Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Hometown

Recently I was asked to co-write a blog post with the lovely and talented Kendra Thornton about what we love about our hometowns. As she is from a big city and I am not, obviously we are coming from two very different perspectives,  but there are plenty of things I love about Alabaster and the surrounding areas.

It should be no surprise that I love good food, and I'm very lucky to have a few really wonderful local restaurants nearby. The first is Joe's Italian. My current favorite is the Tortellini with Pesto Cream Sauce, but I love pretty much everything I've ever tried. And of course you have to save room for a piece of cake. I recommend the strawberry or neapolitan.
Next up is Los Angeles Burrito. A very small place with amazing, fresh mexican food. The best taco I've ever had in my life was at an open-air restaurant in Mexico and these taste almost exactly like those. Add a Mexican coke and you have an amazingly tasty lunch!
And if you feel like venturing down the road to Helena, check out Fox Valley Restaurant. I have previously proclaimed my love of this place and the only seafood dish I will eat - their crab cake!

Of course, there is more to life than food and there are other things I love about Alabaster. Ironically, one of the things is that it's a pretty quiet place. There isn't a ton of "stuff" to draw people here. Which means there are lots of "nothing to do" days. While Birmingham is not that far away, because I make that drive every day for work, I'm not always eager to do it on my off days!
One thing Alabaster does well is its parks, and I do enjoy walking at Veterans Park, especially when the weather is nice. There is also a great dog park there.

One thing nearby that I have never done but would absolutely love to do is visit American Village in Montevallo. I'm a big fan of history, and while I've seen many of these sites "for real" it's a beautiful place and I would love to spend some time there.
For the times that we want to getaway (but not really) we do enjoy camping at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham. Obviously if you're an outdoorsy person there's plenty to do, but even for someone like me who isn't exactly wilderness Barbie, it's a great way to spend an afternoon or even a weekend!

And now, here is what Kendra had to say about Chicago -

Where to Go in Chicago
There are many places around the world that I like to visit. At times, I have visited places with my husband and children, but other times I like to be by myself. Either way, traveling truly excites me. When I meet people wherever I go, I like to direct them to a place they may not have been, and that is my town of Chicago.
1. Go to a Professional Game
One of the things that Chicago gets overlooked at is in terms of professional sports teams. The truth of the matter is that many cities across the United States are not hosts to four of the biggest professional sports teams in the country. Chicago has two professional baseball teams, with one being on the north side and the other being on the south side. Professional hockey is quite popular at this time, since the Chicago Blackhawks recently won the Stanley Cup. Going to a professional game, or at least to a place that features a game, is an excellent way to get immersed in the Chicago culture.
2. Go to New Heights
The Willis Tower, which is always known to some native Chicagoans as Sears Tower, has a place that people can truly experience what it means to go out on a limb. The SkyDeck, which is on floor 103, gives children and adults the opportunity to see the city and the surrounding area in a glass enclosure. The enclosure is made up of multiple layers of glass and it is extremely strong. Some people who have been on the SkyDeck describe it as floating on the air.
3. Go to Get Pampered
When I need to get away from all of my troubles, worries and stresses, I go to the Peninsula. This fancy hotel allows me to unwind exactly the way that I need to. Located on East Superior Street, the Peninsula has a fabulous spa and it gives me a number of options for what I want to have done. After my spa treatment, I have an exquisite meal at the restaurant in the hotel. At times, I may not stay a night, but I truly enjoy the pampering that I receive. Chicago does however offer a number of hotels new or historic for couples and families. Many of these hotels are within the city limits, making the various sites in walking distance.
4. Go to Eat
Chicago has plenty of wonderful diners throughout the town. One of my favorites is “Uncle Lou” by Lou Michell. This historic and terrific diner has delicious food that my children enjoy. The prices are quite decent. Besides this, children and women receive Milk Duds, which is a Chicago creation, when entering this memorable facility.
Chicago is a great city. With so many places in which to go, staying multiple days is the best thing to do. It is no surprise that people keep coming back and even choose to move here. I know I did.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Smooth Operator

So way back when we first started this journey, my doctor laid out a big roadmap of where we might be headed and what might be happening. One of the last things he mentioned was exploratory surgery to diagnose or rule out (and treat if necessary) endometriosis. The possibility of endometriosis came up again when I had some lingering pain after the ruptured ovarian cyst, but because the only way to diagnose it was surgery, he wasn't eager to force the issue since I was slowly but surely getting better. But now that we have ruled out and tried pretty much everything else, we're at that point near the end of the road where it's appropriate and necessary.

 I was not expecting it to happen so quickly, but when they called on Friday to get it scheduled, it ended up that Monday was the best option! Well, ok! I tend to stress and worry over stuff anyway so that probably was best. It was enough time for me to process and adjust to the idea of it without having too much time to stress. So yeah, I've pretty much decided that about a 48-72 hour window is what I need to adjust to something that's not a TOTAL shock.

 I had done my reading and research, was with my mom when she had laparoscopic surgery (although not for this), and I DO work in a hospital and have made enough visits to both pre-op and pacu that I feel like I'm reasonably familiar and comfortable with what happens. Heck, I've even been in the OR and seen things that most people outside healthcare don't get to see. Still, I was a little surprised (and not at all happy) when I was told "oh by the way, you're only allowed clear liquids the day before" Especially since I'd been cooking for three days for a little get-together that was going to be, you guessed it, the day before my surgery. So instead of white chicken chili, wine, spinach dip, and salsa I got to have broth, sprite, and gatorade. I have never wanted a Frito so badly in my life!

 The morning of surgery I was instructed to check in at the outpatient surgery center at 6:45. I was honestly surprised at how quickly everything went. They called me back to prep me at about 7:10 and I was rolling back to the OR at 7:35! I was the most nervous about the IV, and while she only had to stick me once, it was kind of nerve-wracking. She asked if I was ok if she didn't numb it first because it was such a tiny vein. She had to dig a little, but she got it and I've never been so relieved to be done with something. It was the longest three minutes of my life! I remember very little after they put "the good stuff" in my IV as they started to roll me out. I have some vague fuzzy memories of moving onto the table but that's about it. When I woke up in recovery, I wasn't quite aware of where I was I just had the feeling I was waking up and needed to go to the bathroom. So what do you do when you feel that every morning? You get up and go! So I started trying to get up and the nurse had to tell me to lay back down. Once I was awake though, I was pretty much ready to go. The first thing I asked for was my glasses because I couldn't see squat! I had to wait until they got me out of recovery and into a discharge room. I asked the nurse what time it was and she told me it was about 9. I was pretty antsy to get up, get something to drink, and get the heck out of there. She kept offering me pain medicine and I kept turning it down. At one point she flat out told me "you're making faces like you're in a lot of pain. I'd really like to give you something." I honestly told her that it was just my throat hurting and asked for something to drink. She got me a diet coke and it was the best thing ever!

They moved me to a "discharge room" and I immediately wanted to get up and go to the bathroom. I was told before surgery that my ticket out was going tinkle, so as soon as I did that I was told I could get dressed and we could go.  The discharge nurse told me she was impressed by how well I was able to walk around on my own and I even managed to get dressed without any help. By 10,  Jeff and I were halfway home home and swinging through the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru to get breakfast!

I'm not a great patient and I don't like being helpless, but all things considered my recovery was pretty easy. Jeff stayed with me and we spent the day in the den watching Harry Potter movies and enjoying the new recliners. He got me Chicken and Dumplings for an early dinner and I took a couple of pain pills but they never made me really sleepy. I wasn't ready to lay flat so I just spent that night in the recliner. The next day I got to finally take a shower and wash all the hospital crud off of me and with the exception of a little bit of soreness/stiffness particularly when I went from sitting to standing I felt pretty good. It was over a week before I was comfortable wearing anything except elastic waist pants but overall it was pretty easy. The most annoying part was having the little strings hanging out of my belly button! I don't like loose strings on my clothes or my stuff. I'm NOT a fan of having them hanging out of my body!

My lower two incisions stayed pretty sore for the whole two weeks between surgery and my post-op appointment. When I went back to have my stitches removed he told me the incision in my belly button was perfect but the lower two were "kind of angry looking" so he gave me some antibiotics, but said he thought they'd heal a lot better without the little "foreign bodies" (stitches) in there and sure enough the residual pain was gone within a day of having the stitches removed. He also talked to me about what he found during the surgery. He had talked to Jeff and given him some pictures on surgery day, but it was nice to hear it all myself. He did find some endometriosis, but it presented as a peritoneal window, which is basically a little hole in the lining around my pelvic organs. He said that, while it's not the most common way of finding endometriosis, it's not an uncommon thing, and they cleaned it all up and are hopeful that it will do the trick!

Now we do more waiting to see what happens!