Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DC Trip

Since I don't have class on Fridays this semester and I didn't have school on Jan. 18 for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we decided to take a quick trip east (and a little south) to visit our friend Brandon. This trip has been about four years in the making, because he is in his last semester of dental school at Virginia Commonwealth University and I promised him when he started that I would come visit him while he was still in school. So, since this was almost the last possible chance to do so, we headed out.

We drove southeast from Columbus, through West Virginia and got to Richmond, Virginia (where Brandon lives) in about 7.5 hours. Not bad at all. Clara was a trooper on the trip and behaved pretty well (especially when we shared with her our favorite road trip snack!) We stayed up until about 1 a.m. talking with Brandon, and then he was kind enough to give us his bedroom and he slept on a mattress on the living room floor.

The next morning (Friday) we drove into Richmond with Brandon, and he showed us around the VCU medical campus, as well as the state capitol building of Virginia (which is right across the street). (It is also in the picture above this paragraph.) We ate lunch at Jo-Jo's Pizza, and then we walked Brandon back to his clinic and left him to do some dentistry. We drove around downtown a bit to explore some more and then drove back to Brandon's house for the girls to have a nap and me to be lazy on the couch.

This is Brandon inside an old church on campus that has been renovated into a really cool study hall.

When Brandon finished with his patients, he took a quick nap and then we went out to dinner at Jason's Deli (which gives FREE soft-serve ice cream to everyone who comes in ... incredible!) and then got some dessert at Frostings Cupcakes (delicious, too.) After we got back from dinner, Clara went to bed and Crystal read for a while and then fell asleep. Brandon and I drove around Richmond for a while, and he told me about the history of the area and showed of the big statue of Stonewall Jackson and the beautiful southern avenues in the city. We got back in time to hang out with Brandon's roommates for a little while, and see the great finish to the Suns-Hawks NBA game.

The next morning we got up and drove north about 90 minutes to Washington DC. Brandon left us there to go study for a few hours. Our friend Nicki (who works for Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah)) was kind enough to get our names on the list of visitors to the White House that day, so we parked on the west side of the White House and tried to get into the tour. We tried to walk around the south of the building to get to the East Wing (where our tour was) and were turned away by a uniformed officer. I asked him what was going on and he said he didn't know. So, we walked the long way around and then finally got to the line. We waited about 30 minutes to get in (showing our photo ID twice and going through a big metal detector). Clara was a good sport because I didn't let her get off my shoulders very much (so she didn't cause any national security alerts, ha ha).

As we went through the metal detector, I heard one of the Secret Service agents say, "Eagle and Trailblazer are here today, everybody's here." I figured out he was talking about people by their Secret Service codenames, and "Trailblazer" sounded really familiar. (It turns out Trailblazer is George W. Bush, and Eagle is Bill Clinton). The two former presidents were there with President Obama to talk about the Haiti earthquake disaster relief efforts. We didn't get to see them, but they didn't get to see us either, so we'll call it a draw.

The White House was beautiful and is a fitting place for the leader of our country to greet visitors and to live. It is large, but it still feels like a home, not like a government building. There is so much history and art in it that it was amazing to see and made me proud of our national heritage as I thought of all the great men who have walked those same halls.

Here is the Capitol. Very large and very beautiful.

After the White House, we drove to Crystal City (just across the Potomac to the south) and checked into our hotel, the Hampton Inn. We got a great deal (about $80/night) and a hot breakfast at the hotel, and would recommend it to anyone headed to DC, as it is only a five-minute drive from the National Mall. After getting settled, we changed into nicer clothes, met up with Brandon and his girlfriend, Shonni, and drove to Georgetown to eat at Filomena, a wonderful Italian restaurant. It is pretty expensive, but we got a good deal because it was Restaurant Week in DC. Since we had an early dinner, we had time to have more fun, so we drove back to the hotel, changed into comfy clothes and then rode the Metro to the Verizon Center to watch the Sacramento Kings (Brandon and Crystal's hometown favorite) play the Washington Wizards. The Wizards won a pretty close game, but it was sure fun to be there. Brandon and Shonni played with Clara almost the whole time and Clara ate up the attention. After the game, we rode the metro back to the hotel (that is the way to go, by the way, because the station is built almost exactly under the Verizon Center, and there was another station only a block from our hotel.)

The game.
Brandon and Shonni at the game.

We had hot chocolate and visited for a while longer and then Brandon and Shonni left and we went to bed. We got up Sunday morning and, after eating a delicious hot breakfast at the hotel, drove about 30 minutes to church. Shonni's ward is one of just a couple singles wards in the DC area, and I saw several people I know, including an old roommate, a mission buddy and a friend from Provo. There are three other people I am friends with who were gone for the holiday weekend, too, so I felt like it was a mini-reunion all around. After church, we went back to the hotel and took a wonderful nap. It rained all that day, and everyone knows rainy Sunday naps are the best kind.

When we woke up, we called Brandon and Shonni and they came back and we all drove into Maryland to see the Washington DC Temple. It was beautiful in the foggy rain.

We also got to visit the visitors center next door and Clara loved The Christus statute of Jesus Christ.

We drove back in the rain and hung out for a while longer before heading to be. We slept in a bit on Monday and let Brandon study some more while we went to the National Mall and visited the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Lincoln Monument. It was wonderful to see these great monuments to some of the people who gave so much and did so much in the building of our great nation. It was humbling to see them and to think of what they represent. We didn't get to go up the Washington Monument nor into any of the Smithsonian Museums, so we already know we want to go back.

The WWII monument. Each pillar represents those who served from a state or US territory.
I like the flag in this shot.

Clara at the WWII Monument.

Crystal and Clara with the Washington Monument in the background.

Outside the Lincoln Memorial.

Inside the Lincoln Memorial.

The mall from the Lincoln Memorial.

All of us in front of the mall. The flash makes this look like we were pasted into a stock photo!

Clara cuddled up on my head!

After exploring there, we met Brandon and Shonni (after a 45-minute search for parking!) at Old Ebbitt Grill, a restaurant across the street from the White House where many of the presidents have eaten. I had a wonderful crab cake and Crystal had crab legs.
Crystal with her crab!

After that, we were having so much fun with Brandon and Shonni that we decided to go to get dessert at Georgetown Cupcake. Traffic and parking were again crazy, so it took a couple hours to get to Georgetown, park and walk to the cupcakes and the wait in line to get our goods. They were worth the wait. We then found a little park and talked there and ate cupcakes while Clara played. She found some water and some dirt and then a mixture of the two and got good and muddy. She was having a grand old dirty time, and Crystal said a few people walked by her and muttered stuff like, "Look at that little girl, I wonder who her mother is...," and "She is so muddy, where is her mother?" Pretty funny! We just took her back to the car, put her in her dry pajamas and she was set. We said goodbye to Brandon and Shonni and then headed home.

This is a pretty street in Georgetown.

The drive back was smooth and uneventful. We made it back in just more than 6 hours. It was a wonderful trip and so much fun to visit with Brandon before he graduates. It was also a good way for me to ease back into the hectic swing of my semester.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

First Adventure of the New Year

Maria: Gretl, what happened to your finger?
Gretl: It got caught.
Maria: Caught in what?
Gretl: Friedrich's teeth.
-- "The Sound of Music"

Crystal wishes her finger were that lucky!

I was at school yesterday about 3 p.m., working on my law journal article, when I got a call from Crystal asking me if I thought she should go to the ER because she cut her finger while chopping celery.

Crystal, as you may or may not know, is always reluctant to go to the doctor because she knows her body will heal and it will just be an expensive hassle usually to seek further medical attention than whatever she can do herself. Because of this, I knew it must be pretty bad or else she wouldn't have called me.

That, and she said the tip was flapping off the end. That was another good hint.

She had sliced it diagonally across about 40 percent of her nail on the left index finger. And she almost made it clean through.

Anyway, I rushed out of school, calling David and Megan, who went to help out. Megan picked up Crystal and Clara and I headed for the ER at the Ohio State hospital to meet them. When I was just pulling into the hospital, I got a call from Crystal saying they decided to go to an Urgent Care instead.

So, I drove to the other side of town and met them there. Megan took Clara and Crystal and I started our grand adventure.

After paying a $25 copay and waiting about 30 minutes, they brought us back and did some vital sign checks. Then the doctor came in. He looked at the finger for about 30 seconds and walked out of the room. We were wondering what was going on when a nurse came in and said, "The doctor said you need to go to the Emergency Room because we can't help you here."

Oh, well.

We drove back to the ER, where I had been to begin with, and began another round of waiting. We sat in that waiting room for about 2.5 hours (watching Law & Order episode after Law & Order episode) before getting called back. Once we got in our room, we waited another 45 minutes or so before a doctor came in. It turns out the ER was really swamped last night. It would have been nice to know we would wait that long, though because I could have run out and found some dinner.

Anyway, when the doctor came in, he said originally that he was going to take the nail off, sew up the finger and then sew the nail back on in order to protect the finger. The nail would be dead, but it would help the rest of it heal.

Once he numbed Crystal up, though, he found out there was nothing to sew. She almost completely sliced off an entire chunk, so much so that that piece of the finger was toast. He cut it off and then she started bleeding a lot, so he made a mini-tourniquet out of the finger of a surgical glove and stopped it that way. Then, he used some cotton swabs loaded with silver nitrate to chemically cauterized (read: burn the flesh) and seal off the bleeding. It was pretty cool, and Crystal even watched a lot of it (she would!)

Finally, they bandaged it up and we were off. We picked up Clara about 10:30 p.m. and David handed us some pasta he'd made (because we still hadn't eaten) and we got home. Crystal was in a lot of pain, so she took some Tylenol and was able to sleep decently.

She can't get her finger wet (so no washing dishes for her!) and walks around with her finger in the air like she is making a point, but seems like she'll survive. She even finished making the meal she was planning for yesterday.

I was going to put the pictures of the finger in the middle of the post, but I know some people have a hard time looking at blood-and-guts pictures, so I posted them last. Enjoy.

The first one is the cut. I apologize for it being out-of-focus. Blame Blackberry.

Here is the chunk after they removed it (and a close-up, in which you can kind of see the piece of nail as well as a bit of her [former] fingerprint.) I told her since her fingerprint is different that now she can get away with stuff!

Finally, here is the finger with the cauterized spot. You can see how much was chopped off. Also, notice how puffy her finger is as it is full of all sorts of anesthetic.

Final note: I have to mention that we laughed A LOT at the ER thinking about the fact that she chopped of a chunk of her finger. It is really funny, especially when it isn't hurting her. She'll be OK, but will always remember that celery. I think it means she'll have that much more room for cutting without worrying about another injury.

PS - As we were getting ready to leave the ER, I couldn't help myself. I thanked the doctor and told him he could keep the tip.