Friday, June 22, 2007

Surgeon takes new route to gallbladder: weird surgery news that manages to irk me

Okay file this under things I probably could have died without knowing and been just fine. But I share it with you because it’s like an online car wreck: you know you want to look. Just be glad there are not pictures. I came across this article on an Oregon newspaper site.

Surgeon takes new route to gallbladder: U.S. first - A Portland doctor removes the organ in the abdomen through a woman's mouth

The article states the innovative doc:

“is part of a group of doctors and medical device manufacturers nationwide working to develop "natural orifice" surgeries -- through the mouth, vagina and rectum -- to help eliminate pain and scarring and reduce recovery time…

[his] procedure follows one in April by another team of surgeons in New York where a woman's gallbladder was taken out through her vagina. He applauded that effort but added that "since only half the population has vaginas we were looking for a more universal platform."”

Funny: only half the population has a penis and even fewer of those have erectile dysfunction, and even fewer have the money to pay for surgery or prescriptions to fix it, but that didn’t stop the medical community from coming up with penile implants and Viagra.

And of course by funny above I mean like, “Ha-freaking-ha.”

Freakin' chilly Father's Day

For J.’s first Expectant Father's Day, we planned to have brunch at his cousin's house after chilly, overcast weather seemed to put a crimp in plans for the family to meet at a nearby park and lake where the cousin had rented a shelter. So after checking that we were indeed meeting at the house, we set off. But enroute, with me in my flip flops thinking we'd be inside, the cousin’s wife calls and says plans have changed because J.’s mom is already set up at the shelter. Uh, okay.

We show up a the admittedly picturesque park, but not only is it 55 degrees out (but no rain, thankfully), the shelter is like 10 miles from the parking lot. Okay, it's really only a brisk 3-5 minute walk. But we've got cookout crap to carry and J’s 90 year old great aunt who’s had two knee surgeries is also with us and has to walk it too (and she had on three layers just thinking we'd be in the house!). Not to mention me with my Buddha belly, in flip flops, a capri jogging suit, and my customary internal thermostat at a level that registers 75 degrees as the start of comfortable.

But I grabbed my "emergency" fleece blanket from the car, put it on like a sarong, and toughed it out. Because the first rule of camping or cooking out is "no complaining." Or it should be. J. remarked, "Yeah, that's why I don't camp." :-) He and his mom have already made it clear that growing up, their family’s idea of roughin' was a deluxe motor home or a two star hotel. That approach has carried through to adulthood for him.

In fact, along those lines, my favorite quote of the day came from J.’s mom. She’s planning their bi-annual family gathering for next summer. We usually go to one of the resorts where she has timeshares which are always in picturesque, touristy locations with abundant nearby shopping, preferably outlet stores, for her and the other ladies in the family.

I suggested looking into Lake Chelan in Eastern Washington, which is a picturesque annual vacation and reunion hotspot for many families. Plus, the weather on that side of the Cascade mountains is generally much sunnier and warmer than Western Washington and the Oregon coast, where we’ve gone before.

“Lake Chelan?” she said, skeptically. “There’s nothing to do over there. Unless you like fishing or boating or hiking or bike riding or swimming or camping or things like that. I mean, it's dead.” Uh huh. I see your point. Zero activity in those parts. Forget I mentioned it. :-)

Conversely, my family had our fair share of camp outs in rustic cabins or tents, slept in sleeping bags on lumpy sleeping pads, cooked on open fires, and generally did the whole northwest outdoorsy thing. In fact, my middle and high school, in addition to annual, multi-day beach hikes and camping trips for the entire grade, even had a wilderness requirement to graduate: you had to spend a week or more camping in the wilderness with a group of other students and instructors. It was good experience to get under my belt even though I haven't camped in years.

So back to Father’s Day. Basically, and thankfully, everyone opted to just suck it up and deal with the crappy weather. People put on hats, gloves and whatever clothes and fabric they could find in their cars, hung out a bit, and ate and grilled a boat load of food: salmon, burgers, hotdogs, shrimp skewers, chicken and vegetable shish kabobs, salads, pasta salads, baked beans, spaghetti and of course, several cakes and banana pudding for dessert. Yes really. And yes, they do this kind of spread for all family gatherings. Although the sheer amount of food can seem a bit much sometimes, I have to admit it was so nice to marry into another family that can cook just like the one I grew up in. I always feel kind of bad for people who say they grew up on takeout or frozen dinners because neither of their parents cooked.

But after about two hours, the wind picked up and we were all like, "Everyone done eating? Great. Let's pack up and go to the house." So that's where we spent the remainder of the afternoon/early evening , watching a movie with the heat cranked!

And J. loved his gifts: a daddy/daughter advice book and a book with beautiful black and white pictures of African American men ruminating on what fatherhood has meant to them as sons and as fathers themselves. “I can’t wait,” J. said with a smile. Good answer and that makes two of us.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Growing Girth: 26 weeks

Last week I hit the 26 week mark (out of 40) and I had gained 26 pounds, which is a nice bit of symmetry in my life. I'm a fan of symmetry.

By the way, you may be among those who, like me, hear women mention being so many weeks along and think, "What is the deal with the weeks? I don't want to do math just to follow the conversation. Can't you just say how many months along you are?" An older woman said the same thing at a gathering last weekend.

"We didn't have all this "weeks" stuff in my day," she harrumphed. I'm with you sister. But it's a medical thing. As soon as you become pregnant, doctors and nurses start talking to you this way because they calculate how far along you based on when you got pregnant and a typical nine-month pregnancy averages out to 40 weeks, not 36 as you'd expect. Then all the tests must be done at specific weeks into your pregnancy, hence the pregnancy-by-the-week conspiracy, as I like to call it. :-)

So now I'm very obviously pregnant and carrying very high up. When people who haven't seen me in a while notice the change, I've been saying, "Yeah, I know it looks like I'm smuggling a basketball." Someone last week remarked, "Uh, it's a little more than a basketball." Gee thanks. Have you seen the door? From the other side?
I'm actually not sensitive about it, so we had a chuckle. But I figured it's time for updated shots of the burgeoning belly. Here they are. You'll note a pronounced "linea negra" as it's called - the dark belly line many pregnant women get which is especially noticable on women of color. Info about it here.

Apparently it usually fades after the birth, but sometimes it doesn't. Great. It's not like I would have gone into a tatoo parlor and said, "Hey can you give me a permanent reminder of my pregnancy up the front of my body? No, nothing cool, decorative or inspiring. How about a plain, not very well-centered or defined line, preferably several shades darker than my skin tone. It should look kind of like a drunken monkey with a brown Sharpie drew it on with one eye closed while balancing on a wheel of cheese. That'd be GREAT!"

Needless to say, despite my admittedly awesome and nearly trouble-free pregnancy, it's one of many not so lovely changes that pregnancy has wrought with my body. You moms know. You dads only know the parts your partner lets you know. Trust me on this.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Analyst says Palm Foleo falls short

Oh really? Apparently I missed my calling as an analyst for Gartner. See "I told you so" article about the Palm Faux-lio here entitled "Analyst says Palm Foleo falls short."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Amnesia days in Seattle

When temperatures are in the upper 70s to mid-80s here in Seattle as they were last week, I call them "amnesia days" because they make you forget about the cold, drizzly winter weather we have to slog through. Seattle really is amazing in the summer. You get the payoff for the winter and spring rain because it's so lush here with the super bright green trees, snow covered mountains in the distance, and bright blue water ringing the city (Puget Sound, Lake Union, Lake Washington, not to mention the various rivers and creeks nearby).

I took this picture Sunday from a coffee shop on Capitol Hill where I sat outside, ate a flaky croissant and worked on the computer with their free wi-fi. Bountiful free wi-fi: another reason I love Seattle.

The amazing little heat streak last week which was GREAT. Well, great for people like me who love it hot. For typical Seattleites, any temperature above 68 is considered "sweltering." I have to listen to them grouse in elevators, at bus stops and in meetings about how "unbearable" it is, as they speculate about how soon it'll get back to "normal," meaning 55-65 degrees.

Bleah, I say. When I hear them carping and fanning themselves and carrying on as if they were just plopped down in a parking lot in Phoenix in August, I just want to say, "Hey! Shut your moss-lovin' pie hole!"

Let those of us here who like it a little warmer than the inside of a refrigerator enjoy this all too short period while we've got it. You get 8-9 stinkin' months of what I consider misery to bask in plenty of rain, drizzle, and overcast skies so keep your whining to yourself.

In the middle of December, when I'm rechanneling flood water in the driveway away from the house or helping my husband fill our 15th bag of wet leaves of the day for yard waste pickup, you don't hear me moping about and complaining to anyone within earshot about how "unbearable" and "ridiculously cold and wet" it is.

I just put on another layer (preferably fleece), knit up another colorful scarf, make sure my gloves and hat are at the ready, wipe my snotty nose, and go on about my life, happy to have another healthy day above ground with my faculties intact, regardless of the temperature. You could be living in Iraq or even New Orleans, wondering if you'll get one or four hours of electricity today to run a fan or be able to turn on a light, or cook a meal for your family. So get some perspective and a cool beverage and keep it movin'! Sheesh. Okay. Rant over. Hope you enjoy the temperature in your city today. :-)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Lisbon castle rocks!

No really, it’s made of rocks. Okay, stones technically. But you get the picture.
I'm finally getting back to my German Marshall Fellowship trip recap with this quick entry. Last time we chatted, I was in Lisbon, which has a long, tumultuous, interesting history with documented archeological finds in the city that stretch back to the neolithic era (7000 - 3000 BC). In fact, one of our group meetings there was with a reporter who had done stories about how often construction sites in the city hit ancient ruins as they demolish old buildings and begin new ones. That alone was fascinating given the U.S.'s relatively short history in comparison.

We visited several notable Lisbon locations that warrant mention. First was the Castelo de São Jorge on top of the highest hill in Lisbon. Although the castle dates back to the 10th-11th centuries, the oldest remains there date back to the 6th century BC. In 1147, the first king of Portugal conquered the castle and captured the city from the Moors. At that time, Lsbon was an important Moslem port.

Shyam from Atlanta, Jeff from North Carolina and Carrie from Chicago looking cool outside the castle walls in Lisbon.

Over the next 300 years, the castle played an important role in the life of the city on historic and celebratory occasions. For instance, actors performed the first Portuguese theatrical work there to mark the occasion of the birth of future King Joào III. The castle was declared a national monument in 1910 and it was restored during most of the 20th century.

Portions of the castle still looks as rustic as they did in its heyday, with self-guided tours of the towers, lookout points, former moats and all the nooks and crannies that make ancient stone structures so interesting to see and touch.

Panoramic view from outside the castle

However, the castle has been "enhanced" for modern tastes and expectations and now includes a multimedia exhibition, gallery, a café and restaurant, gift shop, and concession stands. It seemed a little Disney-esque, but still impressive nonetheless.