Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kauai Holiday

Lucky us. Here we are in Kauai for the final week of 2011. We celebrated the holidays here and will be back in the continental USA on New Year's Eve. We'll have seven days in paradise.

The photo above shows "the kids" (Laura and Adam, Marika and Evan) with their paddle boarding instructor just prior to launch on the Hanalei River which, 100 yards to the left in the photo, empties into the Pacific Ocean.

After an on-land lesson to learn how to stay upright, they ventured into the upstream current for some ferocious paddling and, when they got to their destination, enjoyed a more leisurely float back to their starting place -- doing yoga on the boards, lying on their backs watching the sky float by overhead and enjoying a new way to spend time in the water.

(As an aside, they met Laird Hamilton -- the very famous surfer -- on the river when their instructor said "hi" to Laird and introduced the kids to him as they were passing.)

See for yourself how incredible and record-breaking Laird is:

On our first day to Hanalei Bay, we spread our towels out on the beach and discovered we were sitting less than 20 feet away from Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick. (So there was less than six degrees of separation if you get the point!) We've had more "Hollywood" sitings so far than if we had been in Hollywood itself.

(Please excuse the indulgent name-dropping but -- hey -- it's way cool!)

As I've said in previous blog entries, it is too rare these days to have all six of us together for these kind of vacations. This week has been incredibly rewarding for our family.

The kids have scheduled themselves for all the island activities they can sign up for. Each activity involves lots of exercise -- hiking, paddling, kayaking, running, etc.

Gil and I try keeping up with them but find ourselves enjoying the quiet times reading and photographing and hanging out in the solitude that Hawaii offers.

I'm reading The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction by P.M. Forni. Hawaii is the perfect place to shut out the "distractions" in order to concentrate on the book's contemplative lessons.

On the more technical side, I'm also reading the manual for the new Lion operating system for my Mac and the iOS5 manual for the iPhone and iPod. So many new features and I want to know all the device capabilities so I can stay current!

Gil is reading the #1 New York Times Bestseller Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. He's also reading Annie Leibowitz Pilgrimage which is a book of her photographs with an introduction by Doris Kearns Goodwin and which is filled with incredible photographs.

And we can't keep him from reading several books he brought with him on trading in the financial markets -- a perennial favorite of his at home and on vacations.

We're eating all the fresh local fruits and catch-of-the-day fish for our mealtimes. Washing it down with tropical island drinks and locally brewed beers. It's easy to have such a healthy lifestyle when you spend so much time outdoors.

We're savoring the fresh salty-sea air and the views from our timeshare unit and closeness of our family.


Lots of memories
Being made on this island
Family counts most.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Gratitude

This is how we spent our recent Thanksgiving holiday. Separated by hundreds of miles.

Gil decided rather late in November to join his California cousins at a rented hacienda-style enclave in Palm Springs to help celebrate a favorite cousin's 60th birthday during the Thanksgiving weekend. 

As it turned out, I would not be joining him because I had already invited my mom and brother to Michigan to celebrate Thanksgiving. 

Over a dozen family members from Gil's side of the Senter family gathered to tell stories and catch up on current events and activities.

Since Gil would be in Palm Springs, our LA kids -- Adam, Laura and Evan -- decided to drive to Palm Springs and join all the cousins for a quick 48-hour visit during the time Gil would be there.

Back in the midwest, my mom and brother and Marika and I did our best to make our "intimate" Thanksgiving feast a memorable one. 

Yes, indeed, this was the year that I got to carve the turkey!

We're lucky to be going to our timeshare in Princeville, Hawaii from December 24 through New Year's Day this year with our nuclear family -- Gil, myself, Adam, Laura, Evan and Marika. I don't know how many more years we will all have the time off at the same time -- this time the week between Christmas and New Year's. We're using two of our units during that one week to accommodate the six of us. Gil and I will have one unit since we are notoriously early-to-bed folks. The kids will have the adjacent unit since they are of the stay-up-all-night types. That way, everyone gets just the right amount of sleep during just the right hours of the day.

Gil is enjoying trying to stay safe in the volatility of the global stock market. Still loving his research work. Trying to get back into photography. Feeling absolutely well and healthy.

I am making slow but steady progress in my diagnostic workup of "probable" Cushing's syndrome and have been referred to a neuroendocrinologist at the University of Michigan by my current endocrinologist. (He says my case is complicated!) I'm also moving at turtle-speed doing artwork in my freshly-appointed and well-organized art studio space here at the house.

Adam is spending the next couple of months flying back and forth across the country for dermatology residency interviews. He's coming to University of Michigan for an interview in mid-December so we'll get to visit together then.

Laura will be leaving her research job at UCLA mid-December and taking a new job in the biotech industry in nearby Santa Monica starting in the first of the year. We are all very excited for her.

Evan is, like Adam, flying across the continent doing interviews for radiology residencies. He's going to use our home in Milford as his home base for the first two weeks of January since many of his interviews are east of the Mississippi. (No sense flying back to LA in between interviews.)

Marika is enjoying her research lab and involvement in several projects that require an advanced proficiency in operating a new high-powered microscope her lab has recently purchased. Can't quite tell if she is "over" her love-affair with California and all things "warm and sunny" but she is beginning to look for winter clothing during her shopping sprees. She's heading to Brooklyn mid-December to visit a high school friend.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful December and holiday season!

We're Hawaii-bound
A week of fun in the sun
Obama's birth place??

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's Official!

Greetings to our Raff Update Blog Followers:

Our blog started out a couple of years ago sharing the news with all of you that Gil had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of leukemia. Fortunately, that episode in our lives only served to make us stronger as a family. And he's still thriving.

And to this day, we have much to be thankful for.

Add to all that gratitude, Marika's welcome news from the weekend.

On Friday night, shortly after midnight, she was sent the most delightful link to a YouTube video announcing that she was ADMITTED to the U-M Medical School Class of 2016.

The photo above is from the U-M Medical School website and the "baked good" is the pumpkin bread -- it hasn't been iced yet with Marika's homemade cream cheese frosting -- that she and her friend, Elizabeth made as Marika waited to hear about her admission status on Friday night.

The entire Raff family and many friends are thrilled for her. (Whether she chooses to go to U-M is entirely up to her as she completes her other interviews across the country.)

But we are secretly, and perhaps somewhat selfishly, hoping she chooses to stay in Michigan. (Having Marika around is like having eternal springtime -- she is smart, kind, optimistic and a good friend to all.)

Gil has been taking some awesome photos of Kent Lake in Kensington Park nearby when we go out walking with the dogs. He has promised to post them in our November  blog update.

I spent the day in Ann Arbor yesterday at an artist's studio ( making a whimsical wooden fish to hang on the wall. I have not enjoyed a day quite like that for a very long time. It reawakened in me a passion for making art. (I lovingly referred to the experience as my "make-and-take-it" day.) As winter approaches, I'm going to restock my craft studio downstairs and start "making stuff" again. (I made the piece below which I titled Fish with Attitude. He's about a foot long, made of a discarded piece of Adirondack chair wood, and painted metal flashing. The "26" represents my birthday and Gil's and my wedding anniversary date. The fish "trophy" hangs on the wall and I'm still deciding where he should go.)

I'm heading off to Kentucky for a short visit with my mom and her family. Her brother from California is coming in town next weekend and we are all meeting up to welcome him back to Kentucky where he grew up. There will be brunches and lunches and dinners together until he returns a few short days later to Riverside where he lives. Wishing his entire family and all our cousins could come back with him. California is just too far away sometimes!

So many doctors
Doctors Raff, Raff, Raff and Raff!
Too good to be true

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Then ... and Now

Then and Now.

"Then" was on October 7, 2009 when Gil received his stem cell transplant and many of you lived through that very trying time with us. The top photo literally shows Gil's sister's stem cells being administered through his IV. Genie spent all day in the lab at Karmanos having her stem cells extracted and filtered during the apheresis process for the end-of-day transfer to Gil.

The transplant procedure itself -- the slow drip, drip, dripping -- took 20 minutes and was not accompanied by much hoopla. It was routine for the staff but a one-time utterly unique and life-saving experience for us.

"Now" is a photo taken several days ago when we met one of the co-recipients of the stem cell transplant on the same day as Gil's. We try to go out with Mark, and his wife Kim, at least every other month. This night we were at a restaurant celebrating the two year anniversary of the transplant itself.

There were three recipients that day. Most of you will remember that Bonnie was our third recipient and valiantly as she tried, she did not survive to celebrate this occasion with Mark and Gil. We still keep in touch with Bonnie's wonderful husband and family and although Bonnie's death has left a huge hole in their hearts, they are graciously joyous that Mark and Gil are doing well.

Update on the kids:

Marika has been living in Ann Arbor for the past month and is working hard at her research at U-M.  She's had several medical school interviews -- U-M, Pitt, heading to USC in LA this weekend for an interview there next week and returning for an interview at Michigan State. Interview requests from the schools are still coming in. Fingers crossed that she gets admitted to one of her favorites.

Evan is doing a fourth year clerkship at U-M in radiology for the month and is living with Marika during those four weeks. He has applied to interventional radiology residencies across the country, is beginning to hear back from the programs and is scheduling travel for interviews. He thinks Ann Arbor is pretty laid back compared to LA but I can see he is secretly enjoying the slower pace and changing leaf colors of fall.

Adam is heading to Philadelphia for a one month clerkship in dermatology near the end of October. He has also applied across the country to dermatology residencies. He will be scheduling his travel to interviews as well.

I'm still getting my Cushing's syndrome work up. Waiting for a particular medication I've been taking to clear out of my system before we do some additional tests. So more on that later.

Gil is doing well as you can see in the "now" photo. He let you know in one of our recent blogs that an important paper had been accepted, and now his team at Beaumont has seen the paper published. He continues to think up new research projects and is" going strong" which means he has energy and enthusiasm for life!

We've been going on long 3-mile walks each day in Kensington Metro Park -- trying a new path or trail each time. It's good for the dogs and good for us. The fall color is spectacular!

It's my favorite season. (I know. I know. I say that every season.)


Two out of three kids
Just "down the road" in Ann Arbor
Almost like old times!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Time Flies

Wow! Time flies. I didn't realize how long it had been since I last updated our Raff blog. Now I've given myself a real challenge to decide what I need to write about since my last entry. So many summer activities I should have been telling you about!

The photo of Gil was taken at Beaumont to accompany the e-version of a landmark paper that's coming out in JACC (Journal of the American College of Cardiology) this month. His team at Beaumont has worked tirelessly to get the manuscript published and it's due out in its electronic version on September 13, 2011. (He's looking like the picture of health, isn't he?)

The next photo is of Willow who was enjoying her afternoon ritual of frisbee play with me. She's adorable and as I've shared with many of you, she is still rather "small" for a border collie -- Gil calls her our "teacup" border collie!

Jamie, our 12-year old border collie, was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia on some routine blood work recently. Since we found it early in its course, we're having her followed by a veterinarian oncologist who will advise if and when any treatment is required. Jamie is more active and happier than I have ever seen her although she is getting gray and moves more slowly these days. She can easily go on daily 3-mile walks with Willow and me so she's still got energy and stamina.

The third picture is of Marika's new apartment in Ann Arbor. She and a dear girlfriend moved in the beginning of September. Marika is working about 2 miles away at the U-M Medical Center doing research with  patients in the ER who acquire Staph infections. She's happy to be back in Ann Arbor but I can see she is having to make an adjustment to Michigan's weather and midwest approach to life. She clearly brought a lot of California attitude back with her which she is tightly holding onto.

Evan is coming to Ann Arbor to do a clerkship at U-M in radiology for the month of October. Glad to be able to have him "home" for a few weeks. Can't wait to have Marika and Evan over to the house in Milford for Sunday night dinners. Isn't it every mom's dream to cook for her kids again?

Laura and Adam are busy working and loving and walking Bodhi and enjoying their favorite parts of LA. They are the "loving couple" that Evan and Marika aspire to find for themselves.

Marika and I are in Pittsburgh today for her medical school interview at the University of Pittsburgh. (She has already had her interview at U-M.) Since we're only a short distance from Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, we're going to swing by there on Sunday for a tour. (Gil and I were there last year, and we loved it, and I had hoped that all our kids would be able to some day get there and see it. Little did I realize that Marika and I would be out here so soon and so close to the site. Lucky her!)

I've been struggling health wise recently and am undergoing a diagnostic workup for Cushing's syndrome. (I have a documented adrenal adenoma we've been watching for a couple of years.) I've had many of the syndrome's symptoms for the past six months and am near the end of the testing algorithm hoping to get an accurate diagnosis from my endocrinologist and formulate a treatment plan. I'll hope to update you in the next blog entry.

In the meantime, summer is on its way out. Fall, one of my favorite seasons, is on its way in.


Catching the next wave
Taking our life by the reins
We ride out our dreams.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wedding Joy

Here is the happy couple on their wedding day -- May 29, 2011. It's been a long wait for the photos but I guess that's not unusual. The photographer has recently posted 100's of them on her site and we're patiently pouring through them finding our favorites to relive that incredible weekend.

That said, Adam and Laura's wedding blog site is still up and (relatively) active. I visited it today and there is a countdown clock on its home page. It used to announce the number of days "until" the wedding. Today it announced the number of days "since" the wedding -- which is 46 days! For those of you out there who are married, do you remember Day 46 of your marriage?

On another note, in recent years, since Laura and Adam have been together, we have been sharing their Winter Holiday vacation weeks between Laura's family (in Boston) and our family (in Michigan.) This year is "our" turn and we arranged two years ago to go to our favorite place in the world -- our vacation timeshare in Princeville, Kauai.

We have two timeshare units and we've reserved them both -- one for all the kids (Adam, Laura, Evan, Marika and any of their invited guests) and one for Gil and me. Our dates are December 24th through the 31st. I can't believe we're all going to be able to vacation together for a week. It's unheard of!

Since Adam and Evan are both 4th year medical students, they will be "cast to the wind" next year for their residencies and fellowships. They have no idea where they'll be. I doubt that in the near future -- during their final years of training -- we will ever have a week together where we can ALL be together. So this coming December holiday is going to be one to remember.

Thanks to Adam for quickly jumping on recognizing the need to arrange and purchase our flights, we are all flying together across the Pacific and back again at reasonable costs. I usually wait until it's too late to get flights or seats together. Kudos to him for his proactive thoughtfulness.

Evan was just in the Bahamas for a good friend's wedding. He's now in Washington, DC visiting a friend from high school. And he flies to NYC to do a medical rotation at Cornell the last two weeks of July.

Marika is in Traverse City as you know, competing in four weeks of hunter/jumper classes.

I'm headed to Kentucky next week to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday and visit with family and friends.

Gil is in Denver this week at an international conference delivering four talks at the Annual Scientific Meeting of SCCT (Society for Cardiovascular Computed Tomography.)

July has been another busy month for the Raff Family. How about you?

July's been busy.
Summer is always that way.
Best months still ahead.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Week at the Waterloo Hunt Club Horse Show

Summer greetings! We're starting the Fourth of July weekend and it's been a busy week for the Raffs.

Gil just returned yesterday from a week in Hong Kong where he was moderating a panel on cardiac imaging for Seimens. He added a day of sightseeing and is now back home adjusting to the 12-hour time difference. His summer schedule includes a trip to Denver this month for the annual Scientific Meeting of the SCCT (Society for Cardiovascular Computerized Tomography.)

Marika got home from Santa Barbara after spending 10 days in Honduras with the Global Medical Brigades. I will ask her to post photos and give a summary of her trip since most of us will not have the opportunity to travel there where she and her fellow volunteers set up daily clinics for the local villagers.

She just completed her first week of horse showing for the summer. We drove back from Waterloo last night (about a 40 minute drive from here and just west of Ann Arbor) where she competed as a rider with Fox Meadow riding facility in Temperance, MI. She has her "old touch" because she won (almost) every class she entered -- from Adult Equitation to the HJAM (Hunter Jumper Association of Michigan) Medal classes. Additionally, she was Champion and Reserve Champion in her Adult Division. Most of you won't know what that means but it's all GOOD! All this on a horse she had only ridden for two days prior to the competition and having not ridden but a few times in her four years at college!

She came home from Waterloo for a short 48-hour turnaround before heading up north for the next show of the season. She's spending today washing "horse show clothes" laundry and repacking for her upcoming four weeks in Traverse City. She will be staying with her friend, Lindey, in a camper in Traverse City and the girls always have a great time together. Marika is lucky in many ways: she is riding a horse which is extremely capable and kind, she is being trained by some of the best trainers at a well-run facility in the region, and she is getting to "decompress" from the past four years of intense preparation for medical school admission (grades, MCAT preparation, clinical extracurricular activities, etc.)

She will be starting her biomedical research position for the next year at U-M when she returns at the end of July. By then, she will have gotten tan, gained muscle mass and lost weight (How can you NOT lose weight when you are riding those 2,000 pound beasts?)

Adam and Evan started their fourth year of medical school early in the summer. They worked hard during their third year training and were each rewarded with receiving "Honors" in 5/6 of their clinical rotations. That designation will help them toward getting the residencies they are applying for after medical school graduation.

I am having a wonderful summer of gardening. My tomato garden from last year was an overwhelming mess of too-tall-plants and out-of-control tomato production. So I am growing them in containers -- the pots are on wheels and I wheel them around the driveway catching the sun as it moves around the house. My raised-bed tomato garden which was created for me two years ago has become an herb and lettuce garden and it's much more manageable. And filled with garden art.

I'm also spending time with our dogs -- taking them on outings as I do errands and walking them along the Milford Bike Trail. I'm also doing a lot of cooking and using the fresh produce from our farmers' markets. Tonight it's Asparagus Soup.

I also go to watch Marika at the horse shows and will spend the last week of July with her in Traverse City.

My favorite mom is turning 80 in two weeks. My brother and I are meeting in Louisville to take her and other family members out to dinner to celebrate.

No wedding pictures yet. Will put them on the blog when we get them.

Summer's lazy days
Cold gazpacho. Iced coffee.
Hammock time for all.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Day in the Life

Yes, the wedding was on May 29th. Yes, I want to be showing all of you the photos and telling stories and describing what it was like for everyone who attended to have come from out-of-town. Yes, it was a "destination wedding" and the destination was ... Ann Arbor, Michigan?? What were those kids thinking? Well, the wedding pretty much went off without a hitch. We escaped the thunderous downpour that threatened nearby and sped up the ceremony by about 15 minutes so that we wouldn't be outside getting drenched. It did eventually rain but not before we got everyone inside for the reception's open bar and well-chosen dinner selections and friendly seating arrangements and toasts and dancing.

We don't have the official photos to post yet. We have photos from friends and family but I haven't received them yet.

So in the meantime, you're going to have to be satisfied with the photo above which was taken today of our visit to Bridlewood Winery in Santa Ynez.

We're here for Marika's graduation from UC Santa Barbara. She gets her diploma tomorrow with all the other Bachelor of Science in Biology majors. Gil and I have been here since Wednesday. We've had two glorious days with Marika all by ourselves. Evan is driving up from LA as I write this. Marika's dear friend from her competitive equestrian days back in Michigan, Gillian Grafton, is arriving tonight from Minnesota. Adam and Laura cannot be with us since they are still on their honeymoon in the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain.

We have been sampling every conceivable kind of cuisine on State Street here in Santa Barbara since we've been here. It's bittersweet knowing that Marika won't be here to visit anymore. On the one hand, it's always a great vacation. On the other hand, it's an expensive vacation.

Marika heads to Honduras for her second Global Medical Brigades volunteer travel on Sunday, the day after she graduates. When she gets back to the states after ten days, she'll pack up all her belongings from the past four years and bring what's worthy back to Michigan for the next year. More on her plans later. (She's applied to medical school for the 2012 class and will be working this next year in research at U-M.)

We had lots of friends and family staying at our house for the week prior and the week after the wedding. Gil's sisters, Genie from California and Meryl from Israel, and my mom all stayed for the full two weeks. We cooked, we gardened, we took turns playing frisbee with the dogs, we shopped, we got to know more about one another than we ever wanted to know. We made pots of French Press coffee each morning and poured glasses of wine each night to enjoy on our recently built simple but functional wooden deck in the backyard.

So I owe you all a full accounting of the wedding with photos but it won't be today's blog entry.

Weddings bring great joy
More time planning the event
Than I imagined!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Big Week and Weekend for the Raffs

We are having a most wonderful week filled with many simchas (Jewish for blessings!)

We celebrated my 59th birthday this week, our 32nd wedding anniversary, our dog Willow's one year birthday and we'll soon be celebrating our BIG wedding coming up this Memorial Day weekend.

The first photo shows Laura's wonderful family from Boston and Texas who arrived midweek to help assemble hotel guest welcome baskets and help with transporting flowers, vases, table decorations, etc. to and from our house here in Milford to the Ann Arbor venue for the wedding events.

The second photo shows us after our "one" of our celebration dinners this week. We had just taken everyone out to dinner to Cinco Lagos (Five Lakes) restaurant and had come back home to relax and visit with our most recent wedding guest arrivals -- Genie (our stem cell donor) and Meryl (our Israeli family) arrive most recently.

We have to quiz Meryl every time she comes to visit us. How many grandchildren? How "old" is the youngest one you still have at home? (20 grandchildren from her five married children and age 15 is the youngest of her "still at home" children.)

I will be updating this blog very soon because we will have wedding pictures to share.

Until then....

Time to be present
Many simchas and blessings
Take time to savor each one.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Trip to Washington, DC

The top photo is a giant moth or butterfly in the butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in DC where you could walk into an enclosed space and let the butterflies land on you and walk on you then fly on to the next fower. Those with bright colors on -- like Gil in his pink salmon shirr -- got bombarded by flapping wings.

Gil and I were in Washington, DC earlier in the month for a Nuclear Medicine conference he was speaking to. We were also lucky enough to have dinner one of the two nights we were there with his old boyhood friends from Brooklyn. Storied were regaled. Embarrassing moments were shared. "Well, we were a lot younger then." was heard all around.

Gil is sitting next to Smithsonian Institution's Castle in a little "pocket park" that I insist we visit each time we are in DC. It is called the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden and I like that so much of it is at waist level so there's not so much bending down and squinting to see the names of the plants.

Our wedding is coming up in 11 days and the plans are coming together. My next blog entry will give the details and capture in photos the "work parties" to make everything ready for the big weekend. I think the rain is going to stop and let us have a beautiful sunny weekend for the event.

Love interests hang
on the most fragile of threads
Barely within reach.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Scottsdale Wedding

Oh, what fun we had! Six of us flew in from Albuquerque for our friend, Judy's, wedding in Scottsdale. A quick 72 hours but we knew how to take advantage of the short amount of time we had to re-bond with each other, witness the marriage and celebrate our friend's good fortune at finding love with her new partner, David. Can you feel the joy in our expressions?

Of course, the Raffs have another wedding coming up. Adam and Laura in less than six weeks will be committing to their own vows. RSVPs are coming in, travel plans arranged and the excitement of the upcoming day is mounting.

Family from as far away as Israel will be here to celebrate the happy couple's union! Can't wait.

Had a rather wintry day today but hope it's the last blast of cold air until next year. I really want to get the garden ready for our wedding guests who need to see the house and yard in bloom!

Gil and I continue to attend meditation retreats in Michigan when we can. It has been an enriching experience in our lives and our relationships -- for one another and for our family which is spread far and wide.

In all of the world
the union of a marriage
makes all things seem right.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Academic pursuits

This paper has been 5 years in the making from the time the research was conceived. From conception to parturition has been longer than an elephant. I don't know about whales. It was a rough delivery. Just after the study was done, I checked into the hospital with acute leukemia. My co-authors quickly went to work doing the analysis and submitting the first version of the MS in November 2009. Some of you might be surprised that it took until last night for the 6th revision to accepted. But those of you in academic pursuits won't be surprised.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Link to Time of the Twin pdf

Here is a link to a zip file containing a PDF of the book. There book is revised and the file is much smaller.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shared Joy

With a lot of trepidation Marika checked her medical college admission test results this morning and found she got a score of 35. That is more than enough to get her into Med School. I won't embarrass her too much by going on about how hard she studied. We are all very thankful.

Proud papa

Sunday, February 27, 2011

In the Time of the Twin

I decided it was time to launch this baby into the universe. Where it will go I can't say. I created these photos and writing over the past 10 years and then abruptly decided they go together.

Karen is doing her usual admirable job of composing the book and we hope to have it in print soon, courtesy of an online self publishing site that allows you to make really elegant books.

I composed this draft version myself and am happy if you want to download it and use the photos and words as you see fit. Here is the URL for the download. You have to cut and paste it into your browser and go.

The book is 55 pages, 28 of which are photos, so it's 27 megabytes altogether. If you have a fast connection that is 2-3 minutes but if not be patient.

All the best


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Winter Styling

I titled this blog entry "Winter Styling" because Gil and I spent a wintry day at the mall getting him some new clothes and in the joy of the moment, he found this wool felted Panama hat which just completed the whole ensemble. As he posed for this photo, I vaguely remembered what I "thought I remembered" was an Alfred Steiglitz portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe in a similar Panama hat but after "googling" the photo, I learned it was an Ansel Adams photo of Georgia and actor, Orville Cox!

In addition to new pants and shoes (and the last pair of winter leather gloves which were on sale to make room for the newly arrived summer bathing suits!), we spent the day getting trendier eyeglasses for Gil and having lunch. (Head to toe style makeover.)

Currently, Gil is in North Carolina attending a week long course in one of his other interests -- financial investing. While he's away, my mom has been visiting and we're having another good week-long visit.

She's been here to Michigan four times since Labor Day, she recounts, and her friends back home ask her if she's planning to move here!? "Not yet," she says with a smile.

Marika is still hard at work in Santa Barbara getting caught up with classwork that she had postponed while she concentrated on her MCAT studies last month. In the meantime, she turned 22 on Valentine's Day and is going to Las Vegas this coming weekend with her girlfriends, one of which is flying out to California from Michigan for the celebration.

Adam and Laura continue with wedding planning while Adam continues to research his options for residency programs after graduation.

Evan is also looking into residency programs. There is so much groundwork to be done in preparation for residency matching. You almost need a degree in project management to make it all happen. Nothing gets left to chance. It's all about strategic positioning!

I am doing as many creative things as I can find to do. A little of this. A little of that. Keeping the birds well-stocked with oil sunflower seeds and suet for the winter. Making sure Willow continues to grow up to be the wonderful dog and pet we expect her to be. And, of course, Pilates three times a week with aerobics at the YMCA on in-between days.

Gil gone for the week
Mom here for mid-winter break
Good times had by all.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Little Piece of Paradise

It's official: the MCAT is over! The past few months have been full of exhaustion, long hours logged in the library, and turning down more than a few social invites. There is no doubt in my mind I wouldn't have made it without my wonderful family and friends cheering me along the way. They certainly gave me the strength to get through what I felt was the biggest test of mental and physical endurance thus far in my short life.

My daily life has changed drastically since I took the test this past Saturday. It went from waking up at 6 am to cram in some studying before a full day of classes to leisurely having my morning coffee, ambling to the gym, and taking an afternoon nap. Relaxing has never felt so good. I have to admit however, I didn't exactly remember how to "do nothing" and my first attempts at relaxation were slightly anxiety provoking!

Conquering this test has made me feel as if I can tackle anything that life throws at me down the road. Following graduation in June I will be heading to Honduras for my second medical brigades trip and then it's back to Michigan where I will spend a year doing clinical research at the University of Michigan.

My biggest challenge in the coming weeks will be soaking up the California sun and enjoying my last months at UCSB. Vegas and Mexico trips have already been booked so you can see I am making up for lost time!

I will send some of the Santa Barbara sunshine to all of you suffering from the long midwestern winter and for everyone else enjoy a few extra rays on me.

And yes, that is the view from my balcony. My parents thought they were paying tuition but it's more like resort dues.

All my love,


Monday, January 17, 2011

A Willow-Centric Life

Here we are mid-month and I'm updating the blog as promised. We've had the past two weeks to ourselves and though we love, love, love having friends and family around, it's been complete bliss being here together alone -- with the exception of the furry little paws that follow our every move.

Why can't I think of a way to harness all that wonderful dog energy? Herding sheep is a total waste of this dog-given energy. Willow finished her 6-week Agility Class and came in second place on the final night of competition. She's a natural.

Gil and I just got back from a weekend meditational retreat in North Carolina. It was informative, spiritual and restful. Met 20 others who were there to learn about the ancient Hindu meditation practices. What a different sort of "vacation" that was!

By the time I post the next blog entry on February 1st, Marika will have taken the MCAT. She will be relieved. I will be relieved. Gil will be relieved. Her brothers will be relieved. She can go back to having a good life.

We're planning a trip in March to Hawaii to stay in our timeshare on the island of Kauai. The last time we were there was December 2008. A month later I had a seizure and was diagnosed with a benign meningioma (the size of an apple) which was successfully surgically removed. Fortunately, there were no complications and my only deficit is a less-than-perfect sense of direction and slightly impaired map-reading. Thank heavens for GPS and turn-by-turn directions.

How many of you know, or remember, the performance artist Laurie Anderson? We recently went to see one of her performances in Ann Arbor at The Power Center and she is just as innovative and creative as we remember her. What a treat!

Gil is doing very well. He's working hard on research projects. He's feeling good and goes swimming as often as he can. His office in downtown Milford has worked out well for him -- a quiet place without distraction to read studies when he's on-call, get his manuscript writing done and follow his cardiac CT projects' progress.

It's Restaurant Week in Ann Arbor this week and we're meeting our theater group friends at one of the new restaurants there -- Mercy's in The Bell Tower. Gil and I are having date nights on Wednesday nights and we're planning to go to all the Detroit Free Press "Ten Best of 2010" restaurant recommendations during the course of the year.

State of the Union
What can we expect from it?
Will this be the year?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The New Year 2011

Greetings for the New Year 2011!

For those of you tuning in to our Raff Update blog for the first time because you saw the link on our holiday card, a little history.

We started this blog site back in June 2009 when Gil was diagnosed with leukemia. It was the perfect way to give information about his condition -- and thank God -- his subsequent recovery during and after his successful bone marrow transplant in October 2009.

Since then, we try to update the site twice a month. I'm going to try to provide updates on the 1st and 15th of each month so there will be a reason for you to check back here to learn what the Raffs are up to.

It will be a year for a wedding, and a college graduation and some travel for business and pleasure.

The photo above shows Evan and Marika walking our two dogs, Jamie and Willow, on our local Milford Bike Trail a few days after Christmas. It was a cold, windy day and we came upon only one other person on the trail.

We had a house filled with family over the recent holidays. My mom (from Kentucky) and my brother (now living in Rochester, NY) were here. Adam (without Laura who was still working in LA), Evan and Marika were all here.

Slowly over the past week we've made multiple trips to the airport to get everyone back to their homes. We're down to only Marika at home now. And she leaves for Santa Barbara this Sunday to start the Winter Quarter of her senior year. (Spring Quarter will be her last academic quarter as a college student.)

Then it will be back to our "nuclear family" -- Gil, me, Jamie and Willow.

We're planning a trip to North Carolina in early January attending a 2-day retreat/workshop which will be of the meditational variety. We've never done this before. Don't know exactly what to expect except we're supposed to bring our yoga mats and pillows! Marika teases us and taunts that we're headed to an ashram! (Will let you know what it was all about in my next blog entry.)

Oh, and for those of you who are new to our site, I usually close with a haiku:

Holidays over
Hate waiting another year ...
To do it again.