Thursday, June 28, 2018

Loving My Body Again

I used to love my body, with all its curves and bulges. It used to be easy.

Way back in high school, I was known for sitting in the track/cross-country locker room in my underwear and sports bra, in a sort-of lotus position, pretending to be Buddha. Even when running upwards of 30 miles per week, I had a belly and love handles, but I loved them.  Not enough to wear a bikini per se, but enough to be goofy in the locker room.

I started playing "hide the mole" -- a bizarre game where I would do side bends and make a little mole on my midriff disappear into my chub repeatedly, while chirping "hide the mole, hide the mole." I was  am a little weird.

I named my stomach Marge (as in Large Marge) -- and in college, when she got a little larger, I had an inspired moment the night of my twentieth birthday. I gave her an actual face, with blue eyeshadow and a lipsticked mouth around my belly button. As my friends and I had some pre-frat-party cocktails in the dorm (I think statute of limitations covers me here), I did an odd sort of bellydance, making Marge talk and even smoke a cigarette. It was hilarious fun, and even more so when I, um, somewhat chastely "hooked up" with a guy at the party who I'd crushed on for a bit, um, woke up in his apartment (it was chaste! I swear!), and realized that Painted Marge was still hanging out on my belly. Which might have been very confusing if things had been just slightly less chaste.

I joked about my belly, my constant companion, the fat that just wouldn't disappear. My legs could be thin, my arms could be thin, but I still looked like an avocado pit with toothpicks stuck into it, hanging out over a glass of water.

I lost some weight, I gained some weight, I fluctuated back and forth but Marge was always there.

And then infertility happened.

I discovered that Marge was actually part of my PCOS, that how I carry my fat is totally related to my diagnosis. I discovered that Marge made it a little easier to do the subcutaneous injections in my belly, for I had a bit more to grab. Poor Marge was covered in bruises, particularly when evil Lovenox became a part of the protocol.

And then Marge became a symbol of things that pissed me off.

She was big and could make me look pregnant when my ovaries were swollen with a zillion follicles, and then even after things didn't work out because all the drugs wreaked havoc on my body. I could fake looking pregnant in the mirror, hand on my belly, and imagine what it would be like to have an actual growing human in there, and then when I realized that that was never going to be a reality, it filled me with fury.

I consoled myself with comfort food and wine. I didn't exercise as much, in part because I had orders not to when my ovaries were huge and then post-transfer, but I also didn't much feel like doing anything physical. It felt like fertility treatments were physical enough. I did do yoga, but then I quit that, too, when I cycled through three groups of women, most of whom left pregnant, and when they came back for seconds I couldn't stay and be the stagnant horror story any more.

Between my wedding and beginning of our treatments in 2009 and the beginning of 2018, I had put on nearly 40 pounds.

And I hated my body. Even more so after we definitively resolved childfree, because my body had failed me utterly and if I wasn't going to be a parent, well then why take care of myself? My best friend told me that I called myself fat and complained about my fattiness way too much, and it upset her because I used to always joke about my belly, and now I seemed so unhappy. But I didn't feel like I could change anything.

Then, in late January, I got my fatty liver diagnosis, and realized that I couldn't afford to hate my body any longer. When the doctor tells you to lose 15-20 pounds, or else face diabetes and liver damage, well then, you'd better do it.

It makes me so mad that it took that level of health risk to make a change. Why wasn't it worth it for me to be healthy for me? Not for a baby, not so I could run after a toddler, but so I could be healthy and reasonably fit and do physical things without fear of dropping dead?

I really started thinking about this when I read Mali's review of Lesley Pyne's book Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness. I haven't read the book yet, but the tenth paragraph of Mali's post really sent it home to me -- I hated my body thanks to infertility and the betrayals therein, and I needed to make peace again. And I realized that I am well on my way.

I started the Liver Plan in February, and have kept up with most of it. I have lost at least 12 pounds (I haven't done a weigh-in recently, but I suspect it's more now), and I KNOW I have lost inches. Which is more important to me.

I love food far too much to restrict that totally, but I have really done a great job getting my body moving, and getting into better shape.

Last summer, I went to visit my best friend and we hiked up Mount Beacon, and she (and I) thought I might die before we reached the top. I was seriously winded, and sweaty (although I'm sweaty regardless), and my heart rate had to be through the roof. I think that was one of many moments, including getting winded CLIMBING THE STAIRS at my two-story middle school, that was a wake-up call. I needed to get into a fitness routine.

And now, I am doing fun things and trying to move in some way every single day. I do a 45 minute elliptical workout 2-3 times per week. I do tap class on Thursdays. I do one of my "tapes" -- yoga/pilates fusion, sometimes with hand weights, once or twice per week. And, substituting one of those, I started doing Buti Yoga on Monday. I walk the other days.

Buti Yoga is something I was afraid of, but also strangely drawn to. It is a mix of yoga, tribal dance and primal movement, and plyometrics. It is super high-intensity. And it is awesome.

I can run up the stairs at the gym and not be winded at all.
I can do high intensity workouts and not feel like I'm going to drop dead.
I can see beautiful muscle in my thighs, and a waistline that is shrinking.

I am that person who took pictures of herself in shorts and a sports bra from three viewpoints and keeps an album of progress. I am NOT that person who shares them with the world, because at this point in my life I feel like Marge should be under wraps, but I CAN SEE A MAJOR DIFFERENCE. My face is thinner. My pants are starting to be loose. My dresses fit amazingly well. I'm wearing shirts I haven't been able to wear in years.

I love my body again. I have farther to go, but I am pretty damn happy with how I've turned things around. I'm happy with my level of fitness more than the number on the scale. That's always been more important to me. And I don't plan to lose a shit-ton of weight, because I look real stupid skinny (my boobs don't really shrink, and I look ridiculous and mildly obscene when not balanced out). But I'd be happy to lose a total of 20 -25 pounds or so, with some of that strong muscle added in.

I feel strong. I feel empowered. I feel like I have my body back, and I have learned to love her again.

Monday, June 25, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Bryce Is A Smarty-Pants

It's no secret that I think Bryce is an amazing man (and many of you do, too, from what you know of him). He is patient, funny, kind, smart, and an engineer who loves Maxwell's Equations as much as he loves Ray Bradbury and playing the guitar (which makes him a bit of a Renaissance Man). He has been an incredible support during a terrible time in our lives where he needed support, too.

I got to return that favor recently, when he took about a month off to work on his intense, scary Qualification Exam for his PhD program -- I was all about the supporting.

It looks like this: First, you receive three papers that have been selected for you, and you have a week to select ONE to delve deep into; Second, you have three weeks to learn every possible thing about that paper (probably while kicking yourself for not choosing a different paper), including all equations, re-creating figures and doing simulations and re-deriving fancy equations with no numbers, just weird symbols, and while you're doing all that you're also evaluating the paper's work and spending a ton of time on how you will extend the work -- what can you do differently? What would you change to make a different product or create a different result? What are implications? Third, you write a 15 page paper that you have your wife edit (and so now I can add "parabaloid," "gravitation," "photo-resistors" and "curvature" to my vocabulary); Fourth you create a 45 minute presentation to give on your paper and extension. THEN, after a month of nothing but gravitation all the time, you go for your exam where a committee listens to your presentation and then has an additional 2 hours to grill you on absolutely anything even remotely related. And then you wait, and hope you passed.

It was exhausting to watch, so I can only imagine how difficult it was for Bryce to do.

BUT...the results are in. He passed! (I KNEW he would, but it is such a relief!) And not only did he pass, he CRUSHED it.

Congratulations, Bryce -- four weeks of terrifically hard work and sequestering in your office, and you are now OFFICIALLY a PhD candidate! So exciting. And now for the competency exam next year... I have no doubt that he'll crush that gauntlet, too. Such a smarty-pants, he is!

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

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The End of the Year

The end of the school year has proven to be a very, very busy time, full of events and stresses, and very little time to spare. Between finishing up everything curriculum-wise, moving my room to the other side of the building and packing up what won't fit into a closet and my tiny little office at home, writing end of the year paperwork, going to award ceremonies and retirement events, preparing for a new year in a new(ish) assignment, and saying's been exhausting.

But, I am now breathing a sigh of relief, as it is officially summer. SUMMER, that glorious time of rest, rejuvenation, and turning into an utter boneless puddle on the couch because the end of the year finally catches up to you.

It's hard, saying goodbye to a group of students who you've spent SO MUCH TIME with over the 10 months of the school year, knowing that some of them you may not see again. It's hard to give those hugs and wave goodbye to the last bus run home and write the thank you notes for cards and little gifts that some students give, even in middle school. But it's also wonderful. We've shared so much in our time together, seen so much growth. I've hugged and consoled and held garbage cans filled with puke. I've worried and cared and hoped for a better experience in life for so many. I've laughed and been silly and experienced what it's like to have someone say your name over and over (not "mom mom mom mom mom" but "Mrs. T__, Mrs. T___, Mrs. T___, Mrs. T____" -- and sometimes I've been called "Mom" either by accident or not. It was amazing to go on the Washington DC Trip this year. It was great to stay the entire time down at the 8th grade Luau on the hottest day of the year, because my students asked me to and how could I say no? Sure, I had progress reports to write and a room to move, but how do you say no when a small group of 14 year olds actually WANTS you to spend time with them?

And, I went to graduation for the first time this year.

That was amazing, because I didn't realize it until after, but this group graduating actually had students who were in the first grade class where I student taught many years ago -- they were my beginning. It also was a class that held my first classes as a full time teacher at my middle school -- the first year where I didn't travel and could be a push-in teacher, meeting and working with more kids all in one place. So it's where I began my journey into teaching in the first place, and where I landed in what's hopefully my home for a really long time.

It was crazy to see how the students become young people, not-so-little ADULTS walking across that stage. It was amazing to have one student who I had for Resource and CT English see me walking out and gave me a big hug and chat with me about how he's hoping to go into the Marines, and how well he's doing. Also it was more than a little weird that he was 6'4" and TOWERED over me. I saw girls who looked pretty much the same, and boys who looked completely different. It's amazing how much kids change from 8th grade to senior year. It's only 4 years, but some I didn't even recognize!

It was awesome to run into a student who I most worry about, who I hope comes back to visit and who I wish I could have raised myself, in a version of the world where life was fair. Her older sister graduated, and she was SO EXCITED to run into me, even though she'd last seen me only three days before.

I loved that the principal, in talking about the students' futures, didn't say that kids that were an eventuality, but said, "if you have kids," which covers both not wanting to go that route and wanting to but having it not work out.

I loved being a part of a school community that saw these young people through to the endgame of this particular phase of their lives.

I loved that I didn't feel sad that I'll never be in the audience as a parent, as so many teachers I work with were that night. I didn't feel sad because I can be a part of all of these kids' lives and go to as many graduations as I'd like to, and never have that "empty nest" bittersweetness of sending my child off to their (relative) independence and future lives, because my nest has always been empty.

And in a way, I could argue that my empty nest gives me the ability to give so much energy, love , and attention to these kids who are mine in 40 minute increments, for 40 weeks of each year.

Monday, June 11, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: A Different Purpose

Sunday I got to actually manifest something I've visualized since we decided not to get rid of our lovely little red wagon that was definitely meant for a different purpose but instead had been languishing in our back room:

We walked from our home to a local farmstand that was bought by a nursery nearby, and brought the little red wagon for transporting plants. The two hanging baskets of purple scaevola pretty much filled the whole thing up, so we laid some basil and rosemary on top.

We saw neighbors on our way down our street, and they said, "Where'd you get that adorable red wagon?" and we replied, without [visible] sadness, "At our baby shower!"

You know these are our people because they said, "Good for you! What a perfect way to use it!"

I'm mostly not sad about it, because now I can see this wagon filled with glorious flowers for my garden, instead of filled with board books and prizes for a baby who didn't make him- or herself known before the [emotional, physical] cost was too high to continue. (I won't lie, it did make me a little sad when not an hour after we emptied the wagon of its botanical load, a couple came down the street with an actual small child in their wagon and I felt the contrast, briefly...)

It brings me joy, though, to repurpose things this way, to take things from a time filled with hope and fill them with a different kind of hope, for a different kind of future.

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

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Liver Plan Update

It is June, and it's almost time to go to the doctor again and hope that his scale is not of the devil again, and shows the progress that my at home scale shows.

I am down TWELVE pounds as of Sunday. TWELVE!

It is apparently starting to be noticeable, and some people at school have commented on it. I can see it in the shape of my upper belly, which was definitely distended and now is not, and in how my clothes fit. I am less lumpy. I have less fat around my ribcage, which is the dangerous fat, the stuff that infiltrates your organs and makes you more likely to have cardiac issues (in addition to the lovely liver thing).

I would love to lose the whole 20. It's only 8 more pounds, but that doesn't seem so "only" to me. I have done this in a slow and methodical way, where it's mostly changes in habits and a whole lot more exercise -- not any faddy diet or structured program that just may not be sustainable for me. See, I don't want to give up my occasional buffalo dip craving, or summer ice cream, or glass(es) of wine. I want to be able to go out for fancy meals that are decadent and yummy. I just have to work out a lot and watch portions and make it a balance.

I sucked at bullet journaling in May, and didn't write down hardly anything, but I really do think keeping a food diary is incredibly effective. Eating fruit when I'm hungry for a snack more often than anything else is helpful. Getting at least 10,000 steps a day, doing 45 minutes of heavy cardio 3 days a week, walks on the other days, and 1-2 days of sculpting pilates/yoga "tapes" has been a good fitness plan for me. Oh, and once per week tap classes, which is a topic for another post...

I am so hoping that the doctor's report shows what I see. I feel healthy, and more fit than I've been in years. I'm wearing clothes I've not been able to wear in two years. I'm hating my body a little less when it proves it can actually do something I'd like it to do. It feels so good!

Monday, June 4, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: As Good A Chance As Anybody Else

I love Melissa McCarthy. She's funny, she's smart, she's honest, and she's a powerhouse in her industry.

I was reading an article about her in my very intellectual People magazine, and I came across this gem about how her parents raised her to aim for her dreams:

"When I wanted to do something, they didn't say, 'You can do anything, you're perfect!' Instead they said, 'Well, if you work really hard, you've got as good a chance as anybody else.' "


"'Why not you?' is an unbelievably great sentiment to give to a kid. Not entitlement but instead: Work your butt off, and you have a decent chance at this." 

Is that not amazing? It's not a dream-killer, but it's also not "you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to if you just NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP." Which while it sounds great at first, does an incredible disservice to kids (and adults) by denying them the right to fail, to stumble, to have one path not work out and then find another one, perhaps towards a different destination than they'd originally planned for.

Melissa McCarthy's version acknowledges the chance aspect of things in life -- sure, hard work is worth A LOT, but chance plays a bigger role than many would like to believe (being born in particular place, or time... having the person interviewing you for a job be from the same small town or have gone to the same college, the amazing miracle of conception no matter how it was achieved, and a zillion other serendipitous things that can be influenced with effort but really come down to right place, right time).

It takes away the illusion that there are answers for everything, or that anything is deserved, pushing you to do your best and go for what you want.

It's a shame I can't pass this nugget on to my own children, but I can certainly do something to incorporate it into my classroom...because it is a great message for a kid to think on.

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

Sunday, June 3, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

She looked a little skeptical.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because life is good. Just as it is.