Category Archives: Muse Vessel

A place to keep my muse.

An Important Distinction

I was listening to a Motley Fool podcast yesterday where one of the commentators made a quippy remark that really resonated with me. To paraphrase:

It is important to recognize when you are smart and when you are lucky.

I feel as though I’ve led a charmed life. A loving wife, great family, interesting friends, fulfilling hobbies and the piece of mind to take life’s challenges in stride. Some of those things are because, I like to think, of my intelligence and some are fruitful happenstance. Some things are a combination and I’ll wager that Adie was smart while I was lucky when we started dating.

The obvious question is how do you differentiate? Perhaps a good way is to honestly and objectively analyze situations. One thing to accept is that it is not something that I can do by myself.

Being smart enables you to spot and seize advantageous situations – something like making your own luck. To follow the reasoning a little further seems to indicate that there is no such thing as luck. Good things come down to your ability to see imbalances and use them. Why should I care if events in my life are a result of good preparation or alignment of the stars? Does luck exist?

There are many things out of my control from acts of Nature to being born. Even though they are out of my hands some of these things I can predict and prepare for. It is the unpredictable, uncontrollable events comprise my luck.

A final point: why do I need to learn this lesson? Between making smart decisions and being lucky, one is repeatable and one always runs out.

Two Principles

Recently I struck upon two principles that, I hope, will guide my decisions.

Nothing in life is maintenance-free.

Seems simple. However it is also simple to settle into routine and take things for granted. My car needs periodic work, as does my house and health, but less obvious to me are relationships and knowledge base. The maintenance may be easy and infrequent but I must keep it in mind perhaps and even schedule it like three-month oil changes.

Being average is mindless and above-average is easy. Becoming good takes hard work.

I can get by most of the time with doing something and not thinking about it too much. I am an average yard-mower because I just walk back and forth across the lawn and that does the job in a reasonable amount of time. My health, on the other hand, is above average because I put effort into exercising and eating better than most. I am good at my job because I’ve been in the industry for a decade, read in depth, and dedicated much time to improving myself.

So what?

My goal is to evaluate my activities with these principles in mind. It now becomes important to identify the things I need to do to maintain my life and put time into keeping up the things I want. Adrienne and I have a shining relationship, but we had not discovered how we polish it until recently. I will also decide what level of effort I want to exert on these activities. It is okay for me to be an average lawn-mower and have above-average health. In the end, I would like to be good at my life, which takes effort, planning and deep introspection.

It’s My Birthday

My thirty-third birthday approaches, arriving on the 22nd of October. I always get thoughtful presents from family and friends, but this year I have a specific request. Instead of buying me something, please make a donation to one of my favorite charities in the amount you would normally spend on a present.

If you would like to wish me a happy birthday I will throw a little party on the 25th. If you can’t make it personally please send me a card at my new address:

2001 Cobblestone Ln
Bryan, TX 77807

I know spending money is sometimes hard to come by, especially in these uncertain financial times. Apart from missing family and friends my life is going well, so I would like to do something for the greater good. Please help me out.

Thanks,
–Dean

Closed the Deal

This post is just an update for regular readers (if anyone is subscribed to my RSS feed). We closed the contract on the house three days ago. Our apartment is partially packed and I am moving boxes to the house this week. On Sunday we will get friends together to move the heavy furniture, making that evening our first night there. Adrienne and I are quite excited.

A peek at the new house

I am excited to announce that we put in an offer on a house in Bryan, not far from A & M. Built in 1994, measuring 1762 feet square with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. The sale listing says the style is “traditional”, which is probably the best someone could come up with.

The general and termite inspectors came out yesterday to do their thing. I followed the general guy around while Adie took pictures. Cobblestone Lane is a short road, ending in a cul-de-sac with the house nearly centered at the end. The lot is irregularly sized, something of an hexagon, about a quarter acre. Approaching, you see this panorama.

Click for larger images.

On the left is a wood-trimmed drainage gully that could be mistaken for a stream with the accenting bridge. The yard is wooded with mature trees shading the house in the evening. The entryway is cute, I hope the owners take the statue when they go.

The front door opens to the living room with a substantial built-in bookshelf on the left. The fireplace is gas.

To the left is the dining room and kitchen, delimited where carpet ends and new tile begins.

The kitchen is adequate with an electric range (bleh) and decent counter and cabinet space. It looks original leaving room to bring it up to modern standards.

The dining room has these great windows looking through the sun room, out to the back yard. There I am with the inspector having a look at the slab foundation. The sun room is a strange addition, but will be nice for growing tropical plants.

Off the kitchen is the two-car garage. In there are laundry hookups, access to the attic, the water heater and breaker box. Through the dining room is the master bed and bath. The master, like the other three bedrooms, is modest, but sufficient in size. The bathroom has a double sink and twin closets.

The remaining three rooms (front to back: library, office, guest bed) are opposite the living room, making for a nice split-layout. They are all modest in size.

The best thing about the place is the back yard. The lot backs up to a heavily wooded drainage area meaning and it is our understanding that there will be no development in that area. The landscaping is subdued and slightly neglected, yet remains charming. Fountains and small ponds dot the back yard, but all are in need of some work. The deck was probably built with the house and needs replacing. It is still functional however, so we can tolerate it while saving up to build a new one. The back yard is east-facing meaning the house shades it in the evenings, making it a great place to sip iced tea after work.

South-side yard:

North-side yard. Behind the camera is another large shed. The AC unit you see here will probably need replacing while we own the home, making it the first thing we will save for.

We are excited about the place. Neither inspector found anything alarming, and the general inspector gave it a “good shape for its age” rating. If escrow and financing go according to plan our new address will be:

2001 Cobblestone Ln
Bryan, TX 77807

More updates as they happen.

–Dean

Counter-graffiti?

That is the view out the fifth-floor men’s room window at the Varisco building where I rent an office. The picture does not show it well, but there is a scar of graffiti clearly visible in the middle distance. See here?
That little f’you is near about three stories up in an alleyway. I doubt people on the ground would notice it if they walked down the alley. In addition to making a poor location choice, this “artist” picked just about the lamest, most generic phrase in the vandalism handbook. Amateurs!

It takes a good deal of restraint to keep myself from climbing up on the opposite roof of the Dollar General, spray can in hand, to vandalize my own pointedly witty retort. Here is my cathartic e-tort. Fuck you, too!

Beer & Philosophy

A professor stood before Philosophy 101 with some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. As before, the sand filled up the remaining space. He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous yes.

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and proceeded to pour them into the jar effectively filling the space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the Important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children, your friends, your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

“The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.

“The sand is everything else — the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Take time to get medical check ups. Take your partner out dancing. Play another 18. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.”

“Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers.”

About Our Infertility

I originally published this on MySpace in January of 2007.

Thanks for taking the time

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I realize the post is quite lengthy, but it is important to us that you have an idea of what we are going through. These are mostly not my words – I found this in an alt.infertility.primary post, but everything here applies to us. I have added emphasis where I thought appropriate. –Dean

About Our Infertility

Adrienne knows that you love her and want her to be happy, to be her “old self” again. Maybe lately, she seems isolated, depressed or obsessed with the idea of having a baby.

You probably have difficulty understanding why getting pregnant has colored virtually every aspect of her daily life. Adie hopes that by reading this , written by psychologists with both personal and professional experience with infertility, you will better understand the pain she is feeling. This letter also will tell you how you can help her.

SOME FACTS ABOUT INFERTILITY

It may surprise you to know that one out of six women who wants to have a baby cannot conceive. There are many possible reasons for this dismal statistic: blocked fallopian tubes, ovarian failure, hormonal imbalances, toxic exposure, husband’s low sperm count, to name just a few. Moreover, after a woman turns 35, it becomes difficult to have a baby primarily because many of the eggs she has left are defective.

All these barriers to pregnancy are physical or physiological, not psychological. Tubes don’t become blocked because a woman is “trying too hard” to get pregnant. Antibodies that kill sperm will not disappear if a woman simply relaxes. And a man cannot make his sperm swim faster by developing a more optimistic outlook.

WELL-MEANING ADVICE

When someone we care about has a problem, it is natural to try to help. If there’s nothing specific that we can do, we try to give helpful advice. Often, we draw on our personal experiences or on anecdotes involving other people we know. Perhaps you recall a friend who had trouble getting pregnant until she and her husband went to a tropical island. So you suggest that she and I take a vacation, too.

We appreciate your advice, but cannot use it because of the physical nature of our problems. Not only can we not use your advice, the sound of it upsets Adie greatly. Indeed, she is inundated with this sort of advice at every turn. Imagine how frustrating it must be for her to hear about other couples who “magically” become pregnant during a vacation simply by making love. To us, undergoing infertility treatment, making love and conceiving a child have very little to do with one another, now. You can’t imagine how hard we have been trying to have this baby and how crushed Adie and I feel every month we learn that we failed again. Your well-meaning advice is an attempt to transform an extremely complicated predicament into a simplistic little problem. By simplifying our problems in this manner, you’ve diminished the validity of our emotions, making us feel psychologically undervalued. Naturally, both of us will feel angry and upset with you under these circumstances.

The truth is: There’s practically nothing concrete you can do to help Adrienne. The best help you can provide is to be understanding and supportive. It’s easier to be supportive if you can appreciate how being unable to have a baby can be such a devastating blow.

WHY NOT HAVING A BABY IS SO UPSETTING

Women are reared with the expectation that they will have a baby someday. They’ve thought about themselves in a motherhood role ever since they played with dolls. A woman may not even consider herself part of the adult world unless she is a parent. When Adrienne thinks she cannot have a baby, she feels “broken.”

Worse, we are not even certain that we will never have a baby. One of the cruellest things you can do to a person is give them hope and then not come through. Modern medicine has created this double-edged sword. It offers hope where there previously was none — but at the price of slim odds.

WHAT MODERN MEDICINE HAS TO OFFER THE INFERTILE COUPLE

In the past decade, reproductive medicine has made major breakthroughs that enable women, who in the past were unable to have children, to now conceive. The use of drugs such as Pergonal can increase the number and size of eggs that a woman produces thereby increasing her chances of fertilization. In-vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques extract a woman’s eggs and mix them with sperm in a “test tube” and allow them to fertilize in a laboratory. The embryo can then be transferred back to the woman’s uterus. There are many other options, as well.

Despite the hope these technologies offer, they are a hard row to hoe. Adrienne has endured repeated doctor’s visits, taken daily injections, shuffled work, school and social schedules to accommodate various procedures, and laid out considerable sums of money — money that may or may not be reimbursed by insurance. All of this is preceded by a battery of diagnostic tests that can be both embarrassing and extremely painful.

Infertility is a highly personal medical condition, one that we may feel uncomfortable discussing with our employers. So, Adie is faced with coming up with excuses whenever her treatment interferes with her job. Meanwhile, we are devoting considerable time and energy to managing a mountain of claims forms and other paperwork required by insurers.

After every medical attempt at making her pregnant, she and I must play a waiting game that is peppered with spurts of optimism and pessimism. It is an emotional roller coaster. She doesn’t know if her swollen breasts are a sign of pregnancy or a side effect of the fertility drugs. If she sees a spot of blood on her underwear, she doesn’t know if an embryo is trying to implant or her period is about to begin. If she is not pregnant after a procedure, we may feel as though our baby died. How can a person grieve for a life that existed only in our mind?

While trying to cope with this emotional turmoil, she gets invited to a baby shower or Christening, learns that a friend or colleague is pregnant, or she reads about a one-day-old infant found abandoned in a Dumpster. Can you try to imagine her envy, her rage over the inequities in life? Given that infertility permeates practically every facet of our existence, is it any wonder why she is obsessed with her quest?

Every month, we wonder whether this will finally be our month. If is is not, we wonder if we can muster the energy to try again. Will we be able to afford another procedure?

So when you speak with Adirenne, try to empathize with the burdens on her mind and in her heart. She knows you care about her, and she may need to talk with you about her ordeal. But she knows that there is nothing you can say or do to make her pregnant, and she fears that you will offer a suggestion that will trigger even more despair.

WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR US?

You can give us support, and don’t criticize Adie or I for any steps we may be taking — such as not attending a nephew’s birthday — to protect ourselves from emotional trauma. You can say something like this:

I care about you. After reading this letter, I have a better idea about how hard this must be for you. I wish I could help. I’m here to listen to you and cry with you, if you feel like crying. I’m here to cheer you on when you feel as though there is no hope. You can talk to me. I care.

The most important thing to remember is that Adie and I are distraught and worried. Listen to what we have to say, but do not judge. Do not belittle her feelings. Don’t try to pretend that everything will be OK. Don’t sell her on fatalism with statements like, “What will be will be.” If that were truly the case, what’s the point of using medical technology to try to accomplish what nature cannot?

Your willingness to listen can be of great help. Infertile women feel cut off from other people. Your ability to listen and support her will help her handle the stress she’s experiencing. Our infertility is one of the most difficult situations we will ever have to deal with.

PROBLEM SITUATIONS

Just as an ordinary room can be an obstacle course to a blind person, so can the everyday world be full of hazards for an infertile woman — hazards which do not exist for women with children.

She goes to her cousin’s house for Christmas. Her cousin is breast-feeding. The men are watching the football game while the women talk about the problems with their kids. She feels left out, to say the least. Christmas is an example of the many holidays that are particularly difficult for her. They mark the passage of time. She remembers what came to mind last Christmas — that the next year, she would have a new son or daughter to show off to her family.

Mundane activities like a walk down the street or going to the shopping mall are packed with land mines. Seeing women pushing baby carriages and strollers strikes a raw nerve. While watching TV, Adirenne is bombarded by commercials for diapers, baby food, and early pregnancy tests.

At a party, someone asks how long she’s been married and whether she has any kids. She feels like running out of the room, but she can’t. If she talks about being infertile, she’s likely to get well-intentioned advice — just the thing she doesn’t need: “Just relax. Don’t worry. It will happen soon,” or “You’re lucky. I’ve had it with my kids. I wish I had your freedom.” These are the kinds of comments that make her want to crawl under the nearest sofa and die.

Escape into work and career can be impossible. Watching our dream shatter on a monthly basis, we can have difficulty investing energy in advancing our careers. All around, her co-workers are getting pregnant. Going to a baby shower is painful — but so is distancing herself from social occasions celebrated by her colleagues.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Because we are infertile, life is extremely stressful for us. We are doing our best to cope. Please be understanding. Sometimes she will be depressed. Often times she will be angry. Sometimes she will be physically and emotionally exhausted. She’s not going to be “the same old sweetie” she used to be. She might not want to do many of the things she used to do.

We have no idea when, or if, our problem will be solved. We are engaged in an emotionally and financially taxing venture with a low probability of success. Overall, only about 11 percent of those people using special fertility treatments succeed in having a baby. The odds are even lower for women over 40. The longer we persevere, however, the greater her chances of pregnancy become.

Maybe someday we will be successful. Maybe someday we will give up and turn to adoption, or come to terms with living a childfree life. At present, though, we have no idea what will happen. It’s all we can do to keep going from one day to the next. We do not know why this is our lot. Nobody does. All we know is the horrible anguish that we live with every day.

Please care about her. Please be sensitive to her situation. Give her your support, she needs it and wants it.