Monday, November 20, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Quote, Counterquote

Every day in the English class I coteach starts with a word of the day, and a quote of the day. I love quotes, but the quote on Thursday of last week really, really rubbed me the wrong way.

"You're never a loser until you quit trying." - Mike Ditka

Can you see why this quote is shitty? And not just for me, but for the many kids who have tried and failed things due to circumstances far out of their control?

I thought about just letting it go, and then I thought...SCREW IT and searched frantically on my phone while students copied down the word and quote from the board.

After the English teacher I work with explained the quote (it's important to always keep trying, never give up, blah blah blah), I said, "I have a COUNTERQUOTE!"

And I shared this gem, sent to me by a friend last year:


I said, "You see, there are times when trying over and over is NOT the best thing for you. Like for instance, when you are playing a sport and you are chronically injured but you keep playing even though IT IS HARMFUL FOR YOU TO CONTINUE TO DO SO."

He countered, "But I think the quote is more about motivation, like that mountain we talk about in the Wordsworth poem at the beginning of the year, that some people just want to be magically transported to the top of the mountain, but if you work hard and don't quit, you WILL get to the top! I don't think it's about playing football in a wheelchair."

And now the students were watching us like a ping pong match, because I had to keep going. I HAD TO.

"Except, sometimes you're climbing a mountain, and the conditions get really dangerous, and you are putting the rest of your life at risk by continuing stubbornly up that particular mountain, so maybe YOU JUST NEED TO FIND ANOTHER MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB."

He sort of went, "Hmmm" and then we continued on.

And when I came back for 8th period, the quote was different:

"Continuous effort -- not strength or intelligence -- is the key to unlocking our potential." - Winston Churchill

I just smiled, and it went without further discussion.

Later that night I told Bryce about it, and he said that maybe he changed it so he wouldn't have to deal with me being a pain in the ass. Which I took exception to, actually. I thought maybe he thought on it and changed it to something that didn't call people who move forward from something LOSERS.

The next day I did ask him. I said, "I noticed you changed the quote 8th period yesterday. Bryce thinks maybe you didn't want to deal with my soapbox two periods in a row, but I have another theory."

He said, "I felt SO HORRIBLE. I never thought of it that way, and clearly you have, and it really struck a chord with you and now I can see why."

Because I can't shut up, I continued on, "Oh, THANK YOU. Not just for me, but for all our kids who already know that life is not fair and don't have to wait to be infertile as adults to think on all this stuff. I think it's just SO important to let them know that sometimes you just don't get what you want, but you can readjust and find a new focus."

And he said, "Yeah. This new quote captures what I was trying to get at without the other stuff."

It was a bit of a bonding moment. He genuinely didn't think of how that quote could come across to people whose lives have taken unexpected turns despite all the trying in the world, and then he fixed it. I may have hipchecked him a bit and just said, "I so appreciate you."

I am so, so glad I spoke up. 

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Baby Parade



I went to our favorite Mexican restaurant without a bra on, thanks to my lovely new phoenix and butterflies. I'm healing up nicely, but it was awkward to be hanging out, free and loose in public. While we were wrapping up our dinner and margaritas, and I was sitting with my arms crossed in front like a makeshift bra, people we know but not well came in to celebrate a birthday, with their new baby in tow.

Please explain to me why people parade their babies around like no one has ever seen one before? I've noticed it for years, and it has to be connected to some kind of biological instinct, because the "carry, walk, and make your baby stare awkwardly at people, known and otherwise" move is a CLASSIC.

The thing is, this person knows that we weren't successful in this arena. Yet he held his (admittedly adorable) 4-month old baby and rocked him and just smiled at us like "isn't this awesome?" and DID NOT TAKE THE HINT that there's only so many minutes that you can coo and smile and wave at a baby you don't really know while your margarita is getting warm.

Finally Bryce rescued us, "Okay, well, nice to see you, enjoy your dinner, byeeee."

And sat there, and then pretended to say all the things we'd wished we could during this baby parading, this "look what I made" sort of Lion King moment:

- "Well, we're just going to go home and watch a little TV until we get tired! Then we're going to SLEEP IN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE."
- "Enjoy that daycare!"
- "I'll be thinking of you when I wake up at 3 am, and then roll back over and sleep until 8!"

A little immature? Probably. But it made us feel better for the awkward moment at the end of our yummy dinner in celebration of my lovely new tattoo baby. You didn't see me walking around exposing my shoulder to everyone in quite the same way, did you? Ha.

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Enter the Phoenix

Yesterday was the day -- and I put the appointment in my calendar as "Enter the Phoenix." I am now the proud owner of a freaking GINORMOUS new tattoo.

Here's the thing. I was thinking on the evolution of this design -- that first I wanted this dainty, botanical dandelion illustration with all the fluffies and the two butterflies and it would be all wispy and feminine but also very, very sad. Very woe-is-me. Very "I am floating away on this tide of grief."

So I went with something that is the COMPLETE AND UTTER OPPOSITE of that feeling.

I saw the design, and it was the perfect mix of tribal-style badassery, some traditional tattooing stipple style, and the natural beauty of two detailed monarchs.

It was just a lot bigger than I imagined.

Here is some stencil preview:



I gulped a bit at the size, but was like, YES. Let's do this thing. It is big, it is powerful, it is no shrinking violet piece of art.

And so I lay on the table, wearing a leftover BeBand pregnancy band as a makeshift bra and my old sweatshirt backwards to give me some warmth and coverage. I love the sweet poetic justice in the pregnancy band being used for this purpose.

I forgot how much tattooing hurts. I'm not sure if it's the placement (apparently where you are ticklish is where you have a bundle of nerves, and it feels like a hot knife dragging through your skin), or the new needle styles, or the way the artist moved quickly through but also gave it the depth needed, but HOLY HELL that was super painful.

The outlining was the worst. It was the biggest needle, and he just sort of did the wings all at once and the tail, and I lay there, trying to squirm without moving my shoulder, tapping my hand on the table, singing, swearing up a storm, and laughing maniacally.

My new therapist asks why I laugh so much when I talk about really shitty things.

I laugh because I refuse to cry all the time. And it works.

I cried NOT ONCE during the two hours of outlining, shading, stippling, coloring in, and general torture.

I did, however, at one point yell, "I MAY COMPLETELY REGRET THE SIZE RIGHT NOW! Oh, SURE, let's do TRIBAL! Let's do a SHITLOAD of BIG, BLACK SHAPES! GREAT IDEA. Why is there no MANDATORY COUNSELING for this???" 

I don't regret it though. It is freaking beautiful. It is gorgeous, and powerful, and everything I wanted it to be. It will just slightly peek out of most clothing until the summer, but even then it won't ever be super visible at work. But it's there, showing my rise from the ashes of everything, my triumph, my strength. The two butterflies are transformation, but they are also memories of my two babies that almost got to be. They're not sad, though. They're beautiful.

Right after. My hair is a hot mess because I sweat like a beast when I'm in pain, and it was a hilariously HUGE cloud of curls and frizz when we were done. 
Today, more healed, less oozy, no longer bleeding all over the place. Hard to get the whole thing myself! 
It hurt, but I bet childbirth hurts worse. This was my birth. Bryce is slowly getting used to it: he asked when I'm buying my Harley and running off with some leather-clad guy named Bubba, but he'll learn to coexist with it peacefully.

Of all the things that happened this week, this was surely the most physically painful, but it was the most emotionally and mentally rewarding, too.

I love that this work of art on my back is a physical representation of all we've survived, of the pain and the strength and resilience that results from 8 long, difficult years.

I am a freaking phoenix. I am a butterfly. I am a warrior and a gentle soul all at once. I love when some things that are imagined and visualized can go from concept to reality.

Monday, November 6, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Mishmash Update

It's been a crazy couple of weeks:

- I drove 9 hours each way to Kentucky for my grandfather's memorial service, alone (Bryce had to attend several classes during that time) -- a sort of weird new milestone of adulting
- I saw a zillion family members and the stabs were actually fairly few and far between (a different aunt from last time who commented how odd it was that neither me nor my sister have children, I corrected her that my sister has two stepsons, and then explained that children just didn't work out for us, faced the dreaded "why didn't you adopt" question and answered it with two years of the adoption process, and that was that)
- We had a cold and rainy Halloween but had 9 trick-or-treaters, a new record (in a positive direction) for us
- We had a little party with the neighbors to celebrate our anniversary and Halloween
- I got to dress up as just one thing this year, as I am mostly connected with the Red Team in my middle school, and so I got to be Dopey (of the seven dwarves)
- I managed to make it through anniversary season and Halloween season without getting too morose and woe-is-me
- I am struggling through some drama with adults at school right now...my kids are great but the adults are killing me slowly...but it will all work out
- I finished Stranger Things Season 2 FINALLY tonight

All in all, not too terribly bad. I am proud of my ability to cross four states alone and not be too terribly afraid while finding the local NPR station every 50 miles or so, I am proud of my 8 years of marriage to Mr. Bryce, I am making my way through an awkward year of school where adults are making me crazy, I made it to a memorial service for my grandfather who passed of complications from Alzheimer's, and I spent as much time watching a great TV show as I did driving to Kentucky one way. I'm ready for a bit of a slowdown (enter the holiday season, of course).

My sister, me, my dad, my stepbrother in the basement of the church. A rare all-siblings-on-deck shot.


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

Monday, October 23, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: The First of Two Anniversaries

Love the chili peppers in my bouquet and Bryce's boutonniere

It is confusing to people to have two anniversaries. Today is our "legal" anniversary -- we were married by a Justice of the Peace at our favorite Mexican Restaurant 8 years ago today. It's nice, because it's a private sort of anniversary--we celebrate it with each other and give each other the "serious" anniversary cards (as opposed to the Halloween love cards we give on our wedding anniversary, which contain my annual Anniversary Ghoul drawn by Bryce...a little scared of what this year might have in store for me).

The second anniversary is our more public anniversary, the Halloween anniversary of our actual tiny little backyard wedding. We usually go out for a fancy dinner for that one and that's the one people recognize with cards or calls or whatever.

This year we had a lovely, extravagant little anniversary celebration of two with a cheese plate, mini champagne bottle, a tasty dinner of apple cider/mustard/thyme roasted carrots and parsnips with wine & cheese rope sausage, and a lovely bottle of Amarone.

We exchanged cards and enjoyed that this is the first year where my card focused on the adventures ahead, just us two, rather than the arduous journey and the hopes for different sort of future this year, maybe this time, as all the other cards have noted (Bryce's had a nod to the difficulties of the past year, but it was focused on the joys of what's to come and the pride of having made it through our own personal Hell intact).

Here's to 8 great and terribly beautiful years, full of adventures and sorrows and new beginnings and a whole lot of love and laughter.

Toasting on our porch with wine and classic cheeses

Handsome man, creepy spider lurking behind him inside that shutter...

Oh hello!  
I seeeeee you


Stylized shot of the flowers I miraculously got (flowers from a practical engineer are like unicorn sightings)

Awwwwww

Amarone, and a crotchety looking Bryce (even though he's not)

Wedded bliss now and for eternity, although I like the way we looked in 2009 better than our skeletal versions... ha
Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

File Under: WTF

I think it's a universal thing to go through old family photos when you are preparing for a funeral/memorial service. I've done it for Bryce's Grammie, for my own grandmother, and now the process has begun for my Papaw.

Sometimes when you go through old photos, you find baby pictures.

And then you might feel the urge to compare baby pictures with babies of the new generation.

Which is a really fun thing to do, if it's like mother-daughter type stuff.

It's far less fun when someone in your family posts a picture of YOU as a baby on the book of face, and you recently made the decision to resolve your infertility and adoption journey childfree not by choice, and then posts a picture of a cousin's baby right next to it and the genetic resemblance is downright eerie.

Then, there just might be immediate waterworks and downright wailing and a deep sense of loss on the part of the person who is coming to terms with not ever having children, and who years ago had to come to terms with the reality that biological children who resemble them strongly like that are a complete impossibility.

Then it may be HIGHLY ILL ADVISED to make that comparison, because it may be like a dagger to the battered heart of the person who is now faced with a comparison between her baby picture, 41 years ago, and the baby picture of SOMEONE ELSE'S BABY, who looks sort of like what a mythical baby with the same genetics might have looked like, if that had been possible in another dimension, in another time, where life wasn't so freaking unfair.

Then it would suck.

And then you'd be faced with a conundrum -- do you say something, knowing that the person who posted it just lost her father to a terrible disease and emotions are running high and the wine is probably free-flowing?

Or do you let it go?

If you're me, and this was your Saturday evening, you write this as a comment and then hope that the funeral isn't a complete shitshow of (unwitting) insensitivity:

Whoa, uncanny resemblance. Not gonna lie, made me real sad though. Emotions run high at times like these and it took me off guard. Amazing to think on what the child we'll never have could have looked like. 💔💔️[cou[ {cousin's name}, your daughter's quite a looker if I do say so myself, ha ha! Looking forward to meeting her in person.

How'd I do? Heaven help me if this is a preview of what to expect when I go there in person in a week and a half. File under WTF indeed.

A Really Odd Day

Yesterday was a strange day.

School was fine, everything was pretty low-key and normal there (versus Thursday, where there was drama galore).

I received a text from my father that my grandfather, my Papaw, had passed away in the afternoon. He'd gone into hospice on his birthday (Wednesday) after a battle with Alzheimer's. Which is a nasty, nasty disease. I knew this news was coming soon, but it was REALLY soon. It was a conflicted sort of feeling -- he was released from his pain and shell-like state as Alzheimer's had robbed him of so much of himself, but we lost him.

I beat myself up hard for not going to my grandmother's 80th birthday party in August, which we'd bowed out of because it was a) in Kentucky and b) we'd just gotten back from our California trip the weekend before, so to hop back on a plane or drive 10ish hours seemed daunting, and c) I really needed to get ready for the new school year which was just 2 1/2 weeks away. So I didn't go. But that would have been my last chance to see my grandfather, and everyone who traveled for it had that moment with him. A lot of my family on my dad's side lives pretty close -- within an hour, maybe three at the most -- so they could get together more often. I haven't been out that way since 2010, when we had a family reunion and Bryce and I could come.

I remember his voice on the phone the most, when he was still able to be conversant. He loved listening to baseball games on the radio and was a terrific cook. He had a great sense of humor and when I was little loved to terrify me and my cousins by popping out his partial dentures. I learned to scale a fish from him (I don't enjoy fishing, but there was something compulsive and satisfying about stripping the scales from a fresh-caught fish with the scaling knife and seeing them fly... not unlike peeling chickpeas, although less humane). He was funny and loved all the grandchildren (and many great-grandchildren) and I am so, so sorry that I missed a chance to see him before he left us.

                                                *           *            *

After finding my principal and giving him a heads up that I'll need to be out for a funeral sometime in the near future, I came home early (well, for me). I was pretty sad and I wanted to help Bryce with the new dining room table that arrived that day. It is gorgeous, and it is so neat to have a "grown up" table set. The one we had before was counter-height and from Target, bought when I thought I might live in an apartment by myself for a little while (but instead lived at my parents' house before they moved there full-time and then just moved in with Bryce since I was basically living there anyway). This one we bought at a local craft festival in August, and it was hand-crafted in Pennsylvania to order and then delivered yesterday. I wanted to share my table but it seemed somehow in poor taste, while everyone was writing poignant posts about the loss of my grandfather, to be like, "LOOK! We got a purty new table!" Here it is though, because it is quite purty:



It has four leaves -- two 6" and two 12" -- and so it extends out to a ridiculously long length. Which is nice in case we host a holiday again in the future. No more foldable buffet table (unless we use that for the food, ha).

We also had plans to go to this reenactment of a 19th century seance, at the very spoooooky community recreation center. Bryce wondered if that was best given the day, but I was like, "This is our anniversary month, and we pick out weird things to do, and I am not missing the seance." It was a little weird to leave school and tell a coworker that my grandfather had just passed, and that I was going to a seance, but those two things were unrelated. I really wonder if there's something wrong with me sometimes.

The seance was AWESOME, because it was done completely in the dark by only the glow of the (battery-operated) candles. When we first walked in it was sketchy -- there were room dividers covered in black plastic tablecloths and it looked a bit like a party room in a nursing home, but once they turned out the lights it was great. The people came in dressed in clothes of the mid-1800s and it showed how they would do the bells ringing and the table thumping and all kinds of wacky stuff. It was advertised as "Not appropriate for children 12 and under" so we were like, "YES! It's going to be something without little kids everywhere!" Not that we don't love little kids, but sometimes Halloween can be challenging what with all the babies photographed in pumpkins and little trick-or-treaters we'll never have of our own and all that. Well, the seance was definitely kid-free, but it was also people-free...we were the only ones at the 6:00 show (they did it every half hour). But outside the room? BABY AND PREGNANT PEOPLE CENTRAL. Apparently it was the same night as the Halloween Festival, with a costume contest, hayrides, indoor trick-or-treating, photobooths, and young families galore. So that held a certain sort of irony.

We went from the seance (and the sea of bellies and tiny butterflies, lego people, elephants, and pumpkins) to our favorite Mexican restaurant. We ran into a bunch of people we knew, and then sat down to eat our delicious food and margaritas, while having a very intense conversation about health proxies, wills, and living wills. Very, very cheery.

But, while talking to a friend we ran into about the seance, this table across from us of older ladies perked up and one said, "I hear you have an interest in the spiritual!"

It turns out they were all here for a spiritual fair at the local Shriner's center, which is going on today and tomorrow, and they were palmists, people who can talk to your "spirit guides," and essential oils purveyors (that one confused me a bit). We must have looked skeptical because the palmist offered a short free reading for each of us, if we would tell our friends and stop by the fair. And so in one day my grandfather passed away, we received a new table, we went to a seance, and we got our palms read over dinner.

Some of it was accurate, and some was questionable, but that's how that goes, right? I'm always interested in that sort of thing but don't put a ton of stock in it. There was no gobbledegook about children though, which I appreciated. It was more about our personalities and what we do for a living, which was accurate as hell (but Bryce very cynically said she could have listened in on our conversations to get that information, too, in a general sense -- but why would someone go to dinner with their friends just to listen in on everyone else on the odd chance that they might read a palm or two?). I will say I'm intrigued. I've had my tarot cards read before, and had a psychic reading once that was eerily accurate on things far in the future. Maybe I'll stop in if I can find someone else willing to spend money on what could very well be hooey.

We went home after sharing a plate of fried plantains and crema (okay, I had most of them and Bryce had two), and watched a stupid movie from the 80s (High Spirits) and then fell asleep hard.

A strange day, no?

My Papaw, a long, long time ago.