A Bit of Earth

I love flowers and plants, but alas, lack a green thumb.  Growing up, my mother always had plants in the house including the orchids she had owned since college and carried the flowers as her wedding bouquet.  I always figured that plants were pretty easy until I tried my own hand at them after I moved into my first apartment.

The first plants to fall to my attempts were a couple of cyclamens.  “Just water them, but not too much,” people told me.  “They’re easy.”  These lasted a couple of weeks.

Then there was the container garden I attempted on the porch, which had the unauspicious beginning of a severe allergy attack in the garden center as we were picking plants.  I was sneezing, my eyes were swelling, and we wrapped it up about the time the hives started breaking out on my chest.  The tomato plant produced three miniature tomatoes, which I still dub the most expensive produce I’ve ever bought at $1.25 apiece.  The pepper plant shriveled and died.  The basil was the most successful of the bunch but still had a tendency to develop an unhealthy shade of yellow-brown on and off.

When we moved into the house, I realized I was going to have to figure out the care of the landscaping or risk being the house that had the dead/messy plants.  This has been a bit of a mixed bag.  The day lilies in our front bed around the light post are overrun by grass that I haven’t managed to successfully weed out.  My mother took a look at the various plants and explained that a few of them had most likely been put in during the selling process to make the house look nice and weren’t in optimal spots for that kind of plant.  She was right, during the first spring/summer, most of those weren’t healthy and didn’t make it to the fall.

We did, however, have some volunteer tulips and grape hyacinths that came up last year, didn’t flower, and I decided that I’d dig them up in the fall and plant something that would flower and look nice.  Well, I forgot, and sure enough, this spring, the plants came up.

And there were buds.

To my absolute surprise, the flowers all opened.

It’s been quite pleasant to see them on a daily basis.  As someone who can get rather cynical at times, I think it’s probably a good reminder for me as a more overarching lesson about life: sometimes it surprises in beautiful ways.

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Adulting – Cold Weather Edition

Living in the Midwest, it’s cold.  According to the local meteorologists, we’ve broken the 50-year record for cold and have to go all the way back to 1918 to find a colder low temperature.  Wednesday the low was -13 Fahrenheit with wind chills much lower.  Needless to say, we’ve been indoors the last several days.

Tuesday night, we went through the house, making sure faucets were dripping and preparing.  When we got up Wednesday morning, all was well.  Arthur’s work day was reduced due to the extreme weather, so he didn’t leave until late morning.  It was pleasant to have a relaxed start to the day and the furnace was pumping out heat, so despite the cold, we were cozy.

I put the girls down for a nap around one and did my workout.  Around 2:20, I headed up to shower, turned it on, and…no hot water.

What?!

I cranked the lever over to the hottest setting and the water stopped.

Uh-oh.

The house is laid out such that the second full bath is on the opposite side of the wall from the master bath, where I was, and uses the same pipes.  I sprinted to the second bathroom, turned on the water in the tub/shower, and waited.  No hot water.

I quickly checked the sinks in both bathrooms, which did have hot water.  My stomach sank.  The pipes to the showers weren’t on the outside wall of the house, but they were close to it.  I knew that all wasn’t lost yet because water was still coming through, but probably didn’t have long before the pipes completely froze.

I called my parents, who I knew were home and had dealt with a wide variety of house issues.  “Furnace up, run the water as far to hot as you can while getting a flow, and warm up the pipes wherever you can find a spot.”  We normally keep our house at around 69 degrees (Fahrenheit) and just put on another sweater, but in this case, I cranked the furnace to 76 and prayed it would hold.  I kept the water running, which precipitated another issue: the tub drain in one of the bathrooms had long been running slowly and now was blocked.  I spent the next half hour bailing so I could keep the water going to keep the pipe unfreezing and wondering where Arthur was, as he was due home.

A few minutes later, I found out: at the auto supply store.  The car battery had died in the cold to the point where it would no longer even jump.  Fortunately, Arthur happens to work across the street from the auto supply store and getting a new battery was easy.  About thirty minutes later, he was home.

We spent the next several hours unblocking the drain (hurrah for baking soda, vinegar, and hot water), bailing the tub, and cleaning up the mess.

Honestly, we were fortunate.  It’s sheer luck that I caught the freezing pipe in time to get it thawed before it got to the point of bursting (and we’ll be watching for the next several weeks to make sure there are no small cracks/leaks).  It’s also lucky that Arthur was able to get a new battery so easily.

But hey, so far, so good 😊.

December Updates

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  • I’m working on reestablishing my exercise routine. I hadn’t fully realized how much the lack of movement was affecting my physical strength as well as my mental health.  It’s meant getting much more creative than previously, but I’m really trying to get in 3-4 30 minute sessions of moving (whether that’s walking/jogging outdoors, indoor running, using the mini trampoline, circuit training at home, or actually going to the gym) per week.  Hopefully as my strength improves, I can increase those to 45 minutes or do a 30 minute + a later 15-20 minute session.
  • Speaking of movement and mental health, I’ve long had a personal rule that for the first half of my run, I would think about all the things that were frustrating, angering, or otherwise hacking me off but then for the second half, work on considering more meditative or thankful thoughts (yes, this led to some pretty long runs during infertility since I wasn’t ready to be calm until 2.5-3 miles in!). I’m doing that again and have noticed that I’m less stressed at other times – I know I’m going to have some specific time devoted to worrying/anger/frustration and that helps me to be more functional at other times.
  • We’re decorated for Christmas! I bought a “tree collar” this year – mine’s a wicker thing that covers the base of the tree and a little way up to the bottom branches – that hides the weights I use to prevent the tree from getting accidentally tipped over better than the tree skirt.  It’s amazing, honestly, after years of carving out space that didn’t really exist in our apartments for the tree to have places to put decorations now.
  • Tree Collar
  • Above is tree collar, I can’t seem to get a picture of mine without all kinds of stuff around it :), below are some of my actual decorations
  • I made myself a dress!!!! Not the one I initially started on, but a different one.  The sleeves are slightly wrinkled (ugh) but really, for my first time I set in sleeves and did all of it, I’m pretty proud of how things came out!
  • The original dress is on its way back, however. My aunt saved my rear end after I cut it too small and was able to put in gussets to make up the difference.  I get to hem it. I’m so fortunate to have so many wonderful aunts.
  • I also made myself an infinity scarf with the left-over fabric from a skirt. I gather that animal prints are in this season and I am…not normally an animal print wearer.  However, it’s a nice, lightweight seersucker with zebra stripes and perfect for an easy scarf to add a touch of flair to an outfit.
  • The kids are doing well and growing fast. E is 3 going on 13 😉.  The other day, we finished off a paper towel roll, she held out the cardboard tube and goes “we need to recycle this.”  I told her: “Yeah, but look!  There are so many cool things we can do with this!  We could make a trumpet!” (made trumpeting noises with it).  E stared at me, very unimpressed, and goes “Are you done?  We need to recycle this.”  Ha, and here I thought I had a few years before I became embarrassing to her 😊!
  • The cold is really starting to set in, and I am very thankful for a garage! First time in 13+ years we’ve had one during the winter and it is marvelous.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more, please check out Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

Infertility Quirks

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When I first went to the fertility clinic to start injected medications, I remember literally choking on something I was drinking when I called the specialty pharmacy and they told me how much foll.istim cost.  It’s still pretty mind-boggling that I only did a spit-take over the cost and then more or less went, “okay, so where do I sign?”  (Back when I was going through it, a vial cost just slightly less than $1 USD for 1 unit of the drug.  And if I bought the smaller size vial, the vial was usually overfilled by about 30-50 units, so it brought the cost down slightly.  But yes, a *lot* of money.)

Anyhow, this induced a really bizarre association in my brain that persists to this day: I measure the cost of just about everything in terms of how much infertility treatment cost.

New couch?  About one to one and a half vials.

New flooring? Around the cost of the drugs for two fresh IVF cycles.

Chimney cap? About the cost of clinic fees for a TI cycle.

Down payment on a house?  About two fresh IVF cycles plus the FET thrown in.

This last was particularly good when the mortgage banker gave us a sort of startled look after he quipped about the down payment being the biggest check most people ever write and I just started laughing.  It wasn’t really funny, but it was either laugh or cry.

The kicker in all of this was that when we wrote the checks for house-related stuff, it was a guarantee – we were actually getting a house, the flooring had a delivery date scheduled, and we could look at samples and touch fabrics for couches.  We weren’t paying for a 25% chance that we’d get the house or a 30-50% chance that the flooring would come.

There’s still a sense of unreality about every check I wrote during infertility, especially now, pitted against the tangible things that money can buy.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, please head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

 

 

The Cat Came Back

“Ahh!” I yelled as a furry, black streak bolted through my legs and out the door.

We had just finished viewing a house with our realtor that had gone uneventfully – until now.  Sh*t, I thought, we can’t lose someone’s pet!  Fortunately, the cat, once out, had run to the neighbor’s yard but then stopped to sit under a bush.  Arthur and the real estate agent successfully retrieved the cat and deposited it carefully back into the house.

We bought the house.

~*~

Friday morning, I was getting ready when E told me that there was a cat on the back porch.  I didn’t think much of it.  When I was growing up, it was common to see cats from around the neighborhood taking a stroll, probably after mice or birds.  The cat mewed for a few moments at the back door.  I wonder where he’s from, I thought.  We left to run an errand, and when I came back, the cat was gone.

~*~

Sunday, we saw the cat again.  This time, however, we were out in the yard, and the cat came up to us, rubbed against our legs, and purred.  It was obvious he wasn’t feral.  I thought about this for a moment and remembered the similar-looking cat that had escaped when we viewed the house.  I knew the former owner hadn’t moved too far away.  “I wonder if this is (former owner’s) cat,” I said to Arthur.  The neighbor who I knew kept in touch with the former owner didn’t seem to be home, though.  “I’ll call the real estate office on Monday.  Hopefully they can put me in touch with the former owner and I can find out if he’s missing a cat,” I decided.  We went indoors briefly, and when we came out again, the cat was gone.

~*~

This morning, I didn’t see the cat, but called and left a message with the real estate agent.  A couple hours later, running late, not having received a return call, I opened the garage door and as I was getting the car loaded, the cat came running from across the street, mewing frantically.  “Poor thing,” I said.  It was just too much to be coincidence.  I knew I needed to get in touch with the former owner as soon as possible.

Fortunately, the neighbor was home when I knocked and able to give me the former owner’s phone number.  I called him.  “Can you catch the cat?” he asked.  “I’ll be straight over.”

I picked up the cat, made sure I had him secured in the garage, and within five minutes, the former owner was there.  It turned out that the cat belonged to his adolescent daughter who had been worried and upset.  He was very glad to see the cat and looking forward to reuniting girl with her pet.

~*~

What can I say, I’m always excited to get an animal story with a happy ending.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, please head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

Home Improvement

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Well, I certainly didn’t plan to abruptly disappear into cyberspace, but holy heck, that’s what happened.  The short version: we closed on the house and commenced on a huge round of cleaning, painting, flooring, packing, and moving starting in early January.  Having never owned property before, I did not realize that all of this is really a much bigger undertaking that I had thought.

In two months, we have:

  • Replaced almost all of the upstairs flooring (it was ancient carpet, the previous owners had two large dogs and two cats, and we have allergies) and had professionals put in nice, water-resistant laminate
  • Painted three of the bedrooms ourselves to a nice, neutral warm cream color
  • Repainted a bunch of trim/doors in the upstairs ourselves
  • Had the kitchen and living room professionally painted as there were a lot of nooks and crannies that were going to be tough to do well ourselves (both were gray to begin with, which I know is really trendy right now, but it felt depressing to me – so now the kitchen is a very pale creamy yellow and the living room is a light sky blue)
  • Bought area rugs for bedrooms and the living room
  • New sofa and benches for the living room.
  • Installed various curtain rods
  • Packed up our old place
  • Hired and supervised movers for all the heavy furniture (we considered having friends/family help us, but we have a sleeper sofa that is horribly heavy plus a washer and dryer, and decided the risk of one of us throwing out a back was too high)
  • Replaced the dining area chandelier
  • Unpacked most of the bedrooms
  • Bought a guest bed

I love all of it, though!  It’s the first place we’ve lived that actually has felt like mine/ours.  There are a few less “fun” things to get done, such as hiring a handyman to get a little bit of the wooden siding on the front repaired now that the weather allows for it, but we’re making headway on that as well.

These days, we’re in the tough sort of “in-between” phase where we’re living in the new house but still cleaning out bits and pieces from our old apartment (our lease is up at the end of March).  We’re also unpacking and having a lot of those “wait, where is (fill in the blank)?!” moments.

Other than the moving/house, I’ve been reading Sheryl Sandburg’s Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.  I have mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, she has some really good advice about coping with life’s truly horrible moments and shares a lot of her personal story that I found moving and relatable.  On the other hand, it’s also very rah-rah, you can move through this, and kid/parenting heavy.  I found a lot of the advice about coping with an unexpected death like my brother’s good, but I know if I’d read this during my fertility struggles or when I was in the hospital expecting to lose my older daughter any day, I would have found a lot of it really frustrating.  I guess like most advice books, I’m taking what applies to me and leaving the rest.

I’m also finishing up Eve Schaub’s book Year of No Clutter and thoroughly enjoying it so far (though, be warned, near the end there is a chapter on sorting out her daughters’ baby things).  Schaub writes about her “Hell Room” – the largest room in her house that is so cluttered and full of stuff that she can barely get into it and so just closes the door.  As someone who firmly falls on the ‘packrat’ side of the clutter/decluttering continuum, even though I have not reached the point Schaub has, I still can relate to quite a few of the feelings Schaub discusses about dealing with “stuff”.  Schaub’s story about keeping a mummified dead mouse (!) because she wrote about it and now feels attached to it, however, was definitely not one of those moments (I hate, loathe, despise, and otherwise cannot stand dead critters in my living space).  When she talked about craft projects that she saves and never gets to but can’t bear to throw out however…well, my mind went guiltily to my fabric drawer, stuffed with un-finished sewing projects.  Given that we’re in the stage of trying to figure out what to keep and what to toss, though, reading the book has been a bit of a companion in the stress of trying to deal with the “but I might NEED IT SOMEDAY!” moments.

This post is part of Microblog Mondays – if you want to read more posts from other bloggers, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

A Little Overwhelmed

Christmas was a study in contrasts.  The day itself was quite lovely, restful, and calm.  Spending the day at home with my parents, we opened presents.  We relaxed.  I cooked a beef tenderloin and made a chocolate cheesecake that actually turned out beautifully.

The next day, I had plans to go to Arthur’s family in the morning (they live about an hour away from us) so the girls could play with their cousins, then Arthur would join us in the evening after work for gift exchange and time with family.  I arrived at the house, got the girls ushered in, and started talking with the adults.

Arthur’s middle sister MC recently got engaged with a wedding scheduled for the summer.  I knew MC was – naturally – excited about the wedding.  To make conversation, I asked her how things were going and about plans, etc.

I did not expect to be asked to be a bridesmaid.  MC and I have had some conflicts on and off over the last year or two, and I figured that she’d have friends and Arthur’s two other sisters to round out the bridal party.  MC asked if I would sing and if E would be a flower girl.  I told her yes, of course, and then asked if she had picked bridesmaids’ dresses and such.

Socially awkward introverts’ worst nightmare ensued: a smooth sailing, seemingly shallow conversation suddenly pitched into unexpectedly deep waters.  “Well,” MC told me, “SC [Arthur’s oldest sister] is my maid of honor, LC [Arthur’s youngest sister] is going to be a bridesmaid, my friend V, and, well, F.”

F, for the record, is married to Arthur’s brother D, so an in-law like me.  I sucked in a deep breath and tried not to react.  While I hadn’t been expecting to be asked to be a bridesmaid, I also hadn’t expected to be the only female in my generation to be left out of the wedding party.  I smiled, tried to be polite, and left the room a few minutes later with the baby to calm down.

MC followed me.  “Look,” she said, “I hope you’re not too upset about the bridesmaid thing.  I didn’t ask F just because she’s a sister-in-law.”

Ouch.

I’ve been with Arthur for around 20 years at this point, engaged or married for 15 of those years.  I’ve attended MC’s band concerts, events, graduations, and sent things to her at college.  It’s true that we’ve had a few moments in the last couple years – which I fully acknowledge to be partly on me – but to be told, essentially, “well, F is a friend and you…are just my sister in law” felt absolutely devastating.

It’s not even so much not being a bridesmaid.  It’s being close enough to hear all the inside jokes and far enough away to be left out of them.  It’s being the only female of my generation in the family photos that will be dressed differently and obviously not part of the group.  It’s that in Arthur’s family culture, this is a huge, huge slap in the face.

I spent the day trying not to cry.  When Arthur arrived, however, I lost it.  Seven hours of sitting on strong feelings was too much.  Instead of doing what I had planned, which was keeping things quiet and working it out later, I just felt the sobs pouring out of me and I could not bear to cry in front of everyone.  I ran out of the house and drove home, leaving Arthur and the girls to do the gift exchange and come home later.

Sh*t ensued.

It came out that at least three people had known about MC’s plans and had advised her that she would hurt me by making those choices.  Everyone is still insisting that MC didn’t mean to hurt me, that she’s stubborn and not as emotionally aware, but I’m having a hard time believing it.  I mean, MC is absolutely entitled to have whoever she wants in her wedding party, but she needs to own her decisions and not hide behind “oh, I asked you to sing and I never thought you’d be hurt”.

At this point, I’m just trying to take a step back and calm down a little.  There’s a lot of pressure on me to forgive, reconcile, and sing.  Truthfully, while that might be possible eventually, it’s hard to do when it’s all so fresh.

We closed on the house yesterday.  And it is glorious.  I am so, so excited about starting to paint and moving in.  A little overwhelmed, too, honestly.  To add to all of this, a driver rear-ended us yesterday as well, so creating another task.

So that’s how 2017 ended and 2018 is starting.  Lots of good, but plenty of delicate, difficult circumstances thrown in.