Tag Archives: travel

The Girl on the Train: not appropriate reading material for a girl named Rachel going through IVF, FYI

Remember when I was all pumped about my sweet three day reprieve between the ultrasound I had last Wednesday and the one the following Saturday? Right. Well, thank goodness my mom is here, because we made the same trip, even earlier, again on Sunday morning. And I’m headed back down again tomorrow.

Thank goodness my mom is here — the company was so very welcome in the car.

me and mom selfie

My mumsy dearest and I both super dig reading and thought that nice book on tape might be a good way to pass the time in the car. We spent some time on Audible and went with The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins on account of everyone in the world has been raving about it. Seemed like a real good choice.


The main character in the book is named Rachel. Like me. She wanted to have a family. Like me. So she and her husband did IVF. Like me.

And the IVF fails and she can’t get pregnant and goes into a deep depression, becomes a raging alcoholic, destroys her marriage, loses her job, and spends her time desperately seeking a way back into her ex’s life all the while being talked about as “poor… sad… fat… Rachel.”


Poor choice.

Three trips down and back and we’re just about done though. Thank goodness. A bit situtationally inappropriate.


But back to the issue at hand: an update on this Rachel’s IVF.

On Saturday, Dr. Stanic did my ultrasound and he started by asking how I was doing and quoting Winston Churchill — something about how he could promise only pain and suffering. Groovy. But my follicles are follicling and that’s cool.

The mood lighting helps quite a bit. They always keep the lights down low.
The mood lighting helps quite a bit. They always keep the lights down low.

Today (Sunday), we went back. Another ultrasound and some more blood work… New day, same story. Follicles follicling and estradiol increasing and we’re getting closer to the trigger shot.

So close to the trigger shot, that today, I got my target:

trigger shot target

Sharpie. On my backside. X does NOT mark the spot — just a location finder. Needle goes in the circle. Time for Seth to take the reigns! Like being hazed by the world’s meanest sorority.


Unfortunately, no trigger shot quite yet — hopefully tomorrow. I’ve got to be back in Madison for an ultrasound at 8:30 am tomorrow (a whole hour and a half later than today! sweet sweet sleep!!!) and more blood work and hopefully when they call in the afternoon, they’ll schedule my trigger for Monday night and my surgery for Wednesday morning, 36 hours later.

So, other than progress, how’s it going? Well… my abdomen hurts for a thousand and one reasons. I’m kind of miserable. And sooooo so tired.

Tiiiiiired. Also broken out. These drugs.

My mommy dearest leaves tomorrow, but I’m glad she was here while she was and Seth and Curls are back home to keep me company. Also, everyone seems to really understand how important dresses (minimal touching of the tummy) and ice cream (so delicious) are to me right now, so that’s lovely. Last but not least, we watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and then The SECOND Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Joe Dirt, so I’ve been all kinds of cinematically inspired. Almost there… almost there.

What is a “sphere of influence”, Alex?

–News Bulletin–

A-a-ron Rod-gers just won celebrity Jeopardy… so that was kind of awesome. And got me re-hooked on Jeopardy. Which I love love love. Even though I don’t know anything about classic literature or operas of the twenty-fourth and a half century. True story though, one time I took the online Jeopardy test. They never contacted me. I’m convinced that it’s because in a moment of complete and total idiot-level panic I typed in “positron” instead of “proton” for “this positively charged atomic particle…” or something along those lines. Such a ridiculously dumb answer, and for a chemistry major no less. This has been my secret Jeopardy shame for many a year.


Even more secret a shame than the fact that I was all about middle school Quiz Bowl once upon a time and took great delight in the fact that 1) I was the only girl on the team (boom!) and 2) that I wore the most gloriously denim jumper that ever denimed to the competition in 8th grade. Holy crap did I rock that thing. In my own mind anyway. Smart. Denim-clad. Barettes in my hair. Maybe I’ll make that my story if I ever do get on Jeopardy. I hope I can tell it awkwardly enough– lord knows that people with legitimately cool stories at the break never get very far. Just, next time around, it’s proton… proton… proton…



Seth and I are headed to SoCal to visit the Lemas over the long weekend and I’m crazy crazy excited about it. SoCal because that’s where they live. Like all the time. Can you even imagine?

One of the coolest things about the Lemas is that we have never lived any closer to them than whatever the astronomical distance between Michigan and California is (but also never further than the even more astronomical distance between DC and Cali, so we’ve got that). And yet, we’ve remained super close. I’m sure it helped that Chris was Seth’s boss for a good long while… but he’s not any more and we still super love them and I’m pretty sure that was never the only thing. Regardless, as a result of that distance, our relationship is completely and totally travel-fascinating. FASCINATING! We have gotten together to hang out all over this lovely country of ours (plus Mexico!) and that makes any and all of my Lema Memory Montages extra special and fun.

This weekend, I spent a TON of time doing yard work. I got a bug up my butt about needing to remove all the plastic lining from the garden beds in our back yard and replace them with brick and for some reason, I decided that removing all the plastic, trenching the sod, pulling all the weeds, and purchasing, laying, and securing 126 individual 10 lb bricks would be a one person, one day job, most certainly… and when I was done, I was going to maybe mow real quick and use the string trimmer around the trees and along the fence line.

Completely delusional. Also, my hamstrings are still KILLING ME.

But, in my delusional state, I had lots and lots and lots of time for mind-based montages. And the Lemas kept popping in on account of, as I said above, 1) we’re going to see them this weekend and 2) such montages are especially brilliant.

During one such sweat-soaked, sun blasted (because, guys, it got up to like 75 degrees this weekend– snap!!!) montage, I stumbled upon Chris’s notion of “sphere of influence” and realized that finally, after something like7? maybe even 8? years… I think I finally get what it means. Finally! And it’s not even ridiculous at all. In fact, I love it. Just like all love every other thing that is Lema. Of course.

I don’t remember what hotel or what city or what year it was… but once upon a time, long ago and far away, Chris mentioned something about his desire to have influence. To have a sphere of influence, I believe, or at least that’s how it imprinted in my brain. I don’t know that I was necessarily even part of that particular conversation, I may have just overheard something between Chris and Seth, but it was such a weird thing to say (I thought) and such a foreign concept (to me) that I really did just kind of let it tumble through my mind over and over and over again over the last several years.

Like a pebble in the sea, that idea is smooth now.

(And that’s a particularly appropriate metaphor here because I have been to not just two oceans with the Lemas, but also a legitimate sea — The Sea of Cortez.)

Sea of Cortez
Sea of Cortez

At the time, way back when, I knew Chris as Seth’s boss. At a software company. He was different, of course, because he’s from California and really introduced the whole “working from where you are” concept to the company. He put a lot more emphasis on intelligence and value and culture than most (well, any) other “boss” I’d ever known and he super appreciated all of those things about Seth, so naturally, I loved him. At the same time, Chris also had this little side life that I was vaguely aware of… computers, internet, WordPress, something…

And in that arena, influence was his goal.

Sooooo… what? Like he wanted to be the boss of computers and the internet and WordPress or something? Because that’s what influence means, right? Being the boss, in charge, in control, telling people what’s what and how’s how and who’s who.

Not to Chris. And not in reality. Where Chris lived.

Turns out, influence is not synonymous with power or control or position. If it’s forced or mandated or manufactured, it’s not genuine influence at all.

What Chris has taught me is that influence comes from sharing your story, building trust, and cultivating interest.

Chris taught me this not by actually saying any of it (although he probably has, because Chris has basically at one point or another said all the words— kind of like, if you give enough monkeys enough typewriters and enough time, eventually they’ll stumble on a literary masterpiece… but seriously, most of Chris’s words are on purpose insightful, I believe)… nope. He taught me this by doing it. By letting me hang at his beach house for a week as crazy fascinating and ridiculously “California” people came and went to celebrate my husband’s birthday and smoke cigars and play in the sand. Then again when we went on a cruise with a bunch of WordPress folks that scared me (on account of coolness). Sometimes they talked shop, most of the time they laughed and told stories. Built trust, relationships… influence. More recently, Chris transitioned full time into the WordPress world. He’s no longer technically Seth’s boss, but it wasn’t really ever about being Seth’s boss. He and Seth had a relationship that really transcended work roles and that lives on, regardless of what company Chris calls home. And when Chris did join a new company, he did so with a big old sphere of influence spread out in every direction (because that’s what spheres do) and that meant sooooo much more than his new fancy job title, high up position, standing in the company.

Like I said, completely fascinating.

So yeah, being an influencer, that’s a pretty worthy goal. Not a weird one at all. Watching Chris do it was kind of spectacular. And I think building a solid sphere of influence is kind of my goal too. Not power or position. Not fame or fortune or money. Definitely not in the WordPress community (I mean, thank goodness for WordPress, allowing me to blog without understanding a dang thing about it, but therein lies the problem in that sphere, you know?) Not even an appearance on SNL. Rather, to have a sphere of influence because I shared my story, I built trust, and I cultivated interest.

Anyway, I’m off to SoCal… got to go pack a bag! Woot!

Home from Phoenix, Stories to Tell

Phoenix City Hall
It’s a scientifically proven fact that crooked pictures are at least 47-times more artistic than straight on shots. See?

I went to Phoenix last week for the HMO Research Network (HMORN) conference. The science was fascinating, Phoenix was gorgeous, but my body gave me an awful lot of grief and it was all-in-all a pretty rough trip. I am very glad to be home.

On Saturday morning, my sister-in-law Kayla, the professional Body Pump Instructor, came over to teach my other sister-in-law, Trista, and I the newest Body Pump release. It was an awesome work out (too awesome, even, said my quads the next day), but halfway through I was pretty sure I was going to vomit. I thought maybe it was because I ate breakfast about an hour before and that may have been a mistake (go ahead, ask me if it’s because I’m pregnant, I dare you), but it turns out it wasn’t the breakfast, it wasn’t the intensity of the work out, it was a VIRUS! Or something. And it was miserable. The bathroom pretty much became my home.

Bitty little fever to go with the nausea and diarrhea. Joy.
Bitty little fever to go with the nausea and diarrhea. Joy.

Except… we had to go down to Madison to pick up Curly after surgery and there’s no way Seth could have picked her up on his own. I had to go. Thank goodness for rest stops, Immodium, and Pepto. It was just enough to get me down and back, although it was certainly pleasant for no one. And I’m sure I was not the most uncomfortable person in the car. You see, the ultimate outcome of Curly’s surgery was good, but repair requires use of an external fixator for at least four weeks. (At least— we’re hoping for more like 6 – 8.)

Love when she sits like a person. Not loving the incisions and pins and pain killers and all that.
Love when she sits like a person. Not loving the incisions and pins and pain killers and all that.

Poor baby is having a rough time, of course, but is doing incredibly well. Leaving for Phoenix was particularly stressful on account of leaving Seth on his own to take care of her. I know she’s a dog and normally that means food, water, potty, but not this time. It means 7 different drugs 4 times a day, cleaning of the entrance sites of the pins, and all of the effort required to keep this “high energy” dog extremely calm and as comfortable as possible. No easy task.

The good news, though, is that Seth did exceptionally well. We had Curls into our local vet to check everything over yesterday morning and she was thrilled with how it all looks. I’m particularly pleased with the incisions. She has a big long incision down the outside of both of her legs (on the right to repair the damaged knee, on the left to harvest muscle fascia for the repair) and the difference between this surgery and the last three is truly night and day– clean, dry, beautiful stitches running neatly down each leg. No oozing, no gapping, no swelling, no redness. Definitely a good sign.

Looking cozy, eh?
Looking cozy, eh?

Meanwhile, in Phoenix, I was busy subsisting on the blandest food I could find (lots and lots of dry cereal and bananas, seasoned with the pink stuff, of course) and locating (and destroying) the nearest bathroom until 4 am on Wednesday morning. Bad enough, right? Except on Tuesday night, during a viewing of The Grand Budapest Hotel (which was absolute Wes Anderson brilliance, by the way) I noticed that my hands started to feel kind of bad. Swollen. Puffy. By Wednesday morning, the virus had subsided, but my hands no longer even looked human and finding an urgent care became priority number one.

After presenting our posters in the morning and listening to a few talks, I could no longer bare the spreading and the throbbing (and the concern that my wedding ring may end up resulting in auto-amputation of my finger) and I sought out medical care. Fortunately, there was a walk-in clinic a mere two blocks from the hotel and I headed there for a prescription of oral steroids and some ice packs… three people, ice, and lots of petroleum jelly also helped to get my ring off and my finger was saved. Whew.

I cannot even tell you how kind the clinic staff were. It was amazing. Minnerva, the lovely NP who treated me, has even been in contact since I left because she wanted to 1) make sure I was doing ok (I was under strict orders to seek emergency care should I develop shortness of breath– immediately) and 2) to find out if I’d gotten a diagnosis (medical curiosity– love it). And I did! After a visit first to family practice and then to dermatology yesterday, I was diagnosed with dyshyidrotic eczema and was prescribed a big, fat steroid “blast and taper” to deal with this flare up and a steroid cream to be used at the first sign of blistering in the future.

Done in time to make it to the Desert Botanical Garden-- whew! Itchy hands, but lots of cacti for scratching. (I kid.)
Done in time to make it to the Desert Botanical Garden– whew! Itchy hands, but lots of cacti for scratching. (I kid.)

If you’ve known me a while, you know that this hand rash business is not new. It started happening back in 2009 after I had the swine flu (or, as Seth and I like to call it, the piggy pigs) and didn’t stop happening until I graduated and moved to Wisconsin in 2011. But since then– nothing. Not even once. Sweet relief. So you can imagine my panic when it came back in Phoenix– with a vengeance.

Likely, this is something I’m going to have to deal with on and off forever, but having a diagnosis, knowing some of the triggers (female gender (not much I can do about that), stress (such as traveling on the heels of my dog’s fourth surgery… a surgery that took 9 hours and two faculty surgeons to complete), extreme weather conditions (Wisconsin to Phoenix? that’ll do it), other illnesses (like the piggy pigs or an intestinal virus), and frequent hand washing/transitions from wet to dry), and having a plan for how to deal with it makes a world of difference. At least I feel pretty relieved.

So, lots to whine about, as the 1,000+ words above demonstrate… but also lots to be happy for. Seth did so great with Curly (seriously, he’s going to be such a great dad someday– but again, not preggo, I promise) and it was really nice to travel with Trista. She and I had lots to talk about and I think we’ve come to an important conclusion about some important things to say– lots and lots more to say about all of that at a later date. A series even. Additionally, my poster spurred a lot of really interesting debate. It presented evidence in direct contradiction to the 2009 United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines for mammography screening and someone who came up for the purpose of discussion worked for the USPSTF at that time. Yikes! We had a spirited and interesting debate and I was really pleased with my capacity to have nerve-wracking scientific discourse (with crazy hands) without getting worked up or personally offended or anything. Lots of other poster traffic and I was pretty pleased with the outcome– I’m really looking forward to sharing some of the suggestions and comments with the docs I worked with on the project. Lots of good stuff to think about. Trista and I got to have dinner with she and Seth’s cousin Ginni and her little boy Keegan. The restaurant was a hole in the wall, but an absolutely gem, and then we went for drinks in the spinning Compass Room overlooking the entire city. And finally, last but not least, I came home with four mini cacti from the botanical garden for planting! Pretty dang excited about that!

St. Mary's Basilica in Phoenix. Gorgeous. And look at that sky?!
St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix. Gorgeous. And look at that sky?!

I hope you’ll stick with me… and that Trista and others will join me in the upcoming series we’ll talk about tomorrow. It’s important and I’m really looking forward to the discussion. See you then!!!