Friday, May 28, 2010

Celebration of a Birthday and Anniversary

Here we are sitting around the breakfast table at The French Laundry celebrating my birthday and our anniversary on May 26th. My mom had come up from Kentucky to visit for a week so she could overlap a planned visit with Adam and Laura who were stopping in Michigan before heading back to LA. They had been in NY at a family wedding and decided they couldn't fly "over" Detroit on route back to LA without stopping a few days with us.

Adam is still in the process of completing his PhD requirements. He must turn in the final version of the manuscript after incorporating comments from his committee, complete a few more lab experiments that his new lab mates will take over when he leaves the lab in late June and continue training his new colleagues to seamlessly continue the research he's tended for the past few years.

He'll barely have one week off when he re-enters his third year of medical school in early July. When he returned to LA a few days ago, he was scheduled for a two day review of clinical skills in preparation for the more clinically-oriented rotations that make up third year studies. Laura continues to be heavily involved in her own post-doctoral research at UCLA but finds time to be incredibly supportive of Adam's own demanding schedule. Funny thing: they seem to enjoy every minute they have together.

Evan continues to devote his time and energy to reviewing for his boards scheduled for mid-June. He'll have only a short time off before he starts his third year rotations, like Adam. Evan is our consummate traveler and he's hoping to put together some exotic foreign excursion before the early July start date for his medical school rotations. Otherwise he says he may come to Michigan where he claims that the room and board at The Raff Inn are luxurious and worth the price!

Marika is in her final weeks of classes and is a regular at the UCSB library. When I was in Santa Barbara visiting her recently, I asked her to take me into the library and let me sit in the place she always claims as "her spot" for studying. Up on the fourth floor. Next to the windows. With a view. And a balcony to go out on when she needs a quick break or to make a phone call. (The leather seat is well-worn!)

As soon as her last final is over, she heads to Panama with her Global Medical Brigades team for some "do good" volunteer work. On the day she gets back to Santa Barbara, she starts summer school and her MCAT Review Course (of which she will have missed the first week of review due to her Panama trip.) She will play "catch up" from the day she gets back.

Gil is at Karmanos today for his routine every-other-week appointment. He's very, very close to being off his immunosupressants completely. He feels good. Occasionally gets tired and needs an afternoon nap which seems only appropriate given that his body is finding its way back to equilibrium.

My next trip is going to be to Albuquerque for a week in late June. My dear friend from Paris is coming to the states (New Mexico) for a week and I want to visit with her. I'm encouraging Gil to come along since it has been way, way too long since he last visited Albuquerque. Our friends often see me visiting in Albuquerque and rarely see him, and I do believe they are wondering if Gil is still in the picture. I can assure them he is!

This is the Memorial Day weekend and it's going to be a real gardening extravaganza for me. Last year my garden was neglected due to Gil's sudden and unanticipated hospitalization in June. This year, God-willing, I will give the garden (which gives us both so much pleasure) my full and undivided attention.

Kids doing their thing
Keeping tabs from afar
Embracing life's joys!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What it's like to get your PhD

This is the first time I've posted three photos in the same blog entry. There were so many memorable aspects to the past week of celebrations in LA for the Raff Family.

I arrived on Mother's Day and my kids took me straight from the airport to lunch at Bungalow in Larchmont. The Farmer's Market was open and we wandered through it at closing time so there were bargains galore. (A dozen roses for $5.)

On Monday, I listened to 45 minutes of perfectly timed precision as Adam practiced his presentation on me. I loved it.

Adam's thesis defense was Tuesday and it went so well. The room was packed with 50 people and it was standing room only. Laura sat serenely while Adam explained the work he had done during their last three years together in the lab. We went to Campanille's for dinner that night for champagne.

The next day was USC's graduation commencement where Adam's mentor and principal investigator for his project "hooded" him in the glorious colors you see in the top photo. What a grand moment. The director for the PhD program at USC had us all over to dinner that night at her house in the LA hills with great views, camaraderie and conversation into the wee hours.

Laura and Adam were great hosts in their cozy and charming apartment. Our friend, Terry Lee Heller, came from Albuquerque to join the celebration in LA. Laura and Adam gave up their bed for us, and they slept on an Aero bed with their dog, Bodhi, in the living room while we were there.

Evan broke away from studying for his boards for each event and family meal. He didn't miss any event where we were all together. Loved visiting with him.

The next morning, Marika and I headed to Santa Barbara for some much needed "girl time" and we tried all the newest restaurants and some of the old favorites. I got to be in college all over again. The kids in her apartment complex love music -- and they love to listen to it LOUD! We slept with the fan on HIGH not so much to keep us cool but more to keep the noise at a tolerable level. I loved every minute I spent with her.

She was a trooper to get up so early this morning and drive me to LAX. I boarded the plane as scheduled at 11 am but thirty minutes into our flight, the pilot said we were turning around and heading back to LA because an onboard sensor indicated our plane could not fly higher than 25,000 feet. So we're all back in the gate area waiting for the mechanics to repair the problem and we're scheduled to reboard in a couple more hours.

Years of intense work
Recognized by all present
Way to go, Adam!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Washington, DC Reunion

Two happy guys! Gil and his boyhood friend (from the Brooklyn 'hood) met up yesterday afternoon after a long 30 year hiatus. They had lost track of one another over the years and were reunited when another boyhood friend (Barry Mennen) helped all three make the connection.

Ron Fishbein and Gil are pictured outside the Ritz-Carlton here in Washington, DC where we are staying this weekend for Gil's talk to the 32nd Annual Recent Advances in Clinical Nuclear Cardiology and Cardiac CT symposium.

Ron and his wife, Dana, had us to their home in Laytonsville where we spent the afternoon catching up and having dinner and enjoying the delights of their 2 year old granddaughter. What a wonderful way to learn about Gil's favorite and funny memories of growing up in Seagate -- the gated-community next to Coney Island -- where their days were filled with summers at the ocean as lifeguards, stickball on the stoop, walking to school past gangs of less than friendly kids in the projects and other shenanigans.

While Gil was putting together his talk in the hotel room yesterday morning, I took a tour of the city riding on the top of an open air tour bus on a 2-1/4 hour loop from Georgetown to Arlington Cemetery to the National Cathedral to the White House to Embassy Row learning all about our nation's capital.

We're headed back to Michigan this afternoon.

I practically turn right around and repack my suitcase because I leave again on Sunday morning heading to LA for Adam's thesis defense and graduation next week. And a weeklong visit with the kids. And a trip up the coast to Santa Barbara where Marika and I will have some "girl time."

Getting his PhD
Was long but rewarding work
Good going, Adam!