Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Infertility Follows Us Everywhere - A Little Humor

I have a bazillion things going through my head that I want to write about, but can't seem to find the time to spit it all out! So instead, I decided to share this video.

A friend of mine who has struggled with infertility is currently pregnant with triplets after IVF. She posted this on Facebook, and I couldn't resist sharing it here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bittersweet Memories

Image: Darren Robertson / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A little over a year ago, I became pregnant for the first time. That was after over two years of trying, and our second attempt at IUI (intra-uterine insemination). That pregnancy was one of the happiest times in my life. Life was full of promise, and in naivete I found bliss.

It's funny how our senses absorb simple, virtually unrelated information - sounds, smells, tastes - and imbue them with emotion to be perpetually associated together. When I was pregnant that first time, I was using this anise-flavored toothpaste. I'm not particularly fond of anise. In fact, I much prefer peppermint. But it was supposed to be better for me, so there I was with my anise toothpaste. After I lost the baby, I switched back to peppermint.

For some reason, the other night I found myself using anise toothpaste again. As soon as I tasted it, I felt an overwhelming sense of happiness. It warmed me and filled me. I quickly realized why - the taste was transporting me back to that naive and joyous time - and the tears flowed.

It is another, bittersweet reminder that, as this holiday season approaches that I thought would be my first with a baby in my arms, instead of my Athanasios or Barbara, I have anise toothpaste.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Grandma on Halloween

Halloween 2010: Grandma was spooking the kids by moaning and following them around, saying the skull was her last husband and asking little kids if she could be their new Grandma - it was great!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Check it out: Info from "The Disappearing Male"

Most of you know that so far, our fertility diagnosis is one of male factor infertility. Specifically, the Wacky Wicketeer has abnormal sperm morphology, or too low a number of properly-shaped sperm, and sometimes borderline sperm motility. This male factor infertility issue is becoming more and more common, and for us, is likely one of the factors involved in our two pregnancy losses.

When the Wacky Wicketeer and I discovered our infertile status, it was estimated that one in ten couples of child-bearing age in the U.S. was infertile. That number has already gone up to one in eight. Moreover, reproductive and other problems in boys are on an alarming increase.

A little less than two years ago, and replayed earlier this year, CBC, a respected Canadian television network, did a documentary as part of its Doc Zone series, called "The Disappearing Male". Unfortunately, the website only allows those in Canada to view it online, here: http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/Doc_Zone/ID=1233750780

But even if you can't watch the video, you can find some of the alarming facts on their fact sheet on male infertility, such as: "The average sperm count of a North American college student today is less than half of what it was 50 years ago." They also include some great explanations as to just how and why this appears to be happening, in their document, "Backgrounder: Endocrine 101".

While the current state of information in this arena is fluctuating and largely theoretical, the statistics are staggering, and the anecdotes are heartbreaking. The Wacky Wicketeer and I have taken the approach that, if there is something we can do about it in our lives, then we might as well do it. Some examples of the steps we have taken include: Getting rid of all our kitchen plastics other than numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5; Not using any plastics in the microwave; Getting a new couch; Dusting and vaccuming more frequently; Decreasing products we use with phthalates and parabens, opting for goods that use other, known and recognizable ingredients.

I hope you'll take a minute to look at the CBC info, and consider what you can do to make a difference for the children and future children in your life.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Manic Monday Munchies: The Farmers' Market

Eggs from our Farmers' Market
Last Saturday morning, the Wacky Wicketeer and I finally checked out the nearest Farmers’ Market. It had recently moved from about eight miles away to only 2-3 miles away, so we had no excuse as to why we hadn’t been there yet (other than the fact my darling husband likes to sleep until
We were on the hunt for meat and dairy products mostly, because we already have weekly deliveries of local, organic, fruits and vegetables from Farm Fresh to You. Sure enough, we found local, organic, pasture-raised chicken, beef, eggs and cheese. The only things missing that I needed were milk and yogurt. However, I am planning a visit to the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, where I’ve heard I can find local milk and yogurt. We also happened to find some fresh, shelled, raw walnuts and pistachios, and a gorgeous hanging geranium plant for our backyard. It was a great time, with the ambience of people chatting and getting to know their food-providers, and even live music in the background.

Geranium from our Farmers' Market
So why go to the trouble? First of all, it’s really not much trouble. Even before we were trying to eat anything organic, much less organic and local, we would make trips to both Bel-Air and Costco every 1-2 weeks for groceries. Now, our produce is delivered to us, so about every two weeks, I’ll go to the Co-op for milk and yogurt, and the Wacky Wicketeer and I will have a Saturday morning date browsing the Farmers’ Market. But what if I need more food suddenly, for guests, or something? Then I just drive an extra five miles to the Davis Ranch stand in Sloughouse. Or, I take something out of the freezer, or make an extra trip to the Co-op. By the way, I’m no longer buying frozen food. Instead, I freeze some of what I get from the farms, for when it goes out of season, or if I happen to need extra. When you are eating local food, you actually observe its seasonality.

That brings up the second reason we are becoming sort of “locavores”. Food tastes so much better when it is in season, and appropriately ripened. What’s more, because it hasn’t had to travel thousands of miles, it didn’t  require genetic modification, or preservatives-leaving it in its pure state, as God and Mother Nature intended-naturally delicious (not to mention nutritious).

Local Wine
Our third reason is health. Our health and the health of our planet. The environmental savings when eating locally is obvious. It means your food didn’t have to use the petroleum required, and create the resulting
pollution, to travel from thousands of miles away. Moreover, we help to preserve biodiversity by not requiring our food to be genetically modified so that it can last longer. There is also an immediate benefit to our own bodies-we no longer have to strain our liver and kidneys, among other things, in digesting additives and preservatives. In addition, think about the recent recall of eggs due to salmonella poisoning-because I bought my eggs from a local farmer with a small flock (I even got to see pictures of the hens wandering around their pasture outside the barn), I wasn’t worried if my eggs were part of the recall. There is a lot more to this, but I’m not an expert on it (yet), and it would make this an even longer post.

The fourth reason is one that doesn’t occur to a lot of people. When you buy food grown and produced locally, you are doing a better job in supporting your local economy. A farm is a business, just like a restaurant or clothing shop is a business. Buying your goods from local businesses instead of national chains generates close to three times the money for the local economy. (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver, p. 149.)

Coinciding (but maybe not so coincidental) with our foray into locavore life, I’ve been reading a related book, called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. I highly suggest you read it, no matter where you live, whether urban or rural, and no matter whether you are a vegetarian or at the carnivore end of our omnivore spectrum. It gave me a new appreciation for our family farms and farmers and their struggles, and it’s important that we have our eyes wide open to what exactly it is that we put in our bodies every day. Moreover, find a farmers’ market nearby, and make it a date or family outing to check it out. You may be surprised at how close one is to you. Here are a couple of websites that may help:
http://www.localharvest.org/  (United States and some Canada)
http://www.cafarmersmarkets.com/ (California)

You can also find local co-ops that have a local store, permanent stand, or deliver direct to your home or business. Many of these farms often give tours. For example, Farm Fresh to You offers tours of their farm, Capay Organic, the second Saturday of the month. You can find similarevents and tours at http://www.localharvest.org/events.jsp.

Of course, we still have our weaknesses that we don’t buy entirely locally: Feta cheese, chocolate, tea, and decaf coffee are big ones. And we’re still figuring out how to get bread made from locally-grown grains, among other things. But we love the changes we’ve made so far, and intend to do more to bring our family’s focus back to the garden and kitchen. This change to local eating has also come with a focus on cooking, and less pre-packaged, quick-foods. We are inspired by this quote from Ms. Kingsolver:

Households that have lost the soul of cooking from their routines may not know what they’re missing: the song of a stir-fry sizzle, the small talk of clinking measuring spoons, the yeasty scent of rising dough, the painting of flavors onto a pizza before it slides into the oven. The choreography of many people working in one kitchen is, by itself, a certain definition of family, after people have made their separate ways home to be together. The nurturing arts are more than just icing on the cake, insofar as they influence survival. We have dealt to today’s kids the statistical hand of a shorter life expectancy than their parents, which would be us, the ones taking care of them. Our thrown-away food culture is the sole reason. By taking the faster drive, what did we save?
(Animal, p. 130.)

Our reasons for eating locally-grown goods are many and complicated. But doing so is not. The act of local eating is simplicity at its best and yummiest.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Manic Monday Munchies: Feta Cheese!

For this Manic Monday Munchies post, I decided to tell you about one of my all-time favorite single food items, Feta cheese.

The “feta” cheese you see at most grocery stores in the U.S. is not genuine Feta, for two reasons. The first is that it’s not from Greece. Of course, to many Greeks, this is the most important reason. But it’s an unfortunate part of our reality that it’s better for the environment, and more practical, to buy cheese that’s made closer to home. I’m not saying it’s the same. The Feta cheese from Greece has such a distinctive flavor, it’s like eating candy. (Can you tell that I’m drooling just thinking about it?) I’ll admit I usually buy the imported stuff (from Mani Imports).

It’s the second reason that really irks me. That is, the “feta” I’ve been able to find that’s made in the U.S. is made from cows milk. Genuine Greek Feta is made from sheep’s milk, sometimes with a little goat’s milk blended in. The difference in flavor between cow’s milk and sheep’s milk is like night and day – the cheese made with sheep’s milk is much sharper and richer in flavor, even slightly acidic. Sheep’s and goat’s milk is higher in calcium, vitamin B, and proteins than cow’s milk. Moreover, to get the correct color and texture from cow’s milk, chemical processes are used. So much for eating a natural food! These chemical processes aren’t necessary when Feta is made with the correct milk.

“Feta is crumbly in texture and white in color. Feta is traditionally sold in glass jars, although modern packaging techniques have become more commonplace. Feta needs to be covered in brine at all times otherwise it will dry out and mold fast and needs to be refrigerated at all times.” (http://www.igourmet.com/ST/encyclopedia.asp#greek)

Here is one Feta-producer’s description of how they make Feta cheese:
“Curd is molded in large round forms, which are hand-turned frequently as they drain. As the whey drains, the cheese-crafter adjusts timing to perfect each form's texture. After skillful dry-salting, wheels are placed in birch barrels for aging and preservation. There they sit in a 7% brine solution that originally allowed farmers to preserve their milk in the hot Mediterranean climate. Today that brine gives feta its characteristic tang.
By the end of the four-month maturation, a wonderfully creamy, rich, complex flavor is fully developed. ... Its traditional method of production contributes to its full taste, natural aroma and pure white color, properties which have established Feta over the centuries as a unique natural cheese of Greece.
Enjoy this premium feta in a traditional cheese pie, over eggs, stuffed into squash blossoms, or even fried. Or just relax with a slab of feta drizzled with olive oil and garnished with fresh oregano.”

Feta has been designated by the European Union as a product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), the origin being Greece. “According to the Code of Foods of Greek Legislation, Feta (Φέτα) is produced either from sheep milk or a mixture of sheep and goat milk, in the regions of Macedonia, Thrace, Epirus, Thessaly, Sterea, Peloponnese and Lesvos Island. It must be allowed to mature for at least two (2) months in wooden barrels or metal containers, covered in brine.” (http://fetamania.gr/english-html/feta.htm)

These days, most Feta cheese is made from pasteurized milk. In fact, I have yet to find one sold in the U.S., imported or otherwise, that isn’t. (My guess is that U.S. laws require it all to be pasteurized, but I don’t know for sure, so don’t quote me on that.) This is important to me because of the general rule of not eating soft cheeses when pregnant. Since I’ve been pregnant twice, I was worried about following the no-soft-cheese rule and having to avoid another of my favorite foods. However, if the only reason to avoid soft cheeses is the lack of pasteurization, which used to be common but isn’t anymore, then I could eat pasteurized Feta, right? I still haven’t received a satisfactory answer to this question, but when I do, I’ll come back to the subject and let you know.

In the meantime, I’m going to be right here with my plate of Feta cheese, a little hummus, Kalamata olives, and a glass of wine. Opa!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Due Date: Our Story of Blessing and Loss, part 1

Today is the day my first baby, Athanasios, was due. If I had the healthy, normal pregnancy that we expected, I would have been giving birth to my first child this week.
This is a difficult day, and week, for me. Nevertheless, I’m glad it has finally come to pass. It feels cathartic, like now it’s time to turn a new page in our story. So, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to go back and share the details of our infertility and miscarriage journey thus far.

Since the last time I posted specifically about our TTC attempts and our IUI protocol, etc., was almost a year ago, I thought I would briefly review the protocol that I started to describe there, and then get on telling you about the rest of the journey. If you need reminders about what certain procedures, medications, etc. are, head back to the August 20, 2009 post. And if you need to get caught up on the whole history of our TTC journey, read the July 30, 2009 post.

Last August we started a medicated IUI cycle that included me taking Clomid on CDs 3-7. Side effects that I had from it included hot flashes, bloating, headaches, and blind spots (like stars you see when you get a concussion or a migraine). I have heard from other gals that mood swings are also very common, and the doctor warned me that the Clomid could thin out the uterine lining and decrease cervical mucus (which is an important fluid present around ovulation (“O”) that helps the sperm swim through the cervix and into the uterus).

Because of the last couple of side effects from Clomid, the next drug was Estrogen, or Estradiol, which I took on CDs 8-12. The bloating continued, but the other side effects subsided. Starting on CD 11, I had to use an ovulation predictor kit (“OPK”) first thing in the morning, and as soon as we had a positive result, call the clinic and go in for an intra-vaginal ultrasound (“IVUS”) to see how big my mature follicles were and how thick my uterine lining was, and from that, predict how close I was to O. We also had to abstain starting on CD 9 until the insemination, so that my dear husband (AKA “the Wacky Wicketeer”) could build up a good store of soldiers before making his deposit! They start you on CD 9 in case you have to get the IUI on CD 12, so that you have three days of storage, but I didn’t O until CD 14 (as usual), so it was a long time, I tell ya! And mind you, those days are your most fertile, so for the previous two years, that had been prime baby-dancing time! What a switch…

On CD 13, I had a positive OPK, and we went in for my IVUS. I had two good, mature follicles and a nice uterine lining, so then I was injected with a form of HCG, AKA, the pregnancy hormone. This injection is commonly called a trigger shot, because it is supposed to trigger O. It also means that for a period of time, you could get a false positive on a home pregnancy test (“HPT”), because you had the very hormone it tests for injected into your system. The Doc then told us that the Wacky Wicketeer would need to be back early in the morning and make his deposit, and two hours later would be my second round with the IVUS, to make sure everything still looked good and see if I had O’d yet or not, and then an IUI.

Late that night was one of the most painful I’d had up to that point. My ovaries felt like they were going to explode! Sure enough, when I returned the next morning, I had already O’d. So, we had just the one shot at IUI.

After the Wacky Wicketeer made his deposit, they took the soldiers, “washed” them, to get rid of dead and useless ones, and then gave them a special vitamin solution to swim around in on their voyage.

Now, my turn. The tiny room we were in already contained me, the Wacky Wicketeer, the RE (doctor), and the nurse. As I’m laying there with my feet in the stirrups, all pride gone, into this sardine can walks two more people - a lab tech, with an assistant in tow. The lab tech is carrying what we’ve all been waiting for – the troops have arrived! In her hand is what looks to me like a two-foot long straw. It was labeled, and she very formally read our names from the label, and we said, yep, that’s us! The RE then took the straw from her, and the lab tech and her assistant left. Whew. A little more breathing room. That’s when the RE, having already used the speculum on me like a regular gynecological pelvic exam, inserts a catheter connected to the straw through the vaginal canal, past the cervix, up into the uterus, and aims as close to the fallopian tubes as he can get, so those little soldiers have a shorter swim. It wasn’t real painful, just a little weird, and I had a little cramping start when it passed my cervix, sort of like mild menstrual cramps. It took a couple of minutes (seemed like an eternity to me!), and when the RE was done, he set an egg timer for 10 minutes, and said I could get up, dressed, and go when the timer went off. Oh, and that we should boink like bunnies that night to add to our chances!

Not that night, but the following night, I started taking a prescribed compound vaginal suppository nightly. It was a compound that was primarily intended to deliver progesterone, to support a possible early pregnancy, and make sure I didn’t start menstruating earlier than I should. The suppositories are messy, so you take it right before you go to bed. I was instructed to take it until either my period came, or I had a blood test that showed I was negative for pregnancy, at least sixteen days post-IUI.

Normally, good ol’ “Aunt Flo” (or “AF”, as the TTC community so quaintly refers to a woman’s period) arrives on CD 26 or 27 for me, not 29 like for the “average” woman. This would have been only twelve days post-IUI for me, but the progesterone prevented my period from starting normally, so I took a HPT. OK, I took several HPTs. They were all that dreaded BFN (big fat negative)! But, just in case, hope beyond hopes, I had to continue waiting another four days, then went in for the blood “beta” test. (I have no idea why they call it a beta test.) Of course, it was negative.

So, our first IUI was a failure. It was also very stressful. Not having gone through the process before, and, at the time, not understanding everything I was supposed to do, or why I was supposed to do it, but being the sole person responsible for making sure that everything happened at just the right time – whew! Add the hormones to that mix, and you can imagine. And everything else in life doesn’t just go on hold because you’re going through this, either.

The toughest point for me was getting the negative home tests, because I knew at that point, that it hadn’t worked. After the blood test confirming that we were NOT pregnant, I stopped the progesterone, and AF showed up three days later. My first instinct was to give up. But my determined Wacky Wicketeer would have none of it. Ultimately, it was an easy decision to take a month off before we would try IUI again.

Come back soon for my next post, which will pick up with our second IUI cycle – when we were blessed with our first pregnancy, and lost our first Angel baby, Athanasios.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Pastitsio!

Some pics from making pastitsio for the Greek Festival. It's a complicated, layered, Greek dish and we make 40 pans for the festival! No pics of the finished product, though-still needs the bechemel sauce.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Manic Monday Munchies: Blueberry Breakfast Parfait

This week for Manic Monday Munchies, I decided to write about a really simple dish that is one of my almost-daily staples - my version of a healthy blueberry parfait!

The base is nonfat Greek yogurt, so while it's a great breakfast item, it can also be a snack or a dessert, and is especially refreshing in the summer! It's something that I also feel safe to continue eating when pregnant. Moreover, the yogurt adds a good quantity of protein-which I have found to be an important part to the start of my day. (The yogurt brand I use has 20g protein per serving.) It can also be a good way for vegetarians to get protein.

Jamie's Blueberry Breakfast Parfait
Layer the following ingredients in a glass dish or tall cup, then eat!
  • 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup organic blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
Some extra tips:
My favorite Greek yogurt is Fage, partly because it tastes so great and the texture is light and fluffy, but also because it has no artificial additives or preservatives, and the dairy farmers supplying Fage have pledged not to treat their cows with rBGH.

If you want to use smaller walnut pieces, then decrease the measuring cup size to end up with the same overall quantity of walnuts.

I like to use organic blueberries because (a) they taste better, and (b) when it comes to fruit that I eat skin-on, I think it's important that it's organic. I don't focus as much on eating organic bananas and oranges as I do berries, apples, etc. Also, while fresh blueberries taste great in this recipe, blueberries do freeze really well, and if you want an extra cold, refreshing, summer kick, you could always use frozen ones!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thankful Thursday: Let's Get Physical

Oooooo, a little bit of a risque image, right? Well, I thought it was appropriate for this edition of Thankful Thursday, which is about the physical.

I am thankful for this body God gave me, the home of my soul, temple of my spirit. I am thankful for the legs I have that can walk, run, and jump. Thankful for the eyes in my head that allow me to read and watch, and see all in the world that is so beautiful. I am thankful for the ears I have that allow me to hear, and to listen. Thankful for my lips I have to kiss my husband, and that will someday allow me to kiss my baby's head, and feel the soft fuzz of my baby's hair. I am thankful for the nose that will smell that sweet baby smell, and that allows me joy in the scent of gardenias, jasmine, the spring blossoms on my tangelo tree, and the warm pine and dirt scent of the mountains. I am thankful for the skin I have with which I can touch and be touched by loved ones, and that inexplicably gets goose bumps when I'm inspired or when I watch a hallmark commercial.

I'm thankful for my Wacky Wicketeer's sexy dimples, and his warm, bright eyes. Thankful for his strong arms that hold me close and comfort me. I'm thankful for his gentle hands and his heat-radiating body.

I'm thankful for the smell of clean sheets, the feel of a cool fan on a hot summer's day, and the taste of a tart popsicle.

Lisa Nichols has said: "No one else can dance your dance. No one else can sing your song. No one else can write your story. Who you are, what you do, begins right now."

I am thankful for me.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Manic Monday Munchies: Zucchini Bread

I had a couple of my favorite recipes come up in conversation recently, including one in which Cheryl over at chasingamiracle.com asked me for the recipe. During this whole infertility, pregnancy, and miscarriage journey, food has become an important part of my journey. Not knowing the cause of my Wacky Wicketeer's sperm challenges, or our miscarriages, has led me to much research of what we should and shouldn't be eating that might be harming or helping our reproductive health. I have even gone so far as to shift my time away from work and spend more time cooking from scratch and packing the Wicketeer's lunches for him to take to work.

All that to explain why I am starting a new regular posting called Manic Monday Munchies! Sometimes it will be a recipe, and other times just a discussion about food.

We eat very little in the way of sweets, despite us each having a sweet tooth. This recipe for zucchini bread is one of the few I consider to be not only a side dish or breakfast item, but also a possible dessert, that I still make with regularity. My stepmom gave me this recipe, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Shelley's Zucchini Bread
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup chopped nuts
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups sifted flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp soda
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp cloves
Mix all ingredients together until smooth using electric mixer. Bake in 2 greased loaf pans at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Let cool 10 minutes.

Makes 2 loaves.

A few notes:
  • Make sure to use a vegetable oil and a pan-greaser (butter or vegetable shortening) with zero trans-fats.
  • I have considered trying apple sauce in place of the vegetable oil in the recipe, but haven't done so yet. Let me know how it works out if you are brave enough to try it that way!
  • I have tried substituting about half the flour with whole wheat flour to increase the amount of fiber, but the result can really vary as far as texture and such. Again, let me know what your ratio and results are if you try this substitution.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Baby Dream

Over the course of this TTC, infertility, and miscarriage roller coaster, I have had many dreams regarding being pregnant, miscarriages, etc. But last night I had the most vivid dream actually about my baby. I have tried to decide whether it was about one of the two babies I have lost, or about a baby I will have or hope to have in the future, and I've decided that it doesn't matter.

It was a little girl. We had just arrived home from the hospital, and although I knew she was supposed to be strapped into her car seat in the back, in the way that dreams work, I was suddenly holding her in the front seat. I held her in my arms and kissed her on her fuzzy head and her cool, pink cheeks, and she smelled so good it made me cry. When I kissed her cheeks, I could feel her tiny eyelashes on my nose.

Then I realized that I had yet to feed her, and started freaking out a little because I knew she should have been fed much earlier! On top of it, I had never had the nurse instruct me on how to breastfeed! But I was so worried about the fact that she hadn't fed yet, I decided I had to do it right there in the front seat of the car, parked in my garage. And I did. And it worked perfectly. No instruction needed. And she was so beautiful, with her little suckling noises, and her soft little head. I cried again.

I started to wake up, and for the first time in years, I didn't want to. I wanted to stay in that dream more than anything. But I couldn't. I woke up.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thankful Thursday 2

I am thankful for my education. The years I spent in public grade school, as an undergraduate in college, and in law school, established a foundation on which I can rely for the rest of my life. It enables me to analyze problems, complex and simple, fluid and halting, theoretical and existing. It gave me the confidence to believe in myself and my own opinions, and to think critically. Wealth, health, loved ones, and even freedom can be taken away, but not education.

I'm also thankful for my grandparents. They were a soft place to land as a child, all about hugs and cookies, Christmas and birthdays. They taught me the value in learning from my elders, about our history, as a family, a culture, and a nation, so that I can learn from the mistakes of those who came before me. They taught me how to waterski, fish, use a screwdriver, do my makeup, shave, make apricot cobbler, walk like a penguin, to wash my hands before eating, and that there are times in which, if I don't have anything nice to say, then I shouldn't say anything at all.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thankful Thursday

I'm going to try to post a gratitude list on Thursdays, so here is today's.

I am thankful for the financial stability we have been graced with. Thankful that both our cars are paid off, we have no credit card debt, and my spouse has a great job that he enjoys and that allows for me to do whatever I want on a daily basis. And for the bonus that is going to let me buy a new couch next month!

I'm thankful for the healthy body that God has given me. I feel so lucky to have it in working order.

I'm thankful for where I am in my life and in the world. I'm thankful that God has put me right here, right now. My history has made me who I am, and I love that person.

I'm also thankful for my wonderful husband. It is absolutely amazing to find someone who can love me the same way I love him. To have a partner in every sense of the word-someone who is both your equal and your opposite, with whom you develop a way of flowing through each day together. Giving and taking, supporting and opposing, all as needed, and in a strange, rhythmic way that just feels right. I suppose that's what makes him my soulmate.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Coping with stress, infertility, and miscarriage - Finding peace in a poem

Someone on twitter earlier today happened to quote from my all-time favorite poem, and it inspired me to post about said poem.

It's "Desiderata", by Max Ehrmann. Desiderata is latin for "things desired". Ultimately, this poem is about finding peace for your own spirit. In the up and down world of infertility, I think much of what it says is right on point. You can read the entire poem by clicking here, and I highly suggest that you do. Hopefully, it will help you find some peace, too.

For my purposes here, I'm going to discuss what some lines from Desiderata mean to me.

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste,...
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons."

So often we allow ourselves to be wound up so tight as the day wears on, or the week, or the month, that we become louder, more aggressive, harder on ourselves and others, impatient, rude, and give oursleves headaches, backaches, ulcers and high blood pressure. If we can just stop and breath deeply, slow down a little, and give ourselves a little room to breathe, we will be happier and kinder people, making our own lives and the world around us a more peaceful place, and even inspiring others.

"Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story."

My experience in law, politics, speech and debate, has taught me that the louder you speak, eventually the less people listen. But the quieter you are, the more likely you are to gain a captive audience. Moreover, we all have stories. We all have lives with good times and bad times. If you judge someone without learning their story, you are not only doing them a disservice, but you're missing out on gaining insight into the human experience. No matter how boring or stupid someone might seem, their story likely has something you can learn from it, and they deserve your compassion as much as you deserve theirs.

"...If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."

This really is a key to happiness that I have struggled with over the years. But those rare moments when I get it are so incredibly freeing. You have to define your own success, not base it on others, if you ever want to be truly happy.

"Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans."

This is really about appreciating our past and living in the present, not always the future. Especially with infertility, it is so easy to get wrapped up in our plans, our protocols, our hopes and dreams, and especially our worries for what the future might not bring. But in doing this we can miss out on the joys we already have in our lives or could experience along the way. It's the same as what happens to a workaholic who wakes up one Saturday morning and starts getting ready to go to the office, then suddenly realizes that 20 years have passed, children are suddenly grown, the man who was once the love of her life has left, her parents have died, and the only friends she has are those at the office, and she thinks of all that she has missed out on. All because she had tunnel vision with only one future goal in sight. The presbyopic pursuit of a single goal can cause us to miss out on what joy our lives already have to offer. Don't let this happen to you.

It's also about allowing ourselves to fully experience the highs as well as the lows. My miscarriage, the loss of my baby, was an incredible low. But for a short while, I was pregnant! There was a life, a light, inside of me, and oh, what a joy that was! If I hadn't allowed myself to fully experience that joy, I couldn't have made it through the grief. And so that is how I intend to live every moment possible, including future pregnancies. I will allow myself to experience the joy of being a mom, without fear or apprehension. It's the only thing that makes grief bearable. If you are destined to grieve, you can do it when the time comes. Don't rob yourself of the joy you can experience now.

"...the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism..."

I like to think of this as: Expect the best and you'll receive the best. Expect the best from people and they will, more often than not, deliver. The VAST majority of people want to be good, want to do good, want to be happy, and want others to be happy. It's why we all cringe when we're watching someone forget their lines in a speech or a play. It's a built-in compassion. This is the foundation for heroism. Give people a chance to be heroes. And then give them a second chance - because none of us is perfect.

"...Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here."

Sometimes all we need to make things better and brighter is sleep, water, a shower, or the company of friends. When we find ourselves in a place that we can't seem to pick ourselves up from, we should be easy on ourselves and simply get back to these basics. They really can work wonders.

I'll end with these last lines, which, I think, speak for themselves:
"And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy."

The ABCs of Me!

It's about 1 am and I can't sleep because my internal clock is all messed up from the midnight Easter service.  So, I took this idea from Type A Nightmare's blog at http://www.typeanightmare.blogspot.com/ and decided to try it myself! Here are the ABCs of me:

A - Age: 34

B - Bed size: Queen

C - Chore you hate: Taking out the garbage

D - Dog/Pet's name: None. My cat, Gwennie, died a year ago.

E - Essential start to your day item(s): Sunshine and coffee or tea

F - Favorite color: purple

G - Gold or Silver: Silver

H - Height: 5' 5"

I - Instruments you play(ed): viola and bass guitar

J - Job title: Attorney

K - Kisses or hugs: Hugs

L - Living arrangements: with my husband in a two-story house

M - Mood: Absent-minded

N - Nicknames: Jamers, Jamison, JJ, James...the list goes on and on

O - Overnight hospital stays other than birth: None

P - Pet Peeves: The use of words that don't exist, tailgating, distracted driving

Q - Quote: "To thine own self be true, and it must follow as night the day that thou canst not be false to any man."  Shakespeare

R - Right or left handed: Right

S - Siblings: one sister

T - Time you wake up: 7-8 am

U- Underwear: Yes.

V - Vegetable you dislike: Brussel sprouts

W - Ways you run late: Get distracted

X - X-rays you've had: Dental

Y - Yummy food you make: turkey chili, rosemary-garlic bread

Z - Zoo favorite: Wolves
There. I hope that helps you gain a little insight of me!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Austin: Observations at a sidewalk cafe

I came to Austin, Texas for three reasons:

1. To visit DH while he is here for two and a half weeks for work. We haven’t been apart from each other for longer than 4 nights since the summer I went to an international law program in Salzburg-right before we moved in together almost six years ago. Since I am self-employed and currently keeping my workload to a minimum, I thought it would be a good idea to visit him on this work trip.

2. To TTC! It turns out his work trip was scheduled just perfectly to MISS our ENTIRE fertile window this cycle, by several days each side of said window. So, if I didn’t come visit him here, we would have zero chance of getting pregnant this month. To those not dealing with infertility, you might not think one month is a big deal. When you have spent 25 cycles trying to get pregnant, and 5 months being pregnant, having a miscarriage and recovering from that miscarriage, you’re turning 34 this month, DH has challenged spermies, this is your last chance for a 2010 baby, and you only have two more months to get pregnant before the doctors officially will diagnose you as being of “Advanced Maternal Age” (“AMA”)....trust me, one month IS a BIG DEAL.

3. To get the heck outta dodge. I get the travel bug a few times each year. I start spending copious amounts of time on the internet researching random trips to various parts of the world, trying to figure out a practical way to fit a trip into our lives and our budget. It drives me bonkers not being able to go, and once the bug hits, the longer I have to go without traveling, the more I obsess over it, the less productive I am, and the more annoying I am to DH.

So, here I am, spending nine days in Austin, Texas, and it just happens to be during the South by Southwest music festival. This is apparently a huge industry event, and an already uniquely odd city is now teeming with wacky music-types. Being in this place and time has led me to certain observations.

One afternoon, I found myself writing this as I experienced it:

Sitting at an open sidewalk cafe, giant
Glass doors open to the world of the intersection next door. Eating
Spicy hummus wrap and drinking rosy-red hibiscus tea, watching
Bikers pull away, listening
To the dried-up and wannabe rockers dream lives away, hearing
Three different bands in the distance. One
Jazz, one rapping away, one with a grungy sound trying
To absorb all other vibrations.
But one more thing is necessary.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My first wordless Wednesday!

Well, almost wordless.

The reason I am sitting in a hotel room in Texas all by myself:

Could you resist those dimples? Really?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

99 Things

OK, I'm jumping on PCOS Chick and Ready to be a Mom's bandwagon and doing my own 99 things post! I just couldn't resist...

The post is a list of 99 things you could have done.  Highlight the ones that you yourself have done.  Gave me some ideas for what else I need to do!

1. Started your own blog – Um, yes, this one!

2. Slept under the stars – Many times - camping in the forest, on a boat in a lake, in my backyard as a kid.

3. Played in a band - As a pre-teen and teenager. When I was in high school, me and three other girls had a speed-metal badn for a short time. I played bass guitar, and our main song was "There's a Rock in My Shoe!"

4. Visited Hawaii - Twice, Maui and Oahu

Jamie & DH at North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower – I love astronomy and star-gazing

6. Given more than you can afford to charity - I should probably do this a little more, though.

7. Been to DisneyWorld – Nope, but Disneyland numerous times.

8. Climbed a mountain - Made it to the top of Half Dome. Tried Mt. Saint Helens, but started too late and had to turn back.  I would like to do more of this.

Jamie in front of Half Dome
Mt. Lassen during a camping trip

9. Held a praying mantis – I used to catch them, play with them and keep them in jars with airholes as a kid.

10. Sang a solo – So my table could get dinner at a wedding buffet.

11. Bungee jumped – No, and I never will. Would rather skydive.

12. Visited Paris – Yes, but it was far too brief a visit. I need to go back.

13. Watched a lightning storm – Many from home, and an amazing and scary one while camping in the Badlands in South Dakota.

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch - Taught myself how to paint with acrylics and most of what I know of cooking...and how to do my make-up.  Actually, a lot of things I know how to do are self-taught.

15. Adopted a child - Someday!

16. Had food poisoning - Too many times, including once from e. coli that was on lettuce at a banquet - hundreds of us got sick.

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty – No, but I did stand on top of the World Trade Center.

18. Grown your own vegetables – Yep, I have a garden.

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France – No, this is why I need to go back!

20. Slept on an overnight train - Yes, traveling from a little town in Slovakia to Prague, in the Czech Republic.  Got woken up by big, scary customs guys banging on my door and speaking in a language I didn't understand several times. Slept with my passport in my hand.

21. Had a pillow fight – I have a sister and was in a sorority, so duh.

22. Hitchhiked – No, and probably never will. Far too dangerous.

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill – It's called a mental health day. =)

24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping – hmmm. several times, although they are a little fuzzy...

27. Run a Marathon – I hope to some day!

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice – GAH! I would have, except my dear husband, who at the time was my boyfriend, got food poisoning, and by the time he felt better, we had to be in Milan to catch a plane. =(  We LOVE Venice, and mean to go back and take that ride!

Jamie in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset – Hasn't everybody?

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language - Taught myself some Italian and now teaching myself a little Greek

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person - One stop on our honeymoon!
Jamie & the Leaning Tower of Pisa

39. Gone rock climbing – Just indoor

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David- Another honeymoon stop!

41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant - I never thought of this one. What a good idea!

44. Visited Africa - I soooo hope I can someday!

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance - see food poisoning description, above.

47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing - no, but since my cousin is a guide for this, I really should...

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - as high as they would let us go at the time. I can't remember if it was the top or not.

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling – Snorkeling. Too claustrophobic for scuba.

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud - As a kid often. These days, it's called gardening. ;-)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater – Used to go all the time as a kid, and went to one nearby just last summer.

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business - I have three of them right now.

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies – I was a girl scout for 5 years and sold cookies for each of them

62. Gone whale watching - in Hawaii

63. Got flowers for no reason – Yes, but before I was married, and not from my husband (honey, I hope you're reading this)

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma – Yes, twice donated blood for general use, and then donated for my dad's brain surgery, and they hit a major nerve in my arm and caused permanent nerve damage, so no more.

65. Gone sky diving - I SO want to do this!

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp - Just outside of Munich, I can't remember the name. It was so incredibly sad.

67. Bounced a check - I don't remember it, but I used to be so bad at balancing my checkbook, I'm sure I did when I was younger.

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - I still have many, including babrbie dolls, cabbage patch kids, my little ponies, a kimberly doll and some stuffed bunny rabbits! Most are in storage, but the bunnies share the bed when my dear husband is gone.

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial - Gave me goosebumps.

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone – None, and um, I don't plan to. This shouldn't really be on a list of things you want to do, should it?

78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book – Not a book, but been published academically.

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper - Several times

85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve – This was the same night as one of the skinny dipping incidents. lol

86. Visited the White House - Not sure what counts as a visit, I stood at the gate, but security was too high and you couldn't get a tour.

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating – Fish.

88. Had chickenpox – For my ninth birthday.

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous - Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his wife (got to sit and talk with them for awhile), composer Henry Mancini, Jerry Rice, Bubba Paris, Don Larsen, Peja Stojakovic...probably more, but I can't remember right now.

92. Joined a book club - lol. I run one.

93. Got a tattoo

94. Had a baby – Not yet!

95. Seen the Alamo in person - hoping to this year

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a lawsuit – LOL. I'm a lawyer, so yes.

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

So there is my version of 99 things! I'm hoping to add some pictures soon, but right now it's time to go to bed.  If you want to play, copy and paste this list and highlight the things you have done!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I know, I know, it has been too long!

The last 6 months have been quite a roller coaster, I tell ya.  And, as promised, I will complete my discussion regarding our TTC journey.  For now, though, I just needed to pop in for a quick hello, and to share with you all my current revelation: I hate the fact that I snore!

All I want to do right now is curl up in bed next to my husband and sleep cozily next to him all night.  But I know that about two hours later, he is going to get up and go into the guest room to get some sleep because my snoring wakes him up and keeps him awake.  I saw Mr. Ed on late night TV the other night and the thought occurred to me that snoring could be one reason Wilbur and his wife sleep in seperate beds - and what of that is ultimately where my husband and I are headed?  Not because we don't love or even desire each other anymore, but simply for the ability to get a night's precious sleep!

I've tried those Breathe Right strips off and on, allergy meds, different pillows, including the special anti-snoring pillow (which just made my neck and shoulder hurt!).  I just can't seem to find the solution.  I'm sure my weight adds to the problem, but trying to get pregnant is counter-productive to effectively losing weight.

I hate that I snore - so I'm open to any suggestions!