Saturday, October 22, 2011

The David Crowder Band Bids Adieu

VIDEO0065 a video by gkhamilton on Flickr.

Hit the “Play” arrow above for a video of the David Crowder Band launching into one of their sing-a-long anthems, “There Is No One Like You,” last week at the Crystal Ballroom.

The era of the David Crowder Band is sadly coming to an end. Tickets sold out early for last week’s final Portland appearance of the DC*B at the Crystal Ballroom. After weeks of hunting down (and bribing friends for) seats for the gig, Kathy and I scored a couple tickets from a top secret source just hours before show time.

DSC_0172.JPG At the 11th hour, I booked our first ever babysitter (my mom, who had volunteered to be on standby for that night in the unlikely event that I actually got tickets) to take care of Baby Lena into the wee hours of the next morning. I gave Grandma Hamilton the over-protective new dad instructions about Lena’s feeding schedule, proper fire extinguisher handling, etc., before hopping into the Jeep with Kathy and cruising towards downtown Portland.

IMAG1275.jpgA brief snag outside the door of the Crystal Ballroom kept us outside as Chris August (or was it John Mark McMillan?) opened with an acoustic set of his smooth, radio friendly folk-pop. We caught the last couple of songs.

IMAG1282.jpg As anticipated, it was the three piece Gungor band who stole the opening show with a sampling of their unusual approach to musical experimentation and song structure. I was pleased that their unconventional musical style (complete with frequent instrument swaps and flourishes of Sufjan Stevens) wasn’t watered down for the Top 40 loving crowd.

“What was up with that Michael Gungor guy?,” David Crowder later mused to the fans. “Did he have musical instruments coming out of his mouth?”

From the opening crescendo of “The Earth is Yours” to the closing beatbox outro of “Beautiful Things” [click the “Play” arrow above for a video clip], Gungor experimented with a little of everything. Even the band’s beautiful (and decidedly weirder) new material translated well to a live setting.

IMAG1283.jpg David Crowder finally took the stage for an introspective solo piano rendering of “SMS (Shine).” As the rest of the DC*B began to appear, the gentle melody gradually swelled into a wall of sound that became “Alleluia, Sing.” The rowdy crowd sing along, “There is No One Like You” [See the video clip at the top of this BlogSpot post] typically saved for the final stretch of any DC*B show, set the tone for the rest of the night.

For the next two hours, the DC*B brought a sense of genuine spontaneity to their classics, new material, and even a couple of yet unreleased album cuts.
IMAG1296.jpg The most memorable unscripted moment (pictured above) was David Crowder interrupting the band's performance of “You Are My Joy” to address a fan who was waving a sign that asked if he could play guitar on “Everything Glorious.” After some lighthearted mocking (“Y’all are bringing signs now? You’re making me feel like Justin Bieber.”), Crowder invited the guy onstage, handed his guitar over to him, and obliged him with a lifetime of bragging rights.

Crowd pleasing silliness like the “hoedown” segment [click the “Play” arrow above for a video clip] showcased the DC*B’s versatility and provided yet another layer to their unique, worshipful mishmash of rock guitars, violin, synths, and DJ-style record scratching.

Other than the trucker hat that unfortunately concealed David Crowder’s trademark frizz-fro hairdo, the main departure from past DC*B shows was the level of chattiness from Crowder himself. I mean, the man talked. A lot. And rather than being preachy (which he rarely is anyway, aside from passionate pleas for social action), most of his stream of consciousness banter flowed from a heart filled with love for God, gratefulness for us DC*B fans, and bittersweet sentimentality towards his soon-to-be-former bandmates.

DSC_0219.JPGSporting my DC*B fan t-shirt during a recent EPIC Wednesday night session (with Kathy and Lena)

Earlier in the show, Crowder had hilariously feigned offence when his guitar player justifiably heckled him for a forgettable, cringe-worthy joke.

Crowder’s wry comeback, “No wonder we’re breaking up,” drew a startling amount of boos and jeers from the fans.

“Whoa. Two songs into it, and the crowd is already turning on us,” Crowder reeled. “Too soon?”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lena Hamilton: The Adventure Begins, Part 2 of 2

DSC_0164.JPG by gkhamilton
DSC_0164.JPG, a photo by gkhamilton on Flickr.
Above: Celebrating Lena's one month birthday on 10/10/11!

Here’s what you missed from Part 1: Kathy and I had checked into St. Vincent Hospital on Friday, September 9, two days after our due date, to see a doctor about her unusual bleeding. Potentially life-threatening drama ensued. Got that?

Five days in the hospital and over $30,000 in medical bills later (mostly covered by insurance, thankfully), we took home a beautiful baby girl. I could go into detail about every health scare we had in the meantime… but let’s skip to the good part: 9/10/11, the Saturday night that Lena Esther Hamilton was born!
For the first 36 or so hours after checking into St. Vincent hospital on Friday morning, our doctors had been assuring us that it was still reasonably safe to plan for a natural delivery (Plan A). On Saturday evening, though, a doctor eventually warned us that the risk of Plan A was beginning to outweigh the risk of a cesarean delivery. Kathy was still suffering from the unexplained bleeding and had only dilated 6 cm, even after the doctor broke her water and administered pitocin to induce labor earlier that day. More alarming was that baby Lena’s heartbeat dropped to dangerous lows each time Kathy had a contraction. We didn’t know how much more her little heart could take.

“We’ve got to get this baby out of you,” the doctor ultimately counseled us, before Lena’s heart “hits a wall.”

Hearing that our situation was taking a turn for the worse, we didn’t hesitate to authorize the surgery.DSC_0702.JPG We changed into our scrubs, split up, and rendezvoused in the operating room.

The C-section surgery itself was quick and “painless,” thanks to the efficient skill of the St. Vincent maternity staff and the anesthesia (and earlier epidural injection) that Kathy was given. I remained at Kathy’s head during the procedure, with full view of the surgical cutting and pulling that was happening on the other side of the blue curtain which obstructed Kathy’s view of her torso. Even as Kathy’s lower abdomen was sliced open, there was an eerie silence. No sounds of a baby crying… just the noise of operating room chatter and instruments being carefully operated.

At exactly 10:18 p.m. on 9/10/11, the anesthesiologist (who had been closely eyeing me for signs of passing out) abruptly shouted for me to grab my camera and stand up. The very moment that I rose to peek over the top of the dividing curtain, Dr. Morrison was lifting our beautiful baby daughter of Kathy’s mid-section. [Photo removed] My hands trembled as I managed to squeeze off a few blurry shots of Lena drawing her first breath. After cutting her umbilical cord, the nurses invited me over to watch as they wiped Lena off and weighed her in at a whopping 8 lbs. 15 oz.!

DSC_0748.JPG This is one of my favorite photos ever, and the very first picture of the three of us!! We are all together in the delivery room for the first time after Lena's birth, and Kathy is still lying on the operating table as I hold our newborn daughter. Priceless!!

While the doctors finished sewing up Kathy in the delivery room, I carried baby Lena back to our posh birthing suite so head nurse Jodi could prepare her to be swaddled. DSC_0755.JPGIMAG1052_edTMP-1.jpg For the next 15 minutes or so, I had Lena all to myself. I prayed over her, changed her first diaper, spoke to her words of affirmation, and gently rocked her back and forth as we waited for Kathy to be rolled back into the room. I savored each of these 15 minutes of heaven.

DSC_0775.JPG Our family reunion of three in the birthing suite lasted a couple of hours. At some point, I slipped out into the lobby to break the good news about Lena’s birth to our waiting family and friends.

We were soon transferred to the post-partum recovery ward by an attendant who strategically devised our highly classified route to achieve his top secret mission: Transfer the package (us) with extreme efficiency, and evade en route interference (our family and friends) at all cost.
DSC_0794.JPG You’ve gotta feel for our excited parents (pictured down the hall, in the deep background), who had been cordoned off like paparazzi while impatiently waiting into the wee hours of the morning to catch their first glimpse of their granddaughter Lena.

DSC_0809.JPG Just before 2 a.m. on Sunday, September 11 (Day #3), we settled into our cramped post-partum recovery room. Sorely missing was the spacious design, high ceiling, scenic view, roomy bath, comfy couch and leather recliner of our birthing suite. We practically had to stack pieces of furniture and exhale all the air from our lungs to squeeze in our family for their first middle-of-the-night visitation.

The next few days spent in the St. Vincent post-partum recovery ward were a blur of sleepless nights, exhausting days, invaluable instruction and care from the nursing staff, visits from family and friends, and intimate time spent getting to know our wonderful newborn baby daughter, Lena.

Here are a few of our favorite photos from those last three days at the hospital:


On Tuesday afternoon (Day 5), we were finally released from St. Vincent’s hospital. Our first few joyous days with Lena had flown by. Although being cooped up in that tiny room for one minute longer would’ve certainly led to a scrappy jailbreak, we left with nothing but high praise for the outstanding care of the hospital staff.

IMG_3568_0005.jpg IMG_3565_0007.jpg
With the help of my dad, I loaded Kathy and our newborn baby Lena (now weighing 15 oz. less) into the car and drove the three of us home.

...And so the adventure begins!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lena Hamilton: The Adventure Begins, Part 1 of 2

P1020405_edited-1.JPG by gkhamilton
P1020405_edited-1.JPG, a photo by gkhamilton on Flickr.

HAPPY ONE MONTH BIRTHDAY, LENA!!! These first four weeks of your life have felt like a few short days.

In a comment on one of my previous Blogspot posts, my cousin Holly suggested that Kathy and I becoming parents would play right into our love for adventure. Taking a look back at the events that led up to her birth on Saturday, 9-10-11, it was apparent even back then that this was going to be one rip-roaring adventure story indeed. Here’s how it all went down last month:

It was Friday, September 9, and Kathy and I were already two days past our due date. We were scheduled to induce labor exactly one week later.

My lunch break that morning at the PDX airport food court was interrupted by a call from Kathy at around 9 a.m. Before she even had a chance to finish explaining about her inexplicable bleeding and strange contractions that morning, my legs had already started sprinting for the elevator. I burst back into my Delta work area downstairs and strung together a couple of coworkers to drive me across the ramp to grab my bag, and then out to the employee parking lot.

Thanks to some “efficient” driving, I was able to get home in no time flat (although leaving the soft top off of my Jeep Wrangler at that speed may have inadvertently jettisoned a couple of loose items from the back seat—my apologies to the environment). Kathy and I threw together some light overnight bags (just in case, right?) at the house and headed for St. Vincent hospital.

The doctor had established over the phone that Kathy was not in labor, so we didn’t sense much urgency in the friendly receptionist who checked us into the maternity ward. After all, Kathy wasn’t even dilated, and her contractions were infrequent.
IMAG0903.jpg After being shown to our triage room, we listened to our baby’s heartbeat and were treated to a bonus sonogram of Lena. The baby seemed to be healthy, with one mysterious exception: every time Kathy had a contraction, the baby’s heartbeat would drop into double-digit lows. The doctor seemed concerned about this phenomenon, yet assured us that her heartbeat was otherwise strong. Her tone grew grimmer, however, after seeing the amount of blood that Kathy had lost.

You won’t be going home today. We’re gonna keep you here for the next few days… until your baby is born,” she calmly but sternly informed us after stepping out of the triage room for a moment.

The gravity of those words had little time to sink in. As if on cue, a parade of 3-4 nurses filed into the room and began hurriedly unhooking Kathy from the various instruments and preparing her for an immediate room transfer.

IMAG0940.jpg Minutes later, nurses Amanda (in training) and Susan had us set up in a roomy birthing suite with a comfy couch, recliner, private bath, and a beautiful view of the scenery outside. In the hours that followed, the nursing staff began to be less concerned with Kathy’s bleeding and more fixated on baby Lena’s heart’s increasingly erratic reactions to the contractions.

DSC_0684.JPG At random moments throughout the night, a team of nurses would unexpectedly storm into our birthing suite and frantically adjust Kathy’s position, tubing, and Pitocin levels (to encourage dilation). At one point in the wee hours of the morning, nurses Jen, Shawna, and company charged in and ordered Kathy to roll over onto her hands and knees to raise our baby’s heartbeat back up from a dangerously low rate.

It was a long, traumatic night for us, to say the least. Fortunately, we felt comfort knowing that God was in control… and that the competent, attentive hospital staff was monitoring our situation from the central nursing station right outside our door.

The tension increased on September 10, the next day.
DSC_0692.JPGDSC_0700.JPGP1020366_edited-1.JPG Day 2 was peppered with health scares, visits to the birthing suite from our families to offer us encouragement and prayer support, and rare moments of rest.

Kathy’s low dose of Pitocin had been temporarily discontinued overnight due to the stress of the contractions on baby Lena’s heart. In some cases, her heartbeat would spike to an insanely fast 205 BPM, only to drop as low as 60 BPM… while sometimes not registering at all. Lena’s heart could only take so much.

DSC_0696.JPG Rather than risk Lena’s life by waiting for Kathy to dilate, the doctor on staff made the decision to accelerate the process by manually breaking Kathy’s water (moments after this photo was taken) and inducing labor. There was no turning back now.

(SPOILER ALERT) At that point, we weren’t out of the woods yet. But as my upcoming BlogSpot post will describe later this week, everything in the maternity ward ultimately turned out alright (as everyone knows by now). Baby Lena was not only born with a strong heartbeat, but she continues to be blessed with good health and a loving family as she begins her second month of life!

To be continued…

My next BlogSpot post will include a bunch of photos from baby Lena's delivery and first days, as well as another current picture. Let the good times roll!