Day One of “Shelter in Place”

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Views from my neighborhood park.

I was pretty shaken up yesterday, 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 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 are you doing with your time if you’ve been asked to stay in your home?

What a week it was!

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Waffles at the park. Some unknown person decorated park benches.

What a whirlwind week we had for Christmas. It was fun, but I’m exhausted. We had our second annual Christmas with my son’s girlfriend’s family. We are a family of four and they are a family of nine, plus my dad. Looking back on the past few days, I did a lot of cooking and dishes. It’s a good thing I like to cook — and I don’t mind cleaning up!

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Some of the fun stats from our week included the food we went through:

7 dozen eggs

6 dozen Honeycrisp apples

1 full-size prime rib

2 hams

8 packages of oxtails for soup

8 packages of sweet Italian sausages for sausage and peppers

1 giant pot of split pea soup

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We also enjoyed my son’s charcuterie and veggie platters before each dinner.

I can’t say how much fun it is to be around an energetic, athletic, intelligent and musically-talented family. I’m inspired and in awe. Also, I was amazed to see how well everyone got along — all the time. Coming from a small family, I feel like I missed out on something by having only one sibling.

I will admit as much fun as the past week was, I’m glad to have my quiet and solitude. I’m ready to start the New Year and get back to my work.

On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a viola concert by two of the siblings who are professional musicians. Although the lighting is terrible, here’s a snippet:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Waffles in his Christmas sweater.

What are your thoughts about family togetherness for the holidays?

The pitfalls of smartphone parenting

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My daughter would get on my case. She was vehement when I pulled out my phone, answered a text or call.

“Mom! I’m with you! Put your phone down.”

Invariably, it was my son who would call or text while I was spending time with my daughter. I wondered how that happened? Did he have special radar to know when we were together? Did he want to interrupt us?

In any case, I found some good information in Is Smartphone Parenting hurting our kids? from The Post and Courier, Charleston, SC, by Sara Novak. It reminded me to be in the moment with our kids and loved ones. And yes, put the phone down! Here are some excerpts from the article:

We’ve all done it. Taken our phones out for a quick email check at a stoplight. Scrolled through Instagram or returned a text while waiting for school to let out. Or researched our next kitchen renovation on Pinterest while our little one picks out a book for story time.

The long-term repercussions of this distracted parenting are largely unknown. After all, we’re the first generation of parents to feel the magnetic draw of our smartphones day in and day out. My mom certainly didn’t. Her daily parenting distractions consisted of watching reruns of “Seinfeld” on television or calling her sister in Omaha from a landline.

But the current landscape has changed vastly in the past two decades. According to Common Sense Media, 41 percent of teens feel their parents are constantly distracted by devices and don’t pay enough attention to them when they’re together. And a whopping 69 percent of parents feel the need to check their devices every hour.

The downsides of “smartphone parenting” are both obvious and more subtle. Getting in a traffic accident with your kids in the car is an obvious danger. While it’s illegal to text while driving in South Carolina, in Mount Pleasant, the fine is just $50 for a first offense and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked over to see a car full of kids and mom or dad looking down at a phone.

I certainly won’t pretend to be innocent. We’ve all felt the need to reach for our phones when checking them was unnecessary or even dangerous. But the problem is real. Nine people die every day in the U.S. as a result of distracted driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a tragedy most parents cringe to think about.

Tapping away on our phones in front of our kids also sets a bad example, says Dr. Elizabeth Mack, division director of pediatric critical care and professor of pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina. It teaches our kids “sedentary habits (and) minimizes healthy interaction and joint attention between parents and children.”

Parents and kids that obsessively use their devices may also experience headaches and irritability, she says.

Not giving children our full attention also sends a message that they’re not a priority, says Bonnie Compton, a child and adolescent therapist, parent coach and author of “Mothering With Courage.” She says that kids often feel that they’re not being seen and heard when their parents are right in front of them.

Another reminder of how obsessed we are with our smartphones is in an entertaining video by Fog and Smog called “Put Your Phone Down.”

10575366_10204674805333844_4491881722162368424_oWhat tips do you have to not check your phone while you’re with your family?

 

Now that the summer is over….

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My daughter and Waffles at home this weekend.

My world is a little less crazy in September than it was in August. Of course, it’s only September 2nd. But, I haven’t left our desert in more than a week. The last two weeks of August, I trekked from Palm Springs to Santa Barbara to Phoenix—and my daughter and husband threw in a trip to Salt Lake City in between.

I was supposed to help my daughter set up her new home in Arizona this Labor Day weekend, but after my husband’s shoulder surgery Tuesday, I postponed my trip. A friend lectured me about leaving my husband alone after surgery. She said that my daughter should drive home to help us out—not me drive to see her. “After all, the new house isn’t going anywhere, she can get by with slowly unpacking, and you can help her at a later date,” she said. My husband did need attention, just a little, and my daughter happily agreed to come home for the weekend.

It’s only a short drive from the Phoenix area to Palm Springs. Four hours to be exact on one freeway—“the 10.” In So Cal, we say “the” in front of every highway. They don’t do that in NorCal or Washington, where I grew up.

My son lived four hours away in Santa Barbara, which is in the opposite direction of Arizona. In the words of a native Southern Californian to drive from Palm Springs to UCSB, “you take the 10 to the 210 to the 118 to the 23 to the 101.” I feel so much more comfortable with the drive to Arizona on “the 10.” Period. Except for the big trucks, which I don’t like, it’s a one-shot deal. I hope to get there soon to help her set up her new home.

I’m also anxious to get a fresh start to the fall. I’m relieved we made it through so many hurdles. Vacation, the move, the surgery, etc. are all behind us in the rearview mirror. It’s time to look ahead.

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Olive the cat seems to have survived another few days with Waffles.

What do you think about the end of summer and the start of fall?

Why the bond between siblings is special

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My two darlings.

 

I’m thrilled that my two kids have grown into adults that truly like each other. It didn’t always work that way. Although most of the time they got along, there were those moments–jealousies, fights, and sometimes things got physical. Now that they’re in their early adulthoods, you can’t imagine how thrilled I was to hear my daughter say she and her brother talk for hours on the phone at night.

I remember when they were very young during summers at the beach, my son’s line to meet new people was to drag his sister across the sand and say, “You wanna meet my sister?” like that was the most outstanding experience anyone could wish for. When my daughter was interviewing for a coveted spot in our Catholic kindergarten she said over and over, “I’m Robert’s sister!”

They played countless hours together when we spent a couple months each summer at the beach. We had friends come and meet us and as the years went by they formed friendships through the swim team, both our home club in Palm Springs and the one in Orange County they dropped in on during vacations. But, mostly it was the two of them together to keep each other company. They’re as different as can be, but have that shared experience of being siblings.

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My and my big brother.

At one time in my life, my big brother was the most important person in my life. I was closer to him than my mom and dad—or best friend. In the mornings getting ready for school, we shared a bathroom counter space and a sink outside our bedroom doors. I would ask his opinion on my school outfit and would change several times until I could find something suitable to wear, with his stamp of approval. I looked up to him and when he was in high school and suffered an injury losing part of a finger during his summer job at our local pea factory, I cried for days on end. I felt it was the end of the world.

 

Throughout our adulthood, having spouses, children a decade apart in ages, and living a few states away, our relationship has almost ceased. I stop by to visit on my trips back home. But the busy years of work, raising kids, and being a swim mom make the trips infrequent. I don’t think we’ll ever have that special relationship as siblings back. But when I see him, I still feel the bond that we had for those years growing up together with our own Mom and Dad that no one else had.

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One of my favorite summers at the beach.

What special bond do you have with your siblings? How do you keep your relationships going throughout busy lives?

 

It’s Christmastime and I’m Ready!

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First brother sister Christmas photo.

I worked like crazy to get ready for Christmas. In addition to my usual decorating, card writing, baking and gift buying and wrapping, I had the added challenge of getting bids from roofers and a handyman to repair the roof and our closet.

Then, my daughter came home a few days ago and it’s been a whirlwind of activity ever since. I’m fighting myself to take time to appreciate the moments she’s here and not worry about everything that needs to “get done.” It’s a fact that I’m not going to finish the rewrite of my mid-grade novel or complete the other writing projects before Christmas—or soon after. I will in good time. And that’s okay. I need to enjoy these few days with my daughter and husband before our girl returns to school out of state.

I realize how blessed I am that she enjoys coming home, wants nothing more than to take a walk with us around town and the park. She likes hanging out and helping me.

It’s time to celebrate the season and be grateful for the time I have with my family. Last night we were treated to a wonderful dinner by my dad. I looked around the table marveling that we had three generations who like being together. I miss having our son home, too, but we’ll be together later next week.

Merry Christmas and if you don’t hear from me for a few days, I’m spending the time with my loved ones.

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First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer.

Is there anything more important than spending time together with your loved ones? When is it time to say enough with the preparations for the holidays and take time to enjoy them?

 

Thankful for friends and family on Thanksgiving

 

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Sunset on Thanksgiving Eve.

 

Our first Thanksgiving without our kids. I’m thankful they are with dear friends and their families since they weren’t able to make the trek home this year. Instead of moping around the house feeling sorry about my empty nest, we’re celebrating with our close friends. It was 30 years to the day that I first met them (my husband met them through work) and we spent Thanksgiving weekend sailing with them in Santa Barbara.

Here’s to friends and family and creating memories together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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My daughter’s swim team sending out a Thanksgiving message with her pup.

 

Who are you sharing your Thanksgiving with? What traditions do you share with friends and family?