My Dad’s Comfort Food

When I was growing up, any time I didn’t feel well, my dad would make me milk toast. This consisted of toasted bread in a bowl covered in sugar with warm milk poured on top. This is pure comfort food for me. Safe, warm, mild. Reminders of my dad’s loving care.

Tonight I arrived home late and ran through a few food possibilities for a late night supper. I decided upon milk toast. Mine is slightly different. 100% whole wheat bread instead of Mrs. Baird’s white and honey instead of sugar. My milk is nonfat warmed up with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. But the taste is pretty much the same and I can be assured that there is nothing in that bowl that will wake me up later with a tummy ache.

Here’s to my Dad’s milk toast and the love that went with it.

I hope all of you have an equivalent food that brings you warm memories and comfort.

On that note, I will close. My milk toast is starting to get soggy.

Until tomorrow.


The “High Life”

Ray and I have been finishing up work on a big estate in one of the high rises in the Wilshire Corridor near Westwood. The 24th floor condo where we’ve been working has 3200 square feet, a view of the ocean and just sold for a little over 3 million dollars. It is located in one of the poshest buildings in a stretch of extremely posh buildings and here are a few things I’ve learned from working there for the past couple of months.

1) People who live in expensive buildings become very friendly with the people who work in the buildings.
2) The view from the 24th floor in Westwood never gets old.
3) People who live in those buildings feel safer because they have so many ways that uninvited guests have no access to them, i.e., entrance only with permission from someone at the front desk, elevators that will not move without an access magnet or permission from the person at the front desk.
4) Condos such as these have no noise from neighbors, upstairs or down. It is very quiet as long as the windows and sliding doors are closed so that outside noises don’t disturb.
5) The trash shoot in a back hall closet is a little bit creepy since anything that is dropped in there must fall 25 floors down before it hits a waiting bin.
6) When an elevator opens directly into the foyer of your condo, there is not much occasion to get to know your neighbors on your same floor unless you meet in the lobby.
7) There is a hallway that goes between the condos that is the “back way,” and that is where the trash bin and the service elevator are located.
8) The security man who determines who has access to the service elevator has the possibility of unfairly wielding his tiny bit of power.
9) Men who work in the building – valets, desk clerks and/or the building “engineers” have been known to actually ask the widow women out on dates. The men’s level of success is undetermined, however.
10) There are pros and cons of living 24 floors up. The view is the pro; the lack of access to grass is the con.

The building where we’ve been working is one that I have always admired. It is old style beautiful with a cobblestone courtyard and valets in uniforms. Having worked there a great deal over the past couple of months, I now know that high rise condo living just isn’t for me. I have a profound need to step outside and have my feet feel grass. This is a fundamental need on my part perhaps because I grew up in Texas where we always had a lawn. Plus, I prefer freedom over safety; presuming wherever I live is relatively safe. Third, I prefer the hub-hub of fellow humans around me; the hustle-bustle of a busy street versus the quietness of a condo in a tall building.

So much for my dream of living the posh life up in one of those gorgeous buildings. Instead, I elect to live down on the ground, where I have outdoor access to soft green grass that can tickle my feet.



Thank You for Your Honesty

Thank you for all who responded to my post yesterday that focused on my reflections about my friend’s recent suicide, brought on by longstanding depression and anxiety. Your responses helped me to remember that if I am feeling something, others generally are, as well. Your thoughts also encourage me to write about tough subjects such as these. I was heartened to see that I am not alone with my fears and questions.

Father Ian Elliott Davies preached a fine sermon today prompted to a large part by Joseph’s death last week. I urge all of you to go to the St. Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood website in a few days and listen to it once it has been uploaded. It challenges conventional thought on suffering and death and will be well worth your time.

I am sending warm healing light tonight to all who need it – which is probably just about everyone who might read these words. Hugs to you all and thank you for your openness about some of the challenges of this life.

Sleep well, my friends. We will talk again tomorrow.


A Reflection

I have been depressed, I will admit, over the events of this past week. The event, I mean, which is the suicide of my friend, Joseph, who was exactly my age. The difference in Joseph and me is that he had been suffering for years with major mood swings, and as a result had been on medication for as long as I have known him, which is right at 20 years. The other difference is that Joseph – I came to learn from his partner – had been spiraling downward in the past two years and had been experiencing not only depression, but also severe anxiety. For this, he had been given any number of combinations of medications, none of which were working. Hence he was in the process of closing his law practice, which couldn’t have been easy for him since retirement can be tough on the most stalwart of people. The bottom line, this was a deteriorating situation that seemed to have no natural end in sight for Joseph.

That brings me to what I believe is really the core of my own depression over all of this besides natural grief over having lost someone of whom I was fond. The issue that unnerves me is the apparent lack of alternatives that Joseph was facing. He was doing everything right in terms of his treatment. He wasn’t someone who did all the doctor suggested, but also drank too much, took drugs that counteracted the medications or even led a lifestyle that was over-indulgent and mind numbing. No, he was doing everything medical science had to offer and nothing was helping. How does that fit into this world where we are told that science has an answer for our physical woes if we will just get there soon enough for the remedy? Clearly, there is some false advertising going on somewhere.

I understand that medical science doesn’t have all the answers. I lost two brothers to AIDS before protease inhibitors were introduced to the general public, a father, mother and brother to terminal cancer, all of whom were sent home with no treatment options, and a sister to a head injury that twenty years later presented as Alzheimer’s and subsequently killed her. I am not naïve when it comes to terrible health outcomes. I guess, I suppose, that I have always made a distinction between physical and mental illness and thought on some level that mental disorders could be controlled with the “right” medication, at least to the point of making life relatively tolerable. But, it is obvious this is not always the case.

When I was working as a mental health therapist, I had a client at one point who had been very psychotic and then – with the right medication – returned to a relatively normal mental state. He told me, however, that his psychosis had been accompanied by severe depression and that if and when that depression ever reared its ugly head again, he would end his life before experiencing the pain that went with it. He told me that, as strange as it seemed, even the ends of his hair hurt when he was in that state. I must admit I have no understanding of that level of depression. I feel down this week, but it is clearly situational. In the past, I have also felt depressed from time to time, but never with physical symptoms that accompanied my emotional state. But I have to accept that some people experience such a severe biochemical imbalance that life becomes a living hell and one that is eventually deemed not worth living.

This is the case with my friend, Joseph, who stated in his suicide note that though he was deeply sorry for letting his family down, he simply couldn’t operate any further with the level of pain he was experiencing.

I have learned once again a lesson I keep learning over and over – that life is more complicated than I could have ever imagined and that some people do the best they can until they simply can’t anymore. At that point, they go to Plan B.

I hope and pray that a new pharmaceutical antidote is being developed for immediate distribution for those who suffer from such anguish. I also hope that more information can be disseminated about major depression and chronic anxiety so all of us have more clarity and understanding about the ravages of these heart-wrenching conditions. Finally, I pray that those closest to my friend – including myself – can find a way to recognize that sometimes peace comes in ways that are difficult to understand.

Life is complicated and never quite as straightforward as one might hope. Perhaps it is in the convolutions that one stumbles upon the truth – we have no idea how we might behave in another’s situation unless we have experienced life as they have.

May all who loved Joseph find solace, and may he finally rest in peace.


An Early Night

It is 8:21 and Ray is already snoring beside me. We are in the final days of finishing work on a major estate, and we have been working our tushies to the bone. Factor in the terrible events earlier this week – our friend’s tragic death – and you might have the picture of just what a tough week this has been.

I am grateful we can go to bed early tonight. We both need the sleep.

Tomorrow, my friends.b613a864b6009b17ef821d2dab5b436d


A Prayer for Comfort

Dear God in heaven guide me tonight. Open my heart, mind and soul to Your word and will. Help me to turn to you in this time of sadness.

Guide me to see and appreciate the love, peace, goodness and forgiveness all around me and to understand that though pain is real and difficult to bear, it is only one aspect of this magnificent universe. Beauty is one of the many antidotes to pain, and Nature demonstrates evidence of that beauty all around me. Help me to listen for the lilt of birdsong, to breathe in the sweetness of an orange blossom, to note the delicacy of a blossoming rose.

I pray for all in this world who are experiencing sorrow, suffering, sickness or any other adversity. I am aware that Your loving presence brings solace in ways that I can not know or understand and I ask simply that you cradle all in need in Your loving arms and hold us all close. Help us, dear Lord, to feel your comfort and succor.

I ask this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen


Blog Dark in Honor Of Joseph

I am going to stay dark here on my blog for one more day in honor of my friend, Joseph, who died on Monday. His death was unexpected and tragic; however, I believe that he is at last at peace.

Here is a lovely picture of Joseph that characterizes his spirit. This was supplied by Patricia Neal Jensen, a mutual church friend, at her wedding.



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