I’m not one for candy coating anything so I am just going to put it out there.
My life has been pretty rough lately.
First and foremost, my dear dad died this past week, just shy of his 83rd birthday.
The most heartbreaking part about this for me was that my sister and I promised that we would visit him in his assisted care center in Marin County in April, but because of COVID (and restrictions at this facility), this long awaited visit never came to pass.
My sister and I had planned this trip together and he was so excited to be together after too-long of an absence. We were going to take him to all his favorite places– the Golden Gate Bridge, Stinson Beach, the Marin Headlands and all the places we used to go together when we all lived there. We were going to spoil him rotten with all this favorite tastes along the way (ones out-of-reach at his care facility).
Succulent Chinese food. Crispy tacos. Four-napkin burgers.
Instead of this dream trip there were Zoom calls and one way conversations as we all struggled to find the words to describe what his lifetime of love, support and guidance had meant to us. And he attempted in his diminished state to eke out “I love you”s.
My Dad possessed many things – a brilliant and nimble mind, a quick wit with a predilection for pranks, a competitor’s voracious desire to win and a generous heart.
In the end, however, it was his ferocious bravery that stuck with me most.
Despite the ravages of disease and the indignities he suffered, he never wavered, complained or resorted to hand-wringing. My Dad never overshared the difficult things in his life and any references of the hardships he was enduring were met with both pragmatism and positivity.
My siblings and I are so saddened by the loss — and bitterly disappointed that we couldn’t give back to him some of the joy and guidance he gave us when he surely needed it most.
So there’s that.
As (un)luck would have it, all this came to an ugly head as it seemed like the entire West Coast battled with out-of-control wildfires, resulting in over a million acres of land lost in my beloved adopted state alone.
David’s lungs were already in distress before all this so I looked on a map to see if there was anywhere to escape the noxious plumes.
Good luck with that.
I know that this picture is a little blurry but it gives you a sense of how much of our state was being consumed by fires. The high desert. The mountains. The valleys. Fires nipping at all our cities big and small. And even our beautiful coast was shook.
For over a week there was an eerie stillness to our city as smoke came in and blanketed us with its noxious fumes. Everyone I know frantically checked air quality reports –over 200 is hazardous– and parts of our city were at 700.
Day after day it hovered around 500 (extremely hazardous) and living in an old house, the smoke kept finding a way in. Luckily a neighbor lent us a portable air purifier and we moved it around from room to room, and we duct taped all our doors and windows except for the back door (so Porter could go out).
Everyone I talked to mentioned how dystopian our world felt. I agreed as I saw empty streets devoid of life (even the squirrels and birds were absent from my yard) and this thick smoke that blanketed everything. We all waited with baited breath for it to dissipate and I couldn’t stop thinking about those that had to be outside — due to homelessness or vocation–and all the wildlife imperiled or lost to smoke and fires.
As we huddled inside in Portland, a thousand miles away my Dad lay in bed struggling for breath, spoonfed by a caregiver, and none of his kids were able to visit him one last time.
And as if my world isn’t complicated enough, my hubby is really struggling. He has a number of issues he’s dealing with, including a very serious case of radiation-induced pneumonitis. His suffering is terrible to witness, and there is little we can do for him right now.
And then we lost RBG.
I’m heartsick about her succumbing to cancer and the fact that it happened just weeks before the election seems like one more cosmic wrong.
RIP RBG– Renegade. Pioneer. Advocate. Gone too soon.
Oh and one last tidbit. My stove has been broken for over two weeks and a repairman visit is still a week out.
(Ordering parts may delay the repair process further).
I know that this isn’t the biggest deal but cooking and baking is such a stress buster for me so it’s weird to have my stove out of commission at the moment.
This kind of thing — for now — is just a memory.
Okay, that’s enough of the bad news.
The bright news is that my Dad died knowing how much he was loved — and every one of his children and grandkids had the time and the opportunity to tell him that.
The air situation has vastly improved. Happily, the smoke started to clear the end of last week, returned briefly a few days ago but now that the rainy season is suddenly upon us, fires are starting to be controlled and we can all romp around outside again. Phew.
After nine days of being completely housebound I was so grateful to get out, I wrapped up five bags of snacks (each with about 20 granola and protein bars)
and grabbed Porter and some water bottles and we hit a local park.
I’ve always loved this park; when we first moved to Portland seventeen years ago we rented a house a block away and I have so many happy memories of taking Oliver there as a toddler.
Porter and I walked around as I dropped off these bags throughout the park; a homeless camp is now across the street, and I often see people rummaging through garbage cans here, looking for food, so this seemed like a good place to take my surplus food.
In case one person found the food and needed more, I wrote that there were four other bags just like it close-by, thinking it might inspire a little treasure hunt (or allow multiple people to benefit from a stash of food stable foods).
Since there is so little I can do for my husband — and I know so many people that are hurting — I’ve tried to add cheer whenever/wherever I can.
Before my stove blew out, I received this beautiful book from an IG follower and blog reader named Michelle.
I thought I’d pay forward the kindness with some of my own.
I was first drawn to the Iced Buttery Lemon Bundt Cake recipe so I started with that.
I cut this luscious cake into a number of thick slices and distributed them hither and yon.
This recipe — and the entire gorgeously photographed book — is a keeper.
Look at this luscious slice and tell me it wouldn’t brighten your day.
I’ve been shopping for Irene, my senior citizen pal (she calls me when she needs something imminently, like Fixodent for her dentures or brandy for pain relief)
and I dropped off a care box to Caroline who’d just lost a parent as well.
Now that the smoke has cleared, the kids and I have brought home food from food carts (all of which are understandably struggling to keep afloat).
What a treat to have someone else do the cooking!
I’ve thanked neighbors (who lent us that air filter, shopped for us or let us use their oven) in the best way I could think of… with delivered carnitas platters.
And because this is Portland and I have the sweetest community around me, I’ve received far more kindnesses and treats than I’ve doled out.
Flowers arrive routinely on my porch. I’ve received seven different bunches in the last nine days.
One day this week I looked out on my porch and there was another hand delivery.
This olive oil-thyme cake was filled with lemon flavored whipped cream and homemade raspberry jam.
Monika, a cooking teacher, made such a delectable little cake.
There have been so many treats dropped off here lately. Bread. Tomatoes from people’s gardens (which inspired an epic flurry of BLT’s).
From Mary Ann I received a small case of various hot sauces made by a relative.
From another pal there was Champagne. I even got a vintage lamb (one dear friend named Bel knows of my love of vintage and found this little guy for me and dropped it off with the kindest note.)
My dear pal Lisa brought an enormous box of French pastries from Petite Patisserie…
look at that blackberry Danish!
Another Lisa I know brought me a wonderfully cozy navy throw blanket
and another pal soft socks and coffee.
Oh, and how about this spectacular drop off from my pal Chrissy: salmon (straight from Alaska!), wine, corn relish, assorted berries, flowers, and a tres leches cake.
In the last week I received more books in the mail, including this insightful book from Lori, a friend of my sister in Boston
(how sweet are these drawings?)
and this quote in particular really touched me.
Kindness is so important to me, especially now. We live in such a polarized and politicized world, but kindness is universal. Believing in innate kindness makes me feel like we are all connected to something greater than that which ails or separates us.
In turbulent times, kindness is also like a life raft, a transitory safe place that allows one to catch one’s breath, an opportunity to breathe in gratitude and exhale stress and sorrow before facing choppy seas once again.
And as I look out my window, I think its no accident that back in March I felt compelled to cut out those gingham KINDNESS letters and I remember sighing when I put them in the window that looks out from my kitchen to the street below. It was like I knew that at some point the future me would need reminding to forever associate the outside world with that word- no matter the headlines or the weird encounters or ugly, hateful incidents or the dread for what November and beyond might unleash.
Kindness IS everywhere, and I’m so grateful for so many who hold me and mine close during this time. I’m so grateful for you all.
I send you all love and resilience and floppy eared hugs.
Now go hug someone near and hold on tight — it looks like this is going be one hell of a rocky fall and we all need to bank as much joy as possible in our reserves.