Looking back: Day 21 of Sheltering In Place

What weird things did we do a year ago when the year of lockdowns began? I’m calling it COVID quirks. I remember worrying about catching the virus from surfaces.Today, we learn that’s a rare occurrence. I wore latex gloves when I left the house. I wiped down purchases from Amazon or the grocery store with alcohol or sanitizer. The playground, drinking fountains and bathrooms at our park were all circled with yellow crime tape. The tennis courts had massive padlocks on them.

And my big goal in life was to buy toilet paper! I found some weird brands on Amazon from Asia that took a month to arrive. Beyond thin and unusable, I finally tossed the rolls out when Charmin and Cottonelle were stocked. The meat counter was bare at the store along with pasta, rice and canned foods.

Last April, I had no idea we’d sell our house and pull up our roots in California. That was the furthest thing in my mind. I was busy writing for trade magazines and my daughter was still employed in her dream job doing social media for a swim company. She was working remotely from our home in the guest room. My husband took over our master bedroom and turned it into his office. I’d wake up to his voice on the phone at 6 a.m. and skedaddle out of bed to my son’s empty room that I soon took over as my safe space and office.

Here’s what I wrote a year ago tomorrow:

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One of my favorite streets on my morning walk.

21 Days. Isn’t that something? My daughter came home a few days before we got the order. I’m so glad she made it here. She’s been a joy to have around along with her fur baby Waffles. We have plenty of room to have my husband, me and my daughter all working from home — together — yet apart.

Here’s a few thoughts I have about these strange days:

ONE
I go from super calm and productive to anxiety ridden from day to day.

TWO
I’m losing track of the days and the time. Twice I have woken up thinking it’s 6 a.m. and started the coffee only to look at the clock in the kitchen that reads 11:40 p.m.

THREE
My routine of daily three pages of writing, my three mile walk and Bible readings to start my day are more important than ever. All three help me stay grounded.

FOUR
I’m reading lots of good books. Sitting in my back yard in the sun reading is one of my favorite things to do.

FIVE
10,000 people have died in our country. My heart goes out to all the people suffering and losing loved ones.

SIX
We are now told to wear masks when we leave the house. I’m using a make-shift one from my quilting supplies. It’s hard to breathe during my morning walks, though, and my glasses fog up.

SEVEN
My writing jobs are completed and turned in and now I’m in uncharted territory without every minute of my day focused on meeting deadlines.

EIGHT
My daughter and I cleaned and organized the food cupboards and the laundry room. It feels good to have clean spaces.

NINE
I’m reaching out to family via phone and email. It’s important to stay in touch with your loved ones.

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My new morning walk look.

What are your thoughts and memories about COVID Quirks during the start of the pandemic?

Living on “The Edge”

I finished reading “The Edge” yesterday. The book brought back memories of growing up in my rural Pacific Northwest hometown. It’s a book written by “Clark Douglas” who in real life is one of my childhood best friend’s little brothers. Dougie, as we called him when we were big junior high girls, followed us around whenever I hung out at their home. I’m not sure how much younger he was, but he was a little kid and I enjoyed his company because of his personality and brain power.

I have tons of memories at their home. My brother’s good friend was Christy’s oldest sibling Larry. Christy’s sister Cathy was in my brother’s class. They had about 10 acres with a tennis court, cows, a barn with a loft and bales of hay — and a lake with a tiny island that Christy and I attempted to camp out on one summer. Christy’s room had a steep roof and gable. We could climb out the window and sit on the rooftop. Their mom left us alone and my only memories of their dad was pushing a lawn mower. Often we’d be the ones tagging along our big brothers on the golf course. Christy and I were the only girls on the boy’s golf team.

Although “The Edge” takes place in Montana, it could easily be our hometown with the high school football games being the star attraction in town and the athletes our local heroes. Douglas creates quirky characters that are entertaining and reminded me of my neighbors in Snohomish, where everyone knew everyone’s business. The story follows the life of Will Powers, the younger brother of local football heroes, through his early childhood being provoked by his siblings through his college years, marriage in California, to his return to his hometown. I admire how Doug created such depth of characters and intertwined their lives in unexpected ways.

The beautiful cover is painted by the author’s talented oldest sister Cathy and captures the PNW beautifully. Christy was editor and proofreader. With my history with this family, of course I whole heartedly recommend the book, but it was a good read, too.

From Amazon:

Prior to the turn of the century, life in western Montana provided all the elements of harmony and simplicity. William Powers had that life, and struggles to get back to it. William never accepts defeat, though. Battling through life’s hurdles, he ultimately must return to the person he once was in order to attain it. Pete Campbell, however, has to make a decision–do what is right, or do what the law says. As a deputy sheriff in a rural community, this may be up to his interpretation. Armed with knowledge of the people and the history of his community, Pete may choose to answer to a different standard. Pete tells us the whole story behind Will’s life. Though Will appears to be just an average person, nothing normal could be said about him. Fueled by love, anger, justice, and determination beyond measure, Will searches for his peace. Will’s story carries the reader back to a time and place that by today’s standard can only be imagined and desired. A delightful mix of comedy, conflict, romance, drama, and suspense are all rolled up into one tale. This easy read will captivate the mind, building story upon story until it all surfaces at The Edge.

What’s your favorite movie for Easter?

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I posted this Easter week in 2014. Are there any new movies that have come out since then that you’d add to the list? Or maybe some classics that I missed?

When I was a kid, the major three TV networks aired Holiday Specials. My mom would make popcorn in a big pot on the stove, or if we were lucky, my brother and I’d get to shake the aluminum-foil bursting “Jiffy Pop” right on the electric burner. We’d gather on the sofa or in chairs to watch — get this — as a family – the “Holiday Special.”

Around Halloween, it was Wizard of Oz and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Christmas had a bunch of great ones. My favorite was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but we also watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, and my Mom and Dad’s favorite — It’s a Wonderful Life.

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For Easter 2014, I’d love to rekindle the tradition of sitting down with family to watch holiday movies together. Unfortunately, my son’s having a riotous good time at UCSB and my daughter will be off to see Lorde, Lana Del Rey, Beck and Arcade Fire. Yes, she’s going to Coachella!

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If I can convince my husband, or maybe alone, I’m going to check out Netflix, Apple TV, or Google Movies to watch my list of must-see Easter movies:

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1. The Robe. Starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons,  and Victor Mature. 1953. Won 2 Oscars.
2. The Ten Commandments.  Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter. 1956.  Won 1 Oscar.
3. Ben Hur.  Charlton Heston. 1959.  Won 11 oscars.
4. Passion of the Christ.  Mel Gibson director. 2004. Not for the faint of heart!
and at theaters:

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5. God Is Not Dead.  I’m going to see this sometime this week. It’s made my list based on a friend’s recommendation.

Do you have other movies to add to my top five picks? Have you seen all five of these movies?

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.

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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.

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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?

Looking back: A birthday for the dogs

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Friday was my son’s birthday. I miss him so much but am looking forward to his visit when we are all vaccinated. Hopefully, he and his girlfriend will be here in a few weeks. I’m so proud of the caring and sensitive person he is and how he’s enjoying his career.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

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In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his 2nd grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one eight-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swalloing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

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In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

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Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

What she thought about our new home

It was a relief. My daughter spent a few days with us in our new home. She likes it. She likes the area where we live — even though it’s not California. It’s in Arizona.

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Waffles, my daughter’s pug.

Her first job out of school was in Arizona and she has terrible memories. She took the job because the company flew her to Scottsdale from Utah. They put her up in a hotel, they took her out to dinner. She was swept off her feet. It was in her father’s field of investments So, it all seemed perfect to her. But it was far from it. It turns out taking a job to get your parent’s approval may not work out.

She lived in a house we purchased in a quiet family neighborhood. Not at all the best spot for a 22 year old — unless complete isolation and living next to boomers is your thing. Then her house got broken into and ransacked. The only good thing about that is they didn’t steal her pug. They locked him in the garage. Eventually she quit her job, got another one plus nannied in the early mornings for a single mom. She got hired for dream job in the Bay Area and moved up there. That worked out fine until COVID hit.

Fast forward to December 2020 and we moved to Arizona and she told us she would never come visit. She doesn’t have good memories of her one year here. I kept telling her although our address says Scottsdale, it really isn’t. I told we were out in the “sticks” as my hometown was called growing up. We’re far enough out of the metropolitan area to have a whole different feel.

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Our queen bee Olive.

She was surprised how far out of town we live. And she loves the nature. We watched a dozen javelina cross the street including babies at sunset. She enjoyed the bunnies and quails romping through our yard. She loves our house. She’s planning on another trip soon to visit.

The only snafu was Waffles. Olive was sleeping under our bed and Waffles decided to charge her at 4 a.m. We heard the kerfuffle and Waff flew out from under the bed. Olive stayed put.

The next day our daughter wiped a booger from Waffles’ snout. It turned out to be a claw embedded through his skin. There was no more trouble from Waffles and Olive after that.

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The nature trails across the street. I wonder how old this saguaro is?
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It’s a special Wednesday

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This is Waffles snuggling my daughter.

Today is Wednesday. I’ve been waiting patiently for today to arrive for several weeks. My daughter is coming to visit. She is driving from the Bay Area and should be here within the hour. This is the first time anyone from our family will see our new home. We moved in December.

When we announced to our kids that we were selling our home, they were furious. They were so angry with us that we’d consider selling the only home they ever knew. All the memories of their lifetimes were wrapped up in our 1930’s old Spanish home. Birthday parties, sleepovers, hanging out with friends between swim practices. Christmas, Easter egg hunts, spaghetti feeds for the team. Playdates at the neighborhood park. They were born in the hospital a few blocks away.

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Our home of 28 years.

So today, I get to see my daughter. It took several months for our kids to get over their sadness. They were never coming to Arizona to see us, they told us. But now we get the first visit.

It’s been a tough year for a lot of us. The shut down for two weeks to flatten the curve turned into a long year with people suffering from lost jobs, lost wages, isolation, depression and anxiety. My daughter lost her job due to COVID around 10 or 11 months ago. We told her she’d be fine with the enhanced unemployment. But the state of California couldn’t get that right. She was one of approximately 1.13 million people who are in unemployment limbo.

She got a few checks and then they stopped. They owe her thousands of dollars from summer through today. Nobody answers the phone. She calls and calls. When she was lucky to get through after weeks of calling, the person on the other end of the line said they couldn’t see anything wrong with her file. Finally, after writing to her Assemblywoman and Congressmen, she got through a second time. She was told she was going to receive all her back unemployment. She was thrilled. A week later she was told she’s back on hold and they were investigating her account for fraud. She was crushed. And she continues on in limbo.

Here’s an excerpt of an article that explains the ongoing problems with California unemployment:

With an added emphasis on fraud, the EDD spent the remainder of December locating unemployment benefit cases that were ‘potentially fraudulent’, eventually find around 3.5 million cases that fit that description by late December. Two million of the cases were immediately disqualified, such as those sent to inmates and some registered to deceased people, leaving 1.4 million to be suspended in January while the EDD takes a closer look at them.

The suspension of the accounts led over a million unemployed Californians to learn of the situation in the last week. Many found out from communication with the EDD, being told that “Your claim is suspended because it may be tied to fraudulent activity.” Others received notices in the mail reading “You have been receiving unemployment benefits, but we have temporarily suspended your claim because it may be tied to fraudulent activity. You will receive further instruction from EDD on how to verify your identity beginning Jan. 6, 2021.”

While initially silent, the furor of unemployment beneficiaries, who rely on the money to tide them over during the pandemic while they find another job or wait until their business reopens, led the EDD to make a statement during the weekend, days before the full number of beneficiaries in limbo was known.

“As part of ongoing efforts to fight fraud, EDD has suspended payment on claims considered high risk and is informing those affected that their identity will need to be verified starting this week before payments can resume,” tweeted the EDD. “More details on the EDD website in the days ahead.”

What a nightmare! It’s hard enough to lose your job. But then California can’t do what it’s promised to do to help. It’s been hard for her to stay positive. She’s been locked down in a tiny apartment for months on end and is suffering from depression. The Bay Area has some of the strictest restrictions of the state. Good news is on the way with vaccines. We’ve all had shots. Now that businesses are beginning to open she has found a job and starts next week. She decided to make the trip to see us before her life gets back to normal. I’m so thankful I get to see her!

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This was two years ago in Seattle on a mother-daughter trip.