Showing posts from March, 2008

Better or Worse?

Robb is going through another phase where he is getting more sensation in the paralyzed portions of his body. Unfortunately, none of that sensation is pleasant. He has more pain and more uncontrollable muscle spasms than ever before. We keep telling ourselves that this is a sign of improvement, and that his nerves are regenerating. The truth is that this just sucks.

Meanwhile, Down at the Lake

... This is a typical Eared Grebe. It is a small bird, about the size of a dove. I've written about grebes, from time to time. Grebes are aquatic birds that spend part of their year in the Bay Area. Many grebes were affected by the terrible oil spill last fall . We see loads of these amusing little birds at our local urban oasis, Lake Merritt . Right now, our local male eared grebes are lookin' for ladies, and are sporting their ultra-sexy breeding plumage. What woman could possibly resist a man with such glorious eyelashes? Hard to believe it, but that really is the same animal.

Of Happiness

... Robb and I spent Saturday at a wonderful letterboxing gathering in San Francisco. We weren't even sure if we were going to attend, because Robb has been having such a rough time. As it turned out, he had enough energy and we met loads of new people, and got to see some old friends. Today, we went down to the Hayward shoreline portion of the Bay Trail to check up on a letterbox of Robb's that we thought was long-gone, but that some of the more tenacious local letterboxers had managed to find. Heck, I couldn't even find this thing, last time we looked. The wind was so strong as to make cycling a really miserable experience, so I asked if we could pack it in, and go elsewhere. The ride back to the car was a painful slog, directly into the wind. Robb reminded me about the time came down to the Hayward shoreline, before we had his trike. He hooked his cane onto the seat-post of my bicycle, and I dragged his wheelchair behind me . We were pretty much out of control, a

In the Dark

... Robb and I spent a lovely, if dark, evening observing an extended Earth Hour. We turned off the lights, and many of our plug-in electronics, and had dinner by candle light. We enjoyed some home brewed beer, a meal of locally grown organic veggies, and a wide-ranging conversation. We both try to do our part to reduce the burden we place on Earth's resources. All of our fruit and vegetables come from a local family-owned organic farm . Robb and I are well suited in our lifestyle. Without ever saying it out loud, we've chosen to live simply and frugally. We've never been interested in owning the newest appliance or the sporting the flashiest stuff. Even without all that, we have a rich, full life. San Francisco also participated in Earth Hour last night, turning off non-essential lights in much of the city. Read about it, here .

Turn Out for Earth Hour!

... Tonight at 8 pm, consider making a simple gesture to converse energy, take action against global climate change, and make the skies less confusing for migrating songbirds. Turn out your lights for one hour. Simple, right? In fact, this may be a good time to ask our readers to think about their energy usage. When you leave a room, do you turn out the lights? When you aren't watching the television, do you turn it off, or do you leave it chattering away in the other room? We desperately need to conserve the energy resources of this planet, and each of us can make a few modest changes in our consumption. Now is the time!


... This rather artfully displayed assortment is what I call "a full day's supply of Vitamin Pill." It's all the pills I take over the course of an average day. There are 18. It's very strange for me to think about. Before two years ago, I only rarely would take an aspirin for an occasional headache. Now it's hard to imagine life without this fistful of chemical helper. I've had brief periods when I had to stop taking each of the drugs in my little pharmacy so I know I'm much better off with them than without. I had a confusing little scare recently when I went to refill a prescription I'd been taking since I left the hospital. A new doctor wrote up a prescription for me and when I had it filled I noticed the dosage was much lower than what I previously been taking. I pointed this out to the pharmacist who just would not believe that I had been taking this drug in the amounts I told her. She contacted my doctor which resulted in a very conc

My Dad

... When I describe my father to people who haven't met him, I get the impression that people must think that I'm telling tall tales. My dad and stepmother live in a converted train station in the South of France. The tracks were bombed out during the Second World War, but the stones of the platforms still run in parallel lines through their back yard. My father lived through the Nazi occupation of Hungary, and later escaped across the border when the Russians army took over his country. After the Second World War, he worked for the Voice of America , while living in Vienna, Austria. He came to America in the 1950's and attended graduate school in Nebraska, a place he disliked (having lived in some of Europe's most glittering cities), but always tactfully described as having "beautiful sunsets." My father's father had been the Attorney General of Hungary, prior to its take-over by the Russians, and as such was considered an enemy of the state. While my


... \hō- ˈ lis-tik\ adjective 1 : of or relating to holism 2 : relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts < holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body> < holistic ecology views humans and the environment as a single system> When Robb was in the early stages of recovering from his spinal cord injury, the doctors and therapists put a lot of limitations on his movement. The bone grafts in his spine had to heal, and nobody wanted to risk a re-injury. So, Robb learned new techniques for doing things like getting in and out of bed. These techniques were meant to allow Robb a range of movement, without putting undue strain on the injured portions of his body. Robb was -- unsurprisingly -- very conscientious about sticking to the approved methods of movement. Since the accident, Robb has put a lot of effort into trying to f

There's No Place Like Home

... My technical theater conference was fascinating. I came away with loads of new ideas, and new professional contacts. But it is so nice to be home. As I write, my kitty Linguine is sitting on my knee, gently reminding me that she needs lovin'. Robb is drinking coffee in bed, because he's driving me to work (my car is in the shop for maintenance). We went out cycling yesterday, and I took loads of photos. I'll share more than these few, soon. Click on the photos for more detail.

Southern Hospitality -- Letterboxing in Texas

... Texas in the springtime is incredibly beautiful. The wildflower displays are not to be believed. (Thank you, Lady Bird !) I had freed myself from conference responsibilities, and spent a delightful day with Sandi and Lindsey (that's SandiBox and SoccerChik, for you letterboxers). What a delightful duo! We spent the bulk of our day at Memorial Park, where the letterboxes are so plentiful, you can literally stumble over them along side the trail. (Note to self: you've got to learn to stop stumbling along the trail.) I had told Sandi and Lindsey that I wanted to get up close with nature, and like good Southern hostesses, they made their guest incredibly happy. Sandi spotted this Yellow Crowned Night Heron , and shouted out, " Bird! Bird! " It reminds me of the first time I saw a Roseate Spoonbill. Robb and I were driving on the highway in Texas, and I certainly did not have time to say, "Oh looky over yonder Robb. There's a Roseate Spoonbill on t

Happy Easter, Y'all!

... I'm back from a whirl-wind trip to Houston, which I'll write about soon. Until the, I'll give y'all a link to my all-time favorite Easter greeting. Click here.

"Y'all aren't from 'round here, are ya?"

... When Robb and I lived in Dallas, people said that to us all the time . It always made me laugh. I'm flying to Houston on Wednesday, to be part of a panel discussion at a theater conference. We'll be discussing the eternal question of how to get paint to stick to weird-o surfaces . It really is the perfect venue for my particular esoteric expertise. I get phone calls all the time from other painters that go along these lines, "We have to paint a bunch of basketballs to look like watermelons, but the paint is flaking off when they bounce. What do we do, Lisa?" I'm excited about this trip, because I'll get to hang out with my friend Ellen, and because the local letterboxers are going to meet me for breakfast, and then take me out for some adventures.


... How do you like this tree? At first glance, it seems to be toppled over and starved to death. It seems to have been been bleaching in the sun for decades. But a closer look shows that one portion is not merely hanging on to life, but it is covered in vigorous flowers. It seems to be thriving in the worst possible circumstances. I love this. When Robb was first home after his long stay in the hospital, we both tried to have a life that was as much like our "normal" life as possible. Was this optimistic, or merely foolhardy? I guess that depends on who you ask. I suppose our early trips out into nature might have seemed a bit pathetic. In some cases, Robb walked a very short distance to a bench, and after a rather short time outside, we went home so that he could lay down. Feeble? Perhaps. But what's the alternative? Staying home and sulking? Four months after his accident, in late spring of 2006, Robb and I drove up to Mount Diablo, where he had an abortive

Easter Eggs

... This year, I wasn't feeling motivated to host our sorta-annual Ukrainian Easter Egg Dyeing party , and Robb and I were very happy to be invited to Jen and Paul's egg party. Sadly, Robb was having a rough day and at the last minute decided not to go. I made one egg, which came out pretty well. If you want to read a tutorial I wrote on how to do this technique, click here .

Another Opening, Another Show

... We start with something like this. We figure out how to paint a fake grass lawn. We bend steel to custom shapes, and then weld it together. And paint it to match the crazy purple catwalk in our theater. The carpenters build scenery at an insanely fast pace. At the end of the work day, they snuggle up on the scenery (that is, until one of the technical directors gets on the intercom and jokingly chastises them). The painters create fake stone, a fake dying lawn, fake woodgrained clapboard siding, and fake formica (which we loving refer to as Faux Mica). And when we're all done, it looks like this. (All that purple is up inside of the curved piece on top of the television news anchorman's desk.) Another wonderfully odd show , produced by the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

A River in Egypt

I feel like I’ve seen a lifetime’s worth of doctors’ offices in the past two years. I find it’s actually a treat for me when I see a doctor who has nothing to do with my injury. If I go in with a cough, I’m just another patient with a cough– not a spinal cord case with a cough. Maybe it’s a form of denial but it returns me to a certain state of normalcy which I savor. Yesterday I went to the dentist. A lot of the staff there know about my condition and they are very accommodating. Our conversations on the subject tend to be fairly one-sided since my mouth is usually full of fingers and dental tools and they mercifully only ask yes-or-no questions. At yesterday’s visit, though, there were more than a few opportunities to chit-chat. (I was having a crown made which involved short bursts of activity followed by waiting periods) and the curiosity burst forth. One technician knew I had a serious injury but was asking about the details. The dentist knew my whole story and was curious a

What's With all the Cycling?

... I sometimes think that we give the impression that all we do is goof around, chase after birds and ride our bikes. We do do a lot of cycling, but there's a purpose to our fun. Robb is going through a phase where walking is more difficult than it has been in a while. We believe that he is experiencing increased neural activity (in other words, his damaged nerves are continuing to heal), but this leads to inappropriate neural responses, such as discomfort and spasticity and muscle clenching. It is the weirdest thing. Robb can (and does) cycle twenty miles at a time, but at the moment walking a couple of blocks is terribly difficult. Okay then, walking is on the back burner, because other activities like swimming and cycling are not only easier, but more beneficial. When Robb rides the trike or swims, he actually experiences a decrease in spasticity (which currently increases when he walks). With this in mind, we took the bikes out to China Camp in Marin County, because both of

Cranky Pants

... While I think that Robb and I have showed remarkable patience in dealing with our various challenges (and, yes, I do know that a spinal cord injury is way worse than hepatitis), we do get fed up and frustrated from time to time. Unfortunately, we both were feeling that way yesterday, which made for a very crabby day. Robb was having a bad day, and I was feeling wildly nauseous, and we were mis-directing our frustrations at each other. We had gone out letterboxing , and when we didn't immediately find what we were looking for, the squabbling began. And somehow, neither of us had the self control to stop it. I'm not proud of this, but I will note that it is a rare day that we behave in this manner. Robb is a model of patience and good attitude. Sometime I wonder where all of that positive energy comes from. If I were in his shoes, I suspect I wouldn't face the world with the grace that Robb does. Thankfully, we were doing something that we both enjoy, the weather w

Brush Up

... The installation of our current set is going really well. As always, the carpenters have done an immaculate job of building and assembling scenery. When Sheri and I arrived at the theater today, there were three carpenters crawling around on the fake grass, fluffing it up with scrub brushes. I wouldn't do to have crease-marks in our lawn, after all!


... The stage floor of the theatrical set we are currently working is supposed to look like a dying lawn. Of course, you can't run out the Home Depot and buy such a thing and install it in your theater, because if you do, it will quickly become a dead lawn that infests your theater with bugs and mildew. So, it is our job to create a fake dying lawn. We bought six hundred square feet of raffia matting (know in the trade as funeral grass, since it is used to cover the mounds of dirt displaced by grave digging). And we had to teach ourselves to paint a dying lawn. Since the raffia grass we were going to have to paint is naturally a bit waxy, and also treated with flame retardant chemicals, we had to find a paint that would have excellent adhesion. We settled on textile paints, which would adhere well, and also remain soft and flexible on the individual leaves of grass. According to the technical staff at the company that manufactures this product, we would not have to heat-set t


... Robb and I went into San Francisco yesterday, with the goal of attending the Pacific Orchid Expo at Fort Mason Center. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, Robb's back was giving him a lot of trouble, and he realized that hours of walking in a crowded flower show was not an activity that he would enjoy. Luckily, Robb generally carries his recumbent trike in the back of our car. So while I gawked at the exotic blooms, Robb went for a ride along the shoreline. One of the very last things he and I did before his accident was attend a creative thinking workshop at Crissy Fields, presented by our letterboxing friend Paul . We've been back there a few times since then, and each time Robb has a very strong response to remembering the last weekend that he was entirely able-bodied. (I like to note the improvements that Robb has made whenever we re-visit a place we go infrequently. On our visit to Crissy Fields with Barbara and Jenny in June of 2006, Robb was considerabl