Monday, August 27, 2012

Introducing Eleanor

(Updates in red)

After months of trying to bring a dog home, we finally struck gold. Months of local rescue applications gone unanswered, months of being told we weren't good candidates for a dog because we didn't have a fenced 2-acre yard and I dare have a job outside the home (helloooooo 1950s), months of getting thisclose with certain dogs but it just not working out because they either didn't like cats or their current owners changed their minds, we made it happen.

This is Eleanor. She's twelvenine (long story) weeks old, a scruffy lab/poodle/schnauzer?/terrier?/German Shorthaired Pointer? mix of rough-and-tumble heritage.

Mystery solved: DNA test reveals all....

Eleanor was born in Georgia and dumped in a lot to die with her brothers and sisters. She found her way to us via a rescue partnership that sends dogs from the Deep South up north, which lets them escape the brutal shelter system down there and get matched with adopters like us, who outnumber available dogs in this area. We met her in Annapolis last night during a driving rainstorm, and even though we went in thinking one of her littermates would be our pick, this little lady stole our hearts.

She's a little squirt with big paws now, and they think she'll be 50 pounds or so when fully grown. She has serious eyes and a quirky sense of humor. We named her after one of my favorite ladies ever... a First Lady at that, also known for big thoughts and wry humor.

The cats are hanging in there. The first night is behind us. Our hearts are more full than they were yesterday, and our dog-in-the-District adventures are just beginning.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday I'm in Love

Thanks for your interesting comments on de-stressing this week, everyone - I loved reading how you turn off your brains and unwind. As a big first step, I did something crazy and new on Wednesday and Thursday of this week: I took a real lunch break! It turns out that eating anywhere but my office desk does great things for my brain, especially if that anywhere is a park bench next to a water feature. This is rocket science, I know. At any rate, we might be up to something fun and exciting this weekend - I'll 'fess up next week. In the meantime, some little tidbits from my world on the Web (outside of near-constant Todd Akin outrage, of course)... Have a wonderful weekend!

Time-Travel Photography

I'm obsessed with this photography project by Sergey Larenkov. Superimposing historical scenes (wartime action... wow) over today's images produces something eery and wondrous, all at once.

Hal Grades Your Bike-Locking

I just love this guy. Via Streetfilms comes this 2003 classic, Hal Grades Your Bike Locking. Hal rocks. There are sequels, too.

21 Jump Street

I love a good foreign film or depressing melodrama as much as the next film snob. You know what I also love, though? Well-cast comedy that's a lot smarter than you expect it to be. Enter 21 Jump Street, the couch with my guy, a big bowl of homemade popcorn, and the most enjoyable Friday night in recent history. Nope, not even kidding - this movie made me giggle. A lot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Soothe me.

I'm under (several) doctors' orders to decrease my stress level. Nothing decreases stress like being told you must decrease your stress level, right?

This summer I've made a concerted effort to unclutter my calendar and eliminate travel, which I know has historically been one of my biggest stress-inducers, one that I bring completely onto myself. ("yes I would looooove to come and visit you! yes let's please go out twice next week! yes I will do that huge thing for you! yesyesyesyes!") In other words, I'm trying to get better about saying no.

So far this August, I've only spent one night outside of DC. That's improvement. I cancelled my annual trip to New Mexico, and my lovely girlfriends out there decided they'll come visit me over Labor Day instead. More improvement. I've never tried harder to do as little as possible. It doesn't feel like me, though, all this saying no. (I am my mother's daughter in this respect... hi Mom!)

There are overarching stress factors in my life, I know. There's time: not feeling like I have enough of it, even as I try desperately to empty my calendar. There's work: working too much for my own good, and dealing with work drama that requires more of my involvement than I'd like. There's also money: ummmm, yeah. But isn't it funny how the same things that can de-stress us can also backfire in our heads? For example:
  • Animals. I love animals and instantly feel better when I'm around them. We've been trying to adopt a dog for ages (long story). But wait, when is the exact right time to adopt a dog and how should that be coordinated with life-planning and what about the costs of dog-walking and doggie daycare etc? I'd like to volunteer at the Washington Animal Rescue League, too, but wait, what about the time and can I really take on a new commitment?
  • Reading. Books soothe me. (Read this and this, by the way, not this.) You know what I hate lately, though? Magazines. Unread magazines are piled up all over my home and do nothing but advertise to me the fact that I don't have enough leisure time to flip through their pages. Oh great, the third issue of Coastal Living to add to the pile of magazines still wrapped in plastic? Yet another Food & Wine? Awesome.
  • Food. I love cooking. But not when I don't have time to care about it. See unread issues of Food & Wine, above.
  • Friends and Family. My loved ones make me happy, but I'm less happy about my travel lockdown that hampers my ability to visit them. This is a biggie for me, a constant guilt cycle.
  • Facials/Massages/etc. Traditionally my favorite indulgence has been a Triple Oxygen Facial at Bliss. T keeps trying to book me massages to relax. But no on both counts. I imagine myself lying there doing nothing but counting the dollars that could've been spent on, say, embryo freezing, and getting even more worked up than I was when I arrived. Sigh.
  • Exercise. Like many of you, I love the high of exercise once I'm in the zone, and let's be honest - I could use the endorphins. Getting in the zone, though, is like pulling teeth. And only being allowed to engage in high-impact activities one week of the month? Not helpful. Not enough time to get in the zone.
  • Water. Specifically, the ocean. My perennial happy place and the best way to clear my head. But there is no ocean in DC, and fertility clinic scheduling means I can't travel anyway. So.
  • Writing. If only I had the time/energy to do it right.
Here's my question: how do you relax? Can we lose our ability to relax over time? Should I just be buying lottery tickets to try to eliminate my work/financial concerns and shut up already? Without said lottery winnings, do I even have a shot?

And let's agree that I'll never again write a post as whiny as this one, okay? Pinkie swear.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lady-blogging, DC edition.

You know what my goal is for today? To cook dinner. Not cook a great dinner, not try out a new recipe, but to cook anything at all. These days I'm only cooking on the weekends and maybe one night a week. The rest of those nights I come home later than I'd like and try to recover from the day, when my mind does nothing but reel with tomorrow's To Do list. It's not a sustainable way of being, but until I figure out how to un-busy myself from "8 to 5" (oh, those quotations), my goals will remain simple: cooking edible food tonight.

When my life gets cluttered like this, I find so much inspiration in the women who are managing to charm and amuse on their blogs. Bloggers rocking it when I'm unable to do the same are so humbling, in the best way possible. So allow me to raise my glass to three bloggers who are inspiring me online lately. It doesn't hurt that they also happen to be women I admire in real life, gals with whom I've clinked glasses and shared laughs and great food. DC is bursting with fantastic women, truly. As you'll soon see:


I've been reading Mary's blog The Arugula Files since before we moved to DC - that's how much I like her writing. I think I once even posted a stalker-y "I live in Dallas but hate it here and want to move there and when I do we can be friends" sort of comment. Embarrassing. But how I could I not stalk Mary? She cooks brilliant food that's photographed beautifully, and she writes about it really, really well. Her asides on Arugula Files leave me in stiches (cheesecloth and Beyonce and gracefully acerbic barbs at all things "foodie"). In person, Mary is even more fantastic - and we have a slew of professional interests in common. Too good to be true, right? H Street happy hours have never been more fun.


Mandy is one of those adorable pixie girls who is so damn cute you spend the first few minutes you're with her not even hearing what she's saying because your inner monologue is reeling from all the adorable. And then your brain wakes up and you hear the spunky hilarity coming out of her Nashville-accented mouth, and you're smitten. And then you visit her blog Fabric Paper Glue and are blown away by the DIY wonder that is her online hangout, and you realize that this girl has major.crafting.skillz. And although Mandy's idea of a throw-away project might involve a lot more know-how than you possess (ahem), you love seeing her projects in action anyway. Also: "A Fabric & a Font?" Forever yes.


Oh, Bettina Dear indeed. Bettina lives in my neighborhood and is fast-becoming one of my favorite things about it. Things we have in common: cats, oysters, drinking, cute dresses, dubious love of many academic degrees, politics. Things we don't have in common: just enough to make our conversations interesting, always. Bettina just started blogging and I adore where she's going with it: food, eye candy, politics... a little bit of everything. Sound familiar? Like I said... we have lots in common. So I really think you'll like her. Also, Bettina is not allowed to move to the suburbs... no matter what she says.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Needles (and what's inside them)

I occasionally write about my struggle with infertility. It's good for me, and maybe good for some of you out there, too. Feel free to skip if you're not interested. If you are, you can read more from me here and find resources to help you or your loved ones here.

"How bad are the needles?"

That's what everyone wants to know about my infertility injections. How large they are, how painful they are, how weird it is to stab yourself as if it's no big deal.

Answer: it's pretty weird.

The lovely Mia Wallace demonstrating a fair but frowned-upon reaction to a syringe

The thing is, though - you get used to it. Like anything else.

For my first IUI, I couldn't get over the hilarity of the presentation. Imagine this: a large cooler arrives at your house filled with high-tech ice packs and boxes of syringe "pens." Sketchiness meets high-tech, right on your doorstop. Accoutrements include dozens of alcohol wipes and just what you've always dreamed of owning: your very own Sharps container. This is going to be fun!

The syringe pens go a long way in making this is as easy as possible. Old-school versions of this protocol included a lot more know-how on the part of the patient. But in 2012, I simply dial up my prescribed dose, grab a handful of tummy (not that I have a handful), and go for it.

Inserting the needle never hurts as much as you think it will. Sometimes there's a tiny drop of blood, but not often. Bruises are common, but as I said, you get used to them. If the worst part of this treatment were the actual injections, I'd be a happy girl. Here's what's not the worst part: not the needles, not the near-daily trips to the infertility clinic for "transvaginal" ultrasounds (if those sound familiar you're probably recalling these right-wing idiots), not the insemination itself, and not even the waiting for the positive or negative pregnancy test. The worst part (for me) is what's inside those needles, and how it makes me feel. That's what makes me dread the next injection. The prick and the ensuing bruise are manageable, but the 24-hour rollercoaster each one prompts inside my body is no joke.

Looking at my needle one night, full of dread

Here's the basic schedule: Every night for a week or so, I inject what in (very) layman's terms are basically steroids for my ovaries. This is why I have to have such frequent ultrasounds; the doctors are closely monitoring follicle growth and how the dosage is impacting number and size. Too many follices that are too large, and it's dangerous for me; too few and too small, and they'll increase my dosage. They're looking for way more and way bigger follicles than most of you reading this have in a regular cycle, but not so many that I'm in the hospital or auditioning for a reprisal of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight."

Looking back at my first IUI in January, I can now tell it was going to be a bust because I didn't hurt enough. My dosage was really low; the docs needed a baseline to see how my ovaries would react to the medication. I felt a little tired and crampy, but nothing terrible. By the time my dosage was doubled for my next two IUIs, I'd be flat on my back as much as possible. I become a swollen, aching, sore-to-the-touch patient with zero energy and zero clothes that fit. I try to keep a bra on at all times, because taking it off hurts so badly that it's not worth sleeping like a normal person. The fatigue is so strong I can barely keep my head up after 4 p.m. Concerts, dinners out, meetups with friends, all cancelled. I can barely get to work on the worst days. My sister asked me for a physical equivalent of the pain, and I told her it was like a heated metal corset being slowly cranked tighter... and tighter... and tighter... for a week.

Being weightless in a cold swimming pool over the 4th of July was the best feeling I'd had on the meds since January. I read nearly an entire novel floating in that pool. The minute I stepped out, though, the weight of my own body on itself was crushing. Also crushing: having to grimace and recover when your nephew jumps onto you for a hug; looking pregnant while trying desperately to be pregnant only not being pregnant; overhearing breastfeeding discussions and knowing that, no offense ladies, my boobs hurt about 100 times worse than yours do, only I'm not allowed to talk about them. (Thank goodness for forgiving dresses.) 

But there is an end to it. The "steroid" regimen is never more than ten days. When the doctors think the time is right, I take the "trigger shot" that also arrived in my high-tech yet sketchy cooler to force ovulation in 24-48 hours. The day after the shot, we do the insemination. And then we wait. And my body ever so slowly tries to recover.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Champagne and Diarrhea, Take II

More of my people from the best-named family portrait session ever. My mom just purchased a large canvas print for each of us, and I think I'm selecting the champagne photo for my print. It's just too good, and makes me grin every time I see it. But really... there are so many other great ones, too! Which would you choose?

(You're welcome for including the diaper explosion here. That photo is just plain awesome.)

Real words next week, promise. We're off for a quick night in New York with T's family and back on Saturday to work on a fun project. Happy, happy weekending!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday I'm in Love

Oh, Olympic fatigue. For two weeks, you ruin us with your late nights and your heart-stopping moments and your tears. Yet I wouldn't have it any other way. (GABBBBBBBBBY!!!!!!!) So while I'm bidding adieu to swimming and waving hello to track this weekend, I hope to also recharge my energy tank and maintain a happy-sleepy vibe all weekend long. No big plans, no big projects, just my guy and my cats, on the couch and in our neighborhood. Sounds perfectly mellow right about now. On to my picks for the week!

Dieter Braun Olympic Print

So much yes on this beauty. And wouldn't you know it'd look perfect in my upstairs hallway?

Sombrilla Sun Shade

Having just returned from a beach weekend myself, I'm loving the idea of these Sombrilla Sun Shades (hat tip to Remodelista), especially for families with kiddos in tow. Beach umbrellas are so bulky, and beach tents are such a pain to set up on a windy beach (my sister and I embarked on that comedy of errors last year, only to have poor Liam scraped by a blowing pole). These lovely sun shades, though, are simple, gorgeous, portable, and practical... what more do you need?

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art

I recently enjoyed the hell out of this book, and if you like abusdist comedic premises, you might, too. Christopher Moore has a bit of Tom Robbins to him, for those of you looking for a comparable author. He brings art legends (Renoir, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, so many more) to life and ties them together in the most improbable of ways. Part mystery, part thriller, part romance, part science fiction, part historical fiction... this book has everything except for a satisfying ending. (Although I think I might be alone on that note? Read it so we can discuss the ending. And cast the fantasy movie.) Ready yourself for awkward laughing-out-loud moments on trains and such. (Or from underneath your Sombrilla sun shade?) Note to DCers - this one's available in the library.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My people.

I love this crew. Here's an outtake from our family photo session with Genie Leigh Photography, the same one my dad termed "Champagne and Diarrhea." It makes me smile, big.

(click for bigger version)

Evidence of champagne: obvious. Evidence of diarrhea explosion taking place on my mom's lap, unbeknownst to her: less obvious. Roll with the punches and keep laughing: it's what we do.

I can hardly wait to get my CD chock full of images. In the meantime, here's a sneak peek of more. And I can't say this enough: if you're in the Wilmington, NC area and looking for a photographer, look no further than Genie Leigh.

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