As I write this, sheets of rain are pouring down on our house. It’s about midnight, and with wind gusts up to 60 mph I doubt I’ll go to bed anytime soon. This storm is one of the strongest I can remember.
Power surges flicker the lights, but the electricity remains for now. I’m passing these tense moments by writing—something that has brought me comfort over the years when under stress. It helps me break from the paralysis that comes when something traumatic comes. This is definitely one of those times.
The Storm that Exposed a Leaky House
Strong storms that shake the windows do come most every winter here in the Central Valley of California. I grew up in the Bay Area where the storms hit first before moving to the middle part of the state. When I lived in Southern California similar storms would come as well.
One winter, though, exposed every weakness in the townhouse where we lived in Diamond Bar—about 25 miles east of Los Angeles. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day a series of storms dropped half a foot of rain in a matter of days. The house began to leak in no less than seven places—all at once.
I stayed up most of the night monitoring the small window under a downspout on the second level. Heavy rain overloaded the gutter and downspout, which was half clogged with leaves. A sheet of water began to stream onto the window. We learned that night that the installers the previous owner hired did not seal the windows properly. The water passed through the window as if no seal existed at all.
I quickly punched out the window screen then grabbed a cookie sheet to deflect the water away from the house. Once the rain subsided, Lori and mopped up the large pool of water in the house. We then cut a piece of tarp to cover the window—not easy given the height of the window above the ground. I didn’t get much sleep that night.
Another window, in a bedroom above the garage door looking out over the street, also leaked along the inside of the window from the top. That water seeped into the wall, which started to come out of the drywall. I cut out a hole in the wall to get a better view, then devised a way to divert the water coming down a 2×4 in the wall to a bucket below. Water from that storm just about filled that five-gallon bucket.
The roof leaked too—onto the furnace in the garage, from the second story above the kitchen sink down into Lydia’s bedroom on the first floor, and into the attic. Thankfully, the homeowner’s association sent a roofer to inspect and fix those leaks. I never had a problem with the roof again.
The Inept Window Installer
Besides the two leaks from the bedroom window and the side window in the living room, two other windows had minor leaks. I quickly surmised that the installers botched the job when they replaced the original windows in the townhouse a few year’s prior.
The previous owner lived nearby, and told me I could contact him if I ever needed anything. Did I ever need some help after that week of storms and window leaks. He gave me the phone number of the window contractor, a friend from his church. The window contractor replied he could come look at the windows that week.
This year happens to be one of major milestones. I will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree after seven long years of undergraduate work that has been riddled with health setbacks. I will also be turning 25. It feels like a prime opportunity to reflect on my life journey and how it’s been shaped by living with bipolar disorder. While it certainly hasn’t been easy, I’ve grown in ways I likely never would have otherwise.
A developing diagnosis
When I began experiencing mood swings as a young teenager in high school, I would have never guessed their implications for the rest of my life. I was certainly moody in ways many teenagers experience, but it was when I began self harming and daydreaming about suicide that I knew something was very wrong.
I remember a fellow classmate pointing out the scabbed over cuts on my wrist and asking what happened. I quickly pulled my sleeve over the evidence of my tumultuous mind and blamed the cat. They didn’t seem convinced but didn’t push the issue further. That moment of fear, guilt, and shame at my actions was a clear sign to me that I was ill. However, it wasn’t until much later that I finally asked for help.
That moment was one of the scariest of my life. I knew once I told my parents about my cutting and suicidal thoughts that I couldn’t go back to normalcy. But at that point, normalcy was locking myself in my room anytime I wasn’t at school. It was sitting in the dark with sharp blades, crying for reasons unknown to me, trying to push out the intrusive thoughts that constantly berated me. Although I wasn’t fully conscious of it, I had reached the point where I couldn’t live that way any longer.
As I predicted, life changed drastically. I began seeing a therapist weekly and started medications. The initial diagnosis of depression didn’t seem to quite fit, but having a name for all of these unwelcome thoughts and feelings seemed to help. While this time of my life is extremely blurry, I know I struggled desperately to regain a foothold but the ground seemed to keep slipping out from under me.
The Wonder Woman I Knew–A Mother’s Day Poem (Lori)
I will start with Beauty, You always were that to me— Green eyes, copper hair, and long flowing dresses, The color of your lipstick and faint smell of hairspray, Fill my early childhood memories with good things.
Then there was the test of Strength, Mom, you got really sick. The doctors couldn’t figure it out, Some even believed you made it all up; But we found a doctor who helped us understand As you lived with a chronic health condition for many years. You kept on going, living your life and in that resilience Found a way to help others with similar conditions.
Ohh my dear mother, you were the Love. I rarely had reason to doubt it. You were constantly by my side, Through every up and down I faced. In my teen years you showed me that Love must sometimes be tough, But always believes and hopes for the best, In me—your only child.
The Grace and dignity you showed, You extended it to many others. No one was excluded from your circle Of friendship and loyalty. You laughed with others in times of joy, You held the hand of a friend suffering from terminal cancer. You taught me how to connect with people in meaningful ways.
I speak the Truth, I testify, To these things that you were and still are, Even though you have left this earth. You never wore a cape or carried a lasso, But you were a wonderful woman, A Wonder Woman to me.
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Quarantine Nail Party (Lori)
Those who keep in touch with me on social media know I enjoy giving myself manicures. Manicures (and occasionally pedicures) are fulfilling to me in two ways: self-care and to show my creative side. I am happy to share my most recent manicure in this entry.
Why nail polish? Isn’t it sticky, smelly, time-consuming, and troublesome? If I am being completely honest, it is all of those things. If you can pull off the perfect at-home manicure, it seems to start chipping or peeling off as soon as you get it done.
On March 19, 2020 California Governor Newsom announced a statewide stay-at-home order. Here is a screenshot from my phone:
Currently the lockdown continues until May 1st, although the Yolo County site says that an extension is forthcoming. With the president and some states now opening up the economy, there is a glimmer of hope the lockdown will let up even more so in California and Yolo County in the coming weeks.
Until then, Lori and I continue to post a weekly journal updated every day or two to mark thoughts, reflections, and news related to life sheltering-at-home.
This is week 6 of the lockdown.
Saturday, May 2, 2020
When Plans Change
“’Cause I told you my level of concern,
But you walked by like you never heard,
And you could bring down my level of concern,
Just need you to tell me we’re alright, tell me we’re okay.”
-twenty one pilots
I love Hawaii. And what’s not to love? Beaches, mountains carved from volcanoes, weather that changes from rain to sunshine in a moment, pineapple fields, the Aloha spirit of those who live there.
We are supposed to be in Hawaii right now. Celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary that was actually LAST August. We went to Honolulu for our honeymoon and have never been back.
Our destination this time was supposed to be Maui. We’ve heard wonderful things about Maui from friends who have visited. I can remember how excited I felt when Howard booked the plane tickets. I thought, “Wow. This will be a time to really celebrate all we’ve been through together the past 25 years—to reminisce and enjoy time together in a blissful tropical location. Just the two of us.”
Now I am writing from shelter-in-place at home. After plane tickets and hotel reservations were cancelled. After the return home I thought I would be enthusiastically showing off my tropical tan, telling tales of snorkeling with fish, and boring friends and family with pictures. Lots of pictures. Proudly on display on my Facebook account.
Instead I’m rolling out of bed close to noon these days and wondering what to make for lunch. I’ve made so many lunches at home now—I don’t know anymore. Where is the lunch menu at the local Hawaiian barbeque place where I can just order from?
The main thing I know during this time is that it’s okay to mourn the loss of this trip. It’s okay to realize flying off to Hawaii and basking in the sunshine would have been really good for my physical, emotional and mental health. It’s also okay to know that I had pumped up this trip in my mind as a “trip of a lifetime,” and none of those expectations were met. At all.
The main thing I know during this time is that it’s okay to mourn the loss of this trip.
But my life in quarantine? It’s really good, actually. I have my husband at my side for most of the time. We pray together, we talk together, we roast and drink coffee together. I tend to my garden—it is probably the best Spring I’ve had in my garden. Ever.
We have our son at home with us for now, and just knowing he is here doing his own thing and feeling healthy is a big deal. Seeing our daughters on FaceTime at least once a week and their smiling faces is huge. We have our dog and our kitten to look after and enjoy their company.
And really—when it comes down to it, I wouldn’t want to be in Hawaii by myself. I know that wherever I am with Howard is truly home.
Friday, May 1, 2020
Read the Bible in a Year (Howard)
Each year I attempt to read through the Bible in a year. This year, with a four-month break from work, and now shelter-at-home orders, I feel more confident I can accomplish it.
Here is a scan of the Bible reading plan I adopted some years ago with this year’s progress so far:
I know there are some great online/electronic Bible reading plans out there, but I like the simplicity and variety of this plan. Each day of the week focuses on a part of the Bible such as New Testament letters, prophets, and Gospels/Acts. I still need to catch up on the second half of Isaiah, but decided to keep going.
The best part of following a reading plan is staying in the Word each day. Over the weeks I’ve struggled with various moods and feelings related to the lockdown. Whether it is feeling sad, anxious, lethargic, fearful, or restless it seems like something I read each day helps me face the challenges of that time.
The best part of following a reading Whether it is feeling sad, anxious, lethargic, fearful, or restless it seems like something I read each day helps me face the challenges of that time.
I also enjoy sharing about what I read with Lori. Every day we spend a few moments reading Scriptures, singing praise songs, and praying. I like to reflect on highlights from my daily reading during that time.
I hope I can keep up my reading and meditation time after the lockdown ends and I’m back at work. For now it’s a needed and welcome activity that helps me through this scary and uncertain time.
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
A Day at the Zoo (Lori)
There’s a lot of attention around “Tiger King,” which is arguably a very popular coronavirus pandemic viewing experience. Meanwhile, we’ve been managing our own small menagerie at home.
When our kids were growing up and living at home with us, our youngest always wanted to try owning new pets. She would visit her friends’ houses and then want a similar pet to what she saw there; and, yes, some of them were definitely exotic.
Geckos, chameleons, turtles, snakes, fish, etc. were all requests that were presented to us with the pleading, “Please, Mom!”, “Please Dad!” I honestly didn’t know the first thing about caring for a chameleon, so we deftly talked her into fish and hamsters.
We’ve had hamsters rolling across the living room floor in their balls and knocking into furniture. Fish had their water changed from their tanks at the sink in the laundry room.
These days, we have only our dog, Teddy, and our kitten, Pippin. It’s been fairly quiet until this last week. To be honest, I was so preoccupied with meal planning and preparation I didn’t even really notice they were in the house.
Then we observed Teddy getting really tired on short walks to the park and shaking his head from side to side.
So, I asked Howard to check his left ear and it seems his previously diagnosed condition at the vet office flared up again. Thankfully we still have the ointment we purchased.
Then I suddenly noticed Teddy was chewing his paws again until they were red and sore. I don’t know if this is from stress about his ear condition or plain boredom, but I made him wear a cone until his feet and ear started to heal.
Pippin the Little Tiger
Pippin is a wild one. She came to our yard about a year ago as a feral kitten. We have domesticated her somewhat but she still climbs trees, onto the roof, and hunts all kinds of creatures—from pigeons to lizards to insects.
One day I noticed she pounced on—and killed—a bee that was buzzing near my budding lemon tree. I was momentarily concerned but then relieved that she didn’t get stung by the bee.