Going home

View of Ruth Hardy Park Palm Springs
Ruth Hardy Park, Palm Springs with Mt. San Jacinto in the background. The park I visited every day for 28 years.

My days of mothering my kids is over — at least for now. I opted for a one-way ticket from Oakland to my old home town Palm Springs where I was picked up by my husband. We had dinner with friends at our favorite restaurant Spencer’s and spent the night at my dad’s. We drove home together to Arizona today.

This is the first time I’ve returned since moving a year and two months ago. Looking out the plane window at Mt. San Jacinto, the landmark of Palm Springs, I felt emotional. I wasn’t expecting that.

We met dear friends for coffee, then my husband and I walked around the park that was blocks from our old home. Every morning for decades I walked around the park. I spent hours with the kids at the park when they were young. I thought I’d see some familiar faces, but they were all new.

Then we walked around our old neighborhood and our house.

hedge and palm trees outside Palm Springs.
The hedge outside our old home.
Tall pony tail palm.
Outside the hedge and backyard is our ponytail palm. That’s me next to it. We brought it with us two-feet high in a pot when we moved into this house close to 30 years ago.
.

I couldn’t believe our ponytail palm. It was two-feet tall when we moved into our old home. Think how many other things changed in our lives during that growth of that plant during the years there. We thought about moving it to Arizona with us, but thought better of it. It might not have liked the change or the trip in the moving van. It felt like leaving a part of the family behind. My husband had this palm before he met me. It sat in a pot in our first home and an apartment before that. When someone dug a ponytail palm out of our yard, we decided to let this guy free from its pot by the pool and planted it in the spot of the stolen one. In ten years it grew from two feet to 10 feet. Look at it now!

Pony Tail Palm
This was taken right before we moved a little over a year ago.

After visiting with friends, walking through my old haunts, I got through my emotions. It’s a beautiful neighborhood and town, but I can go back and visit anytime.

Have you returned to visit a place you lived or vacationed before? Have you been emotional about it or not?

Morning views from the neighborhood

Sunrise filtered through the branches of an Ironwood tree.
Sunrise view from the casita.

It takes a trip out of state to an entirely different environment for me to appreciate the beauty of my desert. I get used to it and lose some appreciation, but a trip away wakes up my senses. As I walked this morning around our neighborhood I was struck by the views of cactus, mountains and shrubbery. I like it out here. I’d like to see more some wildlife, too.

Mountain north of Scottsdale.
The mountain to the north. I think it’s called Black Mountain. I’m working on learning the names.
teddy bear cholla.
Teddy bear cholla with the sun peaking through clouds.
Cloudy sky in the desert.
Clouds. We should have an amazing sunset tonight.
saguaro with arms
A neighbor’s saguaro. We have lots of saguaro but only one has an arm.
A wash in the Sonoran Desert.
One of the things I love best about our neighborhood is all the open natural space.

What are some of the things you like best about where you live?

Blogging Along Through Life

My daughter with her relay celebrating in the pool.

When I started my blog in 2014, my focus was financial news for women. I had a short stint as a financial adviser working with my husband. At that time, I thought I had lots of knowledge to share. I had passed all the exams and went through training by two big firms.

One fact that stood out to me was that women own the majority of the wealth in our nation, yet they have less knowledge about investing than men. I thought I found a perfect niche to blog about. Funny thing, nobody wanted to read those posts. Maybe it was because I was new and didn’t have an audience — but when I wrote about other topics, I got way more views and comments.

My next niche was parenting — particularly sports parenting. I submitted one of my blog posts to the most read swim website, SwimSwam, and got feedback from the owner/founder Gold Medal Mel, Mel Stewart. He asked me to start writing parenting advice. He wanted me to write once a month for three months. After that trial period, I wrote every week. You can check out those articles HERE. I continued with that for six years, mostly basing my articles on my past mistakes. I didn’t want newer sports parents to go through the drama and issues that I had. I was thrilled when parents would email me and ask for advice. I started an “Ask Swim Mom” column from those emails.

My other favorite topics to blog about were about college admissions and being the parent of college kids. I learned a lot during those years. But as my kids grew, I felt I had less to offer in the parenting arena. In fact, I think my swim parenting articles put pressure on my daughter or made her feel exposed. I realized I’m far from an expert. Who am I to give advice?

Now, my blogging is me slogging through this phase of life trying to figure it out. What I enjoy most about blogging now is the community of bloggers I read every day. It’s more satisfying and supportive than before.

I’m curious how you see your blog evolving or changing through time. Do you feel you have a niche and what is it? What are your favorite topics to blog about?

Reflections On Thanksgivings Past

mountain and palm tree view

View on my walk, after they’ve gone.

I wrote this five years ago, when both my kids came home for Thanksgiving weekend from college. I look back on this Thanksgiving fondly because it’s rare we get to spend the holiday together. Some years, my son stays up north near his girlfriend’s family. Then my daughter couldn’t leave due to her college team’s swim practice schedule.

This year, nobody is coming home. It’s partly due to COVID-19 and a new lockdown in effect. (Honestly, I didn’t think we ever got out of shelter in place, but people seemed less vigilant about following the rules.) This will be our last Thanksgiving in our home we’ve lived in for 28 years. So sad that we will be here all alone. I’m not going to cook for the two of us. My dad turns 89 in January and we decided it was best to skip a get together. It’s going to be a take-out dinner and maybe I’ll shed a few tears alone.

Here’s a look back at Thanksgiving 2015.

It’s Sunday after Thanksgiving and I was so thankful to have my family together. My two college kids came home to be with us! I cleaned and shopped all week, preparing for the big event.

Now, they’re gone.

Some of my favorite parts of the weekend:

The four of us walked down Palm Canyon Drive on Thanksgiving afternoon, before we ate my home-cooked meal. I loved that. The kids were happy, we window shopped, laughed and talked. There were the traditional piggy back rides and racing around.

brother sister piggyback ride

Piggyback rides downtown.

Then came dinner and my dad joined us. He’s close to 84 and I’m thankful he’s close by and can share time with us.

I was getting tired after being on my feet for the past few days. I couldn’t help but look with jealousy at the weekenders coming in and picking up their mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing off a fully stocked shelf at a local grocery store, Jensen’s. Too easy, but seriously? Would anyone care?

Some good moments we had were swimming at our team’s Friday morning practice–kind of together. Although the masters were separated from the kids, it was a shared experience. I had a first! I managed to push myself out of the pool without swimming to the stairs. Having to swim past my daughter and her friends’ lane, who were also home from college, would have been too embarrassing. So I did it!

daughter and mother photo outside

Feeling slightly short next to my daughter.

My son and I shared music. He’d play a song and then I’d give him a name of one to play. We went back forth while we drove to Palm Desert and back. He loves folk from the 60s and 70s. He listens to Joni Mitchell and some artists I’ve never heard of, but I enjoyed. I suggested “A Song for Juli,” by Jesse Colin Young and Nicolette Larson’s “Lotta Love,” plus a few more. We appreciate each other’s taste in music. He also shared a novella by Edan Lupucki that was a gem.

We went healthy food shopping and he taught my husband and I how to make chia pudding. Hmm.

My daughter and I had a delicious breakfast out together followed by a pedicure. Wonderful time together to talk and be mother and daughter like we used to be.

The four of us took the neighbor’s dog to the park and tossed the ball while my son jogged around us. It felt so good to play in the park where we spent so much of their younger days.

But, now they’re gone and here I am once again–alone at my computer. I do enjoy the freedom to write and finish some projects. I love my kids and I’m  blessed that they want to come home and we spend time being together.

I said I wasn’t going to cry this time when they left. In fact, I was surprised at how strong I was. Until the door closed behind them.

brother and sister at the ocean

When they were younger at the beach.

The Day I Almost Burned the House Down

I like to look back on what I was up to years ago during the same time of year. One way I do that is with the memories that pop up on Facebook. Another way to remember is by looking back on my blog. It was about three years ago that I decided to do a DIY project and refinish our kitchen counters! Seriously, did I have that much energy back then? I guess that was pre ski accident, major knee surgery and my current eye issues. The project didn’t go quite as planned. You can read more here:

 

IMG_4506.JPG

A burst of creativity.

A friend told me the other day, “You could do that yourself.”

I was asking her if she knew anyone who could refinish my butcher block countertops. I hadn’t thought about doing it myself for more than a fleeting moment. Could I? I watched a youtube and called her back.

“I think I could do it myself, but I don’t have the power sanders. I’d have to buy them and all the other stuff—and if I did that, I might as well hire someone else to do it.”

“I have sanders and I’ll loan them to you,” she replied.

That settled it. I decided to go for the first of about 20 trips to our local hardware store and start the process assembling things to begin stripping, sanding, staining and lacquering my kitchen counters. We have a small kitchen, so the project didn’t look too overwhelming–when I began.

img_4459

All finished!

It was more work than I expected, I admit. Many trips to the hardware store—“where everyone knows my name…” Yes, they were calling me by my first and last name after a few days and it reminded me of this song from Cheers:

“Where everybody knows your name
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
the troubles are all the same.
you wanna be where everybody knows your name…”

The problem started when I asked my husband for help. I nagged him into adding a second coat of stain one night after he came home from work. Bad idea. 

The next morning we woke up to a gooey mess. The first coat of stain apparently didn’t dry all the way, and the second coat didn’t soak in–and he didn’t know that you ‘brush it on against the grain and wipe it off with the grain.’

Thank goodness for Google. I found numerous youtubes and sites on how to fix it—or basically start over. I needed to find something called “mineral spirits” to wipe off the mess and then re-sand. My buddies at the hardware store informed me that mineral spirits are illegal in our area and they sold me some paint thinner.

In the garage, I had been practicing each step on an old nightstand of my husband’s grandmother. 

Here’s the biggest mistake I made in the process:

I tossed a pile of rags soaked with paint thinner on the old nightstand.

img_4491

The next day, I could smell a faint burning odor like a distant fire. I was done with my counters and I began to put away my supplies. I thought, I need to throw away those old rags. Lo and behold there were no rags! Instead was a pile of charcoal that reminded me of the “snakes” we’d get for 4th of July when I was a kid. Also, there was a long metal object on top, which I finally recognized as a large flathead screwdriver without a trace of its hard plastic handle. I had used it to open the can of stain. After I removed the black charcoal smoldering rags I poured water on the smoldering nightstand, which was by the way, directly under the dry rough wood of the garage.

I almost burnt the house down—by doing a simple DIY project. Who knew that rags soaked in paint thinner could combust? Not me.

My next project, after the kitchen counters, was to salvage the nightstand. After all, it had belonged to Granny. Except for a little lingering smell of charcoal, I think it’s a keeper.

img_4524

Have you taken on any DIY projects? How did they turn out?

How to Say Good-bye to Your College Student

Here’s a blast from the past — the year my daughter moved from home to start her college days. It seems like yesterday.

 

Last week I wrote about 7 tips for parents on Move-In Day. At the end I wrote: “I made it through the day without tears–mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When, it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes another time.”

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

So, how did it go when we said good-bye?

We had planned to stay until Sunday. Move-In day had been Thursday. We wanted to be around for a few days in case she needed us. She wanted us there on Thursday, but by Friday — not so much. It began to make sense for us to leave a day early. We didn’t want to hang out and wait to see if she wanted us around. It didn’t make us feel good and we weren’t enjoying ourselves exploring the city that much. We had a long 11-hour drive ahead of us, too. So we went out for an early morning walk Saturday and talked about how we’d let her know that we felt it was time to leave.

She texted us at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

text from Kat

text from Kat

Okie dokie.

It was time to say good-bye. We walked on over to her dorm. I took a deep breath. I said a prayer to be strong.

“Do not cry. I can do this,” I repeated in my head.

She opened the door, I wanted to say something profound and loving. Something she’d remember — but I said nothing. My husband said a few things and I nodded my head.

I opened my mouth, my voice cracked and wavered. At this point I cannot remember what I was trying to say.

“Mom! Mom! Stop it!” she said. “Don’t!”

She held my face in her hands, like I was the child. “It’s going to be okay.”

A view  during our walk on campus

A view during our walk on campus

Tip 1:  Make it short and quick.

Bill and I walked out of her room into the bright cool air that is Utah. We walked all over campus for two hours, tears running down my cheeks. During the walk, I began to feel better — amazed at what a strong beautiful woman we had raised.

Sage Point dorms at U of U

Sage Point dorms at U of U, the athlete housing for Winter Olympics 2002.

Here’s an update:

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 6.39.38 PM

5 Tips for Parents of Graduating Seniors

Here’s a story I wrote a few months before I officially became an “empty nester.” Many of my friends are going through the transition from full-time parents with their kids graduating high school and starting the next phase of their lives. This story is for anyone facing the empty nest or having their oldest child graduating high school. Trust me, it gets better and you’ll learn to love some “me” time.

I’ve written about the top 10 things kids need to know before leaving for college. But, what about us? When our kids leave, it’s a drastic change in our lives.

IMG_1743

When we took our son, our oldest child, to University of California Santa Barbara, I was strong. I was emotional about moving him into the dorms, but I was excited for him, too. I loved college. They were some of the best years. I was excited for him to love it, too.

But, then we said our good-byes. It hit. Like a punch in the stomach. Then, the tears. Oh, my! I wasn’t expecting that. The drive home, my younger child, age 15, looked at me in horror. I was falling apart. Thank goodness for her riding in the car with me. I probably would have wailed like a complete idiot without her staring at me.

 

IMG_1721

My son on our friend’s sailboat during orientation weekend.

Now, I have a few months left before I face a totally empty nest. What did I learn the first time around to prepare me for this time?  I wish I knew some secret to make it easier.

During orientation, UCSB gave parents a few tips on how to parent your college kid. This is what I remember:

1. Give them space. Don’t hover, don’t call too often, never call before 10 a.m.

2. Set up a time to make calls on a weekly basis — and not more often than that.

3. Expect them to get homesick. It’s natural they will miss home-cooked meals, their own room, their friends, pets, and you!  Reassure them that this is normal. They tend to get homesick around six to eight weeks. It will get better. They’ll adjust. But, will you?

4. Be sure to send a few care packages. Their favorite cookies, toiletries, something to make them smile. Mid-terms and finals weeks are ideal times to mail care packages.

5. Take time for yourself! Write, paint, sew, take a yoga class. Do something every week for just you. Make a list of things you used to love doing, but through the child-raising and working years, haven’t found time to do. Make another list of things you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t. You’ll find your way.

IMG_2265

The quilt I made my son out of his swim tee shirts.

IMG_2339

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.