in snow just a few days ago but bounced back and are my favorite resilient spring plant.

A little clump of spring in the sea of brown and gray

But my favorite is this one:

Tough little pansy

See, last year around this time I had a basket of pansies, and it was actually warm out so I was visited by a butterfly during the time when I was healing and putting my goo back together again. It was warm enough to sit out on the front porch/stoop and read in the sunshine, and admire the tiny sea of purple pansies and lace-edged butterfly that came to visit.

Last April. See the butterfly peeking up?

I guess they reseeded, in the cobblestones of our stoop, because this lone pansy is coming up out of the cracks with its beautiful bright promise of spring.

It is a tiny symbol of hope and resilience. Someday the butterflies will be back and I can sit on this porch and feel the sunshine inside and out.

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

Sunday, April 8, 2018

I Might Have Spoken Too Soon

Yesterday was a rough day.

I didn't handle it as amazingly as I handled Thursday.

I woke up in kind of a funk and just sort of wanted to curl up in my awesome giant fleece bathrobe that is sort of like wearing a fuzzy cocoon and lie facedown on the couch for I don't know, forever.

So, Saturday was the one year anniversary of truly hitting the breaking point and finding myself in a position where I could no longer pretend that everything was fine, that I was coping just great with the whiplash fast cycles of hope and despair that the adoption process was for us, that I could continue giving my all in school and not honor the fact that my losses and my ability to continue persevering were weighing me down to the point where I was drowning. I didn't want to give that anniversary the power to put me in a funk, and I had all these plans to make the day lovely:

- We were going to go check out gas fireplace options for our living room (since we have a lovely wood-burning fireplace but we haven't burnt wood in it in years, and when we go away and the room has a gas fireplace we hate the blue starter flame but love that you can have a cozy fire with the flip of a switch).
- We were going to go to a cooking store where Bryce has a gift certificate.
- We were going to go to the grocery store to get the fixings for the yummy dinner I'd planned to sort of combat the sadness of this time -- Bryce's delicious roast duck breast, red swiss chard, fingerling potatoes, some fancy cheeses and marcona almonds -- definitely not foods within the liver plan, but whatever, I am technically still on vacation. A girl's gotta live.
- I was meeting a friend to go see Love, Simon which would then give Bryce some time to get some researchy work done.
- When I got back, we'd have cheese and GF coconut shrimp and a little bubbly and then the duck extravaganza with a nice French burgundy.

Sounds great, right? Maybe fit the gym in there, too.

That is NOT what happened.

We checked out the fireplace stuff, but the fireplace shop was walking distance from my old house where I lived in a previous life, and I started to feel a little anxious then, a little icky, but I got over it as we drove back into the area that is now where this life is spent.

We couldn't go to the cooking shop since we forgot the gift certificate on the back of the couch by the cat, so we went to the grocery, and had a yummy salad lunch where I went a little topping-crazy and got an upcharge but it was totally delicious so I didn't mind. It was good, but I was a little worried about getting glutened. I didn't, though. Which was fortunate, because that would have totally escalated everything else.

Then we walked around to do the little shopping, and I'm not entirely sure when things went awry but I found myself in a bit of a flight-or-fight mindset.

It was crowded, and there were people with young children, but I think maybe I passed someone talking to her child who looked sort of familiar, like maybe a person from fertility groups past, and I started cycling in my head a bit about how Wegmans is the perfect place to see what life could have looked like had things worked out differently.

I mean, also we had duck and fancy goat brie and figs in our cart, and there was a lot of wipes and gallon milk and stuff in that cart, so you could probably imagine that others might see us and wonder what life would be like if things worked out differently, too... which helps me to feel a little better.

But it didn't stop me from all of a sudden feeling SUPER panicky and having my heartrate speed up and my breathing get all shallow. We were in the checkout line and Bryce asked, "Um, are you okay? You," and my eyes welled up with tears I wasn't sure I could stop and I just said, "I don't want to talk about it now but I really need to get out of here and I don't think I can do the movie."

So he switched places with me and chatted with the cashier while I looked elsewhere and tried to surreptitiously wipe the tears that were running silently down my face, and thought that honestly, I couldn't really pinpoint any one thing.

I was just sad.

And panicky.

So I ducked out of the movie and sent Bryce in to find my friend (who fortunately was also meeting someone else so it's not like I ruined the day there) and I stayed in the car and sent a text that basically said I wasn't public-okay and needed to go home, but her phone is a flippy thing and she couldn't read it so it was good that Bryce found her inside the cinema.

We went home, and I cried, and I couldn't put into words why exactly, and then I got into pajamas and laid down on the couch and fell asleep for about two hours.

I felt like the old pit opened up underneath me for a moment in time.

After waking up I felt way better though, and got some food ready. We played a game all night that was "make a Google Music playlist of songs that are just a woman's first name" and it lasted HOURS. There are a LOT of songs like that. It was highly entertaining to follow "Cecilia" with "Jenny From the Block." I danced around and ate my face off and felt much better.

But today I am feeling a little panicky again. I'm home, and I'm getting the house ready for the book club on Tuesday where we'll talk about I Am, I Am, I Am, and I'll make white chicken chili and salad and pick up wine tomorrow. It feels overwhelming. Going back to school tomorrow feels overwhelming. I didn't do ANYTHING over the break, and I feel like I need to get in and make sure I'm in good shape for tomorrow, but I just have this feeling of having a bunch of nameless stuff pushing down on me, leaving me feeling a little crushed, a little compressed, and out of breath.

This will pass. I know it will. I will get back into a routine and have order in my days again and that will be comforting. I will have my last IEP meeting on Tuesday (which I realized is on the same day as state tests and so the timing of classes is wayyy off, which will be interesting). We are starting an interdisciplinary unit on WWII in both my English classes, so things will be super interesting for the next 3-4 weeks. And then it will be May.

Maybe the weather has me down, too. It's cold, and snowy, and gray. The spring bulbs have just sort of paused themselves. Everything feels on hold.

Anyway, this post feels rambly and somewhat depressing, and basically is a way for me to attempt to purge this sense of unsettledness from my psyche. And also to show that some days you feel awesome and in control of everything and like acceptance and healing are totally your thing, and then other days you sink a bit into an old pit that was just lurking, waiting for you to slip.

Except now I know that there is a way out, and that this is temporary, and normal, and a part of all that healing and acceptance. Hopefully tomorrow is better.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Such a Better Place

I am so grateful that I am in a better place now than I was a year ago. It is a little crazy to me that all of the changes have happened in just one year -- yesterday was the anniversary of my lovely emergency room visit that preceded the mental breakdown that was one year ago tomorrow. I went back and read a few posts from that time for a little perspective.

It is a wonderful thing, having a blog, because it's like having a little time machine. I can go back and see exactly how I was feeling in a particular point in time, and gain a new appreciation for how far I've come.

Yesterday I received an email that would have totally destroyed my day closer to Spring 2017.

I was sort of cleaning out my inbox (I am NOT a zero-inbox person, I am a Hoard-All-the-Emails-In-Case-I-Need-Them person) when I see one in Promotions that says, "You have not yet responded to the RSVP for the Spring Fling." Huh. Spring Fling. I'm pretty sure I don't go to things like that, and it sounds suspiciously like a family-friendly sort of event.

So I click on it.

It is an invitation to the Spring families event hosted by our former adoption agency. An event we NEVER went to because being the weird childless people at an Easter Egg Hunt wasn't real appealing, and spring is usually a difficult time, but here I am, with an invite through Sign-Up Genius that is giving me a bit of a twitch.


So I click "NO" and see a section for "Personal Message." Great, perfect. I write, "Hi, if you could remove me from this list that would be great. We resolved child free and are no longer affiliated with [Adoption Agency]. I hope you have a wonderful event! - Jess

Boom, done.

Oh. Not so "personal," Sign Up Genius. It posts on the message board. Which makes me feel twitchy again, briefly, but then... not so much. Do I care that everyone can see it? NO. It's true. And maybe it's not bad to know that some people resolve child-free. Or that the agency seems to not remove people from distribution lists after they leave.

So, for good measure, I email the organizer and am just a TAD more specific:

"Thank you for the email -- if you could please remove me from your events list that would be great. We decided to resolve child free last year and are no longer with [Adoption Agency]... It was a very difficult decision and came at a very challenging time in our lives, and so not getting emails at this point would be preferable. Thank you so much and have a great day!"

I got an IMMEDIATE response with an apology and assurances that I was off all communications lists.

My heart was hammering the whole time I typed these things, and part of me was like, "eh, I'll let it go." But no, dammit. I shouldn't let these things go. I should speak up and let people know that getting an email like that (on the anniversary of the beginning of the end of your journey) could really be painful, and stir up some shit. It's kind of like when I left the facebook group for the agency families. I was like, "oh no, I don't want people to see that I've left the group, blah blah blah." Until the part of my brain that makes sense and takes no shit put her foot down and said, "YOU ARE TORTURING YOURSELF for no good reason! LEAVE THE DAMN GROUP! Who cares if people see you left? You never really did much but lurk up there and feel bad about yourself, anyway! DITCH THE GROUP!" So I did. And it felt way better. No more passive torture. I am now a person who takes action on such things.

I had a pretty relaxing day otherwise, reading a book (I've read 5 so far this break, that was pretty much my travel plan) and taking a nap and going to the gym.

Until we went to do our taxes.

Luckily, our tax lady friended us on facebook and so she already knew that we weren't coming in with a child tax credit. She was perfect about it. She loved how we announced on the social medias, that it was no nonsense, very clear, and pretty much shut down the chance for people to say, "But...but...but...[insert suggestion here]" because it was DONE.

But, we had to go through the material donation of our nursery. And for some reason, I felt it necessary to read out loud my list of items that we donated, one by one, like reading out names of the fallen at a memorial. I did not cry. I felt a bit empty on the inside though. It was truly a really nice nursery, and one that had contributions from so many that were given with such love and hope. So reading that list, to me, was necessary to honor each and every item that we bought or that some else gifted us for Mystery Baby -- that sat for nearly two years in anticipation of an arrival that didn't come. That hopefully is all joyfully covered in spit-up and vomit stains and well used by someone who really, really needed it. It felt like a memorial service, actually. All our hopeful things, moved on to a better place of use.

It was incredibly difficult.

But it is now over, and unless we get audited (which our tax lady was like, "if they audit you for this they are a special kind of evil, but I kind of would love to see how you would unleash on them, especially since you have a complete photo record and your posts about taking everything down, so it's not really questionable AT ALL. But let's hope that doesn't happen."). The very last thing I had to do was find my binder in my flowered box in my closet with all our adoption and infertility stuff in it to find the expenses from 2015, in case we can claim any adoption-related costs on our taxes. We may not be able to, but why not try? Going into that box is dropping into a pit of grief. I did it efficiently, and then we had some wine.

At one point in the evening, Bryce said, "You look sad."

Yup. I do. BUT, I am not on the floor. If I want to go on the floor, I go face-up and stretch my aching legs (I've been REALLY good at working out this week, but my hamstrings and hips are not liking me much). I am not face-down. I get up fairly quickly.

And I celebrate how far we've come, how resilient we've become, and how free we feel now that that period of our life is over. We are in SUCH a better place than last year. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

#Microblog Monday: Assumptions

I am hosting book club next week (something I now have the seating to do thanks to our new living room furniture!), and I chose a book I'd read about, I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell.

It's subtitled, "Seventeen Brushes With Death," and it's such a fascinating concept -- a life told in nonlinear vignettes of moments where death was disturbingly near, titled by the part of the body that was endangered or to blame and accompanied by antique anatomical drawings.

I am almost finished, and I've really enjoyed it...with one notable exception.

I was not expecting the one that was titled "Baby and Bloodstream," a tale of miscarriage. I was doing okay up to a point and then I threw the book to the floor and started sobbing, and when Bryce asked me what was wrong and I couldn't really articulate it in my own words, I simply picked up the book and started to read this passage out loud:

"Why should we carry on as if it's nothing out of the ordinary? It is not ordinary to conceive a life and then to lose it; it's very far from ordinary. These passings should be marked, should be respected, should be given their due. It's a life, however small, however germinal. It's a collection of cells, from you and, in most cases, from someone you love. Yes, of course worse things happen every day; no one in their right mind would deny that. But to dismiss a miscarriage as nothing, as something you need to take on the chin and carry on, is to do a disservice to ourselves, to our living children, to those nascent beings that lived only within us, to the person we imagined throughout the short pregnancy, to those ghost children we still carry in our minds, the ones who didn't make it."

Let me repeat that one part:
"to our living children."

The assumptions there. (Not to mention that I'm not sure in most cases children are conceived between two people in love...very romantic idea, that, but is it really accurate?)

I get what she's saying in many ways, and I didn't hate all of it. I mean, somewhere in an alternate universe a child is turning five this week and he or she could have been ours, but here that child didn't make it out of size comparisons to seeds. I get the concept ghost children.

BUT I DON'T GET LIVING CHILDREN. There was no rainbow baby for me. I did not get the chance to have any living children; my losses weren't tragic bumps on the road to parenthood. And I am not alone in being left with nothing but ghost children to hold on to.

It was a double suckerpunch, one because I read on the flap that she had three children and didn't see a recurrent miscarriage story coming, and two because of this feeling that I got, perhaps because of the time of year, that living children are a given.

And they're not.

The next story featured getting pulled from shore in a riptide and a massive wave, so I was able to continue reading on without further book-throwing. I do recommend it, but know that there is quite the gut-punch waiting for you in the middle, around page 100. Honestly, you could probably skip that one since they're not super interwoven.

Sigh. Never a true escape from this.

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