Tag Archives: journal

My Grandma

We lost my grandmother on Tuesday after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease. While it was expected to happen at some point, it still comes as a shock when it does. The fact that she nearly made it to 91 years old with advanced Parkinson’s is a testament to just how tough and how full of life she was, even in her near-locked-in state. She and my grandfather were always on the go before Parkinson’s set it, taking cruises and traveling everywhere, always coming back with stories, many involving some sort of funny mishap. She was always the hostess with the mostest, hosting lots of family parties. That seemed to be when she was most in her element. She loved having family and friends around more than anything, which made the pandemic especially hard on her. And I’ll always remember how, especially at family dinners, she liked to tell jokes that let’s just politely say were “inappropriate.” 😂

Even though we’re all hurting right now, I feel thankful and privileged that she got to be a big part of my life for 44 years, and that she even got to see a couple of her great-grandchildren, my own daughter included. I’ve done my best to explain something that’s not fully explainable to my daughter, and she gets it about as much as you would expect a three-year-old would. But she definitely knows something is wrong and people are sad, but I want her to see that and I’m explaining to her that it’s okay and normal to be sad.

Most of her grandchildren referred to her as Booboo, a distortion of Bubbe, which is what her mother was known as before her. Initially, my grandmother didn’t want to take on the title, saying that Booboo was her mother, not her. But eventually, she warmed up to and embraced it. The problem is that I was old enough to remember her mother (my great-grandmother), so in my mind, she was always Grandma. She always had that warm, caring, and welcoming personality and would always greet you with a big smile that easily reached her eyes. Even near the end when she had no muscle control and was practically locked in, you could still see a smile in her eyes when she saw you. I’m going to miss that immensely.

Rest easy and without pain now, Grandma. I have little doubt that you already knew just how much you were loved, but I’ll say it anyway. We love you.

Memories for my Daughter: 9/11

I’ve decided to write down specific memories of certain times for posterity, as well to have some memories for my daughter to look over, my main fear being that when I get older I may start to lose my memory, and I would like to have things written down for her and others to know what it was like at the time. I’m going to start with my memory of September 11, 2001. I was luckier than many. I had never been to New York at the time, so I had no personal memories, nor did I know anyone who was there or lose anyone I knew in the attacks.

I’ve decided to write down specific memories of certain times for posterity, as well to have some memories for my daughter to look over, my main fear being that when I get older I may start to lose my memory, and I would like to have things written down for her and others to know what it was like at the time. I’m going to start with my memory of September 11, 2001. I was luckier than many. I had never been to New York at the time, so I had no personal memories, nor did I know anyone who was there or lose anyone I knew in the attacks.

I remember the morning very clearly. I was woken up by my clock radio next to the bed. Usually, I had it tuned to a music station, but there was a breaking news alert that a plane had collided with the World Trade Center. That was the only information available at the time and they would have more information later.

Of course, there had been stories of small passenger planes hitting buildings before, so that was where my mind immediately went. Tragic, but I didn’t think much more of it at the time. That was the morning that midterms were supposed to start, and being my senior year in college, I obviously had other things on my mind. I didn’t turn the TV on. I just ate a quick breakfast, got dressed, made myself presentable, and got in the car to head to campus.

On the car radio, they were saying that there were reports of a second plane hitting the World Trade Center. Flipping through the channels, where there was usually music or morning shows, they were all either on the news or the morning shows were warning people that there was going to be no comedy that morning. They began reporting that one of the towers had completely collapsed, and now they started saying the other one had collapsed. Partway through my drive to campus, they started saying that there were unconfirmed reports about a plane crashing into the Pentagon.

At this point it was clear what was going on, but the extent was still a big unknown. There were no reports about what happened to United 93 and there wouldn’t be for a while. I got to campus and no one was really saying anything. When I got to class, the professor was already talking to everyone about what happened. There would be no midterm today. People could talk if they needed to or just go. Class ended up being cut short anyway.

So I wandered for a bit and bumped into a couple of friends. We talked about it for a bit, but then we each went to our next classes. This class was in a new building that still didn’t have all the wiring together yet. But it was about video technology, so we managed to jury-rig a projector to carry a live broadcast of the news, and we talked about what happened. This was the first time I finally got to see the news footage of the planes hitting the towers. The professor said that we could all leave our cell phones and pagers on today (remember, this was 2001) in the event that we needed to get a hold of our families. About half way through this class, an administrator stuck her head in the door and said that classes were cancelled for the rest of the day (remember, there was really only electricity going to this building at this point, so there was no easier way to communicate). So that was it for the school day.

The rest of the day was kind of a blur. I remember heading back home and pretty much just watching the TV the rest of day as more news trickled in, at least from the corner of my eye while browsing the internet on the computer. Weird that I feel like I need to point out these specifics because the world has changed so much. It became clear very shortly that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were behind it. I remember Tom Clancy being interviewed on CNN and he practically started the interview by saying how the US needs to look at itself and how it had treated the Muslim world, that the US may have brought this down on itself, and CNN very quickly ending the interview then and there. I don’t think the interview lasted for even a minute. I remember eyes were already pointing towards Afghanistan since that was the last known location of Osama bin Laden, and reports with live video of fighting occurring with assumptions that we had already invaded (it was later revealed that this fighting was actually part of the ongoing conflict between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance).

Over the next few days and weeks, the new normal set in. Another World Trade Center building collapsed (many forget that it wasn’t just the twin towers that came down). There were more reports of injuries and deaths, but also of people being rescued. Despite what may be thought of now, while people did talk about what had happened, people also made a genuine effort to carry on with their lives with some normalcy. People were not walking around with gas masks everywhere and jumping at shadows. People were far more resilient at the time than some portrayals now seem to indicate. Although 9/11 was always a constant background buzz in everyone’s life. I think this was when the 24-hour news cycle really came to the forefront, and it was always talked about every day for years.

So, those are my basic memories of that day. Do you have any personal memories to share about this day? Let me know in the comments.

Twenty Years Ago

ThumbnailIt’s hard to believe that this marks twenty years (and twelve hours) since the nearly 7.0 1994 Northridge earthquake (I say nearly because there’s been some dispute as to how strong it really was, with some official records showing 6.7 to 6.8, while some other countries registered it as a 7.2). It’s strange to think that was twenty years ago because I remember it so vividly, but I guess traumatic events can do that.

At the time, I lived in the San Fernando Valley approximately 9 miles driving distance from the epicenter. So, yeah, pretty close. It’s odd how you can remember certain things about your life during that time. I remember I was in 10th grade, and I was in the middle of reading The Mote in God’s Eye at the time. I’m not sure why I remember that last detail so well, but I do. Anyway, I had taken some Actifed the night before because I’d been having some allergy issues, which can happen year-round in Los Angeles. One of the things I hate about this place.

I was in a deep sleep when things got moving at 4:31 A.M., so my memory of the earthquake itself is slightly hazy. I remember feeling things shaking really heavily. Now, for those who have experienced earthquakes, you may be familiar with the rolling motion that characterizes most them. This was not the case here. My father described it as someone underneath the house punching upwards. Things were bouncing pretty badly. I wasn’t sure what was happening at the time and thought I must be dreaming, then after about ten to fifteen seconds realized that I wasn’t.

Once the shaking stopped, all the power was out, so it was pitch black, and I didn’t have Riddick eyes. I remember my first thought was to put my shoes on, which I remembered were next to the bed, and they hadn’t moved much. I got them on and started to move towards my bedroom door, and immediately fell over. I wasn’t sure what I had fallen on because, again, it was completely dark and I’ve never had great night vision. So I started calling for help because I knew my parents were up after this major quake. But they couldn’t hear me because my mother was screaming.

My father got to the bedroom with a flashlight, and that’s when I saw that my bookcase had fallen over across the room, which was what I had fallen over. No, at the time we didn’t have things bolted to the walls, but over the following week everything was. It wasn’t until the daytime when we started going around the house to assess the damage that I saw what had actually happened. My bed was against the opposite wall of my room from the bookcase. When the bookcase fell, it missed my bed by only a couple of inches. I was already fairly tall for my bed, so I easily stretched its length. If that case had come down just a few inches over, I could have lost my foot.

In the dark with flashlights, we took a quick look around, and went to the side door to the yard to check on our dog (she was kept in the backyard; not an inside dog despite her calm and gentle nature). The second we opened the door, she bolted into the house, crying loudly, which was unusual because she was not a very vocal dog. She made it through the service porch and the kitchen to the entrance to the living room before we grabbed her and escorted her back outside. We went out with her to check on the yard, so she didn’t protest that much about going back out, staying close to us. A quick look showed that the brick walls which bordered the yard were still there, albeit shorter. Fine. Our dog wasn’t a jumper. We went out the front gate and shone the flashlight on the street, and it looked like it was completely rippled like waves in water. In the daylight, it looked fine. It was probably the effect of the only light source coming from the side rather than above.

After checking on our neighbors to see that they were okay, we went back into our house and got dressed, having all been in pajamas and robes at the time. It was still dark. We made sure we each had a flashlight. My dad grabbed a portable radio and we made sure our dog had food and water to comfort her. Then we huddled together in the doorway to our den for the rest of the night until the sun came up. We couldn’t really do much else since it was so dark, and with this earthquake, the ground never really stopped shaking. Aftershocks kept coming every couple of minutes, some stronger than others, which made it impossible to sleep, even if the adrenaline wasn’t already pumping. So, there we were, my parents and I huddled in a doorway, listening to the radio broadcast, as the ground continued to shake.

After the sun was up, and the aftershocks weren’t happening every minute (now they were five to ten minutes apart), we started looking at the damage. The top half of a two-part china hutch had fallen over on the dining table, left a tiny dent in the wood, then fallen over on the ground, break several item inside, although the hutch itself remained mostly intact. A large mirror hanging over the fireplace had fallen face-down on the bricks, but didn’t break, although there was a nice large crack in the wooden frame. Books had come off shelves, a book case in my dad’s home office had fallen over and broken. The brick walls outside had come half-way down. A brick was loose from the chimney. Some cracks were in the plaster outside. Luckily, we had no broken windows and little in the way of broken dishes. We still had no power and it was hard to use the phone as all the phone lines were jammed, but we got a hold of some family members and checked that they were alright. Luckily we didn’t have any ruptured gas or water lines. We got some pictures of the damage which I don’t have in my possession, but if I find them I might add them to this post later.

We went for a walk around the neighborhood, and saw that we got off relatively light. Chimneys and wall were down everywhere. Water mains were broken. A couple of main streets were flooding. Streets were being closed off for emergency repairs to those mains. On the radio we heard that some freeway overpasses had come down.

The portable radio was our only means of finding out what was going on. We had no power and couldn’t use the water. That night, my parents and I slept in the living room as the aftershocks were still going every few minutes. None of use slept well that night. At around midnight, the power came back on, so we checked the television for any more news (this was before the Internet was a big thing). We could use the water but not drink it, and we couldn’t drink our water for a couple of weeks. Again, we had it relatively easy compared to some. We also didn’t see our cat for a week. We have no idea where she was or what she was doing.

At the time, I attended El Camino Real High School, which was the second hardest hit school in the Valley. The school wound up being closed for about a month, although my AP Biology class still met a couple days per week so we could keep preparing for the exam. When the school did reopen, it wasn’t in great shape. Bungalows had to be brought in as the main building remained mostly closed while repairs continued and it took a while for everything to be reopened. The school days had to be extended to make up for the lost time.

Aftershocks continued for about a year, although less and less frequently. The damage from the earthquake lasted for a long time. We had to get our chimney replaced as a precaution. The walls around our backyard needed to be repaired. When I eventually went to Cal State Northridge years later, they were still repairing the damages. The wings of the library had come down and they finally reopened them while I was there. New buildings and facilities were being built, even after I left there, and that was eight years after the earthquake. Their parking structure had come down in the earthquake and a new one wasn’t built until approximately ten years later.

csun_parking2

I saw this all the time because my grandparents lived near CSUN, so I saw the collapsed structure every time we drove by to visit them.

Needless to say, it was one of the more traumatic and memorable experiences. I don’t think I’ve really written about it until now. I wanted to write this because it’s easy to find data about it online, but I wanted to share a personal experience and say what it was like to actually be there. You know, for the kids.

Reflection on 2013 and Goals for 2014

ThumbnailWell, 2013 is nearly wrapped up with a nice little bow, in the bag, and on its way out the door. It’s been a mixed year. 2012 was a year that sucked pretty hard. I can’t say that about 2013. It’s been a year of ups and downs, some really good moments and some really bad moments.

I got married this year. That’s a big plus. I never managed to write my reflections on the wedding as I’d intended. I think the whole thing was so big that it got a little overwhelming when I sat down to try and write about it (yes, I did actually try to write about it, but never finished it; some photos and eventually video posted to my Facebook page will probably need to suffice; no, I haven’t posted any video yet, that’s forthcoming). It’s been a year of change. Our marriage has provided some ups and downs, but that’s mostly due to us adjusting to living life together rather than alone, which is something that we’ve both been used to. But the future stretches out before us, and walking that path together will in no way be bad.

On the negative side, I’ve continued to struggle to find regular work again. I’ve also lost some family and friends along the way. I didn’t achieve some of the resolutions I had set out for myself at the beginning of the year, such as my writing or fitness resolutions. And that’s why I’m taking a different approach to 2014. In intend to make 2014 a year full of positive changes and self-improvement, because if I don’t work to make myself better, who will? In that vein, I have decided on only one resolution:

I will not be setting resolutions for 2014.

In my mind, when we say we have New Year’s resolutions, they are things like “watch less television” or “eat healthier.” I’ve never felt that things like this need to wait for an arbitrary date. If you want to do it, then why not start now? There’s no reason to wait.

While I feel the same way about goals, I’ve been thinking a lot about them over the last couple of days, so by coincidence, I will be doing something a little different for the new year. Instead of general resolutions, I have decided to set specific goals to meet for 2014, using actual numbers and dates to meet wherever I can. My New Year’s Goals for 2014 are as follows, along with subgoals to help reach the major goals:

  1. Lose 50 pounds, with the first 30 pounds lost by my birthday in March; to accomplish this, I will:
    • Walk at least 30 minutes every day;
    • Drink at least two juices made with our juicer every day as a meal replacement;
    • Stop eating out and make as much food as possible at home from scratch;
    • Bring my blood pressure down so that my diastolic pressure is below 80.
  2. Have something that I feel ready to edit or send out for consideration by July, even if it’s just a short story; to accomplish this, I will:
    • Write a minimum of one hour every day, with a goal of 1500 words per day, but more if I can;
    • Continue the book reviews on this blog, but expand into movie and television reviews (open up a little);
    • Write a non-review blog post at least once per week, if nothing else than to keep the writing wheels greased.
  3. Have regular work again by the end of January.
  4. Read 52 books during the year (that’s one book per week).
  5. Complete my backlog of review books and write reviews, even short review, for all books which I have already provided ratings for by the end of 2014.
  6. Start clearing out my storage unit and admit what I’m not actually going to use or keep; to accomplish this, I will:
    • Donate old furniture that we won’t be using ever by the end of January;
    • Begin clearing out and selling old video games which I genuinely won’t ever play; have it sorted and some sold before my birthday.
  7. Practice handling my personal anxieties better; to accomplish this, I will:
    • Don’t be afraid to be an asshole; in other words, be more assertive and don’t be so concerned about feelings and opinions in business dealings if I know I’m right.

And because not all goals should be serious and we need to have a little fun:

  • Have watched, rated and/or reviewed a total of 2000 movies on my Flixster account by the end of the year (the current number is at 1825).
  • Due the same Oscar project I did in 2013, which is to watch and write mini-reviews of every Oscar-nominated movie in every category, then write a summary blog post of my personal picks before the actual awards ceremony.

By creating goals instead of resolutions, it feels that I am actually setting measurable and achievable changes to accomplish, and it feels more solid and less nebulous. Still, it’s still entirely up to me and there’s not much in the way of consequences if I don’t achieve them other than heavy self-criticism, but I still feel that setting these goals at least feels more concrete and creates a way that I can measure my progress.

I’ll probably check back in during the course of the year, especially with my goal of a regular blog post per week. In the meantime, goodbye and good night to 2013, and welcome to the future of 2014, which will soon be the present and then the past.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Reflections: The Pre-Wedding Jitters?

ThumbnailNot so much, but there is a lot of reflection in these, the last 24 hours of bachelorhood.

This post is bluntly honest, because, well, it’s incredibly late and I’m very tired.

At 2:00 p.m. today, I will enter into the bond of marriage. I wrote about Olivia and our engagement in a previous post, so I won’t reiterate what was said there.

But during this time, there’s a lot to think about. First of all, I have to be honest. Planning a big wedding sucks! There is so much to take care of, which means that there’s that much more to go wrong, which we’ve been experiencing in droves. Not to mention the cost. We’ll see how things play out once we’re actually in the event. But the planning and prep work has been a real chore. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love my wife-to-be, and want the best for her, but getting to this point has been a real slog.

Especially over the last week, people keep asking me if I’m getting nervous or excited, and some have even asked why I seem so calm. Strange, especially when everyone keeps asking you. Well, there’s two reasons. One is that I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had much time to stop and think, “Oh, shit! I’m actually getting married.” The other reason is that, with rare exception, I don’t get worked up over much because of a general philosophy that things go wrong. I will try the best I can to prevent those things, but they still happen, and there’s not much to really be done about them. We can build the boat, but we can’t control the river. We have now built that boat, but we’re about to put it in the river, so we might as well enjoy the ride, white water rapids and all. Life is too short to get worked up over insignificant details. After all, tomorrow, the sun will still rise regardless of what happens.

Less than twelve hours away, and am I nervous? It’s 2:00 a.m. the night before my wedding as I write this. What do you think? Well, in a manner of speaking. It’s more that there’s been a ton of last minute stuff to do, and I’m still doing it. Why this had to be done now, I don’t know. But it does. I’m more stressed than nervous, focused on the job at hand.

So, it’s turned into a bit of a late-night vigil for me. A chance to reflect on the pre-wedding experience and on bachelor life. Bachelor life has its advantages and disadvantages. Independence is not bad, and I’m an only-child afterall, so I’ve always had a slightly independent streak. But there does come a time when you realize it’s not good to be alone, and you find someone who is, in my case, so strangely compatible that you want to stay with her and be with her for the rest of your life. Will I miss bachelor life? Maybe. I don’t know. I know that being married is definitely going to be different. I have faith it will be better, but it will take some adjustment after having been independent for so long. I love my fiancé dearly and with all my heart. She is the love of my life, and I can’t imagine a different path for us, despite the stresses of this wedding. Do I have pre-wedding jitters? No, I do not. But I can recognize the apprehension I feel for what it is, and that is humanity’s natural aversion to significant change. But this a good change that I don’t fear, even though baser animal instincts make me a little anxious.

I also want to take this opportunity to publicly thank all those who came together to help us put this day together, from both families. They are numerous, and I’m afraid that if I start naming names, I’ll forget someone and they’ll be offended. So, you know who you are! Thank you!

I will post more later on reflections on the wedding itself.