It’s a Carefree Kind of Day

Carefree Arizona fountain
A fountain in Carefree’s city center.

Today I went to the Farmer’s Market at the city center of Carefree, Ariz. Don’t you love that name? I do! The town is tiny and is literally a stone’s throw from our new home. I was surprised walking around the small market. Nobody was wearing masks! I didn’t see a single one anywhere. Not by the vendors, not by the shoppers. Two weeks ago I went to the Farmer’s Market and everyone was wearing masks.

I felt free. I could breathe. I was happy as I said hello to strangers and smiled and got smiles in return. Definitely a Carefree feeling.

Colorful art at Carefree Farmer's Market.
Colorful art at the Carefree Farmer’s Market.

Then I stopped at the grocery store to get a few things. I wore my mask inside because that’s been the rule. I asked the checker, who was wearing a mask, if masks were required in the store. I had noticed other shoppers weren’t wearing them. She said, “The signs came down a month ago. We’re required to wear them, but not you.”

I took off my mask and said, “Wonderful!”

She said, “Enjoy your oxygen! I’m jealous!”

The work of sculptor Arthur Norby, Stampede depicts a horse with a cowboy apparently trying to head off a herd of cattle. It was originally designed for Javelina Crossing in Indianapolis. It was installed in Carefree in March, 2008. It is bronze, listed as unique and 10 feet tall.l

What are the rules for wearing masks where you live? How does it make you feel?

Is letting go the same as losing control?

Four boy swimmers hanging on the lane line
My son with his best swim buddies.

I wrote this when my son graduated college and was starting in his adult career. I realized I had lost control over his life choices and it was time for me to let go.

As an empty nester, there are times I wish I had more control over my kids’ lives. I don’t have much anymore. I remember the days when they’d actually do what I asked them. They believed the same way I did about everything including religion, politics and what books to read.

They watched the movies I’d check out from the library, and because I picked them out, they loved them. One day my son asked, “Mom, do they make movies without singing and dancing?” Yikes. I guess I was a little too into the classic musicals. I am happy, though, that my kids got to share that part of Americana. Many millennials never learned the words to On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe from “The Harvey Girls.” My aunt was surprised while visiting us when my son invited her to watch a movie. She was expecting Disney or Barney. She was thrilled to watch “Meet Me in St. Louis” with him.

happy kids playing in the sand.
Back when I got to pick out the movies.

Somewhere along the line of those perfect days, I lost control. Today, my kids have their own opinions about religion, politics, and life in general that aren’t exactly the same as mine. For example, I want to tell my son to pursue a career in business or law. My husband and I send him job openings in the Bay area, where he’s currently living. (FYI, We don’t want him to live that far away. We don’t like how expensive it is. It’s all wrong to us.)

Does he listen? He’s polite. Every time I text an employment opportunity, he thanks me and says, “that’s a good idea.” Then he goes and applies to one of the worst school districts where the standardized test scores are 2 in math and 7 in English. He decides to teach instead of what I want him to do—and in one of the most difficult situations possible. He thinks it will be a challenge.

my son's valedictorian speech
High school graduation speech.

I can’t stop him. He’ll have to live his own life and learn his own life lessons. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. So, I guess I need to learn to let go since I’ve lost control anyway. I am proud that he’s an adult with his own dreams and goals.

moms and kids at laguna beach
The gang at Laguna Beach.

UPDATE: The teaching career ended and our son went into business jobs. He’s loving the job and company he’s working for and also wants to pursue a masters degree in data science. We’ve tried to stay out of his decisions and only offer advice when he asks. He’s making a great life without us telling him what to do! Imagine that?

What is your reaction when your kids make choices you disagree with?

An on the fritz type of day

Vine cactus or ocotillo in bloom in my front yard

Have you ever had a day where things aren’t working? Well, today is one of those days. It began when I was in the shower and my husband walked in to tell me that the microwave blew up.

Not exactly blew up, but it has arcing sparks from the metal plate inside. We decided not to use it anymore. I found a folder labeled “Microwave Oven” that the previous owners left us. It had receipts, the model and serial numbers and a phone number to call. How handy was that? And lucky us the microwave is less than a year old and under factory warranty.

I went into the casita and called the number for the microwave manufacturer. I spent an hour on the phone mostly on hold. When I finally got transferred to the right person, his phone began to mute out. I caught about every three words. He said it was his headset, so he put me on speaker. But he continued to mute. I said, “Please stay on the line. I’ve got too much time invested in this.” He put me on hold while he fixed his phone. The end result is that they will send someone out to replace and install a new microwave. The bad news is the backorder wait of six weeks, which must be COVID related, right?

While I was on hold, I noticed it was strangely dark in the casita. I flipped on and off all the light switches. Only two of the eight ceiling lights turned on. I found out where the fuse boxes are since the microwave muting man told me to turn off the microwave breaker. The prior owners labeled all the fuses neatly — which is a nice change from the house we lived in for almost 30 years. I not only turned off the microwave breaker but I flipped the casita ones as well. Lights still don’t work.

Maybe I should call it a day and go back to bed before something else stops working. Instead I decided to go for a walk to our development’s gate and test out the fobs to open it. For some reason they quit working. Our name was removed from the directory and the keypad code doesn’t work either. I reported this yesterday and hoped that they got us “unerased.”

A view walking to the gate to test out the fobs. We’re going to hike up that mountain when my son visits.

Have you ever had a day when everything goes on the fritz? These are really small problems but it’s weird when they happen at once. My daughter would call these white people or first world problems.

We’re in full bloom — desert style

Living in the Sonoran desert for my first Spring, it’s exciting to see flowers and growth sprouting everywhere. Here are some of the highlights I’ve seen the past few days: cactus, flowers, wildlife and grass I bought for our cat.

A cactus in bloom.
Pomegranate flowers.
Somebody is munching on our plants.
Quail outside my bedroom window.
Cactus exploding with Spring growth.
Grass for the kitty.
She loves it.

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?