Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back on 2017 -- A Lot of Awful, But Beautiful Gifts, Too

We just got back from our (incredibly cold) vacation in Vermont where we visited with family and had a little respite in our favorite little inn in Grafton. It was a bit too cold for all the outdoor activities (without windchill we woke up to -8 degrees Fahrenheit temps...brrrr) but it was lovely to read and play ping pong and have yummy dinners and just relax. Especially since we are fighting yet another holiday cold...

One of the things that we did over the vacation bit of the trip was to write down our accomplishments for 2017, and then all the shitty things that happened. Although there were some really lovely things this year, the balance leaned clearly towards the shit side.

We'll start with the crap side.

I'm more than happy to wave goodbye to 2017 because it held an incredible amount of pain. This was the year I lost my uncle to lung cancer and my grandfather to Alzheimer's. This was the year I developed a lovely case of scleritis (a fun autoimmune attack on my left eye), that was triggered by stress and then started a domino effect that had begun years earlier and just cumulated until a long, high dose regimen of prednisone led to a fairly spectacular mental breakdown following a spike in blood pressure and side effects that mimicked a cardiac event and landed me in the ER. It was, frankly, the year of Emergency Room/Urgent Care. It was the year where we decided that after 8 years of striving fruitlessly, if my health was going to decline then we'd go with the life we have and let go of the one we wanted but for some inexplicable reason was always just out of reach. It was the year we ended our journey to parenthood with a call to the agency saying that we were done. It was the year that we spent Memorial Day weekend packing up our nursery to donate  to someone who actually could use it for a real live baby. It was the year none of our embryos survived to help the couple we donated them to/placed them with conceive, and ended our parenting journey even by proxy -- we tried so hard through all these different avenues and even gave away our embryos to give them a chance we couldn't give them...only to be left with nothing, and to have shared our nothing with another grieving couple.

It was quite possibly the most difficult year I can remember. (Also, the formatting on this post is a bit odd because I'm using my work computer...a parting gift of 2017 is that my laptop fried itself right before we left. Grrr.)

Posts that I think capture the incredible awfulness of this period:

Good Riddance, March
When Everything Falls Apart: or So THIS Is What It Looks Like to Lose It
The Finality of Making the Call
Packing Up the Nursery
So It Goes

However, there were good things, too. Really good things.

Number one is that we ended limbo. It's weird, we lived in this in between space for so long and when it finally ended, although not the way we'd hoped, the relief was palpable. An almost physical weight was lifted, and it was noticed by people all around us. I am so sad about the loss of our embryos, for us and the other couple, but I am so very happy that it happened in 2017. That 2018 can be a completely fresh start in our life, that there is no lingering possibility of some kind of fertility-related trauma. Because that's what all of that was and is -- a boatload of trauma. Having an end to the limbo has been a tremendous gift.

Oddly, once we reframed our life and our home to be just for us and not preparing for a phantom child, the space took on a life of its own and we bought grownup furniture that matched and a house that seemed too small and cramped and possibly cursed suddenly felt cozy and full of character and new life. I got a beautiful office where the nursery once was. We have new living room furniture and dining room furniture and it's such a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it meant that we truly were out of limbo -- there wasn't anymore "what if" or feeling like any expenditure would be silly because what if we needed that for adoption or we moved and the furniture wasn't right anymore or whatever else.

We took our honeymoon, a real long vacation involving flying and seeing things that neither of us had before.

I got my beautiful tattoo, to encapsulate my transformation and the strength and power I have gained from having so much pain and loss.

I achieved my National Board certification, which is particularly sweet for me because I did the lion's share of the writing during a time where I felt I was barely surviving, and it was not ideal at all -- I was supposed to get a lot of writing done over April Break but I was busy scooping up all my goo and putting myself back into humanlike substance form, so I did most of it in May, actually during Mother's Day weekend. There was a shitload of adversity happening all around those pages, and so to have passed with good standing? It makes me feel worthy of my phoenix tattoo.

Bryce continued working through the courses that he needs to complete in order to earn his PhD, and 2018 will see him battling his Qualification Exam, hopefully becoming a bona fide PhD candidate. I have utter faith in his abilities here -- he is always worried about the quality of his work or doing poorly, and he always kills it. He is so smart and so dedicated and I can't wait to see where all this brings us as a family.

Some posts that remind me that there was good this year, too:

...Because I Don't Have Kids
Easter Fun Without Kids
Oh, Okay...So NOW It's Final
Reclaiming the Butterflies
Enter the Phoenix
The Christmas Tree Story

It's a lot of good. Our life took a definite turn, a swerve of dizzying proportions, over this past year. But now it leads down a road we might not have gotten to see otherwise, a road with beauty and joy and fulfillment all its own. For as much as 2017 took away, it also gave us so much.

I look forward to 2018, and all the possibilities that lie ahead of us, now that I hope most of our darkest days lie behind us in the shitstorm that was 2017.

Monday, December 25, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: My Favorite Things

Ahhh, Christmas -- our very first Christmas together as a defined family of two. It felt more sweet than bitter as we really enjoyed every second (and I have yet to enjoy the delicious roast duck, wild rice, and sauteed red chard that's to come tonight), and really celebrated each other.

Here are some pictures of my favorite presents from Bryce and our (decorated) tree. It is lovely to be with someone for so long and to still be surprised and also feel just so...known by the gift giver. I don't have pictures of the presents I gave Bryce, but some of my favorites are half finger gloves from Mr. Reynaud (ha ha ha, because he has Reynaud's), gorgeously glazed and agave-plant-stamped mexcal sipping cups from Agave Oaxca, a National Parks & Monuments map poster for chronicling and planning our adventures and then a National Geographic guide to the parks for the same reasons, and this thing called a Love Book that I made through that allowed me to write our story and why I love him through stick figures and illustrations and text that I could customize. It was highly personal, highly emotional, and a huge hit, and I could NOT wait for him to open it!

Merry Christmas and Joyous Yuletide and Happy New Year way in advance to all of you, may the close of this year bring peace, joy and happiness to you and yours!

Christmas Eve present...dark chocolate vanilla buttercreams from Fannie May. Mmmm. There might be a couple missing.
First present -- standing spoon rest. Insanely clever invention!
A set of two polar bear pillows like this that I saw and admired at a local shop but was told "ENOUGH with the pillows!" sneaky sneaky...
So, I gave Bryce the moose in the middle and thought I was SO SNEAKY because we admired all three of these (the bottom being my favorite) and I went back to get the moose without Bryce, only to find that there was a tag that said, "I knew what you were up to all along!" But now they look lovely as a little collection on our wall. :)
I could not photograph this without my phone showing up, but this is a gorgeous print that now lives in my office. I am in the process of naming him...I'm thinking Hector? Horace? Help me give him a suitable name! 
I got the first book by this guy, "Tales from the Loop," last year from Bryce...this looks gloriously creepy. And the tag is hilarious.
A Danforth Pewter PUFFIN! Love this! 

Even more so because it has an inscription. Made me SO happy. 

A wick trimmer! I am such a weirdo for dying for one of these, but I love it! 
He totally cheated and put these individually wrapped in a giant box to look like one present, but HOW AWESOME are these books? He always curates a collection for me at Christmas and my birthday. That cookbook is one we saw in an Italian pottery shop in Santa Barbara. SO THOUGHTFUL. 

So very fortunate. Such a good little tree! 

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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Christmas Tree Story

We debated whether or not we should get a tree this year. We're traveling after Christmas (and have a housesitter, all you stealers out there!) and don't like to leave a tree for someone else to care for. Bryce was super busy with the end of his course, and the last couple of weeks just seemed so busy for some reason. Before we knew it it was the last week before break and we didn't have a tree, and when we looked for a small one while out together it seemed that most of the places were out of the size we wanted. We even thought about a tabletop tree, a prelit one, but couldn't find one we liked for the price (why are those so freaking expensive???).

We pretty much decided that we'd be tree-less, but we could put presents around the fireplace. We have garlands on the windows and mantle, and glass icicles hanging from the windows and sliding glass door, so it's not like it wasn't Christmassy, it was tree.

Cozy hearth, just no tree.


The shed with lights and the tree that has doubled in size in 5 years...

I won't lie, it made me feel a bit down. Last Sunday I was real sad. Sobby, mopey, lie-facedown-on-the-floor sad. I can't remember what triggered it exactly, but I'm sure it has something to do with our first Christmas knowing absolutely that we will be living without children for the rest of our lives, and so there's a certain extra sting in that. Then not having a tree, it made me sad because I don't want to be like, "oh, we're busy, we don't have time" and then lose all our traditions. That would suck.

My mom and stepfather came over for Christmas on Thursday evening since they are traveling up to my sister's for the holiday and then making rounds in Canada, then a whole bunch of other family stops on their way to Florida. Because we are also traveling, we'll miss each other, so we did the holiday thing early. I came home from school and picked up the house, vacuuming and lighting yummy holiday candles and setting the table and trying to get my grading in before they got there. Bryce said he had an errand to run if I didn't mind, if things were in good shape, so he didn't get home until 6:10 when we had to swap cars. Oh, single driveway, what fun you are.

But then he opened his trunk, and said, "TA-DAAAAA!"

In the trunk was the most adorable little 4-foot tree ever. I was so silent at first that he thought I was mad at him for bringing a tree right before my parents were coming over, but I was just shocked, in a good way.

And then he told me this story:

Today, at work, a coworker was saying how they didn't have a tree until now because her husband was working on Christmas and wouldn't be there, and it was all so depressing, but that she had to get the tree for her kids, that if it was just her and her husband she wouldn't have cared but Christmas is all about the kids, you know? It's not for adults. It's the magic in children that makes Christmas a thing. And I got SO MAD, because it's NOT just for children, or people with children, it's for EVERYONE who celebrates it. And I told her that, and then I realized she didn't know that we weren't adopting anymore (because Bryce is not nearly as verbal-vomitty about that as I am), but I guess now it's clear. Then I said, "I have to leave and go get my wife a tree! Dammit, we deserve a freaking tree!"

I love this man, so much.

And that is how we managed to get a Christmas tree, perfectly sized for our hobbit house, four days before Christmas. We are decorating it tonight, and then when we leave for our trip we'll take down the ornaments and put it outside with birdseed ornaments on it and hope the squirrels don't get it all.

I wish for you these little moments of holiday cheer, of warm glows where it seems a bit dark.

Monday, December 18, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: The Upside

December 17th is a day that I'd just as soon forget, but it's important in the terms of remembering upsides.

See, on this day in 2005 I went volunteering for Camp Good Days at the mall, selling candy cane pens and kazoos, then went to a friend's house for cookie baking, and that is the point where my entire world was set on its end.

I was told the unpleasant truth that my husband of 5 years had been cheating on me for 3 1/2 years of our 5 year marriage, with not one but two people, and the sordid details were just horrific and I felt the relative safety of my denial shatter around me in tiny shards of HOLY SHIT MY LIFE IS OVER.

Except it wasn't.

That day was horrific at the time, and so painful, and I was afraid and relieved (he wasn't nice to me, which is an incredible understatement, and it makes me sad to this day that I felt I deserved the treatment I got and that cheating was my out, not just "I deserve more") all at the same time, but mostly devastated that my existence was suddenly turned upside down.


Looking back now, that was the turning point where I was set free to seek the life that I deserved, to find true happiness and love and respect and friendship and passion without contempt and little violences.

What was easily the worst day of my life at that time became the beginning of the best days of my life. Looking back, I thank my lucky stars for that day.

Even though it turned out that parenthood wasn't in the cards for me, I would far rather take my beautiful life with Bryce than what I had in the Before times, even if it came with a child. I am so fortunate, and that day is like an Independence Day of sorts.

Also, in related news, I found out on Saturday that I achieved my National Board Certification, which is a huge milestone in my teaching career and something I wasn't sure I'd manage.

The reason why is that the majority of my writing time was supposed to take place over April Break, and instead of buckling down to that intellectual, reflective work I found myself in a bit of a mental crisis and needing to take time to pull my ooey gooey pieces back together again. The timing was HORRIFIC. I wrote the majority of my papers for the last two components over Mother's Day weekend of all days, highly ironic since by then I knew that that was a holiday that would never be for me.

But I PASSED, and I passed not by a small margin. I killed it. I am proud, and feel like despite that being another worst time ever in my life, it made an achievement possible for me, one that is incredibly fulfilling and brings me joy.

I am not saying to be Pollyanna about pain, not at all. But just know that when it seems like the world is ending and your life won't ever be the same...maybe it's not the worst thing. Maybe it just means that something way better is heading your way.

Unfortunately I've had way too many opportunities to be the phoenix rising from the ashes in my life, but at the same time -- how much do I appreciate these accomplishments? My amazing marriage, my fulfilling life, my National Board certification as a special education teacher (only 3% of teachers nationwide hold this distinction in the U.S.) -- the upside is so, so good, and the pain I went through to get here only makes it sweeter.

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Representation Matters

Ah, holiday cards. I am way behind on ours. I think they may be New Year's cards at this rate. I don't know how life got so busy, but I am in complete shock that this coming weekend is the weekend before Christmas (I mean, the following weekend is Christmas Eve, but still!). How did that happen?

I think others are in the same boat, as we've gotten maybe 6 cards so far, so I don't feel horribly behind. I'm happy to say that all of the cards I've gotten so far with kids in them also feature the adult members of the family -- something that loribeth at The Road Less Traveled writes extensively about here. Everyone deserves to be on the card!

As for us, I think we are going to do the thing that is all the things we love to do (and can do) now that we're a family of two, definitely. If people see it as sad that says more about them than it does about us...and we are going for a bit of the snark here. I envision that chaise lounge shot with the cocktail dress and champagne glass, stylized "whoops, we slept in until 11???" shot with a giant old fashioned alarm clock if I can find one, stacks of books, Bryce doing crazy math without numbers in his office, tasting a really nice bottle of wine, etc. with some sort of "life is good" message...Bryce said we should make a tombstone that says "Mystery Baby" but I felt that was a little TOO morbid, so, um, NO. Fairly sure he was kidding but you just never know with that lunatic. I think we can put a little note on the back thanking everyone for their support but that the quest for mystery baby is over. There are people who I keep in touch with via holiday cards who are not on Facebook and who don't know, not because they don't care enough but because they were in a sphere that didn't get the blast (which was also fairly vague on Facebook, only if you read up here in April-May-June did you get the whole story).

Anyway. Not everyone cares about/for the photo cards, but I love them -- they can be so creative, they can give a snapshot of a year (I keep them all, and it's fun to look back), and they streamline the whole sending-cards thing (I still address my envelopes by hand, but I love the options to put a message on the back that comes already done...maybe a bit less personal but SO MUCH EASIER).

The problem is, when I actually looked through my options for card designs, I was WOEFULLY disappointed to find that the catalog for TinyPrints contained ZERO childfree couples or single people, and Shutterfly had ONE out of the myriad adorable kids and sleeping babies that was a young couple and their dog. WTF, card companies? I mean, I get that "Look at my adorable baby/bevy of adorable kids" is sort of your target demographic, but BRANCH OUT for those of us who don't have an engagement/wedding to announce or a baby or child (or four) to parade at the holidays. It felt like an unspoken message -- "You are only worthy of this kind of card if you have all those things -- these aren't meant for you childless/single folks."

I mean, I know someone who searched for "photo cards for singles" and then decided to send "normal" paper cards because the options weren't great. Shouldn't we be at the point where there's just PHOTO CARDS and you don't have to label yourself? That you can send out a photo card of you on vacation or doing something fun and it doesn't have to be "me and my cats, har de har har har;" it doesn't have to make your life into a punchline?

But alas, if you look at the actual card design catalogs, I can see how you would think you need to look up something specifically for single, or childless, or that the photo card is just not for you and your life.

Well SCREW THAT. I know lots of people (especially outside the U.S.) don't get the photo card thing, it's sort of like a visual Christmas letter (and can be just as narcissistic and awful), and is maybe getting to be passe since social media like Facebook allows people to put a curated version of their life out to the masses. I can probably guess what the card photo(s) will be for some of my friends. It's real fun though when what I get is novel and I've never seen those photos in quite that way before, or ever.

Why should the people with kids have all the fun? There are SO MANY people who send out great cards, and who have lovely photos to share. Maybe not the intricate scenarios that ours have turned into (but that sure do give me a kick), but can't the advertising include ALL of us? Out of all the cards shown there was also only one same-sex couple, and they had a baby, too. Include those without kids, for whatever reason! Include those who are single! Include older people without the grandchild parade!

I plan to send an email or a letter to the folks at Shutterfly/TinyPrints. I think they ought to know that their ad campaigns are sorely missing what could be a key demographic. Harrumph.

Monday, December 11, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Whomp Whomp Update

Today was a weird day. I went for my yearly uterus check, which is crazy because that means it's been a whole year since I've had my melonballer procedure (more accurately known as endomyometrial resection), and almost a year since I've had any form of period. A trend I hope continues indefinitely.

At my check, I asked if the doctor could also check out my ovaries, you know, because I have a (somewhat) irrational fear that all the hormones I subjected myself to to no avail are going to try to kill me via ovarian or breast cancer. Ovarian cancer is particularly scary to me because it can be asymptomatic for a while and then BAM, bad news.

Good news -- I don't have ovarian cancer.

Also good news -- I can take care of all my gynecological exam needs at my specialist's office, which means that next year I can get my uterus (and ovaries) checked AND get a pap smear/chat about impending menopause. And there won't be any pregnant people milling about (sorry pregnant people but that's a plus for me), AND no one will EVER ask me if I could be pregnant. Everyone there knows that's impossible.

Then I went and had a lovely facial -- I decided to start doing fancy things for my skin in October, and this is my second facial at the same place where I get massages. The first time was lovely, and even though the aesthetician (never know if I spell that right) was pregnant, it wasn't awkward. Well, she's way more pregnant now and it came up EVERY FIVE MINUTES of the hour, no joke. I look forward to when she is no longer pregnant. I think the low part of the chatting was when she told me that she specifically timed this pregnancy to fall around the holidays so that she wouldn't have to do too much and would get out of hanging lights and whatnot, which was funny but also HOW NICE TO BE ABLE TO PLAN THAT KIND OF THING...she's in her early 20s though so maybe it's easier then for most people. Yeesh. My skin is very soft though, and she is actually very nice despite being all about the belly right now.

Anyway. I am feeling less brutally sad about the demise of our final embryos (and I wasn't in tune with the universe, the thaw date was 11/29, because I had to ask, but I can pretend that the news traveled to me early or something, right?), and steeling myself to write the card to the couple to respond to the incredibly heartfelt words of sorrow that they sent to us through Snowflakes. Words that made me cry, as we'll never share an odd sort of family together, but I loved how they said that we'd always be part of their story. How do you write a card that is both condolence and encouraging, I'm sorry for your loss and our loss and all the loss, period? I guess I'll find out. It's definitely still weird to think that this whole chapter of our life is totally over.

Huh. This is somewhat of a WHOMP WHOMP downer update, but some of them are just like that. I hope that the holiday season is kind to you!

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

Friday, December 8, 2017


My phone rang just minutes ago, and it was an 800 number. I don't usually pick up unless I know who will be on the other end, but for some reason I thought maybe I should pick this call up.

Maybe it was because I just placed a whole boatload of Christmas shopping orders and I worried something was wrong.

Well, something WAS wrong, it just had nothing to do with the holiday purchases.

It was my contact at Snowflakes, who was calling with an unexpected update.

At first when she said that I thought that maybe the woman in the couple was unexpectedly, spontaneously pregnant, and I braced myself for this news, because that would be wonderful for them but I didn't know how I would feel about it.

I never in a million years expected that they decided to do a transfer and didn't call with an update until all was said and done (which I totally understand, my goodness the pressure of updating people on your cycle doings). And that when they went to thaw the 2PN embryos that were Bryce's sperm and donor eggs... NOT ONE OF THEM SURVIVED THAW.


And just like that, the last dream of hope has died.

The hope that we held that our embryos could survive and become children to be raised by another family.

The hope that another uterus was the answer to our fertility woes.

The hope of any answer at all.

The hope for this couple, who was beyond sweet and we felt a strange long-distance kinship with and exchanged words of hope and condolences with over the past two years.

I feel like all my hard-won scar tissue has been ripped open and I'm raw and bleeding all over again.

I am devastated. I am devastated first for this couple, who took a chance on embryos that came from a couple who were unsuccessful at EVERYTHING related to family-building, who believed in our embryos and wanted to give them the chance we couldn't. I am devastated that NONE of our embryos worked for them. I can't imagine how it must feel (well, maybe I can, actually) to thaw 6 one-day embryos in hopes of maybe 2-3 survivors and be left with NONE, right before Christmas. To have fought for a transfer day over a period of years, and have it end with a fizzle.

I know what it's like to have an anticlimactic end to an era of cycles. I don't know what their plans are, but if they continue on they'll need to match up with another family looking to place their embryos and go through all this all over again, or start a brand new process, or make peace with a life without children. But to have things end with this loss of all hope instilled in those 6 tiny cells... how awful.

And of course I am heartbroken for us. There were no second chances. There won't be a strange, grafted family tree. We won't get to see any of our genetics play out in other children raised halfway across the country. That dream is dead. The hope that some part of us could live on and we could have some kind of relationship in the future is dead. And for the love of all that's holy, we couldn't catch a break with ANYTHING?

I am also heartbroken because I feel somehow responsible for this couple's misfortune, for their grief. I know it's not logical. I know that they chose us knowing that our material was "unproven." But we still feel like we set them up for failure somehow. That anything related to us and our journey was somehow tainted by whatever dark and noxious cloud sat on everything reproductive for us.

The odd thing is that yesterday I was unbearably sad. I can't explain it. I literally just felt like curling up in a ball and pretending to hibernate. I told Bryce I felt like a pillbug (or a roly-poly, or an armadilla bug, depends on where you're from). I just sat in my chair downstairs and cried silent tears. I sincerely wonder if the thaw failed yesterday. If somehow I knew that something was not quite right in the universe, that there was something to cry for, something big to mourn. I chalked it up to the holiday blues, but now I wonder if it was some sort of in-tune-with-the-cosmos mourning.

There's just so many layers to this loss.

Monday, December 4, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Walking Away

I found this at the teacher's union craft sale a couple weeks ago, and finally put it in a frame that was originally going to house one of our photos from our California trip (but woefully I have yet to have prints made).

I think it's quite something, don't you?

Especially since it just appeared, at a very mainstream, very family-friendly event, and spoke right to the heart of me.

It's in my beautiful office now, a reminder that sometimes walking away is the hardest choice, but it's also the best choice so you can keep on walking forward.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! Also I am so proud of myself for playing by the rules this time -- FOUR sentences! WOO!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Any News?

I am home sick today with a supposed sinus infection that has me dizzy, exhausted, feeling like I have a head full of poison, and no voice. I tried to go into school yesterday and ended up leaving at the end of 5th period (after my English co-teacher basically banned me from his room and said "GO HOME." and my TA had been after me to go home, too). It was a bizarre day, since I'd taken NyQuil the night before and actually got a good night's sleep, but woke up at 7:20 (I'm supposed to be at school by 7:30) and rushed to get out the door and in to my classroom by the start of class at 7:55. I just made it, but sans glasses -- I realized after shutting the door and walking to my car that I didn't have them on my face, but I had my keys in the car to defrost the windshield, and I decided to run with it since I had prescription sunglasses in the car. Sigh. Not a good day.

I went to the doctor at 3:30 after a long nap, and it was the same nurse practitioner who saw me through my horrible flu bout two years ago in April. She is definitely the earth-mother type and has a great sense of humor. She always talked with me about adoption, especially since one day I had the Adoptee Survival Guide with me as reading material and she asked a bunch of questions since her husband was adopted and he did not have a good experience with it. He had passed years earlier, but she thought that her children might want the information about search and reunion for their own knowledge, since it was a closed adoption and they had little information, and clearly health history would be important since he died young (in addition to just the right to know).

I forgot I hadn't seen her since before April.

"So, any news? What's new?" She asked with a twinkle in her eye.

"Um, this year is going well so far, work is going great..." I said in my hoarse voice.

"No, I meant, ANY NEWS?" and she winked.

"Oh. OH. Oh, no. Um, we ended that journey last spring. That didn't go well. I'm so sorry not to have better news for you." She looked a little crushed, so I continued on,

"You see, last year was horrifically bad. We had a 10 month period with absolutely no calls, and then two calls that were very last minute and hopeful but resulted in not being chosen, and it just got to be too much. Maybe if we hadn't done 13 IVF cycles before starting adoption it might have turned out differently..."

"Oh, oh yes. That sounds so hard, a lot to deal with. Only you are an expert on you, and what you can and cannot handle." She said, like a true wise woman.

"Yup, and when you land yourself in the ER with scleritis and the prednisone mimics heart attack symptoms and you have a bit of a mental breakdown at work...well then it's time to re-examine your priorities."

"Oh my. How difficult that must have been."

"Yeah. It was pretty awful. I'm on anxiety medication now, which has helped, but it was all just really unfortunate."

Then, I forgot how we got to it, but she said something along the lines of "Life is not just, there's just life." Which I love. What a great way to put things.

At another point in the conversation, between listening to my lungs and sparing me the indignity of the scale, she said, "Ah, it's like 'Where is the happy uncomplicated life I signed up for?'" while shaking her fist at the ceiling.

"Oh no," I said. "For as much as we've lost so much, I am actually very happy with my life. I have a lot to be thankful for, I am very fortunate in many other ways." And that's truly how I feel, and what I remind myself of when I feel down at the endless stream of family Christmas shoots and tree-cutting and even the weird tradition of putting your baby on some bearded guy's lap at the mall so they can cry adorably.

But then I realized...she is not the last person to not know what happened with our journey. I will have to repeat this conversation with my gynecologist when I go for my annual, and with neighbors who don't know yet that we pulled the plug who might ask out of curiosity. And not everyone is going to react in such a caring, loving way as the nurse practitioner.

Just the other day I ran into the Superintendent, who had been supportive during our quest and "hands are tied" apologetic about the sad state of adoption leave with the district, despite offering "more than any other district at 5 days paid leave." I realized he didn't know we weren't adopting anymore, so I pulled him aside in the hall and told him. His response was a little bit shocked, a little bit sad, and then this, "Well, you never know what the future might bring, there's always hope if you have faith." Um, that's nice and all, but I actually DO know what the future will bring here and it's not bringing any tiny miracle babies. I let him know that we were actually at peace with our decision and we look forward to a happy life as a couple, but it reminded me of how many people still see that as a very sad outcome, and can't justify in their minds that you can be childless and happy at the same time.

I am still figuring out how to do my holiday cards this year in a way that will make it abundantly clear that we are now a family of two plus cats, and I'm struggling. I still intend to have the picture of me with a cocktail in a pretty dress on my chaise lounge, but what other pictures? Pictures of our California trip? I toyed with the idea of having someone come take pictures of us enjoying our life as is, eating a delicious meal that we cooked together, reading in pajamas in our new chair, me typing in my new office, out for a hike...but Bryce thought maybe that might be construed as "sad." Which then made me sad, because I find great joy in those things. But last year we had a little text on the back of our card explaining the second year of the adoption process, and I feel like maybe a little tribute to the end of our journey wouldn't be bad since some people actually thought last year's tongue-in-cheek card was a pregnancy announcement (!).

Maybe if I send out something abundantly clear but joyful, I won't have to explain to the few people left who don't know our situation. And then next year's card can just be a card, without any sort of message about our family status. A non-press-release card, ha.

I guess people won't ever stop asking the question, but I'm hoping that at some point everyone I know will know how this particular chapter of our story ended, and I won't have to tell it again and again to people who saw some sliver of what our life was like while we were desperately trying to introduce a child into our family.

Monday, November 27, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: You Don't Have Kids

I had another lovely interaction with a coworker, one I also didn't challenge, for some reason.

I'm in a Young Adult Book Club, where teachers and staff get to read new YA literature and discuss it so we can recommend it to kids and keep current. So, naturally, November's book was Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (you know him from The Fault in Our Stars, or Paper Towns, and he is amazing).

One of the teachers in my hallway stopped me a week ago and said, "Have you read Turtles All the Way Down yet? Can you get it into it? Does it get better?" [I loved it, in case you were wondering]

And I said, "Well, um..."

"You FINISHED it, didn't you!"

"Yes," I replied, and before I could say more she said,

"Well of course, because you don't have kids, you can read more!" and then disappeared back into her room, leaving me more than a little flabbergasted.

Because she knows me, if not super well, then well enough to know that I DON'T HAVE KIDS FOR A REASON, and that reason is painful and a terrible loss and really not a hallway-flyby sort of matter.

What I was going to say was that I finished it because I coerced the librarian into giving me my copy of the book several weeks early, because I was dying to read it. And yes, I finished it quickly, and yes, having no children at home probably definitely does make it easier for me to read voraciously (I read a book a day over Thanksgiving break, which was possible in part because I was (am) sick and so couldn't really do anything else, not that I wanted to).

But, it threw me off how flippantly she said, "It's because you don't have kids at home."

On the other hand, maybe I am just so well-adjusted (publicly) from this grief and loss that people can forget about the horrorshow that was last year and the pain of the last 8 years, particularly if they didn't know me that well during most of it, and so she said that because she CAN forget that I don't have kids because I tried just about every way you can and hit roadblocks every. single. time. Because it's not apparent, because I am not a sad sap, because I appear (and I am) happy.

The librarian actually said that today, "You look so upbeat lately, I keep meaning to ask how you're doing with all the transition and that part of your life being over, but I keep forgetting because you seem so happy."

There's no seem about it. I am happy. And I am grateful that a side effect of my loss is unabridged reading time -- that's a positive I'll take!

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Phrase I Just Don't Get

I was hanging out with a teacher friend one afternoon. We talked about our stories, our challenges, and the fact that your struggles aren't always easily apparent. She was a really good listener, and she was super sensitive about my situation, and very much in the vein of "I had no idea you were going through all that to the extent that you were until you broke last year, but it was never apparent to students or coworkers, you just didn't let it ooze out onto us."

Which was lovely, and made me feel good because I tried real hard to make that be the case until I couldn't anymore, but I NEVER took it out on my students.

But then for some reason we got onto fears, and I shared one of my biggest -- that I might die young, either from a gynecological cancer related to the many years of treatment and fiddling with my body, or in a random act of violence. The random act of violence one has been there forever: I am petrified of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and have been known to ask Bryce if we can leave a place because I get an icky feeling. (I'm sure this isn't related to my anxiety at all.) The specificity of the cancer is new, but the weaselly-in-the-brain thought that I might die of an incurable disease? Not so much.

She said she got it, and that for the longest time she thought she was going to die when she was some random age in her mid-thirties. Like, convinced. So much so that when she hit that year the whole 365 days was fairly anxiety-ridden and unpleasant. But it didn't happen, and that was a long time ago.

When does the phrase I simply don't get come in? When she said the dreaded,

"But by the time I was that age, I had children, and so I had no choice -- I COULD NOT DIE, IT SIMPLY WASN'T AN OPTION."

I mean, not that she was PLANNING it or anything, but that the mere idea of dying young when you have children is just not plausible, because you have so much to live for, tiny lives who depend on you.

It's not the first time I've heard this sentiment, that once you have kids, dying is just not an option.

Yet I'm pretty sure there are people who have died who had young children.

And the inverse is incredibly icky.

I GUESS DYING IS TOTALLY AN OPTION FOR ME. I mean, I don't have children to live for. So what's the point?

(This is purely rhetorical of course. Please do not send out the Mobile Crisis Unit for a mental health arrest.) 

I really hate that phrase because while I can understand feeling like children give you a reason to live, um, can't other things do that, too? It's fine for your kids to give you a reason to live, but should it be the ONLY reason?

It seems to totally back up that whole "My life just meant more when I had children" thing that people say.

I'd like to think my life means "more" now, even without children.

My husband depends on me.

And if I didn't have a husband, my family, my friends, my cats, my neighbors, my coworkers, my students...I'd like to think that they would all be sad and irrevocably changed if I were to pass away.

This is a far more morbid post than I'd intended, but it begs the question...

Is your death sadder if you have children? Is your life worth more because of it? 

I'd like to think no. I'd like to think that every single person would be missed for a variety of reasons, and children are just one. That a life can be just as meaningful and just as much of a loss, and that your life is just as much worth fighting for if you DON'T have children than if you do.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, I've seen quite a few posts on what people say about having children that makes the inverse cringe-worthy from Mali, Different Shores, Infertile PhoenixLoribeth, BentNotBroken, and more.

So why is this such a thing? And why didn't I challenge my teacher friend on it? I thought about it, but I felt maybe we didn't know each other QUITE well enough for me to say, "Well, I guess I can just roll over and die, since I have no children to live for and never will" followed by maniacal laughter. It's possible that might not have gone well.

I wish people would think about the implied (if not always directly) inverse of these statements. Then again, what would I have to write about if so many people suddenly gained this kind of sensitivity? (Cue maniacal laughter.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2017 Thankfuls

I try to be aware of the things I have to be thankful for on a regular basis, but of course this week of (American) Thanksgiving means a set time for reflection, often where you feel the need to share these feelings of gratitude publicly. I used to do the Thankful November thing where you post one thing every day on Facebook that you are thankful for, but I didn't do it this year in part because I found myself busy and forgot until the second week of November and in part because it would mean going up on Facebook daily and I am really trying to scale back a bit. (Not in any small part because November is National Adoption Month and that might have just a tinge of pain and loss for me when I see all the frames that say "Touched by Adoption" by friends who actually were successful and it leaves me feeling just a tad bit...loser-y. Like a failure, someone who couldn't cut the mustard. I have to remind myself that moving forward was NOT failure.)

I thought it might be nice to come up with a list of 30 things that I am thankful for this year, this shitty-ass year of 2017. Because although it was a year of losses and illness and letting go, a lot of good things happened, too. Sometimes as a result of the shitty things.

So, in the spirit of filling the bucket and not draining it, here is the list of things I am thankful for from this past year, one for each day of November, not ranked in any way shape or form:

1) My marriage. I mean, that's handsdown #1 if this was a ranked list, but it's the first thing I think of, always. I am so fortunate to have a marriage strong enough to survive incredible stresses and thrive in the face of adversity. We nurture it and work it and it's something I'm proud of, as well as thankful for.

2) Bryce. Okay, related to #1, but he is truly the best partner I could have hoped for in this crazy loop-de-loop of a life. He's patient, he's funny, he's incredibly adoring, he's adorable, he gives great hugs, he's smart, he's cultured, he's a great cook and baker, and I don't get tired of spending time with him. He's sexy, too.

3) My friends. Friends I see frequently, friends I talk to at least weekly, but also friends who live far away but are such total kindred spirits that I can pick up where we left off 6 months ago and have it be just as comfortable and funny (and usually a 3 hour conversation). Friends who stopped in to see me when I was going through my crisis last spring. Friends who text me when I try to disappear into a pit. Friends who encourage me to go out there and do fun things I probably wouldn't do any other way. I am so fortunate to have friends in many different arenas, many of whom (ahem ahem, many of you reading this) who I've never met yet but still feel a special bond with.

4) My ALI blogging community. You guys are my friends, my life preservers, my beacon of hope when I feel lost. You get it. You challenge my thinking. You educate me on all the different paths there are to take in this crazy family-building quest that can resolve in so many ways and fork in so many different directions. I am so grateful to and for you.

5) My family. They are spread out across the whole freaking country, which makes visiting on the regular very, very difficult, but I love in-person visits and phone calls, cards and keeping up on that devil Facebook. You are supportive, you are funny, and I can blame the crazy on you. You have sustained a loss in our losses too, and you handle it with grace and go to bat for us when people are stupid (wittingly or not so). I am grateful to all of you.

6) My cats. They cozy up to me and seem to know when I need a little furry love in my lap. They let me hold them like babies and cuddle them like teddy bears. Even Gross Cat is snugglier than normal and has become quite enjoyable. Thanks for being my fur babies.

7) My job. I am not being a cliche when I say that I truly and utterly love what I do, and feel grateful every day that I get to do it. I mean, maybe not every SECOND of the day (like today when energy was high because it was the day before Thanksgiving and everyone was complaining about being in school when other districts were closed), but I love the challenge of teaching middle school, the way it makes me grow and learn as a person and as a professional, and the fulfillment it gives me. I love hearing from students and getting little notes that say "You are the best teacher" from time to time, that doesn't hurt, either. :)

8) My coworkers/school. Holy crow, I am so fortunate to work at the school where I do. My whole district is special, but I am particularly grateful to be at my middle school, because the community there is amazing. There are so many wonderful teachers, staff members, and administrators that I can learn from and truly feel that family vibe with. I love that there are people who get my sense of humor and who crack me up, daily. And there are people who make me a better teacher, daily. It's wonderful to go to school every day with friends and family.

9) My home. I know we keep going back and forth on moving versus not moving, but more and more I just love our home, our cozy little hobbit house, and am growing content with the idea of staying here.

10) My new couches/chairs/dining room table. It may seem like just furniture, and it's very nice and adult-like, but it is also marks a turning point. We didn't buy any of it until we were out of limbo. It was like the start of a new adult life stage, and the upholstery certainly screams "We don't have children" since it's light and it's not easy-clean microfiber.

11) Not being in limbo. As much as January to May really sucked the big one, I can't tell you how happy and thankful I am to no longer be living in an in-between place, a place of striving for something that just kept eluding us and kept pressing down like deep sea pressure on our (my) sanity. It is amazing to go for a walk without my phone in my pocket. It is wonderful to make vacation plans and not worry that it might cost us a profile opportunity, or that it wouldn't fit into our IVF schedule.

12) Being able to take a swanky vacation. I love, love, love that we (mostly) just went for it on our California vacation. And that we saw the Napa, Calistoga, and Sonoma regions before the horrific fires. I love that it was two weeks. I love that it really was our honeymoon. I look forward to the next trip, and am thankful that we have the ability to do this.

13) My new office. I love that I was able to take a room that was a total representation of everything we wanted and everything we lost in so many ways, and turn it into a sanctuary that's just for me. I write in here, I read in here, I craft in here, I grade in here, I plan in here, I wrap presents in here...the list goes on and on but it's all stuff that makes me happy and is CREATING something in a room where nothing materialized in other ways.

14)  Delicious gluten-free food. This seems small, but it's not -- I love food and it's wonderful that more and more quality stuff comes out that makes it possible for me to eat like a normal human. Especially out at restaurants. It's great to eat good food and not damage my body.

15) Friends who really support the gluten free thing. My bookclub is great with providing a boatload of delicious gluten free options, and I legitimately feel horrid when I have to cancel last minute due to illness or something because often they go out of their way to provide a GF spread. My coworkers always have a GF treat for me when we've done birthday celebrations. I have friends who make sure servers at restaurants know how important it is not to gluten me, and are almost aggressive about it. It is a beautiful thing, because it's not a dietary choice, it's a dietary treatment for an autoimmune disease.

16) Being able to see my dad three times this year. After not seeing him for years, having a last-minute visit in February in Toronto, a visit during our honeymoon in August, and then a visit two weeks ago (although for the unfortunate circumstance of my grandfather's funeral)...that has been a gift this year. 

17) A giant stack of books I haven't read yet to get me through the winter. I am so ready for a surprise snow day where I can just sit in my pjs and read all day.

18) My health. It could be better (stupid asthma, migraines, celiac, the eye thing) but it sure could be worse, and I got a little taste of that when I had my scleritis flare in the Spring Of Death. So far, so good and I am very grateful for that.

19) A good therapist. I LOVE my lady. A good therapist is gold. Don't settle for less, something I learned the hard way. Get someone who listens but who also challenges you and notices patterns without judgement. And for pete's sake, someone who respects your viewpoints. Challenging doesn't mean trying to alter your course that took forever to determine.

20) This blog. I'm thankful for the community I have met through it -- the friends across the country and even the world, but I'm also thankful just for this space to put my thoughts out there and process this journey as I keep on trekking on through it. This space is part of therapy, too. I appreciate the opportunity to explore thoughts and ideas and vent and commiserate on tough topics.

21) My car. Minus a few little bang-ups this past year (shakes fist at 2017), my car has been super reliable and maintenance has been easy and uncomplicated. I do have to replace my timing belt soon, which will be expensive and irritating, but it's worth it to hang on to this car for a very long time. I love you, Subaru.

22) My linen sheets. A strange one, but they are truly soft and cozy (once you get over the initial feeling of "I'm sleeping on a tablecloth") and regulate heat like nobody's business. I use them all year long and am never going back!

23) Bryce's gluten free cheese danish. Mmmmmmm. It's been a while, hint hint.

24) Other childfree-not-by-choice bloggers and friends. It's amazing to have people who've gone before me (or are going with me) to make the road less lonely and more hopeful for what is to come now that this huge thing we spent 8 years on didn't happen.

25) My neighbors. It's lovely to have neighbors who you can stop and talk to on a walk or while doing yardwork. It's even more lovely to have neighbors who feel like family and that you can invite over for a drink or dinner or to watch the Superbowl or toast to the New Year with. Even better is when your neighbor introduces you to a book club that's the first one you've belonged to for years and years, and where you've met wonderful new people that became friends who you never would have met any other way.

26) Good wine. We love our wine, and have tasted some really good bottles recently. Because why not?

27) Music. I love that there is music that can be piped all throughout our house and that one of our traditions is Sunday Baroque in the morning, and that if we sleep too late we pick it up in a station in Illinois or California. I love that Bryce is playing his guitar downstairs while I type. In the living room we have two guitar cases and my violin case, and it makes me very, very happy.

28) Tons of bookshelves. I love that our house is a library. I love that there are books in virtually every room, and that when we purge things books are the LAST thing to go. I am so thankful that we're both readers and are content to read together, listening to music, for hours on end. May sound boring to some people but we love it.

29) My beautiful new tattoo. Tomorrow is two weeks and I can finally stop washing it and slathering it in cocoa butter all the time. I am thankful for the balls to get it so big, for the artistry of the tattoo artist, and for everything it stands for.

30) Resiliency. I am thankful for our resiliency, for my resiliency, for the ability to get back up off the floor after being solidly dropped into an abyss of grief and sadness. I am thankful for the ability to laugh in the face of tragedy. I am thankful for the strength it took to say NO MORE, and the commitment to build a beautiful life from the ashes of our incredible attempts to have a child.

Well, if you're still here BRAVO, because that was a LOT longer than intended. But ah, how wonderful to have a big old stack of gratitude to feel and share.

Happy Thanksgiving! May the day be about trying to find the gems in the muck -- for some people the gems are closer to the surface, but for others there's some digging to do, but it's so worth it to come up with a few sparkling thankfuls to honor.

Monday, November 20, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Quote, Counterquote

Every day in the English class I coteach starts with a word of the day, and a quote of the day. I love quotes, but the quote on Thursday of last week really, really rubbed me the wrong way.

"You're never a loser until you quit trying." - Mike Ditka

Can you see why this quote is shitty? And not just for me, but for the many kids who have tried and failed things due to circumstances far out of their control?

I thought about just letting it go, and then I thought...SCREW IT and searched frantically on my phone while students copied down the word and quote from the board.

After the English teacher I work with explained the quote (it's important to always keep trying, never give up, blah blah blah), I said, "I have a COUNTERQUOTE!"

And I shared this gem, sent to me by a friend last year:

I said, "You see, there are times when trying over and over is NOT the best thing for you. Like for instance, when you are playing a sport and you are chronically injured but you keep playing even though IT IS HARMFUL FOR YOU TO CONTINUE TO DO SO."

He countered, "But I think the quote is more about motivation, like that mountain we talk about in the Wordsworth poem at the beginning of the year, that some people just want to be magically transported to the top of the mountain, but if you work hard and don't quit, you WILL get to the top! I don't think it's about playing football in a wheelchair."

And now the students were watching us like a ping pong match, because I had to keep going. I HAD TO.

"Except, sometimes you're climbing a mountain, and the conditions get really dangerous, and you are putting the rest of your life at risk by continuing stubbornly up that particular mountain, so maybe YOU JUST NEED TO FIND ANOTHER MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB."

He sort of went, "Hmmm" and then we continued on.

And when I came back for 8th period, the quote was different:

"Continuous effort -- not strength or intelligence -- is the key to unlocking our potential." - Winston Churchill

I just smiled, and it went without further discussion.

Later that night I told Bryce about it, and he said that maybe he changed it so he wouldn't have to deal with me being a pain in the ass. Which I took exception to, actually. I thought maybe he thought on it and changed it to something that didn't call people who move forward from something LOSERS.

The next day I did ask him. I said, "I noticed you changed the quote 8th period yesterday. Bryce thinks maybe you didn't want to deal with my soapbox two periods in a row, but I have another theory."

He said, "I felt SO HORRIBLE. I never thought of it that way, and clearly you have, and it really struck a chord with you and now I can see why."

Because I can't shut up, I continued on, "Oh, THANK YOU. Not just for me, but for all our kids who already know that life is not fair and don't have to wait to be infertile as adults to think on all this stuff. I think it's just SO important to let them know that sometimes you just don't get what you want, but you can readjust and find a new focus."

And he said, "Yeah. This new quote captures what I was trying to get at without the other stuff."

It was a bit of a bonding moment. He genuinely didn't think of how that quote could come across to people whose lives have taken unexpected turns despite all the trying in the world, and then he fixed it. I may have hipchecked him a bit and just said, "I so appreciate you."

I am so, so glad I spoke up. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays, maybe ones that play by the rules and are actually Micro? Go here and enjoy! 

Monday, November 13, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Baby Parade

I went to our favorite Mexican restaurant without a bra on, thanks to my lovely new phoenix and butterflies. I'm healing up nicely, but it was awkward to be hanging out, free and loose in public. While we were wrapping up our dinner and margaritas, and I was sitting with my arms crossed in front like a makeshift bra, people we know but not well came in to celebrate a birthday, with their new baby in tow.

Please explain to me why people parade their babies around like no one has ever seen one before? I've noticed it for years, and it has to be connected to some kind of biological instinct, because the "carry, walk, and make your baby stare awkwardly at people, known and otherwise" move is a CLASSIC.

The thing is, this person knows that we weren't successful in this arena. Yet he held his (admittedly adorable) 4-month old baby and rocked him and just smiled at us like "isn't this awesome?" and DID NOT TAKE THE HINT that there's only so many minutes that you can coo and smile and wave at a baby you don't really know while your margarita is getting warm.

Finally Bryce rescued us, "Okay, well, nice to see you, enjoy your dinner, byeeee."

And sat there, and then pretended to say all the things we'd wished we could during this baby parading, this "look what I made" sort of Lion King moment:

- "Well, we're just going to go home and watch a little TV until we get tired! Then we're going to SLEEP IN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE."
- "Enjoy that daycare!"
- "I'll be thinking of you when I wake up at 3 am, and then roll back over and sleep until 8!"

A little immature? Probably. But it made us feel better for the awkward moment at the end of our yummy dinner in celebration of my lovely new tattoo baby. You didn't see me walking around exposing my shoulder to everyone in quite the same way, did you? Ha.

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Enter the Phoenix

Yesterday was the day -- and I put the appointment in my calendar as "Enter the Phoenix." I am now the proud owner of a freaking GINORMOUS new tattoo.

Here's the thing. I was thinking on the evolution of this design -- that first I wanted this dainty, botanical dandelion illustration with all the fluffies and the two butterflies and it would be all wispy and feminine but also very, very sad. Very woe-is-me. Very "I am floating away on this tide of grief."

So I went with something that is the COMPLETE AND UTTER OPPOSITE of that feeling.

I saw the design, and it was the perfect mix of tribal-style badassery, some traditional tattooing stipple style, and the natural beauty of two detailed monarchs.

It was just a lot bigger than I imagined.

Here is some stencil preview:

I gulped a bit at the size, but was like, YES. Let's do this thing. It is big, it is powerful, it is no shrinking violet piece of art.

And so I lay on the table, wearing a leftover BeBand pregnancy band as a makeshift bra and my old sweatshirt backwards to give me some warmth and coverage. I love the sweet poetic justice in the pregnancy band being used for this purpose.

I forgot how much tattooing hurts. I'm not sure if it's the placement (apparently where you are ticklish is where you have a bundle of nerves, and it feels like a hot knife dragging through your skin), or the new needle styles, or the way the artist moved quickly through but also gave it the depth needed, but HOLY HELL that was super painful.

The outlining was the worst. It was the biggest needle, and he just sort of did the wings all at once and the tail, and I lay there, trying to squirm without moving my shoulder, tapping my hand on the table, singing, swearing up a storm, and laughing maniacally.

My new therapist asks why I laugh so much when I talk about really shitty things.

I laugh because I refuse to cry all the time. And it works.

I cried NOT ONCE during the two hours of outlining, shading, stippling, coloring in, and general torture.

I did, however, at one point yell, "I MAY COMPLETELY REGRET THE SIZE RIGHT NOW! Oh, SURE, let's do TRIBAL! Let's do a SHITLOAD of BIG, BLACK SHAPES! GREAT IDEA. Why is there no MANDATORY COUNSELING for this???" 

I don't regret it though. It is freaking beautiful. It is gorgeous, and powerful, and everything I wanted it to be. It will just slightly peek out of most clothing until the summer, but even then it won't ever be super visible at work. But it's there, showing my rise from the ashes of everything, my triumph, my strength. The two butterflies are transformation, but they are also memories of my two babies that almost got to be. They're not sad, though. They're beautiful.

Right after. My hair is a hot mess because I sweat like a beast when I'm in pain, and it was a hilariously HUGE cloud of curls and frizz when we were done. 
Today, more healed, less oozy, no longer bleeding all over the place. Hard to get the whole thing myself! 
It hurt, but I bet childbirth hurts worse. This was my birth. Bryce is slowly getting used to it: he asked when I'm buying my Harley and running off with some leather-clad guy named Bubba, but he'll learn to coexist with it peacefully.

Of all the things that happened this week, this was surely the most physically painful, but it was the most emotionally and mentally rewarding, too.

I love that this work of art on my back is a physical representation of all we've survived, of the pain and the strength and resilience that results from 8 long, difficult years.

I am a freaking phoenix. I am a butterfly. I am a warrior and a gentle soul all at once. I love when some things that are imagined and visualized can go from concept to reality.

Monday, November 6, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Mishmash Update

It's been a crazy couple of weeks:

- I drove 9 hours each way to Kentucky for my grandfather's memorial service, alone (Bryce had to attend several classes during that time) -- a sort of weird new milestone of adulting
- I saw a zillion family members and the stabs were actually fairly few and far between (a different aunt from last time who commented how odd it was that neither me nor my sister have children, I corrected her that my sister has two stepsons, and then explained that children just didn't work out for us, faced the dreaded "why didn't you adopt" question and answered it with two years of the adoption process, and that was that)
- We had a cold and rainy Halloween but had 9 trick-or-treaters, a new record (in a positive direction) for us
- We had a little party with the neighbors to celebrate our anniversary and Halloween
- I got to dress up as just one thing this year, as I am mostly connected with the Red Team in my middle school, and so I got to be Dopey (of the seven dwarves)
- I managed to make it through anniversary season and Halloween season without getting too morose and woe-is-me
- I am struggling through some drama with adults at school right kids are great but the adults are killing me slowly...but it will all work out
- I finished Stranger Things Season 2 FINALLY tonight

All in all, not too terribly bad. I am proud of my ability to cross four states alone and not be too terribly afraid while finding the local NPR station every 50 miles or so, I am proud of my 8 years of marriage to Mr. Bryce, I am making my way through an awkward year of school where adults are making me crazy, I made it to a memorial service for my grandfather who passed of complications from Alzheimer's, and I spent as much time watching a great TV show as I did driving to Kentucky one way. I'm ready for a bit of a slowdown (enter the holiday season, of course).

My sister, me, my dad, my stepbrother in the basement of the church. A rare all-siblings-on-deck shot.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: The First of Two Anniversaries

Love the chili peppers in my bouquet and Bryce's boutonniere

It is confusing to people to have two anniversaries. Today is our "legal" anniversary -- we were married by a Justice of the Peace at our favorite Mexican Restaurant 8 years ago today. It's nice, because it's a private sort of anniversary--we celebrate it with each other and give each other the "serious" anniversary cards (as opposed to the Halloween love cards we give on our wedding anniversary, which contain my annual Anniversary Ghoul drawn by Bryce...a little scared of what this year might have in store for me).

The second anniversary is our more public anniversary, the Halloween anniversary of our actual tiny little backyard wedding. We usually go out for a fancy dinner for that one and that's the one people recognize with cards or calls or whatever.

This year we had a lovely, extravagant little anniversary celebration of two with a cheese plate, mini champagne bottle, a tasty dinner of apple cider/mustard/thyme roasted carrots and parsnips with wine & cheese rope sausage, and a lovely bottle of Amarone.

We exchanged cards and enjoyed that this is the first year where my card focused on the adventures ahead, just us two, rather than the arduous journey and the hopes for different sort of future this year, maybe this time, as all the other cards have noted (Bryce's had a nod to the difficulties of the past year, but it was focused on the joys of what's to come and the pride of having made it through our own personal Hell intact).

Here's to 8 great and terribly beautiful years, full of adventures and sorrows and new beginnings and a whole lot of love and laughter.

Toasting on our porch with wine and classic cheeses

Handsome man, creepy spider lurking behind him inside that shutter...

Oh hello!  
I seeeeee you

Stylized shot of the flowers I miraculously got (flowers from a practical engineer are like unicorn sightings)


Amarone, and a crotchety looking Bryce (even though he's not)

Wedded bliss now and for eternity, although I like the way we looked in 2009 better than our skeletal versions... ha
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