Friday, January 30, 2009

Step One

Step one to resuming my life is to get out of this house. 

I've actually enjoyed being home and I don't have any feelings of cabin fever, but until I can get from here, out the door, down those treacherous front steps, into the car, on the road, to the office, up that long, straight flight of steps, and to my desk, I'm SOL.

I have no choice but to chance it, so this weekend I'm gonna practice.  The plan is to eventually install a wrought iron railing on the the steps where I fell (and maybe even on the ones above that), looking something like this...  IMG_4755 there's something to hold on to as I hobble my way up and down, but that won't happen right away (and I must get back to work right away), so my plan is to negotiate both flights of steps inside the house and go through the garage, bypassing those hard, cold, slippery, scary steps outside.

I think it's doable (I think working from home is even more do-able, but alas...) and I'm bound and determined to get to my desk in the next week or so.  So wish me luck!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Would the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?

Last week Microsoft announced their first lay-offs ever -- 5,000 of them.


And today Seattle got a double whammy.  Boeing announced a lay-off of 10,000 workers...

Boeing Logo_

...and Starbucks announced that they'd be laying off 6,700 workers.


It seems like everyone in Seattle knows someone who's lost a job in the past few weeks.  People are scared because one person laid off from these major Seattle companies impact quite a few other jobs in the region -- from construction to restaurants to contracting agencies and beyond. 

How is your job?  Are you feeling this (relatively) sudden regional pinch?

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009


This came in the mail today. (And it doesn't even cover yesterday's ER visit or the surgeon!)  I have insurance, thank goodness, but this is a shocker nonetheless! 


Somehow this gives a whole new meaning to "healthcare crisis"!

When our 401K and IRA statements came in the mail last week, I barely peeked into the envelopes and then quickly looked away in disgust.  But we expected that shocker -- and we have plenty of company in that dismal situation.

Excuse me while I check my insurance policy's stop-loss.

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Fun at Harborview Medical Center (and Adventures in the ER!)

If you have to break your ankle in a bunch of places, have "hardware store" surgery, a heeby-jeeby-inducing hospitalization, and a long recuperation, it helps to have this man as your doctor!


This is Dr. Benirschke -- and I mean THIS is Dr. B! He's one of the top foot and ankle surgeons in the world, but he interacts with his patients more like a long-time buddy than some high and mighty, egotistical doctor. He was on time to our appointment this morning but we were warned about "Dr. B Time" before we met him a few weeks ago It turns out that Dr. B. just loves connecting with his patients -- talking with them, laughing with them (how does he get so many people in pain to laugh?!), but more than anything teaching and educating them. He is filled to the brim with knowledge and he likes nothing better than sharing what he knows.

(Yes, I know I need to shave my leg, but my foot was covered in a splint for the past few weeks... and is again.)

So today the soft splint came off...



and the hard cast went on.


(Yes, I'll shave! Sheesh!)

Oddly enough, Dr. B asked me to turn onto my stomach when he put the cast on. You know why? Control issues!! No kidding! He might not have known me for long, but he does know me well! I'm a project manager; of course I have control issues! I was relieved to hear, actually, that he asks all his patients to turn on their bellies when he wraps the cast. Turns out people tend to want to "help" him (albeit subconsciously) by moving their foot this way or that, so not allowing patients to watch allows him to move the foot into the exact position he wants. And he definitely moved mine into a whole different position.


This is the most it's hurt since I was in the hospital! Tonight I'll break into the prescription pain meds for the first time since the day I got home from the hospital because this really HURTS!

Actually, the most painful part of the day was when Dr. B. removed the under-skin sutures where he clipped my tight calf muscle. Fortunately, I didn't expect such pain and it was over quickly... but oh. my. god!


Yes, I forgave him for causing me agony and I still adore him.

Selecting a cast color was quite the conundrum! These were my color choices: IMG_0797

Pink (which you can't see) was out because it looked too juvenile, I liked the green and the blue dots on the packages but the tech warned me that they were actually "pretty gross," and black couldn't be signed. It was purple or red. Or in our family, WSU Cougars' crimson, or UW Husky's purple. With apologies to Peter -- and a promise that should I ever break a bone again (oh god... the thought!), I'll get a red crimson cast -- I decided to go with purple, more because I like the color than as an "I love the UW Huskies" statement... although as a mother of a Husky, of course I love them. Exactly as much as I love the Cougars.

(This rivalry will probably be around for the rest of our lives!)

Amazingly enough, "Dr. B time" was working in our favor this morning, and by 11:00 we were cleared to go home!

Until I said those fateful words as I got off the bed: "I've had this annoying pain around my lung. It hurts when I cough or sniff. I'm sure it's probably just a muscle ache..."

Before I knew it, I was downstairs at the famous/infamous Harborview ER (right next to a shackled convict!), being checked out for a possible post-surgery embolism! I had it all -- EKG, x-rays, and of course a blood test (called a d-dimer). Amazingly enough, this time a nurse was able to find a vein on the first try! First I told her I loved her. Then I asked if we could take a picture of the first nurse that's been able to find my vein on the first try in a very, very long time! She thought we were crazy, but complied.


By 3:00 the test results were in and we were given assurance that my pain is skeleto-muscular, just as I suspected. I'm definitely moving in odd ways these days, reaching over my knee walker, twisting and picking up my laptop from the bedside table, and just being in bed too much. I am glad that we played it safe because really, an embolism would not be good at all. Not at all.

And now I think I'll take prescription narcotics for the first time in weeks and try to get some rest. (Those muscle spasms in my ankle as I fall asleep are torture!)

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Monday, January 26, 2009


Goofball tagged me for a photo meme of sorts. Her instruction to me were: "Go to the 4th folder with pictures on your computer and then upload the 4th picture in that folder. Discuss."

I had just done one of those once yearly disk clean-ups, leaving just a few folders on my local drive. The fourth folder in that list is called "Just Carol," and it contains photos of me that I use primarily for profile photos for the various social media sites I frequent. The fourth photo in that folder isn't a photo I'd upload onto any of those sites because it's... well, waaaay outdated!


This photo of me was taken at my uncle's house in Zurich, Switzerland when I was 16. It was my first trip to Europe and I had gone with only my brother, Stephan. Although my Uncle Rainer had been a huge part of our lives (via phone calls, letters, etc.) in California, I met him in person for the first time on this trip. (My Aunt Inge, who was as cold to me as Rainer was warm, sits in the background, obviously annoyed, or bored, or maybe just tired.)

I have wonderful memories of that trip to Germany and Switzerland in the summer of 1973. It was my first extended time away from home, but also the first time I recognized Germany as a familial home, something that's beckoned me back there five times since then.

As I posted that photo of me, I was reminded of a photo of Kat, also sitting on steps in Europe (Nordlingen, Germany) when she was 15:


I dunno. Do you see a resemblance?

Thanks, Goofball, for the fun meme! I'll pass the ball on to HomeJewel, who posts such great photos of her family, Holly of Nothing But Bonfires because I know she'll find some goofy photo with some amazing story behind it, and two of my favorite German bloggers, Claire of Cheeseburgers and SauerKraut and my dear friend Jen of HeisseSheisse, just because I miss them!

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Facing my Fears. Facing Reality

It's snowing again.

From my bed it looks beautiful as the snowflakes drift slowly past the window, landing somewhere below my line of vision on the cold, brittle ground below.

But the view out the front door looks anything but beautiful to me:

Where I slipped

Tomorrow morning I have to somehow hobble out that front door and make my way down those icy steps again (the thought alone makes me shudder!), as I have my two-week post-surgical appointment at Harborview Medical Center. As far as I know, I'll be getting my stitches removed and a permanent cast (suitable for signing!). I will also hopefully have the opportunity to have a myriad of questions answered.

I've been looking for answers to all my questions, and so far I don't like what I'm learning. Some of my answers have come from this message board, filled with people who have the same injury I have. Of the hundreds of posts, this one's fairly typical:

"I am eight months post ankle break with 7 screws and a plate. I spent six weeks in three different casts and another two months in that awful boot. Have tried to maintain a sense of humor and optimism, but a broken ankle is a miserable experience. After reading all the posts, it reinforces my theory that doctors do not prepare us for what we will be facing. Six weeks with no weight on the ankle and after that you can put weight on it begin PT," the doctor said. What she did NOT say was that when the cast came off, my foot would be totally immobilized and that it would be still another two months before I could begin a semblance of walking alone. The PT people were GREAT and were the ones who really gave encouragement and advice that helped me survive the ordeal."

I feel paralyzed today -- not just physically, but emotionally as well. When I was in the ambulance on my way to the hospital, dizzy with pain, I remember thinking that I'd have to re-arrange my work schedule for a few days, thanks to this damn injury that -- I figured then -- was probably just a bad sprain and I was just being a big fat baby. In the course of the following days, I learned that my ankle was actually broken, that I'd need surgery and hospitalization, and that my recuperation would be longer than a few days or weeks. It would likely take months -- months and months. Many months.

I heard those words, but I wouldn't own them. They didn't apply to me. I'm a doer, a mover, a list-maker, for goodness sake. I'm a project manager! I make things happen; I get things done. And this injury was simply unacceptable. I'd walk in a few weeks and get back to work even sooner than that. End of story.

Then I heeded the surgeon's orders and, after returning home from the hospital, I went to bed. Foot up, spirits down.

Within a few days, I'd seen all the episodes of What Not to Wear I could handle and I begged to start working again. I'm lucky to be a project manager for Microsoft projects that can quite effectively be done remotely.

Or so I thought.

It'd be inappropriate to get into details here, but suffice it to say that even though my mind and hands are perfectly healthy and capable of working, I can't physically get to my office, as it's on the second floor of an office building with only steep stairs and no elevator, and until I can physically sit at my desk every day, I won't be considered to be back at work. The new projects that I was planning to kick off the morning after my accident have been reassigned, and I am neither able to work full-time nor do I have access to any short-term disability or state assistance programs. I'm stuck -- which means my family is stuck.

I've been accused of being a "hopeless optimist," but today I don't feel especially positive or hopeful about all this. Tomorrow things will be better, I'm sure. This is just a downward blip. I'll be fine.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Countdown to... me

Another get-to-know-me meme, thanks to Chatty:

Ten Things I Wish I Could Say To Ten Different People
10. Thank you. You have no idea how much you mean to me.
9. I miss you.
8. Don't screw with me. You will be sorry.
7. I love you.
6. Why are you so critical and competitive? I refuse to play.
5. What are you so scared of?
4. Trust me.
3. I was wrong. Please forgive me.
2. Congratulations! I am so proud of you.
1. Loyalty is a win-win.

Nine Interesting Things about Me
9. I was born with three thumbs. (I'm down to two now.)
8. I'm the only redhead in my family -- immediate and extended.
7. I have an amazing ability to remember dates -- birthdays, events, memories, etc.
6. My intuition has never betrayed me.
5. I am super-duper organized and detail-oriented, and I always follow through.
4. I fall asleep in no time flat. I also wake up quickly and fully -- and usually early.
3. I can be happy just about anywhere if the right people are with me.
2. I'm a first-generation American.
1. I'm a softie and a push-over (until I'm not).

Eight Ways to Win My Heart
8. Love my family.
7. Recall a shared memory.
6. Scratch my back.
5. Brush my hair.
4. Tell me you love me.
3. Ask for my opinion or my help.
2. Make me laugh.
1. Hug me.

Seven Things That Cross My Mind A Lot

7. How did simply walking out my front door cause me to break a bunch of bones, put me totally out of commission, require massive amounts of help, and jeopardize all our security? I'm so sorry.
6. How will we get all these kids through college?
5. What's for dinner? (Are we out of milk?)
4. Is my to-do list complete and up-to-date?
3. Are the cats inside?
2. Can we afford it?
1. Where is _____? (Fill with systematic roll call of all family members.)

Six Things I Do Before I Fall Asleep
6. Fluff everything -- pillows, comforters, etc.
5. Make sure my co-workers in Mumbai have everything they need from me so they can work while I sleep!
4. Implore Tom not to fall asleep on the couch (again).
3. Brush my teeth, etc.
2. Gather kitties.
1. Take a bath. (I miss this SOOO much right now, as my ankle heals and I can't get the cast wet.)

Five People Who Mean A Lot to Me

5. The other five people in this immediate family
4. The five other people in my family of origin
3. MaryLou, Ulli, Leni, Marcy, Suzie, LuJia, Claudia, Amy (women in-laws, aunts, cousins, my father's POSLQ..."persons of opposite sex living together.")
2. (OK, so you noticed... I'm cheating!) Rebekah, Lynn, Jane, Kristin, and a bunch of other girlfriends
1. All my blogging friends -- known/met IRL and otherwise!

Four Things I'm Wearing Right Now
4. A temporary cast (dammit!)
3. A tank top
2. Sleep pants
1. One non-skid sock

Three Regrets:

3. Walking out on that step, at that moment, in those boots, in that snow.
2. Not becoming a midwife or a teacher.
1. Not taking better care of my body.

Two Things I Want to Do Before I Die
2. Travel extensively.
1. Be a hands-on, dedicated, loving and loved Noni (grandmother)

One Confession
1. No regrets.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

This photo needs a caption!


The prize? Hmmm... how about a day with Shasta? (Please?)

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I've seen more of my friend Lynn in the past two days than I've seen of her in the past two years. That's a really wonderful thing, because it makes me remember how much I miss connecting with dear friends like Lynn... and it's a really sad thing, because it makes me realize that my priorities have been sorely out of whack lately.

Lynn came by yesterday to let Shasta out (since Tom was gone all day playing Seattle tour guide with Diane), and today she brought us a delicious three course dinner -- which we gobbled up before I could get a picture of the cheesy enchiladas, yummy green salad and chewy, moist brownies.

Visiting with Lynn for a few relaxed hours over the past two days -- not to mention enjoying the delicious dinner she cooked -- fed me and provided me sustenance, making me realize how "famished" I'd become over the past year.

Being a workaholic, list-maker personality by nature, it's so easy for me to slowly slip into a mindset in which my high pressure life consists primarily of drop-deadlines and client-crises. I fly by on automatic warp-speed pilot, not even noticing how fast I'm moving and how oblivious I am to the simple essences of life until I'm stopped cold by a brick wall -- or a flagstone step.

Thanks to my injury (yes, I said thanks to my injury), I am vowing to make time for the important things in life -- things like cultivating important friendships, concentrating on strengthening my health (and my bones!), and nurturing my creativity. I can continue to be a kick-ass project manager without working endless 12 to 16-hour days by doing exactly what I encourage my cohorts to do -- work smarter rather than harder.

So thanks Lynn, for providing sustenance... in so many ways! Your friendship is deeply appreciated -- and your brownies are deeply fudgily, yummily delicious!


(And thanks to Boo and Bailey for reminding me of the importance of rest and relaxation and to look for the ying to every yang and the yang to every ying.)

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My duet with Aretha

I've had a lump in my throat all day today, as I've been watching the inauguration of PRESIDENT Barack Obama, and when Aretha Franklin began singing My Country T'is of Thee, I couldn't help but belt out the tune myself. (Fortunately, no one else is home.)

What an amazing day! I'm brimming with pride and with hope.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

In Sickness and in Health

Near the end of Mom's battle with cancer, when he was exhausted from caring for her as her dutiful nurse "for a thousand days and nights," my dad commented that a young, healthy, and hopeful couple really has no way to truly understand what marriage vows really mean.

For richer and for poorer. Blah. Blah. Blah. In sickness and in health. Blah. Blah. Blah. Till death do us part.

Dad insisted that the only way to fully understand the significance of those words is to live them, and that nothing can prepare a young couple for the days, the weeks, the months, the years, when those words are tested.

Even then, at the age of 40-something, I didn't really understand what he meant. But now I'm beginning to.

Two weeks ago this evening, when I badly broke my ankle and was told that I'd need surgery and then at least 8 weeks off my foot and many months of rehabilitation, everything changed and Tom was suddenly called on to do everything for me. From cooking to cleaning to dressing to showering, I needed Tom's help. I'm more and more independent by the day now, but especially when this first happened, I felt completely helpless.


For a do-er like me, that was excruciating. I'm used to moving at my own pace and crossing tasks off a list as I move from accomplishment to accomplishment, both significant and menial. Suddenly, I had to let go of my need to control how and when things are done and simply be grateful for the fact that they were getting done, willingly and without complaint.

I am bursting with gratitude and appreciation.

And embarrassment.

Take showers, for example: Husband. Wife. Shower. It conjures up a certain image, doesn't it? Yeah, for me too.

Now picture this: Wife needs help getting ready for her shower, and "please take off my pants" takes on a whole different meaning. She needs help getting into the shower, where she can't stand up. She sits on an invalid chair, flab exposed and shivering. She can choose warm water or lather, but not both. After hair and body are washed, but with no time to relax and enjoy the warm, cascading water, husband helps her out of the shower ("ready... pull!") and she's again exposed in the least sexy manner. As she pushes the walker in front of her, towel wrapped but bottom exposed, she insists that, once this period of convalescence is over, she'll hypnotize him to forget her like this because this isn't how she wants it to be.

But it is like this, albeit temporarily. Still, it will never be quite the same again because we have come to understand, like we never have before, the meaning of "in sickness and in health." We'll be tested again, certainly, as we grow old together, and the next test might be longer and more difficult, but we're in this together and now I'm sure, like never before, that we'll be just fine.

I so appreciate Tom's loving, dutiful dedication to me and to the vows we took over 25 years ago, and I know that if the tables were turned and he needed me to care for him to the same extent that he has been caring for me, I would do so gladly. It's not sexy and it's not fun and it's not easy. But it's love and intimacy and marriage.

Dad was right: a young, healthy, and hopeful couple really has no way to truly understand what marriage vows really mean. That gift only comes later, when we earn it.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Up and About!

Well, come to think of it, I'm really neither up nor about. However, today I got out of bed, put on make-up, straightened my hair and got dressed -- which is more than I've done since falling and breaking my ankle on January 4th (and having surgery on the 8th).

It felt good. I definitely needed this!

I've taken over our new mission lounge chair in the living room and made it my own -- and I'm not going back to bed as a "sickie" again! Nope, I think I'll hang here, in the half-reclined position which keeps my foot up and doesn't hurt my back like being in bed did. I have my trusty laptop, my new "knee walker" (just call me "Speed Racer"), the phone, and a view out the front window, so I'm set. If you're looking for me, I'll be right here.

For the next few months.


The occasion for my "coming out" (of the bedroom) was a visit from Tom's first love, Diane. I met Diane briefly 25 years ago, just months after Tom and I got married, at his 10th high school reunion. I liked her then and I liked her today.


Actually, I think we get along so well because we're quite similar. We're both fairly outgoing and we both seem to like meeting new people, so the conversation flowed easily. I've always believed that jealousy is a wasted emotion and it's not one I have much experience with. Oh no -- I'm a firm believer in disarming your competition... or is that befriending your enemies?! (Totally kidding, Diane! I definitely consider you a friend!!) The hardest part of the visit, in fact, was not being able to be a good hostess. Now that bothered me.


(Yes Tom, you are the MAN!)

In preparation for Diane's (and her very nice friend, Della's) visit, Tom raced around the house, tidying, vacuuming, dusting, and cooking. I must admit that there was a certain satisfaction in hearing him say to Aleks and Peter, "If you make a mess, clean it up," a certain glee to finding him on his hands and knees wiping the kitchen floor, and a certain gratification in his frustration when his newly-swept floor was suddenly in need of cleaning again as soon as someone came in the front door. He might not have said anything, but I saw it in his eyes -- he was thinking, 'Wow, I sure do appreciate my wife more now! I never knew how hard she worked!'

That makes two of us then, because I've never appreciated my husband more than during the past two weeks, when the words "in sickness and in health" have taken on a whole new meaning as I need his help to do just about anything! I'll swoon about that, though, in my next post.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Tara and Bella: An Inspirational Tale (er... Tail?)

Pay special attention to the last sentence of this video:

"Take a good look, America. Take a good look, world! If they can do it, what's our excuse?"

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Post-Surgery Fun at the Hospital

Generally, it is not a pleasant experience to have surgery in which a virtual hardware store is dumped into your broken body and from which you wake up feeling like you will never ever again be able to muster an intelligent thought. Generally, your entire hospital stay will be downright miserable and you definitely won't want anyone taking pictures of you.


Oh no -- absolutely, positively no pictures because you look really really, really bad and totally miserable.

However, even such dismal experiences sometimes contain moments of levity. Attempting to wash my hair with a newfangled wet-dry "shampoo bag" in a hospital bed comprised that moment for me.

When I could stand it no longer, I asked if I could have my hair washed. Since Elisabeth was visiting me, I figured she could maybe shampoo my head over a bucket... or something. Surely the hospital would have some way for me to wash my hair!

Tina the nurse informed us that they did, indeed, have a "very easy and fun" way for patients to wash their hair and that she'd be happy to bring us a "shampoo cap."

Moments later, she returned with this -- a shower cap which apparently contained something (not sure I'd call it shampoo) that, when heated in the microwave, became wet and warm. All one had to do was put the cap on and massage one's hair through the cap!


It actually felt great and I had high hopes for a full, clean (if not perfectly coiffed) head of hair once it was over! Elisabeth and I even took turns "washing" my hair!


Yes, we had FUN in the hospital! Even the nurse took part ("all my other patients are in pain and grumpy and not nearly so much fun!") and snapped some photos.

Once I removed the cap, my hair felt just like it does after a real wash and condition. The comb slid right through it and I could hardly wait till it dried to a nice, soft, silky sheen.

I combed it and combed it... and then fell asleep. When I awoke it was dry -- but looked just like it had when I fell asleep, except now that it was dry, it looked greasy, streaky, and disgusting!


But it was oh-so worth the few moments of post-surgical fun!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The WHO/SCOAP Surgical Checklist: A System for Safer Surgery

During my pre-op prep (yes, when my vein was nowhere to be found), the assistant surgeon took a Sharpie to me and did this:


"Why are you writing on me?" I asked Dr. Lange. He mentioned something about a checklist and a "time-out in the OR" (yes, I was envisioning a bunch of doctors and nurses pouting in the corner... but I think I was already on drugs), assuring me that it made surgery safer for me.

That made no sense to me until I saw this today:

Pretty cool, eh? I love the fact that the healthcare industry got the idea for this from the airline industry. Now that's collaboration!

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Revelation: Life is Strange

So my friend was driving on the freeway to work this morning in her cute little Honda Civic. A SEMI goes to change lanes and, not seeing her, basically pushes her all over the freeway like a MatchBox Car. Her car is totalled. She, miraculously and so thankfully, comes away completely (physically) unscathed.

I walk out my front door, take a few steps on the walkway that I've traversed a million times before, and shatter my ankle, putting me out of commission for at least eight weeks.

Is life not just bizarre?

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Scary Moments at Harborview Medical Center

I live in a suburb on the Eastside, across the bridge from Seattle. Our local hospitals' clients are mostly upwardly mobile, successful professionals -- which often frustrated me when I taught childbirth classes because too-busy-for-real-life Microsoft couples would often ask me for a one-shot Saturday childbirth class to accommodate their busy schedules. If you were in for a stay at one of our Eastside hospitals like Evergreen (where I visited the ER last week), you'd probably run into people a lot like me -- professional, educated, very busy with work and family, and with no time for being waylayed.

I chose to have my surgery with the most amazing world-renowned surgeon, Dr. Stephen Benirschke -- which meant that my surgery and my subsequent hospital stay would be at Harborview Medical Center. I'd never been to Harborview before because it's considered the Pacific Northwest's trauma center and not a hospital for things like childbirth and routine well-care. As the county hospital, it's also the place where those without insurance are treated. So, it houses both the country's best surgeons and the county's indigents -- sort of an odd dichotomy.

I spent 90% of my time at Harborview in my patient room on the 6th floor of the Meleng Building so, other than some time at the Ankle and Foot Clinic (where I encountered some interesting characters, one of whom insisted she was injured "on stage, dancing with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, that she had 13 kids, and that she caught both Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer single-handedly), I really only met my two roomies.

Marilyn, my first roomate, was pretty normal. The poor girl had come into some tough times lately, both situational/personal and medical. She'd had spinal surgery and from all we could tell, her life would look up once she recuperated from the surgery. Her two dedicated sisters visited her daily and, although I overheard a few sisterly squabbles (which was only disconcerting because one of her sisters was named Carol), she was sweet and friendly, even through her pain, and we became buds during the two long, painful nights we shared there.

At 1:30 AM on my third night at Harborview, Beth was brought into my room. She too had undergone spinal surgery, though hers seemed to be a bit more extensive than Marilyn's. All was relatively quiet until early the next morning when the discharge nurses came in, informing Beth that she'd being going home that day, the same day I was leaving. They could barely wake her for a second and then she'd fall right back to sleep, snoring! And they were trying to inform her of her legal rights to not be discharged if she didn't feel that she was ready.

Helllloooo?! Even I could promise you that there's no way she was ready to be discharged! She was in a complete stupor and not at all conscious enough for a casual conversation, let alone understanding her legal rights!

I wasn't sure what was going on with Beth, but she was obviously agitated, completely out of it, and obviously not doing well. And the nurses came in occasionally to give her even more drugs, apparently not really concerned that they couldn't rouse her! Huh? How could she possibly go home in this state?!

At one point, I heard Beth get out of bed -- and I don't mean slowly and gingerly. She was moving quickly and angrily... with a spinal injury and recent surgery! I looked up and saw her fly by my bed! "Where's the *&^%$ bathroom?" she asked me. I pointed to the bathroom and she quickly turned around and positively flew, stumbling toward the door! I was sure she'd fall, but she didn't. Just as I was about to call the nurses, the bathroom door flew open and Beth practically ran back to her bed. Within seconds, she was snoring again.

I must admit that I was a bit freaked out at this point! When the nurse came in, I told her what had happened and that I was concerned for Beth's safety. She woke Beth enough to ask her if she'd been to the bathroom. "No," Beth insisted, she had never gotten out of bed.

OK, so I'm a liar. (Not.)

I called Tom and Kat at this point to find out where they were and when they'd arrive to come get me. For all I knew, Beth would get up again and not be so lucky this time -- and I didn't want to see her get really badly hurt.

Beth didn't get up again. When I left, she was sitting in bed, slouched over, and unresponsive. I don't know what happened to her, but I have a feeling she didn't go home when she'd planned to.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Cat/Walker Jealousy

Excuse me, Mr Boo-dah. Gotta get by!


Boo! Puh-leeeze, get outta my way!


What? Now you're suddenly just too tired to get up? (Seriously, he refused to move!)

Wait! We have movement!


Movement and... what's this? Playfulness? Good thing I was still numb. IMG_0689

"Aint I cute?" Yes, Boo. You are adorable, you weird contortionist, you! Now please, let me get by. IMG_0690

This cat has a serious need to be the center of attention. By the time I could get to the bathroom (at least a minute and a half), my foot was throbbing!

The peripheral nerve block remained pretty strong until about 11 PM, even though the infusion was turned off at 9 AM. I was beginning to worry that it wouldn't wear off at all, so at first I was glad that it was wearing off. Then, within a few minutes... OUCH! Suffice it to say that I'm back on the mega-meds, the Oxycoton that I really didn't want to use again. But I also need to try to stay ahead of the pain and not let it get the best of me.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

On the Mend. Post One.

First, let me just type this myself so I'm forced to accept it: this will not be a short two-week recovery. As Dr. B told me yesterday, I had a "giant 'D' planted on my forehead" for the past week. No, this will be a much longer recovery. I'll call today, the day I came home from the hospital, "Day One."

So where should I start? How about at 4 AM last Wednesday? Tom and I got up, got ready, and (I) hobbled out the door to get to Harborview Hospital at our 6:00 "call time." (It sounds so much sexier when used in film production!)

When we got there, Elisabeth was already waiting for us with a wheelchair. It meant so much that she was there! Elisabeth is a great advocate in situations like this, since she'll talk to anyone, ask tons of questions, and ask for detailed explanations if something's not clear. Neither Tom nor I are quite that demonstrative! And Elisabeth worked in the medical field in the Pacific Northwest for a few years (which is how we got the name of "the best surgeon around"), so she's interested. No kidding -- she asked the docs three times if she could watch the surgery. Sheesh! No means NO!

By 6:30 I was registered and ready for my IV. Simple process, right? Oh god -- wrong. It happened at my eye surgery in February. It happened in the ER on Sunday night. And it happened before my surgery. The nurses couldn't find a vein! Knowing it might happen, I hydrated myself really well (before midnight only, of course). But no luck.

Poke. Prod. Tap. Slap. Roll. Poke again. Sigh. UNpoke. Prod. Explore. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This went on and on and on. I tried to stay positive, but I was beginning to feel like a (light-headed) pin cushion! The nurses were great -- so sweet and apologetic. But they simply couldn't find a vein, at least not a "productive" one.

FINALLY! A vein! I was thrilled! Can you tell? This picture was taken just for you!


"OK, you can relax now," Tom and Elisabeth assured me. "That's as bad as it's gonna get! Now you just sleep."

And they bid me adieu. Last thing I remember was seeing the lights on the ceiling of the OR.


Oh. My. God. After seven hours of surgery, I woke up to... I can't even describe it. Truth be told, I woke up feeling like I was caged inside myself, in pain, and unable to express anything. Light hurt, sound hurt, movement hurt, thinking hurt. Everything hurt -- and yet when Tom and Elisabeth asked what hurt, I could only nod my head and cry. I was locked inside a torture chamber and there was no way out. Yes, it was excruciating.

The next day is a dim memory, though I remember thinking that I was doing pretty well. I was on dilaudid (?), and some other concoction and I had a peripheral nerve block pumping directly into my foot so that was completely numb. In addition to the dilaudid drip I took 20 mg of oxycodon orally for the pain that I apparently had -- which made me too groggy to ask what pain, since my foot was numb. As soon as I came out of the naseous stupor long enough to realize that I was in one, I said no more of that -- and I've been on only Tylenol ever since. The block came out this morning (talk about a bizarre feeling!) and my foot is still tingly and mostly numb... and now I'm wondering if it should still be numb?!

I went to PHU (Physical Therapy University) to learn all about walkers and crutches and scooters and going up steps (impossible at this point; I have to scooch on my butt... which is no fun in the rain) and down them. It will be 8 weeks before I can even put weight on my damn foot, and many months in physical therapy after that, so I have a long recovery ahead of me.

Wait -- I need to see that again:

It will be 8 weeks before I can even put weight on my damn foot, and many months in physical therapy after that, so I have a long recovery ahead of me.

Crap! Did you see that? Yeah, so did I.

The nurses were wonderful for the most part. They were kind and empathetic, yet professional and efficient. I made up a list of what I think makes a good nurse. It's just my list with nothing at all to back it up, but...

A good nurse:

  1. Introduces herself within the first 30 seconds by saying something like "Hi Carol (in my case), my name is _________ and I'm here to/for ________. Is that OK with you?" They should look you in the eye and be genuinely empathetic when they say this. I can spot a phoney a mile away.
  2. Move gently, slowly and deliberately when interacting with me -- especially when doing procedures. Efficiency and speed are for other parts of their job, not for drawing my blood, not for helping me move from the bed to the commode the first time, and not even for placing a few pillows under my back.
  3. Don't talk about me in third person to someone else as if I weren't in the room. Talk to me!
  4. Tell me what you're doing if I can't see you -- especially if I can feel you, but not see you.
  5. Tell me why you're doing it and what questions you want answered.
  6. Smile. It makes all the difference!

I was surprised at what surprised me -- and what didn't. Some things that I thought would matter to me, didn't And some things that I thought wouldn't bug me, did.

Things that didn't bother me, but I thought would have:

  • The food
  • Having a roommate. (OK, this only applies to the first one. Remind me to tell you about the second -- certifiable -- one!)
  • Not having a laptop, a book, or anything at all productive to do.
  • Lights on at all hours.
  • A catheter.

Things that did bother me, but I thought wouldn't have:

  • A clock with an hour hand that was slightly off. (Drove me bonkers!)
  • Dirty, dirtier, dirtiest, oil slick hair (though I have a hilarious story to tell about an attempt to wash it... there's even a picture, but it's on Elisabeth's camera and her laptop is acting up.)
  • Finding a vein.
  • Time passing oddly slow... then disturbingly quickly (but mostly oddly slowly).
  • Pages on the PA speaker referring to completely dire circumstances. STAT. (Harborview is the trauma hospital for the entire Pacific Northwest and just about all they do is trauma... car accidents, etc.)
  • Roommates who go a bit berserk right in front of you, leaving you to take it upon yourself to get help. (OK, I just didn't expect that one at all!)
  • Coming out of anesthesia.

All in all, it was a positive experience as unexpected hospital visits go (how do you like my qualifier?!), but I wouldn't want to do it again any time soon.

And since I always like to leave you with a graphic, here's the reason you may now call me Pacific Northwest Bionic Bug:


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Home from the hospital! Will blog after I get a HazMat team to clean up this oil slick:


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Wednesday, January 07, 2009


So I was able to see Dr. Benirschke today at 8:45 because there was a cancellation in his very busy schedule. Although we didn't actually meet with him till 2:00, it was worth the wait. He talked with us as if he had all day to answer questions, teach us about the fascinating (to him) human foot, and to explain what I'm in for.

Here's one of the things he taught us. I broke these two bones, apparently in a total of three places:


So here's what I'm in for: Surgery is tomorrow morning at 7 AM (we have to be at the hospital at 6!), will last about four hours, I will be in the hospital for about three days, and the recuperation will be long (8 weeks before I can even put any weight on it!).

I know. One stupid little slip got me here. And I don't even have a good story to tell! I'm just gonna have to make one up.

I begged to take my laptop with me to the hospital, but they forbid it, which means NO work blogging until at least Sunday. OK, so the surgery will be an ordeal... but no blogging?! Now that's an ordeal!

Soooo...can anyone suggest a good book?

*Title courtesy of my creative friend, Lynn!

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Anti-Cat Cage

I love having the cats with me on the bed, but the thought of them jumping onto (or even brushing by) my injured leg kept me from getting any real rest after I came back from the ER. Elisabeth suggested protecting my leg with an upside-down laundry basket, so Tom crafted this personalized, blog-colored (!), protective anti-cat cage:


Doesn't Bailey look positively thwarted?

Thanks so much to all of you for support and helpful suggestions. I really appreciate all the kind words and feedback. It sounds like my hope for a two-week recovery might have been a little off, eh? Dammit!

I'm still working as much as possible. The loopiness and nausea caused by the meds makes it hard (I've woken up finding myself typing -- or trying to type -- an e-mail!), but I'm doing what I can. Fortunately, my job can be done from home... assuming an ability to concentrate. Funny (not), the effect pain has on concentration!

Unfortunately, Tom is now being called on to do all the things I normally did, plus all the stupid little things like getting me water and bringing me toast in the morning. And making me cool inventions that make my situation more interesting and exciting -- like a laundry basket cat cage!

And now I'm off to project manage my recuperation... because project management is what I do! And this will take some good PMing because I'm hoping to have the surgery done by one of the nation's top ankle and foot surgeons, Dr. Benirschke, who practices out of Harborview Medical Center in downtown Seattle. Since we originally went to a different ER on the eastside, this means some real coordination and project management opportunities! (Trying to stay optimistic...) First step (pun intended) is to orchestrate the sending of my x-rays (do NOT believe them when they tell you they need to be picked up; this is the digital age, so they can be e-mailed!), to visit the surgeon early tomorrow morning, and to set up a time to go under the (gulp) knife.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Give me a break! (Or three)

Last night, just moments after I'd finished work and completed a post, and just moments before I was planning to head to bed, Tom and I decided to take Shasta for a walk in the lightly falling snow. What was to be a quick 10-minute walk ended up being a ride in an ambulance, a night in the emergency room, an x-ray with white broken lines all over it, and a scheduled surgery.

Last night also included the most pain I've ever felt in my life -- natural childbirth included!

I was just heading down the three steps in front of our house when I slipped and fell. I immediately knew something was very wrong. The immediate pain was indescribable and I was anything but quite or demure about it. Nope -- I was absolutely screaming in agony.

Tom went in the house to get Peter who has some EMT training and suggested that Tom call an ambulance. (I was coherent enough to tell them that no WAY would they try to move me on a sloped, icy driveway and drive me to the hospital themselves!)

The paramedics arrived in no time and they somehow got me into the ambulance in spite of my screams of agony. I don't think I opened my eyes the whole time because I was turning very much inward, trying so hard to practice the breathing and relaxation I used to teach as a Certified Childbirth Educator.

But it was no use. This thing hurt like a MF! And because of the snow, it took what seemed like an eternity to get to the hospital and I was hyperventilating the whole way there. Once we got to the ER, I wanted one thing and one thing only: drugs to dim the pain. It again took forever to find a vein, just like it did back in February when I had surgery on my eye. But one talented (lucky?) nurse finally got in and I got my drugs (propopal?) -- which only slightly dimmed the pain, but made me very loopy.

It turns out that the guy who was assigned to us was in Peter's firefighting class (NEVAC) years ago, which was nice... for Peter; I didn't really care about anything but dimming the pain!

Tom took a few photos at the hospital (he knows his blogging wife well!). This was what my leg looked like when we arrived. As Peter and Tom said, it just doesn't look right!


I'm sure glad I didn't see this photo yesterday!

I was then wheeled to x-ray, and soon after that the doctor informed us that my ankle was (is... sigh) broken in three places and all the ligaments around the bones tore as well -- and that I'll need SURGERY in 5 - 7 days, once the swelling goes down. All from a silly little spill on our front steps?!

Peter's friend, who he knew from EMT training (dang -- I promised him I'd remember his name... he told me I wouldn't... he was right) then cut my boot off, very, very (very) gingerly, per my instructions demands sheer panic. This is what's left of my boot:


They also cut off my new snow pants, my sleep pants and my fleece top -- don't ask me why. Then the doc put me out completely and set my foot (meaning he pulled and tugged at it... a thought that still sends me reeling!) and I woke up with this:


It's temporary, just until the surgery.

Would you believe that, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, in the midst of the worst pain I've ever felt in my life, I was thinking about work and how I can possibly start on all these projects. In my panic, I even mentioned to Tom at the hospital at 1 AM that I needed to call my boss and ask him about his priorities. Oh brother!

So I'm home for at least a few weeks, the first two of which (one before and one after the surgery) will be spent here... IMG_0659

...working at home, in bed -- at least to the extent that I can while on these really, really strong drugs!

So it is what it is and, as bad as the timing is, I just have to deal and get through it. I keep telling myself that it could have been worse.

It also could have been better. Sigh!

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

A looking-backward, looking-forward meme

It's been a long time since I've done a meme and there are some good ones making their way across the blogosphere these days, so I'll combine two and make this my third "50 tidbits" (the first two are under "about me," to your right). Feel free to swipe!

1. Looking back on 2008, what might your theme song have been? "This Old Light of Mine, I'm Gonna Make It Shine!" (That is a song, isn't it?)

2. If 2008 was a movie, who would play you? People have told me that I remind them of Sally Field. She seems as good as anyone (over 40), so let's go with her.

3. What was your greatest gift of 2008? A deepening friendship with my dad's new love Lou, after the death of Mom in 2004. I liked her very much when I first met her; now I love and adore her -- not only for who she is, but for making my dad blissfully happy.

4. What is your New Year Resolution, or, what are you committing to this year? I really don't like New Year's resolutions. They seem so contrived. I should say to lose weight, work out, and eat healthfully. But what I really want to say is to write more (not just blog more, but to really compose thoughtful posts), to be more creative, and to learn more about photography.

5. If January could be represented by one song, what would it be? Rain Rain (and Snow, Snow!) Go Away!

6. What do you wish for your body in 2009? I'd like to just feel comfortable in my own skin, like I used to. I like feeling strong and healthy. Now I feel like my stressful job shows all over in my physical appearance. Of course, that's likely just an excuse because it IS, after all, 100% up to me to change that.

7. Name one new thing you would love to try in the New Year. My sister-in-law invited me to train for a simple triathlon in Seattle in August (12 mile bike ride, 1 mile swim, 3 mile run). It's not that I'm excited about trying that (I'm actually scared to death!)... but I'd feel so great if I actually DID IT.

8. What do you long for 2009 to bring? Peace and renewed world respect for America under Obama.

9. If that happened, how would you feel? Calm, happy and hopeful.

10. Where would you love to vacation in 2009 if money were no object? Maldives... with Europe on the way back. Oh, and Australia. Thailand would be nice too. And I've heard amazing things about Africa. Aw hell, I'd take a year and travel around the world with my whole family. We're all at SUCH great ages for it, too! Tom and I are still young enough to do it and the kids are all adult enough to do it. Wow -- THAT'S my dream!

11. What would you like the theme of 2009 to be? Change -- just like Obama says!

12. If 2009 was a book, and the title was 5 words or less, what might the title be? Be the Change You Want

13. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before? I took a job NOT in education and media production for kids and teens.

14. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don't make resolutions because I could never keep them!

15. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! My dear friend Rebekah!

16. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thankfully.

17. What countries did you visit?
Just Canada -- which is just about in my backyard.

18. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

19. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
August 20th, September 1st and September 10th -- the days three of the kids flew the nest and went to college.

10. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Successfully empty nesting. Miss them, but also enjoying just being Tom and me again.

21. What was your biggest failure?
Not taking better care of my health. Letting stress eat me up.

22. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, thank goodness.

23. What was the best thing you bought?
My camera.

24. Whose behavior merited celebration?
People who voted for Obama and change.

25. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Sarah Palin.

26. Where did most of your money go?
With four kids in college (three for whom we pay tuition), you know the answer to that!!

27. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
November 4th, 2008 and January 20, 2009!

28. What song will always remind you of 2008?
"Hey! I Love You!"

29. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
a. About the same
b. Fatter. :-(
c. See #26!

30. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing. Moving. Dancing.

31. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying. Working before 8 AM and after 8 PM.

32. How did you spend Christmas?
With the immediate family only. All the celebration, none of the stress!

33. Did you fall in love in 2008?
Like for the first time? Nope.

34. What was your favorite TV program?
OK, embarrassed here, but... THE BACHEOLR! And this season starts TONIGHT and features Seattle's own Jason. You better believe I'll be watching!

35. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I don't hate anyone.

36. What was the best book you read?
Born on a Blue Day, Blink, and a bunch of others. I get engrossed in books, then forget their names. Weird.

37. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Ben Folds

38. What did you want and get?
A new president!

39. What did you want and not get?
An iPhone and an iPod.

40. What was your favorite film of this year?
Saw a bunch, but none sticks out.

41. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 52 and went to the spa with my two daughters. Heaven!

42. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Doing more (career-wise) for kids and families. Helping to bring about a different type of "wealth."

43. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
If my daughter's approved it, it was deemed fashionable and acceptable... and sometimes I vetoed them because... hell, I'm 52, not 25!

44. What kept you sane?
My husband's love and support.

45. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

46. What political issue stirred you the most?
I was PISSED that we could elect the first black president but take away human rights on the same day! Prop 8 mortified me.

47. Who did you miss?
My mother. Always.

48. Who was the best new person you met?
Rebekah and her kidlets and all my wonderful new friends in Mumbai.

49. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
Sometimes you gotta forgo the dream and just take care of life's necessities.

50. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years." (Tim McGraw)

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Don't make me do it!

Don't make me get out of this...


(Of course, I refer to the robe only, a Christmas gift from Aleks and Peter.)

....or these...


(a gift from Tom's mother) make me deal with this...


and this...


and this...


...and especially this -- a dry, droopy, dismal fire hazard of a tree that the cats have used as their playground for the past month...


Look at that mess -- and she's just plotting her next attack!  Do you see any shame or remorse in those evil eyes?  Neither do I.  Today, I'm taking the playground away!

As much as I love putting up the tree on the early December weekend when we bake cookies, listen to carols, and sip spiced cider, I hate the cold day in early January when I (singular) take down the tree, sweep the dry needles, stuff everything back into Christmas bins, and cram it all back into the closet under the steps.

Last year I decided to have a little fun with it all and I told the picture story of the Christmas Decoration that Wouldn't Leave, but this year I have no time for such frivolity because I have a job that is going to kick my butt with an unrelenting fury starting again on Monday morning, and I have to set aside time to mentally prepare for the insanity that's to come in the next few months as I get sucked right back into the mind-numbing world that is Microsoft. 

What happened to my creativity, my independence, and my focus on education and changing the world for kids and families in ways that matter, you ask?  (You are asking that, are you not?)  I dunno, my friend.  I do not know.  But I miss it.  I miss producing cool media that makes people think.  I miss feeling that what I do is important in a change-the-world sort of way.  I miss being a renegade instead of a cog. And I miss feeling energized, rather than exhausted, by my job.  It's a job I'm grateful for and I'm surrounded by great people.  But I'm a worker now -- just a worker -- instead of a writer, a designer, a producer, a developer, or a creator of anything innovative or important. 

I guess I just need to be OK with that.  

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Another annual sauerbraten, käsespätzle, und rotkraut dinner

Every year when Tom's mother and brother visit for the Christmas holidays, we gather for our annual sauerbraten, käsespätzle, and rotkraut dinner. Usually we do it between Christmas and New years, but Seattle's weather threw everything off this year, so we ended up having our traditional dinner today.

This year we decided to forego the "quick sauerbraten" that I've thrown together in previous years. Instead, we made sauerbraten the real way, the traditional way -- soaking the meat in wine, vinegar, and spices in the refrigerator for a full two days. Thanks to Craig, who orchestrated it all, dinner was delicious... and oh, so much fun!

Elisabeth brought her boyfriend, CJ, and two of her housemates, Blake and Lauren, making for a grand total of eleven of us.

Here's a little photographic tour of our evening. One of these days, I'll need to post the recipes. Remind me before next year, OK?

Cutting 15 onions calls for "onion goggles." What? You think I'm kidding? Tom swears by these things!


Maybe it was more like 17 onions?!


I'm responsible for the rotkraut. First, take two heads of red cabbage and act like a junior high schooler:


Then steal some onions, add sliced apples, red wine vinegar, wine, brown sugar, and all kinds of spices: IMG_0283_1

Add the cabbage: IMG_0291_1

Let it all cook for a long time.

Meanwhile, bug Craig. Take pictures of everything he does as he prepares the sauerbraten:


Hey, Tom's bugging Craig too. But that's the job of a little brother, right? IMG_0293_1

This sauerbraten recipe is nothing like the recipe I've made for the past few years. First, the meat soaks for those two all-important days.


And this recipe has leeks...


and carrots:


Oh, and onions. Did I mention the onions? IMG_0302

Pretty, eh?


And now for the käsespätzle. It takes at least four hands to make them.


Awwww... brothers! Aren't they cute?


While those four hands are making the spätzle, grate the käse:


Then solicit three cute young ladies... IMG_0346_1 help assemble the käsespätzle.


Wait -- where did all these people come from? We SO need a bigger kitchen!


I think we might have made a little too much food! IMG_0362_1

Yup, we definitely did! IMG_0368_1

Now set the table all pretty and holiday-like...


And, after posing for yet another picture, dig in! Until next year, auf wiedersehen, tschuss, und GUTEN APPETITE!


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