Gray Skies, Blue Mood

gray skies rain clouds

Cloudy skies above the nature preserve. 

We are on day three of gray skies, drizzle and cold weather. I’m missing my Palm Springs home. I’m feeling slightly blue missing my friends and old life. Life before COVID that is.

So what to do? I bundled up and went for a walk, the cold air blasting what was exposed of my face. My spirits lifted.

Tomorrow we’re expecting snow. Last week it was 80 degrees and sunny. I was really excited for this winter storm, but I’m already over it. I like walking four to five miles a day — and it’s too cold out — even with the wool cap, down coat and mittens to go that far. I like taking a break in my backyard, reading a book in the sun.

I am spoiled. I admit it. I’ve lived in sunshine for far too many years after leaving the gray downpours of Seattle.

javelina in the back yard

They look like the ROUS’s from the Princess Bride. But they are javelina.

Yesterday, I was startled when three strange creatures made their way along our fence. They were a family of javelinas. It looked like one youngster with mom and dad. They weren’t very photogenic, but I’ll try to get closer next time. The quail are keeping me entertained, too. They are getting fat on the bird seed I put out for them.

quail in rainy backyard

Another rainy day doesn’t detract the quail from our yard.

If you feel yourself getting blue, what can change your mood? Does weather affect your mood?

Tips for Parents of Teens During COVID-19

Prom photos in backyard

My daughter’s senior prom night a few years ago when things were normal.

I’ve been thinking about how teens are feeling — stuck at home with mom and dad. Normally, they’d be seeking independence from their parents and are ready to fly from the nest — which usually means college. But with COVID-19, some universities haven’t opened in close to a year and are offering online classes only. There may be no end in sight for these teens that they will ever leave the nest. Top that off with missing milestones like graduation and prom, the normal every day social life with their friends — I wonder how the kids are surviving? They have been away from their peers for close to a year. I remember how important friends were to me at this age — friends were my world.

In the Los Angeles Times, I read an article called Teens are feeling lonely and anxious in isolation. Here’s how parents can help by Lisa Boone. It offered advice from several mental health experts with tips of how parents can make their kids feel less anxiety during these crazy days of shelter in place. I suggest you read the entire article here.

When my son was a senior in high school, we really had a rough year. He was desperately wanting to be an adult, live his own life, and I was hanging on to motherhood and wanting him to be the child I had loved and known for 18 years. Of course we clashed. I can’t imagine what that year would have been like for us to be stuck at home with each other day and night!

Valedictorian speech

My son at the podium giving his graduation speech.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

As tens of millions of us continue to shelter in place, the most tractable of teens are feeling frustrated and anxious. They miss their former lives. They are uninterested in online classes and don’t want to follow quarantine guidelines anymore. And who can blame them?

Living in seclusion can produce quarantine fatigue, according to South Pasadena-based psychotherapist Noelle Wittliff, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with children, families and adolescents. “Many of the teens at my practice are hitting a wall,” Wittliff said. “They are over it. They want to go outside and connect with their friends. The online connection is just not cutting it.”

Normally adolescence, a developmental period marked by impulsivity and feelings of invincibility, is a time in which teenagers separate from their parents and bond with their peers. Now that families are confined at home, parents are in a peculiar position in which they have to balance the seriousness of the novel coronavirus with their teen’s desire for social interaction.

“Many of our teens are experiencing tremendous loss, and grief is an appropriate response to loss,” Wittliff said. “Depending on the age and school year of the teen, these losses can include proms, graduation ceremonies, end-of-year sports events, dances, parties, school activities, yearbook signings and simple proximity to beloved friends, teachers or significant others. The school shutdowns happened so abruptly that many of the teens that I work with did not have the opportunity to gather belongings from their lockers or classrooms, let alone say meaningful goodbyes to teachers and classmates.

“As parents, it’s important to hold space for all of these feelings and to recognize that teens don’t always communicate sadness in expected ways,” she said. “Sadness is often masked by frustration, irritability, anger or disconnection. These are protective reactions that mask vulnerability. The goal isn’t to take these defense strategies away but rather to be curious about what other feelings might be hiding underneath.”

For teens struggling with maintaining distance from their friends, Wittliff encourages parents to validate those feelings with empathy while reminding them this quarantine is temporary. Also, as a parent or guardian, manage your teenager’s expectations and don’t make promises that won’t come true.

Wittliff offers this advice: “Tell them, ‘I hear you and I know how hard this is. I know how much you miss your boyfriend or girlfriend and your friends but this is what is going on. The entire world is going through this. We are all taking precautions to stay safe.’”

Among the advice offered by experts in this article is to establish a routine — that you let your teen help develop. Try to have a fun activity every day plus get exercise outside. There’s many more tips in the article that are so helpful like practicing mindfulness, cooking, drawing, etc.

Although my daughter has left her teen years behind, she came home to shelter in place and work remotely rather than being in a tiny apartment with two other people.  For the four months she was home, I learned to give her space. I no longer walk into her room unannounced like I would have when she was a five-year-old. I let her come to me instead. We enjoyed an outdoor activity each day like tennis, a walk or smashball in the backyard pool. She rode bikes with her dad in the evenings. We had some great memories, but enough was enough of her life with mom and dad. She moved back to the Bay Area where she could hang out with our son and girlfriends family. Back to life with peers, although still isolated from the life she was used to.

Structure and predictability will help with the passing of time and give teens something to look forward to. “Every day and week that they get through sheltering in place brings them that much closer to getting back to their lives,” Wittliff said. “This is hard, but our kids are resilient. And they will get through it.”

Backyard prom photos by pool

My son’s senior prom. They had a catered dinner in our back yard before the dance.

How are you helping your kids with COVID-19 fears and isolation from friends? What are they missing the most during shelter in place?

 

When we were told to “shelter in place”

pug with sad face

Waffles resigned to shelter in place.

Do you remember early 2020? We were caught up in the impeachment drama in January and February (deja vu). Our family traveled by plane to Colorado for one of our best friend’s daughter’s wedding. It was before COVID was much of a thing. We weren’t worried about flying the kids in from San Francisco to Denver, or renting an airbnb for all of us together.

But on the flight home to Palm Springs it was upsetting. The man in the seat directly behind us was groaning, moaning while coughing up phlegm and blowing his nose constantly. It was so unsettling. A month later, I’m sure nobody would have allowed this man on a flight!

family at friend's wedding

With the family at a wedding in CO. The bride was friends with both kids and her mom is one of my best friends.

Little did we know the groom’s father had COVID at the time. He was a doctor and most likely got it at work in the hospital. Thankfully, after a serious case he got better and we didn’t hear of anyone else at the wedding getting infected.

Turn the page from February to March and we were told to shelter in place. Here’s what I wrote about DAY ONE:

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Views from my neighborhood park.

I was pretty shaken up yesterday after the order to shelter in place, but I’m pleased to report that I’m doing better today. I got my full walk in around the park and neighborhood before the rain started. I got to see a favorite neighbor of mine and chat while standing six feet apart. He said, “We’ll get through this.”

I got 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 diving 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. 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 work 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 do you remember about the first day you were told to shelter in place? What were your thoughts and feelings?

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.

Day 220: Time for another shutdown?

I am looking back on this crazy year called 2020. We went through all these days of sheltering in place, yet my little resort town has been busier than ever. The grocery stores are packed. The airbnbs are all booked. I don’t see people sheltering in place as much as they are flocking to Palm Springs.

Does all the visitors to our town help during Coronavirus? It’s something I don’t understand.

Palm trees at sunsnet

A beautiful sunset view from my home.

It mostly younger people coming in small groups. I think they may be working remotely or not working at all and feel the need to get out of their cramped city spaces and spread their wings.

I feel the need to get out as well. I think being stuck at home for days on end is wearing on a lot of people’s nerves. I know my kids and many other young adults are experiencing anxiety, depression and all sorts bad thoughts from this lurch away from “normal.”

When I ask if we’re headed for another shutdown, what I mean to ask is will this one ever end?

Is anyone else feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or confined? If so, what are you doing to feel better?

Blue sky and palm trees are attracting visitors.

When will 2020 be a distant memory?

Palm trees in Palm Springs

View from my neighborhood in Palm Springs

I ran across a poem in an email from a club I belong to. It hit a nerve with how I’m feeling lately. I’m not able to sleep through the night. I’m worried for my children’s health and lives. It’s been a strange year to say the least for everyone around the world. I can’t wait for 2020 to be a distant memory.

It may seem odd to belong to a “woman’s club.” It sounds downright archaic. But it’s an interesting group of about 150 women. We are mostly empty nesters and range in age from mid 40s to early 100’s. We have a clubhouse that we maintain and rent out to various people and organizations for things like weddings to theater. The main purpose of our club is to raise funds for scholarships from graduating high school seniors. We give them four-year scholarships for college.

The club website states our purpose:

Intellectual Improvement – Social Enjoyment – Helpfulness in the Community
​​​Serving the Community since 1938

It’s a great club because you aren’t expected to do anything. Or, you can be as involved as you wish and head a committee or project. I know many of the women from my years as a mom of school-aged children. When I joined the club, I saw many familiar faces of women who were always the ones active and involved in their children’s activities and schools. They are the ones to count on to get things done.

Then there are the older women, generations older than me. I value their perspectives and interesting histories. I don’t think I’d have built friendships with these women unless they lived next door. But thanks to our club, we all sit together for lunch or tea, and learn from guest speakers about our town’s history or other topics. I’m sorry we won’t be meeting this year in person, but I look forward to the day when 2020 and the global pandemic is behind us.

Here’s the poem I received today from the Palm Springs Woman’s Club:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

And I wake in the night at the least sound

In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

Who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.

 I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

Waiting with their light.  For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

                                   Wendell Berry

picture of woman's club meeting place

Exterior of the clubhouse.

Is the cure worse than the disease?

family on hike wearing masks

Wearing masks during a family getaway to the mountains.

There’s an epidemic hitting our country and it’s felt especially among young adults ages 18 to 29. Depression and anxiety. In California, the rates of clinical depression have hit 44% since the Coronavirus shutdowns began. I have a friend who is a psychologist who works with teens and she’s seeing patient after patient contemplating suicide.

The World Health Organization no long recommends shutdowns as the best course of action to fight the global pandemic — even as we’re getting a spike in cases. But in addition to mental illness, the WHO is concerned that shut downs are making the poor even poorer.

Here’s an excerpt from USA Today written by John Bacon:

WHO discourages lockdowns as US hospitalizations climb; 11 states set records for new COVID-19 cases

Dr. David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on COVID-19, urged world leaders this week to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” for blunting a virus surge.

“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Nabarro told “The Spectator.” Nabarro said lockdowns can only be justified “to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted. But by and large, we’d rather not do it.”

In California, we’ve been sheltering in place since mid-March. During that time people are feeling isolated, alone and there’s an increase in substance abuse and mental illness. Here’s an excerpt from an article written by Phillip Reese in the Los Angeles Times:

Feeling anxious and depressed? In California, you’re right at home

It’s official, California: COVID-19 has left us sick with worry and increasingly depressed. And our youngest adults — those ages 18 to 29 — are feeling it the worst.

Weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau from late April through late July offer a grim view of the toll the pandemic has taken on mental health in the Golden State and across the nation. By late July, more than 44% of California adults reported levels of anxiety and gloom typically associated with diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder — a stunning figure that rose through the summer months alongside the menacing spread of the coronavirus.

The U.S. at large has followed a similar pattern, with about 41% of adult respondents nationwide reporting symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression during the third week of July. By comparison, just 11% of American adults reported those symptoms in a similar survey conducted in early 2019.

The July responses showed a marked geographic variance. Residents of Western and Southern states, where the virus remains most virulent, registered greater mental distress, on average.

There are many reasons why young adults are seeing the largest increase in depression and anxiety during the shutdown. First, they aren’t able to be socially involved. Their worlds have been turned upside down being stuck in the house with their parents and away from their peers. Second, they are more open to talking about mental illness and are more willing to get help compared to the boomers or older generations. I believe that is a good thing and a glimmer of hope while we all soldier through this together.

It’s important to know the signs of depression and get your children help. Click here for a link to the National Institute of Mental Health to learn more about depression in teens and where to get help.

Coit Tower with kids

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

Why do you think there is such a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety among teens and young adults?