The dog days of summer….

I was curious what I was up to a year ago — during day 139 of the COVID shutdown. I was reading a Julia Cameron book called “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again” trying to find motivation. I’m feeling lackadaisical just like I did last summer. Maybe it’s the prospect of more COVID mandates, getting back to my routine after being gone for a week — or maybe it’s just August. The dog days of summer.

pug staring out the car window
Waffles in the car with me when my daughter ran into my son’s house to retrieve my sweater.

What are the dog days of summer? I found this on Wikipedia:

The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius (known colloquially as the “Dog Star”), which Hellenistic astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.

It is hot, humid, we’ve had thunder storms. I’m lethargic. I don’t have a fever, I don’t see any mad dogs and I’m not buying into the bad luck. But otherwise the phrase “dog days of summer” fits.

Okay. About that bad luck. My daughter just called me and said she fell in the dark on her stairs last night trying to get Waffles back in the house. She broke her foot. Now she’s on crutches and trying to get in for an MRI appointment without missing any work. This means she can’t exercise, walk Waffles and will be struggling for weeks to come. I feel like I should be up there to help her. I am thinking this is not good for her mental or physical health.

pug selfies
Selfies with Waffles while he’s intent on watching my daughter outside the car.

Are you feeling the dog days of summer? What are you doing to stay motivated?

One of those days…

This tree is blooming in our courtyard. My husband thought it was dead when we moved in December and was going to have it removed. I insisted he wait until spring or summer to see what happens. I was right.

We had to replace an air conditioner last week. Our handyman who is the best, specializes in AC repair and installation. I asked if I could pay him with Venmo. He said to use Zelle. I’ve only used Zelle a few times before with our handyman in Palm Springs.

I paid him with Zelle six days ago.This morning he called me and said he never got the money. I checked my account online and the money left my account. I took a screen shot to show him. It showed it going to him. He called me back later to tell me that he called his WF bank and there was no trace of the money.

I called my WF bank — actually 800 number — and they saw the money going out, but they don’t know where it went. I filed a claim and they said they’d get my money back into my account within 10 days.

I called our handyman back to update him. I also told him I’d pay him using Venmo. After three times of Venmo declining my payment, I decided to send a little money to my daughter to test it out. Venmo worked going to her. I tried Venmoing the handyman again and it was declined. Maybe it has something to do with the claim I filed.

I gave up. I wrote him a check and addressed an envelope the old fashioned way. I have spent the last three hours dealing with this and I’m very frustrated. That’s why I’m posting some flowers I noticed earlier today. They are a bright spot during my aggravating fight with technology.

What recent technology frustrations have you dealt with?

These blue flowers are lovely and are right next to our driveway.

Hail storm in July!

Hail storm

Friday we left for a two-hour drive to celebrate our anniversary in the cool mountain town of Flagstaff, Ariz. We were looking forward to getting out of the heat, exploring a new area, hiking, dining, and staying at our favorite hotel brand, Little America.

Halfway to Flagstaff, we were entranced with big dark clouds that had long threads of rain hanging from them. Then there was a thunderclap and it started to rain. The rain turned into hail within minutes. It sounded like our car was being hit by golf balls. I was scared out of my mind.

My husband asked me to turn on the hazard flashers. My hands shook so badly I couldn’t do it. I began praying the Hail Mary!

We saw cars pull over on the right shoulder of the two-lane highway. But there was a cliff on that side and the visibility was getting awful. We were in the left lane where there wasn’t room to pull over, just a ditch.

Visibility went to zero. My husband drove at one mile per hour, completely blind to what lie ahead. He said he didn’t want to stop in case someone barreled into us.

The hail turned back into rain and when we made it to Flagstaff it was sunny and close to 100 degrees. What a July.

At the hotel, shaken and exhausted, we inspected the car. It’s dented all over the hood, roof and trunk.

What type of freak weather have you experienced? I thought our snow when we first moved to Scottsdale was odd.

Sticks and stones, rubber and glue…

wild roses in Washington
Wild fragrant roses on my morning hikes in Washington.

Does anyone have a person in their life that when their name pops up on your phone, you want to run? I do. And the name popped up yesterday. I was feeling so good after my vacation and visit with mom, only to fall down the distress hole after interacting with “that” person.

I got very upset. I let it take over my moments of joy and relaxation. It bled into today. And I need to stop letting this person take over my emotions.

This person almost always causes me stress. As much as I want to have a better relationship, it never seems to happen. I think it’s a control issue. This person likes to micromanage and have control and tell me what I should do. I naturally bristle at that. I looked up an article of how to deal with stressors in my life and this is what I discovered from “The Main Causes of Stress” by Elizabeth Scott, M.S. on a website called verywellmind

Personal Relationships:

There are people in all of our lives that cause us stress. It could be a family member, an intimate partner, friend, or co-worker. Toxic people lurk in all parts of our lives and the stress we experience from these relationships can affect physical and mental health.

There are numerous causes of stress in romantic relationships and when couples are constantly under pressure, the relationship could be on the risk of failure. 

Common relationship stressors include:5

  • Being too busy to spend time with each other and share responsibilities
  • Intimacy and sex are become rare due to busyness, health problems, and any number of other reasons
  • There is abuse or control in the relationship 
  • You and your partner are not communicating
  • You and/or partner are consuming too much alcohol and/or using drugs
  • You or your partner are thinking about divorce

The signs of stress related to personal relationships are similar to normal symptoms of general stress and may include physical health and sleep problems, depression, and anxiety.

You may also find yourself avoiding or having conflict with the individual, or becoming easily irritated by their presence.

Sometimes, personal relationship stress can also be related to our relationships with people on social media platforms, such as Facebook.6 For example, social media tends to naturally encourage comparing yourself to others, which can lead to the stress of feeling inadequate. It also makes bullying easier.

This stressful relationship I have is with a relative, but not my husband. So a lot of the bullet points above don’t apply. But I want to know how do I not let this person affect my psyche and mood? Do I stop communicating all together? Or, do I set boundaries? How do I let the words bounce of me? It reminds me of certain childhood rhymes:

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounce off me and sticks to you.”

Beautiful Olive the cat
Kitty Olive calms me down.

What suggestions do you have for me to avoid the feelings of conflict and stress interacting with this relative?

How do you handle stress?

Did you know that 85% of Americans view stress as negative and something to be avoided? I know I do. I’m anti stress. And I get stressed out easily.

freestyle swimmer breathing to the side
My daughter racing.

I listened to a webinar called “Helping Children Handle Stress in Sports” by David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life. I’m not through the entire webinar, but I learned a few things I wanted to share.

Benzel explained that there are three main types of stress: developmental, environmental and accidental. Developmental stress refers to the changes we go through during different periods of life like going to school, graduating high school, moving away for college, graduating and getting a job, etc. His talk focused on environmental stress for sports parents. Is the team culture stressful? Do your kids get stressed out to perform? Personally, one of my major stresses is driving on freeways. That environment gets me freaked out.

The third type of stress is accidental as in accidents. I know my daughter spirals out of control when she’s faced with something unexpected like her first day of work on Monday and she discovered someone smashed her car window. Or when she’s gotten in car accidents.

We all handle stress differently and have different symptoms. Personally, I feel stress in my neck and shoulders. When my shoulders are touching my ears chances are I’m feeling stress. I also get an upset stomach, start sweating profusely and shake. Ugh. My body takes over and I feel out of control.

Benzel made the point that our bodies memorize stress after our brains calm down. A healthy reaction to stress is a spike up with the fight or flight response followed by a dip or valley before going back to a normal range. Some people have three or four spikes and don’t get back to normal right away. That’s because they (or me) tend to play the stressful situation over and over in their minds. Stress is a physical reaction going off in our bodies, Benzel said. So, if you “hash and rehash” as my daughter pointed out I have a tendency to do, our body is going to refresh the blasts of cortisol — the stress hormone — over and over.

What I’ve learned so far listening to this webinar is to take a new approach to stress and realize that it is normal and neutral. Benzel said we need to look at our mindset about stress. 15% of Americans view stress as enhancing. They think it adds to their performance and production. Stress can improve health and vitality, learning and growth. In other words, accept there is stress in our lives and look at how it can helps us.

cardboard boat races for physics class
My son and teammate racing their cardboard boat in a high school Physics competition.

What gets you stressed out? And how do you feel stress in your body?

My latest fears…

With all the wildlife around our new home, you’d think I’d be afraid of the huge coyotes, the bobcat slinking under the window, or the javelinas staring at me through the gate. But no, I’m afraid of a neighbor’s dog.

coyote on wall

A coyote has been hanging out on our wall.

I’m not sure if it’s an irrational fear or not. You should see the dog! I’ve been walking along the road outside our development for my morning walks. One side is backyards of houses and the other side a nature’s preserve. The views across the street are breathtaking.

The dog sits in his backyard and barks at me as I walk by. He’s a big, ugly dog with a nasty growl and bark.

I was okay with it, thinking there’s no way this devil-looking dog can get outside his fence. But then one day I faced the dog being walked on a leash by the owner and their young teen son walking a huge pit bull — who looked friendly compared to the beast. The devil dog lunged at the end of its leash, growling. The woman holding the leash pulled on it precariously. I crossed the street from the sidewalk to the open nature’s preserve.

“I’m afraid of your dog!” I called out.

“Oh, he’s fine,” she said.

I hoped she could hang onto that damn leash! I wish he was wearing a pinch collar or at least a choke chain.

Back at home I googled vicious dogs and looked for the breed. I found it. Presa Canario. Here’s the website where I found the picture.

photo of presa canario

I found this photo online. It looks like the neighbor’s dog.

This is what I learned from one of many websites I clicked on.

This breed is widely considered to make for a loyal pet and a first-rate guard dog when raised properly. But it also has a reputation as a fearsome fight dog with an aggressive streak when it is not well trained. Unfortunately, Presa Canario attacks are known to happen, and can prove deadly.

So, I don’t feel secure about this dog. I don’t know if he’s well trained or not. Whenever I go out walking and spot the woman with her dog, I turn the other way. I wonder why they need a pit bull and a presa? Isn’t that overkill? I’m sure they sleep well at night, though.

I find myself second guessing where to walk. I think I’m overacting and my walks aren’t as enjoyable. I may have to get back to the pool!

cat sitting next to flowers

Olive outside at our old home.

My other fear is that my kitty Olive will get outside and tangle with the wildlife. She went outside at our old home and loved her time outdoors. So far, she runs the opposite direction and hides whenever a door is opened.

pug face

This little guy is more my speed than a presa. It’s Waffles the pug snuggling my daughter.

Do you think my fear of the neighbor’s dog is irrational or not? How would you react in my situation?

What role do parents have in our kids’ anxiety?

child's birthday part at a swimming pool

My son’s second grade birthday party at the city pool.

I read that 65% of young adults are suffering from anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 crisis and 25% are contemplating suicide. Those are frightening statistics, which are worse than ever before.

Last year, in more normal times, I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And this was before the shut downs. Why was it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

blond mom and son at the beach

We were unplugged as a family every summer at the beach.

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

This year the environment takes on a whole new meaning. With shut downs, lay offs, more and more young adults out of work, of course the environment is gong to cause problems. Without COVID-19, many of our corporate environments weren’t a good fit for young people. Many companies were working on allowing more flexibility and developing new employees with training. Now worries about working from home, isolation, or no work at all is a bigger worry than ever. 

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? How much of their suffering from depression and anxiety can be blamed on parenting? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

elderly mother and middle aged daughter selfie

Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model.