Monday, January 15, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Attempting the Bullet Journal

My house is littered with notebooks. I have a zillion fertility/adoption notebooks from our journey, a notebook that has to-do lists and packing lists and trip planning stuff in it, a notebook with to-do lists, meal plans, blog posts, blog ideas, stuff we want to do, houses we went to see, etc... This is not even counting the journals I have filled over my 41 years.

So when I saw this thing called a Bullet Journal that can be the Notebook to End All Notebooks, an ultimate do-it-yourself, customize-able planner and list depot...I was intrigued.

My intrigue has gotten to the point where I have actually bought supplies.

Behold, the fancy-schmancy, often-cited-in-bullet-journaling-pins Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, with the two ribbon bookmarks and the pretty Nordic Blue color! 
Look! The inside, which I'm not sure you can clearly see, which has a dot grid pattern and pre-numbered pages! 
I am a sucker for great pens, and so when this set was recommended  by bullet journal people (and it showed up in my Amazon recommendations when I bought the fancy notebook), I could not resist. Look at all the COLORS! And they are TRIANGULAR so they don't roll! And apparently you can leave them uncapped accidentally forever and they won't dry out! 

I haven't actually gotten the layouts and pages and trackers and all that stuff from my head to the paper, though, despite literally HOURS of researching "bullet journal" on Pinterest.  (My favorite, most snarky and profanity-laced upshot: WTF Is A Bullet Journal?) There is a LOT of info on this, and it appears to be real popular with a) people who work in social media and b) stay-at-home-moms who are religious. I am really neither of these things, and yet I really want to have a bullet journal, for these reasons and more:

1) One Notebook to Rule Them All
2) I get to design the pages and it doesn't matter necessarily what order they go in because there's a handy-dandy index at the front that you fill in as you go.
3) I am a list-lover, and I am a PAPER list-lover. I enjoy the Google Keep app for lists, too, but no anthropologist is going to pore over a dead smartphone in the future to see what people did with their lives (not that I think that I will be fodder for anthropologists in the future, but that would be a great perk). Long live the actual paper journal!
4) Along those lines, how lovely to have a year encapsulated in beautiful notebooks, so you can look back at the lists and the things that you did and what mattered to you, and sort of relive those moments for better or worse? I love going through old agendas or notebooks full of to-do lists for that reason. Now it can all live in one place. In theory.
5) It can be a creative outlet that helps me be more organized in how I spend my time, my money, my calories, my creative efforts, my projects...

My fears with this thing are that it will be a time-suck and difficult to keep up with. The #1 advice on this is "schedule time in your bullet journal to bullet journal" which seems deliciously meta to me but will I do it with fidelity? Maybe with my lovely desk/office space I WILL! Will I be too perfectionist to actually get started, because I am afraid of messing up? Hmmm, that's a tough one. My goal is to get at least 4 pages done today so that maybe I have a hope of actually having a January in this thing.

Anyway, what do you think about bullet journaling? Have you tried it? Did you love it, hate it, love to hate it, hate to love it? Share links in the comments if you've posted about this thing before and I am suffering amnesia, because I swear I first heard about it from Loribeth at The Road Less Travelled but I couldn't find it when I searched.

I hope this tool helps me to be more organized and productive in this brand spanking new year!

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays, perhaps ones that actually play by the rules? Go here and enjoy!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What's the Deduction for Heartbreak?

January is a great month, even though it's cold and the weather's often unpredictable. This year is particularly harsh so far: for the third time in a row my best friend visit was rescheduled because of crap weather on the roads. Despite that, I love it because it's time to look back and look forward, make goals, and figure out what's important. It's always a time where I feel reinvigorated to organize, to purge, to go through things and get a handle on my spaces and my time.

Today was about getting my office under control a bit, which spiraled into "I must clean out my inbox," which then spiraled further into, "huh, maybe I should go through my charitable contributions for the year to get ready for taxes," which then led me down a spirally rabbit hole. The ultimate goal was to clear my desk of holiday paperwork and stuff relocated from our space rearrangement in the dining room, and make it so I could start a new project I'm going to Microblog about tomorrow: a bullet journal.

But I got stuck in my inbox.

And my inbox led me to a whole lot of stuff that I guess I could call "memory lane" but it felt more like a nightmare scene, like when Dorothy and her crew are walking on the yellow brick road through the enchanted forest with all the glowing eyes and creepy vines and whatnot. It's that kind of lane.

I ran across old emails about treatment. I ran across old emails from support group lists. I ran across all the comments on a zillion posts that I published but never deleted from my email inbox for some strange reason.

I ran across receipts for our adoption agency. I'm guessing we can't claim anything against the Adoption Tax Credit because we didn't ultimately adopt, but we did spend quite a bit of money over the two and a half years we were with the agency, despite having left without the outcome we'd hoped for. I'd say across the years at least $5,000, maybe a little more. It's more than a little depressing to think on all we've spent over the years to NOT have children. I'm pretty sure we've sent a phantom one to four years of state college, in a single, including books and spending money.

Receipts and treatment plans and then-encouraging "don't give up" emails are one thing, but the kicker was when I went through my charitable giving, because I do a lot online and I don't always get receipts through the mail. I tallied up all I could using the search keywords "donation," "receipt," "donation receipt," and "gift," and then went into my filing cabinet to find the mailed and other physical receipts.

On the plus side -- my own charitable giving, not including any Bryce has made, and not including any goods (clothes, books, furniture), was a lot higher than last year. I was actually really happy with it -- I spread it out over a year and I set up a variety of monthly "sustainer" donation plans. I also made it a point to donate after a certain inauguration, and then again there was a burst in April, and over the summer, and in the fall. I plan to donate just as much next year, even though (and please let me know if I've got this wrong) the whole tax bill thing happened where charitable contributions aren't tax deductible anymore for 2018. I hope that everyone still gives to the causes they care about if they're able, because I'm worried about nonprofit development given that little gem of legislation.

Anyway, when I went through the folder, I found the paperwork that really put me in a bit of a funk.

The donation slip for our nursery.

Oh yeah, that's right, 2017 was the year we DISMANTLED A NURSERY, PACKED IT UP, and GAVE IT AWAY. The list of things is staggering.

And sad.

So much hope, dismantled.

How do you tally that up? Many of the larger things (like the crib) we bought ourselves, but there were also a fair amount of items that were gifted to us. So there's a little guilt there, although it's not like we're going to make a profit off it or anything. And it was Bryce and me that packed everything up, and carted it down the stairs by the door. And it was the donation coordinator and me who marched everything out of the house and into two cars while neighbors were out chatting, then unloaded it into her storage space, and then drove home to an empty entryway and a very, very empty room upstairs. So I think we've earned that deduction in terms of heartbreak and literally taking apart the most symbolic representation of our dream imaginable.

It brought me right back to that moment of "okay, it's time, we need to take down all this stuff, get it to someone who can truly use it, and turn this space into something else." It brought me back to an image of Bryce, on his knees on the plush nursery carpet, unscrewing the bolts that held the crib together. It's why last week when I was reading a PEOPLE magazine on the elliptical I angrily paged past the article of Joh.n Stam.os "finally becoming a dad at 54," not because he doesn't deserve happiness and well-wishes from strangers but because of a photo shoot picture where he's looking all confuzzled by the assembly directions on a white crib, and he's sprawled out on the carpet with the panels all around him.

I have a picture of Bryce doing that very thing, then redoing it with the one panel whose holes were drilled funny once the replacement part came in, and then a very sad series of pictures where he is taking the crib apart. It made me mad. Probably because it really made me sad.

Someone suggested that maybe we could return the crib to the store where we bought it instead of donating it...and maybe that would have been possible except that the store was a family-owned one and it closed down shortly after we bought a few items there. Which could possibly be interpreted as omen-y if you were of the suspicious sort. Which I'm trying not to be.

So here I am, still cleaning up things in my office, still not started with my lovely bullet journal (although I have to say just thinking about putting it together makes me feel more organized and reflective). I'm feeling a little sad and sorry for myself.

But then again, I'm sitting in my beautiful office that I am lucky to have to clean, at my new laptop (since my old laptop died along with everything we thought was backed up but apparently never ran), in a space that is now pretty devoid of sadness. I love this space, even though I basically had to rip my heart out, strangle it in my hands, throw it on the floor, and stomp on it in order to get it. People who don't know what it once was say things like, "Must be nice, to have your own office," when I talk about this space and how it's all mine. I don't always feel like explaining or zinging back, "oh yeah? Well it would have been nice if it could have stayed a nursery, dingbat." For the most part I just smile and say, "yes, yes it is." (While internally calling them dingbats.)

It is more special to me because of its history, because of all of the loss that led to me having this peaceful, productive space, this room of my own. I will be grateful when tax season is over and we won't ever have anything adoption or family-building related attached to our taxes ever again.

Someday I will hit that magical point where these things won't sneak up on me quite so viscerally. I hope. Although the pain isn't always bad, it reminds me of all the ways I am so very fortunate, of the joys I hold close that have survived the hardest days of my life.

Monday, January 8, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Somehow Not Sad

As part of our plan to get everything in our house in order and get rid of as much clutter as possible, we were clearing out/putting away stuff in our bedroom.

This was after we put this gem up on the wall in our dining room (well, dining area, it's open to the living room) that we picked up in Vermont, which started a snowball effect of organizing as we moved all kinds of furniture around and it was a perfect time to organize and purge:

That "painting" is a blown up print of these pressed flower prints that a woman who was a backbone of the community in Grafton created, and after she passed her children made them into prints.

We loved the story behind this piece of art, we loved its organic quality, and the size just fit PERFECTLY in that spot. To get it there we dismantled a baker's rack that was basically a crap-collector, and moved our bar to the back room where we can still use it but it's a little less, um, accessible. That dresser was in the bathroom upstairs, and was largely empty because it used to hold all the baby washcloths and towels and bath toys, and we hadn't filled it with anything...since. (We need to get a sideboard for under the other painting, which is funny because the one I bought for my office would fit PERFECTLY and go with the furniture so we'll just have to get another one since I'm not giving up my perfect piece!)

See, doesn't the bar look nice there, at the end of the wonderland that is Bryce's man office?

While cleaning up the upstairs, I had a tub that was sitting in the bedroom, next to my sock cabinet (don't ask). Bryce asked, "What are we doing with this one?"

Oh, that one.

It was the tub of things we wanted to keep -- onesies we bought on trips, or that were bought for us, or knit things made for a baby that didn't come, or stuffed animals I wasn't quite ready to get rid of, and a beautiful owl puppet that I need to figure out how to use in my daily life, books we were given with the nameplate stickers with messages to Mystery Baby who will forever remain a mystery, and all our cards and the guestbook from our showers.

Ordinarily that sort of thing would be a shove into a pit of incredible sadness and encountering it would put me in a funk for a long, long while. But I just looked through it, and while there's definitely sadness there, it didn't ruin my day. I didn't even cry. I played with the puppet. And then I decided you know what? I don't have to decide today, either, and we can put it in a storage nook we have in an eave behind a wall in our bedroom and figure it all out later. If I want to give it to someone, if I want to keep it in a tub to revisit from time to time, if I want to rescue the owl puppet from its plastic tomb.

I don't know how that didn't make me unbearably sad, other than that I am truly healing. I am truly reaching that point of acceptance where I can say, "that didn't work out, and my life is different now, and that's okay -- more than okay, because our life will be beautiful despite our loss, and maybe in part because of it."

Yeah. That sounds pretty good to me.

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

Sunday, January 7, 2018

New Year Goals

When closing out 2017, we made lists of all we'd accomplished in 2017, and then the longer list of crappy things that had happened.

But, we also made a bit of an exciting list. Things To Accomplish In 2018.

I don't really want to share all of them here, but it was fun to come up with things to focus on this next year, to have a blank slate in front of us where we have no more time/money/energy we need to devote to family building, because it's built. Happy family of two right here.

That's not to say that I don't get sad, that I don't think about how different the list would be if it had worked out in the way we'd hoped, but I do have to say that I feel so much better, so much more at peace, and so excited to see what this life is going to shape into.

A lot of things on the list were related to making our home perfect for our new situation. Everything before was about accommodating a child in here, making space for a third person, and it was real hard to imagine staying with everything as it is. Now, we are more in love with our house every day, and thinking on what we can do to make it even better so that we can enjoy our time together in it.

One thing is that we want to build a garage at the end of our driveway, which would involve moving our little shed and getting an architect and probably a morass of permits and things from the town(s), because I live on a dead end street that belongs to TWO different towns, and the line goes through our backyard just enough to possibly cause an issue. BUT, let's assume for a moment that everything sails through and we can have this garage that we are planning and dreaming up in our heads.

It will have space for up to 3 cars, but one can be behind another car as it would be for if Bryce decides to fulfil his dream of "winter car, summer car" and get a sporty little number for the warmer weather. No midlife crisis here, ha ha. It would also relocate his woodworking workshop to space either below or behind the car part, over the ravine. So pretty heavy duty electrical would be necessary, but that would open up our current garage that's connected to the house to become a family room of sorts. Or, a "woods-view, screen/window haven, listening/music playing, reading, yoga-doing room." But that's further down the list.

It would also have a woodburning stove that we have from Bryce's dad, that hasn't been used yet because I am afraid of setting the house on fire, and a sort of studio of sorts for me, either behind the cars or under, since the back half of this thing will need to be on stilts I think or built into the ravine behind our house (which sounds much fancier than it actually is). Then I could read, or write, or just relax, in this woodland cabin thing in our backyard while Bryce does woodworking.

Does that not sound amazing? One of my pet peeves for this house is the lack of a garage, as I am constantly cleaning off my car early in the morning before school, which adds a good 10-15 minutes to my routine depending on the amount of snow that fell overnight. I don't care if it's not connected, to trudge through the snow to a garage where my warm, dry, clear car waits would be HEAVEN. Also, we have a single driveway, and with the placement of this fantasy garage we would be able to swap cars by parking them in the garage and then just backing out at different times. Which I guess isn't swapping at all, glorious thing that is!

It would give us more space, it would need to look like our shed (so New England-y charm and maybe a weathervane/cupola thingie up top), so that it doesn't look hideous out in the woods. How exciting is that? We are going to look into actually designing this thing up, because it would basically solve so many of the problems lingering with our house, and we wouldn't have to move. You know, just build another outbuilding, but whatever! Hopefully it doesn't cost the same as a house. I don't think it should, since no plumbing required, and just three areas -- carpark, woodshop, studio. Maybe a little room for gardening stuff. Maybe. I mean, we hope to retain the shed. So I guess we'll have a bit of a compound going on.

That's a big goal for 2018 -- adapting our home for our needs, now, and not for "what may be" that turned out to happen...not ever. Spending some money for our own haven.

Another goal is to plan an international trip. Not to take an international trip, since in The Year of the Qual Exam I just don't see that happening, but to plan one out for 2019. We're sort of in a tie between the Nordic countries and Tuscany or French wine country. Honestly, I'm feeling Nordic happiness -- Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Denmark... But a trip of this magnitude requires some planning (and recovering from the garage construction if that can be brought to reality). And a little prepwork to make sure I don't freak out, because international travel makes me real, real nervous. Probably not much more airtime to Scandinavian countries than to California, honestly, but there's something about flying over ocean that gives me the twitches.

Bryce wants to pass his Qual Exam, of course, and get some publications in.

We want to host a dinner party. Not talk about it, not plan it in our heads and never execute, but put our new extendable table to use and have some people over for dinner and drinks, for real. We want to have people over more often. Which will be sort of hard given the prep for the Qual Exam, which is now pushed into the spring a bit more, but we can figure it out. It will be fun. I think. Yes, fun.

We are going to sponsor two students for the annual 8th grade Washington trip. I'm actually going this year as a chaperone, which is brand new to me and makes me real nervous, but this is the year of trying to go outside my comfort zone, while also saying no to stuff. I just didn't feel like saying no to this trip this year anymore. I don't really have a great excuse anymore, and it's an experience I should have at least once, right? But it's expensive for the kiddos, and we always have more kids who need funds than we have "scholarships." So we're sponsoring two kids anonymously, in hopes that more people can go and finances aren't as much of a factor (although they are). I also want to get involved in fundraising efforts to make the trip as a whole less expensive for everyone, and make it more affordable for all families.

We are going to clean out the house -- the basement, the closets, the drawers that haven't been touched in forever. We are going to organize and streamline and make this house perfect, or at least a close proximity, because we love our home and we are sort of drowning in stuff. I feel terribly guilty donating or trashing things that were given to me, but I hang on to the weirdest stuff and I need to just let go. I just threw out a bunch of candle caps. Why am I hanging on to those metal or plastic caps to jar candles? No clue. The stuff that was given is harder. But, I'm going to go all Marie Kondo on most things (not books though--her view on books is simply barbaric) and cull viciously. I just want to find places for a lot of the things I keep out of obligation so I'm not filling a landfill. I hate waste. But I also don't want to drown in stuff, so there's that.

I am in the process of making a schedule for writing time. I need to make it more of a priority even when things get crazy at school, because I ENJOY it and I want to expand a bit. I want to write more. I want to write different things. I want to attempt some sort of project that scares the pants off me but if I never do it I'll regret it forever. I'll just let you fill in the blanks on that one.

2018 sounds pretty good, no? Lots of fun things to do, to accomplish, to stretch ourselves, to give back. I'm pretty darn excited.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

You're Not Allowed to Be Busy

The day before the holiday break, I told the two students who tried to have lunch in my room, "Sorry charlies, but there's no work to do today and I desperately need an adult, social lunch, to the cafeteria you go!" and I had lunch with a bunch of my colleagues. They are lovely ladies, and most of the time the conversation doesn't fill me with fury.

On this day though, I got to see a real ugly side of the Mom Club. A great example of comparison turning people into "mean girls," and I witnessed some real bitchery.

A teacher who recently went from mom of two to mom of four was complaining about another teacher, that she was just driving her CRAZY. Granted, this other teacher tends to do the comparison thing herself and tell everyone that their life can't ever be hard because they have spouses and two salaries and she is single and so it's harder financially, and it can really rub people the wrong way. It can be offputting to be told you can't complain when not everyone knows your personal situations in and out. Sometime I'm told by my coworkers, "Oh, don't complain -- you have a husband, you know...your life is charmed. Haven't you been told that?" and I actually have to say, "um, no, I don't get told that, actually...I get a little more of the 'I know you know how hard life can be,' because, you know, I've had things very obviously not turn out the way I'd hoped, too." But they get real mad when their personal lives are judged by comparison and any difficulties in the background are ignored or glossed over.

Which is why it was somewhat shocking to me to find the reason for this mom teacher's ire.

She said, "She had the BALLS to say she was tired because she was so busy! I just wanted to PUNCH her!" Okay, I was thinking that surely she must said something stupid like, "you have NO IDEA how tired I am!" to a fairly recent mother of twins and two older boys. She must have made a direct comparison or said "you just don't know what it's like."

But that's NOT what happened.

Mom Teacher said, "I was walking down the hall and she said, 'Ah, I am SO TIRED, my eyes are just BURNING, I was wrapping presents all night last night!' Can you believe that? I could have just PUNCHED her." (She has a thing for punching.)

Okay, you see, I was ALSO walking down the hall when this exchange happened, and there was no comparison. It was literally a statement of fact: she was tired, she'd been wrapping presents, she couldn't wait for break because she needed a break from everything. NO COMPARISON.

And then, the kicker happened.

All the other women at the table, also moms to children of varying ages, expressed shock and disapproval and outrage. And one then said, "What was she, wrapping presents for her CAT?" and they all laughed. "How dare she say she's busy? She doesn't have kids! She doesn't know what that's like! Ugh! Busy INDEED!" were the other comments.

I was shocked, but then I decided, fuck it. I'm going to say something, because this is DISGUSTING. I piped up in the middle of this bizarre witch hunt and said, "Um, you don't have to have kids to be busy. You can have a very hectic life and be tired, even without kids."

People stopped and looked at me, and I saw flickers of unease and perhaps a little sheepishness, and there was some of the awesome, "Oh, we didn't mean YOU, of course" which is bullshit. A comment like that is an affront to ANYONE who isn't in the Mom Club, who must just sit at home reveling in our childfree existence, not having to Scotchguard all the upholstered furniture.

I continued, "but it is, isn't it? I mean, I get it -- it's busy with children, But there are lots of ways to have a fulfilling, busy life. I mean, I just got my National Board certification and Bryce is pursuing his PhD, and we can be very busy with different things of our own, no kids required."

Then there was hemming and hawing and one person said, "I had no idea that I could be busier when I had kids, but I just fit it all in there somehow and other things had to go, that's not the same. You ARE so much busier with kids." Which sort of missed the point. I wasn't saying you aren't busy with kids, I know that's true, but they made it seem like no one else could ever complain about busyness or tiredness.

I know that I get more sleep than someone who has a baby or even a toddler. I know that I don't have to drive all over town for lessons and play groups and whatever. But that insidious message that you can only complain about being busy, you can only complain about being tired when you have a bevy of little doesn't make sense to me. It's a really shallow worldview.

I was really, really pissed by the whole interaction. My T.A. told me later that she was glad I spoke up, and that it was disgusting how mean they were. She said that you never know what's on anyone's plate and you shouldn't judge anyone else or assume that you know what their life is like.

For instance, do they know that this single teacher has a second job tutoring? That it IS actually harder without a second full time income -- I mean, so many of us have husbands who make a LOT more money than we do, and she has just her teaching salary and what she makes tutoring, and frankly that IS harder financially. Do they know that she was wrapping a shit-ton of presents for her cousin's kids, for her friends' kids, that she has children in her life even if she doesn't have children? That she might not have the pressure of waiting until kids go to bed to do it, and there's no pretending to be Santa, but that wrapping is wrapping is wrapping? You get just as many papercuts when they're not actually your children. I know these people know that she's going through a couple different crises at the moment, too, and the lack of empathy is astounding. It is hard when there's a bit of a "no one can possibly know what I'm going through" attitude coming from the target of this vitriol, and it can be hard to be sympathetic to someone who goes through difficult times and isn't always personable about it, but it just felt so UNCALLED FOR, the sharpness of the cuts. "What is she, wrapping presents for her cat?" I mean, what the actual fuck?

I talked to my dad about it over break because I was still steaming, and he was like, "Oh, she's single and has no kids? Oh no, she's not ALLOWED to be busy. Only moms get that privilege. They're the ones who have the contests of who has the most crap to deal with, who got the least amount of sleep, who's the most tired." (He was being sarcastic of course...he's a single guy and so gets his fair share of this attitude, too.)

WHY DO PEOPLE WANT TO WIN THESE KINDS OF CONTESTS? Why can't you BOTH be tired for your own separate reasons, and just be like, "yeah, the holidays suck, I hope you get some rest!" and leave it at that? It's always amazing to me that there seems to be some sort of prize for who has the most misery. Leave me out of that racket.

Whew, okay, rant over. What I learned from this is that I don't want to know what's said about me behind my back. I want to make sure that I always speak up when the Mom Brigade gets going, if only to try to open up a chink in that self-righteous armor and hopefully inspire a little looking at another perspective. I wish I had spoken up and told them how mean it was to make that comment about the cat, but next time I can be more aggressive (in a nice way) about it. Because unfortunately I am certain that there will be a next time. I am so disappointed in the lack of kindness, but hopefully I can help dilute the poison and build a more peaceful, inclusive worldview. I can hope, right?

Monday, January 1, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Simply "No"

We went to a holiday party before the actual holiday break, one that I knew I would know very few if any people there. It was a great excuse to get all dolled up in my new plaid dress with a fun 50's silhouette and cropped cardigan (that will only ever get worn with dresses, a crop top gal I am not), but when we arrived to the INCREDIBLY FANCYPANTS house (one where our house could easily fit nestled inside the kitchen/great room), and it was held by a coworker of sorts of Bryce's through the university where he's studying, but his personal assistant had it catered (and she has celiac too) so it was going to be a party where I COULD ACTUALLY EAT SOMETHING, and it didn't sound too terrible.

Cute, no?

Well, at least until I walked in the door and felt woefully overdressed in the face of a slew of sleek, dark-neutral clad, slender wives and moms, a surprising number of small children running about and shrieking gaily from multiple dedicated play areas, and had the realization that I was very much not with my tribe here.

As predicted, we were I was asked the dreaded, "So, do you have kids?" question no less than FIVE times throughout the night.

And I just said, "No."

I didn't add "that didn't work out for us," or "it's a long story" or any kind of explanation -- I didn't even say it in a morose or wistful tone, I just said "No" and moved on.

It felt amazingly freeing on my part -- I mean, I'm probably not going to see the majority of these people ever again (unless we go to this party next year), and they knew nothing at all about me except for what I offered. What was weird was that I felt that an unfettered "no" was disconcerting to a lot of the askers, who seemed a bit put off and at one point someone asked how long we'd been married and I happily said 8 years and let them just wonder about our circumstances. No one asked. They just sort of stuttered and awkwardly changed the subject. Which I let them do without that urge to explain further.

A milestone, I think!

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

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back on 2017 -- A Lot of Awful, But Beautiful Gifts, Too

We just got back from our (incredibly cold) vacation in Vermont where we visited with family and had a little respite in our favorite little inn in Grafton. It was a bit too cold for all the outdoor activities (without windchill we woke up to -8 degrees Fahrenheit temps...brrrr) but it was lovely to read and play ping pong and have yummy dinners and just relax. Especially since we are fighting yet another holiday cold...

One of the things that we did over the vacation bit of the trip was to write down our accomplishments for 2017, and then all the shitty things that happened. Although there were some really lovely things this year, the balance leaned clearly towards the shit side.

We'll start with the crap side.

I'm more than happy to wave goodbye to 2017 because it held an incredible amount of pain. This was the year I lost my uncle to lung cancer and my grandfather to Alzheimer's. This was the year I developed a lovely case of scleritis (a fun autoimmune attack on my left eye), that was triggered by stress and then started a domino effect that had begun years earlier and just cumulated until a long, high dose regimen of prednisone led to a fairly spectacular mental breakdown following a spike in blood pressure and side effects that mimicked a cardiac event and landed me in the ER. It was, frankly, the year of Emergency Room/Urgent Care. It was the year where we decided that after 8 years of striving fruitlessly, if my health was going to decline then we'd go with the life we have and let go of the one we wanted but for some inexplicable reason was always just out of reach. It was the year we ended our journey to parenthood with a call to the agency saying that we were done. It was the year that we spent Memorial Day weekend packing up our nursery to donate  to someone who actually could use it for a real live baby. It was the year none of our embryos survived to help the couple we donated them to/placed them with conceive, and ended our parenting journey even by proxy -- we tried so hard through all these different avenues and even gave away our embryos to give them a chance we couldn't give them...only to be left with nothing, and to have shared our nothing with another grieving couple.

It was quite possibly the most difficult year I can remember. (Also, the formatting on this post is a bit odd because I'm using my work computer...a parting gift of 2017 is that my laptop fried itself right before we left. Grrr.)

Posts that I think capture the incredible awfulness of this period:

Good Riddance, March
When Everything Falls Apart: or So THIS Is What It Looks Like to Lose It
The Finality of Making the Call
Packing Up the Nursery
So It Goes

However, there were good things, too. Really good things.

Number one is that we ended limbo. It's weird, we lived in this in between space for so long and when it finally ended, although not the way we'd hoped, the relief was palpable. An almost physical weight was lifted, and it was noticed by people all around us. I am so sad about the loss of our embryos, for us and the other couple, but I am so very happy that it happened in 2017. That 2018 can be a completely fresh start in our life, that there is no lingering possibility of some kind of fertility-related trauma. Because that's what all of that was and is -- a boatload of trauma. Having an end to the limbo has been a tremendous gift.

Oddly, once we reframed our life and our home to be just for us and not preparing for a phantom child, the space took on a life of its own and we bought grownup furniture that matched and a house that seemed too small and cramped and possibly cursed suddenly felt cozy and full of character and new life. I got a beautiful office where the nursery once was. We have new living room furniture and dining room furniture and it's such a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it meant that we truly were out of limbo -- there wasn't anymore "what if" or feeling like any expenditure would be silly because what if we needed that for adoption or we moved and the furniture wasn't right anymore or whatever else.

We took our honeymoon, a real long vacation involving flying and seeing things that neither of us had before.

I got my beautiful tattoo, to encapsulate my transformation and the strength and power I have gained from having so much pain and loss.

I achieved my National Board certification, which is particularly sweet for me because I did the lion's share of the writing during a time where I felt I was barely surviving, and it was not ideal at all -- I was supposed to get a lot of writing done over April Break but I was busy scooping up all my goo and putting myself back into humanlike substance form, so I did most of it in May, actually during Mother's Day weekend. There was a shitload of adversity happening all around those pages, and so to have passed with good standing? It makes me feel worthy of my phoenix tattoo.

Bryce continued working through the courses that he needs to complete in order to earn his PhD, and 2018 will see him battling his Qualification Exam, hopefully becoming a bona fide PhD candidate. I have utter faith in his abilities here -- he is always worried about the quality of his work or doing poorly, and he always kills it. He is so smart and so dedicated and I can't wait to see where all this brings us as a family.

Some posts that remind me that there was good this year, too:

...Because I Don't Have Kids
Easter Fun Without Kids
Oh, Okay...So NOW It's Final
Reclaiming the Butterflies
Enter the Phoenix
The Christmas Tree Story

It's a lot of good. Our life took a definite turn, a swerve of dizzying proportions, over this past year. But now it leads down a road we might not have gotten to see otherwise, a road with beauty and joy and fulfillment all its own. For as much as 2017 took away, it also gave us so much.

I look forward to 2018, and all the possibilities that lie ahead of us, now that I hope most of our darkest days lie behind us in the shitstorm that was 2017.