My Review of Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (A Novel)

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info from goodreads:

Two Chinese-American sisters—Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the headstrong, unpredictable one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When Lucia starts hearing voices, it is Miranda who must find a way to reach her sister. Lucia impetuously plows ahead, but the bitter constant is that she is, in fact, mentally ill. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until, inevitably, she crashes to earth.

Miranda leaves her own self-contained life in Switzerland to rescue her sister again—but only Lucia can decide whether she wants to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans—but what does it take to break them?

Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its heart, an immigrant story, and a young woman’s quest to find fulfillment and a life unconstrained by her illness. But it’s also an unforgettable, gut-wrenching story of the sacrifices we make to truly love someone—and when loyalty to one’s self must prevail over all.

Paperback, 368 pages – Published January 16th 2018 by Pamela Dorman Books

Goodreads Choice Nominee for fiction and for Debut Author (2018)

Contemporary fiction, mental illness, mention of sexual acts

My rating: 5 stars

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My Review

I know there are a number of other books I’ve read and said I’d review but never have. But I’ve decided I’m not going to put this off only to add it to the queue of reviews I owe you. 😉

Contemporary fiction is not my usual choice of reading. It’s still not, but I easily make exceptions for certain topics. In this case, it’s the matter of mental illness, as one of the main characters, the younger sister has a serious mental illness. I don’t recall how I first discovered this book but I got a paperback copy from Book Outlet over a year ago. In 2019 I said I’d read it, in 2020 I finally did and I’m so glad. I’m not sure what I expected but I got more than what I could have. Let’s just say I almost cried, almost because I resisted the urge to but it was there.

On the cover author Celeste Ng (author of Little Sparks Everywhere) calls this story, “A tender but unflinching portrayal of the bond between two sisters.” This story is that and so much more. My take home message was there’s always more than one side to a story and you don’t know just what another person is going through internally.

I was curious during and after reading this about Mira T. Lee’s experience with mental illness. She writes intense scenes of the younger sister experiencing psychosis. The younger sister in this story does not receive a pinpointed diagnosis rather they say it might be schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, maybe both. As I do not have experience with either, I had to wonder. So when I finished it last night I did a tiny bit of research about her.

On her website she provides links to interviews she’s done. On the site Bloom, Terry Hong interviewed Mira T. Lee in January 2018. Please follow THIS LINK to read the whole Q&A interview. When asked why she chose a taboo subject and how she researched Mira said this:

Mental illness is a subject matter that’s extremely close to my heart, since I’ve seen members of my own family struggle with it. Schizophrenia, in particular, is still one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized illnesses out there, and I’d rarely seen a well-rounded portrayal of it in literature – particularly one that addresses how it affects family members, in addition to the individual with the illness. I wanted to explore the conflicts that this illness can cause, and the ways it can wreak havoc on families… I pulled a lot from my own family experiences with mental illness, but I also read a lot of memoirs, as well as online blogs, particularly firsthand accounts of psychosis. And I spoke with medical professionals about the more technical aspects. I’d also attended a lot of family support groups, so I had a strong sense of the issues and frustrations experienced by loved ones.”

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This story is told from multiple perspectives, the older sister, the younger sister, boyfriend, husband. It’s really interesting to read about this subject and the characters’ experiences from their various points of view. It’s such an intense story particularly because the author succeeded in showing how the different people are affected. It’s true that your heart will break for them all even as they might frustrate you at times.

Mira T. Lee’s cast of characters include two Chinese-American sisters, a one-armed Russian Jew, a Swiss man, and an Ecuadorian man, among others. But she said in the above interview that:

At some point early on, I did wonder if I should make my characters non-Asian (i.e. white), but that didn’t feel true to me. These multicultural worlds are what I’ve known in my own life, so it made sense that it should be reflected in my writing.

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It’s fair to say, IMHO, that she also succeeded in writing a well-rounded portrayal. Parts of this story take place in NewYork, Switzerland, and Ecuador (among a few others). Here are some excerpts from pages I dog-eared.

In Crote Six, they said I “suffer” from schizoaffective disorder. That’s like the sampler plate of diagnoses, Best of Everything.

But I don’t want to suffer. I want to live.

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee – from the perspective of Lucia

When we reach the playground, Nipa confides to me that her doctor thinks she’s suffering from postpartum depression.

I’m floored. First, she is telling me. Second, she’s wearing makeup and her hair is clean, and her Natey is perfectly cherubic with his rolls of chin fat and cream bun cheeks.

“It’s weird,” she says. “In all these years, no one’s ever told me I suffered from cancer. I’m a fighter. A survivor, you know.”

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee – from the perspective of Lucia, listening to her friend Nipa

I’m flustered, confused. For a second my brain feels like it’s full of holes. She waits expectantly. But what would it be, I wonder, to conduct one’s life as a Chinese life instead of just a life? I speak Chinese, I cook Chinese food, practice tai-chi on occasion and drink oolong tea, but to flaunt one’s authenticity seems terribly gauche. I’m human first, aren’t I? Aren’t we all?

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee – from the perspective of Lucia, in a job interview

There are many more pages that I dog-eared because of what the scenes mean to me, how she wrote them and turned the story so the reader could see from a different angle, of course, among other things. But I think this is long enough, hopefully I’ve made my case as to why you might want to check this out and learn more about the human experience. Also, those excerpts could spoil the story for you and I don’t want to do that.

If you’ve already read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Or if you’re going to read this, let me know, then come back and let’s talk about it. In my humble opinion, it’s a great book, full of intense emotions and scenes, some sexual bits and talk here and there, talk of pregnancy matters (not a spoiler), moments of psychosis, and matters of immigration.

Imbolo Mbue, author of the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning Behold the Dreamers is quoted on the back fo the book saying, “A compassionate debut…an aching yet hopeful story.” Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation, is also quoted calling it “A heart-wrenching novel. Powerful and unforgettable.”

Yes, it is all those things.

To read more reviews of mine CLICK HERE. If you like the style of this review over the others, you can let me know that too. I don’t usually include excerpts. Maybe this was a product of reading contemporary and being so emotionally impacted. Maybe I’ll do this more often when I really like a book.

Okay I’m off. Stay safe and well. WAIT, one more thing, this book comes at just the right time for me. Being under a stay-at-home order and reading about all that is happening has taught me a lot. I’ve learned that it’s really easy to be selfish (that’s not a new lesson, but one that needs re-learning from time to time) and that we have to be more compassionate. This isn’t about any one of us, this is about ALL OF US. We have to be careful and safe for each other, not just ourselves. You might think you or your town isn’t affected, really, but the truth is, your community is. Can your small town handle an outbreak if it happened? What about immune-suppressed folks who can’t leave the house? Don’t you think they want to go back to life too? But they really can’t until they’re more sure than not the coast is clear. If you’re upset about how your life has been impacted, remember this isn’t all about you or any one person or family.

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If you or someone you know is mentally ill or might be struggling with their mental health please visit NAMI – The National Alliance on Mental Illness. This is one of the great resources Mira T. Lee uses.

Anticipated Reading & Recent Book Haul & Thyroid Update Apparently…

Hello there, how are you? Alright here. Little bit of stress and anxiety, little extra I mean because I had to have a blood test to check up on my thyroid levels. This is a new thing for me. Admittedly I feel strange, like I’m airing dirty laundry talking about it here. I’m thinking about family reading it, like wow that’s personal. But guess you can’t be too surprised seeing as I talk about my anxiety right? And yet… What makes me want to share for sure is thinking about Ritu at But I Smile Anyway and the piece she wrote for the site Cysters. Her piece is titled PCOS-er And Proud! She shares her experience living with polycystic ovaries, how she didn’t know as a teen and then struggled as an adult trying to start a family. It’s a really interesting and eye-opening piece, I encourage you to read it. I knew nothing about PCOS, though I’d heard the words I didn’t know what it can be like for women living with this condition. Her story reminds us, it’s good to share. It’s good to be heard.

So I’m saying it here, I have recently been told I have an under-active thyroid. I don’t really have a story to tell just that this was almost relieving. It helped to explain why I felt a little extra depressed, extra tired all day, and have been having more trouble losing weight than what is my usual experience (my weight fluctuates a lot…my diet fluctuates a lot 😉 Lol.) Of course no one wants to hear your body isn’t doing something right on its own, that it’s kind of malfunctioning but answers are nice. I’m in the beginning of dealing with this situation so we’ll see.

Doctor said start Levothyroxine and get your blood checked again in six weeks. Now that was before Covid-19 took over and the call to stay at home was put in place. It didn’t take me long to say, well I’ll just wait this out and get my blood drawn once it’s safe. But, well you know, this big ole virus situation ain’t such a small ordeal and ain’t going away soon. So I’ve been wondering what I should do. The reason they need to draw my blood again, and probably often if this is a thing, is so they can see if my current dosage is working or if I need more. Today I finally called the doctor’s office and asked if I needed to get this test. Triage nurse said yes. We need to know if it’s working. Okay, thanks. (Anxiety said: SHIT!)

Luckily there are walk-in labs for diagnostic matters, I don’t have to go to the actual hospital, but still. With my mask on I went. Got it done. Nervous the whole time wondering if my mask would keep me safe, if the hand sanitizer would keep me safe, if I should do extra things like take my fleece off before I go home (I did but I think that was overkill). But I thought too about all the women in there (didn’t see any guys, sorry). Soldiers for real. Here I am shaking in my boots for the quick in and out visit I’m conducting. Were there sick people here today? They’re in there every day. They’re in there all day. They see us all. They have to watch us nervous, and probably think how do you think I feel? I stood at check in after questioning my relaxed position in the chair in the waiting room, which was like 10 feet from the check in point. I feel really stupid, standing there like the chair would kill me if I sat in it. I apologized. She thanked me for staying standing. That simple, I felt better.

Now I wait. I wait for my thyroid function cascade panel (something to that effect, the whole shebang) and for time to pass and tell me I’m not going to develop Covid-19. I think about my symptoms (thyroid, not Covid cause I don’t have that). I am still having what feels like trouble losing weight but I’m not quite as tired throughout the day as I was. Nor am I as depressed but my irritability, hm, that’s something that’ll fight you (or me and everything in my circle) like an angry badger. The science me is looking forward to the results, see where this thing takes me. Why? Because what if I do need a stronger dose, if my thyroid is still being lazy (that’s probably not the best way to describe it)? Then they might up my dose. Okay you’re waving your hand, come on what’s the point Elpy? What if feeling better is that close to me? Get it now? Cool.

😀 Okay so that’s the important part of my day. (A small, no his voice is loud. Okay a loud voice in my head, that of one of my characters who recently visited the Saloon at The Carrot Ranch, is reminding me I’m still making excuses for not focusing on my book. He thinks I should mention that to you guys.)

The rest of this post is the light, fluffy stuff I want to share: anticipated reading for the rest of April and May and my recent book haul from Book Outlet! I did not open that box for three days by the way, so I feel good about that, and I sanitized my hands after touching it. 😉 The books are on my shelf now and happy to breathe again. The books I plan to read next are from a Book Outlet haul last year (I recently found them after wondering what happened to all those books…) Oh wait, one book is from Book Depository because it’s an Australian publication and at the time that was the only place I could get it. Let’s get started. I’ll post the pictures then list them with links to Goodreads.

What I plan to read after I finish Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (really interesting contemporary fiction novel about a character with mental illness) and in the order I show them:

  • Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina & Ezekiel Kwaymullina – 2019 – YA Fantasy, mystery – It was thanks to Books and Tea with Brittany (her blog has since been deleted) that I discovered this book written by an Australian Aborigine and has won awards. Yeah! I am now learning that this book was given a different title (?) in the U.S.: The Things She’s Seen. Apparently because they didn’t understand it? That frustrates me…ugh. But this is up next, it’s short and I’m excited.
  • Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor – 2015 – Sci-fi, fantasy – This is the author of Binti (OMG why haven’t I finished that series!) and The Book of Phoenix, both of which I’ve read and enjoyed, especially Binti. Naturally, you find an author you like you follow them and go back for their other stuff. 😉
  • Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1) by Nnedi Okorafor – 2011 – YA Fantasy, children’s middle grade – As I said above, I’m a fan of this author. I saw she wrote this interesting sounding book (nominated for Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel 2012) and I was curious. Curious in part too to see if might be a cool rec for my niece.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) by V.E. Schwab – 2016 – YA Fantasy – I learnt of this author from her interview on the Writing Excuses Podcast (awesome podcast btw). I’ve also heard her mentioned it seems everywhere else. She is a prolific writer. V.E. Schwab is her pseudonym for her adult work, while Veronica Schwab is for her young adult and middle grade work. This will be the first of her work I’ve finally read. I picked up the box set from Book Outlet last year, so I hope I like it as much as other people because I have the trilogy!
  • Stay tuned as I read them in this order!
And these are the books I picked up recently (for cheap!).

So there you have it, some personal updates (I promise to keep you updated) and some bookish updates. Now let’s see if I can get some of MY BOOK work done and hear from my characters. Wouldn’t that be nice, if I could talk about my own freaking book? Yes, yes, be patient little one. 😉

Let me know if you’ve read any of these, plan to or are interested (please don’t leave any spoilers). If you add something to your TBR thanks to me I’d really appreciate it if you give me a shout out for it. 😀 Oh and if you want to partake in some kind of buddy read, let me know in the comments. I hope to start Catching Teller Crow this weekend or next week. Alright, onward!

20 Questions Book Tag

Hello there peoples of the world, how are you? How was your weekend? Mine was good, simple and quiet. I’m healthy and I’m happy, it’s just that there have been some up and down days this week. Mood jumps can be exhausting. It’s like my mind is doing jumping jacks sometimes, but when I jump up and limbs go out they fly off into the room! Lol. Anyways onto a fun and light post for Easter Sunday. And Happy Easter to you all by the way. 🙂

Lois @LoisReadsBooks felt like doing a book tag so she went ahead and found and completed this one. I thought it was such a good idea I decided to go ahead and do it myself! Yeah! Thanks Lois!

20 Questions Book Tag

How many books are too many for a series?
  • I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought about whether or not there can be too many in advance. On the other hand I most certainly have watched some movies (*clear my throat* Fast and the Furious) that should have ended many movies ago. I’ve also seen some shows that were awesome the first season or two then started to feel kind of watered down. So I’ll say I’m totally fine with three, and I might get nervous about more than that.
How do you feel about cliffhangers?
  • I really enjoy cliffhangers when they’re done well. What’ s done well? When a book ends on a cliffhanger without any plans for another book I’m often not happy. Once in a while you’ll find a story that does this well but usually I don’t like it. If you know there’s going to be another book I’m cool with it, I expect it but I also want a big reveal. Meaning to me a good story gives you something that you’ve been reading to find out all along. Maybe they don’t give you the big big reveal (is Raymond Reddington in the show Blacklist Elizabeth’s father? They have long since revealed the answer btw but it wasn’t after the first season), but they provide you with other big answers that you’ve been asking throughout the book. To leave me with few answers but a cliffhanger? Oh no…
Hardback or paperback?
  • Hm…both? Hardback feels so official and yet paperbacks are lighter and cost a lot less. So hardback, or hardcover books are sexy let’s say but you don’t want to wear a cocktail dress all the time.
Favorite book?
  • I don’t love favorite least favorite questions, mostly because I have a bad memory and a really hard time making solid decisions, committing to ONE answer. Lol. A series I really really like and might be a favorite is Wool by Hugh Howey. I highly recommend that series. I’m going to leave it there although….nope…moving on…
Least favorite book?
  • Well can I pick a book I DNF’d? Maybe that’s not fair… Oh well among my least favorites is a book I DNF’d after receiving it as part of a giveaway. The book is Downdrift. I was super excited to read this book which made it that much more of a let down when I found it to be extremely uninteresting. I tried hard to get into it and felt guilty giving up on it, but clearly it wasn’t for me.
Love triangles, yes or no?
  • More often than not, no. I’ll likely stray from a book when I hear there’s a love triangle involved.
The most recent book you COULDN’T finish?
  • I almost couldn’t finish Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. It was better than the above named DNF’d book but it just drug on and on and on. However I finished it. Voyage of the Basilisk (The Memoirs of Lady Trent, #3) I’ve apparently been reading since oh I don’t know, last year, early last year maybe? It’s not bad but it’s just not as interesting as I thought I remembered the first two to be. Maybe too I’ve been reading a lot of other fantasy books that make this one less than interesting. I still plan to finish it, plus I have the last two books in this series (unless there’s been more published I don’t know about). Everfair was probably the last book I DNF’d, so the most recent one but that was last year as well.
What are you currently reading?
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What’s the last book you recommended to someone?
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Oldest book you’ve read by publication date?
  • Oh gosh to be honest I don’t even know. I’m skipping this, sorry. 😉
Newest book you’ve read by publication date?
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Favorite author?
  • Geez, another one of these favorite questions 😛 I really enjoy Hugh Howey’s work, he’s a very talented writer (although I don’t even know what he’s been up to!). Michelle Baker, Deborah Harkness, really enjoy some of their books too. Oh and I really like Maggie Stiefvater as well.
Buying books or borrowing books?
  • I don’t know why, sure I do, but I feel embarrassed saying I like to buy books. Not that I do that A LOT but I like going to bookstores or even just receiving a new book. I also don’t visit the library a whole lot. I’ve been there for research but I’m not good about making a list of books I want to read and then going and getting them. I would say I’ll change this, but quarantine tells me I won’t for a long time.
A book you dislike but everyone seems to love?
Bookmarks or dog-ears?
  • I’m laughing thinking about all the people who are going to cringe, and I think they’re going to cringe because I’ve heard/read other people answer this question. I dog-ear. *Catches book thrown by invisible person.* Look I’m sorry, not sorry. I don’t have enough bookmarks nearby me when I want to save a page to come back to whether it’s because they did something right or bad. If the book wasn’t mine, I wouldn’t dog-ear. Funny story, I lent a book to my aunt once, with loads of dog-ears. When I got it back I was so confused because I could have sworn I’d dog-eared a lot of pages. I asked her later about it and she nonchalantly said she’d bent them all back. Lol…
A book you can ALWAYS re-read?
  • I don’t re-read. I’m sure there are some I would like to but I don’t. There’s too many books out there that I’ve never read for me to read books I’ve already read. That said I could probably read Wool by Hugh Howey (sci-fi) again.
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Can you read while listening to music?
  • Sometimes I have the radio or the TV playing in the background but I don’t think it does me any good. It distracts me more than not, but I also like the sound around me.
One POV or multiple?
  • Both. I think multiple points-of-view can be awesome when done well.
Do you like to read a book in one sitting or over multiple days?
  • I wish I could read a book in one sitting! That would be SO great! 😀
Who do you tag?

Folks if you’ve already done this tag and I am clearly unaware of that fact I apologize in advance. And if you’d be so kind to send me your link to said post I’d love to read it!

There you have it! Feel free to ask me anymore questions or comment on my answers, or even do your own 20 Questions Book Tag post and link back to me. I’ll gladly stop by.

Have a great start to your week everyone. I hope you’re staying well and healthy.

100 Words for 100th Day Flash Fiction Challenge – Greater than This

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(I so so love that gif!)

Hello everyone, that emergency hug is for any of you who need it. Things are heavy right now, even my diet feels that way (which means I feel that way). Every time I’m feeling this weight (not talking about the physical or the diet, that’s a different conversation that involves…you guessed it YOGA! LOL), something occurs that tells me to hold on and be strong.

My mother gave me this little statue some time ago. I apologize I do not have the artist’s name right now, but neither my mother nor I made it. That said I could have sworn I had her centered on that post and facing a different direction. I was in the bathroom and looked over to see her facing me right as I was feeling a little down. This stopped my thoughts. I was really sure this was not how I left her but whatever…it was perfect. This moment reminded me how I need to carry myself even amidst this struggle.

I have been learning a lot about the struggles of others as we all struggle together. It’s not that I didn’t know but I didn’t know how it feels to be so isolated and restricted. My significant other, among others, has been relaying to me that what we are all experiencing – this social distancing, being restricted from going and doing whatever we want – is what African-Americans and Native Americans, among others, have been living for a very long time. Think “whites only”.

For decades, African-Americans were not allowed to eat wherever they pleased. They couldn’t just visit the new restaurant in town because it sounded nice. A black man could not be seen with a white woman out on the town, enjoying themselves, never mind loving each other, without risking their lives. A black man could not look at a white woman without repercussions. If women were property, black women were less than that. Their work for the family and household, both their own and that of the slave master, was not respected nor noticed, never mind complemented or appreciated. Black people, families and individuals could not go about town as they pleased, smiling and waving at their neighbors – not their white neighbors – without fear or skepticism. White people forced social distancing on all the people of color. We were essentially, the virus, polluting the space we inhabited.

This discrimination has not ended. We are still witnessing the virus of hatred infect millions of people. We are still watching the virus of violence against “other” replicate again and again. Sadly, it is in some people’s DNA. Sadly, some people use their DNA to carry on the evil that is prejudice and racism. We have recently been told that the “other” communities are suffering even more from the virus as a result of decades of discrimination. Some go about like nothing bad is happening, while many suffer directly or indirectly. Sound familiar?

It sucks.

My parents always corrected us when we used that word: SUCKS. But I feel its crassness is necessary here because this sucks. And when I think about how this must feel for anyone or any people to have lived and live on a daily basis, their whole lives, my heart breaks. It is a shattering sensation. A feeling akin to breaking glass inside me. The pieces ricochet and as they do they cut everything around them. Inside I bleed for the inflicted pain.

But I am better for this.

I enter the room inside me and take in the wreckage. With my index finger I touch the blood on the walls. In its reflection I see not only my face as I am going through this trauma now but the faces of so many people I know not to even exist. I’m picking up the pieces of glass and they sparkle. Sparkles inspire me. They speak in a language that is light. They tell me to write. And so I do. I look ahead, searching for what has broken. What I find is that what’s broken was a barrier. On the other side of the barrier is more than me.

I welcome you to join me in this week’s flash fiction challenge. This challenge’s theme is barriers. Interpret it as you will but what you write must be 100 words, no more no less, to mark the 100th day of 2020. Here’s my piece.

more than me

I step forward. Suddenly there’s a wall. I look left, right, turn around. There was a wall here?

A whistle. I turn, there’s a man. He flickers, his brown skin deepens. His beard softens away. She smiles.

Another spark, her form shrinks. A small hand grabs mine. A jolt ruptures the shadows that blind me. We are living a shared experience.

Lightning, the form becomes three. They do not shun me. They bring me close. They sing:

Allow the song

of your soul

to rise above the pain

And bring you to your feet

For you are greater than this.

Day What of Quaran-time?

Hey there folks, how you holding up? Are you keeping busy during your quaran-time, that’s what I’m calling this, Quaran-time.

***Note: I wrote this this past weekend. I’ve actually written a couple different post drafts but it seems I just can’t get back to them. So hopefully these next couple days I’ll get to that backlog. That said, this is a little long (which one isn’t Elpy?! Lol) but it’s heart felt, little tear jerking, and small taste of my most recent reality.

I really don’t know what “day” this is, day 12, eight, 42? I’ll figure it out for the next post but I like not knowing right now.

Last week was kind of a tough week. Okay no it was a tough week. My emotions were certainly on the low end of the spectrum. As I think I’ve mentioned before, my anxiety causes me to worry a lot, A LOT. Coming in to this whole debacle I’ve really been trying to manage my anxiety and not worry as much. I’d say I’ve had some success thus far. I’m constantly telling myself NOT to worry. So when the world flipped upside down and required me to WORRY MORE I can’t say it didn’t piss me off. Worry more? You want me to worry more? Wash or sanitize my hands ALL THE TIME?

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Cases are exploding in my state. The rational part of me knows this is because they’ve dramatically increased testing. In the beginning they were only running tests out of a state run lab and I think their capacity was about 100 or so a day. Then they allowed testing at other labs as well as hospitals. We went from about 80 cases to over 300 in 24 hours. Now we’re over 17k. Again, I know this virus has been around a lot longer than we’ve been reacting to it, that loads more people have it than we even know. There should be no surprise surrounding these numbers. But that does not change the rational fear that this is happening at all. That does not change that these numbers are shocking. Here in the United States, I think we thought we were invincible.

While my emotions rolled down the hill, the news came in that we might be looking at 100k deaths, and that’s not the worst case. I will explain quickly that I’m choosing not to report the whole statistic. This is not because I want to paint a rosier picture or downplay the situation. I believe in dealing with facts but I know you’re not here reading this because you’re looking for coronavirus facts and statistics. I’m spooked and I don’t want to zero in on all that right now. As much as the facts freak me out I make a point to listen and read to stay up to date. This post is just catching you up and sharing my experience.

Hearing those statistics made me vulnerable to a little bit of a breakdown. Nothing serious, just some real crying and strong anxiety about what 100k deaths could look like. Me and my emotions hit a rock at the bottom of the hill and flew over the handlebars! How close will this come to the circles in my life?

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The following morning, after waking up throughout the night, I got up and … looked at Facebook. I don’t think this is a healthy practice, going straight to social media like that but on that day I’m glad I did even if the news was devastating. I found out that the veterinarian, Dr. Peter Sakas, who I’d been taking my birds to for about 12 years had passed away, had been killed by the virus. I could not believe what I was reading. There he was, smiling in all the posted photos, this person I didn’t know well but trusted as an important part of “my team”. I trusted him implicitly with my two birds. If I had to drive hours to bring them to him so be it. Dr. Sakas knew his shit, and every one of us who knew him knows that.

Let me take a second to tell you I have two parrots. An almost 24 year old African Gray Parrot and an 18 year old Umbrella Cockatoo, both males. You already probably know I love birds but it breaks my heart to have them in cages. However the reality is this, they are not meant to be captive and yet as captives I have to keep them safe. In my case that means keeping them in cages. I do not condone the breeding of captive parrots for the pet trade, particularly medium to large birds. They belong free. Given that these creatures should spend hours a day flying from roost to feeding locations back to roost, preening their flock-mates, vocalizing to and between each other, watching for predators, creating nest cavities, and raising their young among so many other things, they are not well suited to life indoors. As such they are high maintenance, in my humble opinion.

This is not to say that parrots can’t live happy lives with their human companions. I’m not poo-pooing on all the parrot households out there like life with a bird in the house is just hard but it’s not without it’s challenges. They are rewarding companions, certainly unlike any other pet, but I would say they require more specialized care. And I know a lot of bird owners that would agree.

What’s my point? Not just any veterinarian is suited to care for a bird. A lot will say they see birds, but being willing to see them and being a specialist are two different things. I know a couple other vets who aren’t specialists and don’t seem to see a lot of birds but they can provide the basic care for sure. Just had to take my Gray in because he was sneezing a lot. They did what’s called a gram stain, swab his choana (let’s just call it throat) and cloaca (the rear end cavity for “urine” and feces, like in reptiles and amphibians as well). We mammals on the other hand tend to have separate mechanisms for the different types of waste. He does have a bit of an infection in his choana and is now on antibiotics. This particular woman veterinarian is very nice and knowledgeable. She does a good job for sure. My hat is off to her for the care she provides, her desire to learn more and especially for her to keep going to work. Veterinarians are on the front lines as well, let’s not forget that. And so it is with all due respect that I say no one is a stand in for Dr. Sakas. He was still my go to, and if things got serious, we got in the car.

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So taking my birds to the vet is a little nerve wracking for me unless it’s pretty basic. I knew though that Dr. Sakas was an expert. Who knows how many birds were under his care. I’ve never been in one place and seen that many birds outside of a show or rescue. I can tell you that there are people who rescue birds who took all their birds to him, wild or pet. I can tell you I heard a story that a man drove hours in a Corvette to bring a turkey in to see him. It meant everything to me to know when I took my birds to see him I was taking them to a an expert. I was doing the best I could for them putting them in the hands of a man who knew and loved what he was doing. Dr. Sakas said he never worked a day in his life because he loved what he did so he didn’t see it as work. But work work work he did.

Please know as you read this that nothing I say is meant as a slight at any other doctor. I’m very comfortable visiting my local vet for check-ups, questions, and even emergencies, like one bird bit the other or what’s up with his toe (yes x-ray shows he has arthritis). It’s just that Dr. Sakas was an extraordinary person. His commitment to his patients and their parents/caregivers went above and beyond.

The fact that he is now gone. That the clinic moves on with life without him – my heart goes out to his family, friends, and colleagues for the hole that’s now in their life – is hard to grasp. Of all the people…of all the people… Someone online said he was the St. Francis of our time. My vote’s in for that too. This news was a shitty blow. Even though it was April 1st, there was no fooling around with this. That day started with a broken heart’s song of tears and mourning.

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And so it is I’m going to leave this post here. It’s long enough and well I think you get the point. That week, last week, was a hard week. Dr. Sakas was the first and hopefully only breach the virus has made in my circle. He was a good, good person and fantastic doctor. I can only hope you’ve had the pleasure of knowing him or knowing someone who cares for your non-human (and human) family the way he did mine. I told my inner circle (in texts) about his death, sharing the message I saw with photos. My cousin called me to console me. We chatted and philosophized. Then deep in my soul I knew I had to pull myself together and get through this.

I pulled out my yoga mat and streamed a video, a great yoga fusion video, from yogadownload.com. I grounded myself. I let the movement, strenuous and soothing, enlighten me and my body. I prayed for my friend and his loved ones. I picked myself up and got on with my day. All the while thinking about those we’ve lost and how we owe it to them to keep going and be stronger for them and because of them. Dr. Sakas worked really hard, he kept going and going like the Energizer bunny.

To Dr. Sakas, wherever you are, thank you. From the bottom of my heart and soul, thank you for the care you provided my boys and the peace of mind you gave me. Your family said you said you’d never retire, and so you didn’t. Cheers my friend.

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