Friday, November 30, 2007

Fortune Telling

Gail and I went to Thailand three or four years ago. We went there because we knew that she would probably be on dialysis at some point, and we wanted to visit some of the harder places before that happened.

On one of our last days there, we were at a Buddhist temple (Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep), and you could crawl on your knees to get a wooden stick with a number on it that would tell you your fortune. Gail declined the offer, but I shook up the little wooden container and chose my well-worn stick. I have had it posted on my wall at work since we got home. It says:

"Getting the last number, it's indicating the prosperity and dignity. You will be happy for ever and ever. Asking about your lover and legal case, please be confident that everything just goes better. You always be supported by benefactors."

Not that I believe in fortunes, but this one I think I'll go with. I am happy and my life is full of joy. I don't think I'll ever ask for another fortune, because this one works for me!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blood pressure

Gail gets dialysis at a center that is close to our house, so I have felt OK about letting her drive herself home when I can't pick her up because of rehearsal. But I like to pick her up when I can, mainly as a way of showing her I love her.

Usually she drops me off on her way to work, and I get someone to drop me off at the dialysis center after work. That way I can drive her car home. This Tuesday we didn't get it together, so I had my car at work. When the day was done, I left my car at work and got a ride to dialysis. She was very surprised to see me there, but I think she was glad for the company.

When she is finished with the dialysis, they always take her standing blood pressure one more time to be sure she is OK to go. It is supposed to be at least 100 for her to be released.

This time we couldn't get her blood pressure up. It started out in around 70 over 40, then moved up into the low 80s. She walked around, she drank some water, we mentioned George Bush. Nothing worked. Finally, at 84 over whatever, they let her go because she was asymptomatic. I'm not sure they would have let her go, or should have let her go, with that blood pressure if she were driving herself. She felt fine and probably would have been OK to drive, but I was really glad I was there anyway. It was just easier and safer for me to drive her.

When I can, I bring her a little sandwich or something to eat in the car after dialysis. She is often very hungry then, and she sits there and very methodically eats while I drive her home. If I don't have something in the car for her, by the time we get home she isn't hungry anymore.

It's amazing what you can incorporate into your life...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

She Did It!!

I wandered into the TV room last night where Gail was working on her novel, and I got there right at the moment she submitted her manuscript to NaNoWriMo! They accepted her novel, counted her words, verified that she had, indeed, written a not horrible novel of 50,000-plus words, and declared her a winner!! (Actually, they didn't verify that it was not horrible, but that assumption is part of their working premise.)

In case you're wondering, that is about 126 pages. Think Great Gatsby, or Old Man in the Sea. Not so much War and Peace (thank goodness!).

I'm so proud! And she is awfully proud and happy too!

Monday, November 26, 2007


I don't know why I was so tired today. I went to work, and then left to put together some banners at the church for the upcoming Symphonic Choir concert. Then I just went home and to bed for a long nap. I think I may still be tired from the excitement and let down from the false alarm.

If I get this tired from a false alarm, I'm scared to think how I'll do when the real thing happens.

Gail is finishing her first novel. Yes, she is. She signed up for NaNoWriMo; National Novel Writing Month, where you try your best to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. She has more than 45,000 words now, and I am sure she will make it.

She does a lot of the writing while she is at dialysis. I was kidding her that if she went in for the surgery, she should ask for an extension, just for the amount of time she was unconscious!

I think she needs to tell them her story when she submits her novel. Can't you see it now? Poor but plucky woman on dialysis three times a week, undaunted by her crippling illness, successfully completes her novel while she waits for the life-saving transplant! They'll love it!!!

Yes, I am getting the tiniest bit cynical, but it's still funny.

My only claim to fame is that I suggested she participate in NaNoWriMo. You can read more about it here!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blessing of the Animals

This was the day for the blessing of the animals at church. Tizi-n-Tichka were very good. They came up with us while we sang the anthem and they were very good while they got blessed. And we gave them some communion bread and juice too.

During the prayer I said that we had been called to SF for a transplant on Friday but it hadn't worked out. I asked for prayers for the person who had died and for the people who received the kidneys and other organs.

Gail said that the transplant people called the dialysis center even before they called us. In a funny way, we are minor players in this opera. It's the doctors and nurses and staff who are the real actors.

We just show up!

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Today was a little hard after yesterday's false alarm. I think part of it is adrenaline hangover from the excitement and disappointment. We are both sad that the surgery didn't happen, but we felt very loved by our friends who were SO EXCITED!

As we were driving to UCSF, we were telling ourselves all the reasons why we were SO LUCKY to get called now!

1. We got to have Thanksgiving.
2. We still had three days of vacation left.
3. This is a slow time of work for both of us, but especially me.
4. The rest of her face would heal while she is in the hospital!

But it didn't work out that way.

So I guess our lucky day is still coming!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

False Alarm

Well, shoot!

We got everything ready, got loaded in the car, found a friend to come spend the night with the pups, got gas, got cash, drove to San Francisco, and then they called us with the bad news. The surgeon had arrived and examined the organs, and he determined that the pancreas wasn't good enough to transplant.

So we came back home.

But, we are, nonetheless, encouraged. Now we know for sure that Gail is actually at the top of the list and that she can indeed get called any day now. And we know that we can figure out how to get to San Francisco, so that is good, too. And we are willing to wait for a very good pancreas!

We consider this a practice run. Now we know for sure that it is going to happen!

Any day now!

The Call


I guess David was right when he said it could be any time now, because they just called. We have repacked our little bags and we are headed to UCSF for the transplant!

We plan to get there around 3:00. The surgery will start about midnight. I don't know how much web access I will have, but I'll let you know how things are going as soon as I can!

We're a funny mixture of scared, excited, and determined.



Thursday, November 22, 2007

Chocolate covered figs stuffed with ganache

Then last night I dipped the little stuffed figs into the chocolate. They were the most successful yet. A few of them were even tempered! Yay!!

Melting chocolate

Melting chocolate
Originally uploaded by gr8what
Tuesday night, I made the ganache and prepared the figs. Then last night I stuffed the figs with the ganache and tempered the chocolate (patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Toni, Scott, Gail and I went to the opera on Sunday to hear Thomas Hampson sing Macbeth, and sing it he did. This was Toni and Scott's first big fat operatic tragedy, and they totally stepped up to the plate. Verdi's music was wonderful, Hampson was awe-inspiring, and the production was weird and distracting.

The opera had publicity out that Hampson would be available in the lobby after the opera to sign CDs. I stole from her office the photograph with Cheryl and him from 15 years ago and got him to autograph it to her. He was so nice and sweet. He laughed at the picture and said his wife wouldn't let him wear that tie now. What a gracious, gifted man he is.

Afterwards we stopped in El Granada at Cafe Gibralter, which was a fabulous as it was 4 or 5 years ago when Lynda took us there.

It was, all in all, about as perfect as a day could be.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Friday afternoon, I got a call from one of the wonderful women who work with Gail, which is always alarming.

Luckily, it was nothing serious. She and Gail had been at the Farmer's Market, and she had stepped into the bank for a minute. She told me, "Gail was standing up when I left her!" When she came back, Gail was bleeding profusely from her face. She had tripped on a little step and fallen face first to the pavement.

She really skinned up her face from her nose to her lip on the right side. Kind of looks like she is wearing half of a Charlie Chaplain mustache. She also has small scrapes at various places on her nose. It's really visible, poor thing. And it hurts.

And of course, this weekend, she had dialysis, went to a big birthday dinner with lots of people SAturday night, went to an Ensemble Monterey concert in Monterey, sang on the first row in church for a performance of the Handel Te Deum, went to San Francisco for the opera, and had dinner on the way home in Half Moon Bay. So it's not like she could hide in the house till she looked more presentable.

But she remained the trooper she is, and gamely went through her weekend, answering the inevitable questions.

I don't think the fall had anything to do with her other stuff. Doesn't appear to be related to diabetes or dialysis. She just tripped.

A reminder that life isn't fair. If life were even remotely tending towards slightly more fair, I would have fallen instead of her. Which I would gladly have done...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Southern churches

Originally uploaded by Afroswede
This is probably closer to the church I saw driving to Lorenzo. This church is in Arkansas, but they are all over the place down there. Having grown up with them, I actually have a fond spot in my heart for them.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Southern churches

The picture in the posting for Nov 16th was originally posted here but it got dropped.

That church is probably similar to the church I saw driving to Lorenzo. This church is in Arkansas, but they are all over the place down there. Having grown up with them, I actually have a fond spot in my heart for them.


Any day now
When I was a kid, we would drive from Lubbock to my mom's hometown in Lorenzo almost every weekend. It's about a 20 mile drive through cotton fields and empty space. One time when we passed one of the region's ubiquitous churches, I started repeating "Jesus" to myself over and over. After a while, I woke up from a dozy stupor and realized that the syllables I was still repeating to myself had lost any meaning. I had to remind myself what those syllables referred to.

The phrase "any day now" is sort of like that now. We have been reassuring ourselves that the transplant call could come "any day now" for so long that the phrase has lost its meaning. We have to shake ourselves to remind us that it truly could be any day now.

Or not.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Gail had a bad night last night. Insulin reaction around 3:00 am, so she stayed home this morning.

I on the other hand had stayed late trying to reconcile the Kids Choir accounts. Finally got them all balanced. Then played a computer marble game till I staggered to bed around 2:30.

Robin was still awake when I went to bed.

All of our sleeping patterns are disrupted.

Except the pups. They sleep anywhere, anytime. Good role models, not that any of us are learning anything from them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

War and Peace

I've been talking for years about wanting to read War and Peace, and I have finally started it. There is a new translation out and it has gotten very good reviews. So I bit the bullet started it last night.

Guess what? It's pretty funny. Sly and witty funny. Reminds me of Jane Austen. I never expected it to be funny. So there's hope.

I figure I can make good progress on it during Gail's eight to ten hour surgery. Unless I finish reading it before she even gets called. Now THAT would be depressing...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wretched Robin, Ladies Dinah and Gail

Here we are dressed up in all our regalia! You can see how fabulous the dresses that Gail made are. Not to mention Robin's very fancy pirate shirt!


Up this morning to church, where we all agreed that next year we would schedule a Jazz service the morning after Madrigal Dinner so we could all sleep in.

But the most fun part was that we found a stash of pirate eye patches so we all wore them when we processed into the sanctuary. It was really fun.

I'm sure we were the only church with a Pirate Choir this Sunday!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Madrigal Dinner

We had the Madrigal Dinner tonight, and it was a great success. It was set in 1492 in Barcelona, and had Christopher Columbus and pirates! I don't think very many madrigal dinners have pirates!

Today was a dialysis day, and I was waiting for Gail in the lobby while they were taking her off the machine. It took a long time, so I eventually wandered back in. Her blood pressure was low and they wouldn't let her leave. Finally it made it up to 97, and they let her go since I was driving.

I asked her what it was at first, and she said 54 over 37.


Usually when it is low, we start talking to her about George Bush and that gets it high again.

I guess he is good for something.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Nerd Alert

How nerdy can one person be?

I'm glad you asked!

You have undoubtedly heard of the Book of the Month Club, or the Wine of the Month Club.

Well, I am a proud member of the Pencil of the Month Club, and I paid up for the limited edition version as well. Trust me, it doesn't get any nerdier than that!

Every month I receive three or so pencils of various kinds. Some are novelty pencils. maybe a pencil from China made of recycled newspapers scented with pineapple. Or an orange Rhodia pencil. Or a triangular Mongol or a big fat red Mongol for kids. A pencil with the multiplication tables on it, or a California Republic Palamino, my favorite of them all.

I got a pencil holder with a magnet on it shaped like a musical note and two really cool pencil sharpeners.

The pencils are really fun, but I think what I like best is just knowing that something is coming for me in the mail and it will be a surprise.

You can be a pencil nerd too! Just go to

Then you'll have at least one thing to look forward to every month!

It's the little things that keep us going!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Surrounded by Bad News

There is too much bad news in my little part of the world.

I have my friend Moony fighting her way back from myelodisplastic syndrome. My friend David fighting throat cancer. A couple of younger friends battling their addictions. A friend in her late 60's with 90 hard fought days sobriety who stopped smoking at the same time. A friend who has just finished her successful treatment for breast cancer, and another who just got her diagnosis. A friend with kidney disease who is waiting for a transplant from her sister, who the tests are showing may also have kidney disease.

I light a candle for them every week, but I can't even keep them all in my mind at the same time.

I pray for their health, for their strength, for them to be surrounded by love and light. I hope someone is listening...

Happy birthday

On the hunt in the back yard!
Originally uploaded by gr8what
Tizi-n-Tichka were born one year ago today! Happy birthday little puppies! We love them so much!

Here is a picture of them the day we got them, exploring the back yard for the first time!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hassled and Harried

Too much work today, too much to do, too much to think about.

Then off to a couple of back to back meetings at FCC. Found myself signing up for more things to do, how can that be, I am dragging already.

But I am also feeling supported and appreciated there so it feels OK.

It is still beyond imagining that I am part of a church. If I think about it, I don't believe it. But I like these people. I like the intentional way they live, and the way they grapple with the hard stuff. I like their rigorous thinking and the way they value each other.

Yael told a story about being in Israel and taking a boat from one side of the Red Sea to the other with a bunch of Anglican priests. In the middle of the sea, they stopped the boat and sat there praying for a very long time. I love that image of the still, quiet sea in the middle of the water.

Perhaps that is where Gail and I are right now. We have left one bank of the sea and are halfway to the other side. And it is still here now, although we know it will be chaotic when we get to the other side.

We should appreciate this quiet time while we have it!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Daylight Savings Time

The clock turned Sunday night, and we had enough daylight in the morning to take the pups on a walk. It was so nice. We walked down the street and through a rural area, around to the chicken coop. There are about 10 chickens in there, and they have gotten very big since we last saw them about three months ago. We always stop there and have the dogs quietly watch them. I toss them a little dog food, and they cluck around looking for it. I think it is good training for the dogs to sit there quietly looking at the hens.

Gail sent me a note thanking me for getting her to get up and walk them. I told her the best part of the walk is spending time with her.

We are such mooshes!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Madrigal Dinner Gown

Madrigal Dinner Gown
Originally uploaded by gr8what
Gail has been busily working her little fingers to the bone sewing new dresses for us for the upcoming Madrigal Dinner. Hers is green and mine is red, and they are both incredibly splendiferous!

Last year at this time, we weren't sure we would be here for the Madrigal Dinner, and here we are again. We still hope we won't be here for it. Hope springs eternal.

In today's newspaper, there was a story about two local teenagers killed in a car accident. As sad as that is, we can't help but hoping that their families are considering donating their organs.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


We went for a walk with Moony today. It was so good to see her. She had a bone marrow transplant which almost killed her. She was the sickest person I have ever known, but she did survive it. She and Gail talked a lot about being sick and recovering, and going through transplants. It was a good walk.

Gail is a little less scared of the cardiac catheter test. She talked with me about it and with a friend of hers at work, who told her, "ohhhhh, it'll be OK."

Friends are good.

Friday, November 02, 2007

More tests

So we talked to the transplant coordinator about the tests, and she will need to have a cardiac catheter test again.

Gail is VERY unhappy and scared about this. It hurt last time, and she is afraid of the pain. And she is afraid that they will have to do some procedure like they did last time.

We did clarify that the test itself, the cardiac cath, will not take her off of the active transplant list. She will only come off the list if they have to do a procedure on her, insert a stent or a balloon.

Hopefully, she will be in good shape and they won't have to do anything but go in there and look around and then stamp her Grade A, ready to go.

She thinks she will have to stay overnight in the hospital, and she is very scared about that too. I told her all her friends will come in and visit her, and we'll have a party. I have to figure out how I can smuggle the puppies in to the cardiac ward. Tricky, very tricky.

We didn't think we would have to do this again.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nephrologist Visit

Gail and I met with her nephrologis (kidney doctor) yesterday for her regular monthly visit. Everything looks good. All her blood work is good, her blood pressure is OK.

Her doc's only concern is that Gail's catheter last until she gets the transplant. When the surgeon installed it, he said that the catheters are designed to last a couple of months, but he knew a guy who had one for four years.

The main concern is infection since it is a straight tube into her heart. Gail is 100% good in avoiding infection. She NEVER gets it wet. You can imagine how hard it is to go almost a year without ever getting the upper right quadrant of your torso wet. But she is adamant about it, thank goodness. I don't know that I could be as totally careful about that as she is.

So we aren't worried about infection. There is a possibility that the tube can cause a narrowing of the vein. This is serious because it is permanent damage that isn't resolved by just removing the catheter. The signs to watch for are that the arm gets swollen because fluid isn't draining out through the vein. So now I have something else to worry about.

Gail had the surgery and began dialysis on December 13th. The insurance coverage was authorized for a year, so that needs to be reinstated. Her transplant coordinator is taking care of that.

But her doctor reminded her that she had to take a bunch of tests last year before they would certify her to the transplant list. She recommended that we call them and find out if additional tests will be required to keep her on the list past the one year anniversary. If so, we will want to get them done before hand so that she doesn't spend time off the transplant list.

Gail is too scared to talk to her coordinator about this, so I have been delegated to do so.

She and I are very different about some things, and this is one of them. I crave as much information as I can get, and she feels safer not knowing. So talking to her coordinator about the tests is one way I can help out.

In a seasonally appropriate ghoulish aside, Halloween is a time of lots of drinking and driving. Maybe a kidney/pancreas will come available that is just her type!