day in the life
the everyday life of a couple living well with a slow-growing cancer.
always easy, and there will certainly be sorrows and losses
along the way. But being alive is good. It is very good.
Sunday, March 1,
There was quite a
bit of excitement in my neighborhood Starbux this afternoon when
this hard white stuff started falling from the skies.
The locals weren’t
quite sure what to make of it. I actually heard someone say
something about the Apocalypse. Seriously.
been having not-your-normal weather here in southern California.
It rained good and hard a couple evenings ago and it’s
pouring down even as we speak.
I actually saw a
bit of snow on the mountains on my way to church this morning.
Yes, mountains and snow in SoCal. Who knew?
By mid-afternoon, a
cool 55 degrees and some awesome-looking clouds toward the
ocean. So I hopped on my pink ride and headed west. In between
One lone sailboat
out on the Pacific. And one lone cyclist (me) for a long stretch
of the bike path that spreads across the sand.
ferocious winter in Marina del Rey. You people out east don’t
know what winter is. Yes, I’m
talking to you, Jersey.
I was at the bike rack outside a store when someone
approached me on his bike.
Pretty sure he was
talking about my bike.
Sharing the beauty
There’s this story
about a man named J. Paul Getty who assembled an impressive
collection of art and artifacts. In 1954, he opened his Malibu home three
afternoons a week as a museum of sorts. Because he wanted to
share the beauty.
And then in 1968, Getty recreated a first-century Roman villa on his property
to display his growing collection of art. The rest is
history as the Getty Museum
has expanded to two locations with the Villa housing Getty’s
Greek and Roman antiquities.
There are no art or
artifact photos posted here because of photo restrictions—and
probably pushing it a little—but
one of the things I
appreciated about the Getty Villa was how the exhibits flowed
between indoor and outdoor spaces.
In some cases,
instead of moving from room to room, one must exit one room into
the inner courtyard before entering the next room. How lovely
is that, says the outdoor girl.
Walking back down
to the parking structure afterward, I snapped a couple shots
that highlight the Pacific Ocean in the near distance.
A work of art right
here in this cobblestone driveway with the Pacific glittering on
I was thinking
about Mr. Getty’s
collection of beauty and his vision in wanting to share it.
And I was thinking
about something I wrote in my journal recently in reference to the
with Hubby and our desire to share the beauty and
joy collected along the way.
The entry began with a
quote from a book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series:
“She looked at him
fondly. That he had been sent to her, when there were so many
other, lesser men who might have been sent, was a source of
constant gratitude. That we have the people we have in our life,
rather than others, is miraculous, she thought; a miraculous
And then these
words from my heart to God’s:
“If this hard
wilderness journey was necessary—and it was—then I’m so glad
this man was the one you chose for me. Thank you for sending us
to wilderness school. Together. I would rather have gone through
hard things with Gary than to have had a life without trials
with any other man. Thank you for the wilderness route. This
hard, joyful, learning-deeper-gratitude gift of a journey.”
In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp writes:
“It is the art of gratitude that makes joy possible.”
I wonder if it’s
gratitude that produces a desire to share. Because isn’t
it gratitude that causes us to realize all we have? Our
collections of beauty. Our blessings. Our wisdom. Whatever we have that’s of value.
Is gratitude what
spurred Getty? Because it’s
certainly what spurs me to share our love story. Hubby’s
And then, is it the
sharing that not only gives joy to others, but to us, as
I’m thinking yes.
that has absolutely nothing to do with sharing beauty:
There was a bit of excitement at Son Jeremy and DIL Denise’s
apartment last night.
All the fire alarms in the entire building suddenly began blaring.
All lights flashing. But no smell of smoke anywhere.
Apparently only the
neighbors that owned dogs were out of the building. (You see how
parenthood instills a strong sense of responsibility in us.)
False alarm. But
awfully loud false alarm. Rest assured that should there ever be
a real fire in this place, absolutely no one will sleep through
I texted a photo to
Jeremy, who is working on the east coast. Just so he and Denise
could see what they were missing out on.
He texted back:
“What did you do?”
When he died, it surprised even me how quickly I sorted
clothing. I’d read where widows put this sort of
thing off for months. Years.
But we were heading
into winter in central Oregon and there were men at
House—the men’s shelter and rehab program where Hubby volunteered
three mornings a week—who could use warm outerwear and thick wool socks and
gloves and backpacks.
I saved a few
shirts and a red-and-black silk tie
for a memorial quilt.
them along with
my sewing machine for the drive to my temporarily-adopted
hometown of Marina del Rey in southern California.
situation calls for simple. Which, in this case, meant lap quilt size,
and twenty 12”
blocks instead of dozens of smaller ones. Simple is good.
Here, in four easy
steps, are instructions for a memorial quilt made from men’s
Step 1. Cut
up shirts into blocks sew blocks together stitch on red squares
add batting and backing turn right side out hand-quilt.
Step 2. Make popcorn.
Step 3. Snuggle.
Step 4. Smile. Because
this quilt represents the most wonderful husband who
I visualize wearing these shirts with his cute grin.
the one where he’s
trying not to smile.
(Actually, you can
click here if you’re
interested in more detailed how-to instructions.)
- one of the benefits of retirement
around Tuesday or Wednesday, he’d ask, “What are we doing for
date night?” I loved it when he talked that way.
Even after Hubby
didn’t feel like leaving the house, I’d make a dinner run—anything
that sounded good to him, anything that would entice him to eat—and
we’d watch something on Netflix, which he usually dozed through
after not eating his dinner.
But I loved that he
still wanted to keep date night alive.
And so last evening
being Friday, with Hubby in my heart, I rode my
bike to the beach for those fabulous fish tacos on the
“By the basketball
courts,” Son Jeremy had texted from a bitterly cold New
Jersey the week before. “Just a
walk-up with no seating. Not sure the name.”
There’s a reason he
wasn’t sure of the name. It has no name.
Two dollars for
an incredibly delicious fish taco.
Plus tax, which,
coming from Oregon with no sales tax, don’t even get me started on
how much sales tax adds to the cost of the item, and while we’re
not on that topic, don’t get me started on no free paper bags.
Really? I just brought business to
your store. I just purchased your merchandise. And now I have to
buy a paper bag in which to carry it out of your store?
But I digress.
Dinner date music
was provided by this guy. (He’s not really wearing a skirt; it’s a denim shirt tied
around his waist. And check out his custom roller blade wheels.)
Met this handsome
young man at the boardwalk. He wasn’t actually my date because I had
already woofed down my fish taco.
But had I met him before
would have shared. Which would have officially made him my date.
all that it’s cracked up to be. It’s ten times better. A
thousand times better.
I’ve heard it said
that if a person isn’t content single, they probably won’t be
content married. I wonder if that same concept holds true for
retirement? if we’re not content working, then we probably won’t
be content retired?
I don’t know if
that’s true for everyone, but the thought is about choosing
contentment – whether single, married, working, retired, sipping
Chai tea or not sipping Chai.
My weeks rush by
doing all the things I want to do – writing to my heart’s content, hand-quilting the
Hubby’s-shirts-quilt, multiple bike rides, reading homework
books (more about the best ones later), keeping in touch
with family, with friends.
In fact, the only
downside I’ve noticed about retirement is losing track of the
days. Which means last evening’s Friday night date was really a
Thursday night date. Something I didn’t discover until this
Which means I’m gonna have to ride my bike back down to the beach
this evening. Darn.
There are probably
certain images that come to mind when you think of southern
California, yes? The traffic and congestion. The beaches. The
movie industry. The large homeless population.
Hubby used to say
in our presentations that his cancer diagnosis had taught him to
look for the positive in things.
And so with that in
mind, I’ve found some positive things about my
newly-adopted country of southern California.
Dream Center, is one
of them. It’s the Los Angeles church I’ve been attending. It started in the old Queen of
Angels Hospital on Bellevue Ave that shut down back in the
credit: Dream Center website
eventually moved to the historic Angelus Temple on Glendale Blvd
... but for the
past 18 years, by way of a once-discarded hospital, Dream Center
has been a place of refuge for victims of human trafficking and
domestic violence, for the
homeless; and a place of recovery for the addicted.
provides nearly 50,000 meals each month, and runs one of the largest
non-profit food banks in Los Angeles. And the people they serve
are right in their neighborhood.
This photo. On my
way home. Just a few blocks from church. Looking for the positive in Los
Angeles County. And finding it.
And while we’re on
the topic of looking for the positive, I located this iconic
fast-food burger joint, In-N-Out, at the end of my street.
was the first drive-thru hamburger
stand in California, opened in 1948. Back in the days of carhops,
here was this innovative idea with its drive-up window and
two-way speakers. (The history you learn here.)
Back when Hubby encouraged our audiences to look for the positive, he used this
example: “I found out you become
better looking when you’re diagnosed with cancer.” The crowd
Whenever I visit family or friends, the first thing they say is,
’Boy you’re sure looking good.’”
the laughter died down, Hubby would finish with: “Before I
had cancer, no one ever said that to me.”
I have a list of
places I’d like to visit—Getty Museum, San Juan Capistrano, The
Museum of Tolerance—and food joints that have been recommended
by friends—Johnnie’s Pastrami, Tito’s Tacos, Gabby’s.
When Son Jeremy and
DIL Denise return, they plan to show me around. But until
is it I need to see, taste, experience in this
beautiful and unique country?
experiences ... and people
Venice Beach and
Santa Monica are June’s old stomping grounds. Back in the days when she was
a nurse in the Critical Care Units at St. John’s and Santa
I know June from my
previous hometown of Bend, Oregon. Cancer survivor. Soaring
Spirits camp nurse. June and her honey are in the area visiting
family and keeping med appointments. And so, how fabulous it was to have my own personal tour
guide for the day.
Not to mention the
added bonus of her safety tips: “Always lock your car, and never
leave anything in it.”
On the tour guide’s
agenda for today, a brief walk beside the wetlands near the marina in my
newly-adopted hometown of Marina del Rey.
Fabulous tacos at
Campos Famous Burritos in Santa Monica.
A walk out on the
pier past merry-go-round and Ferris wheel and street
entertainment to the very spot where Route 66 ends.
And of course a
long, leisurely stroll along the waves to wet our pretty toes in
the Pacific before climbing the ...
... dozens of steps
up the cliffside and across the bridge over the Pacific Coast
Highway to locate June’s vehicle in the parking
garage before rush hour traffic got too hairy.
Which should have
been an easy thing to do because June had written the floor
level and aisle on her parking ticket. Smart girl that she is.
Fourth level, east aisle.
But no vehicle with
Oregon plates on fourth level, east aisle.
Or fourth level
Or fourth level west aisle.
Or fifth level.
I’m thinking -- but
don’t say out loud -- someone must have stolen her van.
And then it dawns
on June that she’s in the wrong parking structure. It should be
Structure Four and not Structure Two. Why don’t they color-code
these things? Just one block apart from
each other. They look identical.
(I told June it
would have made for a better blog story had her van actually
Back in the day
when Hubby’s job changed—either the company was relocating its
data processing department, or was switching to HP from IBM—we
I love that we made
new friends in each place and kept old friends. But that’s only
done through intentional effort; it doesn’t happen
You’ve heard me say
this before: Stay in touch.
Batterson writes, “Don’t accumulate possessions; accumulate
If Mark would allow
it, I’d take
that quote one step further: “Accumulate experiences and people
to share them with.”
Thanks for a
fabulous day, my June friend (assuming we’re still friends).
Found the perfect
Valentine for Hubby. I love the story of us.
The inside reads:
“I love our details – our music, our code words and all the
memories we’ve made together. I love our friends, our
friendship, and everything else that connects us heart and soul.”
Hubby and I didn’t
have any code words, but we had our own private signals. Like
when we squeezed the other’s hand three times, it meant, “I love you.”
And Hubby rattling
his keys in his pocket meant, “Are you ready to go?”
Hubby is also
presenting me with a valentine. Well, actually, I’m making it,
but it’s from Hubby. Well, actually, it’s from Hubby's shirts,
which he wore, so same thing.
I went with easy.
Twenty large blocks instead of hundreds of smaller ones. And I
utilized some front panels of shirts with buttons and pockets.
And in the corners of each block, a splash of red silk from one
of his ties. With shirt buttons sewn into the middle of each red
It needs batting
and backing, and then it will need to be quilted or tied, but this gives you
a sneak peek of my valentine from Hubby.
I’ve been writing
from home in the mornings, and from Starbux in the afternoons. The first draft of
an 18-page e-book is completed that will be offered for free
once the new web/blog site is up and running. It’s an overview of the last year of Hubby’s life with an emphasis on his tenacity.
To complete the
project, I needed to read back through journal entries and
year-old blogs, and look through photos.
across one photo I had taken the day before Hubby died. I wasn’t
expecting the rush of tears. I set my pen down, covered
my face with my hands, and sobbed. For him, for the suffering he endured so
And it felt good
and cleansing. Weeping is good.
I wouldn’t trade having this husband with his cancer
diagnosis—and all the subsequent sorrow and loss—for someone
else without cancer. Because I love the story of us. Of Hubby
Everyone at my
neighborhood Starbux – well, at least this barista and I – wish
you all a happy Sweetheart’s Day.
In keeping with my
promise to limit the number of blogs about riding my bike to the
beach, I am instead commenting about the Venice system of canals I
explored. On my way to the
beach. On my bike.
According to Son
Jeremy who texted from the east coast, Venice Beach was developed by a man named Abbot Kinney
back in the early 1900s. Kinney loved the Venice in Italy so much that he recreated the
canals here in SoCal, complete with real Venetian
gondolas and gondoliers.
Mostly kayaks and
paddle boats and row boats these days—no gondolas—but what caught my attention
while wandering along the walkways and over the bridges was the mixture of house styles. Which means also an
interesting mix of gardens.
And garden gates.
There’s the modern wrought iron look.
industrial look supported by bamboo on both sides.
course the funky – contrasted here with traditional
my favorite was this tan-colored sculpted fence and
featuring stalks and leaves.
dream was pretty crazy, right?
I mean, who digs
canals near the ocean and builds neighborhoods around them and
bridges over them just because of a place they had
I wonder what the
cost of transporting gondolas and gondoliers to America from
Italy in the early 1900s would equal in today’s dollars.
I received this
card from family on my drive south and have been thinking about
anything is possible.”
The inside reads:
“Hope for the best, plan for the best, expect the best. You have
every reason to keep moving forward ... closer and closer to
I was thinking
about these words in contrast to the hospice care message. In
those last weeks of Hubby’s life, more than one doctor said to
us, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”
I understand that
sentiment in context. Basically they were saying, Don’t lose
hope. Your loved one can live longer than expected. But know
that he/she is headed toward death more quickly than the rest of
That’s the business
hospice doctors and nurses are in – preparing the terminal
patient and their family/friends for the inevitable.
But I like the
boldness of the words in this card when it comes to pursuing
I wonder how many
people laughed at Abbott Kinney when he developed his Venice of
I hope to earn a
living from writing. The world of publishing is a whole lot
different today with people reading differently – as in, short snatches
from the internet or via e-readers.
is the dream. And I am hoping and expecting and planning for the
best. And putting in the hours at my computer every day. Writing
Even on the days when
I ride my bike to the beach. (Did I mention the temperature
today was 82 degrees?)
Sunday, February 8,
Just another day at
I promise not to
blog about bike riding to the beach every day. (Maybe just every
This afternoon I
turned right on the bike path instead of south. Apparently north
is where all the action is. Of course it helped
that today’s high was a balmy 73 degrees.
beautiful sail boating, volleyball-playing ...
rollerblading, bike-riding ...
helmet-wearing day on Venice Beach.
While today was all
that, yesterday was your Meet-Up-With-Old-Friends Day at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos
in Long Beach.
Not that Rachelle
is old, this lovely young wife and mom and family nurse
practitioner. She’s just been a friend for a long time.
I love the
technology that allows us to keep in touch with people. I think
it’s part of not feeling lonely although I’ve been hanging out
with mostly me these days.
And so I leave you
with one of my 13 personal commandments, and two adventuring
Commandment #12: Stay in touch. People are that valuable.
#1: If you’re looking
for a serene ride, head south on the bike path at Marina del
Tip #2: If you’re looking
for some great people-watching opportunities, then you’ll want
to point your bike north toward Venice Beach.
Friday, February 6,
Rode my bike—notice
it’s now my bike, sorry Denise—down past the marina ...
... underneath a
live archway of green ...
... and out to the
ocean where a strip of the beach is paved. With cyclists in
Only in southern
California would they run a strip of asphalt in the sand just
for bikes. Parallel with the ocean. With a dotted yellow line indicating which lane one should ride
Son Jeremy and DIL Denise’s apartment has three slider doors that
open wide to let in the balcony.
Guess who’s had the
doors open for part of each day?
And speaking of
wide open balcony doors, with Jeremy and Denise working out of
town, I’ve been feeding Denise’s pet hummingbird who seems to
this big guy aspires to be a hummingbird.
It’s a strange and
beautiful place, this foreign country that I’ve adopted as my home for
All kinds of advice
My pink ride for
the next four months.
Well, it’s actually
DIL Denise’s bike, but she and Son Jeremy are working on the
east coast. And she entrusted me with the key to the
lock. Which she may or may not regret. Since I’ll be putting in
a lot of miles on these tires. Since there’s no place to
snowshoe around here.
settled—grocery shopping, bank deposit, bills paid—I treated
myself to a bit of
fresh air. California style. In February.
This SoCal bird with its long,
mini ... what? stork?
where is Dr. Kornfeld when you
I’ve been getting
all kinds of questions and advice since relocating. This from a girlfriend:
craziness of Venice Beach – and remember, tattoos are forever,
so none of that impulse ink on the boardwalk!”
And this from one
of The Brothers-In-Law:
“Did you make it
down there okay? Is there much traffic? Are your neighbors nice?
Have you seen the Lakers play? Have you heard sirens? Have you
joined a gang?”
Haven’t gotten a
tattoo or joined a gang. But you can bet I’ll blog about it when
toes meet southern California beach.
Welcome to southern
I was escorted off
the Pacific Coast Highway. By two CHP cars with lights flashing.
beautiful nature, great food and fun times with family on my way
A quick stop at
Benbow Inn where Hubby and I honeymooned for one night. Back
when I was a logger’s wife for the first two weeks of our
marriage and the boss—Hubby’s dad—needed him on the job bright
Monday morning. But that’s another story for another time.
An overnight stop
in Sacramento to visit Hubby’s sis, Cheryl, and her fun
family. Were it not for Cheryl, best friends from our high
school days, I never would have met Hubby. Thanks, sis.
Lunch stop in Santa
Cruz with one of my many beautiful nieces. Janet, mother of
eight kids. (I know. She doesn’t look as if she’s borne eight
Further south on
the 101, a bright moon presiding over an amazing sunset that my
cell phone camera doesn’t even begin to capture accurately.
California bugs on the windshield. (There are no bugs in
Dinner stop in
Santa Barbara at a hole-in-the-wall taqueria for the best
tacos you’d ever hope to eat. Homemade tortillas while you wait. When I left, the
line was out the door.
Recommended by Son Jeremy and DIL Denise.
Which may or may
not make up for the recommendation from Jeremy to jog over to
the Pacific Coast Highway from the 101. Beautiful scenery,
less traffic, he said.
He was right. There
was absolutely no traffic. None ahead of me. None behind. None
coming from the opposite direction.
And then these two
guys in uniform with flashing lights showed up, pinning
my car so I couldn’t make any fast get-aways.
Where are you
going, ma’am? I could not, for the life of me, remember the name
of the town where J&D live. Which didn’t help in the area of
Where are you
coming from? Oregon.
Do you live in
enough cop shows to know you give the briefest of answers so
that nothing you say can or will be used against you.)
How did you get on
this highway? Drove.
Didn’t you see the
big flashing signs indicating the highway is closed? I
Apparently the CHP
neglected to place flashing highway-closed-signs on the entrance
from Rice Road and now I’m going to jail. That’s just great.
questioning, they gave me my very own private escort – one in
front, one driving on my tail – back in the direction from
whence I came.
I didn’t get a
photo. Thought about it—because after all, this story would be
much more interesting with a photo—but didn’t want to chance the CHP
confiscating my cell phone.
Welcome to southern