Monday, December 22, 2014

#MicroblogsMonday: Fulbright shorlisting

I have been shortlisted for interview for the Fulbright Scholarship!!! Oh my god I'm so so happy!! It's a VERY long shot, there are just a handful of these awards every year allocated to Ireland and I made it through the first round of selection!! I don't know how many have been shortlisted, could be 20 people or more for a few places, but still! It would still be for Davis but for summer 2016!!
Interview on the 30th of January, send good wishes my way!

Monday, December 15, 2014

#MicroblogsMonday: Inside Out

Has anyone seen the trailer of the new Pixar movie Inside Out? I can't wait to see it next summer!!
I often thought how it would be if someone could see what's going on inside someone's mind and now there is a movie! Well, to be perfectly honest I also often thought "imagine if someone knew what I am fantasising this very would be so embarrassing!!"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sliding door project: the reveal!

Well it's finished!! It took 4 months (with holidays in between and really only a few hours at weekends) but I am utterly delighted with the result! It couldn't be any other way really as Mike is such a  perfectionist, so for your delight here it's how it all developed! Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#MicroblogsMonday: The Walking Dead

The series is in its fifth season and we only started watching the show about two weeks ago. I don't know how it happens but I obviously discover fab series well into their galore when they have won popularity contests year on year. It happened with How I met your mother, Grey's anatomy, House... and so I go on a binge of a couple of episodes per night and feel like I am actually in the's so so odd! We are now finished season two and I just can't wait to get going with season 3. I may have caught up by the time the season break is over.
Of course this is a totally different kind of show which if someone had mentioned to me I would have probably thought it was a load of crap...zombies?? Come on...that's so 1990s, right? But no, this is fab and has me watching it from behind a warm blanket on the couch, never alone and thinking what will happen next. I then check my very strong composite door is properly locked and go to bed.

Arrgh...any other series I'm missing?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

All clear!

Today I had the double assessment (mammogram and ultrasound) and consultant visit. Within one and half hours I was fully reassured there was nothing wrong and in fact I was told already by the time I got to do the ultrasound that the mammogram looked completely normal. I was extremely impressed with the service and the kindness of the nurses and doctors. The breast specialist saw exactly what I meant with the fold in the nipple tissue but reassured me that it was nothing pathological and probably due to breastfeeding. I am so relieved.

This is the third time this year I am thinking I'm dying. I need to go on medications or I will eventually get ill with all this stress. Will talk to the GP about this the next time.

Monday, November 10, 2014

#MicroblogMondays Work and Anxiety hand in hand

I did not get shortlisted for the first job I applied to a month ago. I found this out on Saturday night. No, I didn't get an email, they leave you hanging. Only shortlisted people get the email. I was so upset. Mostly as I felt I was worthless. I got a bit better when I heard that one person that was shortlisted was an internal candidate at post doc level. So if they want a junior position then I am overqualified. I wish they told me rather than give me hope. I was really hoping to get called.

I'm having a mammogram and ultrasound on wedensday. The GP referred me just to be super cautious after my visit last week to the Breast Clinic. Somehow I thought it would be a few weeks before they called me and she said it was going to be non urgent. When I got the call this morning for an appointment this Wednesday I nearly fell off the chair. The lady explained that as I have private health insurance they have reserved slots every Wednesday. There is no emergency, no rush put by consultant, only they had a vacant slot and wanted to know if I wanted it. I took it. And I'm shaking since.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Health update

I went to the GP on monday, she was a new one in the place (they get one position rotating among those that have hospital posts to keep up to date etc) and was lovely. Told me absolutely I should call down if I'm worried, that's what they are there for etc.
She did a full breast exam and could not see/feel anything wrong which was great and very reassuring. Of course it was a bit cold so the "grove" effect I see when the left nipple is flat was no there. Eventually I adjusted and she managed to see a bit (like a mild version) of what I meant and said because of the behaviour it is probably a superficial skin damage maybe due to breastfeeding!! Remember all the problems I had with breastfeeding? All the bleeding, constant damage to the nipples? Maybe that is it. She said she is absolutely not worried but will talk to the other doctors and see if they feel we should do further checks. I'm a relieved, hopefully I'll convince myself that they know what they are talking about and even with no scans I'll put it to rest.

Valery you have been so kind, I think I know the triggers. Any time I'm working towards a goal (going to the US in the summer, maybe changing job etc) I start having anxiety. Generally health related and things that make me think "oh perhaps I won't be able to do nothing at all, if I'm ill I won't be able to [...insert whatever the project is...]". Hugs my friend.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Can you believe I have yet a new anxiety attack?

This time is my breast. The left one. October was breast aware month, I have always been breast aware and checked myself regularly. So everything feels absolutely normal, I don't have a lump I can feel. But I did notice that when I lift my arms, if the nipples are not erected, the left one retracts to the side. The right one is normal. If the nipples are erected then there is no visible difference. I have to say I couldn't tell you when this change happen, I think I may have paid more attention to this as I heard an interview of a lady who mentioned her only thing was a retracted nipple (no lumps). Needless to say I'll call/go to the GP on monday. They haven't seen me for a while, must be happy. How did I skip the step of looking at myself in front of the mirror it's beyond me. I tend to do breast self-exams in the shower or in bed and with arms down there is nothing different, with nipples erected and arms up/down same. So unless nipples are flat the doctor won't see what I'm seeing.
Will I ever stop worrying?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Davis done!

While waiting to hear anything (I mean anything at all really!) for the first place I sent the cv two weeks ago (no shortlisting has taken place as far as I know), I have completed today the more ambitious application for Davis. It would be such a boost to even be considered and be above the threshold they require. Submission deadline is friday. We'll see if anything comes of it.

Meanwhile with all this work done, I have a super up todate cv, a teaching statement and a research statement done and vetted! Never a bad thing you know.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Waiting waiting waiting

Still no news on the job application, I know it's very early still (closing date for submission was last thursday) but still...any time I hear the "ding" of an email, my heart jumps!

I am so ready for a change. We had a staff meeting today and I just kept telling myself to let things go, the new boss is just not capable for the job and I need to look "into my space" like my psychologist says and not let it bother me too much.

Another recent news is that Oliver got a place in the school we really really wanted! It's an educate together model, non-denominational (as in not religiously led) and child-centred. I was so excited when I got the email and the system here is so crazy that you have to put the name of your child down for schools as soon as he is born (even before!!) so everyone "reserves" places in many schools because you don't know where you will be accepted and the waiting lists can be ridiculously long you may end up in the one school that has a poor reputation.
Talking about school, I had three things which were very important for me (on top of obviously good reputation of the school) but hard to come by in the Country. The school has to be mixed (boys and girls together), possibly no uniform (the mental association for me having grown up in Italy is that uniforms are for military and fascists type schools) and possibly religion should be taught as an inclusive subject rather than being a form of indoctrination (this is still Ireland).  In primary school, children may be taught for say 20 hours in a week, 2 may be catholic religion and if the school has a very strict catholic ethos, children pray several times a day. I would find that ver very difficult to accept as normal to be honest. I rather have the children attending catechism in the church for their communion etc, and have them study different subjects when in school. So I'm delighted with this outcome!
Martina is really good, came down with a high fever tonight, no other symptoms a part from being off form. We'll see how she sleeps and how she is tomorrow. The weather has suddenly changed so I'm not surprised we have entered bug season!

Finally I am quite well, now my back is bothering me, pain migrates from one part to another and I know it's mostly psychosomatic (and bad posture in the office), thankfully I see the chiropractor this saturday for an adjustment and I must go back to the gym after the conference, so hopefully tomorrow....

Saturday, October 18, 2014


I am back from almost a week in Belgium in this jewel of a town where the conference was. Like the last time in Spain my parents joined me and so I brought Oliver who is now the best traveller and quite a funny companion.

My talk was on wednesday and I did a lot of fruitful networking. Hopefully something good will come out. There was also the big boss of the place where I applied a couple of weeks ago. He was really nice and paid me lots of compliment after my talk, but said nothing at all about the position (he knows very well I have applied, but it would have been quite unprofessional to talk about it given that they are shortlisting now). So I am no wiser. I will apply to a position in UC Davis also, a very long shot but why not?

Martina had a great time with Mike and today we were all reunited (last night we arrived back that she was asleep) and happy!

That's it from me for the moment, story time is calling and I have to go!

Monday, October 6, 2014

#MicroblogMondays giving this a go

Right, I'll try this one too.

I just found out from a friend who lives in our same estate that there is a strong possibility at least part of the development is affected by pyrite. Tests came up positive for two houses. What this means is that if quarry the builders used at the time they build your house was contaminated, the foundations of your building are unstable. Overtime they will shift and expand and eventually the house will collapse. Collapse. It must be remediated. There is a national remediation board but our estate was never considered "at risk" so a major process will need to be initiated to get funding to repair the foundation. Can take up to 2 years. While the works are going on, for 3 months, you have to move out. I can't bare to think about it. If we come up positive the house is unsellable in its current state.

If you want to find out more about #MicroblogMondays click here

Friday, September 26, 2014

So much going on

Well well well, I can't believe we are already week 3 done out of 12 of this academic semester. Things are well, quite hectic but not too bad, I have started looking around in case a position in a different University comes up....and what do you know, just across the waters they seem to be looking specifically for someone with my background....So I'm putting in my cv and see what happens. It is a bit scary of course but much more than that it is truly exciting. Mike would have a ton of opportunities too and going somewhere where the cost of living and housing is reasonable would be a very welcome change. My colleagues don't know anything, way too soon and maybe nothing will come out of this.
In other news I went to a gynaecologist yesterday that came highly recommended by my wonderful OB. Practically, since before the summer, my cycles have been a bit all over the place. Varying between 23 and 32 days, spotting for a week before the period start and on one occasion I spotted for a week after the real period had stopped. I don't think there is anything major, but no harm in having myself checked out. So I went and it could just be my age though my latest blood tests didn't indicate at all that my fertile days were over (buuhhhahhhahhhaaahhhh) and to be honest the thought of going on some form of pill or coil when I have no tubes sounds plain ridiculous. The gyn was quite happy with the internal visit and suggested a scope to make sure I have no polyps that may be causing the spotting. I'm waiting to be called to have that done and then we'll see.
The children are great, we had a tough time with Oliver about a week ago, he was really acting up even in school, we were really upset and totally lost as to what to do. One day the teacher told me that Oliver spat in the class. Twice. He then did his time "on the chair", apologised and it was it. I was so upset with him I could barely talk. We had no major talk about it, he knew he went too far and that night I didn't even manage to read him a story. Magically from the day after, he went back to be a lovely child! Well behaved and sweet!! So I'm not sire what the lesson from this is...less is more?
How are you all doing?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

And 40 it was!

So yesterday was my birthday! I had a lovely day, we went out for an early dinner with the children in one of my favourite restaurants and we loved the food as always.

Thinking back at all happened in the past 20 years feels like I could write a book. Here the highlights:

Education/Career: Got my MSc and then PhD, moved to Ireland for a post doc in a different field which made me "the" candidate for an academic position in an interdisciplinary field. Got tenure and then even got promoted, graduated 7 PhD students and 3 MSc students, published my work and got invited to write my first review as a sole author in my field for a prestigious journal (as opposed to the tens of invitations to write reviews on random things for obscure journals!)

Family Life: Got married, bought a house, then divorced and sold the house, moved to Ireland and met Mike, bought a house, got married (for life this time!) and we worked really hard to build our family. I manage not to drown in despair after two ectopics both of which followed IVF treatments, we got and lost two cats, I went through 6 embryo transfers before finally having Oliver. We adjusted to the new routine of a family of three and then with another round of IVF we got Martina. Together with Carlito the cat, our family is complete. We travelled a lot, Europe, Japan and the US. Sure it was not always easy but we are still together and stronger.

If the next 20 years will be half as interesting I certainly cannot complain. I wish for us to keep loving each other, to stay healthy, to cherish life and stay united as a family. I hope the first 20 years of the children will be full of loving memories even though I'm sure their next 20 years will be more exciting. I fear at times what if I am not going to be there to see them growing up, I wish I knew they will be safe and good teenagers, that whatever mistakes they will be making will not be too terrible and just part of growing up and learning.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Shaping up

On tuesday I met with the personal trainer (PT). I am always happy to see that the scales used in gyms and doctors are always more forgiving than my own. So I apparently weigh 59kg on the scale that will be my point of reference from now on.
The plan is for me to take at least one class a week (I chose pilates) and do one or two session in the gym. Ideally if I do just one session I should go for a swim too.
On thursday I went to my first ever pilates class, it was packed and the teacher was very good, but I didn't sweat a drop nor I felt particularly challenged, so maybe next week I'll go for something different if I find something that is timetabled nicely.
Today I collected my gym programme, it's 45 minutes on paper and the PT worked with me through the various exercises and then I did the whole programme on my own. My problem with going to the gym was that I used to find it extremely boring. This programme is fast paced, the longer I'm at a machine (bicycle) is 10 minutes, and my exercises are 3 sets of 12 repetition with 30" in between, a lot has changed since I had a gym programme probably close to 20 years ago!! At the end of my session I felt fabulous, tired and sweaty, but very happy! The next time I'll make sure to keep myself better hydrated and bring my phone for timekeeping. The gym panoramic internal windows overlook the amazing 50m pool and let me tell you, I nearly felt like going for a swim afterwards!
My 4th session in the gym will be with the PT and after the 10th sessions I will have an assessment of my progress (weight and various measurements) so we'll see!!

Tomorrow I'm going back to the chiropractor because since the last adjustment my back as got sore, like there is a pinch on the spine. Apparently it can happen and he will fix it.

As for the children, things have nicely settled thankfully so there is much less acting out and much more lovely time. Our sliding door project is progressing slowly but surely, and in a couple of weekends it should be done!

Monday, September 1, 2014


Righty-oh it's September which means my big 40 is around the corner, in fact it's 16 days away! I am very happy with my age, I kind of think I'm celebrating 20 years old for the second time and I look with almost disbelief at all that happened in the last 20 years, certainly much more than in the first set of 20 years it seems. I will start building up that post specifically for my birthday on the seventeenth, it will be nice to read it in the future!

I also got myself a personal trainer (first appointment tomorrow at 9 am), there is no sign of shifting the weight I put on with the hormones and pregnancies and I want to feel fitter. While I don't feel my age, my body is clearly giving me signals that despite my denial I am indeed ageing and I better take care of my muscles and bones or I will start having all sorts of aches.

I went to the chiropractor on saturday for my adjustment and I realised I have been about 6 weeks without a headache. I honestly cannot remember when what the last time I ad such a stretch. In line with my getting back into shape I have started the 8 day detox I do every 6 months or so and I bought myself a mini-fridge for the office to store fresh yoghurt and juices so that I can healthily snack if I'm hungry during the day (rather than popping out to the vending machine and get myself a chocolate of some kind). And it will be stairs only and no lift from now on too. Let's see how long it'll last!

As for Oliver, we are trying different strategies to keep him in check, time out works but not always, positive education seems easier said than done at the moment, so it's a bit of trial and error like we don't know this child at all...Thankfully Martina is very easy at the moment, despite teething and a good bit of clingyness, so hopefully it'll last a bit more. Oliver started pre-school today, it's still done in the same place but he has moved up a class and for the next 10 months he will have 3 hours a day of true Montessori "teaching". I can't believe he will be going to school next year....And this will be hopefully after 3 months in, a lot to do!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to normality

Nothing happened. My mother must have said nothing as I did not notice any change in my father's mood. That was a good move. We both put that conversation behind and just moved on with the holiday which was calmer. A part from one of the last evenings when Oliver was given chocolate biscuits by a friend of my parents (seriously...) at around 6.30 pm. He was WILD. WILD. I did very well in controlling myself and actually directing him to run up and down the garden while I was "timing" him to burn some energy. Still it was tough. Tough to control him, tough not to loose patience, tough not to shout at him to just please calm down. My parents sort of stayed very quiet as I am sure they could see how many buttons were pushed at once and literally he was unmanageable. But we made it.
We had again a major sleep regression while on holidays which meant that we had to stay with him till he was asleep (could take 45 minutes) and read a number of stories which kept getting interrupted as soon as the end was nearing. Classic tactic which we normally don't indulge but of course, to avoid him screaming the house down and waking Martina (superchampion sleeper since she decided to sleep through the night at 10 months) and Clarissa (much less of a champion) we gave in.
So we are retraining again now that is the second night at home and this evening he was happy after the story was read, for me to sit on the stairs with my laptop dealing with emails but so that he could see me from his bed. He was asleep within 10 minutes. This is major progress. Let's hope it will continue. I would love for him not to be resisting sleep so much, i know he is 95% of the time adorable, but I swear, that 5% will make a saint go to Hell.

This brings me to introduce the education model I would like to follow and the constant battles I fight with myself not to be too much of a general when he pushes my button (and the guilt I feel when I don't manage).
I don't want to slap him (not even on the bum) and I want words to be all that is needed to deal with misbehaviour. Slaps don't make anyone behave any better, they only perpetrate fear and the idea that if someone does something you don't agree with then you slap him. I deeply believe that is wrong. However, it does happen that Oliver gets a slap on his bum, always after warnings which he happily ignores it seems.
Both Mike and I need to motivate eachother in this, obviously we both got slapped when we didn't do what we were told and I still remember it with a feeling of hopelessness as I could never react.
You read everything and its opposite when it come to slaps, so I understand if you feel this is part of a normal education for children (within reason I hope and never to harm a child!), perhaps even just as a quick way to "shock" the child out of a bad behaviour. I just don't want to be that parent.
So I am trying to read various other points of view and articles, and like always I need something that gives me power (even just psychological) to keep calm during classic toddler misbehaviour.
I think the best phrase I have read and that I have used since I read it, is to repeat to yourself that "you are the adult and you can definitely deal with this" "he is a child and does what children do" "his behaviour is not a reflection of you failing as a parent, he is just being a normal 3 and half year old" "it is a phase and it will pass".
Lately we have been dealing with awful behaviour in shops if we don't buy him something, if we don't let him out of the trolley (he inevitably runs away every time we do put him down despite the promises not to do so) etc. I have read and implemented a great strategy that felt like the discovery of hot water but I never thought of it that clearly. It is essential with toddlers to inform them of what is about to happen and to make sure they know the consequences of their behaviour. So it goes like this "we are going shopping now, we have to get what is written on the list. I know you are going to be a good boy, there is no room for misbehaviour in the shop. If it happens that you forget, I will remind you why we are in the shop, but if you forget again and still misbehave I will bring you back to the car and we will not buy anything at all, is this ok? Shall we go?" With Oliver this technique worked like magic. I was worried he was going to misbehave and I wouldn't bring home a single item, but he actually didn't. Since I have used this technique. Magic. I have also read that with smaller children it may be good to have a "magic" piece of paper in the car that you can read to them before doing whatever you have to do and the points are always 3, state what is about to happen, state what you expect the child to do and state what will happen if he does not do what you expect him to do. Keep it short and real (don't make any threats, just state a reasonable consequence for misbehaviour). This works also when we go to the playground and going home was delirious, there was always "one more slide" and "two more minutes". I was getting stressed even at the thought of going to the playground as I knew I would be that mother with that child.
Hopefully as we settle back in our routine of work and creche we will find a healthy equilibrium.
Your thoughts are much appreciated.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

She does not remember

I am on holidays in Italy. One more week till we return and already I had to endure comments and sighs from my mother on our educative methods with Oliver (having him to do 3 minutes time out if he misbehaves). On the other side my father is getting on my nerves as he takes the liberty of correcting Oliver on hideous things (which way you are supposed to roll up the spaghetti on the fork, pretending we don't throw the ball him while he tries to hit it with a racked because "that way he will never learn" etc).

This evening was one of those evening that Oliver was throwing a tantrum as he didn't want to do time out which was given to him after he had pushed his cousin (same age as Martina) for no reason whatsoever. Imagine one of those tantrums you can hear from two streets down. Mike was standing his ground and kept pausing the timer every time he wasn't sitting in the chair. My mother was behaving like we were torturing him. To which I said "what do you think we should be doing? Give in any time he says no?" and she answered "Certainly you have never been given such punishments, he doesn't even know why he is punished." I said "because when I was misbehaving I was getting a slap from dad, without that much talking". She looked bewildered and said in all my life I only got a slap on the bum and one on the face.

Now, yes I agree, I have not been beaten with a belt or anything like it, it's not like I was getting slapped every day, but I certainly got my fair share of slaps which I lived as a true violence as I wrote about a while back. I apparently pointed out the one slap she remembered when I was about 16 at friends' house and let her sit a bit on the fact that such a thing would not be normal if someone doesn't do it on other occasions too. She went so far to ask my sister who was sitting at the table (my father was out) if she remembered me being physically punished, and she just didn't answer. She always hated being put in the middle and so took no side. My mother said "we'll ask dad when he comes back". To which I said "whatever". She didn't say anything to him when he returned but they are out now, I'm sure for a chat. Oh how much I hate this. I know he will also not remember, I know he will want to convince me that nothing like I remember ever happened. What can I tell you, I know what matters is how I perceived my childhood, at least this is what I have been told by more than one psychologist.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Slliding doors

Well, I can't believe it's been so long since I posted last. And I had just said I wanted to blog more!

I am working on a photographic post about the children and Carlito as per kind request of Valery, nearly there!

I was hoping to have a post this weekend on some more DIY we are doing to the house. We are replacing the door to the en-suite for a sliding one. Mike is doing it all, following a video on youtube!! That is awesome let me tell you, and it will be perfect I have no doubt. But of course it wasn't done in 3 days, probably it won't be done before we go on holidays on sunday, but we'll be very close to have it finished.

And at the same time we kind of made up our mind we'd like to move...sell the house and buy a fixerupper so to speak, something to put our stamp on like we did with this one, but hopefully with a bit of a garden. I must admit the reason why I am set on moving is our neighbours living on the ground floor...they are lovely people but constantly smoke. We live on a toxic cloud of stale cigarette smoke. I hate it. I know I'm particularly sensitive to it, I think it's disgusting and above all it's disgraceful I cannot enjoy my balcony or have the children play there because every 5 minutes one of them is out smoking. Their place stink just as you walk by it. They are not infringing any rule of course, there'e nothing that can be done. We did last year some works to eliminate the smells coming through the vents, but there's nothing we can do about the air that comes into the apartment from outside!! Anyway, that's it, we had our place evaluated and that gives us an idea of what we can afford. So eyes peeled to the websites hoping to see something suitable at some point.

Project California is well underway, when I come back from the holidays at the end of the month I will start writing a proposal for funding, I have the full support of the College and Mike is enthusiastic too, my parents will likely come with us for a while at least, it should be good!!

Still on work, I have been asked to give an oral presentation at a conference in Belgium in October, I am so happy about this, for one reason or another I mainly presented posters to conferences, so this will work a treat to increase my visibility.

We have some serious regression in the sleeping department with Oliver, I will have another post about this as I have started to lose my temper with him and this is NOT the way I want to parent, so I will share some nice tips that are helping me which I found from reading different articles etc.

I love you all my readers, wherever you are.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Small steps towards California

I want to tell you a bit more about my intention of spending some time in California.
So when I went there  two years ago, I absolutely loved it. Not only I loved the food and the weather but I loved the variety of things that can be done and I know we just scratch the surface.
In my area of research, the top scientists and major biotech companies are in California. So back then I started playing with the idea that it would be so fantastic to spend some time in some lab over there, even a company would have been great, but I know that being an academic that would be highly unlikely. Then all plans (which were purely in my head at that point) were stalled with the FET and Martina's pregnancy. Once Martina was born I returned to work after mat leave and it really took me a while to get back into the swing of things, I have a research group on top of teaching and you know, it's not like scientific ideas grow on trees, if you are quite distracted with family life, something gotta give. And I knew if I wanted to feel inspired again I had to start going to conferences and scientific meetings so I did (in moderation of course as family is in any case my number one priority).
This last meeting in Rhode Island, like two years ago is the creme de la creme. The philosophy is that everyone is basically campus bound and conversations are easy to start and everyone there works in the same field. There are many companies and researcher and the very best scientists in the field (the kind that make you realise how small of a fish you are!) and I know I'm nowhere near that level but if I could at least breathe the same air it would do me a world of good on many different levels.
When I came back I tentatively mentioned it to Mike, perhaps expecting a sort of a cold response, but he didn't! He was immediately enthusiastic about the idea and we had to verify a few things. First we needed to make sure that he could apply for an unpaid leave of absence and get back to his job an salary (check!) and that I could on the other hand keep my salary or it would have been a serious problem (check!!). Mike was so on board that he even said "maybe I can also do some work in some lab.." wow!! I immediately emailed the colleague in Davis and I mean, who wouldn't want a very experience, hands on post doc for free? He got back within minutes saying his colleagues would be fighting over him, no question! Apparently Davis is extremely family oriented and if Mike works then we have to look into childcare, but should not be a major issue. I would hope that my parents will spend maybe even a month there and could help. Renting somewhere should also be very very easy, I'm assuming renting a car should be doable too. We will have to house Carlito (our cat) but again it should not be a major problem.
So there you have it, tomorrow I will initiate discussion on a potential project to develop and will try to apply for funding too (every little helps!)
All this excitement makes me feel over the moon and very relaxed too, long may it last!

Ps: Kd if you read, send me an email, I have no way of contacting you as I can't find an email in your profile!!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The business experience

I am back, I am so happy to say that my return journey was upgraded to business class! For me that I have always travelled in economy it was fab! Pity the journey was too short to enjoy a good sleep, but my God, what a difference, the food, the service, the lounge in the airport...

The conference was good, I networked a lot and it may be possible for me to spend a few months sabbatical next year in UC Davis in California. That would be another dream becoming true, I'll try and figure out this week what do I have to do at my university, but this gave me a very nice and important focus work-wise. The weather in Rhode Island was very good, warm but breezy so overall really pleasant. This is the last time at that location, this conference will be moving to Maine in two years time, looking forward to a bit more life and the ocean view! One highlight of the trip was meeting a cyberfriend and her daughter!! Really lovely afternoon with them and the time just flew by.

Health-wise I have had the usual abdominal pain, not good but not worse than normal, I have started joining a few boards on IBS and see how I can tame it a bit.

I don't know if you remember that two years ago I came back to Dublin and Oliver had been admitted to hospital after spiking a very high fever. Well, this year I came back to Martina with chickenpox! Not as dramatic thankfully and the worse was probably over, but the funny thing was that I was collected at the airport by the same taxi driver as two years ago!!

My parents flew back this morning, they had a lovely time and just as well they were here to help between the sickness and the Mike having to work, it was a great help.

Right, that's about it for now, I'll be back soon!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Almost Boston time

Heading off tomorrow and hopefully the hurricane will have lost strength and moved further north. I am very excited about this week away. I admit, I need some me time. I need to switch off the permanently on call button, I need to listen to my music and go back to a proper 20 minutes meditation, I need (desperately) to recharge my batteries as I am exhausted. I don't feel exhausted, I simply am. I may even be able to read a book. I realised it's been two years since I had a night to myself, when I went to the same conference after our amazing trip to California.

My parents arrived yesterday with great excitement on Oliver's part and a little perplexity on Martina's side who, I think, was wondering how it was possible that the people in the computer were now here in the kitchen. But one day in and she has already warmed up to the guests!
I have packed the suitcase (almost), found a few dollars from the last trip in a jar in the kitchen and charged my ipod, laptop and phone. I have packed a swimming suit as I want to go to the pool on campus during the week. However this may be a bit of an optimistic thought as my period has decided to be late again. So it'll probably start tomorrow or sunday, just as I am travelling.

I want to get back blogging a bit more often even if it's just for myself and my soul. It is good for me to be talking about life and feelings even if the original purpose of this blog has morphed significantly. It did me a world of good when I was going through infertility, I think it will help with the anxiety too, I have to write it down. I know it is less interesting for the wider blogging community, specially for those still chasing what may seem a chimera baby (and I wish you from the bottom of my heart that it will be a reality very soon) but it may still be nice for my long time cyberfriends to see how I get on and what we are up too (thank you Valery!). I know I miss a lot my old cyber friends, those that have stopped blogging altogether and those that are now posting very seldom. Maybe there is someone left out there thinking the same about me! Don't worry if you don't have time to comment, I know this is my life and not yours and you may have nothing to say, just let me know occasionally you are stopping by, I'll love it!

I'm considering changing the title of the blog, but I am so attached to it. What do you think?

Friday, June 27, 2014

One more check (and I'll relax!)

So the pain in my upper abdomen to the left of the belly button is still there, intermittently,  and it had started in March. Add changes in bathroom trips. Add "tamed" anxiety. An explosive mix. Literally.

So after a bit of internal debate, I decided to go back to the GP. Could I have developed some food intolerance after the rounds of antibiotics this year? I knew the ultrasound was clear but I still did not feel well at all. Before going to the GP I researched a few gastroenterologists and actually made a couple of calls to find out waiting times for the visit and possible scoping. This one stood out and thank God for health insurance I could get in pretty quickly. The GP was great, suspected maybe IBS (which I never had and of course it could start any time but every guidelines said if this is suspected after the age of 40 for the first time, other, more omnous causes, must be excluded) and had no problem writing me a referral for the top GI doc. I went to GP on a friday and I had the appointment with the specialist on Monday. That's amazing fast. She was fab, Canadian, trained between Ireland and the States, a cv you could make a blanked and have some left over. She was very reassuring but said let's have a look, just to be sure to be sure it's only stress. So I had a colonoscopy the day after. Never had one before and I was sedated for the procedure so that was a breeze. What is not so much a breeze is the clean prep you do beforehand! A must-watch hylarious gig from Billy Connolly on the matter here, and he seemed to have used pills, I had to drink 2 liters of solution in the evening and 2 more litres at 5 am on the morning of the procedure!!
Anyway, as always I'm not phased at all by medical procedures so I wasn't anxious and then afterwards slept for hours at home.. I think that was totally what I needed actually!! I went back today (after an immediate reassurance that all looked quite normal bar some small diverticula) for a chat and review of the results. She tested me for celiac disease (negative) and checked my thyroid function too (all good). She also took some random biopsies (all normal) and observed this diverticula in the upper part of the colon. Nothing to worry about, they are shallow and open, but unusual at my age, normally you find them in 55 year old males. Ah well. On top of this I have a thickening of the mussels on the left side and certainly a touch of IBS. So I'm so glad I was not imagining things, yes, keeping calm and meditating and sports will help minimising the anxiety and IBS, but the pain I feel is real, thankfully a benign situation, and above all not in my head. You know the way you can really believe you are loosing your mind when every other week you have some odd physical symptom in random parts of our body? That was me.

One week to Boston!!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Life is good

This weekend we are de-clattering. It gives me an immense pleasure to do so. Sorting out children clothing which will go to a charity, tidying up the balcony (soon to accomodate a storage unit for the bicycles and scooters and what not), tidying up the storage space under the stairs etc. Because you know, we are about to start a new project I don't think I mentioned it yet. We are going to replace our en-suite door with a pocket one! As the bathroom walls are tiled, Mike is going to do the job by accessing (and breaking) the wall just on the bedroom side. It is possible, we watched a youtube video, but it's definitely going to be a messy job. Mike never did it before of course but I have no doubt it will be perfect (he is handy that way). So far we sourced the housing structure and the tools. The door itself it's just going to be a plain one. I suspect we'll have to relocate to the attic while Mike is doing the work so it will probably happen when I'm back from Boston in July. Very exciting.
Children are good, Martina is a climber, goes up on everything and of course is not that balanced yet so weekends are definitely more tiring that the working days looking after the two of them! She eats everything (it's a while now we cook the same things for everyone) and she still has 6 teeth but currently drooling and red bum, so who knows, maybe a couple more are on the way. She is a great sleeper, I know Oliver had a major regression at 18 months, so hopefully she will be different (given the she never slept through the night till 10 month old!). She is still in her room but sometime in the future will be moving the children in together. Oliver is very good, with the occasional melt down, but he has started waking at around 6.30 and after going to the bathroom (the en-suite, he is almost always dry at night, we keep him in a cloth nappy just to catch the occasional accident) comes into the bed and that's the end of the sleeping for me. He seems to be functioning perfectly on very little sleep these days and he has black out curtains so it's not the light that wakes him at all, he just does and he's ready to start the day and keeps going till 8.30-9 pm...

I am doing well, I can feel I made a significant change in my anxiety, I don't torment myself anymore with awful thoughts, in fact I somehow came to the conclusion that even if I die, things will be ok for the children as Mike is a great dad. So this thought gives me great comfort and less anxiety and by default I son't think so much anymore about getting sick and die. As my stomach was still bothering me, I went to the gp last week (no anxiety, just to check) and she had me do an ultrasound to make sure there was nothing strange going on as she could not feel anything abnormal. Ultrasound showed a small gallstone which is not what's bothering me at all it seems, but everything else is absolutely normal, so this leaves the pain likely to be muscular (it's not food related). Let's hope it'll pass. I have gone back swimming now so that should help. I want to record here that for the first time in 15 years I think, I got a 3 days delay on my period (which was always early, about 25-26 days). Of course I didn't even bother testing because with no tubes it would be some miracle being pregnant and even if the thought did cross my mind (you know...there is always that one case on the web etc etc) it made me realise that I am really happy with a family of four and so we are thinking what to do with the embryos we have in storage (4 blasts from the same crop as Martina). We are both very much in favour of embryo adoption, but it would have to be an open adoption which here is unheard of. I would never feel comfortable not knowing where those embryos have ended up, not that I consider them my children, I truly believe children belong to who loves them and grows them up, but Ireland is such a small place I would worry they may end up marrying my children without knowing they are related!! I know they can be shipped abroad etc, I would hate to have them wasted, they can be so precious for couples who would like a family but for whatever reason cannot have a biological child. So we'll see. I'm putting this thought out into the Universe for it to be heard and now I'll wait and see what happens.

Less than a month to Boston!! Wohooo! Any takers for a coffee?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Meeting Maddy!

Today I met Maddy (Lateforaveryimportantpregnancy)!! I was so happy and even though it was just for a short time it was brilliant. She was in Dublin for a short visit and so happened that she was staying in a hotel on my side of town and so even if very last minute I could pop over to say hello!

Anyway, like when I met Valery, Rain and BestWhenUsedBy it felt like meeting old friends. She is lovely as I was expecting, and so beautiful too! I hope she will be back blogging as I miss her.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Another trip to Italy, Martina and CBT update

We are just back from Italy, Oliver and I. Again wonderful time and two school reunions! Some of us have aged better than others but the fun and the ease of chatting with old friends was special.

We came back early this morning, and we found Martina comfortably walking! Baby girl is growing fast, no doubt. She is definitely also teething (again) and she is quite uncomfortable (and I have yet not bought the amber necklace). Mike was saying she wakes at night at least once, but we'll see how it goes now that I'm back.

You might remember a couple of posts ago, I mentioned a physical symptom which I was managing well with no panic. That lasted about 10 days. The no panic state I mean. Then, I started going emotionally downhill. Thankfully I had an appointment booked with Louise (the psychotherapist) and I was crying and making awful movies in my head. The usual ones you know, I don't even want to write them here. She was great, mostly made me talk through the movies, asked why I had not gone to the doctor instead of torturing myself (I don't know, I think I am fighting the urge of going to the doctor when I kind of know I'm blowing things out of proportion), she said that is silly, to just go. I was feeling also very defeated, I thought I was doing so well and then I wasn't at all. She told me this process is like a game of snakes and ladders, you can fall back, but never to the original place. It was a perfect comparison actually, I knew I had the tools to work with this, she said I have to learn to make good movies (if I can't help but making movies). So I went for an executive health check the following week. I was very proud of myself because I managed not to be in a panic mode at all, in fact I was quite relaxed and managed to tell myself that in fact all would have been well. It was all good, thankfully. At my last therapy session last week, I realised I was truly learning to make "good movies" like she said. She also said that her job is to make herself eventually redundant and we are getting there. I am optimistic I am learning to STOPP, to see what triggers the anxiety, and to redirect my mind, like you would do with a child. I am glad I started this process.

Term is over in college and I don't have any other trip till Boston in July (cyberfriends, I have one night in Boston before the conference begins, on the 5th of July, would love to meet anyone who is in the neighbourhood) so will work on catching my breath really and get back to things that were not so urgent but still need to be done now.

I'll leave you with a couple of pics of Bologna for you to enjoy!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Not so good first birthday

We went away for Easter, rented a cottage in the west of Ireland, absolutely fabulous and we were blessed with sunny and balmy days! Children had a blast, we had a very friendly horse in the filed attached to our back yard, and the farmland we were on had cows and calves and not a car or another house that could be seen for miles all around.

Mike took part in an adventure race which consisted in 16km cycling, 13 km run and 16 more km cycling all up and down a hill. It was tough but he did very well (considering he barely had any training!) and we met up with friends which was lovely.

Martina took her first steps on Easter Sunday, she was so excited! Definitely knew she had done something special and really wanted to keep trying!
But then on sunday night she started feeling not so well, very clingy, felt warm (but I had not brought a thermometer, so not sure how warm she was) we gave her paracetamol and she ended up sleeping in our bed as the only way she was happy was attached to me. 

We drove back on monday and she got sick in the car, we were stuck in traffic, it took ages to get home and by then we knew she caught some sort of a bug and her temperature spiked close to 40 C. Not good. Tuesday during the day she was ok, no temp but not in great form, coughing and sneezing and rapid breathing, off her food etc. As the evening came, so did the temperature and we were back up to 39.8 and sort of hovering around 39 even with ibuprofen. I took this pic a few minutes before midnight on tuesday thinking this is not going to be a very happy birthday for the little girl.

A trip to the doctor on wednesday confirmed it is a viral infection, we got the prescription for an antibiotic in case she doesn't get better within a couple of days, but chest sounded clear and nothing major was seen in her throat and ears. We attempted a mini party with a cake in the evening but it wasn't really worth it as she didn't eat at all. 

By that time Oliver started complaining that his tummy wasn't feeling so good and that he was cold. So he came down too with high temp and cough etc. 
Today Martina is a better, no temp all day and even now that we put her to bed she was in the normal range, but last night we had a couple more spikes near 40 C which scared me quite a bit. 
So hopefully with the weekend the children will be back to good form and we are doing our best not to catch it too!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The silence

I am still here and still reading you all. I am not sure if I have anything interesting to say any more, I think recording a new tooth, a first step or another flu may be relevant to me and perhaps the grandparents but I can see how this is of very little interest to the blogging community, so I'm not posting as much.

Anyhow, I am just back from a trip to Madrid, it was for work, but I brought Oliver with me and my parent met me there so it was lovely for all of us. I find it is really important for me to carve quality time with Oliver. he loves it of course and so do I. His vocabulary in both languages is excellent, we can have lovely conversations which can go off on a tangent at any moment. I love his curiosity and candidness.

Selfie in the breakfast room of the hotel which was really
a fab gluten free bakery!

He is having a "good boy" stint, so we don't have to deal with many tantrums thankfully and  travelling with him on my own is absolutely no problem. Hopefully this will last!

And as of me, I am well, therapy had helped a lot, I will go again next week, and possibly every two weeks. I have another physical symptom, not sure what it is, maybe my stomach/bowel and (most of the time) I don't panic. I will have it checked out if it continues, but I am amazingly just thinking it may be a bit of gastritis. Hopefully anyway!

Martina did very well at home with Mike but we are very happy to be all together again. Tomorrow we are going to an event organised by our fertility clinic, they are celebrating their 17th year in business and are having a get together with all the children and families who are going. As we have been so open about our journey, I'm really looking forward to it and curious to see if there's anyone else there I know!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Martina is 11 month old, Oliver is back to tantrums, and we are back from Italy

We had ten days in Italy, it was lovely as usual. We had lots to celebrate, our wedding anniversary (seven years!), my parents anniversary (forty!) and my niece first birthday.
But I have a couple of things to get off my chest, you are warned!

Oliver somewhat regressed to bold behaviour, really pushing buttons with us (you know...mocking us, saying "no!" to anything you tell him to do etc) travelling with him this time was an absolute pain... we had to drag him across the airports, he was shouting as if he was being skinned, we had to find a chair (or his suitcase) to give him timeout a few times. Awful. While in Italy, he took my bamboo stylus for the iPad, broke it and threw it in the bin without us realising anything at all,  only saw it was gone from my iPad. He was so so good for a long time and we are back to this's very very tiring...hopefully it'll pass soon.

My niece's father started getting under my skin too. He is ridiculously anxious about the child (I know I'm anxious, but he beats me hands down), everything is a huge deal (a bit of a teary eye, a sneeze, a little cry...) and he started giving out to Oliver if he thought he was misbehaving. This practice of educating other people's children is really annoying, specially when I'm there too. Just to give you an example; this child must be alone when she eats or, they say, won't touch food. So Oliver had to leave the kitchen (at my parents') and the door had to be closed.
He was also obviously reared with rude language on every day agenda for normal conversation and he would be quite freely talking in that way even when the children are around, oblivious to the fact that that is very rude. Thankfully he left for Paris and we had a few days without the drama.

And now for the nice bits.
I met my junior high school friends after 26 years...I was actually a bit nervous, we have not kept in touch so I was not sure what to expect. Also, our paths are very different which sometimes can make things awkward. But it was a fabulous evening! Lots of fun and laughter, we have now created a whatsapp group and we chat every day! We will meet again in May hopefully, I am so happy I reconnected! In May will also meet my senior high school friends...hopefully it'll be another pleasant event.

Martina is 11 month today which means we have a birthday to celebrate in a month! I don't think we'll do a party or anything, just probably a cake for the four of us. She is doing really well, her sleep has improved so so much I feel like I'm breathing again. She can still wake of course, but sure Oliver can do it too, it is very manageable. So I'm planning to go to the conference I went to two years ago in Boston, and it's no longer an impossible dream! I'm very happy!! Will look this week for flights, I will not be able to stay much longer than the conference and this is unfortunately not in the city but in a quite isolated campus, but do let me know if you are in that neighbourhood from the 6th to the 11th of July!!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

I waited a bit to write about this as I wanted to have a couple of sessions done.

I like it a lot, Louise (the psychotherapist) is great, highly qualified and I feel our sessions have been really fruitful. She asks always very focussed questions and there is very little rambling which I appreciate a lot. The first session was pretty much an assessment and of course very quickly she was able to see what was going on with me. She literally said "Do you see what you are doing? You are catastrophising, you are making movies, and you have to learn to STOPP." And STOPP is actually an acronym for which now I have little stickers and cards dotted in various places.
I had some assignments to do, mostly observing, thinking about triggers of my anxiety ecc. She thinks that all this is linked to me being a perfectionist and of course a perfectionist must have everything under control and you cannot control the future, you cannot control what you don't know and there will always be things you don't know. On top of this of course there is the fact that I have a certain medical knowledge which is the final killer. I know a good bit but only enough to worry myself sick rather than reassuring me. She said with my way of being and my training as a scientist, I am a thinker, I need to research, it would be impossible for me not to think, not to make movies, so I have to change what I'm thinking, challenge my catastrophic views (which I want to point out are nearly exclusively self directed, I am the go to person for everyone I know who wants reassurance) with other thoughts, and if I really have to make movies, then they have to be good ones.

So today was my second session, I was all ready to try an work on all things health related that I blow out of proportion and she shifted the gear completely and started focussing on work, for which I have absolutely no anxiety, I feel fairly confident and appreciated. However a schema is a schema in all aspects of your life and we had an initial chat which I thought was nearly part of the greetings but then she suddenly said "I can see you are very practical, this is good, the way you can rationalise and be very matter of fact, we have to use this in your reset process". And so we went on describing how I probably make lists and plans, and there is always a new plan a new item to be added to the list. This is true for work too, the list of things to do is never over, I am efficient, I do get through items quickly I do not procrastinate much (only things I that don't need to be done so urgently) - though apparently perfectionists may feel very overwhelmed by tasks that they never feel ready to do them -  I get very frustrated when I have to deal with colleagues that are last minute types, never get things done and I can't do anything about it. She asked me how Mike would describe living with me. I had to think about it. I think he likes the fact I have things under control (90% of things that concern our family I have them planned) but surely I thinks I am a real pain when I constantly remind him about that 10% that is under his control and he's not doing it the way I would do it. I certainly keep my anxiety very much hidden and in check, I know he just simply does not understand and cannot help and when I feel so bad that I share is never a good conversation for me.
In work, while I have high standards, I have learnt to say things to people (students mostly) in a way that is always constructive rather than destructive, I think my students love I correct their assignments/papers/posters/abstracts almost in real time. I have great feedback from the students (undergrads and post grad) on my teaching and it's a self feeding thing, I love that they appreciate my efforts and I want to do even better the next time. I have to learn that maybe this is already good enough, I don't have to do more, work more, teach more, I can enjoy life, the children, the house, the holidays, because it's ok not to correct 215 home assignments in one week, nobody expects that (specially when that is not the only thing I have to do). I have to work on balance. It's not going to be an easy fix, this is the way I'm wired, since I was small I was brought up not wanting to disappoint when it came to performance (I did write a post a while back on this) and if someone does a job, I do expect it to be done as planned (specially if I'm paying for it!), but I have to work on lowering my expectation of about 25%. I'm really not too sure how to do it, but will try.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

10 month old update

Oh man, we were sick with the flu complicated by a strep throat infection. Both Mike and I are on antibiotics, that didn't make for a fun week let me tell you! But now we are all well, the children escaped it somehow so at least it's just us having to recover.
My periods seems to have settled on a 21-23 days in length which is a real pain, mostly for the pool. Thankfully this time it coincided with being sick so I would not have been able to go swimming anyway. I will start again tomorrow.

Martina is 10 months old today, she has been teething non stop since her first tooth not even a month ago, she has 4 through and a 5th one nearly there, the poor chicken can't get a bit of a break, but at least then they'll be out and we can move on.

Both herself and Oliver went for their developmental check 10 days ago, and all is well. She is crawling at speed now, with a straight leg in front of her (quite funny to watch) and gives the impression she is going to stand up an walk instead. I'd say it wont be long.
We finally moved her into her room on friday, two days shy of ten month as our room-mate, but what can I tell you, she is still waking once at least, it was just unthinkable to do it when she was up 3/4 times a night. She seems to love her room and for us it's nearly strange not to have to tip toe when we go to bed.

Oliver is my big boy, I have started changing a bit my way of relating to him (I was a bit short fused for a while and threats were my way of getting him to to things), we spend much more quality time together, including going to the pool just the two of us at weekends and it is really helping building trust and recognising boundaries. I am proud of myself and really really proud of him too.

I am also doing well, still haven't started with the new therapist (very difficult to match her schedule with mine and she is very busy), I'll see her in just over a week, very curious about it. The chiropractor has given me a new life for sure, I am so so happy, now I'm going to see him every 10 days or so and then it'll be once a month for maintenance. I'm stil keeping a diary for headaches and general feelings, it really helps to notice how long I now go without a headache. Long may it last!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How it is going

I am feeling so much better the difference is apparent to other people. I stuck to my plan of swimming every second day (a part from today that it was snowing! Will go tomorrow), and the energy I have now was unimaginable only last week. At the weekend I brought the children to the pool and Oliver loved it so much we had to come back on the sunday. He talks about it every day, so I guess it will be our destination for a while.
Dr.A is a fabulous physician and within days I could feel the difference in the tension in my neck. I sleep so much better (I also changed my pillow to an orthopedic one in memory foam), I wake up rested (Martina permitting) and ready to go for the day. I went today for my fourth session and he was really impressed with the progress, I told him I keep a diary of my headaches and since I saw him I can definitely say I had none. I know it's only ten days, but I would not have gone more than a week without one since December. Often I would have it twice a week. I am mindful of doing the exercises he suggested during the day and this together with swimming is working its magic.
I have had my last session with MissC, I am thankfully in a completely different place now and I hope to stay here for a while. Again, practicing mindfulness if only once a day for a few minutes just to reground myself is essential. I can feel I am getting back in control of my thoughts. I will go see her again maybe in a month time as a sort of follow up session, I really like her. As that is finished and my chiropractors visits are going to be once a week from next week, I thought of giving CBT a go (cognitive behavioural therapy). I was given a name of a very good psychotherapist which lives and practice on my side of the city and will start seeing her next week. I am not sure what to expect, now that I feel better, I suppose I hope to learn a method that will retrain my way of thinking. She is quite expensive and insurance does not cover, so this better be a love at first sight or I know I won't go back. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The new me

After the shocking bout of anxiety I suffered in the past few weeks, I realised I have to take serious actions. And I did.
I will see weekly my psychotherapist which I'll call MissC, her approach is based on mindfulness and I can see the benefit already. I really should have kept up the mindfulness meditations but ah well, I didn't. Can't recriminate too much on the past and so I'm just starting again.

I have started also to go to a chiropractor, Dr.A, he is phenomenal. I went there on saturday (despite the fact that the MRI was totally reassuring, the headaches had not gone away and they really affected my life), and he got my history, checked me, noticed immediately the atlas (the first of the cervical vertebra, C1) was shifted to the left, possibly narrowing the channel where the trigeminal nerve stems. It makes perfect sense, all my aches are on the left side, and the tingling sensation also is on the left side. I can really describe my headaches as if they were on the surface of the skull rather than deep inside the head. Apparently these are the hallmarks for trigeminal issues. I thought that type of pain should have been unbearable (they say it can make people suicidal) but he explained that like everything there are various degrees of inflammation and mine is obviously not that severe, but still sufficient to give me headaches and associated issues. Of course being stressed and anxious is adding to the pile, tension in the shoulders and neck is a killer for this. After the first treatment I felt completely different, yes perhaps I'm easily fooled and it's all a big placebo effect, but I have not had the tingling in the face and only occasional very transient aches over my left ear. I keep a diary of the headaches so that we know if this is helping or not. I went today again and will go for another couple of treatments in a short time and then we'll maintain and do more gentle and minor adjustments. I am really positive this is the way to go for me.

Finally, true to my new year resolution, I joined the super fancy gym recently opened on campus yesterday. As a staff member I get a good discount and the annual membership can be freezed for up to 3 month so there is a bit of flexibility for holidays etc. It is two minutes walk from my office, has a 50m pool which is almost deserted during the day and I can fit at least three swims per week between lectures. My goal is to swim 2k (40 legs) once I'll be up for it hopefully in a few weeks and keep that as my exercise. Yesterday I swam 600m so I know I have a good bit to go, but I feel great and really motivated. There is also a spa corner and a children pool, as my two are less that 4 years old they have free access. We are going to try it out this weekend. So tomorrow is day 2 in the pool for me and the weather here is horrendous (floods, millions in damages to properties etc), somehow the fact that this doesn't discourage me the least and I have already prepared the bag for the gym, gives me great confidence I'll stick with the plan!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Life is good

Yesterday was the worst day i had in years. Did the MRI and the tech would not say absolutely anything not even under bribery. They do however give you a CD with all the images. The report is sent to your doctor within 24 hours. And my doctor on wednesday is open only in the morning.
So of course what do I do? But torturing myself by "reading" the images of course!
In fairness things are so crystal clear you could try and see if you can make an educated guess. And so I did. Most of the sequences looked totally normal, certainly I could not identify any mass anywhere, or areas that looked odd. Till I got to a couple of scans in which I could clearly see a little white spot which measured about 0.5cm x 0.2cm and it was definitely there, I could see it both in the axial and sagittal views. But only on one set of images with a particular contrast. I worked myself up into a state of pure anxiety, seriously, I was almost paralysed. I contacted all my doctor friends and asked for an opinion, non of them is a neuroradiologist unfortunately and of course I could see the images on my laptop with the programme embedded in the CD, but I could not save and email them (couldn't remember for the life of me how to take a screenshot). So it was all trough the phone, skype and whatsapp. They were all great, I found out today they had a mini session talking about me (and concluding it was probably nothing to worry about). But I did worry, a lot. I was thinking it could have been a small aneurysm or an area of demyelination. Somehow it sounded even worse than a brain tumour.
Mike looked after the children as I was in no state to do so, on the verge of tears and "deaf" to Oliver talking to me, I I just went to lie down a bit as I didn't want to scare them. Mike as always hadn't a worry in the world, you know those people that don't worry unless there is actually something to worry about? Until some tells them "now you worry", they are just eternal optimist. That's him. And just as well or we would have had to call a sitter to mind the children.

Anyway this morning I called the doctor first thing. The secretary told me she'll chase the results straight away and the GP would call me in minutes. Minutes turned into a couple of hours and I had a lecture in the meantime. When she did call the first thing she said was that the MRI was fine and why was I worrying so much. I told her what I found in the scan and she did say it was mentioned in the report as an aspecific area of higher contrast but nothing to be worried about at all, they didn't even think it needed a follow up, just one of those thing I may have had all along. Such a relief.

Suddenly I was so so tired I could have gone to bed on the spot. But I did go to see my psychotherapist and it felt good. We are exploring more what may have started all thins now that the crisis is averted. I truly hope I can get better, because I think I really hit rock bottom this time.

Thank you all for the support and love in the last few days, you were a life saver.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Progress on all fronts.
Thank you so much for your love and support in my last post. I do feel a bit better, blood tests came back and after an initial bout of anxiety (a couple of hormones are below normal) I remembered among my friends who are doctors I have an endocrinologist and so I called in a favour for his opinion. He was great and very reassuring, he believes there is nothing wrong with my sight and/or hypophysis and that really the GP was just being extra careful. As you know some part of me still thinks something will shop up in the scan on wednesday but I'm taming that thought. Also after a few more days of headaches and the like I got my period, 21 days long. And then the headache is gone and the eye is back to normal. Go figure.

I did stick to my plan though and contacted the psychotherapist I did the mindfulness course with and she saw my on thursday. I was already a bit better but seeing her really helped. She gave me some tools to use, one for example is to give the state of anxiety a name, so when I feel those thoughts appearing I can tell myself straight away "oh there's my darkness lurking" or whatever I felt like calling it. I called it Johnny. Because you know, it'll sound like "Heeeere's Johnny!" a la Jack Nicholson in The Shining when out of his mind was axing through the bathroom door! I thought I could do with a bit of a laugh. And it's working. Seriously. Another very important tip is to be aware this anxiety is not my full self, but just one part of me, that I have to acknowledge but not allow to take over, the key is to stop the feeding mechanism that fuels the anxiety which triggers the physical response (say tight chest) which then goes back to the amigdala which fires the alarm signals of imminent danger, anxiety and back to the beginning. Hopefully it'll get me through the next few days.

Martina was nine month old on thursday and on friday she slept for the first time through the night. Not a peep from her for 12 hours. Unbelievable. Tonight she has cried already so I won't be counting my chickens yet. But it's major progress, even if it's one night occasionally, we are totally regenerated. And her first tooth cut through just yesterday!

Oliver definitely seems to favour speaking Italian with me even if we are outside, at the creche or in a generally English speaking environment, and he is very good, fluent really, and very funny. He is still super cuddly and love hugs and kisses, does that to Martina more often than not and she is in awe, he can do no wrong to her eyes, it's really sweet to watch! Have a look at one of his funny faces (before the haircut last night!).

Sunday, January 19, 2014

In the black hole

Well, you may be wondering how I have been so long without talking about being's not that long really, but I'm in that place again...It all started with a "glare" in my left eye. I first noticed this odd sensation (as if my left eye was seeing too well, like too much light coming in) a couple of years ago. It came and went after a few days. I went to my ophthalmologist once I was in Italy and checked out perfectly, he said I had to use artificial tears as my eyes were very dry. Gave me a bunch of samples, I still have them. Then it happened again sometime in September, same thing it came and went after a few days, perhaps associated with some headache like the first time, I did put the drops in and seemed to help. I thought I better get my eyes checked again, but then didn't. And now I have it again. To see an ophthalmologist here for the first time, you have to go to a GP to get a referral no matter whether you are a private patient or on a medical card (in Italy you can simply look up someone on the yellow pages, call and get an appointment, you only go to the GP if you want to go with the NHS). So off I go to the GP and there was a new doctor in the centre I had not met before but she was really thorough. Couldn't see anything really wrong with my eyes herself, and while getting my history I happened to say that I was still lactating though I stopped breastfeeding in the middle of December. I did suffer of hyperprolactinemia when I was a teenager so I wondered myself if breastfeeding put my hypophysis under stress more than normal. Alarm bells must have gone off as she said we better check the hypophysis so, I'll write you a referral for an MRI as well as blood work to check your hormones. Now, rationally I know she recommended the MRI just to be completely sure there is NOT a problem, and even if there was such a lesion, it would be benign (I know as I had been checked by MRI for the same thing when I was 17), but you can imagine, my "what ifs" went in overdrive. I got in with a fab ophthalmologist the day after the GP visit, got fully checked, including visual field, facial nerves reactivity on top of the usual things, and I was stellar. She said the glare can easily be due to dry eye, (and explained very well the principles of incidental light on a rough surface) which like anything can be worse at times and better other times. But of course said to do the MRI and she would add to the hypophysis scan also the orbits and the optic nerves. Just in case. Just to be completely certain is nothing else than a dry eye. I've done the bloodtest on friday, will get results probably already tomorrow and I have the MRI on the 29th of January, I know it's not long to wait by any means, but I want it over and done with. Will call every day in case there is a cancellation. They will give me a CD with the scans on the day (in case I want to watch them by myself and see things for sure) and will write a report within 24 hours, if I don't die with anxiety I'll be doing well. Now I think there'll be nothing in the hypophysis, but there will be something much worse discovered by pure coincidence... of course I suddenly developed a range of new (phanta?)symptoms too. And I am running movies in my head of the children growing without me, the sadness, the many moments I won't be there...Martina won't even remember me and perhaps not even Oliver. I'm torturing myself.
I swore that if it turns out to be as simple as a dry eye I will have to start serious therapy. I'm ruining my life worrying about the worst possible scenarios, that is not living at all, it's like being in Hell already, so what's the point?

Bear with me till I get my results...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Settling into a new routine

We are back since last tuesday night. I realised I didn't mention that Oliver is no longer going to his old creche, we took him out for the whole month of December as we were going to Italy, initially thinking he would go back in January and Martina would join him in February, but then a few things happened over the last few months (change in management, massive staff turnover, lots of confusions about moving rooms, a bully in his room, and finally the last of the carers we knew from the beginning also decided to quit) that made us decide it was time for a change. When we had the original induction in the creche, things didn't really go smoothly and on that occasion I had contacted the sister of one of my PhD students who owned a creche very near our home, she was great but had no space available and then things just improved in the place and we left it at that. Anyway, I contacted her again in October given our cooling feelings for the hold place and incidentally she had two places starting in January, one for Martina and one for Oliver! I went to see the creche straight away and oh my God what a difference! It is a much smaller place of course, but the outdoor space is massive, very well cared for and the children rooms are in little individual wooden houses. The best thing is that the carers have been there for many many years (the two in the baby room they have been there for 15 and 17 years!) and the place feels extremely settled. Another nice thing is that this place is up on the hills, about 2.5km from our home, not really on the way to work but at this stage that doesn't matter. The views from the gardens over the city are stunning, the road to get to the creche is a country side lane, I don't think I ever crossed another car, very very quiet, and fairy tale style really. To add to this, the rates are cheaper and would you believe it, they offer a service of school pick ups when the children go to school!! They collect them, bring them back to the creche, feed them and have their homework done by the time you go and take them home. Phenomenal service.
So I brought both children in for a couple of hours on Wednesday, they both loved it, and by the time it was friday they were in full time. Martina slept easily there and Oliver loves the fact that he can go and see her if he wants. We couldn't be happier, they are safe, they have a great time and lots of love from very experienced (mother-type) carers. So that is one thing sorted for good.

Another update is that both Mike and I feel we have to get back in shape, we are not overweight by any means, but we are not fit at all anymore. I will join the college gym in February and Mike deiced to start training for an adventure race which will take place in April. We can do it. By the time I'm 40 in September, I want to be happy about myself again. This is my new year resolution.

MIL is doing better, it was touch and go for a while and I was worried sick about her, but after a bit of a confrontational conversation with her doctors (I was NOT impressed with the level of care), things started improving a bit. On friday we had a family meeting and I was shocked to hear that the survival rate after a double leg amputation at 12 month is only 30%....let's hope she is in that 30%.

Martina has just today started crawling a little bit, but she much prefers standing which meant we had to lower the mattress in her cot. Her sleep is a bit better, some nights we only have to get up once for a feed. We hope to move her into her room by the end of the month.

Better go now, I'll try and post a bit more often, hope you are all well.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy third birthday!

Oliver is sound asleep, oblivious of the new year celebration going on outside. Martina was awake for the...third (or was it fourth?) time since she went down at 8.30 but did sleep at midnight so we celebrated with a glass of fruit juice like three years ago when I had just been induced. I'd like to make it our tradition. We are at my parents' place, my sister thought herself and Clarissa could come over and we could have dinner and wait for midnight together. However, with small children it's impossible to make plans like this, we had the three of them asleep by 9 (the girls were down for 8.30 and Oliver took that bit longer) and then the two girls woke up in rotation to the point that at 10 we decided to just eat when we could! Ah well, maybe next year.

And today my boy is three. He will wake up in the morning and we have his favourite cake ready and a couple of little presents, I can't wait to see his face and take some pics!

Of course Happy New Year to you all my friends, may this be a good one for everyone.