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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Food Glorious Food

Hot Sausage and Mustard
While we're in the mood
Cold Jelly and Custard
Pease pudding and saveloy
What next is the question.........la la la

And what next IS the one question I am getting fed up answering at the moment.

With my pregnancy nausea (and I refuse to call it morning sickness as that would suggest a respite from it for the rest of the day and night!) I have found that the only way to keep it at bay is to constantly eat. If I go more than 90 minutes without eating something I am then very nauseas and off kilter for the rest of the day. A great "problem" to have most people will say and, yes, for anyone that loves food, imagine having an excuse to eat so often in a day. The issue comes from having to constantly think up what to eat next.

Breakfast is fairly easy as I start off with a bowl of muesli before I get up properly then 90 minutes later I have my second breakfast (just like a wee Hobbit) of toast and some sort of eggs. Then I go out to walk the dogs for several hours and have to pack my lunch and snack bag as if I was going on a major military campaign in the desert. One just gets so bored with the same food over and over and after a couple of days I have to rethink all my snacks and come up with a complete alternative set. Living in America is making it easier as they have so many choices and you can get everything individually packed to keep fresh on the go but still I find I am struggling to think up new and tasty foods that I can stomach.

But think positive Hazel, so far the baby is healthy. You get to try lots of new foods that you normally wouldn't eat and you have not yet gained any weight.

For once in my life I am actually looking forward to having a sticky out belly and gaining some weight. It is quite a mind blowing concept for me not to have to worry about crunching those abdominal muscles. I have even cancelled my gym membership for now as it was costing $100 a month and I just was not going to use it. I am walking at least 5 miles each weekday anyway and from May the outdoor pool will be open as well so I am sure I will go swimming most days even just to cool down. Any other exercise like yoga and pilates can just be done in the house with the help of the fitness channel on tv or some home exercise dvds.

I am now in my second Trimester and looking forward to the nausea going away - unless I am one of those unlucky people that have it for full pergnancy but no, positive thoughts, it is going to go away in the next week for sure!!!

Well what else have we been up to? Last weekend we had some lovely weather with the sun out and temperatures in the high seventies. Jar and I put the roof down on the Miata and drove with a picnic to the National Arboretum. I had visited there at the end of last summer (in a previous blog and photos on facebook) and I suggested that we go so he can see it. We had a lovely walk and picnic in the woods and a lovely drive with the wind in our hair.
After the Arboretum we decided to stop at Eastern Market - a sunday flea market and farmers market at the back of Capitol Hill. It was a lovely stroll and I found a second hand bookshop and a baby clothes consignment store, so I will definitely go back for a better browse another time.

As we were driving home we had to drive past the Capitol Building and the Mall. It was on the Sunday that the Healthcare reform bill was being signed by the Senate and there were various protest marches for and against this bill and regarding immigration reform (it was all a major story on the news over here). There was supposed to have been several hundres thousand people shipped in from around the country for the protests and it was interesting to see them. We didn't stop and get out as, you can imagine, there was no parking available but still interesting to drive through.

Stopped off on the way home for a lovely treat of Ben and Jerrys ice cream in Bethesda - baby wanted ice cream!!!!!

Well just a short one for this week as still not up to doing too much.

On a serious note, my thoughts are with Laura Croxson and her family as she is going through a rough time at the moment.

Well bye for now and all hae a nice week - Spring Break over here for a lot of people. Xx

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Nuchal test and some Terracotta Warriors

Well I will start with the baby bit at the risk of boring everyone. If you are not interested just scroll down to the second part of blog. I am conscious of going on and on about baby stuff, like I am the only woman to ever have a baby in the world. It is just a large part of life for me at the moment that it is difficult to blog without making some mention. So, please bear with me until normal service is resumed.

Nuchal Test

Well I am a geriatric mum to be as I am the grand old age of 39. This puts me more at risk of having a baby with a genetic issue like Spinal Bifida or, the main one, Downs Syndrome. Spinal bifida is tested by taking blood from a finger prick and sending off to the lab. This was taken at my 10 week check up so I was just waiting for the results.

There are various ways of testing for Downs Syndrome. The first, and newest, is the Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) which is usually performed between the 10 and 12 week mark.
Who needs to take the test, and why?

CVS is used to get an early diagnosis of genetic and/or chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. It's offered when there's an increased risk of such defects, and when expectant parents want early test results instead of waiting to have an amniocentesis (which tests for many of the same abnormalities but is given only in the second trimester). You may be offered CVS if you will be 35 or older on your due date, have had a prior child with chromosomal or genetic abnormalities, or have a history of such problems in your family. If you feel strongly that you would rather have the option of terminating a pregnancy before the end of your first trimester, you should ask your doctor about this test as an alternative to amniocentesis. Be aware, however, that the CVS test carries a slightly higher risk of test-related miscarriage than amnio -- perhaps 1 in 100 for CVS as opposed to less than 1 in 200 for amnio. (Some medical sources say this risk could be as high as 3.5 or 4 in 100, but, to date, no controlled studies have been completed.) Also, you should be aware that CVS cannot test for neural tube defects.
What's involved?
Chorionic villus sampling begins with an ultrasound exam, which is needed to confirm the age of the fetus and the position of the placenta. Then, using the ultrasound image as a guide, the practitioner removes a tiny piece of the chorionic villi, the fingerlike projections of tissue that attach the placenta to the wall of the uterus. This can be done in one of two ways. (1) In a transcervical CVS, the practitioner inserts a narrow tube through the vaginal canal and into the cervix, using gentle suction to extract a bit of the needed tissue. (2) In a transabdominal CVS, a long, narrow needle is inserted through the abdomen and into the uterus to extract the tissue. The type of CVS your practitioner chooses to perform will depend on your individual anatomy and the position of the placenta. The villi sample (which shares the same genetic makeup as the baby) is sent to a lab, where it is grown in a culture, then checked for defects.
The test lasts about a half an hour, but the extraction process should only take a few minutes. It may be painless, or it may pinch or hurt briefly. Afterward, you should take it easy: plan to take the rest of the day off of work, arrange for a ride home, and relax. You may experience mild cramping and slight spotting. Any prolonged bleeding or cramping should be immediately reported to your healthcare provider.
When are test results available, and how are they interpreted?
Results are normally available within 7 to 14 days. CVS test results are more than 99 percent accurate in diagnosing many genetic and chromosomal abnormalities. If you receive "normal" results, your baby has an excellent chance of being healthy -- but be aware that the test doesn't rule out every possible problem. If your test results indicate an abnormality, you will meet with your practitioner and a genetic specialist to discuss your options, which may include further tests.

A very interesting test but it is still so new that there are a number of undocumented concerns about it. The first is that most practitioners are not yet experts and have not carried out the test regularly yet. One book I read said only to do it if it is done by one of the few experts available and definitely not to just let your normal practitioner do it. The other concern is that it has been thought in some cases (although unofficially) to cause missing limbs or appendages in the baby once born.

For these reasons and after discussion with other people, we decided against this test. The main reason being the very high risk of miscarriage.

The next type of test is at the 12 week ultra screen and is known as Nuchal Testing.

The nuchal translucency screening test is among the newest of the many first-trimester screening tests now being offered to pregnant women. The nuchal translucency (NT) screening test — basically a specialized ultrasound — lets you know if you're at an increased risk for having a baby with a chromosomal problem such as Down syndrome. Unlike amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), however, the nuchal translucency test cannot give you a definitive answer as to whether your baby has a genetic abnormality, but rather it gives the statistical likelihood of one. With that information in hand, you and your practitioner can then decide if further (more invasive, but conclusive) testing, such as amnio or CVS, is necessary.

What exactly does it measure? The test focuses on a small, clear space in the tissue at the back of your growing baby's neck called the nuchal fold. Experts have found that this spot tends to accumulate fluid and, as a result, expand in size in babies who have genetic abnormalities like Down syndrome (caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21, one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes that contain our genetic code), trisomy 18 (an extra copy of chromosome 18), and trisomy 13 (an extra number 13 chromosome).

Nuchal translucency screening — which must be performed between 11 to 14 weeks of pregnancy (after that, the tissue gets so thick that it is no longer translucent, rendering the test inconclusive) — is done with a highly sensitive ultrasound machine (but like a regular sonogram, is considered safe). A sonographer will first measure your baby from crown to rump, to confirm his or her gestational age, before zooming in on the nuchal fold and measuring its thickness on the screen. That value, plus the mother's age and the baby's gestational age, will be entered into a formula that calculates the probability of a chromosomal abnormality.

Because NT results by themselves have an accuracy rate of just 70 to 75 percent (meaning that the test misses 25 to 30 percent of babies with Down syndrome), your practitioner might offer what's referred to as a combined or integrated screening, in which the NT ultrasound results are combined with one or two blood tests that measure and compare your levels of two maternal pregnancy hormones, beta-hCG and PAPP-A. By combining these blood tests with NT, the accuracy of detection rates for Down syndrome rises dramatically to between 83 and 92 percent.

One drawback to the NT screening, and even the combined screening, is the risk of false negatives and false positives — not to mention the emotional hoops of worry and waiting that you'll have to jump through. But if you're on the fence about amnio, NT screening may help you determine whether you need it.

So we went ahead with this test as the risk to the pregnancy was zero anyway.

It was amazing to see the pictures of the baby again and how much it has developed in the 2 weeks since my first scan. It was also visibly moving in my uterus. It started off lying on its back and then flipped right over to be face down – which was a problem for getting the measurements. The sonographer made me shake my hips from side to side to try and get it to flip back and it eventually did. I was completely overwhelmed by seeing what was growing inside me and the fact that it was moving around.

Here are the pictures:

Before I took the test my risk of having a Downs baby was 1 in 102 because of my age. My Doctor phoned with the results after 24 hours and the results were good in that my risk had reduced to 1 in 2021, which is about the same as someone under 23 – therefore, my age is not a significant factor. I am also negative for Spinal bifida from my blood results which is good as well.
So the decision now has to be made as to whether we then follow this up with an Amniocentesis.
This is a much more conclusive test but also has a high risk (1 in 200 or 1 in 300 dependent on which book you read) of miscarriage.

How is amniocentesis performed?
An ultrasound is used as a guide to determine a safe location for the needle to enter the amniotic sac so the fluid may be safely removed. A sample of amniotic fluid is collected through the needle. The procedure takes about 45 minutes, although the collection of fluid takes less than five minutes. The amniotic fluid, which contains cells shed by the fetus, is sent to the laboratory for analysis. Results can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks to be returned.
When is amniocentesis performed?
Amniocentesis is usually performed between 14 and 20 weeks. Some medical facilities may perform amniocentesis as early as 11 weeks.
Amniocentesis can be used later in the third trimester for a few reasons. Your healthcare provider may recommend the procedure if your membranes have ruptured prematurely to assess for uterine infections. Amniocentesis may also help determine the severity of fetal anemia in babies with Rh disease and assist your physician determine whether the fetus requires lifesaving blood transfusions.
Amniocentesis is sometimes done to assess lung maturity. If so, this is done shortly before delivery.
What does the amniocentesis test look for?
Amniocentesis detects chromosome abnormalities, neural tube defects and genetic disorders. Down syndrome or Trisomy 21 is the most common chromosome abnormality. Genetic disorders include disorders like cystic fibrosis. The most common neural tube defect is spina bifida.
Amniocentesis is occasionally used late in pregnancy to assess whether the baby's lungs are mature enough for the baby to breathe on his own.
Amniocentesis also provides access to DNA for paternity testing prior to delivery. DNA is collected from the potential father and is compared to DNA obtained from the baby during amniocentesis. The results are accurate (99%) for determining paternity.
What do amniocentesis results mean?
Amniocentesis is a diagnostic test that detects chromosome abnormalities, neural tube defects and genetic disorders with high levels of accuracy (98-99%). Although the probabilities of identification are high, this test does not measure the severity of these birth defects. Alpha-fetoprotein levels and advanced level ultrasounds may assist in assessing the severity.
What are the risks and side effects to the mother or baby?
Although amniocentesis is considered to be a safe procedure, it is recognized as an invasive diagnostic test that does pose potential risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is performed approximately 200,000 times a year.
Miscarriage is the primary risk related to amniocentesis. The risk of miscarriage ranges from 1 in 400 to 1 in 200. In facilities where amniocentesis is performed regularly, the rates are closer to 1 in 400. Miscarriages can occur because of infection in the uterus, the water breaks or labor is induced prematurely

Now the decision has been very difficult as I have had to weigh up the risk of miscarrying a healthy fetus from the amnio or worrying about the risk of having a Downs baby.

I won’t go into my decision process as I don’t really want to open up a debate about handicapped children, abortions, adoption or any of the other subjects that comes up in these decision processes – I would support anyone in any of their decisions no matter what my beliefs are.
Anyway as my risk is so low we have decided not to have the amnio and see what happens. So now I guess I just have to sit back and let my body cook the little bun in my oven.
I have a doctors appointment every month and will get my next set of scans at the end of April at which time we should be able to see the sex of the baby (if we choose) if it is sitting in the right position. I want to know the sex just because I can. I said to Jarlath I wish you couldn’t actually tell and then I would be surprised but because you can I need to know – if that makes sense.

Terracotta Warriors
The Terracotta Army (simplified Chinese: 兵马俑; traditional Chinese: 兵馬俑; pinyin: bīngmǎ yǒng; literally "soldier and horse funerary statues") is the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang the First Emperor of China. The terracotta figures, dating from 210 BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. (Chinese: 秦始皇陵; pinyin: Qín Shǐhuáng di). The figures vary in height (183–195 cm - 6 ft–6 ft 5in), according to their role, the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.[1] Many archeologists believe that there are many pits still waiting to be discovered.

So, the National Geographic museum in Washington had an exhibition of them which we were very keen to see. I booked tickets for myself, Jar, Dawn, Simon and Vicky for an afternoon out and then the plan was to go out for drinks and dinner afterwards. This was all booked before I started to feel ill and before I knew I was pregnant.

I drove us all downtown and we started by having a coffee as we arrive a bit earlier than our entry time and also because Jar and I wanted to tell Simon and Dawn about the pregnancy. They had been in Canada working at the winter Olympics for all of February so we had not seen them yet to tell them. Jar handed Dawn the envelope with the scans and it was so sweet because she just burst into tears and was so thrilled for us. Simon was thrilled as well but didn’t show it quite as emotionally as Dawn.

We then went into the Terracotta warrior exhibition. I felt really warm and a bit faint so had to sit down a lot and just wait for every else. What we saw was interesting but the exhibition was just far too small. It was like we saw the introduction and were then expecting to go into the main exhibit but that was all they had. Not worth the money and it only lasted just over an hour and not the whole afternoon as planned. All a bit of an anti-climax for us which we all agreed on.
We all then headed to Georgetown for a bite of lunch and then just home. So from what was supposed to be a full day and night out we were all home by tea time. Not a problem as Simon and Dawn had lots to do after just getting back from Canada, I was knackered as usual and Vicky was tired from work as well.

So my recommendation is not to bother going to see the Terracotta warriors exhibition if it comes to a museum near you.
Well that is all for this week. Hope everyone is well. Xx

Sunday, March 14, 2010

That doesn’t look like a bowel blockage!!!!

As most of you will know I have not been well for some time (since about the middle of January) and it has been affecting my everyday life quite a bit. I have had lots of random symptoms although I won’t go into graphic detail about each one. I have now had my diagnosis and here is my tale.

I guess I really have to start this story just over 15 years ago. A completely different and much younger version of Hazel was married to John. We decided to try for a baby. With hindsight I can now see that this was an attempt to patch up an already failing marriage but the problem with hindsight is that it comes too late usually! After trying for over a year there was nothing much happening on the baby front so I was referred by my Doctor to a fertility specialist at Glasgow Victoria Infirmary. Lots of blood tests, internals, laparoscopy and a course of Clomid fertility drugs later there was still no baby. I won’t go into much further detail but one separation, a divorce and then a serious episode of Depression for me later, I emerged a much stronger and more determined woman.

So I threw myself into my career as I now believed that I was unable to have children so focused on something else in life. Again summarizing here, I met a lovely man, spent many years going out and then living together and then eventually we married. I had always been upfront with Jarlath about my fertility issues as I didn’t want to be involved with someone else that desperately wanted a baby which I could not give them. Luckily Jarlath was of the same mindset as me and was not that bothered about procreating. So now we skip ahead again to 2008.
Our opportunity to move to America came and we decided to take it and for me to take a career break to set up our new life over here. As you can see from my blog it has been going very well so far.

I had always been taking a pill for my bad skin (I am very prone to Acne) and to control my hormones which helps to prevent me getting depressive episodes. One side effect of this pill is that it is also a contraceptive pill although I didn’t believe I needed that. So with my new less stressed and more natural lifestyle I wanted to stop taking this pill as I wanted to see how my body reacted without pumping it full of hormones every day. We discussed this together as we knew that we would no longer we taking any contraceptive protection if I stopped this but thought that with my history while there was a risk it was so improbable that it wouldn’t make much difference. We also discussed the fact that if I did happen to get pregnant that it would be lovely to have a baby especially after spending time around the lovely babies Ciara and Cate at Thanksgiving. So after our Thanksgiving trip at the end of November 2009 I stopped taking my pill.

During December and the early part of January I could feel that my hormones were up and down but I had expected this while my body got rid of the remnants of the pill. My period came on time at the end of December and my skin did not break out into the bad acne I had previously suffered from, so all was apparently going well! Then in mid January I started to feel really unwell. I had various symptoms the main ones being Nausea all the time and extreme tiredness. I also had another bleed in the middle of January so again put it all down to Hormones and just tried to get on with life until it passed.

Mid February came around and I still was not feeling well and we thought enough is enough, I must have a viral infection or the like so dragged myself along to the doctors to have a check up and some blood tests. The Doctor examined me and sent me for some blood and urine tests. She also asked to do a pregnancy test as she wanted to do an abdominal X Ray to rule out any problems down there (as I was having some Bowel “issues”) and it is standard procedure in a woman of child bearing age (even one stretching the limit like me). We also talked about having an electro cardio gram to pinpoint the cause of my heart murmur to rule out any issues with this. I still wasn’t feeling better but felt positive that we were now taking some action to get me better.

Then came the phone call from the Doctor. Seemingly all my blood tests came back normal apart from one………I am sure you have guessed which one! She cheerfully informed me that I was in fact pregnant. I was in Giant supermarket at the time doing some grocery shopping and I remember just stopping dead and having to put my basket down to take a moment. It was the most unbelievable news I could possibly have received. I think shock took over for some time but I managed to hold myself together and pick up the phone to speak to Jarlath. At that time he was travelling in San Francisco with one of his sales Team, Lisa. So I called him and said was he on his own but he was in the car with Lisa, so not wanting to tell him when someone else could hear I asked him to call me back to discuss my doctors results. Well he must have been worried but didn’t get the opportunity to call me back for at least another hour when Lisa had to go into the stationery shop to make some photocopies for their meeting. I was of course jumping around at the other end of the phone willing him to call me. Eventually he called and I gave him the incredible news but he initially didn’t believe me and thought that I was joking, I think his words were “you’re kidding me” over and over again. Not the best way to break the news but I had to share it with someone and couldn’t wait another three days for him to get home. The poor man then had to pick himself up off the ground and continue on his trip with Lisa and into a business meeting with a client without letting on that he had just received the most life changing news ever! I bet Lisa wondered what was going on unless Jar is such a good actor that she couldn’t tell a thing.
Of course, I then had to find myself an Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN) to give me a check up and guide me through my pregnancy. Luckily my lovely family doctor recommended one which is local to me and to the hospital that is closest to our house (which I later found out is the same one my friend Vicky actually uses). So I was duly booked in for an initial appointment right after our holiday and a sonogram/ultrasound to determine that everything was alright at this stage and to guess at a due date.

In typical Keating fashion, the above was of course not even the main part of the drama. We both visited the OB/GYN and got all the usual blood , urine, weight and height tests and then waited for the sonogram. At this stage we were guessing that I could only be 4 or 6 weeks pregnant as you count from your last period and as I had had two bleeds in January I could count from either of those. So up came the picture on the Ultrasound screen and ‘Oh My God’ I think we both nearly passed out because there on the screen was an itty bitty baby shaped thing complete with a heartbeat. Those of you in the know will have realized that I could not possibly be only 4 or 6 weeks in this case and the nurse/technician confirmed that I was in fact at least 10 weeks pregnant by her calculation. You could have knocked me down with a feather as not only was I now definitely pregnant I was already a quarter of the way through my pregnancy!

Of course, now all the guilt started to creep in about every glass of wine or bottle of beer or vodka cocktail I had drank since the middle of December (when I must have conceived) and there was a lot with Christmas, New Year and a couple of girls nights out in January (remember my Facebook status about never drinking vodka again, well that hangover was actually acute morning sickness and has lasted for the last 6 weeks!). I suppose I can’t turn the clock back so what is done is done and I just need to hope that there is no lasting damage done.

So here is my surprise diagnosis.

I cannot believe the nausea and tiredness that I have suffered and have to offer an apology to any pregnant woman that I have managed in the past that I have been less than sympathetic to. It takes one’s own experience of something like this to realize what it feels like and I will certainly be more sympathetic in the future to anyone in the same situation.

My other thoughts are that I am glad I didn’t know I was pregnant when I had the two bleeds during January as we will never know what those were about and not knowing I was pregnant at the time I wasn’t worried about them but would have been beside myself with worry if I had known.

I know a few people from the UK will need to be resuscitated about now – Fay (the April Fool is on you now!) and Big John Nicoletti are probably lying in a heap on the floor at the moment.

So lots to look forward to and lots to plan and think about. While I believe myself to be a good Auntie and fairly confident about looking after children it is different when it is only for a weekend. I could make lots of mistakes and then just hand the kids back at the end for their own parents to teach them everything else. I am clueless about pregnancy, childbirth and the details of child rearing but I am sure I will keep myself occupied with lots of books on the subject – some recommendations would be gratefully appreciated.

So at the moment life just goes on. I am still incredibly tired and at times nauseas although I am keeping the sickness at bay by eating constantly. Not put on any weight yet after 12 weeks and still have a fairly flat stomach. In some ways I can’t wait to show as that will start to make it more real to me and give me something visible to focus on and talk to – yes, yes I may be locked up in a comfy, fitted, white jacket!

I am still doing my dog walking and the 6 miles a day I seem to be averaging will keep me nice and fit until I become too bulky to manage it any more – and the money can go towards all the gear we will now need to purchase for Junior.

I am also trying to pick up the speed on the knitting needles and have started to knit a baby blanket. My mother used to always knit baby blankets and shawls for friends and families while I tended to stick to easier smaller items like cardigans, bootees and mittens. When I was over for my Mothers funeral we cleared some personal items out of her flat and I brought over her old patterns for baby blankets and shawls just for prosperity keepsake. Now I am having a baby of my own it is sad that I won’t get one of my Mothers beautifully knitted blankets but I have decided to try and pick up the tradition myself and I am challenging myself with using her patterns to knit my own. The blanket is already coming along nicely with a couple of false starts with some new stitches. Hopefully, it will work out and I will post some photos in a future blog.

I have so many questions on pregnancy that I really don’t know where to start, luckily, my sister in law, Alison has had two children and she had them at a later age like me as well so I am sure I will be relying on her heavily for lots of advice. Of course, any random advice you guys can give me is also appreciated. I am also hoping that Alison will come over and visit during the summer, probably in July to help me set up the nursery. While I am aware that I need a crib and the bigger items, it is all the small things that I will need that I don’t know where to start and you get so much crap these days that you don’t really need, that it will be great to get an “experts” opinion of what is actually useful and what is just trash – like the baby wipe portable heater to ensure your babies wipes are warm to the touch at all times!!!

Well not really sure what else to write at the moment as my brain is twirling around at 100 miles per hour. Due my 12 week scan this week and Nuchal testing for the risk of Downs Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy (high risk at my age). Will blog about how that goes in next installment.

Let the fun begin!! Xx

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Irish are coming – better late than never!

“I drink tequila and she talks dirty in Spanish….la la la”
I have put those song lyrics in to remind my RISI pals of that lovely little Irish group Crystal Swing to get them in the mood for my blog. If you don’t know what I am talking about then check them out on Youtube.


Well, my friend Irish Sharon was coming over from Glasgow to visit me for the weekend. She was going to a conference in Orlando, Florida so booked flights for her and her boyfriend to come over a few days early and to come via Washington DC to visit us. I was so looking forward to her visit as it is the first one from my friends back home and I was just looking forward to catching up with her.

I met Sharon when she started working with Jarlath years and years ago at a company called Life Technologies. Both of them (and our flat mate at the time Richard) worked as Distributor Sales Managers. Sharon came over from Kodak. At the time Life Tech was not the most popular place to work which was reflected in the fact that there was a night out almost every Friday night for someone’s leaving do. Through these nights out, myself and Sharon became good friends. We then started to go to Salsa dancing classes together and became friends outwith Life Tech and Jarlath. Sharon is one of the sweetest women in the world but can be rather ditsy at times (sorry Shaz but you know its true!).

Then Life Tech decided to make all three of the positions redundant. It was very sudden, they all went into work one day not knowing a thing and I got a phone call to tell me that Jarlath, Sharon and Richard had all been made Redundant and asked to leave the premises immediately. A bit of a shock and they all decanted to the pub to try and get their heads around it. Anyway it was all highly irregular and because of that they got a decent payout to sign a document to not sue the company for unfair dismissal. Richard and Jarlath went on to get new jobs but Sharon decided to have a change in lifestyle and used her settlement to put herself through an MBA course. After she successfully completed her course she then wrote her business plan and started up her own business – Biochannel Partners.


It is now becoming successful after many years although Sharon will admit herself it took a bit longer than planned as she procrastinated about direction at first. So she is now a successful Business woman and has a lovely boyfriend called Frank, so life is pretty good for her at the moment.

They were supposed to be flying into Washington late on Thursday afternoon but they managed to miss their flights. When Frank checked their itinerary instead of looking at the flight time he took note of the trip duration so thought the flight was taking off at 15.40. It in fact took off in the morning while they were still pottering around their flat – a rather large numpty moment methinks.

So they duly rebooked for the Friday to come via New York but, unfortunately, there was bad weather in New York so their flight was originally delayed for 8 hours and then finally cancelled. Note to all – there is always drama around the Keatings these days when it comes to travel.
They again rebooked but it seemed that the only flights they could get were later ones on the Saturday and they would not get into Washington until very late on Saturday night. As they were then flying out early Sunday afternoon we decided that they should just try and get flights directly to Orlando and come and visit us another time. Highly disappointing but not much we could do about it.

Jarlath and I went out for some tapas on the Friday night and then just chilled around on Saturday running some errands until I got a surprise text from Sharon at 4.00p.m. to say they were in New York and had managed to get an early flight and would be in Washington within the hour. How lovely, so I jumped in the car (Jarlath was out on his road bike) and went off to pick them up from Reagan airport. Flight arrived early, pick up went ok and we were home in no time.

All had a drink and a quick catch up and then went up into Bethesda to get some dinner. As we had nowhere booked we tried a couple of restaurants which had long waits but we decided on one place and just sat at the bar until a table became free. It took some time so it was quite late when we ate but had a lovely dinner – slightly overpriced and the waiters were a bit stuck up – but lovely as we were with good friends.

Sunday came and we all got up nice and early to make the most of our time together. We went out for some brunch to the Tastee diner – a cute little American diner in the fifties style- and then drove into downtown DC to have a walk around the Lincoln memorial and the White House. It was a lovely sunny, cold day and was just nice to chat and walk. Unfortunately, we then had to take them to the airport for their flight onto Orlando. So a short but very sweet visit.

They are going to have so much fun in Orlando and they have the conference but then have a couple of days to do the Disney resort. They are going to Universal studios to see the new Harry Potter feature. I am very jealous and have asked for loads of photos which I will try and share later.

Anyway, a fun but short visit from a good friend with promises to come back for a proper visit later in the year. Xx