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.

THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED.

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.

WHAT IF THE ELEVATOR HAD STARTED MOVING?

WHAT IF IT KEPT CLAMPING ON MY ARM UNTIL IT BROKE?

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 pictures...it'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

42 and HAPPY AS HELL

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! 

Monday, April 30, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Letting Go, Hanging On

Slowly but surely I've been making even more steps to make my office far more me-space and far less "a baby could have once lived here had things worked out differently."

This weekend, Bryce helped me hang my National Board certificate on my wall of pinboards. I have a row of three squares over my desk -- corkboard/white board calendar/corkboard. Bryce helped me hang some pictures up on the wall above the chaise lounge that I've wanted to get up there, as the one lonely owl painting wasn't quite right.

Some functional mess going on here, but look at all the pinboard space! 

Space for more pictures under the owl and my favorite picture ever of Bryce in Carmel-by-the-Sea

A good reminder to get up off my ass and do things today.

And while he was hanging up a metalwork round mirror thingie in the space where it lived before this was a nursery, in the second iteration of the four it's had since I've lived here, I found myself on the chaise lounge, feeling intensely sad.


Ignore the fan on the bra box...

I was looking at the window seat Bryce built me back when this was a guest room with aspirations to one day be a nursery, and staring at the picture books I have left. I couldn't see the remaining board books that have "Dear Baby T_____" bookplates from my baby shower since I shoved that basket under the chaise lounge, because why stare at those tiny, shiny, durable daggers all the time? But the picture books...so many of them were mine before we thought bringing a baby home was inevitable. Some from when I worked at Scholastic, some that I collected at book fairs or used book stores or bought specifically for a baby that didn't exist, and a few that are my own from childhood.

I did go through and donate a whole bunch of children's books to the boxes around school that go to a partner city school district elementary school...mostly early readers and chapter books that are too young for my students but I hung on to from my Scholastic days for my own future child.

I finally felt ready to let go of a whole bunch of those, only keeping ones that have a significance to me, not to some phantom child who never was.

But the picture books... I stared at them and just wondered...why hold on to them? Why keep books meant for small children that we don't have, will never have, and won't hold as grandbabies? There won't be any bedtime stories. Maybe I should let them go, so they can have a life elsewhere putting children to bed and teaching children life lessons.

Or maybe not.

As it is, my office is decidedly more...office-y than ever before, with my wall hangings and all the things that replace any hint of nursery.

Except those picture books, the basket of board books beneath the chaise, and the tiny scrap of wall decal I didn't want to let go of.

The decal is looking more and more out of place. Or maybe not. 

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Someday I'll Be Done Telling People

Last week, we attended an event hosted by our first fertility clinic, CARE After Cancer. Its aim is to raise money for fertility preservation in patients who are diagnosed with cancer and need to make a rapid fire decision before chemo and/or radiation treatments begin. It covers some of the cost of the egg retrieval and egg/embryo freezing, depending on the situation of the young woman.

It's a great cause , and helps women to have options at a time when their life is top priority but fertility can be at risk, too.

We've gone almost every year since the second year it was held, and this was the 9th. We went when we were patients ourselves, and when we left for our second clinic. We went when we started adoption, and we went this year. We've been through three venues and a steadily growing attendance.

Last year we didn't go, because March of last year was from the devil and Bryce was just coming back from his California business trip and my eye was all messed up, and we didn't know yet that Bryce would be real sick for two weeks after returning from his trip.

But we went this year, because it's a great cause and we get to see people we genuinely like on a personal level and the silent auction is full of great goodies. And it was at a fancy venue, so I got to dress up all fancy, which I love.

All fancy and ready to go tear it up!

Pictures Bryce took of me when we went out for a bite to eat after, since there was not a whole lot I could eat at the event. He sent these to me the next day at work because it came up in his Google Assistant, with the text "my wife is so pretty!" They are lovely photos, but I think that's because of who I'm looking at. 

Every year there is a speech by a patient; someone who has been able to take advantage of the program and can speak to what a gift it was to have one less thing to worry about at an incredibly difficult time. There's also a video that helps to tell the emotional story. This year, the former patient could not be there in person because she had twins earlier in the week. What was fascinating is that these are the first children to be born from the program -- lots of people have had eggs or embryos frozen, but it takes a long time to be off all the medications, apparently, and then be ready for going through IVF, and so this was the first time there's been a birth. The video included ultrasound footage, and Bryce turned to me and said, "Are you okay with this?" which was so sweet. I was. I mean, it's always been hard in the past to hear the stories, not because I don't empathize with how awful it would be to have to go through IVF not because you are infertile but because your body tried to kill you and that was collateral damage, but because in the past women have been mothers who wanted a second child, or young women who spoke of having children like it was an eventuality. I hope for these women it is, because they've been through so much. But knowing what it's like to "do IVF" and have it fail over and over and over, I can't help but be nervous for the added grief that could happen if they are counting on the "preserved fertility" frozen eggs or embryos and it doesn't work out. So the assumption that it will has bothered me in the past more because of my own triggered emotions than because of any jealousy (because they aren't having a walk in the park either).

But I was perfectly fine while watching this video and news story on the first babies to be born from the program... which I think in large part was due to the fact that we're resolved, and so I know that experience is not for me. It was funny though when the newscaster who emcee'd the event accredited the mom's biologist background to knowing that a high HCG value could mean twins -- "It takes a biology background to know that from a number, ha ha!" he said as I leaned towards Bryce and whispered, "Or years of infertility experience..." We aren't the target audience there, though. Not many infertility patients return to go to this fundraiser.

I was a little surprised that so many people didn't already know that our parenting journey ended. I mean, we send our old RE a holiday card each year, and it spelled it out pretty clearly....and I'm facebook friends with a nurse or two, but I guess our failures to generate progeny by any means doesn't come up naturally when you're getting luckier people pregnant.

We ended up telling our tale at least four times. I was going to say, "Our tale of woe," but that's not really accurate.

It's a tough balancing act, conveying the enormity of what we lost along with how incredibly happy we are to be living our life, free of the tetanus-rusted chains of uncertainty. I wanted them to know that it's not a sad end, at least not entirely -- that there is true joy in reframing your life, shifting priorities, and living free of "maybe THIS time next year..." and an empty nursery that never manifested a human inhabitant.

I wanted them to know that we say "we resolved childfree" not all Eeyore-like and seeped in all we'll never have, but with a sense of joyful relief to be sprung  from our prison of misfortune and the gifts of happiness that come from exiting a whirlpool of sadness. We're no longer circling, going nowhere but down by slow degrees. We're off on a new course, wind in our sails.

I have a lot of metaphors for our life now.

Still, although it was good to tell our story "from the other side," a side they likely don't hear from often, it was EXHAUSTING. And I couldn't help but think... are these the last people we'll tell this to who knew us when we were trying so hard for something that wasn't going to ever be our future? Are we done? Or are there other people lurking who know the first parts of our story but not the end of this particular arc?

It would be lovely if we were done. If future conversations could center on who we are NOW, rather than the roles we'd hoped to have but failed to acquire, every single time.

We had a great time, although it was disconcerting to think on all the people in the room who've seen my lady bits up close and personal. We walked away with an Italian wine basket and a 2-night stay in a cabin in the Finger Lakes, which we'll enjoy for our anniversary in October. I stalked that one hard, bidding three different times. We also donated just plain cash, and it was more than a little ironic that we are funding someone else's chance to have children, not because they are infertile, per se, but because they are treating a life-threatening disease.

There's also a certain beauty in the fact that for us, having no children gives us more financial freedom to contribute more generously to this cause...so people facing a different challenge have the chance to have what we could not.