Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Holidays and a Bountiful 2012

Denise, Celeste and Mushroom
Wish you Happy Holidays and 
a Bountiful New Year.

This photo is in memory of Denise's 84 year old mom, Eda Bea who died in January. She retired from teaching, and became a LBFD Fire Ambassador. This photo is from her favorite fire station No. 17.

After three years of taking care of Eda Bea, we finally got to go on a real vacation this year. Denise flew up to San Francisco to meet our friend, Debi. They drove down to Long Beach. I joined them on the next leg to Albuquerque. We went to Santa Fe, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon where Denise got up close and personal with a crow.
We continued our journey through Arizona and took a detour through the Land of the Giants, and Canyon de Chelly while listening to a Tony Hillerman book on CD. We got to a hotel in Springdale, Utah, the entrance to Zion National Park. We hiked the following days with Jim, Jenny and their kids. We also visited with Aunt Dolores and Adrian. After a couple of days, we headed north, enjoyed a tasty meal with cousin Audra, and spent the night in Bountiful, Utah at Aunt Mickey's. We got up early, Mickey made breakfast for us. Thanks Mickey.

We traversed the highways through Utah and Idaho making our way to Washington where we got to see our newest grandson, Keegan Eric Valentino Montoya for the first time.
He was born on Valentine's day. He looks the way Orlando and I did when we were babies.

My brother John and I went on a 90 mile bicycle ride from Costa Mesa to San Diego. It took us nine hours, with breaks for coffee, lunch and other stuff. I rode Jeremy's bike. Jeremy would've been 42 years old this year. 

Denise and I went to the Sedona and the Grand Canyon with Nanc and Ed. Denise got off the
trail to take some photos.

For many years Denise has dreamed of being the Bride of Frankenstein for Halloween. She and Bonnie did an amazing makeup job. She looked terrifyingly real.

Celeste, Denise and I helped Barbara test the ski patrolers on their rescue and first aid skills. In this photo Denise simulated having a broken arm.

The Yoons came to visit from Korea. We all had fun burying grandchildren Edan & Isis up to their necks in the sand.

We honor our wonderful friend, Donna Clauss (shown here with daughter SooJee and son, Joshua) in this season's letter. Donna, former Director of Rainbow House, Int., has made it possible for hundreds of orphaned children to have their “forever families”. We will be forever grateful for Donna's expertise and support during the adoption processes of our daughters, Bonnie and Celeste. Our hearts go out to the Clauss family, who recently lost their son, Joshua. We pray that their faith and love of family and friends will sustain them as they grieve their loss.

We wish you Joy filled 2012, 
surrounded by those who love you.

Denise, Mushroom & Celeste

Monday, December 19, 2011

Return To Sender from 1985

Yesterday, 18 December 2011, I opened a box and found a letter that I wrote on 3 March1985. A red hand with the words "return to sender" was stamped on the envelope. I had addressed it to Gardy and Isabel, in Fort Worth, Texas. The pointing hand with its “return to sender” message caught my eye. Wondering what I had written, I opened the letter and found a photo next to it. The photo shows, Denise, Orlando and me standing in the Bosque del Apache nature preserve with our son, Jeremy. He was 14 years old in the photo. He died when he was 22. Yesterday was his 42nd birthday. That red pointing hand was an omen, directing me to open the letter and see that it was Jeremy's way of saying hi. I sure do miss him.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Autumn is the season for shedding

Autumn is the season for shedding. Mother Nature changes out of her summer greens and brilliant blooming colors into her autumn wardrobe of browns, yellows, oranges and reds. She offers up the last fruits of her bountiful harvest. We picked oranges and squeezed fresh juice for this morning's breakfast. Our guava tree gifted us with an abundance of sweet fruit. The sunny days sneak out early, leaving a brisk darkness which urges me indoors to make hot chocolate.

Autumn is the season for shedding metaphorically as well. It is the time when I slow down and take an inventory of things that no longer suit me.

It is a time to:

  1. Shed old habits that deprive me of living fully in the moment.
  2. Shed old thought patterns than dampen my ability to see life as wonder filled.
  3. Shed my persona of "clothing" that is too tight to hold that which is divine with me.
  4. Shed the “clothing” of being hyper responsible, and give myself permission to play more.
  5. Shed the “clothing”of being overly frugal, and give myself permission to spend a little more.

It is a time to be grateful for not only all that I have, but for all that I don't.

I am grateful for:

  1. All those people who enhance my life.
  2. The good fortune to live in a house with electricity and running water.
  3. A healthy body that swims and bikes each day.
  4. A voice that allows me to tell people that I love them.
  5. Ears that allow me to hear music, and the laughter of my grandchildren.
  6. Those painful moments that, in time, expand my capacity to give and receive joy.

Autumn is a time to shed those things to no longer serve us and to be grateful for what life has given us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Am

We become what we repeatedly say we are. Our "I am" statement re-creates who we are each day.
Expressing gratitude helps define our daily “I am” statement.
Gratitude for what we have helps us to see how blessed we really are.

Every morning, I say the following prayer. I may modify it slightly, according to circumstance and need. Some of my friends have asked me to share it. You may use it, modify it and share it as you wish.

Mushroom's Morning Prayer

Good Morning, Creator of all that there is, Creator of me.
Thank you for my awareness, Thank you for my life.

Thank you Spirits of the East, awakener of the day. Come and awaken all that is wonderful within me today. Help me be a blessing.
Thank you air spirit, giver of life. Thank you for my ability to speak, to sing, to hear music, and to smell. Help my words to be loving words, healing words and wise words.

Thank you Spirits of the South, spirits of all the plants and animals that feed me and inspire me. Thank you cow, pig, lamb, chicken and turkey. Thank of your giving me your life. Thank you rice, wheat, tomato, beans, corn and broccoli. Thank you for giving me your life.
Thank you body spirits, thank you heart, lungs, bones and muscles. Come and help my physical presence to be a blessing presence.

Thank you Spirits of the West, water spirit, salmon spirit, water snake, trout, dolphin, whale, clam and sea weed. Thank your for your life energy. Come and help me be fluid and flexible in my dealings with people and with my self. Come and help me be a blessing.

Thank you Spirits of the North, Fire spirit, mountain spirits, spirit of music and creativity. Come fire spirit, come and fill me with energy and power. Fill me with love and laughter so that I may be a blessing.

Thank you Father Sky, protector of the earth, spreader of the light, bringer of the sun, the rain, the snow and the wind. Come and help me be an enlightened being. Help me be a blessing to all those I meet.

Thank you Mother Earth, grower of all things, grower of me.
Come and help me be your steward, help me be a blessing to all of your children. Help me to be nurturing and loving.

Thank you spirit of my center, spirit of my core, spirit of who I truly am. Come and help me be a blessing to all those I meet.

I am a blessing.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

90 mile Bike Ride in Memory of Jeremy

Arriving at the Amtrak Station parking lot in San Diego

A few weeks ago, I took Jeremy's bike to have it tuned up. We've had his bike hanging in the garage since Jeremy died in 1992. I would dust it off every now and then, but I never got around to riding it. When we lived in Kent, Washington, I bought fenders for it so that I could ride it in the Seattle's normal wetness. I don't know why, but I didn't ride Jeremy's newly fendered bicycle. It stayed hanging in the garage, as a memorial, of sorts, to our dead son.

I have been riding an old Schwinn ten speed that I've had for nearly 30 years. It works well, although, by today's standards, it is a very heavy antique.

At the end of September, my younger brother, John, and my cousin, Anthony, rode their bikes from John and Winnie's house in Costa Mesa to San Diego. It took them over twelve hours.  About a week after their ride, John asked me if I thought I was strong enough to ride to San Diego with him. He expressed his concern for my heart condition. The distance from his house to the Amtrak station in San Diego was 90 miles. The longest I had ever ridden a bicycle was in 1990 when I rode 22 miles from downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach.  90 miles was a distance I had difficulty imagining myself riding on a bicycle. The furthest I had ridden a bicycle in the last year was to Seal Beach and back. That was only fourteen miles round trip. I rode my bicycle to the university pool each weekday morning, but that was only a mile and a half each way.

I thought about it for a day or two and told my brother that I would join him in a ride.  He called and recommended that I get an odometer for my bike, a tune up and a snack to eat on the way.  He told me that he would give me his old bicycle seat which was a better seat than the current one on Jeremy's bike. He suggested that I buy padded bicycle riding gloves because the handlebars would hurt my wrists after riding for several hours. I took his advice and went one step further, wrapping the front handlebars with soft rubber pipe insulation.

I took a 37 mile practice ride from my house in Long Beach to Newport Beach about a week before our planned San Diego ride. The wind picked up when I turned around from Newport Beach. I struggled to pedal downhill against the wind. I rode against the wind for about ten miles. It was a good practice ride.

The night before our ride I loaded Jeremy's bike into the van. Looking at it, I felt a tear slide down my cheek. The next day's ride would fall on the eve of the anniversary of Jeremy's death. Denise and Celeste drove me to John and Winnie's house in Costa Mesa. Denise gave me a heartfelt hug and returned home to Long Beach with Celeste.

The alarm sounded at 5:30 AM. The sun had not awakened yet. John and Winnie still slept. I got up, took a shower and put on the new bicycle jersey that Denise bought for me. I pulled on Jeremy's bicycle pants. I felt awkward walking in them because of the extra padding in the crotch. I walked into the kitchen and ate a bowl of cereal. When I finished eating, John asked me if I wanted anything before we left. I wanted Jeremy to be riding with us. I wanted my son to be alive.

We turned on the bike lights, mounted our bicycles and headed west to the river trail. I felt good, wide awake and magically at peace. Turning south onto the river trail, I said, “Good Morning,” as I passed an older gentleman who was taking an early morning walk. The bike trail terminated at Pacific Coast Highway. I could hear the waves crashing on the sand when we turned east onto the main road. Thoughts of Jeremy pedaled into my heart as we approached the far end of Newport Beach. We had floated Jeremy's ashes off that beach so many years ago.

I asked John, “What happens when we get to the Marine base?”

There was a moment of silence before John replied, “Oh no. I forgot my wallet. We'll have to show our ID when we get to the base. I'll have to call Winnie to bring it to me. I'll tell her to meet me at Dover Street.”

I rode passed Dover and waited for John at the gas station on the other side of the bridge. Looking at the water I noticed the empty dock where a river boat had been moored in the 1970s. I remembered listening to Jason, a friend from high school, sing and play guitar in its restaurant. Jason died, driving off a cliff in Big Sur when in his twenties. John finally came over the bridge.

A morning mist kept us cool, while our strides kept us warm. Newport Beach has no designated bike lane on the highway. Cars passed uncomfortably close to us. We reached our first hill as we approached Newport Center Drive. Reaching down, I shifted gears for the first time that day. I looked ahead to see the sunshine paint the clouds in shades of gray and the grass and trees in shades of green. Up and down we pedaled, through Laguna Beach towards Dana Point. The restaurant that John wanted us to stop at for coffee was closed, out of business. We continued a little further until we reached Stacks Pancake House. We ordered coffee and we tried to figure out why my new odometer wasn't working. The clock worked fine, but it wouldn't track the miles. We assumed that it must be a dead battery in the wheel's sensor.

When we reached Califia Park, near the south end of San Clemente, we were stopped because of an accident on the bike trail. John and I waited for about 30 minutes with a growing number of bicyclists who were doing the Multiple Sclerosis ride. The fire department paramedics eventually sent off the ambulance. They let us continue as a huge pack. We passed a red emergency truck and saw a paramedic busy working on a bicyclist.

As we passed the San Onofre Nuclear power plant, I thought of Homer Simpson and my friend, Tom, who works there. I've known him since elementary school. I also thought about the tsunami disaster in Japan. I rode eagerly passed the power plant. I smiled when I saw a sign that read, “No Nudity Allowed” as we entered the San Onofre State Park. After we passed the park, the bike trail went under the freeway. We continued south until we reached an MS bike ride rest stop at Las Pulgas Road. They offered us bananas, orange slices, candy and drinks. Jax Bike shop set up a small repair station there. I asked them to look at my odometer, since Denise bought it for me at a Jax Bike shop in Long Beach, the day before. The battery was fine. I had installed the wheel receptor incorrectly. Now I could see how fast I was traveling.

We followed the MS bikers under the bridge and into the marine base. I started to dismount to show my ID, when the guard told me that I didn't need to stop. There was a person behind me, however, who he asked if he was part of the MS group. The guard assumed that John and I were.

Riding through the marine base, I remembered that Jeremy chose to be a hospital corpsman who worked as a medic for the marines. He said that the marines think of themselves as invincible. He got to fix them when Mother Nature proved them wrong. A small slice of pride swelled for our son. As we were leaving the base, I heard a pop and a slow fizzle as the rear tire of the bike ahead of me flattened out. I followed the MS riders under the freeway and onto Pacific Street in Oceanside. John said, “By now you have ridden further than you ever have.”

I had never seen this pretty side of Oceanside. I liked it. People sat along the sidewalk encouraging us, along with the MS riders. The residential streets were not busy and we could see the ocean between the houses. We climbed a small hill from sea level on the highway into Carlsbad. The clouds teased the sun by opening little blue holes every now and then. John and I stopped and shared a large ahi tuna sandwich in a restaurant at the end of the business district. John called Winnie to tell her that we would reach San Diego in about four hours. I talked to Denise who expressed her surprise that were already in Carlsbad.

Replenished, John and I hopped on our bikes and rode along the bluff, overlooking the beach below. John told me that there would be three more beaches before we reached the hard climb at Torrey Pines. The waves crashed and surfers carried their boards to and from their cars. The salt air filled my nostrils, while memories of Jeremy warmed my heart. The road through Leucadia brought us back in competition with the cars and trucks as they whizzed by, inches away, at times.

When we were about to ride down the last hill, along the last beach before Torrey Pines, John told me to go ahead. I picked up speed in an effort to gain as much ground as possible for the long climb. As I climbed, I shifted gears and kept looking at the ground. Up ahead I could see a turn. My knees started to burn, my breathing labored. “Keep pushing, don't look up.” I kept telling myself. When the burning in my knees reached a point where a small voice said, “Don't overdo it,” I dismounted and walked. I looked down the hill, but I could not see John. I walked a bit, allowing my knees to cool down. The Torrey Pines hill shielded the ocean breeze, making the climb all the hotter. I climbed back on the bike and pedaled until I reached the top. I parked my bike and waited about ten minutes for John to reach me. He dismounted and called Winnie, giving her an update.

When we passed the UC San Diego, John stopped and pulled out Winnie's phone to access the GPS. He couldn't remember how to get to get to Gillman Drive. I saw a woman riding her bike and yelled out to her, “Do you know where Gillman Drive is?”

“Follow me,” she said. She waited for John to put away the phone and catch up with her. She led us down a steep hill. We went under the freeway and onto a bike trail. When we came off the bike trial and onto the city streets, John mentioned that there was another bike trail along a river. But he didn't know where it was. When he reached a busy intersection, an older man on a bike was talking to a younger woman telling her to go on without him. John asked him if he knew where the river trail was. It was directly across the street. Without this gentleman's being there to ask, we wouldn't have found it. John told me that the river trail saved us a lot of grief riding in heavy traffic. The river trail terminated in Mission Bay. John and I stopped there to take a break and eat a Payday candy bar.

As I nibbled on my candy bar, I thought that Jeremy would have loved to have taken this ride with the little Russian sister that he never met. He died two years before we adopted her. When we finished our break, we hopped on our bikes and pedaled through town. We had to stop and cross a busy street in front of the U.S. Marine Processing Center. Again, I thought of Jeremy.

“See those tall glass high rise building ahead of us?” John asked. “The train station is right next to them. I bet you can't wait to get there.”

“Actually, I'm doing fine. I am getting thirsty though.”

We rode into the Amtrak parking lot and walked our bikes to Starbucks to wait for Winnie and Denise to arrive. It had taken us a little more than nine hours. Sipping my latte and looking out the Starbucks window, I thanked Jeremy for riding 90 miles with me.
Loading up the bikes onto the Jeep at the San Diego train station

Monday, October 10, 2011

White Rose

White Rose

Sunny mornings are rare in October, in the Great Northwest. Thirty miles southeast of Seattle, clouds drizzle millions of water droplets on a normal autumn day. The seventeenth of October, 1992 turned out to be an abnormally warm and sunny day. The brown and yellow leaves of the alder trees littered our backyard lawn. The lingering water droplets from the previous night's rain glittered on the leaves, reflecting the unusual October sunshine. A flock of geese flew overhead, reminding me of the autumn migration of cranes in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.

After my morning run, my neighbor came over to chat about the roses that were still blooming. When she told me that her white rose bush was in full bloom, I told her that white roses symbolize death. They represent our own mortality with their lack of pigment without which they can't color our world.

On that unusually sunny seventeenth of October, 1992, we received a phone call that all parents dread when their children are away. Our son, Jeremy, was a University of New Mexico student, living fourteen hundred miles from home. A nurse from the University of New Mexico Hospital trauma unit was on the other end of the phone asking for permission to provide medical care for our son. He had sustained a severe head injury from a motorcycle accident.

We granted permission and immediately made arrangements to fly to Albuquerque. Our plane landed in the early morning hours. Having spent the day at the hospital, we made our way to a friend's house that evening. She told us that we could stay with her as long as we needed.

Leaving for the hospital, the following morning, I walked out of her front door and noticed a beautiful white rose bush in full bloom, growing in front of friend's home. The pit of my stomach dropped when I saw a few petals at the base of the rose bush. I stopped and stared at the rose and its petals, as much for its beauty, as for its message. The rose was telling me that our first born child would die from his injuries. I walked to the car, not wanting to see or think about the white rose bush anymore.

I drove to the hospital, a little too fast, trying to erase the image of the white rose bush from my mind. I wished it had not been growing at the entrance of our friend's home. But every morning, on our way out the door, on our way to the hospital, I would see the white rose bush. Each morning more white petals collected at its base. Their whiteness blemished brown and yellow as their vibrancy bled out into the dry New Mexico air. I stopped each day, acknowledging the rose and silently pleading with it to stop dropping its petals. I didn't want to see its warning signs that were telling me that our son was dying. Every morning fewer petals lived in the bloom and more lay dead and dying on the ground.

On the seventh day, as I walked out of the front door, I tried not to look. But I couldn't stop myself. My shoulder slumped as tears began to flow over my cheeks. All of the white petals had fallen on the ground and the flowers were no more.

My feet felt heavy as I walked to the car. My mind's eye could only see the white rose petals decaying on the ground. We drove in silence to the hospital. A little before midnight, Jeremy, our first born son, died. The white rose petals gave their life, showing me what my ears were too terrified to hear.

Like the handsome white rose blossom, our handsome grown son spent his last days giving us a last chance to admire him and say good-bye. Jeremy died, leaving behind his body, that was still beautiful and still vital. And like the white rose bush, Jeremy had other branches, his organs. We honored Jeremy's wish to donate his organs thereby giving a new lease on life to many people.

The white rose no longer serves as a warning, telling me of impending doom. Rather it reminds me of the gift of life that our son gave to so many. And yet, when I see a white rose, I cry a few tears for Jeremy.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Roses for Denise

Soon after Denise and I met on June 2nd, 1973, she invited me over to dinner. She had driven to her mother's house, in Long Beach, to pick up her mail when she saw me, Getting into her light blue car, she asked me to follow her to her apartment in Seal Beach. I hopped onto my motorcycle and followed her. While waiting for the traffic light at the intersection of 2nd Street and Pacific Coast Highway, I noticed a young man selling roses on the left turn median. I tried to get his attention. Since I was on a motorcycle, he appeared to be ignoring me. When I finally succeeded in getting him to talk to me, I told him that I wanted to buy some roses for my girlfriend.

He asked, “How are you going to carry the roses on our motorcycle?”

“I’m not.” I replied with a smile.

“I want you to give the roses to that woman in the car in front of me.”

There was a minivan, in the lane next to me, that was full of young girls who squealed with excitement as they watched the encounter.

We got married 14 months later.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Grandson: Keegan Eric (Valentino) Montoya

We have a new grandson! ! !  He was born on Valentine's day.  Orlando and Tara had not picked out a middle name for him by the time he was born.  I suggested Valentino and I told everyone.  Then they gave him the middle name, Eric.  
Eric was Jeremy's middle name.  
 Denise got to see him this month.  I hope I get to see him before he grows up and moves out of the house.
 His name is Keegan Eric Montoya.

April Fool's Day Flood

On April Fool's Day my son called me to tell me that our basement flooded.  I was hoping it was an April Fool's joke.  Nope.  I hired a concrete core drilling company to bore a hole into the foundation to ensure that the basement won't flood again.
 This is what we found in the crawl space next to the flooded basement.
 Core drilling a hole into the foundation should do the trick.
 My dilemma was determining how far to dig so that the hole in the foundation wall was lower than the basement floor.
 We put that pipe in that trench and covered it up, again.
I owe a great thank you to Mark for all the help he provided me.  He crawled under the house, , with me, and helped to replace the sump pump.  
The water was sooooooo cold.
He even picked me up at the airport and presented me with a Coca Cola.  Thanks, Mark.

Retirement Quilt

 I retired on Halloween 2008 from GSA.  I just received a most marvelous gift: a retirement quilt.  Several of my former coworkers contributed.  Joy put it together.  I am so lucky to have such good friends.