Happy Trails to You!

McDowell Sonoran Preserve trails.
It’s cool enough to hike at 6:30 am. so we hit the hiking trails by our house.

We haven’t been out hiking for months in the preserve by our house because of the summer heat. Finally, the weather is breaking and it felt wonderful to be out in nature at the gorgeous McDowell Sonoran Preserve once again.

We have a house guest, my sister-in-law, and it’s fun to show off our new town to her. She loved the hike, too and took some great photos of our desert life. I’m looking at things through her eyes and it’s inspiring to me.

prickly pear cactus
Prickly pears.
quail
Quail in our backyard.
saguaro cactus
A majestic saguaro.
cactus cookies
Cactus cookies that my husband’s sister made for us. She has a cookie business as one of her many endeavors.
saguaro growth chart
I found this chart helpful to learn about saguaros and how old they are.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again

Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then

Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?

Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather

Happy Trails Roy Rogers & Dale Evans

When you have a guest, what are some of the things you like to share or explore?

Little things that give me comfort

During this weird time of 2020 shutdowns and lingering isolation into 2021, I discovered two products that make me feel better. They are little things my son introduced me to — self care products that bring a little highlight to my days.

Never would I have imagined that I’d be washing my hands millions of times a day. My poor hands began to look so old, worn, chaffed and red in 2020. My son surprised me with an Australian hand cleanser and rich lotion. FYI, I’m going to link to these products and NO I’m not getting anything in return.

Link to Aesop.

Aesop hand soap
This is the hand soap my son gave me for Mother’s Day during COVID shut down. I used the soap up and didn’t order more because it’s pricey. It was a really nice present, though. I did order their face cleanser and love it, too.
Aesop hand cream
I love this hand cream and still have some left. It’s soothing with all the times I wash my hands these days.

While taking care of my son, post surgery, he received a package of Turkish hand towels. I was completely unfamiliar with them. He instructed me to wash them three times to get then soft and absorbent before we put them out for use. They are beautiful and luxuriously simple made of 100 percent cotton. Something I added to my bathroom when I got home. After I wash my hands — again — I pamper them with the soft Turkish towels.

Link to Cacala.

Cacala Turkish towles
These are the wonderful Turkish hand towels that are so soft and absorbent. They are also kind to my hands.

Have you discovered any self care products or foods that made you feel better during 2020 and 20201? What little ways have your days changed? Are you washing your hands more than ever, too? Have you discovered any routines or habits during these days?

Two books to check out

 Cover for Chanel Cleeton's book The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
The second book I’ve read by Chanel Cleeton.

I finished reading two books this week. “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” by Chanel Cleetom and “The Matchmaker” by Elin Hilderbrand.

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

I read a book by Cleeton earlier this summer called “Next Year in Havana” and absolutely loved it. Although “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” is good, it comes in second place to the prior book I read. This story takes place in Cuba and the United States during the Spanish American War amidst the battle of two newspaper empires, Pullitzer and Hearst.

The novel tells the story of three women, a reporter Grace Harrington in New York City based on Nellie Bly, the real-life Cuban revolutionary Evangelina Cisneros, who becomes famous as the “most beautiful girl in Cuba,” and Marina who left the comfort and safety of her wealthy Cuban family to marry her love, a poor Cuban farmer and fighter.

I recommend this book, but it took me about a third of the way in to get engrossed. In both of Cleeton’s books I’ve read, she has the same main family of Perez’s. I enjoy following their stories from different generations. I’m starting a third novel by her today, “The Last Train to Key West.”

Bookcover for The Matchmaker
Elin Hilderbrand’s The Matchmaker

The Matchmaker

I have read at least a dozen Elin Hilderbrand books and enjoy them. I get lost in the scenery of Nantucket, the Caribbean, or the other backdrops which become as much of a character as the people in her novels.

I get caught up right away and find she creates easy, fun reads. Although there’s usually common threads of death and cheating spouses, her stories fascinate me.

This is the story of a high school couple who are madly in love their entire lives, although not together after college graduation when Clendenin takes a job in as a reporter on the other side of the world. The main character, Dabney stays on Nantucket and becomes the director of the Chamber of Commerce and literally runs the island as a single mother. Eventually, she gets married to a famous economist Box, who becomes a great father and husband.

I won’t give away more of the story, but I got kind of annoyed. This one requires a lot of kleenex and I just wasn’t in the mood.

Have your read books by these authors? What are your opinions of them? What are some good books you’ve read lately and can recommend?

Happy Labor Day!

cat on a leash in the desert
Olive doesn’t look too happy, but she has been enjoying the smells, sounds and sights.

I don’t remember much about celebrating Labor Day as a kid — except It was the end of summer and school would start the next day. So, I probably did the usual things I did in the summer. I’d lie on my back on the lawn and stare at the clouds slowly passing. Ride my bike. Read. Watch TV. Labor Day was an ordinary day. Those ordinary days sound like sheer bliss.

Today I went for a walk with my husband. Then I had quiet time with kitty. She’s getting used to me putting on her harness and leash. The first two times I tried it she ran and hid from me for about 24 hours. Now, we sit outside for 15 to 20 minutes and listen and watch. She sits on my lap or I place her on a bench with a low wall where she can watch the quail and butterflies. When she was an outdoor cat in California, she would always prefer to sit along a wall. It kept her safe from the dive bombing mockingbirds.

I’m liking this quiet time, too. I makes me stop with the screens, books, etc. and just sit and reflect enjoying nature.

What do you like to do on Labor Day? Did you have any traditional celebrations or meals?

Happy September first!

My mom and I had a little game where we’d try to be the first person to call and shout Happy (insert month) first! I miss those days. That was before she was in assisted living. Now it’s hard to get her to answer the phone and rare that she calls me.

Mom and me in the early 90s.

When September 1 comes around I get motivated. The long-awaited vacation days are over. It’s time for me to get on with my life and to be productive in whatever that may be. It’s almost like starting New Year’s resolutions.

Maybe it’s because the end of heat is near. After years of desert living, September can still be hot — but we’re down to a few weeks of 100 plus degree weather. Cooler weather feels good and it’s motivating to be able to go outside any time of day.

Maybe it’s because of my years as a swim mom that I’m excited for September. The calendar for swimmers begins in September. It’s a brand new year after two weeks of time off in August. It’s when swimmers may move up in their training groups and a new meet schedule comes out.

It’s the start of the school year, too. Although these days our former school district starts in early August. That would never have worked for us. As a swim family, our vacation started mid-August after the final swim meets. Thank goodness I’m not dealing with school anymore.

So what are my goals for the fall? To write more. To swim consistently at the city pool. To take a photography or drawing class.

I’m ready. Happy September first everyone!

The critters enjoying my backyard.

What are your thoughts about September? Do you like the end of summer? Do you get motivated in the fall? Why or why not?

What I don’t miss about my old house

I looked back to the first of September 2019 to see what I was up to in my life. It was before COVID hit us — and we had no idea what the year 2020 would be like. I was curious what my big concerns were way back then.

What I discovered was I was dealing with a homeless man who would haunt me for the remainder of the time we lived in our old house. He magically appeared in our yard whenever we left town — I’d spot him on our Nest cameras. Or, he’d bring his belongings and sleep on our steps at night. I felt like he was stalking us. He’d write us random notes and leave them on our gate or cars — saying he’d force us out of the house and that he’d contacted the FBI. No, I don’t miss him at all. I welcome my new intruders: the two coyotes I spotted on my morning walk, the bunnies, deer, bobcat and javelina.

In September 2020, I wrote this:

While we were on our working vacation at the beach in August, I had a friend’s daughter taking care of Olive the cat and staying at our house. One of her first times over here, our big wooden gates were shut and after opening them, she found a pile of blankets behind our trash cans! UGH! I looked through my video feed and found him at midnight, opening and closing our gates, peering through our bedroom window and jumping over our wall into the backyard. I don’t blame our house sitter at all, but she was no longer comfortable staying here! She made daily stops, but didn’t want to spend the night.

We called our neighbors who promised to keep an eye out for us, plus the police, who said they’d patrol our house carefully while we were out of town. They promised to arrest him if they found him trespassing. We returned and I haven’t seen him again. But, I did notice he stole our lock to the gate!

Here’s what I wrote about our intruder September 2019:

IMG_4427
Sunset from the back yard.

Last week I wrote about how I was minding my own business at home waiting for eye surgery and discovered on our Google Nest security feed that we had an intruder trespassing on our property nightly. We started locking the big wooden gates that open onto the street. We also have a garage door and an archway gate that are locked. On the camera feed, I saw the stranger rattling our gates, peering in through our bedroom windows, climbing over the wall into the backyard — and taking an object to smash the lock on our archway gate. I was terrified. Then I went for my morning walk on Thursday like any normal day:

I went for my morning walk today as usual. I almost skipped it because I didn’t want to leave our house with the big wooden gates open (they lock from the inside.) During my walk, I constantly checked the Nest app on my iPhone for activity. When I was a block from home, I looked at the app and the guy was there! He had returned!

I couldn’t stop shaking and when I got home, the gate was closed! I yelled and said I was calling the cops so get out! I checked my app again. The intruder had left three minutes before I arrived home. I called the cops and waited, not stepping foot on our property, but feeling safer in the middle of the street. The policeman came right away and said he’d look for the guy, he was probably close-by. He also suggested we get a lock for the outside of our big wooden gates or hire a security firm. I’m thinking Rottie. We had one before and this never happened.

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A present to myself from our beach vacation. The wind chimes are soothing and help me relax

Friday morning the nightmare continued. I woke up at 5 a.m. to my husband yelling from outside the house to call the cops! I grabbed my glasses, my phone and my hands shook as I tried to dial 911. My husband kept the guy at bay on our steps while we waited for the police to arrive. The 911 operator kept me on the phone and asked me to narrate what was going on.

A few minutes later which felt like an eternity, a half dozen police arrived. They said, “Marco! What are you doing here?” to our intruder.

Marco answered, “I live here. I bought this house.”

“No you don’t. You said that about the house down the street,” a policeman answered.

They handcuffed the intruder and drove him away. Both my husband and I were shaking with fear, anger and tried to lower our adrenaline levels to have a normal day. It didn’t happen. We both struggled.

I find myself waking up in the night, looking at my Nest app, listening for any little noise. I’m hoping each day it gets a little better. This person turns out to be well-known, a Palm Springs native and harmless. Of course, we had no idea of that with his erratic behavior and his trespassing from Saturday night through Friday morning. It brings our homeless problem right in my yard, not some abstract issue I read about in the newspaper.

IMG_4433
Olive is more relaxed now that the intruder has been arrested.

Have you had an intruder at your home? What happened and did you get over your fear?

Tips for stress and parenting during 2020

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Morning walks help keep me grounded.

I wrote this last July during the shutdown. I had no idea when I wrote this how hard the year would become. It’s interesting for me to look back on what I was feeling a year ago.

I found my self getting anxious a few weeks ago. It’s a weird fluttery feeling in my chest with my heart beating wildly, my breath getting short and my palms sweating. Why does it come on like that out of the blue? I think it’s all the uncertainty around us. Will my husband ever go back to his office to work? Will we ever get to go to the movies again? Will I have swim practice with my friends? When will this end? Right when we think it’s getting better, it gets worse. The number of cases are going up. We don’t know what will happen with the economy. I have three of my closest friends diagnosed with breast cancer during COVID-19. Yes, there’s lots to be anxious about.

We were fortunate to have our daughter come home to work remotely. She had just moved into a new apartment and didn’t really know her two new roommates. They had a 24-hour notice to shelter in place, so she headed home. I remember her deciding to go to the hardware store to purchase lumber for a bed frame she was making. The very first day she was with us, she was intent on getting supplies. “We could shut down here tomorrow,” she said. She was correct. The next day we were told to shelter in place.

I work in my son’s room and my husband works in our master bedroom. Our daughter took over the guest room. We were a busy bunch until she got laid off due to COVID-19. That was stressful in itself. Also, having a grown up adult in the house took time for us to get used to. We managed to get along most of the time and it’s a three-month period I’ll treasure. Without the pandemic, she wouldn’t have come home and spent time as a young adult. She’s back to building her life away from us, interviewing for jobs.

I read an interesting article called Parenting, stress and COVID-19 by Annie Keeling in The Union, a website with news for Nevada County, Calif.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS

Despite feeling close to their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% of parents say they have shouted, yelled, or screamed at them at least once over the past two weeks, according to a new report from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (https://www.psychcongress.com/article/covid-19-stress-taking-toll-parent-child-relationships)

“For a large number of parents, financial concerns, other worries, social isolation, loneliness, and sadness are getting in the way of parenting,” said lead author Shawna J. Lee, PhD, an associate professor of social work, who compiled the report with coauthor Kaitlin Ward, a doctoral student.

This uncertain experience is asking a lot of parents: full-time playmate, teacher and caregiver can take its toll. What can you do to help yourself? The first step is recognizing that this is a challenging time and that there are ways to ease the effects of uncertainty and stress.

CALMING TECHNIQUES FOR THE PARENT

Take care of yourself. Parents know that they must do this so they can be a good parent, but it’s often easier said than done. The Power of Three is essential: eat well, exercise, get sleep. Put a post-it reminder on your mirror, by the stove, by the screens in your home. Check in with yourself each evening. How did you do with your Power of Three today?

Take a breath. Or five. Research shows that it takes more than one deep breath to really affect the parasympathetic nervous system. Five deep breaths can change your state.

Reach out to others. Phone calls, Zoom, and yard dates with other adults- physically distanced on lawn chairs — are a few ways.

Take (even a tiny) break. Try splashing cold water on your face, stepping outside or planning a parenting partner hand-off. Identify what you might do to take a break before the day starts. This helps our psyche to anticipate the relief that is coming.

List healthy coping skills for yourself and your family. Avoid behaviors such as excessive alcohol drinking, online gambling or taking drugs. Negative coping mechanisms further compound your stress levels and can make your situation worse in the long run.

The article goes on to describe tips to calm the entire family with lots of fun things to do. Keeling also discusses talking about the pandemic and how that can lead to less stress as well.

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My daughter bungee swimming in our backyard. It’s hard but it does help with stress.

Have you had stress or anxiety during the pandemic and what are you doing to fight it?