2020 – Things ain’t what they used to be

I enjoyed driving and listening to Ehrling* as the RAV4 flew through the light freeway traffic before the sun rose that early January morning of a new year and a new decade on my way to the hospital where I volunteer in Surgery Waiting and looked forward to what new adventure* awaited me that day.  The sky was just beginning to lighten as I drove up to the top of the seven-level parking garage just in time to take a photo of the sunrise.

Just before going in, I went back to the car, brushed up on my Spanish, and listened to the morning news, which contained reports of a new coronavirus breaking out in Wuhan, China’s decision to build a new hospital in 10 days,* and reports about an ophthalmologist in Wuhan, Li Wenliang,* who treated a woman for glaucoma on January 10, contracted this virus, and died on February 6.  Each day these reports grew worse as the virus spread.

On January 25, California announced its first case of this new coronavirus, a man who recently traveled to Wuhan. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave this virus the name COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019). On February 14, Valentine’s Day, two people in San Diego County tested positive for COVID-19 and the county declared a virus emergency (Timeline: California reacts to coronavirus).

Meanwhile, we were looking forward to seeing our friend Vallery (Larry’s college classmate), who was coming down from San Francisco to attend a book convention in March. But the day after she arrived, WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, our governor restricted gatherings to not exceed 250 people (which became 50 people six days later), and the book convention was cancelled. However, it was a beautiful sunny day in San Diego, so we took her to see the Japanese Friendship Garden* in Balboa Park, which was featuring blossoming cherry trees.*

This was the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of nature, while managing anxiety and stress related to COVID-19 restrictions and the news.*  It was therapeutic for me because I had just learned that the hospital mandated that those of us volunteers over age 65 take a temporary leave of absence for our own protection, and yet I was depressed in that I had to suspend an activity that I had enjoyed and that utilized my nursing skills in helping others and myself to thrive.

So we all enjoyed the peace, serenity and beauty of this lovely garden.

New for us was the addition of the 1735 bronze statue of Kannon Bosatsu, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion in the Buddhist-themed Garden of Enlightenment.  More information on Kannon Bosatsu* is extensively detailed in the Kannon Notebook.

Per Wikipedia, Buddha is also named Siddhartha Gautama and was a philosopher, merchant, mediator and is revered as the founder of Buddhism.  I was first exposed to the theme of spiritual journey through self-discovery in attaining enlightenment by reading the novel, Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse.*

Mercy and compassion are also reverberating themes in the latest COVID-19 news as many California hospitals are now reporting that they are at or over 100% of their usual patient capacity,* while health care workers increasingly suffer from stress and exhaustion.* The good news is that COVID-19 vaccinations have begun* and I can’t wait to get mine because things ain’t what they used to be* and I want to get back to enjoying that early morning drive to my volunteer work at the hospital* and hearing good news for a change!

Nati Pastorutti – La Canción de la Alegría*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

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Hanging in there – 2019

In 2019 our kitten Moony became a cat and continued to inspire us with his theme of “Hanging in there” in the face of challenges.

He explores by intently smelling everything, and seems to know that he owns the house, us and Tasha.

Fortunately, Tasha and Moony get along well.

Moony enjoys the security of being a house cat that gets to venture on the back deck, only with supervision due to the area coyotes that ate his siblings. Tasha enjoys going on walks.

In the previous post, I mentioned that we thought the pine pellets litter box system would work well, but Moony told us (by peeing on the wood floor) that the pine pellets were not comfortable to walk on and some have sharp edges. Our veterinarian recommended clumping clay, so we bought Scoop Away at Costco and our cat just loved it!

Moony also loves Amazon deliveries that often come with fun packaging.

We normally do not allow Moony to be on the dining table when we eat, but he does try!

And of course he loves being on the bed and jumping down from the headboard!

“Who me???”

Our curious cat has learned how to open doors and drawers!

(Would love to show the video, but it is not permitted in my basic version of WordPress)

While Moony spends his time exploring or napping, Larry enjoys working in the garden, cooking (such as roasting pepitas), and sewing.

And we continue to celebrate multicultural festivities such as Día de los Muertos* and other special occasions.

For us, 2019 ended with a beautiful display of blooms on our Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera)…

… which gave us hope that the new year, 2020, would usher in a new, feel good* decade…

… but it was not to be because COVID-19 turned the world upside down*

… but we took our inspiration from Moony and hung in there in the face of challenges, while observing the precautions of wearing a face mask, social distancing, good handwashing, and staying home for the most part.

¡Resistiré (2020)* erguido frente a todo! Me resistiré. (I will resist).

If you enjoyed the music video above, you will love the latest and most uplifting version: Resistiré México 2020 (Video Oficial)!   (Over 11 million views!)

*This is a link to a YouTube video.


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A kitten stole our house and hearts

After 10 years of focusing on our Airstream trailer and camping, we sold the trailer and turned our attention to renewing our 1952 wood shingle and stucco house in need of repair and repainting.

In preparation for the arrival of the painters, we had to move a utility shed and discovered a litter of three orange tabby kittens that looked 2 weeks old.  I carefully placed them in a small basket and set it on our property line in hopes that the feral mother would relocate her kittens.

By early afternoon, the mom (seen below) picked up two of the kittens but left the third to fend for itself throughout the afternoon and a dark, chilly night followed by early morning sprinkles.

Periodically during the night, we could hear the kitten crying out. I thought that if the kitten survived the night, I would rescue and feed the kitten.  By daybreak, the kitten was still alive, but we had no kitten food, so I melted Costco’s Super Premium Vanilla Ice Cream and fed the kitten with a syringe,* and the kitten survived and the bonding began.

Even as I was first feeding our baby, Larry was busy on the computer, gathering up essential kitten information, such as How to Safely Bottle Feed a Kitten,* much of it from the Kitten Lady,* who received the 2018 Advocacy Award at the 10th Annual Kitten Rescue Fur Ball.*

Feral cats have lived in our neighborhood for years, and we even provided food and shelter in our garage for one of them who adopted us and lived for about 18 years. (See my History Safari Express article, “San Diego on the feral side.”  We have never had an indoor cat because Larry felt he was allergic to cats and we have always had dogs that lived with us.  So by the end of our first day with the kitten, we had set up a sleeping and feeding area in our garage, and had obtained the basic supplies and info for bottle feeding a kitten.

We also bottle-fed our kitten outside during nice weather.

And bonding magically occurred.

We originally named our kitten Luna because we first thought the kitten was female and was most likely born 2 weeks earlier during the September full moon, and we are fans of the Harry Potter stories, which included a character named Luna Lovegood.

Meanwhile, the painters arrived to do prep work that included power washing the house exterior.

We didn’t want Luna to be spooked by the loud noises of the power washing, so we moved Luna inside and she stole our hearts and house and joined the family as an indoor cat!

Our corgi Tasha is normally feisty with other dogs, so we were pleasantly surprised when Tasha’s motherly instinct took over and they got along and playfully interacted.

We were also surprised to learn that baby kittens need assistance with toileting, which requires stimulation, and of course clean-up. The Kitten Lady’s video, “How to Help Baby Kittens Pee and Poop,”* was very helpful!

We were also surprised that our kitten is actually a male!  When kittens are first born, it is sometimes hard to determine the sex because the reproductive parts are very small.  Again, the Kitten Lady’s video, “Male or Female? How to Tell the Sex of a Kitten!“* helped.  Our baby definitely has a prominent arching stream, so it’s a boy, and we changed his name to Moony, the nickname of Professor Remus Lupin, another character in the Harry Potter stories.

Our growing boy needed lots of play for development, so Larry used his Occupational Therapy skills in coming up with creative items and changes of our indoor elements, just as our house exterior painting was finishing up.

Larry also created an outdoor playpen on our picnic table on our back patio.

Seen below, 4-weeks old Moony vigorously sucks from the bottle and plays hard, as evidenced in Bill’s bruises and Band-Aid.

At 4 weeks, it was time to start the weaning process, from bottle-feeding to eating independently, as seen in the Kitten Lady’s “How to Wean Kittens.”*

Happiness came with independent toileting and choosing the best litter box system.  After much research, we found that Susan Youngman’s Victorian Gardens Cattery videos helped us the most: “The Easiest, Most Inexpensive, Natural Litter Box System“* and “Taking The Mystery Out Of The Three Breeze Boxes and Bottom Litter Pans.”*  We liked this system so much that we placed one setup by the patio door and the other in the den.

Moony was lucky that Larry used his creativity to make and perfect his condo (using our old parrot cage), where he can sleep, exercise and eat, away from Tasha. It sometimes is used to keep him and the house safe when we are shopping, or when he or we need a time-out!

Early on, we discovered the importance of kitten-proofing the house, because like most kittens, Moony loves to explore and discover every nook and cranny in his environment.

Moony is now 3 months old, has gotten his vaccinations, and we are now training him to wear a harness so that eventually, we can take him on walks in our backyard patio and garden.  In the meantime, he also enjoys exploring and playing in the den with the portable scratching post made by Larry.

From sweet cuddler to bold explorer, hunter, entertainer, and player of kitchen soccer (as a proud papa, I show off our boy’s photos at work)…

He inspires us to cherish the moment because life is so fragile and brief and he is such a courageous survivor and thrives!

This is all I ask.* (Walk a little slower when you walk by me.)

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

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Holiday Cactus Greetings

This Night Blooming Cereus bloom reminds us that even in the midst of thorny situations, beauty arises and inspires us to persevere and thrive in spite of obstacles.

This Night Blooming Cereus, Peniocereus greggii, is from a cutting given to us from our dear desert friends, Bev and George, our camping neighbors, who we first met in November, 2014, at Agua Caliente, San Diego County Park.

Below is George admiring the Desert Willow.

And his model airplane!

George and Bev originally got a cutting of this plant from friends in St. David, Arizona.  Our cutting now thrives at our home along the coast and reminds us of the desert beauty.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Our house has been repainted and now this Night Blooming Cereus is supported by a new trellis built by Larry.

We are now enjoying the gorgeous display of blooms on our Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera.

And from our home to yours, we wish you a healthy, happy, and thriving new year!

Los Ángeles Azules – Nunca Es Suficiente – Natalia Lafourcade (YouTube video).


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Something is rotten in the state of… the Starfish Cactus

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” Officer Marcellus says to sentry Horatio as Hamlet determinedly seeks to follow his father’s ghost and hear his words.  [The Tragedy of Hamlet – Prince of Denmark (1.4.90)… also see this scene in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s award-winning movie production of Hamlet (2009)* and read the entire play]

Back at home there was a whiff of something rotten as I smelled the strange looking flower that Larry was pointing to in a hanging planter by the redwood deck stairs to our garden.

This is the flower of the Orbea variegata plant, with various English common names such as the Starfish Cactus, Toad Cactus, and Starfish Flower.  It is native to the coastal belt of the Western Cape of South Africa. (See Western Cape – South Africa*)

It is also known as the Carrion Plant because of the carrion-like (decaying flesh) smell of the flowers that attracts flies and other insects for pollination.

Even the nearby pufferfish* seem to be wary and spooked by the smell.

I prefer the allusion to the name Starfish because it reminds me of the Starfish Story.*

One morning a man was walking along a beach and saw a boy picking up starfish and throwing them into the ocean.  The man inquired what he was doing.  The boy said, “The sun is rising and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

The man laughed and said, “But there’s too many starfish on this beach.  You can’t possibly make a difference.”  The boy politely listened to his words and bent down and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean.

Turning back to the man, the boy said, “I made a difference to that one.”

And together we can make a difference to so many more.

Encore: El niño y las estrellas de mar*

La historia de la estrella de mar*

Natalia Lafourcade – Soleda y El Mar (En Manos de Los Macorines) [La Fiesta Parte II]*

Los Ángeles Azules – Nunca Es Suficiente ft. Natalia Lafourcade*

Natalia Lafourcade: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.


Posted in Flowers, Gardens, Larry, Politics | 3 Comments

Finding beauty in a dark world with a Golden Torch

Sometimes our country and the world seem to be sinking into a dark place where evil and hatred are triumphing over goodness and love, resulting in a pervading sense of hopelessness and depression.

But sometimes all it takes for us is to walk out into our garden as the sun rises to feel our spirits soar as we see flower blooms reaching up to the sun.  This morning I photographed our pitahaya flower joyously receiving the first rays of the sun.

See many more photos of our pitahaya in my post, “A pitahaya summer interlude.”

Also see “Actividades en el cultivo de pitahaya“* and “Propiedades y curativas y medicinales de la pitahaya fruta de dragón.”*

One week ago we were treated to following throughout the day a double bloom of our Golden Torch cactus, Echinopsis spachiana, native to South America, especially Argentina where grows up to a height of 7 feet.

We noticed the beginning of the double bloom early in the morning.

The blooms are lovely and exquisite and have an inner beauty waiting to be born.

(Click on the images to see them enlarged)

The pistil (female part) reaches up searching for the first rays of the sun, while surrounded by stamens that dance in the breeze.

The sun begins to break through the high clouds and a bee is attracted.

The flower basks in the glory of the sun as it is pollinated with the help of the bee.

It is now at its gloriously, exquisite peak.

But the pistil begins to weaken and lower as it feebly tries to follow the sun.

By the following morning, the bloom had passed even as the pistil persevered.

And I remembered a quote from Professor Dumbledore, heard in the movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.“*

Encore: See Night-blooming cactus time-lapse: Echinopsis spachiana* by Laura McC

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Posted in Flowers, Politics | 3 Comments

Families belong together 2

Instead of going to the beach or having a summer picnic on the last Saturday of June, we joined people in San Diego (that was part of Mexico from 1821 to 1848, and Spain before that, and Kumeyaay – Native American before that!) and folks across the nation to show our support to families and everyone to live free in the pursuit of happiness in a democratic country that espouses rights, liberty, opportunity and equality. See the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the United States voted in favor of in 1948). Pictured below is Eleanor Roosevelt with the Spanish language version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Franklin D Roosevelt Library website)

So we gathered our signs that Larry had made and waited for the trolley at the Grantville Station.

We arrived at the San Diego County Administration Center, which has stood on the San Diego bay since 1938, welcoming residents and visitors alike, symbolizing the highest aspirations and ideals of public service with the motto “The Noblest Motive Is The Public Good.”

We then took our voices and signs to the streets and to vacationers from around the world!

On past the Star of India that was built in 1863 at Ramsey in the Isle of Man as Euterpe, a full-rigged iron windjammer ship. After a career sailing from Great Britain to India and New Zealand, she became a salmon hauler on the Alaska to California route.

And then we returned home for a chicken lunch and to rejoin family member Tasha, who was excited to see us and knows that families belong together!

And who helps to promote the rallies!

Moana – I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)*

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i – We Know The Way (from “Moana”)*

Local news story and video: “For the second weekend, Trump’s immigration policies at center of San Diego’s protests.” (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Platt Perform At March For Our Lives (“Found Tonight”)*

*This is a YouTube video.

Posted in Larry, Politics, San Diego, Tourist destinations | Comments Off on Families belong together 2

Families belong together

5000+ people took part yesterday (June 23) in downtown San Diego’s rally and march with the theme Families Belong Together,* which kicked off a week of protests that will culminate in nationwide protests on Saturday, June 30th, in support of the basic human right of children and parents to be together (See New York Times article, “Taking Migrant Children From Parents Is Illegal, U.N. Tells U.S.“).

Larry has been busy making pennants, flags and posters for this and future events (Click on the images to see them enlarged).

Our adventure began with taking the trolley and continued with becoming immersed in a very moving and powerful rally and march.

(See Aztec Cleansing ritual*)

See and hear the sights and sounds of this rally and march as recorded by the KUSI News video, “Thousands participate in Families Belong Together protest in downtown San Diego.”

Additional local news coverage:

CBS News 8, “Downtown march to ICE office.”

10 News, “Thousands of demonstrators rally against President Trump’s immigration policies.”

And this was just a warm-up for participating in the nationwide Families Belong Together event to be held locally at the Waterfront Park (San Diego County Administration Center) next Saturday, June 30th!

Encore: Danza Azteca* and Aztec Performance – Idle No More – Sacramento*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Posted in Larry, Politics, San Diego | 2 Comments

They’re working me to life!

When I arrive, the surgery waiting room already has a sprinkling of families and friends anxiously waiting to visit their loved ones who have been escorted by nurses to the Pre-Op room beginning at 6 am.  By 7 am, I am busy escorting family members through double doors that seem to magically open with a wave of my badge and through another set of doors that open with the wave of my hand as we arrive in a very busy Pre-Op room filled with scurrying, smiling nurses getting patients ready for surgery.  Upon arrival at our destination, the visitor and patient quickly recognize each other, smile and thank me.  Positive, joyful energy abounds, and I am energized!

I continue to escort families and friends to their loved ones in Pre-Op, PACU I (Recovery Room) and PACU II (Post-op) throughout the day.  One morning I was escorting a woman to PACU I and on the way she said with a smile, “Wow, they’re working you to death!”

I didn’t skip a beat as we walked and I said with a smile, “No, they’re working me to life,” and I quickly told her that I loved this “work” that keeps my mind alert, my body exercised, and my spirit soaring!  On a typical day, my Apple Watch Activity App* logs in over 10,597 steps (4.74 miles) and I think this is a great way to keep my 71 year old body and brain in shape!

Early on, I discovered my “work” is actually a gift to myself!  See and hear George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente from 2002 to 2013, list the many health benefits of walking in the YouTube video, “The Gift of Walking,”* including reducing the risk of diabetes, strokes, heart disease, and hypertension.  Additionally, George points out that walking increases the body’s ability to resist cancer, increases brain health, has a positive impact on depression, and can help combat breast and prostate cancer.

George recommends 30 minutes of walking, 5 days a week, which can be dispersed to fit into your daily routine.  Others, such as Anthony Carboni, recommend 10,000 steps per day, as seen in his video, “Why You Need To Walk 10,000 Steps A Day.”

Larry and I take our corgi Tasha on walks each week, often in San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park,* where we often promote our current concerns.

Tasha also loves to attend the monthly San Diego Corgi Meetup events!

In more ways than one, we are marching for our lives and health!

And of course, each day Tasha explores our backyard where the Rat tail cactus is blooming for the first time!

And our Japanese stone lantern supports a vessel symbolically holding the magical elixir of life, which in our case reminds us of the value and benefits of walking… Joy!

Tasha the Corgi says thanks for viewing and hopes everyone keeps walking & smiling!

Additional resources:

Mindful Walking – with Thich Nhat Hanh in Barcelona, 2014*

Tasha Tudor’s Garden* (Tasha Tudor wrote and illustrated Corgiville Fair)

VlogAfterCollege – Ryen and his corgi Gatsby

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Posted in Corgi, Flowers, Gardens, Health, Larry, Meditations, Mindfulness | 2 Comments

Ode to joy in thriving, driving and dying

The joy of seeing the sun rise as I arrive for my volunteer work at San Diego Medical Center reminds me of the wonderful sunrises we experienced while camping with our Airstream travel trailer for the past 10 years in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

The cool morning air is crisp and refreshing, and a thriving dawn chorus of birds is heard as hospital workers scurry along curving sidewalks lit up with miniature, multicolored LED lights as they make their way to their work stations.  I’ve already put on my royal blue Nike Air Zoom Pegasus running shoes for a day of escorting family members and friends to see their loved ones in pre-op, recovery, and post-op rooms.

My recent change from working as a docent in a well-known San Diego historic house museum to working in San Diego’s newest state-of-the-art hospital has infused me with a new sense of thriving.  As noted in Kaiser Permanente’s A History of Total Health, “In 2004 Kaiser Permanente launched its Thrive advertising campaign, which spotlighted the health plan’s continuing emphasis on healthy living to help patients stay well,” as illustrated in their commercial Power to Change*

And this spirit carried over to my adding customized license plate holders for our new RAV4 Hybrid.

This hybrid compact crossover SUV is relatively healthier for the environment and us.  It is easier to get in and out, carries lots of cargo, including our corgi Tasha, and makes it easier to manage and unload cargo from the rear.  I am seen below transferring koi food from a 50-lb. bag to empty Costco pretzel containers. Working smarter, not harder… and wearing my Ridin’ with Biden hat (See Joe Biden Speaks With Meghan McCain About Cancer*).

Speaking about thriving, flowering cacti are next to 11 thriving koi in our 20′ backyard pond…

(Click on images to enlarge them.)

Along with many other joyful blooms such as Dendrobium orchids  (below).

Purple Trumpet Vine (below)

Red Trumpet Vine (below)

Epidendrum (below)

And last week, the exquisite Epidendrum hookeri, showed its first bloom since our neighbor Kelly gave us a cutting a couple of years ago (below).

The life of this Epidendrum flower was brief.  It opened during the evening and night before and quickly died by mid-morning as the sun bore down.

Another drama played out last week half way around the world as Australia’s oldest working scientist, David Goodall, 104, botanist and ecologist, flew from Australia to Basel, Switzerland to die on his own terms.  According to the May 10, 2018 New York Times article, Mr. Goodall said, “I no longer want to continue life, and I am happy to have a chance tomorrow to end it.”  The article states that David was not terminally ill, but he had experienced significant deterioration in his quality of life, and went to “Switzerland, the only country that offers assisted-dying services to foreigners if the person assisting does not benefit from the person’s death.”  The article also says that David chose the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Sympathy as his last song and he died the moment “Ode to Joy“* concluded!

Encore: Stephen Hawking Sings Monty Python… Galaxy Song*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Additional resources:

A Life & Death Conversation with Dr. Bob Uslander“, Otto Radio

Why David Goodall, 104, Renowned Australian Scientist, Wants to to Die,” Yonette Joseph, New York Times, May 3, 2018.

David Goodall, 104, Scientist Who Fought to Die on His Terms, Ends His Life,” Yonette Joseph and Iliana Magra, New York Times, May 10, 2018.

One Last Drink: San Diegans who end their lives,” San Diego Reader, April 26, 2018.

Compassion & Choices

Hemlock Society of San Diego

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Abrams

The Dalai Lama: “The Book of Joy”* (CBS Sunday Morning)

Posted in Deserts, Flowers, Gardens, RAV4 Hybrid, San Diego, Uncategorized | 2 Comments