If you have consciously or serendipitiously arrived here, welcome. I’m Fran, aka Redondowriter, and my interests include family, friends, writing, reading, art, computers, storytelling, spirituality, photography, animals—and exploring the layers of everyday life.
Though I haven't written here about it since Valentine's Day, one of my brothers-in-law is on the last leg of his journey through life. He has lived the past 10 years with PSP, or Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a rare and dreadful disease. He was in the acute hospital for a month in February and has been in a nursing facility since. Four times he has pulled out his stomach feeding tube, his lifeline, along with the IV, oxygen, and catheter. Four times they have returned him to the acute hospital to reinsert the tube, but during the night he becomes agitated. My sister, who is 83, is with him every day and has started sleeping in a chair in his room on Saturday nights to help keep him calm. John is living everyone's nightmare of becoming helpless and institutionalized. In his lucid moments, he understands why he can't go home, but he will be going out of this life--fighting--to get home. It's his nature, but then he was a bomber pilot in WW II at age 19.
My heart breaks for Betty and John. My sister is a scrapper herself and has certainly taken on the medical community to get him the best and most consistent care possible. But, he could live a day or a year. He has not been recommended for Hospice yet, but that would be the kindest scenario possible. If he pulls out the tube again, it is possible that my sis will have to make the tough decision not to reinsert it--or the docs will refuse to do it again. Or Medicare will balk at some point. There are no easy solutions.
For those of you who pray, please pray for John's peace and for my sister's well-being. I know we were never promised a rose garden and I believe we are never sent suffering beyond what we can endure--until we simply can't endure it anymore. I find myself in a Passing Through mood tonight and though the poem below by Stanley Kunitz is a sad one, for some reason it speaks to me tonight.
By Stanley Kunitz
Nobody in the widow's household
ever celebrated anniversaries.
In the secrecy of my room
I would not admit I cared
that my friends were given parties.
Before I left town for school
my birthday went up in smoke
in a fire at City Hall that gutted
the Department of Vital Statistics.
If it weren't for a census report
of a five-year-old White Male
sharing my mother's address
at the Green Street tenement in Worcester
I'd have no documentary proof
that I exist. You are the first,
my dear, to bully me
into these festive occasions.
Sometimes, you say, I wear
an abstracted look that drives you
up the wall, as though it signified
distress or disaffection.
Don't take it so to heart.
Maybe I enjoy not-being as much
as being who I am. Maybe
it's time for me to practice
growing old. The way I look
at it, I'm passing through a phase:
gradually I'm changing to a word.
Whatever you choose to claim
of me is always yours:
nothing is truly mine
except my name. I only
borrowed this dust.
My friend Kathy was 64-years-old today and we spent part of her birthday at the South Coast Botanic Garden on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. I always forget that we have such incredible places right in our own back yard to have mini-vacations if we choose to take them.
Kathy is a wonderful photographer and has a new birthday camera, so it was fun taking pictures of Kathy taking pictures. The present garden site was operated as an open pit mine from 1929 until 1956, producing over one million tons of crude diatomite. Due to declining production, the parcel was sold in 1957 to the County of Los Angeles to be operated as a sanitary landfill project. In 1961, at the urging of private citizens and horticulture groups, an experiment in land reclamation began. The County Board of Supervisors approved a motion establishing eighty-seven acres as the site of the South Coast Botanic Garden.
Although I took dozens of photos today which will probably turn up from time to time here, they will also be part of my revolving collection on my desktop slide show that runs as a screensaver. I love the cactus gardens which are blooming beautifully right now. I couldn’t resist this new start of a paddle cactus which has formed a mini-heart. But we walked the whole garden today and if you live in Los Angeles, it’s definitely worth a visit.
I also found out that a membership gives you privileges at the other big Los Angeles gardens including Descanso and the Huntington and reciprocal privileges at many other horticultural gardens across the United States.
Though it was hard to choose which photos to include with today’s entry, this cactus really caught my fancy so I decided to share it with you. I’ve always been fascinated with cactus and their prickly armor, and yet they are so beautiful when they are blooming. There’s a metaphor here for me—and maybe for you, too.
Kathy and I finished our day with a lovely outdoor luncheon on the patio of Mike’s Brickwalk Café in Rolling Hills where the art work of another friend had been hung today inside the restaurant. For any of you in parts of the world where spring has not sprung yet, today was a spectacular Southern California day.
Tonight I walked down to the Redondo Beach Pier to meet old friends—Bob, his lady friend Kathy, and his daughter, her husband and their nephew who are here from Minnesota for a week’s vacation. They opted for Old Tony’s Restaurant right on the water, a rite of passage in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. The little boy saw the ocean for the first time and he filled up a baggie with sand to take back home to St. Paul where he told me he will focus a black light on it inside a jar. It was so good to see this family again. Bob and I went together for four years—1992-1996 and we spent a lot of time with each other’s families. Susie lived with Bob when we went together and I would have been proud to claim her as my own daughter.
So, I’m a little sore tonight—lots and lots of exercise, way too excellent food, and my head filled with the colors of the gardens, laughter, shared memories, and gratefulness for friends and la vida. I took the long way to walk home afterwards, right next to the ocean. The sky was streaked with red clouds and I listened to the waves lapping in the harbor, and the laughter of families walking on the strand or playing on the beach. And to think I live only 1 1/2 blocks from here. I’m one lucky woman, I’d say.
For the past few days I have been sorting and organizing all my art supplies which inspired me to make a few SoulCollage cards.
This card is called Verdugo Hills High School Drill Team and is in the Committee suit. I am the one who marched on the high school Dons drill team in a black and red outfit, with a black gaucho hat with fringe balls. We wore full skirts and vests over white shirts and saddle shoes. I am the one who had convinced herself she was uncoordinated and would probably screw up and forget my routine. I am the one who was so self-conscious that beginning in the afternoon of a game where we would be the half-time entertainment, I would begin to get nauseated; it felt like seagulls fluttering in my stomach. I am the one, however, who wanted to be part of the drill team so much that it was worth the agony of anxiety to be part of the team. I am the one who, though scrawny and average-looking, always fantacized that I might be mistaken for an exotic Spanish dancer. I am the one to this day who loves to wear the colors of red and black.
What this card says to me is that deep inside me I am still that young girl who wanted so much to be part of the "in" group, but that it was me and not "them" scrutinizing me. And when I feel self-conscious today about my age, my size, my choice of clothing, I have to remember to say "Ole," and envision myself snapping a bullfighter's cape with courage--and the attitude that the woman on this card has.
Tomorrow I'll look through old albums for a photo of me in my outfit.
But for tonight, it will have to suffice that a MUCH older Redondowriter and a friend, and actually half the class, wore a replica of our Dons drill team hats at our 51st reunion last year. That was so much fun.
Tonight I went to a lecture at the Redondo Beach Library sponsored by the Historical Commission. The area I live in was once the hub of old Redondo Beach and the Redondo Beach Harbor which was originally the main port before the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro was designated. Two of the Commissioners are friends of mine and have written a new book based on historical postcards.
Tonight there were "old timers" there who remembered visiting the old Redondo Beach Hotel, swimming in the world's largest saltwater plunge, strolling the old pier, and listening to concerts and orchestras in the pavilion. All those sites are gone now, making way for high rise condos, a newly rebuilt pier, although Veteran's Park occupies a large area where old Redondo stood.
The Hotel Redondo is the most famous of Redondo's lost historically significant buildings and I live only a block and a half from where it once stood. Opened to the public in 1890, the 225-room hotel included a wealth of architectural features including turrets, gables and chimneys. The property was the cultural hub of the South Bay. Unfortunately, the hotel did not survive prohibition and a downturn in Redondo's commercial harbor ventures. Sold for salvage, the Hotel Redondo was demolished in 1925. People actually came from across the United States to vacation at this hotel.
Now I'll admit that I am a history buff, but it sure adds a dimension when you are walking your dog and you realize the Red Line ran from downtown L.A. right by where you are standing. Redondo Union High School, the only school in the area 105 years ago, is just a few blocks from my home. The church I attend across the street from my townhouse (which used to the Seventh Day Adventist Church) was built in 1898.
Tonight it is very windy and cold and the buoy bell is frantically clanging, and I recall the storms I have personally witnessed in this area--and I have learned about the really devastating ones from long, long ago, before the breakwater was built--thanks to archived history. At the moment I am watching a historical series of DVD oral histories of Redondo Beach old timers and it is so exciting to learn that what I take for granted has a very rich history--and there are people who are preserving it. It makes me feel like I really belong.
I always said I wanted to get involved in whatever historical society was in my area when I retired, and on April 28, I have volunteered to docent one of the historical houses on the every-other-year historical homes tour. I'm really looking forward to that. So, it's a start. Along with my professional archive work for my school, and the intensive training I am taking through the State Library at San Diego State in late June, maybe I can be a volunteer resource for my own community.
I want to share something sweet that happened tonight. Those of you who know me know that I often say this quote from "I Never Sang for my Father:" "Death does not end a relationship."
I agonize and I grieve and in some cases, the grief lies just below the surface bringing me to unexpected tears at unusual times, but I always know my dear departed ones are "out there" and occasionally one of them makes themselves known. My friend Donna, who I originally met in the late 1980s in a CoDependents Anonymous meeting, died about 2 1/2 years ago. Donna became my sponsor and went through my first breast cancer surgery and treatment with me in 1989. She and another friend of hers, Mae, had long been A Course in Miracles followers and I began going to study groups with them. Then I started my first journal group out of my home, though I had been doing public weekend workshops for years, and Donna and Mae came weekly for years and then monthly when I downsized. Even when the emphysema and beginning dementia made it extremely hard for Donna to get here, and unable to fully participate, she came.
Tonight I facilitated a journal group and mid-way through, I kept smelling something beautifully and poignantly sweet--Hawaiian-like. I mentioned it to the others and they said they had been smelling something, too. And then it hit me. It smelled like plumeria and that was the oil Donna brought us all back when she made her last trip to Hawaii. She often wore it herself. I said that I simply felt Donna's presence tonight. Several members of the journal group, by the way, celebrated Donna's last birthday, her 74th, and the following morning she passed away quietly at home. Our bond was a deep one.
One of the participants tonight said after I shared that I felt Donna's presence, "Fran, you are sitting where Donna always used to sit. Did you realize that?" I laughed because I never sit in that space--but here I was, where Donna sat all those years. The participant said, "Well, maybe that fragrance is left over from when she used to sit there." I laughed and said no; this was a new sofa, remember? All I know is that Donna visited tonight--and I am flooded with warm memories of my mentor and my friend.
And now our dear Mae, at 82, decided that last month was her last drive out from Westchester to Redondo at night for the journal group; she had a fender bender last time and realized she should not be driving at night anymore. The end of an era and impermanence visits again. But, Mae is willing to drive sometimes during the day until she can't, so I think we are going to add a monthly day-time module. I'm willing to go to her home, but she so loves coming here.
Photo by Allen Chernack at SmugMug
One of the popular things to do in the South Bay from mid-December through March is to watch the Pacific gray whale migration. According to the National Park Service website, one of the excellent places to see the Pacific gray whales pass by is the western overlooks of Cabrillo National Monument in San Pedro. After spending the summer feeding in the food-rich waters of the arctic, the grays swim south along the coast to the bays of Baja California, where they mate and nurse their young. Along the way they pass Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument, where you can witness the annual winter journey. I can’t believe I was born here and have never seen this phenomena.
My friends Allen and Kathy are excellent photographers and Allen sent several photos of a whale watching trip he and his wife Kathy went on yesterday to celebrate Trish’s 82nd birthday. Trish is the minister at the Torrance Unity Church.
Periodically I will write here about hearing the sea lions barking at night; they congregate on the buoy bell near the Redondo Beach Pier, so I was particularly delighted with this photo of them congregating in San Pedro, on what I think might be a buoy bell.
If you want to see more of Allen’s photography from yesterday’s trip, you can visit him at SmugMug. Kathy and Allen travel across the country several months of the year in their motor home called GoVan, so Allen's site is a treasure-trove of their travels if you want to linger there and do some armchair (or computer desk) traveling yourself.
For many years I have been deeply influenced by the work of Caroline Myss, who is a medical intuitive and a very powerful teacher in the human consciousness movement. I have never been to a workshop in person, but I have all her books and have also listened to them all on tape as well. I love hearing her no-nonsense, mid-western voice twanging out information that is probably more succinct than any of the other people on the teaching circuit in the human potential movement. Her knowledge is wide-ranging and though spiritually inclusive, she is also humorous and quite irreverent sometimes. She is down-to-earth.
I am currently listening to a 2004 Sounds True workshop called, “Essential Guide for Healers.” Though I am not a healer per se, these tapes have relevant information for anyone who works with people. She created this learning program especially for health care professionals, counselors, therapists, bodyworkers—or “anyone who has felt compelled to help others, professionally or personally.”
I signed up at her website a few years ago for her monthly newsletter which always strikes a chord with me when it arrives. I just ordered her newest book, "Entering the Castle,” from Amazon. Have any of you ever attended a Myss workshop in person? What did you think? How I would love to treat myself to one some time (preferably at Omega Institute or Kripalu) although I usually opt for small, intimate type workshops when I do do them. She has become so famous that I imagine her workshops are huge.
I particularly resonate with her references to the chakras and the light and shadow attributes of archetypes. Her website has very thorough information on both. She has a wonderful deck of cards called “Archetype Cards,” which I sometimes use as a springboard for writing.
The card I just drew was “Networker.” Light attributes: Enhances unity through the sharing of information. Engenders social awareness and empathy. Shadow attributes: Conveys information only for personal gain. Spreads fear and falsehood.
What if you woke up one morning, like I did this morning, and the sun was streaming in your bedroom windows, and you knew it was the first day of your two week vacation and you had nothing scheduled?
Well, I pondered this as Cookie stretched her body, began to slurp water, and politely asked to be let out of the room for her morning ablutions. I went downstairs, started the morning coffee, and picked up the morning newspapers.
Cookie comes first, so I took her for a spin around the block and then settled in with the South Bay paper where the garage sales are listed. Julia Cameron in The Artists Way suggests Artists Dates and I hadn’t had one lately. I interpret her definition of the date as setting aside time to do what you enjoy doing most. In my case, that is a morning of thrifts and estate sales. There were three estate sales and two garage sales within a few miles, and I printed out my maps from MapQuest.
What fun, I told myself, and I said a quick prayer of intention that I find some craft supplies or something totally wonderful that was inexpensive and I could take home and either morph it into something else—or just enjoy it before I passed it on. Thrifts are not an emotional journey for me per se, but estate sales are. I project my own kids selling off my belongings they don’t need or want, and I feel a sense of poignancy about the symbolism of our possessions remaining when we are gone. You can tell a lot about the people by the things they collected, their decor, clothing, etc. I try to imagine what the people had been like. I always do a quick thank you in my head because whatever it is that I end up with is something that once had meaning for them. If it’s not a company doing the sale, the children or family of the deceased almost always are amenable to telling their loved ones stories while you browse. I’m probably rationalizing, but when I do the estate sales, it feels like a sacred task to me somehow.
Here is Cookie observing our treasures on the patio late this afternoon.
At the first estate sale in Redondo Beach, I bought a great old woven sewing basket with a lid, which was actually filled with cloth scraps left over from an exquisite hand-made king-size quilt which was also for sale. I didn’t need the quilt, but it came with several handmade pillows and a handmade mirror to match for $50. How I wish I had needed it. My total? $2.00.
The garage sale blew me away—a couple my age in Torrance who were downsizing—and most of what they were selling weren’t things I needed. But, I did get a real treasure, however—a white ceramic statue of Kwan Yin, and a nice picture frame which I’ll put a SoulCollage card in and give to a friend. Total? $3.00
Next I swung by the Palos Verdes Thrift Shop in Lomita which splits its profits with several schools and charities in the area. They always have all kinds of craft supplies and ephemera in one cabinet—and I found sequined hearts, lace, ribbons, a brand new tube of Elmers Stix All, and a rustic red plastic pitcher I’ll make into a flower arrangement. Total? $2.75
Next came the Little Company of Mary Hospital Thrift Shop in Torrance. There were all kinds of junk and treasures which I didn’t need, but I've found some wonderful surprises there in the past. I did take a picture of a funky flower-covered spring straw hat. I asked a stuffed bear to pose. I did buy, however, something totally whacky I did not need—this hand-painted tin mask, and a lacy heart to use as a piece of art. Total? $7.40.
Then up the hill on Narbonne to an estate sale on Sunnyslope Dr. in Rolling Hills Estates. This family was really into golf, owls, lighthouses, books and crystal. A young woman was there buying boxes of crystal glasses for very reasonable prices, although one cabinet of Waterford glass had been appraised at $4,000! As for me, I bought a nice blue ceramic pot, a very neglected Christmas cactus in another gorgeous pot, and an egg timer. Total? $6.75.
My warrior princess mask, shown here back at the Little Company of Mary Thrift Shop among other treasures for sale, was my most whimsical purchase. She's going on a wall above a lounge on my patio as a reminder to lighten up. Kwan Yin, however, was a special synchronicity.
Now, my rules of the thrift shop/estate sale shopping are: I bought 16 items, admittedly some very, very small to be used in art projects. But—now I have to bring 16 other items I own to a thrift shop or give them away to someone. Sometimes I put things out on my front lawn with a sign that says "Free" and whatever it is doesn't stay there long. What goes around comes around. Now, would you call this sustainability? No? Well, it sure was a fun and cheap Artist Date for me—and I met so many nice people and I heard so many wonderful stories of people’s lives.
Today was my last day at work for two weeks as in my enviable position as part-time archivist, I get the same vacations the teachers and kids get. I don't draw benefits anymore, but having vacations and summers off is a perk that I've grown to believe might be the biggest benefit of all for where I am in my life. I do love to work, however--but I also like vacations.
So, I have my very own spring break beckoning to me--and knowing me, I don't want to let it slip away while I hide in books, working for my private client, or just hibernating. The sun is finally shining again and that is an incentive to stay active.
Tonight I'm tired and will snuggle down with a book shortly, but I have the bedroom window open--first time in a long time. I can hear the buoy bell and the sea lions in the harbor.
Tomorrow morning I'll finish off my taxes and the mind-mapping that I've been doing off and on all week on a huge piece of butcher paper in the living room. Then I'll seriously think about a few things I want to accomplish during my time off. I will put my art table up and decide what project I want to tackle--and then there's my patio garden. When the sun shines, I love puttering for hours in the dirt.
I'm going to see what is going on around the city and plan at least one "Artists Date" at one of the art museums. I'm visualizing that the next two weeks are going to be as peaceful as I can be given whatever life brings--and that some new positive experiences, and people, will come into my life.