Sunday, September 30, 2018


This house thing, while very, VERY exciting, is definitely swallowing my life. Add to that a horrific upper respiratory infection that triggered my asthma and knocked me flat this week, and I am feeling super overwhelmed, like I am behind on everything, my to-do list stretching for miles.

Of course, thanks to the treatment for my sad lungs I have BOUNDLESS ENERGY (with a core of exhaustion) because of a short course of steroids (medrol this time, not prednisone, thank the heavens) and nebulizer treatment.

So naturally, in addition to cleaning out rooms of furniture and "stuff" that we don't want to bring to the new house, I've decided on a new project.

I have decided to catalogue every book in the house on index cards.

Not a full Dewey Decimal situation, but author, title, and genre on cards that are (for now) organized into rubber-banded stacks with a cover card that is color coded by room and bookshelf location.

Is this really, REALLY the highest priority task I could be doing right now?

Is it compulsiveness fueled by medrol tablets and albuterol mist?

Procrastination on the less pleasant things that must be done?


But it's also incredibly soothing, and a fun "break" activity in between dusting and moving stuff into storage tubs and deep cleaning baseboards and floors and cabinets.

It's amazing how many books we have, and how many I've forgotten about because in our current cozy home they are hiding behind instrument cases, or tucked into an overstuffed shelf.

This is one of the things I am most looking forward to in the new house -- BOUNDLESS BOOKSHELF SPACE. There are three walls of built-in bookshelves floor-to-ceiling, and one more built in in the hallway upstairs. There will be book space galore! I don't need to cull and purge my books anymore, which is incredible.

But I do want to set it up like a library, and we plan to get a little card catalog for shits and giggles. You can still buy the cabinets. I get a kick out of thinking about a house that's totally wired and wireless, has no landline phone, is all modern and high tech, but has a card catalog in it, albeit a very small one.

I've got the living room done already:

Look at them all! Just about 400 index cards in there...
Also, I love this lamp we found in HomeGoods. 

If only I could organize the other crap in the house this clearly and easily

I figure it will make it easier to set up our shelves and pack for the new house if we have a full reckoning of our inventory so far. It will make it so organized, so easy to group by genre and have the ability to find any book quickly, and even sign them out on the back of the card.

Should I be planning for the week while I'm frantically scribbling book titles and authors in my best handwriting? Probably. But it's a weird sort of grounding activity that's getting me through this bizarrely stressful period of transition, as exciting as it is.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Fresh Start

Thank you so much for all the crossing of the crossables and good thoughts sent our way during the very interesting process of waiting to see if a house offer is's been a really hectic and exhausting time! And yes, we got it...whew! So far so good. BUT, I can tell you, I would have NEVER actively chosen to do this whole process in September. RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING OF SCHOOL.

We are super excited, and all the things are falling into place, but we weren't really expecting to find something so quickly and now we are scrambling to get our house ready to sell as quickly as possible.

This could be a lot more catastrophic if we weren't neat, clean people who keep a decent house that looks cozy and might I say adorable 99% of the time. (It wasn't so adorable when all my binders and books and boxes of stuff that had to go back to my classroom were cluttering up the front door area, but that's over and now I just have stuff in my office to go back to school. School pretty much takes over the house.)

But still, we've lived here a long time. We have 15 years of living from Bryce, and 11 years of living from me, and that adds up to a lot of things that need going through.

As Bryce said, "We do NOT want to move crap!"

And so the seemingly gargantuan process of going through the cabinets and bins and boxes in the basement, in the closets, and in the storage crawlspaces upstairs in the "attic" has to happen, and quickly.

Some boxes are fun to go through.

I found box with my pins from high school for National Honor Society and track. I found an inexplicable trophy labeled "Coach's Award." That one HAS to be for participation, or maybe a good attitude despite limited ability. I was decent by the end of my running days, but I was never trophy-worthy.

I found a boatload of letters and cards from college. I found hand-folded looseleaf notes from high school, signed LYLAFS (love ya like a favorite sister), and once I un-folded them I couldn't for the life me figure out the naughty origami we used to create these compact notes that could be passed behind a teacher's back. Now kids just text, abbreviating everything unnecessarily and leaving no proof.

It made me feel sorry for the kids today, who won't have any of these unexpected treasures. Like finding the original Paula Abdul Concert Quiz and Answer Key that my best friend made for me and my other best friend to do in the car on the way to Jones Beach for our first ever concert -- she was going separately, and she was a FREAK for Paula -- and so we had to bone up on things like what kind of dog she had and what kind of house she lived in and what her first choreography job was on the way. You can't put a value on things like that!

But then again, the kids today will probably have a lot less physical STUFF to sort through when they move from place to place. So that's a positive. For them.

I found a bag filled with cards from my first wedding. I started reading them all again, and then wondered what the fuck I was doing when time is of the essence and I recycled them.

I bit the bullet and recycled all of my notes and materials from grad school -- I hadn't gone back to reference anything in 12 years and honestly, so much has changed in terms of standards and research that I really didn't need to keep it. I kept a few papers, and my Master's thesis, but that was it.

I kept all my photos. I kept letters. I kept the Paula quiz. I kept notebooks of my writing as a child -- one was from 8th grade and included a hilarious and classic tale that I'm pretty sure was written after we read "All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury involving ESP, the sun supernova-ing, and a luxury space shuttle. AND LOTS OF CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!

But we also came across errant stuff saved for our possible children. My tooth fairy pillow. Mementos from my childhood that no one is going to feel connected to after I'm gone.

And, my vision board.

Oh man, Bryce came up with it covered with another piece of plain paperboard, and was like, "What do I do with this? I don't even want to show it to you, I don't want to make you upset."

But I did want to see it, all dusty and busted.

And I was okay with throwing it out. Part of me wanted to save all the pretty pushpins that were holding all of those defunct hopes and dreams to the handmade tackboard...but then I realized that to take each individual tack out would be like stabbing me with a tiny knife over and over as I removed each fragment of a dream that wasn't, and so I made the executive decision to just chuck the whole thing. Losing the pushpins was worth not having all those tiny needles stab me in my most tender parts.

And so it's gone. Which is okay, and appropriate.

This move feels like an incredible cleansing, a move away from a home where we'd hoped things would work out one way and instead they went in a totally different direction. The new house has no history, for us. It is a place to start all new memories. It's sad to leave this house behind, with all its coziness and all the things that we did to make it ours.

But it's also leaving behind rooms where I stabbed myself with needles, where Bryce stabbed me with bigger needles, rooms where I miscarried, rooms where we got bad news, and rooms where the contents of our nursery lay piled up and waiting to be picked up from the donation agency. Bryce has more feelings for our current house than I do, as he chose it and did a lot of work before I got there, even though I arrived a scant four years after he did. But for me, I didn't pick this house. I love this house, but it wasn't ours from the beginning--it was Bryce's and his ex-wife's to start. And while I've lived here for far longer and we've made it ours over the decade+ that we've lived here together, it still to me feels a bit like HIS house that I moved into. Ours now, but with that history of not starting out mine.

The new house is OURS. Totally, unequivocally ours, with no sadness, no rooms that bring us back to moments that are heartwrenching. And that is a glorious thing.

We need to finish up all our cleaning and clearing within the next two weeks, so we can get this warm, cozy home up for sale and get things moving. I'm sure there will be a lot of things that trip us up on the way -- I can think of a tub in the attic space that is filled with books and onesies we didn't want to part with -- but I am so, so excited for this fresh start.

Monday, September 10, 2018

#Microblog Mondays:A Little Too Similar

Part of me has been delaying writing about this whole home-buying process because of a very real fear of jinxing, but here goes -- we put an offer on that house. The contemporary, out-in-the-woods, huge-landscaping-project, originally-built-for-childless-recluses house. 

It's all very exciting, but it's also causing me a great deal of anxiety because... the process is a little too similar, a little too close to others that had me waiting by the phone for news. This time it's primarily texts, not phone calls, but still. I'm watching my phone like a hawk, and it doesn't feel good. 

We put the offer in, and then it was countered (reasonably), and it took us a little bit to accept the counteroffer as Bryce was out of town on business. We went to see it again, just to make sure it felt right (and I may have brought a tape measure like a lunatic to check out room sizes against our furniture and whatnot) -- we went straight from picking Bryce up at the airport and then accepted the counteroffer after, at dinner. 

BUT. When we were at the house, we noticed an "OPEN HOUSE" sign for Sunday. 

So of course, I spent all weekend simultaneously planning all kinds of fun things for this new house, while also working myself up into tears over the possibility that someone could go to the open house and swipe this place right out from under us, and we'd be screwed AGAIN. 

Things are at the attorney stage, and the contract is signed by everyone (after agonizing Signature Watch on my phone and through the weird signing software), and hopefully there's no surprises from that open house I hope went dismally, so I'm almost to the point where I can stop being a crazy person...but it really feels awful to be back in that cycle of hope and fear, waiting and partial good news, uncertainty and not knowing. I feel like we have a positive pee stick -- encouraging, but ultimately it means nothing. 

I really want this house to be something that we searched for, and worked towards, and adjusted our vision for, and then HAVE IT WORK OUT. Cross all your crossables, please. Unlike the other process, if this doesn't work out there truly will be another house. But for once I would just like the original plan, the original desire, to come to fruition. 

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

Monday, September 3, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: House Shifts

One of the things that we spent a lot of time on over the summer was trying to figure out our house situation -- do we stay and do an addition, one with a usable garage and a living area overlooking the ravine out back, solving some space issues and definitely solving the parking/swapping cars/neverending scraping of windshields? Or do we move and try to find a house that we love as much as our own, that we can see our furniture in, that we can make as cozy as this place, that has the privacy and proximity and character we love but solves the other issues?

Well, it would appear that as much as we love our home, adding on to it is not going to be the solution. We saw three different contractors, and while one was more than happy to relieve us of an insane amount of money to do it, the other two were much more realistic about the fact that no matter what we did, it wouldn't likely solve our issues and we would STILL have a low, unfinishable basement, STILL have ceilings that smash Bryce's tall head in, and STILL have a single driveway...and it wouldn't be financially logical.

So we started looking for homes, with the thought that we'd do a "Make Me Move" scenario and take it slow and be super thoughtful but not rushed about the process, because we do truly love our home.

We've looked at a couple of homes so far, both houses with a lot of character -- although at polar opposites from each other. One was a renovated farmhouse, the original part built in 1855, that had a location that was super close to everything but also super close to a busy road and the backyard that looked and was advertised as a "private oasis" was lovely...but had the constant thrum of passing traffic and the visible homes nearby ruining the secluded effect we apparently value.

The other one was super modern, not at all our typical style especially on the outside, further out (but close to the highway so easy to commute to things), situated on over an acre of wooded lot in an area that will never be further developed and backs to a pond and marsh, and is in impeccable renovated shape.

The funniest thing about that one is that when we stopped to talk to a neighbor, we were told that this particular group of houses on this dead end road was originally built in the 1980s as a community for "childless couples who wanted to live like recluses out in the woods," but then apparently they had to legally open it up to families (the legality of that idea is definitely interesting -- what happens if you get pregnant? They kick you out? Courts determined it was discrimination). IS THAT NOT HILARIOUS, THOUGH? Only we would find a house that's in a former commune for woodsy childless recluses.

Anyway, we were shocked at how much we loved that one, and are considering our options. Maybe it won't take so long after all, which brings up all kinds of other thoughts and feelings relating to how we got here, what we leave behind, and the enormity (and freedom) of starting a new life in a home that is definitely not meant to have children in it.

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

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Thin Skin

I've been struggling a bit lately.

Getting ready to go back to school has felt super overwhelming for some reason, and I don't know if it's because I'm teaching something totally new, albeit for one period (12:1:1 social studies), or because it marks the passing of another year, or if I've procrastinated too long on getting everything but my room ready, or I'm nervous about meeting a new group of students and parents and facing the questions that that brings. My anxiety suffered a bit of an uptick in the last month.

I know it's normal for grief to be nonlinear, to go around and around like a crazy squiggle rather than in a straight line of healing, going from A to B, Mess to Well-Adjusted, without any bumps or setbacks along the way.

But a few things reminded me that it's only been a year since we made our decision to end our parenthood quest, and our lives took a turn that will impact us for the rest of our lives.

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Most recently, we were at our favorite Mexican restaurant when a friend was celebrating her 60th birthday. It was a huge family celebration -- 17 people -- filled with kids and grandkids and a lot of joyful noise. There was singing and talking and laughing, and we felt honored to be called over to say hello during such a family-oriented celebration. BUT. When the cake came out, when the singing happened, 15 voices of progeny in two generations... I found my eyes welling up against my will and tears spilling over down my face.

We'll never have that.

When we turn 60, we can throw ourselves a party, we can celebrate quietly via a weekend away, but we will never be surrounded by our kids and grandkids, wishing us well on another trip around the sun, reminding us that after we go there's people who will live on with a little piece of us inside them, remembering us, putting our pictures on their walls, talking about that time we celebrated Grandma with enchiladas and cake.

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Another moment was when we were showing Bryce's mom and stepfather, in for a visit, the display box that Bryce's dad built to house the WWII watches and other small paraphernalia from both his grandfathers. It goes perfectly in his fancypants office, all mission-y quarter-sawn oak. It's incredibly cool to have actual history in our home, these relics from a war I teach 8th graders about, that we have personal connections to. (My grandfather and one of his grandfathers were both at Guadal Canal, although at slightly different times.) I will admit that the whole watch thing always makes me giggle, thanks to Pulp Fiction and Christopher Walken, but the piece is absolutely beautiful and it's truly an heirloom.

Except. I made a joke that we had an heirloom with no heirs, and then it sort of stuck with me. We have this amazing hand-crafted display box for amazing personal war paraphernalia, and where will it go when we're gone? Do we see if there's a museum that wants it, with one of those plaques that says where it came from and whose it was so that there's a little piece of our family history living out there somewhere?

I know that having "heirs" (like we live in Windsor or something) doesn't guarantee that they will want your stuff or take any of it upon your demise. We were just visiting with a friend who was lamenting that she has all these amazing international dolls that she herself inherited, and her children don't want them, so who knows what will become of them? It was a little reassuring to see that "who will want my stuff" is more of a universal question, one that having children doesn't necessarily solve. But it still made me sad to think of the pile of things that meant something to us, that will just become "stuff" for lack of a place to leave them to.

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My hardest day, the one where I truly felt the thin membrane of healing rupture and ooze, was earlier in August. It started with an ill-advised trip to our local humane society. I do not enjoy going to check out cats and dogs up for adoption unless I am planning to bring one home. It's a weird thing where Bryce and I are at total opposite ends of the spectrum -- he can go and check out cats in the adoption area of the pet food store, or at the ASPCA location, and it doesn't fill him with sadness. I WANT TO TAKE THEM ALL HOME. I can't stop thinking about what will happen if no one chooses them, and I tend to get real sad thinking about the older cats in particular. And dogs... dogs look at you with those knowing eyes and just break your heart into tiny pieces. IT IS NOT FUN FOR ME.

But we went, as visitors wanted to check it out, and I felt my well-being start to crackle around the edges like ice on a spring pond. There was this one cat, either Lydia or Layla (I think I'd name her Lydia if that's not right anyway), and she was in a bigger room having some "quiet time" and her story typed up and taped to the glass read, "Lydia is very confused to be here -- she is 9 years old and her owner had to surrender her, so she is feeling lost and uncomfortable and wants to be back home." JUST STAB ME THROUGH THE HEART AND TWIST THE KNIFE. I know why those are written that way, but it still felt emotionally manipulative and all I wanted to do was to break Lydia out of her glass prison and introduce her to Lucky and Abner. She was super sweet. I failed miserably at not thinking about how this is NOT a no-kill shelter, and so decided that was the point where I'd leave the cat area and stand out in the main hall/reception area where maybe I wouldn't fall apart into tiny pieces.

I also tried to go to the dog area, but was definitely not feeling it, and I walked into one "suite" (they separate the dogs out in groups of 2-3 so it's not as stressful) and walked right the fuck back out. Their eyes just bore into you and beg you to take them home, and they look so dejected and so wanting out of their sterile cells. Of course, this shelter does a great job with volunteers who come to walk the dogs and they get a lot of love, but in the end they are still living in bare cells that echo, not curled up on a couch next to a person.

Understandably this put me in a big fat funk. I was not in a good place. And then a situation unfolded later that same day where I felt like I should be okay, where I felt like I could play along and see other people's babies, but what I could handle (seeing a picture or two of this particular other person's baby) became a barrage of pictures of a super sweet little baby whose story is not mine to tell but opened those spidery cracks into big fissures that just dropped me into dark icy water and left me to drown.

The baby had one of those hooded animal towels, a little frog, and is seriously one of the most photogenic babies ever, so at first it was like, "awww, look at that sweet little guy!" But then, it reminded me of the little crab towel we had for our own nonexistent baby, that has probably already aged out of the baby it was donated for and has either been passed on or tossed out. This was not a particularly pleasant thought. As the pictures just kept coming and they involved parents holding the baby and just a bum rush of gushing and oohing and ahhing, it sort of passed over "I can handle this" to "holy shit I CANNOT handle this but I don't want to be that sad sap person so I think I'll just stuff all these feelings deep down into my gut and smile my frozen smile and hmmmm, this is not a good feeling and doesn't bring me back to good times, but it's what I've got right now."

I got up and found a few board books that were appropriate for this baby's location and really, really wanted to give the baby these books, and get the books out of the house, and have them serve a better purpose than relics stuffed in a basket under my chaise lounge because I can't bear to look at them. I wanted them to be useful. I wanted to give some goodwill. I wanted to squash these feelings of emptiness and grief and what-will-never-be with a gesture of love and "see, I'm totally okay right now."

Except I wasn't.

Once we were alone in the house I fell spectacularly apart and sobbed like I haven't sobbed in months, and felt just how thin my skin of well-adjustedness is. I honestly thought it was thicker, more that thick, shiny scar tissue than translucent membrane.

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A friend at lunch recently told me not to give myself such a hard time. That these things will happen, that it's only been a year since a life-changing turn of events that separates our lives from every TV commercial ever. That I AM well-adjusted, because I didn't lay facedown on the floor as much as I may have wanted to. I let the feelings wash over me and some lingered longer than others, but I could still be a functioning human. Sometimes I feel more functioning than others, but that's okay.

I think what upset me most about the last two moments, the animal shelter and the photo blitz, was that I did not feel that I could really stand my ground and say "nope, I've had enough." I could have said "I'll meet you by the car, I'm going to go look at the horses outside/walk the nature trail/read the kindle that's always in my purse on a bench." I could have said, "You know what, I think this tiny human is adorable but I can handle maybe TWO photos and then I need you to stop, not because I can't appreciate this baby but because it makes me surprisingly desperately sad for what we've lost." I don't know why I couldn't just say those things and save myself some serious mental anguish.

And the thing with the baby is that I DON'T WANT A BABY ANYMORE. That's not about jealousy, that's not about wanting what I can't have. I don't want it anymore. I have passed the point where that is reasonable, for a million reasons. But there is a huge difference between being sad because you want what someone else has and being sad because you feel that loss acutely, what you'll never have and don't want anymore, what could have been but is never, ever going to be reality. It's like peeking into an alternate universe without actually wanting that alternate reality anymore. And there's also a huge sense of unfairness, of having WANTED something so very much and having TRIED so hard to make it happen, and then having it happen elsewhere with no effort at all although surrounded with difficulties of other kinds.

It was so, so hard.

There are solutions to the other things -- we can do advance planning and figure out who we can gift our things to, who would appreciate our massive collection of books, our instruments, even our LeCreuset dutch oven. We can figure out if there's not a person, then maybe there's an organization that would put these things to use. A library. A museum (more for the historical stuff than say the dutch oven).

Or maybe an asteroid will hit us and everything will go up in a fiery explosion and we won't have to even think about that. Or, with the state of climate change, any number of apocalyptic events could make these worries obsolete and silly.

The 60th birthday one? We can decide how we want to celebrate milestone birthdays and not feel guilty if it's to celebrate in Iceland, or Tuscany, or Hawaii, just the two of us, reflecting on the lives we've lived so far. May we be that fortunate. We could have a party where we surround ourselves with friends and family, like we did for our 40th celebrations. I kind of like the first option though, for right now. We do have to turn 50 first, so this is way off, and asteroids could hit and whatnot, so there's really no point in perseverating too much on a birthday that's so far off.

But it doesn't hurt to think about contingencies. Especially if it helps my thin skin build another layer, heal up from this strange parade of assaults on my armor, It doesn't hurt to really think about how we can build up our life and our experiences to feel like those alternate realities aren't even as attractive as we once thought they were. And it really doesn't hurt to forgive myself for feeling so sad when really, we are so fresh in our loss. I think sometimes I try so hard to be well adjusted and to work on my healing that I forget just how recent everything is, just how fresh this transition is from maybe-parent to never-parent, just how different it makes our life from those who have children and perhaps future grandchildren, just how separate from the standard narrative we feel.

All I can do is my best to figure out how to do all this -- how to face down those moments of "oh god we've lost so much" and honor them, and then celebrate all that we do have, all the possibilities that are open to us because our trajectory shifted. And to know that as Bryce said when I was a sobbing mess on the couch, that that skin over the hurt isn't thin, it's like the Earth's crust -- super thick in some places but ready to rupture and erupt in others, but really it's strong all the way around.