Archive for June, 2010

Fertnal: Cursed exclamation of frustration here.

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

When I said progesterone shots suck, that was an understatement.

Progesterone shots are somewhat irritating/uncomfortable for everyone lucky enough to need them. That said, it turns out that I had a decidedly adverse reaction. Sometime between my December experience with progesterone in sesame oil and now, I developed an allergic sensitivity and my body won’t absorb the stuff anymore. When I finally went back to the clinic Monday morning, my doctor immediately decided to switch me for this and any future cycles to a different progesterone delivery mechanism. I will not miss those shots!

The bad news is that sometime between Friday and Monday, the two tiny embryos I was carrying stopped being. When Dr. M called us with the disappointing news, she said she was very surprised that this cycle failed, given that we started with two 4AA embryos. There can obviously be many reasons for embryos not to stick around, but Dr. M said she “couldn’t rule out” that the low-grade fever I ran from Wednesday onward caused the failure. (I’m sure my stress level as the pain mounted didn’t help either.)

I know it might not have changed anything, but I wish now that I had insisted on making the trip to the clinic Thursday or Friday to have the nurse actually look again at the injection sites as they were getting worse, instead of just talking to her on the phone and being reassured to just take a little Tylenol if I needed it for the pain. If you or anyone you know ever has fever while trying to be pregnant, encourage them to go to the clinic and get seen immediately.

The good news is we have five good embryos cryopreserved this time. So a few months from now, after my body musters a normal cycle or two on its own (and after I stop being so damned irritated about this cycle), we can try yet again. In the meantime, we sincerely appreciate all your support and encouragement.

p.s. For those playing along with the home game, this week’s soundtrack includes heavy rotation of the Scottish band Simple Minds’ 1985 rock anthem “Alive and Kicking” (10 mb MP3):

What you gonna do when things go wrong?
What you gonna do when it all cracks up?
What you gonna do when your love burns down?
What you gonna do when the flames go up?
Who is gonna come and turn the tide?
What’s it gonna take to make the dream survive?
Who’s got the touch to calm the storm inside?
Who’s gonna save you?

Alive and kicking
Stay until your love is, alive and kicking
Stay ’til your love is, until your love is, alive.

Fertnal: Wishing and hoping again…

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

A week ago, Bill posted an “instant update” about the “cycle” we’re doing now. Here’s a little more info.

Bill and I have wanted a family of our own for A Long Time. With medical help, we tried a protocol in December that was not successful. We’re now trying again. We’re doing a variation on the protocol we did before, but with a higher probability of success.

So far, things are looking good. Where last time we had just one average embryo to work with, this time we had two great-looking embryos. We transferred them into me on “day 5” a week ago:

Bob & Bill's 4AA blastocyst
One of two 4AA “best quality” blastocysts (click for larger)

We’ll find out later this week whether either of these embryos decided to stick around a while. In the meantime, I’m continuing to take a daily medicinal cocktail to make me as hospitable a host as possible: baby aspirin, two kinds of estrogen, and progesterone.

Carolina NagelI admit that there have been a *lot* of medicines during this process. However, none of them have been truly unpleasant until now. Out of all the tablets and injections and patches and goops, the worst are the dreaded progesterone-in-oil shots.

Author Carolina Nadel illustrates this point succinctly:

Blogger Julie Robichaux conveys the same point with much more colorful commentary. Her post is not for the squeamish, but I laughed so hard I cried.

In clinical pharmacology terms, “Progesterone… differs from other commonly used steroids in that it is irritating at the place of injection.” As in always, for everyone, including me. I’ve got angry red welts on my hips (imagine half a hot dog tucked under the skin) that seem to get bigger with each daily shot. These welts are 5 degrees hotter than my adjacent skin (another use for my Raytek MiniTemp!) and have been intolerably painful a couple of times. I’ve also run a low-grade fever several days. Suffice it to say, progesterone shots suck.

If this cycle doesn’t work out, my consolation prize will be that I can halt these damned shots immediately. But if at long last we succeed, I will find a way to stick them out for as long as I need to.

The Week of Riding Dangerously

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

While I’m hanging out here at the Doctor’s office on a Sunday, I’m reminded that I still owe an update on the MS150. This isn’t that post. There are too many pictures sitting on my PC that need to accompany that post for me to tap that out from my iPhone. For those that have caught my brief rants on my Facebook account, by now you know that I’m having issues with an upgrade to Windows 7. For those who have managed to stay off of FaceBook, you haven’t really missed anything.

Back to cycling, though, which makes me happy (yay, endorphins!)…

After a hard couple of months in New York that ended in mid-May, I’ve had a significant stretch of time at home. This has allowed me to work on my fitness quite a bit , trying to get back to some semblance of where I was (not even “should have been”) coming out of the MS150 training season (i.e., at a significantly higher peak).

Since my road bicycle is typically equipped with a power meter, I have a comprehensive, quantitative view of my fitness level and, consequently, of how much work I am able to do. Combine that with riding with the same group over the same course week-in and week-out, and the longitudinal comparisons come quickly and unflatteringly. If I were a Pixar cartoon character, I would be wearing the Cone of Shame. For example: a couple of weeks ago, my average wattage for our weekday ride was about 10 watts less than normal (~285 vs. 295), and my peak wattage was about 300 watts less than normal (~900 vs. ~1200). The remedy: time for some bonus miles…

I focused the last two weeks on getting in rides as often as possible and on riding the right ride at the right time. This is a little harder than you might think. You don’t want to go all out all the time, and you don’t want to just sit-in for a comfortable pace every time, either. Instead, interval training within a workout and workout timing are the orders of the day. My timing with my work schedule was good because I managed my first seven day stretch of riding every day in a LONG time: hard days keeping up with the sprints in my group ride, recovery rides on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and then long weekend rides at a decent, but not overly ambitious, pace. By this week, things were starting to look good again. Seems like time for a setback, right?

On Tuesday, I snapped my chain climbing the Stairway to Heaven (the Edloe overpass next to Lakewood Church). I was pushing 700 watts at the time while trying to “baby” my rear freehub by not doing a downshift under power. Well, my cassette started to skip, and snap! — no more chain.

Alrighty, then. I have another bike to ride while the parts come in to do a comprehensive fix. On Thursday, I rode Big Blue, my “dual sport” Gary Fisher 29er. While not as fast as my road bike, Big Blue has its own flavor of fun riding over potholes at speed. Or at least did.

At the halfway re-group point, I notices that my seat was a little too springy. Examining the seat, I noticed that there was a large crack in the seat tube just above the weld where the top tube and the seat tube intersect it. Not Good. While there is a lifetime warranty on the frame, Big Blue has seen its last ride. This is sad, because Big Blue was the bike that really got me into loving cycling.

Bye, Blue. You’ll be replaced, but never fully.

Fertnal: Instant Update

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

We saw Dr. M this morning for our procedure. Everything went very well. We got to the office a bit before 8am for some blood work and acupuncture (for Bob; I’m just the designated driver). After that, we had a bit of a wait, but activity started getting pronounced at 8:57, and by 9:08, it was done.

Bob’s now doing her post-procedure acupuncture (she likes acupuncture a lot), while I try to figure out how to upload photos to our blog from my phone.

More later.

LOL Tibbs: Secret caffeine addict?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Tibbs with tea mug
“I can has tea now, but I’s too tired to lift it.”

To Hell and Back Again: Tibbs Goes to the Vet

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Bob spent part of last week up in Las Vegas with our friends Cindy and Paul. For Bob, the timing was great because it fell in a window where she could spend some relatively unfettered time with friends whom we haven’t seen in too long. The timing was terrible for me since I was coming off of more than six weeks of constant travel, and all that I wanted to do was to stay home and work on many long-neglected projects.

For poor Tibbs, one of those projects ended up being a trip to the veterinarian.

Because The Monster hates the vet, I got the cat carrier out of the closet on Friday so that he would not instantly go on guard right before we tried stuffing him into it. This gave him almost 96 hours ahead of our Tuesday morning appointment for him to realize that there was nothing threatening about the hated cat carrier that was open on the living room floor. Really. Nothing Threatening. I promise.

Needless to say, but El Diablo gave it a wide berth over the weekend. And on Monday. Cats don’t recognize national holidays.

So, since Tibbs has to be sedated to get his teeth cleaned, and by sedated, I mean a general anesthetic, since the horse tranquilizer dose for cats gets a little dangerous at the levels required to “calm him down”. This meant “removing his food” before I went to bed. Which I dutifully did. And which he dutifully let me know how hungry he was on Tuesday.

Note: hungry cats somehow tap into some sort of predator mode. I don’t know why. Also, for some inexplicable reason, this seems to tie into some sort of “fight or flee” reflex. Inconvenient, that one is.

So, I go to pick up The Cat, and The Cat is talkative. Mostly about food. And the lack thereof. And we walk. And he is still talking. Why are we headed away from the food? Are you aware that the Food Dish is supposed to be over there? You may not be aware of this, since you’re Not Around Much, but Mom usually feeds me in the morning, and I’d kind of like that trend to continue, if you don’t mind.

Never trust a cat that starts getting polite.

Dearest Papa, why are we headed towards That Blue Thing?

Dearest Papa, you’re sleep walking. Here, let me help you wake up!

I told you not to trust a cat that starts getting polite.

As it is, Tibbs bit me and squirmed his way out of my grasp. The hard way it is.

Getting vertical
Much like Maverick and Goose from Top Gun, when Tibbs feels a bogey on his tail, he goes vertical. Fortunately, we have step stools. This did not please Senor Gato Supremo.
Getting vertical
Who bugged out to the bathroom.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Which was a tactical mistake since the bathroom has a door. That closes. That he can’t (yet) open. Thus, Tibbs was captured and transported to the vet.

Too many hours later, a suddenly friendly kitty was returned to me. At least he was friendly long enough to get his delayed shot of insulin and to inhale a can of food. Then the realization set in.

You did this to me….
Screw You!
…and I didn’t like it!
Screw You!

Fortunately, whoever said love can’t be bought never had a cat. Love costs between $4.99 and $7.99 depending upon time of day and from which store you buy it.
Screw You!

In Tibbs’ case, love is a roasted chicken that Daddy shares with him. Unfortunately, he often neglects his own food in anticipation of such a “treat”. Note the hungry-sounding kitty and the completely ignored food dish that might satisfy said hunger.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

And the cat lived happily ever after. Or at least until the next time he had to visit the vet.

Twenty five years of cost cutting

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

A while back I sorted through several boxes of my childhood stuff. Among many items inexplicably packed were a handful of empty 8-ounce Shasta soda cans.

After wondering why the heck they got packed in the first place, and before I recycled them, I was curious about something (something besides whether anyone still drinks Shasta).

25-year-old Shasta can
Coke can c.2010 and Shasta can c.1985

I weighed one of the cans, and compared it to a modern empty Coke can. The two appear fairly similar and they feel about the same. The difference in weight is only 1/8 of an ounce, which isn’t much… until you realize the Coke can only weighs 1/4 ounce.

The Coke can carries the same 8 ounces of soda as the twenty-five year old Shasta can, using fully one-third less aluminum. The cost and materials savings of that design change are huge. The environmental benefits of processing less bauxite ore and using less fuel to transport the same amount of product are significant, too. That’s pretty cool!

Girl fun: rainbow mini cupcakes!

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

When I read HeatherAnne’s post about Rainbow Cupcakes, it sounded like a perfect activity to do with my nieces. Izzy and Sierra will be 5 and 10 respectively in July, and baking is well within their abilities.

Sierra’s school lets out at 12:30 pm on Fridays. It took me six weeks to carve out a work-free Friday afternoon, but I eventually did. I picked up the girls, we hit the store together, and spent the rest of the afternoon baking and icing. Meanwhile, Chris and Shawn enjoyed some kid-free time for a change. Much fun was had by all!

giggly girls
Lots of giggling made for great stress relief!

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

rainbow mini cupcakes
Gorgeous colors outside…

rainbow layers inside
… rainbow layers inside!

The resulting cupcakes were both beautiful and delicious. But I have two observations for anyone who wants to try these:

  • the girls wanted some in “proper rainbow order,” but they also really enjoyed coming up with their own color combinations, and
  • pouring leftover batter into layers in a loaf pan was easy; carefully spooning thin layers into 24 mini muffin tins was a tedious PITA. Next time: we’ll use regular or even over-size muffin tins.

All aboard UP’s steam engine #844!

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Through my Citizens’ Transportation Coalition (CTC) effort, I’ve done some work with the Union Pacific Rail Road (UPRR). This relationship recently yielded a new perq when their Public Relations director invited me to come ride their steam excursion train.

UP steam engine #844
Union Pacific steam locomotive number 844

UP has the largest collection of historical railroad equipment of any class I railroad, and engine #844 first operated in 1948. During April, the Valley Eagle traveled from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Harlingen, Texas and back. We met the train in Old Town Spring.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Chris and Bob by steam drive
Chris and Bob by the four huge drive wheels

Me, Chris, my colleague Ian, a couple of Houston City Council members, a staffer from the County Judge’s office, and several others boarded the train in Spring and rode back to the Amtrak station in downtown Houston.

Chris and Bob on the train
The train interior was spacious and comfy

During the ride, we visited the “dining” car to buy souvenirs, and sought out windows in the vestibule and at the back to capture photos and videos of the scenery.

Chris at the back
Chris and I took pictures out the open back door of the train

Bob concerning the conductor
Bob got scolded by the conductor to go back inside

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

I’ve ridden intercity heavy-rail trains before in Oregon/Washington, the Northeast corridor, and in France, but never in Texas. This trip reaffirmed that I’m ready for intercity rail, even high-speed rail, from Houston to Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. I also enjoyed seeing familiar railroad sites — like tower 26 and the Englewood Hump Yard — from a train point of view. But my favorite part was spending a couple of hours hanging out with my brother.

Adventias: Picking my battles…

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Robin and Sarah lunching
Robin and Sarah at lunch at Belmont

Our Gran’mom has been taking an anti-dementia drug for three months. Aricept is definitely allowing her to function better, but I can’t say that she’s functioning well:

  • she brings dishes upstairs from the communal dining room, unaware that she has her own dishes inside her cupboard;
  • she wraps breakfast bacon in paper napkins each morning and stows it in her clutch with her glasses to carry it upstairs for her cat, and forgets to take it out and give it to him; and
  • she cut her own hair, unaware that she could go upstairs to the in-house hair-dresser, or have me drive her to a local salon.

Over time, she’s developing new preferences and new ways to do things. One of the challenges of loving someone with dementia is discerning which behaviors are merely new and distracting and which warrant intervention.

Counter-top kitty

Case in point: for as long as I can remember, Sarah insisted that cats belong on the floor. First CiRT, then Una Mas, and then Zachary were each taught to stay off of the table and off the kitchen counters. If one of them transgressed, there was something in the genteelly stern way she said quietly, “CiRT, please get off of the table,” that led them to jump down.

With dementia, Sarah is becoming ever more lenient with her cat. At first she began allowing Zachary on the counters. Later, if I would help shoo him down, she scolded me for being insensitive to her cat. She tells me now that it’s convenient to scritch his ears if he’s up at counter level. Most recently, she has begun feeding him on the counter on purpose.

This shouldn’t be a big deal. Bill and I routinely have our cat on the counter, so this shouldn’t trouble me. And yet, my first impulse is to draw a line in the sand and ‘help’ her enforce her lifelong rule. But she plainly perceives this as bossy meddling, rather than help.

I guess this change bothers me precisely because it’s counter to Healthy Sarah’s life-long rule. It highlights how she’s changed. I’m probably also being rigid. But no real harm is done, and fighting over it isn’t good for either of us. I obviously need to let it go.

Zachary on the counter
Zachary on the counter nosing bacon of indeterminate age

Clandestine bacon

In contrast, the bacon-hoarding behavior I described above is more concerning. When I lunched with Sarah Saturday, I noticed that her clutch was stuffed with paper napkins again. I pulled them out and revealed that each was in fact a little bundle of breakfast bacon, eight days worth in all.

Sarah intends to take this bacon upstairs and present it to Zachary as a loving and generous (if really unhealthy) cat treat. She succeeds occasionally, too. But more often, she forgets, and white paper napkins in her clutch don’t look like bacon.

When I told her I was going to dispose of her bacon stash, because it was unrefrigerated and might make Zachary sick, she got very, very angry with me. She insisted that I couldn’t possibly know the status of the bacon because I’m not there everyday. She snatched the bundle away from me and told me I should mind my own business.

Realistically, bacon that’s both cured and cooked is probably fine at room temperature for a few days, and cats have strong stomachs. But given that I found another stash of indetermiate age in the cupboard, and given that she’d be crushed if anything happened to Zachary, I decided to work with Belmont staff to redirect her process despite her protests.

Elevated dishes

The same visit when I made Sarah so angry over the bacon, I delighted her by resolving a mystery. Three visits ago, she asked me if I knew where her Pyrex cat dishes were, and I didn’t. Two visits ago, I searched through all of her cabinets and drawers, but with no luck. I assumed that she’d put them somewhere and they’d turn up eventually. I couldn’t imagine anyone stealing these dishes.

On Saturday, after the bacon episode, she asked me again where her Pyrex dishes are. When I said again that I didn’t know because I wasn’t here when they got put away, she said angrily, “You know so much about everything else that goes on when you’re not here that you should have no trouble finding them.” Nice.

To appease her, I looked again. This time, I pulled a chair over so I could look *on top* of the kicthenette cabinets. Sure enough, I found not only the three missing Pyrex bowls, but also six other dishes, each with a few crumbs of cat food left in them.

dishes from the cabinet top
I found nine dishes on top of Sarah’s cabinets


When I asked her how on earth these dishes all got up there, she professed to have no idea, but observed that Zachary often jumps up there. I can imagine her logic: if Zachary is going to spend time on the cabinets, then he needs food up there, too. When I asked if it was possible that she placed food up there and forgot the dishes, she said:

“No, because I can’t see them when I stand on the counter.”

(I’m sorry… when you do what?!? Note to self: if Belmont ever calls to say that our Gran fell and broke her neck, I’ll remember that it was likely self-inflicted.)

I’m betting that she put the food dishes up there and forgot them once they were out of sight. Hypothetically, she may have cajoled one of her PALs into putting them up there. Either way, they’ve been up there for months and she’s delighted that I found them.

The last time we really argued — December 2008 — the unhappy memory stuck with her off and on for a year, occasionally popping up and leading her not to call me “because Robin isn’t talking to me right now.” I’m more than a little worried that the same thing may happen again. It’s important to me to avoid creating a negative episode that might color our whole relationship.

But on this day, perhaps with the help of the Aricept, Sarah was contrite. Before I departed, she apologized for “being so obdurate.” (Great word!) And she called me twice later that same evening to apologize for losing her temper. So right now, this battle is behind us. As for the next few weeks, we’ll see.