Wednesday, December 28, 2011

vocation, blessings, and crosses

I've done a lot of ranting about the problem of Other People's Children in general, and the children of other infertiles in particular - ranted, raged, condemned (sometimes, I note, with entire justice), and generally run off at the mouth. It's what I do best, and I think one should play to one's strengths.

I haven't done a lot of low-rage, intellectual musing, but I think the proper time for that has come.

Obviously others' children are continued salt in an open wound for a barren woman. And more painful still, when other infertile women become pregnant or adopt, we are not only confronted with yet another other's child (and attacking us from within our "safe" inner sanctum, no less), but, even more painful, we lose a friend and an ally. When that crossing over happens en masse, or has been going on for a long time, each new person who crosses over leaves us more totally alone. We childless women are now an endangered species in the infertility blogosphere. The emotional toll of all these things shouldn't even need explaining (but invariably does).

Leaving aside the anger and the sadness, what about the theological implications?

I am certain beyond doubt that God does not guarantee all women - or married women, or married Christian women, or married Catholic women, or any other demographic - a baby. I am certain beyond doubt that, of those who are not able to have a biological child naturally or with medical intervention, not all are called by God to adoption. Any individual woman or couple might suppose they were not called to adopt, and be mistaken, in that God had actually called them to adopt (and it is clear that everyone with children believes this is the case with me). But it is definitely not the case that God calls 100% of the naturally childless to adoption. (It is also not the case that everyone who would like to be married will eventually find a spouse. God is not in the "even Steven" game; this world is fallen and not everything is going to wind up neatly. Or, as my mother always put it, "Life is not fair." If you haven't already - get used to it.)

Along these same lines, there are childless women who lack the financial resources to pursue all the medical treatment (whether morally questionable or otherwise) that might enable them to bear a child, who lack the information to access all the appropriate treatment, whose other health concerns prevent them from securing all available treatment, or who (rightly) determine that pursuing every available form of treatment would be inappropriate for their lives. There are childless couples who lack the means to adopt (because of finances, age, or other reasons). There is not a band-aid big enough to assign a baby to everyone who wants one so that those not afflicted with this problem can call it "solved" and ignore it.

In the abstract, I know - with certainty - that all these things are true. This leads me to some conclusions. If all these things are true, then it may be the case that I will never have a child. It might also not be the case - people do randomly get pregnant after years of trying - but that ending is not guaranteed. So I must accept that a biological or adoptive child could be cast into my path, but will not necessarily be. I might have to live the rest of my life childless, because anyone might have to live the rest of his life childless. In principle, it can happen. God does not guarantee otherwise. Ergo, God has allowed that this cross should be allotted to some of us.

But if this can happen in theory, and therefore could happen to me, then it could happen to other people, too. And the law of averages dictates that it actually will happen to some small but distinct percentage of infertile women. Since I know far more infertile women than the average person (yes, hello), it should logically be the case that some small but distinct percentage of those I know will be childless for life.

See where I'm going yet? I would guess not, but I may be wrong.

Here's the problem. That doesn't appear to be happening. That is, from my current vantage point, it strongly appears that every infertile couple I know will eventually - probably even relatively soon - have a biological child or adopt. (Yes, TCIE, including you. And stop making that face.) I have no desire to see any individual person (even me) live childless forever. I'm not asking that someone else suffer longer or worse so that I have an ally, or in order to prove one of my pet theories.

But.

What if I am the only infertile who is still childless at 40? What if every other infertile woman on the planet who is that old or older has had a child by that time? In principle, my certainties won't change. I did the math carefully and it all checks. But if, in spite of these principles, God has in fact decided to give every single infertile woman a child but me, what does that mean? It doesn't mean the principles are wrong, but it certainly adds a layer of analysis. It means that I'm childless not because God has allowed me to carry this cross, as He allows some infertile women to do; but rather because He has decided that I, and only I, should be childless, that I should be alone, that I should have no friends who will understand, and that I will have to have other people's children forced on me without ceasing - because everyone else will have children.

That's not good.

Monday, December 26, 2011

mixed blessings

Happy Feast of St. Stephen, everyone. If Good King Wenceslas is not already your favorite Christmas(-ish) carol, get on that, OK?

A few years ago - OK, in college, senior year I believe, which is...eight years ago now - a very wise and emotionally fraught friend of mine ended an angst-ridden debate with the statement, "Sometimes the best we can hope for is mixed motives." His words summed up our whole debate, and so much about the human condition. We had pondered that sometimes we know we have a selfish reason for doing an apparently generous thing - unrequited romantic interest, say - which is really a motive we should be mortifying. But a rational, detached analysis would say that that thing is the right thing to do anyway. But even if we're sure that detached analysis would say, "Go for it," isn't that still a rationalization for the motive that's really impelling us forward? My friend's point cut through all that navel-gazing. We're fallen; we're weak; we can't always sort ourselves out to purity of intention and the mortification of all our selfish desires before it's come time to act. Sometimes the best we can do is choose the best action available, even if tainted by our selfish motives, and be as honest with ourselves as we can about what we're up to.

I think that bit of wisdom has something to teach me in this context, as well - so thank you, again, to my friend, for so many words of wisdom and irreplaceable friendship - mediated through the bonds of all us fallen people.

Yesterday, as you all know, was Christmas Day. On that day, my SIL gave birth to her sixth child - a "surprise" baby to the best of my knowledge. She is 39. He has Down's Syndrome. Hers has to be the best possible family into which that little boy might be born; faithful, generous-hearted parents, and five older brothers and sisters who are already doting and a little over-protective - he will be the apple of all their eye. (And he's a beautiful baby. I've only seen a picture of him sleeping, but had I not been told he had Down's, I would not have known - he looks perfectly healthy.) I have skipped every baptism I was invited to attend this year, and (very dramatically, as you may recall) turned down one invitation to be a godmother at the eleventh hour. I remember there was a time in my life when I was jealous of all my friends who had been asked to be godparents - I wanted to be a godmother. I haven't wanted that in a long time, and for some time now, obviously, I've avoided baptisms altogether. But my SIL asked us to be this little boy's godparents. I thought we'd dodged that bullet, since she's had five other children and my husband and his sister are so close. Of course, I can't refuse to be the child's godmother, because he has Down's Syndrome. I could roll out all the evidence in the world that I've been avoiding baptisms for a year or more - it won't matter. She was crazy stoned on morphine when she called yesterday. So I said yes.

And our IRL IF friends' adopted child was born, I believe, on the 23rd. Their 48-hour waiting period was over the 25th, and now they have to spend another week and a half in the state before the paperwork is finalized - which has the collateral benefit of being a good chance for them to bond with the baby without the pressures of work, family visits, holiday obligations, and so forth. It may be the last vacation they take for a while! When they come back, they'll be no longer the other half of our infertile foursome, but a complete and united family.

And of course there are births and pregnancy announcements in the blogosphere as well - blessings and sources of joy, to be sure, but burdens to carry, in their way, as well.

In some way, I know, I can accept the sufferings that come with being on the other side of these events and announcements, and make efforts simply to be a friend to those who have been so blessed. But I also can't change the fact that these things are bittersweet, for me, at best. With the blessings of those around me, I have lost, if not more than they have gained, at least far more than I have gained from these changes in their lives.

As I noted in a comment on someone else's blog (TCIE's, I believe) recently, I can talk to my husband about our lives, pray about my future, and for a little while hold onto a fragile peace in the knowledge that God has something special planned for us - something so particular it fits with His allowing us to carry the cross of childlessness, likely for the rest of our lives. And then I hear another pregnancy announcement; another baby is born; my life is forced, again, to contort around the receipt by others of blessings I was hoping to enjoy, but will not have. It's that tension, perhaps, that makes for the keenest unhappiness. JellyBelly's infertile island would be a great mercy, but doesn't appear to be forthcoming. At least, not for me. (Perhaps, like those who make a pact to marry if they're still both single at whatever age, those couples who are still ttc could make an agreement to retire together to some remote, child-free locale if we are all still barren at some future date? It would be a little something to look forward to.)

So, here's to the rapidly impending close of 2011, with its blessings, and crosses, and blessings that are crosses. Here's hoping 2012 is joyous - maybe for everyone, this time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

arguing in confession

I know, it's not a good idea. I haven't done it in years (and that priest was absolutely stating heresy - bad diocese - long story). But last night at the parish penance service, I interrupted the (very holy and pious) confessor three times.

I know that being humble and keeping my mouth shut (even if the priest misses the point) is a viable option, even a superior one, and generally that's what I do - if the priest misunderstood what I said, or suggests something that logically wouldn't help, or whatever. But I take a different approach with respect to matters infertility-related, and I've actually thought this one through.

There's zero pastoral care training devoted to dealing with infertile parishioners. The evidence of this is available to any Catholic who has had the misfortune to discuss this subject with a priest. If they have any wisdom or insight into how to talk to you about it, they've developed it on their own. I assume, by contrast, that much time is devoted to teaching priests how to deal with those mourning the death of a loved one. (If I'm wrong about that, so much the worse.)

As a consequence, most priests will give you a lightly-baptized version of the same absolute nonsense that any layman will give you if he hears you're infertile. "Have you tried standing on your head?" becomes "Have you visited the local Catholic OB/GYN?" "If it's meant to be, it will be" becomes "God will send you a child when He sees the time is right." "I know a lot of people who thought they'd never have children, and just last year they had their third beautiful baby" becomes...the exact same thing. It's no more helpful from a priest. Actually, it's much less helpful, because while you can write off the idiot at a party as an idiot at a party, you're not supposed to write off your confessor at all. Now we're supporting them, even in this role? No. No, thank you.

So now I take this argument to the correct place theologically whenever I hear error from a priest, because I cannot let the next infertile woman receive the same comments. What if she's in a more vulnerable place than I am? What if she's a new or long-fallen-away Catholic who knows very little theology, and assumes the priest is correct? I have enough issues with God myself, and I'm pretty sure my theology is sound. What if I were trying to work from error because I believed an inept priest? I would guess that the number of Catholics who've left the church (to a greater or lesser degree) as a result of their experience of infertility is huge, and I think the absolute black hole of pastoral wisdom and care is substantially to blame.

So, when the priest told me that God would send me a child when He saw I was ready, I said, "Excuse me, Father, but that's not right. God does not promise anyone a child. Some people will never have a child." Five sentences later, I was interrupting again. "I'm sorry, Father. Yes, I agree that all the barren women in the Bible were blessed with children.* But God is not promising that to me. What He wants is my salvation; my fertility may not be His priority. I cannot assume that I will have a child." When I interrupted him the third time, I told him that it was wrong to tell childless women that they should pray and expect a baby, because it gave them false hope and a false understanding of God. All He is certainly offering (I hope) is an opportunity for each of us to have a holy and meaningful life. And when he asked me, "How old are you?" I didn't even wait for the follow-up comment ("You have lots of time!" I've even gotten this from doctors, who should really know better). While I typically spare priests personal information of this kind, I said, "Twenty-nine, but my eggs are a lot older." And he stopped.

He was, really, a good priest. He told me that my theology was absolutely solid, and he hoped that I really believed what I was saying about what God wanted for my life. (I told him that I know it in my head, but I don't believe it in my heart.) He said that I should pray that God would give me to carry around a great faith, and that all those around me would "become pregnant" with the love of God as a result of my witness. (This metaphor is a little graphic, but English was not his first language, and it might not have sounded odd to his ears.) And he said that priests don't know what to say to childless women because they are afraid of suffering.

This is certainly why laymen say these stupid things - they just want your pain to go away, partly because they're sorry you're suffering, but, I suspect, mostly because they can't bear the compassion your suffering would demand from them. They reject your pain, and they reject you. It's why it hurts us so much to hear. We know their motives are benign in theory, but we also hear the underlying message - "I won't bear this burden with you, even for a five-minute conversation."

For my penance, the priest told me to open the New Testament at random and read the verse I saw. I've heard this condemned as a method of making critical decisions (since it's sort of superstitious). But as a method of prayer, it would be fine, and I was told to, so there you are. Before opening my Bible when I got home, I decided I would examine the verse number before reading it (to keep myself honest), then read the verse, then the surrounding pericope, then the verse again. (I tend toward scrupulosity, so I like to set ground rules so I know when I can stop. Not that there's anything wrong with reading more of the Bible.)

The verse I landed on was Acts 7:57: "But they cried out in a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse."

The whole pericope is Acts 7:54-60: "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.' But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!' Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them!' Having said this, he fell asleep."


*On this subject, you should really read the article "Childless at Christmas," linked on my sidebar, above right. It's written by a Protestant minister; hence, a focus on the Bible that's more total than Catholics are accustomed to (we'd likely draw on a broader source of examples, not that I can think of any married, childless saints, either). But very well-done, I thought.

Friday, December 16, 2011

the bathroom

All right, ladies, it's time. You've been very patient.

Some of you may remember way back in the dark ages when I said that I was going to work on our house's only full bath. Yet before that, before even the dawn of time, I'm sure I published (probably repeatedly) this inspiration photo of what I consider more or less the platonic bathroom:

Gast Architects: Projects traditional bathroom

So that was my inspiration. And here's what I had to work with:


That's the only listing photo of the bathroom. And there's a reason for that - the space is below whatever square footage would be required to photograph it successfully, as you will shortly see in my pictures. The former owners had chosen a green-and-bamboo theme (there's also a bamboo shower caddy and a kind of half-hearted green drape thing). The walls were a totally inoffensive shade of beige. I don't like beige.

Oh, here's one more "before" picture I took:


And you all remember the "during":


Hmm...maybe that's just how I remember it. Does this look more familiar?


OK, anyway, before we even ripped off the toilet like insane people, I painted the walls. I settled on Behr's "Fresh Day," a blue so pale it's almost white (and, indeed, it looks white in the can, on the top of the can, on the swatch, and everywhere but on the walls, in person). Don't believe me? Here's a picture of the wall with a bright white piece of printer paper against it:


Right. That doesn't help you at all. Here is a picture of some nice person's room - too bad I've lost the link to the blog post that persuaded me to try the color in the first place. Anyway, doesn't this person's house look nice?


It looks nice in my bathroom too. It has an airy lightness about it - like the bathroom is somehow the color of sunlight. Delightful. OK, so I repainted the walls. I also discarded all the textiles as quickly as I could. That rug had to go. I found this one for about $6 at Ross's:


At this point I have to apologize for all the pictures. I took them all on a camera phone because it was the only way I was realistically going to get them up here, ever. And I took them at whatever angle I could (I told you, the bathroom is hard to photograph), which would have been fine, except that I don't have Microsoft Office on my laptop, so I can't edit the blasted things. Actually, maybe I could open them as .bmps and edit them in Paint...OK, I might try that next time. For now, just tip your head to the side, could you? :)

Anyway, I found this Nautica shower curtain on clearance for $12 at Home Goods:


Also at Home Goods, I found these chrome-finish C-shaped shower curtain rings. I found something appealing about their simplicity:


Unfortunately, I only bought one package when I first saw them, so while I got the first dozen for $6, I later had to buy another dozen for $10 from Amazon when I realized that a claw-foot bathtub takes two sets. Oops! I got real wood Venetian blinds for $25 from Ikea:


The previous owners had already installed a nice hotel-style towel rack (behind the hallway door), so I just put our towels on it, and our laundry basket under it:


What the bathroom desperately needed was storage. Obviously there was a place for the towels and the laundry, but the bathroom only had a pedestal sink (I actually switched the hand holding the phone so I could wave at you in this picture. See how I care! Let's not talk about the fact that I hadn't showered or combed my hair in two days):


(Everything in that picture except the toothbrush holder was there when we moved in - sconces, sink, little shelf, mirror. They did a great job with that, so I left it alone.) There was some wall space, though, so I got this cabinet at Bed, Bath, and Beyond - with my 20% off coupon, it was $48:


Here's where it lives in the room. (Yes, someday I will drop something in the toilet trying to get it out of there. If there's any justice in this world, it will be a rotten HPT.)


It's only MDF, not real wood, but for the bathroom I thought it was fine, and it holds the things we need to use. (I put a crate with things like extra toothbrushes and longer-term supplies in a bedroom closet that's all shelves, but isn't deep enough for coat hangers.) And the finishing touch, which I finally ordered just recently:


It was $15 on Amazon. It's also available at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $30. The BBB version is woven polyester or vinyl or whatever, is opaque white, and has a more photographic-looking version of the tree. Also, the tree is off-center on that version. I do like the off-center version, but I specifically wanted a curtain that was a solid sheet, not woven, because I am concerned that a woven material could wick moisture onto the wall behind it. The Amazon version (in addition to being cheaper) is a solid sheet of PEVA, and is translucent, which I like. The tree has a more choppy, sketch-like quality, but that's OK. I love the look of it - it makes me smile whenever I walk into the bathroom. I did give up on the octopus I really wanted. Apparently my DH doesn't really like the tree; he's just relieved that there's no octopus in our bathroom.

So I'm not sure how much credit I get for "redoing" the bathroom. I repainted it and I added some linens. I did install a cabinet, though, and blinds, so that counts for something, right? So now I'm sort of wary of adding up the total, given that the changes were pretty cosmetic...let's see. $25 for paint. $25 for the blinds. $6 for the bath mat. $6 for the toothbrush holder. $12 for the cotton shower curtain, $6 for the vinyl liner, and $15 for the tree shower curtain; and $16 for the rings. $48 for the cabinet, and about $10 in little plastic trays to put in it to keep things sorted. The hamper, and the towels, of course, I had. That's $169 total. I don't think that's really so bad.

Of course, that doesn't count about $40 for toilet repair materials, or the fact that I'm going to be replacing that floor in the next year or two, but those aren't precisely decor items.

So there you are. The master bedroom may be next - or, maybe, I will need to consult you all about window treatments before that can happen.

Aaaaand...I am participating in my very first before-and-after party, and I am so stoked. It's Metamorphosis Monday, at Between Naps on the Porch!


Go on over and check out the other before-and-after posts that are linked up. (Because it's almost Christmas, there are lots of wonderful inspirations for Christmas decor, and probably some good recipes too - gotta check it out myself next. At other times of year, there are more hardcore renovations. All the previous Met Mondays are viewable on Susan's blog, so check them out if you're looking for some inspiration!)

Ooh and now I've also joined the Thrifty Decor Chick's January before-and-after party! Go check it out!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

...through?

Today I had the most extraordinary conversation.

The building I work in hires a company to come around and take out the trash, vacuum, and dust. Apparently, one of the shifts is after regular business hours (around 6 or so), but one comes through around 8:30 or 9AM. A few months ago they switched up who was assigned to my floor. Now it's a fellow about 30 years old. From stray comments he made, I learned he was a Christian (I assume he is Protestant), and we talk a little bit about that every now and then. He is a devoted family man, and has a little girl and a little boy whom he loves. I know he is supporting the family, so I figured that he and his wife had chosen not to have more children for financial reasons - of course I didn't inquire; it's not really my business.

Anyway, today he was looking at the framed copy of St. Thomas More's "lawyers' prayer" that hangs on my wall. (It's a lovely prayer.) I told him it had been a gift when I graduated from law school, and he was surprised to learn I was a lawyer. (My door and that of everyone in the hallway pretty much says so, but I'm sure he never had any reason to pay attention!) I'm going to guess that he doesn't know a lot of lawyers, because he immediately brought up a legal question that has evidently been weighing on his mind. He told me that with her last delivery, his wife had a C-section, and the doctors put "all her internal organs back in the wrong places." I have no medical training, of course, but that sounds faintly odd to me - I think most of the internal organs in that area are free-floating. But he probably meant something specific that I failed to guess.

He said the hospital had told his wife she "couldn't get a lawyer" because she had signed a waiver of liability. Well, that's not true. People sue for medical malpractice all the time, and all those doctors had waivers signed before. Besides, you don't take legal advice from your opponent! I suggested that he google "medical malpractice lawyer" and go to someone who would offer a free consultation (since this is not an area I work in), and pointed out that the statute of limitations may have run (it has been a number of years).

Then I asked - what I thought might be more helpful - whether she has consulted with a doctor who might be able to repair the damage that was done. It might even be covered by insurance? He said it was too late. After the botched delivery, she had multiple ectopic pregnancies. In addressing those, they removed both her fallopian tubes. She can never have a child naturally, and it's killing her. She feels like less of a woman, she wanted a huge family (which he wanted too), she's basically lost her faith, she's incredibly angry, and she takes a lot of it out on him. He has told her that God must have a reason, and he wishes he could fix her up, but they can always adopt. She's not ready to consider adoption; she's not ready to let go of the dream of a big biological family. Wow...sound familiar?

I told him that I could see how she would feel that way and I know other people in the same situation. (I didn't say, "Including me" - but we may have that conversation another day.) I also said that in time she would probably come around on her faith and might change her mind about adoption, but that sometimes healing could take years. And I told him I would pray for him. And if any of you feel so moved, and you would like to, too, I would appreciate it...I feel like I was probably in the right place to hear that story for a reason. (And not because I'm a Christian. Not because I'm infertile. Because I'm an attorney?)

I was tempted to suggest a lot of things - have her call me; refer her to a chapter of Resolve; send her to some support fora on the internet - but I wasn't sure what was right to do, so I kept my mouth shut on that score for the time being. Maybe I can find a website or two to suggest, something that I find valuable myself, and recommend it in that way. Heaven knows that, if nothing else, I've found blogging helps with all the rage that is more than I can fairly direct at my husband, but not too much for you ladies, bless your hearts.

And while I try not to assume too many of the facts with prospective lawsuits - doctors are demonized by lawyers far more than they should be - I'm pretty angry about what happened in this woman's C-section. If she had two healthy babies and then several ectopic pregnancies, somebody did something really wrong. She almost died, and then they took her fertility for life. And she's 30. And they're not an affluent family, and not savvy about their legal rights, and I wouldn't be surprised if that played into it. That's just wrong.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

not getting through

I have a friend (actually a girl who went to school with my husband) who's of the plain-spoken type. Really, she makes me look diplomatic by comparison. She's also had some fertility-related issues (she had some kind of rather intensive ovarian surgery before she was married - I forget the details), but she's not infertile, probably more like hyper-fertile. I think her younger child is maybe a year or just over, but I imagine she's already expecting number three (early on, though).

While she makes occasionally bizarre statements of "knowing where I'm coming from" on the subject of infertility (since she had medical issues as well, and was worried that she would be infertile), and shares far more details of pregnancy and childbirth than I'm generally interested in hearing, I really do like her. I much prefer someone who overshares because she's blunt, and is equally ready to hear you tell her why you're uninterested in the topic, to someone who overshares because she thinks the world revolves around her and her offspring, and not-so-secretly thinks that your failure to be interested in the miracle of life with which she's been blessed is a sign that you're going straight to hell.

So this girl emailed everyone in her inbox to say that she was very sorry, but she lost her address list in a hard drive transfer, and could we all please send our mailing addresses. We've just moved (you may have heard), so I was happy to oblige. As my DH pointed out that evening, of course she wants it for her Christmas card list. I knew that, but I wasn't thinking about it. She, like most mothers of young children I know, sends Christmas cards with pictures of her children, which generally fail to depict her or her husband (the only family members the cards' recipients are likely to recognize), or Jesus Christ, who, I hear, is the kiddo who's supposed to get the top billing on this particular holiday. (Since I suspect it is easily findable in my posts for previous Decembers, I will here omit the REALLY extended version of my rant about how offensive I find Christmas cards that have been sanitized of all religious references. Ditto well-wishes that have been similarly sanitized. I do not want to receive your "season's greetings" unless you are also going to extend heartfelt good cheer in spring, summer, and fall. I love the snow but I AM NOT CELEBRATING WINTER, IDIOTS. I have no problem wishing Jews a Happy Hannukah; what, other than hatred of Christians and Christianity, could cause anyone who is thinking the matter through to offer salutations that deliberately and elaborately refuse to acknowledge the beloved holiday of the person to whom he is supposedly extending good cheer? I look Irish; they know I'm not celebrating Hannukah, Ramadan, or Kwanzaa. That leaves Christmas or nothing, so say "Merry Christmas" or shut up. And now I am put in the position of responding to "Season's Greetings" with "Merry Christmas" not merely out of the joy and love proper to the holiday, but as a political statement, which is distasteful in the extreme. Go stick your face in a snowblower so you can really experience the "season," anti-Christian bigots. The end.)

Anyway, after thinking the matter through, I realized that I was perhaps being unfair to my friend. It is our house's standing policy to throw out all Christmas cards that are pictures of other people's children (I keep cards that are actual Christmas cards but merely contain pictures of children, which is in appropriate taste, in my opinion; but I still throw out the pictures, because I don't need that crap in my house or my life) immediately upon opening, or before opening, if the contents are obvious. The ones that have lovely religious images we hang on the mantel. So all of these people for whom December apparently contains the holiday known as Offspring Awareness Day are totally wasting their money. While I wouldn't bother raising this subject with most of our acquaintance because they actually don't want to understand where I'm coming from (and will therefore argue with any attempt I make to explain how I feel), this is the blunt friend, right?

So I sent her an email and said, "Hey, I sent our address yesterday, but for reasons I assume are obvious, I actually throw out Christmas cards that are pictures of other people's children. It's not personal, of course. I just wanted to let you know because I wouldn't want you to waste the cost of a card - I know they're expensive. We still appreciate the thought!"

So I saw the blunt friend at book club a few days later, and she said that she got my email, and she actually does the same thing and she's always felt bad about it. Now I was confused. She hates the baby pictures and she still sends them? Then she said something about them taking up space from year to year, and I asked her whether she meant that she throws them out after Christmas. She said yes. (Does anybody - who's not been featured on Hoarders - keep them from year to year?) She didn't take the grammatical cue and ask whether I meant that I throw them out before Christmas. I thought for a minute and decided that my email, while not explicit, was plenty clear; anyone reading carefully would have understood what I meant, or at least recognized it as something I might have meant. She was totally oblivious (and she isn't stupid).

Since she had already said she wasn't hurt by the throwing-out and would send us a card anyway, I figured I would let the matter rest. Why antagonize her by telling her I hate pictures of her kids more than she can imagine that anyone would?

The divide is bigger than I thought, isn't it? I didn't think that was possible.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

notes from the field

I totally left you all hanging there, and I know it was very unfair. No one could achieve any rest or relaxation all weekend, so concerned were they over the status of the misfits' toilet.

Well, wait no longer: the toilet is re-installed, and, as I told my husband Saturday morning, fully operational. (He would have known this firsthand, but for the fact that he was banished from the bathroom after claiming that I had incorrectly affixed the bolts under the flange reinforcement ring, meaning that the toilet would never be bolted securely to the floor, and consequently that his 75-year-old father would fall off said toilet and die while visiting us.)

On the other hand - there is always another hand, with me - the leak resumed almost instantly upon the toilet's reinstallation. Apparently, all the time, the leak was coming from the connection between the toilet and the tank. This explains the lack of sewage smell. And the fact that the leaking water was clean. And the fact that I didn't previously see the leak (it apparently comes and goes, probably depending on whether the tank has been bumped). And the fact that I saw a puddle on the first floor for the first time recently - and yet enough water has made its way below the toilet to warp the bathroom's wood floor and rot the subflooring.

I have now purchased a replacement gasket, and I intend to shut the water off again and do this repair (which will be a lot easier and less gross than the prior one) - but I want a break from toilet-related home improvement projects for, say, a week. (In the meantime, I have deployed buckets. Although the drip has now stopped. Arrghhh.)

This freed up my time for some other things. First I caulked the crown molding I installed in the living room. I turn out to be quite poor at installing molding, and it took a lot longer than I expected. But the caulk really does help - still not perfect, but much better. Of course, the caulking floundered as well, because it did not occur to me that I'd need more than one tube, so I had to go back to the store. Still to do: finish caulking.

And then, by far my favorite project this week (possibly my favorite so far): the wallpaper in the bedroom. You may recall that I decided that I needed to have one "accent wall" of wallpaper in each bedroom, and then proceeded to agonize for months and months over which papers to use. And then I finally settled on several and then, before I got to the point of buying them, scrapped almost all of those decisions and started over.

Well, here's where I am with that. After the sample of my first choice turned out to be a terrible disappointment, I chose this paper for the master bedroom:


Then I color-matched some super-light gray paint to that. It was the second room I painted. Then I pulled the trigger and bought the paper for that room. I also bought the same print, in this colorway, for the dining room above the chair rail (have already painted the wall below that white):


I figured that I would do the master bedroom first, because that's just one wall (and not such a tricky one - just one doorway), and I need to learn something about hanging wallpaper before I attempt the dining room, which has three doorways, a double-wide window, a curved wall, and a mantelpiece. And nine-foot ceilings. But I had no idea my efforts would be stupendously blessed by an offer of assistance from a delightful friend. Those of you who attended the last of the meetings of the DC infertile coffee before its demise may remember a certain lovely young lady, not a blogger herself but the friend of another blogger who kindly put us in touch, who attended. Since she does not have a pseudonym, I shall dub her The Lark. (You're welcome :D.)

Anyway, apparently she wanted to see the insanity in action, and I hate to disappoint - I needed to tackle a suitably insane project. Happily, it turns out that she knows a lot more about hanging wallpaper than I do (plus she read the instructions). So this weekend, we covered the room in tarps and gooey, paste-filled water and got to work. My DH made me go to bed on Sunday night when I had just one section left to hang, because he has some notion about sleep being useful, so I finished last night. And I have this to say. First of all, a huge and hearty thank you to The Lark (should I keep capitalizing the "the"?) for delightful company and timely aid in need. (Also, for mature and wise thoughts on living a full and valuable life with infertility. You really need to start a blog, OK? Then you can choose your own name...)

Second, I am beyond delighted by how it turned out. Yes, I made a mess of the installation by hacking at the edges of the seams and leaving gaps (you don't notice if you don't look too closely - pictures to come when the room is finished), but in theory, the paper looks just perfect for the room, and I am over the moon about it. Even my husband said he really thought it was perfect for the wall. I found this particularly gratifying because originally, he thought that putting paper on just one wall would look inadvertent and peculiar; I then tried to find designer photos in which this was done, and he got tired of looking at them and told me to do whatever I wanted. And then today I saw this ideabook on houzz. Do I get to take credit for thinking of it first-ish?


*Do not ask.