Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cathy and Cayucos

I have often thought that in the spring, the rolling, green hills of Cayucos on the central coast of California look a lot like Ireland.  The sweeping landscape creates a beautiful portrait of land, sea, and sky - sometimes crystal blue with billowy white clouds and at other times shrouded in fog.
Whatever the weather, my heart always becomes lighter as I round the bend and come into the little town of dreams come true.
The luck 'o the Irish fills the town and has been a welcomed getaway for me for years.

I first began going to Cayucos in my grief over the death of my brother.
Its rugged, unspoiled, wide sandy beach provided a meditative escape from the ache of sibling-loss.  But more than the place, it has been the people -
my beloved friend, Mugs and her family
 whose hospitality and warmth have provided me shelter from the storms of life.
With the proverbial twinkle, Mugs' Irish eyes ever smiling
her sister, Cathy's effervescent joy
Cathy and Cayucos. The stuff dreams are made of.

 But now, the clouds hang heavy over Cayucos as the dream dissolves into impending loss.
 Cancer the thief of joy.
And Mugs, courageously stands at the bedside, ever the nurse, the saint, the sage, tending to her big sister, Cathy, whose diagnosis is grave.

 Irish eyes now filled with sorrow and tears.

An even set, six sisters prepare for the uneven journey of loss and grief.
Too odd to imagine.

From a distance, I think of them.
A close-knit clan of nine
 these six sisters
and their three brothers
 all of whom I've loved from my designated spot as "like one of the family."
 I feel a deep sadness from afar as I think of the happiness and joy that cancer is stealing from their inner-circle around whose perimeter I've danced my entire life.

In solidarity, I weep for my lost sister.

With breaths and days numbered, I can only imagine the desperate love that grips them and the loyalty that has always bonded them.

Cayucos is heaven on earth.
Do I find some solace knowing Cathy has lived in heaven these past few years?  
I am not ready for this farewell.
Too brief a stay.

I think of their angel-mother - whose own death was so peaceful at eighty,
who must now labor to bring her first-born back into her arms.

Perhaps their angel- mother will provide the promise of an eternal Irish wake in heaven -
complete with a sunset over a glistening ocean and a glass filled to the brim with central coast wine.

 Cathy's Irish eyes might once again laugh with her father who suffered his own cancerous end.
Mother, Father, Daughter
as in the beginning,
the first of nine
 a trio once more.

Leaving behind her own husband, children, and grandchildren
with her first granddaughter on the way,
Cathy will return to the baby she lost so many years ago.
It will be his turn for his mother's love.

With the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing...

But right now in Cayucos,
these Irish hearts are broken
as this song of farewell is sung.

May the road rise to meet you, Cathy.
May the wind be always at your back.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Sister, thank you.

(Dedicated to my beloved Shea family)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

This, Too, Shall Pass

"Maybe it's gas," I told myself at 11:30 p.m. Monday night.
I knew better.
First the hint of ache. Then the increased intensity of pain until it hit a "10."
Oh yea, here we go -
into the hot bath to sooth my flank and calm my tensed body.
Up and down. Unable to sit or lay still.
Pounding water - watching the clock.
4:30 a.m. came and went.
ER or not?
This time I decided to tough it out. I had an old bottle of Vicodin on hand so I decided to pop one.
It helped.
So, I am now tethered to my toilet as I drink gallons of water, pee, and wait to pass a
5 mm stone.
I know it's 5 mm because when I awoke from my Vicodin- induced- grog, I made an appointment with my urologist, Dr. Khonsari,  who sent me to get a CT Scan
Stone protocol the radiology referral read.
I know this protocol.
Anything less than 6 mm is passable unless it gets stuck in the urator. Mine is stuck in the left urator.
But I'm still gonna try to pass it.
"You are experienced at this," Dr. Khonsari said to me on the phone today.
Yep, I sure am.
My first stone was at eighteen. It came in December of 1977 after a company party in Laguna Beach.
My most memorable stones were the ones I gave birth to days after both of my children were born  having to leave them in the care of my mother as I went back to the hospital pumping my breast milk while writhing in pain.
The calcium pills I had taken while pregnant produced healthy bones for my babies and a bonus for me.
My most inconvenient stones have come in the midst of production - Carousel in 1995 and most recently, during rehearsal for Les Mis in 2012.
My most surprising stone was in November of 2006 just before Thanksgiving. I was laying on a massage table during my Dahn yoga days as the practitioner shook my legs. Apparently she shook too hard, because I had to get up from the table and excuse myself in kidney stone agony before the session was over.
My biggest was 9 mm and caused me all sorts of grief including a kidney infection. That stone was so stubborn, Dr. Khonsari had trouble pulverising it. Passing the fragments from that monster was like passing a quarry of miniature stones.
There have been other, less remarkable stones I can barely recall.  I know I'm up to at least eighteen -possibly more.
So today, I went to Whole Foods between potty breaks. I bought myself some magnesium powder to drink to help me better absorb calcium, and an herbal supplement called "Stone Free" which hopefully will live up to its name.
This was actually my second trip to Whole Foods this week. Last week, I went to pick up some Vitamin D and Cod Liver Oil for my new low sugar regimen.
Changing one's life takes a lot of work, commitment, time, and research.
It all started with my labs.  Not horrible. Not scary. Just bad enough to be a "wake up call."
Low Vitamin D, High Sugar. Not in the Diabetic range but "at risk."
Notation: Can be reversed with diet and exercise.
And so I plunged in.
Back to the gym. Riding the bike. Gentle yoga.
Reading recipes, trying new ones.
Thanks to my niece, Marisa, I have discovered the Paleo diet to control blood sugar.
Farewell to sugar in my coffee. With two cups a day, a spoonful of sugar in each - I was consuming 14 spoons full of sugar each week! Stevia is no replacement and I will always long for my delicious cup of sweet coffee every morning, but I'm adjusting.
Goodbye Rice. Pasta. Beans. (Though I'm reluctant to forego my legumes!)
I've discovered a fabulous cauliflower and cilantro recipe as a replacement for rice and I even dried my own herbs to make various herbal salts. I think I'm a fanatic now.
Well kind of. I am going to have to slowly ween myself off of my weekend wine.
The balancing act of lowering blood sugar by eating the good kind of carbs, fat, and protein and the dietary restrictions to reduce kidney stone production is tricky.
I might have ignored the latter had it not been for this latest episode. Lucky for me, my life style change coincided with my latest kidney stone attack which I am quite certain was brought on by my increased exercise! Go figure.
All that moving around jarred that little sucker loose!
So that is how my summer is shaping up. Or, more to the point,  this is my summer of getting into shape!
My niece says, "Health is everything."
She is right.  I have been the first to point my finger at denial but have not looked closely at my own.
When you ignore your body, it will get your attention one way or the other.
Mine is screaming out pretty loud for me to take care of it.
So they say confession is good for the soul.
Today, I confess to starting a new way of life.
And I've carved it
 in stones.

Monday, July 14, 2014


They tell me 608 is gone.
The threshold through which my father took his final steps and the building that housed his dreams are no longer.
Place and memory.
Long before that fateful August morning when my father set out on his final jog, he dreamed of breakfast meetings complete with omelets. He designed his office with a kitchenette for cooking and a bathroom for showering.
608 East Broadway was not just a building.
It was a family business.
The news of its demolition caused me to pause.
Halted, like the once thriving enterprise that had inhabited its house-like structure, I momentarily mourned its end.
I grew up with 608 and had long ago let it go - its death to me pre-deceased its ultimate demise.
And yet like a monument to a past as faded as the yellow pages of my youth,
it stood  in the ghost town that was once my home.
This spot will now be paved for parking.
No one will mark it as having had any historic significance.
One building-
One threshold-
One father-
For me,
608 East Broadway will always be sacred ground.