Sheltering In Placeby Angie

22 Mar 2020
3:03 pm

I mentioned in last week’s post that there we had a rental property on the table: We spent last weekend laboring over the decision. We finally decided to go for it, so first thing Monday morning we asked Sarah, the property manager, to email us a copy of the lease so we could read it before going to her office to sign it that afternoon. She did send it; then emailed us again to ask us if, for the sake of “social distancing” (which was just a recommendation at that point), we would be willing to e-sign the papers. We agreed, then emailed her back about some typos. After a second round of corrections, we were working through e-signing the dozens of lines in the lease agreement when we got a text from Jon sharing the first news posts about the official “shelter in place” order that would go into effect at midnight.

I called Sarah immediately and we talked through the ramifications: We could e-sign the papers, but we would not be able to meet the property owner and get the keys later that week as agreed, nor could we move in until the order was lifted. Would we have to start paying rent on a house we couldn’t live in, or would the homeowner have to take the hit of having no renters for several weeks? If they asked for the former, should we just decline that property after all? In the end, they were kind enough to agree to put the whole process on hold. We didn’t sign the papers, but they promised that when the order is lifted we will be first in line for the house. What a relief!

Monday night was our remote PDX FHE lesson with some of our dear friends from Portland. Since moving away, we’ve been video conferencing in each month while all the Portland locals meet together at someone’s home, but this time the entire group was on Zoom. It feels good to stay in touch with far-away friends. To that end, we also had virtual Sunday School last week with one of our Portland friends, and today my mom joined us in doing it again.

Otherwise, each day has been much like the last. Monday evening, Jon had to stay late at work, getting the necessary technology in place to work remotely; so starting Tuesday morning our whole household has been working from home. We’ve also cleaned, organized, done laundry, and taken inventory. We’ve done texting, phone calls, and letter writing. We’ve spent time playing games and watching movies together. Not much is practically different, but it feels different. There’s a sense of anxious waiting, of holding back, of trying to make the best of a situation we can’t control.

It’s strange to compare this experience to our situation six years ago: In February and March of 2014, Jim and I were living in Georgia, spending time with Kathy in the final days of her life. Jim worked remotely from his parents’ home and we didn’t go out much, cherishing the time together. It was another period of physical and emotional separation from “normal life.” It prompted us to examine our priorities, make sacrifices, innovate our routines, explore new ways to connect, and foster compassion; all actions that Kathy exemplified throughout her life. And this coming week marks the anniversary of her death as well as the anniversary of her birth.

Every Spring I think of her as Easter approaches; as we prepare to celebrate the eternal life we are promised through Jesus Christ and His Atonement. But she is on my mind even more powerfully this year, with so many people experiencing unanticipated challenges and suffering due to COVID-19 and all its ramifications. These experiences have illuminated our place in a global community. It is another time of bittersweet seclusion and connection; another opportunity for change and growth. My heart aches for all those who have felt and will feel the loss of loved ones as we did at Kathy’s death. But I know that she would encourage us to hope in our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan for all His children throughout the world.

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A Homey Monthby Angie

15 Mar 2020
9:03 pm

It’s been over a month since I was discharged from the hospital, and quite a strange month it has been. I’ve had a few follow-up appointments at Stanford and, aside from a few little blips of arrhythmia, I seem to be holding pretty steady on this new medication. I’m still not supposed to exercise or exert myself, but otherwise I’m allowed to go about my regular activities, mostly at home. The fatigue lingered for several weeks, but now I feel much more normal.

But while I’ve been getting better, we’ve been watching the world get sicker. As the COVID-19 Coronavirus has spread, many of the Bay Area tech companies were among the first to excuse their employees from working at the office. Both Brittany (at AirBnb) and Jim (at Workday) are working from home at least through the end of the month. Jaquie is delighted that she gets to sit in Jim’s lap for hours on end while he works at his computer, and I enjoy having Jim home too. But it’s not hard to remember that what may feel like a treat for us has been a frustrating–if not devastating–period for many others.

The one thing that has gotten us out of the house most is that we’re looking for our own place to live. We’ve spent the last six weeks searching listings online daily and taking a couple of trips down to Fremont each week to see properties (rentals; we’re not looking to buy yet). Twice we’ve seen homes we’ve loved but weren’t fast enough to secure them. It’s very hard to be an over-deliberate personality in the current lightning rental market. We don’t really get to choose between multiple properties at once – just, “Is this one it? Yes or no? Is there something better coming up? There’s no way to know.” We have one on the table right now that’s very promising, but we have to decide by tomorrow at 1pm. Big decisions are emotionally exhausting!

It’s even harder to jump at any property when we’re so happy right where we are.  It’s been amazing living with Jon & Brittany for the last year – we’ve loved it. It’s very hard to leave, but we promised ourselves that this was a temporary blessing and have always known that we wouldn’t stay too long. We want to be nearer to Jim’s work and we need to be nearer to Stanford. So, it’s time to move again for the third time in four years. Please wish us luck!

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Gray Hairsby Jim

4 Feb 2020
1:02 pm

We just heard from the doctors. Dr. Lui and Dr. Khandelwar and a few other younger doctors in training came and spoke to us about what the plan is. Angela was in arrhythmia for so long that they want to watch her overnight to make sure she stays in sinus (normal) rhythm. They want to keep her on the amiodarone unless she flips back into arrhythmia. So, if her heart behaves, we’ll go home tomorrow. If she goes back into arrhythmia, we’ll stay for several days while they transition her back to the dofetilide and do another cardioversion. We’re hoping for option 1. Everyone seems to be pretty hopeful. I could tell they were pleased that the procedure went well this morning. It was a big difference from yesterday when the doctors, especially Dr. Lui, seemed very concerned about where we were. Things are definitely looking better from here.

There was a very tender moment just before the doctors left. Angie pulled off the hair cap they put on her before going into the OR and told Dr. Lui she wanted to show him something. “Look, I have gray hairs because of you. Not because you gave me gray hairs, but because I’ve lived long enough to have gray hairs. That’s because of you. Thank you.” He didn’t really say much after that. I could tell it meant a lot to him and that he was getting emotional. He’s really a wonderful doctor. We’re very fortunate to have him on our team.

Quick Trip to LAby Angie

28 Apr 2014
12:04 am

Jim and I were up bright and early Monday Morning: he was off to a dentist appointment and I went to Zumba. It was my first time back since before our trip to Georgia. Several people noticed that I was no longer attached to my O2 tank and took the time to comment on that and offer encouragement. One sister (who is a nurse) stopped me on the way out to ask how I was doing and how long I had had respiratory problems. I explained that it was actually a complication of my heart problem. Her eyes got wide and she asked if I would mind telling her about it. I told her about my single ventricle and fontan surgery and was surprised to see her almost in tears. She has a 14-month old granddaughter who was born with the same defect! She is being treated at Primary Children’s Medical Center (my home-away-from-home for so much of my childhood) and is receiving the newer 3-stage fontan over the next three years. We talked for almost an hour, and it was a really sweet experience.

That afternoon, I helped put together a luncheon for the family of one of the sisters I visit teach, whose mother passed away last week. It felt good to reciprocate some of the service that we have so abundantly received. For Family Home Evening, we watched Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, “Gratitude in Any Circumstances,” and then wrote some Thank You cards. Tuesday was Earth Day, so Jim and I had a picnic during his lunch break, complete with Jelly Beans for treat (because it was also National Jelly Bean Day).

Friday night, we drove down to North Hollywood to visit Alex and Melinda and pick up some things from Grandma & Grandpa Packard’s house on Pickford Way. We drown down after work and got rained on a bit, but got to see some really beautiful clouds, a gorgeous sunset, and even a rainbow. After it got dark, we even saw some giant flashes of lightning that lit up the entire sky, but we didn’t hear any thunder. We made good time and got in just before midnight.

Saturday morning, Jim got up early and helped to put together Alex’s new computer (which Jim helped him pick out). At about 10, he went to pick up Jason from LAX and they spent the afternoon in Culver City with Aunt Debbie, Mark, and his crew (David, Leslie Ann, their kids, & cousin Deb). Jim picked up some stuff for us and for Jon and then returned to finish the computer. In the meantime, Melinda and I left Aurie with Alex while we went to help with this year’s Mormon Helping Hands project: cleaning up flood debris and trash along the LA River. Mel & I chatted and sang hymns and primary songs and, despite it being hard work, we were having a great time. Then, in a moment of very poor judgment, I fell into the river. I went completely under, but quickly got my footing and stood up in murky water about four feet deep. Climbing out was quite a challenge and I was a complete mess but I was soon safely on solid ground and heading to the information desk to get a few scratches patched up. The only serious casualty was my phone, which was in my back pocket. We’ve yet to see whether it will survive the ordeal.

We went home, got cleaned up, and picked up Aurie, then headed out to the LA Zoo where we saw lions and giraffes, and even one of my favorite animals: a sloth. We spent several hours there, then met up with the boys for dinner at The Island’s, a Hawaiian Burger place in LA that we fell in love with after going there with Grandma and Grandpa a couple years ago. Alex and Melinda had never been, so we introduced them to it, and they enjoyed it too. For dessert, we stuck with the Hawaiian theme by getting Hawaiian shave ice, which was also delicious.

This morning, we got up early and started our trek home. Jim had to stop by the Pickford Way house, so it added a bit to our trip, which meant we walked in to church just a couple minutes late, but I guarantee we left for church before anyone else in that congregation. Of course, we drove 350 miles to get there, but who’s counting… 🙂

Home Againby Angie

13 Apr 2014
11:04 pm

Returning home was harder than we expected, but it was so wonderful to have family around us for a few days. We also found a special blessing waiting for us when we pulled up to our house: members of our ward had come over and mowed our lawn and weeded (front and back) and planted flowers in the vacant planters on our front porch. We felt so loved!

Wasn’t General Conference wonderful!? I felt like many of the talks were deeply personal and applicable to both sides of our family, especially on Sunday. Is was a very comforting way to begin to return to “real life” which – this week – meant lots of work, laundry, phone calls, and thank you notes.

On his first full day back at work, Jim’s group leader, Gordon, stopped by his office to inform him that he (Jim) had won an award while we were out in Georgia! Gordon had nominated Jim for this excellence award a while back because of the Java class that Jim taught in the Fall. The nomination was approved and he was awarded a nice certificate. We are so glad that Jim has been supported and appreciated at work, despite our recent family crises.

On Thursday, Pam Dozier invited me to join a group of women from her ward who get together casually every other week to discuss whatever they’re studying in their scriptures. Though I’m not in their ward, I still knew several of the girls and it was wonderful to talk about Conference and other spiritual topics.

We decided to do something special for “date night” on Friday: we moved the couches around and built a blanket fort in the living room, then we curled up inside it with a bowl of homemade kettle corn to watch a movie on Jim’s tablet. It was a blast.

On Thursday, Jim had created an elaborate and very effective setup for archival photographing. We spent a good part of that evening and Saturday afternoon taking pictures of all of Mom’s recipe cards. I posted a video on facebook about the project. Now that the photography part is done, the more time consuming steps begin: editing the pictures and uploading them to the family recipe website, which we plan to fix up a bit.

Yesterday we had the Elders over for dinner. We shared with them some of the ravioli left over from the funeral that we had frozen, and sent them home with some extra servings… And there’s still some more in our freezer! It’s the cruse of ravioli that never faileth. They shared with us the neat new video the Church made for Easter: – If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check it out!

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Aloha `oeby Angie

20 Mar 2014
10:03 pm

We took turns watching over Mom throughout the night in two-hour shifts. Her breathing relaxed around 3 am after sitting her more upright. It didn’t look particularly comfortable, but after over 24 hours of labored breathing it was probably a relief. Her easy breathing has continued throughout the day, which was a great relief to us after last evening’s scare. Rebecca arrived a little after 6 am, when Dad was just getting up to replace Rachel. We must have been sleeping lightly because several of us heard her arrival and joined the watchers in the living room to welcome her.

Becka brought Mom a fresh lei from Hawai’i of plumerias and orchids. Mom didn’t respond much when it was placed around her neck and we held it up for her to smell. A couple of minutes later however, her left hand moved slowly up to touch the flowers and she rested it there on the lei. It was such a small thing, but knowing how difficult it is for her to initiate movement in her muscles, we knew that meant she cherished the gift. Its beautiful fragrance has filled the home all day.

Maybe it was finding the perfect position for her breathing or having all of her children together again, or maybe it was the calming magic of the lei, but in any case Mom has been very peaceful all day. Late this afternoon we gathered around as a family and sang to Mom and had a family prayer. Dad spoke to Mom to comfort her and tell her that if she needs to leave, she can go. It was hard, but we don’t want her to linger because she’s worried about us.

Since she can’t swallow anymore without frequent (and distressing) coughing fits, we’re no longer able to give her much to drink. We swab her mouth and give her tiny sips of water to try and keep her comfortable. But she often closes her mouth tight after one sip, indicating that she just doesn’t want it. Her temperature fluctuates a great deal and today the hospice nurse recorded a slight fever, so we have been using a cool, damp cloth on her face and neck throughout the day. Luckily, her lungs have remained clear of the pneumonia that so often comes as a complication to this disease.

Rebecca’s oldest child, Amber, called today, which Mom seemed to perk up for. She is away at college, so she wasn’t with her siblings when they called the other day. Mom also showed some wide-eyed interest when I sat with her and reminisced about her coming out to California to help us move and paint when Jim and I bought our house four years ago. She continues to enjoy music and memories when all other forms of entertainment have paled.

This evening Joseph read from The Good Master, which is one of Mom’s favorite books. It tells the story of two young cousins in Hungary, Mom’s ancestral home. There is one particular chapter that we read out loud each year as part of our Christmas traditions. I have listened to her read it so many times over the years that I could hear her voice in my mind, with all the little inflections she would use. Toward the end of the chapter, a father is explaining to his child who St. Nikolas really is (in this book, his name is Mikulas). He says, “He’s always the one who loves you best in the world.” Joseph stopped and added, “You’re our Mikulas, Mom.” It was a very tender moment.

Tonight when I said goodnight to Mom, I was inspired by the lei still around her neck, and I started to sing the chorus of Aloha Oe to her. I forgot the words half-way through, so Rebecca sang it from the beginning:

Ha`aheo e ka ua i nâ pali
Ke nihi a`ela i ka nahele
E uhai ana paha i ka liko
Pua `âhihi lehua o uka
Aloha `oe, aloha `oe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A ho`i a`e au
Until we meet again

“Proudly the rain sweeps over the cliffs of the Pali
The clouds glide through the trees
Always following the buds,
the fragrant lehua blossoms
A loving farewell,
My dearest who walks among the bowers
One fond embrace before I depart,
Until we meet again.”

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Memories and Sunshineby Angie

11 Mar 2014
3:03 pm

Mom had an eventful day today! After breakfast, we made her comfortable on the couch and I pulled out a spiral-bound notebook I found last week in her office. It only had writing on the first dozen pages, but what was there was golden: Mom, the amazing journalist that she was, had taken the time to sit in each room of the “Big House” and jot down some memories before they moved. I read it aloud to her, and was both delighted and moved by her thoughtfulness. That house holds so many memories for our family, and it was clear by her responses that she felt the same nostalgia now as she did then. It was a very sweet experience.

I hope this isn’t too personal, but I had another sweet moment this morning when a home health aide visited us and helped us bathe Mom. I had the opportunity to wash Mom’s hair for her. As I did, my heart welled up with gratitude as I remembered a day nearly seven years ago when I was recovering from open-heart surgery, and Mom offered to wash my hair for me. I had been self-conscious at first, but she served me with such love and tenderness that it was truly a bonding moment. Today I had the chance to return that gift, and it was a pleasure to do it.

All the movement of bathing and changing clothes is pretty exhausting to Mom, so she slept for a while when we were done. After her nap and some lunch, we took her outside to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. Jim has been reading to her from the book she compiled from her early journals as a young mom, and I got a picture of the boys enjoying her company outside.

Before we came in, another visitor arrived. Millie is Mom’s visiting teacher and, even though her own husband has been in the hospital, she has taken the time to stop by a couple of times a week for short chats ever since Mom returned to Georgia last month.

Well, that only brings me up to about 3pm, but I’m going to let Jim finish up the day because he has some pictures to share of this afternoon’s grand adventure!

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