Lately, I’m not sure why, when things are somewhat calm, I tend to feel overwhelmed like I’m holding my breath and “waiting for the other shoe to drop” as the saying goes. They say things happen in threes (mostly when it comes to deaths) and when my Uncle Harry passed over the holidays in 2020, and then my FIL passed in February, I was bracing for the third death to come.
Of course then my dog, Buddha, had his incident and I was like “here it goes, this is it, isn’t it?” However, Buddha has almost fully recovered in the past two weeks since the event, just slightly off-balanced and not willing to jump on and off the bed on his own, so that’s not it. Maybe that’s why I continue to wait…And I cannot relax.
As things begin to open back up in California, and people have a false sense of feeling “safe” from getting their vaccines, I keep thinking to myself: Who is the third death? And when is it going to happen? I wish I could shake the feeling…
The subject title song, originally performed by Tom Cochrane, but more meaningful to me is the Rascal Flatts version because of Disney’s Cars, perfectly embodies the feelings of this past weekend.
Starting with Friday afternoon at work where, finally a glimpse of the fun we used to have at my office pre-pandemic was found sparking a much-needed weekend of living an almost “normal” life again. I successfully hosted a Zoom Happy Hour call with some of my team members who chose to participate. Although my whole team did not end up making it on the call, those who did I enjoyed spending time with and just breaking away from the year of grinding our wheels working remotely. To add to Friday’s joy was the amount of progress Buddha had in his recovery from the incident Monday evening. (Videos found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/wendyfromcali)
Saturday, after a week of worrying about Buddha, restricting “calories-in” due to not having time to expend calories via our usual wogs (walk+jog=wog coined by Cristela Alonzo, one of my favorite comedians) and weight-training, Panda Bear, Dad and I finally made it out for a wog and then Mom made her homemade potstickers and I made air fryer pizza dumplings (video and photos found on my Instagram: wendyfromcali) that were inspired by having tried the pizza dumplings from XLB Dumpling Bar in Walnut, CA (in my YouTube video I said Diamond Bar, my bad) and basically had a day of indulging with good eats, good sleep (two naps, not just one!) and a good late night workout session of kickboxing cardio and pumping iron with Panda Bear.
Sunday, Panda Bear, Dad and I ventured again out into the neighborhood, but this time our wog ended up with a purpose – swooping in to “save the day” when my Aunt Cecilia’s lawn mower wouldn’t work for her. We walked the mower back home, Panda Bear and Dad successfully fixed it while we all had taken turns weight-lifting in between trouble-shooting the mower, and then walked to reunite the mower with my Aunt. Quick bite to eat using my Mom’s cooked shrimp to make a funky tostada (pictured below), shower, makeup and then off to Panda Bear’s Mom’s for some delicious fried tilapia complements of his Uncle Carlos (really wish I had taken a photo but I scarfed that sucker down before I could grab my phone back from Panda Bear’s nieces). Basically a weekend worth living – spending quality time with family and not having to work! I honestly do not recall a weekend this good during the pandemic; it was much needed for my physical, mental and emotional health.
Today, it was back to the grind, but I was able to handle all that work threw at me because of the great weekend. And best of all, Panda Bear surprised me with a video of Buddha finally eating on his own! (Video found on YouTube.) That was the last thing that had kept us worrying about Buddha’s recovery, because without him willing to eat on his own, we weren’t sure if he was getting better, or if we had to brace for the worst. Buddha’s incident last Monday could have resulted from a simple ear infection (best case scenario) to a possible brain lesion at the worst end of the spectrum of causes. Each day that passed and Buddha had progress in his recovery, but he refused to eat on his own, we held our breaths and couldn’t fully celebrate his little victories. Tonight, we sighed with relief having seen Buddha choose to eat.
The past few months (and really the whole darn year) had been such a struggle, having to adapt to being forced prisoner in my own home where the lines of personal and business life blurred to non-existence due to the pandemic, and dealing with immense amount of loss since late 2020 to current. When Buddha had his incident Monday evening, I was pushed to my breaking point. If I had to lose my dog of 12 (going on 13) years after losing my favorite uncle in December 2020 and then my father-in-law February 2021, I am not sure what would have happened to me; certainly I may have been consumed with grief to the point of no return.
But here I am, writing with tears of joy over the fact that it looks like Buddha may pull through (for the time being). However much more time Buddha has on this Earth, I will cherish each and every moment with him and cheer him on for what I hope to be a full recovery. And if he doesn’t quite fully recover, I will still love him just the same until the day he dies. “Life is a highway…I want to ride it all night long…” (with Buddha and Panda Bear by my side – “three is the magic number”).
It seems I am compelled to write when things are going to shit, but there are actual glimpses of miracles happening despite all the tragic events. It is what we choose to focus our attention on that drives our actions and reactions.
In life the certainty is death – final destination. But in this journey, we cannot focus on that final destination or it wouldn’t be a life worth living.
On Monday, while working the second shift at home (having previously been in the office) my Mom calls to my attention that Buddha, my precious fur son, was not acting himself. I dropped everything to go see and indeed he looked like he was seizing and had thrown up all over my Mom’s blanket (unbeknownst to her) so I took the soiled blanket outside where Panda Bear was and informed him what was happening. He, too, dropped everything (despite being in the middle of a meeting) and went into action.
We ended up at the pet hospital blocks from my house, but they were about to close up shop not capable of giving the attention Buddha needed and instead offered up some solutions (i.e. handing off the problem to other places). After about $500 for basically just sedating my pup, we were back at square one (almost). In the observation by the vet that Buddha had an outer ear infection, and the other symptoms present, that allowed for Panda Bear to deep dive into research on diagnosing and finding solutions to help Buddha.
We don’t properly plan for such emergencies (or maybe other pet parents do but that’s lesson for us to learn and not repeat based on experience) so when faced with it we just have to act. Maybe some will be willing to put out thousands of dollars just for the tests to tell you definitively whether your fur baby will have much longer to live, but we are unwilling to put matters into others’ hands when we are capable of helping any way we can.
I see doctors (and this includes vets) as last resort for emergencies only. You have a heart attack; call 9-1-1. You break a leg? Yes go see the doc to have it set back in place. However when it comes to quality of life and healing, I won’t leave that in the hands of doctors as they are not there to see the day-to-day occurrences – we are. When given the options of: 1) leaving Buddha at the pet hospital unattended overnight for them to treat later during opening hours, 2) taking him to ER pet hospital for a bill of roughly $3,000 and possibly not being able to even be by his side during the testing times, or 3) take him home where he is familiar and comfortable with his surroundings and treat him for what we believe he has based on the first observations and research we are certainly going to keep him close to us.
If these are Buddha’s last days then I certainly will not allow for him to die alone away from home in the hands of people who will see him as just another dog. But based on the observations we have seen since Monday evening until now, we are hoping a full recovery for him with time and supportive care.
Monday he was unable to do anything on his own, not even hold his own head up. Tuesday by evening we witnessed his ability to lap up water on his own, eat baby food off his papa’s fingers, and try to climb up on his mama sleeping beside him. We even heard one single bark where previously we had been met by silence.
Today we tried picking him up over his pee-pee pads and see if he was able to go, but still not able to stand up on his own. Shortly after we made him comfortable in bed again, though, he decided to let his bladder release what had been held in. At least he went! That just meant washing the sheets and giving Buddha a much-needed shower. Now he lays out in the sun and shade while I get some work done. In the face of this, I’ve been a wreck but life must go on, and so I put my big girl pants on and carry on while still making sure Buddha is comfortable in (hopefully!) his recovery.
So much joy has been brought to our lives with Panda Bear’s sister and her kiddos safely here with us since last Saturday night. However, today is the day we bring Dad home from cremation, so it is heavy on my mind and heart. Listening to the song in the title, the line “through your family I’ll fulfill your dream” touches me deeply. It is what I believe.
Mom just came back with Dad’s remains and we sit here in silence as she shed the tears she needed to shed. She has been so strong these past few weeks, barely crying in our presence. She, like I, would save those tears for the wee hours of the night when no one but God and his angels are watching. Today is different, though. We are bringing Dad home. And so we cry.
It doesn’t feel real sometimes until you’re faced with a day like this where it is permanent. There lies his remains. He is definitely gone. He is not on vacation out on a trip somewhere and expected back. He will never return. My heart hurts. My eyes hurt from trying to stop the tears from falling.
I promise that I will do whatever it takes to make sure Dad’s family, Panda’s family, is cared for in any way I can. We will continue his legacy in his honor. “Through your family, I’ll fulfill your dream.”
“We gotta move on” I’m told. And I get it, life goes on. The world continues turning. Tomorrow is another day.
But knowing that “It’s OK That You’re Not OK” is extremely important. Everyone grieves differently. There is no set timeline for it; it is not linear.
I keep telling people that “the grief comes and goes” and it is so true. One minute I’ll be enjoying singing along to my favorite songs and the next moment I’m crying for what feels like no apparent reason.
What’s been even harder is the lack of restful sleep, causing it to be difficult to function optimally. But if you don’t want to cry publicly, sometimes all you got are the wee hours of the night when the world is seemingly still and your SO is asleep so you don’t have to explain the overwhelming sadness that possesses you out of the blue.
My coworker/friend Melissa recommended the book by Megan Devine about “Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand” and my SO bought it for me. Although technically it was recommended for my SO since it was his father we recently lost, he just said to let him know if it was any good after I read it and just basically give him the “Cliff’s Notes” recap. I hadn’t had the chance to read it until now, and before I even read it, the song “Who You Are” by Jessie J had played on a random playlist I was listening to on Apple Music one day, so I had to add it to my “Favorites on Repeat” list for future reference. Now as we wait for Panda Bear’s middle sister and her children to arrive from their flight from Belgium, I am making time to listen to music to tune out and read a bit of the book.
Right from the Foreword of the book I was already inspired to pause and reflect. Mark Nepo wrote “If we commit to loving, we will inevitably know loss and grief. If we try to avoid loss and grief, we will never truly love.” This struck a chord in me, as my SO sometimes describes me as though I am an empath – and I do sometimes end up feeling others’ pain. It is why sometimes I need to be by myself when grieving, because it could be overwhelming when around others who are also feeling grief.
But not everyone is understanding of that need for solitude, so sometimes excusing myself to go to the bathroom and pretending to poop is my only escape (that and shower time where tears shed are almost indistinguishable from the running water). But I digress…
Why is it that our society is not so understanding? “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?” I remember The Party covering that song when I was growing up and it is a question that keeps running through my mind when my safe bubble is burst and some news feed leaks through on my social media platforms. There seems to be a lot of unrest in the world, and acts of violence that are completely unnecessary and unacceptable. How could this be in 2021?
This pandemic has brought so much pain, but there have been the silver linings, too, one of which is bringing family together. As we wait patiently to reunite Panda Bear’s family (delayed flights pushing out the timeline later and later so we have to adjust accordingly) I use this “free” time to just be with my feelings and dive in to this book that tells me what I want to hear: “It’s OK That You’re Not OK.”
Last night was the first night I slept a full 8 hours since our family had began dealing with COVID. I have been telling myself that the insomnia I’ve been suffering was a side effect of COVID, but the more days that pass and I am symptom-free, the more I think the insomnia is grief-related.
I had dreamt that my FIL was a ghost, and in the dream, Panda Bear and I were the only ones able to see and interact with him. Surprisingly I woke from that dream not feeling scared or sad, but comforted in having seen him (even if only in my head and not real life).
Loss is never easy, and losing more than one family member within months due to COVID is living up to be affecting me more than I want to let on. I have yet to take much time off work for bereavement, having only taken one day off to attend my Uncle Harry’s funeral after Christmas and really let myself be with my feelings and my family. I know I will eventually need to take time off to deal with the loss of my FIL, but I am trying to be strategic with it so that work is not affected by my absence. So when reminded by work that I can take up to three days (paid) for bereavement, my response had been “Thanks, maybe when we have Dad’s memorial after things are more settled.” Now, I wonder whether that was a smart move or not.
This has been one of the busiest seasons for us at work, and already facing the challenges of managing a team while most work remotely outside the office, add having been out due to battling COVID and now trying to “catch up” on all I missed while still recovering, and then also the grief of losing two loved ones back-to-back in similar fashion, maybe it is a mistake to be working. But I do not want to let anyone down, and work is a good “escape” from having to think too much about the loss.
Focus, however, has been difficult, and I may be stretching myself too thin, thus causing the sleepless nights because I cannot shut off my brain and the endless thoughts racing through my mind. There is a lot going on, and a lot I want to get done, and I have to remember to be patient with healing, as it does not happen overnight.
I am reminded of when my supervisor, Stella, had lost her battle with cancer in 2013, and how hard it hit me even though she and I were not related. Although we had not really spent much time with each other outside of work, I had known Stella for almost 8 years at work when she passed, and she was like the older sister I never had. When I attended her funeral, I couldn’t even go up to her coffin to pay respects because it was too difficult. And to this day, I often think about her and although the grief of losing her is not as all-consuming as it was when it first happened, I still feel sad despite how much time has past. It makes me wonder how long it’ll take before the pain of losing first my favorite uncle and then my FIL will be dull enough so I can function optimally again.
Ironically as I was enjoying the crisp air while working outside on the porch of my MIL’s house, the song in the subject title began to play on Apple Music, and it made me think of my FIL and all the plans we had discussed about reuniting his family. Pretty soon (in just a few days, in fact) we will be reuniting daughter and mother after having been apart many years. What is the saddest is it should have been father, mother and daughter. The circumstances is not ideal, but in my FIL’s sudden passing, it has helped expedite the return of his daughter and her children home to be with the family (grandchildren he never got to meet in person).
We are all excited about the arrival and yet I am so heartbroken that Dad is not physically here to witness it. I cannot speak it, so I write about it instead. Just as I had honored Stella in putting together “Letters to Stella” with some of her loved ones, I plan on doing something similar not only to honor my FIL and his memory, but also doing something for my own immediate family before it is too late to do so.
All of us live with a little fear of death and how permanent it is, and not wanting my loved ones to have died in vain, I want to leave a mark for generations to come to be able to know where they came from and who their ancestors were even if they didn’t get a chance to know them while they were alive. Not sure when and how, but I vow to have this completed before my lifetime and will chip away at it day by day, little by little, asking my loved ones for their stories. Whether it is out on a walk (like I did with my Mom today on my lunch break), or over a great meal (homemade or dining out), I will take every opportunity to connect with family and have them relive their memories so I may commit them to “paper” for carrying on our legacy. That is how I plan on mending this current broken heart of mine.
This weekend, for a change of pace, I decided to listen to my body and mind (and ultimately my heart) and gave myself rest from work. Almost a full weekend of just living life – it was glorious!
Friday evening after work I got to catch up with “Princess Mabelline” on Zoom. We lost ourselves in conversation until my phone battery protested. It was a nice escape. Then I did a little bit of work to ensure that my employees had tasks for the weekend overtime to help wrap up projects. While binge-watching Castle, I passed out and Panda Bear had to wake me so we could head home.
Yesterday, finally got to pick up the Girl Scout Cookies that I ordered from my Cousin Jane’s daughter, and then enjoyed an extra long wog with Panda Bear and my Dad where we not only ran the stairs at Cascade Park, we had drinks from Mr. Baguette and then soft serve (I had a Butter Mochi sundae) from Big Softee. The whole point was to take a break from work, break from thinking about dieting, and just seize the day (of course we also had completed over 15,000+ steps so it was okay to splurge). It was also nice asking my Dad about how he came to the U.S. from China and learn more about my family history, which made the miles easy to do.
Saturday evening, I had another Zoom call with some old friends and I felt so good having been able to speak with them. We also began watching Bones with Panda Bear’s Mom because it was another show we knew she’d enjoy on top of us binge-watching Castle. Panda Bear and I attempted to help his Mom put together some furniture pieces she had gotten her granddaughters, but the piece we had worked on ended up having faulty pieces and it was quite frustrating – we decided she ought to return it as defective. I finished off the night with working on a page from the owl coloring book Panda Bear had gifted me (pictured).
Today, woke up feeling super refreshed. Went to Alice’s Kitchen with Panda Bear and the ‘rents for some outdoor dining. We were there early enough where there wasn’t a wait for a table, and the waiter was super attentive and got every order/request right. Got to ask my Mom about how she came to the U.S. from Hong Kong and hear her side of th story of how she met my Dad (definitely solidified that my Dad is the more sentimental/romantic type of the two.) Great way to start the last day of the weekend!
Afterwards, Panda Bear, my Dad, Buddha and I went for a wog (much shorter than yesterday’s since we were going to pump some iron too!) Had fun racing my Dad (even though he was way faster) and making ASMR videos of Buddha chewing on grass. Upon returning home, we lifted some weights and enjoyed the sunshine in the backyard. I delayed my shower because a sudden urge to nap came over me and I listened. The original plans to do some work went out the window after that.
We arrived at Panda Bear’s Mom’s house before she returned from shopping, so he and I sat out on the porch and enjoyed some Flying Dutchmen from In n Out. I also finally worked on some tattoo ideas that have been floating in my mind (and on Pinterest) for the past few weeks. Thus far, I only have one tattoo on my left wrist of an owl that was done by the tattoo artist who created the album cover for Sublime (this was back in 2009 at the Ink n Iron Festival on the Queen Mary). I have always wanted to get more but hadn’t settled on what and where. In my mind, I was working on a Panda tattoo that represented Panda Bear and would go on my right wrist (pictured – ideas not final).
But when Panda Bear’s Dad passed away, I knew my second tattoo would have to be something to represent him. Years ago, I had already settled on wanting a tattoo for each fallen immediate family member and their Chinese zodiac. This meant I had already thought of a dragon for my Dad, a rabbit for my Mom (and I didn’t think any further than that because I cannot imagine outliving my younger brother and younger sister!) Now, though, given the amount of years Panda Bear and I have been together, his parents are my parents, too. So I think I have the exact design I want to represent Panda Bear’s Dad (pictured), which will end up on my right shoulder once I find the right tattoo artist…
Panda Bear had much better luck today with assembling the furniture pieces for his two nieces (pictured). Overall, it’s been a peaceful Sunday Funday. Sometimes it’s good to have a break in the routine – my health certainly depended on it. But as I write this I know I do have responsibilities, so time to “clock in” and put in a couple hours to prepare for work tomorrow. And that’s what I call balance.
Today I finally got to return to the office. Who would have thought I could be so happy to go to work – but I seriously was ecstatic for a change of scenery. And my brain was on fire. I got so much organized and done in the half-day I was there. The only thing that concerns me is still feeling a bit of dizziness out of the blue – side effect of COVID I guess.
I was so exhausted last night that I didn’t even have the energy to write. Worst of all, from transporting my stuff from my house to Panda Bear’s Mom’s house and back, I somehow misplaced my iPhone charger, which is necessary for both my work phone and iPad. Without a charger, once my work phone battery dies, I have no way to access my work laptop. No bueno!
I received approval from work to purchase a replacement charger, which I ordered online from Best Buy and picked up the same day. Only when I opened the box for the base of the charger I realized I ordered the wrong one. Had to go back to the store to exchange it. When I did get the right one, it cost about a dollar more, which made me realize where I had gone wrong – online I saw the price difference and the Chinese in me went for the cheaper option not realizing they were absolutely different. *shoulder shrug*
Panda Bear helped solve my dizziness by feeding me a good solid meal at home. Then we headed to Panda Bear’s Mom’s as per usual, with a quick stop to pick up some din din. We enjoyed our meal while binge-watching Castle, one of my all-time favorite TV shows (and one that Panda Bear and his Mom had never seen before). Overall, life is good.
This entry will be short (because I am literally running on fumes) but to the point.
Sometimes when grieving, we wish we could hit the rewind button and go back to the “yesterday” that was when our recently deceased loved one was still alive, and we go through all the “shoulda coulda woulda” scenarios that we feel would have made a difference to whether they would be standing by our side today. Maybe. Maybe not. We can certainly imagine and dream, though it won’t bring back to life that person.
How that loved one can live on, though, is not only through the memories and stories we share of them, but today we were blessed with finding a cassette tape left behind by Panda Bear’s Dad, of him singing songs like Moon River by Andy Williams and Yesterday by The Beatles. It was certainly a bittersweet moment to hear, with many tears shed.
In this day and age, those who were not born in the time where cassette tapes and VCRs existed, they would never understand the phrase “Be Kind, Please Rewind”. But what we have today is the technology to bring a cassette tape back to life digitally to share with the world at large. Stay tuned on my YouTube channel for more.
Here’s wishing the energy expended on the emotional roller coaster of today and the influence of seeing my dog Buddha embody the phrase “let sleeping dogs lie” allow me to drift peacefully to sleep and wake bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to take on yet another day.
Today is the first day in a long time where life almost feels like it is back to normal. At first, I woke up a little after 4:00 a.m. and I was like “No way…Not enough sleep after only an hour of sleep the night before. Must…fall…back…asleep…” I laid in bed, used my FitBit Mindfulness and Relax features, and somehow luckily passed back out. My FitBit alarm was set for 8:25 a.m. but when it went off, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I could hear Panda Bear in the shower, so I knew the bathroom was occupied, so I closed my eyes and waited.
Later Panda Bear came in the room and gently coaxed me to wake. I had a Case of the Mondays, for sure, but as soon as I checked my work iPhone and saw that two employees had “called” out unexpectedly, I jumped into action. There was too much work they were responsible for that needed to be done. I could not afford to fall victim to the want to stay in bed all day. Grief and recovering from COVID-19 will not stop me today!
My Mom’s work ethic coursing through my veins, I quickly did my job – manage. Reassigning the work to an able, ready (and willing) employee, I breathed a sigh of relief. I also took a client call today, which last week I was too in my head about my temporary speech impediment caused by the sickness that I had made the request to refrain from taking calls while catching up on the missed week and working on healing. So unafraid of the “stroke” brain, I even called the owner of the company to once again thank him for all the support provided to me and my family during the past few weeks and to also see what tasks I needed to prioritize for the week; it was the most I’ve ever connected to my boss in God knows how long. Almost always in the past, calls were strictly about work – straight to the point so I can quickly move on and start checking things off my To Do List. Today, though, after all I’ve been through, I took a moment to pause and actually have a meaningful conversation – human connection. Good start to the day.
I rarely take my required breaks because I get so consumed by wanting to get as much work done as possible (especially during our busy seasons) but today was different. I chose to prioritize my health. Having made arrangements to ensure all projects were being worked on by the appropriate team members, I decided to tackle something that has been on my mind since I fell ill – putting away the clean laundry my Mom had helped with while I was quarantined in my room. It’s funny what I had taken for granted before briefly losing my sense of smell and taste; the act of putting away the clean clothes, being able to smell the fresh laundry, was strangely therapeutic.
Yesterday, although the last day to eat whatever I wanted, I had began tracking macros again. And it paid off – I started losing weight again – finally back on track after being derailed by the coronavirus. Went for a mile long walk with Panda Bear, lifted weights (last time I lifted was right before Panda Bear’s Mom tested positive for COVID-19) and then took a long shower, savoring first the warm water washing away the past stress, then turning the water cold to invigorate and wake up my immune system. I also took a pause to lay in bed cuddling with Buddha and utilizing our red light for some needed therapy.
Throughout the day, I had chosen to listen to “J-Pop Love Songs” on Apple Music; not understanding a word being sung, but music is so universal that it doesn’t matter. This reminded me of The Chin Twins and their influence in the music I used to listen to back in high school. I cannot remember the names of the artists – maybe I should reach out and ask them – good excuse to connect…There’s something serene about listening to music without understanding the lyrics – I just let the feel of the song take over me and it allows me to concentrate on work and other things going on around me. This is probably why I have my headphones on almost 24/7 – needing that soundtrack to my life to make it through the day.
At Panda Bear’s Mom’s house, I dumped out the contents of my banker’s box I traveled with back and forth from my ‘rents’ house to Panda Bear’s Mom’s house (and previously from ‘rents’ house to office every so often when necessary), and took the time to organize the paperwork. I felt a weight lift off me once I completed the task – sometimes time spent doing tasks that are often pushed aside pays off. What started out as a day I didn’t want to get out of bed, ended with a sense of accomplishment for jumping over a few hurdles that were in my way. Maybe all of this means the rest of the week will be real good. I sure do hope so. At least it’s finally a step in the right direction.
Here’s to another good night’s sleep, dreaming about the days of old when we could enjoy such outings as going to the Los Angeles County Fair with our loved ones.