The Bean Blog (currently on hiatus)

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Around This Corner

I was cruising along with my friend Beth Marie yesterday evening. We'd just been at Longwood Gardens because I had to do a little research there for the book I'm editing about Philadelphia (I managed to get myself and Beth Marie in for free--cool). Beth Marie's car was parked at the house of one of her friends in Hockessin, Delaware (Beth Marie lives in Delaware). Hockessin is a rather upscale little town where the roads are small, the houses are big, and there are rich folks as far as the eye can see. As we were driving along in my fabulous new car through the narrow, winding roads, I turned on my cd player, and out popped the tune "Around This Corner" by Sarah Harmer--one of my all time favorite artists (her cd You Were Here is just outstanding).

"Around This Corner" is a song about wondering what you will feel like when you bump into your ex for the first time after you break-up. Not the first time when you're still going back and forth or giving him/her their T-Shirt and picking up your CDs. But the first time when you haven't seen them or talked to them in a long time. The first time when you had left things hurting and raw and disappeared into a cocoon to heal yourself. And now you are healed, and it really is over, but you live in the same city with your ex, and one of these days...

I'll be coming around this corner
One day real slow
And I'll see myself reflected
In someone I used to know
And I may look away
And keep going home
And try to forget it before I get to the door

But how can I say when I don't know
If I'll feel loving or if I'll feel low

I really relate to this song because I have an ex where we left things raw and hurting, and I haven't seen her or talked to her since the "final" break-up (there were about 20 break-ups before that one). She lives in Delaware (as did I), and whenever I'm down there--which is quite frequently since my mother lives there as do several of my friends--I always wonder if one day "I'll be coming around this corner" and there she'll be. Strangely enough, in six years, it hasn't happened yet. I've only seen her once--and she was driving her car, and I was driving mine, and I don't think she saw me, but I saw her, and it just gripped me with panic. But that's the only time. Not really much of an encounter anyway.

But back to the story--I was driving in Hockessin, and the song comes on, and as I'm telling my friend Beth Marie all that I've just told you about the song, we come up to this four way stop of these two little roads in the middle of nowhere, and I think to myself, "I know this intersection." Instantly, my mind trips back to driving my ex's six year old son, William (not Bill or Billy--William), to karate lessons. The dojo was somewhere out in, yes, Hockessin, and we used to come through this four way stop on our way there and back.

I remember this one time we were driving back from his karate lesson, and he was talking about something that had happened to him at school. Somehow "gay" had come up. I was just listening to him ramble, saying, "Mm-hmm," and watching the road or listening to the radio, and then he said, "That's what you and my mom are, isn't it?"

The way he said it was almost like an accusation. There was anger in his voice, which was just covering up fear (he was a very angry/afraid child). His mother and I had never hid our relationship from him. We'd explained to him that we loved each other, etc. etc. etc., but I don't know that we'd ever used the term "gay" or "lesbian."

When he said that to me, I felt this great, momentous aura descending upon us. Here's where, just like in the sitcoms, William and I would have a profound discussion. I would be the wise, sage adult, and he the inquisitive child. We'd have, why yes, a heart-to-heart. Because of William's defensiveness, heart-to-hearts weren't easy to come by. I took a deep, satisfied breath, and said, "Yes, William, we are gay. Do you want to talk about that?"

He was silent, so I took my cue to continue the momentous heart-to-heart. I can't remember what I said, but something along the lines of "We love each other, and that's blah blah blah." I was blabbering on, filled with the light of imparting knowledge, of sharing this moment with him, and then he cut me off. To talk about something like action figures or Rugrats. Needless to say, my bubble burst, and I realized that this moment was only deep and profound to me. I took William's cue--the right one this time--and offered my commentary on whether or not Cartoon Network was better than Nickelodeon (a hotbed of discussion amongst William and his friends).

My cheerful chit-chat with Beth Marie tappered off as I relived this memory. After I dropped her off at her car, I followed her out of Hockessin towards her house, along the same roads that I used to drive back home with William from karate class. I realized that even though I didn't see the physical form of my ex, I had nonetheless run into her "around this corner." And this time, I felt loving. Not towards her, but to her son. He's 14 now. I wonder what kind of man he is becoming.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Hits Keep Coming

I swear to you, if I was reading someone else's blog and it went the way my blog has gone, I would get out a stack of bibles, raise my right hand and say, "This person must be full of shit." I might retell the age old story of the little boy who cried wolf, or simply delete the offending blog from my bookmarks and never visit again. But alas, this is my blog, I know it's all true, and I don't think I've said wolf once, let alone cried it.

For those who already read my long list of complaints about this summer, I won't repeat them here. Suffice it to say that the list was long, and it was appended to in other posts like this one and this one.

I said I wasn't going to recap, but I do feel like I should mention the financial impact of two of these items: my dog's two surgeries and my car's three major repairs. These two added up to something approximating $7,000.

With that in mind, I'll now back track to my pre-blogging days. The Bread Winner and I bought this house in May 2003. That summer, I noticed water damage on the ceiling when I pulled down a drop ceiling in what would become our future kitchen. I decided to believe that the damage was old and the problem had been taken care of. I had no reason to believe these to be facts, but I wanted to believe them, so I did. We put new drywall over the damaged area and that was that.

In the fall, while remodeling the bathroom (the only bathroom, I might add), I noticed that the plywood around the toilet was completely soaked beneath the old linoleum I was pulling up. Uh oh. With my mother's help (she's very handy), we ended up removing the toilet (the wax ring was completely non-existent) and then removing about 5-6 square feet of flooring which was all destroyed. This, of course, was just above the portion of the ceiling below that showed water damage. After we replaced the portion of flooring and the wax ring, we crossed our fingers and declared the problem solved.

Two days ago, I looked up in that corner of the ceiling of my kitchen, and I saw it: water damage starting to make its way through the new drywall. Uh oh. As this bathroom is our only bathroom, there is nothing I can do about it before the weekend, so I did my best to put it from my mind. This Sunday, we'll be pulling the toilet up again to see what the hell is going on.

But that's not it. Oh no. As (now tropical storm?) Jeanne made her way over Philadelphia, dumping what I can only imagine to be inches of rain on my little house, another problem revealed itself. Now I will share with you details of my life that you never expected or wanted to know.

I went up to my bathroom this evening to commence activities that occur in the bathroom. I didn't close the door nor did I turn on the light. I know where the toilet and toilet paper are, and the Bread Winner was safely downstairs and not likely to see me perched on the porcelain throne. As I sat there, I heard a sound. A drop, drop, drop sound. And no, it wasn't coming from me. However, one of the other problems of our house is that the faucet in the bathtub drips, so at first I thought it could be that. But the drop, drop, drop sound was not the high, tinny noise that the bathtub produces. It was a deeper, hollower, almost thumping sound.

I sat there in the dark and pivoted this way and that. The bathroom is small, and all the pipes (to the sink and the toilet) are within reaching distance from that position. Nothing. Then my eyes drew forward from beneath the sink where I had been looking for a puddle to the threshold of the open door. There was the puddle. Only, there's no pipes there. The water was coming from above. And above is the roof.

Dammit. Dammit, dammit, dammit.

I would say that when it rains it pours, or some kind of pun like when it rains it leaks, but that would be a bit too trite, don't you think? Suffice it to say, I see a second mortgage in our future.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Waiting Game

There's a suburb of Philadelphia called the Main Line. I'm not sure what, exactly, the Main Line is. I used to think it ran along City Line Avenue, but that doesn't make much sense. It must be Lancaster Ave or Montgomery Ave. Well, my musings are neither here nor there. Suffice it to say that the Main Line is very hoity-toity, and as you may have guessed, I am not.

My regular readers know two things about me: 1) I am trying to get pregnant and 2) my grandmother died this summer. My grandmother's death has had a profound effect on me, and I decided that I would wear black--and sometimes gray--so that my outside appearance reflects my inner feelings. Honestly, I can't imagine wearing a cute t-shirt with some type of quip on it right now. Black suits me fine.

In order to get pregnant, I have enlisted the help of a doctor, and this doctor's office is on the Main Line. When I sit in the waiting room, I am surrounded by wealthy looking white women. They are surprisingly young (or have had very good plastic surgery--definitely a possibility on the Main Line) and invariably have blond hair that is pulled back into a ponytail. Their make-up is tasteful, and their clothes are oftentimes shades of pastels displayed on fitted, collared shirts and capri pants.

When I walk in there with my shaggy hair (I really need a haircut), loose-fitting black pants and t-shirt, I feel a bit like the anti-Christ...or maybe just Marilyn Manson.

My fashion choice is all but unnoticeable in most of the places I spend my time. Just about every place has some other person all dressed in black--simply because it looks good--so I don't feel like I stand out. But in this lobby, in this suburb, I feel rather conspicuous.

You would also think that there might be a number of lesbians in the waiting room with me, as we are the people without sperm in house. But I don't think I've seen a lesbian yet. About 50% of the women there will have men with them, and I can't help but look at the couple and wonder, "Who's got the problem here?" Sometimes, a woman will be in the waiting room alone, and then she'll be joined by a man holding a small, brown paper bag. I know what's in there....

Men must not always bring their "boys" with them. Some of them must live too far away for that. As I sat in one of the "inner" waiting rooms (there are two inside the office and one in the lobby), I found myself looking at all of the closed doors along the hallway. I've been in several of the rooms myself at this point, but not all. I can't help but think, One of these rooms has a stack of porn in it.

There's a sign in the lobby of my doctor's office asking that women with children not bring their children with them out of respect for the women who do not have children yet. Yet. That's a nice touch. Implies that all of us will have children someday. The reality is that some of us won't.

Friday, September 24, 2004

It's a Family Affair

As some of you might have noticed, I've added another blog to my little blog family. I've spent the last two days trying to make my three blogs look related. It's been quite interesting, as I don't have much experience writing code for the web. I've dabbled here and there with writing code for MS Word and MS Access, but online stuff....well, not so much. Digging into the blogger provided templates and bowing them to my will (more or less) has been quite an experience. Frustrating, yes, but also rewarding.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Am I Evil Now?

Prepare yourselves for yet another follow-up about the old car.

In my post the other day, I mentioned that I was going to try one more thing to get Loki running. Although I could go through that comedy of errors, I'll skip ahead to where I finally ended up at the one store that would have the thing I needed only to find out that it had closed 15 minutes earlier. However, right across the street from this closed store was a car dealership.

I sat in my fabulous new car and I thought, Fuck it. I give up. So I went across the street and I said, "Here's what's wrong with my car--the alternator/water pump belt is broken. How much will it cost to fix it and tow it?" The nice man behind the counter said that it would cost about $200 to fix what I said was broken and tow it. Then he went into this long spiel that we've all heard before, "But once we get inside there, it could be that something made that belt break, so if we just replaced the belt, it might break again, so it might end up that...."

"Hold on there, partner," I said. "I could care less about this car. I just want to get it running and then sell it."

"Oh," he said. "In that case, we'll just replace the belt."

But I started thinking about what he'd said before. What if he was right, and the belt was rubbing against something, or something was loose and wobbly, and that caused it to break? What if I sold it, and it just broke right away again? Wouldn't that be wrong of me? And could I get in trouble for it? I asked these questions of the service guy.

He said, "Well, it would be wrong if you knew there was a problem with the car, and you didn't disclose it. But you won't know if there's something wrong with it, because we won't look for anything else wrong with it, and so that will be fine. Just make sure you tell a buyer that you're selling it AS-IS."

That seems a little sketchy. Technically, I suppose he's right. But morally, things are a little trickier. On the other hand, it's a 15 year old car with 150,000 miles on it, and I'll be selling it for about $1000. If you're buying a car like that, you have to accept the fact that it might, in fact, breakdown on you. Even if I had the mechanic check it out completely until they could say to me, "It's 100% fine," what would that really mean? I just had the car inspected about two weeks ago. My mechanic put a sticker on it saying that it was fine. Two weeks before that, I had it at a shop when it broke down the last time, and that mechanic also said it was fine. So "fine" from a mechanic on a 15 year old car with 150,000 miles on it doesn't really amount to much.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm not going to sell that car to some unsuspecting soul out there. But what do you guys think? How wrong am I to do it?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Dog Guard: the Most Beautiful Thing in the World

I took Chester to the park for a swim this afternoon for the first time in over a week. When we bought our new baby, uh, I mean car, it didn't have a dog guard installed. We had to wait until this past Monday for that. There was no way in hell that I was going that big, mangy, drooling, wet, anxious beast known as Chester anywhere near my fabulous new car without a dog guard in it, so no going to the park, no swimming, no fetching for him.

I've seen dog guards before in plenty of cars, especially Subarus like mine, but I've never had one myself. Previously, Chester used to pace around in the back of the old car, falling backwards, forwards, or sideways depending on the speed and direction in which the car was going. In addition, he would pant. He would stick his head between the two front seats or between the driver's seat and the window and pant. Hot, wet dog breath with strings of drool spinning away from his jaw in the wind (no AC in the old car, so the windows were always open). He also whined. A sort of breathing whine, almost in cadense with his slobbering panting. I didn't realize how tense and anxious all that was making me until all that was safely kept away from me.

It happened today, with this firmly in place:

(Just so you know, that's not Chester. This is just an image from the web)

I drove to the park and back in complete comfort and, well, happiness. All of his anxiety, panic, frantic pacing, panting, drooling and whining were kept away from me. Like a good four feet away. He was all the way in the back, behind the back seats even, and there was nothing he could do about it.

This was, by far, the best driving with Chester experience I've ever had. The dog guard cost us an extra $300. It was worth every penny.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Old Car Adventures

As you might remember, my old car died on my last Sunday, 9/12. It had been hanging out at a motel near the Philadelphia airport. I decided that the Bread Winner and I should try to get it home, find out what was wrong with it, and if it was something minor, fix it and sell it. The other alternative was to donate it to charity. Since we'd just spent so much money on it, recouping some of our losses was understandably an attractive idea. We decided to try to nurse the car back home on Sunday.

The problem (as it's always been) was over heating. The car was over heating really quickly, like in five minutes or less. You can't get far in five minutes. And since it over heated in five minutes, that meant we had to stop on the shoulder of the highway and wait 10-15 minutes for it to cool down before starting it and driving another five minutes. I drove the car in this leap frog manner with the Bread Winner following behind in our fabulous, new, problem-free car.

During one of our lay overs, I decided to look at the engine and see if I noticed anything obviously wrong with the car. Although I am interested in auto mechanics and have a dream where someday I learn how to fix cars, I really don't know much about them. But it couldn't hurt to look, so I did. And I noticed that a belt was just hanging loosely near the engine. Even I know that is not good. I looked around some more to try to figure out where it should have been and noticed some pulleys that were, in fact, naked. One of the pulleys appeared to be attached to the alternator.

Of course we tried to muscle the belt back onto the alternator and other pulleys (I've later discovered that this belt goes from the alternator to the water pump and the harmonic balancer), but we couldn't.

Like I said, I don't know much about cars, but I do know that the alternator has something to do with the electrical system, and one of the things that it has to do with it is that it re-charges the battery. Your car uses the battery to start (you knew that) and then as the car is running, the alternator re-charges it so that it can start your car next time. It occured to me that if the belt was no longer attached to the alternator, it probably was not recharging the battery, which meant that eventually, the battery would run out of juice and no longer start the car.

Lo and behold, that's exactly what happened. So now the car is stuck under an overpass in Villanova. I thought that maybe I could replace the belt, as that's not supposed to be too hard in general principal. However, because of where the belt is, I'd have to remove two other belts to replace this one. Anyway, I had given up again, but now I'm thinking that there still might be a way to get it home. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 17, 2004

I Am Evil

As you may know, yesterday was Rosh Hashana. Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the Jewish new year--supposedly the day that God either created the world or the day that God created Adam and Eve. Depends on who you ask. Rosh Hashana is followed ten days later by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The ten days in the middle are called the Days of Awe. You are supposed to spend these ten days thinking about all the ways you've screwed up over the past year and, of course, trying to fix all of that. Dented your neighbor's car around 2am in February? Go find him, confess, and say you're sorry. Got change for a $20 when you gave the cashier a $10? Make it right. The stakes are high. God is giving you one last chance to get your name into the Book of Life and Blessings. The alternative is the Book of Death and Misfortunes. I think the choice here is clear.

Although I am not Jewish, I can't help thinking about all the ways that I've been bad this past year. Two big ones stand out. The first is the way I treated my mother after my grandmother's death. I wasn't mean to her, but I kept my distance. I could tell that she wanted to grieve with me. She wanted to comfort me, and she wanted me to comfort her. But I didn't want that. I can't explain to you my history with my mother, but I do not look to her for those things. In fact, I empathetically do not want them from her. After my grandmother's death, I felt like I was walking a tight rope between what she needed and what I needed. I like to think that I did the best I could for her, but a part of me thinks that I was selfish. And let's not forget that commandment: Honor your mother and father.

My next big sin is the way I've treated my friends, Angel and Carrie--Carrie in particular. You may remember them. Carrie was trying to get pregnant the same time I was, only she managed to do so. She's now in her seventh month of pregnancy. Her little boy is due on 10/31. Ever since I found out that she was pregnant, I've pulled sharply away from the friendship. It is so hard for me to be around her. Obviously, she hasn't done a damn thing wrong. But I just can't take seeing her. Again, I've tried to do a tight rope walk. I've tried to spend as much time with her and Angel as I can in order to maintain the friendship, but "as much time as I can" is not very much. We saw them last night, and that was the first time since June or July. I'm messing up another commandment here: You shall not covet anything that is your neighbor's.

Even though, again, I am not Jewish, I've thought about going to my mother and my friend and confessing my sins to them, asking for forgiveness, but I don't think I have it in me. I'm not sure what can come out of it anyway. Will I be fundamentally changed by that experience? Will I turn a corner so that I can care for my mother in that way? Will I stop hurting when I see Carrie because she has what I want? I don't think so. I am inclined to do nothing, except realize that I am a bad person, and I am not willing to do anything about it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The New Girl in My Life

We did it. Many thanks to those of you who happened to read my post yesterday and give me some quick advice. I think I got a good deal on the car. Knowing the numbers is great. Otherwise, I might have wondered if I got screwed or not. This way, I feel good about the whole thing.

My new baby is a 2005 Subaru Legacy Outback 2.5 Limited GT Wagon with leather interior, a 6 CD changer, a moon roof, power everything, sportshift, turbo charged engine, and oh yeah, the piece de la resistance, heated seats. I love heated seats. A former friend of mine has always had expensive cars, so I've experienced the heated seats in his cars, and they are a little slice of heaven. I am so happy about the heated seats. That was one of the things about Loki that always rankled me: she had heated seats--they just didn't work. But enough about her. Wanna see my new girl? Here she is

Before you ask, why yes, we did spend more than we had anticipated. I drove a regular Legacy Outback first--normal engine, normal radio, no moonroof, just the basics. And it was nice. There was nothing at all wrong with it. I remember thinking, This car would be fine. We needed leather interior because of the dogs (18,000 hairs get inbedded in cloth seats in about 2 nano-seconds) but other than that, we could have gone with just the regular car.

But then I thought, Why not just try the turbo charged version? Just for kicks. And that was it. I had to have it. That car has some get up and go, let me tell you. Sure, we could have still gotten the regular Legacy Outback, but whatever car we were going to get we were going to be stuck with for about 10 years, and I knew that with the regular Legacy Outback, I would have spent the whole time thinking, I wish I had the other car. What's the point in that? So we spent a few extra K's and got the car we both liked better.

I couldn't be happier. This wasn't the best time for us to do this, financially, but it's done, and that's one less thing to get fucked up. Having to make these payments for the next few months will suck, but at least we know what's ahead of us, unlike with the old car, which broke down randomly so that we could not brace ourselves.

I'm taking my new girl out for a spin today. It's going to be fun.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

New Car Negotiating

I've never bought a new car before. How does one go about haggling? Well, I know how to haggle, but how much should I expect to see come off the sticker price? 10%? More? Less? And if 10% is the magic number, where do I start haggling? Around 15% off?

Anyone with any tips on this, let me know. I've test driven the cars already, and tonight the Bread Winner and I are going back so that she can test drive and then we can start hammering out a price. So that means that you've got about four hours to tell me what you think.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Goodbye, Loki

It's over with my car. It's been a difficult month for us, my car and I. I've tried to make it work. I don't think anyone can argue that point. I really feel that my car has not put as much into the relationship as I have. It let me down on the way to my grandmother's viewing. I mean, what kind of time is that to pick a fight? Rude. Very rude. But nonetheless, I forgave Loki (my car). I went so far as to invest $700 into a car that was worth $1,500 - $2,000. Then, less than two weeks later, I had to put another $600 into it. I hear you, my readers, saying, "What?! Are you crazy?" Yes, I was. I was in a bad relationship, but I kept trying to make it work. I thought, if I do this one more thing, it will make everything okay, and we'll go back to how happy we were before.

Now, this seems very one sided, like I was a perfect person who was treated badly. Okay, Loki has a point of view too. She knew that I was, in all probability, going to ditch her in about three months. I was going to callously find a younger, prettier, peppier car, a car that would make her look old and tired, a car that would, most likely, make me forget that Loki herself had ever existed. That's not a very nice way to treat someone (some car) that you've been with for two years. So okay, maybe she had a reason to do this to me. Maybe I had it coming. But it still didn't feel good.

On my way home from my grandfather's house yesterday, my car revealed her continuing displeasure with me via a red warning light on the dashboard. Immediately thereafter, the engine temperature indicator climbed to the nasty red line. I pulled over to the side of the road, popped the hood, and saw the radiator fluid boiling.

As you know if you've been reading, this is not the first time. Last time, I was able to let the engine cool and then drive for about ten minutes before pulling over to again let the engine cool. Not the best way to travel, but you can still get where you need to go. Only, Loki wasn't going for it this time. I let the engine cool, and when I started the car up, the engine temperature light climbed directly to red.

By stopping every two minutes, I managed to get the car off the highway and into a motel parking lot. And that's it. We're done. We're giving it away to a charity that will come and tow it. We've put $1,300 into this car in the past month, and now we're going to get nothing for it. On top of that, we'll be getting a new car earlier than we had wanted and before we really have the money to do so.

Goodbye, Loki. I'm sorry we couldn't make it work. I was even considering keeping you and paying Philly's unbelievably high insurance rates for you. I know the other car would have been number 1, but I still had some love in my heart for you. Not anymore. You've let me down for the last time.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

You're in on My Secret

I know this will shock you, but I am not a particularly secretive person. I tend to tell anybody anything they want to know. Actually, I don't limit it to what they want to know--rather, I like to just share every little thought wandering through my mind. Those who can take my almost non-stop verbiage become my friends. Those who can't retreat into silence.

When I was trying to get pregnant last fall, I told everybody everything. No detail was spared. Sometimes I would be talking to my older friends, like Beth-Marie, or my mother, and I would say, "Do you want to hear about how a woman's cervical fluid is indicative of whether or not she's ovulating?" They of course would shudder and say, "God, please, no." I'd say, "Okay, I won't tell you." I'd wait a beat and then say, "But it's really cool--you see, first...." All the details--every last one of them--were forced down the throats of my friends and family. I told them in great detail about my menstrual cycle, about the consistency and color of my friend's semen, about the adventure the Bread Winner and I had at Grand Central Station picking out porn for him (the clerk looked from the porn to the Bread Winner [who looks about 12 even though she's almost 27] and asked, "Are you sure about this?"). They were good times; they were bad times; they were times that shouldn't have been talked about over lunch. None of that deterred me in the least. I had to share. I was completely obsessed and I could think of nothing else to talk about.

Then I went a little crazy. You keep hearing how I went a little crazy because of this and that, so you probably think either A) I am exaggerating or B) I have a severe psychological disorder. I like to think it's neither. The truth is that I've had two mini-breakdowns in my life. One was over the whole school thing I wrote about yesterday. The second was last winter when I discovered I wasn't pregnant again. This summer, although it has sucked big time, has yet to drive me to another mini-breakdown.

Last winter, it got to the point where I wanted to talk about how I was feeling and what was going on, but when I did, it made me crazier and more obsessed than ever. But I'd started it, and I couldn't stop it. People, so used to getting all the details, now steeled themselves when they saw me and said, "Lay it on me." So I did. But it seemed to lay on me more than anyone else.

Then there was the Big Break from trying to conceive, which has lasted from last February until today. In about three or four weeks, I should be trying to get pregnant. And I haven't told anyone the details about it. I actually even went so far as to lie to someone and say that we weren't going to start now for financial reasons. I hate to lie. It bothers me even now that I did it. But I had to. For my sanity this time around.

Obviously, the Bread Winner knows everything. And then there's you--my blog friends. You are my only outlet during this time. And I'm scared that I won't be able to handle it again. That's why I'm not telling the people in my life. I can't handle their hopes, which soar with my hopes and push my hopes higher and higher. And then there's the disappointment which I can't handle from them either. The way they look at me and what they tell me makes me feel even worse.

So this experience will exist between you and I, for better or worse, in pregnancy or infertility....

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

School Daze

Since Dan took time off from looking for his hat to ask about my school woes, I feel compelled to give him what he desires. It could be a case of "be careful what you wish for," but only Dan can answer that.

While writing my last post in which I mentioned some of my school issues, I thought briefly that I probably hadn't hit upon that topic before in this blog. The reasons for that are twofold. First, I've been doing my best to live in a state of denial about school, and secondly, part of that deal is that I don't think, talk, or blog about it. But no matter how much I would like to continue on that path, I also feel like I must complete this degree. I'm tens of thousands of dollars in debt for school loans, and it turns my stomach to think that I could end up with the debt but no degree. As the mean boss guy in the Bourne movie franchaise would say, "This is not acceptable, soldier."

Some of you may or may not know that I am about to turn 30 (depends on whether or not you commit all these posts to memory like good little readers). So you're probably thinking, "Wow, she must be going for some sort of doctoral degree, like philosophy or something. That Oz is so wise, it must be that!" Thank you, thank you, but no. I'm still trying to finish a bachelor's degree. I've got four classes left.

Four classes?! I hear you exclaim. Just do it then! Not quite so easy. I've managed to get myself into something of a difficult situation. Somehow (this news will be shocking to you, so sit down and prepare) I managed to piss off one of my professors in the Spring of 2003. We had this big fight during class, towards the end of that semenster, and I was so shaken by it that I didn't complete the final paper for that class.

I was in a really weird space that semester, and the class was called "Women and Literature." I thought, This class sounds perfect! I like women; I like literature; what could be better? For whatever reason, I didn't think deeper than that. Now that I have taken the class, I understand that I didn't think about this quite hard enough. Women and literature. At the college level, this generally means a bunch of really, really depressing books where women either are abused by their husbands, boyfriends, father, or society in general. By the end of the book, they invariably end up dead or maybe just with their spirits crushed. If death is the option, at least 50% of the time, it comes at their own hand, but sometimes someone else (usually one of the male figures mentioned previously) does the deed. I particularly remember reading this book called The Story of Zahra and hoping, almost praying, that at the end of the book, the pregnant Zahra would please, please, please not be gunned down by her sniper boyfriend. Of course she was. I don't mind ruining the end of the novel for you because it was so horribly depressing that I would never recommend it.

So anyway, I was depressed already, and the books I was reading were not helping, and then I got into this argument with my teacher which, to this day, I don't really understand what happened. She just seemed really mad at me, but I wasn't acting any differently than I had before, so I don't know what was going on with her. Anyway, it was sort of the last straw, and I kind of had a mini-breakdown and didn't finish the last paper. She gave me an incomplete.

This situation might not be such a big deal if that professor did not also happen to be the undergraduate chair of my major department and my major advisor. It might also not be so bad if she wasn't also the professor on record for overseeing my honor's thesis (feel free to laugh), which I also did not complete. So I have three incompletes hanging over me (the honor's thesis counts for 2 classes), all with the same woman, and she and I have not spoken since the Day of the Argument in Spring 2003.

To complicate matters a little bit further, my university has a policy that you cannot continue to take more classes if you have two or more incompletes on your record for more than six months. Obviously, I have three. That means that I have been barred from taking the remaining four classes until I either A) finish my incompletes or B) get permission from the teacher who gave me the incompletes, allowing me to take other classes.

Oz, why don't you just talk to her? Yes, I should. However, I feel that it would be better if I could at least approach her with that one, little 10 page paper in hand and say, "Hey there, I finished this paper. Thanks for being so patient. Will you let me take other classes?" As opposed to, "I haven't done jack shit in the past year and a half--not even written a stupid 10 page paper. How about letting me take other classes anyway?" So I've got it in my head that I should finish the one paper first. Hence the list, hence the schedule, hence it all.

(I've omitted the French language part of this because, like I said in the previous post, it's an entire saga of its own.)

There you have it, in a nutshell. A nutshell that once housed a very big nut.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A Schedule? What Was I Thinking?

There's a lot of things that I would like to do, but I never do them. There's also a lot of things that I don't want to do, but yet I should be doing them anyway. An example of the first is to play the guitar. I really enjoy that, and I get into a groove of practising every day for a month or two, then something unavoidable comes up and I miss a day, then two days, then a week, and now it's been six months since I've touched the thing. An example of the second is writing a paper for school. I got an incomplete in two classes in Spring 2003. Yep, 2003. One of the papers is a major deal--about 40 pages. I'm sure you can understand why I'm not jumping into that. The other paper, however, is only a 10 page affair, something I used to grind out in one night. But it's just been sitting there, not getting done, for close to a year and a half. Oppsie.

So I decided last night to make a list of all the things I should be doing. Oh, you should have seen the Bread Winner! She clapped with delight. That woman loves lists. But anyway, back to me. I made a list and put the items into categories: there's Home Improvement, School, Photo Work, and Miscellaneous. The list got to be quite long--over 20 items. The next step was to prioritize them and then create a schedule for my days.

I divided the schedule into hours (duh), and I ended up putting 5 items on the schedule. Five seemed completely reasonable. The morning consisted of two items, one hour each: playing guitar and working on my French (another school thing that could be a post in itself--or a play of a comedy of errors). There were three items for the afternoon: exercise Chester, work on aforementioned 10 page paper, and photo work.

Well, I was supposed to make it through the morning items by 11am and then have free time until 1pm. Didn't work out that way. I was doing this and that and I didn't get my morning stuff done until after noontime. Then I was late taking Chester to the park, and I didn't get back from that until after 3pm. The idea of starting to work on that paper is laughable. Perhaps I'll do some photo work tonight. I need to do that.

This schedule thing might be a good idea, but I think I need to pace myself. Maybe I should limit my activities to only three per day at first. Ease my way in. And how pathetic is that?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Quick Lemon Update

The Bread Winner and I took Chester swimming again today. No, we don't have a death wish for him--at this point, we've spent far too much money on him to wish him dead. Yesterday, we bought him a lifejacket. Yes, you heard right, a lifejacket. This lifejacket, as a matter of fact:

Without having to worry about him drowning, I hoped he would figure out how to swim. It's the only way for him to be able to fetch during his recovery--and frankly, swimming is the best exercise for him, period. It worked like a charm. He still splashed around some, but he was kept afloat. Therefore, he didn't seem to get scared. After a short time, he looked totally relaxed, and he was having a great time. Towards the end of it, he was leaping into the water from the river bank. My dream was finally realized, and Chester was reunited with his true love--a tennis ball.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The Lemon Strikes Again

As you might remember, my dog Chester, aka the Lemon, aka the Five Thousand Dollar Dog, has had knee surgery on both of his knees this past spring/summer. He's supposed to be getting certain amounts of exercise per day during the recovery process--all walking. As you may know, Chester lives to fetch. I cannot stress that enough. The dog lives for the ball, getting it, being with it, bringing it back, getting it again, the whole deal. That's one of the things that has been so hard during all this--knowing that Chester's true love has been taken away from him.

When Chester's cast got taken off this last time, I asked the vet if he could swim. I figured that this would be a way for him to fetch. The vet said that swimming was great and encouraged me to take Chester swimming. I thought, Good. I had every intention of getting right on that. Then I didn't. I'd been looking for a good place for him to swim--and by looking, I'm sure you all understand I mean thinking about it in my head but not actively doing anything. Then I heard my neighbor talking about taking her dog swimming. I found out where the swimming location was, and a mere three or four weeks later, Chester and I went. Today. That day was today.

It was a perfect swimming location. A little slow-moving river, about 30 feet wide. It didn't look too deep, but it was certainly deep enough for Chester to swim.

Let me back this story up a little bit. I spent a lot of time with Chester at the shelter I got him from. I would go and play fetch with him in one of the big fields they had. Each field had a little, round, plastic swimming pool. You know, the kind you might have had as a baby. They hold about 8-12 inches of water and have a diameter of about five feet. Anyway, this was during the summertime, and I would throw the ball and Chester would fetch it and then jump into the pool and lay down. He just loved being in that water. The shelter even let me take him out to the park (they knew me because I had adopted from them before and I was a volunteer). I would take Chester to this little park with a little creek in it--not really deep enough for Chester to swim. But he loved, loved being in the water. Have I mentioned that he is a lab? These dogs are bred for the water. Have you gotten the point by now? Do I have to relentlessly drill it into your head any further? All indications were that Chester knew how to handle himself in water.

I will now resume our originally scheduled program. I took Chester to the river, and I had a water kong with me. I hadn't used it much, but I'd always wanted to, and that's why I'd bought it. I had this vision of myself standing on the banks of a river, my feet being cooled by the water lapping against my ankles. As the sun sparkled off of the stream, my dog would look at me, lolling his tongue, his eyes happy. Joyfully, he would wait for me to throw a fetch toy. At my throw, he would smoothly enter the water and swim towards the toy, his tail wagging slightly in the water behind him. When he came back with the toy, he would pant happily around the toy in his mouth, feeling the exhileration of the exercise and the comfort of the cool water. He'd deposit the toy at me feet, waiting to repeat the cycle again.

So there we were at the river. Chester was being obnoxious, but in a way I chose to see as cute. He was flinging himself against the leash, eager to enter the water. I had a feeling that he had the same vision I just shared with you. Finally, I let him go, and he ran into the water. It deepened quickly, so that within five feet of the shore, he was swimming. He hovered near the shoreline. He knew that he would get to fetch, and it had been well over a month since he'd had this opportunity.

I threw the kong, but just about 10 feet in so that he'd get a feel for the game. I watched as he swam towards the toy. There seemed to be an awful lot of splashing going on. But I didn't think much of it. Before I knew it, the toy was at my feet again. I picked it up, and threw it into the water again, this time about 15 out. Chester started after it, and this time, the splashing was unmistakable. It was the flailing around of a dog (or any creature, really) that did not know how to swim.

Let me describe what I saw. Well, first I'll describe what I should have seen. A swimming dog basically has his entire body in the water with only his head showing. His legs paddle in the water, and by keeping his body submerged, he saves energy. As you know if you've ever swam, it takes a lot of energy to keep your shoulders or more above the surface of the water. The dog should be basically horizontal and move the way he would if he were on land.

Chester, on the other hand, seemed to be trying to climb on top of the water. His body was at a definite angle, with his head and shoulders above the water. His front legs came all the way out of the water, down to the elbow (the joint where the front leg joins the body). And then he slammed the leg back down into the water, creating a huge splash up into his face. To avoid the splashing water, he tried to pull his head back further and further, thereby tipping his body more and more vertical. I watched him and thought, What the hell is he doing? It really seemed as if he thought that if he pulled his front legs out of the water, he would put them down on a solid surface and climb on top. Maybe he has a Jesus complex that I don't know about, and he believed that he could, in fact, walk on water.

It looked iffy out there, I have to tell you. There were a few seconds when I thought I was going to have to go in after him. He had gotten himself perfectly vertical and he was sinking. I actually had my hands in my pockets, ready to pull out my wallet and keys and lay them on the river bank so that I could swim in there after him. Honestly, this was not something I wanted to do, so I waited to see if the dog would go completely under before I charged in. Luckily, he righted himself enough to flail his way back to the river bank.

He made it back to terra firma, and I watched as the kong, never retrieved, floated slowly down the river. I looked at Chester, hurt and confusion plain in my eyes. I was asking him, What about the dream? What about our dream? He looked from me to the river and back again, accusation plain in his eyes as if to say, "What dream, you crazy lady? You keep me from my true love for months at a time, and then you just throw it out there, of all places, where there's no ground, no floor, no nothing. Are you trying to kill me? Trying to kill my true love? It's all screwed up now, so tell me--what, exactly, are you going to do to fix this? IIIIIIIIIII'm waaaiiiiiiting...."

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Which Sperm is THE Sperm for Me?

Two days ago, I came to a realization. I did some math, and I figured out that it was possible that I could still try to get pregnant during my next cycle. The sperm bank would have to let me send in my application now and sort of "pre-approve" me pending the final lab test stating that I am negative for myco-ureaplasma. I'll be getting re-cultured again for that on 9/9 and should get the results on or around 9/16. So much for my post where I thought that would be the last time I spread my legs. Anyway, my next cycle should start somewhere around 9/17, which means I would be inseminating sometime around October 1. (That's a lot of "sometime around"s...welcome to the hell that is trying to conceive.) The point of all this is that it's possible to get all the shit in and approved and that I can try next cycle. Yay!

What's next, Oz? I'm glad you asked. Why, it's time to choose a donor. Being white folk, we're choosing from the "Caucasian" list. This is a very small sperm bank, and there's only 18 white guys available. Actually, I shouldn't say only. Obviously, if I were Jewish I would only have two choices. If I were Chinese or Latino, I would only have one choice. And if I were African-American, I would have no choices at all. (Assuming that I wanted a donor who was of the same ethnicity as myself.) So 18 is pretty good in that context, but it is certainly not the hundreds and hundreds that my friends have had to choose from with other sperm banks.

Why so few donors, Oz? Yet another good question. You see, I am using this sperm bank--not because it actively recruits gay donors--but because it is a known donor sperm bank. When the baby is 3 months old, I'll find out the donor's name, and then my child can know his/her father right from the beginning. This is important to me and to the Bread Winner. Most lesbians do not want to know who the daddy is because they want to have their family unit (two mommies and the baby) be the only family unit the child knows. They don't want anyone else with a "parental" tie to the child. I don't feel that way. I think that it is more important for my child to know who his/her father is than for me to selfishly keep the child all to myself. So this sperm bank that I am using is the only sperm bank which releases the donor's name at such an early age (some will release when the child is 18 or 21). Because this issue is important to us, we are using this bank, and that means we have 18 white men to choose from.

So who's the lucky guy, Oz? Wow, I can't answer that question for you yet. We have orderd 7 donor profiles, and we've narrowed it down to 4. Not very impressive, I know. We particularly like 3 of them, and frankly, I do have a favorite. We're going to look over their profiles a bit longer, and then next week, we're going to ask the sperm bank some more questions about them. For instance, has their sperm produced pregnancies/babies for other women? I want to know how many half-siblings my child will have out there, especially considering that there is a very real possibility that they could get to know these other little creatures. I am a little selfish in that I don't want my guy to have children all over the place (although the sperm bank does limit each donor to five families). But at the same time, I do want to know that their sperm is good and can make some babies! We also want to know how many specimens that guy still has available. We want this sperm to get me pregnant, and then in a year or two, we want it to get the Bread Winner pregnant so that our children will have a biological connection through their daddy. As there is only a 15% chance (15%!) of pregnancy with each attempt, that means that the guy has to have a lot of swimmers there, ready and waiting. As you can see, there are a few issues out there that we need answers to.

But it's exciting. Hopefully this time next month, I'll be trying to create a life....