Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nice segway

A couple of Sundays ago we took Maggie out on the municipal pier, which is a long curved concrete pier that forms the outer edges of Aquatic Park near Fisherman’s wharf. It is a touristy area, for sure; but the touristy areas are generally the prettiest. San Francisco, like other areas (and like humans), wants to show its best version of itself to visitors.

A stroll out on the municipal pier make Alcatraz feel so close you can touch it. You can see it in both pictures, it looks like it's just off the edge of the pier. (It's not) The pier itself is teeming with life. There are seagulls standing guard over anglers, bike riders and tourist groups. We stopped and chatted with some tourists indulging in a Segway tour of the San Francisco waterfront. I have no idea how much they pay for this, and they look silly in a group like that, but I have to admit it seems to be very entertaining. How can you not laugh when you are riding on a Segway?

It was an incredibly windy day and we were fighting the breeze every step of the way. The Segway riders were not doing much better. One of them challenged Maggie to a race wondering if her chair had more power than their “vehicles” I quickly pointed out that Maggie’s chair was manual and the only “power” was my two legs and arms. I did not want to get in a smackdown race with someone riding a linoleum roller, though I would have had a decent chance if we ran into the wind.

The tour guide, a cool looking guy in his 20s, noticed the sticker on Maggie’s tray. (see pic) It is a napster sticker that someone gave her many years ago. The guy looked at Maggie and said, “Napster!?! – girl you are old school!” Maggie beamed with pride, even though she had no idea what he was talking about. It is unusual for someone to address Maggie directly (instead of through Steve or me) and she absolutely loves it when it happens. He asked her what the buttons were for and she started hitting them immediately. I said quickly, "that’s how she talks." Maggie manipulated the buttons until it said, “Hello, My name is Maggie. I live in San Francisco.”

He didn't flinch at the technology or the synthesized voice but simply said, “ahh, a local, eh? I thought you looked pretty cool.” She was beside herself. Then, taking her into his confidence he said, “Watch this, city girl.” He instructed his tourists to race to the other end of the pier giving them directions and warning them to be careful and not run up the back of each other. They took off each jockeying for position. The tourguide turned to Maggie and said. “I do this to groups all the time. It’s pretty pointless to race, all Segways  go 9 mph at top speed, but it gives them something to do.” He took off after his charges with a wave.

Maggie was delighted and Steve and I just looked at each other and grinned. Occasionally people really surprise you. I think tourists really are seeing the best version of San Francisco with this guy showing them the way.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hot Town, Summer in the City

 In San Francisco you know it's summer because the fog gets extremely thick and the temperature drops 10 degrees.Summer officially arrived June 21 and the fog arrived at the same time, right on schedule.

On Sunday the 27th the day dawned warm and beautiful. We have learned to take advantage of these occasional fog free days. Maggie and Steve and I were in Golden  Gate Park before 9AM and thoroughly enjoyed the lovely weather, wandering through the renovated Rhododendron Dell and then the rose garden which was in full bloom.

Maggie loves the nice weather and gets into the spirit immediately when the sun comes out. We just slather on the sunblock and head out. Maggie can't take too much heat, but it never gets that hot here. Our natural air conditioning (fog) always comes back This little glimpse of summer was no exception.

It's Monday night and the fog is back.

Summer 2010 was great. This year it fell on a Sunday.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bag of Tricks

After four days of dripping fog, I can actually see the sun! Woot! The fog is very San Franciscan and all that rot, but it is dreary and depressing after a while and blue sky is a welcome change.

Yesterday, was one of the drippiest fog days of all. It was both cold and wet. In fact I had on my winter coat while I ran errands. While I was at the bank, I was looking for my bank card that slipped into the deepest recesses of my bag and I receivef a rather strange look from the the teller as things came out of my purse.  I carry a bag that is part purse, part emergency medical supply kit. The teller raised an eyebrow when a giant tube of 70spf  sunblock appeared. Maggie will burn in a heartbeat, so I’m never without sunblock, even on a foggy day.

 If she thought that was weird, it's probably a good thing she didn't see the feeding tube, suction tubing and catheters that I didn’t pull out!

P.S. If you get the chance to see Peter Pan from Theatre 360 – GO! The show is fun and an incredible visual experience. It’s not the Disney cartoon or the old Mary Martin version, it’s something new and different. You feel like you are flying across the London rooftops!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gotta Fly!

While Maggie is at school, I have time to myself. This is the only time I can really get things done. Lately, for some reason, I seem to spend the morning working around the house g and then spend the last hour or so of my freedom RUSHING to get other things done before Maggie’s bus arrives at 1:30 PM. It really is astounding how much you can accomplish in an hour when you have to. It would be far more relaxing to do things the other way around, but it has become something of a game with me.

This morning I actually got a fair amount of work done. I just resolved a matter for a client and all the final paperwork had to be copied and delivered. In addition, Maggie’s recently repaired dynavox was not actually repaired and that had to be prepared for shipping back for another round. I sent faxes and prepared packages and by the time I came up for air it was after noon. From 12:15PM to 1:20 PM I was able to get to the UPS store to ship the dynavox, go to the post office to priority mail some documents and hit the bank. Unbelievably, there was no line in any of the three places and I had time to spare. A quick trip to Safeway and I was home with five minutes to spare. May be a new record.

Maggie has a nurse with her in the afternoon, but the nurse cannot do things alone and I need to be here to help her with procedures. I could let her meet the bus alone and I have done so when necessary, but I like to be here for Maggie when she gets home. Besides, once the 3PM procedures are done today,I am out of here. I am leaving at 4PM and Maggie and the nurse are on their own until Steve arrives at 6. I am going out on the town.

I am going to see Peter Pan, which is playing in a giant tent on the Embarcadero. From what I hear, it’s a spectacular show with the actors flying above the audience. (Check it out here ) Our friends Malcolm and Lindsay have ONE extra ticket. Malcolm,, who works with Steve, went into Steve’s office and said, “you have to watch Maggie next Thursday night because we are taking Sally to Peter Pan.” Steve happily agreed and he will play backup caregiver so I can go out. He will be on his own when the nurse leaves at nine, but he can handle it.

Right now its 1:45. I still have to do a bit more legal work, shower, dress, help Maggie, walk the dog, and do a ton of other things. I’m starting on those things now. I don’t want to play the last minute game tonight. I want to be in that seat when the show starts. I am hoping to be able to learn how to fly. It will save me so much time!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Big Sky Invasion

In 1998, when she was four years old Maggie was a flower girl in her cousin’s wedding. My niece Kelly had dozens of little girls from which to choose, and she chose Maggie. There have been many kindnesses afforded to Maggie in her life, but I cannot think of another gesture that has touched me more than this did. Many brides would not be so selfless, but then Kelly was not your average bride as you can see from the picture. (Admittedly, Maggie looks a bit freaked out in this picture, but this was before the widespread availability of the delete button and digital cameras, so you took what you got.) Despite the face, Maggie had a great time and loved being the center of attention. In fact, that day may have set the stage for Maggie demanding the spotlight evermore.

The wedding was in Helena, Montana where Kelly went to college and still lives with her husband James. They now have three daughters. That means my brother Ed is a grandfather, and for some reason that still cracks me up. (He is not that much older than I am.) He also happens to relish the role and he adores those girls.

Ed’s three granddaughters, Sydney (9), Jaymee (7) and Katie (5) are the only members of the “next” generation. Ed and his wife Dianne live in Los Angeles, 1200 miles from their granddaughters, but there is a lot of travelling back and forth between LA and Montana and they see them quite often. Those trips do not often include San Francisco so we are limited to pictures and stories. Last night the two oldest made a rare appearance in San Francisco and we were able to hang out. It was a blast.

Sydney and Jaymee are big enough now that they get to visit their grandparents without mom and dad. They flew down with their aunt (my niece Tootsa) and will fly back with their grandmother. Ed and Dianne are taking them everywhere and the kids are having a great time. Yesterday they drove the 400 miles to San Francisco so they could visit my mom, their great grandmother. It is a whirlwind visit. Today they are heading back via Monterey so the girls can go to the aquarium.

I invited everyone over here last night and we ordered pizza and caught up. Those girls were hilarious. They synced the Wii that Steve and I have not been able to figure out and made Mii people for us. They entertained us with song and dance and hung out with Maggie. I told them Maggie likes “All the Single Ladies” and when we played the song, they immediately started dancing with her. Maggie was beside herself with joy. I do not usually capture moments like this.

These girls are their mother's daughters, that's for sure. Seems this family is a source of some great moments in Maggie’s life.

Have a great trip back to LA and then to Montana, ladies. Please come again and bring your sister!

Monday, June 21, 2010


When I was preparing to go to college, my father was concerned about my heading off to UCLA. He wanted me in a smaller school, preferably Catholic. He knew I wouldn’t go for that, so he suggested I consider going to University of California in Berkeley (Cal) and live at home. The commute was easily done, I could drive from my house across the Bay Bridge or take BART (rapid Transit) to Berkeley in about 30 minutes, and I could live at home for nothing. It was a futile attempt and he knew it. That was not attractive to me. I was looking forward to being out on my own and I wanted to go away. My older three siblings had all gone away and now it was my turn. Of course, each of them had attended relatively small Catholic colleges and I was headed to a (gasp) public school with over 30,000 students. Cal was also a huge public school, but if I stayed at home, he could keep a closer eye on me. I knew that too and that was part of the reason I wanted to go away. : )

My aunt Mayrose faced a similar issue 40 years earlier. In the late 1930’s a college education was not accessible for many people, and for a WOMAN, even less so. However, my grandfather encouraged his kids to excel at everything they did. Mayrose was smart and she applied, was accepted and wanted to go to Cal. Various priests apparently spoke to my grandfather about how much more appropriate it would be for Mayrose to attend the local girls Catholic college, but that was not to be. She knew what she wanted and went after it. She went to Berkeley during the depression, and lived at home with her dad, five younger siblings and two aunts who moved in to help care for the family following her mother’s death a year or two earlier. That right there might be enough to make a young woman stray off course, but not Mayrose.

She commuted to Cal every day and her commute was not quite the same thing I would have faced. The Bay Bridge was completed right around the time she would have started college, but people did not have cars the way they do now. You did not just hop on the Bridge and drive over there, and there was certainly no rapid transit. She would walk to the streetcar, ride all the way downtown to the Ferry Building, cross the bay on the Ferry and then take a train up to the campus. The trip had to take a couple of hours each way. She did this until she graduated because that is what she had to do to get what she wanted.

Like many of the women in my family, Mayrose had many different names. In fact, only the San Francisco contingent calls her Mayrose, her given name. Her siblings referred to her as “sis” and everyone in Seattle simply called her “Casey”. Jim, One of my SF cousins was up in Seattle last week and as soon as she heard him say “Hi, Mayrose” she perked up because that meant it was someone from San Francisco. She loved San Francisco and as her daughter Peg told me, she left a big part of herself here when she moved away. In the last few years, she has had difficulty with short-term memory and though she has been in Seattle surrounded by her loving family for about 70 years, it was the early days in San Francisco that she could converse about easiest.

I have not seen Mayrose in a very long time. She was the only one of the Casey siblings to move away from the San Francisco area. She met Uncle Fred during World War II and moved to Seattle where they raised a huge family and had a great and happy life. I have not been able to travel since Maggie was born, and her travels were getting restricted by age. The last time I saw her was nearly five years ago when she came down with a bunch of her kids and grandkids for a family reunion.

Mayrose passed away over the weekend at 90 years of age. She was feisty until the end, and leaves kids, grandkids and great grandkids to mourn her. Though she has not seen many of us in a while, she also leaves her extended family in San Francisco and beyond. I have always admired her spirit and independence. Her granddaughter summed it up well on face book, where she wrote: “In loving memory of Casey Baisch, may everyone be lucky enough to have a kick-ass woman like this in their lives.”

Could not have said it better myself. Women like her made it easier for women like me to follow our dreams 30 years later.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers and Sons

Happy Fathers Day to all the dad's out there. Being a dad is tough work, and you should pat yourselves on the back for your efforts.

I was raised by a great dad and I married a man who is a great dad. My husband is fishing with his great dad right now but will come home to a nice dinner prepared by Maggie and I. The boys aren't here, but they have both checked in already and will call back tonight. This should be time for a contented sigh,

When Tim called this morning he said he had two reasons for calling. One - to wish dad a Happy Father's day and two - with some bad news. I braced myself. Seems he got pushed at a concert last night and cut his face above his eye. He said it's "pretty bad" and he needs stitches. He then said, he was going to go to the doctor tomorrow.

Uh..... NO. I told him to go right now to the emergency room. Stitches prevent cuts from getting infected and IT'S YOUR FACE.

If you're keeping track, this is my second stitches story in a row. Thank God I only have two boys. When Maggie is my medically boring child, you know it's an active weekend.

I also told him not to tell Dad until it's actually stitched up. That will be a nicer Father's Day present for him. It's easier to hear a problem is solved than to picture your son 200 miles away with an unattended injury. Turns out he waited too long to be seen and they could not stitch it. It's just steri-stripped acrocc his eyebrow and he will have a lovely scar about an inch long. Of course he has the dark heavy eyebrows of his Irish ancestry so it will likely be hard to detect in a relatively short amount of time.

I just told my mother this story and she told me she read that boys brains become fully developed at 20. (Tim turned 20 on Thursday). I said that may be, but apparently some of it is leaking through the hole in his face.

Ahhhh, nothing like a quiet Sunday.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hakuna Matata

Friday afternoon 4:29. I'm trying to fend of a crises for a client before everything closes for the weekend at 5:00PM. I have done all I can do and hope against hope he gets what he needs. All the wheels are in motion, I just have to wait to hear now.

It's terrible to say, but it feels good to be stressed over a professional matter rather than a personal one. Last Friday afternoon I was tearing across the city trying to get Maggie's wheelchair fixed and it all worked out. I could not believe everything fell into place like that. I relaxed too soon. When I returned #1 son called from an emergency room in Ashland Oregon needing the insurance information. That's always good for the blood pressure.The conversation went something like this:

M Oh Hi Ed, how's Oregon.
E: pretty good, I guess, except I'm in the emergency room.
Me: (screeching) WHAT!?! What happened now?
 [note he is a downhill mountain bike racer, so these visits, while not frequent, are regular)
E: I crashed and went over the bars and landed really hard. I thought I smashed my hip but it's okay and I needed stitches in my arm.Now I need the insurance info.
Me: OK,(digging for card that I have sent him 500 times before) how many stitches?
E: I dunno, I didn't ask.
Me: (growling) ROUGHLY how many, Eddie? 5 stitches says one thing and 200 stitches indicates an entirely different type of injury.
E: Oh, no more than 10.
M: OK (gives insurance info) so you're out for the race tomorrow?
E: No Way! Doc says I can race. I mean I'm stiff and my knee and hip hurt, but that won't stop me.
Me: (begging) PLEASE be careful.
E: No worries mom.

Right. Hakuna Matata. No worries at all. He's fine, this is not a serious injury, but it freaks me out anyway.

Now if the phone would only ring giving me a happy ending to this Friday, I would be very pleased. There are twelve minutes left. Hakuna Matata

have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Twenty Years

Today is my son Tim’s 20th birthday. It is hard to believe he is 20, standing on the threshold of his life. It is an age where everything is possible.

Twenty years ago, June 17th was on Father’s Day. I was 41 weeks pregnant and I had a two year old. I bought two father’s day presents for my husband, one from Eddie, the two year old, and one from the new baby that I expected to be about 10 days old at that point. On the morning of Fathers Day I gave both presents to my husband and said if this baby doesn’t come today, you have to give one back. Tim did not let either of us down, but arrived in time for the 10:00 news that night. He was a hilarious kid right from the get go. He used to entertain himself by banging his head against the hardwood floor and then grinning at us when we stopped him.

After Maggie arrived, it seemed there was always a health crisis for her on Tim’s birthday. She had to be rushed to the hospital and into surgery on his 4th birthday, (she was just 3 months old). Tim was oblivious. I told him in an upbeat voice that he and Eddie were invited to his cousin’s house because Auntie Ellen was having a birthday party for him. He was happy as a clam. I was not. I sat in the surgical waiting room feeling miserable. I can still remember that day as if it was yesterday. It was the day OJ Simpson made his “slow speed” getaway in the Ford Bronco. I sat there watching this bizarre story unfolding on television and worried about one child while I felt I was disappointing another.

When Maggie was not sick, we had some excellent birthday parties for Tim over the years. We were never the type to throw lavish parties and one up the other parents. No. With my boys and my husband, the parties were creative and entertaining. One year Tim had a track meet for several friends at Kezar stadium, another year Steve turned the back yard into an obstacle course and a dozen or so boys were put through their paces. (That might have been for Eddie, I can’t remember). The kids always had a huge amount of fun and went home tired and happy.

Many birthdays were spent together with his cousin Matt. That's the two of them in the picture a couple of years ago. They are just two days apart in age. Matt grew up in San Diego, and the June birthdays fell, just after school was out so several times we were in San Diego or they were up here. Ironically, now Matt lives and attends school in San Francisco and Tim is away at school. I invited Matt to dinner on his birthday but he had plans to watch the NBA playoffs with his buddies. We decided to make it tonight so I could fix a birthday dinner for someone even tough Tim is not home. Of course tonight is game 7 and Matt is a Lakers fan (which means he still has something to learn about being a San Franciscan.) I left him a message that we can reschedule if he wants – we shall see.

Now that he is 20 and living elsewhere, I am not as involved in his birthday. Of course, I will call him, and I sent gifts etc, but if there is a party, and I am willing to bet there is, I am not invited. That’s ok. He is a grown up now.

I just don’t know how that can be when I haven’t aged at all.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

All the News that's fit to print

Today is a new day. A substitute nurse was found for the one who is sick and Maggie went to school on the bus. I am finally enjoying a little bit of time to myself. I have a thousand and one things to do today before she gets home, but I am sitting around catching up on news a bit before we get started.  My husband laughed at me when he came in and saw this.
I told him I'm a little bit country and a little bit of rock 'n roll.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lazy Days of Summer

Summer school starts today. After three weeks at home, Maggie is chomping at the bit to get back to school. She got sick the week before Memorial Day, and spent four days in the ICU. She recovered at home for a week or so, finally returning to fighting form maybe five days ago. By then, school was out for the summer. She and I went out together every day, but that is not the same as hanging with her friends and spending the entire day engaged in activities.

Mom, too, is ready for school again. I am exhausted. Maggie requires care every second and the care is physically exhausting. It is a lot of lifting, standing, and multi tasking. My recently repaired shoulder is killing me and I need a break.

 While awake, Maggie is really a two-person job - or she is for everyone but me. When I am on duty there is generally no second person to help (unless Steve is home), but when the nurses are here I am the second person. While the nurses take the lead I can do all the other stuff that Maggie requires, like order supplies, make my (almost daily) trip to the pharmacy, take her to appointments, schedule, juggle, and pay the nurses, and do all the paperwork so I can be reimbursed for that. We have nurses in the house 16 hours a day, including over night. The days Maggie is in school, I can get some of that ancillary work done and maybe find an hour or so for me. So, yeah, I am ready.

At 2:00PM on Friday afternoon, Maggie and I were at home and I heard a “pop” from her wheelchair. That is never a good noise. I looked over and she had sheared the bolts off her headrest. Maggie constantly moves and she extends through her spine pushing hard against the headrest. It is ironic, though, because despite all this power, her trunk and neck are very weak and she needs the full support of that headrest. Without it, she cannot use the chair.

Without the chair, she cannot leave the house. Without leaving the house, she cannot attend school. It had to be fixed. Steve can often cobble something together, but he was gone for the weekend. My “cobbling” skills involve duct tape and bungee cords, neither of which was going to work in this case.

I called the Wheelchairs of Berkeley, the place that fixes her chair. The office is in Berkeley, but there is a repair shop in the City too. You have to go through the office to schedule anything. They did not answer. I have the SF shop on my cell phone (there is lots of maintenance for Maggie’s chair.) Wonder of wonder, Chris answered. He knows us very well. I asked if he by any chance had any time immediately. He said he did but he would only be there until 4. The shop is downtown, I was alone with Maggie, and I could not transport her in the broken chair. The nurse was supposed to arrive at 2:30. If everything went absolutely perfectly, this could actually happen.

I took all of the stuff off Maggie’s chair – the talker bag, the suction machine, the ambu bag, the emergency trach etc. It was ready to roll if the nurse showed up on time. She did!! I took off like a shot. As I drove downtown weaving through Friday afternoon traffic, I felt elated. Things never fall into place like that for me. Chris had it fixed in an hour. Maggie and I went out several times over the weekend.

Last night I told her Maggie she was going to school today. She was delighted. So was I. We went through the prep in an exaggerated manner, programming her communication device and getting all the supplies. She is so happy to be returning.

I got up at 6 and hopped in the shower. Her bus comes at 7:30 and the out the door ritual takes a good hour. While I was in the shower, the phone rang waking Steve out of a dead sleep.

It was the school nurse, the one who cares for Maggie while at school. (She has a different nurse for this week; her regular nurse will be back next week). The person whose presence allows me the first break I have had in three weeks.

She is sick. And apparently, there is no replacement. (None that I’ve heard, yet) That means Maggie cannot go to school. Or, she can go if I go with her and act as her nurse; but of course, she cannot take the bus without the nurse, so I also have to act as bus driver.

I have to go pack my lunch.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em

San Francisco is a very politically correct place and I was just busted by one of the PC police. This particular PC'er is a member of a PP (politically powerful) organization, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and felt quite comfortable putting me in my place.

Before I continue I want you to know that I too am politically correct. I'm not rude about it, but I really do try to consider everybody before I speak or act.

It is a fantastic day here. Maggie and I went out this morning but just ran boring errands. The nurse isnt' coming until 3:00PM and we decided to take a little walk with the dog to a nearby store. We weren't going to the supermarket, mind you, just a little corner store to get some cream for the coffee. It's the type of place you run into for no more than five minutes. Mostly it was an excuse to get out again on this beautiful day and stroll through the neighborhood.

We went out the garage door, put away the compost and recycle bins (ok and the garbage too, but that's not pc) started our walk. I have both a wheelchair and a dog with me - two things that are very PC here. The dog was actually leashed for once, and I was obeying all laws.

When we arrived at the store I lashed Brisco the wonder dog to one of two poles outside the store, exchanging hellos with the guys who work there. (We are regulars) As I finished  tying the dog, a young man with  a bicycle wearing a San Francisco Bicycle Coalition T-shirt,says  "Ma'am those poles are not for dogs, they are for bikes."

Fair enough. But there was another pole three feet away.Neither had a bike on it. I looked at the pole and then at him and said, "and you want to put your bike on THIS one instead of THAT one."

"Yes," he says defiantly.   A woman was sitting at the table outside the store eating a sandwich. She was staring at the guy with her mouth hanging open. .  

My first thought was to say "call a cop", but I did not. He was technically right, but really ridiculous. One of the workers was sweeping and he started to say something but I just shook my head at him. It wasn't worth it. This 25 year old guy was going to show the middle aged lady pushing the wheelchair who was boss.

He looked like an idiot.

I simply untied the leash ignoring his suggestions I use the tree to secure the dog (also un-PC). I did not respond at all, but simply untied the dog, unlocked Maggie's brakes, turned her chair around, backed it up three feet, put the brakes on and tied the dog to the OTHER bike pole. (There was another full sized bike rack at the establishment next door and that too was completely empty.)

He was smoking (very UN-PC) and put his cigarette out on the ground. (AACK!) I was soooo tempted, but said nothing. I just looked at the cigarette on the ground and glanced at him. He was as proud as a peacock. Yeah, congratulations, buddy, you should be proud of yourself.

As we walked by him silently, Maggie said on her talker, "Mom I am happy." That is apropos of nothing, but it cracked me up.

For the record, my son Eddie is a very committed bike rider and I am very very conscious of the rights and safety of bike riders. However, there is a difference between my son and the twerp I encountered today.My son's mother taught him manners. Those are always politically correct.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Lasting Impression

At this point in my life, there are very few things that I have had since I was single. Of course, there are the mementos that have been purposefully hidden away, things I remember from my youth, which have been acquired from family members and even the odd pair of earrings that I have somehow not lost in all this time. However, after 24 years of marriage and raising kids for 22 years very few items from our single days are part of this household. If an item has survived this long, it has become part of the backdrop and I do not even notice anymore.

One of those items is a print by Camille Pissarro. If you asked me about it yesterday, I would have said, casually, "Yeah, I guess I’ve had this a long time." Today the story is different because yesterday I saw the actual painting for the first time. It was on display at the Birth of Impressionism exhibit at the deYoung Museum. (see yesterday’s post) When I saw it, I realized that this print is something I treasure. The painting is called Red Roofs and looks like this:

I received the print as a gift in 1978, when I was 22 years old, from friends returning from Paris. It was a grown up gift, a quality print. It was the very first thing I paid to have nicely framed. At that point, my life was in flux, as are the lives of many 22 year olds. In 1978, I graduated from college, left Los Angeles and returned to San Francisco. I then moved to Boston for a year and returned to San Francisco. I worked for a few years and moved a few more times. The print always came with me.

In 1982, I moved to Sacramento and started law school and the print came with me. In the fall of 1983, I lived in a terrible one bedroom furnished apartment in Sacramento. If you have ever lived in a furnished apartment, you know what I mean. Everything is functional, but nothing is aesthetically pleasing. The only thing that was “me” in that apartment was the Pissarro print hanging in the living room.

I met Steve that fall and we started “dating” (if that is what you call two law students with zero time) right around Christmas time. He came to my strange little apartment for dinner one night and went right to the print. He then asked the question that almost ended the relationship where it started.

“Did this come with the apartment?”

Uhhh, no. that is mine. (Thinking, are you KIDDING me?)

Then, in a save, he said, “I thought it was nicer than the rest of the stuff.” (I knew he was BS’ing me, but I appreciated the effort.)

From that point on, we have always referred to the print as “apartment art”

We graduated in 1985 moved back to San Francisco and married in 1986. The print was in our house on West Portal. In 1987, we bought this house and hung the print in the living room where it has been ever since. The room has been painted several times, but the print always goes back. I am not even sure when the last time I looked at it was. It is just always there.

For 32 years, it has been part of my life and I did not realize how much I loved it until yesterday.

When I returned home from the museum yesterday, I gave the print a good hard look. After seeing the original I realize how faded it is. The “Red Roofs” are no longer red. The flowerbeds on the hillside are almost indistinguishable from one another. I should probably replace it, but I doubt I will. It is my “apartment art “and it is a part of me. I have faded along with it and that is just fine.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Different Impressions

On Wednesday Maggie and I continued our commitment to at least one big outing a day. Her health continues to improve and I would say she is about at 98% of her baseline. (Translation: she is just about back to normal).

For our Wednesday excursion we went to the fantastic “Birth of Impressionism” exhibit at the deYoung museum ( This is an exhibit from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. We live very close to the deYoung and we walked over there in a drippy fog, hoping to beat some of the crowds. It was indeed crowded, but with our membership, we received the next viewing time, which was 4 minutes after we arrived. Perfect.

We go to the museum a lot and Maggie enjoys it, but she needs the running banter of conversation to stay involved. Because I was so enthralled with the exhibit, she was not getting enough entertainment. As I gazed upon the original of Whistlers Mother (or, La Mere de l’auteure), Maggie started using her communication device to get more attention.

Maggie, via communication device: MOM!

Me: yes Maggie I am right here, don’t you love this?

Mag: SLAM, (her fist comes down on her tray which is her “No” response.)

Me: Well that is too bad because we are here now and we are going to enjoy this.

I moved on through amazing painting from Renoir, Monet, Cezanne and, my personal favorite Pissarro. I was amazed and delighted. . Maggie? Not so much.

At one point, her chair strayed over the line on the floor, behind which the spectators were supposed to remain. The guard was on us in a moment. I apologized profusely and told Maggie to “watch it, sister” That was highly entertaining for her. However, out momentary encounter with the security guard could not sustain her interest.

As we looked at a series of Monet’s works, Maggie said, “Mom, I go home”.

I said, “sorry chicita, we are here for the duration.”

Pause. (She works on another sentence on her dynavox, which takes several moments to complete) Mom! I go my house now, mom.

Me. No dear, we are getting cultured. This is something you can always tell people you saw.

Pause. (works some more)

As she was working on, I came across a painting by Pissarro that I really love. I have had the print in my house for years, but it was the first time I ever saw the actual painting. It took my breath away. I have a separate post in the works regarding this work (I know, you cannot wait for that)

As I gazed at this lovingly, Maggie finished her sentence.

“Mom, outside, please mom”

Ok. I gave up. We were having two completely different experiences. I will go back without my teenage smarty-pants. We walked back home through the rain.

Guess what? Maggie was bummed out when we actually went home.

I told her, be careful what you wish for, smarty Marty.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Swing for the Fence

I have adopted a (frightening) philosophy: set your goals low and feel good that you achieve them. You get to pat yourself on the back for doing what you set out to do. It is ok to do more than your goals, but you always know you will achieve specific goals for the day. However, when you do not accomplish the miniscule goals you set for yourself, you feel stupid. Yesterday was one of those days.

My goals or “must do” list for yesterday had only two things on it. Get Maggie to her 4:30 appointment on time and sign for a package that was about to be shipped back to the sender. (They tried to deliver it when Maggie was in the hospital.) Staying in the house all day made that easy. Or so one would think.

Up to the time we had to leave for her appointment, Maggie and I stayed in all day yesterday trying to get both of us healthier. I should have made this one of my goals, but it was not a “shoe in” so it did not make the list. I am happy to report that Maggie no longer needs supplemental oxygen during the day, hence staying in was a good decision.

The nurse arrived at noon and worked with Maggie while I went into our downstairs room, which houses the laundry and all the junk we do not know what to do with. I started throwing things out and filling boxes for donating. I was down three for three hours and finished the laundry too. Quite the accomplishment, and it was not even on my “must do” list.

Because I have a tremendous head cold, my energy was sapped. At 3:45 PM, I sat in the living room with a late lunch and promptly fell asleep in the chair. I woke up at 4:10 and had to scramble to get Maggie ready to go to her appointment.

I decided to leave a note and my signature for UPS to leave the package or deliver it to a neighbor. As I went to tape it to the front door, I saw the post-it note indicating he had already been there. ARRGH! He must have come while I was downstairs. The nurse was with Maggie on the main floor, but she never heard the door. There is always a suction machine or nebulizer going which makes it difficult to hear anything. It is also possible my doorbell did not work, it is a bit fussy.

That package will now be returned to the sender. I cannot worry about it. I did not order this stuff, one of Maggie’s therapists did. It was supposed to be delivered to the school or directly to him, but they shipped it to us. Now it will be another couple of weeks before we get them, but c’est la vie.

I had to shake off this dashed goal so that I could accomplish my other miniscule goal of getting Maggie to her appointment on time.

We were 10 minutes late.

Today my goals are attaining world peace and cleaning up the oil in the Gulf. I figure if I am going to fail to achieve goals, I might as well swing for the fence.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Deep Breath for Monday!

I have to admit I'm a little relieved to see Monday arrive after such a busy weekend. We have a long boring week at home now. Good for me, not good for Maggie. I have to make sure we get out every day or she will go out of her mind. It's a balance, though. We can't go out too much; Summer school starts next week and she has a ways to go before she could attend school.

Maggie's health is improving everyday. She is still needing supplemental oxygen, but the amount has decreased. She can't quite get over the hump and kick the habit, but we will continue to try. We measure her "sat" or the oxygen saturation in her blood. Normal healthy folk have a sat between 95 and 100%. If we can keep Maggie above 92, she doesn't need supplemental oxygen.

When she was her sickest last week the O2 was going full blast. If it was off for a second the numbers would drop immediately and precipitously. (like down to the 70s) Now I remove it for 20 minutes or so and she hovers in the high 80's. She's getting there. She is building her stamina but it takes a while after such a nasty infection. She just doesn't have the capacity yet.

Steve was in bed for three days last week presumably with the same bug. I was hit Friday afternoon, but on me it's just a bad head cold. I still made it to Coghlan Beach, for a drink with some friends and to two graduation parties, but I took a lot of naps and drank a ton of water. If I hadn't gone out to all of those things I'd probably be over it, but each was important to me. 

Maggie stayed in most of the weekend, but she made the trek on Sunday when we returned to Coghlan Beach to show my sister Mary the new sign. The path is newly accessible so we thought Maggie should get to come. Her grandfather would love this shot. (But looking at it made me realize how pale she still is, even though she's wearing the oxygen.)

Maggie had a great time getting out and it seemed to invigorate her a bit. We will have outings every day this week even as we launch "operation lung capacity." It will be good for both of us.

Maybe I can ditch the afternoon nap.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Weary Weekend Warrior

I am wiped out from all the extra work caring for Maggie this week. She is improving every day, but still needs supplemental oxygen. That requires extreme vigilance by us because she yanks the tube off at least 20 times an hour. At this point she is strong enough that she doesn't get into trouble immediately if it's off, but she will not improve without the extra "O's". The poor kid is bored out of her mind. I did tell her I would take her to school today to visit becasue it's the last day. She is out of her mind with excitement over that. She keeps making her talker say "mom, mom I am happy I go to school please mom." Over and over and over again. Like 30 times in the past ten minutes.


Steve is also sick and has been for three or four days. We assume it's the same virus that put Maggie in the ICU, but we cannot be sure, so I'm keeping him away from her. That means all the extra work falls to me, which is fine, but tiring. Now I feel the tell tale signs of an oncoming headcold. Blargg. Steve was supposed to take his dad out of town for the weekend to celebrate my father in laws' birthday, but Steve's illness postponed that trip. He can barely get out of bed; a road trip is out of the question. He seems to be improving, so if I DO get this, he can take over with Maggie. (We still have to figure out something for my fil's birthday on Sunday).

I can't get sick because there is so much going on this weekend, which will involve alot of family togetherness. It started last night with a a dinner for my mom's birthday. My sisters Kate and Ellen, my brother Pat and I took her to dinner. Then it's graduation parties. My brother's daughter Emma and my sister's son Vinnie both graduated from high school and there are two separate parties, one Saturday and one Sunday. (Emma will attend my alma mater, UCLA, and part of her gift is a vintage UCLA sweatshirt that I have been saving low these 32 years. It even has a small hole near the shoulder. I'm sure she will be thrilled. )

The coolest thing, though is set for later today. There is an officiall/unofficial dedication of "Coghlan Beach"" in honor of my late father, Frank Coghlan. (I wrote about that here  I  say officially/unofficially, because the swimmers form the South End Rowing club are donig this, but they don't own the beach. The sign may be down in a week. Apparently they have contracted the city and officials are interested in the story, but I'm pretty sure that's federal land, so the city doesn't have authority. Even if it does, nothing has been done to get this approved. Sometimes, though, you have to create a reality so that the government can accept it as such. If there's a sign called Coghlan Beach, then that's the name.

This was a last minute thing, but we will head down there for the ceremony. Twenty five bay swimmers will stand around in their speedos, we will affix the plaque and they will all jump in the bay and swim back to the South End Rowing club - a distance of maybe 1.5 miles.

The Coghlan family will wave at them from the shore. My father's prowess as a Bay swimmer apparently skips a generation.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Glass Half Full

There was one particularly curious circumstance while Maggie was hospitalized. We had to be protected from the medicine, but not from the disease.

Because Maggie had a flu virus, the medical personnel had to take "droplet precautions".  That means they had to put on a mask when they came into the room. Also anyone who was going to touch Maggie had to also put on a gown and gloves. The reasons for this are obvious. Maggie's virus, like all viruses, was contagious. Keeping masks and gloves on protects the health care workers and the other patients form contracting the virus.Steve and I did not take those precautions. We had already been exposed anyway and we were not in contact with any other patient.

We were, however, required to wear special face masks when they administered the tobrymyacin because it is done via nebulizer and the medication is in the air. If one had sensitivities or allergies to that drug and didn't wear the mask they could have a reaction because they would be inhaling some of it. So we protected ourselves form the medication. Steve looked particularly good doing so, though, don't you think. I believe he's watching the Giants game in this photo. (Note Maggie laughing at him while she gets her treatment)

Maggie continues to improve, but also continues to need the oxygen supplement. The most difficult thing is getting her to keep it on. She yanks it off and various connectors go flying. I never did find one of the pieces last night.

But in the "lemonade from lemons" department, I did discover that the oxygen tank makes a perfect coaster for my glass of Cabernet. (For some reason Steve took issue with this and moved it as soon as I took the picture)  

Now THAT's what I call a glass half full.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Naptime post

Sneaking in a quick post while Queen Maggie snoozes in her chair.

It is good to be home. We have a lot to do to deal with Maggie’s illness, but it is always easier when we’re in our own house. The hardest part is keeping the oxygen on her. Maggie is constantly ripping the tube off. (I’ve fixed it twice since I wrote these two sentences.) Usually I see it happen and put it right back. Other times, like now, I look over and she is very white.

It is unfortunate that Maggie has to miss the last week of school. She had a great school year and would love to take part in all of the end of the year festivities. Oh well, summer school starts on the 15th, I think. She should be close to fighting form by then.

Maggie has had well over 100 hospital admissions in her lifetime. We are veterans. I know the routine and many of the professionals who work there. That is helpful because it eliminates a lot of guess work. We get enough surprises with Maggie’s ever-changing health status, we don’t need any from unfamiliarity with the system. In addition to understanding how the hospital systems work, I also know a lot about Maggie and her numerous conditions. Maybe too much.

Knowing this information is both good and bad. I can tell you this: the hospitalizations never get easier. When she’s in the ICU – or anywhere in the hospital – I’m just like any other mom, scared out of my wits.

It’s good to be home.