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?

 

I almost felt “normal” again

Waffles with my daughter

We got away for two weeks and life felt like it did before the pandemic. It gave me hope that yes, we will return to life before COVID-19 at some point in time. These past six months (or 165 days) of sheltering in place will come to an end.

With my husband required to work remotely, and my writing that can be done wherever, we returned to a tiny beach bungalow for the third summer in a row. We had planned this vacation way before the pandemic, but with the onset of working remotely, we extended our stay and had more time to escape the desert heat and relish in a change of scenery.

There’s something about the ocean that is spiritual and calming. I didn’t realize how much anxiety had been building inside me until I got to the Pacific, walked along the shoreline with waves lapping at my ankles. I could breathe. My back straightened up. I no longer felt trapped and scared.

A beach walk near Santa Barbara

The most freeing feeling was diving under a wave. I’ve always worn hard contact lenses — well since 7th grade anyway. I could never freely dive into a pool or ocean without goggles and worrying about losing contacts, which I’ve done more than once. Last fall I had cataract surgery and no longer wear contacts. It took me a couple dips into the ocean to realize that I could swim and dive under waves without fear.

Our kids joined us for a few days, along with my son’s girlfriend and one of her sisters. We shared meals outside, beach walks, and excursions into the city of Santa Barbara. That felt normal like prior summer trips. We’ve been visiting good friends in the area since before the kids were born. We caught up with other couples and had fun laughing and talking over meals, always outside and socially distanced. But what a nice change from all those months of no social activity.

Santa Barbara Harbor

Yes, I’m back in my house, it’s 109 degrees outside. But, I still have a little bit of that feeling of hope that things will get better. And life is good.

What experiences have you had that give you hope that the pandemic life will end?

To Swim or Not to Swim

I’m looking back on August’s past. Here’s a beach reflection from 2016.

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I’m a much better vacationer today than I was in my 20s. I’ve learned how to relax.

When I was in my 20s, my yearly vacation was spent going home to Washington where I grew up. I had to see and do all the PNW things. Ride a ferry to the islands, dig clams, fish, go hiking in the woods, go to the city, ride a bike around Greenlake, go to my cabin and spend the night, visit my best friend and my other best friends—and all my friends. Visit my favorite professors. I had my Daytimer with me and scheduled events by the half hour! It would drive my husband crazy and soon I made my annual jaunts home by myself.

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This year, we rented a house in a sleepy little beach town near Santa Barbara. Our good friends live close by and we had many fun meals together, planned at the last minute. We spent hours walking on the beach, riding beach cruisers through town and sitting on the beach reading. I am reading the third Neapolitan novel by Elena Ferrante and there’s nothing better in my mind than having long stretches of time to read a good book.

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My daughter came with us plus a swim friend from her age group days. Isn’t it amazing how swimming bonds friends through life? They’re both college swimmers and they ran, lifted weights, swam and got massages.

The only downfall of vacation was the spotting of great white sharks at the beach. Only two hours after the girls had an ocean swim, a 15-foot great white was spotted exactly where they had been swimming.

IMG_3338A lifeguard told me that last week, she watched a seal by the swimming dock. It was pulled underwater, tossed up and eaten by a large creature with a fin. She said it was like watching National Geographic as the water turned red.

I was looking forward to ocean swimming and kayaking. I was going to try SUP (stand up and paddle) for the first time. But, like I said, I’m better at vacations now and sitting on the beach with a book made more sense, given the great white sharks.

Video of the girls swimming before the sharks were spotted: 

What’s your favorite thing to do on vacation?

My super busy, crazy August

Two years ago my August was crazy with stress. My husband was dealing with health insurance, doctors and trying to get tests done. A good friend practically died. My daughter was leaving college to move to a new state and career. Move forward two years and things are still stressful but mainly because of all the changes to what we consider “normal.” Looking back to my August two years ago reminds me that this year, although different, is not that bad.

Here’s what I wrote two years ago:

 

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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 because unfortunately the car was totaled. 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 is your August like? Did it seem crazier than usual, too?

Tips on better ways to discipline your kids

randk 11When I look back at my parenting days when the kids were young, I honestly can’t remember many times when I had to discipline them. They will say I was strict — more strict than their friends’ parents — so you’d think I was heavy-handed with discipline, right? Maybe I’ve just gotten old and have forgotten why or when I had to discipline my kids.

One thing I do remember clearly was them fighting over sand at the beach — throwing sand in each other’s faces and knocking down sandcastles. How did I handle them fighting? Mostly with time-outs. What didn’t work at the beach was to make them pack up and return to the house. I tried that and discovered that I liked being at the beach and I was the one who lost out! They were perfectly happy to be back in the house in front of the T.V.

In the Santa Maria Times there is a great article by Claire McCarthy, M.D. Harvard Health Blog, called Discipline of children: How to avoid long-term negative effects.

The article talks about the negative consequences of yelling or spanking your kids. Dr. McCarthy said studies show it doesn’t work and may cause aggressive behavior, mental health issues and substance abuse. It also hurts the relationship between the parent and child. In addition to discussing negative consequences of aversive parenting, she gives tips for positive discipline techniques. I highly recommend reading the entire article. Following are Dr. McCarthy’s tips for disciplining your children:

An alternative approach to discipline is in a loving, proactive way. Teach the rules ahead of time rather than waiting for your child to break them and reacting then — and be as positive and empowering as you can. Here are some tips:

  • Have realistic expectations. Babies are going to cry, toddlers are going to get into things they shouldn’t, school-age kids sometimes lie to avoid trouble, and teenagers — well, they do all sorts of things as they assert their independence. Not that you have to ignore or condone these behaviors (well, you might have to just deal with a baby crying; that’s not misbehaving), but it’s important to understand the stage your child is going through as you discipline. At each checkup with your pediatrician, talk about what to expect next in your child’s development.
  • Set clear limits. No should mean no, and there should be house and family rules for kind, safe behavior. Each family will have slightly different rules, but they should be clearly stated and known to everyone. Not only that, but when it comes to rules you need to:
  • Be consistent. If something isn’t allowed, it’s not allowed. If you give in sometimes out of sheer exhaustion or because you weren’t super-committed to that rule, kids will pick up on that immediately. Which means that you need to choose your rules carefully (meaning: Pick your battles).
  • Have predictable and clear consequences for breaking rules. Giving kids a heads-up is helpful (“I am going to count to three, and I need that to stop, or we will have a consequence”). The consequence should be something they don’t like — sending them to their room where they play with toys may not do the trick. “Timeout” is one option, where you put the child in a boring place for a minute for each year of age and don’t interact with them. You can also take toys or privileges away.
  • Reinforce good behavior. Say things like, “I love it when you … ” or “That was so nice that you did that!” or “Because you behaved so well today, let’s read an extra story tonight.” Children like praise and may be more likely to behave well when they see that it’s worth their while.
  • Be mindful of your own needs and reactions. Parenthood is hard. Sometimes parents need a timeout themselves. If you feel yourself getting really upset, make sure your child is somewhere safe, and then take some time to calm down.

What methods of discipline do you use for your kids and how well does it work?

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?

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?