Kitty is done with us

Olive the cat in the suitcase.
Every time I pack, this happens. Olive is done with our vacations.

We had a tiring but fun weekend. I’ve decided that a six-hour drive on Friday, followed by six-hours on Sunday to get home, is too much for me.

I don’t mind the long drives like we took to Santa Barbara in August. That’s because we stayed for awhile. My body had time to relax and recover.

We arrived in San Diego Friday with one hour to rest and get read for a 30-minute drive to the wedding venue. What saved us on the drive was listening to “The Rooster Bar” by John Grisham. It’s amazing how books on tape — or Audible — make the drives fly by.

I made the mistake of booking our hotel room in Santee, SC — instead of Santee, CA. Oops.

Who knew there was more than one Santee and they’d have hotels with the exact same name?

The highlight of our trip happened Saturday. We visited my husband’s aunt and uncle who live in Santee (hence the reason I booked a hotel there — or thought I did. Right town, wrong state.) His cousin surprised us and came too with her son from an hour away.

My husband’s uncle is 93 years old. The last time we saw him was August three years ago to celebrate his 90th birthday. Because of COVID and then moving we haven’t visited. I have to say he looks amazing. He’s full of energy. He drives, he shops, he cooks, he waits on his wife — my husband’s aunt. He makes the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten. Luciano (the uncle) came to the US from Italy when he was 30 years old after marrying my husband’s aunt. She met Luciano while she was the city planner of Rome.

After she graduated with a degree from Berkeley in the 1960s, she couldn’t get hired in the U.S. in her field because she was a woman. However, she did get hired in Italy, so she learned Italian and moved.

She’s a dynamo that I’ve always looked up to. Not only has she had an amazing career, she’s written and published at least 15 books. She’s a world traveler and had a series based on a travel agent/murder solver. If you’re interested, here’s a link to R. Ann Siracusa on Goodreads. My favorite book of hers is “Family Secrets: A Vengeance of Tears.”

If that’s not enough, she’s a grandmother who actively takes care of her grandchildren. And she quilts. She taught my daughter and I how to quilt.

Whew, I’m exhausted thinking about these inspiring relatives.

What relatives have motivated and inspired you? What’s your limit for drives on trips?

A sign things are “normal”

backyard downtown Palm Springs
Our old backyard in Palm Springs with a view of Mt. San Jacinto

When we lived in Palm Springs, Calif. which is one of the hottest spots in our nation — next to Death Valley — we used movies as an escape from the heat. It didn’t matter what was playing, we’d find something we were mildly interested in. It got us out of the house where we spent most days.

Then COVID hit and movie theaters were closed. I missed movies a lot. I loved the smell of popcorn when you walk through the theater doors. I loved the few hours sitting in the dark, watching the big screen with unbelievable sound.

I remember writing during the shutdown that the first thing I wanted to do when things reopened was go to the movies.

Fast forward to September 2022 — and we hadn’t been yet. The reason why? I was uncomfortable sitting in the theater with a bunch of strangers. Once we moved, the theater was a 30-minute drive, not a few blocks. The Phoenix area has 6 million people, rather than the 48,000 of Palm Springs. Whenever I looked online, the theaters were full.

Labor Day was packed at the beach. We went early and left when floods of people set up their umbrellas and chairs. We came up with the brilliant idea of going to the movies!

We saw Top Gun. I loved every minute of it. I felt like it was a milestone of getting back to “normal.”

What was first on your list to do post shutdown?

COVID on my mind

Rainy day
The backyard where I’m hanging out in isolation.

I was talking to my son on the phone and he didn’t sound well. He sounded congested and he was coughing.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’m pretty sure it’s allergies,” he said. “But I’ve had trouble breathing at night for the past few days.”

After he hung up the phone with me, he called back to say he had taken a COVID test and he tested positive.

I told him to call his doctor and he said he would, and he had to call other people like his PT that he had been around in the past day or two.

Because he has asthma, he is a high risk COVID patient. The doctor gave him an RX for an experimental antiviral. Currently, he’s in bed miserable. I’m hoping the drug kicks in soon and he shows improvement. Yes, I’m worried.

Next, I got a phone call from the mother of the bride from the wedding we went to on the weekend. She sounded awful and said she tested positive for COVID too. While we were at the wedding, we talked to one guest from overseas who said his wife traveled all the way for the wedding only to test positive that morning. So she was in bed and flew halfway around the world for nothing. I’ve heard of a few other people who came down with it, too.

A neighbor called and asked me out for lunch. I told her I will wait a few days. I don’t feel like I have COVID, but on the other hand, I’ve been exposed. I think the polite thing is to stay in for a few days and make sure I’m not coming down with it and test.

My book club was cancelled this week due to the hostess having COVID rebound.

It seems weird to be this far along from 2020 and have the pandemic rear it’s ugly head.

Have you heard of an uptick in COVID lately? Or is it just the people around me?

The things we believed — at first

masking with fabric
When we first were wearing masks, I used quilting fabric, which we now know isn’t that helpful. Here I am at the park in Palm Springs by my old home.

We spent Father’s Day at our friends who moved unbeknownst to us from Palm Springs to a mile from our new Arizona home. We played bocce ball, cooled off in their pool and ate a delicious dinner of bbq’d pork ribs.

At some point in the conversation I mentioned that we took Vitamin D3 every day because it’s supposed to help protect us from COVID.

My girlfriend’s husband who is a newly retired doctor said, “Where did you hear that? That makes zero sense. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. How do strong bones help with COVID?”

I humbly replied that I had read it everywhere. I couldn’t point to a specific source, but it was a common theme I heard repeatedly from people I knew and news sources.

When I got home, I googled it. Early on during the pandemic, researchers believed that Vitamin D helped. Now there are extensive studies that show there’s no evidence or correlation that Vitamin D protects people from the SARS virus.

I thought about other things that have changed through the last two years as scientists learned more about the dreaded disease.

First, we were told that it could last on objects for hours or even days. This resulted in our city pool being shut down, playground equipment and the tennis courts closed to the public. A few skate parks in Southern California were filled with sand to encourage social distancing.

playground equipment with yellow tape
This was the playground equipment at our park during the shut down.

Now we know that the virus doesn’t sit for hours on inanimate objects and it would have been healthier for kids to play on the playground — rather than being isolated in their homes.

A friend of mine would unpack her groceries from the cart and wipe them all down with bleach or alcohol before she loaded them into her car.

I know a lot of people who told me they’d strip off their clothes inside their front door when they returned, jumped into the shower and washed their clothes. That was especially true for people who were “essential workers” and had to work with the public.

I wore cloth masks such as the quilting fabric in the photo above — and my husband wore a bandana.

What are some of the things you did when the pandemic first hit that you later found out weren’t effective?

bungee swimming in pool
My daughter using the bungee in our backyard pool since the city pool was closed.

Just say no!

roadrunner in the back yard.
A roadrunner outside the casita window.

A headline caught my eye about saying no. ‘

Boost Your Mental Health by Saying ‘No’

If we want to rebuild lives that are more balanced and meaningful, we need to prioritize. Declining requests is crucial.

This was in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, written by Elizabeth Bernstein.

Since we moved and things started opening up post COVID shutdowns, I find myself saying yes to everything. That’s because I lived through two years of doing nothing. As my life gets busier and busier, I long for quiet time alone to read or sit in the back yard listening to and watching the birds.

Recently, I said yes to writing the community’s newsletter. (I’m not sure that was a good idea.) I’ve said yes to book club and coffee club. I’ve said yes to neighbor’s invitations. I’ve joined the YMCA and go four times a week to swim and workout. We’ve had people over for wine and dinner. I can’t believe I’m missing the endless days of no plans. But I am.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“No” has never been an easy word to say, especially to the people we care about most. And after two years of pandemic life—with very few invites to decline—we may be even rustier than usual at delivering the bad news. et, many of us now are fielding more invites and requests than we have in years.

We’re eager to get back out there. We’re also burnt out on stress and schedules that often seem like all work and no fun. We know that if we want to rebuild lives that are more balanced and more meaningful we need to prioritize. Learning to decline requests will be crucial to this effort.

Think of saying no as the ultimate self-care strategy.

“If we just agree to everything mindlessly, we are not going to be able to come up with the priorities to take us where we want to go,” says Vanessa Bohns, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University.

We sometimes say yes simply because we’re uncomfortable saying no. We’re social beings—we want people to like us. We feel guilty if we let others down or hurt their feelings, especially our closest family and friends. They’re the ones who often want us to say yes the most—and who may experience our “no” as a rejection of them, rather than of the request.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-ultimate-self-care-strategy-saying-no-11651529315?mod=life_work_lead_story

Bernstein, the reporter, offers five tips for saying no which include not rushing, start with thank you and standing firm.

What are your thoughts about saying no? Does it come easy to you? Are you getting more invitations to do things outside the home? How do you feel about it?

Our resident cardinal I watch while Im writing in the casita.

A few random thoughts

bright yellow blossoms
I saw this in a neighbor’s yard today on my morning walk. I’ve never noticed it before. It must be the blossoms that got my attention. Maybe it hasn’t bloomed since we moved here until recently.

Thursday was a busy day. I had coffee club and I swam in addition to reading and writing.

My son called several times yesterday. He asked me about Wordle. We both got it done in four yesterday. He said “Four is a par and three is a birdie.”

I think he’s correct about the golf analogy. Two is definitely an eagle.

Coffee club was fun. I’m glad I went. I’m getting to know a few women in my neighborhood. We met at a local coffee shop and had breakfast together and talked.

I am reminded of when I was in kindergarten and my mom was in the neighborhood coffee klatch. She quit and said it was a waste of time. Her favorite word back then was “highbrow.” I have a feeling she didn’t think the women measured up.

At the pool I swam 1,200 yards. Just think, pre COVID I was swimming 3,000. I started at the YMCA swimming three weeks ago. I’ve made it twice a week for three weeks. Yay for me. I began with 500 yards, bumped it up to 1,000 and then 1,200. I hope to be at 1,500 soon.

I’m taking barre class later this morning. I’m also doing that class twice a week along with swimming. I feel like I’m getting stronger and in better shape — but I don’t recover like I used to. I guess that’s due to aging and lack of activity during the shut down.

Consistency is my key. I don’t talk myself out of going — I go. No excuses. I’m sticking to this schedule for the next few weeks to see if it gets any easier. Then I may add a third day of swimming or another class.

What random thoughts do you have today? What are you doing to stay in shape? Do you think the COVID shutdown affected your physical health?

What are you forgetting?

Olive cat in the morning sun.
Olive’s memory is just fine.

Have you noticed yourself forgetting things lately? I have. I can walk into a room for something and forget why I am there. Also, I can’t go the grocery store without forgetting items on my list — or things I forgot to add to my list. I also am forgetting names and words. I notice my husband is in the same boat.

I found an article in the Wall Street Journal called “Why We’re All Forgetting Things Right Now: Short, temporary moments of forgetfulness are happening to more of us more often these days, memory experts say” by Elizabeth Bernstein. She writes for WSJ’s Life and Work section.

Here’s an excerpt:

Short, temporary instances of forgetfulness—those ‘senior moments’—are happening to more of us more often these days, memory experts say. We’re finding it difficult to recall simple things: names of friends and co-workers we haven’t seen in a while, words that should come easily, even how to perform routine acts that once seemed like second nature. 

We’re living in yet another moment of big change as we return to offices, create new routines and find our footing in yet another new normal. (And don’t forget a scary war in Europe on top of that.) All this change consumes cognitive energy, often much more than we think, neuroscientists say. It’s no wonder we can’t remember what we had for breakfast.  Our minds are struggling with transition moments.

“Our brains are like computers with so many tabs open right now,” says Sara C. Mednick, a neuroscientist and professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. “This slows down our processing power, and memory is one of the areas that falters.”

The chronic and cumulative stress of the past two years has taken its toll, too. Research led by Dr. Shields shows that people who have experienced recent life stressors have impaired memory. Stress negatively affects our attention span and sleep, which also impact memory. And chronic stress can damage the brain, causing further memory problems, says Dr. Shields, an assistant professor in the department of psychological science at the University of Arkansas. 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-were-all-forgetting-things-right-now-11649166214?mod=life_work_lead_pos3

The article also said we are bombarded with too much information and scanning through info on our phones isn’t helpful. Another thing that an expert pointed out was the sameness of every day during the shut down. Apparently we need novelty to help our memories.

They offered suggestions on how to deal with memory loss. If other people are noticing it, you should probably see a doctor. Also, don’t try to force it if you forget something because that’s counter productive. Stay calm and turn off the TV and phones to be present in the moment.

Have you noticed a lag in your memory or a spouse or friends since COVID hit? What types of things do you forget?