day in the life
the everyday life of a couple living well with a slow-growing
cancer, and now a cancer widow living well on her own. There
have been sorrows and losses along the way. But being alive is
good. It is very good.
Saturday, March 28,
Day One and loving it
Managed to pick
Lydia up from school ... drop Lilly by the orthodontist ... get
Lilly to MMA practice ...
not twins and their mother doesnt
dress them alike
... fix dinner ... take Titus to youth group ... pick Lilly up
from MMA and drop her off at youth group ... make a pharmacy run
... tea party with Lydia ...
... and then fetch Lilly and
Titus from youth group. All without losing a single child.
(Although the gas gauge on the
mini-van may have gotten awfully close to the
mention this to The Parents.)
just the Friday evening schedule.
Fell into bed
exhausted last night.
This text at 5:58
(2:58am for those of us still on west coast time):
Amsterdam getting ready to board flight to Africa. Everything
going smoothly so far. Give the kids hugs and kisses from us!
The Parents are a world away. And yet, not.
Lots of hugs and kisses going out to the grandkidlets from their
Parents this morning ... as soon as the kids wake up.
As for the Grandma
Thursday, March 26,
message from Daughter Summer yesterday morning:
got off phone with adoption agency. They want to see us in
court on Monday.
in a place to drop everything and fly here ... by tomorrow
Of course. Im
retired. I have airline miles.
Love the sound of that. Let me say it again. Of course. Im
retired. I have airline miles.
That was yesterday.
Today = ordered
an Uber car to the airport, got through security at LAX and am
seated with a Chai tea. An hour and 22
minutes before my flight to Jersey is scheduled to depart.
This is not my
fault. Remember, I was married to Hubby all those years.
In an effort to be efficient, I thought Id order the
Uber ride to the airport a day in advance. Uber doesnt
work that way. Uber arrives soon after the ride request. Like,
very soon after.
Text from driver
seven minutes later:
I am here.
Oops. It obviously
pay to be efficient.
Monday, March 23,
You remember the *mom date* last Friday night? Drews
mom, Mary, is visiting from Minnesota (where, by the way, it was
snowing today in honor of her birthday).
Since we couldnt
replicate the snow to make her feel right at home, we did the
next best thing and celebrated over lunch at Paradise Cove Beach
Cafι in Malibu.
Wear your flip-flops, because if you prefer outdoor diningand
we always dobare
feet in the sand is an added bonus.
Jeremy ordered fish
tacos, which arrived on a plate the size of a tray. Luckily my
clam chowder in a bread bowl wasnt
the size of a watermelon. (Although we did see beverages served
in round watermelons
tops cut off
displaying self-confident straws.)
A couple days ago I blogged about eating authentic Mexican food in Little Mexico.
If Mexican food can get any authentic-er, then thats
what we had for dinner last evening at Denises
Homemade beans simmering on the stove. Fideo, which is a
sort of Mexican spaghetti with
tomatoes and spices. Tortillas warmed on a hot skillet. Fresh
cilantro. Avocados. Slices of Mexican cheese.
Come fill your plate and find a comfortable spot in the family
room where the story-telling and laughter pick back up.
raised her during her formative years. It was good to catch up
with these lovely people who have made me feel like family.
Whether a birthday
or an impromptu mini-family reunionor
any other reason for commemorating an important milestonewhoever came up with the idea of including food in celebrations
... this was absolutely brilliant.
Saturday, March 21,
been eating our way through LA, todays
600-ft-elevation-gain hike through Runyan Canyon provided some much-needed
(for me) sweat therapy.
And then the crazy kids decided they wanted to run back.
an easy jog,
they said. Which confirmed that I am not nownor
will I ever bea
jogger. Give me hiking boots on a mountain trail; snowshoes in
deep powder; but dont
make me run. Wah.
So after all this sweat therapy, we rewarded ourselves with food
at M Cafι. Of course. Where I had the best salad Ive
eaten in a long time
hearts of romaine and mesclun greens, avocado, cucumber, spicy
black beans, roasted corn, tomato, crispy tortilla strips and
Which means were
still eating our way through Los Angeles.
Sometimes a thing
never enters your mind until someone tells you not to do it.
This sign at the
end of the Runyan Canyon trail where it hits Mulholland Drive:
Not Use This Gate As An Exercise Apparatus.
begs people to use the gate as an exercise apparatus. In this
case, a chin-up bar.
learned since relocating temporarily to southern California:
1. Sometimes your
adult children never really grow up.
2. If J&D stayed
here year-round and we ate out three meals a day
never finish eating our way through the all the great food in the Los
3. Even though Im
a born-and-bred California girl, my preconceived ideas of
southern California were pretty much off-base.
someplace you never thought youd
Friday, March 20,
Eating our way through
Son Jeremy and DIL Denise are home for five days. And all weve
been doing is eating. At some fabulous places.
Kale chips and a delicious veggie-and-fruit power shake concocted
from almond milk made on location at the little juice cafι, Kreation, in Venice.
food on a walking street in Little Mexico. As soon as
turn the corner onto Olvera Street ...
in a different country. Large, leafy trees. Sun-dappled brick buildings.
We ate at La Golondrina
where they serve up deliciously authentic Mexican food,
including the best
And for dessert, beautiful
romantic Spanish music.
And then two sushi
dinner dates. Yes, two dinners the same day as the Mexican
The first with
these friends of J&DsClint
happen to be my three-blocks-away MDR neighbors.
I am now a sushi fan. Seriously delicious offerings. No,
seriously delicious offerings.
even begin to tell you what I atesome
cooked, some not so cookedbecause
I let the experts order.
But I think I heard
the word eel at least once last evening. I know what youre
This first sushi
dinner followed by a
second one with more of J&Ds friendsDrew,
Milton, and Barbaraand
mother, Mary. (What was referred to as the *mom date* because Mary
and I are both visiting our sons from out of state. And we two moms hit
what I think: If youve
never eaten raw fish, try it. Step outside your comfort zone.
Hop on your bike with the pink rims. Visit historic places. Meet
new people. Make new friends. And try the sushi.
Tuesday, March 17,
Surviving in the city
eating breakfast for lunch at The Griddle Cafι on Sunset Blvd ...
... and then on to the observatory in Griffith Park high in the
... across from the Hollywood sign ...
... with Los Angeles spread out below.
I had originally planned to hike the trail to the Hollywood
sign, but instead, took my time wandering through the observatory,
catching a show in the planetarium and weighing in on the moon
Einstein and I shared an intellectual moment together.
I was relieved to learn that the earth is still rotatingat
least for todayas
confirmed by this pendulum ...
... hanging from
And then my phone battery let me know it was losing juice. Fast.
think it was trying too hard to find itself.)
First panicky thought: How am I supposed to get
home without GPS? I can imagine my son getting the call from
you missing a mother? We found her wandering on the 405,
be pleased to knowafter
a hastily-whispered prayerthat
I got a good visual of a map on my phone before it died, wrote on a
scrap of paper:
to the 10 west to the 405 south to the 90 west.
And made it home safely. Which is a huge accomplishment for this
And so, a couple of travel tips:
1) Venture off the couch. Often.
2) Travel with eyes and heart wide open
we live in a damaged world, but there is amazing beauty
here, and there are some pretty incredible people along the way.
3) Discover. Learn.
4) Look at your gas gauge once in a while.
5) Take your phone power cord.
Sunday, March 15,
Stadium to Sea
Once upon a time, Son Jeremy, DIL Denise, and Hubby
and I were frighteningly close to the Boston marathon bombs when
they went off. Jeremy had just finished the race, and we were threading our way through the
crowd and snapping a few last photos, having given up on
finding a place to eat.
I love that Americas
response to these types of horrific events is to rebuild. Commemorate the dead
and honor the heroes, but continue hosting
Today the 30th annual LA Marathon, dubbed
to Sea, began at Dodger
Stadium and ended in Santa Monica.
More than 25,000 participants. Thousands of volunteers. Hundreds
of thousands of spectators.
My pink-rimmed bike and I added to the number of spectators near the Santa Monica
pier. But today wasnt
just another ride-my-bike-to-the-beach day. I had a vested
interest in this particular event.
My adopted church, Dream Center, put together a team of 183
runners that included Pastor Matthew Barnett. Each participated in
one of four distances today
5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon.
Total funds raised by these incredible people for Dream Centers
PROJECT HOPE = $211,445. Wow, huh?
Apparently there are 31 locations in Los Angeles that take in
stray animals. But only one emergency shelter for trafficked
women. At the Dream Center. And PROJECT HOPE will go far in
providing funds for shelter and food, and restoring these women
with life skills.
Kudos to Pastor Matthew Barnett and the
other 182 participants
not only for running in todays
heat, but for the hours of fundraising and training that led up
to this day.
As for the miles Im
hoping she wont
look at the odometer when she and Jeremy return from the east
coast this week.
Friday, March 13,
In a previous life, I escorted
teenagers on educational tours of Europe. On two different
occasions, the trip included Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp.
until the second year that we got to tour beyond the museum building. It was much more impacting to have a full hour
to walk the somber grounds and envision what went on in these
barracks, this crematorium.
No matter that youve
seen a professional basketball game, or a mountain climber
summiting Mt. Everest, or what the Nazi concentration
camps looked like
never quite the same as being there in person. Seeing the ballplayers, the
mountain, the brick ovens up close and personal.
Today I visited the
Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, named after the famed
Nazi hunter and a Nazi death camp survivor.
At the beginning of the tour, each visitor is given a photo
passport card with a childs
name and picture. My child was Helena Weissblatt of Warsaw,
Poland. In 1940, at age 12, Helena and her family were rounded
up with nearly half a million Jews and forced to live in the
At the end of the tour, I would find out if Helena survived.
The tour is a series of exhibits, guided by light and sound,
that begins in 1920 and includes the history of how Hitler came
One scene depicts an outdoor cafι. A light shines on each table
as a conversation takes place - some Berliners worried, others
not so much. And then as the light goes off the table, a
narrator tells what happened to this Jewish banker, that
newspaper reporter, that doctor.
The tour takes you into one of the death camps where there are
two brick archways with signs over the doors. If you were under
age 14 or over 60, or a mother carrying a baby, you went through
one door. And you were exterminated within 4-6 hours.
Also on exhibit is Simon Wiesenthals
Vienna office, which includes his original documents, artifacts,
furniture and books.
Because of Wiesenthals
efforts over the years,
Nazi war criminals were rounded up and brought to justice.
The tour ends with a wall of stories of how one person can make a
difference. No names on the plaques, but here was a woman
who hid her Jewish employer in her home; here was a man who
smuggled food to Jews in hiding; here was a government
official who provided his stamp and signature to documents
allowing hundreds of Jews to escape Poland before he was found
I sat in a room with about sixty
middle school students. All of us enthralled by Holocaust
survivor Dorothy, now 84 years old, who tells her story with
good humor and wit.
The middle school students asked questions
afterward, and Dorothys
parting words to them, in her lovely eastern European accent, were
live in the greatest country in the world. You can be anything
you want to be.
Oh, and my little girl
Helena Weissblatt, age 12 of Warsaw,
Poland? I inserted my passport card into the machine at the end
of the tour and this page churned off the printer. Helena and
her family did not survive the Holocaust.
It was Anne Frank who wrote,
wonderful it is that no one has to wait but can start right now
to gradually change the world.
And Mother Teresa tells us how:
you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed one.
I think Mother Teresa and Anne Frank would have been good
I have friends and family who are going about the
business of changing the world. A friend who is starting a
non-profit to stave off human trafficking and aid women in
Africa with education and micro-loans. A couple of families that
are adopting sibling groups. A former student who just moved her
two young sons to Ethiopia where her husband will serve as a
hospital administrator. Friends who are raising funds for
the digging of wells in third world countries.
Which begs the question, What can you and I do to gradually change the world?
Monday, March 9,
Enjoy the ride
favorite music was from his high school and college days.
North to Alaska
by Johnny Horton. And Marvin Gaye in
Sweet it is to be Loved by You.
There was no sleeping in on Saturday mornings for Daughter Summer
in her teen years. Hubby would slip in an Everly Brothers CD,
quietly open Summers bedroom door, slide
the CD player into the room and hit the play button.
Wake Up, Little Susie.
Summer usually jumped out of bed.
Im writing in my neighborhood Starbux Cafι and the first
begin playing on the overhead
I stop and hold my breath. Because it was one of our favorites.
Because we had once attended a Righteous Brothers concert.
Because, oh how Ive hungered for Hubbys touch.
Oh, my love, my darling,
hungered for your touch.
I need your love, I need your love,
God speed your love to me.
Yesterday I went to see an afternoon matinee of McFarland,
USA. Its based on the true story of a high school
football coach, played by Kevin Costner, who started a cross country team in an
Hubby would have enjoyed it. Because he ran cross country in
high school. And because its our favorite type of movie: a
true-to-life David and Goliath story.
I snuggle with the lap quilt that was sewn together from
shirts, and inhale deeply because it still smells deliciously of
him. (Impulsively I kissed the quilt two days ago. Who kisses quilts?)
Even though Im doing welltruly amI
long for Hubbys
touch. For the discussion following a good movie. The snuggling
up to a real man wearing a shirt instead of a quilt made of his
I received an unexpected package in the mail last week. A
beautiful soft-bound journal with a bike on the front cover that
looks an awful lot like
mine. And the most perfect title: Enjoy The Ride.
The thoughtful note inside the card read, in part:
niece and I were shopping when I ran across this little journal,
I immediately thought of you and the feeling was so strong that
I just had to get it for you. There are times when writing
words are more personal than working with your laptop.
True, what she said. I will cherish this beautiful little
book, and fill it with hand-written words.
love story is beautiful, but ours is my favorite.
These breath-holding strains of music from Hubbys era, movies I
like, reading back through the adventures we created together
these things dont hurt my heart.
they remind me of how I had a really good thing. And how cancer
was the wake-up call to not take that really good thing for granted.
Remembering Hubby with sweetness; enjoying the ride.
Saturday, March 6,
At the beach.
For those of you still shoveling snow, Im trying to be
sensitive by not blogging too frequently about hopping on my
pink ride and heading for the beach.
But its time for another
Because every time I go, theres something new to show you.
So, youve already seen sailboats, and beach volleyball. And
skateboarders. And street acrobats.
But I forgot to include surfers.
And multiple ways to experience the pleasures of bike-riding.
(Not sure whos having more fun on a bike
me or this little
Best music on the
boardwalk today came from a group that calls themselves the
Venice Beach Drum Symphony
an eclectic mix of instruments and
drums. Quite talented.
The bands groovy
ride to the beach. This van.
3:45, shiny trucks and big horses carrying big men showed up.
The people clicking away on their cameras had
tourist written all over them.
Me, I wasnt the
tourist, but the blog reporter. So youll know
when you visit Venice Beach on a weekend evening, you wont have
to worry about your safety because LAFD and LAPD will be there.
You can thank me later for this little tidbit of information.
The funky, the fun,
the tasty, the good tunes. All within a bike-riding distance to the beach on this sunny, Saturday afternoon.
The question is,
where should you explore this week?
Friday, March 6,
Nicole and Edward
been writing from my apartment in the mornings (notice how its
not only my bike, by also my apartment now).
drowsiness creeps in, I pack up my laptop and head to my second
the neighborhood Starbucks. Because no one at Starbucks will let
me get away with falling asleep and drooling on the table.
I recently had a
conversation with my two favorite baristas and learned that we
have a couple things in common.
dreams, for one
large dreams shaped by cancer.
Nicole is a dancer,
attends Santa Monica College, and works as a supervisor at
Starbucks. At age 15, she became her moms
bathing her, dispensing meds, managing the frequent seizures.
born in Vietnam and, along with his sister, was adopted by an
American family. At age 18, he watched his dad go from being a
relatively healthy man to a walking zombie.
Edward both lost someone important in their lives to cancer.
younger siblings at home, which meant she became the mom when
her mother died. A week
after the funeral, Nicole started her sophomore year of high school. She
struggled, making frequent trips to the counselors
office in tears. Her GPA fell to 2.8, but by the time she
graduated, she had brought it back up to a 3.5.
was a really tough time for me,
his father worked hard at a job he didnt
like, pinched pennies, and saved for the future. But he never
got to his future. Edward said it taught him to work hard, but
to pursue something he loves, and to enjoy the journey. He had
his own marketing businessits
what his dad wanted for himbut
turns out, screenwriting is really Edwards
passion. He recently sold one of his screenplays and is
scheduled to fly to Thailand and China next month to begin
she gets a lot of her personality from her mom.
would walk into a room and light it up.
Nicole originally wanted to be an actress or newscaster:
I love talking!
She pauses reflectively and adds,
nursing called me. My mom was next to me when I took my first
breath, and I got to be next to her when she took her last. I
change that honor for anything.
planning to transfer to the UCLA nursing program and hopes to
work at Cedars Sinai Medical Center after earning her bachelors
degrees. She is also in training to try out for the Clipper
the Starbucks Cafι on the corner of Lincoln and Maxella in
Marina del Reyare
pursuing large dreams. And cancer played a significant role in
Marianne Williamson, quoted by Nelson Mandela in his
ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and
fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of
God. Your playing small doesnt
serve the world. And as we let our own light shine, we
unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
to the success of the brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous
Nicole and Edward.
Wednesday, March 4,
and history lessons
probably heard that the swallows return to
Mission San Juan Capistrano
from their wintering grounds 2,000 miles away every year on
March 19, right?
And so you may be
wondering why I visited the mission today. (You just glanced up
at the date, didnt
The answer is at
the end of this blog. (Youre
thinking about scrolling down to the end of the blog, arent
You may remember
the excessive number of sunrise photos on my last pre-dawn road
trip to Boise?
Well, today I took
an excessive number of archway photos at Mission San Juan
Brick and timber
arches with cobblestoned walkways are prominent on all four
sides of a large, open green. Each more beautiful than the
Until viewed on my
laptop where they all basically look the same.
You see what Im
I took my time
browsing through the ten-acre grounds
peeking inside the chapel ...
... strolling past
the herb and vegetable garden, past the place where they made
their adobe bricks years ago, stomped their own grapes into
The grounds boast
quite a few plants from outer space.
In the large open
grassy area is a koi pond surrounding a fountain overgrown with
more alien plants.
That was your
horticulture lesson. And now for the history lesson.
The mission was
founded in 1776 by Father Junipero Serra as part of Spains
territorial expansion. By 1806, it had a population of more than
1,000 people, 10,000 head of cattle, and the Great Stone Church
Six years later,
the church collapsed in an earthquake, but this is what has been
By 1812, Mexico
had won its independence from Spain. The mission was sold
and became part of a private ranch.
And then the US
won the Mexican American war in 1848.
With the start
of the Gold Rush and millions of Americans moving west,
California became a state in 1850.
Abraham Lincoln was the one who returned the run-down
missions and land to the Catholic Church where preservation
work was started and continues to this day.
the short version.
So, the answer
to why I visited San Juan Capistrano today instead of March
19 has to do with being married to Hubby for too many years.
He instilled in me a love for *no-crowd zones.*
Which made for
a lovely, lazy stroll through the sunny grounds of Mission
San Juan Capistrano with very little traffic.
That is, until
I got back on the 405.
Oh, and I did
get a photo of swallows nests as they await this years
If you had told me
a year ago that today Id
be widowed, temporarily living in my son and DILs
apartment before moving east, and navigating the SoCal freeways like a regular tourist, I would have said, Not
what I think: If you find yourself detoured off the road to
where you thought you were going ... well then, get out your
Google Maps app and do some exploring.
Sunday, March 1,
There was quite a
bit of excitement at my neighborhood Starbux Cafι this afternoon
when this hard white stuff started falling from the sky.
The locals werent
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 its
pouring down even as we speak.
I actually saw a
bit of snow on the mountains on my way to church this morning.
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 dont
know what winter is. Yes, Im
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.