Quiet time outside with kitty

cat asleep on pet grass.
Olive is sound to sleep today on her pet grass next to boxes of grass I’m growing for her.

Yesterday as I recovered from my big day of DIY with sore muscles, I decided to put the harness and leash back on Olive, our 10-year-old cat. Olive used to spend half her time outside until we moved. Now that we’re living with a bobcat, hawks, coyotes and other wildlife, we’ve been advised to keep the cat inside.

I ordered a harness and leash online when a friend who lives nearby said it worked for her cat. I’ve tried it a couple times and it’s been a disaster. I don’t know why I thought about giving it another try, but I did.

cat in harness and leash
Olive wearing the harness and leash.

Olive seemed more comfortable yesterday. She sat on my lap, nose sniffing, ears moving in rhythm with birds chirping. Her tail twitched. I moved from the comfort of the cozy outdoor chair at the table to our patio bar. There’s a saguaro with baby woodpeckers living inside across from the pool. They make loud chirping noises when their parents are gone and there’s also the excitement of the parents coming in and out to feed them. I thought it would be a lively place to sit with Olive to have an unobstructed view of the action and sounds.

Where Olive wanted to jump on the bar for a better view of the woodpecker’s nest in the saguaro.

She leaped from my lap to the bar. I grabbed her mid leap and ended up with a bloody scratch on my thigh. I don’t know why I didn’t give her the freedom to make the leap. She was on a leash after all. But it was my instant reaction to protect her.

We sat for a while longer and I think we both enjoyed the quiet time outside just listening and observing nature. At least I know I did.

Do you get outside to sit, listen and watch? I’m finding it very peaceful and entertaining. What are your favorite views?

Hard work never hurt anyone?

pug in mortar board with college grad
My daughter and Waffles during college graduation.

A few years ago my daughter graduated from college and was recruited by a Scottsdale, Ariz. firm. We told her we’d love to go apartment hunting with her. My husband was impressed with the area and wanted to move to Arizona someday (spoiler alert: we did during COVID). What we discovered with our daughter was very expensive housing for renters. And relatively cheap homes to purchase — especially compared to California. A mortgage payment was close to $1,000 less per month than a rental payment. Plus it made sense as an investment.

So, we decided to buy a small house. It didn’t take long for my daughter to realize she was in the wrong career and really didn’t like her job. She applied for several jobs and had a couple offers. This was all pre-COVID lockdowns when there were more jobs than people applying. She took a job in the Bay Area where she’d be living a few miles from our son, her big brother.

pug on a sofa
Waffles inside the house where my daughter lived.

After our daughter left, we decided to hang onto the house and rent it out. This weekend the current tenants moved out. We have new ones coming in a few weeks. We were shocked at how the house looked today, compared to when my daughter took such good care of it. Two of the rooms have so many holes in the walls it looked like someone was playing with a machine gun. Seriously? Who puts 50 holes in a wall? I guess three college students do and did. The yard needs a lot of work, too.

We decided we didn’t have any plans this Fourth of July weekend, so we’d be DIYers. We started by patching holes and prepping two rooms for fresh paint. After working on the house from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. yesterday, I’m feeling muscles I didn’t know I had. I can barely walk, bend over or sit in a chair. I was reminded of the saying “Hard work never hurt anyone.”

These are the holes I patched in one bedroom. Next comes primer and paint. I already finished taping the floorboards, closet doors. It’s going to be a light, light, grayish blue when done.

I am hurting. Big time. I’m also very tired. Despite us getting cranky with each other (to put it mildly!) and sore muscles — I think in the long run this is good for us. We aren’t used to doing hard physical labor. At least not since chasing around little kids, working all weekend on my feet at a swim meet, or working in the yard at our old house.

I think the toughest part for me was the painters tape. I taped up the floor boards, doorways and windows. Bending over or sitting on the floor trying to get the tedious work done was an adventure in itself. With my post surgery knee that has never been the same, just sitting on the floor in a semi comfortable position is work.

Here’s to getting the house and yard back into shape and having tenants who take better care of it.

Before picture of the back yard.
The lawn today.

What do you think about DIY projects? Do you enjoy them or would you prefer hiring someone? What projects have you done?

Striving for an attitude of gratitude

I woke up the other morning thinking I was in my old Palm Springs home. Have you ever woken up not sure where you are? It happened frequently when we first moved to Arizona but it hasn’t happened to me for months. But, I started to miss my old Spanish Colonial home that day. It was a very pretty and unique home. Filled with memories.

A view from the kitchen to the living room of our old house. The mirror is now in our master bedroom.

It had a good location, too. So why did we move? For many reasons. Although I loved living downtown Palm Springs, we were right behind a hotel. We constantly had to call the ABC or police when the hotel violated their restrictions on noise. Living next to a busy hotel when they violate their liquor license with outdoor amplified music in the middle of the night wasn’t fun. During 2020 the hotel closed. I’m glad we sold the house before it reopened.

rustic small kitchen

The house was stunning, but not that practical. The kitchen was tiny. We called it a one-butt kitchen, but it worked. I could unload the dishwasher, cook and open the fridge without taking a step. I’d rotate in place. I had more than one friend ask me how I dealt with such a tiny kitchen.

master bedroom with open tub and pillars
The master bedroom of our old home.

Some of the things I didn’t like about the house was it had a carport, not a garage. The carport flooded every time it rained. It also got dusty and dirty, because the desert is dusty and dirty.

Another thing I didn’t like was the lack of storage because the house was built in the 1930s. Also, it was so cold in the winter that my fingers would go numb. And don’t get me started on the four-digit electric bill in the summer.

Another thing I don’t miss is the homeless man who peaked through our bedroom windows and slept in our yard. He terrified me. I’d spot him on our cameras every time we left town. He was watching us. I’d leave for my walk and return to find him in our yard.

Spanish colonial Movie Colony home.
View of our old home.

But we have tons of good memories. We raised our family for more than 28 years in that home. Yes, I’ll miss it even though our new house is so much more practical and less expensive to live in. My husband would like the ability to retire someday. Arizona makes that possible. I also feel like I’m living in luxury with a real garage and a kitchen with more cupboards than I can fill.

So I am grateful to be in Arizona. And I’m thankful for my friends, my cat and my family. You see, I’m practicing more gratitude. I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m going to start my gratitude journal and practice the three blessings before I go to bed at night.

The Three Blessings Exercise

This exercise was created by Dr. Martin Seligman and it is extremely easy to follow:

Before going to sleep every night, write down three things that went well that day. They don’t need to be big things. They can be little things that made you happy or that made you smile, or simply that had a positive impact on you. Then write why they went well.

By doing so you focus on the positive aspects of your day instead of the negatives. After a while, it becomes a habit and your mind gets wired to have a more optimistic approach to your daily life. Studies show that after months of doing this exercise, your well-being increases and you feel overall more optimistic.

http://warriorsnotworriers.com/three-blessings-well-being/
I have attempted to do this exercise in the past, but then I forget about it. I think it’s time to get back to it.
sunset view from the Old Movie Colony.
View at sunset from our old backyard.

What are you thankful for as we begin the Fourth of July weekend?

Views of flowering cactus

I thought the blooms on cactus would be over. But we seem to be having another round. Living in the Sonoran Desert for the first time, I’m learning how each month or week brings new sites and new life.

blooming saguaro

Our yard is currently a mess. We had a broken pipe in the yard that formed a large pool of water. Then after that one was fixed, another one burst. So we hired our gardener to completely replace the entire system. Our yard is a criss cross applesauce mess of trenches and pipes laying everywhere. It’s been five days, it’s not done, and we are watering plants with a hose or watering can. I think I lost my gardenia plant.

blooming cactus

My husband has gone full Bill Murray from Caddyshack. He comes in with hands and arms filled with almost invisible stickers after trying to stop the rabbits and chipmunks from eating our plants. They love to munch on cactus. Who knew it would be so tasty? He’s tried traps, solar zappers and smoke bombs. Nothing seems to help. They not only eat the cactus above ground, they burrow underground and eat the roots. We’re skipping the poison method because we don’t want to kill the hawks or our bobcat.

red buds on cactus
white blossom on cactus
This blooming cactus is outside our front door.
cloudy desert sky
I was hoping for rain yesterday, but it never happened. Beautiful clouds though.

Do New Year’s Resolutions Work?

This year, I’ve decided to not make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not that they haven’t worked for me in the past, so long as I kept them small and not overwhelming. I view New Year’s Resolutions as a “don’t do this list” rather than “try something new.” Although that’s not totally accurate, it’s how I’m looking at it for 2021. Here’s the difference between resolutions and goals I found online:

Essentially, a resolution is something you will constantly be working toward, while a goal is specific and finite. Resolutions are made up of goals. While there is a difference between goals and resolutions, they are relevant and intertwined.


What’s the Difference Between Goals and Resolutions …

quail on patio

These entertaining guys hang outside my office.

I’ve decided that I’d rather make a list of goals, not resolutions. Mostly it’s learning new things, seeing new places. In my new home, I want to learn about the birds I’m seeing, the plants, the trails and mountains.

hiking trail Cave Creek AZ

One of our first hikes in AZ at Cave Creek Regional Park.

So, a few of my goals — besides getting my house unpacked and in order — are:

  1. Start birdwatching — I already put a bird feeder in the backyard.
  2. Learn about saguaro cactus and other species of native plants.
  3. Hike on a new trail each week.
  4. Experience more sunrises and sunsets.
  5. Explore areas like the Grand Canyon and Sedona.
  6. Take a photography class online.
  7. Sketch or paint some of my new scenery.
  8. Begin a new manuscript, in a genre new to me.

    sunset in AZ desert

    The sunset from our street.

    Do you have a list of New Year’s Resolutions or goals to share?

Letting go…of stuff and more stuff

desert view

Views from my neighborhood.

Yesterday I had a breakthrough moment. During the endless hours of unpacking boxes, I realized I could let go of stuff. Lots of stuff. We are setting up our new home in Arizona after escaping the high cost of living in California. This wasn’t easy because my husband is third generation and I’ve lived in CA for 36 years after leaving my home state of Washington.

I got rid of sweatshirts that I’ve had for years, including ones from my kids momentous swim meets and a trip to Ireland. My biggest breakthrough was letting go of my DVD player and hundreds of DVDs and VHS tapes. I called my daughter and asked her if she minded. We have the complete Seinfeld and I Love Lucy DVDs. She looked it up and they are all on Hulu. “Let them go,” she said.

I had second thoughts of tossing my videos from ultrasounds of my babies in the womb. But, I haven’t looked at them in twenty plus years. There are also Nutcrackers when my son and I performed, plus underwater swim videos of my kids at USC swim camp. But I tossed them all. After all, I don’t have a VHS player and forgot all about these tapes.

I texted my son and asked if I could toss a stack of awards he had from St. Theresa’s, his elementary and middle school. “Please!” he texted back.

I’ve put away plenty of things that we need and will make life comfortable. Then I looked at all the boxes and wondered how will cluttering up a new house going to feel? Today, I’m elated I could finally let go. I’ve got more to toss today and tomorrow. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and I feel 20 pounds lighter.

The view of quail from the Casita window this morning. Earlier, I watched a huge coyote stop outside the fence and we stared at each other for a few minutes.

 

Do you still own DVDs and VHS tapes? If you do, do you ever watch them? Do you have trouble letting stuff go?

 

How AB5 changed freelance writing in CA

I wrote this a year ago, when the disaster and arbitrary bill AB 5 passed in California. It was aimed at Uber and Lyft drivers but hit a bunch of other people as well including freelance writers and musicians. Last month a fix was signed into law by the governor called AB 2257. My opinion is if you have to “carve out” 75 exceptions why not junk the bill and start over? Meanwhile on the ballot November 3 is prop 22 that exempts the Lyft and Uber drivers from AB 5. Here’s my post from last October:

beautiful view from window

The view from my freelance writer’s life.

I am a freelance writer. Obviously, I’m not writing to get rich. I’m doing it because I love it. I don’t need the state of California to dictate who I submit articles to nor how often. But in a new bill, AB 5 that will be law in January, they are destroying the freelance writing business.

In an article by Katie Kilkenny in The Hollywood Reporter called “Everybody Is Freaking Out”: Freelance Writers Scramble to Make Sense of New California Law, she spells out some of the confusion and frustration over AB 5. The real intent of AB 5 was to get rid of the gig economy — in particular Lyft and Uber drivers — and force people to join unions. That’s the bottom line.

A new bill that caps freelance submissions may make writing financially unsustainable for many workers even though the legislator behind the law insists that the goal is “to create new good jobs and a livable, sustainable wage job.”

California-based freelance writer Arianna Jeret recently learned about Assembly Bill 5 and is now concerned she and her colleagues in CA may soon be speaking about their jobs in the past tense.

Jeret, who contributes to relationship websites YourTango.com and The Good Men Project, says freelance writing has helped support her two children and handle their different school schedules. Her current gigs — covering mental health, lifestyle and entertainment — allow her to work from home, from the office and even from her children’s various appointments. “There were just all of these benefits for my ability to still be an active parent in my kids’ lives and also support us financially that I just couldn’t find anywhere in a steady job with anybody,” she says.

Jeret is now coming to terms with how her lifestyle will change come Jan. 1, when AB 5, California legislation aimed directly at the gig economy that was signed into law Sept. 18, will go into effect.

The bill, which cracks down on companies — like ride-sharing giants Lyft and Uber — that misclassify would-be employees as independent contractors, has been percolating through the California legislative system for nearly a year. It codifies the 2018 Dynamex decision by the State Supreme Court while carving out some exemptions for specific professions.

I worked at jobs with benefits for years before deciding to stay home and work as a contract employee. I did this when I became a mother. My husband had benefits from his job, so I no longer had to worry about health insurance, etc. I had the freedom to stay home and write. I’ve written for PR firms, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and worked on non fiction and fiction manuscripts. I’ve had enormous freedom in my writing career to juggle it with motherhood and volunteering. Sometimes writing took a back seat. And that’s okay. It was all my choice. 

Freelancers have different reasons for not being full-time or part-time employees. They know what the benefits are as well as the drawbacks. Why doesn’t the state want us to decide what fits our lives best? Why do they think they know better?

AB 5 came up with a number of 35 submissions to a single publication, or you’re considered an employee. And you have to join the union, too. So how did the State of CA come up with that number?

As for how lawmakers settled on the 35-submission figure, Gonzalez says that she and her team decided that a weekly columnist sounded like a part-time worker and so halved that worker’s yearly submissions. After protest from some freelancers, the number was bumped up to 35. “Was it a little arbitrary? Yeah. Writing bills with numbers like that are a little bit arbitrary,” she says.

Still, labor experts and freelancers alike are skeptical that the desired outcome of AB 5 — that newsrooms will hire California-based freelancers as part-time or full-time employees — will be achieved in the short term, especially as the news media continues to face major challenges to its business (in September, Business Insider estimated that 7,200 workers have lost their media jobs so far this year). Many publications that employ California freelancers aren’t based in the state and it’s not clear how AB 5 will affect them. Still, some are choosing to opt out entirely. Indeed, several freelance writers who spoke to THR say that various out-of-state employers — some with offices in California — have already told them they’re cutting ties with California freelancers.

What’s especially disheartening about this bill is that is was written by someone who doesn’t understand the industry at all. They have no idea how their law is going to affect the media industry.

I’d love to hear from other freelancers about their thoughts on AB 5 and the fix AB 2257.