Friday, December 31, 2010

Weight a Bit

Yes, it's that time of year again. Thanksgiving and Christmas are over. Feasts have been eaten, treats devoured. Stores are filling prime shelf space with organization materials, exercise paraphernalia and weight-loss "solutions." It's time for my annual post-holiday "Let's Pull Out the Weight Watchers Points and Agonize About All the Post-Baby Weight That I Haven't Lost Yet"-Fest!

I'm in the process of making a calendar for my mother and mother-in-law for Christmas. (What's that I hear you say? I'm really early this year? Okay, fine. I know that Christmas was a week ago and I'm late. I had a few things going on this December, okay? Sheesh. At least I'm still doing it....) This entails hours and hours of sorting through the year's photos, picking out the best ones, cropping them and trying to squeeze as many good ones as possible into an 8 1/2 x 11 inch space. (Luckily the job is much easier now with online photo and calendar places. I used to print them by hand and take them to Kinko's to get bound....)

Dec. 2004
But I digress... for the past few days I have been sorting through all of the photos for the year and I inevitably come across a couple of me here or there. I have a picture in my mind of how I look and it seems to frequently get stuck somewhere between junior year of college and three years after I had Camryn (both times when I was quite a bit skinnier than I am now). It is always frustrating to look at photos and realize that how I envision myself looking and I how I look in real life aren't the same- to realize that after yet another year of wanting to be skinnier, I spent another year at exactly the same weight. I had hinged all of my secret hopes on the prospect that as soon as I quit nursing Addy in October, the post-baby weight (or nursing weight, or whatever excuse under which you would like to catalog it) would suddenly evaporate, but those hopes somehow haven't instantly materialized.

I'm not writing this post to look for possible weight-loss plans or to fish for sympathy ("But Karen, you really look just fine!"). I know I look just fine right now. But I can't help but thinking that I would just look a teensy bit (okay, fine, a lot) "finer" if I got rid of the 10 lbs from Jackson and the 10 lbs. from Adelyn. (And another 10 lbs. besides that would be great, too.) I lost 40 pounds after I had Camryn. I proved that I could do it at least once. I found out that losing weight is fairly simple --and extremely hard: eat less, exercise more (and maybe throw in "eat more healthy" just to round it out). I know what I need to do. But I don't know if I am really ready to do it right now.
Dec. 2010

The irony of having kids is that the very thing that makes you to gain the weight in the first place is the same thing that makes it so tricky to lose it after. Somehow, there are a just few more demands on your time after you have a baby. Not that that makes it okay, it just it makes it easier to slack. I recognize that everyone has the exact same 24 hours in a day. I have the exact same number of hours as that skinny girl whose figure I envy. And if losing weight was a real (versus imagined) priority, I would somehow carve out the time, mental focus and emotional energy to change my eating and exercise appropriately. And I really believe that at some point I will do that. But right now there are enough other things and issues floating around in my life (of which four kids are the least...) that, if I'm being honest, now is not the time that I am going to make weight-loss my major focus.

And I'm okay with that. Well, mostly. So this New Year's I have a different resolution. Before I lost all the weight after I had Camryn, I really believed that if I could ever, possibly, maybe, be skinny again, THEN I would love my body. The funny thing was, even when I was that skinny (and it really was quite slim, as you can see from the above picture), even though I knew in my mind that I was skinny, I still didn't "love" my body. I still focused on the parts of my body that were less-than-perfect and felt that if I lost a few more pounds (or could "add a bit" here, or "get rid of a bit" there), THEN I would really love my body and feel like I was beautiful. It's just a slippery slope. So this year, my resolution for New Year's is to love my body and feel that it is beautiful RIGHT NOW. This doesn't mean that I have to be in denial of the fact that I could afford to lose a few pounds. But it does mean that I will see my body-- imperfect figure, extra pounds and all-- as a beautiful creation of God.

And if someday I get around to losing the weight that will be great. I will feel better and be more healthy. But it won't obsess about losing it because I believe it will somehow "fix" me and make me okay or complete. I will choose to see the good and beautiful in me instead of focusing on the faults or imperfections. (Hmmmm.... maybe losing the weight would be easier.) :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good Morning Baltimore: Surgery Day

Dave's surgery was two weeks ago today. We woke up dark and early, to the tune of 5 a.m. We had to be at the hospital by 5:30. I tend to be very matter-of-fact about things, but I could tell that I was reacting oddly to the stress of the situation. The first signal was that I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and curled my hair. Which wouldn't be that unreasonable except that this is me-- I curl my hair once every month at best (that's being generous). So why the sudden urge to curl my hair in the wee morning hours when I was going to spend the whole day in the hospital and my husband would be knocked out for most of the day?

Previous to this experience I did not have much (okay, any) experience with hospitals or serious care-giving, except for childbirth. I realize in retrospect that I had, shall we say, unrealistic expectations for the experience. Sure, I understood that Dave was going to have surgery, but how bad could it be for me? I wasn't getting sliced open, for starters. Besides, I was going to have an entire week away from the kids. So even if it wasn't going to be the Johns Hopkins Hilton, I would at least have a relaxing week away from my normal responsibilities. (Those of you have experience with major surgery or care-giving to someone who has had major surgery can laugh out loud at this point.)

We got to the hospital and made our way through the sprawling hallways of the Best Hospital in America to the ancient elevator in the Halsted/Blalock wing (it takes about 7 minutes after you press the button to get to the main floor and pick you up). Dave and his dad went off for their pre-surgery stuff while his mom and I waited in the tiny, ugly pre-op waiting room. And waited. At about 7:30 am they finally called us to come visit (and say our goodbyes?). We navigated the old randomly-colored hallways of the 7th floor (you really would think that the "Best Hospital in America" would have had a remodel at some point) to the surgery prep room.

Dave pre-surgery. Don't you love the lavender walls?
Dave related how his dad had told several nurses/doctors/assistants that he had a major allergy to a chemical that they frequently use to prep people's skin for surgery. One doctor finally got frustrated with him and said, "Look, we have it on your chart. It's in the computer. For them to use that on you they would have to order it and it would automatically be rejected. There's no way that you will get that, okay!!" A while later someone came to prep his dad for surgery. He asked them what chemical they were about to use. It was the exact chemical --the one he had told four or five different people he was allergic to, the one the doctor said was impossible for him to get. And on that heartening note, I prepared to have my husband go under general anesthesia.

Hangin' in the GOR Waiting Room.
At this point, Dave's mom and I were directed to the General Operating Room Waiting Room (the GOR Waiting Room in hospital-speak), a lovely haven of mauve vinyl chairs and circa-1980's window treatments. We remained there for the next seven hours or so. I got a phone call at 8:40 saying that Dave was under and his surgery had begun. Another later telling us that the kidney was out. Another when they were sewing him back up. Dave's end of the surgery was done about 12:30. Dave's surgeon said that the surgery went perfectly and "It was a beautiful kidney!"

An example of the lovely color scheme...
Meanwhile, we discovered that the women's bathroom was even more ancient than the pre-surgery waiting room, along with being dirty and having a broken soap dispenser. I think they put the transplant surgeries in one of the ugliest wings of the hospital. Maybe they figure the patients will be knocked out anyway so they won't really care that the hallways are random bright colors and the elevator doesn't come for 10 minutes.

At about 3:30, Dave was finally coherent enough for me to go see him (although "coherent" may be too strong a word...). I really wasn't prepared for the experience of seeing Dave after surgery. I guess doing major surgery involving vital organs and full anesthesia has some minor side effects. Go figure....  It's hard to make your logical mind hold on to the fact that yes, the surgery was done by competent doctors and he is almost certainly going to be fine when your subconscious, emotional brain is saying, "What have they done to my husband and where can I find something heavy to throw at them?" Anyway, Dave wasn't at his best. I didn't take post-surgery pictures- for a good reason. However, I did take pictures three days later when Dave was looking much, much better:

Dave gave me permission to post this picture. He must have been on heavy pain meds at the time.... :)
They kept Dave on clear liquids for a day, then slowly moving him to other liquids and solids. When they finally served him full meals, they told him to take it slowly. The doctor informed us that one of the most important goals post-surgery was for Dave to not throw up.Which is, I'm sure, why they decided to serve this:

Hospital creamed spinach!! Yum!!!
Aren't you jealous?
This was after we had to endure a 10-minute spiel from the director of food services about how their goal was to have multiple appetizing choices of the highest quality food to meet all of their patients' needs. I think we threw away his card too quickly.... (The fact that Dave could eat that spinach without losing it is another feat of superhuman strength....)

And thus we progressed to the next phase of our Baltimore getaway... spending 12 hours a day at the hospital (For me, at least. I'm sure Dave wished it was only that long.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Good Morning Baltimore: Pre-Surgery

"Hungry for something that I can't eat... Good morning Baltimore!" - from Hairspray

Dave and I arrived in Baltimore on Sunday, December 12th. Beginning Monday morning Dave was on a clear-liquid-only diet. We spent Monday afternoon at the National Aquarium. (What better way is there to prepare for major surgery than by viewing sharks and giant stingrays?)

We finished Dave's last full day with two kidneys by window-shopping downtown, perusing a Borders, Filene's Basement and walking inside the Hard Rock Cafe. As Dave started to get hungry, we explored possible options that would fit within his dietary restrictions. It's truly amazing how few foods fall in the category of "clear liquid." After ascertaining that Starbucks Apple Cider is not a clear liquid (dangit- they put cream in it) and wandering around for a while we finally stopped in a P.F. Chang's to get warm. We've never wandered much further on their menu than Lettuce Wraps and Mongolian Beef, but while I ate Lettuce Wraps, Dave discovered that they have a lovely herbal tea and Chang's Chicken Noodle Soup-- a clear liquid, sort of. (Dave watching me eat lettuce wraps and not eating any-- after a whole day of no food-- goes under the list of "feats of superhuman strength".) So I had the chicken and noodles and Dave had the soup and it was actually quite delicious. And that was Dave's last "meal" as a two-kidneyed man.
My half of the soup. Yes the noodles look like translucent slugs, but they were really delish.
Isn't that the most awesome teapot you've ever seen? If every place had a teapot that cute I'd have to order herbal tea wherever I went!
 We finished our final celebratory "meal" by reading our fortune cookies. Dave's fortune: "A visit to a strange place will bring you renewed perspective."

 My fortune: "A faithful friend is a strong defense."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Greetings from Baltimore or Losing a Kidney

I have procrastinated writing this post for some time, but now I'm up against a deadline and (as usual) that is the impetus for getting around to doing what I've been putting off.

This fall has been really interesting for our family. It began as the hangover from Dave's summer of death at work. Dave's summer schedule of getting home at 10:00 pm regularly (with a weekly-or-so all-nighter thrown in) finally gave way to a more "normal" schedule (if you consider only one night a week working until 10:00 pm and getting home around 7 or 8 pm the rest of the time "normal"). Even with our return to quasi-normal we found ourselves trying to recover from the aftershocks of living in survival mode for a solid 5 months. There comes a point where you realize that "survival mode" has become your new "normal" but that maybe, just maybe, that isn't the most sensible way to live. This is where we found ourselves this fall. In the wake of this "hangover" we have been working to piece together a more rational and sane way of doing things for our family. Call it the fall of "reconstruction" if you will. But that wasn't the only "reconstruction" we would be involved in. In the midst of our attempts to build a with a more balanced and peaceful lifestyle (free of stress and pressure, a veritable Eden of Zen-to mix my metaphors.... Sounds really realistic with 4 kids, a choir to direct and a high-powered job in the family, doesn't it?) we had an unexpected twist.

I am writing this in Baltimore. Tomorrow Dave will undergo surgery at Johns Hopkins to donate a kidney to his dad. There have been a few months leading up to this: blood tests and screenings, a trip to Baltimore and Salt Lake, more tests and more screenings. Dave's dad had kidney failure almost 15 years ago. He has had two failed transplants, one from a cadaver and one from his sister (who was a perfect match). His last kidney transplant failed the week that Dave and I were on our honeymoon, so he has been on dialysis for over 10 years.

Recently Dave's dad found out about a new procedure at Johns Hopkins, where they specialize in transplants for people who have rejected past kidney donations. He was cleared to receive another kidney donation and the search began for a donor. After multiple screenings and tests, Dave was selected as the donor. Dave's dad has already been here in Baltimore for about two weeks undergoing plasmapheresis to remove antibodies from his blood that might attack the new kidney. After undergoing more tests than we thought possible for one person (they really enjoy running tests at Johns Hopkins and don't take any tests that were done by Utah doctors seriously) both Dave and his dad are cleared for surgery.

We head for the hospital at 5:15 am tomorrow. I have felt peaceful about the surgery and like it is the right thing to do, but now that it is actually here and creeping up on me, I admit that I am a bit nervous. We have been so busy this fall that I haven't really had time to think about it too much or process it completely. When people have asked me about it I've joked, "We've been so busy that having my husband lose a major organ doesn't seem like that big of a deal," but joking aside, having your husband cut open --even by extremely competent doctors at Johns Hopkins-- is still a bit unnerving. So, yes, I am a little bit nervous, but I believe everything will be okay. We are praying really hard that this will go well and especially that Dave's dad's body will not reject this kidney. If the transplant is successful it would basically mean a new life for his dad, who has had to spend 20 hours a week or so on dialysis for the past 10 years. It would improve his health, free up a huge amount of time, improve his energy, allow him to travel: basically it would allow him to live a normal life again. So we have really high hopes and lots of prayers that it will go as planned and be successful. We have felt God's hand guiding us throughout this process and have faith that if it is His will, He can work a miracle and help Dave's dad's body to accept this kidney.

So if you have a spare minute tomorrow, say a prayer for us or send some positive thoughts our way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2010 Christmas Card

With Love Blue Christmas Card
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View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, December 3, 2010

London: Day 1

Day 1 in London (Tuesday, October 19th) began at Heathrow airport at 7:00 am. After getting our luggage and some British pounds from an ATM, we tracked down the car service we had set up to take us to our London hotel. Like so many people, my first glimpses of Great Britain were from a car window on the way from Heathrow to our hotel, watching as we went from the outskirts of London closer to its core. This is probably a stupid thing to say, but it really felt like I was on the other side of the world- it felt turned around somehow and I don’t think it was just the jet lag or driving on the wrong side of the road.
The NH Harrington Hall Hotel: our temporary home away from home.

The car dropped us off at the NH Harrington Hall Hotel in South Kensington. We left our bags with the bellhop, pulled out Rick Steves’ "Guide to London," my pocket London street atlas and prepared to take the city by storm. Which meant figuring out where the nearest Tube station was. And breakfast.
Luckily the Gloucester Road Tube station was a mere 3 minute walk from our hotel. Across the street from the tube station was a take-out burger joint called "Byron: Proper Hamburgers" (how British is that!) and an outlet of Paul Patisserie. Paul had been recommended to me by two very credible London insiders (thanks Shannon and Jen!) and ended up being one of the staples of our London diet. It is a French patisserie and coffee shop that has crossed the channel. It is basically as ubiquitous as Starbucks-- it's hard to go a few blocks without seeing one-- but the pastries are much better. Ranell began her day with Pain au Chocolat and Hot Chocolate (French-style...super dark) while I got a Hazelnut Steamer, with a Chausson Pommes (apple turnover) and a mini brioche. We sipped our drinks and nibbled our pastries in the chilly October air before going to the Tube station to buy our Oyster Card (tube pass) for the week. 
A view of The Tower of London from the outside.

First stop: The Tower of London. We started out with the "Beefeater Tour" (picture the red and black uniform with a funny hat) which points out the major spots of importance in the Tower complex (i.e. where the crown jewels are kept, where Anne Boleyn was beheaded, etc.). The Tower is over 1000 years old and has a bloody, terrible history. It has served as a medieval palace, an arsenal, a prison, the site for executions/torture and a fortress. 

We finished the Beefeater Tour and then saw the Crown Jewels and some of the other highlights, including a display of 500 years of royal armor. This whole part of the trip is a bit hazy: it is covered in a fog of jet lag and sleepiness. If I was a caffeine person, this would have been a great time to have some on hand. Sleepiness aside, it was fascinating. I think my favorite part was the medieval stone chapel that was 1000 years old. There was a beautiful ancient simplicity that was touching.
Going up the winding stairs in the Tower of London. Standing in front of the Jewel House, where the Crown Jewels are kept.
Standing in the middle of the Tower complex.
Outside the walls of the Tower fortress.

Ranell in front of Tower Bridge.
Did you know that Tower Bridge is painted blue because it was Queen Victoria's favorite color?
By the time we finished at the Tower of London, we were starving. Luckily, right outside the walls of the Tower fortress, overlooking the Thames River, was a small outlet of... you guessed it: Paul Patisserie. So I fortified myself for further adventures with an outstanding Quiche Lorraine before buying a ticket for a boat cruise on the Thames to Westminster.

Shakespeare's Globe
County Hall, also the site of the London Aquarium.
The Millenium Footbridge: Crosses the Thames from St. Paul's to the Tate Modern Gallery.
Cleopatra's Needle
Our jet-lagged haze was interrupted by a jolt of calories -- at least enough that we could enjoy our boat cruise from the Tower of London to Westminster. We saw views from the river of the Tate Modern Gallery, Shakespeare's Globe, Cleopatra's Needle, City Hall, County Hall, the London Eye and lots of other things I can't remember off the top of my head.

Big Ben.

Palaces of Westminster and Big Ben

The boat cruise ended at Westminster Bridge, right outside the Palaces of Westminster (currently home to the Houses of Parliament) and Big Ben. We walked a few blocks to Westminster Abbey, founded in 960, resting place seventeen British monarchs and many of Britain's most famous figures; also the coronation church since 1066. But the present church isn't actually that old-- it was only
begun in 1245 (sheesh, practically a baby).
Westminster Abbey

The inner courtyard

The inner courtyard of the Abbey
More of Westminster Abbey
After taking the Abbey audio tour and duly visiting the final resting places of Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Edward Longshanks, Sir Isaac Newton, George Frederick Handel and Muzio Clementi (among others), we finished our visit with a visit to the gift shop and an Evensong Service featuring the Abbey Choir (free choir concert!).

At this point it was past dinner time. Jet lag and exhaustion took over, so we headed back to our hotel. I determined that the "Business Center" of the hotel was not worth using, even with 15 minutes of free internet time (it took about 4 minutes just to get logged into the computer, open up Internet Explorer and get logged into Gmail), took a much-needed shower, reviewed plans for our exciting Day 2 and collapsed into a deep sleep.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I have been procrastinating posting about my Europe trip because I want to write the perfect post(s) that will completely capture the experience, not miss any important detail and include all of the best pictures. I am a terrible procrastinator and the more I want to do something perfectly, the more I tend to procrastinate it. One of my goals I am currently working on is to be less perfectionist. So I will do an intentionally-not-perfectionist first blog post about my Europe trip, hoping that if I can actually get started on it, the process won't seem quite so daunting. Here goes:

My Uncle George (bless his heart!) gave me a ride to San Francisco airport at 5:00 am on Monday morning, October 18th. I met up with my friend and travel companion, Ranell, (who was flying out of Portland) at JFK airport. Incidentally, there was a pigeon in the terminal. (I thought you'd want to know that.) We boarded the plane to London. Despite my giraffe-print travel pillow, I did not get much sleep on the way over. We couldn't get the light over our seat to turn off for several hours, even after procuring the flight attendant's assistance: she couldn't figure it out either (it was controlled by the video screen and ours was malfunctioning). We made it to London Heathrow in one piece, despite the lack of sleep. We got our bags, procured some British pounds from the ATM and met up with our car service to take us to the hotel.

Now that you have all of the important, exciting details about our trip aren't you satisfied??? :) I think this post satisfies even my requirements to be non-perfectionist: Boring, check. Mundane details, check. No pictures, check. :)

More to come....

little t american baker

Another catch-up post... this one about one of my favorite Portland bakeries. Located on SE Division, little t baker is the latest in my line-up of Portland carb-fix fetishes. I talked Dave into stopping by for a lunch supplement when we were in Portland one day a couple of months ago.
My favorite thing here, by far, is their baguette with butter. It is very simple but they nail it: just the right amount of crustiness outside with a soft, chewy interior. Paired with sea salt-topped butter, it is the perfect snack. I have tried several of their lunch sandwiches and one of their salads and they are fine, but not amazing. Honestly, putting toppings on the bread is just a distraction and kind of a shame. Their Sally Lunn bread is also incredible- kind of an American version of Brioche: eggy, cakey deliciousness but without the sweetness (which seems like it would be superfluous in this case).
The Continental: a "short and skinny" with butter and jam. No jam needed for me.
Great bread is a work of art.

I tried a coconut macaroon here once and didn't really like it: I think French macarons may have ruined coconut macaroons for me forever. On this visit I sampled the Orangiata (a Brioche orange roll). It was good, but honestly, I prefer the straight-out unadulterated crusty goodness of the "short and skinny" or the cakey Sally Lunn. The sweets are good here , but the bread is the real star of the show.
The Orangiata: a brioche orange roll.
Quick Rorschach blot test: What does this make you think of?
Yep, me too.

That said, "L'Oreo," their take on the chocolate sandwich cookie is quite amazing. We finished our lunch supplement with chocolatey goodness-- not your average sandwich cookie.
L'Oreo: This ain't your average sandwich cookie....

Heaven in a bite...