Saturday, February 27, 2010

So my dh and I talked. He is concerned about the repairs to the house, and has standing concerns about the market (with which I completely disagree) and his current contract is up in November, which means he could be out of work thereafter, or working someplace entirely different. Plus there were other misgivings on the list. Oh, yeah, he doesn't like the facade. I have an answer for all of them...but that's too many things. I give up.

I haven't told the realtors yet and don't really know how to. They're still looking into the historic utility bills question, which has apparently proved to be a real pain in the neck. So I feel bad, and sort of psychologically paralyzed.

I think I've decided that I am going to wait for another house in "my" town to come up for sale. One with no water in the basement, and probably a porch that my dh will like. I cried. I will probably cry more. I'm no longer sure whether we're shooting for that $8k tax break. I would really have liked to have that. I feel very much at a loss. But I don't want to be in the position of badgering my husband into buying a house he has real concerns about.

So what I need right now is for my husband to get a permanent job offer, preferably in Maryland. And then for another house in my town to come up for sale. In that order. And, ideally, as soon as possible. I know it's Lent, and everyone's prayer schedule is booked for the next six weeks. And I know this ranks very low on the list of prayer priorities. But if anyone could spare just one little prayer, maybe to St. Joseph, that all these things line up...I would be very grateful.

I know I've been poor about commenting lately and I will get better. But I have to warn you that there may not be house pictures again for a while. It's just too sad.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I'm not sad that I'm childless (at least, no more so now than usual). And I don't have a friend who has just announced a pregnancy (having written those fateful words, I will receive news today that someone I know well, who is a biological male, has been exposed to deadly levels of radiation, is asexual, and hates children has just learned that s/he is expecting triplets). I am sad about "my" house.

Our friend wrote us with his analysis. He's an engineer and has flipped houses, so I can't criticize his expertise. But I am tempted to think that some of it doesn't really apply to me. If you flip houses (especially in a high-priced area like Arlington, and before the crash - which is what he did), and you're honest, you do everything to spiffy and lasting quality, and you do it to the most mainstream taste. And as you all know, that means granite.

Anyway, his thoughts were: it will cost $80-120k to get this house done properly. You should subtract that number from what the house is really worth, which is some $60k or so less than the asking price already. And thus, the bottom line: this is not really a good gamble.

I want to be prudent and living in a money pit - and not just a money pit, which would be fine, but one with a bottom line that we cannot afford - is an unimaginable nightmare for me. But I am heartbroken. I have been sad for days. I can't imagine wanting another house instead. This one is far from perfect. But we love this town. We want to live there. There's nothing else for sale that's not either modern or tiny. Our realtors even sent a letter to other residents to see whether anyone wants to sell (no). And other houses I've seen, even if I could transplant them there...well, often they don't have the magic of this house. There are a lot of things I need to fix with it. I wish like anything that it had radiators. I'd certainly accept another bathroom. I wouldn't mind at all if it were connected to a city gas line. But the first-floor layout is perfect. I can just see it as my home. I want the corner that will fit my square grand piano (and by "my," I mean, that I will buy).

I can't buy into a disaster. Especially when, even without disaster, it will tie up so much of what we make. But I would be so horribly sad without my house. I've looked for other options; there's always another option to fall in love with, right? There isn't, though. (The little yellow house in Kensington that was so cheap sold in a week.)

I know I need to be prudent. But...but some of my friend's line-items strike me as erroneous. For example, the house now has heat registers and baseboard heat. He doesn't like baseboard heat. Neither do I, but mostly because it provokes mourning of the former radiators. I do love radiators. Anyway, he suggested ripping all the baseboard heat out, for $15k or so. But he conceded that it's totally harmless. If I were flipping the house, I might invest this money for aesthetic reasons - maybe. But as it is, it really seems like a waste.

He pointed out that the windows were old (beautiful old casement windows!), and leak heat, and would cost well over $10k to replace all of. Yes, well. I don't want new windows. I might, at some point, buy new storms (I know that's a few thousand). I might well buy those expensive heat-insulating curtains. But nobody is taking my antique windows.

He pointed out that both bathrooms have wooden beadboard wainscoting. (This is a decor item in the house that I particularly like.) He said that the stuff is a pain and usually has to be replaced a few years down the road. It looks like it's been there for a few decades, now. So I don't foresee a lot of problems. I have done some research and found that wooden wainscoting in bathrooms has to be sealed over 100% of its surface, front, back, and sides. So if they didn't do that, I will indeed replace it in a few years. With...more beadboard wainscoting. Also, he said that the replacement would cost $5000-10,000 per bathroom (they're small bathrooms). I've checked on the price of wainscoting panels at Home Depot. It will be less than five hundred dollars if I do it myself (which I would, absent underlying wood rot).

He also said that the kitchen would be $20k-30k to update completely. There he's being fair, because your standard maple-cabinets-granite-countertops-and-stainless-appliances job would cost at least that. (It is a small kitchen, which would help.) I want none of those things. I think I like the cabinets as is, though I would sand and repaint them all (from white to nicer white), turn one pair into a plate rack, and maybe replace the top doors with reclaimed windows, for glass fronts. I could, if I had money to burn, be tempted by shaker-and-bead-board cabinet doors, nicer than the ones it has now. But I don't need them.

The rest of what I want to do with the kitchen is: knock out the archway to the laundry alcove and reclaim that (no new cabinetry needed, though). Rip out the low-quality wood floor and replace with slate. (I've found it for a great price.) Rip out the two countertops and replace one with butcher block (from ikea - cheap) and one with soapstone (pricey, but I've found a place that sells remnants and I could get it for less than $1000). Have a plumber move the dishwasher to the other side of the sink. Have a carpenter fix the former location with cabinetry. Then, if I have extra money and energy, put in a tin ceiling.

I've priced the stuff needed for all of this. I can do it for $4000-7000. Yes, I found great prices for things, and I plan to do a ton of work myself (did you know you can cut and mill soapstone with woodworking tools?). So at most, if it were a disaster and I needed some professional rescue at the end (not for things like a tile floor - I can definitely do that), it could be $10,000, but that's no emergency and can be put off a year or more. And, I could do it one project at a time.

The big unknown is the basement. It does have standing water (just 1/4 inch and just in one corner, though). Always. And it already has a sump pump. The realtor wants us to put in French drains. I loathe and abhor them, and would literally rather have standing water - or no house. I know basement water can be a bottomless pit of expense, but since I am already wary, I will look hard for personal references for a waterproofer. My great terror was that the yard's own private creek (the realtor pitches this as "adorable!" Yes, I suppose so...) was the source of the water. Should this be so, no force on earth could keep it from flooding. My friend said that it could be the cause, and it would be hard to put a cap on how much water remediation might cost.

I did some more research on the internet. There are different viewpoints (motivated, I think, by companies' desire for profit), but there are success stories. Two things seem to be needed. One: removing pressure from excess water. Buy a few hundred dollars' worth of dirt, they say, get some shovels, and grade the yard away from your house, so surface runoff doesn't head straight for the basement. Don't over-water plants right near the house. Make sure the gutters are in good repair, and the roof, and that they empty at least five feet from the house. If you live by a scary source of water (i.e., there's a hill above you - or a creek), dig a big "swale" next to that side of the house for the water to head into.

We'll definitely need to buy some dirt and re-grade the lawn near the house, and repair the gutters (maybe the roof?), and extend the downspouts. If the creek is the problem - maybe a swale...?

The other thing you need to do is seal the basement from the outside wherever there are cracks (though there are some who say that you can seal effectively from the inside. The outside just logically sounds like a better idea to me). If there are cracks, even if there is no excess water around your house, the ordinary water in the soil will find its way in.

I noticed something when I thought back to the water in the basement. It's all in the corner on the right as you come down the stairs. But the creek - is to the left of the house! And that side of the basement isn't even damp. The creek is very small - maybe 20' away from the house, and so shallow that it didn't even melt the snow on top of it. It may flood in the spring (we'll probably find out in a few weeks), but in its default state, as far as I can tell, it's not putting any water in the basement!

What else did I notice for the first time when we were looking with our friends? There was a big old crack in the basement wall near where the water is pooling. A crack can be fixed! From the outside, for a few hundred or a thousand dollars (says the internet. The internet says that the real key is finding out where the water comes from. This can cost a lot if it's a true mystery, but I already know where the crack is; if it's the crack, and I fix the crack for $1000, I could be done. Then I can always look out for other sources of water).

I am still trying to argue my realtors into helping me get the utility payment history. They have already given me three arguments not to do this, and ignored my question. For the rest of you: no, the utility company will not answer if you randomly call and ask about your neighbor's heating bill. But if your neighbor gives permission, then they will. My realtors cannot understand this; fortunately I am certain beyond a doubt that it is true, so I am not giving up. I need to know how much the heat costs.

I am also going to call the buyer of the white house down the street (which I am using as a comp - it's the only truly comparable sale), and ask what their inspector said, and what up-front repairs they budgeted for, and how they arrived at the price they paid. I've been treating these facts as unknowable, but they aren't! I want to know if that price took account of some major expensive repair problem or not.

And then I may, or may not, try to persuade my husband to pay a water engineer to look at the basement (and roof and gutters?) before putting down an offer. I think that would be a good use of money - right?

I've also been debating whether something has happened to my taste. I've always loved ornate Victorians. Lately I shy away from crazy-ornate furniture ('cause it wouldn't work in my house!). I looked at thisoldhouse's best old house neighborhoods of 2010, and there were beautiful huge stately Victorians. There's nothing I can afford like that in a three-state area, so it's not like I can just change my mind and go that route. But my house doesn't look like that (though it's of similar age). It's much more rustic. Am I betraying my own preferences? Why do I love this house so much? Are my daydreams so lurid they are outweighing my better judgment, and blinding me to how it will really be to live in that house?

I don't know. But I can't just let my house go...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

house visit recap

So: the husband of the couple that went up with me to see the tan house is apparently, in addition to having flipped and remodeled some homes himself, an engineer. SCORE! I would ask idle questions and he would actually answer them. (Example: can I put a lot more weight on the second-story porch? I didn't mention that I was thinking specifically of a jacuzzi, because I felt silly, but I am. I'm not an exhibitionist, I would make sure that the neighbors had no occasion to be bothered. Anyway. He said he would look at the support beams...never occurred to me.)

He has said he is going to compile notes and then tell me what he thinks - about the drainage issues, the cost of remodeling it to have it up-to-date (I think that figure will be higher than I might actually need, because I am comfortable with things being a bit rustic, don't want modern finishes like granite, and want to do simple things, like lay tile and so forth, myself), structural concerns, the whole nine yards. His wife was making comments about what walls I could knock down to combine bedrooms - I was slightly alarmed. I don't really have ambitions to knock down any walls. They're OK with me where they are. But I realize there are people who think of things as investments and projects, which I am inclined to see as in need of maintenance and some minor upgrades.

Then we went to see the house his wife found on the Virginia side. It's about the same age and it has a nice porch, although I think the facade is kind of blah. It's in MUCH better shape on the inside. Instead of an addition to create a family room with a wood stove, they put on an addition with a large first-floor master, along with full bath, and to expand the kitchen. The kitchen is quite large, and though I kind of hate the finishes, I know they would not be offensive to others. So it doesn't need remodeling.

The dining room is huge. The living room is smallish, and there's no family room, but the kitchen is big enough to entertain in, in terms of hanging around and hanging out. All the bedrooms are large. The master isn't small and there are three that size (one on the first floor, two on the second), and a third on the second floor that's medium-sized and L-shaped. The second-floor bath is much larger than in the tan house and has a jacuzzi tub. Plus this house has an entire full bath that the tan house doesn't have, period. I think it must have more overall square feet, what with the difference in bedroom size. It has no attic (just a crawl space), and no basement (built on a concrete slab). I guess there's nothing to flood, but it really would be nice to have that space. It's in much better condition - everything is basically done, though it needs to be repainted from beige. Instead of carpeting with subfloor underneath, the second floor has some of the most magnificent old hardwood floors I have seen ever. I love them. (I can't imagine I could find similar ones to install in the tan house...)

They may ultimately sell for about the same price.

But. Though this latest house is on the Virginia side, it's nine miles further from my work than the tan house (which means the tan house has an even greater lead as far as distance to the city border). The Virginia house is nowhere near a metro station, and the tan house is less than 1.5 miles. The Virginia house is driving distance from the VRE; the tan house is walking distance to the MARC train. They're about the same distance from the nearest church, but the tan house is near a good parish (and then reasonably near to half a dozen others), and the Virginia house is near a lousy parish, and a decent drive from the next-nearest. The Virginia house is in a city, with a sort of so-so economic and crime profile. The tan house is in a tiny village with no crime to speak of. The city the Virginia house is in isn't near anything else of a decent size, though; the tan house is in a village immediately adjacent to populated areas with shops and stuff to do. And the Virginia house is driving distance from a historic downtown, whereas the tan house is in the historic downtown, which also happens to be the entire town. You can see where I'm coming out here. And this isn't just bias. You come visit, and you'll see - if you want historic, idyllic, quiet, and safe, there is absolutely no comparison on the location. Now, why can't the tan house be in good condition like the Virginia house?

Oh, another point. The floors - and the room size - in the Virginia house are winning by leagues. But I actually like the layout in the tan house better. For entertaining, it seems really welcoming and fun. The Virginia house is sort of weird and blocky and isolated. You're fine if you're in the kitchen, but if you leave, you might never find the living room - it's a mystery. I know that sounds so subjective it must be bias, but it's not. The tan house is laid out really well.

I'm nervously awaiting the verdict from my friend's husband - just how many lurking problems are there in the tan house? And how expensive will they be?

After an exhausting day of being lost and not getting enough food or sleep (until I got hungry and got way too much food - and, of course, being tired, I didn't run), however, I'm exhausted and depressed. I'm willing to give up all my houses if need be. I told myself I would call my family before 7PM (I haven't talked to them in too long and they are all hanging onto sanity by a thread) and I didn't, and now my dh will be back soon (finally!), so I can't call, and the living room is still a mess, and yes, he will notice, and even if he doesn't say anything, I will get upset. So I have to pry myself out of the couch, pick up the living room, do the dishes, and sweep the kitchen floor.

I would rather be sedated until tomorrow, honestly. Maybe tomorrow will be a less totally exhausting day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

pretties; indecisive

So I don't have the amazing milestones that some of y'all bloggers have had recently. And you are in my prayers, BTW. I sort of hope that I'll maybe have something moderately exciting soon though - not of the same magnitude, all the same.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm going to go look at my house, the tan house, with our friends the house-flippers. Then we're also going to look at a house about forty miles away from that one, that's in their neck of the woods (because they found it and they're doing us a favor). Then my husband comes home from a three-week trip tomorrow night! One of the first things we have to do is get all the paperwork signed for our pre-approval from lender #1 (lender #2 for whatever reason didn't need it and has already pre-approved us). I feel like I'm getting closer to having my house. But I'm probably delusional. Again. I can no longer really tell.

Nevertheless, I've been eagerly shopping for it. Maybe you'll indulge me for a few of my little items.

In my master bedroom post, I tried to show some version of the tall solid wood bed frame I'm looking for. I do enjoy some of the ornate carved kind, but I think this might be even more perfect (it's very tall, hard to see in that picture). Oh, and it's selling for $100. Of course it's a double (weren't they all, then?), and we want a queen. But I've just learned you can get easy-to-use full-to-queen converter rails for only a little bit too much money, although they are currently on a great sale here.

I enjoy looking at wardrobes. I don't know that I need this, but it's magnificent, isn't it? Fully six feet tall. And selling for $60. No, I'm serious.

I should probably stick with the big solid roll-top desk idea (no surprise items there - as usual, more money buys more desk), but I have to admit I have a love affair with this style. And even with a broken hinge, $125 is a fire-sale price:

This seems like the sort of desk chair that both my dh and I could get behind (I could probably be happier about darker colors, but can definitely deal with this). It's $45 on craigslist - not bad, eh?

This, at $50, might be acceptable too (I wonder what that upholstery material is?).

And then also for the living my head, given where the support posts and the front door are, this room probably needs two small love seats, two chairs for right in front of the fireplace, and maybe (need to visit with a tape measure tomorrow) two more chairs across from the fireplace. I think I want them not to match, and to be varying degrees of old-fashioned. This one strikes me as ideal, although they're asking a loony price for it (so it's been advertised for weeks!), and is that severe damage to the fabric I see at the sides? Too bad, 'cause I like the fabric. And that should probably shave the price down a few hundred...

I like this one also (it would maybe kind of work with the other, right?), and of course it has no advertised price at all.

We're not going to talk about how much this costs, but it's kind of awesome, right?

I wasn't planning on pink (or...plum?), but I don't mind this at all, and it's $125 with a matching armchair:

Of course that begs the question of chairs, for the living room and (in this case) the family room too. Maybe something like this? (It's on craigslist for $90, but it's vinyl...?)

This doesn't appear to be a great week for deals on armchairs, all told.

I've also taken sufficiently ill to contemplate putting up a tin ceiling in the kitchen. There would have to be wood up there to nail it to and I really have no idea (something else to check on while I'm there). But this company apparently makes quality ceilings (you buy them in two-by-two-foot pieces and put them up). The unfinished ones (I'd have to paint it myself) in the pattern size for smaller kitchens are not cheap, but not as pricey as I would have expected. Check it out.

The effect is pretty cool, right? (Look at the ceiling.)

I've also been thinking about some has lately occurred to me that my desire to work half-time may be short-sighted. If I no longer had a job that, at least, sounds sort of important (maybe just sounds sort of professional?), and didn't have most of my hours occupied, might I become extremely depressed? It's possible, right? I'm a bit of a nut, I'm sure I could pull that off.
Actually, I know what my next-good career move is. I'm not published yet, and to apply for the job of all young (only youngish, in my case) lawyer jobs, I probably need at least two articles published. I do have an idea for one. I need to research and write the whole thing - about two months ago - and get it accepted at a prestigious journal ASAP (since that's a piece of cake), and then apply for that amazing job for which I will still be ridiculously unqualified, and then get it (here we've departed reality entirely), and after I had that job, I would be qualified to teach law. What I could actually teach about it is another question, but I would probably be able to get someone to hire me, if I accomplished all that.

I have, however, zero motivation to do this. Perhaps because I abandoned career ambition long ago - I can already feel my supposed talent for this business stagnating. I don't feel like being ambitious, but am I being unwise?

And perhaps for the simpler reason that after I do all the work of writing the article, I'll just get rejected for the impossible job. Rejection is actually a foregone conclusion; applying is still the right thing to do, but it's a huge pain in the neck, so I've already put it off for a year. If I were able to teach, though, I'd be set for life. Teaching law is the job you want if you can get it, in case you didn't know. Good money and really good hours, and summers off. And holidays. As a result, of course, no one can get that job. Without an actually miraculous career boost, I, for one, don't have a chance. While it would give me a pretty blissful life, it's so unrealistic as to be pointless to dream about.

Or should I...? Really, what should I be doing with myself? Besides mentally decorating my house, of course.

I'll update after the house visit with our friends tomorrow!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

small victories (medium?) et cetera

This morning I got to have coffee with some fabulous infertiles. (Really, who else is that much fun?) Then I got to have a chat with a friend from that group whom I've not seen in a few weeks. Then, being uncharacteristically good, I drove straight to the store. FIRST I stopped by two shops to check out the end-of-season boot clearance. Marshall's actually had a good selection, but unfortunately only about two pairs in my size, and not what I was looking for.* THEN I did my grocery shopping - I even remembered to pick up a half gallon of white vinegar to remediate my mildew problem. (I've already ordered a dehumidifier from am.azon. My dh had better be impressed with my initiative when he gets back!)

Then, in an even greater show of good behavior, I drove straight to confession, before it ended! I didn't stay for vigil Mass, because I had already determined that what I really needed to do was run before the daylight was gone. (I may go to two Masses tomorrow - I find I feel better if I go in the morning, and delightful people are gathering for dinner for my birthday after the evening Mass, so I may go to that, too.)

So then I got home, and bought a pair of boots online. They were $60 (although the shipping was free). I've never paid that much for shoes ever...I know I'm ridiculously frugal (OK, cheap) with these things, but that's a lot of money, right? Well, I guess I think nothing of it in some contexts. Anyway, they're super-cute, right??? And I only have brown ones now...should I cancel the order??? Take a look:

I can't believe I have to wait for them to ship. (And what if they're the wrong size? The customer comments said they ran small, so I ordered a half size up, but that could be wrong!)

Now, one of my goals for 2010 (I forget whether I stated it expressly in my New Year's post) was to run five miles, straight, without needing to walk, by my birthday. I'll be 28 Monday. This evening I ran over five miles straight! I had to walk five or ten steps at times to avoid killing myself on the ice, or to let cars pass me in the narrow plowed lanes, but not because I was tired. And at one point, after about two miles, I realized that though my knees were sore (wore the wrong sneakers)...I felt like I could run forever! FIVE MILES! Now I'm going to start shaving my mile time - we'll start with eleven-minute miles on the treadmill, and work from there. I can't believe I did it!

My father called as I was getting home to wish me a happy birthday. He was off by two days, but it was sweet of him! Then I got to talk to my 7yo sister. She told me all about school, and swimming, and their hamsters, and her projects. She also told me that they were getting a new house. She was referring to the house my stepmother will be renting. She sounded so matter-of-fact. I was half a year younger than she (but half a grade further in school, so, I suppose, about the same) when my father left. I remember, vaguely in parts, the disorientation. Many things, even about trauma, children do take matter-of-factly. I could very much have used someone to reach me. But I have no idea how to reach her. She doesn't even know me very well.

Oh, and my darling husband sent the most BEAUTIFUL bouquet of pastel roses. They're so pretty.

So, and more mixed victories. I did a lot of thinking on the (slow) drive back from the infertile coffee. (Poor coffee.) For years I would not offer up the suffering of infertility, because I was convinced that God, like His nemesis in The Devil and Daniel Webster, would draw up the clause as proof that I had agreed to any duration of infertility - see, a good Christian use for my barrenness! He's take that and run with it, and give me an extra decade to contend with. So occasionally I'd make an extremely limited, expressly bounded offering-up of suffering; I've done so on my blog, I believe. Today I realized, with unalloyed clarity, that what I am offering up is however many more years it will make me unhappy. Not how many more years I'll be childless - because that's all of them. And I'm not holding anything back there any more, emotionally. I'm not happy and I'm not at peace, but I am no longer worried that God will make me childless for longer; I am already certain He has made me childless forever, and I'm not afraid any more.

For some reason, offering up the rest of the suffering (even if that means God might withhold peace longer) doesn't engender the terror that it did when I believed He would withhold children longer. Perhaps that's because I believe that God actually wants us all to have peace (clearly, He does not will everybody to have children. You have some disputes with this point, you email me. I'll set you straight). Perhaps that's because sadness doesn't frighten me - I'm certainly familiar with it. And perhaps it's because I realize that the sadness is significantly my fault, as the infertility was not, and I'm not really resistant to bearing the consequences of my actions. One of the lighter sides of a legalistic temperament.

Now, I'm just waiting for freedom. I'm waiting for peace. I know I have more mourning to do, that I don't know how to do. I'm supposed to go on retreat in March (I really need to sign up for that). I'm STILL playing phone tag with Fr. Paul over a spiritual director. So it came to me on my drive: I would be brave, and just out and ask the priest in confession where I could find out about spiritual direction. I'd have him cornered!

And he said - so helpful - I should just pick a priest I wanted for a director and call him. Well, I've done that in the past, but I don't know any of the priests in this diocese. The ones I know better are clearly not going to deal well with an infertile women. It's a big diocese - I was sort of hoping they'd have a program. I was brave, and it didn't help. Back to the drawing board.

I've been thinking, a lot, about a direction for life, and vocation. I'm always thinking about that, but with greater focus recently. I could write pages on it now, my thoughts are so disorganized; so I'll desist, for now. But I'll make a comment, about the song on Wheelbarrow Rider's blog. I think I've listened to it 50 times in the last three days. I just leave it on repeat while I sit there and I think about it. I like that the singer acknowledges that not all prayers for rescue are answered. They aren't. I stopped asking, because nobody was paying attention. I won't be disappointed by God anew every day. That's not going to help matters.

(And I wonder about her lyric, "I know You hate to see me cry." Are we sure, theologically, that this is true? What about St. Paul's statement that he is making up the suffering of Christ? What about St. Therese - "Even suffering is joy to me now"?)

The singer's conclusion is theologically sound - human life is uncertain and often unpleasant; the heavens are steady as a rock. These things are true. But how does the one relate to the other? How does the unchanging nature of God help me when I feel that my life is shattered? Is the fact that He is steady supposed to be comforting on its own? Is it supposed to be entirely comforting? Why isn't it? Just because I have a bad attitude? I don't know.

But I have to learn something, some time. I have ambitions to live a joyous life - not a smile through tears, but only a smile. I know there are worse things than childlessness. Mother Teresa lived among the diseased and dying with nothing, and she was happy (though I know she was not happy-go-lucky). When other people look at me, I want them to see a joyful life, worthy of emulation, first. Infertility, as a detail, with every other ascriptive characteristic, afterward. But I refuse to lie about how unhappy I am and how much I struggle. Maybe I could "fake it till I make it" - pretend happiness, and the reality will follow? Well, I don't believe that. I'm going to tell the truth. But I wish it were different, and, I pray, someday soon it will be.

*If you want a pair of Lacoste patent leather (yes, real leather) mahogany pebble-grain mid-calf flat boots (with a nice rubbery sole that would grip the ice excellently) for just $30 or $40, in either a 6.5 or a 9, you let me know and I will tell you where to find them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

things I learned on my snowcation*

Q. Why is Washington, D.C., still functionally shut down 24 hours after a mere 18 inches of snow fell?

A. The local municipalities stopped plowing the roads, having determined that wind and snow are hazardous to snowplows. All-wheel drive snowplows. With snow tires. Also, they have plows on the front of them. Because they're snowplows. But, I repeat, they cannot be driven in the snow.

Q. How many times in a single day can a person listen to "eBay," Weird Al Yankovic's parody of the Backstreet Boys tune "I Want It That Way"?

A. No such limit exists. Also, the song never loses its charm.

Q. I've only listened to "eBay" once today. What should I do?

A. Listen to it again, immediately. For recommended dosing, alternate it with "Spam," "White and Nerdy," and "A Complicated Song," as tolerated. All told, you must listen to "eBay" at least nine more times before going to bed, for best results.

Q. What happens after you eat almost exclusively mozzarella string cheese and buttered bread for several straight days?

A. You develop an increased appetite for fruit juice and raisin bran, which fortunately are also on the list of approved foods you have collected in large amounts. Also, you listen to the first verse of Weird Al Yankovic's "Complicated Song," a parody of Avril Lavigne's "Complicated," with greater attention than previously. Of course, his version has much more creative lyrics.

Q. Do I detect a theme here?

A. That is entirely possible.

Q. Why are single people living in cities lonely?

A. Because they fail to appreciate the value of community and interdependence. For example, single men living in cities have few opportunities to demonstrate their manliness and their value to the broader community, other than by developing large biceps and buying cars with poor fuel economy. In many cases, their female friends do the same jobs they do, but better, or even make more money than they do. During a snowstorm, however, they have an opportunity to demonstrate their courage, resilience, and superior physical strength by going to the homes of their female acquaintance, unasked, and shoveling out their cars and driveways. This would impress said friends with the single men's manliness and also generous spirit, and couldn't possibly be bad for their lifetime chances of mating. Instead, they are sitting home watching Battlestar Galactica. Anthropologists have determined conclusively that these men will die alone. The corresponding women, by contrast, will starve to death in their homes some time before the end of February, because they were too proud to call and ask anyone to shovel for them, or even to bring them shovels or food.

Q. Why hasn't there been a terrorist attack on American soil during a virtually total shutdown of the headquarters of the federal government?

A. Because al Qaeda is even less resilient in snowy conditions than Washington, D.C.'s snowplow fleet. Also, in a related phenomenon, the only places in which snow removal has been prompt and effective are those in which the residents placed no reliance of any kind on federal, state, or local government efforts. In other words, if a terrorist attack had occurred this week, the perpetrators would not have been brought for trial in civilian courts with the full due process rights afforded citizens. Instead, they would have been shot on sight by righteous bystanders, or, as they are also known, "Americans."

Q. What is the proper technique for shoveling heavy snow?

A. Lift with your legs, not with your back. For this answer, see also "What should the misfit have done to get better exercise and incur less risk of injury while clearing her walkways?"

Q. Why doesn't Home Depot advertise most of its products - for a random example, plywood beadboard panels - on its website?

A. Scientists are still working on this difficult problem.

Q. Was that red strapless number really the most attractive entry on last week's episode of Project Runway?

A. No.

Q. What is the most compelling item to shop for once regular shopping activities are recommenced?

A. Definitely winter boots on clearance. Unfortunately, in a visit to Marshall's and Burlington Coat Factory several weeks ago (i.e., during the cold season in this region), most of the inventory was already sold, and what remained was impractical and ugly. Further research is being conducted into remaining viable sources of supply.

Q. How clean is the misfit's house now?

A. Much cleaner than it used to be, but probably not so's you'd notice if you didn't live here. Definitely not as clean as JBTC's!

*Q. To which Terry Pratchett book is this a reference?

A. Well, obviously, I know. But if you want to guess, you may do so in the comments. Also, you need to listen to "Spam" again.

Monday, February 8, 2010

where there's snow

Though the snow has hampered actual visits, I have of course been continuing to think about how to remake the house to be gorgeous on a modest budget. In that search, I found this fascinating venue. Anybody out Baltimore way interested in architectural salvage? Another infertile gal (whose identity is secret from the internets! Hahahahaha!) and I are planning to go, so drop me a line if you want to join in.

Also, I have to share something important with all of you. My love affair with Weird Al's parodies began when I was but a wee teen and heard "Trigger Happy" for the first time. So I arrived at the scene late - I think I was still a toddler when his first album came out. So sue me. Anyway, it seems obvious to me that the man is a genius; at minimum, extremely gifted. As far back as I can remember, the morally upright thing for extremely gifted people to do was get very high marks in math class and do their homework religiously. As an adult, and particularly an adult who has had her notions of vocation and life plan called into unexpected question, I find it fascinating that people find such very varied things to do with their, in many cases, considerable gifts.

Clearly, in this master-work, Mr. Yankovic has shared something of particular value to the infertile community. While the first verse is heavily scatological and might be something you don't want to hear for the first time in mixed company, I think he encapsulates in verse an experience that resonates with many of us. Elsewhere, he touches on unorthodox marital and procreative arrangements, and there, too, my heart was warmed. I suppose that "Alabama" fit his syllabic requirements better than "West Virginia" would have done, so I can forgive the cultural inaccuracy.

Other than my consumption of this and similar artistic triumphs, I have been enjoying homemade hot cocoa, doing the odd bit of shoveling, inhabiting my couch, reading library books, and pondering the subject of paint colors (ever the meditations on my house - no offer yet, though I have lately renewed my commitment to the tan house, and in particular to its location, for reasons I would probably find hard to explain).

I will not defile this space with comments about how I managed to have a twenty-two day cycle on the tamoxifen. The reason I couldn't figure out when peak day was was because it evidently was on day eight - yes, the day after I took my last tamoxifen pill. Since I'm not taking any medicine this cycle, it's looking strongly as though day seven will be peak day. I know that perimenopause brings shortened periods, but I was not under the impression that they shortened instantly and by half. I also wasn't aware that the laparotomy to remove the adhesions could bring on perimenopause that was not previously in evidence, but the entire infertility journey for me has been one of discovering never-mentioned side effects only after they have become irreversible and dire, so this would really be nothing out of the ordinary. Fortunately, however, I am not going to discuss any of that.

I will, however, accept prayers for my half-siblings. The sane(r) members of my family have discussed attempting to intervene in the inevitable custody proceedings, but we can't even come up with a good outcome to lobby for. In ten years when they are promiscuous and involved with illegal drugs, I am going to cry, because I knew it would happen; and I know what will happen now, and I want to head it off, and I don't have a single idea what to do. I think these kids would actually be better off if both parents were hit by a mack truck tomorrow. God forgive me, but I do.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


That's right, folks: Asian por.nspam is back. (Heaven alone knows what that message is. Though I would be interested in what the signature says.)

Asian por.nspam bot: y'all know where you'll end up, right? This may not cross cultures 100%, but I'll give you a hint: it's hot.

And now, to lift your spirits, a more edifying take on spam:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

some people aren't meant to have children

First off, I should note that I wasn't referring to any specific mistake of mine with the last post (there are too many to choose from); rather, I thought the caption summed up the prior post, or at least one sentiment.

Yesterday I got done with work and looked forward to an immensely enjoyable evening of eating some homemade chicken and rice soup, watching last week's episode of Project Runway on, and reading one of the books I had just gotten from the library (a stack of Terry Pratchett novels and the only book at the county library's central branch on the emotional aspects of infertility, rather than on treatment options. You'll be shocked that it - again, the only title on the experience of infertility - was a book about secondary infertility).

My peaceful evening was interrupted (and some of my reading hours stolen) when I heard from my sister, who is currently living abroad. Of course I love talking to my sister - the disruption was in the form of her news. My father and stepmother have been married for 15 1/2 years, and my father had just emailed my sister to tell her that my stepmother is moving out. They've each found new places to rent, and are preparing to go through their state's conciliatory divorce process.

They have two children, ages 4 and 7. As I've no doubt mentioned before, the 7yo is practically a ruined kid - her father (and mine) wants to be a grandfather, which is age-appropriate, at 62. Her mother seemed, from my sister's birth onward, to want only someone to love her. This is not an appropriate expectation for a child; the idea is that you love them. There is no quid pro quo.

How do emotionally insecure people parent children from whom (rather than for whom) they want only unconditional love? It's easy. Give them everything they want. Never tell them no. Have no expectations for them at all. Never punish them. Never admit that they've done wrong. Destroy your finances (my father and stepmother will be filing for bankruptcy. They have a current six-figure income - which has been spent to the point of crippling credit card debt on totally random crap for their home and the kids, most of which goes into the garbage before it's used), your career, your mental stability, and every resource you need to parent them responsibly, in order to give into whatever demands they have - at 2, at 5, at 7.

And then they'll love you. Oh, wait - my sister has clearly had no respect for her mother since she was about 3. Her attitude would appear to be merging into disdain, with faint tinges, already, of hatred. Nice job there.

My stepmother was sweet but eccentric before she had children. She was a loony during both pregnancies. But from the day my sister (the older of the two kids) was born, she has never been healthy, nor ever again the person she was. She's pretty obviously unbalanced. I'm sure she had post-partum depression - and was a little fragile before - and took on parenting strategies that were designed to make it true that, and obvious that, somebody desperately needed her, couldn't be away from her for ten seconds. It made her valuable. And she created a baby monster, now an elementary-aged monster, and with that monster around, getting worse by the day, her sanity never returned. At least, this is what I suppose happened. On the symptoms, at least, I'm clear.

So I talked to my father on the phone last night. He was obviously upset, but more stable and rational than he's been recently. He said something interesting. My stepmother is leaving him; but their kids are about the same age that my siblings and I were when he left our mother (6, 4, and 2). And it breaks his heart. (What is that they say about karma? Sigh.)

It was an obvious comment on his part, perhaps, but it jogged a thought loose...I remember that although my mother nearly lost her mind (well, for her) when we got "physical custody" switched from her to my father when I was 17, when we saw her on weekends after that, she was so much more peaceful. Having the three of us to raise made her crazy and hysterical all the time. Three kids were way too much for her (one kid would probably have been too much). The first kid clearly did in my stepmother. My father was dysfunctional with both the first and second batches; his marriage to my stepmother seemed much more healthy and functional, if imperfect, before their kids came along. (Obviously I'm not in a position to comment on my parents' marriage before children, but they were married for six years before they had any kids, and separated six years after the first one was born.)

You see where I'm going with this. It would be trite and pop-culture to say that the kids destroyed the marriages. My point is (a little) more subtle: these people were not mentally healthy before. Marriage was a challenge. But children were an impossible challenge. Because of their particular defects, they were unable to have children and stay stable.

And none of them had any fertility problems that I know of - whatsoever.

I've thought about the stresses that children would put on my marriage. Finances would be tighter, of course. But I'm pretty sure I'd be happier home with small people than working. There was a time when I was good with kids. I worked in day care. I worked with the high school youth group, I was a confirmation sponsor, and I tutored younger kids in high school. I don't think the stress would do me in. And insofar as our marriage is troubled, the problem is that both of us are inclined to be bitter, too jaded, and distant from God. I hear tell there's something about babies that helps with those issues. I believe we'll work through our issues and make our marriage a smashing success anyway, but I don't believe for a second that infertility has made it anything but harder.

Maybe I'm naive. Maybe my dh and I are a rerun of my parents (all three of them). Maybe we would bust up - and ruin the kids - as my parents did us. But I think rather the opposite. And I wonder whether some combination of my father, mother, and stepmother would be at least somewhat peacefully married now, had they been unable to have kids.

Maybe infertility is not such a bad thing - if only it happened to the right people.

Monday, February 1, 2010

in fewer words

Because there were entirely too many in my last post; and I think this sums it up.