333 - Moving on

I'm moving to a new blog. It's going to chronicle our adventures in mobile living... I've only written one post at this point, and I probably won't become too prolific until April when things start to really take off, BUT if you want to keep in touch, I'll be blogging at http://wheelpleadthefifth.blogspot.com/ from this point on.


332 - On Top of Old Smokey

Yesterday I drove out to Montgomery as I have done for the past few Saturdays, to help out at the wolf sanctuary. I've been worried all week about what Jean and the wolves would do if the wildfires get closer... I got downright upset as I got about 10 miles out from the sanctuary on CR105 and it was so smokey that it looked like fog... you could see where you were going, but the smoke hung thick and heavy, and I had to turn my a/c to recirculate because the smell was strong. I think the morning humidity helped the smoke hang in the air because by the time I left it had cleared off to some extent... but it looked dire.

I could tell that the wolves were edgy. Their sense of smell is so much keener than ours, keener even than a dog's. I read the other day that in a study, it took wolves ten minutes to identify trays with hidden food whereas it took dogs an hour. So imagine a barbecue smoker on steroids, and that's what it smelled like, times it by fifteen and that's what it smelled like to them. For all that, it was business as usual, cleaning the cages, going for walks, there was some tension but I think the sense of normalcy helped calm them.

Since my last post I have become a walker. I have walked Rafiki, Sable, Tala and Remus, or rather they have walked me. And I love it. I love any interaction I get.

Rafiki is shy. When she is willing to let you pet her she backs into a corner in the enclosure where she feels safe and she won't look you in the eyes at first, has to do with how she was treated at the pound. She reminds me of my cat Gracie... very loving but timid... wants to be loved but is afraid to trust anyone (hell, a few years ago that was me!). Rafiki, outside of the enclosure is a much more confident animal. She likes to walk fast, so I don't hold her back if I can help it - I walk fast too - just not that fast. When we get a certain distance ahead she will turn to find out where her penmate Romulus is and she will let him close the distance a little before she moves on, but she does like to be in front. After she looks back, she doesn't turn around and continue on, instead she walks in a circle, and Janet once said it looks like I had a show horse on a leash, because when Rafiki walks in a circle, I walk in a circle. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I think if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Rafiki - don't tell the others.

Sable is shy as well, but in a different way. She, like Rafiki, is a gorgeous white wolf-dog hybrid. Everyone always confuses the two, and when we're walking they will often call her Rafiki. Sable is curious and looks at me through the chain link fence, but if I move in any way she backs away. The first time I went to collar her she stood still and let me do it, everyone was amazed, and when we walked I could pet her as much as I wanted (and since it was a minor miracle I took advantage of it). Whenever Shae or Jesse reached over to try to pet her, she would put me in between herself and the human. The last two times we've walked she backs away from me when I try to collar her, but has no problem walking with me. She is the easiest to walk, she doesn't pull very much, and often walks just in front, or to the side, of me. When Sable comes up to me of her own accord, I will feel like I've made progress. With her it is baby steps.

Tala is an ambassador wolf who gets to go up to the benches and meet people. She and Remus were the first two that Mike and I had contact with when we went to visit the sanctuary in February. She's long and lean and gorgeous, mid-content wolf. She also likes to pull on walks and though lean, she's all muscle and determination. She's very friendly and loves attention. Between her and Remus, neither recognizes the other's dominance, so they often get into tussles and it sounds like they're killing each other. In reality I don't think they actually bite each other, they just jump around, growling and squealing at each other with their jaws open. When I went to pet Tala through the fence this weekend, Remus came up and stood in front of me, his body flat against the fence, growling low in his throat to tell her to back off, I belong to him. She didn't back off. Fighting ensued. So I backed away, feeling bad that I had caused the tussle in the first place.

Remus was the one I had a crush on in February. He's a gorgeous boy and he knows it. I think he's also trying to kill me... Last weekend after we walked, and after we went up to greet the people (something he apparently just started doing), he barreled into his enclosure and dove into the water tub, knocking my shoulder into a support post in the process. Ouch. This weekend he damn near got out of his enclosure as I was going in to collar him. Janet grabbed him by his coat, and I pinned him to the enclosure by bending my leg up under his neck. He is goodnatured... he didn't yip, growl, nip or anything, but the back of my thigh cramped up. He is like a horse... when we first start out he bounds out of the cage and I have to really work to hold him back. Like his brother Romulus, he pulls so hard on his chain that he's constantly panting and struggling to breathe. Last time the whole walk was like that, this time he eventually slowed down and we walked together. So much more pleasant. As we were heading back to the enclosures, a blackhawk helicopter flew overhead and he started whining, but as soon as I put my hand on his head he got quiet. He's a sweetheart sometimes. Then, for the second time, he took me straight to the benches and got tons of attention from everyone because, as I said... he's gorgeous. If he were a man, he'd be Billy Zane.

They all have their own unique personalities... Lakota (or Kotes as I have dubbed her) is a gorgeous white timber wolf, very submissive in her posture as she scent marks me through the fence. She makes a pass and I'll scratch, then she turns the other way and I scratch again. Around the third or fourth pass, her penmate Apache, a grey timber wolf decides that he is the dominant one and I should also scratch him. Whereas she squats down and rubs up and along the fence with her tail tucked, looking me directly in the eye, he walks past me, standing tall, sometimes knocking her out of the way. He looks me in the eye sometimes, but unless Kotes comes up to me, I don't exist.

Yoda and Mystery, the alphas... I don't think we really exist in their world. Mystery is 100% pure wolf who was caught in a trap that she escaped from and was then shot. She is cunning and aloof, loping around the cage in circles. It's her who always starts the howling. It's her that they believe to be Alpha of the 'pack'. Yoda is a big boy that turns into an excited puppy when he sees the leash coming his way, literally hopping from paw to paw. All the wolves and wolf-dogs go crazy when he comes out. Most of the time he shrugs it off. This weekend with the wildfires making everyone antsy, he growled low in his throat and was about to walk over and sort things out with Remus (although there were two fences between them). If he'd really wanted to go over there, I doubt we could have stopped him, but Jesse pulled on the leash and we took a different route... he calmed back down. He likes to sniff and mark by urinating on an object and then scratching the dirt to also mark the surrounding area with his scent. All the wolves that follow, sniff the same spots, mark the same spots. We walk them in a certain order: Duchess, Yoda, Romulus and Rafiki, Tracker and Sable, Koa, Remus and Tala, then Luke. We don't walk Lakota and Apache, Mystery, or Lola (we would walk her but they tell me she hasn't expressed an interest in going).

Luke and Lola are both white wolf dogs. Lola is people shy. Janet walks Luke, and Lola usually retreats to the dog house while we clean her cage. This weekend she stayed out, near the far edge of the enclosure and let us do our thing. That said, it was the end of the enclosure where we were, not the other end, so I felt like it was significant progress. I've been getting her to come up and sniff my hand through the cage, and I hope to be able to approach her someday, but it could be weeks or it could be months. I slowly moved closer to her, squatting down and holding my hand out to her, but I could see that she was on edge and ready to bolt at any moment so I didn't push. When Jesse walked up to her she ran away as I expected her to.

Duchess is the only one that scares me. I'm wary of some, completely relaxed around others... Duchess puts me on guard because I've seen her snap at someone and I've heard too many stories about her. She's the textbook lanky, lopey wolf. She can be very friendly and solicitous, but she's also bi-polar. I scratch her through the fence for a short period of time and I'm done, I'm afraid to hit a sore spot with her and make her mad (she has hot spots that they have been treating). Some people don't seem afraid of her at all... more power to them.

Romulus is a gentle giant. He's still a puppy so he's rambunctious sometimes, but he is a sweetheart. He's Mike's favorite, and like I said... hard for me to pick a favorite, especially now that I've been out there for a while, but I do love Romy. He and Remus are brothers, they're about two years old. Whereas Remus is thinner... wolf with Collie in him. Romulus is almost like a Saint Bernard-wolf mix. Mom came out a couple of weeks ago and she was nervous around all of them, but she was facinated by Romy, said he was the most beautiful. Romy is the yin to Rafiki's yang, she is calm and refined, he is a bull in a china shop, but he is incredibly sweet. When he gets frustrated, he snaps his jaws... he wouldn't bite anyone, to me, each snap is like he's cursing under his breath because he does it when he's being walked and not allowed to run free. He looks terrifying when they bring Yoda out, he stands up and shakes the fence, snarling and snapping his jaws because he wants to be Alpha, but to people he's never aggressive in the least.

Tracker is Sable's penmate, and the newest addition to the sanctuary. He's mostly dog. This weekend he was jumping like a coiled spring and someone joked that they should have named him Tigger because he got about three feet off the ground with each jump. He's adorable. He's another one that always gets to go up and meet people, and he loves to drink from the hose, be sprayed with the hose, and lay in his water tub (took a nap in it once). He has brought Sable out of her shell a bit. From what I understand, she was very protective of her previous penmate who recently died of old age, and now she is becoming much more playful and animated.

Lastly there is Koa, or Koa-bear as he is called. A 'ferocious' beast who would lick you to death if you let him. He is the gentlest of them all, but he is also 95% dog. Somehow he was labelled a wolf and once labelled, it stuck, so he ended up at the sanctuary. He's a big, burly ball of furry love. He and Duchess each have an enclosure to themselves, the rest are paired up. In his case it's because he's too submissive, so it's hard to put him with another wolf-dog. Life is good for Koa.

It's a long drive out there, the work is exhausting, but I love it. It's the best part of my week. Like my dad said, it's very peaceful out there. It's rewarding when the wolves accept you into their pack, and you see changes in their behavior toward you week by week as the trust between you builds. It's not for everyone, there have been people who showed up for a weekend and never came back... we pick up poop, we fill in holes, we scrub water tubs, we walk... but I am looking forward to the day when Mike and I open our sanctuary and are able to do it fulltime. We came up with a name: The Nashoba Refuge. We were originally going with Wolf Haven, but there was already a Wolfhaven. Both of us associate wolves with Native American Indians, so I looked up the word for wolf in Cherokee and there was no word as such, just symbols and a phonetic pronunciation, but the Chickasaw were also from Tennessee and their word for wolf was Nashoba. As soon as I found it, I knew that was our name. We both liked it, so that's what we chose. Both our heads are spinning with ideas and eagerness. It's going to take a while to get going, but we are determined... we know this is what we want to do, and volunteering has only strengthened my resolve.


330 - The Day that Sucked the Life Out of Me

Some days are easier than others. I never truly understood the sacrifices people make when they serve their country, or on the flip side, love someone who is serving their country. Sure I couldn't help but appreciate them and hope for their safety, but I never really grasped the depth of it until I became a part of it. It's not just the loneliness I feel when I'm at home, I also feel lonely when I'm out with friends... having dinner, going to weddings... I almost miss him more when other people are around. And though I don't worry much outwardly, inwardly there is always some concern for his safety. It's stressful... not always palpably stressful, but it is stressful.

I haven't heard from my husband in almost two days. It not only makes me miss him, I also can't help but worry. This base he's at has spotty internet access, and sometimes they maintain radio silence because someone has died or there is some kind of imminent threat, or sometimes they close the computers down for maintenance. I never know why, I just know that I feel like something important is missing. It's harder to feel connected.

I send Mike boxes... I have a box on the kitchen table pretty much all the time. I fill one up and another one is ready and waiting to take its place. I buy food, I send magazines, I put little knick-knacks in... it's the only way I can really show him that I care because he's not here to hug. I know he hates it there, everything familiar is here, everything he loves is here. Some days he's busy, other days he has nothing to do but play video games - and I know some of you are thinking you'd love to have a job like that... you wouldn't, trust me. I've had periods at my job (years ago) where I didn't have anything to do and they watched your internet usage like hawks... when you have nothing to do, you're not at home, you can't watch television, garden, get on the internet, take a walk - do any of the things you like to do - I don't know about you, but I get cabin fever. I also hate that I can't help him... I can try, but there's nothing I can really do.

In short, it sucks. I hate it. I'm ready for April to get here so that we're done with this. I'm ready to move forward with our life together. I'm like a kid waiting for my birthday party, only instead of two or three hours of purgatory, I have eight months of it.

Today I'm just exhausted from it and needed to get it out of my system. I keep thinking if I could find a job, or a way to take my current job with me to TN, I could at least get started on that part of our future and it would give me something to do. Mind you, I keep myself occupied, but I feel stagnate at the moment... I need some forward momentum. That, and houses seem to be selling pretty well in my neighborhood right now... not for the price I was hoping, but they're not sitting on the market like they were. There are 24 houses for sale (which is one less than it has been), and out of those, at least 5 had sales pending (versus none in months past).

Sorry about the glumness... I miss my boo. And the wildfires are also getting to me. I have loved ones in Austin, friends in Rusk, and wolves in Montgomery County... worried about them all. So far all are safe, but they need to get those fires under control... I'm also feeling a little more empathy toward Californians who seemingly deal with this threat all the time... Anyway, sending positive thoughts to all those who are fighting fires tonight.


329 - Zeroing in

After our honeymoon in Dubai, which I have dubbed 'northern hell', Mike and I flew to Tennessee to visit a few properties. We found an area that we like, about an hour and a half northeast of Nashville near a town called Red Boiling Springs. The people there were awesome, the land was breathtaking - and if you're ever in the area, you HAVE TO stay at this B&B... it reminded me of B&B's I have stayed at in Scotland, and the women who run the place are just the nicest people... but I also have to mention the food... OMG, they can cook!!! I never ate so well. And in the evening we did a steam bath, mineral bath, massage combo that was very relaxing.

After the trip to Tennessee, we drove down to Mississippi so Mike could meet my mom's side of the family. They loved him, especially my cousin Jeremy who told me that I got a good one. It's been a long, long time since I've been to MS without my parents. It was nice to go there and feel like an adult, and I got to see most of my family, my cousin Becky even drove in from Alabama.

So now that we've been to TN we're more determined than ever to find a home there. We have all kinds of ideas for the future, but the one we seem to be primarily focused on is opening a sanctuary for wolf hybrids. After our visit to St. Francis earlier this year, we have been especially drawn to the idea, although we've both loved wolves for a long time. Since I have limited experience with wolves I have decided to volunteer at St. Francis to learn as much as I can. Thankfully, after I sent an application and a letter explaining our intentions, they responded by telling me when to show up to get the best overview of what goes on, and even when they walk the wolves. I can't wait to see Remus again... he is such a sweet, beautiful boy.

All of the wolves were gorgeous, and the five that we interacted with were all like big, friendly dogs (which I know is not always going to be the case), but Remus was my favorite. So even though it's a looooooooooong drive, I'm looking forward to getting back out there.

I figure we would would start small, a couple of hybrids (was reading that unless you have a lot of time to spend with them, since they are pack animals, you should really pair them up so that they don't get depressed or isolate themselves). Then as we gain experience we can take on more, and perhaps even an occasional full-blood wolf that may have been injured or displaced. We'll see. I don't want to bite off more than we can chew.

So now I need to start working on a transition plan to get to TN. It will be a while before we find the land we want, but it will be easier to look around if I'm closer to it, then I can get a real feel for the area and really start to narrow things down. So I may start my job hunt in the near future, rent a house in an area near where we're looking, and then when Mike comes back we'll be ahead of the game. For sure we want to go back in December when he takes the rest of his leave and spend a few days looking around.

Anyway, that's the update for now. Dubai was nice, but I didn't love it. I loved spending time with my husband, and our hotel room was cool, and the food was good... but... I like pretty scenery and it was just a bunch of skyscrapers. It was hotter and more humid than it is in Houston - first time EVER that I've stepped off the plane coming back from vacation and found the weather to be a welcome change. Met some nice people there, met some real sleazy people there (at the souks they'd sell their mother for a durham if you'd buy her). The culture was just too far different from mine for me to really enjoy it. I'm more of a European tourist I think - which is good, because we're also going to Scotland! Woot! I didn't think I was going back for a long, long time, but Mike decided that Mikey needed to see some history and he knows how much I love it there so I'm sure that played a part in it, not to mention he's been wanting to go to Scotland and/or Ireland himself. In any case, I'm happy, and I probably made Craig's jaw drop when I told him that he can plan this tour, the only request I had was to go to Birnam for a little while, because that's my favorite spot. And... if we can ride the Hogwart's Express... that would be cool too. :)


328 - A day of 'hurry up and wait'

Took the day off work to get my passport updated and my driver's license renewed. In both cases I had to go down there in person because I was finally changing my name. Would have waited, but my license expires on my birthday so I had to renew it, and I felt like if my license was in my new name, my passport probably ought to be too, just to avoid problems.

The fact that I made an 'appointment' at the passport agency was misleading. Once I got there, I found that I still had to stand in line, show my documents to a clerk and check in, then I was issued a number and sat down with a very interesting variety of people, and waited to be called to another window where I would hand my documents to another clerk who would actually process my request. Both clerks scrutinized the calendar, you can only make an appointment if your travel date is in 14 days or less, so when I told them when I was travelling, I guess they thought they 'got' me... but alas, I was within the window. Ha! I win. By the end of next week I should have my new passport. So that took about an hour. Not too bad, but not what I expected. And they have no parking, you have to pay to park at a lot across the street... $10. I need to build a parking lot so I can charge exorbitant prices just so someone can park their own car and use a machine to pay me for the privilege.

Then I went to lunch with a couple of friends. We ate Greek food, then went to Spec's (liquor store) to look at cheese. I've never been to the downtown Spec's before. They claim that it is as big as a city block... that's a lotta liquor. But they also have food and other odds and ends. I ended up buying a creamy version of Limoncello, a weird soda, and a couple of things for Mike.

After that I went to the DPS. Holy hell... that was... no words to describe... I'm scarred from the experience. There were no spaces in the parking lot so people were parked all up and down the street.  That should have sent me running the other way, but I needed to get this done. So I parallel parked and walked inside. The line was to the door and going nowhere fast. I think it took about 15-20 mins just to get to through the first line of defense, a surly woman whose job it was to put people in their place. I sailed through, but an old woman behind me got some attitude.

So I got another number, and leaned against a wall until a seat became available. A small community formed around me, each of us in disbelief at how unorganized this operation seemed. My number was 084. They were calling 900's and 200's and 600's and 400's... seemed like there was no rhyme or reason to it. Then the surly woman whose job it was to put people in their place asked for everyone's attention: "Anyone here who doesn't have a number, all the support people who do not need to be here, need to leave. Go outside, go to your cars, but you cannot be in here. There are too many people in the building and the fire marshall will close us down." So a few (unhappy) people got up and went outside into the 97-degree heat. Except... there was one woman that surly woman noticed that didn't leave. So she confronted her and told her that her fifteen year old son would be fine on his own, that she has a son that age and she leaves him home alone and he is fine, and there are police officers in the building who keep an eye on things. The lady left, and took her two daughters with her, but she didn't go quietly. I kinda felt like it should have been surly woman's job to control the flow of traffic. If there were too many people in the building, she should have turned some of them away rather than handle it the way she did.

I was there for an hour and a half. And I left with a new restriction.... I have to wear my glasses when I drive. I already do it, but it wasn't mandatory. Now it is. Damn I'm old.

So I started my day at 9 am, made it to the passport agency by the skin of my teeth at 10 am, spent some time with friends, braved the DPS, and finally made it home around 6 pm. This was my 'day off' and I only enjoyed about an hour of it. Plus I didn't get to talk to Mike very much, so that sucked. Glad tomorrow is Saturday. Sort of.

Also, Cat Genie... about to shove it up someone's... yeah... so far it has gotten plugged up twice, which results in shit soup... very nasty, and something I really don't want to deal with. 90% of the time the cat's are pooping on the garage floor anyway. I'm dealing with more shit than I ever did when I was scooping out a litterbox. So after I came home to shit soup again today, and had to clean pee off the guest bathroom floor, I gave in. The litterbox is back in business. The cats win, Cat Genie sucks and I'm sorry I ever purchased it. In theory, it was great, and maybe for some people it actually works, but for me, it has been nothing but a hassle since day one.

So ending on a positive note... Red Riding Hood was a good movie. I wanted it to be, but I hadn't expected it to be. I was pleasantly surprised. Haven't run across too many good movies lately.


327 - Obsessed... again

I'm back in full-out couponing mode. It's addictive. I'm not one of those Extreme Couponers, although I watch them and dream of someday checking out for $0 (not buying quite so much stuff)... but... for the moment, I can work a deal at CVS and Walgreens, and maybe save about 30-60% on my groceries. I agree with the EC's... coupons = money.

This weekend I got several boxes of cereal, three bottles of Ragu, two bottles of mayo, a bottle of ranch dressing, some candy bars, mosquito towelettes, suntan lotion, razors, pain relievers, several air fresheners five 2-liters of Pepsi... and a whole bunch more... a trunk full of stuff... $230 retail value, for about $60 out of pocket, and I got about $30 back in Extra Care Bucks and Register Rewards to spend next week, plus there was a rebate on one of the items, plus a $10 gas card. Filling up for $23 felt good. When it all settles out, I effectively paid about $19 for the lot.

Then I heard that Sears has a promotion this week where if you buy $50 worth of men's apparel (happy father's day!), you get a $25 gift card back to spend next week (in store only... I had Mike about to order online before I read the fine print). I scanned the internet for printable coupons and found a 20% off coupon that happened to be good until 5 pm yesterday, so at 3 pm I hauled ass to the store and bought Mike four shirts and four pairs of shorts for $85 (retail value was probably over $350 before sales and coupons). What made the deal extra sweet was that we had gotten a free $50 gift card from Sears for writing to the corporate office to tell them about a shipping debauchle with a workbench we'd ordered. In the letter I explained the problem, but I also praised a very helpful associate... I try to be fair. They actually called me to follow up on the letter, and they offered the gift card even though they had already refunded our shipping costs. So Sears is on the good list - do business with them! Effectively spent about $40 out of pocket after taxes, and got $25 of that back in a gift card... happy... happy... happy...

I get all my deal scenarios from the links on my side bar. I use Southern Savers and My Dallas Mommy the most often, but I check around on the other sites because sometimes I find deals there they they both missed. Check the math though, sometimes prices vary.

Online, I use EvReward.com to see which rebate sites are giving the biggest percentage back, and then I use RetailMeNot.com to find coupon codes to stack on top of that. Save a lot of money that way. Sometimes you have to try a few codes out before you find one that works, but hell, if you save $10 it's worth a couple of minutes, is it not?


326 - Kristy for President

Taxes. They suck. I was thinking about how they could suck less - if I got to choose where they went. All those fluff programs? Gone. Everyone elects where to spend their taxes so only the programs we're interested in supporting continue to thrive. For example, I would choose to reinvest my taxes in NASA, and I would allocate some to disaster relief - DOMESTIC disaster relief (I'm not saying I wouldn't donate to the Red Cross for other countries, but it would be my choice and I wouldn't sink this country further into debt). I know there are more programs, but I don't have a list so those are just examples. And we have a flat rate tax, with a cap. Everyone pays the same percentage, but after a certain dollar amount that's it. Also - social security. I get to decide if I want to participate in a program that probably won't exist when I'm eligible to apply (at 70 if I want full benefits... which are then taxed AGAIN). Otherwise, the money remains in my check for me to spend as I choose, or I stick it into an IRA.

Deal with the illegal immigration issue - I would put at least half of my taxes toward building a huge wall with a moat and a 9-ft underground gate so they can't even tunnel under. BUT if they did... move the prisons to the border towns, so if they do manage to dig their way in, they land up in jail where they belong. I'm not against immigration, but there are people who do it legally, and there are people who start their life in this country by breaking the law. Also - English would be the national language. Driver's tests would not be in any language but English. Signs would not be in anything but English. If I moved to Germany I would learn to speak German. Don't come to my country and expect me to acquiesce to you.

Bikes on roads with a posted speed limit over 35 mph would require a registration tag, which would require a bicycle driver's license. That test would also be in English. The money raised from that would be used to build bicycle lanes to make travel safer for both cyclist and automobile. On roads with a posted speed limit over 35 mph in areas with a population over ? it would be illegal to ride a bicycle on a road without a bicycle lane. If the area isn't highly trafficked, fine, but I drive on roads where the traffic is constant, the speed limit is 50 mph, and people are trying to get around a bicyclist who is going 25 mph and obstructing the flow of traffic. If a car did that they'd get a ticket. This isn't just about me as the driver of an automobile, I'm trying to make it safer for everyone because I know several cyclists who have had more than one near miss.

Elected officials would be subject to the same rules as the rest of us. They don't vote themselves a pay raise - we do. If we are forced to be a part of a nationalized healthcare plan, they are forced to participate as well. The President doesn't get to fly everywhere, instead, he takes a bus, like a tour bus - and he has to pay for a portion of the gas, so he'll damn well care how much it costs. Elected officials must spend a certain number of days per year in their home state, so they don't lose touch with their consituents. And this guy gets cut the fuck off (he can borrow my gun if he needs to... sorry, but I just don't consider it a loss if he checks out).

It's just tiresome that government spending continues to spiral out of control, that we lose more and more of our freedoms while the fat cats get fatter, and aren't subject to the same rules. I know none of these ideas stand a chance in hell... but wouldn't it be nice if they did? What a wonderful world it would be...


Don't know what number this is because Blogger isn't cooperating

Feel like things are finally coming together, and it's been months since I've felt that way. The past few months have felt like utter chaos. With the IVF everything felt rushed and negative, for both of us. I had very few days that were completely stress free, but more often than not I cried. Hormones are a horrible thing when combined with stress. To be honest, at this point I am relieved. I think we were both soldiering on for the other person, but as Mike said, the scientific approach of IVF took all the fun out of it. Mike being gone also took the fun out of it (for both of us).

We've found some land that we like and it's enabled me to crunch numbers and figure out where we'll be in about a year from now. So far, so good. We're still going to keep looking, but it's hard to find what we want, where we want it, for the price we want to pay. At some point during Mike's 30-day break, I want to go visit these properties and if we like one of them well enough, we may decide to buy. I can only imagine how that will feel... to actually put money down on land... *shiver*

Our dream is very simple, but also very complicated, so I tend to think of it as 'simply complicated'. First we get the land. Then we build a house... in the meantime we are discussing features we want and trying to figure out how to build a home that is somewhat 'green' but doesn't cost a mint. After the house comes the garden. Then we focus on a garage to house our vehicles and machinery... with that much land we'll need a mower, possibly a tractor, an ATV to get around to the far reaches of the property, and 'we' already have a few vehicles; one of which is mine, hahaha. After the garage comes the barn, after the barn, the animals... some chickens, a miniature cow, a handful of goats, a couple of dogs, and a donkey (to protect the other animals). After the barn comes the greenhouse. We figure it will keep us pretty occupied, this dream of ours.

My big job now is... to find a job. The kicker with this dream is that all the areas that have the acreage we want are going to be, by nature, somewhat rural. That means the job market is going to be pretty limited, so either I find a job I can do from home, or I have a very long commute. If I could keep the job I have, but do it from home, that would be ideal... but I know I can't because my company isn't that progressive. The type of work I do could easily be done as a telecommute, but because of liability issues, or trust issues, or reasons I don't understand, they just don't let people work from home. To me it makes a lot of sense, they save on utilities, they save on office space, employees are happier, it helps traffic flow by getting people off the roads, we save on gas, we can cook our own meals at home if we want to so we're healthier (in theory)... it all seems win-win.

At this point it's been over twelve years since I last looked for a job. I think I started this job in February of 2001 but I'd have to look at my resume to verify that. So it's scary for me. I look at postings and they never seem to fit, and in the past I've never taken chances because I didn't really need another job, I was merely curious. Now I will need to branch out and explore, probably taking an entry level job just to get my foot in the door. I'm not against that as long as the paycut is reasonable, and Mike was very supportive of the idea. In some ways it's exciting... it's also terrifying.

I'm not even sure what different kinds of work there are for telecommuters. Right now I'm focusing my search on technical writing. I think I would like the work, I know someone who does it and it sounds interesting because you're always learning something new, but the methodology stays pretty much the same. Lord knows I like to write. Even if I'm not getting paid to write a novel, I'd still be getting paid to write, and that seems like a step in the right direction. The question is... can I find a job doing it? I have time to look. If I find one in the next couple of months, there's nothing stopping me from taking it. If it takes a few months, that's okay too (although I will start to get nervous at some point).

We've been doing research about farming and livestock. I found the coolest magazine... Urban Farm. I read one issue and learned so much that I subscribed and I can't wait for the next issue... too bad they only publish six times a year. I have also bought some pretty good books about how to improve soil and the easiest, most efficient ways to grow things. Mike has been doing all kinds of research too. There are some things that interest only me, some things that interest only him, and several things that both of us are interested in... it works. :)

So I'm very excited about our future. Is it time yet?.... How about now?... Now is it time?...


324 - Hmph

Either the rapture didn't happen yesterday, or - as I have suspected all along - people on the road are so evil that the rapture did happen and none of them left. Was really hoping for some elbow room out there...

My tomatoes are finally starting to put out. The bigger, more exotic tomatoes are taking their time, but the four that sprang up on their own are very prolific so far. At this point about ten tomatoes have ripened up. Only four survived. I ate the rest... *evil laugh* Can't wait to taste my first Cherokee Chocolate, Black Krim, and Blue tomatoes. Yum.

Starting to look at land in earnest. Mike and I are both eager to get started on the next chapter of our lives, it's just a matter of finding the right place. In some ways I would prefer to build, but it takes longer. And land without a home on it requires a larger down payment, has a shorter repayment term, and a higher interest rate. With a home we can go conventional... less than 5% APR for 30 years with a one downpayment. And we don't have to deal with the headaches of building a house. On the other hand, building a home gives you creative license, and that can be exciting. It just seems like it would be overwhelming, and in the meantime we'd have to live in a doublewide or something - which is fine, but it's an added expense. Don't know what's going to happen. We've seen some really nice properties, they're just exorbitantly priced or too far west. (I don't want to be ass to elbows with Mexico)

I took a couple of days off from work to get my head together and that really helped me. All of my friends (blog friends included) were wonderful, they gave me space but were there if I wanted to talk. Only one person hugged me, but she waited until I was ready (which I know was hard for her because she's the first to give you hugs when you have a bad day). During my time off I took care of some things I had been putting off... I slept in... basically took some me time and didn't push myself to do anything.

Even though he wasn't physically here, Mike was always there for me, and that helped me enormously. Poor thing, he is 9-1/2 hours ahead of me so sometimes I get a message from him and realize he's up at 3 or 4 in the morning. He has a way of calming me down and giving me perspective about things. We've figured out what our next steps are going to be, but I have realized that we were (okay, I was) too open with everyone about things, and for my own sake I have realized that I need to keep things to myself. So I can't tell you if we're going to try again, give up, or let nature take its course at this point. It's hard for me to keep secrets when they're my own secrets, so this is going to be a challenge for me, but I think it's for the best.

I'll leave you with good news. I bought one of these so I wouldn't have to scoop cat litter anymore. Healthier for me, healthier for the cats, no more scooping or lugging boxes of litter home from the store. I was happy, happy, happy...

It was such a pain in the ass because the tube where the wastes go down the drain would NOT fit down the laundry drain with my washer hose, and I don't have enough room in my bathroom to put it there (plus I like it being in the garage). My next door neighbor suggested clear, flexible plastic tubing, so when I finally got the right size, that worked great. Then it was a matter of getting the cats to use it. Took Gracie a few days, but now I usually see poop in the bowl. She makes me so proud. Daphne, on the other hand... she's special. I tossed one of the litter boxes so there was only one left, and I haven't scooped it in almost two weeks. I put it right next to the cat genie as if to say, 'nasty litterbox... clean litterbox... your choice' and she insisted on using the nasty litterbox. Finally, this morning I saw her poop in there with Gracie's. *dance of joy* A few more days of that and I can toss the other litterbox!!! Woot!!!


323 - Epic Fail

Remember how excited I was?

That made the fall all the more dramatic... No follicles. None. Had my camera ready to take pictures, felt like an ass. Estrogen rose a little then it actually dropped. So we're basically done with this cycle. I may try again... I don't know. It was a more difficult process than I thought it would be. A few highs, and way too many lows. Has made me feel pretty bad about myself as a woman actually. Like a failure. Does make me feel justified in my decision not to involve my parents though.

Mike and I are discussing our next steps, but I realized I told way too many people about this process and will now have to deal with sympathetic looks and unsolicited advice about what we should do now... and I really don't need that. I wish I had kept my mouth shut. If I sound bitter I'm sorry, I have had a rough couple of days. Stayed home from work to get my head on straight. Did better today, didn't feel like a zombie like I did from late Monday until I woke up this morning. My eyes aren't leaking anymore (seriously there's a difference between crying and suddenly realizing there are tears streaming down your face). May go in tomorrow. Don't know yet. Seriously debating it. Don't have vacation time so it eats into what we can save if I have to take leave without pay.

On the upside, this little episode proves that I really do have the best husband in the world. Being on different time schedules with intermittent internet access makes it hard, but he checked in on me anyway. He has said all the right things to make me feel better about this, and about going forward. Somehow I got extremely lucky and ended up with him. Can't wait until July when I can feel his arms around me again... miss that so much.

Anyway, probably won't be blogging for a while. Who knows, right now I don't know how I feel from one second to the next.


322 - Owie

The clinic I go to posts lab results on a patient portal. I meant to look at the numbers when I got the news that my FSH was normal, and promptly forgot... so as I was going to bed that night I suddenly remembered and got up because I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep until I saw them. My FSH went from 17.4 down to 2.57. I'm not just normal, I am on the lower end of normal. So I felt even more reassured by that. A friend suggested that maybe the fibroid they removed was the culprit all along, and I agree. I'm sure the birth control and the acupuncture and the lower stress levels all played their part, but the fibroid makes a lot of sense.

Last night was an adventure. My first shot. Getting the liquid into the syringe didn't go quite as smoothly as I expected. I've loaded syringes before, for the cats, but for some reason, even though the tip of the needle was below the level of the liquid, it just wasn't going in. Finally got the 1 cc of liquid in though. Then I started mixing it with the powders, one vial at a time. About halfway through I noticed there were 2-4 drops worth of liquid left in each vial, which isn't such a big amount in just one vial, but multiply that times eight and it starts to matter. I had been putting the vials over the syringe and pulling down, but had seen a video online where a woman held the vial at an angle and put the bevelled edge of the needle in the lower corner of the vial... that worked great, so I went back and collected all the drops. Tonight it shouldn't take quite as long to mix everything now that I know what to do (I was still well within the 20 min time limit).

So I psyched myself up, changed the needles out (one for mixing, one for injecting), was pleasantly surprised to see how small the needle was compared to the cap that covered it. I had swabbed the area with alcohol before I mixed everything, so I just went for it. Forgot to pinch a damn inch. After the needle was in there, I panicked and pinched it anyway... what the hell good I thought it was going to do, I don't know... Started to push the plunger...

I remember the nurse said I could use 1 cc up to 1-1/2 cc's of liquid if it burned 'too much'. I understand now what she meant. It burned. It wasn't such a big deal to stick myself with the needle, continuing to push the plunger was not such an easy matter. I'm kind of glad now that I had to do it myself, because I had control over it. I think had Mike been doing it, I would have screamed, because he would have shot it all in there at once - like I had been planning to do. So I thought when I pulled the needle out the burning would stop. Oh but no. It did NOT stop. Instead, it continued to burn, and my muscles started to clench. It felt like that time when I was seven, getting a shot in the thigh and I tensed up and almost broke the needle... hurt like hell for the next few days. That kind of pain is what I felt immediately after the needle came out.

So I started feeling warm, and light-headed... that nasty pre-cursor to puking, know what I mean? I went to lay down... started rubbing the area trying to get the medicine distributed instead of it sitting there localized. That wasn't working, so I started jiggling my tummy fat instead. You laugh, but after a minute of doing that, I felt better. I was able to get up and do things again and even though I sometimes still feel tender in that area, it hasn't bothered me much.

I learned a few lessons from that... I will be sitting down when I give tonight's injection, and I will pinch before I poke, then I will immediately lay back and begin to jiggle. Also gonna move the shot to 9 o'clock so I can take a bath first, that may also help because I'll be relaxed and my skin will be warm. And if I don't feel well I can just go to bed without having to worry about anything else.

Felt okay today. A little crampy, slightly bruised. I think as the level of medication increases in my system I may start to feel additional side effects like nausea and sore boobs. Luckily I have a weekend to laze around, and a house full of food. Except for acupuncture, I don't have to go anywhere.

One down... a few more to go... I will know more about what's happening and when on Monday.

Have been struggling with what to tell my parents when I get pregnant. Thinking the question of how it happened is inevitable since Mike is in Afghanistan at the present time and has been since the beginning of April. Thought about all the lies I could tell them... the doctor removed a fibroid (true) and gave me Clomid (true in the past) so when I went to visit Mike (true) in Italy (false) the stars aligned and yea! - you're having grandkids! (pause for reaction) Or I could soften it to IUI instead of IVF, omitting the surgeries and the medication... it was just a catheter and Mike's boys - hey what a party - by the way - you're having grandkids! (pause for reaction)

But in the end I think I will just tell them that I've decided not to go into detail about how it happened, everyone just needs to be happy that it did happen. And did I mention that you're having grandkids???

I know that if they find out I did IVF and didn't tell them, they will turn into a reason to be upset with me. If I tell them, they will worry, and they will get their hopes up (and they will stress me the F out). By not telling them I'm actually trying to do something nice. But somehow I doubt they are going to see it that way. I don't want to have to argue about it and tell them that this is between Mike and I and they didn't need to be involved, or bring up two recent health events they didn't share with me... I don't want it to get ugly and I realized I was already bracing myself for it. I honestly hope they will be so happy I'm pregnant that it won't come up, but I know my mom, she's more curious than a cat and like a cat, when she gets ahold of something, she won't let it go. So keep your fingers crossed for me.


321 - BEST DAY EVER!!!

My FSH levels were "normal"!!! That means I start medication on Thursday!!! That was the last thing I was really worried about, everything after this should be smooth sailing. I know that sounds weird, but if the medication didn't work the there was no 'everything after this'.

I want one of these. My friend said they're cheap entertainment. I think they would be... like tennis, with bugs. Muahahaha.

My credit card company surprised me today. I had to put the IVF on a card, I couldn't get a loan. So I fretted up until the day I paid, that they might lower my credit limit and I'd be fuc... screwed (sorry Ms. A). Economy is bad, my debt level has increased considerably over the last few months for various reasons... I just had a bad feeling. Yesterday when the transaction went through I was happy. Then I got home and there was an envelope with checks in it that I could write against that same account, but if I used the checks, I would get 0% APR through November of 2012. By using my card, I was going to pay 18.99%... at the time I had no choice. So I called the credit card company and explained that I had gone online a week ago and there was no offer, but mere hours after I make the purchase I get a check in the mail. The rep told me what I expected to hear, but my intention was to speak to a supervisor all along, so I just asked to be transferred. When I spoke to the supervisor he said he could understand my frustration, and he gave me the 0% for 12 months!!! So we save about $450 in interest charges and we may even get money back because I get rewards dollars for purchases, although since it was through an offer I may not (and if I don't, it won't bother me... I am still happy). So I looooooooooooooooooooove my credit card company. I have always had good experiences with them, and today they went above and beyond anything I could have expected.

Anyway, I know that wasn't a non-IVF blog, but I can't help it. I hoped for the best, but i've had a lot of bad news lately, so I was still on edge, and to get good news was just amazing. I've been crying off and on about it, but they're happy tears. This time next month we could be pregnant!!!... Just gotta get over that first shot....

On the downside, I went to the dentist today and I have three cavities that need to be taken care of, plus 5-6 more spots that could turn into cavities. He prescribed me some higher percentage fluoride toothpaste and told me to floss every night and MAYBE I can reverse it to some extent. I'm also going to try to cut back on sugary sodas... with these trays in, the sugar just accumulates around my teeth and sits there... I knew it was probably dumb to drink them with my braces in and this just proves it. The worst part is, he said if he does fillings, it may change the shape of my teeth, and since my trays are very exact, they may not fit right in the future, they may have to be redone... I have to talk to my orthodontist tomorrow. Depends on how much it costs to redo those trays... I know I have two more in this box, and there is another box. Each box holds 8 trays but it may not be a full box... so at least another 6 months, I think I'm 2/3 of the way through the treatment... I don't want to pay another 1/3 of the cost and I'm sure insurance won't cover any of that additional cost. But... I also don't want my teeth to fall out... or to have to have root canals or extractions.

And his name is Mike, not Bob. I guess I was trying to keep one piece of my life private, but I figure I'm putting everything else out there, and he told me he doesn't care, so... my husband's name is Mike. Kinda funny... two of the most common names in the universe... Mike and Kristy... Kristy and Mike... it works.  :)


320 - That's not normal

It's counterintuitive to give yourself a shot, it's just something that seems... wrong when you try to rationalize the doing of it in your head. But if all goes well I am about to have to overcome that mental block. I had my teaching lesson this afternoon. My first injection should be an interesting experience, I have never been afraid of needles, but I've also never had to give myself a shot before. I'm supposed to pinch an inch (this is where it's beneficial to have some meat on your bones), stick myself, remove the needle, and release. I asked why I had to pinch and she said it help it go deeper into the subcutaneous tissue.

I told the nurse that this was like a track and field relay, so many hurdles to overcome. Today I did another bloodtest and another ultrasound. If my FSH levels are too high, they cancel this cycle, if they are under 20 I should start taking the injections this week. I aced the ultrasound, no cysts. The other purpose behind this ultrasound was to do a baseline so they can see how the lining of my uterus changes over the course of treatment. It should begin to thicken in preparation for an embryo to implant.

The teaching lesson itself was overwhelming. So much to remember. I took a few notes. There was a lot that didn't stick, because the timing was dependent upon some predecessor that could change depending on how I respond to the treatment. So I listened, but only with half an ear, knowing my calendar would be updated as things changed. I wanted to absorb it all, but there is so much information being thrown at you all at once. I asked a lot of questions and she was very patient with me. They always seem to be upbeat, patient, willing to answer questions. I'm sure they deal with patients even more frazzled than me... I don't know how they stay so calm.

I take the first medications in the evenings, I have a window, not a set time but I plan to take them at 8 pm every night, setting alarms on my phone so I don't miss a dose. Then as the follicle development progresses they add another medication to the regimen to prevent me from ovulating. When the follicles have matured they tell me to take the HCG shot. That one has to be timed exactly. She told me there have been patients who were told to take them shot at 9:15 pm but were going out to dinner so they took it at 4 pm. When they got to the egg retrieval there were no eggs because they ovulated. And there were some who forgot to take it that night, so they took it the next morning, and there were also no eggs to retrieve because they were still stuck to the follicles. I figure if I'm going to go to all the trouble of ultrasounds and blood tests and surgeries and injections... I'm damn sure going to pay attention to the most important shot of all. Otherwise it all goes to waste.

She said that after the egg retrieval I would probably be bloated, that ovaries are normally about the size of almonds, and because they're asking mine to produce more follicles than normal, they will probably swell to the size of golf balls. Some patients look four months pregnant. So I asked her  how I would be able to tell the difference between that and Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome. She said with OHSS, all the fluid goes to the abdomen, so I won't go to the bathroom more than once or twice a day, I will have problems breathing because the fluid would push against my diaphragm, I won't be able to keep anything down, and laying down would be painful. She says it's "rare" with maybe 1 in 25 patients experiencing it... which doesn't sound very rare... but hopefully I won't be that 'one'. Anyway, she said to expect bloating and the cramping will probably last for a couple of days. I've already talked to my boss about being flexible with my time and the possibility of working from home during some of this time. Since my pants probably won't fit and it sounds like I'll be pretty uncomfortable, I may be out for that whole week, from the retrieval to the embryo transfer and the period of bedrest too. He has to clear it with his boss and the GM of the company so it's not a sure thing, but they usually work with people on medical issues. I also told him I don't know how the medication is going to make me feel, that's a lot of hormones and drugs to be taking in a short amount of time. He's pretty understanding... hell, one day he came into the office to ask me how I was doing and I started sobbing. He sat down and talked to me for a while until I felt better... there's a lot to being a manager...

One of the medications may cause a reaction at the injection site... especially in fair-skinned people... yippee... I'm fair-skinned... Has some kind of preservative in it that irritates the skin. She said I may get a small welt like a mosquito bite that goes away in 20 minutes, or I may get a large welt that lasts for several hours, but not to be concerned, it's normal.

So I'm on my way... it all hinges on the results of my bloodtest and I should know by tomorrow afternoon. I'm am hopeful that the acupuncture and a reduced level of stress has helped my levels decrease. I've had three sessions. The last two involved electrical stimulation to four of the needles in my abdomen, and I also got acupuncture to go in the form of small needles in my ear. I managed to keep the last ones in until the day of my next appointment, I actually pulled them out or they would probably still be there. With all the vitamins and supplements, and some changes in my diet, I do feel somewhat more , energetic, which is good because I've been extra busy this last month runing all kinds of errands and going to appointments. It's made me feel good about myself too, one of my main fears about having kids is that when you need something you can't just put it off, and I used to put things off. Once I was home, I was home and that was it. But for the last couple of months I've been breaking out of the box more and more, and I know that when something needs to be done, I can motivate myself to do it. I know that sounds like a silly thing to be proud of, but... yeah...

All this really makes me miss Bob more. I could really use his help with this. Even though I have a lot of support it's a very isolating experience... People can only help me so much and I have to do the rest myself. But it would be nice to have him at the appointments, or being there when I feel like shit and need a hug, or helping me with the injections. Part of me recognizes that we don't have the time to wait for a better situation, but part of me regrets that this is my first pregnancy (hopefully), possibly only pregnancy, and I don't get to have him here with me, talking to my belly, going shopping for baby stuff, going to the ultrasounds, getting me weird food when I start to crave stuff... all the stuff that parents do together before the baby comes. As hard as it is for anyone to go through this, it's especially hard for me because I'm missing half of the team. He will be here for the delivery, he'll save his leave up for that, but after a little while he has to go back and finish up the contract. So it still sucks, but hopefully it won't be for long, he should only have another month or two to go at that point. As a friend pointed out to me, I'm determined to do this, and I am very organized, I will set my alarms, I will follow the treatment plan to the letter, I will do what needs to be done and I will be okay. I think. To be honest I'm kind of terrified right now. Terrified of what happens if all this doesn't work, and terrified of what happens if it does.

Tomorrow I'll try to post something non-IVF related... I have some ideas already but I'm tired of typing and this is long enough...


319 - Good to go

Yesterday I had my saline sonogram. Basically the doctor inserts a small catheter into your cervix, and through that he puts a saline solution into the uterus so he can see the contour of the uterine cavity. Once the saline is in, he inflates a balloon (I guess to stop the water from coming back out), and then inserts a sonogram wand to look at the uterus and ovaries. It wasn't as uncomfortable as I'd feared, I thought the catheter would be really, really painful, but I didn't even feel it go in. The first time he inflated the balloon I didn't feel it either. But he said, "Sometimes the catheter doesn't seat right and you have to put it in further." So he did. And I felt it a little more. When he re-inflated the balloon I felt it for sure. It was a sharp pain, but momentary. Figured I'd be crampy afterward but I wasn't... but that could be because I took 600 mg of Ibuprofen about an hour before I went in... He had also given me a two pill Z-pak to take that morning so there would be no risk of infection.

He was really good about telling me what he was doing and what to expect. He's growing on me, I'll admit.

When he first came into the room he said, "I'm sorry I took so long, I had to pull the procedure up on the internet so I'd know what I was doing. The good news is, so far everything is going exactly like they said it would!" And then came the jokes... What's blue and looks like a bucket?... A blue bucket... What's red and looks like a bucket?... A blue bucket in disguise. I told him my Bin Laden joke: Guy walks into a bar and says 'bartender - give me a bin laden', bartender asks, 'what's a bin laden?', guy says, 'two shots and a splash of water.'

So after that, we went to his office. I told him I was going to try the other chair this time, because the one I'd always sat in before seemed like nothing but bad news. Sure enough, it was the chair all along... he said my uterus and ovaries look fantastic and I'm all set. I'm fully healed from my surgery and I don't have any cysts on my ovaries as I'd feared I might. I take my last birth control pill on Sunday. I'm sure you're wondering why I'm taking birth control when I'm trying to get pregnant... and since I am obviously having trouble and Bob isn't here it seems further pointless. Apparently the birth control pills thin the uterine lining, calms the ovaries and lets the doctors control when you ovulate, and that way they can schedule their patients. Also seems to reduce or prevent ovarian cysts. So I stop that on Sunday. Then on Thursday evening I start taking my shots. On Monday I have a teaching appointment to learn how to mix my medication and give myself injections, and I have a baseline ultrasound. Tuesday I have a dental appointment because I know you need to do that before you get pregnant, as gum infections have been said to lead to miscarriage, so I'm just getting checked out. Pretty sure I have a cavity or two, just want it all taken care of before it's too late to do anything.

So as usual, I start to relax and then comes the snafu. I'm flying my cousin in to stay with me after the embryo transfer because I have to be on bed rest for three days. I thought when I started the meds, I plugged the date into the calendar and day by day I knew what was happening. Not so. The old calendar showed me taking ten days of meds, the new one shows eleven. Apparently I can take the medication anywhere from eight to fourteen days, it all depends on how my body responds to it. So I won't know when the egg retrieval is until 48 hours prior. But, the good news is, that gives me five to seven days notice for the transfer. So it sucks that I have to rely on my friends to take me to two more appointments and I can't tell them when those appointments will be, but it sucks worse that I can't schedule my cousin's flight. Thank god for Southwest Airlines... they only charge you the difference in fare, no change fees. So it only cost me another $30 to reschedule her flight... I'm just guessing at the moment, but the first flight date was definitely wrong so it had to be done.

Getting excited... things are really starting to happen now, and I'm hopeful that I will surprise them all and produce plenty of follicles and viable eggs, but yeah, I'm worried that this may all be for nothing. The acupunture-to-go is still in my ear. I have managed to keep the two needles in there for a week. When I wash my hair I cup my hand over my ear and I think that has helped the bandaid stay on because the adhesive was never wet. I figure the longer, the better... I'll get more benefit from it. I've also been eating better and while I haven't lost much weight I think I have lost a little, which I figure helps.

Other than that, I guess the big news that already came and went is Bin Laden. Initially I was worried about Bob being in a country full of pissed off terrorists... then I got fed up with people on Facebook posting crap about it. I feel like Bin Laden must be laughing in hell, because instead of bring our country together, his death has managed to further divide us. There seem to be two camps... those who think Obama walks on water, and those who think he's the anti-Christ, with very little in between. I just can't fathom that Obama is getting credit for this. All he did was happen to be in office at the time, the military and intelligence communities did all the work. There was actually a woman who wrote in to a radio show I listen to who said she was getting tired of Obama and wasn't going to vote for him if he ran again but 'now that he's killed Osama Bin Laden' he's got her vote.

I really fear for our country because the sheeple are taking over... I don't like the guy, but it isn't even about that because I don't really like any politician, it's about thinking for yourself instead of taking what the media tells you at face value. It's about realizing that Obama didn't start the manhunt, he didn't support the tactics used to gather the intelligence, he was going to pull our troops out of the middle east, so while everyone is doling out credit, give some credit to Bush, give most of the credit to the military, and give some credit to Obama for his part in it. But don't give all the credit to Obama and don't give all the credit to Bush, neither of them put their lives at risk, and neither of them pulled the trigger.


318 - Olivander's Wand Shop

So I got my medication over the weekend... When I stacked it in the closet it reminded me of Olivander's wand shop. Before that, it looked like this...

Ignore the spice rack... that's not part of the routine. :)


317 - Outlet

With everything going on in my life lately I feel like I need an outlet. I'm supposed to do things that relax me, things I used to do but don't anymore. Turn the tv off. Listen to classical music. Play the piano. Turn the water fountain on and light some candles. Read more.


I got out of the habit of writing this blog because I was busy, but now that I have oodles and scads of time to myself I think I need to get back into it. Plus I need to let off some steam (once you see how long this entry is you will probably run away, and you're probably smart to do so). Hopefully it all makes sense... I'm so tired I can't see straight.

In the little posting that I've done, I mentioned that Bob and I got married. And I let you know that we were trying to start a family. I think I also may have told you that I was going to ditch the fertility clinic and find another one. I have to eat crow on that one. After a few more visits, and a peek at my doctor's (impressive) credentials I have changed my tune. I was frustrated at the time, and my doctor doesn't have much of a sense of humor so I find it a little hard to relate to him, but we've gotten past that. They did do testing to confirm everything, I guess he's just seen this enough that he has a good idea what the diagnosis is going to be, whereas I am a newbie. The staff at the clinic is top notch from the receptionist to the nurse to the surgical staff.

So here's where we are now...

I have high FSH levels. Normal is between six and ten, I've found some internet articles that expand that to twelve, mine is 17.4. I kind of let that get to me at first, but later found out that FSH levels vary from month to month, so I don't know if that's high or low for me. I also have low ovarian reserve, which means the quality and quantity of my eggs is on the decline. Early on Bob tried to cheer me up by telling me I could eat rocks, and his chicken reference totally went over my head... he suffered badly for that... my sense of humor about this comes and goes and I know it hasn't been easy for anyone to deal with, but Bob gets the brunt of it. He's a get to point A from point B kind of guy, very logical and wants to fix everything. I'm an examine all the angles and figure out my next move in all scenarios kind of girl. Doom and gloom at first, then I make a plan. Don't always want people to solve my problems, sometimes they just need to listen - one of my friends is really bad about giving advice and it drives me nuts. Ironically when I was talking to my doctor about what I can and can't take once the meds become a part of my regimen, he said I could eat rocks for all he cares. Lookee there, he's developing a sense of humor! (and Bob was on the right track)

So basically, there is a chance that I could get pregnant the old fashioned way, although that obviously couldn't happen until Bob gets back, but the most direct path to motherhood is IVF, and my doctor has told me that if we want to get aggressive about it - now is the time, in a few months my hormone levels can change. How much does that suck? It took some careful, though rushed, consideration. When we first started this discussion I wasn't too keen on it... at this point I look back and think I had the right idea, but I really want children, and I know that as much as I want them, Bob (possibly) wants them more (you should see the look he gets when there is a baby around). He has assured me that if this doesn't work, we'll be okay, that he's happy with the way things are and won't love me any less. That helped a lot because I was dealing with my own demons about what might happen to us if I couldn't have kids, in addition to dealing with my own feelings about the situation I find myself in.

I told Bob that it makes me feel a little like a breast cancer survivor. Many women who lose their breasts feel like their womanhood has been taken from them. To find out that I probably can't have children without help was hard to come to grips with. I've gone my whole life trying not to get pregnant because I've always assumed if I didn't take strict precautions it would happen at the drop of a hat. For most of my life I didn't want children, and now that I do it's a slap in the face that it's such an ordeal. And ordeal it is.

First there are the tests. Blood tests to find out if you ovulated. Blood tests to find out if your have infectious diseases. Blood tests to find out if you've been exposed to the chickenpox. Blood tests to find out how your eggs are doing. Blood tests to get other hormone levels. After that there are the procedures. Hysteroscopy to see what condition your uterus is in (mine was fine except for a small fibroid, which they removed). Tubal cannulization to run dye through your fallopian tubes and determine if they're open. Thank god they put me under for that. Next I will have a saline ultrasound which sounds super duper extra fun... I get the speculum, and then they put a catheter through my cervix to fill my uterine cavity with a saline solution before they put the friggin' wand in. This shows them what the lining looks like and how my body has healed since the fibroid was removed (it was 30% in the uterine wall and 70% in the uterine cavity so there could be a scar, which we don't want). It also shows them if I have any cysts on my ovaries. From what I've read, as long as the cysts don't produce estrogen it shouldn't hold anything up, and since they have me taking birth control pills, that lowers the liklihood that I should have cysts anyway. But I have had at least one in the past. I don't get to go under for this procedure... I just take some over the counter Motrin and an antibiotic to prevent infection. They claim it's not that uncomfortable... I don't quite believe them... and I wonder where the saline solution goes when they're done. If that's fine then I start the drugs.

I have three kinds of stimulation drugs. I have to mix two of them from powdered form and inject them. Since Bob isn't here I get to do that myself. When I say he isn't here it's just a statement of fact, nothing more, it just makes it harder on me in many, many ways. I have to be more dedicated than most. No one to remind me, no one to help me, no hugs, but he is there every day to encourage me and he does everything he can. The third drug comes in later, and is in a pre-filled syringe that I can squirt into this other mixture so I can take them all in one injection. If I understand the process (and I so don't...) all of those drugs tell my body to create follicles, which is step one in the egg creating process. Then there is the shot I have to refrigerate, I think I take it 36 hours before the egg retrieval and it is the shot that tells my body to actually produce the eggs. I also have pills that I let dissolve under my tongue, muscle relaxers for after the embryo transfer, antibiotics for various reasons, steroids to prevent inflammation, and pain relievers (for obvious reasons). All the meds, plus the syringes, needles, alcohol wipes and a sharps container were delivered this afternoon. That in itself was an odyssey that I will spare you.

Between all that I've had to deal with the pharmacy, my insurance company, try to figure out who is going to drive me to three different appointments that I can't drive myself to, and try to schedule a flight for my cousin who is going to stay with me when I have to spend three days lying in bed (not sitting up... lying down... they were very specific - I am only to get out of bed to go to the restroom). Plus I have to deal with my emotions about everything. Bob being gone is hard to deal with, trying to stay positive about all of this is difficult. There are so many ways it could go wrong and I try not to focus on them, but I know they exist. Since my FSH levels are already high, my body may not respond to the stim drugs, they're basically FSH and are trying to spike my levels so I'll produce follicles. If I don't produce follicles, we're done. If I do produce follicles and they turn into eggs, they will do an egg retrieval. Then they put the eggs in a petri dish with Bob's sperm and hopefully embryos form. If the eggs aren't viable there are no embryos and we're done. If embryos do grow, they choose the healthiest ones and transfer them into my body via cathether. If they don't attach to my uterine wall, we're done. I will be on a regimen of progesterone to support the pregnancy and hopefully we have two beautiful babies at the end of this.

I've started thinking about the success rates of IVF and I wonder how much of it has to do with the patient. If I don't mix my drugs correctly, if I don't take them at the right time, if I inject them in the wrong place, if they were stored at the wrong temperature, if I take something that adversely interacts with the drugs (grapefruit juice???)... all of those factors affect the outcome. What the doctors do is certainly a large part of the equation, but they are professionals, they do this day in and day out. So I wonder how much of the first round IVF failure rate has to do with user error, the drug learning curve. I have to go to a teaching appointment so the RN can show me how to inject myself... It's overwhelming... I freaked out when I first saw the instructions on how to mix the medications I have to inject. And then there was a nineteen page document about IVF. I flipped. I was sobbing and typing an email to Bob... it's stressful. Every aspect of it from the diagnosis, to the procedure, to the finances, to the outcome.

To deal with the stress of it all I started going to acupuncture. The clinic I go to actually recommends it and I have read several articles that claim acupuncture does improve fertility in women undergoing IVF (specifically IVF). It either has to do with stress reduction, or bloodflow to the reproductive organs, or maybe it's just a placebo effect or all of the above, but whatever it is, it supposedly improves your chances by up to 50%. They claim it can also reduce FSH levels, which is golden. I've only been to two sessions so far, but I like it. I still tense up when Marie puts the needles in, some sting, some don't, but it's my body's expectation that it will sting that makes me tense... She spent about an hour at the first session going over my medical history, my eating habits, my sleeping habits, my stress level. She put me on a b-complex vitamin and a couple of enzymes. I'm sold on the enzymes, I'm not bloated for the first time in months. As for the acupuncture itself I think it's more of an internal change than one I can feel at the moment. Today she added electricity to the mix, a small electric current via alligator clip on some of the needles in my abdomen, it tingled is all. And before she sent me home she stuck two tiny needles in my ear, they're covered by a bandaid so you barely notice them. It sort of itches, but is otherwise unnoticable. Have to remember it's there when I scratch though... otherwise I am reminded... The longer they stay in, the better, but if they fall out it is okay. I have two, one is for relaxation, the other is for my uterus. Fun! Did you know that acupuncture is a four year degree? I had no idea.

I've been trying to relax as much as I can. It seems like every day there is a new curveball being thrown at me to prevent that from being completely successful, but I still try. Bob does his best to talk me down, and it really does help. I know he feels helpless being so far away and probably doesn't realize how much his emails do help. We both made the choice for him to take this job, so I can hate the situation, but I'm not at all mad at him for it. In a way, he has it worse than I do... I can take action, he can't and I know that has to frustrate him even more than he lets on. I also have a very good group of friends who are going above and beyond to help me out and be supportive and who put up with my wishy-washiness. I had to ask them a difficult favor by letting them know what's going on, but asking them let me initiate the conversations about it. At some point I realized that while things are going great and I'm excited I probably won't shut up about it... but if things go the other way, the last thing I need is people constantly bringing it up. And I know that's not fair. Plus, in my case it's even more important that I get past the first trimester before I tell people I'm pregnant. Again... I try not to think about all the negative stuff, but I have my aha moments.

One of the more difficult challenges is that I'm not telling my parents any of this. They would stress out over the surgeries, the medication, they would hover. But also, I don't want to get their hopes up. If it doesn't work, I think that's the kindest thing I can do, because I know mom has always wanted grandchildren. Me and Bob being disappointed will be plenty without anyone else having to go through it too. His family knows, some of them anyway. They handle it differently than my parents would, they don't worry as much. I'm trying not to involve them in the actual process though, partly because if I do and then my parents find out... it starts a shit storm that isn't fair to Mike's family. Also, I'm just getting to know them and this is a farily intimate thing I'm doing. To share it with people I've known for decades is hard enough, to have to ask them for help is even more difficult. I don't mean talking about it, I mean having people there when I'm at the doctor's office and things of that nature. If I get in a pinch I will ask, but otherwise I think it's best if I don't.

So that's pretty much my life at the moment. I try to keep myself occupied with other things as much as possible, but as I said, I have more time on my hands than I did a short while ago. And I'm not a very social creature, so going out every night doesn't work for me like it would most of my friends. Plus most of the socializing I do seems to center around drinking at some point, and I'm trying to avoid that at the moment. Trying to eat healthier and act as if I'm already pregnant so that it's not such a shock when I have to give certain things up... I'm going to miss bleu cheese... And I need to learn to sleep... but that's another subject altogether and this post is long enough.

I was telling Bob earlier that a lot of my friends have told me I'm taking on a lot all at once, but it doesn't always feel that way. When I set my mind to do something, I just do it. Bob is the same. We did decide to keep the house and not move. I'm not trading Scout in just yet. Things are slowing down bit by bit and it has helped immensely. I adjust a little more every day to Bob being going, but I do miss him. Sometimes I smile when I think of him, sometimes I cry. I feel a little obsessive sometimes because I'm constantly checking my emails to see if he's written anything... it's a little pathetic - I sleep with my phone in case he IMs at odd hours because I don't want to miss an opportunity to talk. We do write back and forth a lot, and we IM, occassionally we talk on the phone. We talked today and even though it was short, it was good to hear his voice. Now if we could just figure out how to send hugs over the internet...

And now if my fucking neighbor would turn the music down I would go to bed because I'm exhausted... You know... I have parties, but I can't remember a single one where people were screaming all the time, hooting and hollering for hours, and I don't play my music outside where the neighbors have to be bothered by it - even during the day. I guess if I wasn't running on empty right now it might not piss me off so much, but in my imaginary world I just lobbed a grenade over the fence at them. In my imaginary world... this problem is solved... In reality I keep hoping that someone will call the cops or MAYBE they will suddenly become considerate of the people who live around them... no... surely that's too much to ask...


316 - More changes

When Bob got to come home unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago, we decided to get hitched. Just as a large wedding can cause all kinds of headaches, so, it seems, can a small wedding. I think people expected me to get all giddy and gush about how beautiful the dress was, the decadent food, the poignant service... but it was just the two of us and it was a very casual ceremony. I didn't waste money on a dress I would wear once... I've already had a big wedding. Neither of us wanted that. Truth be told it doesn't feel any different except I have a ring and my last name has changed. That's not to say I'm not happy about it, I am... I've just been very happy for a long time now. :)

I'm back on a seed buying frenzy. All kinds of vegetables and trees and flowers. All kinds of interesting things you just don't see at the nurseries around here. We eventually want a lot of land, and I want it to be interesting to look out from the house and see color at all times of year... apple blossoms, cherry blossoms, flowering almonds, japanese maples, sycamores, dogwood, forsythia, jasmine, honeysuckle, blackberries, blueberries, figs, avocados... tomatoes of course, and other veggies. Right now about all I have in the ground is tomatoes. I wasn't going to go overboard like I did last year, but four tomato plants sprung up all on their own, so once again... I have eight. Which I can more than handle. I love tomatoes. This year I planted black krim, chocolate Cherokee, Mr. Stripey and a BLUE tomato. Yes blue. Look how gorgeous! More pics, bluer pics. I think the others are going to be a small pear shaped yellow tomato that was pretty prolific last year. I forgot to collect the seeds, so I got lucky... I won't make that mistake again this year.

Had to get a new computer... mine totally crapped out. This one is a Dell. I'm having to get used to a different keyboard placement and a new operating system, but so far I'm happy. I loved my VAIO, I just didn't have the money to get another one right now.

Anyway, just dropping in for a bit. Gonna go catch up on some blogs, and some gardening. Decided to relax this weekend. Things have been very stressful lately and I need some R&R!


315 - Obsession

More on the house hunt... my apologies ahead of time, this is a 'mostly for me' blog, and it ends badly.

I couldn't wrap my mind around how such nice houses were in such a crappy area, so I did what I do, I obsessed, and I researched (obsessively). Crime stats are good. In the four mile radius around the neighborhood, no crime at all for the past 30 days. In the zip code, a few aggravated assaults and thefts, but no murder, rape or burgulary. It sounds bad, but it's pretty much on par with where I am now. I looked at flood plains, very low risk there. Awesome. I looked at days on the market, slightly less than where I am now. Good sign.

I finally realized that in the original zip code where my search began, there is usually a one street difference between the good part of town and the bad. What is the difference? The houses in this area are actually nicer, and much, much larger, they just aren't as close to the city. As a result, there isn't as much income potential when I go to sell the house, although two of the three are undervalued so there is a sort of instant equity already built in.

My decision is to go visit the area this weekend and see it for myself. Resale value isn't as important to me at this point. If I stay in this house for another year, I could end up losing equity, it's all risk. My house is already not quite worth what I'd hoped. It's a great house, people ooh and aah over it when they walk in, so I'm hopeful that when it goes on the market there will be a lot of interest and it will sell quickly, and for a good price, but you never know. The houses in my neighborhood have been on the market for an average of 145 days. That is a frightening number, especially when I look at the pics and don't see anything wrong with them (of course, things are different in person so there could be plenty wrong). Also scary -- when I price them out, most of them are priced under the $/sq ft from 2009. There are two exactly like mine but I have a renovated bathroom, new windows and gutters, and a large patio so I think I have the advantage, but it's all about finding the right buyer.

As far as why the prices are so low, I discovered that my front runner has probably been empty for the past three years. That explains that price. It looks like it was put on the market, taken off the market after five months, then recently put back on the market two years later, but never sold. The tax info says it's owned by "such-and-such estate," so I figure the owner died, and no one has lived in it since. One of the other houses is a foreclosure, which explains the price. The third house is more expensive, it's also turn-key and privately owned. So I'm happy with all the facts I've uncovered. I think Bob has a point, my agent knows his specific area very well, and his area is urban, it's close to downtown so that's the kind of real estate he appreciates. I'm used to a suburban setting, I kind of prefer it to be honest (really I want a rural setting, but we're taking that in baby steps...).

This real estate education I got is all like a mirror of what's happening in the economy. One of my friends lost her job with NASA... she has three kids, and child support isn't going to cover all of her bills. I have another friend who is a teacher, and she will be jobless come June... her husband recently quit his job for health reasons and the tenants in the condo they own are moving out (condo isn't paid for... the tenants were paying the rent). It makes me edgy. I don't like to see people in those situations. And every day they pull more and more funding from our budget, we're managing, but there will come a point when decisions have to be made, I hope not to be one of those decisions. I imagine that some of the houses I plan to look at are on the market as a result of this economy and it makes me sad for all of us. There doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, just more problems to throw money at, more wars to fight, more taxes to pay.

Eyore, signing off....


314 - Long time, no posts

And I bet I'm the first one to ever use that as a blog title... not.

So much going on... in October Bob's contract ended and I had to learn to stop calling it 'my house' as it is now 'our house'. We moved some of his furniture out of storage and I sold some of mine... Our styles are very complementary, so it was almost like I got to go on a shopping spree, only it didn't cost me anything, and the house looks fabulous. Last year's New Year's Resolution was to declutter and organize, I did do a lot of that in order to make room for him, but I'm still doing it. Just this week I shredded seven bags worth of old bills, last month I sold over $1,000 worth of furniture (and my treadmill), and I have also donated several bags of clothing and toiletries to a local women's shelter... and still there's more to do. Where did all this shit come from???

Bob is now is Afghanistan and he will be there for a year. As I said, his contract ended in October. He kept looking for work in the area but was unable to find anything, so through his network of friends/co-workers he got this offer to deploy and after we talked it over he decided to take it. It's fresh, he just left last week so I'm still adjusting to him being gone... I cry at odd moments and I send him a ton of emails throughout the day with stuff I'd tell him if he were here, probably drives him crazy, but I can't help it... I miss him. Funny how quickly I returned to my old habits, but things are a lot less satisfying than they used to be. Anyway, we'll be fine, we actually got to know each other through emails and IM and eventually started dating because of it, so it's old hat to us. If you want to make it work you can. There's nothing that can be done about the hugs, I just have to wait until the next time we see each other.

In the meantime I'm planning to visit him, probably in Dubai, then he will get a mid-tour break where we can spend time at home, or travel, and I will try to visit him again in Dubai after that. Hopefully we'll get to see each other every three months.

We've also been trying to get pregnant. I've spent my whole life trying not to so I wasn't sure that we could, and given that I'm almost 38 I was afraid I was getting too old... Wouldn't you know it -- I am having fertility issues. I took two rounds of Clomid, a drug that was supposed to make me ovulate, I started out at 100 mg and went to 150 mg for the second cycle. I didn't ovulate either time so my ob/gyn referred me to a fertility specialist. FML. Her nurse gushed over him, said I would love him. I think my expectations were too high... instead of loving him, I felt like I was sitting through a sales pitch.

Honestly I expected testing of some kind before a diagnosis and treatment was discussed. Thus far all they have done is put me on Clomid. There was no hormone testing, no tests to see how many follicles I'm producing each month and if any of them are turning into eggs, no dye through the fallopian tubes to see if they are blocked, no suggestion that I should lose weight, no discussion of how much stress I've been under lately, the fact that it's only been a few months since I stopped taking the pill was never considered, I don't know if I have PCOS or endometriosis... there is a lot between point A and point Z that could happen and hasn't. All this doctor did was tell me that they would give me FSH shots and wanted to freeze Bob's sperm to inseminate me with. He said at age 37, not ovulating, if they just give me the shots I have a 14% chance of conceiving each month. If they give me the shots and do an insemination my odds go up "by 50%," which is a 22% chance... which doesn't add up. It's an 8% better chance, and if you want to look at it this way, 22% is a 35% higher chance than 14%... but don't bullshit me with 50% and peer pressure that 'most people, given the odds would chose to take FSH and do the insemination'. When I weigh the odds, I'd rather just do the shots. Get me to ovulate, I'll take it from there. I would prefer to have testing done, get an accurate diagnosis, and then go from there before I do any of those things.

For now I'm going to get the results of my blood test, and I'll go in on Friday to get my progesterone levels checked, but after that I'm done with this clinic. There's another clinic that seems to take a more diagnostic approach and when I'm ready I'll give them a chance. There's really only so far I can go without Bob here. In the meantime I plan to try and lose some weight, and I'm taking an herbal supplement called FertilAid that is basically a prenatal vitamin with Vitex in it, and Vitex is supposed to normalize women's hormones/cycles. Here's hoping.

I also sold Trixie. We were going to start a family and she wasn't exactly a family car. It was hard, I still miss her, and Scout hasn't filled her shoes though Scout is a very nice car. Scout is a Mini Cooper Countryman, the new model in the Mini line, she has four doors and a hatchback trunk with fold down seats. We got a lot of bells and whistles, so she's 4-wheel drive, has the type of headlights that turn with the car, she's got navigation and tons of features... and she still smells new (which I do love, and yes I know that smell I'm breathing in is plastic toxins but I still get a rush of endorphins from it so leave me alone!). But she isn't my dream car, I guess you only get one. It's hard to know what to tell people when they ask if I love my new car... I do... but she's not Trixie. They don't know how to process that.

So next on my plate is moving. I would like to move further north, away from the coast, out of this NASA reliant real estate market, closer to my best friends. And it will be better for Bob's return, I figure we have a lot of choices to make and we will probably be here for at least a year while we come to some decisions. The area I am looking into is an up and coming area where the houses are being refurbed so there is an opportunity to earn quick equity. No guarantees, but the opportunity is there... only thing is, work will be required and thus far it's been more work than I'm willing to put into it (not into gutting houses, just willing to remodel a room or two and do some painting). This house is done, there is more I could do, but I've done all the improvements I can do and not price myself out of the market... I miss having projects, I like doing them, but I know my limitations. Found some amazing houses last night, only to find that the area is on the decline and my realtor says there are parts of town he wouldn't feel comfortable being in after 7 pm... it sucks because one of them was pretty much a dream house, so looking at real estate in a nice area that I can afford is a little disappointing now.

Since I last posted we also went to Niagara, visited a wolf sanctuary and Bob had a flying lesson. I'll have to tell you about those next time, and post some pics. (that's if any of you still read this blog... I would have given up on me by now) Miss you guys, hope you are well!