It’s that time of year….

I’ve noticed changes during my morning walks. A few homes have Christmas decorations. Because of our desert locale, the decorations are so very different than the ones I’d see in Southern California. In both homes, we were in the Sonoran Desert, but this end of the desert is wild, while Palm Springs was tamed and manicured. The yards and decorations in Palm Springs were traditional strings of lights along eves and a few inflatable Santas.

The weather has gotten colder and cups are placed on cactus (cacti?) in our new neighborhood. The cactus can freeze and die from the top. That’s why we use styrofoam cups to give them a little insulation. We moved here December 15 last year and I was spending countless trips to grocery and hardware stores unable to find anything styrofoam. Amazon to the rescue.

cactus wearing styrofoam cups for the cold weather
The community cacti are decked out in styrofoam to protect them from cold weather.

saguaro cactus wearing Santa caps.
A neighbor has dressed up their saguaro in Christmas hats. I like the simplicity.
Christmas decorations in the Sonoran Desert.
This yard is all decked out!
Reindeer and Santa light display.
I’ll have to go back at night to get the full effect of this display.
Cactus with cups
Another cupped cactus.

What type of displays do you see in your neighborhood? Do you think there are more or less displays than pre COVID days? Do you put up lights or decorations?

My one Christmas decoration out besides poinsettias. I bought this in the 1990s at Target and love it.

Thoughts on the Time Change

Golden Gate Bridge view from Marin Headlands.

This is the first year of my entire life that we didn’t change our clocks. It turns out Arizona doesn’t fall back or spring forward. I’m thrilled. This time of year my body naturally starts to wake up earlier. I like having the extra time in my mornings. Then bam! We have to change our clocks and I’m back to waking up what feels like early — but it’s really not. Does that make sense?

My husband went to the Bay Area this weekend to move my son and his girlfriend from their tiny apartment into a more spacious house. They had been in the apartment for five years and my son was stressed. He said this felt like the first time he’s really moved. He explained that his earlier moves were to college into a dorm room, from a dorm room to a co-op and finally into the apartment in the Bay Area. He didn’t have much to move besides books and clothes. After five years he now has “stuff.” Big stuff like a desk, bed, dresser, a full kitchen with stuff like a rice cooker, dishes, pots and pans — and a plethora of plants.

My husband called me in disbelief after driving to Uhaul. The moving truck my son reserved wasn’t available. It turned out all the vehicles at Uhaul had their catalytic converters stolen! They had to drive two towns away to get a Uhaul — and they lost valuable hours. Welcome to the Bay Area!

I had a quiet weekend writing and reading. I really enjoyed my time alone. Here’s to Week 2 of NaNoWriMo.

What are your thoughts about the time change? Do you adjust to it easily or do you find it a pain?

Tweet from Arizona Senator Sinema.
A tweet from our Arizona Senator about the time change.

Are parents harming kids by posting pics online?

Tiger and pumpkin Halloween kid pic
The first Halloween for my kids together.

What do you think the long term outcome will be for parents posting every moment of their kids’ lives on social media?

I’m not pointing fingers, because yes, I was guilty of this myself.

Do you remember when once a year relatives or close friends would come over and the slide projector and screen would come out? Or, when you sat with a bowl of popcorn on the carpet with the cousins at your grandparents house watching old slides of your parents?

For decades parents have loved to photograph their kids. That’s because our kids are the most gorgeous and special human beings on the planet. Even Lucy took lots of photos of Little Ricky. There’s an episode about that.

I took tons of photos of my kids when they were babies and toddlers. I took less and less as they got older until our phones got cameras. I was guilty of taking photos whenever I could. And posting them on Facebook. Now, I don’t take as many photos of my kids, because when we’re together, I just want to be with them in the moment. And I’m not as active on Facebook, either.

I wrote the following post six years ago wondering what would happen when parents post photos of their kids all the time. Well, six years later, we’ve seen plenty of negative things. Some positive, too. Did we have “influencers” six years ago? When you read the excerpts of the articles I included, please remember they are dated. But they were already seeing issues.

Post from October 2015:

First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl.
First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl. ‘Kat in the Hat.”

Thank goodness we didn’t have Facebook when my kids were young. We barely had internet. We had a modem and I could send files of work to a printer. There was no way to share every minute detail and selfie of our day. Instead, I took my film downtown to the photo shop that made double prints. Then I wrote a card or letter by hand to my mom or dad and inserted the photos and mailed them the old fashioned way. Here’s the end result of my old fashioned film and camera. A closet with shelves filled with photo albums.

Stacks of photo albums in a closet
A few of my photo albums, filled with real live pictures.

My fear is that we are raising kids who think they are more self-important than they really are. Their every move is recorded and shared with the world. As they grow older and have their own Instagram, Snapchat etc. will they try harder and harder to get noticed? Will the photos get more outrageous and provocative? Look at me????

Christmas photo shoot 1996.
Christmas photo shoot 1996.

I’ve been reading articles about this phenomenon. Here’s a related article I wrote on whether or not our kids get too much glory. Following are some excerpts and links from CNN and US News. Some report skyrocketing anxiety and depression as a result of too much social media.

“The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.

Ease up on the pressure. Do we really have to be noticed all the time? Does every second have to be a beauty contest? Our kids need to stop feeling that they have to outperform their peers every minute of every day. They need to know that they don’t have to market themselves constantly, and that social media can be a mechanism for fostering collaborative relationships — not a medium for fueling competition, aggression and irresponsible behavior that contributes to anxiety and depression.” More from CNN here.

Here’s another article with an interesting point of view on selfies and a teen’s self worth. Read more from US News here.

“Social media use can turn into a problem when a teen’s sense of self worth relies on peer approval, Proost says. Whether they’re posting from the football game bleachers or on a family vacation, teens can access social media anywhere and at all times. And because of the constant connection, it can be dangerous for young people overly concerned with others’ opinions. They may feel like they can never escape the social environment and are constantly faced with peer pressure.

“The mental health outcomes that we’re starting to look at now are things like body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety,” Proost says. “We are starting to see those things creep up and be related conditions to excessive [social media] use.”

If we know an overuse of social media can be fun, but also have consequences that negatively impact our children—why are we leading and feeding them down this road? 

Don’t get me wrong. I love FB. I’m learning Instagram. I LOVE that I’ve reconnected with friends and family and get to share in their lives. I say to keep an eye out for when it gets out of hand.

What are your thoughts on a generation of kids whose every move has been recorded and shared? Do you think moms should post photos of their kids all the time on social media? Do you think that has an effect on the children’s social media habits?

Butterflies and birds

On my morning walks and drives to the post office and grocery store, I’m overwhelmed by butterflies They are everywhere. Once in the California desert where we used to live, we had a 100-year Monarch butterfly event. They were thick in the air and the car would be plastered with them after a short drive.

I don’t know if this is unusual in the Arizona desert where I now live, because it’s my first September here. My husband asked the other morning during our walk if the butterflies were following us. It did seem like that because we were surrounded during the entire walk.

I’ve been trying to video them. Here’s an attempt, but they don’t show up like they do in real life.

Butterflies.
Another attempt to video the butterflies. They look like little specks floating and flitting around.
A large covey of quail I spotted a block from our house.

Now I’m off to a long weekend with the kids in the Bay Area. Our daughter who is the super airline ticket shopper treated us to super saver tickets. New flora and fauna to enjoy — as well as our kids.

Coit Tower with kids
Last year we were climbing Coit Tower together on a trip to visit our kids.

And just like that — it’s over

Empty beach in Summerland, California
The final morning beach walk.

All year long I long for our beach days. This year we have a nine-hour drive home rather than the one and half hours we’d drive to and from Laguna Beach or four hours to Santa Barbara. That’s the drawback to our move this past year. Instead of breaking it up into two days, like we did on the way out — we’re going for it. We want to get home. I have extreme anxiety driving and as a passenger, so the drive can feel like torture. But that’s the price I pay to visit paradise.

sea glass and turban shell
My beach haul of sea glass and a turban shell.

On the bright side, I’m ready. I’m excited to be home and pick up Olive the cat. What’s weird is this is the first vacation where I’m returning to my new home — and it feels like home.

I’m anxious to explore more of my new area. And tackle those boxes of stuff I never bothered to unpack that are hidden away in closets. I’m anxious to get back to work on two writing projects I couldn’t find time for at the beach. I’m excited to shop for a ping pong table and to keep the fun and laughter with my husband going.

Today is bittersweet. We went for our last morning beach walk. Played some sizzling ping pong and now we’re packing. Did I mention that I skunked my husband 7-0 yesterday? 🙂

I miss watching Olive and the quail.

What are your thoughts about the end of vacation? Are you anxious to get back home? Or do you want vacation to go on longer? How do you pass the time during a long drive? We are listening to a book on Audible. The challenge is finding one we both want to listen to. Any suggestions?

We have a visitor plus more desert blooms

skinny bobcat in Arizona yard
This is our bobcat who hangs out in our yard in broad daylight.

This is the first picture I’ve gotten of our bobcat. When we had a home inspection done, the inspector went on the roof and said he found bones. The previous owners said, “That would be from the bobcat. He likes to sit on the patio roof over the pool.”

I’ve been a little nervous and have had a few fleeting sights of the bobcat slinking along the wall right outside our windows. My husband spotted him (her?) a few days ago and I watched from the casita as she sat and looked back at me. Our windows have a reflective coating, so I don’t think she really saw me. I’m calling her a she now because we’ve read that the males are much bigger and heavier than the females. This creature is about two feet tall and SKINNY!

Here are a few more of the interesting sights I saw over the weekend:

Saguaro cactus blooms
Saguaro beginning to bloom. I never knew that had blossoms.
Desert Ironwood in bloom
Desert Ironwood with lavender flowers. Another thing I’ve never seen before.
yucca in bloom
Yucca in full flower against a brilliant blue sky.
This is in our backyard. One day it was a foot tall, next it’s soaring to the sky and blooming. From Wikipedia: Plant in bloom: the flower stalk may reach up to 8 m (26 ft) in height Agave americana, common names sentry plantcentury plant, maguey or American aloe, is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae, native to Mexico and the United States in Texas. Today, it is cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant.

Here’s the bobcat walking away. She fits through our fence.

Do Early Birds Get the Worms?

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I plan on starting my mornings here when the pool reopens someday.

During Shelter in Place and the summer heat, I’ve been getting up early. For me that’s somewhere around 5 a.m.. I like to get outside for my morning walk before 7 a.m. or it’s already uncomfortably hot. I wrote this story about crazy successful people who get up at the crack of dawn a couple years ago and thought I’d share it again.

After sleeping in this morning, I thought about people who get up at the crack of dawn—or before—and how successful they are. I’m talking about success like Mozart, Ben Franklin, Tim Cook and Oprah Winfrey.

It was my friend, Linda, who asked for my thoughts about if swimming helped instill this early riser lifestyle in children. I hadn’t thought about it before, and I hadn’t made the connection to success with what time you roll out of bed. I began reading articles about this phenomenon and it makes sense. I believe kids, ages 13 through the end of their swim careers,  who are ready to jump into the pool at 5:30 a.m. a few mornings a week isn’t so bad after all. No, I didn’t like driving in the dark or leaving the house at 5 a.m. But it was a sacrifice we did together—me, my husband, and another swim mom. We took turns with driving to early A.M. practices for years.

Our kids had to be ready to go. They not only needed their suits on and swim gear ready, but their shampoo, conditioner, school clothes, assignments, books and lunches ready too. That meant preparing the night before. What a great lesson learned—because of swimming. If you want to have a great, productive day—start the day before. Don’t scramble around printing or finishing an assignment, looking for clean clothes and books 15 minutes before school starts.

Here are some excerpts from articles I read about early risers and success:

10 highly successful people who wake up before 6 a.m.
by Abigail Hess, CNBC

Waking up can be one of the most difficult and dreaded parts of going to work. But for some of the most successful people in art, business and sports, rising early is key to their success.

Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his mornings at 3:45 a.m., Ellevest CEO and co-founder Sallie Krawcheck wakes at 4 a.m. and Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Indra Nooyi have been known to rise at the crack of dawn.

Benjamin Spall, author of “My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired” and founding editor of my morning routine.com has spoken with hundreds of successful figures about their morning regimens. “It’s not a coincidence that all of these people these people have routines,” he tells CNBC.

While Spall says the biggest predictor of success is simply having a steady routine, it cannot be ignored that many of the most successful figures in his book wake up early — as in, before-6-a.m.-early.

1. Bill McNabb, Chairman of the Vanguard Group, wakes up around 5 and gets to his desk by 6:15 a.m.
Bill McNabb, chairman and former CEO of the Vanguard Group, has a strict early-morning routine that he has not changed in decades.

“My routine has varied about 30 minutes over 30 years,” he says. “When I became Vanguard’s CEO in 2008 (a position I held until early 2018), I started coming in a little earlier so I could have some additional preparation time in the morning. Other than that, not much has changed since I joined the company in 1986.”

His routine includes waking up between 5 and 5:15 a.m., grabbing a cup of coffee on the way to work and settling in at his desk between 5:45 and 6:15. Getting into the office early, he says, gives him crucial time for creative productivity.

“The quiet time between 6 and 7:30 a.m. is when some of my best work gets done,” says McNabb. “It’s my time to read, think and prepare for the day ahead. I try really hard to preserve that time.”

Click here to read about the next nine people interviewed for the list of 10 in the article.

Another article I read dealt strictly with creative minds and writers. “Rise and shine: the daily routines of history’s most creative minds” by Oliver Burkeman, was published by The Guardian.

Benjamin Franklin spent his mornings naked. Patricia Highsmith ate only bacon and eggs. Marcel Proust breakfasted on opium and croissants. The path to greatness is paved with a thousand tiny rituals (and a fair bit of substance abuse) – but six key rules emerge in “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey.

But very early risers form a clear majority, including everyone from Mozart to Georgia O’Keeffe to Frank Lloyd Wright. (The 18th-century theologian Jonathan Edwards, Currey tells us, went so far as to argue that Jesus had endorsed early rising “by his rising from the grave very early”.) For some, waking at 5am or 6am is a necessity, the only way to combine their writing or painting with the demands of a job, raising children, or both. For others, it’s a way to avoid interruption: at that hour, as Hemingway wrote, “There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”

There’s another, surprising argument in favour of rising early, which might persuade sceptics: that early-morning drowsiness might actually be helpful. At one point in his career, the novelist Nicholson Baker took to getting up at 4.30am, and he liked what it did to his brain: “The mind is newly cleansed, but it’s also befuddled… I found that I wrote differently then.”

From LifeHack.com I found “This is Why Productive People Always Wake Up So Early” written by Ciara Conlon. She made a number of interesting points from finding quiet time, time to exercise and finding your muse:

Successful people are very often early risers. From Franklin to Obama, from Branson to Darwin, all were known to rise with the morning sun. Whatever their motivations, they all reaped the benefits of putting their feet on the floor before the cock opened its beak.

The Winner’s Mindset
There is a sense of control acquired from beating the inner voice. If your mind wins the battle between victim and success, things start on a high note and usually only get better. Recognizing the voice is your best defense against him. When the alarm goes off and the voice tells you that you went to bed far too late to get up this early, or that five more minutes won’t hurt, DON’T LISTEN! Those who stay in bed won’t be competition for the big guys, but they will have to watch out for you. When you are in charge of the inner voice, there will be no stopping you.

More Time
If you were to get up just one hour earlier each morning you would gain 15 days in a year. Scary when you put it like that. How many days of our lives do we waste sleeping? I don’t know about you, but I have too much I want to achieve to waste my life in this way. If you are time deficient, sleep less. We only need six to seven hours a night. Any more is wasting life.

Get Active
The morning is a great time to exercise. It sets you up for the day with energy, focus, and enthusiasm. Some mornings when I come back from my new habit of running, I feel invincible. Stress has to work a lot harder to get hold of me, and all my relationships are happier and calmer. Exercising in the morning will make you more productive and contribute to making you more successful.

After reading all these articles yesterday and understanding how effective it is to get up early—why did I sleep in? Well, the main reason is that my husband is an early riser. His alarm goes off at 3:45 a.m. and he uses the quiet time to read about markets around the world and prepare for his day. I know I enjoy my quiet time in the morning so I let him have his space. I usually get up when I hear the garage shut. My goal, beginning in September, is to be an early riser and get to the pool for 5:30 a.m. practice, three days a week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Morning walk at the beach

What benefits do you experience by being an early riser? Or, do you get up later in the day and how does that help you? What’s your morning routine?