Thursday, December 30
I probably mentioned this before but, about a year ago when I was suffering from some serious work related stress, I saw my doctor to discuss how to best manage it all. In a nutshell, my doc told me to start walking and chill out. He told me no job was worth risking my health over. My blood pressure was rising but he said he preferred to treat the stress not the way my body was reacting to it. He prescribed Prozac for a long term solution and Ativan for a quick acting stress reliever. I declined the Prozac, because I'm a big chicken, but I took the Ativan. I may be stressed but I'm not stupid.
Well, I've had that original bottle of nerve pills all this time (that's what we call Ativan around these parts... "Nerve Pills"). With the exception of the first week or so following Dad's death I pretty much ignored the nerve pills except when I really needed sleep. Every once in a while, when I can't get my mind to shut up, I find a nerve pill before bedtime can be very helpful.
As for work lately, I've been on pins and needles awaiting word on where my next assignment will be. Over Thanksgiving vacation I received a call from the big boss telling me there would be changes and that I would hear all about them in January. I was fine with this at the time but it eventually started to grate on my nerves. Finally, last Tuesday morning, I marched into my SVP's office and said "Everyone around here seems to know where they're going but me. Can you tell me what's going on?" He was great and asked me to sit down as he explained all the shifts to our team. They all made perfect sense to me and he finally told me where I would be going. I was thrilled to hear that I would be going to a team that works on things I'm interested in and with a group of really great people. Frankly, it felt like the clouds parted as he told me the news. I was SO relieved.
In other news, I've been losing weight and even got into a pair of jeans I haven't been able to get into for over a year. Most importantly, I'm hoping this means I can soon get off the blood pressure meds I've been on for the past 3 months. Actually, I take two meds for the problem: One to treat the blood pressure, the other to treat the water retention often associated with high blood pressure.
Which, finally, brings me to the interesting part of my story: Guess who mixed up her meds and just discovered she's been taking a daily, pre-work nerve pill instead of a diuretic every morning? Yup, me! For how long you ask? Oh, about 9 days or so. No wonder it was so easy to march into the big boss's office demanding news. I am such a spaz and, apparently, a junkie.
I've been so tired and mellow all week, now I know why. I suppose I should be grateful that I didn't try to make-out with Jeffrey, the 60-something guard who scans my badge every morning. Jesus Christ!!!
Saturday, December 11
I don't recall all of the chatting in this intro but I sure do remember Bill Bixby's voice. I still like the sound of it.
I remember this show making Mom and Dad slightly uncomfortable. I assume it was the occasional adult subject matter but I was in love with the theme song. It's super goofy but it's also super fun. This one seems to be the beginning of Happy Days.
I'm sorry but no self respecting kid of the 70s EVER missed The Love Boat. I liked the theme but put it up here because, for the life of me, I can't imagine what could have persuaded Halston, Bob Mackie and Gloria Vanderbilt to appear on this show. It couldn't have been the money, right? I mean those three were a few of the wealthiest folks from the 70's. WTH?
Ok, here is one of my all time faves from the 70's. How good does this sound?! I loved this show but I don't think I knew it came from a great old movie until the 90's. I'm sure Mom told me but where would I have had the chance to see it? Were talking pre-DVDs and TCM, people. Yes, those were tough, tough times.
This seems to be some sort of extended edition of the theme but it's the best I could find. Another fantastic theme.
"...and a new day has bee-gu-uh-uhn..." I dig it!!
Yay!! Mr. French rocks!!!
Ok, now that I'm older and wiser I get it. A truck driver who hangs with a chimp is entirely unacceptable no matter how great he looks. (... the trucker not the chimp.) Awesome theme song though.
I remember Geraldine more than I remember The Flip Wilson Show theme. I vividly recall my parent's howling with laughter during this show. I was too young to understand it but Geraldine made me laugh too. Flip rocked and always will.
Who knew Wait Til Your Father Gets Home aired on BBC1? Bizarre.
This is here more out of curiosity than theme nostalgia. I ask you, how in hell does a mash-up like this ever come to pass? This one seems to be the result of some loser's obsession with Lynda Carter but... Penny Marshall in a swim relay? WTH?!
And just when you thought things couldn't get any more bizarre...
Friday, December 10
I wanted to see it in NYC but never had the chance. I really wanted to see Raul Esparza sing his ever loving guts out in it but missed it. Tonight I watched a Great Performances recording of it and was mesmerized. His Being Alive brought me to my knees. You have to go on the whole journey of the show for the finale to have it's full impact but here ya go:
Wonderful, isn't it?
A couple of weeks ago I saw another show I'd been wanting to see for ages. I finally saw Next to Normal and it tore my guts out. I'm serious. Tony and I cried through most of the second act but we loved it. I hesitate to even post this stuff out of context because in context it's one of the best shows I've seen in LA.
If you want to know what's going on here I'll tell you but I wish you'd go see the show instead.
Oh, and I thought the father and son performers I saw were better than those in featured here and on the original cast recording. That's Alice Ripley and she won the Tony for this role. Come to think of it, Raul won for the one above.
And speaking of Tony, here is my dear friend Tony singing I'm Alive from Next to Normal.
Isn't he good?! He had just learned the lyrics when he recorded this. He apologized for a couple of flat notes but, Christ, I can't sing like that. Can you? Go Tony, go!!!!
Thursday, December 9
Haven't felt much like blogging. I've learned that this is NOT a good sign. Long story short...
Here's what I've been up to lately:
- I rejoined Weight Watchers (again). So far, so good. I've lost weight and I'm physically feeling well.
- The holidays are making me sad. The first Christmas without Dad sucks. Emotionally, I'm feeling unwell.
- I did, however, have a decent Thanksgiving.
- Work has been good, work has been bad. They are changing my job, again, and all I can do is wait and see what they have in mind for me. I am so NOT in the mood for a big change. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
- I bought a Wii. It arrives on Monday. I enjoy being a grown up who can make dumb choices.
- I have started my Christmas shopping but have a long way to go since I've only bought stuff for myself.
- I started reading the Harvard Business Review. I find comfort in knowing my work place is not the only one with big-fat-issues.
- I was the first to put the outdoor Christmas lights up this year. The neighbors are slowly catching up.
- I enjoyed the Martin Scorsese documentary on Fran Lebowitz (especially the part featuring Shandon's husband). I heart her and pretty much agree with everything she has to say.
- Today was a particularly tough day but a dear friend texted me to say "Don't you HATE Perry's wife?" and it made me laugh and feel human again.
- I'm looking forward to seeing The King's Speech.
- I visited The Gamble House and fell in love with the place all over again.
- I'm an recovering from an Angry Birds addiction
- I am looking forward to watching 2010 circle the drain
Saturday, October 30
I hate coffee.
(AHHHH! You thought I was going to say something else, didn't you?)
I'm a tea girl in a world of coffee lovers. Don't get me wrong, it's not a problem, it's just a fact of life. I also don't like alcohol... ok, I maybe indulge about once a year. I like Diet Coke but I know it's terrible for me. In the end, I like water, lemonade and tea and that's about it.
For my birthday a colleague gave me a tin of tea. This was no ordinary tin of tea. This was a beautiful fabric covered tin with balls of tea that bloom in my tea pot. I made some the other night after work and it rocked my world. I've come to realize that I've never really had quality tea before. It was so softly fragrant that it didn't even need any kind of sweetner. It's just delicious on it's own. To top it all off, the bloom was gorgeous! I was so impressed with it that I went to the tea shop she bought the tea at. It's called Teavana and I highly recommend a visit. The staff is incredibly nice and helpful not to mention very enthusiastic about tea. There are dozens of varieties of loose teas to choose from. I happen to be very sensitive to caffeine so I stayed with the white and herbal teas. I bought a glass tea pot... the better to see my blossoming tea with. I also picked up the following:
Wild Orange Blossom
Then, for the health benefits, I picked up the Silver Yin Zhen Pearls White Tea. I've tried white tea in the past and have seriously disliked it. This white tea was spendy but, when added to herbals, has a mild flavor but adds loads of antioxidants which folks insist are really good for us. Sold!
The tea my friend got for me is called Strawberry Misaki Blooming Tea. Man is it good. I asked about the Monkey Picked Oolong variety (well, wouldn't you?). I asked if it was, God forbid, literal. They explained that it is not picked by monkeys but in the past monks did sometimes train monkeys to pick tea leaves for them. I'm not a fan of oolong so the idea of a monkey picking it just doesn't work for me, even if it is in name only.
I'm sipping a mix of the orange and Silver Yin Zhen teas and I love it. I feel as though I've never had tea in my life. I'm afraid I'm pretty mad at Lipton right about now. All of those years of bitter harsh teas. DAMN YOU LIPTON! I had no idea what I was missing out on. I don't like bold flavors. I don't like my food over dressed (think salads). I like enjoy flavor but I don't like to be hammered over the head with it. Coffee is too bold, water is, obviously, too boring but this tea is just right. I'm so happy to stopped by the "tea shop". I'll definitely be back for more.
Saturday, October 23
Turns out Dad kept some impressive company too. I was packing up some of his books and realized that half of them are written by Dad's friends. I can't part with them because they are all signed with wonderful inscriptions. I knew Dad was loved and admired but, again, I had no idea how much. The friends I affectionately call the Nerdy-Birders are all incredibly well respected and accomplished doctors, biologists and authors. Who knew? I just thought they really liked road trips and chasing birds around the state.
At first I was a little upset by my level cluelessness. How could I not even know my own Dad? I quickly realized that I only knew him as a good Dad because that's all he ever wanted me to know him as. I wouldn't even know now how influential he was except that while going through his things I'm finding thank you notes and publications that say some extraordinary things about him. There are incredible artists, authors and biologists out there because they met Dad at an impressionable age, liked what Dad had to say and do about birds and the environment, and their life paths took a turn for better. It's such a nice discovery. I've told friends that it's sort of like being one of those kids who hung out in her Dad's jazz bar and never knew her Dad and Uncles Dizzy, Louis and Miles were a big deal.
Today, it happened again. One of Dad's oldest and dearest friends, Bill, came down from San Francisco with his wife to visit Mom. We all went out to dinner and I started asking Bill about his yoyo hobby. I knew Bill had traveled some as a sort of ambassador for the sport of yoyoing but that was about all. Well, Dad once mentioned that Bill was a Yoyo World Champion but I just knew him as a super nice guy from my childhood. I didn't really recall the champion title but it all came back as Bill started talking about the traveling he'd done. Even then, Bill was just like Dad, he wasn't boastful, he just spoke about how great these kids are today and how much he enjoys judging them in competition. After dinner he did a yoyo demo for us. My brother's kids were in awe. Bill was amazing! It was dark out and hard for him to see what he was doing but people still stopped to watch him. The only story I remember hearing about Bill and his yoyoing was that he used to practice outside during his lunch break at work in San Francisco. People regularly stopped to watch Bill practice and would drop money in front of him thinking he was a street artist.
When I got home from dinner I Googled Bill. I learned that he is a Grand Master who is called a "living legend" and "The Yoda of yoyo". Who knew?! I sure didn't. I guess the moral of the story is to pay more attention to all of these people in my life who are really good at their "hobbies".
Sunday, October 17
This is what we found after the first night with the bait boxes out:
Some animal went on a rampage out there! I figure it was too large to get in the box considering the fit he threw! Here is a view of the box at ground level. You can see why a curious plague carrier would want to scamper in there to find what smells so good. It's just big enough for our squirrels and any rat that might wander by (I just KNOW they're out there too) and that's fine with me.
Speaking of rampages. Check out what Mom did to the rosemary bush. She thought it had gotten too big and went crazy on it. You can see what's left of it in the upper left side of the photo. There is still plenty for cooking. If anyone wants some rosemary, come on by!
That sad looking patch of the yard behind the trash can is our next garden project. We are going to plant some flowers out there since vegetables are currently out of the question.
In the mean time, mushrooms have started popping up all over the lawn. I took a couple of pictures before picking them up.
Because all kinds of critters are active around here at night, I set up Dad's Critter Cam. I'll post whatever it takes pictures of. Of course, I don't have the USB cord it needs but I'll get one soon.
This could get interesting. I'm just sorry it doesn't shoot poison arrows.
Sunday, October 10
Remember this from about a month ago?
I still don't know why Dad left the retro pink scalloped concrete border when everything else around here is either stone or brick. There is absolutely no way he liked it. I guess he just never got around to replacing it. Today I pulled it out and replaced it with stones he had lying around. What do you think?
Then there is the long overdue pool bathroom re-do. (It actually happened a while ago but I don't think I ever posted pix).
Back when Dad did all of the stone walls he used acid to scrub and clean the the mortar from the stones. The only problem was what to do with leftover acid? Well, Dad left a gallon of it in our bathroom out by the pool and forgot about it. All was fine until we realized that every metal surface in the bathroom was rapidly corroding. It was bad. Then my niece and nephew came along and wanted to swim all summer. That was fine but tracking pool water in the house was a drag. We certainly couldn't send them in to the acid bath(room). Finally, Mom and Dad decided to fix it up. Here a few before and after shots:
There was a mirror hanging over the sink but the wire it hung from disintegrated and it fell to pieces on the ground. Check it out now:
So, how does such a remarkable improvement happen? Well, in Mom and Dad's case, they went down to Home Depot, picked up the cheapest tile, paint, fixtures and toilet they could find then found a handyman to do all the work. Now we have a bathroom the kids can use without risking life and limb. Yay!
Sunday, October 3
Mom and I visited some wonderful old friends in Coronado this past weekend. We toured Coronado, and even the Naval Base, and really enjoyed our little getaway. While getting ready to grab one last meal with our friends before heading home, I got a call from a dear old college friend of mine.
I met my friend Jan while getting my BA in Journalism. Jan remains one the most gifted Editors I've ever known. Jan worked at a successful upstart dot.com, cashed in her stock options and went to Spain to teach English as a second language. We have kept in touch over the years but don't get to see or even speak to each other much. Jan's mother, Emily, died a year ago next week. I always knew Emily as a wonderful woman who was so full of life. She taught yoga for a time and had a great outlook on life. She had been ill for a long time and finally succumbed to a cruel, painful, degenerative disease.
I was so thrilled to finally hear Jan's voice this morning. I've thought of her so much this last year. Then, when Daddy died, I wrote on email explaining what had happened. This morning we were finally able to speak for a while and the ease of our conversation reminded me why we are still such easy friends after all these years. Jan opened up and told me a bit about the last days of Emily's life. Near the end, Emily was in a lot of pain and was delirious. She was thrashing about and repeating "Done with life. Done with life." This was so very difficult for Jan and her sister as they sat trying to comfort Emily. Emily continued to repeat "Done with life, Done with life." Suddenly, Emily shifted and started repeating "On with life. On with life. Jan, where ever you are, on with life." Man, that got to me. I have often thought how Dad would say those very words to me if given the chance. I know with absolute certainty he would expect me to go on and have a wonderful life without him. I really loved Emily and hearing about her pain hurt me and hearing those words really got to me. Jan went on to tell me that those words have really changed things for her. Whenever she wants to just sleep in or stay at home she thinks of Emily's words and gets out. She says it's really given her a new perspective on life and helped her move forward.
Soon after Dad's death a friend told me to "be aware and look for signs" of Dad. He believes that our loved ones leave signs of comfort for us after they are gone but we have to look for them. I don't know if I believe that but I sure do love the idea.
I've been thinking of Emily's words and think I should probably take them to heart too. Then, out of the blue, I realized the acronym for "On With Life" is OWL. Then I freaked out. Anyone who knew Dad knows that he literally died protecting owls. Owls were a particular favorite of his. Our home is filled with pictures, sculptures and figures of owls. People worry that I now hate owls. I don't hate owls. I have told many friends "I can't hate what Daddy loved." The owls all over the house now stare at me, wide eyed, and remind me to continue "On with life, Lucy. On with life."
I'll never look at an owl the same way again.
Friday, September 10
Last Friday night, while closing up the house for the night, I looked out and saw that Daddy's yellow squash had died. More accurately, it had never really thrived without his nurturing these past 2 months. The few squash that managed to grow were promptly eaten by some small critter or other. The site of the dying, dried out vines just about knocked me over. I sat and cried for about 5 minutes then decided to do something about it. I planned to put the squash out of it's misery and plant something new in it's place. The next morning I got up around 6:30, gathered my weed bucket, shears and shovel and went at those pathetic squash vines. It only took a few minutes to clear them out and make room for something new. Mom soon followed me out into the yard and ripped a few things up for herself. Sunday morning we made our way to a nursery and got a bunch new petunias, stock and snapdragons to plant. I began ripping out older, struggling plants to make room for the new flowers. I worked in the yard for about 5 hours... long past dark. Some of those roots were really tough to dig up but the end result was worth it. I don't want to rip out everything Dad planted but I'd like to tidy it up a bit. Dad loved working in the yard but ours is a big one. Between the birding and grandkid baseball games the yard often took a back seat. Dad had started to plant things that were native and drought friendly but also things that required little fuss and would volunteer year after year.
Now that I'm wandering around the yard I'm finding all kinds of gifts (and gags) from Daddy.
Here are a few:
On to gag #2. Check out this lovely scene on the side of the house. The theme from Sanford & Son blasts through my mind every time I lay eyes on this spectacle. It's ugly as sin but it's also a bit of a gift. I found all kinds of useful gardening things in this heap. I used a bunch that soil softener on the flowers I planted. That chicken wire will probably be used in some sort of contraption I'll need to fashion to keep the critters aways from our kitchen garden.
Look what those beasts did to my fresh lettuce. (Little bastards!) There were full leaves of lettuce on those last night. I'm planning a trip to OSH or Lowes tomorrow to figure out how to keep them away from our salad fixins. Don't even get me started on what they've been doing to the tomatoes. (Assholes!)
Here are some of the flowers I planted along side some of Dad's. I love them. My only question is what's with that weird pink scalloped concrete edging? Everything around the yard is edged wth bricks or stones. I'm certain he had always meant to replace it with bricks or stones but never got around to it. I think I'll do it for him cause that stuff just doesn't go with the rest of the yard. (Please note the brick facers under the clay pots on the step. I've found these ALL OVER the yard. At first I thought he was using them to keep everything in the yard level. I then realized he was lifting all of the pots slightly for the purpose of proper draining. Well done, Pops!)
This is another favorite. Wandering around the yard I'm realizing that Dad had hippie tendencies in terms of pruning his garden. With the exception of roses, Dad liked to let everything grow any which way it pleased. He was especially tolerant of the meanderings of his beloved oak trees. They are like spoiled children in our yard. This branch clearly needs to be pruned but Dad chose to just prop it up instead. He was such an oak tree enabler! It now makes me laugh. Also, please note the pesky squirrel drinking from that bird bath that needs to be cleaned out. I believe that bird bath came with the house. It's sort of funky but I like it.
This I consider a true gift. Daddy taught me to always marvel at nature. I never learned to be afraid of bugs, spiders, reptiles and other wee things in the yard. Because of Dad I've been watching this spider dine daily on bees. I find him fascinating. I would think that eating a bee backside first would hurt but I suppose he just melts that stinger before going for it. I know it's hard to see so you might just have to trust me on this one. Then again, maybe a double click will help.
This one was a bit of mystery at first. It's clearly a work in progress for Dad. Mom later informed me that he intended to plant the peach tree here. He was looking into having someone do a brick or stone planter around it but it was going to cost a fortune. Since he'd done so much masonry before, I'm willing to bet he was just going to do it himself.
Here is the potted peach tree. I'm going to see if I can get my brother to help me plant it in that spot sans planned planter. God knows I'M not going to do that kind of stone work myself.
This is possibly my favorite variety of rose in the yard. It's lovely. Looking at the picture now I can see that I need to clip off that dead rose bud.
When Dad wandered around the yard we used to call it "puttering" as in "Dad's out puttering in the garden". Now that I find myself puttering in the garden I'm learning all kinds of things. For instance, I'm now slightly obsessed with clipping dead buds off rose bushes. What I didn't know, until about 2 days ago, was that if you clip a rose bud and come back a few days later you are likely to find this in the shorn stems place: It's a miracle! I had no idea roses could recover so quickly. Of course, this discovery only feeds my pruning obsession. I love it! I get a sense of almost-instant gratification. I also love this variety of rose. Isn't it pretty? I found four pots filled with growing camellias. Camellias are Mom's favorite flowering plant so I know Dad brought them home for her. We now need to decide where to plant them. The trouble is that we have so may oak trees around the yard and, although beautiful, oaks tend to be very greedy. Oak tree roots are aggressive and make it difficult to plant anything near them. I'm thinking the side yard might be a nice spot for these happy guys. Here is the hibiscus that I've been trying the rescue since before Daddy died. It has suffered from a persistent white fly infestation for years. Since Dad preferred an organic garden he tried to use worm casting to keep the white flies away. It worked, at first, but not for long. I've googled all kinds of remedies. So far, weekly spraying with a hose seems to help discourage them. After the water dries I spritz the leaves down with a mixture of Joy liquid soap and garlic. The white flies hate it. It seems to be working. I have been ever vigilant since Dad died. I think I'm making progress and that Dad would be proud of the results. Oh, I like these too. I think they are crocus but I'm not positive. Not matter, I like them.
Check out all of the oranges that are coming in for the new year. I can't wait!!!
Then there is the gift of Daddy's amazing stone work. We have a big yard that is tiered. I don't even clearly recall what was here before Dad's walls but I believe the yard just had slopes of ivy all the way down to the lower yard. Dad built these all by himself. Well, he did have almost every one of his, and my brother's, friends lug rocks into the yard for him (usually on some lost bet as in "I'll play a round of basketball against you two. If you lose you have to bring up 10 big rocks each". He always won.). He used some sort of acid solution to clean the cement off the rocks. I remember finding frog skeletons in the acid bucket from when one would jump in during the night. That's got to be a rough way to go. Please note the wild native plants growing here. I'm going to leave some but plant some others that have some decent color. Oy! This is one of the last stone walls Daddy created. He was getting really good at this point. I love the "puzzle" wall best. (Dang, that would make a nice wallpaper on my laptop!)
This weekend I plan to do more obsessive pruning and weeding. I'm also cutting down the lima beans Dad planted (barf!). They too suffered without his care. I'm going to plant sugar snaps in their place (yum!). I've got some seedlings coming in. I will really need some kind of chicken wire walls and netting to protect them. That's the project for this weekend and that's Daddy's yard. It's a work in progress but overall I think he'd be pleased with what we've done around here to keep things happily growing.
Saturday, August 21
I also really like I and Love and You:
Monday, August 16
After lunch we were going to walk over to the new library but it was just too hot. I'll check it out another time. I'm mostly interested because I hear the city built this library with a bond passed by locals because the state just couldn't get its act together. When the project came in under budget the city returned the remaining funds to its tax payers. I have never heard of that happening. If you ask me the City of Monrovia should be running the state.
I also hear that there is a farmer's market next to the library every Sunday morning. The Friday night Farmer's Market is really more of an open air market or crafts and stuff. Last time I went Shandon, Howard and I finally found produce at the end of the street. The Sunday market is supposed to be produce only. Sign me up!
I love Old Town Monrovia. I'd love to live nearby because it's got a grocery store, two farmer's markets, a movie theater, the new library and multiple restaurants within it's handful of small town blocks. What more could a girl need? Well, maybe an independent bookstore but that's about all it's missing.
Who's up for a trip to Old Town with me?
Sunday, August 15
As mentioned a few posts ago, I'm working on living a more gentle life. I'm still not getting up early every day but I certainly do it more often than I used to. I get up early when I feel as though it isn't a chore to do so. Mostly I've gotten up to feed some birds then write in a journal. Today I got up and did some weeding. I'm sorry to say that I have never done that before. I'm sorry because it was incredibly therapeutic. It was a little before 7:00 am when I stepped foot outside. I spent a tranquil 20 minutes tidying up the rose beds. It looks much better now. I'll be tackling another flower bed tomorrow morning. I think this helps me feel closer to Dad. He was always an early riser and I'm beginning to understand why.
We've been receiving such wonderful cards from his friends and colleagues. One nice man, who met Dad a few months ago on a job site, wrote that Dad was able to quietly observe things in a way nobody else could. Dad somehow saw things in the middle of construction sites that nobody else would ever catch. I often saw him sit quietly observing the natural world around him. He seemed to draw his energy from the outdoors. I've never seen anyone else get still like Dad could. He could block out all of the chaos and noise and observe the peace around him. It was a skill that I'm hoping to achieve one of these days.
My natural skill is to block out the noise of the world while I'm reading. Although I was raised in a household of only 4 people it could often get very noisy. As a result, I learned to block out noise and focus on a book. As an adult I'm still able to block out noise, to a fault, when I'm focusing on something. Now my trouble is reading while stressed out. I find that my mind wanders when stress is present. If I can read for long stretches of time it's a sign that I'm feeling well. After and couple of months not reading so much I'm getting back to it but in small doses. Most recently I had been reading The Forgotten Garden. It suddenly seemed very appealing again so I picked up where I left and I'm really enjoying it.
After a very long day, let's just say that I helped out with a Mexican Booze Cruise Baby Shower (umm, yeah... more on that later), I was exhausted. I came home, took a shower and plopped down on the couch to watch the original film adaptation of The Secret Garden. It really is an oldie but a goodie. A dear friend gave me that book when I was about 8 years old. Ever since I first read it it's been my dream to live in a little cottage within the walls of a secret garden. *sigh* Maybe some day.
Seinfeld remains somehow soothing to me these days. I've also discovered some surprise airings of Barney Miller on WGN that make me very happy. My Tivo never seems to be able to locate these airings in advance but they seem to show up occasionally on Sunday evenings. I'd forgotten how much I like that show. They are genuinely funny and sweet and don't even get me started on that phenomenal theme song. They are also, mercifully, available on Hulu. I've Netflix'd the 30 year old episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs. I remember my parents and their best friends obsessing over that show when I was very young. It moves at a deceptively slow pace but there is scandal galore. I like watching it right before bed. I hear that PBS and The BBC have teamed up to produce an Upstairs, Downstairs sequel set to air in 2011. Yea! Mad Men remains the highlight of my television week. It's still so much fun.
I've been catching helpful hints on slowing down and living a more simple life on some good blogs. A new favorite is ZenHabits. SlowDownNow is also becoming a good resource.
If you have any suggestions for living a more tranquil life please let me know. I'd love your suggestions.
Thursday, August 5
Last night I sent an email to some of Mom's out of state family letting them know that she was ok. Around 11:00 I received a reply from one of her beloved cousins. He sent an incredibly kind reply telling me about what a wonderful visit they had with Mom and Dad the week before Dad died. It sounds as though he really understood Dad and came to love him in the few hours they had together. I don't even know what happened next, I just lost it. The tremendous loss of Daddy finally came crashing down on me. I thought of that Rolling Stones song Let it Loose (one of my all time faves) and I followed Mick's advice... I REALLY let it loose. The song isn't even about my kind of loss, I think it's really about being in love from afar or some dumb thing. Anyway, I listened to the end of that song "Let it loose, let it all come down. Let it loose let it all come down" and cried and cried and cried for about 45 minutes. I was wondering when that would happen. I knew it was coming, I was just hoping it wouldn't hit me while I was at work. I never cry for more than a few minutes at a time. I just never have it in me. It felt good. I finally dragged myself off to bed at midnight and slept soundly. That's the other thing, all I have to do is cry a single tear and I'm exhausted. This, of course, means I've been sleeping very soundly.
Then, like a freak, a whole playlist of songs ran through my head. Well, mostly titles of songs ran through my head. I came up with a pretty good list but it's not one I could listen to straight through... ever. Not anymore.
I thought of Brandi Carlile's Downpour and how those are words Dad would say to me if he could. Listen if you dare. It kills me but I do find comfort in the words of this gorgeous song.
I thought of Drops of Jupiter by Train. I heard the singer wrote the song after his mother died, I've loved it ever since because I adore the imagery. Buckets of Rain/Dylan, Fix You/Coldplay, Cry Baby/Joplin, Landslide/Fleetwood Mac and on and on flew through my head. 100 Years anyone? All kinds of hell broke loose. My brain turned into a God damned sad FM line up. It was a nightmare. Most of those songs have nothing to do with what I'm feeling but they swirled through my head anyway. Why did my head do that to me?
I was still a little shaky when I woke up this morning, and even considered not going to work, but I figured I have to learn to do this. I forced down the lump in my throat and went to work. I'm glad I did. It's my first full week back. I've been getting things done but a lot of time has gone to seeing people who stop by to check on me. It's so sweet of everyone but it's hard to get much done. I'm guessing it will be more normal next week.
Before Dad died I was looking into starting therapy. My blood pressure is suddenly an issue and three doctors have told me it's entirely work stress related. I work for a company that at least seems to grasp the pressure people are under. About every other month we get an email reminding us that we have 5 free visits to a counselor to deal with whatever issues we may be having. I finally called a couple of months ago. I didn't get a good vibe from the first person I called. The second therapist seemed very nice, very organized and followed up with me right when I needed her. I had my first meeting with her this afternoon. It was just a session to gather my history and to make sure we were both comfortable with each other. We were very comfortable with each and I'll be going back. I have no idea what we'll talk about since I feel as though I've already given her my life history. God knows I'm a talker so I'm sure we'll figure it out.
Until then, I'm still breathing. I'm still just facing this grief and letting it wash over me at every high tide. So far it feels right.
Saturday, July 31
I went to work for a few hours on Thursday, grabbed my laptop and worked from home for the rest of the week. I was beginning to dread going back to work on Monday so thought I'd try easing back into work gently. I'm glad I did. I almost lost it while walking in the building but managed to hold on. The place literally vibrates with action and stress but I saw lots of friendly faces and began to feel better.
I had a doctor's appointment to check on my recently rising blood pressure. I was explaining what happened to Dad while having my blood pressure taken and it shot through the roof. They turned down the lights and had me lie on my side and go to my happy place for 5 minutes so we could try again. I took a while but I eventually thought of snorkeling.
It's a memory that does not involve Dad, so it wouldn't make me cry, but is absolutely a happy place in my mind. Of course I thought of floating and watching fish and the turtles I've seen. Then I remembered the shark that once came a little too close and I was back to freaking out a bit. After 5 minutes my blood pressure was considerably better. It was a great illustration of how bad stress is for us. I was amazed at how quickly my body began to freak out on me. I really do need to start walking more.
More than anything I'm learning that I really just want a more gentle life. The stress is ridiculous and my attitude has changed considerably in the past few weeks. While I'm easily brought to tears I find that I'm not as bothered by the little things anymore. Death immediately puts things into perspective.
This morning I woke up around 6:00 am and really enjoyed the quiet. Of course, I quickly ruined it by turning on the tv but it was for a Seinfeld episode so it was alright. Later, I scrambled some eggs while listening to The Swingin' Years and that made me happy. I then decided that I need to get up earlier and shun all electronic devices until 8:00 am each morning. (Well, all devices except maybe a radio or iPod.) I found a new blog that promotes a more zen lifestyle. I was particularly interested in the waking up early recommendation. I'm gonna give it a try.
Sunday, July 25
Mom is NOT a fan of entertaining because it stresses her out but she did very well. At one point she got a little dizzy because she hadn't eaten anything. Luckily she was talking with an old friend when it hit her and the friend insisted she sit down and eat something. She did and recovered quickly.
I saw so many wonderful friends from my life but was disappointed that I didn't get to spend much time with all of them. It took me over an hour to get down to the lower yard because so many friends and family stopped to chat with me. That was nice.
I heard lots of funny/nice stories about Dad that I'd never heard before. I swear every one of my brother's friends had a story about Dad talking them into carrying large stones up and down the steps to help him build his stone walls in the backyard. They also talked about what an amazing basketball player he was when they were in high school and college and how they could never beat him... losing often meant carrying those damn rocks . Several birders stopped to tell me about how they began birding and eventually worked in fields of conservation because they happened to run into Dad when they were beginning birders and Dad showed them the bird they were chasing and their love of birding was born. Many men stopped to tell me that Dad had been a father figure to them and helped them through some very tough times. One man told me and Mom that our bathroom had special meaning to him. (?!) It seems that following his divorce he continued to wear his wedding ring. One day Dad said "enough", took him in my bathroom, soaped up his ring finger and made him take it off. The man said that that event was truly the beginning of him moving on after his split.
As for me, I'm doing alright. Mom and I refer to our crying jags at "meltdowns". I was doing ok but yesterday I lost it around 2:00 pm. That's about the time Dad would typically come home from a day of weekend birding. Not hearing the door open and him saying "Hey there!" was rough. I hung on until last night when I went into his office to turn on the backyard lights. The kids stayed over and wanted the lights on in case the bear walked by. (He didn't). Going into Dad's office was alright until I saw his slippers. Until last Christmas Dad never wore slippers. He had flat feet and most slippers just wound up hurting his feet. I did a little research this past Christmas and found some super cool slip on slippers with a lot of arch support. Dad loved them. Seeing those slippers in his office just set me off.
A surprising issue now seems to be exhaustion. I've been taking a "nerve pill" every night for the past week and a half and I think it's getting to me. I can barely keep my eyes open before noon. I finally gave in and took a nap this afternoon. It helped.
A silly source of comfort has been watching mindless tv. My current favorites are Seinfeld and The Andy Griffin Show. They couldn't be more opposite but they manage to gently take my mind off things. I've just ordered the complete Seinfeld series. My brother loves it too so I figure we can share it.
I'm planning on staying home the next week to be with Mom and to take care of some of the remaining tasks at hand. I may go into work for a bit on Thursday of Friday depending on how I'm feeling. I've got a follow up appt with my doctor to check on my stress and blood pressure. I can't imagine all of this is helping my blood pressure. That will be an interesting appt.
So that's where I am. Again, I'm still breathing. I can't explain why but loud non-stop noise is hard to manage right now so Mom and I are spending a lot of time together because so far we seem to be on the same trajectory on this journey. Mostly we just want to be lay low, be quiet, watch movies, talk a bit and get some rest.
My family and I have a wonderful set of understanding friends. They have been very comforting and have made us feel so loved. I will be forever grateful to them for that. Sadly, most of my dearest friends have been through this kind of loss. I have received very kind words of advice. Mostly, I've been told to just go with it and to not bother fighting my feelings. I believe that will be the best way to get through this. I know we will be ok eventually. I'll get to some more fun posts soon. Thanks for indulging me. I've found that writing or journaling helps me work through things. I suppose this public venue isn't appropriate but... whatever. It helps. Thanks for your patience.
Wednesday, July 21
First, the phone calls start. That's natural. People want to know if you're ok and what they can do. Nowadays the texts, emails, voicemail messages and Facebook postings also come. For me, they have all been incredibly supportive and helpful.
Flowers come soon after the messages. I never really understood this tradition. I figured it was an attempt to cheer up a grieving person but now I know that it does more than that. It helps your home smell nice and feel inviting for the guests that come. I burst into tears when the first bouquet arrived. I still feel bad for that poor delivery guy. He proudly presented the flowers to me with a cheerful "I have flowers for you!". I choked out a "Thank you" and sobbed as I closed the door. He literally ran away.
Food comes almost almost as quickly as the flowers. I always believed this was for the grieving family so they didn't have to worry about cooking for a while. It certainly does that but it also helps you feed visitors. I'd soy most importantly the food is there to remind you to eat. I am an overweight person and have been for most of my life. I've done reasonable challenging things like get a degree and get in and out of bad relationships. I've gotten out of considerable debt and managed to save up a little nest egg. I've done some tough things but losing weight has been my personal Mt. Everest. I've been making plans to tackle it but this grief now makes me wonder what all the trouble with my weight is about. Now I literally forget to eat. Friends who have been through this have called to remind me to eat. Two days in a row I mentioned to my friend Stacey that I'd had a 1/4 of a BBQ chicken sandwich for lunch. She sighed and said "Lucy, it's not supposed to take you 4 days to eat a sandwich." To which I replied "But it's from The Claim Jumper." She wasn't impressed.
My core group of friends have been wonderful. I know their efforts have not been coordinated but the timing is such that you'd swear it had been planned. They have stopped by, called, texted and made themselves entirely available all without being intrusive. Too many of them have lived through losing a parent themselves, sometimes both, and they entirely understand. Most folks are wonderful but a few have been completely stupid and insensitive. When one person I work with asked how I was doing I mentioned that I was ok but not really eating. Her reply was "Oh good! Whatever it takes, right?" OMG. I've always thought this person had an unhealthy body image issue. Now I'm sure of it.
My Dad's wishes were ALWAYS to be cremated. I've known this about him for as long as I've known about death. Well, my alcoholic, Catholic aunt called to argue with my Mom about this choice. She called in a slurred voice to tell Mom that she wasn't comfortable with the cremation. Again, OMG. Luckily we don't give a crap about her opinion. This is an aunt from out-of-state who we see about once a decade. She's been drunk dialing Dad lately during Laker and Dodgers games. What a fool.
Then there are the surprising sources of comfort from people I haven't spoken to in a while. The younger brother of an ex boyfriend from college called. Their father died when I was dating his brother. That was about 20 years ago. I remember it well. I doubt I was very comforting at the time, I was very young, but I genuinely liked their Dad and felt that loss. Well, this younger brother called and had some of the kindest most gentle advise I've received. Another friend I've worked with for several years called. He too has lost a father. He offered some very nice opened minded sort of advise that I truly appreciated.
That's the funny thing about this whole tragedy. Some sources of comfort are counted on while others are entirely unexpected... stunningly so.
A friend from work dropped off a bag of things at my doorstep early one morning. In it I found my glasses, a book and a journal. I set the bag aside but finally looked at it all today. I lifted the journal and a card fell out. It was from an unassuming woman I've worked with for years. We are friendly but we don't go to lunches together or see each other outside of work. She is really more of an acquaintance. She had written such a nice note. I then noticed the journal wasn't empty. It had been filled with dozens of notes from friends at work. I read a few messages, began sobbing and had to set it aside. I'll return to it again later.
The outpouring of grief and sympathy has been astonishing. Some of my Dad's oldest friends were almost choked unconscious with stunned sadness as we broke the news. I've heard some of my all time favorite grown men stumble and wail with grief over the phone. It's been just plain awful but I know exactly how they feel and know it has to come out. I don't know if you've ever had to share this kind of news with friends and family but it is, hands down, one the worst things about this whole ordeal.
Mom has received several calls where she can hear someone on the other line but they just can't speak. I think they hear her voice, begin to cry and can't speak. Rather than upset Mom by choking out a "Hello" they just hang up and try again later.
I take a "nerve pill" every night at 10:00 pm, fall asleep between 11:00 pm and midnight then awaken around 6:00 am. My sleep has been uninterrupted, dark and dreamless. It sort of feels like a little death in itself. I hear the dreams will come and that I should welcome them as I would a nice visit with Dad. I'm glad I haven't had any dreams about Dad yet. I don't know if I could take them at this point.
When Daddy died he was with a dear friend who desperately tried to get help to him but they were in such a remote part of the San Gabriel mountains that help didn't arrive until about 5 hours later. As horrified as I am for what my dad went through I'm just as upset for his dear friend. I don't believe my Dad really knew what was happening to him following the fall. His friend, on the other hand, had to live through the ordeal and, I believe is a candidate for Post Traumatic Stress. He's a great guy who reminds me of the man my sweet nephew will be in about 20 years. I will be eternally grateful to him for being there with my Dad when we couldn't be. I hope he gets through this ok. I'm really worried about him.
Of course, I also worry about my brother and my Mom. My brother is moving on to the anger stage of grief and is managing it by keeping busy. Mom seems to be on the same cycle I'm on. I think we're still numb. I wouldn't call is denial, just numbness. I'm so grateful that I'm living at home. I have been obsessed with buying a home of my own and now I'm so incredibly relieved that I'm here with Mom during this time. I can't imagine anything worse than being in escrow or in a new house right now. Thank God, or fate, or circumstance that I'm here with her.
I've learned that grief turns your mind to mush. Words and names often escape me. I know why people need some time off to get through this. I would be worthless at work right now. On the other hand I've found some very calm clarity about some things. Like my crazy alcoholic aunt. My brother is very angry at her because he thinks she upset Mom. She didn't. Mom doesn't really care what that woman thinks so she wasn't upset, just mildly annoyed. I, on the other hand, feel very protective of Mom but I also understand that my aunt has a disease that makes her selfish and ridiculous. People and things that normally make me crazy just sort of roll off my back these days. I'm much more patient than normal. I understand that my brother's anger, while directed at my aunt, is really about this situation. He, by the way, has been amazing. My Dad would be so proud of the way he has swooped in to help Mom. He's been here every day to help with the planning for the memorial. I've decided that we make an impressive team and support system for each other.
I don't know what I did to get so lucky as to be part of this family but I am eternally grateful for them and to my Dad for being who he was to establish such an amazing family. Thanks Daddy.
Monday, July 19
My Dad was an active birder/naturalist in Southern California and active on most of the birding message boards. Yesterday I took the time to read some of the wonderful posts people had written about him on CalBirds. I decided to write one myself. I wanted to have a copy of it for myself so I decided to post it here now. Here is what I wrote:
I've been reading the posts on my father, Mike San Miguel, and am
overwhelmed by all of your kind words. I thank each and every one of
you for taking the time to post your memories of Dad. They mean so much
The birding bug never bit me but I joke that I "bird through osmosis".
Let's just say I had an unfortunate run in with a gang of quail that
scared me half to death, at the age of 3, and I never fully recovered.
Still, I was included (or should I say dragged along?) on many birding
expeditions. However, my fondest and most vivid birding memory is
seeing three California Condors flying in the wild back in the 70's.
Even at that young age I knew it was a big deal and I remember those
glorious condors gliding through the air as if it were yesterday. It
was a beautiful sight and it was the moment I understood why Dad spent
so much time chasing and banding birds. I was in awe.
Because of those excursions I can't tell you how many times I've
startled myself with my accidental birding knowledge. I recall once
hearing a Red Tailed Hawk misidentified on NPR and saying out loud, with
disgust "That's not a Bald Eagle. That's a Red-Tailed Hawk!" I later
told Dad about it explaining, "I couldn't help it, it just slipped
out." Dad loved it.
Dad didn't know much about movies, or celebrities or pop culture in
general and I think he had it right. The world would be a better place
if we all just did as Daddy did and gave our attention to the natural
world. Daddy taught me so many more things than I can list but more
than anything he taught me to stop and take time to notice the beauty of
nature. He marveled at the smallest things and would always take the
time to share them with me. I recall sitting with him at our back yard
table and watching as he gently weighed, measured and banded God knows
how many birds. I'll miss that.
While birding was Dad's most time consuming passion, for the past couple
of decades, it was really all things in nature that he adored. He knew
all about Southern Californian native plants, reptiles and, more
recently, butterflies. I remember walking by the living room one day
and noticed daddy sitting very quietly in his chair, with a crossword
puzzle in his lap, no sports on the tv, gazing out the window. I walked
by much later to find him still sitting in his chair mesmerized by
something. As you know Dad didn't sit still much so I finally asked
what he was doing. He silently pointed out the window. I looked out
and didn't see much. He said "Look up. The butterflies are migrating.
I've been watching them for hours. They're incredible." I sat down
beside him and watched for a long, long time as an amazing jet stream of
butterflies fluttered, almost single file, over the oak tree, down into
the back yard then up over the house. He was right it was amazing.
It's something I never would have noticed on my own. I will never
forget the look of tranquility on Dad's face that day.
We rarely disagreed but I do remember what was possibly our most epic
argument. I was wrapping up my degree at Cal State Long Beach when, one
morning, Dad asked me to take a bird to Dr. Collins at the university.
Turns out he wanted me to carry a frozen Cooper's Hawk in my back pack
down to Charlie. I refused. He simply could not understand why I
wouldn't do it. I'll bet some of you can't either, but I can tell you a
20-year-old young woman is NOT interested in being a mule for defrosting
bird of prey. Dad quickly forgave me and I spent the next 20 years
teasing him about it. Much later he admitted that is was pretty gross.
I now sit with his wedding ring on a chain around my neck. As far as I
know Mom put the ring on his finger in 1964 and it didn't come off until
a few terrible days ago. I will miss my sweet, wonderful Dad for the
rest of my life. I will never get over this loss. It sometimes sucks
the breath right out of me. The only good news is that because Dad was
such a wonderful family man, Mom, Michael and I are left with no
regrets. We all know how much we love each other. We also all agree
that Dad would have never survived losing one of us. He had many great
strengths but losing one of us would have just about killed him. Now
Daddy will never know what this kind of loss feels like and for that I
My Mom, Dad and now Michael's family are the great loves of my life. I
consider that to be a great testament to the remarkable family I have
been blessed with. I have a lifetime of memories to carry me through
this and there are more to come. That is where I try to stay focused.
That is what will carry me through.
In closing, I ask one favor of Dad's dear birding friends; next time you
chase a great bird, get it in your sights and get a good look, take a
moment to think of Dad. That way I'll know he's still out there birding
I'll love you forever and ever, Daddy. Happy birding.