Thursday, March 29, 2012

losing a piece of my heart

"Grandmothers and roses are much the same. Each are God's masterpieces with different names."

My grandmother is more like a second mother to me. I spent a lot of time with her when I was a little girl. She held me when I was scared, nursed me back to health when I was sick, and consoled me when I was sad. Many of my most memorable childhood experiences were shared with her. 
To this day, she and I are still best friends. Comrades. Cohorts. We have slumber parties, shop, lunch, gossip and go to see movies together. When something happens in my life, she is one of the first people that I want to share it with.  
The first time I remember being separated from her for a long period of time was when I was about 10 years old. She and my grandfather bought a fifth wheel and travelled around the country for the summer. Every day I would try to find something to keep me occupied until 2pm when the mailman arrived. But the days dragged on agonizingly slow. Finally around 2pm, I’d see that mail truck pull up to the mailbox and I would run up the gravel driveway to the main road. I quickly began sorting through the mail with anticipation, looking for a postcard, hoping to learn of her most recent adventures. It was the longest summer of my life. My heart ached to be with her and I was disappointed to be left behind. Even though it was only a few months, it seemed like an eternity. 
Although that summer was over 20 years ago, I still remember my feelings so vividly. It is because of this that I don’t how I will survive without her when she is gone for forever. This winter, she was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic endocrine tumors (a form of cancer) that have already spread to her liver. The news broke my heart. I was devastated and cried harder than I have in my whole life. 
Initially, we thought that she had the typical form of pancreatic cancer in which she would have less than 6 months to live. My struggle with infertility made the diagnosis even more painful because she would not be around to meet my child (if I was ever blessed with one). She would miss one of the biggest milestones in my life, one that I have agonized over for more than three years. The thought was unbearable. I prayed and prayed for this to be a mistake. I prayed that God would not take her from me so soon. He answered my prayers. 
When we went to see the oncologist, the doctor informed us that my grandmother has a slow growing type of cancer. These slower growing tumors can be treated with targeted therapy drugs. The treatment will not kill the cancer but it will block the growth and spread of the disease. With any luck, this could give us a few more precious years with her.  
I am beyond grateful for the additional time we've been given. It is the biggest blessing for me and my family. But I am still acutely aware that I will have to say good bye to her sooner than I'd like. Not that I would ever feel ready for a goodbye of this magnitude. The time with her is going to fly by and then she will be gone. A piece of my heart will go with her. All that I will have left are my memories of her. But memories will not be enough to fill the hole that she will leave in my life. 
My grandmother is one of the most beautiful people that I know and her love has shaped the person that I am today. She is strong, kindhearted, sensitive, and caring. Her family is her world. She's passionate about gardening and has the most exquisite, fragrant roses that you've ever seen. When she is gone, I will miss her more than words can describe.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

life from my perspective

Am I a lifestyle blogger or infertility blogger?
Answer: both (or neither)

This is my small, little corner in the blogesphere that I can express my thoughts, feelings, experiences. My view of the world is influenced by my history and experiences. Infertility is a big part of my life that definitely impacts my perspective and the way I feel about things.

A lot of blogs are compartmentalized. Mommy blogs. Fitness blogs. Anonymous infertility blogs. Fashion blogs. Marketing blogs. Healthy eating blogs. Photography blogs. I'm not really wired that way. I'm a "put everything out there" kinda girl. So this is a "me connecting with you" blog . I'll be writing about life and all that it entails. The good, the bad and the ugly (as they say). Take it or leave it.

All I can do is tell my story through the lenses that I've been given. Most of the time the view is clear, sharp and full of joy. Other times it's fuzzy, blurry and dark.

But this blog will always be real. I can promise you that.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wanna Mug Swap

Don't know about you...but I love drinking my coffee and tea in a cute mug while blogging.
It's a perfect combination!

So you can only imagine how bummed I was to miss out on the mug swap that On the Front Porch hosted last month. Sadly, I didn't find her blog until the swap was already over.
So, I decided to borrow her idea and host my own swap.

Here's how it works.
If you'd like to participate just leave a comment with your blog name on this post. The last day to sign up will be March 31st.

On April 1st, check back on my blog to see the list of who you will be sending a mug to and receiving a mug from. Everyone will be matched up round robin style. After the list is posted, you will contact the person you're matched with to get their address, mail out their mug and wait to receive yours.

In the meantime, start mug shopping. You can choose a cute, pretty, fun mug from any of your favorite stores - Home Goods, Target, Etsy, Starbucks. The mug must be new and something you'd like to receive. The max price you should spend on the mug is $15 but you can spend less.

On April 16th, I will host a link up where we will share our mugs on our blogs so we can see what everyone got.

Also, feel free to grab the mug swap graphic and post on your blog if you'd like to tell your followers about the swap so they can join in the fun.

Happy mug shopping!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Here's lookin at you kid..." my favorite movie quote of all time.
Dreamy Humphrey Bogart
The lovely Ingrid Bergman
 Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of Casablanca, an iconic piece of art and quite possibly the most romantic movie ever made. To celebrate the anniversary, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) had a special 7pm screening at local theaters across the country to give people the opportunity to see this beautiful and timeless classic on the silver screen.

My grandmother mentioned that she would like to attend so we made a date out of it. And I am so glad we did. During the screening, the host of TCM took us behind the scenes of this epic love story showcasing stories from those who were on set and those who simply admire this timeless classic. 

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman were just amazing. Their chemistry gave me goose bumps. At the risk sounding completely cheesy, they just don't make movies like they used to. It's magic in a bottle. Take a look at these highly quotable lines...

Casablanca is a classic tale of unrequited love and is a movie that defined the “golden age” of Hollywood. Last night, I fell in love with it all over again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

baby showers suck

Fertility-challenged chicks hate baby showers! You go because you want to support your friends and family. But it's torture. You sit through painful conversations about babies and endure uncomfortable questions like "how old are your kids?" or "when are you going to start trying to have babies?". You're expected to play the same silly shower games that you've played at the last 899 baby showers you've attended during the x number of years that you've been trying to conceive. It's an in-your-face reminder of what you so desperately want (to be a mom) and haven't been able to acheive. It feels like everyone else in the world can have babies except you!

And if you've just experienced a loss or failed cycle, good luck trying to hold in your emotions. If you do lose it (even for a moment) and tears start to flow, you get to be "the one" everyone thinks is wierd or feels sorry for...and you quite possibly make the mother-to-be feel like absolute crap! It's not good all the way around.

Fortunately, a recent baby shower that I attended for one of my closest infertility friends was not the norm. My friend H has a long history with infertility. She's experienced failed IVFs, a successful IVF (with her first child), a miscarriage, and various surgeries and setbacks in between. Eventually, her uterus completely shut down for business. But she was fortunate enough to have a dear friend offer to carry her child. She is expecting a little girl through the gift of surrogacy this Spring.

H's baby shower was a luncheon at a wine bar. Yes, a wine bar with alcohol flowing! It was tastefully decorated and there wasn't too much baby talk. No baby games! The food was delicious. I'm not sure if this shower was different because H has walked in our shoes or if it was just a coincidence. But all things was a nice way to spend the day.

baby girl

bruschetta appetizers

candy bar

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Irish-Inspired Bunco Night

A little over a year ago, a group of ladies in my area started a bunco group. We're affectionately called bunco bitches. Since we all live pretty close to one another, it's convenient and no one really has to drive far. Each month a different member of the group hosts a themed-bunco at her house and prepares snacks, dinner, dessert and a signature drink.

Tonight was my night to host a St. Patrick's Day themed bunco (which my friend Tracy graciously agreed to let me have at her house). The menu was "brunch for dinner" featuring bacon and cheddar quiche, spinach and mushroom quiche, blueberry mini scones, vanilla yogurt with coconut granola and roasted potatoes. And for dessert, I baked mint chocolate chip cookies. It was a wet, cold, rainy night so my signature drink - Bailey's with decaf hazelnut coffee was a big hit!

The night was filled with laughter, friendship and fun. I always look forward to spending the evening with these ladies but tonight was especially nice as there was a great energy among the group. Plus, the luck of the Irish was definitely with me...I won $45!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

IVF at 35 or bust?

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting too much about infertility lately. There are a couple of reasons for that.
  1. I've been super busy at work and haven't had much time to think or write.
  2. I've been trying not to think about trying to conceive (TTC) during the next couple months. If I write about it, that means that I'm thinking about it and drudging up all the emotions that come with that.
  3. I'm scared that June is fast approaching and I won't be completely ready to do IVF
more on #3
I am far more ready than I've ever been BUT...I have so many fears surrounding doing my one and only IVF cycle (A and I have decided that we can only put ourselves through it once). Do you really ever feel completely ready to put your mind, body and finances through the ringer? Let me tell you a little more about my fears...

My insurance doesn't cover IVF at all so we will have to pay out of pocket for the drugs and procedure. We have been saving for a while so fortunately we have the money. But it is almost our entire savings. I'm not a gambler so spending over $15,000 for a roughly 50% chance of success is beyond frightening. That's like putting down $15k on red or black at a roulette table in a casino. Might get lucky...might not. That's crazy to me!

I'm scared of needles. Like really scared of needles. I faint when I get a shot or give blood. I start to hyperventilate. It's not pretty. The thought of giving myself daily shots for several weeks makes me break out in a cold sweat with anxiety. I'm scared that all of the hormones being injected into my body will make my emotions go all haywire. I'm scared of the bruising and the pain from the shots. I'm scared of being put under general anesthesia for the egg retrieval. I'm scared of not producing enough eggs or any normal eggs. I'm scared of getting ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) and being in severe pain and hospitalized. But most of all, I'm scared of my body failing me and the embryo not implanting and finding out the IVF cycle failed.

My biggest fear is that I will put myself and my marriage through all of this and still end up childless. I'll be left with a ravaged body, broken heart and empty bank account. Some of the other things that are extremely difficult to come to terms with are the unnatural choices that you are forced to make when embarking on IVF. What if we only transfer two embryos and neither of them implant? I'll always wonder if we should have opted for three. What if we transfer three and all three take. It would be a huge risk for me and the babies to carry the pregnancy. But how could I ever selectively reduce? To choose a baby that we've tried everything to conceive and end its life.

And if all goes well and the IVF is a success, what do we do with the rest of our embryos? A and I have always wanted just one healthy baby. So what about our embabies? We don't want to give them away, kill them or freeze them forever. There are no good options and these aren't decisions that people normally have to make.

Those are the reasonable concerns and fears. Then I have the unreasonable ones...what if I do conceive and the IVF causes health problems down the line for the child? What if mine and my husband's genes aren't compatible and natural selection is trying to keep us from procreating? What if I end up getting some crazy cancer from all of the drugs I inject into my body? What if we aren't meant to be parents and I'm trying to play God?

I turn 35 this summer. 35. The turning point for infertility patients. After 35, you are considered high risk. You are put into a different success percentage category. And for us...we don't feel like we can continue in limbo like this much longer. We need to have some resolution. So, if I'm going to do this...I better quit dragging my feet. But I'm so petrified.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Freebie Friday

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Call me superficial but I love getting pretty little shopping bags containing shiny, new things. And when the items are free or practically free, it makes the experience even better. This is why I open store credit cards. For rewards. And free stuff.

Yesterday was a busy, stressful day with gloomy weather so I decided to wander across the street to the mall after work. Because I'm such a loyal customer (i.e. I spend way too much money in the stores), I received a couple of freebie coupons from Victoria's Secret and Express.

I looked around each store and picked out a few items that brightened my day. They were pink and reminded me of Spring. An hour later, I walked out of the mall with my freebies feeling footloose and fancy free. Shopping and freebies ROCK!

shiny, pink bags

lace panty from Victoria's Secret PINK collection

racer back sequin tank from Express

Sunday, March 11, 2012

and the delta award goes to...

This week was a little hectic getting ready for the ADDY Awards. You may be asking...what the heck is an ADDY. Well, an ADDY is an award that a company wins in the world's largest advertising competition. Design firms, marketing companies, ad shops, and even clients themselves enter their work to be judged by other industry professionals at the local level. The top winning work moves on to compete at the regional level and finally at the national level. Winning a national ADDY award is kind of a big deal in our industry.

I'm contracting with an new agency that introduced its revamped brand, Misfit, at the ADDY Awards Show. It was fun being a part of the brand development and helping get everything ready for Thursday night. My major role was getting the social media platforms ready to go before the show. Check out the new brand look and feel on Facebook and Twitter (and if you happen to click "like" or "follow" while you're there, we won't mind a bit).

Once all of the work was done and I arrived at the show, it hit me how much I missed attending these industry functions. For several years, I was on the board of directors for AAF Sacramento Ad Club (the trade association that puts on the show) even rising up the ranks to President. But the last few years, I haven't even attended events. It was so fun seeing all of the work coming out of our region and connecting with former employers, colleagues, and industry friends. What a great night!

RS&E Girls

How does your industry celebrate its successes?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Would Die For That

A country singer, Kellie Coffey, wrote a powerful song about infertility called "I Would Die for That". The first time I heard this song - it touched me deeply, made me cry but also gave me hope. I don't know much about Kellie but I do know that she eventually had two beautiful children and her dream of becoming a mother came true. I wanted to post this video for those of you that haven't heard it or seen the video. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder that you're not alone.
To all of my IF friends who would die to become mothers,

Stay strong, my friends. This is such a difficult journey and my heart aches for all of our pain and sadness. Every night I pray that we all get to experience motherhood and end this heartbreaking chapter in our lives. I am thankful for all of your support and will continue to provide mine to you. 
With love,

Monday, March 5, 2012

40 before 40

Inspired by my good friend Tracy at Then I Got To Thinking..., I created a 40 before 40 list (hers is 30 before 30, but I'm a little older). It feels so good to have my goals written down. I'm so excited to start checking things off and experiencing new things. My 35th birthday is in May so I'll have about 5 years to complete this list.

There are a few goals that I can't control like having a baby. But I have faith that God will help me achieve everything on this list and so much more.

Here's my list:

1. Have a baby
2. Take photography classes
3. Go trekking in a rainforest
4. Swim with dolphins
5. Get featured in the media for an achievement that I'm proud of
6. Fly a kite with my grandmother
7. Start a social movement on a cause I believe in
8. Fly first class
9. Change the world in some small way
10. Tell my loved ones (at least once) how much they mean to me
11. Visit Yosemite
12. Surprise A with an unplanned vacation Santa Cruz
13. Throw out and replace half of my wardrobe
14. Ice Skating in Central Park
15. Paint and organize my closet
16. Do yoga on the beach at sunrise
17. Experience a hot air balloon ride
18. Give my blog a makeover About the facelift 
19. Plant a garden and nurture it
20. Scan and organize my family photos
21. Travel throughout Europe
22. Run a half marathon City to the Sea
23. Buy and wear a pair of ballet flats
24. Decorate a nursery in my house
25. Go to a blogger meetup Sac Blogger Meet & Greet
26. Volunteer (regularly) at a horse rescue
27. Win an ADDY award with my new agency
28. Go on a wellness retreat
29. Buy horse property
30. Organize all of my jewelry
31. Throw or attend a tea party Mother's Day
32. Juice fast for 5 days in a row
33. Make at least one recipe from each cookbook I own
34. Have breakfast at Tiffany's (and bring home a little blue box)
35. Send someone a surprise in the mail
36. Go kayaking
37. Achieve financial abundance with my passion
38. Be a mentor to someone
39. Plant a tree and watch it grow
40. Take a cooking class

Have you made a list of your goals for the next few years?

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Doing My Part

It's March. And March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Since being diagnosed with endometriosis in January, I have learned a ton about this disease and want to do my part to raise awareness of this incurable disorder. Please take a moment to read this information as it may help yourself or someone you love realize a condition that has yet to be diagnosed. Here's what I've learned about Endometriosis:

  • It's a painful reproductive and immunological disease in which tissue similar to the uterine lining (endometrium) grows outside the womb and implants in other areas of the body
  • There is no absolute cure
  • Affects one million women in US
  • 48% of infertile women have endometriosis
  • Symptoms can include: painful periods, pelvic pain, infertility, pain with sexual activity, gastrointestinal and urinary tract difficulties
  • Some women have no symptoms at all
  • Endo patients have an elevated risk of certain cancers and autoimmune disorders
  • No definitive cause of the disease
  • Can only be diagnosed through surgery
  • Genetics, immune dysfunction and exposure to environmental toxins may be contributing factors to disease
  • This disease is commonly misunderstood, misdiagnosed and ineffectively treated
  • Endo is the most prevalent cause of hysterectomy, infertility and pelvic pain in women and girls
  • The average delay in diagnosis remains an astounding 9 years
  • A patient will seek the counsel of 5 or more physicians before her pain is adequately addressed
  • It is not unusual for a patient to undergo repeated surgeries and embark on different medical therapies; many carrying significantly negative side effects and none offering long-term relief
  • Can affect women from all walks of life ranging from adolescence to post-menopause
  • Can be so painful as to render a woman or girl unable to go about her normal routine

My endo is only stage II and thankfully my pain is manageable. But it is a contributing factor in my struggle to conceive which has brought a lot of pain, sadness, disappointment and frustration. I've met some other bloggers who also suffer from various stages of endometriosis - JameeJoanna and Living our life in cycles. Our stories are all unique but the disease leaves few of us unscathed, whether the damage is emotional, physical or both - I can safely say that endo sucks!

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