It’s March already?

My last blog post was your typical apology for not blogging more often.  And I followed that up with a three month silence.  Oh well.

2010 has had no small share of excitement, for lack of a better term.  December was very busy at work with the typical end-of-the-year rush as everyone attempted to get their slates clean for the Christmas break.  Then we had Christmas in Columbia, followed by New Year’s in Chicago.

Sadly, while we were in Chicago, my grandmother passed away.  It wasn’t a huge shock, as when we saw her on Christmas Eve it was obvious she wasn’t doing very well.  But it was still very sad, and we’ll miss her greatly.  Emily lost her last surviving grandparent in 2006, and now I’ve lost mine.

The next week, the earthquake in Haiti struck.  While natural disasters have always meant “all hands on deck” at my job, this one was particularly exhausting.  There were UMC executives caught in the quake, and this marked the first “big” event since a staff restructuring that was supposed to facilitate faster and more numerous updates to our website (but with fewer staff members to share the load).  It was stressful to say the least.

Colleen is doing great – just growing and learning every day.  She’s sitting up on her own, her first tooth is coming through, and she’s starting to talk – in a manner of speaking… she’ll say “dada” without much prompting, but she doesn’t associate it with me  – yet!  Her personality is really coming through, and every day is a new adventure with her.  She’s now seven months old – hard to believe she’s closer to being a year old than she is to her birth date.  Where does the time go?

And we’re back.

…it’s such an interesting and exciting time in my life and it would be a shame to not write about it.

Seriously, Daddy?
Seriously, Daddy? That is not a hat.

After quite a bit of shuffling around, the blog is back. Long story short, I started noticing some odd files showing up on my site a few months ago.  I deleted them, but then in late October I noticed they were back with a vengeance.  Nearly every page throughout the various sites I host had been affected by what I believe was an include file injection.  So the easiest option was to burn everything to the ground and start over again.

So here we are. Whether or not I can actually be bothered to update it is another story, but it’s such an interesting and exciting time in my life and it would be a shame to not write about it.  Our first baby – Colleen Alexis – was born on August 5th, and is an absolute joy for both of us.  She is healthy and happy – we couldn’t ask for anything more.

So with Christmas vacation approaching, I hope to be able to fix up the site a little (the current template leaves much to be desired) and start updating more regularly than I have over the past couple of years.  Social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter have made it so easy to shoot off quick thoughts and opinions without having to sit down and really develop them into a decent blog post.  Which is sometimes nice, but at the same time, there’s value in actually taking that time to really “unpack” those thoughts and get them down on paper.  Er… screen.  Um… you get the idea.

Hopefully there will be more to come soon.

The babymoon… she is done.

Emily hates this photo. I think she looks cute.

This afternoon we have to leave Hilton Head for the drudgery of home. We’ve had a great week of doing absolutely nothing! Hanging out at the beach, reading by the pool, and eating lots of seafood (and ice cream). Probably the first vacation we’ve had where I wasn’t itching to get home after a few days. It’s also the last vacation we’ll have as just the two of us – though I can’t wait to take our baby along on the next one!

In-Vitro: Lucky 21

In early 2007, Emily and I were thrilled to discover that she was pregnant.  It was particularly unexpected, because although we had been trying for a few months, the odds of it happening naturally were slim due to my chemo in 2003.

Sadly our little “Peppercorn” didn’t make it past the eighth week in the womb.  So after a few more months, we decided to start fertility treatments.  A year’s worth of IUIs were unsuccessful, so at the beginning of the summer we started IVF – In-Vitro Fertilization – and the real fun began.

Six years ago I was needle-phobic like you wouldn’t believe.  I had often thought to myself that given the choice between dying from cancer and going through chemotherapy, I would pick the former option.  Little did I know that would be stuck dozens of times myself, and that I would actually end up giving shots to my wife.  But here we are, some 40+ injections later.  At the beginning of July Emily started on Lupron (which halts the ovulation process), and a week later Follistim (which hyper-stimulates the ovaries),  all in an attempt to create as many eggs as possible for fertilization. With regular blood tests, she was getting stuck 3 and 4 times a day.  Even with my newly-developed tolerance of needles, if the roles were reversed, we would be adopting 🙂  She’s a stud.

Anyway, yesterday was retrieval day – we went to the fertility center and they removed all the developing eggs – all 21 of them!  The average number is between 12 and 15, so to have that many was a big relief.  A call this morning revealed that 19 eggs matured, and of those, 13 were successfully fertilized.  Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll have 13 embryos to transplant, as some will not survive.  But on Tuesday we will implant two or three strong ones and hopefully there will be a few more that we can put in cryo-storage for implantation at a later date.

At which point will begin the longest two weeks of our lives as we wait to see if Emily is pregnant again…

“Dimebag” Darrell

I’m surprised that the news has spread so quickly about guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell being shot at a club last night. Being a big fan of his, I took interest, but I didn’t think the mainstream press would care much. At any rate, here’s my Darrell story…

In the fall of 1991, I was starting my freshman year at college, and was none too pleased about it. It was something I had to do, not something I wanted to do. I had my band in Columbia, and wanted to pursue that full time. But I knew that wasn’t going to fly with Mom and Dad. So I went, but turned to (what else?) music to deal with my frustration. I read in a couple of guitar magazines about this band Pantera that was supposed to be really good. So I picked up their latest release one weekend when I was home from college.

I popped it into my CD player on the way back to school, and was completely blown away – heavy as anything I had ever heard, but instead of just bludgeoning you over the head like a musical sledgehammer, there was some great songwriting to be found on that disc as well. And the guitar playing was amazing – Diamond (as he was referred to in the liner notes – I always thought it was an appropriate nickname, as it described his playing perfectly. But I guess it doesn’t have the same street cred as “Dimebag” :/ ) was very technically proficient, yet was able to pull off things that you just wouldn’t think would fit in a metal song… lots of country-ish licks that sounded perfectly natural in the context of the rest of the song. His dad is a country musician/producer, so I guess the apple doesn’t fall *too* far from the tree.

The rest of the guys in our band were also impressed, and Pantera quickly became one of our favorite bands. So much so that when they came to Nashville in 1992, we were at the club hours ahead of time to see if we could get backstage passes somehow. So around the middle of the afternoon, the four of us were poking around behind 328 Music Hall where they were unloading, and we ran into one of their roadies, Hank. He said he could hook us up with some passes if we could get him some pot (Hence the name “Dimebag”, I suppose). Well, none of us knew where to get any, and even if we could, weren’t at all comfortable with the idea. So after carting this guy around town for a couple of hours, he agreed to give us passes and some posters for $10 each.

So there we were, in the club while Pantera and White Zombie did their soundchecks. At one point Darrell walked out to where we were standing – still playing guitar – not three feet from us and tossed a pick in our direction – I think Johnathan got it, I don’t remember… we all ended up with picks before the night was out though. Very nifty. After the soundcheck, we walked around to the front door of the club where a large line had already formed. And there in the front of the line were some friends of ours from a “rival” band 🙂 The look on their faces as they realized we were *inside* the club listening to the soundcheck and they were still out in the cold was priceless!

After a couple more hours, the show started. For the opening act, we were all in the very front, but there were so many people in the club, and they were so aggressive, that we all eventually climbed over the front barracade so we could go around the side and move to the back. By the time Pantera came on stage, people were literally (and I mean literally) hanging from the rafters… easily a thousand people crammed in the club meant for about half that. It was also one of the loudest concerts I’ve ever been to – they had a PA meant for an outdoor concert set up in this relatively small club. Absolutely deafening.

Once the show was over, we found our way to the backstage area where we got to talk with all the guys in the band and get autographs. They were all very nice – much more so than their music and on-stage persona would lead you to believe. I still have my backstage pass signed by all four members of Pantera somewhere in a box.

In the following years, I shed most of my teenage angst, and Pantera’s music just doesn’t resonate with me the way it once did. I’ll occasionally listen to a few of their songs when I want to get fired up for a workout or a race or something. But Pantera and Darrell will always be the soundtrack to a brief stretch of time in my life. He’ll be missed.

Edit: A nice article from the San Francisco Chronicle