Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Overwhelm

I hope you will accept this advance apology for the next two weeks: I am overwhelmed on the personal and professional fronts right now. I will get back to writing something interesting in the near future, and hope you will stick with me for a little while.

Returned from L.A. last night. Going down again this weekend. Nam is not rebounding well, but she is being transferred to the transitional care wing in preparation for a possible move to a nursing home. In-home care may be out of the question, though we are still hoping. She is bone-tired, but not in pain. My dad is shaky, but the Sinamet (sp?) for his Parkinsons is helping him out some. He is still depressed and being more helpless than circumstances warrant, but at least he's not barricading himself inside the house anymore.

Work is hectic in the extreme. The commute of two-plus hours each day--which will, thankfully, not be the norm once this project is over and I'm working mostly from home--doesn't help the fact that I'm putting in a lot of hours, but am not comfortable with billing for them all as I'm still learning the system that I'm documenting, while figuring out some of the finer features of Word 2003 that any technical writer worth her AP Style Guide should really know. And I really don't want to scare them off with my first invoice. Especially now that they've brought on a second contract technical writer--whom they refer to as a "junior" tech writer because she only has degrees and no work experience, even though her degrees are in English and biology, with a year-long certification course under her belt specifically for tech writing. (Who's paranoid? Me! Me! Me!)

On the IVF front, I can say that my new doctor--whom I shall refer to as Dr. FYC, for reasons that may be mysterious, or not, depending--seems like a good fit for us. And not just because he said I'm still young. I know you think that it's just the flattery that has won me over, but...OK, it's the flattery. You're right. Plus, the new protocol is exactly what I expected, with the exception of a short break from the BCP's next week. We will not use the Lupron. My thighs are happy. He thinks I can make more eggs. He thinks my eggs are probably still good. He's paid to say these things, but they're nice to hear anyway. I start shooting up in about two weeks, I think. Need to check my calendar. For those of you who remember the Orange Folder of Doom, I now have an all-electronic version for this cycle. My R.E.'s office is going paperless. Sorta. But that hasn't kept me from closing my eyes and ignoring the file all the same; it just can't mock me in its orangeness from the kitchen table.

OK, that's it for now. Back to the gruesomeness. And then it's on to penne pesto, peppercress salad and sweet, ripe watermelon, as a treat for enduring the drudgery.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Going, going...

...soon to be gone.

Once I finish up about twenty consecutive hours on this damned training manual I've been writing, we'll be zipping down to the Southland for a couple of days to see Nam and my father. Should be back to blogging Tuesday or Wednesday, unless I'm literally buried in work--which is entirely possible, considering the numerous Douglas Fir forests my recent printings have decimated, and the resulting hillocks of 8.5x11" paper that are precariously close to toppling upon my person.

(I realize I am gravely belittling my own job, but I have to wonder: Why, oh, why does anyone print training manuals for simple, self-explanatory, GUI-interface programs? Who uses them? And, if someone is interested enough to want some piece of information contained in said manual, wouldn't he rather just look it up in the online Help menu?)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

That rarest of species

Before my interview a couple of Fridays ago, I was on a do-or-die mission to hunt down, in the dense and foreboding retail woods of San Leandro, an elusive creature: brown slacks.

I hear you silently scratching your heads, faces quizzical, wondering why I would be hunting for brown slacks, and even if I do have such pedestrian taste as to covet brown slacks, why on earth they should be elusive.

First, if you come from the Land of Slender Hips (LOSH--like "lost", but drunk), they are as common as crows, and I understand and envy your puzzlement. You may stop reading now and congratulate yourself on your good fortune, diet and exercise regime. Second, I should let you know that I was actually searching for a very rare species of the brown slack genus: the chocolate-fitted-low-on-waist-with-generous-rump-straight-legged-summer-weight brown slacks. Finally, I must tell you that the only interview-appropriate shoes I could find in my it's-either-vagrant-or-cocktail-party wardrobe were a tawny beige slingback, thus necessitating a pant of the family brown.

After patiently tracking my prey for several hours in the deepest reaches of the treacherous jungle, I caught a glimpse of a perfect CFLOWWGRSLSWBS specimen--magnificent! Exhilarating!--and raced to secure it in my Choice Apparel Repository & Transport device (or CART, as it's more commonly known), then sprinted purposefully toward the approved Review Of Okayness Module, where I discovered that the specimen was a genetic sport of the rarest kind: a true example of PWMMBLS (pants-which-make-my-butt-look-smaller). This almost-unheard-of variation--though slightly more common than the albino PWMMBLS, which has only been verifiably spotted once, and that back in 1983--was a great joy to behold.

I wore the CFLOWWGRSLSWBS-PWMMBLS to my job interview, and I got the job.

I wore the CFLOWWGRSLSWBS-PWMMBLS to my second day on the job, and I was complimented on my exceptional first-day's work.

I wore the CFLOWWGRSLSWBS-PWMMBLS to my pharmacy, and both the elderly security guard and the be-smocked teenaged CART-wrangler smiled at me.

I wore the CFLOWWGRSLSWBS-PWMMBLS to my R.E. consult, and he called me "young." (Were ever more seductive words spoken by an R.E. to a thirty-five-year-old Poor Responder? I think not.)

Finally, I stepped on the R.E.'s scale in the CFLOWWGRSLSWBS-PWMMBLS and was, quite miraculously, told I had lost ten pounds. (Were ever more seductive words spoken by a computer-voiced digital scale? I think not.)

May the CFLOWWGRSLSWABS-PWMMBLS last for all eternity. I would return even my hard-won, ART-regulation pajamas to the inaccessible wilds for a second specimen.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Oh, shit

Started new job today. Have six hours, at least, of work to do tonight. They want as many hours as I can give them. I want to give them as many hours as I can so we can pay the mortgage. All fine, all dandy, except that I've forgotten how to concentrate and almost started crying in their snazzy conference room during a demo this afternoon as a result.

Have wand monkey/consult appointment with new RE tomorrow afternoon; that's my one "break" for the week. Helllllllllllp meeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Friday, May 20, 2005

.666666666666666666666666666...

I had three hopes this week, each with its own degree of improbability. There's something almost comforting about improbable hopes: it's hard to be too upset when they do not come to fruition--"dashed" seems a little strong, if you know what I mean. And when you're juggling three of them, well, you just think to yourself, "I'll be lucky to get one. One would be nice."

Well, I got my one. The biggest one.

My Nam made it. Perhaps her seventy-four pounds are composed of rubber; she was pulled and twanged ferociously, her heartbeat soaring and plummeting, her respiration at sixty and then at eight, but she didn't snap. She was awake, if not alert, when we arrived, bleary-eyed, on Monday morning. I held her bony, bruised hand and she smiled at me. By Wednesday, she could even eat a little something. I left her yesterday afternoon, sitting up in her regular hospital bed--having been moved out of ICU--and telling me, in her delicate voice, how excited she was about...

Wish number two.

My new job. Got the call yesterday morning. I had nearly written it off, after five days of waiting, but it's mine. I caved at the last minute and reduced my intended bid by ten bucks an hour, which was either foolish (they would have paid more) or fortunate (there were four of us in contention; I did not want to lose out merely on price). The money's still acceptable. I start Monday. We renegotiate in six months.

As for wish number three, well, that was a crackpipe dream and I knew it. This odd, hormonally-fucked-up cycle--nine days of bleeding to start, late ovulation--was probably the last one I should have had hope for. But, in my most optimistic moments, I really did. The PMS--the bloating, breast tenderness and Vesuvial zit--which always made an appearance for two days about a week before the inevitable, never materialized. And I started to imagine that I would be one of those infuriatingly lucky "I went through a failed IVF cycle and then, when I relaxed the next month, I got pregnant! With boy/girl twins!" women. Well, no. Instead, my period showed up, four days early and in a gush of watery brown, while I was haggling with the Honda mechanic and wearing white. Fortunately, the white was my underwear, which were well masked by a dark denim skirt. The dealerships, they provide free doughnuts, free coffee, free internet access--but they do not provide free tampons. I had to get change for my twenty from Parts.

Bring on the BCP's, then bring on the injectibles, then bring on July. At least I'll have my new job to distract me, and my Nam to ask me all about it.

Thank you to all who wrote and kept us in your thoughts these last few days. I read some of your comments at a busy L.A. internet cafe and got so teary that the kindhearted busboy asked me, in his very halting English, if I needed some water. Having friends in the computer is a beautiful, beautiful gift.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Not ready

Just got a call that my grandmother's in the ICU with heart and breathing problems. The words "no heroic measures" have been used.

She said a couple of weeks ago, before this latest ailment, that she's ready, that life isn't all that fulfilling when you're ninety and can't see to well, eat too well or walk too well. But she can still think and feel and imagine and love, and she has given so much love, genteel and quiet, to her often bitter and difficult family.

We're driving down tonight. Please let us make it in time. I'm just not ready to lose her, this sane and kind and intelligent and funny woman in her tiny, failing body.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Bugger, bugger, bugger

Had the job interview this morning. Distressingly, the position sounds even better, which will make the disappointment that much worse. I could telecommute often, the project might be extended indefinitely, my would-be boss is kickass smart, the facilities are hip and new, a cooper's hawk lives in a tree in the parking lot and...

...I want it.

I really want it.

I really, really want it.

I mean, I would be writing for a living. Tech writing, sure, but still writing. And it would be tech writing for the I.T. department of a biotech company. It just has Me! Me! Me! written all over it.

After I interviewed with the first guy, I felt like it was mine. He was excited, liked my writing samples, loved the idea of having a seasoned IT manager doing the documentation. The whole thing seemed preordained. I thought we might even wrap it up right on the spot. But then the second guy came in, and I just couldn't get comfortable talking with him, especially when, in his thick Eastern European accent, he said that, after reviewing my resume, he "didn't want to insult my intelligence by asking about my experience, because anyone who could string two sentences together could do the first part of the job." I said I was pretty sure I could string two sentences together, but might just draw the line at three. He got it but was not amused.

They're interviewing several other candidates. And I probably won't hear anything for at least a week.

In the car on the way back, Jeff--who very sweetly drove me down so I could keep blabbering out random answers to imaginary interview questions in the car without endangering the lives of other drivers--said, "Well, with our luck, you'll probably get the rejection call the same day your period arrives."

He's probably right.

But, goddamn it, I want it.

MY job.

MINE!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Things that are sharp and pointy and aren't my nose

OK, I have to admit: today was a pretty damned good day. We slept in, read your comments, ate mind-blowing apricots, sorted through several hundred of our books--I found my missing copy of Persuasion and a little novella called Mrs. Caliban that had apparently snuck behind the gardening manuals in 1999--and then had some lovely, lovely nekkid time. I'm nearly convinced that there is a cyclical component to my libido, as it also happens to be right around ovulation time. That nature, it likes to reproduce. Not that there's an icicle's chance in the underworld and all, yeah, I know, but shit, we might as well. Especially when we actually want to.

Oh, and then there was this: I got an interview! Friday! 11:00 a.m.! For a job! Well, not exactly a job--more of a contract, actually, and it's a good hour's commute. One-way. But still!

Since I'm feeling so damned chipper and exclamatory, I thought I'd post a few pictures from our trip. Or maybe a slew.


Dashing Ocotillo flower, Joshua Tree Posted by Hello


Jeff, visibly irritated that I am making him stand in front of an Ocatillo in the midafternoon desert sun. Posted by Hello


The cacti were more obliging. Cholla flower, Joshua Tree Posted by Hello


And they look neat and skeletal when they’re dead. Posted by Hello


More cholla, but with bug! (Not a self-portrait. Just to be clear.) Posted by Hello


There were thousands and thousands of them. They are well protected. If you touch one, you will be sorry. Trust me. Posted by Hello


Betcha thought we'd never get around to showing a Joshua tree, eh? Ha! Joshua trees grow just half an inch per year. There is one that is thirty feet tall. My head hurts when I try to do the math. More trivia: Did you know that Joshua trees are a member of the yucca family, and are surrounded by other varieties--the Mojave yuccas--that are also very groovy? Posted by Hello


See? Posted by Hello


Deserted backroad with thousands of lupines, Sequoia National Park Posted by Hello


Lizard confab, Hospital Rock, Sequoia. Posted by Hello


Your basic tourist shot of Jeff with General Sherman, the world's biggest living thing. There's a branch about 130 feet above the base of the trunk that is seven feet in diameter. A branch. No joke. Posted by Hello


King's Canyon National Park. This place is too surprising, too impressive and too humbling for me to get on film. Mostly I just put the camera aside and goggled, mouth open, muttering "oh my god" and "whoa" every few seconds. Picture a lush, narrow valley between sheer towering granite cliffs several thousand feet high, waterfalls rushing down their sides, ringed behind with snow-capped alps. On a clear, mild day. At sunset. With nobody around for miles. Then add a roaring, crystalline river, and swathes of wildflowers in white and periwinkle and yellow and red and pink and purple. Posted by Hello


Like this one, multiplied by thousands. Posted by Hello

OK, that’s it. Except for a little more trivia: California contains 1) the tallest living thing on earth (coast redwood), 2) the biggest living thing on earth (giant sequoia), and 3) the oldest living thing on earth (bristlecone pine), along with both the highest (Mt. Whitney) and lowest (Death Valley) points in the contiguous 48. It is also the only state that houses all eight types of the world’s primary ecozones. And with all of that, is it too much to expect that it could hold just one common little ten-fingered thing for me? Just one?

p.s. Anybody else figure this means what I think it means? Yep, that kid's gonna have one prize-winning squint.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Is that a signpost up ahead? No?

There was a surreal quality to our trip to the Southland, as though some alien force had wrought unfathomable personality shifts in everyone but us.

It started just before we left, when I phoned my father to check in and ended up finally breaking the news of both our desire and inability to have children. We had kept up a pretense of disinterest with him over the last couple of years, in large measure because I feared he would chide us for waiting too long, and why didn't I just content myself with focusing on my career? I explained that we had already come to the last medical option--IVF--and waited for him to rail about the moral implications of creating life in a petrie dish. Instead, he said, "I hope you do whatever you possibly can to have a child. Children are the most wonderful and important things you can do with your life. However much it costs, and however much it hurts, I hope that you do it."

Stunned, I sat with the phone to my disbelieving ear, choking up. I told him that, even if the IVF didn't work, we hoped to adopt. I cringed, waiting for the inevitable, "You know, adopted kids can have a lot of problems, and no matter how hard you try, they just won't be the same as having one of your own." He had said something like this not ten years ago, when discussing a friend's adopted son--a juvenile delinquent.

Instead, he simply asked what we'd found out about adoption so far, and I said that we'd mostly been looking into China. His response? "You know, I've always figured that it wouldn't matter much where the kid came from, or what race. It's all in how much you love them and teach them."

I didn't know what to say; I seemed to be talking to some other incarnation of my father--an open-minded, non-judgmental, politically correct version wearing his sonorous voice. Could this enlightened soul full of goodness and light really be the man who uses bile-inducing racial epithets on a regular basis while denying that they're offensive? The man who told me to "find some white friends" when I started at a new school in sixth grade?

Ten minutes later, the phone rang: he said, "I've thought about it some more and, no matter what, just promise me that you won't let money get in the way of having a child, whether through IVF or adoption. Know that I am here to support you; I have the money sitting in the bank. I've helped your siblings in the past but you never really needed my help before, and I want to be there for you whenever you need me." I started crying, and he said something that will stay with me forever: "Children are a completion. Now that I'm near the end of it, I can't imagine my life without children. I hope you have one. I hope you have two. Have a bunch. All different kinds."

. . .


The night after we arrived in L.A., we went to a good friend's 40th birthday party. A bunch of 30- and 40-something couples in cocktail attire--a good third of the women visibly pregnant--were sedately sipping mineral water or martinis, as conditions warranted, and catching the attention of the catering staff for another ahi-cucumber appetizer, when the birthday boy sat down at my side and asked me if I'd like "a toot."

"A toot?" say I, not sure I'm understanding him correctly.

"Yeah! A toot! A toot! You know, a little KO-caine!"

Assuming this to be a joke, I laughed and asked, "Do you have any crack instead? I prefer to smoke my coke."

He looked at me sideways for a second and said, "Listen, if you want some, we'll be in the guest house."

He was perfectly serious, and I had seriously just been offered cocaine for the first time since the Reagan administration.

I Just Said No.

. . .


Upon arrival at my brother's house for the nieces' birthday party, he proudly opened the door of his three-car garage to display...

...an enormous, 18 MPG SUV.

With nine seats.

He traded in his Neon for an SUV with room for nine.

They are a family of four.

They live in the Southern California suburbs.

They do not haul anything.

They do not go off-road.

Should they develop a daring streak and want to go off-road, they can't do so in their new SUV: it is only two-wheel drive.

My brother used to be an environmentalist. Now he drinks all of his water from 24-packs of Crystal Geyser and thinks it's fine because he puts the bottles out for recycling.

. . .


My sister, who told me not two months ago that she had given up on finding a man to love--that she knew she was just not meant to be with anyone long-term--is now matter-of-factly making plans to get rid of her beloved Abyssinian cats because the guy she's dating is allergic, and how can he move in and live with her happily ever after when she has cats?

The boyfriend? He's a great guy--kind and smart and smitten.

He was also my classmate and good friend in junior high school.


The surreality (can that please be a word?) of Joshua Tree's lunar-meets-Seuss landscape didn't hold a stubby wax candle to the Twilight Zone of human behavior we experienced this last week.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Take two

I've had some time to think.

I've had some time to not think.

It helped.

And the decision is made: we will try again. IVF #2 will proceed in July, ovaries willing. A new R.E.--a friend and former colleague of Dr. Katz's--will be taking over the practice in a few weeks; he comes from a very well-respected clinic and does not have any lawsuits pending. They will continue to accept my insurance, and my insurance is willing to pay for at least two more rounds.

There are raw places in my heart and mind that have not healed, will not heal, but the scabs have formed, and I no longer feel the sting with every deep breath. Beyond this second cycle, I do not know: I may have a resilient pool of hope stored up, or I may find that the reserves have run dry. Either way, we know there is an answer out there: we will not be childless and longing forever, though our little girl may start out half a world away.