Monday, May 28, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Immerse Yourself in the Future

I was listening to the radio on my way up to visit with my mom and stepfather today, and NPR was running a feature by Adam Piore called "We've Never Been the Same: A War Story," about a company of soldiers in Vietnam who suffered through an incredibly traumatic experience, and how they dealt with the PTSD later. It was compelling, so much so that I found it later this evening to listen to the whole thing.

One quote in particular from a veteran named Jeff Wishik struck me: "Immerse yourself in the world in front of you, rather than the one behind you...Immerse yourself in the future, not in the past." 

This is a tricky thing, because for me the things in my past have contributed to the person I am now -- all the good, all the bad, all the ugly rolled up into everything that is my story. I don't think that I can totally let go of of the world in the past, but I don't think that's what he's saying. 

Immerse is the key word -- you can visit, you can reflect, but you can't be a functioning, forward-thinking, forward-planning person if you are forever immersed in the events of your past. 

Memorial Day weekend marks the last of the anniversaries regarding our decision to end our parenting journey, and since the spring is so very chock full of anniversaries that could easily turn me into partial goo, I feel like I have grief fatigue to a point. This is the weekend where we got all our nursery stuff into the living room so that I could help load it into the woman's car who came to pick it up for her organization. This is when we no longer had a nursery or any of the trappings necessary to have a baby, and so it was utterly, painfully clear that the decision was made and there was no going back. It was done. 

Although this was the hardest of the days last year, it was an anniversary time that did not make me feel horrid. And I think that is because we spent this weekend immersing ourselves in the world and life that is in front of us, and not what it feels like to carry bits and pieces of the life you thought you'd have out to someone's Buick to drive it all away. 

We went for a walk around the Memorial Art Gallery. We walked around Highland Park, and enjoyed the tree peonies, and locust trees, and what's left of the lilacs. I edited Bryce's qual exam paper (no easy feat as it is full of Fromm's paraboloids and photonic waveguides and eigenvalues, but I did it and we sat on a bench by a sculpture to finish going over the changes after starting the project over sushi lunch. I went nuts in the garden and weeded, planted, potted, and just made everything as beautiful as I could. I spent an inordinate amount of time hand-stamping the ASL alphabet typeface onto index cards to serve as bookmarks for my students when we start "The Miracle Worker" this week. 

I immersed myself in the future, and that made me less able to be wallowy and sad. Not that there's anything wrong with being wallowy and sad, but sometimes you just want to celebrate the life you have and not the one you were denied for inexplicable reasons. 

The end of the podcast spoke to me too: when they talk about how sharing stories helps to lessen PTSD, helps you to process traumas of many kinds, and makes it so that you aren't holding your pain alone. I so appreciate this community for those shared stories, for the communal holding of the pain (and the joy). 

Inside this incredible allee of trees at the art gallery

Our gorgeous art gallery castle

So much in bloom!

Home sweet home

My chair in with all the plants about to explode!

Pretty tree peony at Highland Park

Sunny yellow tree peonies

Gorgeous pink locust tree, like a sweet pea tree!

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Magnet for Misfortune: The Elevator Story

Ah, the delicate art of being Jess.

I have a knack for weird injuries:

I dislocated my knee in high school doing a dorky jump for joy at the sight of flat after flat of pansies in a nursery -- I also ran track but that is NOT how I busted my knee.

In P.E. class, if there was a ball in play, it would land injuriously somewhere on my body: a soccer ball to the gut, a foul softball to the head, a basketball to the head, etc.

At the dress rehearsal for my senior recital, I walked out onto the stage and fell into the footlights that were unsecured for some godforsaken reason, bashing my shin and narrowly saving my violin from a shattered doom.

I have slammed my other shin in my own car door so hard I still have the shadow of a bruise, a year later.

Bruises are like freckles to me, constantly appearing out of nowhere, peppering my lovely pasty white skin with fun colors.

The night before I left for the D.C. trip, I went to get my suitcase out of the crawlspace closet in our bedroom. Due to some shoddy construction (NOT Bryce's), the door came off its hinges and BAM! Hit me square in the arm, by my bicep. The bruise started blooming right away, and I thought, and so it begins.

Last year, the Year of Urgent Care, made it clear how accident prone I am at school. I was determined, though, not to be the person who ended up in the E.R. on this trip. And I didn't, although it's terrifying to think how close I came.

I sustained the normal bus bruises from being slammed against the seat row when the bus stopped or turned or went around a curve. I didn't get sick with gluten. I felt a little cursed, what with the bus breakdown and the having to be harbored by other buses until we got our own bus on the LAST DAY, but other than that it was fairly uneventful.

Except on the morning of the last day.

We had to run around knocking on our students' doors and make sure they were a) awake b) packed and ready to go and c) had cleaned their rooms. We were running late for breakfast, and were getting on the elevator on the Boy Floor (smart people, they separate the boys and the girls by floor), when I saw two straggler boys headed for the elevator with their luggage.

I held out my arm to stop the elevator, because, you know, electric eye and safety standards, and expected it to open back up so the gentlemen could get on the elevator and reach the buffet of scrambled eggs and bacon in a timely fashion.


I put my arm out (with my lovely Starbucks Latte with one pump of vanilla in it in my hand), and the doors opened back up a little, and then THEY CLAMPED SHUT ON MY ARM. There was an ominous beeping, and I sort of went into a bit of shock as my arm was vise-gripped in between the doors that had NO SAFETY MEASURES OBSERVABLE and it seemed that the elevator could start moving at any minute. I think I was screaming, "NONONONONONONONONO" as my friend was frantically trying buttons to open the doors (I think the floor button did it, Door Open did not). The doors opened enough for me to dart my arm back into the elevator, miraculously with only a little coffee spilled (unsure why my survival instincts didn't have me drop the damn coffee and try to get my arm inside with my hand flatedged...).

And then I cried. And hyperventilated.



Even the school nurse was like, "Holy shit, you could have ended up with an amputation."

Holy shit indeed. That would have one-upped the ice skating field trip fall or faceplant walking into school that resulted in Worker's Comp claims last year, right? It would even one-up the emergency room visit I had in Montreal on a Band/Orchestra trip in high school when I had an asthma attack and was introduced to Canadian healthcare in French (and reviled when I was seen earlier than people who had been waiting quite a while).

I still have a lovely bruise, and luckily it's just soft tissue that was hurt, no break or sprain or anything like that.

But, I will never, NEVER NEVER NEVER put any part of my body in the closing doors of an elevator, ever EVER again.

The one upside was that I caught a very small portion of the Royal Wedding live on a lobby TV while waiting for Security to come out to do an incident report. I saw them walking out of the chapel and into the stairs, and that amazing kiss.

It was almost enough to soothe my nerves after the Elevator Incident, and the fact that when I went to report it, the guy at the front desk said, "Oh, Elevator Three?" instead of shocked surprise. THAT IS NOT THE CORRECT RESPONSE, SIR!

I survived though, with more bruises and a memorable story. And that is how it is, living the Jess life.

On the bus, fresh and just blooming. Also, that's my Hogwarts shirt. 

Tonight -- the upper bruise is from the closet door, the one by my elbow is what's left from the elevator. This picture doesn't do it justice. Bryce is nervous people are going to think he pummels me. Nope, just doors. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Back to Being ChildFREE

When I wrote about Mother's Day, I said it was a day that made me feel childLESS, not childFREE, and I was not alone in making that distinction.

This week though, I am feeling some of the benefits of being childFREE.

I went on the 8th grade Washington D.C. trip as a chaperone for the first time, from 5:30 am.m Thursday to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, and holy hell was that a whirlwind of craziness. It was fun, but as I experienced clogged toilets and puking children and the endless energy of the bus ride (FOUR Disney movies, FOUR, despite having a bus breakdown an hour before Gettysburg and ending up sharing the three other buses all day Friday -- Zootopia Thursday, Monsters Inc/The Lion King/Big Hero 6 Saturday) -- I felt like, "ok, I can do this through school in small batches, I'm good with that."  I mean, I used to bristle a lot more when people would say, "Oh, you're a teacher, all your kids are like YOUR kids," but honestly it does feel like there is some truth to that statement. Having a boatload of 13-14 year olds at once is no one's dream, but while I have them, they are mine and I love them and I can take care of calling maintenance to help fix the toilet and advise children not to walk all over the soggy towels mopping up poo water to show me how squishy they are and soothe children who have puked in the recycling bin. Also, I got quite a lot of hugs.

But then, I got to go home, and instead of having to take care of children of my own, I could snag a little of Bryce's time and sleep until 11 on Sunday and not have to cook for small people or get them ready for school or lessons or whatever.  I could recover without needing to split my energy.

And, with Bryce deep, deep in his qualification exam prep, I can help out and not feel super resentful because I am doing all the childcare. I am picking up more catcare and housecare, but it's not the same as if we had small children. And I am grateful in a weird way for that.

I feel like it's major progress, to be grateful.

Especially since one of my girls on the trip said, "Do you have kids, Mrs. T?" and I realized I have her in Social Studies and so she hasn't been privy to my tale of woe, so I said, "I don't -- it didn't work out. Mr. T and I tried for 8 years in many different ways, but it just NEVER worked out." [mildly cringey, didn't clarify that we did IVF and then adoption and not 8 years of the creepy adult teacher sex]
"Even adoption? What about adoption?"
"Nope, not even adoption. Two years of adoption turned out to be all we could handle. Sometimes you just don't get what you want."
"Oh no, that's so sad!"
"Yes, yes it is. But it's okay. Sometimes things just don't work out."

I DID NOT CRY. It was all very matter-of-fact. And in my head, I thought, "And now I can give so much more to you guys, to my wonderful students who I love and embarrass and laugh with as if they are my own, but then I go home to my quiet house at the end of the day and recoup.

Which doesn't seem so bad anymore, actually.

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: My Un-Mother's Day

All things considered, I did pretty well this first consciously childfree Mother's Day. Although I have to say, it feels a lot more childless on the day where it seems everyone is celebrating and I have my face pressed against the glass, unable to join in.

The day before things is usually harder for me than the actual day of, as I wallow and prepare myself for the onslaught. I had to go to the grocery store, which was all decked out in roses and chocolates (apparently moms are suckers for roses and chocolates, although squint your eyes at the signs and you might mistake it for Valentine's Day...), and pick up the delicious foods for another yummy feast from Bryce (he wanted a do-over on the tenderloin we had for my birthday as the seasoning was "off" according to him and he had thoughts on improving the demiglace), and I was all prepared to be wished a Happy Mother's Day. I had a scenario in my head where I got the scallops and the seafood guy said, "Have a happy Mother's Day," and I replied, "And also to you!" so that he could look all confused and then I could say it applied to him as much as it applied to me. Har de har har har.

But, no one wished me a Happy Mother's Day on that outing, and so that one stays in my pocket for another year.

I was in a bit of a funk in the evening, but by the morning I was in pretty good spirits. Here is how I spent my day:

Bought me some cheerful flowers along with dinner eats. Flowers are for me, too!

I made an Un-Mother's Day fancy breakfast for me and Bryce, blueberry pancakes with bacon and strawberries. I sort of wish that I'd turned the strawberries around the other way so they'd be all pointy and sun-ray-like, but oh well. Next year. 

After breakfast I went to my 90 minute massage, where my wonderful massage therapist gave me a handmade birthday card and didn't wish me a Happy Mother's Day, not once, and didn't talk about it at all. I left feeling super relaxed. 

Then, I gardened! Pulling weeds, having my first snake sighting of the spring (I may have pet him and cooed in his general direction, horrifying my neighbor...) and working on a project that I've been sitting on for YEARS: 

Ugly and partially sanded, a chair I garbage picked from the curb to put in the garden and had all intentions of spray painting lilac, but hadn't gotten around to in, oh, about 5 years. 

Today's the day, chair! Also, I accidentally spray painted my feet a slightly dead-ish tint of lilac, too. Whoops. 

Voila! In the garden, all bright and pretty and purply. Beeyootiful!

I had phone conversations with my mom who was out of town, my grandmother who received my card I sent, and my mother-in-law. I weeded some more. Dinner was take out Thai food after going to the gym, which was pleasantly DEAD on this holiday. And then I capped off the day with this: 

Ohhhh, so very good! Fantasy YA fiction, perfect for Un-Mother's Day because it involves a kingdom whose matriarchy is passed down through the queen having triplets (which she always does), then when they're 6 they go to their magical gift's homeland to train, and then when they're 16 they plot to kill each other as only one can survive and become the new queen. I  LOVE this book!

I may have also capped off the night with a Manhattan. 

It was a lovely Un-Mother's Day. I hope that you had a good day, or survived it, in tact and with the ability to take care of you. Until next year, Un-Mother's Day!

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Coming Up on Mother's Day...

The other day my Google Assistant sent me an email, that looked like this:

Huh. Like ANYONE could not know when Mother's Day is, when there is such an onslaught of ads, promotions, commercials, etc. A momslaught, ha ha.

I was annoyed with my phone for sending me this, because Mother's Day is EVERYWHERE.

I am fortunate, because I do not watch TV a whole lot and when I do it's Netflix or Hulu, and so I am spared the ad campaigns designed to make me feel unwhole and deficient on this day that totally leaves out people who WANTED to be moms, but for whatever reason COULDN'T realize that dream. But... the Hallmark store reminds me. Target reminds me. Pretty much any store has some kind of Mother's Day promotion going on, reminds me.

I'm all for celebrating my own mom, and my mother-in-law, and my grandmother. It just stings not a little that this day will NEVER be for me. Not ever. No one is going to be like, "hey, I should send Jess a Mother's Day card because she really wanted to be a mom but isn't, and there are cards like that." Um, there's not to my knowledge any card that honors the experience of the childfree not by choice. Unless it exists online. Maybe this is an untapped market.

Cards from "The Cat" don't count. (To me at least, even though my kitties are dear to my heart. They're NOT CHILDREN.)

Last year's Mother's Day was my first knowing that I wouldn't ever be one. I think that would normally be a terribly difficult day, except for a couple things -- we were celebrating my mom's graduation ceremony with a graduate certificate in theology that day, and I was frantically trying to finish writing up all my National Board Teacher Certification stuff. I SIMPLY DIDN'T HAVE THE TIME TO FEEL ALL THE FEELS.

This year is different. I am fully planning to take a Facebook hiatus two days before and two days after Mother's Day. I love you mothers out there, but your posts make me interminably sad. So I will not be hanging out on the book of face for a few days. A couple years ago I avoided the day of but neglected to realize that the two days after still had a lot in the feed that made me feel awful and left out and opened the uterus-shaped hole in my heart, so now I know. Avoid for longer.

Another difference is that my mom was invited up to my sister's for an event for Lion's Club, and so she won't be here on the day itself. We'll celebrate on a different day, but this gives me freedom. Freedom to take this day to honor the mother I never got to be, to feel the feels surrounding a holiday that isn't inclusive to me and never will be.

I scheduled a 90 minute massage on Mother's Day. Why not treat myself?

I think maybe we'll get some takeout, and I'll read and garden in the backyard so I don't have to see the Stroller Brigade go by.

I'll take some time for me, which may seem selfish, but also NOT AT ALL.

Mother's Day is a special kind of torture for the infertile person, because there's this pressure to celebrate the moms in your life while feeling like this black hole of mom-ness, a void where it seems everyone else is getting flowers and breakfast in bed and handmade cards and artwork from little hands. It is expected that you use the day to honor your mom, or the moms in your lives, and put your own sad, bitter feelings aside for the day.

With all due respect, fuck that.

It is my experience that most people are okay with you celebrating on a different day. That it's okay to suggest that. Because this day is HARD. And it should be acknowledged that Mother's Day is difficult for a lot of people -- people who've lost their moms, but also people who've lost their opportunity to become a mom and mourn that experience, hard. It has to be a balance.

I wish there was a card for us. I wish that there was another day that honored the childfree not by choice, where we could universally be treated to flowers or chocolates or breakfast in bed and a "It's Your Day!" mentality.

Thinking of the people in my tribe as you wrestle with balancing the day for yourself and for those you honor, and sending so much love at this difficult time. Take care of you, and try to carve a little time (or a lot) to honor the losses that feel so fresh on this day.

Monday, May 7, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: A Beautiful Birthday

Saturday I turned 42, the answer to everything (although I've never read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy so I feel like a poser even saying that, and I probably phrased it wrong to boot). The nice thing is that 42 is a total clean slate -- I am starting this year of life with an office not a nursery, with my new life firmly rooted and growing upwards. There's no more calls to make, no more dreams to dismantle...I did that all between 40-41.

This year Bryce really outdid himself, despite being in the throes of his qualification exam work. I'll share the awesome day in's one of my favorite birthdays ever.

It was a GORGEOUS day, and I got out in the garden to weed and visit my flower babies.

Unfurling fiddleheads

My toad friend! No snakes, wasn't that lucky, but this guy was fun.

I offhandedly mentioned this, my favorite TV miniseries EVER, and he GOT IT FOR ME! 

This he "hid" by hanging in another room while I crawled around the floor looking for prizes, but I was so very happy when I found it because we saw this artist's work in Vermont and I LOVED how bright and cheery it was but Bryce wasn't as enthralled (too bright and cheery I guess), but then he surprised me by having it sent here! Love, love, love my happy cows!

Got all dressed up in a gorgeous new dress courtesy of Stitch Fix

When I got out of the shower all fancy and de-gardened, I discovered that Bryce had set up our dining room like a RESTAURANT! Right down to the water carafe.

Cheese plate and bubbly on the verandahhhhh (I mean tiny porch)

World's most delicious scallops

The master at work, making the demiglace for the beef tenderloin


Tenderloin with a red wine/rosemary/garlic demiglace, and gruyere-thyme potatoes gratin

My contribution...a spring side salad 

Cupcakes we were way too full to enjoy until Sunday...gluten free of course (outsourced these)

There it is! the end of my 42nd birthday. Happy, content, and absolutely full of food, wine, and love.

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