Monday, October 14, 2019

#Microblog Monday: Getting Some Me Time

This first long weekend of the year is sacred to me. It is a time when I can rest, and rejuvenate, and get some me-time that is sorely needed. This year, I decided not to make any social plans, not to make any appointments, NOTHING. I spent the day with myself.

It was lovely.

I needed to do a lot more school work than I did, but you know what? It will get done, and it was worth it to feed my soul and rest my bones.

Except I didn't do a lot of resting after having a leisurely breakfast and snuggling up with the cat and my book in the morning.

Instead, I hauled ass on my side garden -- I did the whole retaining wall side over the summer, but the rest of it down the hill towards the street was a hot mess of weeds and blecchhh.

Summer work, my garden lady cleared all the evil weeds and then I did all the amending of the soil and the planting and the using of the rocks that PEPPER THE SOIL LIKE POTATOES IF I WAS A DAMN POTATO FARMER

There, you can see the liriope I planted to the left of that honeysuckle bush. Everything behind me, behind that liriope? TRASH. 

So today, today I tackled it. I bought a whole bunch of plants on sale and some mushroom compost at the garden center lady's suggestion, since I discovered yesterday while planting a grass near the liriope that everything to the left of that is straight up solid clay. Full of rocks. And roots.

I did all the pulling of the weeds myself.

Holy shit, I am exhausted and in a lot of pain in my legs and lower back, but I am pretty damn pleased with my time outside in the chilly cloudy air, covered in dirt, swearing at the rocks and roots and clay. And I just enjoyed a lovely whirlpool bath (embarrassed to say our new home has one and I've never used it before), and all is right with the world.

I suck at "before" pictures. I'd already started digging out the stuff to the left of that post, but you can see all the crap still to be ripped out. 

SOOOO MUCH WEEDINESS. This is a pretty good "before," actually

FOUR wheelbarrowsful of roots and weeds and stuff. Kept the rocks though, for wall-ish stuff. 

Hoo-eeee! No more crap weeds! And look at all that lovely stuff! 

Hard to see, but there's 3 hummingbird mints, a false ageratum, a russian sage, 3 Cheyenne Sky switchgrasses, 1 ruby slippers switchgrass, and 3 ice dancer sedge grass. Plus two bleeding hearts you can't see. 

Trying to fake a retaining wall of rocks from my rock farm. I fear my driveway will never not be muddy. I also realize that now I need to mulch all this... 

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

Saturday, October 12, 2019

What to Say and When

I am (clearly) an open book about my life experiences. Even at school, within appropriate boundaries, of course. It's important for kids to see you as human, and also for them to know that you've dealt with some shit, too, and survived. Sometimes they think of teachers as these entities that fit into one box, and it's good for them to have that disrupted a bit.

My tattoos do that on a surface level -- I don't (often) intentionally put them on display, but I do have dresses that make the phoenix and butterflies visible, at least parts of that massive back display, and when it's hot I refuse to wear a sweater to be sweatily demure. They are part of me, and do not have any bearing on what kind of teacher I am. It is interesting though when kids see a peek and want to know more, and I either get a weird look or a look of surprised respect (I especially love when this happens with the "naughty" kids, like I go up a notch in their eyes because I have art on my body). Then winter comes and everything is wrapped up for months and in the spring it's like they've forgotten entirely that their teacher is inked and it's surprising all over again.

It's also good for students to know that sometimes, shit does not work out (unfortunately so many of my students this year already know this), but that despite that, you can have a great life. Which is why I am brutally honest in my September Who I Am essay. I tell them we wanted children. I tell them it didn't work out, and we had to finally make the choice to live without children because it was no longer healthy to keep trying to make it work. Obviously I don't tell them what medical treatment involved or intricate details about either IVF or adoption, but I do put it out there that those options are a lot more complicated than how they are typically portrayed in TV shows or movies.

This year was tough, because to say that adoption ultimately didn't work for us when you have a room that has more than one child adopted through processes we chose not to pursue... you feel a bit like an asshole. But, like other years, the children are mystified by the idea that you can go into the adoption process for two years or so and NOT come out with a child. When I do the Who I Am Essay, I share mine before they start writing in earnest (they've done rough draft body paragraphs in their journals for homework without even realizing it), because I want to share pieces of me with them and I also want them to see the power of sharing your story and being honest. They return the favor, and I learn A LOT about my students from their essays. But after I read mine, I do give a bit of a Q&A session, and I tell them I will answer almost any question that they ask.

This year, I had mentioned that we don't have kids before Who I Am came up, and one of my students asked, a day later, "Mrs. T, can you tell us WHY having kids didn't work out for you? I don't really understand that." It was at the end of a very stressful day, and I took a breath and said, "You know, there is a day coming up soon where I will answer your questions on that, but today is not that day. Sometimes if I'm caught off guard and talk about it, it makes me real sad, and I think today is not a good day to talk about it. But soon, I promise."

I've never done that before, not answered it even a little bit. I was proud of myself, because it would have been a real bad day to travel down the rabbit hole, and I knew it. In previous years I might have been like, "I got this, I am strong and can control my feelings." But this year, this year I know better. If I give too much of myself away on days where I feel depleted, I run the risk of slipping into the dark hole of sadness and staying there for a little while. I run the risk of depleting myself further. I can control when and how I share things, because it is MY story.

This is important to teach kids too, because their lives are just so OUT THERE in social media and they so often spill things that cannot be completely mopped up, which leads to unbelievable drama and trauma. And especially this year, I have a student who is holding a very heavy load each day and dealing with some very disturbing things that have happened, and it has disrupted this student's life significantly. But the student wants to connect with others, and wanted to tell me what happened in a room with other students in it. I whisked this student away to a private room and said, "You know, you don't have to tell me anything, you can talk with your counselor and leave it at that. But if you do want to tell me, I want you to know first that what happened to you is YOUR BUSINESS. You do not have to tell anyone, and you should really keep it private -- I didn't want you to share it in the room because once other people know your business, you cannot make them UNKNOW it. It's out there. So we are in a safe space now, and you can tell me if you really want to, but I want you to know it's YOUR BUSINESS."  The student did tell me, and it was as awful as I feared, but he/she trusted that this was a safe place and I was going to keep his/her heavy load safe, too. What I love though is that when this student is sharing in a group or connecting to a story and the story could potentially come out, the student starts to say something, like "Life is hard, and... well..." (this is where the student looks at me and nods) "... it's MY BUSINESS." Yes, child. Yes it is. I'm so proud every time that phrase, "But it's MY BUSINESS" comes out of the student's mouth, because it's a protective shield that hopefully will prevent further horrors in the form of people taking his/her story and using it against him/her.

I did answer the questions that students asked me on the Who I Am day, and they asked very thoughtful questions and listened well. I put things into developmentally appropriate terms and kept it pretty general, but the main message was WE TRIED SO HARD TO MAKE THIS THING HAPPEN IN OUR LIVES, AND IT JUST DID NOT, AND IT HURT MY HEALTH IN MANY WAYS AND IT WAS SO HARD FOR BOTH OF US, SO WE HAD TO MAKE A NEW LIFE, A DIFFERENT LIFE. Which is a good message to hear.

A couple weeks ago a student from two years ago came to visit, and at one point he said, "So, I'm not your student anymore, so I'm wondering if you'd share with me how come adoption didn't work out because I really never understood that, why you couldn't become a parent."


So I did tell him, and I made it as real as possible. I told him that adoption is hard. That it does work out for people, but it can also feel like a death of a thousand cuts when it doesn't. That we'd had losses and years of hard-on-my-body medical treatments before we went to adoption, and so we didn't have as much left to give mentally to the process. I told him how hard it is to be considered 6 times and NOT be chosen. To think you might possibly have a baby tomorrow, and then tomorrow comes and your life was passed over. To optimistically set up a nursery so you're ready for those last minute cases, and then have that room lie empty for a year and a half. To develop an autoimmune disorder related to intense stress and then suffer a breakdown due to the stress and the medication and lack of sleep, and have to miss school for a few weeks because of it. To have to dismantle and donate the nursery you'd put together with so much hope. To reframe your life entirely, which is still a work in progress and was so, so hard but also so freeing after feeling so beat down for so long and watching so many people you knew come out the other side with "miracles" that you weren't worthy of, apparently. But then fighting that mentality and deciding that this is your life, that this is your survive all that and to thrive in your new reality.

He might have cried, even though I didn't by some miracle. He might have given me a hug. He might have said how sorry he was, but how wonderful it was that I had this beautiful life anyway.

I did not regret giving that story away. He was more mature than he was when I had him as a student, and I think when kids ask hard questions it takes courage, and depending on the situation it's a gift to reward that courage with honesty. Appropriate honesty, of course.

I'm still learning what to say, and when -- I tend to err on the side of saying too much and giving too much of myself away, of justifying my choices and feeling less-than. But I do think I am getting the hang of holding on to the parts that keep me whole, and giving away what will lead to empathy and understanding.

And then paying it forward and attempting to teach those difficult skills to my students.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


The other day I was looking around at things in my house and thinking how lovely it is that we have repurposed so many things that were originally meant for a tiny human. It is something that used to make me sad, but now makes me feel pretty damn good, and reminds me of our resilience in the face of our losses.

Exhibit A: Lawn Bottle Drying Rack
This is meant for bottles and all their tiny, moving parts... but it is a BRILLIANT wine glass drying rack. (Also works for mugs, normal glasses, and travel coffee flasks, though those are less fun.)

Exhibit B: Baby Food Storage Containers
 These came in a pack of four and are meant for storing baby food that you make yourself. They are also the perfect size for salad dressing on the go, sauce leftovers, a handful of almonds for a snack. I love the bright colors and snack size.

Exhibit C: The Glider
 We picked a glider that was upholstered so it could end up being normal furniture after it was used for feeding and rocking. It ended up just being normal furniture, and matches our guest room perfectly (okay, maybe we bought the day bed to match the chair so it was less weird). It was a great place to sit and read and do puzzles when I was recovering from my hysterectomy. It is a great snuggle spot for our cat. And when my mother-in-law stayed in that room, she enjoyed sitting and reading in that chair. So, win!

Exhibit D: Dresser
 Ah, the Fisher Price dresser that once had a changing table on it. It does still say Fisher Price on the back, but it makes a handy dandy guest bureau and holds weird odds and ends in a drawer or two. Plus it's a great place to put the lamp and stuff for guests. Are the drawers a little shallow and small for adult things? Sure. But for guests, does it matter? Resounding NO.

Exhibit E: Nursery Cube Organizer
The craft desk is new, but the cubes to the right are not. They had different colored baskets and held diapers and toys and receiving blankets and board books, but now they hold craft and giftwrapping supplies. It matches the dresser and the craft table perfectly. It's like all this stuff was meant to be in this room, repurposed and decidedly UN-nursery-like.

Exhibit F: Maternity Sweatshirt of Joy
How could I resist picking this baby up? 
My best friend came to visit! We were walking on a rail trail and some running girls yelled, "I love your sweater!" Me too, ladies. Me too. 

This I bought new from Target, just a week or so ago. But I thought it was amazingly ironic -- it's a maternity sweatshirt (why, Target, is your pajama section morphed into the maternity section so it is unclear what's what initially???) . Why, might I ask, is it necessary to make a soft cozy oversized shirt maternity? It doesn't look weirdly bagged out in the front (on me at least, unsure how to feel about that), and I love the message (and LIVE it this year in particular), so I BOUGHT IT. Even though it says MATERNITY and that's a section I never really needed to spend a lot of time in. I bought it anyway, and it gives me a perverse sense of glee to wear it.

I'm feeling pretty darn happy with the fact that we didn't just completely get rid of all things reminding us of our unsuccessful quest for children, that we kept what still made sense and can make good use of. It just all looks a little differently, like our life now.