Alone

I’m sitting in silence, the most complete a silence can get in this apartment—only the soft hum of the refrigerator and the whir of laptop and file server fans and the clacking sound of my own typing breaking the stillness. It’s so still, so quiet.

I’m alone.

On Skype, Sean’s status is green for online, and so is Kathryn’s. They’re here, but not really. Sean is at William’s, and Kathryn is hundreds of miles away from me, where she always is. Earlier I typed at length into Sean’s window about a story idea I am working on, but he didn’t respond. He and William are likely in a game. Kathryn is quiet, but available: she spoke first, and we spent some happy moments imagining what we might do if we were actually in the same room. I would like to watch The Last Unicorn with her. It’s been on my mind lately, and all weekend I’ve been listening to the soundtrack, and tonight I browsed screen captures and quotations and fan art and was brought nearly to tears several times.

Today was aimless; I did laundry and read and fed myself. I had planned to read Bloodline, the new Star Wars novel, but instead I read fan fiction. Both times I ventured out for food, the day was bright and beautiful, the sun blinding and the trees vividly green. The air was warm but not hot and there was a cool breeze and it was perfect. When I got home the first time I opened all the blinds and saw that our patio bistro set is completely coated in pollen.

I’ve been opening two of the blinds in the sunroom every day, for the peace lily. I just searched Google for “funeral flowers” because I couldn’t remember what it was called, and I scrolled past dozens of arrangements that were so obviously meant to stand near or on a casket, and then I started seeing names spelled out in flowers: Lee, Granma, Mum. So many Mums. And finally, Dad.

The peace lily was given to us for Dad’s memorial. We received several beautiful arrangements and plants. When I first came home, after he died, after the memorial, I didn’t bring any of them with me. I was sure I would kill it. But I soon went back to Kentucky because I wasn’t okay, and I stayed a little while longer, and when I came home again I brought the peace lily too. It’s big, and it looks good on my dining table in the sunroom.

There’s so little stability now. But I can take care of this plant, at least. Right now, it’s just me and it.

A lovely end to a long week

I was away in Indianapolis on a working vacation this week. On the night of Friday, April 17, I drove up to Kentucky so I could spend Saturday with my family. Then on Sunday, Mom and I drove up to Indy together to meet up with her sisters Bev and Sally.

The four of us stayed in a house on the northwest side of town that I found on Airbnb. It had two and a half bathrooms and a bedroom for each of us. There was a kitchen table that we used as a computer desk and a dining room table where we ate meals (when we didn’t eat at our computers). The house also had a comfy living room, a sunroom, and a pretty outdoor gazebo with a fire pit. The kitchen was well stocked with dishes and pots and pans. In sum, the house was perfect for the purpose of our trip, which was to sit around talking, cooking, eating, watching movies, and playing on our computers—basically, to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company. (We all live very far apart from each other.)

I was able to go on the trip because I combined it with work. I worked normal days, 8 to 5, from Monday to Thursday. The work I was doing was both mentally and physically draining for me, and I worry that I wasn’t very good company in the evenings. But everyone was very understanding, and I was at least very cheerful on the last day ;)

Mom and one or more of my aunts would always come up to see me at lunchtime. One of the days, we went to the Dairy Queen next door. The next day, Mom packed a lunch, but we ended up driving back to the house to eat it. The day after that, we went to an excellent Mexican place near my work, and on my last workday, we ate at the house again.

On the Sunday we arrived, Mom and I met up with Aunt Bev and Uncle Josh, who were staying in a hotel that night. We all had dinner at a nearby Cajun restaurant; it was decent. Once Uncle Josh had headed off on some business travel, Aunt Bev joined us at the house, and Aunt Sally arrived, and after that, dinners were all cooked at home. On Monday we had two small dinners: first roast chicken, then roast pork. On Tuesday Mom made her amazing chicken and dumplings; we also used the fire pit for the first time, though we didn’t have anything to cook over it yet. On Wednesday I was supposed to make almond chicken, but unfortunately I was exhausted that day…the thought of doing anything made my brain shut down, and I ended up just going to bed. I got up at around midnight after everyone else was already asleep, discovering graham crackers, marshmallows, and Hershey bars laid out on the counter in the kitchen. I microwaved a couple marshmallows and had s’mores, then warmed myself up some more chicken and dumplings. I piddled around online until around 3:30, then went back to bed. Thursday we had hot dogs grilled over the gas stove, as it was too rainy to use the fire pit. I think Aunt Sally thought Mom was crazy for grilling hot dogs on the stove, but I thought it was awesome. (I’m pretty sure we have done it before, too.)

On one of the nights, Mom, Sally, and I played spades online with my uncle Tom (their younger brother), who lives in Brazil. That was pretty fun, even though my team lost both games. (I only play spades like once a year. At least I succeeded in getting a nil and protecting my partner’s nil!) On another night, we watched two movies: Breakfast at Tiffany’s and An Affair to Remember. I’d never seen the former before, and I was pretty unimpressed with it. Of course, I adore An Affair to Remember, and I was pleased that everyone else enjoyed it as well. (I was a little surprised at how ableist it is, though…this is not something I had picked up on before.)

We left on Friday morning; Aunt Bev’s flight was at 8 am, and Mom and Aunt Sally didn’t see a point in sticking around, as we had to be out of the house by noon anyway. So Aunt Sally drove off north and Mom and I dropped Aunt Bev at the airport and headed south.

Since we’d left so early, we had a lot of day left when we got back to Kentucky. I ran some errands with AJ and we talked about music and home improvement stuff. Logan came over when he got out of school and we played pool and cards, and then Mom, AJ, Faye, Connor, Logan, and I all went to Cracker Barrel for dinner. It was really good; Connor and Logan each had a piece of Coca-Cola cake, which I shared with them :3

On Saturday, I packed up, goofed off online for longer than I really needed to, then hit the road a little before noon. The drive was decent; it was raining at first, but soon cleared up, and the weather was warmer and warmer the further south I got. I made it home at around 7, feeling very energetic and happy. When I finally pulled into the parking lot, I decided not to bother unpacking yet, and just see Sean first. I’d been looking forward to it for days.

The deadbolt was locked, and it took Sean a little longer than normal to open it for me. He raced back to his computer, apparently in the middle of something in his game.

“Busy?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Well, that’s a shame,” I said. “I had plans for you.”

He glanced up. “It won’t be much longer.”

I went back up to the parking lot and got my stuff out of the car, then set to work unpacking things. I had gotten mostly done and was hanging up shirts I hadn’t worn in the closet when Sean appeared.

“I guess it doesn’t happen very frequently that I’m ready to get you right when I get home,” I said.

“It never happens,” he replied in mock exasperation. “You’re always too tired.”

“Well, it happened today,” I informed him as we melted together. Eventually standing in the closet was no longer conducive to what we wanted to do, and we moved to the bed.

Afterwards, we took a shower together, kissing and talking. He was interested to discuss feminist issues and the film Maleficent. He also mentioned how I have ruined all movies for him by making him notice the treatment of female characters ;)

Finally, we got dressed and went to the car to head to Haru Ichiban for dinner.

“I’m so glad I’m home,” I said as he drove, taking his free hand.

“Me too,” he answered.

“Do you know what my home is?” I asked him.

“What?”

“You.”

I laid my head on his shoulder, and he leaned his head against the side of mine, and I closed my eyes and smiled.

Dinner was lovely; we had sushi and talked some more about movies and articles and what we’d done all week. Afterwards we went to Baskin Robbins, where Sean had a Reese’s shake and I had a soft-serve cone.

I was so happy, I ended up staying up really late last night chatting with a friend and reading fan fiction. When I was ready to go to bed, I went out to Sean’s desk to say goodnight, wrapping my arms around him and kissing his neck. When I started to pull away, he said, “Hold on,” then told his online friends he was going to bed too. We retired together, snuggling lightly and falling asleep.

This morning I awoke several times to the pleasant feeling of Sean’s hand on my ribs. I thought about getting up, but I didn’t want to move him, so I each time I stayed and slipped back into sleep. Eventually Sean was the one to get up. Watching him as he rounded the bed, I asked, “Are you getting up?” He stopped, came back to the bed, leaned over me.

After our second happy reunion, we went out for brunch at J. Christopher’s, holding hands across the table and chatting and smiling. I told Sean that my friend Kathryn thinks we are adorable. “Me being grumpy and you being cute is adorable, huh?” he said. “Hey, sometimes I’m the grumpy one, and you’re the cute one,” I countered. “We balance each other.”

In the car I kissed his knuckles and the flesh of his palm and he let out an extremely satisfying sound of appreciation and need.

It’s been really nice to be home, to be with Sean. I feel so happy and comfortable. I’m really glad I went on the trip, but I’m so glad I’m home.

Bleargh

I’ve been staying up too late all week. Yesterday I ended up taking a nap in the afternoon, but then I stayed up until 12:30, and that seems to have thrown me off, because when my alarm went off this morning I felt like a zombie. I snoozed for half an hour, and when the alarm went off again, I snoozed for another 15 minutes, and when it went off again, I almost snoozed for another 15 minutes, but after about three I reluctantly roused myself and shuffled into the bathroom.

I was sitting on the toilet scrolling through Tumblr when I noticed it was 7:15…sleeping in doesn’t leave much time for morning prep. So I got dressed and went to work and felt dead until I finally got my morning protein shake into me.

My day was spent organizing things that needed to be organized and researching things that needed to be researched. When my day was over I came home and asked Sean if he wanted to do Thai tonight. He did, so he got in the shower.

(He didn’t work today, so when I got home he was sitting at his desk in his white undershirt, all rumpled from sleep, his hair going everywhere, looking incredibly sexy, and I am unhappy to report that my period started this morning.)

It was raining, so we had to cover our heads and run to and from the car, and I had to watch for the usual drivers who don’t seem to care when road conditions are hazardous, zipping around, tailgating, turning from the wrong lane.

Dinner was very nice; I tried the dumplings, which are filled with a paste made of many different meats, and the Penang curry, which was delicious. Sean had a spicy herb soup with chicken and fried rice with shrimp. This was the first time I didn’t have any jasmine tea.

The rain had slowed to a drizzle by the time we were finished, so the drive back wasn’t nearly as treacherous. We stopped at Baskin Robbins and sat in the car for a bit as Sean finished telling me about something frustrating that had happened with one of his gaming friends. Then we went in and I got two scoops of butter pecan and Sean got a mocha cappuccino blast.

We came home and I basically read fanfiction and surfed Tumblr for hours. Not the most productive evening, but my brain doesn’t quite seem to be in creative mode. I opened a new Word document, thinking I’d start on an idea I had earlier, but it doesn’t seem to want to come out right now.

I’ve sort of hit a snag with the longer fanfic I’ve been working on as well. I’m not sure what to do next. I have some pieces, but I need to fill in a lot of gaps. Hopefully I’ll figure something out tomorrow.

I have had some writing fun recently, though. This past week I wrote a series of unrelated five-sentence ficlets as part of a Tumblr meme. Followers sent a sentence and I had to write five follow-up sentences. I ended up writing 34 of them. It was so much fun. I want to do it again.

I’m really enjoying interacting with other writers on Tumblr. I am often intimidated by how talented and prolific they all seem to be, but I’m managing to keep from comparing myself to them too much. I’m just trying to do the best I can and enjoy it.

Tomorrow I plan to sleep in, then focus on writing. Wish me luck. :)

A bad day turns good

I felt horrible when I left for work, and I felt horrible all morning. It was one of those moods where I would get near tears if I thought too much about any of the things that were bothering me, and when I was in danger of thinking things like “Why do I even bother trying to write? I am so terrible and there are plenty of people who are better and I’m not even writing anything important anyway.”

But I focused on work, work I enjoy, and then at lunch I ate with three coworkers and we talked about everything: kids, travel, relationships, anger, food, the ethics of eating meat. It was actually a pretty deep conversation, and it was so nice to talk and to listen. The meal was nourishing, too, roast chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans. After lunch I returned to my desk feeling cheerful, and even though a huge problem arose at 4:45 my mood wasn’t dampened.

Sean texted me shortly before I left work to ask if I’d paid the rent—I had plans to do so on my way home—and to ask me out to dinner. I happily agreed, and when I got home we went to Aspens Signature Steaks, our fancy date restaurant. You don’t have to dress up to eat there, but sometimes we do. Today, though, we just wore jeans. We shared some blue point oysters, then I had the surf and turf, a beef medallion with a lobster tail and a side of mashed sweet potato, and Sean had a strip steak with a lobster tail and grilled mushrooms. We finished the meal with the white chocolate raspberry mousse cake that is our go-to dessert; Sean also had coffee, which he said was really good. We talked the whole time, about all sorts of things. We talked all the way home, too.

It was so wonderful to have that feeling of connection, both with my friends at work and of course with my husband. I think that after a weekend of being sort of secluded, locked away to myself, I needed that.

To-don’t

I made a to-do list for the weekend, which guaranteed I wouldn’t do any of it today. The items on the list were:

  • see Selma
  • start reading a friend’s memoir
  • start reading another friend’s play
  • write each day, of course

Later, I added:

  • self-care, which so far has included sleeping for approximately 12 hours

The sleeping was glorious. I went to bed just a little later than my usual time, and I awoke naturally at 6am. After a bathroom break, I got back in bed and read social media, listened to a couple episodes of Welcome to Night Vale, and then went back to sleep. I slept from around 8am to noon, and when I finally got up for good, I felt well-rested and happy.

I guess I did manage to take care of myself today, insofar as I read a bunch of things that made me smile, and I ate relatively proper meals. I also did one load of laundry. But I did not see Selma, or start reading my friends’ stuff. I also didn’t write anything, other than a long comment on Facebook about people’s interesting reactions to rediscovering Friends, now that the series is available on Netflix. (I may rework that comment into a blog post.)

I think I need to get outside. Yesterday it was very rainy. I’m not actually sure how the weather was today, as I didn’t go out at all. Tomorrow, if it’s clear, I should at least go for a walk.

Sean went to grab us a late dinner from Steak ‘n Shake. He has been very sweet to me while I have been feeling low and unsociable. Earlier we discussed getting Chinese food, but I didn’t want to talk on the phone. He didn’t either, so he decided to go pick something up instead. He didn’t ask me to ride along, perhaps sensing my apparent need to live in a cave today. I told him I loved him, and thanked him for taking care of me.

And that has pretty much been my day. How are you?

Sometimes it’s good to turn back

Sean and I had a sweet moment this morning when I left for work. I’d just finished blogging about how low I felt yesterday. I was heading out the door, and Sean’s alarm went off. He stirred on the couch, sat up, and said, “Have a good day, baby.”

“You too, sweetheart,” I responded.

He said something else, and I think it was “I love you,” but it was very quiet. I went out the door and shut it and went to lock it behind me.

And then I stopped, and opened it again, and went back into the apartment. I crossed the dark room and sat next to Sean and snuggled into him. He murmured contentedly and I kissed his neck.

“Sorry for being depressed yesterday,” I said.

“It’s okay,” he said, in a tone that made it apparent he didn’t think depression was something to apologize for.

I squeezed him tight and talked about yesterday, going through the things I’d blogged about, and then talked about today, and how I’d belatedly realized that tickets to the Welcome to Night Vale spring live shows were going on sale while I would be in the basement of my workplace for a team event.

“I’m tired,” I said.

“I can relate,” he replied.

We snuggled and kissed and then I had to go. I was very glad I’d turned back. I felt lighter, freer, as I stepped out into the cleansing rain.

(And as for the tickets, I ended up getting them just fine.)

Managing myself

As of yesterday, I’ve successfully written something every day in 2015. Sometimes it’s been a little, sometimes it’s been a lot, but it’s always been something. I’m pleased to be able to say that.

Unfortunately, all this sitting at my desk writing has resulted in a side effect: back pain. Something about the way I sit causes a soreness in my middle back on the right side. It almost feels like getting a stitch in my side, but on my back instead of my front. I’ve had this pain before. It makes it hurt to bend over or twist or carry things. When the pain suddenly flared up when I came home for lunch on Wednesday, I made two changes in response: I switched desk chairs at home, and I changed my desk at work to standing mode.

I worked the rest of Wednesday and then all of yesterday standing up, a day and a half, and it has in fact helped my back. It also made me feel very energetic for most of the workday yesterday. I told my coworkers that I felt “powerful”. I even did 20 standing pushups against the part of the desk that wasn’t raised, because why not?

I came home at lunch and wrote a tiny story, which is good, because I hadn’t written anything that morning. And then, when I got home last night, I was completely exhausted. I don’t know if standing up all day sapped me mentally, or if this week’s work, which has involved a lot of editing and providing feedback, has been more of a drain than usual. In any case, my brain didn’t seem to want to do anything. I couldn’t figure out what to do for dinner, let alone write. Worse, I kept feeling discouraging thoughts creeping in–that everything I have written and everything I’m trying to write is terrible, and that there’s no point to any of it. At about 6:30 I gave up on everything and went to bed, still wearing all my clothes.

Sean came in eventually and asked if I wanted to go to Sushi Huku, which I would normally love to do, but “I don’t feel like going anywhere,” I mumbled. He kissed me and left me alone, and I slept until midnight.

When I awoke, I got up, took a shower, and got into a t-shirt and yoga pants, my typical pajamas. Sean was asleep. I opened the fridge and discovered that he’d ordered pizza, which was a relief; I’d worried he hadn’t eaten anything. Then I teared up at the thought of having to feed both of us every day. It occurred to me that I probably hadn’t had enough rest yet. But I was still pretty awake, and I knew I probably needed protein too, so I made myself some hot dogs and got online to read for a couple hours. I didn’t try to write anything. I did try not to feel bad about that.

Around 3:30, I climbed back into bed and put on an episode of Welcome to Night Vale. Eventually I fell asleep, I guess around 4, meaning I got two more hours of sleep before my alarm went off at 6.

I think, I hope, that I am rested enough to get through today. At least I am able to recognize that the bad feelings I was having were due to being completely drained, and that I don’t have to feel that way.

It seems that after each sleep, I have a certain amount of energy. I’m not sure if I get the same amount each time. But I can certainly run out of it too soon if I’m not careful, and running out tends to plunge me into depression. I’m glad I recognize this and know what to do (go to bed, basically) when it happens.

Thinking back to Japan

Temple of the Daibutsu, NaraLast Saturday, as sort of a joke, I ran a “contest” on Facebook:

Place your bets!

Sean has been out of town this week and is coming home today. Last night he said he would “leave in the morning” and “get home early”.

The person who guesses closest to Sean’s actual arrival time will receive a vignette written by me on the topic of their choosing.

Go!

My friend Heidi won the contest with her guess of 6pm. (The earliest guess was 1:23pm; the latest, from someone Sean went to high school with, was 9:30pm. Sean got home at 5:30. He did not leave in the morning. I did not expect him to, which is the “joke”.)

Heidi thought for awhile about what topic to give me, and finally issued the following:

Ok write -something about visiting Japan that you didn’t expect. (or another place if that’s too specific.)

On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a difficult topic. But nothing immediately came to mind. I think part of it is simply the fact that I went to Japan in 2001. That was quite some time ago. I was also a completely different person in 2001. So I have to think back to my memories of that trip, plus try to remember who I was and how I felt then. It’s an interesting challenge.

As part of my research for this, I’ll go through my photos from the trip. In 2001, my family had just purchased our first digital camera, a Canon C3030-Zoom (“Filmless,” boasted the box!), and I took it with me to Japan. This was actually the starting point of my photography. I’d had film cameras before that point, but I’d never taken this volume of photos before.

I also have a few pieces of writing to serve as reference material. First, there’s this blog post, copied from a handwritten journal entry. (A quick glance through it has proven to be somewhat depressing!) If the Internet Archive is to be believed, I had two more pieces of writing, from the first two days of the trip…but those pages weren’t archived, and I don’t have copies of them. The essay I wrote to thank the Institute of International Education for the grant that allowed me to go on the trip was archived, though. It seems kind of short, but as I recall, I was overwhelmed once the trip was over. I didn’t–couldn’t–write much about it at all. Finally, that fall, in a creative writing class, I wrote a short story inspired by some feelings I had on the trip. I still have a copy of that, and I’ll probably refer to it as well. (It’s private, though.)

I have been really inspired to write lately, which is why I offered a vignette as the prize for this silly contest, and also why I’ve committed to write something every day this year. It’s hard to write something every day, though. Some days it just pours out of me; yesterday was one of those days (although it didn’t feel that way until I started putting words down). And some days I’m absorbed in figuring out what I’m doing, and it’s much harder to get to the storytelling part.

Right now I’m concentrating on building the habit of getting words on the page. It doesn’t matter what those words are or what purpose they serve, if they serve any purpose at all. I’m not worrying about particular projects, either; I’ll write whatever I feel like writing. Once I’ve established a habit, I’ll start worrying about goals and word counts and stuff like that.

With all that in mind, I am considering this blog post my writing for today. I look forward to coming back to my keyboard tomorrow, refreshed and ready to share some sort of story.

A theory of love

This morning I got up at around 6:44. Of course, Sean and his houseguest William were still asleep, Sean on the couch (as is his wont when he stays up late) and William in the office where my computer is set up. I went and got the Lenovo from the living room and a protein shake from the kitchen, then secluded myself in the master bedroom, listening to and looking up fanart for Welcome to Night Vale, my latest obsession.

Around 9 or so it was time for second breakfast. Sean and William were naturally still asleep. I decided to go to McDonald’s. I also decided not to get them anything, and this was my logic: After eating this meal, I would probably be hungry again at around lunchtime. Sean and William would likely only be getting up at that time. So they would eat whatever I’d brought back from McD’s, and I’d have to go find something else for myself. It seemed logical, therefore, to just have myself a snack, and then eat lunch with Sean and William later.

Back in the bedroom, I was eating a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and fangirling like you wouldn’t believe when the door opened and Sean slipped in, making puppy dog eyes at my food. “You didn’t get me any?” he said pathetically. I tried to explain my logic. He lay down on the bed on his stomach, arms straight at his sides, pouting. “Do you want some bites of mine?” I asked. “No,” he said. “So you’re just going to pout, then?” I asked. “Yes,” he said.

I started to talk about something else, and he literally got up to leave the room! What a guy :D

“Do you want me to go get you some?” I asked.

The answer was obviously yes, but Sean just stood frozen at the door as if lost in thought.

“I don’t mind,” I said. “Do you want me to?”

It became apparent at his continued silence that he could not bring himself to ask it of me.

“Okay,” I said, “I’m going to get you some.”

“Okay,” he said, obviously relieved beyond measure.

And I went and got him some, and some for William too, who was up by the time I got back.

It occurs to me that my marriage would be far unhappier if I didn’t find this sort of thing adorable. If my reaction to Sean moping around was to take it as emotional blackmail and seethe in resentment. Actually, I’m sure there was a point where I did stuff like that, but I’ve learned from watching good relationships that your attitude toward your partner is everything. If you are constantly thinking about what you don’t like about your partner, of course you will “fall out of love.” And if you instead constantly think about how cute and adorable and smart and attractive and funny your partner is, and how much you want to be with them and make them happy, then staying in love is just natural.

It’s just us

Last night, Sean and I decided not to try to have a kid.

The decision has taken nearly 15 years. It all started in 1999 when, after cancer treatments, I was told that the likelihood of becoming naturally pregnant was extraordinarily low.

I spent five or maybe even ten years trying to recover from that news. During that time, Sean and I met, fell in love, and got married. In the beginning, my lack of fertility wasn’t an issue; Sean didn’t want children at all, though he said it would be okay if it happened.

Obviously in my case it wasn’t going to just “happen”. I approached an endocrinologist fairly early in our marriage (we were still living in our first apartment, which was destroyed by fire in 2005) and started on hormone treatments, but all this did was allow me to have normal periods. We were in our mid-20s then. As time passed, more health issues cropped up for me, and I also started finding my career path. The fertility problem was put on the back burner.

Sean’s mind started to change around the year we turned 30. He started looking at kids with the sort of indulgent expression you see on daddies, and we’d talk about names we liked and how we’d raise a child. Eventually we decided that once my health issues were taken care of, we’d see if anything could be done fertility-wise.

That time is now. I’ve had surgery to help me lose weight, taking me out of obesity and ending my sleep apnea and pseudotumor cerebri. At this point I’m the healthiest I’ve been in years. I was all set to talk to my weight loss doctor on Friday about what I needed to know about trying to conceive.

Then, yesterday, I read a CNN article that reminded me of exactly what position I’m in. The article, entitled The ‘Big Lie’ in putting off pregnancy, discusses how fertility decreases as we age:

Forty may be the new 30, but our ovaries have not gotten the same makeover. Even with all the advances in reproductive technology, our eggs have a finite shelf life and the odds of having a child over 40 years old are shockingly slim.

According to the Southern California Center for Reproductive Medicine, a woman in her 20s has a 20-25% chance of conceiving naturally per menstrual cycle. In her early 30s, the chance of pregnancy is 15% per cycle. After 35, the odds of pregnancy without medical intervention are at 10%. After 40, that number falls to 5%, and women over 45 have a 1% chance of conception.

[…]

A 2009 report on Assisted Reproductive Technologies, or ARTs, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the single most important factor affecting the chances of a successful pregnancy through ARTs is a woman’s age. Selvaratnam reports that at age 40, the chance is 18.7%; at 42, it’s 10%; at 44, it’s only 2.9%.

Sean and I have been married since January of 2003, and from then until September 2011, when I had weight loss surgery, we never used any form of birth control whatsoever. Obviously conceiving naturally was never going to happen.

I’m now 35 years old, the age at which the chances of conceiving naturally have dropped by 10 to 15% in a normal person, someone who hasn’t had their ovaries damaged by chemotherapy.

We always knew that given my situation, there was a chance I had no viable eggs left. There’s a test that gives you an idea of that situation. When I was taking hormone replacement therapy in 2005 and 2006, my doctor said the hormones were meant to essentially jump-start my ovaries, but my ovaries never started working properly on their own. Without hormone therapy or birth control, I only have a random period every several months to a year. This doesn’t bode well for my eggs.

I honestly don’t know what other options there are beyond hormone therapy. I’ve heard of people getting shots, and of course there’s IVF. What I do know is that hardcore fertility treatments are expensive. The first time I approached an actual fertility doctor, maybe 2008 or 2009, I was told to prepare at least $10,000. (At the time I didn’t have that, so the issue was back-burnered again.)

While we are in the best possible place right now, both health-wise and financially, the other factors are huge: my age and dwindling fertility (if there was ever even any left), the cost, and the potential danger to the child. At this point, we would be putting ourselves through years of distress and heartbreak, and realistically we would probably just be throwing money away.

And so last night I told Sean that I didn’t think it made sense to even try.

As he always does when I discuss my body or health with him, Sean said, “Okay,” agreeing to my decision. But I pressed him on it. I said that the decision whether or not to have children wasn’t just mine. I asked him how he felt about it, if he would be unhappy or disappointed.

He responded that he would love to see me able to have a baby like I’ve always wanted. Hearing that meant a lot to me. He’s watched me struggle with this for the length of our marriage. It makes me so happy (and a little sorry) to have him empathize.

He also said that he likes the idea of having and raising a child, and that we are in a good position to offer a child a stable life. But he also concurred that chances are low and there are a lot of risks to the child’s health.

“It’s not something I’m set on having,” he concluded. And then he said, “It’ll just be us.”

I almost started crying at that point. It wasn’t sorrow, though. There was an aspect of mourning to it, but the flood of emotion was also an acknowledgement of everything we’ve gone through, everything we’ve thought about, and the fact that now we don’t have to worry about it anymore.

It’s decided. There’s no “maybe,” there’s no “you never know.” We know now. We’re not having kids.

There’s something amazingly freeing in finally being sure.

I dare you

Sean went to turn out the light.

“It’ll be totally dark if you do that,” I pointed out. We stared at each other for a long moment. Then he flipped the switch, engulfing us in blackness. “See? I told you.”

As our eyes adjusted, we picked our way out of the room and down the hall toward the light. “It sounded like a dare,” Sean said.

“It was a statement of fact!” I said.

“It was a dare. A double dog dare.”

“Who can resist the double dog dare?” I agreed. “No one.”

“‘What’s the matter, McFly? Chicken?’ is almost as irresistible,” Sean replied.

This is why my husband is awesome.

I have so much I want to say…

…yet I never seem to find the time or energy to write.

Every day I think of something cool or interesting or important to me that I want to share, and every day that thought gets lost in my little gray cells. Sometimes it doesn’t even make it to Twitter.

So while I have a few free seconds, I’ll mention some of the things on my mind.

Grandma’s funeral and burial and the lunch much of the family had at Cracker Barrel afterwards were all so cathartic for me. I’m so glad I was able to be there for all of it, and so glad Sean came with me. I was able to celebrate Grandma’s life and mourn her death, and now I remember her and what she meant to me all the time, and with a smile.

My first niece will be born at the end of this month, and I am so thrilled. As a feminist and a tomboy, I’m shocked at how much I’m finding myself wanting to buy Daphne cute things and have tea parties with her. I guess all I can do is resolve not to treat her differently when it counts, when it’s a matter of fairness.

My best friend has moved back to Augusta after three years abroad. It is so nice to have her here, so nice to be able to call her up and have lunch or drop by and see her after work like I used to. It’s not exactly the same, of course; she’s married now, and living in a house rather than an apartment. But it’s pretty damn close, and I love it.

Back in September, my host sister from when I lived in Yatsushiro, Japan for three weeks in 2001 came to visit me! Yoko stayed an altogether too short three days; we went to Savannah, enjoyed Augusta’s Arts in the Heart, and went out for Indian food in Atlanta. We got along famously; she’s a huge fan of Arashi, and when I realized who that was and said “Matsumoto Jun!” we immediately bonded ;>

Not too long ago Sean and I went to a family dinner with Sean’s mom and dad, grandmother, grandmother’s sister (great aunt?), and grandmother’s sister’s daughter (second cousin?). It was really nice. I love family dinners. We had great food and looked at family pictures and just had a lovely time.

Sean has a new job teaching IT, which is just what he wanted, so we’re ecstatic. He starts soon, and more details about that will be forthcoming. Things will stay the same for me for awhile, though.

However, I have really ramped up my Japanese study. I study a little every day, with Spaced Repetition Software (SRS) called Anki, the myriad iPhone apps I’ve purchased, and/or James Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji. I also listen to Japanese-language podcasts about humor, pop culture, and cooking and watch Japanese-language media like anime, dramas, music videos, news, and documentaries. But the biggest thing I’ve done is join the Online Speaking Exchange and befriended/followed dozens of Japanese people on Twitter. Reading and responding to their tweets has really helped me overcome shyness and get a good feel for the flow of the language. Plus, I’ve made some really good friends.

As I’ve been looking into various language-learning resources, I ran across Benny the Irish Polyglot’s Fluent in 3 Months, wherein he speaks a lot about Couchsurfing. I am fascinated by the idea of letting people from around the world stay at our home; it sounds like a great way to make friends, practice language skills and learn about different cultures. I may try to talk Sean into it at some point in the future.

To motivate myself a little to become functionally fluent in Japanese, I’ve signed up to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) at level N3 (there are 5 levels). The test is in December and I’m really excited to see how well I’ll do.

That’s probably not even the half of everything I want to share–I haven’t even mentioned the running!–but it’s all I have time for now.  Till next time…

What a coincidence

In a freakish coincidence, while complaining about cords being strung all over the living room, I tripped over one.

The incident underscores my general unhappiness with our apartment’s layout. I’m tired of it. It’s boring. The floor plan is a straight shot from the front door to the back door, with minimal natural light and no separation of the living and dining room areas. Sean’s computer is in the living room, and he often connects it to the TV, meaning cords are strung all across the room and computer components are everywhere.

I’d like our apartment to be functional and cozy, easy to clean with a place for everything. I want Sean to be able to use his computer comfortably without his stuff being strewn hither and yon.

Right now Sean’s computer is on our kotatsu, a low Japanese table I bought when we first moved here, thinking it would serve as our dining table. Sean took it over pretty quickly and it’s been his “desk” ever since. But lately, as I said, he’s been using the TV for his monitor and sitting on the couch. The other day I asked him why, and he said the couch was more comfortable.

I decided to try and find a way for him to sit comfortably without taking over the living room, and the first thing I thought of was putting my large desk out in the living room and giving Sean a proper chair. As I was describing this idea to him, I started stepping away from the couch…

…and I tripped over a cord strung between his computer and the coffee table, wrenching a USB connector out of his computer and breaking the guide tab on the port.

Good one.

It’s almost comical. “I hate having wires all over the living room. Let me demonstrate my point!” I didn’t do it on purpose, but the coincidence is ridiculous.

Oh well. At least his computer still works, and he has another USB port he can use. I’m not sure a good solution to the living room arrangement problem will come easily, though. We’ve lived here four years and I’ve rearranged several times. I’m not sure I’ll ever be happy with it.

A transformation

I mentioned before that Sean abruptly announced he wants to have a daughter, as if that had always been the case. Historically, his fierce desire not to have to deal with parenting had always overshadowed any romanticized notions he might have had about raising and pampering a little girl.

Now, he seems enamored with the idea of children. He still only wants one, but he talks about it a lot. A few weekends ago we visited Charles and Heidi in Atlanta, and one of the things we did was get frozen custard at Sheridan’s. A little girl and her mother were there at the same time. Last night, Sean described to me in detail the way the little girl was managing to spoon and eat her own custard. At one point she dug the spoon so far in that she couldn’t get a bite out. She strained at the spoon, willing it to bring the frozen treat to her mouth, digging so hard that finally, all of a sudden, the spoon slid rapidly free of the custard.

“It didn’t fly everywhere, but it could have,” Sean said, miming the little girl’s action and the surprised look on her face. “And the whole time, her mother was just sitting there texting. She missed a neat little scene that will never happen again. I guess that’s what happens; you start to tune them out. It’s sad, really.”

I don’t know if Sean and I will be able to have a child, or what will come of any possible adoption efforts. I spent many years trying to talk myself out of wanting kids. Now that Sean is where I was, I’m engaging in these discussions of parenting and not worrying about whether or not it will actually happen. My years of struggle have simply tempered the fun we’re having, making our conversations into hypotheticals rather than plans. For now, I’m not thinking any further. I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m just enjoying a refreshing change in my husband.

Rest in peace, Pepaw

Sean’s grandfather, Pepaw Lewis, passed away this morning.

We didn’t spend much time with Pepaw, despite the fact that he lived so close. He was a hard sort of man, a little gruff, but also sweet in that old man way. There was some family history that I never fully grasped. We did see him at Christmastime or Thanksgiving some years.

The last time I saw him was at the hospital, where his son, Sean’s dad Reid, was getting ready to have open heart surgery. I saw him the day Reid was admitted, and then again a couple days later. He grinned at me and said, “I saw you the other day!” Not realizing what he meant, I said, “Really? Where?” And he responded cheerfully, “The hospital!” Maybe I just have a thing for Meadows men; I found this to be absolutely adorable, and I gave him a hug and kiss on the cheek.

Mema, Reid’s mother, says Pepaw had told the family he was ready to go. He would have been 85 next month; he lived a good long life.

I do wish, though, that I’d gotten to spend more time with him.