Monday, December 27, 2010

Did she just tell me to take my pants off? Let's hope so, drawers are dropping...

As our holiday weekend is winding down I find myself looking back on the past couple of weeks and laughing... at myself. I have not been heeding my own advice lately, I have been getting bogged down in the negative, failing to take things one day, one beat at a time.

I finally have a set Doctor at a Japanese Hospital that will see me for my entire pregnancy. I also met with one of the Cardiologists at the same hospital who agreed to be there if anything were to happen, but who also said he thinks I will have a fine, healthy and long pregnancy with no complications. And to make my appointments as easy as possible, I was lucky enough to find a Japanese translator who is well versed in medical terms who we were able to hire for future appointments. All of the above is BEYOND fantastic and I am so thrilled to finally feel like I have someone who is following me and this pregnancy. But getting here was a nightmare. So many loopholes, so many people unwilling to be supportive or the least bit helpful. I found myself getting downright angry at times. Until I sat down to write this, I had not even rejoiced the fact that the Japanese Doctors are willing to take me as a patient for the entire pregnancy! Apparently that is not the norm here, so I AM very lucky. But all the anger and frustration I felt towards those who were NOT helpful kept me from enjoying the fact that I have found care. 

So, my first appointment with the Japanese Doc... 

A friend of a friend who is Japanese tagged along to translate. She admittedly knew very little medical terms so the communication was a struggle. The whole process was very different than what we are used to in the US. Again, they practice Socialized Medicine here in Japan so there are always a ton of people waiting to be seen. You are given a time to be there by, but this is not really your appointment time, it just means that you have a reservation starting at the assigned time. The doctor/patient ration is very high, it is not at all uncommon to wait three or more hours before you are seen. We only waited an hour. Amazing! 

The OB/GYN area is like a long hall with the different exam rooms on one side and benches on the other. Someone calls your name over a loud speaker (all in Japanese) and tells you what room to go in. Once my name was called they had me go into one (itty bitty tiny) room where a nurse asked me questions (all in Japanese). She then asked me to step back into the hall and into the next room (all in Japanese).  

Notice a trend? A translator was a MUST. 

Our translator was asked to wait in the hall, and once in the other room the nurse said something to me and Jeff, motioning something that looked like 'take off your pants'. At least we hoped that was what she meant otherwise I would have felt pretty foolish. There was a curtain drawn across the whole length of the room. It hung down right to the edge of the exam table. I was given instructions (all in Japanese) that I just assumed meant to sit on the exam table. Luckily all my assumptions had been right, and I hear the Doctor say "Trans vaginal ultrasound, OK." The curtain is drawn the entire time, hitting me just at my hips, so we did not see the Doctor or nurse at all. There was a screen on the wall next to my head so I was able to see our sweet baby, tiny little thing, with a strong heart beat. The Doctor said "Good, healthy, strong. OK." So I took that to mean it was alright to get dressed.

After that, with translator in tow, we met with the Doctor in yet another room. He arranged my appointment with the Cardiologist and said once he and the other Doctor have had a chance to discuss my case he will let me know what their plan is for my pregnancy. He also advised finding a different translator who knew more medical terms. He asked me to come back the first week in January, and we were done.

I can not wait for my second visit!

Looking back, it could have been so horrible. There was no english anywhere in the building, all the forms that I had to fill out were in Japanese, all the support staff spoke very little english... having someone who was willing to help a complete stranger was such a blessing. Now that I have been through it once I am sure all the subsequent visits will be cake, especially with my new baller translator who knows medical terms!

8 weeks down, 32 more to go...  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Yes, that is a brand name of a home pregnancy test sold here in good old Japan. You think I am kidding? Take a look for yourself:

I did not check my pee with this particular test, but a few (read FOUR) digital tests and one urine test at the Doctors and... I`m pregnant!

I decided getting my heart all healed and strong and beating like a normal human was not enough of an accomplishment for 2010 so I decided to throw pregnancy in the mix as well. Clearly I am over the top excited but I am as equally terrified, if I am being honest. This past April, before my ticker stuff hit the fan, we were trying for number two, found out we were expecting, and a few weeks later I had a miscarriage. Obviously I was not in the best state physically to procreate, but it was still hard. I was so ready to expand our family. Not like a, hey I want another baby, they are cute, kinda thing but an actual biological need kinda thing. All of that took a back seat once I started to feel really crummy over the summer. 

But I am all healed and well and feel GOOD!

Fast forward a few months and here I am expecting. Terrified. 

What if I have another miscarriage? Maybe the last one was because I had that cup of coffee, I better go buy decaf. What if the vein they reconstructed can`t handle the pressure of pregnancy? What if my pacemaker wires get like, PULLED OUT because of my growing belly? What Doctor am I going to see? The Doctors on Base treat me like I have the plague... AND a second head... Do I need to see a Japanese Doctor? Will they even take me as a patient?

It`s like a ridiculous loop of crazy concerns playing in my head. Although I did go buy decaf coffee.

OK, breath, the beat goes on, right?

There are so many unknowns involved with someone like me with my medical history being pregnant. And there is nothing I can do to foresee the future. I just have to wait and see what happens. That sounds like something I should be capable of, right? Ha. So far I have decided to see the Doctors on Base as long as they will let me while searching for/researching Doctors in the Japanese community. Remember we live in MISAWA, Japan, not Tokyo. So think farming/fishing, not booming metropolis of the future with state-of-the-art facilities.

Oh, and no matter where you are in Japan, they have Socialized Medicine. Oh, hello wrench, welcome to the works. So glad you could be thrown in. 

So be prepared for future blogs detailing my attempts to birth a baby in Japan. Adventures in navigating through Socialized Medicine as an Expatriate! 

That`s a hip thing to blog about, right?    

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey day wrap up, Rodenhizer edition

As I write this it is Monday night after a wonderful, long Holiday weekend. Although they don`t celebrate Thanksgiving in Japan (imagine that?!) Jeff still had the usual days off thanks to working on an American Air Force Base. As you may have been able to ascertain from my last post, I love cooking. I was so excited to spend this Thanksgiving together, we three in Japan. Last Thanksgiving Noah and I were in the US while I prepared for a surgery in December, so this was our first time ALL together.

Have I mentioned we live in a Japanese house?

Our little Japanese kitchen was not prepared for the onslaught of stuffing, turkey breast and cranberry sauce! We do not have a traditional oven... it`s more like a microwave with a convection oven setting. It works just fine but does not like to be on for longer than one hour. Plus the instruction manual is in Japanese... on to plan B.

Enter crock pot turkey breast with sausage and cranberry stuffing!

It turned out pretty good, a great attempt using what was at our disposal. The stuffing was actually a bit soggy; next time I won`t add as much chicken stock.

My memories of Thanksgiving growing up include listening to the local classic rock radio station, who hosted a sort of `music-thon` where people would call in and make donations to a certain charity to hear a specific song. The big ticket song was always `Alice`s Restaurant` by Arlo Guthrie. Jeff played the epic ditty along with some other classics... it sounded, smelled and tasted just like Thanksgiving should in the Rodenhizer home in Japan:-)

I had wanted to have our Christmas tree ready and waiting to be decorated during Thanksgiving day so we could look at it while eating (I am such and idealist, I realize) but we all had terrible colds last week. It just didn`t happen. Jeff managed to muster up the energy on Friday to pick out our tannenbaum. Here is what a live Christmas tree looks like, fresh from the store, in Japan:

Here is what it looks like, de-burlapped and untwined:

And here is what it looks like, in its decorated glory:

And here was Noah`s contribution to the decking of the halls:

He`s a jolly soul, full of the Christmas spirit and joy!

It was, simply put, a perfect start to our Holiday season. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

I brag about my cooking

It`s true... I am often giving myself pats on the old back for my latest tasty creation. And it`s not like I do anything fancy, I just cook what I like. Apparently with just a dash of modesty. But cooking is something that makes me indescribably happy and I am so lucky to be afforded the time to do what I love, leisurely, in my home, for my family.

But Noah is my biggest critic.

Now not all of my creations are home runs. In fact the other night I made a turkey meatloaf that was dry as could be! Noah would not touch it (Jeff said it was good, but he says that no matter what. That`s a good husband). However, last night I made a sort of ratatouille/lasagna dish that was AMAZING (clearly it only had a dash of modesty) and Noah again refused to touch it.

If only I could parent as well as I can cook.

Part of me does take it personally since I put so much of MYSELF and love into my cooking, but then again... he is two... he knows not what he does. So needless to say we had a stand off at dinner time; Noah gagging whenever I uttered the words `take a bite`, Jeff in the corner saying `Maybe he is just not hungry` and me saying `Oh he KNOWS what he is doing...`.

All of the sudden I have a two year old who is aware of his own personal wants/desires but is not yet capable of communicating exactly what he wants 100% of the time. Tantrums are frequent. He is a loud screamer. I am learning patience... but honestly most of the time am clueless as to WHAT TO DO with my two year old HUMAN (remember when he was just a little baby, and was seemingly perfect? Perfection is so UN-human).

Noah needs to discover his own `cooking`... something he loves and can loose himself in. Something he can do and be oh so proud of himself for doing. As his parent I need to help him discover all the joys and wonders and marvelous things there are in his world... things that are much more fun than tantrums. We will get there, I know, and until then I have my kitchen to retreat to, to cook away the day.

(But he WILL eat the leftovers tonight if it kills me!)

How to make your own Tasty Ratatouille Lasagna

1 yellow squash, sliced in 1/2 then diced
1 zucchini, sliced in 1/2 then diced
1 egg plant, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 pint mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can tomato sauce
No bake lasagna noodles (I use Barilla)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Feta cheese, crumbled
Parmesan cheese, grated

Saute the veggies in some olive oil with the spices and garlic for about 10 minutes or until they are somewhat soft. Add the tomato sauce and simmer for about 10 more minutes. Remove from heat, ladle about 1/4 of the chunky sauce into a casserole dish. Layer uncooked noodles (I only used three). Ladle on more sauce, then add a thick layer of mozzarella and sprinkle feta and parmesan. Layer noodles. Repeat with more sauce and cheese but end with the last of the sauce. I only had 2 layers of noodles because I wanted the chunky sauce to be the star. And it twas.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

To new beginnings

Oh the sad state of affairs that is my old blog. My intentions were true... my will on the other hand... 

So many things have changed since I last publicized my musings. It did not seem right to start where I last left off. And I don`t particularly want to talk about all the in between... I am in a state of moving forward and THAT is what I want to write about. Of course I will reference the past, everyone has one after all, and it has shaped who I am and what I do in my present. 

Enough philosophical waxing for one post, don`t you think?

So what am I up to these days? We are all together back in Misawa, Japan, making the most of our time as a family living in a foreign Country. There are so many opportunities to explore and learn and CHANGE... it can be overwhelming at times! But after my heart surgery I really started to see the world in a different light. It is so cliche, I almost hate to admit it, but going through such a major event really does change you and your perspective on life. And that is where the title of this blog came from. There is the obvious literal meaning... an `open heart surgery, pace maker` kinda thing. But figuratively... each day is just one beat in time, followed by another. Life moves forward. It is so easy to become bogged down with past `beats` (if you will) and miss out on THIS day. I don`t want to miss a second, because the beats don`t stop, they pass by in the blink of an eye. 

Oye, there I go waxing again. 

So here we are, we three in Japan, our little Family. As unconventional a road we took to get here, it is my world and a road I am happy to be on. 

And Noah... there are no words...