Saturday, May 30, 2009


He's off the ventilator! They were just getting ready to extubate him (yank the tube out of his throat) when I walked in for my 11:00 visit, so I had to run and hide in the corner. His voice is very Barry White now, but at least he's talking. He was totally astounded when he discovered this was his 3rd day in the hospital. Now I need all of you to send lots of positive energy this way, in hopes that his recovery will finally start picking up some speed!

Friday, May 29, 2009


Had a rough night, but got back to the hospital in time for the 6:00 AM visitation. Was ecstatic to see John's eyes sleepy, but open. And he recognized me! He still has the tube down his throat, and can't talk, but he made hand motions to the nurse and she brought him a pen and paper. With his left hand, no less, he managed to scrawl I WANT BBQ! And I started boo-hooing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I've been to plenty of hospital waiting rooms, but I've never seen anything quite like the Cardiac ICU down in the Houston Medical Center. This place is more like a campground than a waiting room. Since everyone who has heart surgery stays in ICU for a while first, and doesn't get assigned a room right away, the families have nowhere else to go between the few designated visiting times - especially if they are from out of town. Each clan stakes claim to a particular cluster of chairs, rearranges them to suit their purposes, and builds a temporary nesting place.

The most interesting group today was a large middle eastern family whose patriarch was having a quadruple bypass. There was always at least a dozen family members there at any given time, but it was never the same ones - the group was constantly in flux. Each new group arrived bearing sustenance, so it had the appearance of a continuous feast. The older women wore black head-scarves and murmurred never ending prayers while fingering their worry beads. The younger women chased small children around, served food and fetched coffee for everyone else. Things got a little uncomfortable, at least for me, when a quartet of black gentlemen from the Salvation Army came in to sing for us, then tried to get us all to form a big prayer circle with a lot of evangelical chanting going on. The Muslims and I declined to join them. It's not that I'm against prayer - I'd been at it non-stop for weeks. It's just that I'm not overly fond of turning it into a big show.

Though John's surgery had ended around noon, I didn't get to see him until the 2:00 visiting session. That first glimpse was tough: tubes coming out of every orifice, plus his neck and chest; mouth hanging slack; eyes barely open and rolled back. In spite of appearances, they assured me that he was doing extremely well, and they gave him something to begin waking him up as I left. A short while later they came out to inform me that we'd run into a small hitch. It seems his trachea is so narrow that they had a devil of a time getting even the smallest size tube down it to start with, and now it was swolen from the abuse. They feared that if they removed it now, and for some reason he ran into trouble and needed it again, they would never be able to reinsert it. Of course, as soon as he began to wake up, he started fighting it. So, they decided the best plan was to put him back to sleep, give him steroids to reduce the swelling, and try again tomorrow.

I was crushed not to be able to see those puppy dog eyes before I left, and that he never even knew I was there all day, but grateful that he was doing so well otherwise. As I sat there listening to the stories unfold around me, I realized that not everyone was so fortunate. A couple of groups had been haunting this room for weeks, and all were devasted this morning to learn that the 24 year old daughter of one group had lost her battle during the night. I promise you, I am counting my blessings. Still, I just wish that, when I went in for my next visit at six, the nurse had not felt compelled to tell me about the tears in John's eyes and the fear on his face, when they told him they needed to put him back to sleep for a while longer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I have a pet peeve, which came up again recently, and I feel the need to do a little venting. I hope you will bear with me.

I am sick and tired of having people describe someone as brilliant, just because they made straight A's in school. There is school smarts, and there is intelligence, but the gulf between them is as wide as an ocean. Some people just have a knack for memorizing facts, figures and formulas. They are also good at vomiting it all back up on a test. As long as they are well-behaved, they will always do well in school. That's how the system works. Does that make them geniuses? I think not. My daughter has always had to struggle with spelling. She can spell anything that is phonetically sound, but has trouble memorizing the millions of oddballs that break the rules. Her brain just isn't wired that way. My son made it to the district spelling bee without ever cracking open the book they gave him to study. If he has ever seen a word in print, he can usually remember how to spell it. Did we tell him he was a genius for having this "knack"? No, we told him he was lucky. But luck will only take you so far, unless it is combined with hard work.

There are plenty of people who make straight A's, but who never read anything more taxing than a romance novel, never question anything fed to them by authority figures, never do anything to stretch or improve their minds, and never do anything to help others or to make the world a better place. On the other hand, I know people who struggled in school for one reason or another, but who amaze me constantly with their thoughtful insights, ideas, and solutions - people who overcame learning disablities by developing creative ways to compensate for them. As I understand it, Albert Einstein did very poorly in school, because he questioned everything, making his teachers very uncomfortable and disrupting class. Was that very smart on his part? Probably not. Was it intelligent? Without a doubt.

So, in my humble opinion, being "brilliant' is a lot like playing a game of poker. You look at the cards life has dealt you, you figure out how to make the most of your assets, and to work around your deficits, then you play your hand to the best of your ability.

Monday, May 25, 2009


The many-times-postponed visit from my sister and niece has come and gone. Though we didn't do anything terribly exciting, it was enjoyed by all. For Carolyn, it was a much needed break from her never-ending duties as my mom's primary caretaker. For me, it was a brief respite from worries over John's health. We went to a movie at the outdoor theatre, we bought fresh peaches in Blanco and shared a dish of peach ice cream, we read, we took naps, and just generally got recharged. Oh, and we tried to visit as many of the local eateries as we could squeeze into three days.

If we were to vote on the high point of the visit, I think the unanimous winner would be yesterday's lunch at Mandola Winery's Trattoria Lisina, in Driftwood. The food is delicious, and the scenery breathtaking, but what we love most is that they encourage you to take it slow, not fast. So we dined in stages, Italian-style. My sister started us off by choosing a small selection from their antipasti bar, and a plate of artichoke fritters (OMG!) with two sauces, for our first course. We stretched it out, savoring each and every bite.

Once that was cleared away, my choice for our second course was a small, hand-crafted pizza: fresh arugula, prosciutto, and thick shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano on a lighter-than-air, yet crispy, parmesan-flecked crust. I dipped the thick piece of crust from the edge into a little dish of herb-infused, fresh green olive oil, enjoying the peppery glow as it hit the back of my throat.

For our third and final course, my niece chose a small dish of Tortellini Nona Rosa for us to share. Absolutely delicious. My only regret was that, by that point, we had no room left for gelato or panna cotta. We'd each had only a few bites from every dish, and the dishes weren't particularly large - especially by today's standards - but we were completely satisfied because we had taken it slowly, allowing our senses time to soak it all in. This is the kind of place where a meal can, and should, easily stretch out over a couple of hours. The perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

But now they have headed back to Dallas, and it's time for me to figure out what all needs to be done here, before I head back to Houston for John's "grand opening." I don't even know where to begin!

P.S. Many thanks to for the restaurant image at the top.


Need your belly laugh for the day? Check out this crabby old fart (his chosen name for himself, not mine!) and his opinions on what's wrong with the kids today. Oh my gosh, what a hoot!

Sunday, May 24, 2009