Saturday, July 31

A more gentle life

We're doing ok, not great, but ok. I don't know how but we are.

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


Dad's memorial was amazing. My sister-in-law told me that it would be hard but that I would look back on the day as a nice one. She was right. We aren't sure how many people came but we're pretty sure it was over our 250 person estimate.

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

Lessons in grief

I'm learning a lot from this awful experience. All of the rituals of loss and grief are beginning to make sense.

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


What can I say except that I am entirely heartbroken about the recent death of my father. He was a healthy, vibrant, 70 year old man who fell while hiking and died soon after sustaining fatal injuries. We are still in shock but feel such tremendous sadness it's almost unbearable.

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
to us.

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
am grateful.

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
with you.

I'll love you forever and ever, Daddy. Happy birding.

Saturday, July 3


Look what I found:

OMG! Fabulous!!!

Mom swears she has the complete set around here somewhere. Thank God or I might be crazy and buy it all up from some ebay seller in England. Isn't it fantastic?!

Another new obsession

Before Mom was married she lived in Tripoli, Libya with her dad and worked as a teacher for the families on a US Air Force base. Mom did a lot of traveling and saw lot of the world back then. She has all kinds of memorabilia lying around but the biggest box holds the dishes she and her dad used while in Africa. She has been saving them for me for years.

Something online today made me think of those dishes. Because I'm seriously looking at buying a house I've been thinking about what I will need in my new place. I decided to bust open the box of dishes to remind myself what the looked like. I didn't find the everyday dishes but instead found a beautiful mid century tea service that I am IN LOVE with. Mom said they picked it up in Germany. It's apparently a Seltmann Weiden service. I haven't figured out the name of the pattern but the dish style is called Isolde. I didn't take pictures but I did find one pic online of the same pattern:

How awesome is that?! However, I don't seem to have that exact set. My box of goodies contains a teapot, a creamer, a sugar pot, a tureen w/lid and two plates. Finding more of this pattern is my new obsession. I'm absolutely crazy about it. This cute little creamer stands about 3 inches tall.

The color looks gray in these pix but my set is actually a lovely shade of light blue.

On top of the service were a bunch of vintage postcards from all over Europe. I also found a stack of black and white pictures that my grandfather took while in Tripoli. He snuck a picture of a man kneeling and bowing for prayers but my favorite is of one of the protests. Mom says that government officials would just show up at their door and demand payment on "taxes" in cash. All kinds of strange "official" business was conducted in this manner. As a result the people were constantly rioting. She said that they would spontaneous gather and run through the streets. The police would then begin shutting down streets and lead the mob into town circles or stadiums. The police would then spray everyone down with paint then spend the next couple of days arresting anyone with paint on them. It was as strange time for my mom and her dad who had both been born and raised in Texas. My grandfather (aka Papa) seemed particularly curious about the burkas the women wore. I found two postcards from him to my mom with a picture of the covered women stating "This is a good picture of how the women look over here in robes." Later he sent the same postcard with "I do not know if I sent you one of these cards or not. It is the only one I've found of the Arabic women. The streets are filled with them." Talk about culture shock. It must have all seemed so very strange to Papa.

Maybe the best find were two boarding passes I found for Papa. One was the airline ticket for mom and dad's wedding the other for by birth. The pass for the wedding (an awesome First Class Pan Am ticket) seems to have cost $1000 (!) and outlines many connections: Tripoli to London to Los Angeles. The return flight began with: Los Angeles to Chicago. Papa told mom that he wanted to see if it actually was The Windy City... I'm completely serious. Papa did stuff like that. He then seems to have flown back to Texas before returning to Africa. He flew from Chicago to Dallas to New York to Tripoli. I found a similar itinerary on the ticket for my birth but without the Chicago detour.

Another great postcard is of the Empire State Building and a very flat looking lower Manhattan. Papa writes "This was the most beautiful thing all lit up at night." I couldn't agree with him more. It's still is a beautiful sight. I know I'll be thinking of him next time I see it all lit up.

If I ever get a scanner I'll scan the postcards. They are too good to not share.

The only bad part of my find was that it made Mom cry. She saw Papa's writing and immediately burst into tears which, of course, set me off. Later she said that I "Shoved me down memory lane when I didn't want to go." then we started laughing. In retrospect, my timing was not the best. Mom's beloved cousin is ill and she is planning to fly out to see him next week. She is excited about seeing him but I know that she always questions her decision to leave her family when she got married. I know I couldn't do it but the 60's were a different time and the bride generally followed the groom. Even well traveled brides seem to have followed this path. I sometimes wonder how our lives would have been different had we all moved to Texas. I don't know Mom's side of the family all that well and I know she regrets that most of all. I do have incredibly strong feelings of love for her cousin and my Papa. I hate that memory lane can make Mom so sad but I do like reading Papa's letters and cards to mom because it makes me feel closer to him. Maybe I just need to be more stealth about it next time.

I knew Papa for such a short time. He died far too young when I was around 13 years old. It's really not fair at all but I'm grateful for the time I had with him. I look forward to using his lovely tea service in my new home one day soon. I will think of him with each and every use.

Thursday, July 1

What's your style?

While tripping through the interwebs this morning I came upon an Ethan Allen "What's Your Style?" quiz. I took it and I must say I agreed with most of it. According to the quiz I'm a "Loft" gal.

Here is the description:

"Energetic. Fashion-driven. Practical. Materials borrowed from industry, architecture, and nature. Clean shapes. Punches of color. Spontaneous and fresh. Kids and pets? Bring them on."

I don't know about the "energetic" or "fashion" part of it but the rest sounds good. I do like things neat and practical. I don't like cold, modern, pointy places unless it's a high end hotel room. I do love unexpected color and fresh is definitely the way to go in a home. As for the kids and pets, well they are inevitable and usually make me laugh so you might as well make way for them.

There were two style examples given under the Loft style. I like Marzipan.

Are you taking the quiz? If so, what's your style? Is it accurate? Do tell!