What changes your outlook?

Sonoran desert view in Arizona.
View from my backyard.

I can’t tell you why, but the past few days I feel better. I didn’t feel bad before, but my attitude has improved. I wake up with more energy and passion for the day.

What have I done to change my outlook?

First, I restarted the “Three Blessings” exercise. In the evening I write down three things that I’m grateful for that happened in my day. And why. According to Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, he’s used this exercise at U Penn on his students and patients and found it to be as effective as anti-depressants.

So, it could be that.

Or, another change I’ve made this week is getting more exercise. I take my morning walk of about 45 minutes. When my walk is over, I either jump in the backyard pool and swim or I hop on my bike for a 20 minutes bike ride. I mix it up according to what I want to do. Yesterday after swimming laps, I treated myself to climbing on the float from Costco feeling the breeze on my wet skin and staring at the sky. It was heavenly.

Today, I biked and enjoyed the breeze and felt good about how much better I did climbing the hill to our house. Yes, I could feel my heart rate rise, but it wasn’t a struggle like it was earlier in the week. Also, I managed to stand up for a few pedals, which I couldn’t do last week. Those are tiny things, but the improvement felt monumental. On the bike, which I haven’t ridden in years, I feel like a kid. I’m not listening to headphones, I’m listening to nature. I get a bit smile as I coast down a hill, trying not to squeeze the brakes, but let myself fly.

Maybe it’s the hard labor I’ve been doing to fix up our rental house before the new tenants come in. Or, the good book I’m reading.

Whatever the reason is, which is most likely a combination of all the above, I like the way I’m feeling today.

woodpecker on a saguaro
I saw this woodpecker on a saguaro as I left my front door.

What improves your attitude? Have you noticed changes in how you’re feeling lately?

Hard work never hurt anyone?

pug in mortar board with college grad
My daughter and Waffles during college graduation.

A few years ago my daughter graduated from college and was recruited by a Scottsdale, Ariz. firm. We told her we’d love to go apartment hunting with her. My husband was impressed with the area and wanted to move to Arizona someday (spoiler alert: we did during COVID). What we discovered with our daughter was very expensive housing for renters. And relatively cheap homes to purchase — especially compared to California. A mortgage payment was close to $1,000 less per month than a rental payment. Plus it made sense as an investment.

So, we decided to buy a small house. It didn’t take long for my daughter to realize she was in the wrong career and really didn’t like her job. She applied for several jobs and had a couple offers. This was all pre-COVID lockdowns when there were more jobs than people applying. She took a job in the Bay Area where she’d be living a few miles from our son, her big brother.

pug on a sofa
Waffles inside the house where my daughter lived.

After our daughter left, we decided to hang onto the house and rent it out. This weekend the current tenants moved out. We have new ones coming in a few weeks. We were shocked at how the house looked today, compared to when my daughter took such good care of it. Two of the rooms have so many holes in the walls it looked like someone was playing with a machine gun. Seriously? Who puts 50 holes in a wall? I guess three college students do and did. The yard needs a lot of work, too.

We decided we didn’t have any plans this Fourth of July weekend, so we’d be DIYers. We started by patching holes and prepping two rooms for fresh paint. After working on the house from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. yesterday, I’m feeling muscles I didn’t know I had. I can barely walk, bend over or sit in a chair. I was reminded of the saying “Hard work never hurt anyone.”

These are the holes I patched in one bedroom. Next comes primer and paint. I already finished taping the floorboards, closet doors. It’s going to be a light, light, grayish blue when done.

I am hurting. Big time. I’m also very tired. Despite us getting cranky with each other (to put it mildly!) and sore muscles — I think in the long run this is good for us. We aren’t used to doing hard physical labor. At least not since chasing around little kids, working all weekend on my feet at a swim meet, or working in the yard at our old house.

I think the toughest part for me was the painters tape. I taped up the floor boards, doorways and windows. Bending over or sitting on the floor trying to get the tedious work done was an adventure in itself. With my post surgery knee that has never been the same, just sitting on the floor in a semi comfortable position is work.

Here’s to getting the house and yard back into shape and having tenants who take better care of it.

Before picture of the back yard.
The lawn today.

What do you think about DIY projects? Do you enjoy them or would you prefer hiring someone? What projects have you done?

About well-meaning friends….

black and white photo of four high school girls in 1978
Me on the left my senior year of high school when I was fearless.

What to think when well-meaning friends tell you something you don’t want to hear, but they think they’re doing it for the best reasons.

This happened to me earlier this week. I was hurt. I cried. I called my daughter and she said my well-meaning friend was coming from a place of kindness. Her intentions were good.

Does that make it okay?

I’ve been mulling this over in my head all week. It’s made me feel angry, insecure, unsure about myself. Unsure about my friendship. It’s made me doubt myself.

I spent time with this friend for the first time of any length in about 15 years. Apparently she saw something in my demeanor or how I carried myself that caused her concern. She didn’t tell me in person, but texted me a day later. She told me to make an appointment with a neurologist. And she didn’t give me a clear idea why, just asked me to do it. I would have appreciated her diagnoses or a precise description of what she saw.

Of course, I’ve changed in the last 15 years. A couple years ago I had a ski accident. My knee has never been the same and although I walk, swim and cycle — I do so tentatively, with pain and instability. Menopause has left me fearful and with bouts of anxiety. Unlike I was prior to the days my friend and I hung out. This past COVID year has knocked the stuffing out of me, too. Am I rationalizing? Am I defending myself for not being the person I was years ago? Yes. I wonder how awful I must have looked or weird or who knows??? I think I just want to hide and cry some more.

Both my kids say her intentions come from concern and just go to the doctor and find out.

view from hike at Lake Pleasant AZ
Hiking in my new state of Arizona at Lake Pleasant.

What are your thoughts of well-meaning friends telling you what you don’t want to hear?

A scare during a weekend in paradise

View of Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe from a baot
Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe.

This past weekend I went to Lake Tahoe, Nevada for the first time. We have friends who lived near us in Palm Springs who also have a house in Tahoe. They sold their California home like we did this past year and we discovered our new Arizona homes are less than a mile from each other. We got together as new neighbors before they headed for the cool Lake Tahoe weather — and they insisted we come visit them.

Lake Tahoe view
View from our friend’s kitchen.

We finally did it! I was a little apprehensive because although we’ve been friends for years, we don’t have a “stay with them in their home” type of friendship. I’m close with the wife through our school parenting days, but our husbands have only met during formal school related events.

Anyway, it turned out to be a memorable, fun, amazing gorgeous weekend of hiking, boating, eating, touring and building on our friendship. I can’t get over what a perfect weekend it was.

Until I got the phone call.

The unknown number came in while we were on their gorgeous speed boat. The day so far had included a morning hike, mooring the boat for lunch — in front of their private country club’s lake house — a $10 million house that had been renovated as a restaurant and place to hang out on the lake. Access to it is through their golf membership — although it’s miles from the golf course. Next, we toured Emerald Bay and then anchored at Rubicon Bay, which had turquoise blue water, warm enough for a quick dip. I’m not sure where the next stop was going to be.

Turquoise water of Rubicon Bay Lake Tahoe
Rubicon Bay where we went swimming.

We pulled up anchor and were racing through the water to our next destination when I answered the call. It was hard to hear over the roar of the boat’s engines, I was breaking up to the person on the other end. I finally heard that my dad had pushed the button on the device I insisted he wear around his neck. They said they called him and he wasn’t answering. Then the phone went dead. After three attempts, I got the rest of the story. Dispatch was on their way to my dad’s house.

wake from a speed boat on Lake Tahoe

I tried calling my dad. The phone was answered but it was pure static and garbled. I tried again. No answer.

My friends told me to wait to call until they got me to a place with more bars for cell reception.

I was shaking. I felt so helpless. What could I do for my dad while racing around in an exotic boat on Lake Tahoe? How quickly could I get a flight to Palm Springs? Why had I moved away from him? Maybe my brother was right after all. My brother has been insisting that I move dad to Arizona to be closer to me. Dad is turning 90 next year and my brother said that he can’t live alone because of his age. That’s when I insisted my dad get the “help I’ve fallen button” to wear around his neck. I also hired a friend to stop by and see if he wants her to run to the store or do anything for him.

Up until that moment, I disagreed with my brother. My dad lives in a senior community near Palm Springs. He golfs three times a week, has friends (who are currently out of town), takes ukulele lessons, drives his golf cart around, and he started a new hobby of remote controlled yacht racing last year. He’s happy. He’s active. He’s engaged.

If I were to move him to Arizona, what would he do? Sit in my casita and watch TV? Or alone in an apartment with no friends? Wait for me to play golf with him at the surrounding super expensive golf courses — instead of his current situation of getting out to play a few holes at affordable rates whenever he wants? I honestly think he’s happier in his own environment. And I believe he can make a decision about where he lives. At least that’s what I thought until I got the call.

Lake Tahoe Lake House for lunch.
View from the country club’s lake house where we had lunch.

Back to the boat….I called my dad when we were in an area where I got better reception. Dad answered. He said it was a false call. He had been working on the misting cooling system on his golf cart and accidentally pressed the button leaning on something. He also said he called the company to tell them it was a false alarm, but they put him on hold! He said dispatch had come and was ready to haul him to the hospital, but they figured out he was fine.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was. And I don’t think it’s time to take him out of his own home and active lifestyle. Not yet.

What are your thoughts about leaving aging parents in their own homes versus moving them to live closer or with you?

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.

I’m so old I’m growing barnacles!

barnacles1-1024x684
The ocean type of barnacles

I wrote this post March 2014. I began my blog a few months earlier. I was wondering after the strange year called 2020, what was I up to in March when I began blogging?

I went to a skin doctor to have some nasty looking moles on my face checked. I had them removed years ago, but they are back — looking meaner and uglier than ever.

The doctor told me that they are not moles.

“They sure look like moles,” I said.

“No, they are barnacles.” he said.

That floored me. “Barnacles?”

“Yes. Barnacles. The human kind.”

I texted my husband. He said, “That sounds nasty!”

“Thank you, honey. I love you, too!”

images-1

Need I say more? They are nasty and the nice doctor took out a tank of liquid nitrogen and spray painted my face. I think I will not go out in public again for a long, long time. The nasty mole thingies have transformed overnight into large stumps sticking out of my face.

Ugh! They are supposed to fall off now. Anytime, please. I’m waiting. And while I’m waiting I’ll write draft 11 of my mid-grade novel.

images

Human Barnacles are also known as Seborrheic Keratosis. They are a result of getting older. I just read on a website that they should fall off from freezing with liquid nitrogen in a few weeks. A few weeks???

The Good News: Seborrheic Keratosis is not cancerous or dangerous in any way. I am thankful for that. I almost forgot to mention that the doctor gave me a long lecture about being in the sun, wearing sunscreen with at least a 50 spf and wearing long sleeves and pants. And that swimming is not a good sport for my daughter because she is so fair-skinned!

Fall of 2020 and I was done with barnacles that were thriving on my face. I went to a fellow swim parent who works for a local dermatologist. He didn’t lecture me on my tan or swimming. He also didn’t use liquid nitrogen but scraped them off. Instead we chatted about our kids who were swim teammates.

Can we agree to disagree?

“Every moment that you spend upset, despaired, anguished, angry or hurt because or the behavior of anybody else in your life is a moment when you’ve given up control of your life.”

That would be me today. I blew up at my dad. I lost control. It’s a moment I lost of my life.

My dad and I disagree about politics and I let him get under my skin. I called to tell him that my husband is getting his vaccine today. The conversation swiftly turned to politics because previously I had shared an article my son sent me. I thought the article was common sense and not that political.

A better memory of spending time with my dad.

My dad is 89 years old and we’ve argued over politics for decades. I try to stay away from it. But he loves to bring it up. I shouldn’t let him get me started. It’s when he calls an entire political party racist that I get aggravated. To me that is bigoted behavior. There are all sorts of people with differing views and opinions on all sides of every issue. I tend to see us as individuals and don’t believe in blanket statements about anyone.

The quote above was from a webinar I’m listening to called “Teaching Kids to Manage Their Thoughts.” It’s by David Benzel who is a sports parenting coach and has a nonprofit Growing Champions for Life.

The webinar had some enlightening facts and tips. Did you know that we have an average of 60,000 thoughts a day? Benzel also said that “In the absence of a positive thought, we’l focus on something negative.”

The big takeaway is to become an observer of our thoughts and not be controlled by them. If you have a negative thought, take a look at it. Question where it came from. Ask “does this thought bring me peace or inspire me? Does this thought cause me or others harm? Does this thought contribute to me being my best self?”

If not, tell your brain thanks for sharing, but no thanks!

Benzel says when you become aware of negative thoughts, they lose their power over you.

Wayne Dyer is quoted as saying “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

Not sure how all this helps me with my angry conversation with my dad. But, I can stop my negative thoughts right now and not entirely ruin my day. I don’t think I’m upset with his behavior, as much as with my own.

I think we are so divided nationally. Name calling and labeling people makes things so much worse.

Any thoughts about talking politics with people you disagree with? Is it even possible in today’s divided atmosphere?