17 March 2018

Review: Angels Fall

Angels Fall Angels Fall by Nora Roberts
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really enjoy Nora Roberts' romance - the key element for me is not necessarily the romance, but rather the growth and success of the female main character. Although I read this book quickly, it's quite a page-turner!, it was hard to read.

This book focuses on a woman who has been traumatized by a violent crime and then is psychologically tortured throughout the book. It was pretty horrible to read about what she went through - and with very little support except from a hunky love interest. Something I usually love about Roberts' books are the relationships between the female characters - there was very little here to work with. She has some support from coworkers and a grandmother she contacts by email (but we never hear from the grandmother herself). The other key woman in the book is a murdered sex worker who is drawn in a way that is disturbingly close to blaming the woman for her own murder. I'm so disappointed.

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11 March 2018

My Miscarriage (Part Two)

On September 11th, after an early Monday morning blood test, the nurse called me and said my hCG levels were going back up. 

She asked me come back to the clinic the next day to take another blood test and do an ultrasound. We came in on the morning of September 12 and the doctors noticed a cyst in my ovary that was so large that the doctor thought it was my bladder, full to brimming. They told us to sit in the waiting room while they consulted. When a nurse came out and asked me if I’d had anything to eat that day, I began worrying. She explained that I might need emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy.

This is what I had feared most when the nurse first mentioned a biochemical pregnancy back what felt like eons before.  An ectopic pregnancy - where the egg and sperm meet and create a fetus that implants somewhere outside of the warm, nurturing home of the uterus.  An ectopic pregnancy that can cause fallopian tube rupture, internal bleeding, death.

They took me to another specialist for an ultrasound - the specialist worked within the pre-natal ward so I walked past women with beautiful round bellies proud and happy and not facing the fear and grief that I was. 

I was actually pretty cheerful about it - joking about looking forward to coming back to this floor when it was my turn. 

Although they were pretty certain that the large cyst was not the fetus, simply because it existed, it was a contraindication to administer methotrexate. They also still couldn’t locate where the pregnancy had implanted, despite multiple ultrasounds. So the lead doctor suggested a dilation and curettage procedure to empty my uterus in the hope that it would flush out the remaining HCG and any fetal cells that had been produced as part of the inviable pregnancy. At this point, it was certain that I did not have a viable pregnancy but uncertain whether I had an ectopic pregnancy. 

I felt so well taken care of, K at my side, three different doctors consulting me and doing procedures. I woke up from the short procedure feeling fine and hopeful and looking forward to the next try.

We came back in the next morning for blood test.  By noon, the results had come in - my hCG levels were just as high as the day before. The fetal cells were definitely still growing and they weren’t in my newly emptied uterus.

I hadn’t had a miscarriage, I had an ectopic pregnancy.

They scheduled an emergency laparoscopic surgery to find and remove the ectopic pregnancy the next day.  Rather than the small clinic, K and I headed over to the large hospital down the street and a brand new set of nurses. As I stripped down and put on the surprisingly soft multiple hospital gowns (one tied in the front, one tied in the back), the hospital nurse asked me to take a pregnancy test to assure them that I was not pregnant.  I looked at her surprised and said, “But I am pregnant - that’s why I need this surgery. That test will come up positive. It’s an ectopic pregnancy.”

I was surprised and frustrated to have to explain it. How could I be the one explaining the purpose of the surgery? Tears sprung to my eyes but I took the test.

When I had the chance to meet my surgeon, I felt much better. She was calm and intelligent and took a lot of time making sure that I knew what the procedure was - a laparoscopy with possible salpingostomy. Basically, sending a tiny camera into the uterus and fallopian tubes to look around, identify, and remove the ectopic pregnancy, possibly through an incision in the fallopian tube.

It was scary, but so were the stories I had found online about women who had bizarre shoulder pain that turned out to be due to a burst fallopian tube. 

I hoped that doing the surgery would allow my body to recover quickly so we could try again quickly.

I woke up dizzy, in pain, nauseated, and alone. I was miserable. My happy wake up from two days earlier was a distant memory. 

The recovery nurse came over to me and said that they weren’t able to locate the ectopic pregnancy so she was to give me a shot of the methotrexate. She asked me to roll on my side so she could put the injection in my hip.

I burst out crying. Surgery and still they didn’t find the ectopic? I complied with the nurse but inside I crumbled. I knew that the methotrexate shot meant that we couldn’t try another IUI for three months while the chemicals made their way through my system.

I was devastated and felt terribly sick. K finally arrived in my room after what felt like days and I burst into tears immediately upon seeing her. They wouldn’t let her stay very long as I drifted in and out of sleep so I woke alone again and tried sipping some ginger ale. (As a final humiliation on the way out, I vomited that ginger ale into a drain in the parking lot.)

Review: The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant

The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant by Jean M. Twenge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After six months of trying to get pregnant using IUI, I decided to do some more reading and learning about fertility. This book is short and easy to read and I would happily recommend it. My spouse and I are both female so a lot of the recommendations in this book aren't directly relevant because they are about how to time sex for best fertility. That said, I did appreciate Twenge's aggregation of the various studies and books on fertility and their very varied usefulness/relevance to modern women. I'm 35, so I'm on "the edge" of fertility - except that apparently that statistic was based on rural French women in the 1700s!!! (Who probably already had multiple children and therefore were probably not trying to get pregnant.) As someone who also experienced a miscarriage, I particularly liked her chapter on her own experience of miscarriage and exploration of how a miscarriage changes the whole game - a positive pregnancy test no longer elicits jumps of joy, just a wary "okay" in her book. As a result of the book, I've gotten serious about limiting my caffeine and started charting my temperature in order to keep myself more informed, even though our fertility clinic also does regular monitoring. It's at least been a method to keep myself distracted and feeling like I'm doing something positive to help us along on this TTC journey.

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03 March 2018

My miscarriage (Part One)

We got pregnant on our very first try. It was statistically improbable, if not impossible.  Our very first IUI or “squirt”, as I called it, was two days before our wedding and all through the week-long honeymoon driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from southern to northern California, my wife and I would be seized by the possibility and catch each others’ eyes. “Do you think we’re pregnant?”

Every sign of tiredness, crankiness, cravings for food - everything we’d normally be annoyed by - transformed into a sign of possibility. 

We couldn’t wait to pick up a pregnancy test and give it a shot. I've never been so excited to pee. Even with all of the distraction of our wedding and honeymoon that #twoweekwait felt so long that I eventually gave in and tested a day before my period was supposed to start. It came up negative but we still had hope.

Then I got my period. So we cried a little, let our anxiously excited parents know the disappointment, and set up our next fertility clinic visit on August 15. No big deal - we didn’t really think we’d be so lucky to get pregnant on the first try.

At the clinic, I did the blood test and ultrasound to get my “baseline” and waited for a call from the nurse about when to come back in. When I did get the call, the nurse asked if I could talk for a few minutes.  

She explained that my blood work had come back showing that I had HCG levels - (HCG or human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone produced by the placenta after implantation)  - it meant that I was pregnant.  She explained that since I had had my period, it was probably just what they call a “biochemical pregnancy” which meant that although sperm and egg met, it was not a viable pregnancy so my body would release it. She asked me to come back two days later.

Two days (August 17) and another needle prick later, I got a call from the nurse again - “You are definitely pregnant - your HCG levels doubled, which is what we expect over two days at the beginning of a pregnancy. Congratulations!”

I was elated - I texted K, unsure if she could get away for a call right then.  We spent the day sending hearts and rainbow flags and baby icons to one another. That weekend, we took a “5 week bump” picture and sent it around to our immediate family.

so hopeful

On Monday, August 21, we went back in for another round of bloodwork and an ultrasound to check on implantation. I got a call around noon, as expected.  But when I heard the voice of the doctor instead of the nurse my stomach sunk. I quickly got out of my little cube and went outside so our conversation wouldn’t be overheard.

“Your HCG levels have gone down, your pregnancy has miscarried.”
“I figured that since it was you calling, it was probably bad news.  What happens next?”
“Well, we’d like you to come in next week and we will follow the HCG levels as they go down. Once they get to zero, we can start the process of monitoring and IUI again.”

I couldn’t help crying. The rollercoaster of emotions - getting my period, being told I was kindofmaybenotreally pregnant, then hooray yay pregnant, then not. I sat outside work, looking at the trees, the Russian embassy, the Kennedy Center, and I cried.

I called K and we cried.

We went back in - August 28 levels stayed the same
September 4 levels stayed the same
My veins were tired of pricks and people at work were starting to ask me about my bruised inner elbows.

I started getting worried if we would ever be able to try again so I turned to the internet - I looked up topics on babycenter, mayo clinic, all the websites I could think of.  Many women said they’d experienced the same after a miscarriage. Waiting around many weeks for levels to bottom back out. Waiting to be able to try again.

On September 11 my HCG levels were up.

 (to be continued)

08 January 2017

New Year's Resolutions

It's so cliche, but as K can attest, I am someone who loves setting goals. Last month when we went to see The Secret Garden - a lush production full of gorgeous voices and overflowing with personal nostalgia - I declared smilingly that "We should set a goal to attend a play or concert every month." K groaned, good-naturedly, and reminded me that I always do that. It's true - I find something I life and try to set a goal to add it into my life more often!

So in the officially-sanctioned season of resolutions, I am in my element. I revel in it. I try to think hard and carefully before making the commitment, but couldn't stop myself from spewing out goals and breaking them down into SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound) objectives.  Okay, I didn't go that far. But that just makes me more ambitious for next year!

As part of my accountability, here they are:

Contribute to my community
  • Educate myself on issues that people of color face and amplify their voices and perspectives
  • When I hear racist/sexist/homophobic/ableist and other unacceptable language, I will speak up whenever I am safe to do so
  • Participate in at least one march or rally about a cause that is important to me
  • Engage with people who voted differently than me in order to exchange ideas, build empathy, and find common ground
  • Practice ways to recharge, stay safe, and take care of myself and make a list of what works best for me

  • Play the piano once/week minimum and memorize at least two entire pieces
  • Join a choir
  • Listen to a new music playlist or a new album once/week
  • Listen to the weekly classical playlist on Spotify

Art and Culture
  • Attend at least 10 plays or concerts in 2017
  • Attend the State of the Arts concerts whenever possible
  • Take more photos - and - extra credit - take a photography class (yes, I’m giving myself the chance for extra credit here!)

Professional Development
  • Attend at least three lectures/discussions about work topics per month to gain fresh perspectives and meet people working on the same issues
  • Meet with someone outside of my office at least once a week to build networks and learn about different ways we are all contributing to solving problems
  • Travel to Morocco and Algeria at least once this year
  • Take refresher Arabic lessons and practice/study for at least two hours/week outside of lessons

Read more books
  • Goal is 25
  • Choose fiction books written by people of color or women 
  • Non fiction books on five topics - Middle East/North Africa, New Zealand, Marriage/Relationships, Having a Baby, and Race/Class divisions in America  - make a concerted effort to choose books that are written by people from diverse points of view (not just white native-English-speaking men)
  • Read one book in French

Fitness and Weight Loss

  • Take off 20 pounds
  • Reduce body fat percentage 
  • Increase body water percentage 
  • Track every day, even if it’s just one meal. Try to stay under 40, ideally maximum 37/day
  • Walk a minimum of 10,000 steps on work days and 7,000 on non-work days
  • Work out a minimum of 30 minutes 5 times a week

31 December 2016

Money money money

I've been listening to a great podcast called Death, Sex, and Money recently and it's inspired me to both think about and talk about these topics more. They are so integral to our lives and yet so taboo!

Today's blog is about financial integration!

Hooray for home ownership!

Okay, I'm not really a homeowner, but my partner is and I'm doing everything I can to share those responsibilities.
We agreed that since K put in the downpayment on the loan, I would make an equal contribution and be added to the deed and loan. So I am purchasing the furniture and then will make a payment on the loan capital equal to K's downpayment minus said furniture.
I really like having such open financial discussions - it helps us both feel positive and clear on our mutual and individual responsibilities. I highly recommend a frank, regular money chat with your partner (or boo as some people prefer).

This podcast, Death, Sex, and Money is produced by WNYC Studios and hosted by Anna Sale and covers the "big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation." Every episode is beautiful and tough and touching and leaves me feeling both a little awkward and relieved at the topics covered.
It's definitely been a learning process. I never tried to consolidate finances with a partner before. It feels like a huge step - a big commitment to one another. K was worried about taking on my student loans; I was worried about her different spending habits.

Once we talked about it, we found some easy and effective solutions. Because I had the chance to save up while I was in Beirut, I was happy to keep my student loans to myself and not lump them into family debt. And to deal with spending habits, we agreed to create a joint account for the house, food, bills, and vacations, then individual accounts for our personal spending - makeup, clothing, gifts, computers, snowboarding equipment, books, etc.
We haven't implemented the plan yet - I've only gotten one paycheck so far so starting up a joint account didn't make sense yet! But I know that with the dialogue we've already started; we are in a great place to set ourselves up for 2017.

In fact, just last night I made a big move and paid off one of my student loans! Only one to go now :)

17 December 2016

I'm back!

I was not successful with my goal to post every day in November but I did learn a lot.

1. I discovered that I have something to write about every day.

I thought that this was going to be the hardest part - finding a topic to talk about every day. But in fact, and especially with the low minimum word count, I found that I didn't get to the pre-planned topics. Instead, I wrote about what had happened during my day, things that I was thinking about, news, etc. I was surprised by the fun and discovery of my every day life and delighted that I had thoughts to share about it.

2. I realized that I really need to take more time editing before I post.

This was partly a side-effect of the low bar I set when I decided to blog every day. My minimum word count meant that as soon as I met that count, I felt finished. Even if I was in the middle of a thought or hadn't carefully explained the experience or story. When I re-read some of the posts I was disappointed in their abrupt endings, poor layout, and bad readability

3. I decided that blogging every day is unnecessary.

I'm not trying to sell something to you. In fact, the number of daily emails that I get from sellers makes me quite certain that sending content *new* *you've got to see this* *everyone on your block has one, why don't you* every single day doesn't actually work from a marketing point of view. Plus, if you're a subscriber, you don't really want to see my blog popping up in your email every day - we all have email overload. Consistency but not overkill is what I'd like to have.

4. I need to set a specific time of day to write.

Too often, I would get to the end of the day and realize that I hadn't written anything; hadn't even thought about a topic. This stressed me out at the end of the day and ultimately reduced the quality of writing too.

5. I would like to spend more time on the aesthetic of my blog.

I focused just on the content and didn't create a look for the blog. Most of the 'also read' blogs are years out of date. Just in general, I need to update what the blog looks like and links to in order to make it a happy place with fun and interesting ideas to explore.

So I've decided:

I'd like to set a new goal of updating once per week, I'm aiming for Tuesdays. I'm keeping the word minimum to 200, but with a goal of at least 500.  I don't have many subscribers just yet, but hopefully once I'm consistent, I will find like-minded people who are interested in what I'm saying.

In truth though, I think what I really want out of this blog is a record and a memory of the beauty and fascination of life and all the amazing things I get to experience.  I'd like to be able to look back and find joy in memories made clearer because I put the time into writing about them.

Listening to: Best of Star Wars playlist on Spotify
Feeling ⛸⛸⛸ - This freezing rain makes me ice skate on my back porch!

01 December 2016

Rabbit rabbit rabbit

Happy December 1st!

Can't believe it's already December.
My big news is that I started my new job on Monday!!!

I will be coordinating, monitoring, and doing strategic planning for assistance programs in Morocco and Algeria.
I am so excited and happy about the opportunity. The team is great, the work is interesting, and I feel that as soon as I get my feet under me, I'll be able to make a solid contribution.

In the mean time, I'm reading and listening and having meetings and asking questions.

Also, I'm doing all the important mundane tasks like adjusting my desk chair so that it doesn't tip me backwards when I sit down in it. I'm setting up hanging files to keep the reference documents I'd like to have a hard copy of. I'm running around getting badges and computer logins.


It feels so nice to have a job again.
Don't get me wrong - I know that at some point I will be tired of being in the office and wish for a vacation - but for now, it is great to have somewhere to be everyday. To get out of the house for a purpose, not just a whim. Doing 10,000 steps a day is a breeze when I'm working. When I was at home, sometimes getting 5,000 steps was a struggle! (Alphabetizing the spice drawer just doesn't require walking around very much)

23 November 2016

having a hard time doing once a day!

Having a hard time recently keeping up with the once a day posts that I promised. It will be a relief to go to once a week starting in December.
I'm planning to do updates on Tuesdays - fresh from the weekend, but enough time to write up on Monday and edit on Tuesday. One thing that has definitely been lacking in this once-a-day stream of consciousness writing has been any kind of editing.

I usually write it once, spellcheck it, and post it immediately.
It's quick, relatively painless, and often ends up being pointless.

I found that I stopped right at the 200 word mark and didn't finish a complete thought, didn't take the time to fully explain or explore the topic that I introduced.

Hopefully going with a weekly post at 500 word minimum will help a lot with that particular phenomenon.

One thing that was interesting and I didn't expect is just how much I have to talk about!

There's always something interesting, or at least interesting to me - it may not be my own life, but perhaps a news story or a new podcast that I've gotten into. In fact, it has sometimes been difficult to choose one thing to write about!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving - and that's really exciting in so many ways :) gobble gobble

21 November 2016

Flu shot

I got a flu shot today!

That's about the most exciting thing in my whole day. I've been feeling a bit down and low energy and couldn't even get myself outside for a run. The cold certainly contributed, but it's still a little worrying.

Another thing I did today was buy a new pair of jeans, in a size larger than I'm currently wearing. I just need to realize that I am too big for my britches. haha. I will be very glad to have them but the process of buying them was put off, delayed, and painful because I've been trying to take weight off so I can get a size smaller, not larger.

It's days like today that I have to remind myself, sometimes verbally and out loud that I need to treat myself and speak to myself in the same way that I speak to my best friends and my sisters. This inner monologue that only finds fault and lack is mean. I would never be so mean to anyone I called a friend; there is no need to be mean to myself. Taking the words out of my head and into a new context really helps. I can look at the words from an outside perspective and recognize their negative impact. And then consciously make the choice to use other words.

I learned some of this from my therapist and realize how wonderful and life-giving it was to have someone actually be that external voice to give me perspective and tools.

It doesn't always work, and when it does, it doesn't always stick. But if I'm going to hold others accountable for being kind, using appropriate vocabulary, promoting those who are vulnerable, then I certainly need to hold myself accountable.