Thursday, May 21, 2020

My Heart, It Hurts

In all this fervor of distance learning and 1:1 Google Meets with students, sometimes all a student wants to do is talk. Which is arguably an incredibly good use of our time.

I have students who will spend half their time talking about a new LEGO project, or the Nintendo Switch they're hoping to get so they can play Animal Crossing outside. I have students who will tell me about a feral cat they're feeding, or frustration that they have become a primary caregiver for a younger sibling and aren't really allowed to be 13-14 right now. One student said that she keeps seeing other students on their SnapChat stories, having sleepovers and getting together and taking selfies and THEY'RE NOT WEARING MASKS. She said, "These are the people who are going to make the second wave come and keep us from going back to school." There was loneliness under her justified self-righteousness.

But yesterday, yesterday was something else entirely. I am still recovering, as it has thrown me back into a very, very sad place. 

My student in foster care is in a new placement (fun fact: the week we had our last day of in-school, she had her permanency hearing court date, and the SAME DAY her previous foster guardian put in for her to be removed and placed in a new home, so the day after that she had to pack up all her stuff and go from visitation to her new home, and adjust for two days before our worlds changed. Ugh.), and that new placement is still in the county but not remotely close. With distance learning, she can still attend our classes and meets and be a part of the school community she'd adapted to. 

But yesterday, she did not want to do any work. She was in a funk, and she said, "you can try all you want, but we're not doing any work today," and then she was silent. Which is unusual. 

I asked her if she wanted a break, if she wanted to have this time free and come back to work later, if it was all getting to be too much. That we all can need a break sometimes. And she said yes, but then stayed on. So then I said, "Do you just want to talk? We can stay on and just talk, too." 

And this is what happened: 

Student, after a silence: "You know how you said you and Mr. T couldn't have kids? Why didn't you do foster? Why couldn't you take in foster kids?" 

Me, after a deep breath: "Oh, oh boy. (Tearing up) So, normally at this point in the year you guys have more chances to ask me questions, and I'm happy to answer you but it's hard, it's so hard. We did five and half years of medical trying to have a baby -- I had to take so many injections, and have surgeries, and so much went wrong. Like, seriously wrong. I had a couple things that could have killed me, and I lost two babies. It was so hard. And then we tried to adopt, and we didn't know, we didn't know how hard it was going to be. Medical stuff was hard physically and hard emotionally, but adoption was really, REALLY hard emotionally. We kept not getting chosen. We had a long time where we didn't even have the opportunity to be up for choosing. It felt horrible. One time, we got a call and I was at school and had to keep the kids out of my room and there was a baby born in Buffalo that if we wanted to be considered we'd be reviewed that evening and then if we were chosen we'd have to go the next morning... It was so exciting to think we might be parents overnight, and then we weren't picked and I got that call at school and I had to go talk to the school psychologist because I was too sad to teach and she sent me home. It was awful, and then I got sick and I had to decide to stop. And I had to make a new life where we didn't have children, and have that be okay. 
Because foster, you know, you don't always get to raise that child for keeps -- and the thought of that temporary-ness, of all that possibility of loss after so much loss, I can't handle it. So we moved forward." 

It was a little unfair, because she had her icon up, and I was on the video, and I had zero visual cues for how she was taking this information. but then...

Student: "Well, what about me? If I go to foster adopt, you could adopt me, and my mom would be okay with it and she'd love you and I could be your kid."

THIS IS WHERE MY HEART BREAKS IN A MILLION PIECES BECAUSE WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT? Well, first I welled up with tears that just wouldn't stay in my eyeballs and leaked down my face. 

Me: Oh, honey. Oh, wow. I would be SO PROUD to have you as a daughter, that would be so amazing, but I can't be anyone's mom right now. I am not even qualified anymore. --" 

Student: "--You just have to take some parenting classes, and then you can be a foster parent and adopt me."

Me (pretty much failing at hiding any tears or sadness at this point): "Oh, yes, I know -- we had to take parenting classes before, and a social worker came and made sure our house was okay and we were okay, but for foster it's a totally different process and I am just not in a place to do that. I needed to leave that behind to be healthy. All those things that happened, they took something from me. But I would have loved to have you for a daughter, and I can be your friend -- I can be like a crazy aunt when you're not my student anymore and stay in contact and have another _____ Day like we did over Christmas Break, when it's safe. I would love that, I just can't be your mom." 

Student: "Another ____ Day would be amazing, and if you're my aunt I could come sleep over your house..." 

Me: "Um, probably not, but we can do a lot of fun things and I would love to stay in touch way past this year." 

Student: "okay, that sounds good." 

And then the conversation went to other topics and I got off the call and went to my next one, and my next one, and then I had a lunch break and fell spectacularly apart over my avocado toast. 

Raw, heaving sobs that came from a place deep inside that was newly exposed in a way it hasn't been in years. This wasn't a small tear, this was a motherfucking rupture, a hemorrhage. 

First of all, it was immensely difficult to recount my struggles, to summarize over 8 years of hideous pain that has changed me, that left me feeling cored. 

But then, to spend SO LONG not getting chosen, to be passed over time and time and time again, and then to have this beautiful child choose me, oh god that hurts so much. 

Emotionally I want to scoop her up and bring her home, for a hot minute, but then the logical and sane part takes over and I know that this is a beautiful child who is an incredibly hurting child, who has a trauma history that is sooo significant, who has needs I'm not prepared for, and our life is just not set up to upend it and go down that road again. 

I also had the chance to say that our house would be lonely, that she always said she wanted a family with lots of kids because she has so many siblings and she misses them, and my neighborhood doesn't even have a lot of kids, so she'd be so, so bored. That the idea of living with me is very different than the reality of living with me. We love our life but it's not very exciting. And I also said that all that mothering energy I have, all that love I have to give, it all goes to my students, and into school, and so she gets that...just differently than she asked. 

This was so, so, so hard. I still feel hollowed out by it. I feel so lucky to have the trust of this young lady that she felt she could ask. I feel lucky that she would want that. But I feel such a sense of stars misaligned, and guilt, and that push-pull of what's logically possible and what's driven by emotions. 

I called the school psychologist to tell her what happened, so if it comes up in a session it's not a surprise, and also because I wanted to make sure I handled it okay and nothing was inappropriate. 

She was so sad for me, but also said that I did it absolutely the best I could have (and Bryce said the same -- he said "you made it all about how great she is and what she would want, and how you can still have a relationship with her"), and then she said, "You know, no one has a relationship with her the way you do. No one. You can be really, really proud of the relationship and trust you've built with a student who needs that so very badly. And absolutely, you can have that relationship moving forward." 

Well, that's a relief. I'm still crying though. And feeling so sad about a world where kids like her get stuck with shitty family situations, and people like us don't get to be parents. 

Those stars just never quite aligned. 


Monday, May 18, 2020

If We Couldn't Adopt

I have a love/hate relationship with People Magazine. I love it for the fluff and the recommendations for what to read and watch, for the red carpet specials and the famous people's homes stuff, but I also hate anything having to do with the Bachelor (and will not even read those articles), with the Kardashians, and the obsession with celebrity babies and miracle pregnancies.

Seriously, there is never a story about infertility that does not end with a miracle child somehow, either a surprise pregnancy, an improbable pregnancy at 50, or a magic adoption that happened quickly or because the husband was an EMT or the wife was a labor/delivery nurse.

But the last issue I read featured an article about the couple from HGTV's Home Town, and that one took a different turn:

"We knew that if children weren't in the plan biologically, we would adopt. If we couldn't adopt for some reason, having each other would be enough." 

Whoa. It made me go find Bryce and read it out loud to him. Because it is ALMOST NEVER that anyone shares the actual reality that you can enter into the adoption process, you can spend years trying to adopt, and you can leave without those stars aligning. That it's possible to WANT to adopt, but to have it not work out.

Of course, they had a miracle pregnancy that she discovered on MOTHER'S DAY, so a little barf in my mouth there (but good for them), but still -- just that little nugget to place in people's brains that it is actually possible to go into adoption and leave without a baby, and that you can have a relationship that is absolutely enough if the quest for a baby doesn't work out.

This is the piece of our story that is most frequently misunderstood and even bewildering to people -- how can you GO INTO adoption and not COME OUT a parent? There's a thought that it's a heck of a lot easier than it is in reality. There's a thought that you must be somehow deficient or not patient enough. There's this very strange adoption folklore that people who have never known anyone to go through it have that imagines you going to a hospital and picking out your baby like so many perfect almost-ripe avocados at the store.

The concept of running out of the emotional capacity to withstand the process is incredibly foreign. The idea that if one kind of adoption didn't work for you, that you could just jump into another kind (domestic infant didn't work? Get your dossier set up for international! Not that most people who think you can sub methods easily know what an adoption dossier is). The complete obliviousness to the fact that waiting in the adoption process is a full time job, and your stores run out a lot faster if you are also trying to be a fully functioning human in all spheres at the same time. (Of course you can't admit that you are not quite a functioning human, because then it could jeopardize your home study.)

Long story short, THANK YOU to the Home Town couple for sharing that it's possible to not succeed at adoption and it's okay to evaluate your life and know that you have the kind of relationship that could withstand that loss and building a new life, and then take that exit off the family building heartbreak highway towards that new existence.

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

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Soothing the Mother's Day Ache

Early May used to be a one-two punch -- first, my birthday, then Mother's Day.

This year I realized that a gift of resolution is reclaiming my birthday as a celebration of the life I have, and not what is lacking. My age is now separated completely from what I want in life. From 33 to 41 my age was a constant reminder that the clock was ticking, that the deadline was looming, that my eggs weren't getting any younger, that my tired and scarred uterus wasn't getting any younger, that my ability to bounce back was waning, that my attractiveness to prospective expectant/birth parents was slipping each time I blew out candles.

This year, I was like, "Huh, 44. Well, that's a pretty cool number, and while I can't wrap my head around the fact that now I'm as old as my parents were when I got married the first time, I'm okay with it. I'm grateful for 44 years. I hope I get at least 44 more. I'm pretty happy with where I've landed at 44. Yay life!"

It's a pretty amazing thing, to have the sting removed from a day that felt so foreboding for so long.

Which brings me to Mother's Day. That day has NOT lost its sting. Or maybe it's more of an ache, not quite as acute as it once was.

But still, Mother's Day weekend is hard, hard, hard. For a brief moment I slip into a melancholy state of feeling sorry for myself. Of feeling left out of a holiday that will never, never be about celebrating me.

Some of the things that trigger the Mother's Day blues aren't there -- I don't have cable and so I don't see a whole lot of Mother's Day ads, I can't go out shopping in public and see sales and heartstrings-pulling ads in person. I did have a few meetings this week where people said HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL YOU MOMS OUT THERE! and various comments about how special moms are and how much they deserve the celebration. Which I agree, I'm all for celebrating your mom, but it's always a tiny bit stabby to hear that and then be like, "oh yeah, not for me, never for me."

I can avoid social media (sort of), but now that's one way to connect with people (or at least feel somewhat connected) now that we are all isolated and hunkered down. I will NOT be going up there tomorrow though, I can tell you that. Nope nopitty nope. Already it's full of people putting up memes and posts about the beauty of motherhood, and people who are receiving drive-by Mother's Day gifts from their "mom friends." Which is cool, but then brings me to that womp-womp moment of "no one's ever going to do that for me."

Then again, I did have a few people drive by to drop off birthday prizes and say hello, so that was something, to be celebrated in that way during this weird pandemic.

And today, I had a moment that took this Woe-Is-Me funk I'd been feeling and turned it into absolute gratitude and amazement.

One of my students, a girl who had been pretty challenging during the school year and who struggled mightily with social distraction and being the center of drama while also struggling academically, had her mom drive her to my house to drop off a bag of goodies. Normally this might be a touch creepy since it would mean googling me or something, but I had sent cards of encouragement to all my students and personalized them, and she was always a "save the turtles" VSCO girl earlier in the year so I made hers a pretty sea turtle card. So, my return address was on the envelope. And she loved it -- I got a text from her (yup, weird again that everyone has my number but such is COVID Life) that said it really meant a lot and she loved it. This is a girl that I've connected with 1:1 through the Google Meets, but still have to track her down and call her mom when she blows me off, and then she shows up regularly. I wanted her to know that her attendance mattered to me, that I wanted to help her be successful in this weird new educational world, and I was going to hold her accountable. And her mom totally backed me up. This is a girl who can be very difficult, but who also can be downright generous and caring and seemed to start turning a corner right before the buildings closed down. I was so upset, because we were on a really great trajectory and then BAM, closed. But I kept trying.

I guess all that made an impression, because a car came down the driveway this afternoon and I was like, "who is that?" and then I saw it was my student, with a gift bag. I grabbed my mask and went downstairs and did the 10 foot thing (6 feet is too close!), and waved at her mom and chatted for a moment. I went inside in a bit of a daze and opened up the bag.

A few things I can't eat/drink in here, but it's the thought that overwhelmingly counts
(and Bryce will pick up the slack, ha ha)


As I pulled each item from the bag, starting with the wine and the orange Bud Light, I laughed. And then I started sobbing. Deep, heaving sobs.

I cried because there was so much love and appreciation in each of those items. I cried because it was the most amazing moment, to have a student and a parent show up and bring a gift like that for me. Because I would NEVER EVER have guessed in October that this would be a young lady who'd do this kind of thing for me.

They were happy tears, and bittersweet tears. I may not have a Mother's Day that's meant for me, but how can I not see this for the beautiful thing that it is? I do not have children, despite desperately wanting them. But I absolutely get to love children and have an impact on their lives, and it's a gift. They have an impact on me, too. They are not my children, but they do take up a space in my heart that used to be a gaping baby-shaped hole.

As much as Mother's Day is still hard, it's moments like these that make it sting a lot less. And, for those of you still in the throes of the horrible Mother's Day blues, know that it gets better -- whether you end up a mom or not. The pain is still there, but the ability to see around it just grows and grows and grows.

Monday, May 4, 2020

#Microblog Mondays: That Was 43

Tomorrow, I turn 44. Today, I am still 43 (for 45 more minutes anyway).

Last year, when I started being 43, I was recovering from my hysterectomy, I was embracing my new life in my new house and starting new gardens and finishing out a challenging school year. I had a summer to garden and prepare for a new school year, and then a new school year with all new challenges. I had my first experience with a student in foster care, and my room was overflowing with trauma and social drama, but I was making progress.

And now, 43 is laundering masks along with clothes and keeping disinfectant wipes by the door, and getting a birthday drive by from my mom and stepfather tomorrow morning before my first Google Meet with a student. It's exhaustion from figuring out how to teach remotely and from just the state of things.

I'm not mad at my birthday anymore, 44 really isn't all that different from 43 (although I can't claim "early forties" any more... it's all mid). There's no deadline, no high stakes to it. But it's real weird to turn 44 in a pandemic.

Here are some pictures of my last days as a 43 year old... from the mundane to the outright bizarre. Some things stay the same, and some things have changed pretty drastically. But there it is, another trip around the sun, another chance to celebrate the beauty of existence.

Some cute mini daffodils I planted in the fall that are up and sunshiny by the new golden bleeding heart...and new mulch! 

The first of many plant deliveries, getting them ready to plant  (but now they are in the dining room since there's a freeze warning, ugh) 

My empty middle school, a picture taken by my principal and sent out this weekend (might have made me cry)


Oh yeah, wearing the mask. Hot look of 2020.

Surreal empty marquee at the movie theater

Bryce passed his Candidacy Exam! Two-ish years to go! (Do we both look tired? YES)

Sometimes catalogs come and you find treasures... because you know, the bench is special to us and this is called "Always Together," which is true and also SO TRUE right now. 

Ah, the last day of 43. Luckily I had a good hair day despite the creeping grays and fading color. The curls were cooperating!


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

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Quarantine Stress Is Exhausting

I missed Microblog Mondays. I am having a really difficult time concentrating lately, and when the day is over for school, I am just a pile of goo on the floor.

Okay, that's a little dramatic.

But it is difficult to take a day of screens and then end it with more screens, even if this use is restorative and not stressful. I think one of the problems is that my office at home, which has been this glorious book-filled, light-filled cozy space for blogging and occasional school work, has become an OFFICE. And so when I'm in there, I'm in school mode. I'm in work mode. I'm trying to get shit done.

Which kind of sucks, because now it's less of a respite than it was in the Before.

The teaching is going okay, wayyy better than the last time where I was like "EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE AND I CAN'T GET TO EVERYONE AND I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS." Now it's better, because I have days like the caps statement maybe once a week, not every day. Ha.

I have successfully reached all 9 of my caseload students and have time with all them every week. Last week I set up times to meet with my primary class group (my Reading/English/Work Lab/Cotaught Social Studies/Cotaught Science group) one-to-one in addition to the twice per week full group Google Meets. That has been a game-changer, because sometimes those Meets are the full 45 minutes, and sometimes they are 20 minutes or so, but I can get SO MUCH DONE during that time. And then the full group check ins are more for organizational needs, questions for the good of the order, and discussion of the book we're reading. For my small group Social Studies, which is a different group of students and another teacher has them the rest of the day, I see them for a 10 minute check-in on Tuesday or Wednesday, and then we get a full 45 minute class period on Thursdays. Which so far is the highlight of my week. For some reason, my students with the highest degree of support are adapting to this new online learning thing really, REALLY well.

Does that sound like a lot of time? It is, but now I feel like at least I am providing a service and DOING something. The kids are appreciative. The parents are appreciative. I love having that time, because sometimes it's 15 minutes of telling me about a cat or a video game, and sometimes it's 15 minutes of reteaching Math and seeing that AHA moment happen (albeit through a screen).

But then, there's the Meets for Social Studies (cotaught) and for Science (also cotaught). And creating the support materials for those classes. And then the meetings. Holy moses, the meetings. Every week I have a team meeting, an 8th grade meeting with guidance, a faculty meeting, and a special ed meeting (although this week that one didn't happen). And somewhere in there I have to a) create all the things so that they can be uploaded in a weekly format by Monday morning, b) grade (give feedback) all the things, c) contact parents, d) put together all the organizational tools for my students who are being expected to be tiny adults who are used to running a calendar of meetings.

I AM FUCKING EXHAUSTED.

It is a huge weight off of me that I know where all my kids are and that I have figured out something that seems to work for them, and although it looks totally different for each kid...um, that's sort of why they all have Individual Education Plans. In some ways, this is actually allowing for far more individualized support. But there are only so many hours in a day. And for some students, it's more about the contact than the work. Because they are stressed, their families are stressed, and some of them are in situations that are less than ideal for learning, or dealing with the stress and trauma of foster care at the same time. So  I'm learning that sometimes, just having a student show up or text me or chat me or send in a random assignment is a win.

The Monday morning thing is a district thing -- they want families to be able to receive all work for the week on Monday and then plan out how they can do stuff so that everything is due by Friday. I just haven't figured out how not to have to do a boatload of work on Sunday to get it ready for that, because I'm still assessing all the stuff that came in by Friday and how my lessons went on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The good news is that I'm learning all kinds of cool things you can do with Google Forms to make quizzes that automatically provide feedback for correct and incorrect answers (you have to type it all up ahead of time, but then you don't have to grade all the quizzes separately). You can make a Google Slides presentation for a Social Studies lesson and then record it on an iPad with screen recording, so it's like a "lecture" but with all the pictures and text, and then you can upload the actual slides so students have text to refer back to. You can pose a question for everyone to answer. You can do a Google Meet with students, have them all mute themselves, and then watch a video clip on your screen that they can see and hear and you can even over-narrate it if you want.

The technology part of this is very, very cool.

But again, I AM FUCKING EXHAUSTED.

I am fortunate. I am fortunate to have a job, to have meaningful work right now. But it is just so much more exhausting than regular teaching, and as my grandmother said, "Teaching is a jealous mistress." She takes all your time.

I have found myself uttering the words, "It feels wrong, but I'm so glad we don't have kids right now." Please note, this does not in any way take out any grief or loss or feelings of inadequacy from all the fucking "Mommy Photo Challenges" and the ominous looming specter of Mother's Day. But it does make it so that I can do all the things for school all day without interruption (except for the cat, who likes to march across my keyboard during meets and gently claw my backside), and I can collapse in a puddle at the end of the day without small humans needing me. I don't have to worry about my children. It does make this quarantine thing simpler, but it does NOT mean that I'm lounging on the couch watching marathons of Schitt's Creek drinking vats of wine. My busy is just different than children-busy. I am grateful for the downtime I do have, which I know those with young children don't. My best friend has three kids, 12, 11, and 9, and she is basically hiding in the bathroom to have 5 minutes where no one is touching or needing her. It's relentless, and they're older.

Another piece of stress is Bryce's PhD. He is now almost 5 years in, and he is on deadline for his Candidacy Exam, which is next Friday. So his proposal is in for review and he has to do a presentation and answer any questions and then he's off to dissertation and wrapping up. But, he's also working full time and has zero downtime and is super stressed. And while it's really awesome that he was asked to present at a major conference that is now going virtual on a paper he published with his adviser recently, his presentation is ALSO due...May 1st. Next Friday. So he is a big old ball of stress. It's really pressing our "only one person can be crazy at a time" policy. (Which we had before I listened to the 5th episode of Brene Brown's Unlocking Us podcast, which talked about the 50/50 myth, which is basically the same concept.) I am taking up slack on housework, and dishes, and keeping the house sane, and...you guessed it...I AM FUCKING EXHAUSTED.

But it's good. I'm grateful for our home and our relationship and our food and our cat and our laundry. Maybe not the laundry, but the clothes and the fact that I have to do laundry so often because I am getting good and sweaty during the Pilates/Barre classes I fit in a few times per week on zoom. I missed a class this week, but that is so key to my sanity. Moving and stretching and taking the time to do something for my body is super important. It also makes me feel less bad about the wine or margaritas or Manhattans that we have in the evening. Not all at once of course!

The stress, my stress, from all these factors, not including family worries, is exhausting. It leaves me feeling all brain fogged. It has me spending Saturday as a No Talking Day, where I do not make phone calls if I can avoid it and I sit somewhere and read or do a puzzle, because I just cannot stand to look at one more screen. I cannot WAIT for it to get warm out. This cold, snowy, rainy, windy weather is just insult to injury. I can't garden on the weekends, because Spring just plain stalled out. Everything seems to be in a pause. It's creepy, honestly. I want warm weather, I want to sit on the deck, I want to prep soil and plant things. And right now the ground is just so cold. The air is cold. The snow that refuses to stop falling is cold. It's depressing. It sort of matches everything else.

Another thing that I am letting go of (also in Brene Brown's podcast in the link above) is Comparative Suffering. I thought that was going to be like a Pain Olympics, but it's not quite. It's basically feeling like empathy is a pie and I can't feel exhausted for myself while there are healthcare workers out there who are working endless 12 hour shifts, so my frustration and exhaustion isn't as bad as theirs. She said you have to have empathy for yourself and realize that everyone has the right to their suffering without comparing to others, and you can feel for others and feel for yourself without taking anything away from anyone else. This part really stuck with me: that when you do the "well, but these other people are dealing with ____" you could actually be worried about what others think about you complaining about your life, and you worry about the perception people have of you, so you're really just making it about you. Just accept the suffering. Accept that everyone is suffering differently, and you can feel for them but not have it take from your reality, either. That was strangely empowering and a good thing to attempt to let go of. It's a process, a habit to break.

The upshot of all this is that I AM FUCKING EXHAUSTED, and this quarantine situation has all new stresses that compound together and make things feel super overwhelming. That make me feel like a puddle at the end of the day. That have me fairly silent and sequestered on Saturdays to heal for the week before I take some of Sunday to prep for the next one. It feels like a marathon. But now that we're 6 weeks in, I guess it's what I have to work with. After May 1st it will be better, when Bryce is back among the land of the living. We will survive this. One person on the ledge at a time, letting go of things that don't fit the new reality, and giving ourselves permission to be puddles when it's called for.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Having a Moment

I had a moment yesterday.

As in, all day I was cranky, and sad, and teary. It didn't help that we didn't do our normal hide-the-Easter-Basket thing that became our silly "so what we don't have kids we have fun!" tradition, because of all the pandemic nonsense and because Bryce is in the thick of prepping for his Candidacy Exam/Proposal Presentation part of his PhD. We had some Easter candy, but it was a little hollow without the tradition (ha, ha, hollow like a chocolate bunny I did not have). And then I felt all hollowed because MY DAMN EASTER CANDY GLUTENED ME.  I mean, seriously? I did a frantic internet search because I had all the symptoms of a glutening, but I swear I've eaten Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs before without issue. Well, apparently Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are fine, but any seasonal shapes are no longer gluten free even though the ingredients do not tell that story at all. Flabbergasted. And sooooo disappointed.

But that wasn't everything.

I've been so freaking busy figuring out the whole online school thing and trying to do right by my students and provide the support they need, remotely, and also trying to set up boundary times (and failing depending on the day), that I sort of bottled up all my April feelings and let them build up until they leaked out my face yesterday.

You see, April 7th is the three-year anniversary of the prednisone-fueled mental breakdown that signaled the end of our family building story and put me in a place with my anxiety I hope never to be in again (although honestly this pandemic is not helping). It's not the anniversary of when we made the decision, but it's the anniversary of that rock-bottom point that, once I was no longer in a days-long fight-or-flight response, led to the decision and that feeling of ENOUGH. I cannot do this anymore. UNCLE. (Also, April 7th was the date of my uncle's funeral that I did not attend because of Bryce's weird throat virus and my autoimmune nastiness.)

Oh, and then April 9th is the one-year anniversary of my hysterectomy, of the ultimate come-back to "you could still have kids! You're not that old!," ha ha. Which isn't necessarily a sad date, but is also the culmination of so many years of striving for that organ to do its damn job that actually ultimately helped lead to its demise (and maybe gave me the answer to our repeated failure in my postmortem uterine diagnosis of adenomyosis).

Both those April things are heavy in their own way. But both of them are also reminders of freedom -- of the freedom from the organ that caused me such pain and disappointment and loss, and freedom from the constant striving and putting my health at risk by stretching myself to the limits of stress, grief, and anxiety for the shot at parenthood. I said goodbye to both the vessel that I'd hoped would deliver me my child at one point and the dream that I could become a parent at all through the adoption process, and those are heavy. But the lightness of moving forward and letting go of what just wasn't coming to pass for us created space for our new reality, our new life, a new freedom to accept what isn't and embrace what is.

So while I was teary and sad and just...off yesterday, it was also a sort of catharsis to feel those feels, so I can more fully appreciate what April looks like now (even though it includes a pandemic and weird earthquakes and windstorms and a whole lot of Armageddon-feelings). Because although all that weirdness is happening, I am still holed up with Bryce and taking ping-pong breaks and walks around the loop to visit the goose couple in the pond and the turtles in a different pond and all the many herds of deer in our neighborhood (not a lot of people, which is why we're okay taking the walks).

Sometimes you just have to sit in the woe-is-me for what was lost in order to find a newfound appreciation for what is gained.

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

Monday, April 6, 2020

Pandemic Odds and Ends

I still can't get over the fact that I'm writing "pandemic" unironically.

  • Yesterday my neighborhood (which is usually pretty recluse-friendly) had a "social distancing event," which was hard to wrap my head around, where they wanted everyone to come out between 1-2 in the afternoon and walk clockwise, so you could stop and chat with neighbors across the width of the street and connect. I went back and forth and Bryce basically said NO, all it takes is one person not paying attention to distance and BAM, you're exposed, and so I sat on the deck with my book so I could wave and say hi to people as they passed. Which I thought was a good cheat but only 2 people went down the dead end, 1 who didn't live on it, and people seemed to think I was a little odd for not joining in. Not me though, when I saw people totally congregating and some people walking way closer than they should have. Then I was more than happy to be the weirdo on the deck.
  • It's really hard having my dad living alone in California, across the country, with minimal support available in the semi-lockdown. I'm using the power of the internet to try to help him not have to go out for food as he is in the high risk category. It's amazing how quickly this situation amped up worry for my parents that typically would come a little later in life. We worry about them all, but my dad's the only one who's alone. Which is scary.  
  • I had a positive day for school where I ACTUALLY GOT A HOLD OF the one student who has been eluding everyone for three weeks, and I've been calling both parents with no results, and the social worker got the student's dad's accurate phone number and so I connected there first, but then the school social worker actually got the student's number from the dad, which resulted in success! I had an HOUR conversation with him and am getting him set up with a laptop and convinced him that maybe doing some of the work wouldn't be so terrible and it will be good to get on board sooner than later. It was so good to hear his voice and I probably scared him when he called me back and I yelled "______, you're ALIVE! I'm so HAPPY!" So that's good. That's a student who definitely knows his teacher cares about him and meant it when she said she'd track him down if he "disappeared." Thank goodness for social workers!
  • I decided to make the weekend separate from the workweek and preserving that for self-care, by not doing any planning (which is normally a foreign idea, Sundays are for planning), but then a couple of students who hadn't been in touch texted or emailed me work or request for access and I was happy to have the opportunity to engage. I don't want to be "on" 24/7, but I also can't pass up an opportunity to snag a student who is finally initiating some work. I also spent a couple of hours recording and editing my read-aloud of Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelson (I did the proper channels thing to get temporary permissions from the publisher to put the files up on a closed system for educational use only), which is technically work but is also wicked fun and I am learning how to use Audacity as an audio recording program. Pretty cool. 
Want to read some #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!