We have a visitor plus more desert blooms

skinny bobcat in Arizona yard
This is our bobcat who hangs out in our yard in broad daylight.

This is the first picture I’ve gotten of our bobcat. When we had a home inspection done, the inspector went on the roof and said he found bones. The previous owners said, “That would be from the bobcat. He likes to sit on the patio roof over the pool.”

I’ve been a little nervous and have had a few fleeting sights of the bobcat slinking along the wall right outside our windows. My husband spotted him (her?) a few days ago and I watched from the casita as she sat and looked back at me. Our windows have a reflective coating, so I don’t think she really saw me. I’m calling her a she now because we’ve read that the males are much bigger and heavier than the females. This creature is about two feet tall and SKINNY!

Here are a few more of the interesting sights I saw over the weekend:

Saguaro cactus blooms
Saguaro beginning to bloom. I never knew that had blossoms.
Desert Ironwood in bloom
Desert Ironwood with lavender flowers. Another thing I’ve never seen before.
yucca in bloom
Yucca in full flower against a brilliant blue sky.
This is in our backyard. One day it was a foot tall, next it’s soaring to the sky and blooming. From Wikipedia: Plant in bloom: the flower stalk may reach up to 8 m (26 ft) in height Agave americana, common names sentry plantcentury plant, maguey or American aloe, is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae, native to Mexico and the United States in Texas. Today, it is cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant.

Here’s the bobcat walking away. She fits through our fence.

It’s a Carefree Kind of Day

Carefree Arizona fountain
A fountain in Carefree’s city center.

Today I went to the Farmer’s Market at the city center of Carefree, Ariz. Don’t you love that name? I do! The town is tiny and is literally a stone’s throw from our new home. I was surprised walking around the small market. Nobody was wearing masks! I didn’t see a single one anywhere. Not by the vendors, not by the shoppers. Two weeks ago I went to the Farmer’s Market and everyone was wearing masks.

I felt free. I could breathe. I was happy as I said hello to strangers and smiled and got smiles in return. Definitely a Carefree feeling.

Colorful art at Carefree Farmer's Market.
Colorful art at the Carefree Farmer’s Market.

Then I stopped at the grocery store to get a few things. I wore my mask inside because that’s been the rule. I asked the checker, who was wearing a mask, if masks were required in the store. I had noticed other shoppers weren’t wearing them. She said, “The signs came down a month ago. We’re required to wear them, but not you.”

I took off my mask and said, “Wonderful!”

She said, “Enjoy your oxygen! I’m jealous!”

The work of sculptor Arthur Norby, Stampede depicts a horse with a cowboy apparently trying to head off a herd of cattle. It was originally designed for Javelina Crossing in Indianapolis. It was installed in Carefree in March, 2008. It is bronze, listed as unique and 10 feet tall.l

What are the rules for wearing masks where you live? How does it make you feel?

Sticks and stones, rubber and glue…

wild roses in Washington
Wild fragrant roses on my morning hikes in Washington.

Does anyone have a person in their life that when their name pops up on your phone, you want to run? I do. And the name popped up yesterday. I was feeling so good after my vacation and visit with mom, only to fall down the distress hole after interacting with “that” person.

I got very upset. I let it take over my moments of joy and relaxation. It bled into today. And I need to stop letting this person take over my emotions.

This person almost always causes me stress. As much as I want to have a better relationship, it never seems to happen. I think it’s a control issue. This person likes to micromanage and have control and tell me what I should do. I naturally bristle at that. I looked up an article of how to deal with stressors in my life and this is what I discovered from “The Main Causes of Stress” by Elizabeth Scott, M.S. on a website called verywellmind

Personal Relationships:

There are people in all of our lives that cause us stress. It could be a family member, an intimate partner, friend, or co-worker. Toxic people lurk in all parts of our lives and the stress we experience from these relationships can affect physical and mental health.

There are numerous causes of stress in romantic relationships and when couples are constantly under pressure, the relationship could be on the risk of failure. 

Common relationship stressors include:5

  • Being too busy to spend time with each other and share responsibilities
  • Intimacy and sex are become rare due to busyness, health problems, and any number of other reasons
  • There is abuse or control in the relationship 
  • You and your partner are not communicating
  • You and/or partner are consuming too much alcohol and/or using drugs
  • You or your partner are thinking about divorce

The signs of stress related to personal relationships are similar to normal symptoms of general stress and may include physical health and sleep problems, depression, and anxiety.

You may also find yourself avoiding or having conflict with the individual, or becoming easily irritated by their presence.

Sometimes, personal relationship stress can also be related to our relationships with people on social media platforms, such as Facebook.6 For example, social media tends to naturally encourage comparing yourself to others, which can lead to the stress of feeling inadequate. It also makes bullying easier.

This stressful relationship I have is with a relative, but not my husband. So a lot of the bullet points above don’t apply. But I want to know how do I not let this person affect my psyche and mood? Do I stop communicating all together? Or, do I set boundaries? How do I let the words bounce of me? It reminds me of certain childhood rhymes:

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounce off me and sticks to you.”

Beautiful Olive the cat
Kitty Olive calms me down.

What suggestions do you have for me to avoid the feelings of conflict and stress interacting with this relative?

Reflections on my first trip since COVID

I was uneasy about traveling. My daughter got me a plane ticket for Seattle so I could celebrate Mother’s Day with my 89-year-old mom, who hasn’t been out of her assisted living facility for more than a year. In concept this was a lovely idea and I was so touched that my daughter would think of such a thing.

View from Lake Sammamish boat launch.
View from a park at Lake Sammamish in Washington.

In reality, I was anxious about going to the airport, being in a crowd, getting a rental car and driving on the freeway. You see, I have extreme anxiety driving on freeways and bridges — I avoid them at all costs. Seattle to the East Side is all freeways and bridges. I was dreading it. When I lived in Palm Springs, I didn’t have to drive the freeway at all. I think I got out of practice. I saw a therapist and she told me to practice. She wanted me to get on the freeway and drive to the next exit one day, go a couple more the next. I did the one exit with sweaty palms and sweat pouring down my back. My legs were shaking and I could barely manage the accelerator or brake. That was it for me. There’s been no reason to drive the freeways since.

Back to Seattle, I asked my college best friend to pick me up at the airport and I’d get a rental car closer to my mom’s home. She agreed, because that’s the kind of friend she is. But, I soon found out that I had rented a nonrefundable car at Seatac, the airport. So, I faced my fears and strangely enough, I drove without a hitch. This happens to me whenever I get back home to where I grew up. It’s as though a different part of my brain wakes up and takes over. Also, the drivers in the Seattle area are an entirely different breed than California or Arizona drivers. You put on your turn signal and nobody steps on the gas to cut you off. In fact, they slow down and wave you over!

Ivar's Seafood Bar for Mother's Day chowder and crab cocktails.
Mom at our Mother’s Day Lunch at Ivar’s. We had Dungeness crab cocktails and clam chowder. It was delicious and we went there because all the fancier places were booked.

The other thing that was a show stopper on my trip was my mom! It’s as though she’s getting younger, more fit, and more alert. This COVID year seems to have the reverse effect on her than the general population. I was sitting in her room on my first visit and the activity director knocked on the door and asked if we wanted to join the croquet game. She said, “YES!” This is totally contrary to her usual behavior. Normally, I have to beg her to get out of her recliner and out of her room. I was quite shocked. We are big croquet players in our family, and my mom brags that she is practically a professional. She made her way with her walker outdoors to the croquet court and she played the entire game. I had to help her to each shot, where she slowly got her feet in the right position. She was so engaged and excited to play.

Me and Mom selfie
Mom enjoyed taking a selfie with me.

Each day, I took Mom out. We went for beautiful drives along Lake Sammamish, out to eat and my Aunt Linda joined us after her drive up from Portland, Ore. Here are some of the photos of our highlights of food and scenery:

Lake Sammamish hike
My dear friend told me about a trail that followed Lake Sammamish from my hotel.
Bald eagle in tree along Lake Sammamish
I saw a bald eagle in the trees along one of my walks. It’s kind of fuzzy because I zoomed in.
Flying port a potty
Puts new meaning into the word “Porta-potty.”
Dungeness Towers at the Coho Cafe
My Mom and I had Dungeness Crab Towers for Lunch at the Coho Cafe. My Aunt had fish and chips.
steamed clams with bacon and peppers
I picked up clams at Pike Place Market. My best friend’s husband prepared them with garlic, onions, bell peppers and smoky bacon. He also made crusty garlic bread to dip in the clam nectar.
Mt. Rainier view from plane
Mt. Rainier as I flew out of Seattle. It was a spectacular day driving to the airport with views of the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Rainier.
Farewell Seattle. Good-bye Mom, Aunt Linda and Cindy and Mike. I hope to see you all again soon. It was truly a magical trip.

Sights from Pike Place Market

First thing this morning I rushed to see my mom. I called her last night to remind her I was here. The parking lot of her retirement community was cordoned off with yellow tape to force everyone to drive to the front entrance. I parked and got soaked in the pouring rain to get my temperature check for my one-hour appointment. Then I was instructed on how to drive around the complex to get to my mom’s assisted living building. They had installed barriers so nobody can access the community without first checking in at the main entrance.

View of rhododendrons out my mom’s window.

Mom was so excited to see me, but didn’t understand the one-hour rule. I told her it’s because they only allow two visitors in at once, and they want to make sure everyone has a turn. I explained that I’d be coming back each day to spend the hour with her and we could leave and go for a drive to anywhere she wants to go. Today was pouring down rain and cold. She wasn’t interested in going outside. She didn’t sound enthusiastic about the idea for tomorrow, either, but we’ll see. She looked good and it felt wonderful to be with her in person after missing her since before COVID. We were all worried about her because her home is located a few miles from the one in Kirkland, Wash. that had all the deaths early on. They had an outbreak in Mom’s home, too, but she stayed healthy through the entire year.

It’s very strange to have only one hour with her, but I’m here for several days.

Puget Sound view from the market
View of the Puget Sound from Pike Place Market when the rain stopped.

Pike Place Market is one of my favorite places to visit in Seattle. I’m thankful for the chance to go today. And for my friendship with my dear friend I met in college. It’s a treasure to have a friend you can trust, count on and share your deepest secrets. We may not talk to each other for a year or see each other for several, but once together, it’s like we’re still in our 20s and no time has passed at all.

Here are a few photos from Pike Place Market today — a day of rain, sunshine, hail and friendship:

selfies with masks
We decided to do a COVID selfie to remember this year.

La Panier Bakery, Pike Place Market
La Panier Bakery, now in its 38th year.

More photos:

Public Market sign at PIke Place
Red Snapper surrounded by salmon
Dungeness crabs at Pike Place
I have a painting of my favorite food that from 35 years ago of this fishmonger’s unique display of Dungeness crabs. My friend gave it to me when I left Seattle for Palm Springs.
Flowers at Pike Place Market

Back in the thick of things

Mother and me in the 1990s.
Mom and me in the early 90s.

For Mother’s Day I’m visiting Mom. My daughter gave me the plane ticket as a Mother’s Day present. She remembered I said I wanted to visit my mom after this COVID thing allowed me to. My mom is in assisted living in a Seattle suburb. Since they only allow two people in assisted living at once, I had to make reservations each day visit Mom.

My daughter called me yesterday and asked for my schedule of visits. I asked her why? She said, “I know your mom is gong to be sad when you leave, so I’m going to call her when your visit is up.”

I got choked up. How thoughtful is that of a 25-year-old to think about her 89-year-old grandma in such a caring way.’

Today, my husband drove me to the airport. I was overwhelmed with the traffic there. Then the serpentine lines through security and marching orders being barked. It was almost overwhelming to me after a year of quiet solitude. My nerves calmed, I found my gate, and here I sit catching up on my blogging. I feel like things are back to normal, except for wearing a mask for hours on end.

I’m truly back in the thick of things.

mother and daughter at Pike Place Market Seattle
My daughter and me on our last trip to Seattle to visit my mom in 2019 pre COVID.

Have you traveled or done something “normal” at last? How did you feel?

Are we all equally gifted in math?

There’s a Facebook group I joined prior to our move called “Leaving California.” I think they have more than 50,000 members. I found the group helpful to learn from other people, what movers they hired, where they were moving to and why. Today I clicked on it out of habit and found an article called “In the Name of Equity, California Will Discourage Students Who Are Gifted at Math” by Robby Soave. The sub head states: “The new framework aims to keep everyone learning at the same level for as long as possible.” It’s from the website Reason, which until this morning I’ve never seen.

college graduate with pug wearing mortar boards
My daughter and Waffles at her college graduation.

Here’s an excerpt:

“California’s Department of Education is working on a new framework for K-12 mathematics that discourages gifted students from enrolling in accelerated classes that study advanced concepts like calculus.

“The draft of the framework is hundreds of pages long and covers a wide range of topics. But its overriding concern is inequity. The department is worried that too many students are sorted into different math tracks based on their natural abilities, which leads some to take calculus by their senior year of high school while others don’t make it past basic algebra. The department’s solution is to prohibit any sorting until high school, keeping gifted kids in the same classrooms as their less mathematically inclined peers until at least grade nine.

“The inequity of mathematics tracking in California can be undone through a coordinated approach in grades 6–12,” reads a January 2021 draft of the framework. “In summary, middle-school students are best served in heterogeneous classes.”

I understand that putting kids on certain tracks may have unintended consequences like getting stuck with fewer opportunities to learn. I do know that kids develop individually at different rates and sometimes someone may be slow in one subject only to have it click later on. However, I really disagree with this following paragraph:

“All students deserve powerful mathematics; we reject ideas of natural gifts and talents,” reads a bulletpoint in chapter one of the framework. “The belief that ‘I treat everyone the same’ is insufficient: Active efforts in mathematics teaching are required in order to counter the cultural forces that have led to and continue to perpetuate current inequities.”

My issue is the rejection of natural gifts and talents. As someone who wasn’t a whiz kid at math, I recognized kids with more talent. My son and daughter for example are both better at math and took more advanced classes than I did. I wasn’t horrible but I struggled in Physics and Trig.

The author of the article agrees with me and suggests more choice of more subjects as an answer:

“This approach is very bad. Contrary to what this guidance seems to suggest, math is not the end-all and be-all—and it’s certainly not something that all kids are equally capable of learning and enjoying. Some young people clearly excel at math, even at very early ages. Many schools offer advanced mathematics to a select group of students well before the high school level so that they can take calculus by their junior or senior year. It’s done this way for a reason: The students who like math (usually a minority) should have the opportunity to move on as rapidly as possible.”

For everyone else… well, advanced math just isn’t that important. It would be preferable for schools to offer students more choices, and offer them as early as possible. Teens who are eager readers should be able to study literature instead of math; young people who aren’t particularly adept at any academic discipline might pick up art, music, computers, or even trade skills. (Coding doesn’t need to be mandatory, but it could be an option.)

If equity in Math is the new standard of our public schools, I have some questions.

Do we recognize natural talent in athletics? Or does everyone get to make the varsity team?

Do you think students who are gifted in a subject should be held to the level of the entire class?

Should there be gifted classes? Should kids skip grades? What will be the end result of keeping everyone the same?

Does everyone need calculus and advanced math classes to be successful? Why or why not?