My super crazy, unbelievably busy August

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Waffles at the beach

Thank goodness I’m almost through with a momentous August. Usually, my Augusts are quiet and peaceful with countless hours reading books by the ocean or a mountain lake. But not this year. It’s been by far the craziest couple of weeks I’ve lived through.

Here’s a replay of the past few weeks:

• My husband’s pre-op nightmare battery of tests where they kept ordering test after test so he can have his shoulder surgery tomorrow. This is an entire story in itself that includes a cancer scare that I may write (complain) about on another day.

• Our dear friend passed out at the gym, having a blood clot lodge in her carotid artery causing a stroke—the morning we were driving four hours to see her.
 She spent a few days in ICU and after a few days was released and went on beach walks with me.

• My son’s girlfriend’s car accident on the day they were coming down to see us at the beach. The next few days helping them find a car. Eventually, they made it on vacation with us—in their new car.

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The VRBO we had for one week in paradise.

• Finally, a one week’s beach vacation. Gone in a snap.

• Driving up the mountain to move the RV back to the desert with a friend to help us drive it down the twisty, windy roads. It wouldn’t start by the way. The batteries died. I asked to borrow jumper cables and then a truck because our car has a “weird-ass” battery that can’t be used to jump a car.

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Big Bear Lake at the RV Park and Marina.

• Next, we drove to AZ to my daughter’s new house. My husband flew from Phoenix to Salt Lake City so he and my daughter could drive a U-Haul for 10 hours with her worldly possessions through flash floods and monsoon winds. I spent two days cleaning the dusty, dirty house until I was exhausted. But, I did have lil’ Waffles by my side the entire time.

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They arrived in the U-Haul after a 10-hour drive.

• We hired movers to unload the U-Haul because of my husband’s upcoming shoulder surgery, plus my daughter’s distance-swimmer shoulder. We were told about a website where you can hire two guys for two hours for moving, which I did. Guess what? The movers didn’t show up!
 I’m currently trying to get a refund.

• We spent Sunday putting together Ikea furniture and unpacking boxes before making the trek back home.

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My kids body surfing during one relaxing moment at the beach.

What could we squeeze in next? Shoulder surgery tomorrow and I get to be nurse and caretaker. Then I’ll return to AZ and help my daughter get settled—and bring the things I forgot to pack on our last trip–like her work wardrobe! Whew! No wonder I’ve been stressed lately.

What was your August like? Did it seem crazier than usual, too?

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Is it true that early risers are more successful?

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I plan on starting my mornings here.

After sleeping in this morning, I thought about people who get up at the crack of dawn—or before—and how successful they are. I’m talking about success like Mozart, Ben Franklin, Tim Cook and Oprah Winfrey.

It was my friend, Linda, who asked for my thoughts about if swimming helped instill this early riser lifestyle in children. I hadn’t thought about it before, and I hadn’t made the connection to success with what time you roll out of bed. I began reading articles about this phenomenon and it makes sense. I believe kids, ages 13 through the end of their swim careers,  who are ready to jump into the pool at 5:30 a.m. a few mornings a week isn’t so bad after all. No, I didn’t like driving in the dark or leaving the house at 5 a.m. But it was a sacrifice we did together—me, my husband, and another swim mom. We took turns with driving to early A.M. practices for years.

Our kids had to be ready to go. They not only needed their suits on and swim gear ready, but their shampoo, conditioner, school clothes, assignments, books and lunches ready too. That meant preparing the night before. What a great lesson learned—because of swimming. If you want to have a great, productive day—start the day before. Don’t scramble around printing or finishing an assignment, looking for clean clothes and books 15 minutes before school starts.

Here are some excerpts from articles I read about early risers and success:

10 highly successful people who wake up before 6 a.m.
by Abigail Hess, CNBC

Waking up can be one of the most difficult and dreaded parts of going to work. But for some of the most successful people in art, business and sports, rising early is key to their success.

Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his mornings at 3:45 a.m., Ellevest CEO and co-founder Sallie Krawcheck wakes at 4 a.m. and Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Indra Nooyi have been known to rise at the crack of dawn.

Benjamin Spall, author of “My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired” and founding editor of my morning routine.com has spoken with hundreds of successful figures about their morning regimens. “It’s not a coincidence that all of these people these people have routines,” he tells CNBC.

While Spall says the biggest predictor of success is simply having a steady routine, it cannot be ignored that many of the most successful figures in his book wake up early — as in, before-6-a.m.-early.

1. Bill McNabb, Chairman of the Vanguard Group, wakes up around 5 and gets to his desk by 6:15 a.m.
Bill McNabb, chairman and former CEO of the Vanguard Group, has a strict early-morning routine that he has not changed in decades.

“My routine has varied about 30 minutes over 30 years,” he says. “When I became Vanguard’s CEO in 2008 (a position I held until early 2018), I started coming in a little earlier so I could have some additional preparation time in the morning. Other than that, not much has changed since I joined the company in 1986.”

His routine includes waking up between 5 and 5:15 a.m., grabbing a cup of coffee on the way to work and settling in at his desk between 5:45 and 6:15. Getting into the office early, he says, gives him crucial time for creative productivity.

“The quiet time between 6 and 7:30 a.m. is when some of my best work gets done,” says McNabb. “It’s my time to read, think and prepare for the day ahead. I try really hard to preserve that time.”

Click here to read about the next nine people interviewed for the list of 10 in the article.

Another article I read dealt strictly with creative minds and writers. “Rise and shine: the daily routines of history’s most creative minds” by Oliver Burkeman, was published by The Guardian.

Benjamin Franklin spent his mornings naked. Patricia Highsmith ate only bacon and eggs. Marcel Proust breakfasted on opium and croissants. The path to greatness is paved with a thousand tiny rituals (and a fair bit of substance abuse) – but six key rules emerge in “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey.

But very early risers form a clear majority, including everyone from Mozart to Georgia O’Keeffe to Frank Lloyd Wright. (The 18th-century theologian Jonathan Edwards, Currey tells us, went so far as to argue that Jesus had endorsed early rising “by his rising from the grave very early”.) For some, waking at 5am or 6am is a necessity, the only way to combine their writing or painting with the demands of a job, raising children, or both. For others, it’s a way to avoid interruption: at that hour, as Hemingway wrote, “There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”

There’s another, surprising argument in favour of rising early, which might persuade sceptics: that early-morning drowsiness might actually be helpful. At one point in his career, the novelist Nicholson Baker took to getting up at 4.30am, and he liked what it did to his brain: “The mind is newly cleansed, but it’s also befuddled… I found that I wrote differently then.”

From LifeHack.com I found “This is Why Productive People Always Wake Up So Early” written by Ciara Conlon. She made a number of interesting points from finding quiet time, time to exercise and finding your muse:

Successful people are very often early risers. From Franklin to Obama, from Branson to Darwin, all were known to rise with the morning sun. Whatever their motivations, they all reaped the benefits of putting their feet on the floor before the cock opened its beak.

The Winner’s Mindset
There is a sense of control acquired from beating the inner voice. If your mind wins the battle between victim and success, things start on a high note and usually only get better. Recognizing the voice is your best defense against him. When the alarm goes off and the voice tells you that you went to bed far too late to get up this early, or that five more minutes won’t hurt, DON’T LISTEN! Those who stay in bed won’t be competition for the big guys, but they will have to watch out for you. When you are in charge of the inner voice, there will be no stopping you.

More Time
If you were to get up just one hour earlier each morning you would gain 15 days in a year. Scary when you put it like that. How many days of our lives do we waste sleeping? I don’t know about you, but I have too much I want to achieve to waste my life in this way. If you are time deficient, sleep less. We only need six to seven hours a night. Any more is wasting life.

Get Active
The morning is a great time to exercise. It sets you up for the day with energy, focus, and enthusiasm. Some mornings when I come back from my new habit of running, I feel invincible. Stress has to work a lot harder to get hold of me, and all my relationships are happier and calmer. Exercising in the morning will make you more productive and contribute to making you more successful.

After reading all these articles yesterday and understanding how effective it is to get up early—why did I sleep in? Well, the main reason is that my husband is an early riser. His alarm goes off at 3:45 a.m. and he uses the quiet time to read about markets around the world and prepare for his day. I know I enjoy my quiet time in the morning so I let him have his space. I usually get up when I hear the garage shut. My goal, beginning in September, is to be an early riser and get to the pool for 5:30 a.m. practice, three days a week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Morning walk at the beach

What benefits do you experience by being an early riser? Or, do you get up later in the day and how does that help you? What’s your morning routine?

Should Your Kids Be Selfie Stars?

Last year, I spent this week with my daughter in Salt Lake City. What a wonderful time we had together shopping, hiking, and visiting Park City and Deer Valley–and just hanging out together. This is one of the stories I wrote while staying with her.

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Experiencing the beach.

My daughter and I walked into an elevator yesterday at Nordstrom’s with a mom pushing a Thule baby stroller, snapping pics of her infant and tapping away on her phone to post the pics. My daughter whispered to me, “Thank God they didn’t have iPhones when I was a kid!”

I told her I was thankful that their early childhood was before the era of smartphones, too.

Later, I asked her why she was glad we didn’t have iPhones. Her answer surprised me. “Because you would have been taking photos constantly and posting every moment of my life on FaceBook,” she said.

Psychologists warn about kids spending too much time in front of screens and not enough of their time outdoors in an article in the DailyMail.com called “Why children should not be selfie stars:”

In advice to parents, Dr. Godsi said: ‘Leave technology at home. When you go out as a family leave mobile devices switched off and have a rule that says no mobile phones during family meal times.’

The author added: ‘In my opinion selfies should not be encouraged.

‘I think there is a place for taking a few photos, as a way to help families remember or look back and to share memories but the constant pressure to post on social media means there’s a risk that they (children) don’t experience anything except through a lens.’

My daughter said that once I got my first iPhone and was learning how to use it, “You relentlessly posted ugly, fat pictures of me on FaceBook.”

I view those photos not as ugly, but on a scale of cute to adorable to gorgeous.

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Learning about the ocean in Junior Lifeguards.

I explained that I was so glad she and her brother weren’t posing for pictures constantly, weren’t worried about what other kids were doing at the moment, but went outside to play. That’s why I’m glad the iPhone wasn’t a thing in their early years.

When we had kids over, they weren’t sitting side by side texting each other. No, they were running around the backyard and house playing a reverse hide-and-seek game called sardines—for hours on end.

When we were at the beach, they were jumping in the waves, body surfing, building drip castles, digging holes and yes—occasionally fighting and throwing sand. As annoying and painful as throwing sand was–especially dealing with sand in the eyes–it sure beats constantly posing for pictures.

My daughter says there is room for both. When she goes to the beach with friends, they now get a few pics, then toss the phones in a beach bag and dive under the waves.

Here are a few frightening stats from the article in the UK Mail:

Dr. Godsi spoke out after a survey of 2,000 parents by outdoor education provider, Kingswood, found that the biggest source of quality time among families is spent watching TV together. Sixty-eight percent cited this as their main activity shared with children, followed by going to the cinema (35 per cent) and playing computer games (24 per cent).

The average age of the parents’ children was ten, while 445 were seven.

Asked to look back to when all their youngsters were seven, 85 percent of families said their sons or daughters had never gone camping.

Sixty-five percent said they had never played pooh sticks or climbed a tree (51 percent).

Forty-one per cent admitted their children had never been on a bike ride, paddled in the sea (43 percent) or played in a park (31 percent).

It’s very easy to get sedentary. It’s also easy not to talk to each other when we’re buried and focused on our screens. I’m lucky to spend this week with my daughter just hanging out and being with each other.

What are your thoughts about selfies, kids and family time? Do your kids spend enough time without their phones experiencing outdoors?

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On the lookout for dolphins and whales.

 

What is white space and why do we need it?

 

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White space to be superheroes.

In a parenting article in the Herald-Tribune from Sarasota, FL called “White space is important for kids to develop interests,” Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, parenting experts, explain what white space is and why kids need it.

In my opinion, we all need white space in our lives. It’s a time to reflect and think, without the TV on in the background, or checking out your social media on our phones.

From the article:

In art, the white space is sometimes called negative space. This offers an interesting play on words because many parents view the white space — the unscheduled, empty time in their child’s day — as something negative, something to be avoided.

But just as negative space is critical to art and rests are vital to music, white space is critical to a child’s ability to develop thriving interests.

In practical terms, white space is totally unscheduled time. It’s time when kids don’t have homework or activities or chores or screens or visiting friends. It’s time when they are left to grapple with themselves — alone — probably bored, thinking to themselves, discovering things.

White space can be challenging for most people at first, especially if they have been conditioned to fill quiet and empty moments of the day with people, tasks or entertainment. But it is in the white space that human imagination is called upon, an inner-thought life develops and significant interests can develop.

Many parents are afraid of white space. They think it is unproductive, maybe even a waste of time. They think it’s an opportunity for kids to get in trouble. Some are afraid their kids will drive them nuts or make a mess or wreak havoc in some other way. Some parents even fear their children will miss out on other things. Others are afraid their kids will resent them for enforcing times of white space.

Ultimately, these parents do not have faith in the process. But the truth is white space allows kids time to learn how to think about things. When there is no other voice but their own telling them what to think — no friend, adult, video game, TV show, YouTuber or even the author of a book — they have to grapple with things on their own, in their own minds.

In these moments, a deep inner-thought life can develop. The skill of communicating with oneself and learning how to think about things begins to take root. And often, from this inner wrestling match, deep interests may arise.

In my children’s lives, they were extremely busy. I do think a lot of their time in the pool, staring at the black lane on the bottom of the pool, gave them time to think. Also, the full days at the beach allowed them time to be creative and create everything from sand castles to kitchens and lie back and stare at the blue sky and ocean waves.

As for my own thought process working on a mid-grade children’s novel, somedays it may seem like I’m not getting anything done. In reality, I’m thinking. I’m mulling things over. That’s when problems get solved and creativity is allowed to spark.

 

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Time to explore and figure things out.

What are your thoughts about white space and how do you use it in your life?

 

Are You a Good Parent Or a Bad Parent?

 

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A happy moment at the beach.

 

The Huffington Post published an article where the author Jane Dimyan Ehrenfeld makes a point that parenting doesn’t necessarily divide up into good parents and bad parents. Her article called The Secret to Good Parenting: “Divine Dissatisfaction” makes a comparison between parents and teachers—that good ones continue to learn and grow to get better at it.

While she quotes a lot of parenting experts and books, which I’m sure are very helpful, I’ve found that learning from other parents and from my own mistakes that I’ve evolved into a better parent. At my baby shower for my first born, every other present was a book on how to be a parent, like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” etc. It was as if my co-workers and friends, who were mostly moms themselves, thought I had absolutely no clue about parenting and they were worried about my skill level or interest in motherhood. So, they all thought I needed instruction manuals.

 

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The gang hanging out at the beach with one of my mom friends I’ve learned from.

I do think there are good parents and bad parents. I have observed many of them. I remember a mom who was driving for a field trip for our middle school kids and she knocked back a couple tumblers of vodka at lunch! And she was supposed to drive the kids back to school. Yikes. That’s what I called a bad mom. A good mom who impressed me, let the kids draw with chalk on the backyard patio, build forts from boxes, sheets and tables in the living room, and encouraged creativity. A good mom, in my opinion—even if her house wasn’t perfect.

I love being a mom and I think that is the driving force. Yes, there have been rough patches between me and both my kids. Yes, I wish I could do some things over, but I wouldn’t trade a single day. The years and phases go by quickly. What I used to worry about no longer is important and there are bigger more pressing issues to stress over and help with as they become adults. “It never gets easier,” a friend told me when my kids were toddlers, “It just gets different.”

Here’s a quote from The Secret to Good Parenting: “Divine Dissatisfaction”

As a mom, I am highly attuned to the narrative of good parent/bad parent that pervades our popular discourse (more frequently it’s good mom/bad mom, but I’ll stick with parent for the sake of encouraging the important message that dads are –and should be – equals in the work of parenting). A non-exhaustive list of the ways in which this can pop up includes: You are a good parent if your kids breastfeed/you are a bad parent if they drink formula. You are a good parent if your kids are sleep trained/you are a bad parent if they don’t sleep through the night in their beds. Or, conversely, you are a good parent if your child co-sleeps/you’re a bad parent if you sleep train. You are a good parent if your kids eat organic foods/you are a bad parents if your kids eat refined sugar. You are a good parent (mom!) if you stay home with your kids/ You are a bad parent (mom!) if you work outside the home. You are a good parent/bad parent at many different levels of screen time. You are a good parent/bad parent if your kids go to public school, private school, charter school, or are homeschooled. And on and on.

But here’s the thing: it’s all ridiculous. Unless your unvaccinated kid is living in her own apartment, mainlining Mountain Dew and shrugging off school in favor of spending 24 hours a day playing Minecraft, you’re probably fine.

What do you think makes a good parent versus a bad parent?

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The best mom ever and me in the 1990s.

How Much Social Media Is Too Much For Our Teens?

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My daughter seeking a social media pic.

I’ve wondered for years how social media is affecting our teens, and I’m thankful we never had Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat when I was a kid. I’m also glad it wasn’t a “thing” when my kids were young. I remember MySpace was introduced when my kids were around middle school aged and a few kids in their Catholic school posted provocative pictures. It didn’t go over well, needless to say.

An article today in The Baltimore Sun by Andrea K. Mcdaniels called, “Parents’ concern: Is social media bad for teenagers?” has quite a few experts and studies weighing in. They’ve found good and bad outcomes, but it seems to me the bad ones outweigh the good.

So the list of problems with social media includes sleeping problems, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicide. Does anyone see a problem with this trend? I’ve written about my concerns about social media and how it affects on kids here.

Have you ever had a relaxing day at the beach and watched young teens posing for that perfect Instagram pic? It’s quite funny to watch from a distance. I mean who goes to the beach with perfect hair and makeup? Not me! I prefer a big hat, a ponytail and a good book, thank you very much.

 

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Mirage

Where I live, we have a phenomenon called Desert X, a series of outdoor art installations that appeared this Spring. One I call “The Selfie House” in reality is called “Mirage.” It’s a house installed with mirrors inside and out. It attracts young women dressed in bizarre outfits with friends with the sole purpose of getting a huge volume of social media clicks. The Los Angeles Times wrote about Mirage here.

 

Here’s a snippet from the article “Parents’ concern: Is social media bad for teenagers?”

“A study published earlier this year by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine with support from the National Institutes of Health found that the more time young adults spent on social media, the more likely they were to have problems sleeping and to experience symptoms of depression.

“Another study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the incidence of major depressive incidents has increased dramatically among teens, particularly among girls, and that cyber-bullying may be playing a role.

“At American University, researchers found a link between social media use and negative body image, which can lead to eating disorders.”

 

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Mirage, the selfie house. designed for Desert X.

As parents, what can we do to keep tabs on how social media is affecting our kids?

 

ONE
Delay when your kids get smartphones.

TWO
Keep an eye on what they’re posting.

THREE
Talk to your kids about how social media is creating issues for many kids.

FOUR
Be involved in your kids’ lives and pick up on cues if things seem off. Maybe social media is behind it.

What suggestions do you have to keep our kids safe from the bad effects of too much social media?

Farewell Old Car, Your Time Has Come

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Memories of days filled with laughter.

The final straw was a couple weeks ago when I woke up in the morning to a flat tire. I called Triple A and had them put on the spare. I was driving the puppy to a vet appointment and then to the gas station to get my flat tire fixed, when the tire fell off the car and flew across the road, dodging two oncoming cars and landing in an unsuspecting yard.

I freaked out to a grinding and dramatic crashing noise. I was stranded on the side of the road with a three-month-old pug. I shook as I assessed my predicament and wondered what to do first. Waffles the pug snored in his carrier, oblivious to the freak accident and my stress.

That was the final straw. There have been a few others, like my husband being stuck on the 91 freeway, right before the 241 toll road, when the car broke down. Triple A had a tough time sending out a tow truck, because drivers refused due to the recent death of a tow truck driver in the same spot.

In the later years of owning a car, sometimes it’s tough to make the call when enough is enough. Car buying is almost as painful as anything and expensive, so it’s easy to put it off for a few years.

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Laguna Beach with kids and dog.

Especially with this car. There were so many memories with the beastly Sequoia. Hauling pop-up tents and kids to meets stand out the most. We could put six kids comfortably in our car and often did.  Summer vacation with the car packed to the hilt, complete with 108-pound Angus, our faithful yellow lab (RIP), camping trips, driving a carful to the Getty for a Latin field trip—the list goes on and on.

We have no need for an eight seater. We aren’t hauling pop up tents or children to meets. We’re now in the phase of life where a two-door would be fine. But it’s like closing the door on one part of our lives. When we finally say goodbye to this old car, it’s like we’re saying goodbye to days filled with so much fun and laughter.

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Carpinteria camping trip with Angus.

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This old car is filled with memories.