Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Did You Know...

Did you know...

...that I cut 4 inches off my hair last weekend on a whim? It's now to my chin in the front and shorter in the back.

...that Steve and I are making homemade pizza tonight and I'm so excited to eat so many sauteed mushrooms that about 1/3 of them will actually make it on my side of the pizza?

...the Colorado Avalanche is my favorite professional hockey team?

...Vancouver Canuck's are my least favorite team? Technically, the Avalanche's hated rivals, the Detroit Red Wings should be, but I can't help it.

...I got a cheap-o bubble gum dispense as a white elephant gift at my office Christmas party? It's on my desk and I put salted peanuts in it.

...I also have 2 mugs of candy on my desk? One is Miss Chatterbox and contains Kisses, the other is Miss Sunshine and holds Skittles. Steve gave me the mugs.

...I'm going to school for a Masters of Taxation? It's the only such program in the state of Utah.

...I recently went to San Antonio with Steve? You should if you read the blog regularly. :)

...we're planning a trip in May and may go to Disney World? I've never been to Florida - it's the big selling point as I'm not really big on amusement parks.

...I'm slowly losing the weight I put on at Christmas? I'm down 4 lbs!

...yellow is my current favorite color? It's so friendly and sunny and hopeful.

...I miss my mom? Luckily, she's coming for a visit in February!!!

...I'm currently suffering from seasonal depression? No sunshine for weeks on end does that to me. (And possibly lingering effects from a miscarriage???)

...I have a greyhound named Sadie? She's a crazy, wonderful, silly dog who always makes me feel loved when I get home from work. She is at the door even before Steve to welcome me home.

...I love mushrooms sauteed in butter? Mmmm. I can't wait for dinner tonight!

...I'm a Ute, a Thunderbird, and a Wildcat? Someday, I'll probably add to that list.

...I want to be a professor when I grow up? Most likely an Accounting professor, but maybe Economics.

...that we're planning on going to a Denver Broncos game this fall? They used to be my least favorite team, until they signed Peyton Manning, my football crush. Now I cheer for them because I want him to do well. Yes, Steve knows and doesn't care. He's a good man.

...I used to like the 49ers until the coach was a big, fat jerk to Alex Smith (a fellow Ute alumnus). That said, I can't cheer for Ray Lewis and the Ravens, so I guess I hope the 49ers win the Super Bowl this Sunday. Lesser of two evils, I guess. husband is cheering for the Cowboys this weekend? He doesn't believe in cheering for any other football team. That's loyalty, people.

...I've never owned a pair of cowboy boots? Are they comfortable? They don't look comfy, but I wouldn't know since I've never even worn a pair. Maybe someday...if we move to Texas?

...that as I saute sliced mushrooms I'll also be dipping raw mushrooms in ranch and popping them in my mouth? Mmmmm. Good thing it's time to go home, so I can eat me some mushrooms!!

Have a good evening, everyone!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Early last November, as the days grew shorter and the weather turned colder, I announced to Steve that we needed to take a winter trip to somewhere warm. We had initially set aside the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday weekend as a time to go to Denver to see the Avalanche play (our favorite professional hockey team), but sadly, the players and owners couldn't resolve their differences in time for the season's start, and we weren't sure there was even going to be a hockey season this year. Since we couldn't count on being able to see a hockey game, I reasoned that we should instead spend the weekend in a place that would most likely be warmer than Utah in January.

We threw around a few possibilities over the ensuing weeks before finally choosing San Antonio, TX. I've never been to Texas, so I could add it to my list of States I've Visited. Steve went to basic training at a base nearby, so he had been to San Antonio before, but it had been over 22 years and he didn't really remember a lot about it. We looked at the average temperatures in San Antonio in January and the mid-60s looked very appealing. By mid-December, we had our flights and hotel room booked. Texas, here we come!

My work had a "retreat" (i.e. party) Friday afternoon with lunch, bowling, and billiards. We could leave at any time, so I got home around 3pm, and Steve had already cleaned the house, taken Sadie to the kennel, and put our suitcase in the car. We were ready...and yet our flight didn't leave until 8pm, so we had to wait around for a couple hours before we headed south to the airport. We arrived in good time, took the shuttle from the economy parking lot to the airport, checked our bag, went through security, and then discovered that our flight was delayed by just over an hour. Not happy, but with weather being what it's been lately, we weren't too upset...until we discovered that our flight was delayed to poor scheduling of the flight crew. We ended up waiting over 2 hours for them to fly in from Kansas because someone hadn't scheduled them properly in order to get a flight crew to us in time. Steve swears we'll never fly that airline again (Delta).

Our delayed flight and the hour time change meant that we arrived in San Antonio just before 2am local time. I hadn't slept at all on the flight and was exhausted (and a little cranky). Fortunately, retrieving our bag from the luggage claim, finding a taxi, driving to the hotel, and checking in took just under 30 minutes (wow!), so we were snug in our room by 2:30am.

We slept until 10am and really took it easy getting ready that morning. I even took a relaxing bath, something I never do. I had given myself permission to not leave the hotel until noon (or later if need be) so I didn't feel rushed to get out sight-seeing right away. Steve thinks it's weird that I had to give myself permission to take it easy...I don't think it's weird, but it is a little sad. Something to work on.

When we woke up and opened the curtains in our 11th floor room, the entire outside wall being a window, we looked right at the famed Alamo. It was a block away from our hotel and we had a wonderful view of it! When we checked in, the hotel clerk had apologized that he didn't have a room facing the river walk to give us, but we were more than thrilled to be facing the Alamo.

At noon, we finally left our hotel room and went looking for food. We were both starving. We walked both sides of the part of the river walk that opened up behind our hotel (it was a wonderful location!) before choosing a BBQ joint called The Country Line (maybe The County Line??). It served us delicious, succulent, tender bbq brisket with yummy mashed potatoes and creamy, crispy coleslaw. As we ate, we saw numerous plates of beef ribs pass by our tables and swore that someday we'd go back and order a plate of them. They were so big they could have passed for dinosaur ribs a la The Flintstones. Mmmmm. Being stuffed, we couldn't get dessert at that time, but a few hours later, after doing some sightseeing, we returned for it. I ordered a delicious peach cobbler with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream and Steve got a huge piece of pecan pie, also with ice cream. If we hadn't sworn not to eat at the same place twice (for a meal), we might have eaten there every meal we had in San Antonio. It was good.

After lunch, we walked to the Alamo. I was surprised that we didn't have to pay to go inside, especially since it's the hottest tourist attraction in town. The grounds were lovely and peaceful. I wondered if we were there at a low-peak time, since there weren't as many tourists as I would have expected. I was grateful for the lack of crowds and really enjoyed touring the site. Afterward, we walked the river walk some more before seeing a spot where we could buy tickets for the water boat tour. We lucked into getting tickets just in time and didn't have to wait at all before the boat took off. Our guide was very humorous and knowledgeable and the 45 minutes flew by. We learned a lot about the area, including his favorite spots along the river walk to eat and get a drink. Based on his guidance, we later chose to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant after taking a long nap in our room and taking a short excursion to the wax museum.

I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but it was a good choice. Our primary focus was the guacamole the waiter makes right in front of you - our tour guide said it was fantastic and we agreed! We would go back there and just order two helpings of the guacamole - a spicy one for Steve and the normal one for me. The dinner bread, slices of french baguette, was also exceptional, but the rest of our meal wasn't as wonderful though still tasty. After walking off a bit of our dinner and exploring more of the river walk, we had ice cream at a little creamery. The river walk was incredibly crowded and we thanked our habit of eating earlier than the typical night crowd. We didn't have to wait at all to be seated for dinner, but as we left, we heard the hostess telling someone that the wait was at least an hour and a half. It was the same all along the river walk, which prevented us from getting a nice dessert, but we were happy with our ice cream (I had mango, Steve had an odd concoction that was kind of vanilla and kind of chocolate but didn't taste fully like either). We didn't really know what to do after dinner. We walked around our hotel but couldn't find anything that interested us. Most of the night-time entertainment seemed geared for drinking, which we don't do, so we ended up back in our room, watching movies on tv and reading. Neither of us minded, we're home-bodies at heart and were both pretty tired.

Before retiring for the night, we placed a room service request on our doorknob, ordering breakfast for the next morning around 8am. It was pricey, but we loved the idea of waking up Sunday morning and having breakfast in bed without having to go anywhere to get it. Unfortunately, something went wrong and we never got our breakfast! I had hopped in the shower at 8:15, hoping it would be delivered by the time I got out, but it wasn't. I finished getting ready and by 9:00 we still hadn't received our breakfasts, so we went to the front desk and let them know. They assured us they would make sure we weren't charged, which was nice, but now we had to figure out where to go for food. The was an Einstein's bagel shop in our hotel lobby, so we opted for it. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and wasn't impressed. I ate a few bites and let Steve have the rest. Instead, I ate a chocolate chip cookie. Not a good idea, as it later turned out.

We grabbed a taxi and had the driver take us to the zoo, about a 10-minute drive from our hotel. We walked around for 2 hours before realizing we hadn't seen any of the "big" animals. We'd seen lots of lizards, monkeys, birds, and such (oh and a couple way-cute bears), but where were the elephants, lions, tigers, etc??? We looked at our map and realized we had somehow missed the turn-off to get to these animals. Even with the aid of a map, we still had some difficulty finding where to go, and I got cranky. I probably would have been better if I had had food in my tummy, but I didn't. Steve is such a patient man. And, to my credit, I quickly realized I was being cranky and worked hard not to be. It helped that after an overcast morning, the sun was finally peeking through the disappearing clouds and sunshine really cheers me up. We finally found where to go and saw 2 huge hippopotami (sp?), elephants, zebras, an emu, tiger, lion, kangaroos, a rhino, and other animals. It was a cool zoo and we enjoyed seeing it. Fortunately, our taxi driver had given us his cell phone to call when we needed a ride back in since there wasn't another taxi to be seen at the zoo. Within 10 minutes of our call, he had picked us up. Very nice guy.

Steve quickly fed me lunch at a Mexican restaurant on the river walk. I chose poorly and ate an underseasoned taco salad that didn't have enough protein in it to keep me full long. Ah well. After lunch, we hopped a ride on the double-decker bus tour. It was one of those hop-on, hop-off deals that allows you to get on and off the tour buses as many times as you'd like throughout the day. We started by taking the full 40-minute tour around the city so we could decide where we wanted to get off. One of my favorite moments of the trip came while waiting for the bus to start the tour. We sat on the top deck and the sun shone on us in all its glory. I closed my eyes and basked in the warmth of the day. It was wonderful. Aaahhh. I had to put on my jacket once the bus started, though, because it got kind of chilly driving around. On the second go around, Steve and I got off at the Governor's Palace, a quaint building that had been renovated in the 1930's to look like it had around the time of the Alamo battle. It was interesting. We then walked the couple blocks to El Mercado, the Market, which houses all sorts of shops selling all sorts of items, though mostly touristy souvenir type stuff. The only souvenirs I planned on buying were a magnet and a t-shirt. I bought the magnet at the Alamo and the shirt at the airport. Neither of us are big souvenir people, so our money was safe at the market, except for a large ice-cream cone that Steve bought me, it was yummy! It was neat to see all the wares, though, and we stopped once to watch a street artist drawing caricatures of his patrons. We caught the bus again at the market and stayed on until the Tower of the Americas, although I really wanted to get off at King Williams street to see the huge historic homes. I knew it wasn't something Steve really wanted to do, and it would entail lots more walking and a long time, so I said we didn't have to. We had hoped that the bus would go down the street but it makes sense that they weren't allowed. I wouldn't want a bunch of tour buses going up and down my street all day either. Maybe the next time we go back we'll walk down it. Instead, we got off to see the Tower of the Americas, similar to the Space Needle in Seattle. The area around it had been designed for the 1968 Worlds Fair but it looked a little sad now, maybe because it's winter and nothing was blooming? It still looked cool, though, and we enjoyed the view from the top of the tower. Instead of hopping back on the bus, we decided to walk back to our hotel since it was only a few blocks away. We walked along a part of the river walk that we had seen by boat but hadn't walked yet. It was quiet and nice.

I was feeling kind of light-headed, usually a symptom of not enough calories and protein, so I really wanted to eat steak for dinner. We looked at a couple places as we walked along until finally choosing Saltgrass Steakhouse. I ordered a beautiful ribeye steak with fries and a house salad. Everything tasted marvelous, and I felt much better with some good food in me. Both of us were too full for dessert, so we walked around a bit. We were pleasantly surprised that the river walk was a lot less crowded and finally remembered that it was Sunday evening. We decided to go on the boat tour again since we didn't have anything else we wanted to do, it was fairly inexpensive, and it would be different touring it at night and with a different guide. I'm glad we did it because we did learn new things and it was fun seeing everything at night all lit up. And, our guide won brownie points with me when he found out we are Utah Utes fans and he said he thought it was horrible for Alex Smith to lose his starting QB job just for getting hurt when he'd been doing a good job before that. I couldn't agree more!! This time on the tour, when we got to the part of the river walk that goes by the Riverside Mall, Steve noticed the Official Dallas Cowboys store inside the mall. He's a huge fan, so we made plans to go the next day before heading to the airport. I had also spotted a Starbucks, so we decided to go there for breakfast before going to the Cowboys store.

After the tour, we stopped at a fancy Italian restaurant for dessert. We both ordered a slice of their chocolate mousse cake. It was pretty darn good, but I still think my mom makes the best chocolate cake in the world. We ordered milk to go with it, which was good because the cake was rich and decadant. Tired and feet-weary from all the walking we'd done during the day, we headed back to our room for tv watching, a bath (for me), and book reading before falling asleep.

Monday morning, we woke up and walked to the mall. We arrived just before 9am, an hour before the stores opened, so we had breakfast at Starbucks (a croissant and carmel apple cider for me, orange juice and cinnamon roll for Steve) then walked around looking at all the stores until the Cowboys store opened. Steve very, very rarely splurges on himself. He's a lot better at spoiling me. So, I made sure he bought whatever he wanted, regardless of price. He bought lots of good stuff and I was proud of him for treating himself for once. He felt a little guilty, though, despite me telling him not to, and insisted that I could buy whatever I wanted in the store. I didn't. Nothing sang to me. Nope, I lied. I just remembered that I bought a simple black t-shirt with San Antonio, TX stictched in pink on the front. So, I guess I ended up with two San Antonio t-shirts (since I bought another one at the airport later). He kept trying to get me to buy earrings, jackets, and stuff but for once I wasn't in the buying mood. C'est la vie.

We walked back to our room, made sure we had packed everything, then checked out of the hotel and grabbed a taxi to the airport. We arrived early, so relaxed and read near our gate. This time, our flight departed on schedule and the plane set down in Salt Lake City right around 4pm local time. It was a little depressing to see the haze and the snow, but it felt good to be home. Our dog was still at the kennel and wasn't scheduled to be picked up until the next day (today), so we enjoyed our last night by ourselves and not having to walk Sadie in the cold at night.

I thought it would be hard coming back to the cold and didn't really look forward to it. However, it's been easier than I thought. It's still way too cold but I feel like the small break from it makes bearing it just a bit easier. Like how sometimes a lunch break makes the afternoon work go better, smoother. We're thinking that we might take a winter trip to a warm locale every year. We'd like to go back to San Antonio (seriously, I'd go back just for the guacamole at the restaurant we ate at Saturday night!), but it would also be fun to explore new places. We'll see how things go. I'm just really glad we went.

Now it's time for us to start planning what other destinations we want to visit this year! We're thinking about a long trip in May and maybe another one, shorter, in the summer with my mom. Any suggestions of fun places to go? Where would you like to go on a vacation if money/kids/time-off weren't considerations?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Red Coals of Sadness

I wrote this post just a few days after I miscarried. Writing it acted as a release valve for all the pain and sorrow I felt but felt too raw and exposed to actually publish it. Now, a month later, I feel okay about sharing it. I'm not changing a word of it, not even re-reading it so I don't get tempted to edit it, but I am finishing it. When I wrote it, we still didn't have the official results saying I'd miscarried. I didn't finish it that day because I had hoped to receive the call giving me the results at any time. It didn't happen until days later, and by then I didn't feel like writing any more about it.


Imagine the perfect camp fire for roasting marshmallows - there aren't many flames, just searingly-hot coals; concentrated pockets of heat.

That's how the sadness deep in my soul feels. Not a raging fire that looks intense but isn't really as hot as you'd expect. No, my sadness isn't easy to see, it's buried under partially-consumed logs; red-hot coals that slowly, quietly burning with an intense heat.

I've never felt such sadness. It's unexpected and, like a hot brand, will leave a permanent mark on my spirit. Like a brand, it will heal, I have complete faith in that, but I also know I will never be the same.

Last Wednesday, I stopped feeling sick. I read a few sources that said not to worry if you're not feeling morning/day/night sickness but to be glad you're one of the lucky ones. So, I didn't worry.

Friday morning, while walking around the track during my "wellness time", I started to feel a pain very similar to menstrual cramps...except I shouldn't be getting my period because I was pregnant. I walked slower thinking maybe I was overdoing the exercise.

When I returned to my office, I went to the bathroom and found blood on my underclothes. Even then, I didn't panic. The nurse at the base, the nurse in the health center, and several articles online had all said to call my doctor if I ever experienced pain or bleeding. Well, I didn't have a doctor yet, I would be referred to one the following Monday after the pregnancy orientation on base, so I called Steve. He said he'd call the base to see what we should do and would call me back.

While waiting for his call, I told my coworker what was happening and he said it had happened to his wife during their second pregnancy and all ended up fine, but he agreed that I should see a doctor right away just to be sure.

Steve called back. The base nurse said to go to the nearest ER since we didn't have an OB doctor yet. He was coming to pick me up.

We spent just over three hours in the ER; I had blood drawn to test my HCG level (the pregnancy hormone), a pelvic exam to see if my cervix was closed (it was, and the doctor was glad so it must have been a good thing), and an ultrasound. The end results were that the baby was too small at that time to determine if its heart was beating but the egg sac was present and looked good and my HCG level was where it should be for how far along I was. The ultrasound had discovered a ruptured cyst on an ovary, which explained the cramping and blood loss. Since they couldn't say for sure that the baby was still good, they told us to go back on base on Monday to have my HCG level tested again. If the level went down, it would mean I'd miscarred. If it was the same or higher, the pregnancy was still good. The nurse was very optimistic, sure that the pregnancy would continue and the little baby inside of me would be fine. They sent us home and put me on bed rest for the weekend.

It was a long weekend. I usually pack a lot of activities into our weekends, so it was kind of hard, but kind of nice, to not be able to do anything. I managed to do some homework Saturday morning, but the rest of the day was lazy and restful. My spirits were pretty good, mostly because of a loving husband who always makes me feel better.

Sunday, I awoke to a gray day and my spirits were just as gray, if not more so. I stayed in bed until noon because I felt an overwhelming sadness I didn't want to explain to Steve in case it made the situation more real. I read a silly but entertaining book but would occassionally have to stop reading because I had the sudden urge to break down crying. My body sensed something I couldn't know for sure. Eventually, I joined Steve in the living room where we played games on the wii, watched movies and football, and just enjoyed being together. He kept asking if I was okay, so I knew I wasn't hiding my feelings as well as I'd hoped. I told him I was worried and sad and then he'd hold me close and say all sorts of nice things.

Just before bed, I used the bathroom, and something came out on the toilet paper wad. Something that wasn't a blood clot; there had been a few of those throughout the weekend. I knew what it was but had Steve come in to look so he could give his opinion. He knew too. It was the egg sac. I had miscarried.

That night will be one I will remember. The pain and sadness were unlike anything I'd ever felt and hope to never feel again. However, I will also always remember the closeness I felt with Steve. We were parents who had lost their unborn baby before it was even identifiable as a baby, and that bond strengthened our love for each other immeasurably. I sobbed and he held me tight. We talked of our disappointment and sadness and hopes for the future and our love for each other. It was immensely bitter but twinged with sweetness.

The next morning, we had our appointment on base to get my HCG levels retested. Before sending us to the lab for me to get my blood drawn yet again, the doctor said he'd call later that morning with the results. To keep my mind busy while we waited, I made an appointment to get an eye exam and contacts fitting for that morning. I've been wearing glasses for 6 months because I didn't have a prescription for contacts. Following the appointment, we went home and waited.

Midway through our dog walk, I decided I didn't want to wait any more and called the base clinic. I was then told that they wouldn't have the results for up to 72 hours!!! I told them they were wrong and that the doctor had said he'd call me before noon. The nurse told me the doctor was wrong. The type of HCG test that he'd ordered had to be sent off base so it took awhile to get the results. I hung up the phone and lost it. Again, Steve just held me tight as I sobbed. Even though I pretty much knew I had miscarried, until I got the official results, there was this tiny glimmer of hope that we were wrong. That hope scared me.

Steve suggested we go somewhere else to get the test done again, somewhere that could get the result back in a couple hours instead of a couple days. I thought about it while we finished our walk, but in the end said no. I had spent too much time in the last week at the doctor, too many pokes in my arm, too much time in waiting rooms. Since we were already pretty sure what had happened, we'd just go with that and wait until the base called with the results.


We ended up not finding out the results for almost a week. A week of not being 100% sure, a week of hope regardless of being fairly sure that the pregnancy had ended. We finally went back to the ER to get a new HCG test since we found out after another call to the base that the test I had on base might take another week to get the results! The lab at the hospital had the results in 20 minutes. The miscarriage was confirmed. It was a relief to finally have the results and I felt we could finally start to heal.

Through it all, I have been grateful for my faith in God, for the love of my wonderful husband, and for the support and kindness of my family and friends. A month later, and I'm still amazed by how much the miscarriage affects me, the sense of loss that I still feel. I don't spend hours upon hours crying (thankfully) and can carry on like normal, but I feel the difference. I'm so thankful for the healing powers of time and for father's blessings that offer hope and guidance. And, whenever I feel down, I find peace in the arms of the man that I plan to love forever.