Take time to breathe!

I wrote this three years ago today — well before the COVID days. Back then we had a crowd for Christmas and lots of activities to fill our days. We hosted my children, dad, and my son’s girlfriend’s family for Christmas. His girlfriend’s family includes seven siblings and mom. The two years they stayed with us to celebrate Christmas were amazing. We are hosting them this Christmas this year.

One year ago, we moved out of state and out of our home of 28 years. I had to remind myself to TAKE TIME TO BREATHE — which I absolutely need to do today.

Infant and toddler Christmas photo
My children’s first Christmas picture together.

This is what I wrote three years ago today:

It’s that time of year and feeling festive, I agreed to go to more events than normal. But while I’m bouncing from event to event, I’m stressed thinking of all the work I have at home to do.

Last night I was downtown for the Palm Springs Walk of the Inns and the Palm Springs Woman’s Club. I baked a double batch of snickerdoodles for the bake sale for the PSWC. Today I’m off to a luncheon fashion show with a friend at Wally’s. But, I really have so much stuff to do around the house to get ready for Christmas.

I have to find a tree! I have to clean out my kids’ rooms for the guests (We invited my son’s girlfriend and her family to stay with us Christmas week.) I have to meal plan and grocery shop and yeah — shop for presents, too. So many to dos are filling my lists. It’s freaking me out a bit.

The entire tree thing seems too much. There’s a tree seller down the street and during an evening walk, my husband and I stopped by to look. I only want a little tree, nothing stupendous. Just a four-footer or so. I just about choked when I saw the price tag on the smallest tree on the lot — $225! I remember when I’d pick up a tree in front of the grocery store for $30. I’ve been against fake trees on principle all these years. But, I think those principles are now telling me that it’s a crime to buy a real tree and pay a small fortune just to have the garbage man haul it off in a couple weeks. It seems so wasteful to destroy a tree, too, for a few week’s pleasure.

Balachine Nutcracker bunny
My son in the Palm Springs Christmas Lights parade in the Nutcracker Sleigh next to the Sugar Plum Fairy (pink tutu). He was the Balanchine bunny on stage with our local ballet company.

One funny story about the Christmas tree lot near our house: I remember when my kids were young and one night we walked there to pick out a tree. My husband carried our toddler son on his shoulders. I was pushing the stroller with our infant daughter while holding on to our Rottie’s leash. We walked the few blocks to the tree lot and began walking in an out of the rows of trees. Something jumped out from under one of the trees — scaring me to death! It was Sherman our black cat! I guess he couldn’t stand being left out. I had to walk back to the house with baby and dog in tow, herding the cat home, too!

Toddler son and infant daughter's first Christmas photo

Now with my busy schedule on my mind, it’s my saving grace to take time for myself. I’m grounded with my morning routine of walking, praying and writing. I am forcing myself to swim at noon Masters a couple days a week. And then I find a moment to sit in the back yard, close my eyes, listen to the birds and breathe.

What’s your secret for staying calm through all the Holiday fun activities and things you have to do? Wow! I miss my pre C0VID days and a whole different idea of stress. I’d love to get back to the worry I had back then. What do you think if you look back to 2019 or 2018?

Out of sorts…

Desert Views in Maricopa County
View from Cave Creek Road.

Everything and everyone is irritating me today. I think it’s a mixture of one part grieving and two parts too many interruptions. I have had more than a week straight of guests, visits with friends, preparing meals for guests. I just want to get back to my normal, quiet life.

Yesterday was a day of constant interruptions. Have you ever had one of those days where the phone rings nonstop? And people in your house need your attention while you’re on the phone? That’s what yesterday was like for me. And I have this extra long list of things to do before tomorrow when our new friends come for the funeral. But I keep getting pulled away from my list, so I feel out of control. I’d like to sit outside and finish my book — or go back to bed and start the day over.

I’m trying to print something out for my husband, who just interrupted me. Paper jam. Go figure.

I have to be very careful today. I do not want to act irrationally or snap at my husband. Everybody is getting on my nerves. I can say it’s a good thing my dad returned home to Palm Springs yesterday. I think when my house is empty, when the funeral is over, I can exhale and decompress.

I think my aggro mood is rooted in the death of our best friend and not having the space, quiet and time to grieve.

Have you ever had an “out of sorts” sort of day? How do you handle it?

I did it!

My first attempt at NaNoWriMo and I finished a day early — Nov. 29th. Woohoo! It’s a good feeling to meet my goal. I almost gave up this week with all the raw emotions running through our home because we lost a close friend.

I channeled that emotion and it powered me through the final words of my 50,000-word novel. It felt good to lock myself in an empty room and write.

The secret to NaNoWriMo is to not critique or edit, but just write. I know my plot needs work and perhaps a complete overhaul. There are few good bits to my novel including the characters and the settings. I’m planning on facing the editing process in 2022 after taking a break and getting distance from my work.

How do you feel when you reach your goals? What makes you give up when you decide not to follow through?

 Unexpectedly.

cloudy morning sky
Cloudy morning sky.

We picked up my dad at the airport on Wednesday. Thursday I cooked all day and we had friends over for Thanksgiving dinner who moved from our old home town to one mile from us. It was a fun evening of friendship and family.

Then the text came in at 2 a.m.

We’ve been worried about our friend Mark. He lives down the road from us and got a cold that turned into pneumonia earlier this month. He couldn’t breathe and was coughing so hard that he went to the hospital two weeks ago. This past week the doctor put him on a ventilator and induced a coma. He tested negative for COVID.

Everyday we waited for news from his son who came down from Seattle. Every day the news wasn’t good.

Mark left us Thanksgiving night at 2 a.m.

My husband said, “What do we do now?”

He talked to Mark every single day until Mark was on the ventilator. I don’t think we’d be living in Arizona if it hadn’t been for Mark. We visited him in Arizona after he moved here from Seattle several years ago. Mark introduced me to my husband 37 years ago. Mark introduced us to our realtor and he went house hunting with us on the day we found our new home. He introduced us to other friends who are moving to Arizona from Seattle. They will stay with us for Mark’s service this week.

The last time we saw Mark was a few weeks ago before he was in the hospital. He seemed healthy. We invited him over for dinner and ping pong. I cooked one of the best meals of my life.

Now he’s gone. I feel raw and fragile. We pushed through the weekend, trying to carry on. We had to entertain my dad. Saturday we went to the ASU UA football game with a group of friends from my kids’ Palm Springs swim team — their former teammates and parents. It was a good distraction for a bit.

But now what?

I can’t express how much we miss Mark. How hard it is when someone dies unexpectedly who is one of your close friends. It’s surreal how they’re a big part of your life one day and then leave a gaping hole when they’re gone.

Thanksgiving gratitude for family and friends

Santa Barbara sunset
Sunset on Thanksgiving Eve in Santa Barbara several years ago.

I wrote this post about my Thanksgiving several years ago without our kids. Unfortunately, we hardly ever see the children on Thanksgiving anymore. But we do have plans to be together for a week over Christmas. Here’s what I wrote on my first kidless Thanksgiving:

Our first Thanksgiving without our kids. I’m thankful they are with dear friends and their families since they weren’t able to make the trek home this year. Instead of moping around the house feeling sorry about my empty nest, we’re celebrating with our close friends. It was 30 years to the day that I first met them (my husband met the husband through work) and we spent Thanksgiving weekend sailing with them in Santa Barbara.

Here’s to friends and family and creating memories together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Waffles the Ute Pug says Happy Thanksgiving!
My daughter’s team sent out a Thanksgiving message with her pup. The sports marketing team adored him.

Who are you sharing your Thanksgiving with? What traditions do you share with friends and family?

Views from last week

Sunset in Arizona desert
Sunset from our driveway last week.

I am going to have a busy week writing and hosting my dad and friends for Thanksgiving. I get anxious thinking about it. I’m in the thick of getting the house ready. This will be the first time my dad will see our new home and stay with us. Tonight we have friends from our Palm Springs swim team coming over. We agreed to go out for a casual dinner, since I have the big feast ahead of me. I’m excited to see them, because it’s been years since we were swim parents volunteering together. We’re going to the ASU vs. UA football game together on Saturday, too.

For Thanksgiving, I am cooking the whole works for me, my husband and dad. That’s seem a bit much doesn’t it? I called our friends who moved from Palm Springs to one mile away and asked if they had plans. I’m excited to say our ex-pat Californians will be joining us.

Here are some of the highlights from last week, when I thought I was busy — but compared to this week, not really.

Sundial Center in Carefree with a Christmas tree
I spotted a Christmas tree across from the post office on Easy Street in Carefree. I love the name.
Christmas tree in Carefree city center.
cat sitting on fireplace hearth
Olive found a new place to hang out. My daughter absolutely hates the stacked stone fireplace in our new house. I can live with it and Olive seems to like it.
Sonoran desert sunset
Another night, another sunset

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Are you getting together with friends and family this year? Are you cooking?

I honestly can’t remember what we did last year because we were in escrow to sell one house and buy another and I was packing for my first move in 28 years.

FYI, today I hit this milestone:

NaNoWriMo update. Badge for 40,000 words!

Tweeting to the choir

Of all the social media platforms, I spend more time on Twitter than others. I rarely use Facebook. I use Instagram occasionally. But I look at Twitter every day. It’s my way of keeping up with current events. By seeing what’s “trending,” I learn about earthquakes, elections and breaking news. I also look up how my sports teams are doing and can find out almost instantly if they are winning.

I follow a few writers and other people I like on Twitter. I never comment or get involved in the many Twitter feed fights. My WordPress shares my blog posts automatically to Twitter and I get a few readers that way. When I wrote for SwimSwam weekly, I’d retweet my stories they tweeted as well as other ones that caught my interest — like my daughter’s college swim team results.

In a short snippet from Investor Business Daily (IBD) on their To The Point page, under the Trends column I read:

Tweeting to the Converted

Most Americans do not use Twitter, and of those who do, a minority of active users produce nearly all the tweets, a new study finds. A quarter of U.S. adults use Twitter, and among users, the most active 25% produced 97% of all tweets, a study from Pew Research Center finds, confirming similar findings in 2019. Among highly active users, most tweets are either retweets (49% of the total) or replies (33%), with original tweets just 14% of all posts…

IBD A2 To The Point, Week of November 22, 2021

I would have added a link, but this newspaper is one of our old-fashioned paper types that lands on our driveway.

My takeaway from the article above is that people who take Twitter as a pulse of the nation shouldn’t. It’s a tiny slice of the pie and most likely doesn’t reflect anything more than the opinion of a very vocal few.

What is your favorite social media platform? Do you use Twitter to follow news, sports or current events or are you hands off?

Tweet of Oct. 21 Elizabeth Wickham blog post. What's healthy and tastes good.
For my plant-based friends, this post offered a tasty recipe. This is what my tweets from my blog look like.