Aug. 16: Not all of us can come and go by BUBBLE

Welcome back.

It's been more than two months since I lost my dad. My heart still feels so heavy. For my sanity, I've tried to make myself grasp that he's no longer a phone call away, or across town waiting for a visit from Katie and Jack. There are so many things I want to tell him about, stuff he's missing out on. House stuff he could advise me on, like he was always ready to do. I guess I never realized how much he still took care of me.

I feel incredibly selfish to say that Dad was too young or that he wasn't sick enough to die. I know he was tired of dealing with all the side effects of his medications, tired of medical appointments and hospital stays. He hated feeling like he wasn't in control of, well, everything... but especially his health. But I really don't think he was ready to go. When I talked to him the Sunday before he died, he was wanting to come over to see Katie and Jack in a few days. He sounded so energetic, so happy, so full of life. And I wasn't done with him yet.

Kathy and I had small medallion-like pendants made with Dad's thumbprint embossed on them. We both have said that when we wear them we can't stop running our fingers over the texture of the print, just to feel--literally--a part of him. I put another pendant on my chain that holds some of Dad's ashes. The urn (a silver heart) and thumbprint make a very soft "clink" together, so even if I'm not touching them I have a quiet little reminder that they're around my neck. It's eerie to think they made the print just before they cremated him, so we decided to believe that they got his fingerprints from his stint in the CIA or his years as double-oh... um... eight. If anyone suggests that it's more probable they came from his police record, you can expect a good shin kick.

I'm doing my best to pick up the pieces and get to what is the new normal of life, but it seems too soon to do the proverbial "moving on," as though I'm cheating Dad out of time that he deserves. People say that burying our parents is part of life, and I know that's true, but the hurt of losing my dad is so "mine" (and Kathy's, of course) that it's hard to believe it happens all the time, and to so many people. Of course, knowing that it happens all the time is not at all comforting either. Something that is comforting is to talk to others who have been through this before; many have good suggestions for ways to remember my dad, ways to commemorate the anniversaries of his life. I appreciate that very much, and I thank you for being willing to share that with me.

As un-fun as it is to feel such sadness, I'm also frustrated at my lack of concentration. It's been difficult to get back to work, and even if I have the energy or desire, programming a database feels next to impossible. Usually when I haven't been doing a lot of complex work I'll do crossword puzzles or play Scrabble against the computer, just to keep my brain sharp. But I can't finish a puzzle anymore, even those easy ones in the Oregonian. I'm just not me. I know grief can change a person, but I hope it doesn't make me stupid.

I've made some efforts to let myself enjoy life a little, no matter how guilty it sometimes makes me feel. I had a trip to California planned since last April, and forced myself to go (admittedly, it did not take much convincing).

Girls' Weekend

April, Debi, and I spent four days in Los Angeles in July. It had been three years since our trip to San Francisco, so this getaway was long overdue, but well worth waiting for. The highlights:

  • Seeing the touring production of the Broadway musical Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, or as April and I called it, "The Wizard of Oz 1½." It was fabulous. The music was incredible, the story was fascinating, and the choreography was weird. We were most thankful for the problems with Glinda's bubble vehicle that stopped the show and allowed us to get to our seats, missing only the first few minutes. Hollywood Blvd. traffic totally sucks.
  • Our sexy rental car, for once not a seafoam green Grannymobile
  • Shopping at Fashion Island, Santa Monica, Venice beach
  • Lunch at The Ivy in Santa Monica, a great place for spotting celebrities
  • What has become a tradition: eating cheesecake in our jammies while making calls home
  • A day at Disneyland, California Adventures, and Downtown Disney
  • When it comes to Disney souvenir shopping for our kids, April's as big a sucker as I am


  • The hours we spent looking for a parking space in Venice
  • Dinner at Ralph's (yes... the grocery store)
  • Our sexy rental car's teeny tiny trunk
  • Not spotting any celebrities during lunch at The Ivy
  • Flying out of LAX. Between the 3-card Monty gal with the important task of relieving escalator traffic (oh, thank god for her!) and waiting 15 minutes in a line just to say "Yes, my luggage is unlocked," I have realized that no sane person would ever fly through that airport by choice.

Other things

My nephew visited for a couple weeks. I wasn't sure how I'd keep a 17-year-old entertained, but I don't think he had too terrible a time. I showed him some of the sights of the city, and he also spent some time with Mom in Walla Walla.

We celebrated Victor's birthday over five days in Sunriver. It was hot indoors but mostly comfortable outside, making all of our bike-riding, swimming, and walking quite pleasant. I love Sunriver, but it still always brings back the so-so memories of my high school senior class trip. A bunch of girls (not me, and I regret this greatly) froze the guys' underwear, and the guys got back at ALL of the girls (me included, and I regret this greatly) by filling our suitcases with each other's clothes, rocks, and deer droppings. For the next week at school we were trading shoes and unders until everyone got their own stuff back. Stoopid boys.

Two of my good friends are pregnant. One is Deanna (not my cousin!), who just found out she's having a girl. Just for Dave, I have added these pages to Application to Date My Daughter, and Daddy's Rules for Dating. Enjoy.

Our Explorer lease was up in July. After many months of research and Excel analysis, Vic made a decision on a new vehicle: a Mazda MPV. Yes, this is a minivan. Yes, I also cannot believe it. Yes, I still insist on driving my Passat. And yes, the practicality of a minivan is almost worth having one parked in our driveway.

Chris, Sonya, Julianne, and Jacob are in the U.S. right now. Katie and Jack have been spending quite a bit of time at Grandpa & Grandma's playing with their big cousins, whom they completely adore. Vic's uncle and his family just arrived in town too, so there have been lots of family gatherings, and the kids just love it. (We big kids do too.)

I've finally been to a rheumatologist for my chronic pain. Turns out what I have doesn't really have a name. I suggested to Vic that maybe they could name it after me, but he said that's not usually a good thing. Anyway, the closest thing to describe what I have is lupus, but I don't have enough of the symptoms for an official diagnosis. I'm on several new medications and so far they just make me feel like I'm gonna puke, which sucks, though it does take my mind off pain in the rest of my body.

Big event in the Manullang house on Sunday: Katie lost her first tooth! The Tooth Fairy brought her a book of princess paper dolls. It's really strange to see her without that gap and makes her look like such a big girl. I took pictures, of course, and I'll try to remember to post one here on my next update

Things that have made me laugh

  • Kathy unknowingly drove around for two days with "I am an X-Man" written in the dust on the back of her minivan, courtesy of Stephen. But this story trumps it: I came up behind a Fedex van and someone had written in the dirt on the back door, "Driver is wearing no panties."
  • The best-of-craigslist.
  • The quiz at AllLookSame. The quiz ain't so funny, but my husband's low score sure is!

It's taken me nearly two weeks to finish up this blog entry, and it's time to just call it good and publish. There are some changes to the Shop with Jen and Fun Stuff pages, but otherwise there's nothing new on


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