About those to-do lists…

view of sonoran desert

View from our hike on the Broken Spoke Trail.

As I was writing my to do-list today, I felt frustrated. There are a couple things that I never get around to doing. Why do I continue to put them on my list? Instead of helping organize my day, the list is making me feel like a loser.

I have a choice. I either tackle those pesky things that I don’t want to do — or let them go.

My husband and I had a great hike yesterday on the Broken Spoke Trail near our house yesterday. He said he’s getting bored of not doing anything on the weekends. We are at the point that it’s tough being together in COVID isolation almost for a year. While we were out in the desert — I had an idea. It entailed making more lists.

ancient saguaro

My husband standing next to an amazing saguaro.

One would be a list of places we want to explore in our new state. I want to visit Sedona and the Grand Canton. He wants to see Payson and Puerto Penasco on the Sea of Cortez. All of those places will go on our list.

The other is a to-do list for our new house. On the second list, I’ve decided to spend one hour a day working on the guest room. Sitting on the carpet are 10 boxes that I’ve avoided unpacking consistently for the two months we’ve lived here. It’s probably stuff I should have thrown out, rather than moved. Also, the artwork is leaning against the walls. We have the rest of the house almost put together. We’re just waiting for the living room furniture we ordered in November. 

woman on hiking trail in the desert

On our Super Bowl Sunday desert hike.

So, I’m not giving up on lists. I just want to figure out how to not let my lists hurt my feelings.

Any suggestions?

 

Missing casual friends during COVID

Mt. San Jacinto Palm Springs

The view from my morning walks in Palm Springs.

Talking to my daughter yesterday, over the phone, I told her I was feeling lonely. I had one of those moments she told me was FOMO. I looked at an Instagram pic of my friends in Palm Springs going on a mountain bike ride. I wanted to be there with them. I decided a few days ago that I’m going to get a bike and try out the trails across the street. So, I felt a little pang, wishing that I could be there riding with friends.

(FOMO, my daughter told me, is the fear of missing out — for other boomers like me who don’t have a clue.)

I told her that my life isn’t that much different here. My life is still pretty much the same. I’m isolated, sheltering with my husband, and we aren’t out socializing or doing much except for daily walks and hikes — alone. Just like back in our old home.

“Yes, but you had your people,” she explained. “You stopped and talked to your friend Shawn at the park with his Irish Setter pups and you saw your Masters swimming friends.”

I told her that the people are friendly here, too. And we share smiles and friendly words daily on my walks. But, she’s right. It isn’t the same. I don’t know them like I knew my favorite checker at Ralph’s grocery store. We shared stories about how our adult kids were doing. Nor, do I stop and talk to anyone on my walks like I did with Shawn about politics or talk dogs and kids with the lady with the show Pekes. I don’t have the shared experience with anyone here like my swim Masters friends, where we’ve entered meets together, practiced in the rain and swim for Angel View Crippled Children’s Homes to raise money every New Year’s Eve.

I read several stories recently that talk about COVID sheltering in place and how we’re losing contact with our casual friends. Here’s an excerpt from The Atlantic by Amanda Mull that tackles this in The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship; There’s a reason you miss the people you didn’t even know that well:

In the weeks following, I thought frequently of other people I had missed without fully realizing it. Pretty good friends with whom I had mostly done things that were no longer possible, such as trying new restaurants together. Co-workers I didn’t know well but chatted with in the communal kitchen. Workers at the local coffee or sandwich shops who could no longer dawdle to chat. The depth and intensity of these relationships varied greatly, but these people were all, in some capacity, my friends, and there was also no substitute for them during the pandemic. Tools like Zoom and FaceTime, useful for maintaining closer relationships, couldn’t re-create the ease of social serendipity, or bring back the activities that bound us together.

Understandably, much of the energy directed toward the problems of pandemic social life has been spent on keeping people tied to their families and closest friends. These other relationships have withered largely unremarked on after the places that hosted them closed. The pandemic has evaporated entire categories of friendship, and by doing so, depleted the joys that make up a human life—and buoy human health. But that does present an opportunity. In the coming months, as we begin to add people back into our lives, we’ll now know what it’s like to be without them.

It’s partly the pandemic that has cut us off from our normal activities and life. For me, it’s also moving to a new state and starting over. Thank God for my iphone. I’m talking daily to my dad and good friends. But I miss those casual friends, too.

diving off the blocks

That’s me diving off the blocks in my first swim meet where I’m surrounded my swim friends, officials and coaches.

How have you noticed a change in your casual friendships going on month 11 of our new normal?

Why volunteer?

One year ago I wrote this post, when things were normal. I’d love to volunteer now in my new town. I think it would be a great way to meet people and feel like I’m contributing in some small way. Hopefully, I’ll be able to jump back into the pool and find a Masters team as well. One year ago at the beginning of February we had one known case of COVID in my hometown of Snohomish, WA. We had no idea what the year ahead would be like. Here’s to getting back to normal!

 

Long course at the Palm Springs pool.

I’m really missing our gorgeous Palm Springs pool, my swim friends — and long course.

I gave up part of my day to volunteer at the Piranhas Masters meet. I was too chicken to sign up to swim. I haven’t done a meet since pre-knee and eye surgery.

I took on a new writing job for trade magazines in the last few months that has me chasing deadlines and sources — even through the weekends. Maybe I shouldn’t have been there and should have stayed home and worked.

But, I went and feel so good about helping out, cheering on my teammates and friends.

Two things that stood out today:

The first heat I timed, my lane had a 98-year-old woman, who needed help to get on the blocks, who dove in and swam a 200 free. I said to my teammate and friend sitting next to me, “What was my excuse again for not swimming?”

Then there was the 20-something-old autistic young man who doesn’t function well in day-to-day life. I watched as he got up on the blocks, dove in, swam amazing underwaters, gorgeous strokes and won events with personal bests. His friend and coach told me he’s part of the US Paralympic Team. Although he doesn’t function in the “real world” he gets the pool. It was beautiful to watch. The support he got from his competitors was amazing, too. Everyone was on his team.

Volunteering was exactly the medicine I needed to feel fulfilled, connect with my community and get away from the stress of deadlines.

I recently read about the benefits of volunteering from several articles. Here’s one I read called “Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits” from a website called Help Guide: Your Trusted Guide to Mental Health & Wellness. Here’s the link and an excerpt:

Volunteering can help you make friends, learn new skills, advance your career, and even feel happier and healthier. Learn how to find the right fit.

Why volunteer?

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.

Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.

Benefits of volunteering: 4 ways to feel healthier and happier

  1. Volunteering connects you to others

  2. Volunteering is good for your mind and body

  3. Volunteering can advance your career

  4. Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life

    US Masters swim race

    Sights from the Masters swim meet.

    Where do you volunteer in your community and what do you enjoy most about it? Are you able to volunteer during COVID?

Gray Skies, Blue Mood

gray skies rain clouds

Cloudy skies above the nature preserve. 

We are on day three of gray skies, drizzle and cold weather. I’m missing my Palm Springs home. I’m feeling slightly blue missing my friends and old life. Life before COVID that is.

So what to do? I bundled up and went for a walk, the cold air blasting what was exposed of my face. My spirits lifted.

Tomorrow we’re expecting snow. Last week it was 80 degrees and sunny. I was really excited for this winter storm, but I’m already over it. I like walking four to five miles a day — and it’s too cold out — even with the wool cap, down coat and mittens to go that far. I like taking a break in my backyard, reading a book in the sun.

I am spoiled. I admit it. I’ve lived in sunshine for far too many years after leaving the gray downpours of Seattle.

javelina in the back yard

They look like the ROUS’s from the Princess Bride. But they are javelina.

Yesterday, I was startled when three strange creatures made their way along our fence. They were a family of javelinas. It looked like one youngster with mom and dad. They weren’t very photogenic, but I’ll try to get closer next time. The quail are keeping me entertained, too. They are getting fat on the bird seed I put out for them.

quail in rainy backyard

Another rainy day doesn’t detract the quail from our yard.

If you feel yourself getting blue, what can change your mood? Does weather affect your mood?

Exploring my new hometown

standing next to saguaro

This saguaro must be 200 years old.

I walk every single day and have for at least six years — except for 2018 when tore my ACL and meniscus skiing. I had surgery and months of recovery. Other than that lovely experience, I get out seven days a week without fail.

In Palm Springs, I’d walk downtown among the shops and restaurants or around the neighborhood and park. In my new Arizona home, it’s a wilder landscape full of saguaro, brush, shrubs, hawks and quail. At first I walked every morning in our development but that soon became boring. So I ventured outside to a sidewalk between our development and wild federal land.

saguaro in the sun

The wild views across the street.

I made a pledge to myself that every weekend, my husband and I would explore a new trail and go hiking. I was excited to get off the sidewalk and see more, but not willing yet to do it on my own. Moving into a new area during a global pandemic makes hiking the perfect way to explore safely. The first weekend after getting somewhat settled, we drove 10 miles to Cave Creek Regional Park for our first hike, which was challenging and gorgeous.

To find more trails, I googled moderate hikes in the county and discovered our house was across the street from a conservancy with trails — the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. We’re miles from the main entrance but there are trails literally across the street. A trailhead is two miles down the street from our house. We decided to drive to the trailhead instead of wasting four miles round-trip on the sidewalk. The other choice is to cross the street and walk through the brush and cactus until we ended up on a trail. I nixed that.

During the hike, as we got further into the wilderness, I felt a little anxious as we passed coyote scat and other signs of wildlife. I told my husband that next time I’ll bring my pepper spray or a hiking pole. My husband, of course, thought I was silly.

The hike was easy and we marveled at ancient saguaro and wanted to learn more about other cactus and plants. The landscape is so different from what we’re used to, it’s breathtaking. I wonder if I’ll get used to it and take it for granted? We missed the trailhead that led to our car. We kept going thinking it would be around the next bend. Pretty soon, we were close to our house. So we backtracked — adding more than a few miles to our hike. Not so easy, after all.

Saguaro

It takes a saguaro 100 years to grow an arm. I wonder how old this guy is?

Do you hike or walk during COVID-19 to get exercise? Where are your favorite places to go?

Counting down to change: 17 days to go

old spanish style house

My dream home of 28 years.

The movers are scheduled. I’m busy with lists of things to do from canceling utilities to signing up for high speed internet. It’s been 28 years in this beautiful old house. It was my dream house and I never wanted to move. Ever.

But my husband has. He’s brought it up for several years. At first I answered with sobs and tears. Finally, I acquiesced. But I had a last ditch plan. I thought we should test the market, because it’s super crazy hot. I wanted to list the house really, really high. So high that nobody would make an offer. So we did and it sold in three hours with two offers above asking price.

archway gate to casa

The entrance to our home.

Now moving is my new reality. There are things that made me want to move, too. One was the sports arena that was going in a block from our house with no plans for adequate parking. But that got nixed. Then there’s the hotel across the street with guests bringing their dogs over to our lawn to do their business. And the loud music and parties. I’m over that. But the hotel is bankrupt now, so it’s been quiet, which probably means it was a good time to sell our house. Then there are the people who drive the wrong way down our street, whipping around the corner of our house. My son and husband both got hit backing out of the driveway.

Most of all, it costs too much to live in this old house and in California. Plus, there’s our homeless guy who thinks he owns the house and peeks through our bedroom windows.

My kids were so upset. And rightfully so. This is the only home they’ve ever lived in. It’s their lifetime home until they left for college and then on to adulthood.

I know the move is for the best, but my emotions have been up and down and all over the place. I think it happened too fast. Three hours was not long enough to wrap my head around the move. Sometimes I’m so excited to try a new adventure. Other times, I’m teary eyed.

view of gorgeous Palm Springs backyard

I’ll miss this.

Have you ever moved? Were you excited or sad?

 

Reflections On Thanksgivings Past

mountain and palm tree view

View on my walk, after they’ve gone.

I wrote this five years ago, when both my kids came home for Thanksgiving weekend from college. I look back on this Thanksgiving fondly because it’s rare we get to spend the holiday together. Some years, my son stays up north near his girlfriend’s family. Then my daughter couldn’t leave due to her college team’s swim practice schedule.

This year, nobody is coming home. It’s partly due to COVID-19 and a new lockdown in effect. (Honestly, I didn’t think we ever got out of shelter in place, but people seemed less vigilant about following the rules.) This will be our last Thanksgiving in our home we’ve lived in for 28 years. So sad that we will be here all alone. I’m not going to cook for the two of us. My dad turns 89 in January and we decided it was best to skip a get together. It’s going to be a take-out dinner and maybe I’ll shed a few tears alone.

Here’s a look back at Thanksgiving 2015.

It’s Sunday after Thanksgiving and I was so thankful to have my family together. My two college kids came home to be with us! I cleaned and shopped all week, preparing for the big event.

Now, they’re gone.

Some of my favorite parts of the weekend:

The four of us walked down Palm Canyon Drive on Thanksgiving afternoon, before we ate my home-cooked meal. I loved that. The kids were happy, we window shopped, laughed and talked. There were the traditional piggy back rides and racing around.

brother sister piggyback ride

Piggyback rides downtown.

Then came dinner and my dad joined us. He’s close to 84 and I’m thankful he’s close by and can share time with us.

I was getting tired after being on my feet for the past few days. I couldn’t help but look with jealousy at the weekenders coming in and picking up their mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing off a fully stocked shelf at a local grocery store, Jensen’s. Too easy, but seriously? Would anyone care?

Some good moments we had were swimming at our team’s Friday morning practice–kind of together. Although the masters were separated from the kids, it was a shared experience. I had a first! I managed to push myself out of the pool without swimming to the stairs. Having to swim past my daughter and her friends’ lane, who were also home from college, would have been too embarrassing. So I did it!

daughter and mother photo outside

Feeling slightly short next to my daughter.

My son and I shared music. He’d play a song and then I’d give him a name of one to play. We went back forth while we drove to Palm Desert and back. He loves folk from the 60s and 70s. He listens to Joni Mitchell and some artists I’ve never heard of, but I enjoyed. I suggested “A Song for Juli,” by Jesse Colin Young and Nicolette Larson’s “Lotta Love,” plus a few more. We appreciate each other’s taste in music. He also shared a novella by Edan Lupucki that was a gem.

We went healthy food shopping and he taught my husband and I how to make chia pudding. Hmm.

My daughter and I had a delicious breakfast out together followed by a pedicure. Wonderful time together to talk and be mother and daughter like we used to be.

The four of us took the neighbor’s dog to the park and tossed the ball while my son jogged around us. It felt so good to play in the park where we spent so much of their younger days.

But, now they’re gone and here I am once again–alone at my computer. I do enjoy the freedom to write and finish some projects. I love my kids and I’m  blessed that they want to come home and we spend time being together.

I said I wasn’t going to cry this time when they left. In fact, I was surprised at how strong I was. Until the door closed behind them.

brother and sister at the ocean

When they were younger at the beach.