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A FEW Words on Email Signatures

The year is still young and it’s not too late to take up a resolution for brevity in the arena of email signatures. Far too often do threads end up as 95% signature text and 5% actually useful words. I have no credentials to provide advice—only an above average amount of unapologetic grammar snobbery thanks to some good friends in college that made a mockery of any sentence that so much as misplaced a comma, but here is my opinion.

  • Create 2 signatures in Outlook: The verbose one that is required by your company and a super short one, ideally just your first name. Configure your settings to use the long one only on original messages and the short one on replies and forwards. Remember you can always change it manually (by selecting the desired signature from the drop down) before sending the email. Pro tip: have the short one as the default and bring in the big guns only when necessary (i.e. the first time you are emailing someone ever). Another really good time to switch over to that short signature is when you are sending a personal email with your business email. (Or consider using your gmail for personal emails, but that is another topic)
  • Every character in the signature should have a purpose. I’m not going to say don’t do it, but I am going to point out that quotes rarely enhance a business email and that’s an awful lot of characters.
  • Nobody cares that you sent the email from your smart phone. It takes 30 seconds to change the default signature to anything other than that. I configured two signatures for my iPhone: “Sent from my iPhone” and “Sent from my Android”. I then select the one that matches the person I am emailing so they feel a false sense of camaraderie and are more likely to consent to do it my way. I don’t actually do that, but now I’m kind of tempted to.

My Favorite Children’s Books

I absolutely love children’s books that have beautiful illustrations and tell a good story and I love reading them to my kids. Here are a few of our favorites.

Imogene’s Last Stand by Candace Fleming / Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

I love history, but mostly I love how this story encourages kids, particularly girls, to stand up for what they believe in.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Peter Brown is a go-to author for us. His illustrations alone would do it for me and his stories are just as good. This is such a heart warming tale of being yourself even if being yourself is different from everyone else. We have been through it many times.

Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc

Read it and you’ll see.

Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess

This is such a no-brainer, it basically needs to explanation. However, what I like about reading this book is that contains lessons for all phases in life and it is always nice to have reminders for myself.

Chirri & Chirra by Kaya Doi

There are a handful of these books in the series, but the premise is almost always the same: 2 girls go for a bike ride and proceed to live out an adventure cyclist’s wet dream. They ride through incredible landscapes and make frequent culinary stops at ridiculously eclectic cafes. These books make me want to ride more.

Farewell to Shady Glade by Bill Peet

I read this book as a child and now I read it to my kids. It is a very approachable story of the impacts of urban sprawl and deforestation and rewards the more mature reader with ridiculously potent irony.

Locomotive by Brian Floca

We have read this book cover to cover more than any other book. Everything by Brian Floca is outstanding and we own a good number of his books, but Locomotive is our favorite probably because our love of trains.

The First Year Back in Flyover Country

A little over a year has passed since we pulled a reverse Brigham Young, said goodbye to the salt lake valley, ascended up parleys canyon, and didn’t stop until we hit Omaha, not far from where the pioneers spent the winter of 1846. And like good ‘ol Brigham said when he gazed upon his new home, I too can say “this is the place” even as I miss my Utah home dearly. The Mormons were chased out of Illinois by mobs with pitchforks so I imagine they didn’t miss their previous home in the same way. I am going to spend some words reflecting on our first year back in Flyover Country. Join me if COVID isolation has you longing for some very indirect social interaction.

Our last morning in Salt Lake City we attended service at Zion Lutheran ELCA—our church home for the better part of three years. Afterward when we got in the car to start our drive, Siri informed me it would be 10 minutes to get home. With a knot in my throat I told the phone—which of course wasn’t listening—“I’m not going home, Siri.” Indeed, the home Siri referred to, the one a couple 20-somethings excitedly bought in 2012, the one that had valiantly served as base camp for so many awesome adventures, not the least of which was bringing newborn Grant, Cade, and Harper home to, now stood completely empty awaiting its new owners. Our “home” was now nomadic—here in the loaded car with us, and in the back of an 18 wheeler headed east.

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Last photo at our Salt Lake City house

Our first stop was Yankton where we spent the week of thanksgiving at Tara’s parents’ house. Driving out to spend a holiday in South Dakota was a normal thing to do. For me, it was not until we drove down to my parents’ house in Papillion, where we would be living while we found a house, that the full gravity of the move set in. Even medicated sleep became a struggle. I started my new job the day after arriving and making a good first impression while sleep deprived and living out of a suitcase was a struggle. The kids also went through adjustment issues and had terrible tempers. Going anywhere in the car almost always led to everyone hating each other before we had even pulled out of the driveway.

With the help of Tara’s realtor cousin Ryan, we found a new construction 2-story in Ashland that we fell in love with. But when we went to make an offer, we learned there had been a miscommunication with the seller. That house was already sold, but the same floor plan was going in down the street and would be ready in April. Four months isn’t that long to wait for a house we really want and we get to customize we thought. Little did we know a pandemic would sweep through and push it out until nearly July.

Tara enrolled the boys in preschool in Ashland almost immediately. They had a Christmas program on a Sunday. It is a 30 minute drive from my parents’ house and we left with what we thought was plenty of time, but it was snowing that day and there was a terrible accident on I-80 that caused us to sit in traffic until long after the program had started. The boys were totally bummed so to soften the blow and somewhat justify all the car time, we went for milkshakes at McDonalds in Gretna.

The next day Tara took the kids to the grocery store. When they got there, the boys told her there was something in Grant’s milkshake cup which had been left in his cupholder. The something was a dead mouse which had evidently taken up residence in our car and had been living a rich gluttonous life on discarded morsels of delicious food for some time before drowning in the milkshake. Tara and I left the kids with my parents that night and “enjoyed some quality time together” at the self serve car wash spending about $10 in quarters vacuuming every nook and cranny. We found the main nest in the glove box and a food reserve in the storage compartment in the back of the car where whole Cheetos and the like had been retrieved from the kids’ seats and stowed there. It all seemed to be the work of one mouse. Evidently this issue is pretty common for those that park outside but we had always assumed a car was sealed enough to prevent small rodent intrusion. Not so. When it was all done, we put mint packets in every compartment and I’m pleased to say we never had another mouse issue.

For Harper’s birthday in early February we got an Airbnb in Omaha with plans to host Tara’s parents and brother’s family for a long weekend. Ironically, given what was to come in March, the flu messed up the whole event. Bryce got it causing them to cancel their trip. Cade developed symptoms as we arrived at the rental house. Tara’s parents still made the trip down, but Cindy would end up catching it from Cade. Despite it all, our time in that big old house was a highlight of the winter for us. We Door Dashed some really good food, went to the zoo and botanical garden, and enjoyed some really quality time together both as a nuclear family and with our extended families.

COVID-19 came along in March like a cruel joke. 4 adults and 3 kids in a 3 bedroom house and we were all of a sudden supposed to have a plan for how we would all work from home and a plan for quarantine. While it seemed irresponsible at the time, none of us actually changed to working from home except for Tara who had been doing it the whole time. I think this greatly helped with sanity. Worse than all that was learning that our move in date was shifting from April 30th to TBD.

But we found some fun ways to pass the time. We got a membership at the zoo immediately upon moving back and made full use of it before the shutdown in March. We also got a Fontenelle Forest membership which served us well throughout the various stages of lockdown. No matter how stressful things got, the forest always provided the calm that we needed. We dug the old tag-along bike out of my parents’ crawl space that Garin rode as a child and after some dusting and lubrication, found it road-worthy. I took the boys on many rides including some of my old haunts: the 5 mile gravel loop to Richfield and Council Bluffs to Mineola on the Wabash. My parents joined us on many rides, and Garin and Emma did as well for a ride on the Mopac. For that ride we brought along a camp stove and griddle in the car and feasted on a brunch of fried eggs, spam, and smoothies in the Elmwood park after the ride. It was everything I hoped it would be. Personally, I was lacking the motivation to do the necessary preparation but everyone came through in a big way to pull it off. Never underestimate the industriousness of a Newcomb picnic.

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Grant on a family path ride

In the spring—a large detail I almost forgot to add because it feels like they’ve been doing it for longer—both boys mastered two wheel cycling after some one-on-one practice at our storage unit. They can now handle a 6 mile path ride, but their preference by far is off road. After pump tracks, their favorite place to ride is the trails right here in Ashland. There is virtually no elevation gain which is perfect for them and the trail features keep them engaged. Harper shreds on her balance bike and desperately wants a pedal bike to keep up with her brothers.

We moved into our house on June 22nd, three months after our original close date. My parents had been infinitely gracious throughout the entire ordeal, putting up with their home being a constant mess and taking the kids on numerous occasions while we took some time for ourselves. But the stress of being in transition and not having our own space for that long put a strain on our marriage like I have never known. But we made it through and the house and Ashland are everything we hoped it would be. We have since filled our time with nesting projects. In the warmer months we put in 4 tons of landscaping rocks, a truckload of mulch, and planted 7 trees. Now the projects have moved indoors and involve hanging pictures and installing storage solutions for all our stuff. It is tremendously gratifying work. It is what I look forward to doing on the weekend which weirds me out because historically it has always been adventuring that I yearn for.

In August we took vacation in Steamboat Springs for a week making it the longest trip we have ever taken with just us and the kids. We had a slight concern that the elevation would be hard on us after living at 1000ft for nearly a year, but the mountains welcomed us back with open arms. It was a week of riding bikes–particularly the pump track at the local bike park, swimming, and appreciating the miraculous realization that the number of things we can’t do with the kids is rapidly shrinking.

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Pump Track Cruisin’

After a lot of back and forth given how close their birthday is to the cutoff, we started the boys in kindergarten. Thankfully the COVID cases at the school have been minimal and they have been able to attend in person classes the whole time. Both boys are doing very well and like school a lot. Harper wishes she could go to school too but also enjoys having free reign of all the toys while her brothers are gone. She and Tara have a weekly library date for which Tara rides her bike with Harper in the child seat.

At the beginning of September I left the rest of the family home and joined my parents, brothers, and SIL in Vail to knock the final 2 (out of 5) fourteeners off my father’s bucket list. After a day and a half of attempted acclimation we headed up to 12000 ft to hike Mts Democrat, Lincoln, and Cameron. I quickly discovered that these are the elevations where stuff starts to matter. I have hiked above 12000 ft before but it has been many years. I forgot my ibuprofen and my head was pounding for most of the hike. But it was so good to be able to do this with my dad and brothers. The last peak we all did together I believe was Mt Newcomb in 2006.

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Proving Nebraska camping isn’t half bad

It was a rough year for us as it was for everyone, but it was also a year of progress and we are very happy with how it turned out. It has been wonderful being closer to family and being able to take weekend trips up to Yankton which we have been doing about every other month. We will always miss Utah and the friends we made there. However, transportation has improved significantly since 1847 and we are looking forward to many trips back to our old stomping grounds once this virus has been handled.

 

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 Thanksgiving just the 5 of us 

 

 

That minor life changing event

Cade came out first easily enough
never mind the huge gash in your mom’s tummy
Grant was more difficult
something like 10 glove covered hands poking and prodding
in a sea of white light
before somebody got ahold of his ankle
and plucked him out bloody and screaming.
Six doctors clad in scrubs and face masks
placed you on beds straight out of Star Trek
declared you each OK and passed you off to me
disappearing as quickly as they had come.
I’m not sure I’ve fully relaxed since.

But what was life
before it wasn’t all about me?
When a train was just a commodity
and a track was to be crossed
without a second thought of where it leads.
Lets find out together–
Just let me refill my coffee first.

Walking in a Pandemic

I like walking at night
and staring at the houses I pass.
Some have lavish exteriors
accentuated with delicate lighting.
Others are modest
and prefer a single porch light
or none at all.

But nearly every one emits the glow of a television
from at least one of the windows.
Some of the TVs tell their viewers who is to blame
and who to protect their kids from.
Some of the TVs focus on the solution
and promote solidarity.
But nearly all of them report the same statistics
the same hard truths
that make us all want the experts to be wrong
no matter what house we live in
or what TV we watch.
So I walk instead.

Spinning in Place

Each morning as I walk into the gym, the whirring cries of 50 some treadmills and ellipticals greet my ears.  The users of these stationary instruments of cardio-based torture put forth maximum effort not to move forward, but rather to turn back the hands of time.  The time which, year after year, like the rings of a tree trunk, added pound by pound and roll by roll to hips and bellies.  The average American gains 1-2 pounds a year through his or her 20s and 30s and I am no exception.  But I realize now, as every 30 something has before me: there is no going back.  You can burn off the fat, but the person underneath is no longer 20 and a fit body is simply a thinly veiled disguise—a homage to a time when we all but glowed in our sexuality and the pride of knowing the entire world was wishing they were us.  But now we have joined the ranks of the demographic spinning on treadmills, running from time while watching a fresh wave of 20 somethings in the free weights area spending more time taking selfies and chatting than actually exercising.  And we have only the grim vindication of knowing that someday they too will be here.

But something interesting happens around age 30: a drive for personal growth.  Maybe it’s the fact that structured learning is no longer a part of our lives.  Or that our entire agenda is no longer based completely around sex.  But suddenly we crave challenges like riding a bike further than ever before, running faster than ever before, performing better at our jobs than ever before, or raising the children we got as a result of the activities of our 20s.  Many elite marathoners are in their 30s.  At 38, Constantina Diță of Romania won the women’s marathon In the 2008 olympics.  At our jobs, we have the advantage of both looking young, but also old enough to be taken seriously and the experience to back it up.  So make a goal to move forward, not backwards, and achieve something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.  Do we miss our 20s?  Absolutely.  But it’s not going to slow us down.

Family Fun vs. Strava

“Be careful, Daddy!” the little voice of my son Cade calls out from the trailer behind me interrupting my efforts at ignoring my burning legs.  I am pedaling hard, laboring my bike up a 3% grade that, thanks to Cade and his twin brother Grant in the Burley Bee Double I’m pulling, feels like at least 10%.  80 pounds of toddler and trailer make for a heavy load.  My legs are on fire and I’m breathing hard, but I manage a reply.

“What should I be careful of?”

“Wolves!” comes his emphatic reply.  I chuckle aloud.  We are riding through suburban Salt Lake City.  There are no wolves—only well manicured lawns and the occasional dog on a leash.  Cade is demonstrating his vivid imagination, a trait that has only recently emerged, and I’m thrilled and flattered to be included in the make-believe.

“OK, we’ll be careful,” I assure him.  “Let me know if you see any.”  And I can’t help but let my own imagination transport us to an epic Alaskan byway with a pack of wolves running alongside us.  Suddenly I’ve forgotten the burn in my legs.  I look up from the pavement in front of me and take in the fine spring day.  The grass has turned green, the trees are budding, and the flowers are blooming.  My eyes have grown accustomed to the grays and browns of winter, and this is a feast of color everywhere I look. 

I am excited for our ride today.  I have designed the ride over the past several nights using the BikeSLC.com cycling map and RideWithGPS.com.  I was able to incorporate some new areas of the city which I have never seen before as well as some of my all time favorites such as City Creek Canyon. 

It was not always easy for me to amp myself up to tie an 80 pound trailer to my bike and ride further than the ice cream shop just down the street.  The competitive side of me craves putting up big enough miles to make it to the top of the weekly leaderboard of the office Strava cycling club, but this is an endeavor that is clearly absurd with toddlers in tow.  Aside from the obvious resistance the trailer adds, there is the effort of hooking it up, putting shoes and helmets on the two little riders, attempting to democratically settle any disputes about who sits in which seat before giving up and forcefully buckling each boy to a chorus of nearly harmonized wailing.  By the time I roll out of the driveway, my heart rate is typically already at 160.  Overall, Cade and Grant really do enjoy riding in their “yellow trailer”, but I’ve learned through trial and error that they have a hard stop for sitting nearly on top of each other in a confined space at the two hour mark.  Any more and we enter a volatile territory which almost always ends with all three of us sick of the others. 

A January Stroll in Snow Canyon

A January Stroll in Snow Canyon

In the past, I have attempted to balance my duties as a father and a husband while ducking out during down time for solo cycling outings, which worked out well enough, while I readily admit that the existence of parental “down time” is questionable at best.  But when we added baby number three to the fold in February, I unilaterally decided it would be best for the family and our marriage if I simply took Cade and Grant with me on all of my cycling adventures leaving Tara and Harper home for some much needed peace and quiet.

Riding with the trailer was extra work, but I told myself it increased my workout intensity making me stronger.  The internal conflict came from Strava, relentlessly logging all recordable stats from my jersey pocket all the while blissfully ignorant of the 80 pound bomb I was pulling with a two hour fuse.  Several times a week I would completely trash my legs with only 20 or so miles to show for it.

Ascending City Creek Canyon in Fall

Ascending City Creek Canyon in Fall

Then one day, while ascending a bike path gently winding along roaring Big Cottonwood Creek, Grant commented on the beauty of the water, and it dawned on me: Strava, by design, encourages quantity over quality.  Through its lens, an extra large fast food chain meal looks better than a tapas plate from the local joint down the street.  The clever algorithms don’t care if I take the scenic route up a mountain canyon and discover a stream-fed pond rimmed with wildflowers just feet from the road.  In fact, Strava actually discourages my rolling onto new roads by rewarding repetition in the form of achievements for competing against my previous attempts.  An entirely fresh route typically yields a big fat ‘0’ next to the trophy symbol.  I changed my outlook immediately.  Strava would continue to log the numbers, but the true measure of a ride’s quality would be the photos captured and the memories created.

Keeping a wary eye for wolves and other beasts, I pedal up out of the city and into City Creek Canyon.  The road here only allows cars on certain days and today is not one of them.  We have the road to ourselves and the abrupt transition from city to peaceful wilderness is profound.  As we ascend the gently sloping road, Cade and Grant have switched games.  I’ve missed the theme, but evidently it is hilarious and their rolling giggles mingle with the singing birds and babbling creek.

Snack Stop in City Creek Canyon

Snack Stop in City Creek Canyon

The road is lined with picnic stops and when I’ve had enough of the climb, we pull over at one.  In my haste to leave the house, I’ve forgotten our snack, but a search of the back of the trailer produces two granola bars that aren’t too old.  We divvy up the loot and sit at the picnic table chewing in silence as we take in the peaceful mountain setting.  Grant wants to know what the creek is called.  On a previous adventure, I had taught them all creeks have names.  I explain to them now how snow melts from the peaks above and feeds the stream we are looking at now.  I don’t know if they get it, but they listen intently with wonder nonetheless.

“OK boys, you ready to go fast?” I ask them, finishing my granola bar.

“YEAH!” They answer in enthusiastic unison.  We mount up and cruise down the twisty canyon road.  With the warm wind in my face and the satisfaction knowing my legs pulled us all the way up, a sense of euphoria comes over me.  It continues as we exit the canyon in downtown Salt Lake City. 

There are many ways to ride through downtown and Main Street is definitely not the fastest, but I choose it today because it is my favorite.  I love the narrowness of it and the way the buildings tower above on either side like an urban canyon narrows.  I have to dismount and walk through Temple Square, but the tulips are in full bloom and its worth it to observe them in slow motion.  The city is oddly quiet on this Sunday afternoon and it feels as though we have the whole place to ourselves.  South of downtown we pick up Parleys bike path and ride it up to Sugarhouse where Tara and Harper are waiting for us at Habit Burger with hot burgers and cold milkshakes.  It is the perfect conclusion to a wonderful adventure.

The ride was barely 20 miles, but we rolled through the tree-lined streets and perfectly manicured lawns of some of the nicest houses in the valley, left the city and followed a mountain stream up a verdant canyon, and then soared down, gliding amongst the skyscrapers before arriving in Sugarhouse for dinner.  I have seen less on 70 mile rides.  The joy of designing a executing a bicycle-powered adventure such as this one is a metric Strava is not capable of measuring.  But my memory is designed to record it in high definition.  And the pure excitement Cade and Grant demonstrate when they see me hitching the trailer to my bike tells me they feel the same way.

Farewell Grandpa Newcomb

Lompoc, California, the quaint town nestled amongst the coastal hills and vineyards of southern California, and a second home for me as long as I can remember, forever changed on August 25, 2017 with the passing of my grandfather, Vance Newcomb.  In a lot of ways, it felt like his quick-witted and light hearted spirit defined that town making it my Neverland—a place where I will always feel like a kid.  I can still remember, as if it just happened, the utter jubilation I experienced as a young boy as I was getting ready for bed at our home in LA and my parents surprised me with the announcement that we would be driving up to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house that night.  I remember lifting heavy eyelids as the car pulled into the driveway, the headlights illuminating the little green stucco house with the ‘Z’s in the white trim on the garage door.  I remember waking to the smell of coffee the next morning as there was every morning with my grandparents such that to this day the smell reminds me of them.  My grandfather would have used at least three different goofy voices, sang lines from multiple songs accompanied by hand whistling, all before breakfast was finished.  Oh how I would try and master the hand whistle! I never did.  Not even close.

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The long closed drive-in where I saw Beauty and the Beast

Selfishly, I wondered how Grandpa’s passing would affect my Lompoc.  I feared his absence would leave a big hole in the utopia that I have tended to take for granted as if frozen in the year 1993.  It was with a heavy heart that I entered the little green house for the first time after his death.  The hospice bed that had dominated the living room for many months was now removed and the chair that he often sat in was unoccupied.  But the spirit was light, and even in the circumstances, there was joy.  I was reminded that it was not one man that defined this town for me, but an entire family.

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A quiet highway winding its way through wine country

After the memorial, at the luncheon at the Lompoc Historic Society, somebody had the idea to photograph all of the cousins together.  David, cousin of my father and aunt, asked if they could use props.  Not knowing what he meant, somebody said Sure, and he promptly picked up the pot that the beans had been cooked in and posed with it in the picture just because.  It was so much something Grandpa would have done, that it struck me in that moment how great an influence Grandpa had on his family and friends.  We all have a love for the outdoors and more than a few of us still climb trees as adults.  Some still insist on calling it a “Crick” instead of “Creek” and there is a little bit of a holy war on this (as there should be).  Some of us have a passion for teaching as well as introducing children to literature.  A few are just as sentimental as Grandpa was and insist on archiving memories only now in blog form while others get overly emotional about football games.  Some make beautiful music and sing from mountain tops, but nobody can do that damn hand whistle.  We all have a very recognizable nose.  But above all we are kind and loving, which I’ll admit is a little bit biased.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a family full of jerks proclaim themselves as such.

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One of Lompoc’s many flower fields

No, Lompoc will never be the same without Grandpa, but it doesn’t have to be.  As long as there is family (and wine) there, it will always be a second home and we’ll continue our pilgrimages there to backpack Manzana “Crick”, to go out to Surf beach only to find you can’t go down to the water that particular time of year because of the endangered Snowy Plover, to get afternoon Espressos at Southside Coffee, to walk along the “crick” bed, to play disc golf at Beattie Park, and spend time with the people with noses like ours that appreciate absurd puns as much as we do.

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Grandma & Grandpa (Vance & Maxine Newcomb) at First Baptist Church

2 Embryoes Born in Petri Dishes, To Wit: A Retrospective

“Our thoughts and prayers will be with you” the IVF doctor said one year ago today as, with delicate confident hands, he folded up the stirrups that Tara has grown so accustomed to and helped her sit up.  In less than 10 minutes he and the embryologist had pulled our two best looking embryos from a petri dish and transferred them to Tara’s uterus via a small catheter.  I watched him moments before put the perfect bend in the device BY HAND to perfectly navigate it up the… you know… and to the uterus.  And just like that, the IVF cycle was complete and Tara was pregnant.

As we left the clinic, we had a 10 day wait ahead of us to find out if either (or both) of the embryos had actually implanted, but we were brimming with confidence and elation.  24 hours later, the embryologist called to inform us that five of the remaining 6 embryos had failed to develop further (died) and only one would be available for freezing.  In the scheme of things, this news was inconsequential.  All that really mattered at this point were the two embryos currently in Tara, but the blatant fragility of life cut through our thin veil of optimism and we simultaneously sunk into a deep gloom so debilitating that it was a daily battle to accomplish anything productive.  We had completely latched onto the 30% chance it would fail and simply could not reason with ourselves that the successful outcome was far more likely.

Ultimately, distracting ourselves from the elephant in the room was the only option.  Writing about our feelings only made it worse, which is something I have never experienced before.  So we did our best not to think about it, and focused instead on Thanksgiving, Tara’s family visiting, and taking a day trip up into the mountains to cut down a Christmas tree.

On the morning of day 10, Tara went in for the blood test that would reveal the news we desperately needed to hear.  The hours after the test felt like the longest of all as we waited for the call with the results.  Used to rejection by this point, I had cleared my afternoon of meetings and responsibilities and was prepared to immediately go home if that 30% were to rear its ugly head.

Tara, meanwhile, being connected to the medical community, was trolling her own chart hoping to catch the results prior to the phone call.  But it was still not posted, even an hour after we were promised it would be.

Finally, in the early afternoon, Tara called me.  Heart racing, I slammed my office door and answered the phone.  The second I heard her voice I knew.  Her joy jumped through the phone and enveloped me in a warm embrace as I sat alone in my office but had never felt closer to her.  He HCG levels were quite high.  She was definitely pregnant.

2 weeks later, during what would normally be called week 6 in a normal pregnancy, we returned to the Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine one final time for a viability ultrasound.  The visit started like so many before it: Tara strips from the waist down, puts feet in stirrups, doc comes in, squirts massive dollop of gel onto a device that I like to refer to simply as “The Probe”, then “Slight Pressure”, and we look at obscured images on the screen.  Only this time, instead of seeing ovaries or eggs, we saw two beans with perfect little heartbeats.

As I looked at them, I anticipated Becky’s gloating face.  We had a heated debate a few nights prior when she tried to convince me that since we now knew that Tara was pregnant, it was more likely that she was pregnant with twins than with a singleton.  Several drinks in and perhaps in a bit of denial, I was obstinate.  This is what happens when nerds drink.  The fact that the twins actually happened would be icing on the cake of her ego.

Despite Becky’s ego boost, we were delighted.  We had been hoping for twins since we decided to do IVF back in the spring.  The nurse brought in a box of adorable knitted baby hats that a former patient had made and let us pick two.  Then the doctor lingered to answer any more questions we had.  I wanted to know if there was any need for me to provide further contributions, but the doctor assured me that was no longer necessary. And before we knew it we were saying goodbye and walking out of UCRM for the last time.

 

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Taken at some point during IVF

IVF In Pictures

April 19th to 25th is Infertility Awareness Week.  As Tara and I were going through IVF this past Fall, I found myself picturing each step of the process in fun, obscure ways and decided to try and articulate it photographically.  These have all been published on my flickr, but now seemed like a good time to actually present it in a single body of work.  So check them out, and then go find someone who is suffering infertility and give them a hug.

Shoot Up

The number of syringes pictured here is only a fraction of the number of shots I had to give Tara over a span of 4 weeks leading up to the procedure.

Shoot Up

 


Sharps Refuse

We were given a legit Bio-Hazard sharps disposal bin, which we basically filled up. 

Sharps Refuse

 


Trigger Shot

Nearly all of the syringes were small, un-intimidating needles for subcutaneous injections.  But the last one, the trigger shot, was a massive intramuscular injection.  The nurse drew a target for me on Tara’s hip and gave instructions to pull the plunger back after inserting the needle to ensure I had not hit a vein.  If I had, blood would be pulled into the syringe and I would have to remove and inject in a different spot.  That’s if I had not already fainted.  Thankfully, I did not hit a vein.

Trigger Shot

 


Retrieval

The most invasive part of the process is the egg retrieval for which Tara was sedated and the eggs were removed from her ovaries in a manner that will not be described here, but involved the uterine wall and some kind of needle…

Retrieval

 


ICSI

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection is the process in which the sperm is injected into the egg used for those whose sperm can’t do it on their own either due to Motility or Morphology issues.

ICSI Concept 1

 


Tara About to Become Pregnant 

Arriving at the clinic to have 2 fertilized eggs implanted back into her.  

Tara About to Become Pregnant

 


Twins

We were fortunate to get twins on the first round of IVF.  Does that make us awesome?  No, it makes us damn lucky.  Here’s to those still waiting for their luck. 

It's Twins!