Wednesday, July 31, 2019

My Dad Passed Away Yesterday

My dad and I in 2017

Yesterday morning at 10:00 a.m. my dad died. He had been in hospice for the last few weeks.  I went to visit him and say good-bye.  We talked for a couple more times on the phone, but he was very weak.

Having an elderly parent with dementia can be very stressful.  It's kind of a relief not to have to worry about him anymore.  For the past several years I had been very concerned about his driving. He refused to stop. The last time I saw him he said, "Hey Stef, I'm not going to drive anymore."  I kept my response low key, but was thinking to myself, "Thank God!" This morning when I woke up I felt very tired.  I stayed in bed and meditated, and then got up and made French roast coffee in my French press.  I always eat two stalks of celery before putting anything in my stomach. 

Yesterday I made a tuna and noodle casserole. I also went to Food For Less and bought a frozen chocolate cream pie. For some reason I was craving comfort food. Today I made a huge spinach salad, and am answering messages from so many old friends who have called. It's been very comforting to hear from all of them.  Dancers always come through for each other in times of sorrow and loss.

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Monday, July 29, 2019

Difficult Circumstances

view of the beach from Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica

Today as I was thinking about a challenging situation in my life, I realized that it had steered me towards my professional career.  Because of the turbulent home situation that I grew up in, I threw myself into my dance training. I was determined to get out and to become a successful professional dancer. I have always suspected that if I had come from a happy, loving home, I would not have pushed myself in my dance training the way that I did.  As the line in from "At The Ballet," in  A Chorus Line says, "I mean anything to get out of the house."

Many of my friends who are professional dancers, (or were,) also came from families where their parents' marriages were on the rocks, there was alcoholism and or drug use, or there was constant fighting and upheaval.  It's very hard on children when these traumas happen. But, they shape us and move us.

taken from the Beach Bus window yesterday in Santa Clarita

Another result of it was that I became very spiritual. From a young age, I found yoga to be healing and relaxing for me.  I still practice it daily, in addition to meditation and chanting.  It gives me a strong foundation, has improved my health,  and it's a ritual that I find comforting and healing.  When I finish my practice, I am always aware that something grand and exciting may be just around the corner. As Yogi Bhajan used to say, "Happiness follows sadness, and sadness follows happiness."

How did your childhood shape your adult choices later in life?

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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Having Something To Look Forward To

a three day cruise on NCL  from Barcelona to Rome

A big part of our mental heath is having things to look forward to in life. I learn a lot from Lula, my carefree Labrdoodle. She joyfully anticipates the simplest things each day: having a treat, going for a bike ride or a walk, and riding in the car.

We don't have to spend a lot of money on things that bring us happiness. We just need to be aware and to make time for them. For me, that means using the numerous bike trails that are available to us in Santa Clarita. It's so much fun to get up early, hop on the bus, load the bike on the bike rack, and to explore!

approaching Napoli: view from my balcony

I get together with my dancing friends once a year.  Often it's just a short trip, one or two nights, but I greatly enjoy seeing people that I have known for thirty years.  We have wonderful memories and a strong connection.   I will drive to the location to see them, if it's on the West Coast. Last year I took a road trip to Reno.  This year it will be Las Vegas.  If the reunion is in New York, I book a cheap flight in advance, and fly.

You can look forward to a favorite cup of tea, a delicious coffee, or a dessert. You might anticipate taking a wonderful ballet or yoga class. Whatever it is, if it lights you up, it's a positive for your state of mind. I even find that making a favorite recipe makes me look forward to relishing a delicious dinner. Planning a trip in advance enables you to find inexpensive flights and to save the money you will need for meals, tips, and touring.  You can research everything online and find what it is that you would prefer. Reading the reviews and seeing the photos is very helpful, too.

What do you look forward to in life? Has it changed as you've gotten older?

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

A New Used Bike

my new used bike from Canyon Bicycles in Canyon Country

The other day, I decided to try and find a used bike.  I started at the Salvation Army, but they weren't open, it was too early.  That's where I got my last beach cruiser, and I've been riding it for the past five years. It was only $70.00.  The back wheel had become very wobbly, and it's not fixable.

I stopped in Costco to see if they still carry bicycles, but they said that I'd have to order one online. I thought about Walmart, but decided to try our local bicycle shop first, where I get all of my repairs done. I prefer to shop at small businesses.  I didn't think I'd be able to afford the bikes that he sells, but immediately spotted  one with an orange sale tag.   The owner got very excited when he told me about it.  The person he got it from had traded it in to upgrade to a new bike. "Perfect!" I thought.

bike trail below Newhall Ranch Road in Santa Clarita

It's very light, and I love the way it feels when I ride it. The owner let me take it for a spin, and I was sold. So, for $200.00, I have a very practical used bike. The front wheel, handle bars, and seat are all removable. I need to practice with the front wheel, but it will come in handy for taking the bike in my VW Beetle  up to Ojai.  They have some fabulous trails up there, too.   

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

When A Train Pass Isn't Worth It

The bus stop in Santa Monica at Ocean Avenue and Colorado

I decided I will probably not to use the rest of the days I have left on my California Rail Pass. I didn't realize how many hidden costs there would be. To go to Yosemite, I had to book Lula at the kennel for three nights.  They charge $35.00 a night.  My lodging was $41.00, and hers was $105.00!

It also requires extra gas and train fare to pick up the hard copies of the tickets. Normally you can print out an eticket with Amtrak.. If you are using the California Rail Pass, though, you have to visit a station with a ticket counter.  My station doesn't have one. I have to travel to Van Nuys, Union Station, or Bakersfield.

I also have spent a lot of money on eating out in July. Normally, I cook and prepare all of my meals. It's amazing how quickly those extra expenses add up!  Even though most of the places that I ate were very reasonable, it was still money I normally don't spend each month. I was shocked at the totals.

I've realized that I can just take the city bus to the beach on the weekends, and pack a lunch. That's the cheapest way to go. Santa Monica is as gorgeous and enjoyable as many of the top travel spots in California. I might as well enjoy it. It's only thirty miles from me.

I am a;sp so close to many of the most scenic hiking trails in this area.  The other night I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with Lula. We went just as the sun was slipping behind the mountains.  It was so cool and relaxing. I normally don't hike in the early evening, but I really enjoyed it. We got back to the car before it was dark.

How is your summer going? Are you any fun, outdoor activities?

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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Day Two as a Solo Traveler in Yosemite

I woke up very early and took a shower. Bev and another woman who had arrived in our dorm after I fell asleep were in the room by the door. I slept in the center room, which I had to myself.  I brushed my teeth, got dressed, and applied some light makeup. Bev had asked me to wake her up, so I did.

At breakfast, I ran into Howard, the man from Australia, and sat with him again. He was  planning to hike at Yosemite. Bev strolled in, and I introduced them. We ended up riding with Howard in his car, instead of taking the bus as we had planned. The Yarts bus runs regularly to Yosemite from Merced. It's very convenient.  Bev held the map, and I offered my knowledge of the area when they weren't quite sure which direction we should take. Basically, you stay on the main road. It's funny how much you take for granted when you have grown up in California. I've visited most everywhere, so I have an overview of the layout in my mind.

I decided to just look around the park and head back early on the next bus. I had a feeling it was going to get crowded. I wanted to relax at the spa, read, and take a nap. I took another hike on the Bug Trail, by the resort.  Howard and Bev ran into me on the deck after returning from their long hike halfway up The Dome. They were excited about their day. I enjoyed hearing about it.  Next time I plan to spend more time in Yosemite Park.  I also met a friendly rock climber in the sauna. He was friendly, handsome, and  tan, with muscles that rippled. Yosemite is full of people who love the outdoors and who are very fit. There is something about being in excellent shape that makes people very positive and attractive.  We all seemed to be feeling a natural high from the altitude and basking in the power of nature.

I took the Yarts bus back to Merced and boarded my train back to Bakersfield.  There was a man at the station and on my train who was acting very loud, obnoxious, and erratic. His behavior and language made me nervous, so I quietly mentioned it to the woman at the counter.  She offered to walk me to the train and yelled at him, "Keep it down!"  He got off and on at every stop, hanging out of the platform. It was weird.

We arrived in Bakersfield at 10:30 p.m. I drove the hour and a half  back home. I had some trouble finding the freeway on ramp, because they were doing construction. The temporary signs were incorrect. Fortunately, my intuition helped me to figure out what to do, after circling around a few times.  It was a relief to arrive home safely. Next time I think I will take an earlier train. It feels safer.

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

An Overnight Stay at a Hostel in Yosemite

mountains near the 14 freeway  in Canyon Country, California

Last night I returned from a wonderful train trip to Yosemite, California. I used my California Rail Pass with Amtrak. It gives you seven days of travel in a twenty-one day period for $159.00. They don't advertise it; you have to ask for it.  It's an incredible deal! I discovered a wonderful hostel online with excellent prices. I booked a dorm room for $41.00. Since I took public transportation there, I received a 15% discount on everything: my simple but comfortable room, meals, the spa, and all beverages.

I got up at 2:30 a.m. and watered my garden. We are only allowed to water on Tuesdays and Fridays here. You can't miss a single day in this heat. I drove my VW Beetle up to Bakersfield, just past the Grapevine. I parked the car at the train station for free, and picked up a hard copy of my ticket at the window. One of the conditions of this pass is that you can't use etickets. You have to have a reservation, and retrieve a printed out ticket from an Amtrak ticket counter.

The train departed at 6:10 a.m. It was a relaxing and comfortable ride. Once we hit Merced, I transferred to the Yarts Bus, (which was covered with my Amtrak pass.) I walked up to The Bug Resort and had lunch at the Bug Cafe. The views were phenomenal. I just loved the healing, relaxing vibe of the whole place. I took a hike to the swimming hole, and waded in the water. There were wild blackberries growing along the trail. I picked them and enjoyed their warmth and sweetness.

After checking in, I bought a spa pass and enjoyed their natural hot tub, garden, and fantastic sauna. The setting was just magical. At dinner, a handsome young Australian man asked me if I was dining alone, and if I would like to eat with him. We became instant friends, and enjoyed our  meal and conversation.

After that, we sat out by the campfire and listened to two women performing some original songs on their guitar and violin. They sang beautifully together, and I really enjoyed the firelight, music, company, and atmosphere. I felt like I was with old friends. There were s'mores available to eat by the campfire, but I had already devoured a piece of homemade strawberry rhubarb pie from the June Bug Cafe.

That evening I met my roommate, who was from England. We introduced ourselves and chatted for a while. I offered her a plum, and we munched on them while studying her bus schedule into Yosemite Park where we planned to venture the next day. The cabin slept twelve, and there were just the two of us. We ended up having our own rooms, because Bev wanted to stay up and plan her journey.  I was so exhausted I couldn't comprehend the times or details.  I fell into my top bunk bed, wiped out from the altitude and the long, exciting day.

Have you ever stayed in a hostel? I adored  the company. Everyone I met was so friendly and open. It was like camp. We were all soaking up the setting and became instant friends.

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Seeing the Opportunity

Ocean Avenue Santa Monica

Sometimes when we are disappointed in a situation in life, it's because it hasn't gone our way. Often, in hindsight, we will realize that there was a reason.  We might choose a new direction or path.  If things had been comfortable, we might have stayed in a scenario that wasn't really right for us.

My dance partner Fred Boothe used to tell me, "Just remember, everything happens for a reason."  Each person plays their part in the story. If we listen to our intuition, and follow our hunches, we will experience coincidences and opportunities. Even dark times have benefits. As the saying goes, "Every cloud has a silver lining."

I've always believed in having a grand master plan for life. You don't need to know exactly how you are going to get there, but it's important to know what your heart desires.  When you focus on the feelings that you want to experience, it helps you to attract those situations. Follow your heart and your dreams will come true.   The heart knows what makes you truly happy.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Just In Time

Ojai, which is near Santa Barbara
Yesterday I had planned to take a day trip to Santa Barbara. I bought a round trip ticket on the Metro to Union Station, and then  was going to transfer to the Pacific Coast Starlight, (my favorite Amtrak train,) and eat lunch on the train.  There's something about enjoying a meal as you're roaring down the tracks that really makes people feel happy and excited.  I dropped Lula off at "dog camp" at 6:30 a.m.  She was overjoyed to be there.

I arrived in plenty of time to take the local commuter train. Unfortunately, it was 80 minutes late. If I had waited, I  would have missed my connecting train to Santa Barbara. I discussed it with a woman I had been chatting with at the platform and tried to figure out  what to do.  My head was spinning.  Fortunately, I had the schedule with me.  If you miss your train on Amtrak, you lose the money. I almost just gave up and went home.

Instead, I decided to try driving to one of the stations further north, rather than trying to get downtown in rush hour traffic. All of a sudden it occurred to me that I could drive down  I5 to Burbank Airport. They have an Amtrak station there, and the Pacific Coast Starlight would stop at that station at 10:30 a.m.  I wasn't sure if I would make it in time, but decided to try.

It turns out I arrived with an hour to spare! I parked the car in Lot G and walked up to the platform. Once there, I conversed with a friendly lady sitting on the bench who was on her way to visit her sister. She's a crocheter, and she complimented me on the hand knit shawl that I was wearing.   We had an enjoyable conversation. She loves to travel, too. 

Everything worked out for the best, and I boarded the train that I had a ticket for at the third station, Burbank Airport,  instead of at the first one. It's fortunate that I had purchased my ticket in advance. I didn't think I could make it to Van Nuys station on the 405 at that time, and I also wasn't quite sure where it was.

I met some friendly people on the train, especially in the Observation Car, which has spectacular floor to ceiling views.  We devoured a delicious hot lunch on the train. I had a cheeseburger, and it was delicious. Our table overlooked the ocean. It was breathtaking to take in the scenery.  Our server was so friendly and kind.

 Train travel is my favorite way to go. It's so comfortable and easy. I love the space and ability that you have to move around in the cars.  Our roomy seats leaned back and had foot rests. It's an ideal space to knit or read.    Photos and info about Santa Barbara are here:

If you click on Transportation you can see my train. Have you done much traveling by rail?

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

When Things Don't Go As Planned

I have been spending time each morning in the garden. The energy there is healing, alive, and green. I planted sunflower seeds all along the fence. I love how cheerful they are.

I met with a friend today to knit. I haven't been able to face my knitting for the past month. It's been a difficult time for me personally.  I decided to start something simple, a cotton dishcloth. I finished it this afternoon, and am thoroughly enjoying my dear knitting again.  My confidence had returned.  I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it.

How is your crafting going? Are you making anything?

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Friday, July 5, 2019

Fourth of July Visit

I went home to visit my dad and brothers for the 4th of July. My middle brother and I watched the fireworks  from my dad's bedroom window while he was sleeping. They were spectacular.  The sounds were booming through the night.  It brought back memories of Disneyland.

We just had an earthquake as I was blogging. Lula  and I went and stood under the bedroom door frame. That's what they used to teach us to do in school. They also cautioned us to stay away from large windows. Lula just wagged her tail and smiled at me.  She didn't seem concerned at all.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Planning For the End of Life

Most people don't like to think about how they are going to die, but it is something that we are all going to experience. Sometimes death comes as a shock. People get in accidents, or they could have a heart attack or a stroke.  Sometimes it is a  slower process, with time to prepare.

I have watched several of my animals die, and have been there with them until the end.  It always feels kinder to me when we put our pets to sleep. If they aren't going to get better, and they are suffering, this can be a way to assist them on their journey into the afterlife.

When my mom was dying, I felt like I was the only one who knew what was happening. She had taken several falls, and was losing her balance. She wasn't able to keep food down, except for soup or broth. She threw up the Thanksgiving dinner that I made, but tried to hide it from me. I still knew. My dad told me that she was sleeping twenty of the twenty-four hours a day.

When I talked with her on the phone, she sounded at the end of her wits. "I don't know what's wrong!" she gasped.  After first asking her if she wanted to know what I thought,  I voiced my feelings. "I think that your body is shutting down," I explained. I had read that the Chinese stop eating and drinking when they  are ready to die. Many animals isolate themselves in nature.

"I guess I'm going to have to make up my mind to die," she answered. I told her that I would pray that she would have a painless and peaceful passing, and suggested that she do the same. It had gotten to the point that she couldn't move, and everything hurt. She could hardly talk.

"I'll let you go; you sound tired," I told her.  "I'll talk to you tomorrow," she agreed. That was our last conversation. The next morning my dad phoned and quietly told me that she had died. He asked me to write her obituary.  That always made an impression on me. My mother was very strong, decisive, and disciplined. She even exited her body that way. That was four years ago. I am so glad that we had that conversation. Many people can't discuss it. We also had a hospice team that came in, checked on her, and eliminated all of the medications that she was taking. I was so relieved that she didn't suffer, any longer than she had. Have you experienced death with someone close to you?

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