Birthday Photoshoot

I used to go out of my way to take ridiculous/fantastic photos around my birthday every year. As the one with the camera, I’m usually not in the photos I take. I’ve been a lot better about it in recent years and it’s helped me have a much better sense of self and body image to be able to look back and see myself two, five, ten years ago.

But my birthday is an especially good reminder to take a photo as well as a perfect excuse to do something a little more than just prop up a coffee table next to a window. I’m not good at being selfish, so having an excuse to say “be my assistant and hold these things” is ideal.

Last year I didn’t really do anything special because, well, it was a lot like this year. Hard enough to get through each day, let alone try to do something that require effort. But this year I recognized that I regretted not doing it, so even though it was 100x harder to push myself to do it, and every little setback felt like the largest of hills, I kept reminding myself that I would regret this, that this was for future me, not present me, and it would be worth it.

So I convinced Dr Lady to trump out to the canyon with me and we just barely climbed the mile uphill before the sunset finished setting. I set up a single light with an umbrella – because I only have one stand right now – figured out the right shutter speed on my camera, changed to a fisheye lens, then handed it to Dr Lady and told her to go to town. Way easier than trying to balance a tripod and get the focus right and time everything. Assistants FTW.

My favorites are below the cut. I think I’m going to use one for my new author photo. They feel a lot more appropriate for a fantasy writer.

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Update from the Great North

These last few days have been really hard, depression wise. Of course nothing at all is going on to justify it, my brain just decided now – visiting family in MN and trying to celebrate my birthday was the optimal time to turn on the waterworks.

My poor Dr Lady tried to give me a good birthday,  and it was good, mostly. We went to the MN State Fair, saw goats and horses and cows and pigs and goats and sheep and goats, ate inappropriate, fried things,  and watched sheep herding. Then we came home and ate gf brownies in the basement stairwell and read about france.

But I couldn’t read any of the messages wishing me a happy birthday from my friends or on Facebook and this is the first year I didn’t talk to my family and honestly, I’m really glad our hostess was frazzled with lack of sleep and a fever, because I just couldn’t handle anything.

I’m better today, but it’s still fragile. I think some of this is from trying to accept our childfree immediate future and thinking about what that means. I’ve always struggled with what else I would do aside from writing with my time, because I just can’t write full time. But for the last two years, it got easier, because obviously I would be the at home parent, and that would be my second job. But losing that, accepting that that won’t be the case, has meant returning to that question. And I… I just don’t know.

In 17 days, we’ll at least know what’s going on with France. I sincerely hope that knowing where/when we’ll be moving will make things easier, clearer. I’m so, so tired of living in this murk of not knowing. 

I hope it’s not too late to ask, but all I want for my birthday is peace.

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This Week’s Hike: Arizona Trail, Molino Basin Part 2

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The Molino Basin Campground is closed during the summer, which I should have taken as a sign. This must be an amazing trail in the winter. In the summer… it was hot and sticky and gross for the first mile. There are a few scattered trees offering a (very) brief respite, but otherwise the trail is completely exposed.

On my first hike, I went south on the Arizona Trail, starting at the campground. I thought it was just called Molino Basin Trail, but have since learned that, yes, it was a part of MBT, but the trail is actually the Arizona Trail, which starts in Mexico and ends in Utah – 800 miles long. It’s kind of insane.

This week I hiked to the next trailhead before turning around because next week, I want to start where I left off. I’m interested in seeing how much of the trail I can do – piecemeal, of course. As long as I bring enough water and slather on enough sunscreen, I’ll be fine. :)

 

Hike Stats
Water consumed: just shy of 3 litres
Hours hiked: 2.75
Wildlife Spotted: bees, butterflies (black, orange, and yellow), smoky grouse, & white-tailed deer
Elevation at Start: 4370 ft
Smells: Arid, occasionally putrid when the trail dipped into the basin, very briefly pine
Sounds: The wind through long grass, the drone of cars on the road, which I never really left far behind on this hike, screams of birds, and the rattle of a certain kind of bug that had me looking for snakes more than once.

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28 Things I Learned While 28

Summer Morning Hike
A year ago. Damn, my hair was short.

Last year I shared 27 things I had learned while 27, which was both interesting and helpful for me. This year, I’ll be away and out of touch for my birthday, so to preempt that, I’m going to do my learned list a little early.

So 28. Wow. That was… that was a year. It’s strange because so many wonderful things happened, but this heaviness in my heart that I was carrying throughout put a damper on things. Emotionally, it was one of the worst years. Professionally, it was the best. I can’t reconcile those two.

I started the year by taking a break from TTC which, looking back, was really good timing. I went on to have two incredibly long cycles and two insanely short ones, which was enough to push me towards finding an RE.

We lost Crosby, our favorite chicken. Then another unexpectedly died over the winter, so we were down to nine when we offed/donated the rest in June. Losing Crosby made that easier, in a way, because she was our plucky, cross-beaked favorite. After that, the chickens were just… chickens.

I tried the Wahl’s Protocol and loved it, but then backed off when my cycles remained wonky. I started learning French in preparation for visiting Switzerland in the summer. I finished the first draft and edits on my novel. Our marriage became legal in AZ, then the entire country only a few long short months later. I got to see my grandmother just two weeks before she died. It snowed on New Year’s Eve.

And then the next few months… Life kept stuttering and stopping. I finally sought out a therapist. I finally went to an RE. I went back to Crossfit. I relaxed my diet. I discovered I had PCOS. I got angry. So, so angry. And finally I wasn’t depressed.

Dr Lady won her defense and graduated. I got metformin and an HSG. We went to Switzerland and fell in love with Geneva. Within a week of coming back, I was depressed again. I quit my job. Dr Lady got news about a potential position in France. I got an agent. I laughed. I cried. I cried so much. I lived.

And I learned a lot. Which should be expected. If there is ever a year that I look back and don’t think “wow, I sure learned,” then I need to start school all over again.

This is what I learned:

1) It’s best to avoid cat traps. You know – when they roll on their back and present their belly and look all cute? Yeah, that can only end in blood and scratches.

2) French isn’t really that bad. Actually, it’s a pretty easy language, once you can figure out how everything is pronounced.

3) I need Crossfit, or at least a group activity where weights are thrown around. It is a balm to my soul.

4) Metformin tastes awful and lingers in your throat the entire day for the first few weeks of taking it. You’ll lose weight, like they say, but it’s because you’re nauseated all the time.

5) I can trust myself. If something is wrong and doesn’t go away for years and years and years, then it’s okay not to trust doctors. They only see you for that moment – not all the years that came before. Also they all have weirdass hang-ups, like assuming every PCOS presents as overweight. Yeah no.

6) Some allergies do go away if you avoid the allergen for long enough. Yay for being able to eat eggs again!!

7) There is nothing a long hike cannot solve.

8) I can write, rewrite, edit, beta, and query a book in a single year. With a full-time job.

9) I cannot write more than a few hours each day without burning myself out, though.

10) The world did not end when my brother got pregnant.

11) It is always and absolutely worth the effort to learn some of the language before visiting another country.

12) I need to stop waiting until my arm is broken to go see a doctor.

13) If the henna says “don’t leave on overnight,” don’t leave it on overnight.

14) Completely unrelated, I look pretty decent with black hair.

15) If I get the gut feeling that a blogpost is going to be triggering, I need to stop reading then and there, otherwise the rest of the day will be shot.

16) I apparently have triggers! Who knew.

17) Photography is my creative outlet and I need to take my camera with me more often.

18) People don’t like reading about characters who just react all the time, letting things happen to them. People prefer characters who happen to things. This is also true about life. Make choices. Be proactive. Use your agency.

19) Getting an agent sometimes just means writing another book, then another, and rewriting your query until it sings.

20) My life doesn’t look like my coworkers’, my friends’, my acquaintances, or even my family’s, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. Everybody is in a different place in their journey and the outer shell of their life does not accurately reflect how far they’ve come or how far they have to go. Stop comparing.

21) Sometimes, to make progress you have to quit.

22) You have to make time for the things that are important to you in your life, because the unimportant will just expand and take any extra time over.

23) Every single day can be a new beginning.

24) Achieving your dreams can’t change the fact that you have depression. And that’s okay! Just… don’t expect them to.

25) Don’t ask the universe for anything. The universe doesn’t give a fuck about you. But that’s okay! Do you really want something so vast and eternal caring about you? That’d be terrifying.

26) There is a sunset and a sunrise every single day – two beautiful things that cannot be taken away.

27) PCOS is a journey. Take care of yourself every day.

28) I still have a lot left to learn.

<3!

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Pain Without Growth

The pain is different with TTC. It lingers and it fades, but it comes back again and again and again. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

With writing, it’s different. You go into it expecting a long process. You go into it knowing that it is a daily, uphill battle – but also that each battle begets success, in a way. Not every novel will be a success, but you will learn with every novel. You will get closer, inch by inch, day by day. And when you look back over the months, years, decades, you can see that progress.

You still feel pain, flares of insufficiency, but that pain changes with the progress. It evolves with each new challenge and the challenges are just that – new. There is pain, but there is also growth.

And if you ever quit – you still have the words you wrote.

 

With Crossfit, it’s different. The first few workouts are awful, maybe far worse than you expected. You get anxious the night before each class. You are terrified when you see what’s on the board. When you can’t finish a workout or have to scale it, there’s guilt and shame.

But then it gets better. You get better. You learn to take each workout as it comes, to get through the tough ones rep by rep, heartbeat by heartbeat, and to celebrate your small successes.

Sometimes, you still cry when it’s awful and you can’t breathe and you’re only on round 3 of 10. Sometimes, you look at the other girls who started when you did and watch their weights go up faster, their muscles grow larger. They can do more than you. They can always do more than you.

Then you look back at all you’ve done and how you’ve grown and how much stronger you are and you realize there will always be pain, but in the pain, there is growth.

And if you ever quit, you can still carry your friends to safety.

 

Then there is infertility and TTC. Every four to five (to six to seven) weeks it feels like you’ve been slammed in the gut by a train. But the pain teaches you nothing. There are few lessons you can take from punch to punch, except empathy and patience and how to take care of yourself. The waters are too murky to improve – you’re just throwing darts blindfolded.

When you’re in that murk, you have nothing to show but bruises and scars. Which you hide, of course, beneath a foundation of smiles because maybe you should just relax or consider adoption or here, take my kid.

There’s no growth, no trajectory, just endlessly cycling in place, watching the world pass you by. Pain that you swallow, pain without growth.

And if you ever quit, all you have to show for it are scars.

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TTC Cycle B, CD 18: Space Wizards

This comic circulating the Tumblr’s is my only remaining explanation for the WTF that is our TTC experience.

What else could possibly explain missing the June cycle by ov’ing two days early (we were still out of town), then missing the July cycle by ov’ing two days late (our donor was out of town), and now (probably) missing the August cycle because what the hell, why even ovulate at all?

Honestly, the only reasonable explanation at this point is that there is an evil space wizard from the future trying to fuck everything up. Well fuck that guy.

Not that there’s much we can do about it. If we weren’t leaving in 2 months, I would think about going back to the RE. If I had a part-time job, I would think about going back to the RE. But between our tight schedule and finances, it’s not really an option.

So we sit and we wait and I try not to think about the fact that I have four days left in which to ov’ for this cycle and there’s just not any sign of it in sight. Then we’ll be gone for a long weekend (and my birthday).

In the meantime, I’m just gonna shake my fist at the space wizards.

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This Week’s Hike: Green Mountain Trail

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I decided to head a bit further up the mountain to find a cooler and shadier hike this week. The basin was all well and good, but it was also a little – okay a lot – exposed. But only a few miles up the road and already we have plenty of pines to cool things down.

I’ve started up the Green Mountain Trail before, but we only made it a mile or so in because we weren’t prepared for the constant uphill. This time, I knew what to expect and therefore savoured each precious flat run that much more.

Technically, you’re supposed to start at the top of the trail and work your way down, but I adhere to the rule of Uphill First, because there’s nothing like breezing through several miles straight downhill then realizing now you have to go straight back up.

It was a quiet, clear morning, with excellent views of the city and Thimble Peak once I got high enough.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Hike Stats
Water consumed: just shy of 3 litres
Hours hiked: 2.5
Wildlife Spotted: a few Mexican Jays, several squirrels, and so. many. lizards
Elevation at Start: 5830 ft
Smells: Mostly pine, some sand and sunscreen
Sounds: The drone of the road for a little while, then bees and flies and the incessant soft rustle of pine needles.

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