Showing posts from July, 2007

Shooo-Whee, People!

aa a We asked for a little show of support and we got hit by a hurricane! We are just overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring our campaign received yesterday. I spent most of the afternoon just trying to keep the blog's campaign thermometer up-to-date. What a great start this has been! We can't thank you enough. A few special thanks are in order: To Mark for being first out of the gate (about 3 minutes after the initial posting). To all you letterboxers–– now we know your real name ( cue maniacal laughter ). To Marsha, who gave in the morning, came back and gave some more and especially to Bruce who kept beating the drum and stirring the pot with his matching gift challenge on the FauxForum . And to our friends, family, and co-workers–– Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. It's not too late to join in . We still have a goal to meet (and hopefully, blow out of the water). And, seriously, if you're in the Bay Area and want to join the team and ride with us,

A Faux Family

... For some reason, the title of today's blog makes me think of a Dorothy Parker toast, offering "Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends." Robb and I moved out to the West Coast about five years ago, and we don't have any family out here at all. But, somehow, we have been able to build our own little family. I think in an itinerant world, people are obliged to invent their own families. We stitch together a family from our friends, and -- strangely and wonderfully -- we create family out of people we primarily know online. Last week, I had the opportunity to finally meet (in person!) many wonderful members of the decorative painting community, who were in town for a national painting conference. By the end of the week, the "faux finishers" had dubbed themselves a "faux family." As part of the festivities of this week, I hosted part of a studio tour, and Robb and I were adopted into the faux family fold. Our faux fami

Back in the Saddle Again

... After weeks of being held hostage by the dog kennel project, I finally was able to spend a fun weekend with Robb. I did some much needed housework, not to mention some all-important lazing around, and then we loaded up the bikes and headed out for a ride. Somehow, we completely failed to find the portion of the Bay Trail that we sought. Instead, we cycled through the suburbs of San Mateo County, along the shores of some vast canal or lagoon thingamajig. Despite how closely together the houses were packed, there was a surprising amount of wildlife to be seen. Above is a snowy egret, sporting lovely mating plumage. (Robb alerted me to this fine fellow by shouting "Hairdo! Hairdo!") Next is a lesser yellowlegs, and below that is a jackrabbit (for Erica). I didn't end up uploading all my photos, and I lay the blame at the feet of that prickly pear margarita that accompanied my dinner. (Hey, a girl needs a night off, from time to time.) Sunday was the Berkeley Kite

You Say You Want a Revolution

... We've previously mentioned BORP (the Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program) several times in these pages. This is the sports and recreation program for people with disabilities. It was through their cycling program that we first figured out that I could get back on a bike and what kind I should be looking for. At the time we discovered them, we later learned, their cycling program lay in ruins. Thieves had broken into the storage building and hauled away every single bike, trike, handcycle and tandem as well as every tool, spare part and tire tube. The entire cycling program was eradicated in one night. While we were impressed when we first saw their set up, apparently this was nothing compared to the array of gear they used to have (especially, all the kid sized cycles). Lisa (who maintains a wait-and-see attitude toward the afterlife) has no doubts that there is a very special circle of Hell reserved for the heartless jerks who steal bicycles from disabled childre

Putting Down Roots

... I'm a gardener. In every place that I've lived, if there was even the smallest scrap of unwanted dirt, I created a garden. I've tried to plant tough, happy plants that would take care of themselves, even if the next fifteen people who moved in had no interest in gardening. When I'm digging around in the dirt and helping improve the health of plants, I feel that everything is right in the world. I'm particularly happy to get the chance to set a neglected garden back in order. I love pulling out weeds, and giving plants some breathing space. About a year ago, I was given access to a trash filled plot of dirt behind my studio. It was a truly disgusting place, filled with unimaginable amounts of garbage. I haven't always had as much time as I would like to devote to the garden, and I'm still not so sure about how to garden in Northern California, but even so, things look good. I set out to plant a (mostly) native garden, that would be a tiny oasis for

Heartbroken and Blue?

... Actually, we're all doing very well! I'm busy at work on a production of George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House . A very blue show. In this photo, you see my intern Sheri in the foreground, mixing color. And way in the back are Cricket, Ryan and Andrew, applying a decorative concrete product to what will be the stage floor. This show is huge!

A Little Support

Last night, Robb and I did something that I had been wanting to do for quite some time: we attended a support group for people with spinal cord injuries (and their families). The speaker last night was from Accessible Events , and he brought along a film he had made about local scuba diving opportunities for wheelchair users. We were pretty jazzed about all this. I think we were both a bit nervous, too. Robb and I are both quite shy, and we really didn't know what to expect from a support group. We had decided to make a night of all this, and went out to dinner, which caused us to arrived a bit late. ( No, the two vegetarians really don't want the beef dinner, can you please bring us what we ordered? ) Robb was the only person with spinal cord injury who was not using a wheelchair, and he was also the most recently injured. We arrived during introductions, and it was very eye-opening to see the different situations and points-of-view. We met people who had had their injur


... This past weekend I had another reminder of the tremendous support Lisa and I have received over these last 18 months. On Friday, we met, for the first time, still more readers of this blog when Lisa hosted a studio tour for visiting muralists and decorative painters. On Sunday, we got to spend time with members of the Bay Area letterboxing community as we bid farewell to Hunter and Cara (DemXXMen-- Portland, here they come!). It still surprises me when I meet someone new or catch up with an old friend and find they've been reading these pages and already know so much about our situation. Each time it happens, though, I'm struck by their caring and kindness. It really has sustained us knowing that somewhere out there somebody knows what we're going through, understands, sympathizes or is just getting a kick out of our goofy exploits. I was recalling the other night how when I was in the hospital reading cards and blog comments, opening care packages and letterboxes, e

Dog Gone!

The Victorian Chihuahua Condominiums are finished! This project turned out to be way more complicated than I expected. Figuring out the layout on these was a nightmare, and using the paint the client insisted on was not unlike painting with Jell-O. To be honest, I didn't bring these to the level of completion that I would have liked, but I ran out of time, and the dog houses needed to be installed. Even if I had had more time, I don't think that the client would have been thrilled about being billed for more hours. They are pretty darn cute, and once the installation is complete, I'll take some photos. (For those who have been confused about this project, here's an explanation. The client is a local dog boarding company , and the kennels are for small dogs. Each panel is between eight and ten feet tall, and holds three dogs. The white square on the designer's drawing indicates the placement of a kennel door. I painted fourteen of these things.)

Oh, and that Earthquake?

... It must have been a slow news day yesterday (doctors performed a colonoscopy on our president, in an attempt to find his head), so the small earthquake that struck in the Bay Area in the early morning made the national news. Although it was probably the strongest quake we've yet experienced, it was really not a big deal. As with most night time earthquakes, we woke with a sense of confusion. In the ten seconds that the earthquake lasted, our groggy brains manged to puzzle out the fact that the rumbling and swaying in the bedroom was not, in fact, the effect of three purring pussycats. Of course, every small earthquake is a reminder of the fact that there will be larger earthquakes. Robb and I have earthquake kits in the garage, and my studio. I should look at those again, to check that everything is in place. When we were more nimble, I was less worried about how we might adapt to the aftermath of a big quake. The cats would not be allowed into emergency shelters, so they

Studio Stuff, Mostly

... There hasn't been much action in blog land, because work has been quite busy for me, and because in addition to my typical work load, I've been painting a huge number of gigantic faux-Victorian dog kennels. On top of that, the Bay Area has been overrun by decorative painters and muralists who are attending their national conference. Last night, I co-hosted an open studio tour, so Sheri, Robb and I had to turn the paint shop into a party space. It also forced me to update my portfolio, which I had not done since I got the job at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Bad. I've taken hundreds of photos, but I hadn't organized them or incorporated them into my portfolio. Bad. Bad. Bad. Having the party was a blast. Robb spent a great deal of time talking with a painter from Vancouver, who used to be a vocational rehab counselor, and who told Robb that he had the best outlook and attitude of anyone she had ever met. That Robb! Since I alluded to the portfolio update, h


... During the summertime, some people attend theater or opera festivals , some people go to the Junior Livestock Show (always a favorite of mine) or the Tomato Festival . Last night, Robb, Kara and I headed off to the Fire Arts Festival at the Crucible in West Oakland. There were gigantic flaming serpents. And their eggs. One could operate the flames that shot out of the top of the serpent's spines, as Kara is doing in this photo. Flaming creatures. That looked pretty darned impressive, even without the fire. Much of the art was interactive, but perhaps the most amusing part of the festival was a variation on arcade dance games . Dance Dance Immolation was about the craziest and most reckless-seeming part of the evening (and that's saying a lot). Two members of the crowd don flame-proof suits (complete with supplied oxygen) and then follow the dancing direction that are projected in front of them. If they screw up, they get blasted with a huge jet of flame. Of course,

Upstairs, Downstairs

... Stairs. When Robb was in the rehab hospital, we spent a lot of time preparing for the challenge of climbing the stairs to our apartment. He visualized every step and landing. When he first got home, he wasn't permitted to climb stairs without a "spotter" who would catch him if he started to fall. (This task, frankly, terrified me. All I could imagine was my failure in keeping Robb from tumbling down the stairs.) Because the fronts of Robb's feet aren't the useful part, he still has to use great care while negotiating stairs. Our back staircase has very narrow treads, so if here were to climb it "normally" the "good" part of his foot (his heel) is hanging out in unsupported space. Rather than letting this stop him, Robb climbs these stairs by side-stepping. He stands at a right angle to the stairs, so that his entire foot can rest on the tread. As you can imagine, this technique makes carrying anything up the stairs particularly chal


... In an attempt to relieve the spasticity and discomfort in his legs and butt, Robb has started taking a new type of medication. We're not sure if it is doing any good, but it certainly knocks him out. He takes half a pill before bedtime and it immediately makes him feel totally drunk and slackens the muscles in his face. I took a night off from painting dog kennels. Leah and I kicked up so much dust while cleaning the shop that my allergies were out of control. Robb said I smelled of dust, when I walked in the apartment last night. I think the sore throat and puffiness was a small price to pay for a night off from this project.

Still Here!

... Thank you, everyone who wrote and called. I'm feeling much less grim. Of course, I'm still drowning in work on my Victorian dog kennel project. At the clients' insistence, we are using the worst paint imaginable, in terms of suitability for mural painting. So, everything is taking three times longer than it should. Trying to paint a mural with this paint is like trying to paint a mural with Jell-O. Yuck. Robb is going through a really difficult time (which is, no doubt, what is causing me to see the word through such a bleak filter). He is horribly uncomfortable and exhausted, much of the time. Laying down no longer offers any respite from unpleasant sensations. At the moment, there is no position in which he can be truly comfortable. We keep telling ourselves that these distressing sensations might be the first flickerings of return of neural activity, but ultimately it is a very upsetting time for both of us. Anyway, I've got to get back to the Puppy Palac

someone to talk to

... Prior to Robb's injury, he and I had been living as sort of migrant laborers. Every few years, we would uproot ourselves and move halfway across the country for another job. And in the process, I somehow lost the knack of making new friends. Both our jobs were very absorbing, and somehow we just failed to establish the kids of friendships that we had enjoyed in Baltimore. I'll admit that I've been horribly, horribly shy about making social plans since Robb's accident. I worry that the people we know won't have the patience to hang out with us anymore. I feel like we're not "fun" anymore. I was so touched by all the outpouring of support when Robb was in the hospital, but once we got home, I got the idea that people had done their duty, and we were on our own, again. I don't meet a lot of people in the course of a work day, and those I do are either fifteen years younger than me, or busy with their own lives. I have a prickly, weird perso

What's Going On?

... Robb seems to be having more, not less, difficulty walking lately. He finds that the has less energy and more discomfort these days than previously. This is, as you may imagine, quite demoralizing. Today may be Robb's last session of physician-authorized physical therapy. Considering how few sessions most people get with a therapist (thanks to some major "reforms" to California's Workers' Compensation Insurance), Robb has been very fortunate to have been able to do as much work with therapists as he has. Still, this doesn't really feel like a graduation. It feels more like having your family run out of money half-way through your college education. You didn't pass, you didn't fail, you're just finished. I've been battling a summer cold or allergies, and have been not making much headway in my Puppy Palaces Project. I need to get this finished, but it just keeps growing in complexity. And the worst part is that like much of what I do