Tips for stress and parenting during 2020

IMG_5888
Morning walks help keep me grounded.

I wrote this last July during the shutdown. I had no idea when I wrote this how hard the year would become. It’s interesting for me to look back on what I was feeling a year ago.

I found my self getting anxious a few weeks ago. It’s a weird fluttery feeling in my chest with my heart beating wildly, my breath getting short and my palms sweating. Why does it come on like that out of the blue? I think it’s all the uncertainty around us. Will my husband ever go back to his office to work? Will we ever get to go to the movies again? Will I have swim practice with my friends? When will this end? Right when we think it’s getting better, it gets worse. The number of cases are going up. We don’t know what will happen with the economy. I have three of my closest friends diagnosed with breast cancer during COVID-19. Yes, there’s lots to be anxious about.

We were fortunate to have our daughter come home to work remotely. She had just moved into a new apartment and didn’t really know her two new roommates. They had a 24-hour notice to shelter in place, so she headed home. I remember her deciding to go to the hardware store to purchase lumber for a bed frame she was making. The very first day she was with us, she was intent on getting supplies. “We could shut down here tomorrow,” she said. She was correct. The next day we were told to shelter in place.

I work in my son’s room and my husband works in our master bedroom. Our daughter took over the guest room. We were a busy bunch until she got laid off due to COVID-19. That was stressful in itself. Also, having a grown up adult in the house took time for us to get used to. We managed to get along most of the time and it’s a three-month period I’ll treasure. Without the pandemic, she wouldn’t have come home and spent time as a young adult. She’s back to building her life away from us, interviewing for jobs.

I read an interesting article called Parenting, stress and COVID-19 by Annie Keeling in The Union, a website with news for Nevada County, Calif.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS

Despite feeling close to their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% of parents say they have shouted, yelled, or screamed at them at least once over the past two weeks, according to a new report from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (https://www.psychcongress.com/article/covid-19-stress-taking-toll-parent-child-relationships)

“For a large number of parents, financial concerns, other worries, social isolation, loneliness, and sadness are getting in the way of parenting,” said lead author Shawna J. Lee, PhD, an associate professor of social work, who compiled the report with coauthor Kaitlin Ward, a doctoral student.

This uncertain experience is asking a lot of parents: full-time playmate, teacher and caregiver can take its toll. What can you do to help yourself? The first step is recognizing that this is a challenging time and that there are ways to ease the effects of uncertainty and stress.

CALMING TECHNIQUES FOR THE PARENT

Take care of yourself. Parents know that they must do this so they can be a good parent, but it’s often easier said than done. The Power of Three is essential: eat well, exercise, get sleep. Put a post-it reminder on your mirror, by the stove, by the screens in your home. Check in with yourself each evening. How did you do with your Power of Three today?

Take a breath. Or five. Research shows that it takes more than one deep breath to really affect the parasympathetic nervous system. Five deep breaths can change your state.

Reach out to others. Phone calls, Zoom, and yard dates with other adults- physically distanced on lawn chairs — are a few ways.

Take (even a tiny) break. Try splashing cold water on your face, stepping outside or planning a parenting partner hand-off. Identify what you might do to take a break before the day starts. This helps our psyche to anticipate the relief that is coming.

List healthy coping skills for yourself and your family. Avoid behaviors such as excessive alcohol drinking, online gambling or taking drugs. Negative coping mechanisms further compound your stress levels and can make your situation worse in the long run.

The article goes on to describe tips to calm the entire family with lots of fun things to do. Keeling also discusses talking about the pandemic and how that can lead to less stress as well.

IMG_5883
My daughter bungee swimming in our backyard. It’s hard but it does help with stress.

Have you had stress or anxiety during the pandemic and what are you doing to fight it?

Looking back at May 2020

Last year in May our daughter was staying with us. We had taken up tennis, sort of, and we were swimming in our backyard pool with a bungee cord tied around our waists anchored to a weighted umbrella stand. My big concern at the time was wanting the city pool to open and being able to swim with our team.

This morning we woke up to a flood in our courtyard and we had to turn the water off to the house while we wait for someone to fix it. I decided to drive to the city pool in my new town, because I can shower and wash my hair after my swim. I got about halfway there and realized I forgot a towel. So, I turned around and came home, driving 30 minutes for nothing. Now I’m not motivated to return. It’s one of those days…But better than last year, for sure.

Here’s a look back to my thoughts from last May:

Ruth Hardy Park with Mt. San Jacinto
The park.

First the good news. Things are opening up a little bit in our county and my daughter and I played tennis two mornings in a row. Prior to this week, the tennis courts were padlocked. I found that almost as annoying as the pool being closed. It looks so wrong to see padlocks and yellow tape wrapping around our park, parking lots, playground equipment, etc.

Ruth Hardy park with playground roped off for COVID
COVID playground at our park.

Before we became a full-on swim family, my kids took tennis lessons. My daughter was at preschool at the time and two of her good friends were taking lessons with her. My son had his buddies in his group as well. The instructor was a big goofy tennis pro who the kids called “Charlie Farlie.”

I took lessons in high school with my mom at the University of Washington, some sort of fun extension class. It was in the Hutchinson gym and there were huge windows up several stories in height. My mom and I both managed to hit the ball out those windows — several times — and we weren’t even trying! I’m mentioning this because my daughter and I do have some sort of background in tennis, although we’re hardly proficient at it.

Brick north face of Hutchinson Hall on Stevens Way East. The building hosts the School of Drama, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA. The 1926 building (architects Bebb & Gould) was named for long-time faculty member Mary Gross Hutchinson,
Hutchinson Hall where my mom and me took tennis.

Fast forward to when we decided to homeschool my daughter for middle school. We had several homeschool families on the swim team and I envied their schedules. There were no late nights after practice completing pages of math problems or filling out worksheets for them. These homeschooled kids were really smart, well behaved and looked so happy. So we gave it a whirl. We went through a phase where we started our day with a bike ride around the park, played tennis together and then returned home to hit the books.

This week brought me back to those days. We had fun reminiscing about them and laughed at our bad shots while enjoying the cool mornings. I got a better workout than I do walking around the park. I got my heart rate up because my tennis is mostly running to corners of the court to pick up balls.

Now for the bad news. The city may not open up the pool. It’s been closed since shelter in place began 55 days ago. I was going to write a letter to the city to complain when our team was no longer allowed to use the pool, but individuals could lap swim. By the time I was composing my scathing letter, the pool had closed altogether.IMG_9355

Our town’s main industry is tourism. The hotels have been shuttered along with vacation rentals for two months. There’s no way to enjoy our beautiful weather, golf courses, tennis courts and hiking trials unless you are a resident. That means the city budget is devastated. Along with the pool, the city is talking about closing the library, animal shelter and cutting salaries, too.

We have one of the most gorgeous pools in state. Our Piranha Swim Team has a history of more than 50 years — one of the longest running teams in California. The kids who go through the program can swim in college if they choose. I think our success rate of kids going on to the next level is close to 90 percent. It was the single best thing we did for our kids in terms of activities. They were Piranhas from age five until they went to college. My daughter represented Piranhas in the summer after she went to college. I can go on and on about how great the team was for my kids, and now for me as a swimmer, too. It helped develop their healthy lifestyles, competitive spirits, and their character.

I’ll be devastated is the pool doesn’t reopen.

Palm Springs city pool
My Palm Springs pool with the mountain view.

What was your May 2020 like compared to this year?

Thoughts on the shot

I did it. I got my first Pfizer shot Sunday morning at 5:30 a.m. I set my alarm for 4 a.m. and we left the house at 4:30 a.m. in the dark. What I liked best about the hour-long drive was the lack of traffic.

Our state lowered the age group to include me. But the downside was I could only find appointments open from midnight to 6 a.m. I’d rather get up early than stay up late, so that’s why we drove through the dark morning to the State Farm Stadium.

I was impressed with how organized they were. It was a drive-through vaccine station with several stops as we serpentined through the NFL stadium parking lot with hundreds or thousands of other cars. The many volunteers were probably on their feet all night long in the cold, cold weather. Many had torches pointing and directing us to our next stop. They were all friendly, welcoming and upbeat.

Everyone we spoke to had an iPad and entered in my appointment number, age, answers to health questions, etc. When we finally got to the tent with the nurse, she came over to my window, reached in and gave me the jab. I could barely feel it.

When we were eventually released, we returned home as the sun was rising. I crawled back under my covers and fell asleep for a couple hours. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the vaccine or just a bad night’s sleep and early wake up. Today, my arm hurts! It’s black and blue and I feel a little queasy. But I’m relieved to get shot number one. Number two is on Easter Sunday.

Red sky sunrise
Sunrise view from our back yard.

Was it really one year ago?

pretty kitty with flowers
Our cool as a cucumber cat helps keep me calm.

It was a little more than a year ago that COVID-19 was hitting our daily lives. We had no idea what was heading our way. Our kids got orders to shelter in place a few days before us. They live in the Bay Area and we were in Southern California. A year later, my husband got his first shot and I’m scouring through pages on my computer to find an appointment for me. Once we are vaccinated will our world open up? Will I want to be in crowds? Or has this isolated lifestyle become something I won’t want to shed?

This is what happened to me mid-March 2020:

I was doing okay, but yesterday when my kids called me and said they were under mandatory “shelter in place,” I started to panic. I’m wondering if the world will ever get back to normal? They were working remotely in my son’s house in the Bay Area.

The mandatory shelter in place started today. Yesterday they were told to prepare to be home for at least two weeks. My daughter is working remotely and decided to get out of the city and drove home last night. It’s so nice to have her home! I wonder how long she will be here?

Waffles the pug with flowers
Waffles the pug came home, too.

My dad agreed to let me grocery shop for him and I found everything he needed except for toilet paper, of course! While I was driving from his home, my daughter called and Waffles, her pug, ate something and was trying to throw up, but nothing was coming up. I told her to call a vet and I got really stressed out again! She called back in tears and said that the vets she called would NOT take new patients in their practice due to the Coronavirus! I was in the car and while she was talking to me and I noticed a big white pick up truck on my tail! Then he swerved in the lane next to me, and started yelling and screaming, giving me the finger. He threw a milkshake at me! It hit my windshield and the car was covered. I’m still shaking.

What in the h*ck is going on, folks? Is this really the time to become completely unhinged?

White truck throws milkshake at me
This is the guy in a white pick up truck with a Home Depot trailer who threw a milkshake at me.

Let’s take a moment to breathe some fresh air, calm down, take a walk and enjoy your families. And love up our dogs and cats, too!

What are some of your memories from one year ago? Did your area shut down or did it stay mostly open?

The look in her eyes when I said good-bye

53169320_10219112017335121_3754643586776301568_n
Downtown Seattle on a sunny day.

Little did I know that that would be the last time I’d see Mom before the COVID lockdown. My daughter and I were visiting my mom in her assisted living home on a trip to Seattle in March two years ago today. Mom and I share March birthdays and I try to make it a point to be with her. But last year in March they had COVID breakouts in a facility a few miles from her and then it spread to her assisted living home.

The good news is she never got it. She’s healthy and got both her shots. But I miss her. I’m hoping someday this year I’ll get to spend time with her in person.

Here’s what I wrote about my trip to visit mom in March 2019:

I will never forget the look in my mom’s eyes when I said goodbye. After lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant, we sat around a table in the lobby playing a card game our family played when I was a child, Demon.

It was fun and we all laughed as we got more and more competitive. They teamed up against me, as they tried to defeat me–but didn’t of course. My daughter slowed down her speed to make the game more fun for us old folks, because seriously she could beat us handily at anything involving speed and reaction time.

After that, we walked mom back to her room, got her settled in and said good-bye. My mom stared at me, sitting in her comfy chair, like her heart was breaking. Her big hazel eyes filled with water and I fought my own tears. I felt like I was deserting her.

My daughter asked if she wanted the TV on, and she said, “No, I’m fine.” As we closed the door, I peaked in and saw my mom sitting on her chair with her head dropped, staring at nothing.

53379710_10219112017015113_1798418410174939136_n
My mom was surprised to learn I had a camera in my phone. She enjoyed the selfie.

The good news is I came the next day, and the next. Each day she looked happier and her spark returned. She has a witty sense of humor and kept me laughing. By the time I said my final good-bye, she looked so much better. I think she’s terribly lonely and I need to visit more often.

And to think I was going to visit her more often — and then no visits at all….

If you live away from your elderly family members, how do you feel when you say good-bye?

53055732_10219112017135116_1662865935188361216_n
Nothing better than a mother daughter trip.

How to not overwork from home

robahh 1
Back when I was working from home as a stay-at-home mom with my first-born child.

Little did I know when I posted this last January, that a bunch of people would be working from home in a few short weeks! My husband’s office is shut to most employees and clients. He’s been working from home for close to a year. He’s pretty good at keeping strict business hours. In our new home, he has his own office and that’s a big upgrade from him working in our master bedroom! Here’s what I wrote unknowing what the COVID year ahead would be like:

Working from home is something I’ve done for years. At first, I had what is now our guest room dedicated as my office for my sole proprietor public relations and marketing biz. That’s why the kids called it the “computer room” when they were little.  I had a desktop Apple IIc something computer and heavy-weight laser printer. Back then, I also had a fax machine and a separate phone line for my work.

images-11
This looks like the very first Mac in my home office.

My downfall with that venture was not knowing when to stop. Even though I had a separate work space, I couldn’t stop working. I had a client who loved to call me after 6 p.m. and give me work that had to be done by morning — and they were my main client! Also, this was pre-email days and internet. I had to transfer files to the people who changed my files to film over a modem. Then the film had to be picked up from these mom and pop shops and I drove them to the printer. I’m talking newsletters, flyers, brochures and veloxes for newspapers. Can you imagine that?

I’d wake up throughout the night and to make sure the files transferred from my modem to the film person’s modem. Sometimes a newsletter or ad file would take six or seven hours to transfer.

How things have changed from the early 1990s! Prior to that it, was a Selectric IBM typewriter I used and hand delivered copy to a print shop who then had to retype it all into columns, lay it out with my photos or artwork, give me a rough copy and finally a blueline to proof before going to print. Things are so much easier these days.

I’m still working from home and everything is so much quicker and convenient with emails and the internet. But the question still remains, how do I guard my time and not work all the time?

What’s a blueline you might ask if you weren’t alive back in the olden days? Here’s the definition I got from googling it from Dictionary.com:

blueline:

a print made on light-sensitive paper and used as a proof for checking the position of stripped-up negatives or positives and copy prior to platemaking.

images-5

What are your solutions for separating a life from working hours when you work from home?

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?