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the dirty thirty

3 Oct

Everyone keeps asking me if I’m worried about turning thirty this weekend…like I should be…or like there’s something I could do about it if I was worried.  Can I stop it from happening?  Hell no.  Would I want to?  Not really.  In a big way, I’m kind of embracing 30.  And here’s why:

 

Every year, life just seems to get better.  I’m not sure that it actually IS getting better (in fact, I don’t think it actually is)–I think as I get older, I just realize that the good stuff is the important, amazing stuff, and the shitty stuff is just fluff that distracts you from all of the amazing things.  So I’m working hard to pay less attention to the crap, and when I notice I’m focused too much on negativity, I cut the negativity out of my life.  I feel good about 30.  I feel like I’m finally starting to become who I should be and learning more about what life is about.

 

When I used to think about where I’d be at 30, I never really imagined my life would look like this.

 

I pictured a house, a loving husband, a bunch of awesome friends, and a teaching career, yes.  But I also thought by this point I’d have stability in my job, a house full of kids and the same close-knit family structure I’d grown up with.  I’m working towards more stability at work (and I think I’m pretty much there, for the first time since I started teaching, although I’m scared to trust that because I’ve felt this way before and had the rug pulled out from under me).  There are obviously no kids…and I’m not entirely sure that’s ever going to happen, although I’m hopeful that we’ll know for sure soon, one way or another, if kids are ever going to happen for us.  And the close-knit family that I loved so much growing up feels like it’s slipping away.  My brothers and sisters will always be close–I’m not sure there’s much that could tear us apart.  But it’s strange to think about which of my parents will be around for which event in life, which family members are going to know our someday-children and which will be a peripheral (at best) part of their lives, when (or if) I won’t think about any of the drama anymore, or how long it will take before we all feel comfortable hanging out together, despite the hurtful past.

 

Even though parts of life are not working out exactly as I’d planned back when I was a naive little 20 year old who thought I could just wish my future into place (namely the kid stuff–I never imagined I’d turn 30 and NOT be a momma), there are a lot of things  going on in my life that I never would’ve imagined for myself, but that I am infinitely grateful for.

 

–Having a dog, who is the greatest puppers in the world.  Who protects me, snuggles me, comforts me when I’m sad, plays and runs with me.  He is like my little, mute child (and sometimes mute is the best).  As a kid, I had a bed full of stuffed dogs and cats, never imagining I’d find an animal that I could actually have without dying (minus fish and hamsters).  I am so thankful we met Eric and Julie (and Murphy), and then MY Eric pushed to see if the first time hanging out with Murphy had been a fluke.  And super thankful that the family who was supposed to get him bailed last minute, so we ended up with our little man.  Picasso is the best dog. Ever. Period.

 

–Having met so many incredible people through all of the twists and turns my career has taken.  Because even if things aren’t as stable as I’d like, even if I am STILL working towards tenure and trying to establish myself in yet another school, I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from some amazing teachers.  And I’ve met some incredible kids who I hope I’ve helped, even just a little.  And I have the most amazing kids this year, particularly my second graders, who I could stay with all day and be perfectly happy.

 

–Having a job in an elementary building.  When I taught swim lessons a lifetime ago, the parents of my 5-7 year olds were thrilled when I told them I was going to school to be a teacher, then dismayed when I told them I could never teach little kids for an entire day.  I was very content as a middle school teacher.  I never pictured myself an elementary teacher, but I love it.  I catch myself talking in little kid speak: “friends” and “make good choices” and “fix it” and “kiss your brain” all the time.  I look forward to going to my 2nd graders each morning, and I love seeing my kiddos leaving at the end of the day, giving me hugs and high fives and handing me pictures to hang on my walls.

 

–Having become a runner and staring down the barrel of ANOTHER 50k.  There was a time when I swore I could never run “just to run” (soccer player mindset meant I ran to go get the ball and kick it).  Then I ran some 5ks.  There was a time when I scoffed that people don’t really run more than 5 miles at a time because what in the world would be the point of that?  Then I ran a few halves.  There was a time when I didn’t believe I was a runner because I was not fast enough, didn’t run far enough.  So I ran a couple of marathons.  And in the process, I learned that being a runner has nothing to do with how fast or far you go and much more to do with how much you love the feeling of freedom, the sucking of air, the wind through your hair, the slap of your feet, the moment when you forget how hard you’re working and are just in the moment, the friendships forged over hundreds of miles and the post-run hang outs.  Running is now a major part of my identity, and I no longer hesitate to tell people that I’m a runner (or try to convert them, too).  30 miles before my 30th birthday? Check.  Another 50k just after my 30th?  Why not?  Contemplating 50 miles someday????  Hmm…

 

–Having become more comfortable in my own skin.  There have been many days, particularly in the past year, where I’ve felt good–really good– about how I looked.  This is a major breakthrough for someone who spent most of her teens and twenties working so hard to cover up all of the perceived imperfections.  I’m not saying I don’t still try to hide the less-than-perfect things or there aren’t things I don’t still see and wish I could change…It’s just more that I can see all the good things so much clearer…and I’m even making peace with my legs, slowly but surely.

 

So am I worried or scared to turn 30?  Not at all.  I’m excited to see what 30 will bring–new adventures and even more self-discovery.  Life is such an amazing journey, and this weekend, as I turn dirty thirty, I am just so thankful to be on it with amazing company.

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Liebster Award time!

1 Oct

With all of the fun and excitement of this past weekend, I haven’t had time to address the Liebster Award that I was given by our friends at No Meat Barefeet.

liebster

You answer the 10 questions they pose to you, then nominate any blogs you really love and give them 10 more questions to answer. So without further ado, here are my answers to their questions for me!

  1. Favorite junk food?

I love potato products–french fries and chips are the best. I especially love the Sour Cream and Onion chips from Wegmans. In addition, I have a big time sweet tooth. After I eat most meals, I look for something sweet to end with.

2. Favorite season?

Fall. The colors, the smells, being able to wear boots and scarves again, but not being completely frozen like in the winter…also the temps in the fall make running so much more enjoyable!

3. Place you have always wanted to visit?

I have always wanted to go to Hungary to see where my grandparents lived. I also want to get to Barcelona to see all the Gaudi stuff, and pretty much every country south of us would be a great place to visit. Africa would also be cool–I’d love to see real, FREE elephants!

fall + running + elephants!!!  cool stuff going on during our run tonight.

fall + running + elephants!!! cool stuff going on during our run tonight.

4. If you had to listen to only one album what would it be?

I couldn’t pick..I love music so much. I guess maybe I’d pick some reggae or something because I find it’s always a good pick-me-up and it’s great cleaning music.

5. Any pets?

Picasso is my baby. He is my first dog, and I can’t imagine ever not having a dog again…

a good snuggler...and he loves to read with me haha

a good snuggler…and he loves to read with me haha

6. Best local place to eat?

Windjammers has amazing wings and dollar beers. Abbotts custard is a close second.

7. Favorite beer (or whatever)?

Mikes Black Cherry Lemonade; Genny Maibock (they had it one time when we went to the brew house and wow was it strong but amazing); cherry rum and coke; sweet wines

8. One thing you wish was vegan (or vegetarian)?

Everything that you can make with nut substitutes. Every time I see a recipe that looks good that is also vegan, it almost always involves some sort of nut product (ie almond milk, coconut, etc–p.s. i’ve heard coconut is not a tree nut and so I should in theory be ok to eat it, but I’m not sure because as a kid I remember eating stuff with coconut and feeling itchy…so I just steer clear). I would experiment more, but the fake meat/animal product stuff is always expensive, and I wouldn’t want to waste it by using it in a recipe and ruining the whole thing.

9. Vegetable that you can’t live without?

Spinach, lettuce, corn, squash. And of course potatoes. 🙂

10. What is your go-to, fail-safe meal?

Pizza is never bad. Wraps are also easy and quick, and I like that people can throw in whatever they want.

 

The two blogs I read regularly (other than Eric’s, but that one already got nominated) are Jen at From Robot With Love and Bethany at Blissful Imperfections. Some of our other friends post blogs ocassionally, but I haven’t seen any in a while, so I’m not sure they are blogging much these days. So if you are reading this and blog and want to answer, go for it!

1. Favorite place you’ve ever visited?

2. Favorite sport?

3. Least favorite food?

4. Pick a favorite picture from the last year…upload it and tell why you love it so much!

5. What is your favorite place to be in your house?

6. What is one of your pet peeves?

7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

8. What is one thing you would never want to change about yourself?

9. Any guilty pleasures?

10. What is your favorite childhood memory?

A truly great weekend!

28 Sep

This weekend has been nothing short of amazing.  It makes it so hard to go back to work when you have a weekend like this.  Why so great?

 

Well first, I ran another 20 miler this weekend.  I owe so much to Eric and Liz when it comes to my distance running. I probably wouldn’t have signed up for that first 50k without them.  I wouldn’t have wanted to get in the long runs for either race.  And I would most definitely not have started running in the pitch black alone on Saturday morning.  But having them there to face the wolves and bears (we saw eyes…had to be wolves and bears), chat, take in a breathtaking sunrise and share the miles is just awesome.  It was a good run until the very end, when I started to have some tummy trouble.  I think it was due to the nuun that I put in my water on our second loop…so I guess I’m going to stick with just water from here on out.

amazing sunrise...it looked like we were somewhere tropical!

amazing sunrise…it looked like we were somewhere tropical!

running into a beautiful day!

running into a beautiful day!

"we're going to have run 2 50ks this year.  that's pretty awesome."

“we’re going to have run 2 50ks this year. that’s pretty awesome.”

We left Durand and immediately went to Genesee Valley Park for the McQuaid Invitational to watch my cousin, brother and sister race!  Unfortunately, we missed Cameron’s race, but we were there to see Josh and Leanne kill it AND spend some QT with my aunt/uncle/cousins and my dad/brother/sisters.  It was a gorgeous day to be outside enjoying the weather and cheering on some seriously fast high schoolers.

Go Josh!

Go Josh!

Leanne crushing by some girls!

Leanne crushing by some girls!

My dad and siblings came back to our house, and Amber and Greg joined us for some pie irons (pi’irons) for dinner and a campfire.  It was a good relaxing night.  I was tired and fell asleep a few times by the fire before I finally called it a night.

weekend7

We got up this morning, had bacon, eggs, fruit smoothies and fresh cantalope from our neighbor’s garden.  Then we hit up Durand again for a 4 mile hike.  Eric and I both love the park for it’s incredible natural beauty, but sometimes it’s easy to miss it when you’re running and just focused on not tripping on roots or falling into lakes.  It was really nice to hike it today and see just how much the leaves are starting to change, and we finished up with a trip to the beach where we all walked in the water for a bit and played fetch with Picasso, who was thrilled at the chance to swim.  We came back home, ordered pizzas and watched the first half of the Bills game before they had to leave.  I am exhausted tonight–I’ve napped through most of the football game and I’m looking forward to bed time tonight.  🙂

breakfast!

breakfast!

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looking for fish...and fishing lures haha

looking for fish…and fishing lures haha

white lady's castle...al wanted to stay with dad the rest of the hike to "protect him" from the ghost ha

white lady’s castle…al wanted to stay with dad the rest of the hike to “protect him” from the ghost ha

starting to see some color

starting to see some color

playing in lake ontario!

playing in lake ontario!

 

It was nice to see most of the family (missed the ones who weren’t here) this weekend and spend some time together outside enjoying the beautiful weather.

family

 

 

 

love and marriage

8 Sep

Mid-July, I went to the library to return a stack of  books and get some new ones out.  Normally, I read like crazy over the summer, but somehow this year has been a little less reading-intensive.  My 52 books in the year challenge is a little behind schedule (26/34 isn’t terrible, and I’ve got a couple of books here started that I just need to finish up).  It was a pretty lofty goal anyway.

 

I used to go to the library with a list of books I would like to read/authors to look up.  Lately, I’ve just been going in, wandering the stacks til I find a title that I like, then reading the jacket and deciding to keep it or put it back.  Completely random, but I’ve found some decent books that way.  So maybe it was fate (if you believe in that kind of thing) that one of the books I picked up could  fall into my lap at such a perfect time.

 

the most perfect section of the novel for right now

the most perfect section of the novel for right now

 

A month or so ago now, my parents told us that they are officially, legally separated.  And even though I knew they had been having problems for a long time, even though I had counseled them on many occasions to get a divorce and move on and be happy, I would be lying if I said this news was anything but devastating.

 

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why it bothers me so much, given what I knew of their strained-for-the-past-few-years-relationship.  I grew up with a pretty abnormal childhood–I had 9 brothers and sisters and parents who were, I thought, madly in love with each other.  There was never much money, but we were so happy.  We were a tight-knit family, and so I grew up with this image of what I wanted someday–a husband who adored me, a mess of kids who were adorable and bright and got along well (I think very highly of us kids haha), a cozy home, and blissful happiness.   And I am so incredibly sad that my youngest siblings won’t have what the older kids had–this model of a good relationship.  On the flip side, I wonder if the older kids saw a good relationship or they saw a fractured one that had been gilded over.  I feel like a rug’s been ripped out from underneath me, like everything I thought before about love and marriage  is potentially wrong.

 

So my aunts and I have been talking a lot.  One of their things is to always look for the positive.  The lesson you can learn about life.  How to apply the situation to make things better in the future.  It’s a good way to look at negative stuff, because it really does make you feel even just the teeniest bit more hopeful about things.

 

So anyway, the book I took that quote from chronicled a couple’s entire relationship–how they met, got together, got engaged, when they had kids, and then their ugly divorce.  Throughout, there were problems.  The problems got more heated at the end, but there were issues throughout the relationship–things one or the other did or didn’t do that caused issues.  The relationship lacked communication–they fought, but never really communicated about the fight.  They fought unfairly, saying horrible things to each other out of anger rather than walking away and biting tongues to be less hurtful.  Neither individual person ever looked at what he/she could do differently, just blamed it on the other person.  There was not much self-reflection going on.

 

The other day, when I was looking up stuff on how to help kids deal with divorce (because my little siblings are who I worry about most in all of this), I found this quote:

marriage

 

I guess if I had to find the take away in all this disastrous separation business, I’d say that it has made me think more about the quote above.  About how the grass is always greener where you water it; that marriage is a choice and a commitment, and it’s one that comes with a lot of work and responsibility.  Does it sometimes go with the flow, all easy and Disney-princess-fairy-tale-esque?  Sure.  But there are also times where it is work, and damn hard work at that.  But it’s work that is worth it if both people are willing to commit to doing it and to be constantly working to become better, stronger, more unified.  I guess when people decide to split up, it’s because they’ve decided they just don’t want to work on the relationship anymore.  And that’s really sad to me.  It makes me wonder why not.  Why was someone good enough and someone you wanted to work for at one time, that you stood up and said so in front of family and friends and even God for some people, but then you just quit feeling like putting in the work?  You just wanted to give up responsibility for keeping the relationship alive and healthy?  Where does that breaking point come in?  When do two people look at each other and say, “Used to love you passionately, but now I hate you and want you out of my life?”  Why does it take some people a year or two and others 33 years ?  And I guess it’s like the book quote says, that “it is all the rot beneath that makes for the collapse.”  So the key is to make sure there is no rot that forms, that if you notice rot, you clean it out immediately to make sure the foundation is strong enough to withstand anything life can throw at you.

 

Some people would hear “marriage” and think of love, romance, flowers, hearts.  But the reality is that marriage, while it is those things, is also work and responsibility; a job, and arguably the most important job you have.  The book ended relatively happily–with the couple able to talk to each other without anger (although there was still a little bitterness for sure) and their daughter was no longer saying she hated them both.  They worked things out so that they both saw their kid equally and that they were able to be there for their kid together.  And I guess at this point, I just hope that my family can get to that point, sooner rather than later.

perspective and “fast”

31 Aug

Today I realized something really cool about a lot of my running friends:  They’re pretty fast.

 

Now, this realization has hit me before–particularly when I’m trailing behind the group on some hilly run, desperately trying to ignore my wheezing lungs while staying in eyesight of them…but today it just struck me as really cool to be friends with people who are so talented and who are constantly inspiring me and pushing me to run faster and farther.

 

When we first started running, we were road runners.  I was pretty slow initially.  I got quicker, but even my quickest times are still comparatively slow when I look at the overall winners of most races here in Rochester.  Of course, that’s all a matter of perspective.  When I look at race times for some other cities, I realize that I’d be a top female finisher at some 5ks.  When I think about where I was when I first started and the awe I felt talking to people who were, at that time for me “fast,” I realize that it’s all just a matter of perspective.  Beginner-runner-Shme would’ve been really impressed with present-day-Shme, but present-day-Shme still wants to know what future-Shme has in her.

 

When we were road runners, we didn’t hang out with many other runners.  I NEVER talked to fast people. Most likely this was because many of the FAST road runners I knew were kind of elitist dickheads.  I will never forget the first time I ran 8 miles. I triumphantly stormed into the running store that will remain nameless.  It had taken me forever…probably an hour and a half at least.  But I had done it when my farthest run before that had been 4 or 5 miles.  Some of the workers were there at the front of the store–FAST runners–and I excitedly told them I’d just finished my first-ever 8 miles and held up my hands to get high fives.  I. Was. Pumped.  And I got half-hearted high fives and blank stares.  I was not WORTHY of talking to such elite-caliber athletes, especially about something as trivial as a slow-for-them 8 mile run.  This scenario happened multiple times, to the point that I no longer felt welcome in the store–I was not “fast enough” or “good enough”  to be a part of this group (and not slow enough to be a part of other groups).  I did not belong.  Road running was very solitary for me–even on group runs, we rarely talked.  Everyone would plug in their iPods and cruise along together just waiting to be done rather than enjoying the run and getting to know each other.

best3

When we transitioned slowly into trail running, one of the first things I noticed was how chill everyone was.  How even the fast people hang out and cheer on the slowpokes.  How the experienced runners were quick to offer advice, to compliment on a run, to encourage you.

 

One of my first trail runs was with Sean S. and Eric.  I had never even met Sean, but Eric knew him and they had decided to do what is now the River Chase course.  I, on the other hand, had planned to go about 5 miles.  Around mile 4, the guys convinced me to just finish up with them (I had NO idea how long this run would actually end up being).  Around 8, I wanted to die–we were on trails for the second half and I’d only been on trails a handful of times before that.  My long runs were around  6 miles at that time.  When we finished our 10ish mile loop, I collapsed into our car.  Later, I’d learn that Sean is fast.  Really fast.  But he’d stayed with us the whole time, just content to be out and running and chatting.  I’ve run with Sean (and other fast trail runners) since then, and I’m always amazed by how willing trail people are to just hang out, relax, run someone else’s pace and enjoy the company and the trails together.  At our 50k, so many people would just adjust their pace to hang out, pass some miles with company, and then take off again.

 

When we volunteered for the Cayuga Trails 50, we spent several nights having roaring campfires and talking to elites from all over the world.  ELITE elites, not just the dudes working in the local running stores and winning the local races (no offense to them…but they’d get smoked by these dudes, which might do them some good to get knocked down a few pegs and realize that they’re really just small fish in a big pond. And they really should high five a girl who is excited about a really-slow 8 miler).  We’re talking the guys who have sponsorships and are world-class athletes.  You never would’ve known.  We talked all evening, hung out, waved hello to them on some of our runs/hikes.  They remembered our names, our dog’s name, details about races we’d said we ran…  At the end of the race, these guys set up shop and hung out til it was all over–drinking beers and cheering on other runners.  The whole weekend, Eric just kept looking at me and saying “what other sport can you interact with the best of the best like this? It’s incredible.”  And it really was.  Trail runners are just so normal…even when they’re not normal in terms of their athletic capabilities.

 

I have so many more examples of THIS type of behavior from trail runners.  Maybe that’s why I’ll never go back to roads (except maybe for some fast 5ks someday).  Maybe that is why I love my trail runner people.  Maybe…no definitely…that is why I’ve stuck with running for so long.  Because these people make you feel like you CAN do it–you CAN get better.  And even if you don’t get better, if you NEVER get fast, you’re still good enough to hang out with, to sometimes run with, and definitely to encourage and cheer on.  Running is my primary social outlet.  When you’ve run hundreds of miles with people, you discuss everything–family, hopes, dreams, work, bodily functions, highs, lows.  You see people at their best (finishing races–Susan S. and Amy L. take the cake for best race finishes that almost made me cry) and at their worst (me any time I’m rangry–running angry–because I have not eaten enough/am tired/am running any amount of hills) and everything in between.   My runner people know me better than most people.  Kristin Armstrong writes about “sweat sisters,” and I’ve always loved that phrase.  My runner people are my sweat brothers and sisters, my “tramily.”

best2

This morning, I ran with Jen P–the 10k loop (because 16 and change miles in Mendon wasn’t enough for me).  She pulled me along, we chatted a bunch, and she got me to run the loop the fastest I’ve ever run it!  Afterwards, I got to watch 2 of our friends finish a humid 12k race.  Prem and Amber both won age group awards.  They both finished the race with big smiles.  They both talk to me, they both are constantly encouraging me and other people, they are both so down-to-earth. I am not fast.  But I can count these incredibly fast runners as my friends.  And that’s really cool.

 

I’m so thankful to have such an amazing group of runners in my life to constantly inspire me and challenge me to reach for new goals.  If you’d have told me at the finish line of that first 5k that I’d be staring down the barrel of a second 50k, I’d have laughed.  If you’d have told me 2 years ago that I’d register for the Mendon 50k, I’d have snort laughed.  Yet here I am.  Stronger than I’ve ever been, and it’s all thanks to some incredible runners who are there to push me to be the best me possible.  ❤

best

juxtaposition

23 Apr

I am working with a new student.  Well several new students (that’s a whole different story), but in jail, my remaining student (one got translated somewhere else) is finally out of lock-in (basically solitary confinement), which means that I can actually work with him, in the same room.  Hooray.  He’s been a doll, following my directions, doing what I ask, trying really hard. 

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Today we were talking about how I know Spanish.  Apparently, even though he was in lock-in, he was able to confer with my former student, who was recently transferred.  They discussed the fact that I am white, yet know Spanish, which fascinates most of the students I’ve worked with over the years. 

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So I was telling him how I lived in Spain, explaining what that was like.  And then it hit me.  I was only a year older than him when I went to Spain.  He’s locked in jail while I was out traveling the world.  The difference in our lives really hit home to me.  How do things get so bad in a kid’s life that they end up in jail? 

..

 At his age, I had a head full of dreams.  The world was my oyster–I could do whatever I wanted.  He is in jail.  He will never live that down, even when he gets out.  He’s barely traveled within Rochester.  He moved here from Puerto Rico and hasn’t even been to the beach.  I actually don’t know if he even knew there WAS a beach in Rochester.  Life’s so unfair.

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This week is National Infertility Awareness Week.  And I am sad.  Because I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would be a great mom.  That Eric would be a fantastic dad.  That our kids would have such a great life.  They would know the beach, the zoo, the parks, the museums, cities in the US, hopefully cities in other countries.  They would know people from other cultures.  They would know our family histories, who they are, where they come from, who their ancestors are.  They would be great readers because we would read together.   And there are just so many children out there who don’t have that.  And it’s so incredibly judge-y of me to think that other people are not fit to be parents or that I would be a better parent.  But that’s just how it is.  And it’s unfair and it sucks and it makes me sad because this kid who I work with every day, this man-boy, has made bad choices that have landed him in jail.  But I can’t help but think that his bad choices are the results of bad choices made by his own parents.  And that’s really sad and unfair.

the truth

28 Mar

I have hesitated to write about the topic I’m about to divulge in this blog.  My previous blog became mostly a diary in my battle with the following health issue, and I had thought I was going to set all of that aside now.  But the truth is, I can’t set aside something that is a part of me and has shaped who I am and how I see the world.  This might get lengthy, but I’m about to disclose.  Hold your hats!

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Today at work, the question finally came up.  I’ve been waiting–it’s been a question since I started teaching.  “Do you have kids? Why not?”  The question takes different forms and comes from different people–my students, who are astonished by the fact that I am over 18 and have never had a child.  From fellow teachers who have children and are looking for playmates, parenting ideas or a shoulder to lean on when parenting gets tough.  From fellow teachers who don’t want children right now, so they confide how they don’t want kids and are so thrilled that I don’t want them either (a huge–and incorrect–assumption).  From well-meaning coworkers who find out that we are childless and gush that we need to fix that, that I’m not getting any younger, that I will be such a good mom, what am I waiting for?

the good...the bad...the ugly...

 

It was after-school today.  One of the teachers at one of the schools I work at asked me how long I’ve been married.  We started talking about Eric, who he is, what he does, how we met, etc.  The natural progression of questions, I suppose, is “Do you have children?”  Now, that question is fine.  But the follow-ups are always crappy.  Today’s was “Is that in the cards any time soon?” 

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Normally, I’d hedge the question with someone who I scarcely know.  And I started to.  I just said, “Well yeah, hopefully someday.”  She immediately launched into how she was such a “Fertile Myrtle” and explained how she got pregnant with each of her 4 children, 2 of them being completely unplanned.  And I took it all in, calmly…

.

And then I spilled.  2 years ago, I’d have kept my mouth shut and then fallen apart from this conversation.  I’d have sobbed my entire way home, drank some wine, cried myself to sleep while Eric rubbed my back and told me it would be ok.  I am stronger now.  Maybe I am supposed to be a voice for those who are still in the sobbing stage.

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I have a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS.  It’s a hormone imbalance and no one really knows what causes it.  My body makes eggs, but doesn’t always release them, and when it doesn’t, those follicles turn into mini-cysts, which form a ring around the ovaries (it looks like a pearl necklace–the x ray techs always tell me that it’s a textbook case and ooh and ahh over my perfect cystic ovaries).  The hormone problems cause all kinds of unpleasant side effects–cystic acne, weight gain, excess hair, depression.  And infertility.

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I didn’t use the I-word for a long time.  It was scary to me–I let it define me, a failure I had nothing to do with made me feel like everything in my life was a failure.  I’m getting over it.  But I am infertile.  That doesn’t mean that someday a medication may help us to achieve a pregnancy.  But we are not getting pregnant on our own.  We are not going to unintentionally get pregnant.  Or at least the chances of that happening are very, VERY slim.

maybe a small chance...but not holding my breath

Eric and I spent 2 years trying to conceive a baby.  I stopped taking the pill and didn’t get a period for a year.  Literally an entire year without a period.  I charted my temperatures and cervical mucous to try to time things to get pregnant (TMI? oh well.  In the realm of infertility, there is really no topic that’s off limits and you become relatively shameless…or at least I have.  All the poking, prodding and invasive tests–and I’ve only scratched the surface of the tests–have made me better and better at just letting go of my embarrassment).   Nothing happened, nothing worked, I knew I wasn’t ovulating based on the charts, but I refused to actually believe there was anything wrong.  I went to the doctor for my yearly, we discussed options.  I had read horror stories about the side effects of Clomid (a fertility drug used to treat PCOS).  I am not a big medicine person.  I don’t like covering up symptoms–I like getting to the root of them and fixing it at the source. 

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 So my doctor and I agreed to start me on Metformin.  Yes a diabetes drug.  PCOS is linked to insulin resistance.  I had been asking my PCP and OB/GYN for years why I ate a [relatively] healthy diet and exercised a ton, yet I gained weight.  They had always dismissed my concerns. I wish now that I had pushed the issue more because it turns out that I do have insulin resistance.  In any event, I started the Met, which made me horribly sick for a couple of weeks, but then I adjusted to the meds.  In two weeks, I lost 10 pounds, changing nothing about my daily routine.  I’ve lost about 25 pounds all together.  I continue to slowly lose weight.  I try to find good in “stuff” and I guess this is a perk to discovering the PCOS and infertility.

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In any event, after about 4 months on the Met, my cycle seemed to be normalizing.  I was thrilled.  And then just like that it became unpredictable again.  I waited it out–I really didn’t want to go on the fertility drugs.  But I knew that it wasn’t working–that we were not going to have babies this way.

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That second year of trying was probably my least mentally stable year ever.  I hated everything about myself–the way I looked, the way I felt, the fact that I couldn’t give Eric a baby, the fact that I couldn’t give myself a baby.  I was miserable and depressed and confused.  I was caught in a cycle–wait and hope that I was going to be pregnant, then test when I hadn’t had my period (side effect of PCOS), then test again and again and again (every week for weeks on end) until I got my period again, sometimes months later.  I read a great statement once about how infertility is worse than other tragedies because it’s a repeated tragedy–over and over and over–so you never really “get over it” because every few weeks there’s a “new” tragedy.  Every failed test was like a knife to the gut.  I’ve never failed anything.  I work hard to get what I want.  But this was something that, no matter how hard I worked at it, I couldn’t change the results of. 

this is what it feels like...

To top it all off, we are at the age where so many of our friends are having their own children.  Every pregnancy announcement, baby shower, baby announcement, hospital visit, child’s birthday party was like another knife to the gut.  It’s not that I wasn’t happy for my friends and family–I was thrilled for them.  But their joy was a reminder to me of what we didn’t and seemingly would never have.

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I finished the year out on Met only.  I went back to the doctor.  I told her how hard it had been, mentally and emotionally, to deal with my body’s failure.  I decided to go back on the pill to give myself some time to process what my body (and more importantly my mind) were going through.  I guess it may have been under the guise of  wanting to wait until I had a new (read: better) job [mission accomplished].  Later it became that I wanted to train for another marathon [mission soon-to-be-accomplished].  That I loved the fact that Eric and I could decide on a whim to go out, to go for a run, to go for a road trip [mission never-going-to-be-accomplished–we can do this with kids, too, just a little differently].  But the truth is that a major part of why I wanted to stop trying was because I couldn’t face the failing and the feeling of letting down Eric (and to a lesser extent my family and friends who knew we were trying and were rooting for us).

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I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to try again.  Soon I’d imagine.  Like I said, I’m in a much better place mentally than I’ve been in a long time.  I can see children and not get hopelessly depressed.  I know that I can’t be good at everything or do everything and that everyone needs help sometimes.  But it doesn’t make infertility any easier to deal with.  It doesn’t take away the pain of wanting a baby or the uncertainty of if/when we will have a baby. 

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I guess I kind of thought that when I started on the pill and started this new blog (where I was NOT going to write about infertility), that I was going to forget about how much I wanted a kid.  But just because I’m on the pill doesn’t mean I don’t want a child.  It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love getting pregnant.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t still sometimes stand in the mirror and puff my stomach out, just to see what it looks like to be preggo or look at baby clothes and nurseries online and daydream about what it would be like to need those things or see someone with a newborn baby and get a little teary-eyed and wistful.  I guess I thought I could compartmentalize and pretend that babies don’t matter to me right now and that everything is fine.  And it’s fine–but it’s not ok.  And I’m finally in a good place where I those 2 things can coexist–where I can be fine, but not ok.

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I know we will have kids someday.  One way or another.  And in the meantime, we are blessed to work with kids, many of whom need us so much because they don’t have anyone else.  I try to see the good in “stuff” (and my aunts and I came to this conclusion as well during one of my darker moments).  Maybe right now, we don’t have a baby of our own because God wants us to be able to focus 100% on other things and people to better prepare us to be even greater parents to our own children someday.

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Eric gave me a card a while back.  I keep it on the fridge, because it’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.  He wrote that we’ll have a baby someday.  That everyone takes different journeys to get places, and ours is just giving us a better story to tell.  I can’t wait to have babies someday and be able to tell them how much we wanted them, prayed for them, waited for them to arrive and bless our lives in all new ways.  And in the meantime, when people ask me why we don’t have kids, I’m going to tell them the truth, because an insensitive question deserves an discomforting answer.