Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Understanding [National Infertility Awareness Week]

Several weeks ago I had an exchange with someone who told me they understood my IVF/infertility experience.  They had no personal experience of infertility.  I'm being as vague as possible here, since it was a personal conversation and I don't want to be an identifying jerk.  This person's experience in no way connected with mine.  They were worried about the possibility of experiencing infertility, but without any experience to really back that up.  It was a fear.  A worry.  A hypothetical shadow.  But in their eyes, we were similar.  Our experiences were somehow equatable.

This is not the first time I've experienced that kind of interaction -- the idea that thinking about what you might do if you found out you and your partner were infertile = the same as my thinking about what I and my partner were going to do when we found out were were dealing with infertility.

I'm not against talking about these things, especially prior to marriage or prior to trying to conceive.  Talking about what you're open to for hypothetical situations down the road is really, really smart.  But unless you know something's up, statistically, you're probably fine and those decisions will forever sit on the Shelf Of Things We Didn't Have To Worry About After All.  Whether you know it or not, you have the privilege of making those decisions in a more sterile room of the mind.  The problem comes in when people equate these hypothetical situations with the real-life-decisions made by those in the trenches, the ones making these decisions when they have much, much more finality, the ones for whom the room in which that decision was made was anything but sterile -- it is fraught when saying "I wouldn't do IVF" really means, for real, no joke, you will not have a child.

The World Health Organization categorizes infertility as a disease.  Treating it like it's a disease is normal for many people.  Many people also choose not to treat it.  This, too, is their choice.  But like any disease, saying categorically *to someone who has the disease you are only worried about hypothetically* that you wouldn't do x or y to treat it...that's hurtful and makes people feel feelings.  The hypothetical decision is not the same type of decision.  It has no outcome.  It has no impact.  It is blissfully free of consequences.  To say Person A understands Person B simply because they're talking about the same subject is misguided.  I mean...would you tell someone choosing whether or not to give their child a cochlear implant that oh, you would never do that or you would totally do that -- when you will never have to face that choice?

You can think about hypotheticals until the cows come home, but at the end of the day, one decision is just an abstract decision, and one decision changes a life.  You can mean it.  You can know thyself and know beyond a shadow of a doubt what you think you'd do.  You can research and come by those decisions with all the logic and thought in the world.  I'll accept that.  But for the love of god, don't tell that to people who aren't living in hypothetical-land.  Because my decision came with thought and logic, too -- but also a lot of cold, hard pain.  And to equate the two is to diminish my pain.  While you might think you're connecting with others, you're really pushing them away, because they know things you don't, even when you think you might.  

Simply put, someone will never understand my experience unless they've been through it, or something a little more equatable.  I will likewise never "understand" the experience of people I know who've experienced tremendously more loss and more years of trying and failure.  I will never understand the experience of someone who's had a failed IVF attempt.  Or several.  Our experiences cannot be equated, although we might share some of the same features here and there.  I've applied to adopt (and been rejected) but that doesn't mean that I am qualified to say I understand what it's like adopting (even if I've read books, and I have read plenty).  I will never understand those experiences, and I will never understand the experiences of those who got a baby the first attempt and were jarred by that, or surprised by parenthood entirely.  

And here's the important thing about all that: It's okay.

I'm a firm believer that we can be good friends to each other not by "understanding" everything the other person is going through -- because that's just impossible -- but by attempting to be good listeners and good supporters.  People cannot expect authentic empathy from everyone -- at some level, sometimes you just have to acknowledge that you're never going to be on the same plane in terms of actual lived experiential understanding.  We can try to bridge the gaps in understanding, and we can try to learn.  But I don't expect people who haven't been down my particular road to understand the way it felt to turn this way or that on that road.  I think to expect that is expecting more than is reasonable out of a human being.  It's unfair of me to expect that.

So much of this boils down to the way in which we seem to form friendships via mirroring.  We mirror each other and while this often helps break the ice and forms tentative bonds through shared connections, it can go very wrong when the mirroring ends up involving something one person decidedly doesn't think the other person actually shares in common with them.

I think it's more beneficial to ask questions like "How are you feeling?" and saying things like "I don't know how you're feeling, but I'm here for you for whatever you need" than trying to create a shared experience out of something that is not shared.  I'm no saint, I've been the jerk who said she "got it" before, too.  I'm trying to change that because I've been on the shitty butt end of this a lot since going through infertility.  I don't expect my friends to understand on the it-felt-exactly-this way sort of way what my husband and I have been through, and I think it's okay that we don't share the experiences our friends are having right now, too.  We may not understand at an experiential level, but we can be there anyway as supportive friends and human beings cheering them on and holding out a hand and offering to bring over some egg rolls or something.  That's part of being human -- acknowledging that you don't know everything, can't always know what another person is feeling, can't always "experience" their experience on their level.  You can't always walk in someone else's shoes, and just thinking about it simply doesn't bridge the gap in a lot of cases.  Even if you research the crap out of those shoes.

Expecting people to be mind-readers and experience-twins in order to maintain or form connections is just a recipe for short-lived friendships.  Everyone's life is going to involve stuff that other people don't "get" and experience, and I think it's far more important to be there on the road saying "Hey, that looks really hard, can I help you carry that load somehow?" than to say "Oh man, I've totally been on that path myself, it was really hard" if I haven't technically been on that path.

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week.  I'm writing this because I don't think you should have to "get it" when it comes to the experience of infertility.

You don't have to "get" it.  You just have to show up.  And maybe bring a 6-pack.  And some egg rolls.  I will if you will.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Weekend recap: Easter, popsicles, dog in a bowtie

Me + Sir Reginald, Duke of Chutney (my elderly Lionhead bun -- also, I'm a little over 26 weeks!)
Greenish pollen is everywhere in Richmond, including my house (see weird greenish tint on bricks, on doorstep, on shutters...).  Chutney is not amused.  I'm sure I could shoop the weird coloring out, but I'm lazy, so NOPE.  You get pollen.
Made popsicles (one batch for people who can drink, and one batch for meeeee)

Put my dog in a bowtie & went to the Easter On Parade.  Because DOGS IN BONNETS AND TIES.

It feels so good to be home, Richmond.  It's kind of weird, really, to stroll down Strawberry Street and grab a soda or something, because it all feels so natural, as though we never left.  Some things moved on, some things stayed put.  But it feels right, like slipping into a cozy worn sweater, or a favorite pair of broken-in shoes.  It's springtime, and it's beautiful, and at least for this moment, things are so, so good.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The bee's knees

First item on the agenda: if you're reading WeeHermione in a feed, I encourage you to take a quick peek over at the home site.  I've had quite the redesign (very, very overdue, much like the library books I always have out) and want to preen a little.  Thanks, Kelsey!

In addition to changing the face of the blog, it's been a bit of a crazy two and a half weeks around here as far as life is concerned.  We managed to land the unicorn of all Craigslist unicorns -- a HUGEGANTIC house in a good area that allows two herding dogs, has a washer, dryer, dishwasher, fenced backyard, and an abundance of bees.

Well, you can't win 'em all.  

Anyway, it's really lovely, if a bit grimy at the moment (I can only assume the previous tenants worked naked in a bacon factory and opened all doors with their whole bare greasy bodies smashed against them...or something) which is why I'm sharing a happy cloud earring picture (hi, my name is Hayley, I'm 27 and I still shop at Claire's)  instead of anything house-related just yet since we're still living in chaos and cleaning like crazy.  My weekend recap:

Soon though. Let me just say that there's a second bedroom that's yellow and came with a tiny closet full of tiny baby-sized hangers, so I feel like this place couldn't have found anyone better than us to take up residence in this little nest. Unless we were actual bees.

Oh right, the bees I mentioned. There *are* a lot of bees. I'm beginning to wonder if we got this place at such a surprising rental price (I feel like we're the riff-raff moving into this neighborhood, and that is not at all hyperbole there) because people died from bee allergies or something. It's like, oh, hello three bees buzzing about my windowpane! I'm honestly worried there's a hive in the woodwork somewhere. Or else someone's doing some urban beekeeping, which would be all well and good if they had more space in which to do it? I'll be the first to say I've got a keen interest in beekeeping so bees don't scare me or anything like that, thank goodness. I've got a legitimate interest in the practice. Buuuuuut, the fact that they're in my house is what's a bit more concerning. I've always assumed that urban beekeeping wouldn't really bother neighbors because it's not like the bees are hanging out *right there* all day, right? If anybody has any natural remedies for bee-exorcism I'm all ears.

 Speaking of bees, my new job (I'm an assistant branch manager now) is the bee's knees. I've spent a good deal of time getting to research programming ideas like maker projects. Libraries are super into makerspaces at the moment. They're really a very logical extension from the idea that libraries are storehouses of knowledge and information. Creating a "maker" culture is simply extending the knowledge into doing. So, in addition to having books on weaving, we could incorporate a weaving activity (a fairly low-tech example). We have a 3D printer and robotics, too, on the higher-tech end of the maker spectrum.

Lots of crafts out there can really be tooled into maker projects the foster engineering and critical thinking skills. So many kids-craft sites out there just throw down a template and that's basically the craft: cutting out the template, gluing stuff on other stuff. Maker projects have the distinction of building a skill-set, or working to solve a problem, or invent a way of doing something. One project I found involved giving kids some straws, Lifesavers, pieces of paper and various ephemera, and asking them to build cars whatever way they want (ie, no template), which they would then race by blowing them across the floor. Or there are projects like Rube Goldberg machines. I love the idea of fostering creativity in crafts by pushing kids (and adults, since makerspace culture can be adult-friendly too) to think a bit and solve a problem with their craft activity, instead of just sticking some googly eyes and glitter on something and calling it a day. The fact that I get paid in part to think about this stuff and help put it into action still makes me happy at the end of the day.

Also, apparently I'm having a baby in 99 98 days by the time this appears in your feed. Gulp. This too makes me super happy, but I should probably also get my butt in gear and get stuff done.  Great, I got the blog redesign struck from the list.  But I should probably focus on stuff like finishing at least one baby book now...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rental/house-hunting spreadsheet how-to

Oh Joy!
TOOT!  The most amazing post ever is here, so put on your party hats because I'm about to make your life way easier.

I don't know about you, but when it comes to hunting online for a new place to live, I inevitably used to end up with a bookmark list of Craigslist and Zillow pages, which I would then have to sift through and remember by name and sooner or later, it'd become totally unmanageable.  Luckily around that point we'd settle on a place, and I could happily delete the bookmark list.  This time around, what with moving to a different city and both of us juggling new jobs, I decided an organizational shift in our process was needed.

I love Google Docs, so naturally I turned to that for the new system I was going to create.

I know this might look rather small on your screen, so I'll break down the column headings for you.  It goes a little something like this:  Address.  Link to posting. Contacted agent Y/N?  Contact date.  Price.  # of bedrooms/bathrooms.  Neighborhood.  Washer/dryer Y/N?  Square footage.  Notes.

We started out with a pretty long sheet (it goes on below where I cut it off).  At one point they were ranked, but as we whittled down the list that fell away.  Places that got cut got greyed out, as this helped us keep track when we'd go back to Craigslist and wonder, "Did we already look into that place, or was that a different place on Idlewood?"  The links are good for easy reference.  The contact Y/N is helpful because sometimes we'll look at something online, be vaguely interested, but not necessarily contact them right away.  Likewise, if we contact and don't hear back, we can eventually strike something if the contact date was a while back with no update.  We're veeeeery familiar with the neighborhoods of Richmond, so it made sense to include that as a column.  Paying X in one place is not the same as paying X in another!  Likewise, if it were, say, in the Fan and didn't have a washer/dryer, well, I know the cute laundromat on Strawberry would suffice until we remedied the situation.  

Obviously, everyone has different reasons and priorities when it comes to looking at certain places, so to each their own when it comes to column headings.  But this whole process has made the slog of rental searching vastly easier for us, and I highly, highly recommend it.  It's been a sanity-saver for me, and having the Google Drive app on my phone allows me to access it as a mobile spreadsheet, which is definitely easier than sifting through emails looking to see if I emailed that person about that post, or worse, sifting through Craigslist on the mobile site to find that place you think you remember when out and about.  

Now if I could just get the rental that's highlighted in green (well, the one I reaaaally want, I mean -- the other is the backup silver-medal winner; cross your fingers for me, Internet...)...that's the one thing the spreadsheet can't do: grant wishes. 

And sorry about the party hat intro.  It's guys, I can't do much else to make a post about spreadsheets look even passably clickable.  

*chirp chirp chirp*


Monday, March 24, 2014

To-do wishlist: 4 months, 5 things

Sloth To-Do List by Liz Climo

I feel like I've got four months to basically Get Shit Done before it gets pushed to the back-burner for a while.  But I could have even less than four months, for all I know.  Behold, my list of things I want to accomplish before this baby arrives.  Or, in other words, feast your eyes on this list of things that may or may not actually get done.  But I can dream, right?

1.  Fix. This. Blog.  I have such a basic blog set-up here, and I would *love* to hire somebody to help me make it prettier and less cobbled together.  I mean, I made this header in Pixlr.  Everything else is standard blogspot.  I know it could be SO MUCH NICER, but...I am not the person to make it so.  This is about my limit.  (Are you a designer?  Let's talk about design & your pricelist!  Or, do you know somebody who does design work?  hayley.deroche at gmail if you want to chat in-depth)

2.  Publish Part 2 of Creepypasta!  If I can hammer out a minimum of 1k/week of pants-wetting stories, this is totally doable...

3.  Teach my Aussie how to walk on a leash without gleefully yanking my arm off.  Help.

4.  Make a terrarium.  I got this Tiny World Terrariums book from the library and now I'm smitten.  Trendy?  Yes.  Adorable?  Also yes.

5.  Figure out how to cloth-diaper.  Anybody have a cloth-diapered baby I can borrow?  I feel like I should probably learn how to do this ahead of time...crap.

6.  Bonus-round: FIND A PLACE TO LIVE.  Yeah, I guess this is important.

(I'm taking suggestions, too.  What are things you made sure to get out of the way pre-baby?  Things you wish you'd done?)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Creepypasta! The book!

In Brooklyn, a brownstone building like any other hides a dark secret that can only be seen in satellite images... In Pennsylvania, a whole town vanishes. In the mountains, campers tell scary stories around the fire...but these stories are true. In South America, a forgotten evil stirs beneath the ruins of Henry Ford's forgotten city. And in the mirror...what’s in the mirror might be the most terrifying of all. 

In these fourteen original tales, written in the 'creepypasta' style of the internet's urban legends, you’ll find horrors beyond horrors and enough nightmare fuel to fill your tank for many, many nights to come. When it comes to keeping you up at night, West and Wicker have you covered with CREEPYPASTA!

It's here!  My long-time friend Greg and I have published our collection of scary short stories in CREEPYPASTA!

Greg can attest that at first thought, I'm probably not the immediate choice for a horror short-story collaborator (once at his & his wife's house, I screeched in terror five minutes into a Japanese horror film, after saying hey, I think this is going to be oka-aiiiiiii turn it off turn it off turn it off!) but as it turns out, writing creepypasta is FUN precisely because you can scare yourself and, hopefully, your collaborator.  They say the best writing buddies are the ones who will push you further than you usually dare, and they're right.  I hope you have as much fun reading it as we did writing it.

(I promise, I'm not turning this blog into Scary Stories Central!  But I like to share the weird projects I work on from time to time!  Back to your regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.)

(And no, Wicker isn't my last name, but West & Wicker has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Kavan & Co

I've been waffling back and forth these last few days between feeling really good about things, and feeling a whooooole lot of anxiety.  Patrick accepted a part-time job, which would flip to being full-time in July (right before baby Winnie comes) so we wouldn't have much to set aside for me to take maternity leave.

Thankfully Patrick then got an offer for a full-time job that's less retail-stocking and more professional and I am pretty much shaking from relief.  They say money can't buy happiness (and I beg to differ, because IVF), but money sure as hell can buy you some stability, which brings a wealth of happiness.  Since we so completely gutted our finances to do IVF, this is a light at the end of a tunnel.  I'll be able to take maternity leave without us starving!  We'll be able to rebuild our savings!

We constantly think back to when we lived in the Fan before we bought a home.  It's this golden memory, the bright shining Before We Were Stupid And Bought a House Which Ruined Everything era (look for it in your textbooks, it'll be accompanied by our grinning mugs).  We have the opportunity to go back to that much-more-ideal situation.  It honestly feels like somehow we've won the lottery.  I know the way I talk about home ownership and the way it "ruined everything" and talk of rebuilding finances makes it sound like we foreclosed.  On the contrary, we were never late on a payment.  But we found out that we couldn't own a home and undergo IVF.  It was one or the other.  The problem was that we bought the house thinking having kids would be easy at our ages (24 & 26 at the time).  DERP.

We'll probably still end up living with my parents for a few weeks (2 or 3 at most, I hope) in April if we don't get this place rented soon, but with the number of showings, it's bound to happen sooner or later.  If we have to pay April rent here in Roanoke when we're gone, so be it.  At this point, we've been back and forth to RVA so many times that to spend the gas apartment hunting is getting absurd.  Better to crash-land with my parents for a brief stint so we can drive around the Fan/Museum District/Church Hill/Maymont and look at places without feeling like it's this or nothing.  We need a washer/dryer (MY KINGDOM FOR A WASHER/DRYER), and I desire a porch/balcony situation (less dire, but still).  And blessed sweet walkability.

The palpable relief I feel is overwhelming.  I can taste it.  It tastes like cake and sprinkles and sunshine dust.   After such a long time of feeling like everything sucks (husband massively underemployed, facing down infertility treatment bills, living rather isolated, broke broke broke...) it is nice to finally have some things work out for us magically.  Or at least they have that potential.  I'm sure we'll still be broke sometimes, but this gives us a few more ladder rungs to climb out with.

I know, it's not all magic -- it's hard work, it's drilling interview answers and building up Good Stories night after night before a big interview, it's polishing and polishing and polishing...but it's also good friends who send links to job openings, people who put in a good word, people who looked over my pages and pages of meticulously written-down interview answers (that's how I study -- copious writing & drilling) to give me feedback, it's the English teacher who got me a really good job straight out of college by putting in a good word when the economy was failing all my English major peers because without that massive bump for my resume I would have been working at Best Buy instead of a learning resource center for those years most likely, and sometimes you just get the interview panel when they're feeling good and nobody has a headache, you hit it off, all of that good stuff too.  There's a lot of dumb luck, and kindness of others, and the wind blowing the right way and people rooting for me/us, and some hard work.  I know it's not really magical, but it seems like it is, because frankly you can do ALL OF THOSE THINGS and still not get the good outcome.  I could have failed just as easily, it all could have gone differently even if I did everything on my end the same.  So in the end...I just feel immensely grateful.  And fucking relieved.  Like, I'm proud of my & now Patrick's recent accomplishments, but I know it's hardly just either one of us making it happen, you know?  You win some, you lose some (did I mention I interviewed for this job in the same conference room where I totally, totally lost at an interview two years ago?  How's that for intimidating?!), you try and try and try some more.  And then -- FINALLY.

It feels like putting some hard-sought pieces of a puzzle right where they fit, finally, after the puzzle's been on the coffeetable for ages.  It feels like spring might be on its way.  In the air, in our lives.

*blorf* That's the hokiest thing I've ever written.  Barf-o-rama.