What a week!

I hit the halfway point of my writing challenge at the start of the week.

Actually, not much happened out of the ordinary. But compared to most of my weeks during the past year and a half COVID days, a lot did happen.

Here’s a quick rundown:

I hit my goals for NaNoWriMo this week.

I managed to fit in posting blogs and reading other bloggers worked around my novel writing.

I played lots of ping pong and I sense some improvement.

I went to the Podiatrist and found an In-N-Out only 30 minutes from our house.

I had my first meeting as the official newsletter editor for our HOA. I met three new people who will be working with me to get the newsletter written and produced.

I took Olive the cat to the vet for shots. I had to find a new vet, since she hasn’t been to one in Arizona. I am not a person who regularly takes the cat to the vet. First of all, Olive hates it. She cries incessantly in the car and then she shudders and shakes. She doesn’t need to go to the vet if she’s not sick. But I called the place we boarded her in August to make a reservation for a trip planned in December. They told me one of her shots had expired. We both survived the trip to the vet, barely.

I talked to several of my old friends on long phone conversations after reading the article I posted on the importance of friendships. You can read that HERE if you missed it.

I went to my first NFL game in person.

Today I’m headed to our farmer’s market to get treats for Thanksgiving-week guests and my dad.

cat on a patch of grass in the house
Olive cat on her patch of grass next to pots of cat grass.

Happy Friday!

Have you noticed your weeks getting busier? Is it because we’re leaving COVID behind us? What makes your weeks busier? Or did I just have a one-off week?

Who knew there is a right way to drink coffee?

brown liquid pouring on black and white ceramic mug selective color photography
Photo by Lood Goosen on Pexels.com

Every morning, my husband brings me coffee in bed. He gets up hours earlier than I do. Around the time I wake up, he’ll bring a cup of coffee to my nightstand. Sometimes I’m still asleep and it’s sitting there ready for me when I open my eyes.

According to an article he texted me, we are doing this all wrong. From CNBC’s You’re drinking your coffee wrong—these 3 tricks can boost your productivity, experts say, reporter Morgan Smith explains how to maximize your morning caffeine.

She has three tips on how to drink coffee and the first one applies to me. You are supposed to wait to drink your coffee. You’re not supposed to have it first thing.

Management and behavioral science expert Daniel Pink has examined the science of timing and how it can affect our productivity. In his book “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” Pink notes, based on research from several studies, that the best time to have your first cup of coffee is about 60-90 minutes after you wake up. That’s because caffeine interferes with the production of cortisol, the hormone that signals your body to be awake and responsive. According to this research, cortisol levels usually peak around 8:30 a.m. 

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/16/how-to-maximize-your-coffee-habit-to-be-more-productive-experts.html?__source=iosappshare%7Ccom.apple.UIKit.activity.Message

Her other two tips are selecting the right ingredients and drinking coffee before a nap. First of all, I don’t nap. Second, I like my ingredients just fine. I like the coffee I like. Also, I like my coffee in bed and think it’s sweet my husband has done that for our entire marriage. But, today I wrote my three pages, walked and came back to make my own coffee. I’ll let you know if my caffeine is working better or not. So far, it just makes me a little bit sad.

Do you like to drink coffee or tea first thing in the morning or do you wait for your first cup? If you only drink one or two cups of coffee per day, what effect do you think timing has on caffeine?

Benefits of Old Friends

friends reunited wearing face masks
Me and my best friend from college, showing off our masks at Pike Place Market, during a visit a few months ago.

I read an article today in the Wall Street Journal that made me feel good. It was about the power of friendships. It stated that reconnecting with friends from our past helps our mood. I looked back on my visits with college friends and I agree. I do feel better after connecting with my close friends. It gives me a lift that is more powerful than getting together with new friends. According to the article, we feel that someone from our past understands us, knows us better. I have a few people in my life that fit that bill including two friends from college and a couple from our early married lives. Whenever I get together with any of them, I feel warmth and peace.

My husband has a few friends like that, too. We reconnected with his best friend from grade school through high school when we visited our daughter while she went to college in Utah. Their laughter and fun stories are contagious when they are together. It was such a joy.

Here’s an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal Article by Elizabeth Bernstein:

The Secret Power of Reconnecting With Old Friends
There’s a special boost that only old friends can give us. Here’s why we need it now.
Missing old friends? You’re not alone. Pals from our past can give us a sense of stability in turbulent times.

Research shows that psychological distress often causes nostalgia. People tend to experience this sentimental longing for the past when they are feeling sad, lonely, anxious or disconnected, or when life feels meaningless or uncertain.

“Covid represents a big sense of discontinuity in our lives. We’ve lost a sense of who we are,” says Clay Routledge, a psychologist and professor of business at North Dakota State University, who has studied nostalgia for 20 years. “Recalling cherished experiences from our past can remind us who we want to be, who we want to be around, and what we feel is important in life.”

Nostalgia increases positive mood, self-esteem and self-confidence, according to studies conducted by Dr. Routledge and others. It makes us feel more socially connected and optimistic. It helps us feel that life has more meaning. And it’s highly motivating, pushing us to pursue goals, reconnect with people who were once important to us, and make new relationships.

We can become nostalgic about any period in our life. But it’s most common to feel a longing for our adolescence or early adulthood, likely because that’s when we developed our sense of identity and forged our own relationships.

Dr. Routledge says that most people feel nostalgic about social experiences, typically with family or friends. We may long for their support or feel we can trust them. Old friends—especially ones from our youth, who may also know our family—are often the people we believe truly understand us.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-secret-power-of-reconnecting-with-old-friends-11637069401?mod=hp_listc_pos3

Do you have people from your past that make you feel good when you reconnect? What do your old friends mean to you?

college friends reunited
Reunited with a college roommate.

Looking back to DAY ONE of Shelter in Place

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Views from my old neighborhood park.

Yesterday I went to my first NFL football game. Since I’ve learned you cannot bring a purse into a game unless it’s clear plastic, I decided to wear leggings with deep pockets for what I believed were my essentials: my cell phone with the digital ticket, my driver’s license, my vaccination card, a debit card and an N-95 mask.

I was surprised to find out that I didn’t need anything but the digital ticket. I saw only two people wearing masks in our section. Maybe in other areas of the stadium it was different? Walking in from the parking lot, I saw nobody wearing a mask. I ended up using my mask as a napkin, because my husband bought us hot dogs and fries and of course forgot napkins.

It was exciting to watch live football, but it was also overwhelming to be in a crowd. I haven’t been in one since it seems a lifetime — but in reality it was pre COVID. I was exhausted by the time we got home — but also thrilled to have the experience. What a contrast to March 2020 — plus the stark difference between Arizona and California, where I lived in 2020. I decided to look back on what I was feeling when we first found out about COVID and sheltered in place to flatten the curve.

Cardinals vs. Panthers football game.
View from my seat at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Here’s a look back on my post about DAY ONE of the three-week shut-down to flatten the curve:

I was pretty shaken up yesterday, but I’m pleased to report that I’m doing better today. I got my full walk around the park and neighborhood before the rain started. I saw a favorite neighbor and we chatted while standing six feet apart. He said, “We’ll get through this.”

I was assigned a couple magazine stories by an editor and I think that helped me the most. I have a tight deadline and had to get busy. That kept me from turning on the news, watching the DOW, and reading all the headlines on the web rather than writing.

Life is pretty much the same for me as it is most days. I walk and then work from home. It’s nice to know my daughter is in the guest room working from home, too, right down the hall. My son is in the Bay Area and he’s under the same orders to shelter in place but they started before us. He’s calling everyday to let me know he’s okay. I really appreciate that.

We will get through this. We have so many uncertainties ahead of us. That’s what gets me anxious. I try to think through all the possibilities of what COULD happen and it gets me scared. It’s much better to stay busy at home while we are “sheltering in place.”

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This cutie pie came home with my daughter. He and the cat are practicing social distancing.

What are your memories about the first day of shelter in place? How did you prepare, who were you with and did you think it would go on longer than three weeks?

The great ping pong war

ping pong balls above a keyboard
I found my missing ping pong balls in my husband’s office.

The friendly games of ping pong between me and my husband took a highly competitive turn with a sprinkle of shady dealings with ping pong balls yesterday.

I like the brand of balls named Kettler that came in the box with our ping pong table. They don’t have a lot of bounce. They are soft to the touch and I have a better feel with my paddle. I’ve mastered a serve that I discovered on the Youtube video on killer serves. It’s a tricky little serve that barely makes it over the net and bounces a bunch of times away from the opponent. It only works with the Kettler balls for me.

My husband likes ping pong balls from a brand called Stiga. They have a lot of bounce and I can’t control my shots as well. My return flies off the table without bouncing when my husband has a fast, strong serve. I lose a ton of points that way. In fact, I think I only lose because of the Stiga balls.

“That’s fine if you want to win that way,” I told my husband.

“What??”

“That you feel you have to play balls you know I have a difficulty with. If winning is that important to you.”

He switched to my Kettler balls on the next game and I skunked him 7 – 0.

When we finished the match, I had a plan in my mind. I raced to my laptop and ordered more Kettler balls on Amazon. When my box of 60 balls came in, I’d remove the Stigas and hide them in the casita.

My husband approached me while I was ordering and looked over my shoulder.

“Are you going to order my balls, too?”

I shook my head no. Definitely not.

He tried to log onto Amazon on his computer. But he doesn’t know the password. And no, I didn’t give it to him when he asked.

“I called our daughter and she is ordering my ping pong balls,” he announced.

We played another match, and my Kettler balls were missing. Later that night I walked into my husband’s office and found a nice little pyramid of them resting against his keyboard.

Stiga ping pong ball
My husband’s preferred brand of ping pong ball.

Do you and your spouse get competitive in sports or games? What games or sports to do you play together?

About digital tickets

digital ticket in an iphone wallet
A digital ticket in my iphone wallet.

I am new to digital tickets and they stress me out. For example, this ticket is in my iphone wallet for a football game that was last weekend. I don’t know how the ticket got there. I talked about going with a friend who was coming from Palm Springs for the game. But, I decided against it and we’ll join them at a game Thanksgiving weekend instead. So how did this ticket end up in my “wallet?”

My first encounter with digital tickets was to buy five tickets for the football game above. I made a mistake and bought tickets to the ASU vs. Stanford game. When I transferred tickets to my friend (I was buying them for her and her kids and my husband and myself) she texted me back and said I bought the wrong tickets.

I said no worries that the Ticketmaster website said there were refunds. But then I read the small print and the refunds are only for when an event is cancelled. Period. I was able to list the tickets for sale on Ticketmaster. Fortunately, the tickets sold and I got my money back.

I bought tickets for my husband, me and a friend who lives down the street for the NFL Cardinals vs. Panthers game, which is Sunday. My husband has been a huge Sam Darnold fan ever since Sam’s USC days. He was supposed to be the quarterback for the Panthers this weekend, but he shattered his shoulder last weekend.

I bought the tickets a couple months ago but couldn’t access them. That stressed me out because they are expensive and I didn’t know if they existed or not. It’s so nebulous. I like paper tickets. Something solid in my hands that I can touch.

Our friend has pneumonia and we uninvited him to the game. Now we have an extra ticket. Since I successfully sold the ASU vs. Stanford five tickets, I figured I could sell our extra ticket. But if I can’t access the tickets how can I sell them? Today, I was finally able to access the tickets. My hands shook while downloading the Ticketmaster app and listing a ticket for sale. Perhaps it’s because I made a mistake on the first go around is why digital tickets make me anxious.

What are your thoughts about digital tickets? Do you like paper tickets better? Or are you savvy and fine with digital tickets?

State Farm Stadium in Glendale AZ
State Farm Stadium, home to the AZ Cardinals and where I got my COVID shots.

From playdates to playgroup, let the kids play


I wrote the following post my first year of blogging. I’m reposting it today because my NaNoWriMo novel is based on it. My project is called “The Playgroup” and is loosely based on the moms with their young children. In our neighborhood, my kids were the only kids. That’s true for most of Palm Springs neighborhoods. We had to arrange playdates before the kids were school-age if they wanted to play with other kids. One mom started what she called the playgroup and it was an honor to be invited to her exclusive group.

Toddler boy playing with a hose.
My son playing with a hose in the backyard.

When I was a child, I played in and out of neighbors’ backyards, rode bikes from dawn to dusk — with no adults bothering me.

When I had kids, they didn’t have that freedom. One reason was the lack of kids living around us. Another reason was a child in a nearby town had been kidnapped from his front yard and his body found 10 days later. That terrified the moms in our area for years.

I went to Mommy and Me class with my son at the Palm Springs Pavilion. A teacher, Miss Stacey, taught us to sing songs together and play “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot” with a dozen other moms and babies that apparently needed the coaching.  Each week, we took turns bringing snacks of grapes or string cheese. I look back at this as a training ground for the proverbial playdate.

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Our playdates developed from the Mommy and Me group. We had a park day, which was fun and healthy. Moms sat together on quilts on the grass and talked for hours while our kids played on the now-banned steel playground equipment — a super tall, steep slide, a merry-go-round, and a stagecoach that they could climb into, on top of and jump off. Sometime during our kids’ early childhood, our city tore out the dated, dangerous equipment and put in a rubber ground and safe equipment. The kids never liked to play on the brightly-colored equipment and our park playdates vanished.

One day, I got a phone call from a friend. She homeschooled her daughter and was handpicking her friends for a weekly Friday playgroup. She hired a teacher to run playgroup, and each week included a lesson, a theme, craft and snack, followed by 10 minutes of supervised play on her backyard swing set. The moms were not welcome to hang out and socialize.

I felt honored my kids were in the select group. Months later, the mom who had playgroup took me to lunch and told me she had some “big news.” She was uninviting one of the boys. I hardly saw this is earth shattering, but perhaps there was more to this luncheon. Maybe it was a warning!

Years later, when my kids were in high school, they reconnected with friends from playgroup. They remembered it as if they were fellow Mouseketeers having survived a bizarre childhood experience.

When my daughter was in 7th and 8th grade, we homeschooled. Every Wednesday, I picked up her best friend from school, and brought her to my house to play until her mom got off work. This was another sort of playdate. We moms thought it was an ideal way to keep their friendship going. Since my daughter loved arts and crafts — homeschooling allowed her to try ceramics, mosaics, and quilting. I said that the two girls could do an art project each week.


But that didn’t happen. I was tired from supervising my daughter’s schooling by the time afternoon came and my daughter just wanted to hang out with her friend. So, I retired to my room and left them alone. After a few weeks, the friend didn’t want to come over anymore. She said she was promised an art activity and she was disappointed that they weren’t doing any.

Happy child at the beach.
My daughter during a camping trip at the beach.

That made me think about our kids and their overly structured lives. I love having quiet time. I hope my kids do, too. We need to unplug, unschedule, and let our kids regain their creativity and inner peace. They need us to leave them alone and let them be kids.

How was your childhood different from your children’s young lives? Did you have to arrange playdates so they could play or did they have friends who lived close by?