Sights and Sounds of Berkeley

Sunrise street view in Berkeley
The view walking from the airbnb to my son’s right before sunrise.

I’m in Berkeley staying a few blocks from my son’s house to take care of him post foot surgery. I hang out in the daytime with him, helping him do the things he can’t do himself.

fall leaves in Berkeley.
I love the color of fall leaves. We don’t see this in the Sonoran Desert.

I cook his oatmeal in the morning, walk to a local coffee shop to get a “pour over” coffee — whatever that is. I refill his water, make sure he’s comfortable and help him with whatever else he needs like hooking him up to his ice machine throughout the day.

His girlfriend and I go for coffee and breakfast for ourselves at a cafe my daughter and Waffles like best. We sit with them outside and chat in the morning sun. My daughter was exposed to COVID twice in the past two weeks. First time after her friend’s funeral, the test was negative. She doesn’t have the test results yet for the second exposure which happened at work. That’s why we meet outside and she sits at a table by herself where we talk and laugh and spend a tiny bit of time together.

Latte from Fellini's.
My latte is delicious and pretty.
Tree decorated with a face.
My son’s girlfriend and I noticed this decorated yard and tree on the way to coffee.

My airbnb is on the border of Oakland about six blocks from my son’s house. The first night, I was woken up to yelling, screaming, slamming doors and other frightening sounds between a man and a woman. The next night at 1 a.m., a car pulled up playing rap music so loud that it shook the bedroom window.

Angel's trumpets
Angel’s trumpets we saw on a morning walk.

The airbnb is spotless, somewhat spartan and has all I need. I’ve only been there in the dark to sleep. I arrive after dark and I leave in the morning before sunrise to walk to my son’s house. I’m left with a kind of creepy feel, since I haven’t been there in the daylight and I’m treated to mysterious sounds of the night. I’m sure broad daylight would erase that vibe.

yarn bombing, love on a stop sign.
I saw yarn bombing for the first time. “Why do they want to stop love?” my son’s girlfriend asked.
Waffles the Pug at a cafe in Berkeley.
Waffles at his favorite cafe. They know him by name and always give him a treat.

Have you been exposed to COVID or tested for COVID? Does it seem to you like more and more people are getting it? When you visit family and friends are you concerned about COVID and are there precautions you take?

On this trip, I wouldn’t have thought about COVID at all except for my daughter’s two recent exposures. Another strange thing was how busy the airport in Phoenix was. Seating was full at gates and groups of people were left standing or sitting on the floor.

I’m not feeling it

cactus with bird's nest
This cactus is fascinating to us. Right in the middle of it is a bird’s nest. How safe must they be!

Everyone is writing about their goals, their resolutions and how motivated they are for a new year. I’m not feeling it at all. I’m finding it difficult to get out of bed and to get outside for my daily walk. I’m feeling sad. This weekend I’m flying to help my son post his second surgery in six months. My daughter is angry with me. I said something to her that I wish I could take back, but I can’t. I can only apologize.

It’s not an auspicious beginning to a new year. Maybe I’m feeling a let down after our big Christmas vacation that we had planned for a year. Or, maybe it’s too cold outside. Maybe I’m still grieving the deaths of two friends. Or, maybe I worry too much about my kids. Neither my son or daughter is in a great place right now and it hurts my heart.

nest buried deep within a cactus.
Can you spot the nest in the cactus? I’d like a nest like that where everyone would leave me alone.

Sorry to be so negative. I’m mostly a glass half full person, but like I said — I’m not feeling it. I think I need to get out my gratitude journal and get to work.

What do you do when you feel blue? Are you able to snap out of it? Any helpful hints would be appreciated.

Highlights from our weekend in the Bay Area

Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands

Marin Headlands view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Pug at Bettes.
My daughter’s pug Waffles at Bette’s Oceanview Diner. Bette’s is another must.
ping pong table in airbnb
Our amazing airbnb complete with sauna and ping pong table. The ping pong was nonstop with our kids.
airbnb luxe bathroom
My son hanging out in the ridiculous luxe bathroom in the airbnb. I could write a full post about this place.
morning glories in Berkeley
Down the street from the airbnb. Gorgeous neighborhood and morning glories.

Our son found the airbnb for us. It was half the price of a tiny hotel room. I can’t wait to come back. It’s the bottom floor of a two-story house in a gorgeous neighborhood and only one mile from where our kids live.

I haven’t been a fan of the Bay Area. I don’t like the homeless, the damp, the filth that one thinks of when visiting San Francisco. Fortunately, I didn’t see any of that the entire weekend. Only when we’d drive, I’d see the homeless encampments along the freeway and under overpasses. The problems exist, but not where we stayed. I think that’s part of the problem, the people who are in charge aren’t adversely affected and can look the other way.

I do want to go back. The weather, food, the airbnb and of course hanging out with our family was amazing. My view of the Bay Area has changed for the better. I can kind of understand why my kids want to live there.

What places have you visited that you never want to go back? Where are your favorite places to visit?

The bus stop

Sunrise from my bedroom window
Sunrise this morning.

I got up early today because I had an appointment at the car dealership at 7:30 a.m. There’s a recall on our car. It was at risk of catching on fire, so I took the first appointment I could get.

My husband and I went for a walk in our neighborhood at 6:15 a.m. and I saw something that disturbed me greatly. At our little park a few blocks from our house there were a dozen kids waiting for the bus. They were all looking down at the their phones and nobody was talking to each other. They were all about six feet apart and I guess that’s a good thing? But the lack of interest in each other and their focus on their phones bothered me. They all looked very depressed.

What the heck is this generation going to be like in a few years? I know my kids hate to make phone calls. They never pick up the phone without trying to use a webpage, email or text first. But when they are around their peers, they don’t ignore each other. They joke and have fun together. They light up.

When I was a kid, I also had to walk to a bus stop. I walked with my brother and we’d laugh and talk and kick a rock during the quarter mile walk. Then we’d chat with the other kids at our bus stop. On the bus, we’d all be talking, laughing or singing songs.

I found this group of kids so depressing to see. They seemed isolated. Alone. Glued to their phones. I wonder if this is a result of the COVID shut down? Or, would they be like this anyway? Any thoughts? Have you noticed kids acting like this, too?

cloudy day in Arizona neighborhood
View from our neighborhood on a cloudy day.

I guess the good news is they are going to school in person, right? Maybe it’s the start of a new school year and they’re not happy?

I’m so easily entertained

Olive entertains me.

We had a few busy days with our son, his girlfriend and one of her sisters. They stayed with us for a long weekend in our new home. It was their first time to see our house and thankfully they seemed to really like it! That’s a relief, because when we sold our home of 28 years, my children threatened to never visit us again. We had great meals together, shared laughs, went for walks and hikes. We watched the sunset, the wildlife and toured the nearby town and farmer’s market. They drove from our house to the Grand Canyon for their first ever glimpse. They called the Grand Canyon life changing.

Now that they’ve returned to the Bay Area, I miss them. It felt so normal to have them here. My house and heart were full. I’m left alone with my husband — and thankfully our 10-year-old cat who is increasingly cuddly and entertains me with her antics.

Olive doesn’t know that the window is reflective on the outside and the bird can’t see her.

Ash Wednesday during COVID-19

brother and sister at piano

My kids at a piano recital.

I just read that the Vatican has instructed priests to sprinkle ashes on the heads of people, rather than the traditional cross on the forehead. I’m going to forgo Ash Wednesday services in person this year and will listen to the service online. That’s a new practice for churchgoers that I hope will go by the wayside by next year.

I do believe that Lent is a good time to reflect on our lives. One Ash Wednesday service in past years stands out to me. Rather than giving something up — like chocolate or alcohol — the priest suggested doing something. He talked about investing more time in prayer or volunteering to help someone else, he felt it should be a time of giving of ourselves. He suggested reading the book of Mark from the Bible during the 40 days of Lent.

I’m a convert to Catholicism so I had to learn about Lent. I didn’t grow up with it. My kids did and my daughter always said she was giving up piano lessons for Lent. Yes, she hated piano. I thought piano had so many benefits and forced her to take lessons, years beyond what I should have done, she often reminds me.

If you don’t observe Lent and wonder what it’s all about, here’s a definition from Britannica:

Lent, in the Christian church, a period of penitential preparation for Easter. In Western churches it begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and provides for a 40-day fast (Sundays are excluded), in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. In Eastern churches Lent begins on the Monday of the seventh week before Easter and ends on the Friday that is nine days before Easter. This 40-day “Great Lent” includes Saturdays and Sundays as relaxed fast days.

Here’s a link to Good Housekeeping’s article called 25 Creative Things to Give Up for Lent in 2021: From gossip and complaining to junk food and coffee, ditching these habits could change your life by Juliana Labianca. There are a lot of good ideas to do in that article that could improve your life — whether or not you observe Lent.

A friend emailed this eight-minute Homily about Lent. It’s a time to be cheerful and transformative.

About giving unsolicited advice….

brother and sister playing at the beach

My kids when they liked to eat chicken fingers.

When my kids were young, I’d often get unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family members — and even complete strangers. I read with interest this article by Meghan Moravcik Walbert called Keep Every Single Parenting Opinion to Yourself for a website called Lifehacker.com. 

We’re living in a particularly divided country right now, but we are lucky to still have one great rage-inducing unifier among parents: We do not want your unsolicited opinions about our parenting. This is especially true if you do not have children of your own. (Dogs don’t count.)

I have to believe author Jill Filipovic simply wanted to argue about something unrelated to the literal end of our democracy when she tweeted this sparkling gem of an opinion recently:

Jill Filipovic
@JillFilipovic
I know the thing parents hate most is when non-parents assert what they will do as parents which is inevitably smug and incorrect, but I am 100% sure I will never assent to a “kid’s menu” or the concept of “kid food.”

In a follow-up tweet, she rhetorically ponders, “Do you think children in most of the world order off of a ‘kids menu’ and survive primarily off of chicken fingers and plain pasta?”

It seems her argument is that kids should have more variety in their diets, ignoring that kids’ menus exist to offer smaller, significantly cheaper portions of food for children to make it affordable and less wasteful when families go out to eat. But see, this is why parenting opinions from non-parents is so universally grating: They’re blind to fundamental aspects of parenting that are obvious to those of us who have actually done it.

Yes, you’re very smart, and you’ll introduce your kids to lots of flavors, and they’ll always eat exactly what you eat because there’s no way you’ll cook one meal for you and a separate meal for them. If you become a parent, what’s more likely is that we can look forward to hearing you say, “No, honey, you have to buy the dinosaur-shaped nuggets; he doesn’t like the regular ones.”

I have one dear friend, well more than one, who constantly criticized the bland
“kid food” I served my children. We would go to a friend’s and stay for a long weekend and I’d bring food for my kids to eat — things I knew they’d like. Yes, my groceries included chicken fingers. My friend didn’t understand why my kids wouldn’t want to consume her kale with quinoa or homemade chile rellenos. She’d point out another friend of hers who had kids who loved to eat all her veggies and her adult-flavored dishes. My kids liked carrots, snap peas and the like — especially dipped in ranch dressing. At a young age, their taste buds were more sensitive to spice. It wasn’t long before they grew into more adult diets and indulged in sushi and spicy Mexican food. As adults they love to eat vegetables and they cook healthy and interesting meals. No, they are not living off of chicken fingers — it was a temporary thing.

The point is that I’d get criticized by friends and family members who didn’t have kids, or had children who were infants or teenagers. They weren’t dealing with kids three to seven years old and they either hadn’t been through those experiences or they forgot about those glorious days.

I used to ask my kids what they wanted to eat. My daughter always said chicken. Once I made pan-fried sole for dinner. She said, “Now THIS is the chicken I like!” That was eye-opening to me, because I didn’t realize that she was calling most foods “chicken!”

That reminds me of when we went to a small Thai restaurant with another mom and kids. My daughter, who was three, threw a tantrum and said, “This is the worst Chinese food I ever had!”

One of my friends had a son a couple years younger than my kids. We were at a family-fun restaurant and her toddler son kept jumping out of the high chair. She said, “I really owe you an apology. All of those things I criticized or tried to give you advice about — I had no idea!”

There’s more great examples in the article about unsolicited advice and how parents think they would NEVER raise their voice at their children (who aren’t born yet). Read the entire article for yourself here. It’s an entertaining read.

Here’s another article I’ve written about unsolicited advice. Read it here.

children climbing on me at the beach

Life at the beach with two young kids.

What funny experiences have you had with people giving you unsolicited parenting advice?