Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mr. Happy Part Deux (Kieran's thespian adventures)

Coming up on two years ago, I posted a video showing when Kieran received the news that he got his very first professional acting role, playing the only child role in "Frankenstein: The Little Monster" at the Jane Theater Company's production of their annual Hullabaloo. After appearing in 25 performances in the space of 5 weeks, he worked harder than I've ever seen an 8-year-old work and never missed one single show...and he had caught the theater bug, even though it wasn't all fun and games.

Fast forward nearly two years later, after auditioning and receiving some call-backs around the city and spending a year in Northwest Children's Theater (NWCT)'s fall and spring productions of Kids Company Northwest, he auditioned for both NWCT and OCT again this summer. He received word that he didn't get mainstage call-backs for NWCT but would be invited to audition again for Kids Co...and we hadn't heard a thing from OCT until today. We all assumed that he wouldn't be called back. (He seems to have better luck with OCT, though; last summer he received a call-back for "Gathering Blue," but didn't get the role because he was too short.)

Imagine our surprise to learn that he'd been called back for his #1 choice, "Charlotte's Web"! Callbacks are this Saturday (fortunately, we will be in town!!), and he's up for the roles of Avery or Wilbur. We had fun telling him the news--watch and enjoy:

Crossing our fingers he has a chance at one of these roles!

Traffic court: a reasonably happy ending

This afternoon I went to traffic court. It was a matter of principle...because....
This is how old I was when I got my first ticket: 18! I was driving on SW Oleson Road, not too far from where we live now. I don't remember my speed, but it was probably 40 going in a 30-mph zone.
In my parents' front yard when I was 18
And this is how old I was when I had my last ticket: 21.

In the Rocky Mountains, CO, 1982, on that trip

It was driving through Soda Springs, Idaho, when my college friend Debbie, childhood friend Peary, and I drove my aunt and uncle's Volvo back across country for them the summer after I graduated from PLU. We were driving through the town on the interstate, and the speed limit dropped and I was trapped...again not going that fast, but faster than the speed limit.

And now, fast forward 27 years later...last March I got a speeding ticket via photo radar while I was driving to dinner with my English sister-in-law--41 in a 30-mph zone, once again! I went to the courthouse a few months ago to request a court date, and that was today.

I knew it was unlikely it would be dismissed, but I wanted to do whatever I could in case it might be. Traffic court was supposed to start at 1:30 p.m., but the judge didn't show up until 2:45! The court clerk apologized, but I was a bit chagrined when the judge finally showed up and didn't say a word of apology!

In the meantime, several of the police officers were there, and they offered to discuss our tickets with us. Finally, my officer gave that offer again and said that there might be a possibility to get the penalty reduced, so I went over and gave him my name.

He was actually very nice. In the end, he reduced my ticket to $110 (it was originally $160), the lowest-possible amount, but then he reduced it further to $60 because of my perfect driving record! So it was worth it to go to court in the end...not just for the money, but also because I felt better about the time spent. Some of that positive feeling came from the nice police officer. He wasn't a villain like I was making him out to be in my mind. :) And I told the judge and officer that I hope I don't get another speeding ticket for at least another 27 years!

So it could have been better (the officer not showing up and the ticket being thrown out), but it could have been much worse. And on our road trip this summer, I will honor those speed limits.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Every Day Is a Miracle Now on Facebook

If you would like another method to follow this blog, it's now on Facebook. The benefit of liking the Facebook page in addition to following by e-mail or news feed is that I will be posting inspirational messages, quotes, photos, or thoughts as well as my regular posts.

It also offers you a way to have an easier conversation about some of these items rather than commenting on a blog. Come join me by clicking on the Facebook badge in the top-right corner of my blog or clicking directly to the site. I promise to inspire you!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mountaintop weekend

We just returned from an adults-only beach weekend with close friends, and I'm having a hard time coming back to earth.
Mike eating his favorite Japanese food,
Friday night we dropped the three boys with my sainted parents and headed to the grocery store to stock up on food for the weekend. As we arrived at Fred Meyer, I said to Mike, "When was the last time we went grocery shopping together, alone?" We could not remember the last time we had done this...it must have been before kids, nearly 17 years ago. Is that even possible? Then we went out to dinner for Japanese food and realized we hadn't been out to dinner since our anniversary overnight a month ago.

Then our friends arrived and we left for the Oregon Coast, four folks ranging from 48 to 50 on a road trip over the mountains. We played "name that '80s tune" on the way, as you can only do with friends nearly exactly your age. When we arrived at my parents' lovely beach house in Rockaway, Oregon, we drank McMenamin's lovely Monkey Puzzle whiskey and chatted until after midnight before retreating to bed.

Saturday was more of the same--lounging around chatting, walking on the beach, more lounging on the beautiful jetty in the sunshine, eating, drinking, and soaking up wonderful friendship of nearly 17+ years enriched with heartbreaks, health issues, infertility, and pain, as well as countless joys, music, and laughter. We had a campfire on the beach last night with s'mores made with good-quality dark chocolate, followed by more great conversation, sharing, and intimacy, and today was a bit more of the same.

We returned home today and I am feeling so incredibly, deeply blessed that I have such amazing friends...in fact, many of them! As an extrovert (although a bit of a shy one), I thrive on such contact and deep friendship. And I felt a bit of a letdown to come back to my daily life. It didn't help that Mike went off to his writer's group and I was on my own with the two younger kids, who were arguing a bit as I took them out for pizza. All three of the kids were thrilled to see me, though, and seemed a bit sad to hear that we had such a great weekend without them!

I remember when I was a young person and I would come home from summer camp or Youth Encounter (a weekend program sponsored by the Episcopal church, but run by young people themselves), and it would take me awhile to decompress and adjust to my regular life. I noticed that when Chris came back from the church mission trip at the Yakama Nation a little over a week ago, he seemed to have the same kind of reaction. That's how I feel tonight.

As a young person, this feeling would always remind me of that Amy Grant song, "Mountaintop," even though my theology and beliefs have changed so much since then..but some of the lyrics can still apply to how I'm feeling: "And I'd love to live on a mountain top, 'cause I love to feel my spirit soar...but I've got to come down from the mountain top to the people in the valley below."

Throughout this last month, in the preparation for my ear surgery and during my recovery, I have been looking forward to this weekend with our incredible friends. It sped through in what felt like a few moments--that's my only regret--but it was everything I hoped for and more. What I will savor is the deep belly laughter, sharing of pain, and holy friendship. Tomorrow it's back to work for me, after I have an appointment with my ear surgeon first thing in the morning for my post-op checkup. Down off the mountaintop, but I will savor the memories of the weekend and anticipate more mountaintop moments in the months and years to come...they sustain me, as do my wonderful friends. Feeling so grateful and blessed!

10 photos of life with three boys (Monday listicles)

This week's Monday Listicles should be an easy one. These are photos chronicling my life as a parent. 

1. Holding Chris for the first time at 5 weeks old. Pure joy and relief. I couldn't wait to get my hands on him, at last, and I could hold him for only 1 hour the first time. Each day for a month, Mike and I would have to alternate holding him. So hard! As a result, when the next two kiddos came along, I could not put them down. 
Holding Chris, who was born at 24 weeks gestation and very, very sick
 2. Christopher's baptism, in June 1997, when we finally took him out into public

With our pastor and friend Laurie, and my sister Nadine and her husband, Christopher's godparents
 3. Christmastime with Chris at 1 year old, after he was hospitalized for a week with RSV/pneumonia 
Family in December 1997
 3. We had a little family of three for six years
Visiting Paris, August 2001
4. And then Kieran came along in 2003, after four miscarriages
Kieran's baptism, surrounded by wonderful godfamilies
 5. Christmastime, 2005

Alpenrose, Storybook Lane, December 2005
 6. And then--surprise!--pregnant with #3 at age 41
On the Oregon Zoo train at my company picnic,
 days before Nicholas was born in September 2006
7. Nicholas' baptism, welcoming him to the world

With one of his pair of godparents, our pastor, and our priest (November 2006)
8. Adjusting to life with three kids!
Portland Farmers Market, fall 2006
 9. Traveling with three kids has its challenges but also rewards
At Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, 2009

Oregon Coast, 2011
10. Our family of five

Last November 2012, professional photo by Capturing Magic Photography
(Nicholas, age 6; Chris, age 16; and Kieran, age 9 [now 10])
Check out the other listicle photos at The Good Life, especially our host Stasha's gorgeous, professional photos of her boy and two gorgeous Newfoundlands!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lean in to your health: be proactive

Full disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Healthgrades. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

I am a huge advocate of proactive health care, ever since my oldest son Christopher was born at 24 weeks gestation and we were thrown into the scary, risky world of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Back in 1996, we were the rare parents who read Chris' medical chart every single day (now they encourage this behavior, but back then, not all doctors and nurses were thrilled we were doing it!) and did everything we could to advocate for the best treatment for him. A few months after Chris was finally discharged, we were invited to join the hospital's NICU Family Advisory Board, which advised the unit on how to be more family centered. Ever since then, I've been a big believer in family- and patient-centered care, and if I'm not getting it, I say something about it...for example, my less-than-pleasant experience with the neurosurgeon's office last winter when I had brain surgery. I spoke up. I believe you get better health care when you are well informed and engaged, and it's important to find and retain doctors who value their patients' involvement in their own care.

I believe in finding doctors who are not only technically proficient and knowledgeable, but also respectful and kind to their patients...who don't look down on us but give us the necessary information to make our own best choices. I also believe in word of mouth and getting referrals from people on just about anything--books, movies, contractors (hello, Angie's List), and vacation recommendations. Fortunately there's a web site that allows you to view physician ratings, too--Healthgrades. Healthgrades allows you to rate doctors, or you can use the site to find a doctor, dentist, or hospital near you. It is a user-driven web site, so some of these providers don't have very many ratings, which can result in less-reliable data. You can also see if the physician has had any history of sanctions or malpractice and his or her hospital affiliations, specialty areas, and accepted health plans. 
Healthgrades Logo
Healthgrades also offers health care tips and articles, and they recently published a study about women's health care: Healthgrades Women’s Health Report 2013: “Lean In” When Making Healthcare Decisions to Get Your Best Outcome. The report discusses the quality of health care for women in American hospitals, evaluating clinical outcomes for women in maternity care, gynecologic surgery, and orthopedic, cardiovascular, and critical care. The report also ranks states that have the highest and lowest rates of neonatal mortality, in addition to other statistics. As scientists have found, women often react differently to certain medications and experience different types of symptoms than men (for example, heart attack symptoms), so it's important that our health care be considered and researched separately. The report encourages women to seek out health care providers that receive five-star ratings, as they tend to give the best care. It has some excellent information, and I encourage you to read it!

The hospital ratings on Healthgrades are based on patient safety indicators as well as patient feedback. It's interesting because the two hospitals in Portland I'm most familiar with--Providence St. Vincent (where I had my ear/brain surgery last December) and Legacy Emanuel--receive lower-than-average patient ratings in a number of categories. I'm not sure why, but it says to me that you shouldn't ONLY rely on this site, but combine your research with word-of-mouth recommendations and other sources.

I'm glad to say that my regular physicians all receive positive ratings on Healthgrades, including my sister (who is in fact on the Healthgrades Honor Roll). My only wish is that it would allow you to comment on your experience (just give a 1- to 5-star rating), as I often find those comments even more helpful than the actual scores. Some of the other doctor rating sites give you that option.

I think it's important for all of us to find physicians we trust and actually like as well, and using Healthgrades is a step in that direction. I once saw an internist who my sister had done her residency with, and I actively disliked her! She was dismissive and rude, and I never went back.

Lean in and take charge: it's your health!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

10 things I buy every month

This week's Monday listicles, "10 things I buy every week," was really hard for me...that's why I changed it to "month" rather than week. I guess I'm not a very good consumer. Most of what I could think of was food! So here goes.

1. Trader Joe's frozen Indian food--my favorites are Chicken Tikka Masala and Palak Tikka Masala. I eat at least one of these every week for my lunch!

2. Organic strawberries--did you know that strawberries are one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits you can buy? We always pay extra for organic strawberries. In fact, we will be buying some more this week as our local grocery store has a sale! Ideally, we purchase them at the farmers' market, but we didn't go this week because of my surgery recovery. It's best to purchase organic varieties of the fruits and veggies on this Dirty Dozen list.

3. Ingredients for muesli--every month or couple of months, I buy bulk ingredients and make a triple batch of my homemade muesli, which I eat for breakfast nearly every day. The recipe comes from a book called Good Food Great Medicine, and it contains all sorts of great heart-healthy grains, nuts, and seeds, along with dried fruit. It's healthier than store-bought cereal, and I eat it either cold or hot, cooked in the microwave like oatmeal...ideally with fresh berries! (Oats are the primary ingredient.)

4. Organic milk--We've been purchasing organic milk for 16 years, ever since our oldest child started drinking cow's milk. Experts disagree on whether children need to drink organic milk, but it's a choice we feel good about, ever since we read that children are experiencing puberty at much earlier levels because of the growth hormone given to cows.

It costs more, but we drink a lot of milk in our house. I'm more comfortable with all of us consuming milk that has no bovine growth hormone, pesticides, or fertilizers from genetically modified feed, and produced by happier cows that have a better standard of living (required for organic certification).

5. Orowheat sandwich thins--these are my favorite go-to for sandwiches. They are only 100 calories a bun, and they don't get soggy! I also use them to make toast.

6. Something fun at Katelyn's Closet--One of my guilty pleasures is stopping by my favorite secondhand store, not too far from our house, at least once a month. Sometimes twice a month! They are selective about what they accept, so I've found a lot of my clothing and shoes in the shop. I often take things in to consign there as well, so it's not only just money going in. Sometimes I buy nothing, sometimes I find something for the kids, and sometimes I have a lucky day!

7. Gifts--I love to buy gifts for people, so I'm always on the lookout. I tend to start my Christmas shopping early. In fact, I just placed an order this past week for Christmas and birthday gifts for my nephews! I also love to make gifts for others, so I have a weakness for craft supplies.

8. Good boxed wine--I remember many years ago when I brought a box of wine along on a camping trip, and my husband teased me mercilessly. 10 years ago, boxed wine was not any good. Things have changed! I haven't been drinking in the past week because of being on narcotic pain medicine, but typically my standard is red wine. BOTA boxes also bring back fun memories of sitting on the porch at Holden Village with my friends, drinking boxed wine! I miss that summer activity this year.

9. Fresh veggies at the farmers market--I'm struggling to come up with enough to fill this list, but spending money at the farmers market is a regular activity during the summer. We also usually treat our kids to an ice cream sandwich, and I like to get fresh-brewed coffee at Spunky Monkey.

10. Food cart food--Portland has become famous for its plentiful food carts, and I'm fortunate to have a food cart pod right across from my office building. In the past year, I've undertaken "food cart adventures," attempting to try out each food cart in the pod and writing a review of each one. It's been great fun, and I'm almost done making my way through the pod. I will either have to branch out and go to another pod or start all over again!

Stop on by The Good Life to read what other bloggers buy every week (or month).

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Monday Listicles: 10 little things that make the men in my family awesome

With three of my four awesome men
This week's Monday Listicles is "10 things that make my family awesome." I'm sitting in bed recovering from ear surgery, thinking about my amazing husband who has done such a great job in allowing me to rest and recuperate.

I've been mindlessly watching a lot of TVs and movies on DVD while I am recovering. The pain seems more manageable than the similar ear surgery last August, probably because of better pain medication. (Please forgive any typos in this post because of oxycodone-induced foggy brain.) Mike's #1 priority this weekend has been to keep the noise level down...and he's done that by keeping the family out of the house most of the time! For the second day in a row, they have left me alone much of the time to rest and recover. Beyond the fact that they have taken good care of me after my surgeries, my men are awesome and unique because of these characteristics:
  1. Renaissance men, defined as "with many talents or interests, especially in the humanities." Like their parents, all of our kids are drawn to the liberal arts (theater, music, books) more than the stereotypical "boy" interests of sports and cars.
  2. Desire to be in the spotlight, which they get from their dad. Each one of them is drawn to be the center of attention and doesn't shy away from an audience. Our uncharacteristically middle child Kieran shares this desire the most with his dad, but the other two crave it as well.
  3. Musical ability, which they get from both of us...they all love music and have nice singing voices, thank goodness!! And the traits they get solely from me are their memory for lyrics and Chris' ability to recognize a musician or song in the first few bars. Six-year-old Nicholas can stay on melody while I harmonize. We're not sure where Chris got his sense of rhythm, which he applies to the drums.
  4. Loving and sensitive...the boys tell me they love me every day. They are affectionate and just as likely to cry at a tearjerker as I am. This sensitivity is a huge shift in traditional male culture...I find it very encouraging to consider how many men I know who are just as likely to cry and hug as their female partners!
  5. Love of story, which is to be expected given the fact that Mike and I were both English majors, our first conversation was about Jane Austen, and now we are both writers. They can't help but be drawn into story like the rest of us. Both Mike and I like to read compelling nonfiction (mine are often memoirs, while Mike's are likely to be writing craft books), but fiction is our family favorite.
  6. Competitive spirit, which is much fiercer in Mike and the two younger boys than in me, but I must confess to a tiny bit of competitiveness too...I'm gleefully watching the holds at the library climb as people learn the news that J.K. Rowling has written a crime novel under a pseudonym. Yesterday when I placed my hold I was #26; earlier today the hold list had climbed to 66, and now it's 261!! Yippee!!
  7. Resilience, demonstrated by Chris in the NICU and later in grade school and middle school when he was subject to bullying...and by Kieran when he learns he doesn't get a part he wanted, takes himself off to his room to pull himself together, and then carries on. None of us are mopers. We dust ourselves off and get back on track.
  8. Diplomacy, as in when you receive two identical birthday gifts but respond politely and kindly. Mike and I both felt this was something very important to train in our children, as we saw some children react in a rude, unacceptable manner at one birthday party, and their parents did nothing to halt it. This diplomacy is also demonstrated ably by the son of a diplomat, my wonderful husband, who is FAR more patient and diplomatic with some people than I am. 
  9. Affinity for language...Mike has one of the best vocabularies of anyone I know--all that Latin probably helped! My vocab is not bad for an American, but not anywhere near as good as his. I love to hear my sons use big words. And then there's the accent thing. I told Nicholas the other day that he's the second best in the family at accents...at six years old! He can speak in several different types of British accents fluently, which delights me to no end!
  10. Upbeat personalities, which the kids get from both of us. All of us are optimistic and try to find the silver lining in a dark cloud. On the rare occasions that I get into a funk, I do everything I can to recover. Life is too short and unpredictable to be unhappy. Our kids have absorbed this way of thinking about the world and all the awesome things in it.
Come join in the fun every week at Monday Listicles, hosted by the lovely Stasha at The Good Life.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Bionic ear

In the lovely, comfy PJs my dear friends
 Catherine and Kristin bought me
 for my last surgery!
Facebook status by my wonderful husband-nurse this afternoon:
Nurse Mike has just brought Marie from surgery, and for some bed rest and peace and quiet.
For those of you who are medically inquisitive, the surgeon gave her a glowing report. No sign of cholesteatoma, and she now has a bionic ear (with new ear bones made of titanium.) Best news of all, he thinks this is the end of all her surgeries.
Now, if anyone can come over and fix her a sound-proof room, we'd be forever in your debt.
Thanks, all, for the messages of support, the positive thoughts, and the prayers. They have kept us afloat.
Yesterday I learned that my ear surgery had been moved to an earlier time slot--8:45, which meant we had to arrive by 6:45 and get up by 5:45. Everyone told me that having the first surgery of the day is a very good thing, even though I'm not a morning person.

Last night Mike took the little ones over to my parents' house because of the early rising, and I spent the evening cleaning our bedroom and preparing for recovery. Chris called me late last night from the Yakama Nation in Washington, where he's been all week on a church mission trip. It made me cry, of course, because I thought it was so sweet--I get a bit emotional before surgery, especially when people are expressing their concern for me.

I had the surgery at the Cornell Surgery Center, where I had my first ear surgery last August. I highly recommend this outpatient surgery center. My surgeon prefers it because he knows the staff there and has confidence they will all be good. I agree--strange as it sounds, it actually can be comforting being taken care of when I am preparing for or recovering from surgery--the staff at this center are excellent. I was especially grateful that it took only one jab for the nurse to get my IV in! (Last December it took a hospital phlebotomist six times to get an IV in, and she left me with several hematomas...even though I was not dehydrated because of no food/water like I was this morning!) Also, the nurse-anesthetist told me she'd be using a fancy new type of breathing tube (can't remember the name--sorry, narcotics brain!) because of my weird anesthesia reactions (it's not always as effective as it should be).

My amazing pastor/friend came this morning to pray with me and Mike, which of course made me cry, but made me feel so comforted and loved. When they walked in to my prep room, I told Mike the good news that I wasn't pregnant, just in case he was wondering. :) (I had to take a pregnancy test!! Haha.) My surgeon came in to talk with us in his orange polo shirt and jeans (looking so much younger that way, even though he's my age!), and he said he'd discussed my complicated case with several other surgeons, including the brain surgeon who he co-operated with in December. 

He said he had an epiphany on Saturday and was going to try using an arthroscope (microscope for shoulder surgeries) to try to see the part of my ear that he couldn't see before (to make sure there was no remaining cholesteatoma). He also said he would try to avoid having to leave my mastoid cavity open, which would make my ear less prone to complications later on. For example, with an open mastoid cavity, one has to avoid getting water in the ear...and it's also more difficult to rebuild the bones in the ear. 

Mike and I reacted in different ways to his ponderings...he thought the doctor should have called me earlier to explain what he was thinking (he does not like what he feels is last-minute information). As for me, I felt fine about this conversation. I was glad to know that he had been mulling over what to do. I also realize that surgeons often have to make decisions on the fly when they see the situation. And most important, he used my favorite word, epiphany (read why I like it here). In fact, back in January, Laurie (my pastor) asked me what word I would choose for the upcoming year, and I named that word. So I felt this was a good omen for the surgery. And I trusted my surgeon to make the best decision for my health and do whatever he could to restore my hearing.

They took good care of me, the surgery went well, and now I'm sporting this lovely bandage across my head and over my ear for the next day or two. I have packing in my ear so I won't be able to hear well out of it until the packing is removed...I'm really curious to see what kind of improvement the bionic titanium ear bone brings!

Chris also returned from mission trip this afternoon. He had a good time and learned a lot about the Yakama tribe, which runs the program, and Native-American cultures. He told me last night that he is feeling angry at the country for the way the Native-Americans were treated. He worked and played hard, and similar to how I felt as a young person coming back from a spiritual, bonding retreat, he's feeling a bit downbeat. It's hard to come down from the mountain! (It doesn't help that his iPod Touch broke, either.) I know he'll be recovered by tomorrow.

Kieran and Nicholas were cautious around me at first. Kieran presented me with a four-leaf clover he had found (he has a knack!), and Nicholas began by speaking in sign language/mime and then having Mike write down what he wanted to say. It wasn't long, though, before his boisterous self came back and I had to ask him to be quieter. He's spending another night with my parents tonight. We find that the younger two are much noisier when they are together! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

I'm taking oxycodone, probably for the next couple of weeks, and it seems to be keeping the pain mostly under control. It hurts, but it's not unbearable thanks to the pain meds (not looking forward to having to wake up every four hours to take medicine tonight, but I believe in staying ahead of the pain). I'm a little unsteady on my feet, and my short-term memory is shot (I'm coherent on oxycodone but often repeat myself! I often repeat myself!)...but I seem to be doing reasonably well for my first day of recovery. I plan to veg out in bed watching movies and TV for the next four or five days, and then start working part-time from home on Wednesday. Don't want to use too much of my vacation up, you know!

Once again, I feel buoyed along by the overwhelming support coming from as far away as the east coast, Canada, Europe, Japan, the Middle East, and Australia; positive thoughts and energy; texts, e-mails, and Facebook messages; and powerful prayers. At least three people also told me that they would light candles for me this morning. I feel truly blessed (my other favorite word). I have the best village in the world, and I love you all! Keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What's happening on Friday: Modified radical mastoidectomy

On Friday, I face what I very much hope to be my last ear surgery. Many people have asked me what I'm having done and I have struggled to explain it, so I did a bit of research to understand it myself. If you haven't read the history of where I've got to this place, go to the bottom of the post.

What is the name of the surgery?
It's called a modified radical mastoidectomy with tympanoplasty.
I'll spare you the gross-looking photos of
 cholesteatoma and mastoidectomies
 you can find on the Internet!!

What does that mean?
Mastoid air cells are open, air-containing spaces in the mastoid bone, the prominent bone located behind the ear that projects from the temporal bone of the skull. A mastoidectomy is the surgical removal of infected mastoid air cells. In a modified radical mastoidectomy, some middle ear bones are left in place and the ear drum is rebuilt with a typanoplasty.

My surgeon was hoping that he wouldn't have to do a mastoidectomy, but my ear bones have been so radically destroyed by this aggressive cholesteatoma that it's the only recourse left. I'm complicated.

What are the goals of the surgery?
The primary goal of the 3- to 4-hour surgery is to remove all of the cholesteatoma so I will have a clean, healthy ear without infection. The other goals are to have this be my last ear surgery, and ideally, restore some of the hearing in my ear. Given my complications so far, I don't get the impression that my surgeon is particularly hopeful about this outcome (restoring my hearing). My friend's daughter had to have a radical mastoidectomy (not a modified one), and she lost all the hearing in that ear. And obviously, I don't want this damn cholesteatoma eating into my brain any more!

What are the risks?
Complications are unusual, but they could include persistent ear discharge, infections (including meningitis or brain abscesses), hearing loss, facial nerve injury, temporary dizziness, or temporary loss of taste on the side of the tongue, in addition the usual risks of general anesthesia.

What will your recovery be like?
The surgery is outpatient, like the one I had last summer, so it will be much easier than the brain surgery and stay in ICU last December. I will go home after I wake up and lie in bed for several days, watching movies & TV shows, most likely. I found that I didn't have a lot of patience to read when I'm recovering (unlike me!), but I did stock up on some easier-to-read young adult titles.

The Internet sites say that recovery takes 4 weeks. These same sites also say that patients need to take pain medication for a few days, which is complete bullsh*t. I was on hardcore narcotics last August for a couple of weeks and really didn't feel back to myself for 3 or 4 weeks. I still have some pain from my last ear/brain surgery in December when I lie on my left side. I'll be going back to sleeping on my right side, will have to refrain from forceful nose blowing, won't be able to lift anything or do anything strenuous for a few weeks, and won't be able to get any water in my ear.

The hardest thing about having ear surgeries is that I become extremely sensitive to loud noise. This has me worried at the moment, because it seems that my younger boys are louder than ever at the moment. Mike has them signed up for various camps, but his #1 goal will be to keep them quiet when they are around.

Here's the history, if you haven't been following along:

My history with surgeries
First surgery last August
Speed bump: learning I have to have brain surgery
Extreme difficulties in getting brain surgery scheduled
Feeling a bit anxious about brain surgery
No more leaky brain!
Complicated case

Thanks for your good wishes and prayers--I'll take them all!

Happy birthday to two gifted teachers: David and April

Today is not only my parents' 52nd wedding anniversary, but it is also the birthday of my wonderful brother-in-law David and dear friend April. (Cannily, April is married to another David! We have a lot of Davids in our lives.)


My sister Nadine met David in the PLU Fitness Center. They were both alums--she was taking a year off before heading to medical school and David had graduated several years before. At the time he was teaching in Eatonville, WA, and living in a little house in Parkland near PLU. I was living in Japan, and I will never forget reading Nadine's letter about the cute redhead she had her eyes on in the gym. She told me, "He seems really nice because he talks to the foreign students." (The "foreign student" was actually a Latin-American friend of his, not foreign at all!) They must have been eyeing each other, because finally they spoke and he asked her out. The beginning of their relationship was marked by the birth of David's niece, Samantha. (Now Samantha is about to have her own baby!)

I remember the first time I met David--it was the day I came home from Japan after living there for three years, announcing that Mike and I were engaged. At that first evening's dinner, between our very excited, talkative family and my brother Stephen's even more talkative girlfriend Yolanda, David could not get a word in edgewise! That's really the story of his life with our family, but it doesn't seem to bother him. He just listens and occasionally chimes in.
1990, not too long after they started dating
(David's the redhead on the right, with his beloved Airedale, Lance)
David is the strong and silent type. He's not really silent, but he's quiet. When he says something, it's worth listening to. He's also extremely laid back and relaxed about most things, so when he does make his opinion known about a particular subject, we all pay attention!

At Nadine's medical school graduation, 1993 or 1994
They dated for eight years before getting married, most of the time living apart, while Nadine went off to medical school in Milwaukee, WI, and doing her residency at Providence Hospital in Portland. David continuing teaching and living in Puyallup, WA.

Nadine and David's weding in 1997--that tiny babe is Chris!
Gorgeous bride and groom!
David is such a kind, compassionate, and loving man, and I'm so glad that he married my sister. I can't imagine a better partner for her. He earned his master's degree in special ed and teaches adaptive physical education to kids with severe disabilities. I've never seen him in action at work, although I would love to, but I see the way he pours out his affection and wise, calm guidance on his own sons and my sons as well. He is an amazing father and uncle, and all of the children adore him.

At the birth of their first son, Ryan, in 2001

At the birth of the twins in 2003
(Nadine had to be on bedrest for several weeks, and David was wonderful!)
It takes a special kind of man to marry a woman who makes more money than he does and doesn't let that affect his sense of self or manhood. Both Nadine and I are very lucky to have found men who support us in our careers, while also being extremely dedicated to their marriages and families...and also supporting our desire to have female-only time with each other and our friends. (Surrounded by testosterone every day in our lives, we are especially attracted to that need!)

David wearing the sunglasses we gave him for his birthday one year

With Mike and Ryan in Vancouver, BC

Fellow music lovers David and Chris
As I said, I love to tease David, and he also teases me (usually about my taste in music, which is mostly different from his). One year I bought him a memoir of Yanni for his birthday--at the Dollar Tree!--thinking that it would be a good joke. David was so polite that he actually thanked me before I told him it was a joke. He even read it and enjoyed it, so my joke didn't really work! David fits in so well with our family--I'm really looking forward to spending a week with Nadine and David and their family in California this August. It's the third time we've taken a vacation together (not counting weeks at Holden Village), and it's sure to be fun!

David loves music, guitars, college sports, working out, virgin pina coladas, eating healthy, stuffed mushrooms, working with learning-disabled and developmentally delayed people, and by far the most, his family. His guilty pleasure is potato chips. (Otherwise he is the healthiest eater I know!) I feel so blessed to have him as part of our family. Happy birthday, David!
David playing in the Hawaiian ocean last week with his boys

Nadine and David in Hawaii last week
 “We do not make friends…we recognize them.” –G. Henrichs
This is the way I feel about April, who I met a few years ago when she started attending our church, Mission of the Atonement. I remember the first conversation I had with her, at an adult forum, when I complimented her on her very stylish skirt, and she told me that she found it at a resale shop. I liked her immediately when I heard that!!
Making valentines not too long after I first met April
At a Valentine's craft party
I've written before about the gift of women's friendship and how selective I've become over the years. April and I both feel that we've known each other much longer than we have. We are both native Oregonians--she was brought up in Silverton--and she was once a writer/editor like me before answering a call to service and going back to get her master's in education. Now she's a third grade teacher. Like David, she has a true gift with children and I greatly admire both of their commitments to educating our younger generation!
On the porch with our friend Shelia at Holden Village,
where we've spent many hours getting ot know each other
April's also extremely compassionate and generous with herself and her time. This summer she is collecting gently used children's books for kids in her school who don't have enough reading material at home. She went in to our church last week to shampoo the carpets in the Sunday School rooms, and she is visiting many in our church community to get to know them better. She also offered to facilitate several brainstorming sessions to come up with ways to raise more revenue for the church.
She is one of the most welcoming people I know. If there's a new person at church, April has met him or her. She goes out of her way to get to know people on a deeper level, and she's the first one to notice if someone is feeling left out or even might be.
Making more Valentines in 2012, at the beach
Beach girls' getaway
I love April's creativity and the way she applies this to everything she touches. In the past year we've served on our church steering team together, and it has been a true gift to get to know her in a different way. She's brought fresh eyes and energy to the steering team, in addition to a constant reminder of our need to be welcoming and inclusive to strangers.

At a book-making workshop at Holden Village,
where April made a book for our pastor,
who was battling breast cancer last year
Once again on the porch at Holden, in 2012

April and Mike modeling their matching Holden Village shirts

On the ark with April and her husband David, Holden, 2012

Helping to celebrate my birthday in 2012

Evening out with Sheila, 2013
April is my newest close friend...and I feel so blessed to know her! Happy birthday, April!