Views from COVID-19 — We’re still the same

I was looking through my posts from this past year amidst the pandemic. I was feeling frustrated in September when I wrote this post. That was before we decided to put our home of 28 years for sale. Before we decided to leave California. So much has changed in my life since September. And again, so much has not. This post could have been written by me today. When will we see a return to normal? Or will we?

sad pug on sofa

Waffles had the pandemic malaise too.

Do you ever have days where you wake up full of energy and ideas and can’t wait to get started on the day? Today was that day, and somewhere after my walk, doing laundry and sitting down to work, I lost that drive.

I struggled with what to start on, staring at my computer screen for a fresh burst of inspiration to come back at me. I have too much on my to do list — from writing to cleaning out the laundry room. I don’t know what to do first. Second, I started to worry about what this fall and winter season will bring. Will we have a second wave of the pandemic? Will I get sick? Will loved ones and friends get sick? I want to hurry to next Spring and skip the next few months.

Worrying about the uncertain future makes it hard to focus. How do you stop worrying? I also started thinking about how I miss my life before this virus hit. I think it’s going to take a toll on a lot of people emotionally and mentally — let alone physically. As human being we crave interaction with others. I miss my family, my occasional social outings and my swim friends. I don’t think it’s healthy for people to be cut off from each other.

I miss my mom. She’s in assisted living a few miles from where that first nursing home outbreak started by Seattle. If I were to visit her, I don’t know if I’d be allowed in. I’d more likely be waving to her from outside her window. I’m not going to hop on an airplane in the near future, so it’s a moot point.

On a more positive note, we had a treat this weekend with my son and his girlfriend making an impromptu visit. Since my kids live in the Bay Area and all the gyms are closed, by son has been looking for weights. Weights are one of those premium items where the prices  skyrocketed. It’s ridiculous! More than $2,000 for an Olympic bar and weights. We have a set laying around and my husband said if our son came down to pick it up, he could borrow it for as long as he wants.

It was great to see them in person and give them hugs. I’m lacking in hugs from other family and friends. Maybe someday soon?

Are you able to carry on like “before” or do you see a change in your motivation? Has your ability to focus changed?

And then this happened….

Harris hawk on jojoba Harris hawks on our jojoba bush.

After writing about my neighbor’s dog, I didn’t know that this would happen next…

I was taking a break, sitting in a zero-gravity lounge in the sun, reading a book about creativity called “Vein of Gold.” I placed two bird feeders in our back yard a few weeks ago. I enjoyed watching the quail and pigeons who came into the yard, ignoring me as I sat still with my book.

Hawk on wall Harris hawk on a neighbor’s wall.

Then I heard a crash. Another crash. I saw the giant brown wings of a Harris hawk. It looked like it was smashing into the screen door of our casita. Crash! It hit it again. I jumped up, yelled and waved my arms, hoping to scare away the hawk away who had a quail in his claws.

I quickly walked down to the casita door and quietly peeked inside. I wasn’t sure if the hawk had broken through the screen door. I was shocked when I discovered this:

Broken window due to hark The window after the hawk repeatedly flew into it.

It wasn’t the screen door but a window he smashed into. I think the hawk thought our casita was the perfect place to hide out in to devour the quail. I’ve decided not to refill the bird feeders. I don’t want my yard as a hunting ground for hawks, bobcats and coyotes to stalk our fattened quails.

Not only do I worry about the neighbor’s dog, but also large birds of prey shattering windows.

 

My latest fears…

With all the wildlife around our new home, you’d think I’d be afraid of the huge coyotes, the bobcat slinking under the window, or the javelinas staring at me through the gate. But no, I’m afraid of a neighbor’s dog.

coyote on wall

A coyote has been hanging out on our wall.

I’m not sure if it’s an irrational fear or not. You should see the dog! I’ve been walking along the road outside our development for my morning walks. One side is backyards of houses and the other side a nature’s preserve. The views across the street are breathtaking.

The dog sits in his backyard and barks at me as I walk by. He’s a big, ugly dog with a nasty growl and bark.

I was okay with it, thinking there’s no way this devil-looking dog can get outside his fence. But then one day I faced the dog being walked on a leash by the owner and their young teen son walking a huge pit bull — who looked friendly compared to the beast. The devil dog lunged at the end of its leash, growling. The woman holding the leash pulled on it precariously. I crossed the street from the sidewalk to the open nature’s preserve.

“I’m afraid of your dog!” I called out.

“Oh, he’s fine,” she said.

I hoped she could hang onto that damn leash! I wish he was wearing a pinch collar or at least a choke chain.

Back at home I googled vicious dogs and looked for the breed. I found it. Presa Canario. Here’s the website where I found the picture.

photo of presa canario

I found this photo online. It looks like the neighbor’s dog.

This is what I learned from one of many websites I clicked on.

This breed is widely considered to make for a loyal pet and a first-rate guard dog when raised properly. But it also has a reputation as a fearsome fight dog with an aggressive streak when it is not well trained. Unfortunately, Presa Canario attacks are known to happen, and can prove deadly.

So, I don’t feel secure about this dog. I don’t know if he’s well trained or not. Whenever I go out walking and spot the woman with her dog, I turn the other way. I wonder why they need a pit bull and a presa? Isn’t that overkill? I’m sure they sleep well at night, though.

I find myself second guessing where to walk. I think I’m overacting and my walks aren’t as enjoyable. I may have to get back to the pool!

cat sitting next to flowers

Olive outside at our old home.

My other fear is that my kitty Olive will get outside and tangle with the wildlife. She went outside at our old home and loved her time outdoors. So far, she runs the opposite direction and hides whenever a door is opened.

pug face

This little guy is more my speed than a presa. It’s Waffles the pug snuggling my daughter.

Do you think my fear of the neighbor’s dog is irrational or not? How would you react in my situation?

A Day for the Record Books

coyote on wall A coyote hanging out on our wall.

Just when I couldn’t get over the thunder, the wind, the hail — it started to snow. Snow was forecast for midnight and it was only 2 p.m. It not only snowed, it stuck! This is an area where snow is not common. It’s the Scottsdale area of Arizona, known for golf resorts and sunshine.

Next, I saw a creature race against our fence spiraling around the corner at rapid speed. I caught a quick look — it was a large coyote. Then I heard barking, barking and more barking out our front door. I stepped outside thinking it must be a neighbor’s dog who was threatened by the coyote. Maybe I could warn the neighbor? On the street in front of our house was the coyote barking with his mouth pointed up to the sky, all the while staring at me.

Although my video doesn’t capture the coyote, you can sure hear him:

While the coyote barked in the front yard, I went to get my husband so he could see him, too. We walked outside and there was no coyote.

We walked around to the backyard and there he was — on the wall. He stared and stared at us.

Sunday night, while watching football with my husband, the kitty jumped onto my lap and was terrified and trembling. Now I have a clue as to why. It could have been the javelina or the coyote — or both.

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting at the table working on my laptop when I saw something scurry by the window. It looked like my big gray cat and I got a huge rush of adrenalin. I opened the door and called for kitty, but I was afraid to venture out. I don’t know how kitty could have gotten out, but my husband and I were in and out all day taking pictures of the snow and wildlife. Maybe she snuck out.

Since I had my doubts about going outside with a crazed coyote lurking by, I searched closets and under beds. Thankfully, I found kitty safe inside hiding. That creature who slinked by the window wasn’t my cat, so WHAT WAS IT?

Yesterday was truly a day like no other. At least we had our power, many people in the area lost theirs.

What was an unusual day for you weather or animal wise?

Tips for Parents of Teens During COVID-19

Prom photos in backyard

My daughter’s senior prom night a few years ago when things were normal.

I’ve been thinking about how teens are feeling — stuck at home with mom and dad. Normally, they’d be seeking independence from their parents and are ready to fly from the nest — which usually means college. But with COVID-19, some universities haven’t opened in close to a year and are offering online classes only. There may be no end in sight for these teens that they will ever leave the nest. Top that off with missing milestones like graduation and prom, the normal every day social life with their friends — I wonder how the kids are surviving? They have been away from their peers for close to a year. I remember how important friends were to me at this age — friends were my world.

In the Los Angeles Times, I read an article called Teens are feeling lonely and anxious in isolation. Here’s how parents can help by Lisa Boone. It offered advice from several mental health experts with tips of how parents can make their kids feel less anxiety during these crazy days of shelter in place. I suggest you read the entire article here.

When my son was a senior in high school, we really had a rough year. He was desperately wanting to be an adult, live his own life, and I was hanging on to motherhood and wanting him to be the child I had loved and known for 18 years. Of course we clashed. I can’t imagine what that year would have been like for us to be stuck at home with each other day and night!

Valedictorian speech

My son at the podium giving his graduation speech.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

As tens of millions of us continue to shelter in place, the most tractable of teens are feeling frustrated and anxious. They miss their former lives. They are uninterested in online classes and don’t want to follow quarantine guidelines anymore. And who can blame them?

Living in seclusion can produce quarantine fatigue, according to South Pasadena-based psychotherapist Noelle Wittliff, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with children, families and adolescents. “Many of the teens at my practice are hitting a wall,” Wittliff said. “They are over it. They want to go outside and connect with their friends. The online connection is just not cutting it.”

Normally adolescence, a developmental period marked by impulsivity and feelings of invincibility, is a time in which teenagers separate from their parents and bond with their peers. Now that families are confined at home, parents are in a peculiar position in which they have to balance the seriousness of the novel coronavirus with their teen’s desire for social interaction.

“Many of our teens are experiencing tremendous loss, and grief is an appropriate response to loss,” Wittliff said. “Depending on the age and school year of the teen, these losses can include proms, graduation ceremonies, end-of-year sports events, dances, parties, school activities, yearbook signings and simple proximity to beloved friends, teachers or significant others. The school shutdowns happened so abruptly that many of the teens that I work with did not have the opportunity to gather belongings from their lockers or classrooms, let alone say meaningful goodbyes to teachers and classmates.

“As parents, it’s important to hold space for all of these feelings and to recognize that teens don’t always communicate sadness in expected ways,” she said. “Sadness is often masked by frustration, irritability, anger or disconnection. These are protective reactions that mask vulnerability. The goal isn’t to take these defense strategies away but rather to be curious about what other feelings might be hiding underneath.”

For teens struggling with maintaining distance from their friends, Wittliff encourages parents to validate those feelings with empathy while reminding them this quarantine is temporary. Also, as a parent or guardian, manage your teenager’s expectations and don’t make promises that won’t come true.

Wittliff offers this advice: “Tell them, ‘I hear you and I know how hard this is. I know how much you miss your boyfriend or girlfriend and your friends but this is what is going on. The entire world is going through this. We are all taking precautions to stay safe.’”

Among the advice offered by experts in this article is to establish a routine — that you let your teen help develop. Try to have a fun activity every day plus get exercise outside. There’s many more tips in the article that are so helpful like practicing mindfulness, cooking, drawing, etc.

Although my daughter has left her teen years behind, she came home to shelter in place and work remotely rather than being in a tiny apartment with two other people.  For the four months she was home, I learned to give her space. I no longer walk into her room unannounced like I would have when she was a five-year-old. I let her come to me instead. We enjoyed an outdoor activity each day like tennis, a walk or smashball in the backyard pool. She rode bikes with her dad in the evenings. We had some great memories, but enough was enough of her life with mom and dad. She moved back to the Bay Area where she could hang out with our son and girlfriends family. Back to life with peers, although still isolated from the life she was used to.

Structure and predictability will help with the passing of time and give teens something to look forward to. “Every day and week that they get through sheltering in place brings them that much closer to getting back to their lives,” Wittliff said. “This is hard, but our kids are resilient. And they will get through it.”

Backyard prom photos by pool

My son’s senior prom. They had a catered dinner in our back yard before the dance.

How are you helping your kids with COVID-19 fears and isolation from friends? What are they missing the most during shelter in place?

 

When Things Go Bump In the Night

patio with pool

This is the chair we found laying folded up on the patio.

Have you ever heard things go bump in the night? Last night I woke up at 2 a.m. to a loud crash. I heard other noises, too. I stayed up until 4 a.m. listening. Listening for more noises. I heard more. I wondered if I had locked the door to the casita? The front door? The sliders to the patio?

I didn’t dare get up to check it out. My husband slept next to me, soundly. I shouldn’t let my imagination take over in the middle of the night, I thought. No, Marco, our homeless man who slept in our yard most certainly didn’t follow us from California to Arizona, right?

Another thing niggled at my brain. Returning from the grocery store yesterday afternoon, I parked the car in the garage. While I was unloading my grocery bags, I heard the sound of someone bringing up the recycling bin from the curb up our driveway. It was recycling day, after all. And the garbage truck must have come by while I was at the store.

I hit the garage remote and lowered the electronic garage door, shutting myself inside. The noise of someone dragging the bin up the driveway stopped. I convinced myself that it must have been the next door neighbor returning his recycling bin to his own home.

At sunset my husband and I left the house to walk down the street for our evening show of  brightly colored pink and red skies highlighting silhouettes of saguaros. I stopped noticing the recycling bin outside the garage catawampus, not put away where the trash cans belong.

“Bill, why did you leave the trash bin out here?” I asked. “I heard you dragging it up the driveway when I pulled into the garage.”

“I never touched it,” he said. “Who would do this?”

Hmmm. While I listened for strange noises going bump in the night, my mind drifted to the strange thing with the trash. Was a neighbor doing us a favor? I don’t think so. I mean have you ever heard of someone returning your trash bins from the curb to your house?

First thing this morning, feeling very tired, I looked out into the backyard. The patio chair was folded up on the ground. My husband noticed it, too. I asked him if he had accidentally knocked it over when he cleaned the barbecue after our grilling burgers last night. Nope. He did not.

Maybe it was a bobcat, coyote, or a human? But I know for a fact that it wasn’t a bobcat or a coyote who brought our trash can up the driveway.

Arizona sunset saguaro

The incredible sunset view at the end of our street.

Have you heard strange noises go bump in the night? What caused the noises? Also, has a neighbor ever taken care of your trash cans for you without you asking?

Third time is a charm?

desert view

Views from my neighborhood.

Today I will get my driver’s license in Arizona. I hope. You see, this will be my third trip to the DMV, although it’s not called that here. That’s what we call it in California.

My first try and getting a license and getting the cars registered in AZ was online. I finally figured out after clicking away through the websites that I had to get on the phone to make an appointment as a new Arizona resident.

I was on hold for 35 minutes to make an appointment when I finally talked to a human being. He was very helpful and made an appointment for both me and my husband. Then he said, “Now, let me go through the list of everything you will need to bring with you.” The line went dead.

So, I thought, how hard can this be? The website said you need to have a valid driver’s license from another state to skip the driving and written tests. I also got out the titles to our cars and insurance cards.

Off to the DMV and our appointments. First thing we were asked if we brought our passports or birth certificates. Nope. They couldn’t let us get driver’s licenses without them. They also asked for our Social Security cards, which we don’t have.The last time I’ve seen mine was in high school!  We were told a W-2 or 1099 would suffice if it showed our social security number. (I get a 1099 for writing and it only shows the last four digits of my social security number. UGH!)

In addition to all that, they wanted two proofs of our address. Huh? We have been here a little over a week and haven’t gotten mail yet!

Somehow, I managed to get all the documents together. I even found a W-2 from a Class Action lawsuit settlement that had my Social on it. Whew! I decided to order a replacement Social Security Card online just to be safe. (The Social Security website couldn’t verify me, by the way, so that was a failure, too.)

Next day, we went back to the DMV with ALL the required paperwork. They took my husband’s photo and then asked me for my driver’s license and then they’d take my photo. I looked in my wallet and it was missing! I started to panic, wondering where could I have left it? Was it at the Apple store the day before where I handed it over so I could pick up my order? YIKES.

Then I remembered. I had pulled my driver’s license out of my wallet while I tried to order my replacement Social Security card. So, I made an appointment for today, Christmas Eve. Will the third time be the charm?

Cactus Arizona sunset

Sunset in the neighborhood.

Merry Christmas! Stay safe and healthy!