Monday, October 9, 2017

Hanging out with Alan Alda

So, did I tell you that I met Alan Alda last month?? No? Oh!! Well, sit down and I'll fill you in.

I don't think it is any sort of secret that I grew up in a MASH-loving home. Even long after the show was off the air, my brother and I would sit together watching episodes. I'm not talking right after the show was off the air. I mean going on 15 years after the show was done, we were still watching the show together. If we happened to turn on the TV and found a rerun playing (and, let's face it, there was a time in our not-too-distant past that there was ALWAYS a MASH rerun on!) we'd compete to figure out who could name the episode the fastest once it began or by watching the still images shown during the closing credits (if we missed the actual episode). 

My admiration of Alan Alda's work isn't strictly for his work on MASH (although, that was the beginning of it). I've admired his portrayal of countless characters, both on the big screen and on TV. Heck, I learned how to core a head of iceberg lettuce from him in the movie "Sweet Liberty". I kid you not!!

A number of years ago, Alan Alda was in town while promoting his memoir "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned". Naturally, I went to the reading and was nothing but incredibly impressed with his way of interacting with the audience and his personable nature. At the end of the reading portion, he signed copies of his book. I bought 2 copies -- one for me and one for my brother Troy and asked for the inscription to read "Merry Christmas, Troy. Alan Alda". 

Fast forward to last month. I got a call out of the blue from Troy saying that we were going to a VIP reception with (and for) Alan Alda, who was in town to promote another book he wrote. I was floored and (yes, I'll admit it) giddy! After the reception, we'd get to hear Alan Alda speak to the audience about his book that discusses effective communication.

The next day, Troy and I met at a small Mercer Island restaurant, had a quick bite to eat, and headed to the reception. After wandering around a bit looking for the right building, we got to go right in and bypass the non-VIP people (tee hee hee... we were VIPs!) and join the other VIPs at the reception. We walk in and BAM! There was Alan Alda sitting at a table signing books. Troy and I giggled about how many times he must write his name during one of these events and how tired (bored?) he looked.... not to mention what his internal monologue must have been.

Waiting in line to meet Alan Alda
Hey, look!! It's Alan Alda!

We received our copies of his book and joined the line of others waiting for their turn to get their books signed. As we neared the table, I have to admit my giddy-o-meter when from "holy moly" to off the charts. 

Before too long (the line was kept moving at a really good pace), it was our turn to have our books signed. I told Alan (yea, we are totally on a first name basis now) that being there was my brother's birthday present to me. He (Alan, not Troy) very sweetly wished me a happy birthday. (YES! Alan Alda wished me a happy birthday.... booyah!) I also told him this was the second time I was at one of his readings, which (according to Troy) put a genuine smile on Alan's face. Pet Troy, he seemed touched that I was a repeat audience member! We shook hands, and then moved along... me with my feet a good 6-8 inches off of the ground.

Signed books selfie
Following the reception, we were ushered to the larger area where the presentation/interview would take place. Troy secured us some great seats earlier while I held our place in the book signing line, so we were probably no more than 10-15 feet away from the stage and dead center. During the interview, a local Seattle Times reporter and Alan talked about his work with scientists and researchers to help medical professional and other scientists improve their communication skills, especially when conversing with non-scientists and patients. 

Hey, look! It's Alan Alda


Sharing a story with the sudience

Thank you, Troy, for a truly wonderful evening. Yes, it was amazing to interact with Alan Alda (squee!) and listen to him speak (in person), but beyond that, sharing the experience with you means the world. You know me well enough to know that event would make me beyond happy and it would give us yet another moment to reflect back on with fondness and smiles. Also, thank you to Eric and Staci for being willing to take care of our respective kids solo so Troy and I could have a night out. 

Geocaching with Conor

Just over a week ago, Conor and I decided to go on a little date while Annika was with her robotics team at Geek Girl Con and Eric was futzing around at home. This time of year, we need to take advantage of sunny days, ya know!

Because I was still deeply embedded in surgery recovery mode, I opted for (what I thought) was a fairly benign geocache for us at Carkeek Park. Umm... I thought wrong.

We encountered some serious elevation changes and off-the-path bushwhacking along the way. It also took MUCH longer than I expected to find the geocache because the compass didn't come in very handy when it came to avoiding drastic drop-offs and thorny bushes we didn't want to walk through. (Yes, we are rather non-daring in that regard.) That said, we did discover some new parts of the park that we hadn't been to before and had some spectacular views along the way.

My geocaching buddy

Conor reading the carvings in the lookout rail

"Mama! Stop! This is a great picture place."

"I'll sit here so you can take my picture."

"Mama!! This rock is a good sitting place. My legs are tired.
And you can take my picture while I rest."

Geocaching Selfie

Look what we found!

Opening the geocache

His nautical pose???

My sweet boy

After we found our geocache, plucked a goody from the case, and added a new goody to the stash, we meandered back down the hill and wandered over to the beach. Why? Because Conor was very sweet to point out that "Water is your favorite thing to see, Mama. We should go to the beach because it makes you happy." (What a guy!) It didn't hurt that he also wanted to play in the sand and throw rocks into the water! We founds lots a rocks (a few came home in his pockets ... shocker!), played on a driftwood teeter totter, watched the wind surfers, and waved at a passing train. A good day, you betcha!!

Teeter tottering on the beach


The saddle of this log made for some neat waves

"Mama, now I'll take your picture" (photo credit: Conor)

Hanging out on the bridge over the railroad tracks

Beautiful Puget Sound and Carkeek Beach

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Bye, bye carpal tunnel syndrome!!

Let's take a little trip back in history ... waaaaay back to 2006 when I was diagnosed with bilateral carpal tunnel. At that time, however, only my left wrist was bad enough for L&I to cover the surgery that would eliminate the associated numbness and pain. Also at that time, I was told by the doctor that my left hand would eventually get bad enough to require surgery, but it would take longer because it isn't my dominant hand.

Fast forward to last summer, my left hand's symptoms got bad enough for me to say enough is enough. I brought up the issue to my physician, who agreed it was bad enough to warrant corrective measures. After filling out many, many, many forms and waiting for updates and approvals, I (finally) got the green light from L&I to get my left arm fixed. (Let's all pause fora quick round of applause ... ok, you can clap... it hurts for me to clap.)

On 9/25, Eric and I headed to NW Hospital's outpatient surgery area so I could get all fixed up. (Feel free to clap here, too, if you'd like.) We keep giggling about how a 30-45 minute procedure basically at up most of the day. We arrived, checked in, and waited for a few minutes. Then, I was escorted into the changing area to put on the ever-so-fashionable hospital gown, robe, and non-slip socks. (Watch out -- those non-slip socks will be on the Parish fashion runways before we know it!) I then had an IV started in one hand and had a port for my local anesthesia put in the other hand. And that, dear people, is when they had me fill out additional paperwork. Huh?? When both of my hands are lacking mobility due to things sticking out of them? Oh well...

Yeah... not so easy to fill out forms with my hand looking like this!

Unfortunately for us, my surgeon was running about an hour and a half behind schedule by the time my surgery was supposed to start, so Eric and I sat around chatting and inspecting my various pieces of IV hardware to keep ourselves occupied until I was called back to the OR. It is a good thing he and I can entertain ourselves as well as we do! :)

Soon, I was on the OR table waiting for the big moment to arrive. As the team prepped the room and me, we told jokes and listened to upbeat music. For an OR, it was a fun place to hang out!! About 20 minutes after arriving in the OR, my doctor said he was starting the procedure. Great! Wait ... NOT GREAT ... I could feel the incision and quickly alerted them to the fact. They profusely apologized and gave the local anesthesia a bit more time to take effect. Starting (again)... still STILL NOT GREAT!! I still have feeling in my left arm. No bueno! That was when they opted to use litocaine (or novacaine ... some numbing "caine") and were able to proceed without me saying, "Ow! Ow! I can feel that." So, win all around!

Before too much longer (well, I'm not actually sure how long because they gave me some "I don't care" medicine, so my sense of time went a little wonky) I was moved from the OR to the recovery area to let the sedatives wear off and to get a little food in me.

My post-op hand

I'm going to pause my story here and give some much-deserved praise to the amazing people to cared for me during this time. The nurses are top notch and deserve countless pats on the backs, thank yous, and gratitude. They were compassionate, competent, and professional. My surgeon (Dr. Stephen Kennedy) was also top notch. Surgeons seem to have a bad rep for having less-than-ideal bedside manners; Dr. Kennedy breaks that stereotype. He is great at explaining things clearly, giving choices to the patient, and making his patients feel like they are people, not just bodies that require his surgical skills. If you ever need outpatient surgery and have the chance to be cared for by one of these people, jump at it.

OK, back to our regularly-scheduled blog post...

Once I proved I could eat/drink without feeling sick and could stand without falling over (all good things, in my opinion), I was released to go home. We were warned that sometimes the car ride home can cause motion sickness due to the meds ... Eric and I are both happy to report we had no such issues!!

We got home, ate some lunch (I hadn't eaten since dinner the night before and was verging on becoming hangry!), and I proceeded to veg out on our couch while watching TV and icing my wrist. I spent the next day doing the same thing.... and the next. Ice, the couch, and I were very good friends for a few days. On the Thursday after my surgery, I was able to downgrade from the post-op bandages to a bandaid. I was also allowed to shower and get my arm wet. (Everyone within 5 miles took a huge sigh of relief when I hit that milestone, I'm sure!). By the weekend, I was feeling pretty good ... mostly achy instead of in pain, which I took as a win.

I returned to work a week after my surgery and was completely wiped out after the first day back and my wrist was quite sore from being used more. The following day, I got my stitches removed (HURRAY). My surgeon was happy with my progress and told me that if I need anything, his door is always open.

No more stitches!!
For the most part, the recovery has been smooth and steady... except for occasional bumps  or nudges (usually by the kids as they try to get my attention) on the Thursday when (out of habit) I reached behind myself with my left hand to bump a door closed. NOT the best choice and once I was able to breathe again and the little birdies flying around my head (and hand) cleared, I grabbed the nearest ice pack and vowed to never do THAT again. (Ask me what I did this morning ... will I ever learn???)

Earlier, I called out the nurses who cared for me at the hospital. The were great. My in-home care taker also deserves mucho kudos. Eric went above and beyond to make sure I rested (not something I do naturally) and didn't overdo things. He was quick to plop me back on the couch when I was up, kept me up on my meds, and fed me. Thank you, Hon, for all you did to ease my recovery!!!! This morning, I realized he has seen me though surgery on all four of my limbs and my torso at this point. Talk about one heck of a spouse!!! Sweetie, you're THE BEST!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trout Fishing with Bestefar

Last weekend, Eric's folks were kind enough to (once again) open their doors to our crew for the weekend. The reason for this particular trip was so Eric's dad (aka Bestefar) could take the kids fishing on a lake near their house. He even bought little row boat for the occasion. (Someone needs to get ready to polish his "Grandfather of the Year - 2017" award!!)

Conor posing on the Tilacum

Ferry selfie

Due to Annika's crazy schedule on Saturday (she had 3 places to be at the same time that morning... HELLO!), Conor and I went up to the island early morning while Eric and Annika went to Microsoft for a robotics event her team attended; later, they took a Lyft car to Mukilteo, walked on the next ferry, and Eric's dad picked them up at the Whidbey ferry terminal. Nice!

While Eric and Annika were in Redmond, Eric's dad took Conor out on the lake to try their hands (rods?) at catching trout. We've gone fishing (for salmon) in the Sound for the past few years in Bestefar's outboard boat, but have yet to actually catch any salmon. I was nervous about how successful the kids would be fishing for trout .... boy, was I a fool!! Conor caught two trout and had a few more that got away. Bestefar and Conor had a blast out on the water together; I think they were on the lake for about 2 hours when a speedboat put an end to their fishing excursion.

Conor sporting his fishing rod

The dogs kept putting their ball in the boat so Conor could throw it for them

Bestefar and Conor ... all ready to go!

Rowing, rowing, just keep rowing

Fish on!!

Conor and his trout buddies

Almost as soon as the guys were back at the house, were their haul in the pan and quickly becoming lunch for us! Much to Bestefar's shock, Conor most liked trout with a little mustard to dip it in. (The rest of us opted for plain!) Bestemor quickly pointed out that with our kids now knowing how to catch trout, I'd better learn how to prepare it.... so true!!! (I've been researching trout recipes ever since.)

Between fishing outings, Bestefar went into town for more fishing lures and to pick up Eric and Annika at the ferry. While he was shopping for lures, Eric's dad very sweetly looked for a lure he thought Annika would like... he found a pink one with glitter on it. Shazam!!

By early afternoon, our robotics duo had arrived and it was Annika's turn to go out on the boat. She had barely dropped her bag in the house before she and Bestefar were lakeward bound! Again, I feared she wouldn't catch anything (those elusive salmon have scarred me, apparently) and knowing Conor caught two fish earlier in the day, I was even more nervous. Again, FOOL!! Annika wound up catching three trout!! (The lesson? Never doubt Norwegians determined to catch fish while using a glittery lure!) Annika and Bestefar spent a good three hours on the lake and she would have stayed longer had it been earlier in the day AND had Bestefar not spent the better part of five hours rowing around the lake! (I'm fairly certain his arms felt like wet noodle by the time he was done!)

What a fun (and trout)-filled day!!

The rest of the weekend was filled with playing card and dice games (I'm still working on my Hearts strategy, but seem to be improving with practice and help from Eric and his mom), reading, knitting (Bestemor and me! I was very focused on getting the socks I've been knitting done before my upcoming carpal tunnel release surgery!), and watching the UW football game (Go Dawgs!).

We are incredibly glad the kids had this opportunity to go fishing this weekend! What cherished memories they are creating ... and they're bringing home food. BONUS!!!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Bottle Bay Visit 2017

At the end of August, the kids and I packed up and made the long drive over to my sister/brother-in-law's cabin in Idaho. (Eric couldn't go due to work ... in fact, he wasn't even in the state!) We had a 5-day getaway planned and I could hardly wait to get there and soak up the goodness that is visiting the cabin.

Of course, we wound up hitting the road two hours later than expected due to a variety of unexpected scheduling additions and delays, but eventually we were on the road. We arrived at the cabin around 6:30 and quickly unloaded the van; dusk was settling in and I really didn't want to unload things in the dark. We got settled, ate dinner, and basically fell into bed. Whew!

The next day was much more "cabin" for us. We played in the lake, read, went for a walk, and generally relaxed all while waiting for my brother and his family to arrive. (Our nephew's school had a last-minute delay to the new school year, so the first day of school slid by a week ... hence, they could enjoy a bit of cabin life, too!) I brought my ever-growing stack of backlogged magazines with me and happily lounged by the lake sifting through them while sipping on iced tea and watching the kids swam themselves into an exhausted state of pruniness. The family at the cabin next door had kids who are close to our kids' in age, so an instant play group formed. The kids had so much fun playing with each other, swimming, and squirting each other with squirt guns.

First morning at the cabin

What a view!

Our "it is too early/cool to get in the lake" walk
Little fishies


Canonball 2

Happy lake kids

Silly boy

Ahhh... flotation devices galore

Beautiful sunset

Hello, moon

On Friday, the plan was for the kids and me to go into town (past town, to be exact) to go horseback riding. After that we'd meet up (in town) with Troy, Staci, Kat, and Ian for lunch and general poking around before heading back to the cabin for more time in the water. It was another hot day, so the allure of the cool water wasn't lost on any of us.

As the kids and I drove out to meet Jennifer and her horses, I found myself praising all of the unknown people who invented GPS and cell phones. I never would have found the gal's property had it not been for my trusty phone's GPS. As we drew near the gal's road, I realized there was a rafter of wild turkeys (yes, that is the collective noun for turkeys ... I just looked it up!) hanging out on the side of the road. Of course, the kids and I gawked for a moment before continuing on our merry way. (That's the advantage of driving in the country -- you can slow down to gawk and no one else is around to get annoyed!)

Now, I know it isn't a surprise to read I absolutely loved our time with the horses. Yes, I am a horse nut, but it goes beyond that. Jennifer, the gal who owns/operates Adventure Pony Rides, was amazing with the kids. She really is an educator at heart. She taught Annika and Conor about saddling a horse, the names of the various pieces of tack, why horses do certain things, etc. She was great! Annika was paired with a horse named Angel. Conor was originally paired with a pony, but it was too "wobbily" for him, so he upgraded to a horse named Data. I was on a horse named Joe.

We rode around Jennifer's property, which included a few trails that forced us to duck under low branches. Part of Jennifer's instruction for the kids included how to do that and not get stuck on the saddle horn, so yeah for that! Conor was a little out of his element once he went from a small pony to a big horse; his was taller than mine but was a gentle giant. That said, seeing Conor wasn't as comfortable, Jennifer walked with Conor until he felt more at ease. She was also great about pointing out to me where I should set up my horse to get good photos of the kids.  Annika and Conor did an amazing job on their horses and their increased confidence by the end was very evident. When our time on the horses was done, the kids got a chance to interact with some of Jennifer's other animals, including her goats and chickens. Conor proved, once again, that he is quite the egg collecting guy! The kids brushed and fed the goats, and fed the chickens .. oh, and the wild Canada goose that recently adopted Jennifer! We had great time with Jennifer and her critters, and it was a new adventure near the cabin we hadn't tried before. Plus, any time I'm around horses makes me happy as can be. :)

Learning how to saddle a horse/pony

Annika on Angel
Conor and Data getting to know each other

Cowboy Conor

Trail kids


Conor and Data "standing on a stump" trick

Annika and Angel "standing on a stump" trick

Conor and Data

Annika and Angel

The three Olsons just horsin' around together 

Annika and Angel

Conor looking at Data's very blue eyes

All done riding

Annika learning about farm work

Annika brushing a kid

Conor the goat brusher

Conor giving the chickens a snack

Conor the farm hand

A girl and her hen .... a hen and her girl

After our time was up, we headed into town to meet up with Troy and his crew for lunch and to poke around Sandpoint together. Of course, we eventually found ourselves at the bridge ordering gelato (yum!) and found a few souvenirs to bring home. A grocery store trip was also in the plans, so Troy took Ian, Annika, and Conor back to the cabin so they could get in the lake sooner. Staci, Kat, and I stayed in town a bit longer to hit the Pend Orielle Winery (duh!), Pour Authority to get Eric's growler (aka souvenir) filled, and then the grocery store. When we were at the wine shop, Staci and I had a chance to try a few of the wine options, which naturally made us happy and quite willing to pick up some new wines. Oh darn!

On the stairs at the bridge

Cute Idaho wildlife


A kid in her candy store

Happy place

Sign on a plastic chair next to the newspaper
boxes at the end of the road

Saturday was all about being at (and in) the lake! The kids played and played with the neighbor kids and swam until they could barely move. Ian and Conor spent quite a bit of time building a sand village, which Staci and I accidentally flattened when we were carrying the peddle boat (sorry about that, boys!). The peddle boat was a big source of entertainment for our crew again this year. It was fun to see how the kids are getting old enough to go out on it on their own (within very specific boundaries) and explore their independence a bit. The big news of the day was Annika passed the cabin swim test, which means she doesn't have to wear a life jacket when she's swimming around the dock now. Way to go, Annika!!

Ian and Conor building their sand village

Annika preferred lake over sand

Cruising around the lake


Splashing kiddo

Staci and Kat taking a peddle boat cruise around the lake

Troy brought these flamingo coasters for an
added bit of vacation flare

Happy, happy lake kids

Conor and the inflatable whale

Troy, Staci, and Kat lounging in the gazebo

Good night, Bottle Bay

Before we knew it, Sunday rolled around and real life was waiting in the wings for us. It was a bittersweet day for me because the cabin is so marvelously peaceful and has a difference pace than our usual frantic life, but we missed Eric like mad and were anxious to get home to see him. Our drive was long .... longer than expected due to construction on I-90, but we eventually made it. Troy and his crew were about 10 minutes behind us, so we were able to give each other traffic clues and detour routes, including one through Cle Elum that saved 38 minutes, per our maps app. Crazy stuff!!! Eventually, we pulled into our driveway and were welcomed home with loves of hugs from a smiling Eric. While it was an amazing trip, it sure was good to get home to him.