Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas, sort of

I'd say this sums things up pretty well for me...



(For Aunt Becky, who's trying to have a Merry Christmas)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

So, that was...interesting

I am not much for talking about important issues. I can discuss logistics, but if you hit a hot spot, I'm likely to break down in tears or start yelling. The more stress I have, the faster this happens. My poor husband knows this about me, and yet every time it happens, he seems surprised. He had the great misfortune to hit my trigger last Friday. Since I know he reads my blog, maybe I can address all the issues here.

(Yes, I know I'm trying to avoid speaking with him about the issue. It's what I do.)

We spent part of October, all of November, and enough of December engaged in our first IVF cycle. It started off easily enough - I don't have issues with birth control pills. Lupron gave me some headaches, but so did the caffeine withdrawl (and that was actually worse). Steroids made me hungry, but no more hungry than usual. Although, I did notice that the combination of the steroid and the 30 Day Shred gave me some unfortunate trapezius development. Follistim was fine - whatever. Menopur apparently gave me mental blocks because the first time I was supposed to take that, I completely forgot for over an hour and then followed up the rest of the week with more forgetfulness.

My first scan went OK. The second scan...the important one where they figure out how the stims are working?...that was disappointing. Based on my stellar ovaries being above average during my initial Day 3 inspection, my doctor decreased the Follistim a little bit. Clearly, he did not realize that I am contrary. So, on the day of the second scan, I had maybe 2 potential eggs. I was given the option to forge on or to quit and go again another time.

Given that I am unable to predict the future, and I never quite know where my husband will be (he travels for work), I decided that it was now or never. So, we maxed out the Follistim for the rest of the week. Enter cramps and bloating...but at least I was fairly certain that something was happening. The next scan indicated 4 or 5 eggs, so I was on for retrieval. If there hadn't been any improvement, I was planning on going all low-tech old school and converting to plain old sex for fertilization. (OK, well, we probably would have gone for very enjoyable and loving sex.)

Now, already, the schedule was off. Retrieval was supposed to be on Dec 3 or 4, so my husband was scheduled to return to work on Dec 5. Because of the lagging development, we got pushed back to the 5th. And so I was trying to figure out how I was going to get a ride to the doctor's office and home, drop my husband at the airport, get someone to watch my daughter, all without talking about this. Fortunately, my husband was able to get his flight rescheduled...but not before telling a couple of his family members. Sigh.

December 5 was probably a lovely day - I don't really know, as I have no memory between 9 am and 2 pm. I got a nice nap in, though. I had no idea how many (if any) eggs were retrieved. Monday, I finally got the call. They had retrieved 9 eggs. Go ovaries! 7 were mature. Hurray! 1 fertilized. Um, excuse me? How did that happen? We never have a problem with fertilization? Everything after that causes problems. WTF? Either those were some seriously crappy eggs, or the embryologist was not very good at picking the good sperm. Who knows? But at least we had one! One is all it takes! Riiiight.

Wednesday was the Day 3 report. The embryo was a bit behind, but it could catch up. It was a grade 3, 4 cell embryo. At this point, I knew where things were headed, but I tried to maintain some hope. However, I was fairly certain that we had a Zombryo. A zombryo is, of course, an embryo that is neither alive nor dead but spends its time eating away at your brain. (Thanks, May, for the proper terminology - I'm not sure if that's the correct definition, but I think it should be.) So, on Friday, at the day 5 report, there was no change. And on Saturday, the last possible day that they would consider housing these poor little 4 cells (how much room do they occupy anyway? Surely you could just let them sit and see what happens, couldn't you?), there was still no change. So, that was that.

Last spring, after my last chemical pregnancy (see? Fertilized! WTF?), I had determined that I was done. We had a garage sale and sold many of my daughter's clothes. We sold lots of the equipment. Game over. And then, my daughter said, "Can I get a baby with the garage sale money?" And I said "Sure. I'm sure we could buy you a baby doll." And she said, "No, a REAL baby." And I told my husband this story, which tugged at his heart. So he and I decided to throw some money at the problem. I have insurance coverage, so the cost breakdown was not bad:

Anesthesia (should be reimbursed): $580
Sperm Analysis (might be reimbursed): $150
Drugs: ~$400
Copays: $80
Speeding ticket (because I was paying no attention to how fast I was going since my mind was occupied with the state of the zombryo): $120

(I'm fairly certain that last part was the universe giving me a giant "Fuck You.")

The less tangible costs - additional crankiness (and let me tell you, my normal irritability is hard to top!), overcoming the fear of giving myself the PIO shot (especially since a. no one told me how to do it - thanks Stirrup Queens sidebar and YouTube! and b. I already suspected it would not be necessary), and that rash that sprung up when I stopped taking the steroid. I think I'm allergic to subcutaneous injections. (This has been a problem in the past. What? You're not completely familiar with my archives? Refresher: Last time, it took about 6 weeks for the rash to form and it was only at my heparin injection sites. So I switched to Lovenox, and the rash continued. This time I went with the upper thighs instead of the stomach, on the theory that the skin might be less sensitive. Nope. Plus, pants are more irritating than shirts, in case you ever needed to know that.)

So here we are at the end of the line again...or maybe not. Maybe we'll skip the big production and go low-tech old school next month, since my husband will be home. Maybe we'll do another cycle in April, when he might be home again. I don't know where I'm going from here, because I'm conflicted. On one hand, when I talk to God, I feel like He is denying my requests for another child. But on the other hand, there was the dream...

Around the time when my husband and I were getting married, I had a dream - a brief flash of me in my sunny yellow kitchen, with my infant in his high chair and my daughter was helping me feed him. My husband breezed through and all was right with the world. It felt like that was what I was supposed to have. Now, my kitchen is definitely not yellow, and it definitely was not my actual husband in the dream (wrong hair and clothing). Yet, I still hold on to the idea that there should be one more of us in our family.

I'm not completely ready to give up, but I don't want to put my life on hold any more. Oh well, rock and hard place - I'm very familiar with your landscape. Eventually, I will wear a comfortable niche in both of you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tagged

Yoyo Mama from Mama Said Knock You Out tagged me to answer the following interview questions. Sure, I'll play.

1.If you were gifted $5,000 tax-free and you had to spend it (not save it), what would you spend it on?

A space/time transporter, so I could instantaneously go on vacation anywhere in the universe and not spend 2 days travelling. And my husband would go with me without complaining.

2.How many times have you moved in your lifetime?

I've only moved 6 times...which is about 2 times more than I would like to have moved. I hate moving.

3.Have you ever been so angry, you hit someone or at least felt like hitting someone (or something)?

Today? No. This month? Probably. This year? Several times. This decade? Too many times to count.

4.What’s your favorite article of clothing or pair of shoes and why?

I don't wear it because I wore it out, but I have my dad's old black cashmere coat. I stole it when I was in high school (I stole a lot of my dad's clothes then), and I have intentions of someday remaking it into a suit. But first, I must learn how to sew.

5.Are you hanging lights this holiday and if so, when is the turn-on and turn-off dates?

I will be putting up the Christmas tree and maybe Frosty the Snowman will go outside, but the dates depend on when my husband drags the tree up from the basement and gets Frosty down off the shelf. No sooner than after Thanksgiving, though, and not much later than January 6 (Epiphany).

If you're reading this, and need a post idea...you are now tagged! Use the above questions, along with this one.

What was been the best part of the last decade for you?

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Stalker Story

Elizabeth from Flourish in Progress recently inquired about my blog domain name/email address. As I told her, the short version is that the string of letters and numbers is a former license plate number. Here's the long version.

Once upon a time, I was a foolish 22 year old. My father had recently died. My boyfriend of a year or so broke up with me because I was unwilling to support his lazy ass while he played dilettante, and he had found someone who would. I had just started my first professional job. Life, to put it mildly, was in a bit of upheaval. One day, I went out to meet my friend at a bar. While I was there, my car died. One of the guys helped me get it started so I could go on to the next bar. At the next bar, I met up with a guy I knew from college - he was with 2 friends. We all hung out for a while, and when I was leaving, I asked if someone could come out and help me if my car wouldn't start. One of the friends...lets call him The Idiot (although the title is really more appropriate for me)...came out to help. He asked me out, and I agreed to go. (Later, I would find out that the other friend and The Idiot were debating over which one was going to ask me out. This is a very unusual situation, as when I was 22, I was generally overlooked by anyone in the bar who was not over 40 and a raging alcoholic. I have a very forbidding air about me.)

So, I went out with The Idiot. Thus began an 8 year saga... The Idiot was a nice enough guy, except for the fact that he would basically be considered a loser. He was a spendthrift. He was directionless. He was generally unemployed and perpetually in college. He drank a lot. But, he "loved" me, and was nice to my niece and nephews as they came along. My mom hated him, but he was very helpful to her, so she eventually got used to him. I knew we had no future, and I told him, but he never believed me. I also knew, though, that since he didn't believe me, I was going to have a hard time getting rid of him, which is why it dragged on for so long.

Eventually, I turned 30. I was re-evaluating my life, and knew that I couldn't continue with him any longer, but I couldn't figure out a good way to make it end without restraining orders. We "took a break" to think about things. And then we went to a baseball game with a large group of friends, some of whom had recently gotten engaged. This made The Idiot start asking me when we were going to get married, and I told him that we weren't. That I was done with the relationship. He wanted to remain friends, so I said that I didn't think that would work. But I didn't want trouble, so I would talk to him when he called. I agreed to go see a movie with him.

Meanwhile, since I had broken up with him, I took up with someone else. My future husband and I started dating casually (well, for him, anyway. I'm more the monogamous sort). We would email each other back and forth most evenings, even though we shared an office at work.

One day, I got an angry visit from The Idiot. He claimed that someone had forwarded him one of the emails between Future Husband and myself, in which the movie appointment was discussed. I was less than enthusiastic about it and The Idiot used that email to get angry. He came over, pushed me, threatened to smash up my car with a crow bar, and generally made an ass of himself. It was at that point that I was smart enough to get my house keys back, at least.

The following Monday, when I went to work, I asked Future Husband if he knew anything about the email - he didn't. So I started digging. I found that little setting that lets you forward email to another account. The Idiot was monitoring my email. And therefore, I had to change all of my email addresses and passwords. I changed my phone number. The Idiot called and threatened Future Husband on his voice mail at work. He called my mom. He called my sister. He called my friends. He called my supervisor (with whom we had socialized in the past) and asked him to talk to me. Eventually, since I work for a police agency, the phone threat to Future Husband ensured a little discussion between agents and The Idiot. We managed to come to an end without restraining orders...at least at that point.

Things had pretty much settled down, except for one thing. I was foolish enough (and hadn't watched enough Judge Judy at that point in my life) to cosign on a car for The Idiot. Actually, I cosigned on one car, which he had had repossessed and later redeemed. Then I was stupid enough to finance another car with him as the cosignor, because he couldn't get financing as the primary on the loan. And then, I started getting parking ticket notifications in the mail. That was annoying, but fine. Then I found out that his insurance had been dropped. So, I repossessed the car myself. This led to more home visits from him (although he couldn't get in), more threats, and finally the restraining order.

Once that was filed, and The Idiot figured out that I was quite serious about cutting all ties, he managed to restrain himself. However, he sent a message on Classmates.com. He tried to friend me on F*c*bo**k. He forced me to end a friendship with the guy from college, by pumping him for information. He continued to call my friends to ask them about me. While he is a mild stalker, he is still a stalker.

So there it is - how I got my email address. In the need for an immediate and anonymous email address, I used something that I already knew but that no one else would ever associate with me. I was an early victim of cyberstalking. It's also one of the many reasons why I stay very anonymous on the internet.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Complete

5 months later, I finally did it. It was long, it was painful, but now it's over. I have finally finished that fucking book. (Ulysses - James Joyce) Now, I just have to get some Cliff Notes to figure out what it was that I read.

I do know this much: My Irish Grandfather's first name was Charles, but he chose to go by Parnell. Based on what Joyce wrote, that was a bad idea, as Parnell was...not nice.

Also, Joyce did not have a high opinion of women. And judging by the last 48 pages, he was also not a fan of punctuation.

Fortunately, I received a palate cleanser from Jason Mulgrew via a contest on Aunt Becky's site of wonder. I won a copy of Everything is Wrong with Me (to which I would have linked but the site was overloaded or otherwise not working properly). As I was laughing out loud before the end of the first chapter, I think this is just the thing to bring me out of the Joyce fog. Thanks again, Jason and Aunt Becky!

And TwangyPearl the Elastic Girl, who is at Art (Boot) Camp in Florida, I hope you're either finished or still plugging away at Ulysses. If you gave up long ago, don't tell me, as I will be forced to send the alligators after you!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Inverse (or is it converse?)

Following up on irritations, for a breath of fresh air, some things that make me happy:

* The obvious: My husband and daughter, chocolate, friends, family

* British Television: I wish we still had satellite TV so I could watch BBC America again. Instead, I must make do with PBS. On Thursday nights, the programming involves series from the UK. My favorite is New Tricks, which is the only police show that I watch. If you haven't seen it, you should. OK, I probably like it because one of the guys reminds me of my dad, but it is quite hilarious at times. Currently, they're airing Doc Martin - also very entertaining. It's about a former surgeon who has PTSD and can't stand the sight of blood, thus retiring to Cornwall (? I think) to be a local doctor. He's got no social skills and is highly irritable. I'm also a fan of Inspector Lewis (oh look! another cop show! Guess I only like British cop shows).

* Cool fall weather: When it gets chilly at night, but stays warm during the days, I love it. I can wear flip flops and cardigans (but generally not together). I can wear clothes from all seasons. I wish the days weren't getting shorter, but it's one of those side effects you can't escape.

* Cardigans and flip flops (see above)

* Sour cream, which I am only thinking of because we are out and have been for 2 weeks. This interrupts my consumption of baked potatoes, quesadillas, and tacos. Guess who's going to the grocery store tomorrow?

* Our landscaping: It attracts copious amounts of butterflies and colorful birds. Did you know that hummingbirds are not very bright? Twice, they've flown into our garage and have gotten stuck...as in they cannot figure out how to get out of the garage. They fly up to the ceiling and crash against it for half an hour or more. The first one finally was able to find his way out when I closed the garage door a bit - he could fly over the door, but there was a space to get outside. The second one...well, he did something - I'm not sure what - and knocked himself silly. He was laying on the floor of the garage. My husband was trying to roll him into a dustpan to pick him up and put him someplace safe. Did you know hummingbirds make noise? I didn't until my husband tried to roll him into the dustpan. If you've ever heard a hawk's cry - it's just like that, only tiny. Very strange. Anyway, the hummingbird was placed into the tomato planter to recover and within about 5 minutes had taken off again.

* And finally, the sponsor of this post - one thing that always makes me happy whether I participate or not: Nap time!

What are you finding pleasant today?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Irritations

* Why do online retailers make me fill out all of my information before giving me a total price? Don't they know that shopping involves inspecting the merchandise, checking the price, and then deciding if I want to purchase? Shopping does not involve giving out my personal information. If I can't easily find the price without filling out some annoying form, I am unlikely to purchase anything.

* Who would have thought that fantasy overpowers practicality in a crime lab? My job today has involved trying to steer people away from what ifs and towards what is. It's incredibly frustrating - the what ifs create work that can be completely unnecessary.

* Why is my internet service going in and out on a clear, calm night? There's no rain in the area, no wind, no lightning...and yet my internet has been intermittent all evening. I would call and complain but the cable company insists on making me travel through menu after menu to prove that I'm not the problem. I know the internet is down. I know it's not my wireless router. I know it's not my computer or my modem. There is no signal. Also, I can't call them because my phone does not work inside my house, which leads me to...

* Why doesn't my phone work inside my house? My last phone worked. There are towers close by. For that matter, the phone doesn't work in my neighborhood. I'm between 2 major highways and 2 major state routes in a suburban area. I should have an excellent signal. And the phone company says "We don't guarantee that phones will work inside buildings," and "Your house must just be too well-built." I suspect that Crack.berries are just not very good at the phone portion of their operational abilities.

* Why do I watch the news? Finding out that there is a stand-off involving local police, state police, and the FBI in the town where my workplace is located does not bode well for tomorrow. All I want to know is...will it be hot or will it be raining? On the plus side, the news announced that the above mentioned work fantasy may disappear by tomorrow. That's good news for a change.

All these irritants must mean that I'm overtired and it's bed time...or maybe I'm just in training to be crotchety old person. If it's the latter, I am going to be a champ!

What's irritating you lately?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Talking about death

My in-laws' dog died. She was 12 or 13 and went into a fairly rapid decline, and then she was gone. She was a fixture in their house, and my daughter was quite fond of her - even if the feelings were not exactly returned.

Nineteen years ago this month, my dad died after a long, painful illness (Rhuematoid Arthritis) which led to complication after complication.

My daughter is almost 4, which means that a) she notices things like missing dogs, b) she's busy exploring family relationships, and c) she spends her days with many little boys who like to play superhero and kill bad guys. With this combination, I find myself having to deal with questions about death. A lot.

I'm fairly comfortable discussing death - it's the natural order of things - but my husband is not. He tends to change the subject, and was prepared to ignore the death of his parents' dog. His parents had the same intent. But, my daughter asked me where the dog was, and I answered. I told her that the dog got old, got sick, and died, and she wasn't around any more. She was asking questions (why did she get old, why did she get sick, etc.) that were making everyone else uncomfortable, and I finally mumbled something about going to play in heaven, and that was the end of the conversation.

Our vacation this year was a trip to see my family. We had a great time - we went to the pool, to the beach, to the farm...all the things I did when I was a kid. But this led to an exploration of my family, who my daughter doesn't see as often as she sees her father's family. We had a long discussion of why my daddy was dead...which I'm not sure she quite understood. But, it was about the same story as the dog. He got old, he got sick, and then he died.

My girl is not at all traumatized by death. She has asked several times why my daddy is dead. She asks why the dog is dead. She hasn't quite connected that death with the "killing" that she's doing when she's pretending to be a superhero. It will become clear to her eventually, I suppose.

Meanwhile, she also discovered the teddy bear that I've had since I was born. She is a huge lover of stuffed animals, so she desperately covets that bear. I told her she could have it when I was dead. She likes to ask me from time to time - "I can have that bear when you're dead?" It freaks my husband out a little.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Any Excuse for Cake!

Mel at Stirrup Queens is a dynamo, who is the center of the online ALI community. Without her facilitation, we'd all be fumbling around looking for others like us. Her organizational skills and ability to connect us to each other make the internet a far more friendly place.

I love the Friday Round-up - it gives me a chance to read a variety of posts that I may not necessarily find on my own. Thanks, Mel, for being a hyper-organized speed reader with a very warm heart and a gift for summarizing emotional posts!

Here are the cupcakes my daughter picked out. I ate most of them.



Happy 300/200! Keep 'em coming!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reading challenge

TwangyPearl inspired (challenged? suckered?) me to start reading Ulysses by James Joyce. So far, I've had the book for 9 weeks...oops - make that 10. There was that one week that the book was overdue before I remembered to renew it at the library. I'm approximately halfway through. There are some pretty hilarious things in this book, but it's hard work to read it. Generally, I can read 4-7 books in three weeks. 10 weeks means that normally, I would have given up by now, but I'm determined to finish it.

Coincidentally, today I got an email from Border's Books notifying me that there was an eReader that I could download for my phone. In the email, the magic words "many free books" caught my eye. So, of course I downloaded the eReader. Due to the renewal situation vs my increasingly leaky memory, the first thing I searched for was Ulysses. And, Lo and Behold! It was a free book! Hurray!

Unfortunately, there is apparently no way to search through the book. You have to scroll through page by page. So I got a little refresher on the first half of the book as I scrolled through to the correct place. From this, I arrived at two conclusions...well, let's make that three.

1. It would probably have been useful to have read the Odyssey before reading Ulysses. What I remember from Edith Hamilton's Mythology from 25 years ago is close to nothing.

2. Ulysses might be more enjoyable and engaging as a book on tape. Some of the names and descriptions just beg to be read aloud. Also, a differentiation between the characters who are speaking would frequently be helpful.

3. Joyce was clearly drinking while he wrote this. You could probably pick out the progression of his days from each segment. There is a definite pattern: Clear story with gorgeous descriptions and random characters (sober), followed by main characters performing something vaguely plot-like (couple of drinks), followed by side characters gathering to drink (a little tipsy), followed by mild political rant (a decent buzz), followed by long list of nonsensical names or random words (full-on inebriation). Then there's hangover day where main characters again do something vaguely plot-like, and then either they cycle repeats or the chapter ends.

So, thanks, there, Twangy. Even as I struggle to read this book, I am amused not only by the book itself but also by the style, and even by my lack of knowledge (because I am totally getting the online Cliffs Notes when I finally finish, so I can figure out what the hell I read). I think an international pseudo book club is an excellent idea!

Monday, July 12, 2010

What kind of message are they sending my child?

We spend a lot of time watching the Disney channel around our house. (I know - I'm supposed to limit my child's TV intake to 20 minutes every 2 years, blah, blah, blah. Totally beside the point here) I know the entire morning line-up (or I did, until they changed it last week). I even change to that channel at work so I can catch Shaun the Sheep before I have to start working. Today, during the 700th rerun of a particular Mickey Mouse episode, I can no longer hold it in. I think some of the messages that they send are dead wrong.

In this particular episode, Pluto is competing in some dog championship event against Butch the Bulldog. Everything is fine until the final event, which is a swimming competition. Pluto paddles across the pool, but just before he gets to the finish line, he notices that Butch is flailing in the water. So, Pluto goes back to save him. Mickey and friends throw a life preserver to Butch, and Pluto pushes him to the finish line. Butch, therefore, crosses the finish line first and wins the doggie games. But, since Butch is such a good sport, he splits his star with Pluto and they both win.

I don't know why I find this episode so disturbing. I guess it's because I have an over-developed sense of fair, and I don't think it's fair to Pluto. Butch should not be given a win when he didn't do the required work to get to the finish line. I guess they're playing on the Cars theme (where Lightning McQueen gives up the Piston Cup to help The King cross the finish line), but they missed it in this case. It's great that Pluto helped Butch - excellent message...help your friends when they need it, regardless of the cost to yourself. But to let Butch win the swimming competition because he crossed the finish line first? Ridiculous. Also, for Butch to share his star? Half-assed at best. A good sport will give up his star when he knows that someone else did the real work. My perfect ending, I guess, would be Pluto winning the whole thing and then sharing his prize with Butch. That would show good sportsmanship.

I also don't understand why Special Agent Oso, Mr. Lopart from Handy Manny, and all of the Imagination Movers have to be so completely clueless all the time. I guess it's for comedic effect, but I think you can be funny and intelligent at the same time. I guess it's also to try and convey the sense of wonder that we hope our kids experience while learning new things, but again, I think this could be done a different way.

I just wish PBS would put on the pre-schooler programming during our TV watching time. Instead, they play the things I'd like my daughter to watch during lunchtime and nap time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Homes

Eden posted about the meaningful homes in her life and asked others to do the same.

I have only lived in 7 places in my 41 years. My parents moved into our house a couple months before I was born and I lived there (more or less) until I was 27. It was a lovely house with plenty(ish) of room for 6 people, although not by today's standards. I shared a room with one of my sisters. That didn't work out too well. But we survived. Here's a screen capture from Go.ogle earth of our 1 1/2 story convertible, which has been squashed flat (click to enlarge) by Go.ogle. What's missing is the beautiful maple tree that used to be in front of the house. I don't know why people cut down trees. Also, there were many trees in the back yard, which now appears to have been paved over in favor of a pool We were multi-taskers...we had a pool AND trees.


Next, I went to college, where I lived in the dorms for 2 years. No pictures, because everything has changed there. But, Denver was beautiful, and the mountains were breathtaking.

I returned from Denver to finish college at home, and then I got a job, and then I got another job. This job required me to move to The Middle Of Nowhere for training. Here's another screen capture

I had the end apartment, circled in red. These apartments, last remodeled sometime in the 1970s, had carpeted kitchens, electric heat and appliances, and loud neighbors. Two of my neighbors were coworkers, and they were kind enough to rename all the rest of the neighbors for us. Next to me was Journey neighbor, who was a college student that liked to play Journey loud enough for everyone to hear. Next to her was one of my coworkers. Next to my coworker were the domestic violence neighbors. I'm sure you can guess why they earned that name. Across the way, I had the TV people - all the young reporters who worked at the local TV stations crowded into a 2 bedroom apartment. For some reason, the next apartment was always vacant. Next was my other coworker's place. Finally, there was ADHD kid, who lived with his mother and 2 sisters. He was known for trying to feel up the coworker that lived next door to him, and for letting my dog off her leash. We were not fond of that kid.

After my training adventure was complete, I moved back home. I wanted to buy a place next. After about 6 months of looking, I found a lovely condo/loft in an old factory. It came with garage parking, and a separate bedroom, with loads of brick walls (my unit had the distinction of being the smallest in the building and the old boiler room). It was 10 minutes from work, even in traffic (which is a miracle in Chicago!). It was a short bus ride downtown. It had a beautiful roof deck, and if you looked between the high rises, you could see the fireworks over the lake. I loved it there. But then, I met my husband, and he wanted to return to his hometown. So we moved. Here's another screen capture of my building:


My husband and I bought a beautiful house in his hometown. I loved that house, even though the back yard sloped down to a sinkhole. It had 4 bedrooms, including a beautiful master suite. The kitchen was fantastic. It was close to everything. But, my husband likes to wander, and the housing market was hitting its top, so we moved on.




Our next place was only temporary - a place to stay while my husband built our house. It was close to work, close to shopping, but on a quiet street. Since we were only staying a few months (it ended up being 9!), I got a Post Office Box for our mail. That was the address I furnished to our workplace. At the time, I had a supervisor who was...well, a bit of an asshole. No, that's not really fair to assholes...he's a complete donkey dick (as my husband likes to call him). He hates me; I hate him. Coincidentally, he lives 2 blocks west of our transient row house (lots of turnover in these apartments, so I call it Transient Row). One Sunday morning, as I was walking over to the local school to run on their track, he and his family pulled out of their subdivision in his pickup truck. He saw me walking down the street. Coincidentally, on Monday, he started asking for my husband and my physical address. He claimed that it was required, that a PO Box was inadequate. We asked him to show us the directive where this was written. Next he sent off a big email saying that he needed to know our address because what if we had a gas leak and no one could reach us? And what if there was a state emergency and someone needed to come to our house? We replied that, Thank you very much, but we don't have gas service, we're all electric, and if there were an emergency, the Feds would be coming for my husband and would have first priority over the state (since he's in the Army). We won that battle.


Finally, we moved to our current house. My husband was the general contractor and frequent laborer. He put in hardwood floors and did all the landscaping. He finished the basement, and helped put on the roof. Now, he's working on the bathroom...

This photo doesn't show much of our house, but you do get a nice view of the garage and the snow from 2007-2008. We've been here for 5 years now, and I'm not sure how much longer we'll be staying. I love this house because we built it and because it's the first house my daughter lived in. But I'm sure we'll be able to create great memories wherever we go.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's Spring...time for home improvement projects!

My husband has been doing some major home improvement projects lately. First, he tiled the mud/laundry room. Then he did all the spring clean-up in the yard - creating a new flower bed in the back, trimming the bushes and trees, adding dirt and mulch, etc.

His next project is to redo the master bathroom with marble tile. He'll be starting with the area around the bathtub. Here are some before pictures (well, after deconstruction, before refinishing):






When the bathroom is complete, it will be quite beautiful. In the meantime, my husband has lots of work to do. My contribution will be...staying out of his way.

In the middle of these projects, nature and the weather gave us another project to complete. Five years ago, we bought a mini rose to put at the corner of the house. It had these fabulous clusters of pink roses, and stood less than a foot tall. My mom called it a Seven Sisters Rose. At the end of the first season, there was one odd branch that had grown out of the base. We left it. The next year we had a few more of the odd branches. By the next year, the odd branches had completely overtaken the mini rose and killed it off, and we had to build an arbor to hold up the odd branches. This year, the weight of the monster rose bush combined with the wind ripped the arbor completely apart. We had to rebuild the arbor (using screws instead of nails, and sinking the supports a foot into the ground).

I think the rose will take down the house next. Therefore, I nominate this monster rose bush to win Aunt Becky's Nobel Prize for Awesomeness. I think she was thinking that people would win that prize, but a rose that is attempting to take over the earth ought to qualify!




At least it's a very pretty monster...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's true...

I'm an addict.

Our computer network at work was down today. I felt restless and completely unsettled all day. I had plenty of work to do that didn't require a computer, but I was still twitchy. Sigh.

How addicted are you?

Monday, March 22, 2010

An open letter to Kodak

Dear Kodak,

I just want to say up front that I hate photography. Unfortunately, I must take photographs as part of my job. It's fairly easy - black and white film, fine detail, close up 1:1 shots. However, you are making my life much more difficult than it needs to be.

In the beginning, it was fun. I was given a camera and some 35mm film and told to go out and take some photos. We even took a field trip to the state park nearby. I took some shots of the lake on the wildlife preserve near my apartment, and something odd happened when I developed my print, giving it an wonderful, ethereal quality. I was...intrigued. But then we got down to business, and I started taking those shots of evidence. Loading 4X5 film in the dark. Bracketing shots to get the right exposure. Developing the film by hand - takes too long to send it off to a processor. Learning to do everything by touch.

Of course, the honeymoon had to end sometime. Standing at a land camera setup for hours on end, taking shot after shot, trying to get them right. Standing in the darkroom for hours on end, trying to stay awake in complete blackness. Develop, agitate for 5-7 minutes, stop bath, fixer for 10. Go back and do it all again, because the shot wasn't exactly right. And the film. Well, it was awful. TMax - too much gray. CPO and Kodalith - good for contrast, but will not record shots taken with a laser, because those films don't see red or orange.

And then...and then I met TechPan. I loved it. And then I met Ektapan. I loved it even more. The contrast! The grayscale too! The development time! These films were wonderful. A UV shot that used to require a 3 minute exposure was now reduced to 30 seconds. Laser shots were a second or less. And the images were so clear - not like that muddy TMax. Development times of 30 seconds to 3 minutes. They were so wonderful.

But, Kodak, you screwed me over. You decided that we were no longer important - us film-using technophobes. (Well, we're not really technophobes - we just work for one of the most cash-deprived states in the US.) Anyway, film was not part of your business plan, so you started discontinuing things bit by bit. I understand. You were embracing the digital era. First to go was CPO. I didn't miss you much. Next was Ektapan My UV shots went long again. But I still had TechPan. And then you took away my Kodalith and TechPan. I had to resort to some film made in Czechoslovakia instead of my beloved TechPan! And the replacement for Kodalith doesn't even fit in our film holders. The film holders are a standard size - why can't the film makes figure that out?

I realize that 4X5 sheet film is not exactly a hot commodity, but we need this film. At least until our lab gets its digital equipment, anyway. Which will be next year at the earliest. If the state raises taxes or something. In the meantime, couldn't you have sold the formula for these films to a rival? It's not like you're going to go back in time, Kodak, and start making film again. Think of us - we who are stuck taking pictures for preservation of evidence! None of your former competitors can make a comparable product, and so we're the ones who suffer. Reopen production or sell your formula. Help us out. Please.

Love,

A Sad Forensic Scientist Who Hates Photography. And owns a Canon digital camera for home use.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Show And Tell - Stealing Mel's idea

Today, Mel is showing paint samples. Five years ago, at this time of year, paint samples were a large part of my life, and led to a most interesting Easter weekend...

My husband built our house. He was the general contractor, sure, but he also helped with the framing. He and I installed insulation and wiring. He supervised the drywall hanging. Then we hired someone to do the drywall finishing (mud and tape) and painting.

In case you haven't ever dealt with this sector of the population, it's difficult to find a reliable subcontractor. Our drywall finisher and his son did the mudding and taping, and applied the finish to the ceiling. They started painting - complaining the whole time that I had chosen semi-gloss. You know why contractors choose flat paint? Aside from the fact that it's cheap, it's also very forgiving, so if the drywall finish isn't perfect, it's not so noticeable. The more gloss you add, the more the imperfections stand out. For a couple days, the painting was going on. The ceilings were finished, and the Friday before Easter, we made a rookie mistake. Since the job was just about finished, we paid out the remainder of the contract.

The check got cashed shortly before we went to the house to see it. I had chosen what I thought was a soft oatmeal color - neutral and light/bright - for most of the house. For the bathrooms, I chose a dark sage type color. For the dining room, I wanted a dark red.

What I got in the house, instead of a neutral tone with a dark red accent, was a carnival funhouse. The oatmeal color turned out to be a pale yellow - pleasant, but not exactly right for the whole house. The painter had only applied two coats of the red (one of which was mixed with primer), so it was a lovely hot pink. The greenish color in the bathrooms was OK on it's own, but combined with the other colors...it just wasn't pretty. My husband freaked out. I cried. The painter had vanished with our money, and we got a pretty accurate gut feeling that he wasn't coming back - it was a holiday weekend, and he had just gotten paid.

So off we went to the Home Depot, where we tried to pick another color. We had to repaint, because it needed to be finished and dried before the next weekend. That's when the guys were coming to install the crown molding. I wanted a beige color, but thought it would be too dark. The nice lady at Home Depot finally told us how to get an accurate idea of what the color would look like on the walls. I don't know why this works, but it does...

Take a sample of pure white and cut a square right in the middle. Put the color you think you like in the middle of the square. It will give it a much different tone, and allow you to get a better idea of the color than just the paint sample itself. If you want an accent color, put your main color and the accent side by side in the cut-out square.

So, my husband and I painted for an entire weekend. We put 2 coats of beige on the main room, kitchen and master bedroom. We put about 6-8 coats of red on the dining room. It turned out very nicely. If my DVD drive worked, I would post some pictures of the colors.

Lessons learned: Never pick colors that are too light. Never pay anyone until you are satisfied with the finished project. Never let me choose the colors.

Go see what everyone else is showing and telling this week!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Show and Tell

My husband is safely home now, but last December he was in Afghanistan. While he was there, he visited the market and brought me these beautiful items, made of lapis lazuli.



According to Wikipedia, lapis lazuli is "a relatively rare, semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense blue color." The best lapis lazuli is found in northeastern Afghanistan. Click on the picture to enlarge, and you will see a series of stones tiled together. The variations in the stone are calcium and pyrite (fool's gold) deposits.

Please visit Mel and see who else is participating in Show and Tell this week!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Show and Tell - My Valentines

Last week, my husband spent several days harassing me about Valentine's Day. See, he's been at home for the last month - taking care of the house, doing the laundry, making dinner, cleaning, you name it. So, naturally, he told me that he wanted flowers and candy for Valentine's Day. I was considering my options. I had heard an ad on the radio for a good deal on roses (with free candy! and free shipping!), or maybe I'd just pick up a heart shaped box of chocolates. Last Tuesday, when I got home from work, I was playing with our daughter. She and my husband had drawn me a picture of a house with some flowers in front of it earlier in the week. She gave it to me again, and said "We got you some flowers!" I had an inkling that she might not be referring to the picture, but I said, "Yes, I see. They're very beautiful!" And she said, "No, Daddy and I got you flowers." I pointed to the flowers in the picture. "No, Mommy. We got you flowers on the computer." At which point, I turned to my husband and said "I think she just ratted you out!"

On Thursday (my last official work day of the week, because we had a holiday on Friday), I received my flowers from the computer. He even got the flowers that came with free chocolates!




So, what did I get him for Valentine's day? Well, I had a couple coupons for some free stuff, so he got a bag of Stacy's pita chips and and a bag of Golden Double Stuff Oreos. Because my husband appreciates free stuff more than anything!

Don't forget to see what the rest of the class is showing!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Equations

When I was younger, I used to be smart. I took advanced math classes in 8th grade, so that I would be able to jump right in to higher math in high school. When I was a freshman, I was scheduled for Algebra II with the 6 or so other girls that I knew from my advanced classes. My mom, thinking she was doing me a favor, had me transferred into the Honors Algebra II class, where I was the only freshman in a room full of juniors. I stood out like a sore thumb. So, it was actually a little bit scary when I got the highest score on the test for the first section we studied.

That section was programming in BASIC. Way back then, that was the only language suitable for high schoolers to be taught. It made perfect sense to me, because much of the language was if/then format. It was logical. If this happens, then that will follow. Simple.

Lately I have found many people attempting to apply the if/then format to life. It makes me absolutely crazy, because it is a fruitless exercise to try and apply logic to life and, more importantly, to emotions. My husband likes to tell me that he can't understand what I could possibly be stressed about. I have a beautiful daughter, I have a nice house, I have a good job - everything in my life is perfect. He's applying the if/then format to my life - according to him, if your life meets a certain criteria, then there is nothing that you should be unhappy about. However, he is a highly stressed person. I attempted to explain to him that based on his own criteria, he should have no stress in his life either. He has all the things I do (plus a lovely wife who takes good care of him!).

Apparently, this is also running rampant through the blogosphere. Shannon is experiencing it. Baby Smiling in Back Seat got a dose too. Mrs. Spit is experiencing it too. It must be a phase of the moon or something.

There is no if/then equation in life. I am more than grateful to have my daughter. But she is stubborn as a mule and I hear more arguments than the Supreme Court. Constant conflict beats gratefulness into submission many days. I love her more than anything. And she drives me crazy. Some days, when she has screamed "No" at me for the thousandth time, I fantasize about selling her to the gypsies (which she might actually prefer, after having read Madeline and the Gypsies many times) To pretend otherwise would be foolish and unfair to both of us. When I tell other people about her foibles, they give me the benefit of their experience. That helps me relax and ride out the tantrums a little more easily. If I had the opinion that I needed to take everything she dishes out with a smile on my face, because I am so lucky that she made it through alive, my head would explode. She would never get proper discipline, and she would be a wild, bossy, unmanageable, unlikeable kid. If I couldn't discuss her bad behavior with others, because by doing so I would negate the struggle I went through to have her, I would never learn different techniques for dealing with her.

Life does not conform to simple if/then equations. Emotions and reactions are rarely based in logic. I do have one if/then equation to apply though.

If you try to tell me that I should feel a certain way based on your value judgements or lack of information, then I am likely to visit violence upon you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Show and Tell - Farm Life

My husband dreams of running a farm. This provides some conflict with my minimum living requirements (city water and city sewers), so he must look elsewhere for someone to share his dream. I've always known that my daughter was very similar to her father, but this past weekend, I found out that she even shares his interest in farming.

We went to my SIL's house for lunch - we hadn't been there in a while, and didn't know that they had added a sheep to their chicken collection. When my SIL's husband offered to take the kids out to see the sheep, my daughter was practically beside herself with excitement.



You may notice that my daughter is running after the sheep - she must have chased him around for 20 minutes. She also renamed him - she was calling him Fartigo (FAR-dee-go). His name is Smoky. This is another thing she has in common with her father - she's always making up new nicknames for people and things.

Now go and see what everyone else is bringing to Show and Tell.