Sunday, January 31, 2010

neverland

* Disclaimer*
Neither this post, nor any part of my life, nor any sane portion of the known or unknown world has anything whatsoever to do with Michael Jackson, and I fervently hope that his estate is in some sort of perpetual infringement of copyright due to the similarity.

So I was at the library today, picking up my copy of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca for the third installment of the all-girls book club. It will be the first installment I can actually remember to appear at, so I figure that the least I can do is read the whole book and have something to say. (As a bonus, if I finish by tonight, I will have kept the first month's worth of my resolution to read one book a month for fun in 2010.)

I'd forgotten how I love libraries. I meant to run in, grab my book, and run out; but they have such peacefulness, and I could spend hours curled up in un-adult fashion on the floor between shelves, poring through chapters of books I tell myself I don't want to read enough to actually check out. So the electronic* card catalog beckoned me, and, furtively glancing about, I typed "infertility" in to search by subject. I memorized the Dewey decimal number of the first relevant hit, and scuttled over to the non-fiction area to check out all the titles on the topic (but not before putting in a different search term, so the next person wouldn't find a search on infertility. Bonus skills as a result of IF: paranoia!).

I should note that my local branch is not the central library for the system, and is near a poor neighborhood, so it doesn't have tons of titles. There were maybe four or five titles on infertility. Two copies of a large tome entitled How to Get Pregnant. Or not. Another was something about coping with infertility, which looked promising, but was subtitled as a comprehensive list of reproductive technologies and treatments. The really interesting title was the one about IF as a spiritual journey, subtitled something enticing, like "having your miracle family now." How could this disappoint?

As it turns out, the author (male) was trying to get across that your future child needs to be "conceived in your heart" before he or she appears in the world, especially if the process of bringing them about takes much longer than the traditional nine months. The "miracle" part, according to the jacket, had to do with stressing very firmly that you're going to have that baby. You just gotta believe! Go suck an egg (no IF pun intended), stupid author of stupid book. You and your PhD are not wise, just lucky. Also, he and his wife used IVF to get pregnant. While I recognize that one can be "spiritual" and not appreciate all of my moral understandings,** I had assumed something far different from a book about the spiritual side of the experience, and was not impressed.

I know I rant about it all the time, but why is the infertility-discussing community so profoundly blind to the "never" issue? Sure, conceive whatever you want in your heart. What happens if he/she/they is/are never conceived in fact? What then?

Oh, and then there was Living with Impotence. Possibly closer (er, my dh isn't impotent. I was thinking more along the lines that at least it's "living with," not "sunshine! Rainbows! Unicorns! Other sunshine and other rainbows!" So if it's a little grimmer and more realistic, that could be good), but I'm not bringing that one home. So, I went back to the one with the comprehensive treatment list and leafed through the table of contents. There was a chapter on giving up, and another on not destroying your marriage by turning into a monster! Jackpot.

Unfortunately, these chapters were a little thin, so I read through them on a handy stool, and left the library (sadly) with no infertility book to curl up with and read in bed. You see, books are authoritative. If a book says I must be feeling some way, and can fix it some other way, it must be true. It's like therapy. I like books (I just forget, since it seems I don't read them any more...).

The chapters...well, they just didn't have nearly enough. The author went through post-giving-up options: donor gametes, adoption, foster care, living "childfree" (I've always disliked that term. Like "disease-free" or "pest-free" or something - as if they were a pestilence that had been successfully exterminated from the marriage. It gives no voice at all to the truth of my experience, nor, I think, to the truth of human nature).

He also said something interesting: that the decision to stop treatment may likely bring anger, but that this is a "secondary emotion" - not the actual reaction. That the anger is masking sorrow. I would never have said so (I assume the anger is masking guilt), but I was almost in tears in the library, the moment I read that. There's a river of sorrow, big enough to swallow me up, beneath the bravado and the irritation that prompts me to read stfuparents and the restless wandering through too many electronic stimuli (blogs, and TV shows on hulu, people) and the too-many hopes that I have pinned on buying a house. Kind of like the river of slime under the city:


Rationally, I can understand that this sort of thing can happen, and that if 1/6 of couples are infertile, then some portion of those will never have children, and I know I could have chosen to be more aggressive with treatment (so I'm more likely to be among the "never" group). That I can go on with my life. Do other things. Be friends with the people I can be friends with from where I am, and who won't drive me crazy. Someday find a job that takes less of my time, so I can spend more time "giving back" in a way that makes me feel fulfilled.

But if rationally were enough, I wouldn't still be angry. Today's Epistle included the famous I Corinthians 13 - "love is patient, love is kind." In the translation at Mass (not my favorite, but in a century or two the bishops will probably discover that there are better ones), "Love does not brood over injury." I don't know whom in the IF process I'm supposed to love specifically, but I brood over injury as if it were my job. In fact - and St. Paul doesn't appear to have contemplated this specifically - I'm not that bad about brooding over injuries that have actually occurred. But I spend an inordinate amount of time brooding over injuries that have happened in a scenario in my head. (I would guess that this also falls under the ban.) So, I need to work on the behavior. But, always more interesting than mere misbehavior, there has got to be a reason. Why do I feel my more-or-less predictable life is so far out of my control that I have to pick great horrible epic fights - usually with people I'm fond of - in my head over slights that have never occurred?

I actually don't have an answer on this one, so please let me know if you have suggestions.

If, returning to my point, the rational explanation covered the whole case, why would I still have no earthly idea what to do with God? I pray. I go to Mass. Sometimes I read my Magnificat, and yesterday I even went to Adoration for the first time in ages. I prayed. But I don't feel close to God - at all. I reminded myself of the theological reasons I know He is there, and prayed for the people I want Him to keep safe, and asked for guidance; on IF, and my life, and my marriage, and my house(s). I never really hear answers, but this time I had the distinct impression of no one being there to give an answer anyway.

So it's not over, and I'm not done, and "moving on" is not enough. And I'm still terribly sad. On a psychological level, of course none of the good I can do after "moving on" could ever touch the precious good that I wanted, more or less reasonably expected, and can't have. There is everything to mourn, and bitterly, and who knows how long that will take? It's not only a matter of deciding to move on. Frankly, I'm not sure even what to do to make progress with the mourning.

On a spiritual level, I remind myself, God has plans for my good, not for my harm; He loves me and wants me to be happy. Fair enough. And when those plans materialize, maybe I will see this, and I will have no more reason for sorrow. (I have certainly heard tell of such reactions in those who hold their children after many years of IF. Again, though, not all of us will ever get there.) But now, I can't imagine that; and is the psychological level so opposed to the spiritual? If I can, in accurate and fair terms, assert that I am here in the center of a tragedy, should I rejoice rather than mourn, because my faith requires that I believe the tragedy a triumph? I don't see a triumph. I am willing to keep an eye out for it, though.

If I may recognize the tragedy, without committing a spiritual error, what am I to do with God? Is this the time to remember that free will and the Fall lead to all sorts of unhappiness in the earthly life, which God has allowed to happen that we might choose to love Him, and I should not assume that my suffering is something He willed or created? Or is this a good occasion to complain at Him that it's absolutely no fair designing someone for the vocation to marriage when You know perfectly well that I'm biologically incapable of having children with my husband, and if You're just going to let that happen and then play the "free will" card, You darn well better prepare something else for me to do with myself - and give me a clue what it is? Or should I assume design in all these things - God intended specifically that I be childless, either to punish me, or to designate me as a carrier of crosses all my days, or because He has some other plan that is wholly incompatible with motherhood (but He's not telling)? And which reason would be the best guess? Or do I assume (as my husband does) that God is disinterested in my suffering, and that this life will therefore be unhappy and wretched, and my prayers for rescue or peace will fall always on deaf ears?

I am not making my passage easily. But my destination, I know, is neverland; not the place of a different option or a different reality, but of not having the option that others have, that life is meant to have (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, the goods that all men seek after). I never parsed the word when I watched Peter Pan as a child, but it is an interesting name. The place where children never grow up, where people never grow older; where children can live without parents (so I can imagine there's a county in neverland for parents without children); where they never starve or come to harm, despite a lack of adults to watch them; and where pixie dust and good wishes allow all the willing-hearted to fly.

Perhaps that is where I belong - with the traditional family many stars away, never growing through the stages of adulthood that are expected for normal folk, forever building eccentric houses, fighting cartoon foes in my mind, and searching out a fairy for that elusive lesson in flying.

Somehow, it doesn't seem that easy, the way I'm doing it.

*I should really find out what the county library system did with their old wooden catalog units, and snag one or two for myself. I could do so many things with an antique card catalog!

**Obviously the Catholic/other people debate about, say, IUI rests on a tricky bit of moral theology about the circumstances of conception. But IVF, in addition to being a lot more expensive and more invasive, generally causes the deaths of lots of itty bitty babies - and deliberately consigns lots of others to a freezer, which I believe isn't good for them, and seems terribly sad.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

another house...

I have now turned in all the documentation to lender #1, so that pre-approval should be well underway. I am wondering, however, whether the fact that my dh does not have two full years of steady work history will undermine our qualification. We can just about afford it on my salary (but not quite), and we have a decent savings cushion, but I don't know how the lender will view these matters. I also paid the $50 and sent the pre-approval application to lender #2. I got an instant but somewhat low-detail disclosure of expenses, which came to $10,000 instead of $12,000. If I don't get a more detailed one later, I guess I can call and ask for a breakdown for my bargaining purposes.

Meanwhile, I have started to entertain doubts about the house. My dh's current contract will be up by the end of 2010. The company really likes him and it seems likely they would put him on a different project (maybe even one closer to the house!), but there are no guarantees. He's also applying for really exciting-sounding open positions at the agency he was with - those jobs would be really near my work, something he'd really enjoy doing, and permanent. I hope, hope that he gets one. But I know that in the current political climate, the odds are not good at all. (And my dh is hardly conservative by my standards! I've had to speak to him several times about comments he's made...)

So while I'm excited for the potential job change (and don't really mind the uncertainty - this is how we've been doing things for a while), I am suddenly panicked about what will happen if he's not working for a period. My salary is just shy of being enough for all of our monthly expenses. That means the house wouldn't prevent me from going part-time later, but both of us have to be working at least some! And I worry. I also worry about the increased expense. We're saving a lot every month now, and it's funny how fast I got used to it. That amount will almost halve after we buy the house. Will that be enough??? And what about the repairs that need doing? I figured that for 1-2 years, we could spend $500-1000 a month and get all the remodeling done. Some months would be light, with just paint, or a piece of furniture or two; others we'd combine, if we needed to replace a furnace or something. So for a day or so I panicked. Then I remembered that I'd been over-paying in income tax all year and still don't know what our refund will be (if it's nothing, that will be a big adjustment, but I've an idea it might be substantial). Of course, if we want that homebuyer tax credit, we have to buy the house before we find out what the refund will look like.

Which is another point. This is the last year we'll be eligible for the tax credit, I suspect, even if they extend it. So that motivates me to buy now. On the other hand, once you buy, you've bought. There doesn't seem to be any fast turnover available in this market (and that house really does need remodeling). But I've gotten comfortable with our current expenses. I just don't know how I feel about increasing our house payment by 50%, plus property taxes. (I've done some more looking into the tax assessment thing, and I think it can be lowered, but not as fast as I might like. However, the assessment was already lowered for this year, so at least the up-front payment will be lower than I thought!) Is this what everyone goes through when they buy? Is this just part of the transition to being an adult - taking on greater expenses, but also owning a home of your own? Is this how it works, and I'm just being a baby?

So, anyway, to make matters yet more complicated, I was browsing through available real estate (yes, again. Yes, I know we're considering buying the tan house, but our realtors just sent us another listing - that's way too far from the city, so I said no - but that means that they wouldn't be horrified if I suggested visiting something else, right?). And I found another house for sale. It's not in the magical town where the tan house is. It is, however, substantially closer to the city. Extremely close. And right near all the major area highways. And though further from a metro stop than the tan house, since it's closer-in, it's near about five metro stops rather than one. It's right off a big street, so there's bus lines very nearby. Instead of being less than 2 miles from the one nearby (and pretty good) Catholic church, it's about 3-4 miles from six of them. (That's actually not what I want - I want it to be four blocks from a nice neighborhood parish.) Unfortunately none of these parishes is immediately near a metro right off the bus line, whereby I could hop on the bus, go to Mass, and metro to work...

Oh, yes, also, the more salient specs. It has a yard, but about half the size of that at the tan house (7500sf). It's cute and has a whole porch, which my dh will love. It's 3BR 1ba, instead of 4BR 1.5ba. More to the point, it looks to be a lot smaller on the inside - but with no interior photos, I just don't know. Oh, and the kicker: it's on as a short sale, for $200k less than the tan house. Not even kidding. The gap in final selling price will be smaller, because short sales require bank approval on price, and the tan house is overpriced and will sell for less than they're asking. But still, more than $150k difference, I bet. That's huge, right? Lots of money to remodel. In a really nice DC suburb. And, like I said, cute:


It meets my strict criteria because it has two floors, a yard, is in the Victorian style, appears to have an attic (see that window?), has a basement (walk-out, says the ad), and has a driveway (as far as I can tell). These are requirements for me because in the small town where I grew up, only items with such features were actually houses (OK, so the Victorian part wasn't a strict requirement in my hometown). I understand that city people have other concepts, like "row houses" and "condos," but I do not understand them. Anyway, though, it looks small. I mean, granted, there's only two of us. But some of the cute Victorian houses I've seen literally do not have room in the living room for a couch. (One had a love seat; another had a couch at an angle across the room, blocking a doorway.) Part of my housing dilemma is that it's all wrapped up in my substitute vocation; I have to have enough space to put up people for the night, and have family stay (3BR is probably enough for that, especially if the attic can be finished), and have friends want to come over. For that last, the house has to be close to the city (this house is winning), and have a decent amount of space to hang out (I suspect the tan house is winning by leagues there).

Also, the tan house is in a town that will be magical at Christmas. I can't ignore that. (Though I haven't seen this town, except in aerial photographs.)

I have a lot of opinions. I rarely encounter a decision on which I don't have a clear opinion. Why am I twisting myself into a mess over this house question? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

mortgage question

So I've been pretty good. Yesterday I filled out the pre-approval application for the lender I picked, and yesterday evening and today I've been hunting down income and asset documentation and emailing it to the lender person lady. (One more email, and all we have to do is wait on the 2009 W2 for my dh's former employer. I'm pretty impressed with myself.)

But then she sent us the disclosure of estimated things that we will have to pay for closing. It included everything possible (i.e., an HOA letter, which we won't need because we won't have an HOA, and an estimate of homeowner's insurance that sounds higher than it would be through our current insurer, and so forth), so it's definitely higher than we'd pay in real life. (Oh, plus she based property taxes on the current assessment, which will plummet as soon as the house has a new sale price.) But the total came to around $12,000. I know it costs some to settle a house, and we could get seller help (we shall see), but that number is without a down payment, and with the VA funding fee financed (rather than paid up-front). So that's a lot.

Anyway, I had a brilliant idea: I would do the online pre-approval application for USAA (the second-best rate people), and then try to compete them against each other. But the USAA application costs $50! I'm happy to pay $15 for a credit check, but $50 seems like a lot. Is it? And should I pay $50 just to have a basis of competition?

Sigh.

Also, I ran 3.5 miles outside yesterday. I was supposed to run inside today, but somehow, it just didn't happen. It has to happen tomorrow, and Friday, or I lose some of my exercise days. Also, it means I still have to do my run. And it's so cold and I don't want to run outside tonight. But I have to. That, and the sewing, and the grocery store run, and the early bedtime - my whole evening is shot and it hasn't started. I hate when that happens.

Oh, BTW, still no fertile CM. I'm on CD18. My dh leaves town in two days. And my scale has apparently decided that it will concede I have lost weight (just a little at a time) only on days I have not gone running. Stupid scale.

Monday, January 25, 2010

better late than never

...but it's CD16, and peak is supposed to be CD14 on the tamoxifen (I believe), so it looks like NEVER. 'Cause I should've had the fertile CM starting on CD12 at latest, right? Oh, screw that. YET ANOTHER month in which I can't do my p+7 draw. Unless I want to assume that it's CD21? Does that sound rational? Anybody?

Also, my scale is plotting against me. For days, though I ate mostly Cheerios and ran three miles a day, the number stayed the same. Then for two days, I got no exercise and ate way too much party food (mostly Brie, which is good for you, right???). The first day I dropped 1.6 pounds; the second day, another pound. How likely is it that the scale is just totally inaccurate? It's digital, brand new, and I just got it from Target. Do they have demons programming their scales? Am I losing my mind? (Don't answer that.)

A friend is throwing a third birthday party on Wednesday. It starts at 5. Earliest I could get there is 8. That's a good reason not to go, right? I mean, it could be fine, or I could accidentally strangle someone. You just never know.

Last week, I finished my phone calls comparing mortgage rates between lenders. (I compared USAA, Bank of America, and two lenders recommended by our realtors.) Ended up with a clear winner. So then I did all the numbers for the different mortgage products from that lender in a spreadsheet - up-front cost differences, monthly cost differences, first-year tax deductions, and continuing deductions. Some options were eliminated early and obviously this way that I couldn't previously tell were uncompetitive. (Thank you, spreadsheet.) The others were just tradeoffs. I marked the ones I preferred and waited for my husband to get home. He preferred...completely different ones. Hmm. Well, I'm OK with his preferences.

Today I was supposed to call and get pre-approved, but I chickened out. It's not expensive or difficult, but it was such a big step! I'm weak. However, tomorrow I will be good and make the call. After we get pre-approved, our friends with the home improvement experience are going to come and visit the house with us (on February 6). And then we're going to put our heads together and decide whether we're willing to make an offer. (We've already figured out what the offer will be.) Long as we've dragged this out, we have accomplished some things. I mean, we have the house picked out. We're eligible for a mortgage in the amount we'd need. I just checked, and we need to give 45 days' notice under our lease in order to vacate early (March 31 at earliest). We were told we could get a lower price with a shorter closing period - such as 45 days, rather than 60. I think we could have an offer in by 45 days before the 31st. This could actually happen. Or not...who knows. (If we do buy, it will be so anticlimactic for those who've read my blog. How many houses have I considered "mine" by now?)

You can all discern the unifying theme in this post, right? Lateness! And I was supposed to be in bed 45 minutes ago. Tootles!

Friday, January 22, 2010

ho-hum

I think my cervical mucus is late. (I thought it couldn't do that on the tamoxifen. My body hates me, and now that I've announced my intention to do a p+7 draw, it's going to obscure peak day so that I can't.)

That's not at all like your period being late, is it?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

hope?

So I still haven't created the poster thingy that's supposed to measure my progress with my resolutions. I also haven't checked back with the list to see whether I'm forgetting any. If I am, I would like to continue forgetting briefly until I'm more fully squared away with what I'm working on now.

Poster or no poster, though, I want to say that right now, I have so many reasons to be hopeful (not reflected in an unshakeable good mood or anything annoying and un-IF-like like that, but I recognize that they exist).

I posted a while ago about the lethargy and needing some energy so I could get on my exercise kick. Cathy was kind enough to tell me about some herbal supplements I could take that would help - I bought one (Guarena seed) that's supposed to provide an immediate energy boost (I got the kind with no caffeine - I already know where to get caffeine!) and one (Fo Ti root) that's supposed to heal the systems generally and improve energy levels over the long term. I've taken one of each almost every day. I'm also good at remembering my thyroid meds (now on the erfa for a month or two, can't see any difference from the synthroid, but what do I know?).

I don't remember whether I explained this, but my first day back to work after the new year (before I started on the supplements), I dragged my lethargic carcass down to the gym and set the treadmill for one mile, twelve-minute miles, no incline. I did run the whole mile. But I felt exhausted and in need of a nap the whole time. My legs weren't tired and my lungs weren't tired; I was just tired. And it finally occurred to me with great clarity what was going on that was so odd. I ran half a mile, after which I remember feeling a boost when I was healthy, but nothing. I dragged myself through the whole mile. And I realized how I would describe the experience in layman's terms - no adrenaline rush! Even when I should have had one. So then the supplements. It hasn't been night-and-day enough to be sure it's them, but I do feel a difference - something is helping.

I've been pushing my weights and distances slowly. I figured out (after months) that you're supposed to put your feet way at the end of the treads on the stairmaster, and I finally started getting a decent butt workout! I dropped to 40 flights to have more time for the treadmill, but it's still much more taxing than before. I still can't do ten reps on the lat machine at 60 pounds, but as of today I can do seven reps. Maybe next week I can do ten? And then eventually three sets of ten? And then 70 pounds!

And the best part - the very best part - is the distances. I started at one mile and in the first week moved up to 1.5. The next week I made it to 2.0. Then I missed two days (out of three a week) at the gym! I was sure I was off the wagon for good. But we just had a 3.5 day weekend - and I ran all four days. First 2 miles. Then, the last 3 days, 2.5 miles! Some evil person had the treadmill when I got to the gym yesterday, so I only got a mile in (I did some other machines, though), but today I snagged a treadmill early. I thought I might not be able to do 2.5 miles on the treadmill - my outdoor jogging speed might be even lower than I thought? But I was wrong. I did the 2.5 miles straight without a break (or drop in speed), and didn't feel like I needed one! I haven't done that in YEARS! I will admit I did get mentally weary - running on the treadmill is BORING. I have to work on distracting myself. But I wasn't tired, and I know that tomorrow I can start doing THREE miles! (I have decided my goal is definitely five miles a day by my birthday in February!)

Even more exciting - I looked down somewhere around .7 miles, and I realized I was experiencing - an adrenaline boost! That feeling of, "Let's keep running. I think I could do this forever!" It wasn't as electrifying as with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face when you're in amazing shape and might actually be able to run forever. But it was energy, and it was amazing.

I will note that I haven't, as far as I can tell, lost any net weight yet. This past weekend I went to Target and geared up for my goals - I bought a digital scale, since our analog one is so confusing, and handweights for running. I don't think I'm quite up to running with weights yet, but soon! And then I will have toned arms. I can't wait! However. My dh and I both weighed ourselves when I unboxed the scale. BOTH of us were completely horrified. We're each so horrified with our own weight that neither of us has really registered whether the other has gained significant weight. And we are both determined to whip ourselves into shape. But, although I haven't made any numerical progress on the scale yet, the progress on the fitness goals really has me motivated. It will definitely carry me for a few more weeks at this rate, and then maybe it will start having some effect on my hips!

Oh, yes, finally. Signs of hope: no more tamoxifen. I finished it. I feel mildly less psycho, but it comes and goes. I know the effects will remain for several more weeks. I don't see any particularly good cm; not sure whether to expect it this cycle. Anyway, I will try to catch p+7 and get my blood draw then, and make an appointment with Dr. L/C for after the results come back. At that time, I hope to find out whether the tamoxifen is helping, whether there are now adjusted expectations post-surgery, and what, other than tamoxifen, I can take. I think I should probably be medicated if my cycle won't normalize (and I'm being a good sport this year), but I don't like the tamoxifen and want to try something else.

I might also note that my dh will be gone almost every other (entire) month for the rest of this ttc year. This hasn't resulted in any hysterics on my part yet, but you never know when that's lurking around the corner. I guess if God were going to ordain that everything be aligned perfectly for only one cycle in this period of comparative health and it were a month when my dh is gone, then God is evil and I've chosen the wrong religion. So either way, I shouldn't worry - it will either work if it's supposed to, or I am not theologically equipped to raise a child. One or the other.

Lastly, my dh and I realized that although our recent fights have been pretty outrageous, our general MO is to be a wee bit confrontational. That's funny when we're in a good mood, but if either of us is having a difficult time, it rapidly descends into the brutal. (Verbally, you know. Neither of us is in adequate shape for hand-to-hand combat!) So, at his instance, we are starting a program of being nice to each other. I know, it sounds faintly inane, and a little oversimplified - if that worked, wouldn't we have done it already? Well, as it happens, no. So we're trying it. So far, it seems to be working pretty well.

I will let everyone know when I become a cheerful, upbeat, childlike, unerring optimist. Until then, progress.

Monday, January 18, 2010

good news for MFers

Heh heh. So, I have no idea whether we have male factor infertility, since we're so on the ball we've never even had an SA. Someday, right? We've chosen to proceed as though that is an issue, though, and try to do everything to optimize in that area. (Next on the list is tracking down some proxeed.)

Anyway, our IRL infertile friends who see the good doctor in Omaha have the husband taking something called "maca" (root extract) - a Peruvian herb - which Dr. H is recommending to improve motility. That's not its "label" use, but apparently there has been some success with it.

So here's the good news: I went to our friendly local Vitamin Shoppe this evening (where I got my Fo Ti root and Guarena - thanks Cathy! They seem to be working, or something is working), and they had FOUR DIFFERENT BRANDS of Maca. So this stuff is definitely available. I would guess GNC and suchlike places have it too.

So there you have it: if the guys just wanna hang around poolside instead of doing their required laps, for $10 or $12, no prescription, you can get yourself 60-100 of some Peruvian magic pills that may, or may not, do anything about it.

(I am positive at least one blogger I read has struggled with motility issues that haven't responded to the treatments they've tried, so I hope this information gets where it needs to go!)

PSA 2

Note to idiot who submitted this comment:


I didn't click on your stupid link, but I know what you're up to. And the multicultural aspects of Asian por.n spam are not a selling point.

So take your guerilla exhibitionism attacks and put them where the sun doesn't shine. But not for my viewing pleasure, thank you very much.

Idiots.

Friday, January 15, 2010

the next house post

And now, a brief reprieve from psychosis (we're moving straight into neurosis, though, as I suspect a competent psychologist could confirm).

Anyway. I only have one real picture of the master bedroom. It goes all across the front of the house, so it's not a bad size, and of course it's long and skinny. The house is angly on top and there's not a full attic, so the master ceiling slopes at the sides. One of these sloped sides has been made into a closet, with metal slidey-doors on upper rails. Also, there are sliding glass doors onto the screened-in porch outside (which connects only to the master, and we might some day want to do something with), which have heavy curtains to pull across them. This photo captures some of that:


Oh, also, there's two swing-arm brass lamps that stick out of the wall (for either side of the bed - okay), and it's carpeted, and my best efforts to peek under the carpet were unsuccessful. I'm going to assume there are no hardwood floors under the carpet.

So first, we need hardwood floors. I think I'd like real hardwood, that click-lock stuff that an amateur could install with a nail gun, and something that looks appropriate to the age of the house - dark wood, but probably not cherry or mahogany (those are trendy right now, and I would rather it read "original"). Home Depot appears to have some pretty good prices on the stuff - this "hand-scraped" elm is $4.06/SF, which seems to be competitive (but y'all tell me if I can do better!):


OK, what else? Oh, yes, a bed. We have a double now and I really think we'd like a queen (double will get painted or refinished and go in a guest room). The dh and I are in agreement in liking tall, solid (not poster), somewhat carve-y antique headboards. (Not too feminine; not too frilly, for a farmhouse-type place.) This one might even be too rustic, but I like it:


This one is for sale on craigslist right now, and I *think* it's a queen, but it's a bit dear and it may be too frilly for my dh:


I can't really get into dressers, I don't know why. We have one we'd keep in our room; it's contemporary but a nicely-designed highboy we got off Craigslist. I don't know whether I'd want a low one too. But I love wardrobes. I love this one (on craigslist):


Oh, this one too:


I also love painted rustic wardrobes. They're all good, really.

What else? Oh, yes. This idea I'm very attached to. I have no love for the slidey-doors on the closets. They're not bad, they're just very modern-construction. This, idea however, could make use of the existing configuration, could probably use doors sourced from a re-use-it type center, and I looove:


Have to do that.

Oh, for the walls, I'm going to have to talk my dh into this wallpaper (he didn't love it, but he will grow to) - I figure for one or two walls, and the others very very light gray, almost white paint, and the trim bright white. It's from totalwallcovering:


And then - let's see...oh yes, textiles. So, I love all the fabrics in this image:


I can't decide whether I would like the existing heavy drapes after I got all the other stuff I wanted into the room, or whether I'd want to replace them. But newtoto.com has awesome, awesome prices on designer fabric (and free swatches!) - you have to go through everything to find the good stuff. So I think I could do some happy drapes if necessary.

And I think a couple of small oriental-type rugs for the floor. I was reading that if you get a big one that extends under the bed, it's more likely to get moth-eaten, unless you clean religiously. I'm just going to put it out there: I do not clean religiously. I doubt I ever will. So, small rugs it is. These are cool (at a good price on overstock):


What else? We'll probably need something else, given the length of the room. Maybe an armchair at some point? I don't mind the idea of starting with the necessities and then adding later if we see something we love (great way to extend your shopping budget and not settle for pieces you'll hate later, I think). Also, things in my life tend to get more cluttered all by themselves. I'm sure we'll discover that there's a family heirloom antique sewing machine (actually, there is one) that needs a home, and would be perfect on that one wall. And maybe we'll need nightstands - I prefer to just cut to the chase and use a bookshelf. My dh's current nightstand is barely visible under the books.

Hmm. Maybe the upstairs bathroom is next?

tamoxifen, pill 8: and now for the REAL psychosis

I think it may be time for a removal of all baby/pregnancy blogs from my blogroll. Sure, I feel all harsh and judgmental, and maybe it's the hormones. But I was catching up on my comments and read that one (quite pregnant) infertile is conducting an infertility retreat with her church, and I about lost it. (No secret who she is, conceivably she might read this. Not intended to be a secret.) I asked whether she had considered the effect this might have on some people attending, but that's not the phrasing that magically appeared in my head the second I read that. I about lost my mind. I know, rage, the hormone drugs, I got it. Way overreacting to things. But those things are still a provocation on some level. And I don't feel as though I can deal.

I'm not usually freaked out by pregnancy/baby stuff - usually bored or annoyed, nothing else. Not usually jealous or depressed. I don't know that I'm really depressed now, either; I just perceive the baby stuff as a social gaffe on a titanic scale, that I absolutely cannot smile and ignore ('cause I'm psycho. I covered that, right?). So I guess this is my same typical reaction, but on steroids. It comes out all different ways, in my head. Things to do with Before any former [?] infertile posts a single baby picture, she should be required to read every post she has ever written on the subject of others' baby news and how it affected her, and also If you're a few weeks pregnant and never comment on my blog, why do I keep reading under the illusion that you will deliver the baby and then spend lots of time following along with my life? Because I'M AN IDIOT.

Not pretty, right? I think I may need to be restrained before I start leaving these on other people's blogs.

Also, still-infertile-childless gals, y'all are complicit. (Not in my insanity, in the inadequate provocation that is serving as the catalyst for my insanity.) Normally my judgment would be too good to post this, but said judgment has taken a hiatus, so here goes: everyone has a "your pregnancy joy might cause me to die in agony at my computer" day some time. Some people have those days every day, and pretty much everyone has them at minimum regularly. So most of us bravely write something congratulatory, and those of us who are possessed by madness make it super over-the-top hysterically joyful.

And you know what makes the baby posts unbearable for me? Not the pictures (I want to see exactly one picture of each baby - maybe a new one each year. That is all that I need to satisfy my curiosity and be happy for the mother. After that it is baby picture por.n, and we all know [or so I thought] that infertiles do not do baby picture por.n). What bothers me is the seventeen million comments (from people who never commented so regularly before - what's with THAT?) and they're ALL ecstatic. If people could stop pretending that they're all super-joyful, implying that all other readers are the only ones who are childless and kinda not happy about that, we could stop being complicit in the poisoning of each other's peace of mind we all take part in every time this happens. (And in fairness, I do this too, which is only Exhibit Q or something in this post that I'm an idiot.)

'Cause the new momma is not going to take her baby back to the issuer if she fails to get dozens of comments saying that it's real pretty. Seriously, she's not. What she needs to do is solicit the email addresses of everyone who wants to be sent baby pictures, and limit herself to one post in five being about the baby. If that means she rarely posts, she can totally reverse the usual order of things and comment lots but not post, rather than including a cute message indicating that she'd love to reply to your comments (not read your blog. Just reply to your comments about her kid) but only if she has time...

If I get pregnant, that's what I'm going to do (hold me to this, people). I'll post mostly about non-baby-related matters, and if I can't, I'll comment as much as I can and post less. Or, if brain fever sets in and I can't help myself, I'll start a new blog for pictures that could never be really precious to anyone who is not related to me.

Bottom line: other people's joy pisses me off right now. There, that was appropriately psychotic, I think.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

success!!!

So I no longer want to sell my husband to white slavers. Today. (Here I have to plagiarize further from Single Dad, this time a quote from Phyllis Diller, I believe: "Don't go to bed angry. Stay up and fight!") Who knows what tomorrow may bring, since I still have three more tamoxifen pills to take (with any luck, those will be the last three in my life! But I intend to get my p+7 finally done this cycle, and to go visit Dr. L/C after my next cycle starts [yes I said it. Screw you, tamoxifen, everyone knows you don't work] and see whether she recommends some other horrid medicine that will make me hysterical while allegedly, but not actually, improving my chances of conception. Nine more months till my year of good sportsmanship is over!).

Anyway. I have been very bad about responding to emails from our realtors (I'm maybe a week overdue) because I have been conflicted, also busy, and lazy. But here's what I decided to do:
  1. Write back. Pass for now on the guy who will do remodeling (but not major damage repair) estimates (that would be fine after we've bought the house).
  2. Ask our realtors to get all the sellers' disclosures, information on the age and repair of the furnace, water heater, and roof (am I forgetting anything?), and history of utility payments. This may be tricky, as the last occupants are dead, but I want the information if it's humanly possible.
  3. Get my credit reports and find out whether there are any errors or things I need to dispute. Get copies of my dh's documentation from his hearing last week, at which he obtained a declaratory judgment that the other fellow with his name who got a default judgment a few years ago is in fact not him. This should definitely help his credit.
  4. At lunch tomorrow, call a half dozen lenders and get them to give me non-binding quotes, based on credit information I'll send them, without actually initiating a credit check. Once I find the best quote, I'll know whom to call back for my pre-approval, and thereby avoid multiple credit checks. Does this sound like it will work?
  5. Go through the house one more time and visit all the scary nooks and crannies. Bring our friends, the couple who remodel and flip houses, and see what they think.
  6. Visit one time early on a week day and do each of our commutes as a trial run.
  7. If all of these things work out in a way that makes both of us (especially my dh, who has more cold feet) happy, put an offer on the house, with an inspection contingency in 72-point font. We already know about what the offer would be - a definite lowball.

OK, I've saved the exciting part. So I've been meaning and meaning to pay the $29.95 for the full credit reports from all the agencies. Apparently procrastination has its rewards, because when I signed on today, it was on sale for $24.95. I was sad to see the outstanding loan amount that I have - I've been paying my student loans for three years at an aggressive rate, and it looks like I only paid $3k! But then I looked through the details, and realized it is counting $8k in loans I co-signed for my baby brother so he could graduate from college (parents completely useless). They're totally current (he's very responsible), and without me having to pay them, which is also nice. Even better, it means I've repaid over $11k of my student loans! I am stoked.

But I'm still saving the best part for last. You know how I had a 750 credit score, and I heard that 760 was the break point for the best interest rates, and I paid off an $800 student loan in full, and then my score was still 750, and I was so sad? Well, I'm not sure that that discharge had reported to all the bureaus when I found that, or what, but check this out:


AW YEAH. And I bet my unmedicated estradiol and progesterone and FSH are totally and completely screwed up and my thyroid is STILL a mess and I DON'T GIVE A DA*N.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

treasure

One

So in case you haven't read it yet, you really need to read Naomi's infertility acronym post. I think my favorite is IWTSBBIKTTIMH ("I want to steal babies but I keep that thought in my head"), but it's hard to choose. Since I have an irrational fondness for acronyms (since childhood - it's true), I'll ante up a few of my own. Feel free to add some of your own too (and let me know - I told you, I love acronyms).

ttc: tyrannically-timed coi.tus
hpt: hidden peeing in terror
nfp: now for procreation
tww: total waste of worry
poas: pregnancy obsession and stupidity
itnfh: isn't that nice for her
wyihhoppsi: why yes, I have heard of Pope Paul VI Institute
wditoja: why didn't I think of just adopting?
isybwhmcbiabtbaad: I'm sure yak blubber will help me conceive, but I'm already being treated by an actual doctor
chgpbihtboased: crack whores get pregnant, but I have to be on a special endo diet
ihbhicgro(pbothi)aylypwiam: I have birthing hips I can't get rid of (probably because of the hormone imbalances) and you lost your pregnancy weight in a month

Two

The other treasure - precious beyond words - that I found just yesterday in blogland is the blog Single Dad, Disabled Daughter. Do you remember when you first started blogging - probably within 72 hours before you started your own blog - and you found a blog that was so compelling you went back to the first post and literally read the entire thing? I remember doing that. I haven't done it in a long, long time. Of course, if I find what appears to be a great blog, I'll read back several posts (looking for a good place to put my first comment of course!), and peruse the IF timeline and go back to any significant event I think I need to be caught up on. If I feel like I've generally got the idea, I may only read back one or two posts, and then start keeping up currently from there. Anyway, this guy started blogging somewhere around the time I did. He posts quite a bit, though not as long-winded as I am (but then, who is?).

I read the entire thing in 24 hours (didn't help my productivity or sleep much). Not a single post failed to be compelling. Everything beautifully and provocatively written. And the story - is amazing. I know that very severe disabilities exist, and that there are parents who live with severely disabled children. But I could never have imagined myself into that world. I wouldn't have known what details to start with. He's a very good writer in that all that he says is so clear, and clearly true; and so, a window into an extraordinary, and heroic, world. I warn you, if you wander over to read, against saying "I'm praying for you" or complimenting what he does. Those are pet peeves of his (if you read enough posts, you'll see what I mean).

I feel like just the reading I've done so far has been a huge gift - some experiences leave an indelible stamp on you, but this is the first such I've experienced that came simply through reading another person's words over the internet. I'm sure I haven't grasped one one-hundredth of what their life is like, but I know I won't ever be quite the same.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

CD1

EXACTLY on time - a 27-day cycle, my standard when my cycles are regular, with peak day on CD14 and a 13-day LP. So I was definitely expecting it today. I had some slight tightness - like a 1% version of cramps - several days this past week, which is not normal for me, but I knew it was the tamoxifen, not pregnancy symptoms. In fairness, though, this was my first even close to healthy cycle since my surgery - on October 12. You know, in the year when I'm supposed to have my lifetime best chances of conception. So, it's CD1. I'm just sayin'.

(The plan, insofar as I have a plan, which I do not, is to take my remaining tamoxifen this month, and then hope that after that, my cycle gets the idea and returns to normal on its own. I think AYWH has taught us all a good lesson about being on tamoxifen indefinitely.)

Fortunately, I think it's almost time for some more home decor photos.

Friday, January 8, 2010

a whole year

January 2 was my one-year anniversary of starting this blog. (I know. I am always, always late. Wait, except for my period. Ba-dum-ching!)

I know it's sort of a meme in the blogging culture (note to sociologists: I'm sure there are already quite a few dissertations out there on this, but as a new initiate to blogdom, it becomes immediately obvious that there is a culture, etiquette, social structure. Y'all ought to look into this!) to look back at notable blogging milestones, and personal milestones, such as anniversaries, and reflect. So I could well say something trite or vapid here, but that would be no different than any other post I've written, so what's the harm?

I remember starting this blog. At the time I thought that I had a unique perspective to offer the IF blogosphere (writing about just being infertile, the fact of being someone who can't seem to get pregnant, rather than about the more active process of being in treatment, with its possibility of a life-changing outcome). I had no idea how big the IF blogosphere was, and how many perspectives were already out there - that I had nothing to say that hadn't been said, other than what I ate for breakfast today. Which is essentially what I blog about, as it turns out. Far more humble than my initial aspirations. I also remember thinking of starting a blog as a huge step. It seems small in retrospect, but I think that's because this blog has become such a fixture in my life. Meaning that I was right - it was a huge step.

I remember thinking that maybe having the blog would help me. To get ideas off my chest, to do something good, to learn something, maybe how to cope, but knowing that one day of blogging wouldn't accomplish all that, nor a week - I would have to wait to see the benefits over time. Time passes like a freight train, people. It's been a year. I still feel like a new blogger. (Actually, I think I still am!)

There were things I was not expecting. I learned early on from IF blogging giants like Mel the Stirrup Queen and Yaya that "comments are the new hug" and a good blogger follows her commenters, and comments on their posts. That would not have occurred to me off the top of my head. For a while I tried to read every post on my blogroll and comment on everything. At some point I trimmed that to not commenting if my Blackberry was being obstructionist, or I had nothing good to say. There have been some pregnancy posts for which I had no reply. There have been several bashing the Catholic Church (usually because of the blogger's factual errors about Catholic teaching, and attendant refusal to check her bad information; sometimes just because the Church is the default enemy when someone is unhappy and sex is in any way involved), or the humanity of the unborn (yes, by infertiles), for which I had no reply.

One of the tenets of ifosphere etiquette is that there shall be no negative comments. There are times I've had an opportunity to witness to the truth or explain an error, and I've realized I can't do that and be "nice" enough, and I've just deleted the blog from my list. I'm sorry your baby died (truly), but suggesting that the Church's teaching that you cannot baptize the dead (not don't want to, cannot) is somehow an attack on your child is - well, let's say it's not a sufficient excuse for saying nasty things about someone else's faith. (I will also note that I've never been concerned that people I deleted would read anything I later said here. I don't know whether these people ever read my blog, but the evidence indicates that when I stopped commenting, they stopped reading instantly and permanently. That's not how or why I follow other blogs, and I confess I don't understand it.)

And sometimes the only rational comments have already been made by others and my brain offers nothing else worth reading. But I think I read most of the posts of people on my blogroll, and comment on more than 50% of the total. I do know that there are people who follow me whose blogs I have not yet tracked down and added, and it's time for me to do that. I want to follow along with all of the awesome people out there, especially those who've been generous enough to spend some of their time reading what I've written here.

Anyway, all this is to say that I didn't foresee that by blogging I would make friends. I would never have expected to meet some of the bloggers in real life, and have an opportunity to see even more clearly what fabulous, fantastic women they are. I would guess everyone else who's had an opportunity to do this would agree with me that broken and inadequate as IF may make us all feel, to see another woman whose words have told you she's walked that same road and realize concretely that she's beautiful, and self-confident, and brilliant, and vibrantly human, is a real eye-opener.

As I said, when I started, I wanted to write about the fact that nobody (even those who deal with infertiles professionally) seems to register the fact that we have to exist, in the lives that we have. It's not all a treatment process. First of all, nobody should live for a period of years with all of what they are focused laser-like on conceiving a child. It will destroy you. Most of us end up living at least some period that way anyway, but it's not good. And for some people that will be a very long time.

I have tried to explain to people that, while they may have heard of someone who conceived after twelve years when all hope appeared to be lost, if I spend twelve years waiting for that day, I will be up in a clocktower with a high-powered rifle before the time is up. Hope has to be imbibed in moderation, too. And I think every infertile who gets to that point needs to have permission to move on from hoping - permission to give every well-meaning acquaintance, coworker, and grocery checker, who wants to tell you that it could still happen, the once proverbial "talk to the hand" (or finger, if strictly necessary). I even got this from a priest in confession recently, and it's too much. LISTEN TO ME, FATHER: SOMETIMES "GOD'S TIME" IS NEVER. GET USED TO IT - BECAUSE I HAVE TO.

So anywho, another thing that kind of surprised me after I started blogging was that I went back into treatment. Surprise! And had more tests done, and another surgery. Surprise! And had not one but TWO male OB/GYNs, despite the fact that never having a male OB/GYN was one of my life goals. I guess it still is; I've just already failed. Surprise! What may have surprised me more was that my pouting-in-the-corner (but also emotionally necessary) break from treatment did not, in fact, represent peace with the idea of never getting pregnant. I actually was just pouting. But in the process of getting more testing, and drugs and whatnot, I actually did start to find the beginnings of peace with "never." BIG surprise!

Technically, there's medical hope for me. I haven't had at least half of the totally standard early testing done. I've taken only one drug. We haven't even done an SA, for heaven's sake. (We might still.) And while I have stage IV endo (and my doctor says my odds of conceiving ever are in the 30% range) and we've been ttc for going on five years, I'm only 27, and as a matter of practical fact, if I were absolutely determined to treat this and get pregnant, there's no reason I couldn't get aggressive and settle in for a long battle. But here's something I learned, and am learning, about myself. I'm just not interested in that. Not just currently annoyed with the idea, but permanently not interested. God can orchestrate anything He wants and I'll be open to life (although I'm still contemplating a hysterectomy if the endo can't be managed otherwise), but I'm not making fertility treatment a 20-to-40-hour-a-week job. I would rather do almost anything, or nothing at all. This is meant as no disparagement of those who have worked heroically to find diagnosis and treatment. I salute you. I exploit your knowledge all the time, and let me tell you, I truly appreciate it. But I know I'm not going to be able to follow you. That's just how it is.

So looking back on this past year, I would say it should go in the nonexistent book of the history of my life as The Year of Becoming Not Psychotic About Infertility. It's pretty fair to say that I started out psycho on the subject. And that I'm not the picture of mental health now. However: not psychotic any more. I attribute that healing - seriously, this was my avenue for surprise graces from the heavens - to blogging. To getting to share what I was going through, and having wonderful loving people read along, and to reading the daring and tragic and triumphant and wonderful adventures of other people fighting in the same battle. I can't attribute all this to prayer (well, OK, not my prayers), because I haven't gotten my spiritual life in order, heaven knows. That's still on the list. But looking back, I can tell that I've secured something I just didn't have a year ago. Once a ticking infertile time bomb, now I am merely defective.

Which brings us to the coming year. I've outlined my goofy 2010 resolutions and I will try to stick to them. In terms of more progress with infertility specifically, I'm hoping that this will be the Year of Achieving Some Modicum of Abiding Peace with Infertility, and maybe also the Year of Beginning to Discern and Live Joyfully What (Rather than Children) Will Be the Focus of My Adult Life.

I've actually made some progress in the last week that I have to share here. All last year, when I could drag myself to the gym or outside to run, I had two things in mind. One: I keep getting heavier. This is appalling. I have to run. Two: I can't be this tired. I'm not old enough yet. I should be able to run three miles, so that's what I'm going to do. All this worked pretty abysmally. So this week at the gym some inspiration struck. I have to start where I really am, regardless of where I'd like to be. So I didn't tell myself I would run three miles on the treadmill. (I always feel exhausted and I simply fail to finish.) And I didn't tell myself that I can, too, run a ten-minute mile, and that's the pace I'll do. I set the treadmill for a twelve-minute mile and I started at one mile. The last tenth, I ran at ten-minute-mile speed. I didn't get tired. I felt good.

The other thing I decided to do, since I feel like so many things I'd like to fix (fitness-wise, health-wise) are out of my control, is push really hard where I realize I can actually make progress. So the next day, I moved it up to 1.5, and did that for two days. I felt good. Next week, I am doing 2 miles. I think I can move up every 2-3 exercise days at this rate. I'll be running five miles in no time. Seriously, I think that will really work. And I'll take as long as I need to between moves, to make sure my energy level is really keeping up with what I'm doing. Meanwhile, I've been doing 30 pounds on the lat pull-down for months. (I could only do 20 when I started last year. It was so sad.) I tried 40 last week, and I could barely move it. Then the next day, I realized I could do three sets of ten reps at 40. Weird. So I tried 50, and I could barely move it. The next day, I tried 50 again, and I just barely managed one set of ten reps. I think I can start on 60 by the end of next week. Conceivably, I could move up ten pounds every week or two for a couple of months. I had no idea all last year that that was possible. The fact that I can actually make progress feels unbelievably amazing. Plus, I think that if I successfully build endurance and muscle mass, my energy levels will improve, even though the entire medical community is COMPLETELY USELESS on this point. And even more interesting - if I can get to running five miles at a clip and do so regularly, I might also get back into shape! Bonus.

I guess that's my summary for one year of blogging: I don't know that I'll ever have children, and that might be just fine. But if I'm humble and patient, I think I can move a mountain, one pebble at a time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

life

So there are only two female attorneys in my office (it's a small office though). My colleague has been mentioning ttc for about a year, but she and her hubbie weren't very focused about it. Since her mom just died, they've been charting, I think - for two months. She let me know today that she's going to get her second blood test - she's had two positive HPTs. Without revealing all the sources of my extensive information, I was able to tell her confidently that with two BFPs, unless she was on HCG, she doesn't really need that second blood test. (She's 5.5 weeks along.) So that's...something...

It's not like I'm getting pregnant in 2010. If I did, having both gals expecting would be sort of weird in the office, but I guess that was always possible, given that I knew she was trying. (And always more likely in her case. I know these things...) I'm not upset, I guess. In fact, I was excited for her. It's always mixed, of course, and I know there are days it may be hard to listen to things. But I have an office with a door :).

And I know she's really worried about her weight, even about preeclampsia or however you spell it? She's concerned that she won't have an opportunity to get to a healthy weight now and she really wanted to. As always, there are always difficulties all around.

She also mentioned her concern that she didn't have enough leave saved up, and had just spent a lot over Christmas. And I realized that for the first time - because I've been saving my leave for years, thinking of maternity leave - I still want to bankroll enough to have some saved each year (I think this way with everything), but I don't want to save it all. I want to spend it. I'm looking forward to going to Vienna (Austria, not Virginia) with my husband and some friends in May. I'm looking forward to spending some time at the monastery in the summer, with my husband's family. I'm looking forward to next Christmas (already!). I'm looking forward to getting to take a day or two off when my mother visits in the spring (I hope).

I don't need to save every penny and hour for an elusive future. I'm going to have a happy life. Or else.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

the kitchen

The housing stuff is getting a bit boring, so ignore the last one (executive summary: we're both still leaning toward the tan house, but have a ways to go to on the decision). Instead, here's a sort of regularly scheduled housing-related one, with more pictures and slightly less blather.

So here's the kitchen in the tan house:


Other side:


I should have taken the shot 180 degrees opposite of those; the back just has one small set of cupboards in the corner. It's not a huge kitchen, and the deep refrigerator that really sticks out into the floor space and traffic flow is not helping. But also on that unphotographed wall is an opening into this:


It's hard to tell, in this house, which parts are original and which were added later. (Clearly the family room was added most recently, but the realtors think a lot of other parts were later expansions, also.) One thing that's clear is that the house didn't contain a washer and dryer in 1905. So I think it is right and proper that the laundry room be again part of the kitchen. Hideous shutter-doors, the wall that frames them, excessive white wire shelf thingies, and lurid blue paint out; space for that big fat refrigerator and some more storage and prep area in. (I have a theory on a closet in the neighboring first-floor bedroom being expanded and the w/d going in there, but more on that later.)

All the backsplashes, soffits, and other wall surfaces in the room are beadboard (well, a wide version), which I would keep. Here's the color scheme I think I would want - a medium blue/slate color for bottom cupboards, winter white for the top, and a pale butter yellow for all that bead board.


I'd also replace a couple of the upper cabinet doors with glass-paned ones, as below - maybe I could find some discarded older doors. Also, if I could find an antique farm sink like this one, I would replace the existing sink. (I'm not as interested in contemporary apron-front sinks, though I admit they're cute.) Also like this picture, I think I'd do most of the counters in butcher block (ikea sells it at a great price); I might do the counters adjacent the sink in soapstone (found a great price on that too).


But. I don't know exactly what this material is or where to get it, but if I could replicate this countertop, I would definitely, definitely want it.


Oh yeah, and while we're on countertops, you see that weird opening between the range and the dishwasher? Yeah, weirdos designed this kitchen. Anyway, that needs a rolling table, and I'd want one with a marble top - next to the oven is the perfect place to roll pie crust! (I'd need one a little smaller than this one.)


So what does that leave? Oh yes, the floor. It's wood and in bad condition and ugly. I think I'd like to put in slate (great price on slate tiles here).

Now, for items to fill the remaining space: there's a few more square feet where the laundry used to be (after I put the fridge there), and the space the fridge used to occupy. I still like the idea of a stepback hutch for dishes (this one is selling on craigslist for $100 right now):


Or maybe a Hoosier cabinet instead (selling on craigslist for $155):


Or maybe a butcher-block-topped furniture piece as a prep table (I'm still stuck on that idea these many months later).

Or maybe a chest freezer. I really want one of those (think of all the things I could put in it!), though I accept that it may have to live in the basement.

Have I forgotten anything? Well, I guess if the neighborhood ever became plumbed for natural gas heat, I would want my Chambers model C vintage stove. But until then, the glass-top electric range the kitchen has is fine.

home, part almost infinity

So my dh and I have been talking about the house question. I ran by him my idea that the longer list of things to do with it, the list whose length depressed us a bit, might all be inexpensive things. (In fact, from a certain perspective, if every room's paint job is flawed, that's a good thing. We'd probably want to choose our own colors anyway, and I'd feel guilty redoing paint in good condition; whereas if it appears to be in bad condition, it could only help our bargaining power.) He said he had been thinking and he realized that what we both really love is that town that we found - so it doesn't make a lot of sense to compare a house in a neighboring town as if they could be equivalent.

I thought about it and decided that he was right. He's not going to be doing his current job a year from now (we hope he'll be with the same company, maybe in another location). I don't suppose I'll be in my current job in ten years (have been thinking about switching in 3-5 years; later if I don't see anything else I want, sooner if something fantastic comes along). But I want to be in my house in ten years, unless we leave the DC area altogether. It makes sense to me to look for a job near where I live, rather than a house near where I work, if I'm attached to the housing locale more than the job locale. Until then, I think I can suffer with the commute. My employer is coming to grips psychologically with its telework policy, and in a few months or a year when an adequate comfort level has been reached, maybe I'll ask to telework every Monday, or something.

I still have a number of questions about the house. For example, I want to have some idea of the number of potentially expensive repairs needed, and a very general estimate of their cost (for example, for the water problem), before we make an offer. I need to run by our realtors whether this is normal, reasonable, or possible. We also spent last evening with some friends. He used to flip houses for a living. They live in an awesome historic home now. They actually volunteered to come look at the house with us. They've done lots of repairs and renovations themselves, so that would be huge. (Plus they're a lot of fun just in general.)

So I'm feeling better about that house. I've also been thinking - we'll be out of the way geographically from many of the friends we now spend time with. Right now, we're maybe the only household that's centrally located and willing to host gatherings all the time. So we see people a lot. If we move 25 miles away, people will still be willing to come see us, I hope, but probably not as often. The question is whether that's a bad thing, indifferent, or even a good thing. I don't know. We're willing to drive, too, so I guess we would see people if we wanted to.

There's one other thing I've been thinking about. A lot of things about this town clicked for me. The idyllic quality really attracted me, but the safety factor would really mean a lot to my husband. He worries about me much, much too much. It's actually a significant source of stress. If I lived somewhere off-the-charts safe (and this place is), I think that might bring us a lot of peace. So that's made a big impression on me.

But one thing I thought I would see fall into place with the place I'm supposed to work/live/be is an opportunity to go to daily Mass easily. This is the furthest I've worked from a Catholic church since starting law school - actually too far to walk there, attend Mass, and walk back during my lunch hour. I've always been close enough to do that. And there's one daily Mass close to my house that drives me to absolute madness and I finally stopped attending; and one that's a mile away (not a really short walk) and doesn't have a particularly convenient Mass schedule. (If I were a really early riser, I could make it work - which would be easy, since I have so much extra energy all the time. By the way, I got some of those supplements that Cathy suggested - one of the short-term and one of the long-term. Been taking them two days - will report on any changes.)

The town where the tan house is is tiny. It only has one church in it, which isn't Catholic. The nearest Catholic parish appears to be a good parish and is less than two miles away, which, for Sunday Mass purposes, is fine. But its daily Mass is at 6:30AM, which I think might kill me. And to get to the church, I'd actually have to drive in the opposite direction from the metro stop I'd have to use to get to work. So I'd lose 90 minutes of sleep for 30 minutes of daily Mass, I think. Not the calculus I was hoping for. Should I hold out for an arrangement in which everything falls into place? Maybe I'm missing something that would make it all work. I don't know.

I also noticed a foreclosure that was having an open house this afternoon. The house is very old and it's pretty close to where I live, so I stopped by. A great price. We would have so much space I wouldn't even know what to do with it. It does need a few repairs, since it's a foreclosure. But the neighborhood is very mixed. And the former owners remodeled everything - it looks like a builder's model. On the outside, it's clearly 1904. On the inside, you'd never know. So no love. I went home.

Still can't get my mind off the tan house...

Friday, January 1, 2010

conflicted

So we went and saw the tan house in person again on Thursday morning - in the daylight, this time. (This is a post about housing searches. Consider yourself warned.)

It's amazing how much you can see in the daylight that electric light doesn't show. I know first-time home buyers are super-prone to being freaked out by minor (or moderate) cosmetic issues that should not dictate their decisions. But it's just hard not to notice when something will require work you may, or may not, be competent to do.

Some observations that might resonate with anyone who has a freakish total recall of all my room redos for the tan house: the family room/library (with the knotty wood walls), first of all, does not have raw wood crown molding. It has white wood crown molding with a dark-wood-colored faux finish. OK, I can paint that white. Oh, but some of the molding is actually just slats aligned to look like the other molding (which elsewhere in the room really is molding). Um. OK, replace those. And you know those boards that form the walls? They're really thin. Maybe 3/8" - very flimsy. They haven't been treated with anything (I was right about them being raw wood), and so they've become very dry. Behind the wood stove, one panel even developed a foot-long crack. The owners immediately and diligently fixed this - with packing tape. No, not joking. So at this point, I'm thinking, rip off the boards, install drywall, and paint. Paint the crown molding (and the baseboard heaters, which also have a wood-look faux finish!). Put real crown molding where there's fake now. Rip off the flimsy wood strips that form the current latticework ceiling and maybe put in a real coffered ceiling on the same pattern?

After my husband saw how much needed to be done, his enthusiasm for the house dropped quite a bit. His favorite house, which is nearby, now has a price dropped to $20k less than the asking price for the tan house, and is decorated magnificently throughout (albeit not to my taste), but is also a rather longer commute for me, has a tiny yard, and is not in as nice a neighborhood, and definitely has a less useful layout, suddenly looks like a much nicer option to him. I don't know. I can't really see us living in that house. I need to keep thinking.

I was thinking that we should figure out what each of these houses is likely to sell for. And then what the more serious repairs to the tan house are likely to cost (the basement has a water problem, so that would have to be addressed). If the tan house is as good or better a price after those numbers, then we need to know how much all the cosmetic repairs would really cost. Two rooms need hardwood floors and the kitchen needs tile; we don't know whether the upstairs (all of it) has hardwood under the wall-to-wall carpeting, so that might be another thing. I intend to paint every room, and wallpaper the dining room (and a little wallpaper for the bedrooms). See above for the family room. Plus maybe built-in bookshelves someday (though that's no emergency). And we'll ultimately want to do something with the upstairs porch. I think the real cost of those things could be, well, I have no idea. If it would be $50k (before we even started major remodeling, which I don't really plan on much of), then it's a bad idea. If it would be $5k, that's very different.

Plus, you know, they're both big houses. I'd have to keep them clean. And in my head, I see the family coming over for Christmas, or a house full of friends - that's what I see every time I picture living in the tan house. I never picture coming home to an evening of cleaning a four-bedroom house. I don't spend a lot of time picturing my longer commute. I think it would be around an hour each way (it's now about 45 minutes in the morning and 35 in the afternoon). That sounds manageable, I think, but to be honest, I'm already exhausted all the time. Given how little energy I have, a merely full-time job is a big drain already. I sincerely believe that the home update projects will make me really happy and I'll have the energy to do them (especially if we have the finances to get the materials we need and professional help where appropriate). But how much energy will I have left over to wash dishes and do laundry?

One of the things I look forward to is working just part-time. Twenty hours a week sounds like something I could do with energy and still invest in hobbies, exercise, the community. All the things I want to do. But I'm not sure I even have the option of working half time. And assuming I could do so and merely halve my salary, well, I mean, if that were possible, obviously it would put us in a worse financial position to increase our housing costs over renting! I think we could still make all our payments and everything, but obviously renting is cheaper.

Am I being irrational, in general? I want to own a home. And I want to go, eventually, certainly not this year, to working part-time. Those are sort of emotional things I want, and I suppose they fit in some way into my attempts to mold my childless life.

On the other hand, this is a really good time to buy a house - prices and interest rates are both low. We're thinking we'll be in the area a while (ten years? Five? Twenty?), so it makes sense to buy. It actually would be good for us to have a little bit more space. While we like the house we're renting, we could use a real guest bedroom, we need more room for books, and we notice how nice it would be to have a room big enough for dancing or a table that seats more than four (six in a pinch) more often than I'd have expected. (Wow, those sound like pretty lame reasons compared to "even if they share, the kids need two more bedrooms.")

It also seems rational to want, eventually, to work part-time. I'm not planning to check out while my income is still really needed. But my dh's income should increase over the years (it's OK now), and we don't have college tuition to save for. And not every man has a wife with appreciable earning power - in some sense, my salary is a luxury. It's not crazy to want to work less than full-time (eventually) and own a home...is it?

And this purchase would be calculated on the idea that I can work if I need to. If we actually got pregnant (God forbid!), it might not be a matter of working until the finances worked out. What if I put myself in the position of having to put a child in daycare because we couldn't afford our mortgage otherwise? (I suppose a lot of our other expenses might drop if we were home with a baby.) And what if my husband loses his job? His employment situation has been volatile since we've been married. It isn't really his fault, but if we were on just one salary, even for a brief period, the mortgage would really pinch.

I know I have cold feet. I wanted a house - I want a house - or do I want the idea of a house?

(And on an only apparently unrelated note - is there anything I can take without a prescription that will boost my energy levels? That would cut out quite a few of my concerns right away.)