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!

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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!”

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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.

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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?

I think we overdid it…

Standing next to saguaro with many arms
Standing next to a saguaro. They grow their first arms at around 100 years old.

My bones ache. My muscles are tired. I don’t know why it’s so hard to recover. Maybe we overdid it and got carried away. Every weekend we go for a hike. When we started out with life in Arizona, we explored new areas to hike, but no more than two or three miles a day.

A week ago Friday, we had a visit from my sorority big sister and her husband. Wonderful surprise to see them after many years — and to learn that they are buying a home a few miles away! We went for a five-mile hike with them on the nature’s preserve across the street. It was a gorgeous afternoon and so much fun to catch up on the past 10 years or so of our lives.

Then as we walked them out in the dusk to their car, we were showing them our yard — I tripped over a cactus and flew onto our brick walkway landing on both knees and hands. Hard! I was stunned and didn’t bounce back to my feet. My husband had to help me up and I felt like a fool. Our friends were worried about me and I assured them I was fine.

Ever since my knee surgery, I have to think about how to get up. It’s like I’ve fallen on a steep ski slope and I have to make sure I’m positioned perpendicular to the slope with my skis below me before I can push myself up. My physical therapist had to teach me how to get up after surgery and had me practice it. I have to put my knees below my butt, sitting on my side before I push myself up — just like getting up on the slopes. That’s why I was not bouncing up after tripping over the cactus. It’s a mental thing but also my knees and hands hurt.

Trail signs on the McDowell Sonaran preserve
The trails have great signs so it’s nearly impossible to get lost.

Fast forward to yesterday and I felt no pain in my knees and only my right hand still hurts, so we went for another hike. We brought a trail map with us and found a loop across the street from our house. It was on the hot side, but there was a nice breeze. I didn’t slip or fall and made it through the six miles of undulating trails through the Sonoran Desert without a hitch.

When we got home I felt tired. So did my husband. We took a cold water plunge and went waist high into our freezing cold pool to get our legs back under us. Then I luxuriated on a zero gravity lounge reading a novel for an hour. What a gorgeous, perfect Sunday.

The cold water plunge reminded me of my daughter during swim meets when she had prelims and finals with a few hour break between sessions. She’d fill the hotel tub with ice and water and soak in the freezing cold ice bath to recover.

Today I woke up and tried to stand up. Yikes. I’m sore and tired. Moving kind of slow for a Monday.

Backyard pool in Arizona
I took a plunge into this freezing pool to recover from our hike.

Do you find it harder to recover as you get older? Or, is everything still as easy as ever. Do you have any tips that make it easier?

What I wish I had stuck with during the COVID shut down

In 11 days we’ll mark the anniversary of California’s order to shelter in place. Looking back to March 2020, we welcomed our daughter back into the nest for a few months. The city pool closed. Playgrounds were wrapped in yellow police tape. The drinking fountains were turned off in the park. We could walk, hike or ride bikes. Then we bought a swimming bungee cord and swam in place in our pool.

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My daughter using the bungee in our backyard.

One of my dear friends — from volunteering at our kids’ schools, being swim moms and eventually joining the swim team as swimmers — came over to try the bungee. I sat 20 yards away from her as she swam in place. Then she told me about Chloe Ting. Who is Chloe Ting? If you haven’t heard of her, she an Australian YouTuber who has free fitness videos among other things. She’s pretty, enthusiastic, energetic and anyone can do her workouts since she offers different levels for every ability. Even an old woman like myself can do them.

I started with the 2 Weeks Shred Start program. I moved on and added abs. I remember doing this in our guest room which had a smart TV. We went on airbnb vacations to Park City, Utah and Santa Barbara and I kept up with the Chloe Ting exercises to add to my daily walks.

Then I stopped. I don’t remember when. I don’t remember why. But just think how good I’d feel if I’d kept going.

It’s time to start a new relationship with Chloe Ting. It’s a little late for a New Year’s Resolution, but since I turned a year older this week, I guess it’s a birthday gift to myself.

masked up
Me in my COVID-19 couture.

What was your favorite way to exercise during the year of sheltering in place?

The look in her eyes when I said good-bye

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Downtown Seattle on a sunny day.

Little did I know that that would be the last time I’d see Mom before the COVID lockdown. My daughter and I were visiting my mom in her assisted living home on a trip to Seattle in March two years ago today. Mom and I share March birthdays and I try to make it a point to be with her. But last year in March they had COVID breakouts in a facility a few miles from her and then it spread to her assisted living home.

The good news is she never got it. She’s healthy and got both her shots. But I miss her. I’m hoping someday this year I’ll get to spend time with her in person.

Here’s what I wrote about my trip to visit mom in March 2019:

I will never forget the look in my mom’s eyes when I said goodbye. After lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant, we sat around a table in the lobby playing a card game our family played when I was a child, Demon.

It was fun and we all laughed as we got more and more competitive. They teamed up against me, as they tried to defeat me–but didn’t of course. My daughter slowed down her speed to make the game more fun for us old folks, because seriously she could beat us handily at anything involving speed and reaction time.

After that, we walked mom back to her room, got her settled in and said good-bye. My mom stared at me, sitting in her comfy chair, like her heart was breaking. Her big hazel eyes filled with water and I fought my own tears. I felt like I was deserting her.

My daughter asked if she wanted the TV on, and she said, “No, I’m fine.” As we closed the door, I peaked in and saw my mom sitting on her chair with her head dropped, staring at nothing.

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My mom was surprised to learn I had a camera in my phone. She enjoyed the selfie.

The good news is I came the next day, and the next. Each day she looked happier and her spark returned. She has a witty sense of humor and kept me laughing. By the time I said my final good-bye, she looked so much better. I think she’s terribly lonely and I need to visit more often.

And to think I was going to visit her more often — and then no visits at all….

If you live away from your elderly family members, how do you feel when you say good-bye?

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Nothing better than a mother daughter trip.

Do Boomers spend too much time with adult kids?

Two years ago I made this trip to the Bay Area to be with my son and his girlfriend. It was a great trip. I miss not traveling to see them this past year. My daughter lived in Arizona then and we were thinking of relocating there. Now that we are here, she moved and lives a mile from her brother in Nor Cal!

Sutro Baths San Francisco

Sutro baths on the Pacific. photo by Robert Wickham

As a baby boomer who loves hanging out with my adult kids, I found this article in the Wall Street Journal called “Baby Boomers and the Art of Parenting Adult Kids” by Clare Ansberry to be right up my alley. “More involved with grown children than previous generations, many boomers struggle with letting them go” was the tag line to the story. Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Am I struggling to let my kids go? Or, do I simply like hanging out with them?

I had a trip to Nor Cal to hang out for a few days with my son and his girlfriend, and I treasured the trip. I don’t go up to San Francisco very often, mostly because it’s too far and it costs a lot. My son treated me to some great sightseeing including hiking up to Indian Rock to see the sunset, a trip to SF MOMA and the Sutro baths. We had some incredible meals including Belotti and a Chinese restaurant where I watched them roll out fresh noodles in the window called Shan Dong.

Sunset from Indian Rock Park

The view from Indian Rock Park. photo by Robert Wickham

On my trip, I visited a swim team in Roseville, California Capital Aquatics, and talked about things swim parents need to know so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. That was a blast, and having my son take time off work and drive me there, gave me a boost of confidence. He seemed to enjoy what I had to say and was encouraging.

The following weekend, we were off to Arizona to spend the weekend with our daughter. We are exploring where we want to “downsize” to, which I wrote about yesterday. Presently, Arizona is at the top of our list. Plus, my daughter is there. Enough about me and my time hanging out with my kids. Here are some excerpts from the article about baby boomers and their adult kids:

Linda Hoskins would like to believe her adult son considers her a friend.

She’s a baby boomer and boomers tend to think they’re cooler than their own parents were, she says.

“Therefore why wouldn’t our kids want to hang out with us all the time. We’re their friends, right?” the 69-year-old executive director of the American Pie Council asks half-jokingly.

Her son sees it a little differently. “She’s my mom,” says Rick, 44. While very close—seeing each other several times a week until she recently moved and texting in between—his mom isn’t on the same level as his friends, nor would he want her to be.

Baby boomers are far more immersed with their own grown children than their parents were with them, says Karen Fingerman, a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin. She found that parents in the early 2000s offered about twice as much counsel and practical support (which could be anything from babysitting grandkids, running their grown kids’ errands or reviewing their résumés) as parents did in the 1980s. Such deep ties can make it hard to let kids go or accept that they will likely love their children more deeply than their kids can love them.

FAMILY MATTERS

Tips for boomer parents dealing with their adult kids

  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. If they want your opinion or need your help, they will ask.
  • Let your kids make mistakes. You did and learned from them.
  • Make a life of your own, so your children don’t feel guilty as they move on with their own life.
  • Manage your own expectations. The fewer expectations, the less likely you are going to be disappointed when they don’t call or visit as often as you would like.
  • Keep in touch in ways that are meaningful to them, whether that’s texting, FaceTime, or phone calls.
  • Set limits. If you can’t or don’t want to babysit all the time, let them know.

Boomers are also the first group of parents in the psychological era, when therapy became more commonplace and relationships were closely examined, says William Doherty, a professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Their own parents were concerned about a child being safe, getting a job, and getting married. “They didn’t obsess about how they were feeling about you,” he says, adding that there are far more elements of friendship in boomers’ relationships with kids. “In many ways, that’s good. But then you have to deal with disappointment if kids are not as close as you would hope for.”

That’s what Linda Stroh found when she and a fellow author surveyed nearly 1,000 baby boomers for their book, “Getting Real about Getting Older.”

“My kids use language like ‘my family’ and ‘our family’ and they don’t mean us,” one man commented. “I’m at the mercy of their whims. We see them when they want, not when we want,” said another. “I miss my kids. I want to be around them more,” one woman said.

It’s not that grown kids don’t want to be part of a parent’s life, but that they are really busy, says Dr. Stroh, herself a boomer and mother of two children, who are very involved with their careers. “If I get a call, I’m thrilled and flattered,” says Dr. Stroh, who teaches human development at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Pittsburgh resident Art DeConciliis, 58, remembers when he and his wife, Mary Pat, got married. “It was sink or swim,” he says, their parents offering little help or support. Today, his three adult children, all married and living near their Pittsburgh home, frequently call for advice about work, buying a house and starting a family. He’s happy to offer it.

“My self-identity is very closely tied to my relationship with my children. I don’t think that was the case with my dad. His was wrapped up in his business,” he says. While he sometimes wonders if too much advice-seeking and advice-giving is a good thing, he also felt a little disappointed that his youngest daughter didn’t involve him when she and her husband bought a house.

That daughter, Samantha DeConciliis-Davin, 26, says that while close to her parents, she has always been independent. Buying a house without their input wasn’t a slight as much as it was an affirmation of their lifelong guidance. “I still depend on them for advice,” she says. They are the first ones she calls if something happens at work.

Kathy McCoy, a psychotherapist specializing in family dynamics, says some distance can be a good thing. Kids should refrain from telling their parents everything and parents should refrain from trying to direct their adult child or grandchild’s life. “That distance can lead to a new kind of closeness,” says Dr. McCoy, who wrote “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” about estrangement between parents and their adult children.

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My adult son at SF MOMA.

If you’re the parent of adult kids, do you think you’re struggling to let your kids go, or like me, do you like to spend time with them?