Wednesday, May 23, 2012

my little adventures

First of all, is anyone else irritated with the new blogger format?  Oh, everyone else?  OK, good. 

Second, I know I promised pictures of the stove and some people with really good memories are probably wondering why I have not shared pictures of the finished bathroom.  I actually have answers to both of these questions.  In order to come in under the insurance company's payout for my rotted and water-damaged bathroom, I decided to do the painting myself.  (Clearly not a big deal.  I bought the paint weeks ago.  Although scraping loose paint from the ceiling and caulking uneven areas in the original portion of the beadboard walls - and ceiling - will take a little more time than an ordinary room would.)  I am planning to tackle that this weekend. 

This may be slightly tricky, because my darling husband views this weekend as slated for some outdoor projects.  So I may just have to be mercilessly productive.  On my short- to medium-term list are propagating cuttings (with permission only!) from a neighbor's blackberry bush and our front rose bushes (that I didn't know we had), planting grass in the front yard (no, it didn't have any - don't ask), removing the young trees that bizarrely were planted in front of the azaleas in the front (that will be a job), and maybe, um...fencing the front yard.  And weeding.  OK, that's a month's work.  But I find if I focus on one project at a time, I never even make a dent in my major lists...and yet I accomplish a list of "done" work that frightens others.  (This sounds like a lose-lose.  I'm not happy, they're not happy.  But really, I am delighted when I think of all I've gotten done since September.) 

Then there's also the matter of us hosting a barbeque on Memorial Day.  And we don't own a barbeque.  There's always craigslist for that, and I have had an amazing craigslist streak recently, so I am hopeful.  (Plus, it will be the husband's job to actually pick up the barbeque, because that is his area, and I am going by myself to get a giant cabinet panel that weighs as much as I do, on Friday morning.  I wouldn't ordinarily do this, but I must have this cabinet piece.  It's a century old, and it is the most beautiful piece of once-and-future built-in cabinet ever.  And yes, if I buy a single large piece of built-in, I will have to design the rest of my kitchen cabinets around it.  And probably build them...myself.  But that's OK.  I already have a power drill.  Some friends have volunteered to let me use a table saw.  I can do this.) 

Let's share the amazing craigslist streak, actually.  Two summers ago, I bopped over to visit a girlfriend in Columbus, and along with the amazing midwestern neighborliness and goodwill that I had totally forgotten in just a few years of living in the DC area, I found a chair that looks just like this:

A fellow was selling it in a yard sale for $25.  It came home with me, because I had been ogling this outdoor room design on houzz,
and I felt the chair had exactly the sort of mildly exotic flair I needed, and I decided I was going to find another one like it.  Then somebody of inappropriate dimensions and/or inappropriate sitting behavior (the chairs can carry a lot of weight, but if you change their wonted shape, they will break.  Thus, you can't shove the sides apart any further than they go) sat in my chair at the very first party we had after I acquired it, and broke it.  I didn't even see it happen.  Nobody apologized.  I was not pleased.  I am still on the lookout for replacement wicker-y parts to fix it with (I am determined).  Anyone know where such things can be bought?  A.C. Moore doesn't have them. 

Then just a few months ago I was innocently perusing my local ReStore for framed paintings and a new light fixture for the powder room (I also have to learn to install light fixtures before you can see the bathroom, by the way), and from across the store I spied the twin of my chair.  I ran toward it (slaloming gracelessly around a thicket of ottomans and dining furniture on my way), seized upon it (no one else was even looking in its direction), noted its price ($35), and breathlessly brought it to the register to insist that they guard it while I continued shopping (naturally). 

Then last week, I struck craigslist gold.  First I found a pair of very expensive outdoor chairs for $35 - for the pair:

You (maybe) can't tell from the picture, but they've received a lot of wear.  Some of the decorative trim-wrapping on the ends of the arms is peeling off, and the wicker seats are intact, but I don't want to push it.  So they definitely need seat cushions (and the standard tub-chair-shaped cushion is several inches too small.  But if you're looking for some of those for a good price, go to TJ Maxx or Marshalls or Home Goods.  $15 each).  But they're big and comfy and while they're a contemporary design, they have the sort of relaxed classic look that I know will blend well with whatever else I have.  Plus, my husband took one look at them and declared that the advent of these chairs on our property made our yard a place worth being.  And proceeded to spend significant amounts of time in them every day since.  And created a little furniture arrangement with them by bringing some unused outdoor tables to the back yard from the front porch. 

This warms my heart beyond all telling, but fellow decorating-obsessed ladies, I think you'll agree with me: there is no telling which small home improvements will make the real impression on the husbands, right?  There are things that have cost so much more time and energy (and money) and that I know objectively make so much more of a difference, which he thinks are nice enough, but...nothing extraordinary.  Mysterious! 

And then I found a pair of peacock chairs (that's what my fancy exotic chairs are called, apparently.  Note: when I searched "peacock" in craigslist under "farm+garden - by owner," I found ads for several live peacocks.  One was only $75 [is that a good price for exotic fowl?].  I adore peacocks, but I was just planning to frame a picture of one...should I actually buy one?) for just $25.  And when I went to pick them up, they were nothing like my chairs.  They were bigger.  They were also extremely ornate:

(That's not literally my chair.  But it is what my chairs look like, and it is a better photo than I am likely ever to take.) 

Apparently the seller and his wife had purchased them decades ago - in Thailand.  They were in perfect condition.  I got those things into my car and got out of there quickly before that sweet old guy changed his mind! 

The outdoor rug I bought at World Market and the too-small chair cushions were instant rejects and will be returned to the store.  But it turns out my chair acquisition streak was not a moment too soon; the evening I brought them home, we had a bunch of people over.  The peacock chairs were a big hit.  I was delighted.  (And now I am on the lookout for even more.  But they have to be at good prices.)  I still need to come up with a complete decor plan for an "outdoor room"; my project has hit a few snags, in the form of my husband not wanting to hang out on the paved area (where I wanted to put the outdoor rug) because you can hear too much of the street noise from there, and the fact that those outdoor pavilion things are crazy expensive.  In fact, all manner of outdoor furniture and decor is even more expensive than the indoor stuff!  I am not going to spend more money on wicker and plastic throw pillows than I have on antique hardwood furniture, leather upholstery, oriental rugs, and silk pillows.  (Note: I haven't spent very much on those things either.  And in fairness, we acquired them slowly.) 

But I am persistent, and I will continue my efforts to pursue a lovely outdoor area - I hope not just an acceptable one, but something with some sort of actual design to it - for about 10% of the price of the basic outdoor table-chairs-and-umbrella sets you can buy in the grocery store this time of year.  (Still on the list: more chairs, interesting candle stuff, some sort of shelter-y feature, and a fire pit.)  And I will probably bore you with those efforts here.  (And I would be fascinated to hear what other people have done in terms of outdoor entertaining - both design and bargain suggestions welcomed!) 

And that brings me to two other points.  First of all, I am still working on the stove.  On the one hand, after I spent a week washing all the removable pieces and stripping the working parts with mineral spirits, I thought it would be installed and ready to go.  I never imagined I would have put this much more work into it and still not be nearly done tinkering.  On the other hand, I also never imagined I could learn so much about how stoves work or figure out how to do so many things myself.  Obviously the jury is still out on whether all of my efforts are successful (some clearly have been - all four burners and the griddle, and one pilot light, are working perfectly, and they were not when I got it.  Last night I even cooked chicken and pasta on it!).  I will be posting pictures of it.  I know, I said I would already.  But I showed you what the model looks like.  And I am not done taking parts of it off and poking at them with wrenches and bits of paper clip and coat hanger (with the gas off thankyouverymuch).  Soon, I hope. 

And the other thing circles back to the having people over the night I came home with the awesomely awesome peacock chairs.  I think we had eight or ten people and we invited everyone at the last minute.  It was a lovely time and nice to see everyone (I was hoping several more would come, because there are people I want to introduce to each other...).  But everyone left at about 11:45 - on a Saturday - and I was more than a little disappointed.  It's not just that we're down from our 2009 standard of regular parties that close up at 4 or 5AM; we knew that was a bit much and consciously decided to get a little more sleep on weekends.  But before midnight on a Saturday is just wrong.  I know we moved to the "wrong" side of the river, and it's a longer drive home for most of our friends.  And I know that we're the teetotalers, so driving home after a night out is more of an issue for other people than it is for us.  And I know it was a last-minute thing too, which probably affects people's ability to stay out late.  And several of the attendees have kids. 

But it all just makes me sad.  Part of the reason we bought a bigger place was so we had room for people (and people have stayed with us, and I'm delighted about that).  I knew that moving further out would be a deterrent to having casual hangouts at our place.  That's OK, too.  We drive a lot to other people's homes (though we don't always stay as late as we used to, either), so I figure that on the occasions when they do come to see us, they should stay a normal length of time.  Of course, I'm not trying to imprison anyone at my house. 

I guess this is part and parcel of my husband trying to remind me that I can't re-create college - when we had a ready-made community of friends, who were peers; who were each other's social companions and also daily dinner companions; who worked together, prayed together, hung around together, and occasionally dated each other.  Real adulthood isn't actually better, as far as I can tell.  I know that regular people continue (or...mature from?) this experience by starting a little commune in their houses comprised of self, spouse, and minor children.  That was a cherished dream of mine for a long time, too, of course.  But I was grateful, at some point, for the realization that I wanted the little community; children were not as essential.  The problem is, it seems like the only way to create the little community is if you have the ability to make your own people who are legally required to live with you.  And that I can't do. 

Part of it, I suppose, is just impatience.  When we moved, I said it was a good thing, because it coincided very nearly with one set of IF friends getting pregnant (baby born just the other week), and the other ones adopting - and a few more other friends having babies, of course.  So it was a good time to put down roots in a new community and make friends around us.  To my amazement and delight, we've actually been doing that.  Even my DH is happy about it.  It's a slow process, of course, and I am finding it hard to nurture friendships, and wait on getting to have a best buddy I can just pick up the phone and call.  (Of course, my sister is my lifelong best buddy.  But she doesn't live around here.) 

Part of me is so frustrated because I've lived in this general area for almost four years, and spent countless hours hanging out with people, and I don't feel like I've found much of a kindred spirit.  And of course part of that is my fault.  I'm not good at nurturing relationships with people who are not right here in front of me - I never have been - and so I could probably have closer friendships with people who live far away if I had the presence of mind to work on that.  And I know there are some girls here I should probably give more of a chance.  There are people I really think would be kindred spirits, but I assume they don't want me much involved in their lives - and I should work on that.  There's a sweet girl who openly says she is friend-stalking me, and who has many of the qualities I'd be looking for in a bosom buddy, but the stalking is a bit off-putting, and she spends a lot of time talking about her and her husband's plans to start ttc last Christmas (which I assume will be successful soon), and I just don't know her well enough yet to explain to her exactly why I won't be a good cheering section for those efforts, or for her inevitable pregnancy. 

And then there are probably a lot of girls who I assume are too busy to have time to fit me in, who, like me, actually are busy - but are also lonely.  A lot of them are probably single, and assume that since I am married, all my social time is claimed.  That's really not the case. 

I think I have some work to do.

Friday, May 18, 2012

happier doggy; etc.

For now, the plan is that doggy gets to sleep in our room (on a blanket on the floor) but we leave the door open.  Maybe eventually she will decide that her favorite spot on the rug in the living room is a better nighttime spot, too.  Also, she didn't have a dog bed proper at her former home, so I am going to pick one up this weekend.  If she really likes it, maybe she will eventually want to sleep there for the night.  We can work on it. 

She decided to keep our lives interesting in the past few days with a few of her special talents.  I thought she was pretty good about stealing food, because when I put a plate of dinner on the coffee table (which she can easily reach) while I fool with something on the couch, she looks at it, but doesn't actually go after it.  However, it would never have crossed my mind to leave something on the coffee table and then leave the room.  She is an animal, after all.  My husband is apparently more optimistic.  But he didn't leave a nice plate of beef and vegetables, which would have been a nice supplement to her diet of kibble.  He left a generous slice of Trader Joe's Tiramisu Torte - laden with dark cocoa powder, espresso, and heavy cream.  Apparently, when he returned, it was all gone. 

I was kind of concerned, because I have heard chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats.  Of course, I also know that most of the cats my family had (around 30 in total) stole at least a little bit of chocolate at some point and none seemed to suffer any adverse effects; obviously none died.  Neither did Bailey.  However.  She did eat only half her extra-large helping of kibble - apparently the first time in her life she has failed to eat 100% of her food within 30 seconds.  (She did finish it before bedtime, but took her time about it.)  And then.  She spent the evening lying on the living room rug, emitting the most noxious gas I have encountered.  My husband tried to put her outside (it was horrendous), but she's really incapable of feeling compunction for smelling bad.  Eventually, we just opened all the windows. 

She's been very well-behaved off a leash - hanging out in the neighbors' back yard around a fire pit (they really like her), going running, hanging out in our yard.  I don't take her off the leash on a walk or run until she's gotten some exercise, so she's calmed down a bit.  And I always keep an eye on her if she's in the yard and off her leash.  I guess my DH is more optimistic in general.  He stepped inside for a minute (leaving her in the yard with a friend of ours who was distracted doing something else) and she left the yard, went around the block and got herself into the middle of the huge intersection by our house.  We're talking a six-lane road and a four-lane road.  An off-duty police officer pulled over and collected her, and neither she nor any driver was injured, thank heaven. 

Obviously, this means she needs to be actively supervised if she is not on a leash.  Also, I suspect her view was that she had been left alone (the human nearby not being one of "her people"), and therefore was not obliged to stay put.  But what I cannot fathom is why she decided to venture into traffic.  That intersection is intimidating if you're behind the wheel of a car and you have the right of way.  Why would an animal want to head into the middle of it? 

In non-dog news, the plumbers finished the bathroom Wednesday - although I still have to paint it (and learn how to change the light fixture).  And they also installed the stove.  I was so excited I was not able to concentrate on anything else.  Last night, I came home and tinkered with it - got the pilot light working that hadn't been (other one was working fine), cleaned the burner-holes (which I hadn't thought to do before), greased the valves.  I still have to figure out whether the ovens are supposed to require a match to light (they don't light automatically at this point); get two of the burners to light from the pilot (the other two light perfectly, and have an awesome simmer setting, and the griddle lights up beautifully from the pilot); and soap up all the internal hoses and fittings and check the whole thing for gas leaks, just in case.  (Right now the gas to the unit is shut off.) 

I will take pictures this weekend, I swear!  And then you can see how horrendous it is in our 1970s kitchen that I have already started ripping apart, but will take maaaaaany months to put back together.  In the meantime, I can tell you we have this particular stove, except ours could really use a re-chroming (not in the budget right now):

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

sad doggy

So, we expect that Bailey is still in her adjustment phase, given that we only got her a couple of days ago.  Considering that, she's been angelically good.  A friend and I took her jogging last night, and for the last half mile, we let her off the leash (after she started chewing on it and I was afraid she was exhausted and was only being dragged along).  She was not exhausted - she has much more energy than I do - but she cooperated fine; she sniffed more things, but she came when we called her, and marched right into our yard when we came up to the house. 

Sunday night, we had our parish priest and another friend over for dinner.  She was banished to the back porch (it's a glassed-in area about 7 feet by 15 or so, and her water and her crate are out there, and the temperature was very mild - we're not trying to torture the dog), because I was convinced she would beg during dinner.  (She was allowed to socialize until we sat down to eat.)  At some point my DH decided to let her in, and she didn't beg for food at all.  She did bump everyone's knees to get them to pet her, but then settled down quietly on the rug next to the table to rest while we talked.  She just wants to be near the people. 

Which leads to the problem.  She doesn't necessarily need us to pet her or throw things for her or keep her entertained every minute.  But she wants to be around us.  (Which is really endearing.)  We just learned her prior owners let her sleep in their room at night.  That was definitely not part of our plan.  We put her on the above-described porch (with the light on, and a nice blanket and pillow - circumstances we thought would be in no way cruel) for the night the second night we had her, and she really did a number on the door (and doorjamb) with her claws.  I later realized she had also put big tooth-marks in a steel doorknob.  She does not like the porch.  (Even though she inhales her food, the next day she would only eat a mouthful of it at a time and then run back inside - her food bowl is on the porch - apparently for fear I was deviously planning to shut her out there again.  Good grief!) 

We also both work during the day.  We feed her in the morning before we leave, and take her on a brief walk to go to the bathroom, and then she gets more exercise in the evening when we're home.  She was fed twice a day in her previous home, too.  She doesn't chew shoes or pee on the floor, so in that sense she's fine to leave home alone during the day (unfortunately, today is the second day she's shut in our bedroom, because the plumbers are supposedly finishing the bathroom TODAY and I don't want her to bother them; from here on out, she'll have the run of the house).  But from her subjective doggy point of view, she is being abandoned at night (rather than being allowed to sleep in the room where the people are sleeping), and then abandoned all day (that part is more literally true). 

I didn't realize she would care that much where she slept, as long as she had someplace comfortable.  (Last night we tried blocking the stairs and giving her the run of the downstairs, so she was not imprisoned on the hated porch, just prevented from sleeping in our room.  She whined piteously and periodically barked, so my DH couldn't sleep, so back on the porch she went.  But I'm not interested in waiting until she claws through the door, so if she can't adjust tonight, she is going in her crate - which she really can't stand, but the clawing has got to stop.)  I have no desire to torture the poor dog, and I hate to see her so sad.  But we can't have her clawing the door to death, and we don't want her sleeping every night in our room.  Is this just one of those "can't teach an old dog new tricks" things?  Is she ruined for life now that she got to sleep in her owners' room for years? 

I guess it's a good thing we don't have any kids to ruin. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

say hello to Bailey

Much has happened.  (And I continue to celebrate having a list of answers to, "So what's new with you?")

I bought a 1952 Wedgewood stove.  It's sitting in the carriage house, where I'm trying to refurbish it.  It is one heck of an intimidating project; I may finally have taken on one too big for me.  But, I did get the four burner valves turning; now I've just got to get the main oven valve to turn.  And, um, I have to do so by tomorrow.  Because the plumbers are installing it Monday, and it will have to work.

And I have to clean tomorrow and make dinner for our priest and some other friends who are coming over.  Also Monday, the plumbers are finishing the powder room!  The penny-round tile is already in, and a replacement marble threshold, and they threw out my original vintage sink (!), so they agreed to replace it, and I found an even cooler vintage sink on craigslist (for a really good price - I'm nice to do business with, I swear).

Yesterday, I got my first depo provera shot.  I barely felt it - from now on, I think my husband can give them to me at home.

But the real news for today happened just this afternoon.  My husband and I drove out to meet a woman giving away her precious doggy (she had just gotten divorced and couldn't keep the doggy, sadly).  Bailey the Dog appears to be half Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and half black lab.  She is five or six, and is polite and well-behaved.  She pulls a bit on her leash, but that's OK because she's only 50 pounds (unlike the 135-pound behemoth of a St. Bernard we were considering.  But he was very expensive, even though a rescue).  She likes going for walks and hanging around outside, and generally following us around.  (I know she will be sad for a few days, because she doesn't understand why she had to leave her family or even where the heck they are, or where the heck she is.)

I know I don't have a surprise adopted child or anything like that, but say hello to Bailey!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

many things

I know it's  been ages since I've posted, so this is entirely my fault.  But I have nine million thoughts rattling around in my head, and I am continually surprised if I open my blog that I haven't posted about any of them yet.  Hmmm...

My major crazy project is finally slowing down at work.  In the meantime, I am focused on several other things.  I think I finally found my vintage stove.  I am a combination of excited and apprehensive that is making me vaguely nauseous.  I got the seller to take $100 off the price, but it's still not cheap.  It's only in the 200lb. range, which means at least it can be moved.  I was afraid it was 500lb. and I was contemplating renting a hydraulic lift.  (If you are asking that question, you have not read this blog before.)  Instead, I am renting an appliance hand truck (looks similar to a regular dolly but has some features for especially heavy items) and a loading ramp, and borrowing a friend's trailer.  The guy selling it says it worked when it was unhooked, but insists I need to remove, clean, and regrease all the valves before hooking it up and using it again.  He has offered to let me consult him, as a guy who's restored a stove before, about questions I have.  This is awesome, but he's a little too obsessed with valves for my taste.

After a major undertaking going back and forth with the plumbers and the homeowner's insurance company, we sorted out the bathroom restoration and the guys started last week.  They replaced all the joists and support beams under the bathroom, which were rotten.  They replaced the old plumbing runs, which were also rotten.  They re-laid the subfloor and added Durock so that tiles can be laid, and they started laying the tile.  That leaves the rest of the tile, grouting, replacing the original beadboard and molding, reinstalling the fixtures, replacing the threshold, and painting (I will be doing the painting).  I think they'll finish up next week.  I am beyond excited.  I'm also hoping I can get them to hook up my stove while they're here, so I can avoid at least the charge for them to make a separate trip.

We're thinking about getting a dog.  We've actually found some good candidates.  I am frankly stunned at the cost of what one of my friends calls a "used dog."  My family raised purebred Siamese for a while, and I understand that a registered animal can be expensive.  I'm sure dogs are more than cats; they're just bigger animals.  But a mixed-breed with no home in danger of being euthanized should not cost $200-400.  Maybe if that specific animal had major veterinary care it would make sense, but the websites are quite bald about the fact that younger dogs cost $295 because they are subsidizing medical care for older and sickly dogs.  Maybe I'm heartless, but an animal that's really sick and has no home should probably be euthanized.  There are enough healthy animals that can't find homes.  And there are people who can't afford medical care.  Plus, jacking up the cost of healthy dogs makes no sense, as it just drops the demand for homeless animals.  If they want to subsidize the care of others, that should be on a voluntary donation basis.

And for all that money, you don't even own the dog.  Some of these rescue organizations require you to take every dog to obedience school whether it needs it or not, and a disqualifying question on the "adoption application" is "I think I can train a dog myself."  Fifty years ago there WERE NO obedience schools for family pets, and humans have had dogs for MILLENIA.  What is with these people?  Others require every dog to go to the vet every year, whether sick or not.  I don't get that degree of medical attention.  Several places have contract clauses that if you later can't care for the dog, you can't even give it away to family or friends - you have to give it back to that shelter, or pay a hefty fine.  And they're not going to refund your up-front cost when they get the dog back - they're going to charge someone else to buy it a second (or third, or fourth?) time!  I know it's not a racket, strictly speaking, in the sense that these places are not squirreling away huge profits.  And maybe I'm oversensitive because they throw around the words "adoption" and "parents" and I've expended my lifetime supply of patience just reading three or four adoption websites and getting acquainted with their miserable treatment of couples that are trying to provide a home for a child with NO FAMILY.

By the way, the county humane society charges $120 to adopt a dog.  Also - the people who "surrender" animals to these rescue organizations do so FOR FREE.  In most cases, the animals are up-to-date on veterinary care.  So find someone who wants to give away a dog he can't care for, is my takeaway.

On the dog subject, I resisted for a long time because I didn't want to become one of "those" people - you know, the infertiles who consider their pets their children because they can't have children.  That's creepy.  I aspire to be a normal dog owner, who treats the dog the same way I would if I had kids (except for the staying home part, sadly).  But I've realized that my husband would be a lot more comfortable about safety if we had a dog around (just as a deterrent - we don't want a mean dog), and it would be nice to have a good-natured companion, and a motivation to get out and go for a walk or run every day.  And having something depending on you is good for the soul, frankly.  I think we could both use that right now.

Returning to the adoption topic briefly referenced above (I told you, rattling around) - the other day I read, in full, Dr. Marni's dissertation on childless women post-infertility treatment, which was kindly shared by Pamela at Silent Sorority.  For the two and a half of you who are in or can ever imagine being in that demographic, I just cannot recommend it highly enough.  I read a number of things that were new to me, and also a number that couldn't possibly have surprised me, but really made me think when I saw them set down in black and white.  So I'm going to share a few of my little reflections - really, there are too many to recount them all.  And for those who actually graduated IF with a baby, it's still worth reading, I just don't actually believe you're going to bother :).

First of all - here's the part about adoption - on page 22, she talks about a paradigm shift in adoption in America.  I had wondered how we go from the Dickensian and Ann of Green Gables and Little Orphan Annie perception of adoption - wherein adoptive parents are the generous folks who give an orphaned child a home - to the current mode, in which those unable to procreate naturally are the desperate schmucks who can be put through any amount of expense, inconvenience, and disrespect to come home with a stranger's child - who may not even have substantial guarantees of good health and medical treatment.

(To all the adoptive parents out there, if this discussion of adopted children in economic terms upsets you, I suggest you stop reading now.  Yes, each of them, individually, is a human being, created in the image and likeness of God, with innate dignity, deserving of love for his or her own sake and no other reason.  That doesn't change one bit the fact that the adoption market in the aggregate is a market, and acts like a market. And as a market, it is in substantial need of improvement.)

That description of the transition is mine, not hers.  But I had no idea when the transition occurred or why (I speculated that it was a post-1973 phenomenon, when unwanted babies became scarce and women and societies no longer "needed" adoptive families to absorb babies the biological parents could not raise).  She does.  She said that in the post-World War II years, and the accompanying baby boom, parenthood was everything, and the inability to have children was so stigmatized that infertility was the only recognized justification for adopting a child.  That is, before, having a loving home and the willingness to adopt were the qualifications.  During the baby boom, childlessness became seen as a malady so terrible that all excess babies must be reserved for those who didn't have any.  My first thought on reading this was, "I never considered that - it's OUR fault!  The desperation of the childless is what actually turned the market - we brought this evil on ourselves!"

Then I thought about it more.  That's not quite what she was saying.  She wasn't saying that the lobby of the childless tried to shout down the adoption claims of those who could have biological children.  In fact, I doubt childless folks organized in any way; they barely do now.  Rather, those in charge of doling out babies perceived childless couples as having a radically stronger claim on the babies.  It was a cultural phenomenon, not, if you will, a legal or administrative one.  (I know I'm still speculating a bit here.)

So in some ways - the evil we now face (that prospective adoptive parents are seen as desperate, and therefore are a vulnerable target for systemic abuse - and you'll never convince me that one word of that is hyperbole) and the evil that caused this are cut from the same cloth.  The idea that parenthood is unavoidably essential and that a childless life is worthless, and that childless couples are therefore hopelessly defective, is and was the problem.  So that's eye-opening.

Contrary to what may appear, I'm not blaming "society" here.  Before we discovered our infertile status, every one of us contributed to about that same way of thinking.  And - the dirty little secret - we still do.  If anything, the convictions of the infertile seeking treatment are stronger than other people's with respect to the essential-ness of parenthood.

Of course, there is at least one group that's not playing along - the post-post-treatment childless infertile demographic.  (Clearly the child-free movement also is, but that's a sociological phenomenon I don't feel qualified to tackle just at the moment.)  Those are the people Dr. Marni interviewed for her study, and on whose psychological adjustment she focused.  I've got my prescription for depo in my purse (which reminds me - I really need to get that thing filled), so I am an imminent member of that group.  I've finished my last treatment option, and now I am taking medication to halt the further growth of the disease so I'm not always in pain, my internal organs aren't ruined, and I don't get cancer.  Right now, there's no question of sacrificing my health for a child - I did sacrifice my health, and I can't have a child anyway.  There's no point ruining my health for nothing.  (For those of you whose panties are in a bunch about how evil it is to take depo for a NON-contraceptive purpose, I will address this in a later post, and between now and then I suggest a grounding in basic logic and metaphysics, which does wonders for your effectiveness in apologetics, by the way.)

After reading through the study and reflecting for several days, I realized a lot of things that should have been obvious to me.  I've mourned countless times that I am not pregnant, that I do not have a child.  And I can't even remember how long it's been since I thought, "Next Christmas, maybe..."  These are huge blessings, and I am grateful for them.  Some of the IFers who got lucky and did have children might not have been ready to get even that far, if they hadn't had/adopted a baby.  But it never occurred to me to think that I had never really mourned the idea that I will never have a child.  Because I've thought about it.  I've started accepting it into my consciousness.  I really do make future plans with the expectation of childlessness.  I'm not saving for maternity leave and I haven't been in years.  There's a huge measure of freedom with that.  But judging by what she wrote, and what I see in myself, the real mourning starts after treatment ends, after that last shred of hope is relinquished.

I noted in a previous post that my two IRL childless friends ending up with surprise, no-warning babies within a few months of one another was a blow bigger than I could have imagined.  I was stunned by how long and how badly it upset me - considering I knew it would upset me a lot, and at least for a little while.  But the anger really hung on.  The impact on our lives has not improved - those friends are increasingly inaccessible, and our habits of considering them our close and constant companions are increasingly a polite sham.  This will get worse with time, not better: we are low on their priority lists, and will get lower, whereas we have plenty of time and attention for them.  It's just one added wound that inescapably forms part of the life of the childless infertile - those who need the most emotional support get the least.

However - and this is a big however - though the objective injury won't get better, my emotional suffering has.  Before both their babies, I was getting a lot better.  It was easier to see babies on the street; I didn't even have to repress the upset, I just wasn't upset.  I could ask friends about their kids and want to hear the answer, with no heartache.  That feeling has come back.  (And now I have almost no childless friends left, so I don't think it can be taken away again - good news, in a sick way!)

But I was realizing that that peace can itself be a bit on the deceptive side.  I walked by a young family the other day - Dad had Junior on his shoulders as they took a walk on a nice day - and I felt no upset, I just smiled.  I had just read the dissertation, and I was thinking about all the trauma that this entails.  I looked back at them.  I have all sorts of strong self-discipline mechanisms (which sometimes I ignore) so I can deal with this properly, and though I wasn't upset this time, one immediately kicked in.  A voice in my head said sternly, "That has nothing to do with you."  That's the mantra I've been absorbing, gradually, since about year two or three of marriage.  You can hang out with their kids.  They don't have kids at your expense.  Their lives have nothing to do with you. 

It's got all sorts of theological soundness and stuff - makes it a great tool.  Of course, with every success it has in deflecting envy, it has an equal success in pushing away humanity - every stranger on the street with whom I could (but don't) identify.  Or my closest friends.  Their lives have nothing to do with you.  And as I looked at that young family, I asked myself, "Have you ever really thought about that experience, that innocent scene they take for granted, and taken in the full force of the fact that you will never have that?"  I don't think I have.  I know Christmas now is not OK.  I work every year to try to surround myself with family at Christmas, and I'm usually unsuccessful.  Every year, I slog through whatever we're doing instead, and I tell myself it's fine for this Christmas, and somehow next year I will pull it off.

Pull what off?  My brother doesn't celebrate Christmas and hates his family.  My sister is around sometimes, which is awesome.  My husband hates going to his parents' home, which would otherwise by an awesome way to spend the holiday.  It would be nice - so nice - to have just a few years when my siblings and I were the kids, the adult kids, not missing anything or defective, but just a big group to play board games and enjoy each other's ability to eat our food without supervision and appreciate each other's conversation.  But my father effectively started a second family when I was 20, so he will never be at a stage of appreciating his adult children.  He made it so that he only ever had to appreciate small children; by the time my half-siblings are adults with their own lives, he will be dead.  Of course, that was a good move on his part, because he's estranged from my brother, was estranged from me, drives my sister nuts, and literally drove my stepmother into mental illness, so now she's left him.  Children under 10 don't have the option to refuse to spend Christmas with their family, so he's guaranteed always to have people around him.  Oh, that leaves my mother, who's so mentally ill she's in assisted living, all the way across the country.  And nutty as a fruitcake.  In years past, I've tried to round up people in the area who can't get home for Christmas, but that has become increasingly difficult.

I realized at some point that my driving desire was not for a baby.  It was for a family.  They don't have to be biologically related (that's not a subliminal message that I want to adopt - give it a rest), they don't have to be children at all.  They just have to be an assortment of people who love each other and are joyful because they have each other.  (I realize that this doesn't accurately describe all families; it's just supposed to.)  But this isn't accessible either.  My husband keeps telling me that I can't "recreate college," where I actually had that.  But I have a couple of responses to that.  (1) Why not?  (2) I didn't start out trying to recreate college; I started out trying to get pregnant, and it didn't work.  (3) There are genuinely other lonely people who need people around them and for whom this version of family would be something valuable.  What is wrong with reaching out to them?

I also have to make a comment on TCIE's post about the blessings of the cross of infertility - about seizing the opportunity for grace, and so forth.  I concede that everything she's said is right, and clearly is true in her own life.  But it isn't the whole story.  I think the temptation for us as Christians is to believe that everything can be redeemed.  It can, but not in this life.  That means that "everything happens for a reason" is not true in any earthly sense.  That means that "better off" doesn't always happen - I think it doesn't even often happen.  Christ carried the ultimate cross and He died.  The only happy ending was when He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  That's a huge deal, obviously, but it did not happen in this earthly life.  He did not hop down off the cross to say, "Just kidding!"  He didn't grin through the crucifixion because the pain wasn't nearly as big a deal as the graces being poured down.  He suffered.

My point?  Sometimes we don't emerge stronger, holier, more joyful, from the crosses we're asked to carry.  Sometimes we die like this.  Some of us will, as some of the saints have done, have effervescent joy and strength through the greatest suffering.  For some of us, we will be pushed to the absolute limit of what we can endure.  For some, saying, "I can't understand or believe that God would let this happen to me.  This is an unmitigated evil.  I am angry with Him and He is far away.  But I choose to love Him anyway" is a greater act of love, and faith, and virtue, than all the tears and songs of joy and gladness of those who got what they wanted.  Some people - like our beloved TCIE - will not get what they wanted, and yet will turn up a face overwritten with pain and joy to celebrate the love of God.  But not everybody will receive that measure of graces in proportion to their crosses (and I'm not saying that her acceptance of those crosses has been one iota less than heroic.  She is amazing).  With some of us, God is even more stingy.  It happens.

So what I'm saying is - if you can seize your infertility as an opportunity for grace and praise God for it, good for you and by all means do so.  Some of you are, or have been, or at some point will be, little better than dead, your life bleak and your faith in tatters.  You need to know that you are not alone.  And for you, I think the call to heroism sounds like this: "Just keep breathing."  Heaven lies that way, too.

This is a lot of questions (on a pile of unrelated subjects) and few answers, if any.  I'm moving into the no-man's land of the IF experience - permanent childlessness.  It's a huge deal, terrifyingly sad, but also, in a tiny way, a bit exhilarating.  My life feels like it's been on hold for a long time.  I want to move forward, even if into a place I didn't want to be.  I want to be free.  Maybe it will even happen.

And remind me to tell you about my antique cabinets.