A birthday for the dogs

Robert at the beach
My son at the beach when he was younger.

Today is my son’s birthday. It was also our big yellow lab Angus’s birthday.

The following story was first published in the Los Angeles Times Sunday paper in the Kids’ Reading Room section. It’s the true story of my son’s second grade birthday party.

Robert with the Easter Bunny
My son with the Easter bunny.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents are too much for one eight-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Big yellow lab
Angus

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large licorice jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus and Robert

Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

Thoughts on Leaving California

One year ago in December we left California for Arizona. I’m loving it now. But I’ll admit it took me at least half a year to warm up to the move. During my week in California for Christmas, I got homesick for my new home, Olive the cat and our wildlife of coyotes, javelina, quail and the bobcat.

Here’s what I thought one year ago about the move when it was a couple weeks after leaving California:

archway gate
The entrance to our old home in Palm Springs.

Did you know there is a private Facebook group called Leaving California? I’m not sure how I ran across it, but before we made the move, I signed up. I was surprised to find out there are more than 30,000 members!

Scrolling through the posts made me feel sad in the beginning. I wasn’t convinced I wanted to leave. I loved our home downtown Palm Springs. We were two blocks from restaurants, shops and our views were breathtaking.

To add to my uncertainty, my “adult children” were beyond furious. That was the only home they’ve known prior to moving away for college and their adult lives. They both believe we made the biggest mistake in our lives by selling our home. It does have “location, location, location.” It is beautiful. But it also had its downsides. It was rustic without many modern amenities like closet space or a roomy kitchen. I was always freezing and my fingers went numb. It was big on charm, though. It was also big on expense. For some reason — partly because it’s located in California and also that it was built in the 1930s — it was terribly expensive to keep up.

birthday party for dog
My kids celebrating Natasha the rottie’s birthday.

The kids were so angry with us that they didn’t speak to my husband or me for a bit. This made me more sad. We invited them to come home to say good-by. We also asked the buyers if we could stay for one last Christmas. They said, sure, no problem — $8,000 and Christmas was ours. We passed and decided to bite the bullet. We left our home close to 30 days of selling.

I bring this up about my kids because I noticed this week on the Facebook Leaving California page, that a lot of people are going through the same thing with their adult children. The latest post garnered close to 400 comments. Most said “Tell them to buy it if they want it.” Others were a little more understanding to the kids’ feelings.

prom photos in backyard
Pre Prom Photo in our back yard.

I understand how my kids feel. My mom had to sell our childhood home, which was gorgeous with stunning views, too. Unfortunately, she had to sell after she and my dad divorced and she could no longer afford the expenses. I can tell you, that was an extremely upsetting way to lose my childhood home — and my nuclear family. I felt like my world turned upside down and there was no gravity to keep me on the planet.

My husband felt our kids were acting spoiled. They weren’t entitled to the house. He said he’d been working since age 13 and didn’t want to work until the day he died to pay to live in our home. Although, he’s still working now in our new home, there will come a day in a couple years where he won’t have to.

My kids are coming to accept our new reality. I’m looking forward to COVID-19 vaccines and their visits to our new home. I can’t wait to show them the hiking trails we’re discovering, the quail running through our backyard and the sunsets and sunrises.

Nothing can take away all the great memories we had of 28 years living there. I truly believe that home is not a structure, but is with the people who love you.

view of gorgeous Palm Springs backyard
Our former backyard all fixed up to sell.

What are your thoughts about selling a childhood home? Would your kids understand? How did you feel when your parents did the same?

Looking back: A birthday for the dogs

robert

Friday was my son’s birthday. I miss him so much but am looking forward to his visit when we are all vaccinated. Hopefully, he and his girlfriend will be here in a few weeks. I’m so proud of the caring and sensitive person he is and how he’s enjoying his career.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1

In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his 2nd grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one eight-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swalloing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8

Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

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

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

bungee swimming in pool
My daughter using the bungee in our backyard.

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

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

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

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

masked up
Me in my COVID-19 couture.

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

Missing my friend who died too early

One of my closest friends from childhood passed away unexpectedly two and a half years ago. Saturday was her birthday and while I was swamped with moving, I couldn’t get her out of my head. I miss her so much.

friend with my baby girl

Rebecca with my baby girl.

I learned via Facebook that my dear friend Rebecca had passed away.

She had a huge personality, was fearless, beautiful and brilliant. I received private messages from her on Facebook constantly, and I noticed I didn’t reply to the last one which I received on a Saturday afternoon—the day she died.

I wonder if she knew she was leaving us? I had no idea that she was ill, but I’ve since learned that she had diabetes and died from DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis).

The first time I met Rebecca was at my childhood house. Her older brother Paul had been hanging out with our family for a few weeks that summer before seventh grade. One day, Rebecca decided to come over to our house with him because she wanted to meet me. We went to different elementary schools but for junior high the town’s elementary school students would all attend the same school. I was shy and wouldn’t leave my bedroom to meet her. Finally, my mom coaxed me out to meet Rebecca Coombs and our friendship of a lifetime began.

34118598_10216953766580201_581230103032233984_n

The last photo she sent me of herself. “When my baby grand wants a kiss, I oblige. Sir-Mix-Alot this as good as I can get! lol.”

She was the opposite of me in so many ways. She was bold, outgoing and not afraid of anyone or anything. Her long straight black hair hung past her waist and she had a huge smile. Some of my fondest memories were her introducing me to Taco Bell—which I still love today. I got a burrito supreme today in her honor. Also, because of Rebecca, our entire high school won the local radio station KJR top 40 competition for a free concert—which was the first rock concert I ever attended, “WAR.” I went with her to see Natalie Cole at the Paramount in downtown Seattle, too. She introduced me to so much music and laughter. I remember always laughing with Rebecca and her sister Mary. Mary became as close of a friend to me as Rebecca.

Rebecca was one of a few students from our high school that went to the University of Washington with me. I remember spending the first night in the dorm, with Rebecca in a sleeping bag on my floor.

rebecca 1

Me, Rebecca and my baby girl.

My sophomore year Thanksgiving weekend, I was home and I went with Rebecca and Mary to a concert at a local Grange. I was going to ask a family friend who was there to a Tolo (a dance where the girls ask the boys for the date). We were crossing the street on the Bothell Highway when I panicked at the oncoming lights of cars. I froze in the middle of the street. I grabbed onto Rebecca’s parka hood and she wasn’t able to escape the oncoming pick-up truck either. I shattered my pelvis and Rebecca lost a kidney. We became connected by that one experience forever.

Later on, she married the family friend who I was going to ask to the dance. The marriage didn’t last that long and she did find someone she said was the love of her life, who sadly died a few years ago. Also, her brother Paul died years ago as well as Mary’s husband. Her life had so much tragedy, yet she stayed positive and filled with joy. Near the end, she moved to Hawaii to be close to her son Jake, who she was so proud of. She posted pictures of her new life and her grandchildren whom she called “the grands.”

I will admit she was much better at reaching out and staying connected. Throughout our lives, she’d call me and during the last few months send me private messages on an almost daily basis. One funny story I remember about Rebecca was she called me up and asked who Bill Gates was. She had attended the Microsoft Christmas Party with a friend who worked there and met Bill Gates. She had no clue who he was. It was well known in Seattle that Bill was looking for a wife. He had asked her to Sunday Brunch and she said no. She told me that he was kind of a geek and she was felt awkward and made up an excuse why she couldn’t go.

I miss my dear friend and how full of life she was. God bless you and RIP, Rebecca.

 

rebecca 2

Rebecca, her husband Andrew and son Jake plus my kids.

 

Good News: A Birthday for the 🐕


robert

 

It’s my son’s birthday on Thursday. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. 

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m posting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

Missing My Angus and Birthday Boy


robert

 

It’s my son’s birthday is in less than two weeks. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. This year, I’m going to visit him in the Bay area and celebrate his birthday with him there.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!