Did someone go too far?

A painting my grandma made for me at our cabin when I was around five years old.

Question: What would your reaction be if you were looking at Facebook photos posted by relatives and noticed a deck had been built on your property?

Here’s the story:

My brother and I have owned a piece of property jointly since 1995. Our mom quit claimed it to us. It’s in Robe, Wash. It’s been in the family since the 1930s. My grandfather bought 10 acres along the Stillaguamish River and gave parcels to his three kids (my mom was one) and to his sisters.

Robe is a beautiful, magical place. It’s pristine. There’s no running water or electricity. My dad designed a cabin in 1959 before I was born. My mom and dad, with their own two hands, built the cabin that has given me some of my best childhood memories. Fishing at dawn for breakfast trout. Snuggled into our mummy bags listening to the roaring fire at night. Floating down the rapids with friends. Jumping off the giant rock into the deep swimming hole.

About 15 years ago, my brother and I had the cabin torn down. It was falling apart. Someone had trashed the interior and lit the floor on fire. The roof was leaking. It was a liability and was inviting trouble. We left the fireplace. Some relatives hauled it off in exchange to access to our property which my brother arranged. I thought he had paid a service to do it.

cabin in the woods
The cabin in the 1970s.

Although the extended family — I have no clue who most of them are these days — have their own lots, ours is where they gather for an annual reunion. I go from time to time. They prefer our lot because our property faces the swimming hole in the river with a big rock. There used to be a sandy beach, too.

Now here’s the question of whether someone has gone too far. I was glancing at photos on facebook from the recent family reunion that I was unable to attend. This is a photo of a deck on my lot. I’ve never seen it before. Nobody asked me if they could build it. Apparently it was for a distant relative’s wedding — that I didn’t know about. My brother knows nothing about any of this either.

deck near the river
Our property at Robe now has a deck.

What are your thoughts of somebody building on your property without your knowledge or permission? Or holding a wedding?

fishing in the river
I caught one! Me in my 20s.
My aunt gave me this painting of our cabin. It was painted by my grandma.

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?

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?

The new normal: our crazy topsy turvy life

Today I’m looking back on when things got crazy. They’ve never stopped. I also am not okay with the “new normal.” Nothing is normal. Nothing.

Here’s a recap of the day before we sheltered in place. My kids who live in the Bay Area already went on shutdown.

Pretty long-haired cat next to flowers and swimming pool

Our cool as a cucumber cat is helping to keep me calm.

I was doing okay, but yesterday when my kids called me and said they were under mandatory “shelter in place,” I started to panic. I’m wondering if the world will ever get back to normal? They were working remotely in my son’s house in the Bay Area.

The mandatory shelter in place started today. Yesterday they were told to prepare to be home for at least two weeks. My daughter is working remotely and decided to get out of the city and drove home last night. It’s so nice to have her home! I wonder how long she will be here?

cute pug

Waffles the pug came home, too.

My dad agreed to let me grocery shop for him and I found everything he needed except for toilet paper, of course! While I was driving from his home, my daughter called and Waffles, her pug, ate something and was trying to throw up, but nothing was coming up. I told her to call a vet and I got really stressed out again! She called back in tears and said that the vets she called would NOT take new patients in their practice due to the Coronavirus! I was in the car and while she was talking to me and I noticed a big white pick up truck on my tail! Then he swerved in the lane next to me, and started yelling and screaming, giving me the finger. He threw a milkshake at me! It hit my windshield and the car was covered. I’m still shaking.

What in the h*ck is going on, folks? Is this really the time to become completely unhinged?

white pick up truck road rage

This is the guy in a white pick up truck with a Home Depot trailer that threw a milkshake at me.

Let’s take a moment to breathe some fresh air, calm down, take a walk and enjoy your families. And love up our dogs and cats, too!

As a follow up, Waffles the pug spent the night at the one facility that accepted new patients — the emergency pet hospital. It turned out he ate berries from a bad bush and was placed on an IV after his belly was emptied from the toxic berries. At 16 pounds, he’s a little guy and quite fragile. 

What excitement has your family experienced in this topsy turvy new normal?

How to help when your child feels down

sad pug

Waffles looks sad, too.

As a parent, have you ever tried to help your child feel better when they’re feeling down — only to find you’re making them more upset or angry?

I have. I seem to do it quite frequently these days with my daughter. She’ll be upset over something, and I try to say something to make her feel better. Our conversations tend to get heated and I get berated for not understanding or for saying the wrong things.

I ran into an article today that is meant for younger kids, but I think I can use some of the advice. It’s from the Harvard Health Blog and called 4 parenting tips to break the negativity loop by Negativity loop accurately describes how I feel when I try to reassure or comfort my daughter and we go down a dark hole. Sperling offers advice on how to use validation so your kids know you’re listening to them.

Here’s an excerpt:

Start by validating emotions

Parents have a lot of wisdom to share with their children, and their advice often is filled with a lot of logic. Unfortunately, that logic tends to backfire when shared with someone experiencing an unhappy emotion, and can make the emotion even stronger. Both children and adults need to feel heard before their ears can open up and hear what else you have to say, so try to validate first before you try to help children appreciate positive aspects of a situation.

Validation allows us all to feel heard. You are not agreeing or disagreeing with the emotion; you’re showing that you see it. For example, if your daughter comes home sulking after scoring two goals in soccer and missing the final one, you might have the urge to say, “Why are you so sad? You scored two goals and looked like you were having so much fun while playing!” Your intention is kind, yet does not match your daughter’s experience. Instead, try reflecting how she is feeling by saying, “You’re disappointed that you didn’t make that final shot.” This acknowledges that your daughter is disappointed without agreeing or disagreeing with her.

Another tip she offers is to practice gratitude. She has several ideas depending on how old your kids are. Click to read more here.

She suggests having your child write three things they are thankful for and she states it will help improve their mood. I read a book called “Flourish” by Martin Seligman who is the Director of the Positive Psychology Center at U Penn. In that book, he described an exercise called the “Three Blessings,” where you write three things in your day that were positive and then write an explanation of why they happened. He found through his studies that the Three Blessings exercise is as effective as meds. I get started with it in the evenings and stick with for a week or two and then I forget about it. I’m going to make an effort to get back to that practice.

angry kat shreds tp

Olive in a negative mood.

How do you stop the negativity loop with your kids?

The Intruder is Back!

I looked back to last September to see what I was up to in my life. It’s been such a strange year, hasn’t it? Well, last September I was dealing with a homeless man who thinks he lives at our house. It’s been a year and he hasn’t gone away!

While we were on our working vacation at the beach in August, I had a friend’s daughter taking care of Olive the cat and staying at our house. One of her first times over here, our big wooden gates were shut and after opening them, she found a pile of blankets behind our trash cans! UGH! I looked through my video feed and found him at midnight, opening and closing our gates, peering through our bedroom window and jumping over our wall into the backyard. I don’t blame our house sitter at all, but she was no longer comfortable staying here! She made daily stops, but didn’t want to spend the night.

We called our neighbors who promised to keep an eye out for us, plus the police, who said they’d patrol our house carefully while we were out of town. They promised to arrest him if they found him trespassing. We returned and I haven’t seen him again. But, I did notice he stole our lock to the gate!

Here’s what I wrote about our intruder September 2019:

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Sunset from the back yard.

Last week I wrote about how I was minding my own business at home waiting for eye surgery and discovered on our Google Nest security feed that we had an intruder trespassing on our property nightly. We started locking the big wooden gates that open onto the street. We also have a garage door and an archway gate that are locked. On the camera feed, I saw the stranger rattling our gates, peering in through our bedroom windows, climbing over the wall into the backyard — and taking an object to smash the lock on our archway gate. I was terrified. Then I went for my morning walk on Thursday like any normal day:

I went for my morning walk today as usual. I almost skipped it because I didn’t want to leave our house with the big wooden gates open (they lock from the inside.) During my walk, I constantly checked the Nest app on my iPhone for activity. When I was a block from home, I looked at the app and the guy was there! He had returned!

I couldn’t stop shaking and when I got home, the gate was closed! I yelled and said I was calling the cops so get out! I checked my app again. The intruder had left three minutes before I arrived home. I called the cops and waited, not stepping foot on our property, but feeling safer in the middle of the street. The policeman came right away and said he’d look for the guy, he was probably close-by. He also suggested we get a lock for the outside of our big wooden gates or hire a security firm. I’m thinking Rottie. We had one before and this never happened.

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A present to myself from our beach vacation. The wind chimes are soothing and help me relax

Friday morning the nightmare continued. I woke up at 5 a.m. to my husband yelling from outside the house to call the cops! I grabbed my glasses, my phone and my hands shook as I tried to dial 911. My husband kept the guy at bay on our steps while we waited for the police to arrive. The 911 operator kept me on the phone and asked me to narrate what was going on.

A few minutes later which felt like an eternity, a half dozen police arrived. They said, “Marco! What are you doing here?” to our intruder.

Marco answered, “I live here. I bought this house.”

“No you don’t. You said that about the house down the street,” a policeman answered.

They handcuffed the intruder and drove him away. Both my husband and I were shaking with fear, anger and tried to lower our adrenaline levels to have a normal day. It didn’t happen. We both struggled.

I find myself waking up in the night, looking at my Nest app, listening for any little noise. I’m hoping each day it gets a little better. This person turns out to be well-known, a Palm Springs native and harmless. Of course, we had no idea of that with his erratic behavior and his trespassing from Saturday night through Friday morning. It brings our homeless problem right in my yard, not some abstract issue I read about in the newspaper.

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Olive is more relaxed now that the intruder has been arrested.

Have you had an intruder at your home? What happened and did you get over your fear?

 

Does IQ Determine a Child’s Success?

kat underHow our children handle adversity is more important to their success than their intelligence. I heard this during a webinar for youth sports parents, but it also applies to every day life. David Benzel, sports parenting expert, from Growing Champions for Life, discussed this and gave other gems of advice in “Overcoming Adversity in Sports and Life.” 

Benzel said, “Opportunities for personal growth usually come disguised as setbacks, disappointments and problems.” An interesting statistic he shared was that only 25 percent of success can be predicted by IQ, while 75% is because of the level of optimism, social support and the ability to see adversity as an opportunity and not a threat. So the answer to my headline question is a resounding “NO.” Our IQ isn’t as valuable as our AQ (Adversity Quotient.)

He gave examples of adversity in sports that included an injury, time off from practice due to COVID-19, not connecting with a coach, losing to an inferior opponent or being in a slump. Think of what so many kids are going through today with schools not opening, sports being cancelled. They are facing adversity like never before in their young lives.

According to Benzel, there are three types of reactions to adversity that he described as the Prisoner, the Settler and the Pioneer. The goal is to get to a pioneer mindset. That’s because the other two aren’t great. The prisoner gives up, is controlled by circumstances and feels fear and anger. The settler settles. That mindset seeks to be comfortable and feels they are doing as well as possible considering the circumstances.

The pioneer learns continuously, challenges assumptions and adjusts their strategies to succeed. They believe that they can accomplish anything if they bring light to the situation. Bringing in light makes the darkness go away. 

Here’re four tips Benzel gave to have a pioneer outlook to adversity:

  1. Listen to your adversity response. Is it fight, flight or freeze? Do your internal thoughts help you with the situation? 
  2. How can I bring light to this?
  3. Take charge of what you can control.
  4. Create a state of wonder to create a solution. Ask the question, “I wonder how I can…” Suddenly the pity party ends and your brain goes to work to find a solution.

One of the more helpful things I learned from the webinar is that optimism can be learned. So, if we’re feeling down or defeated, or our kids are, remember to ask the “I wonder how I can” question.

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When you are faced with adversity how do you see your mindset? Do you see yourself as a pioneer in spirit?