This is Waffles, my daughter’s pug in an ugly Christmas sweater I bought him. This story isn’t about Waffles, but Doggin, who my husband had growing up. But I thought this cute photo of Waffles was worth posting, since this about a dog.
I wrote a children’s fiction story called Doggin, based loosely on my husband’s dog. It was published in the Los Angeles Times section for kids, which unfortunately, they got rid of along with the wonderful editor who put me on contract.
Here’s the story:
BY ELIZABETH WICKHAM
One day after school, Billy found an empty kennel.
“Doggin!” Billy called. He had to find Doggin before Granny did.
Billy ran to Mrs. Fixie’s house.
“That hound of yours was here,” Mrs. Fixie said. “Look at my flower garden!”
We got Angus from Guide Dogs of the Desert after being on a waiting list for several years for one of their “rejects.” I’ll never forget driving to pick him up with my husband, first-grade son and toddler daughter.
Angus appeared, wagging his tail with a stuffed sheep in his mouth.
My husband immediately fell in love. After Angus was in the car with the family, I ran back into Guide Dogs’ office.
“If he doesn’t work out after a few days, can we bring him back?” I asked.
The woman at the counter looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. She said, “Here’s his shot and birth records.”
“Oh!” I said stunned. Angus shared my son’s birthday.
When we brought Angus home, he was seven-months old, had some guide dog training, but failed because he was pretty wild. He did make it on the cover of Guide Dog’s brochure, though, because he was so handsome.
Our daughter spent the next few months living on countertops, the coffee table and sofa so she didn’t get tumbled by the wagging tail.
We soon learned that Angus was trained to open the fridge to help a blind person find their OJ or other items.
Angus thought our fridge was a self-service appliance for butter. Counter shopping got him treats like a loaf of bread and once while cooking dinner, I turned around to find a steak missing.
I’d walk by the kitchen to see Angus on his hind legs counter shopping and he’d quickly drop to the floor. “Who me?!”
One day, I couldn’t find the large kitchen trash can. I eventually found it behind a tree in the backyard.
Often, I came home to find the bathroom trash which was wicker with a wrought iron leaf pattern around the top — connected to Angus’s collar. Again, the look of “Who me?”
Angus on the wide chaise lounge. We spent many nights sitting together watching stars.
Angus was a working dog. It was his joy to pick up our newspapers in the morning. He’d go out the kitchen door, through the garage, to the street to pick up our two papers. Sometimes, when he was feeling extra, we’d get the neighbors’ papers, too. The newspaper job evolved to Angus leaving payment for papers.
Driving the kids to school, I’d see my husband’s tighty whities out on the street — in exchange for the newspapers.
We lived one block from downtown Palm Springs. Across the street was a hotel. I can’t tell you how many times we’d get a call from a hotel employee telling us Angus was working the pool guests for snacks.
You have to understand that Angus wasn’t allowed to roam wild. We had a walled-in yard with a gate. But Angus knew how to get out.
Once we were downtown walking with friends from Seattle. We returned after dark to see cops and strangers outside our house. The strangers said Angus was downtown barking like Lassie, trying to get someone to follow him. They did and ended up at our house, afraid because the lights were all on, with the gate and French doors open wide.
They called the police, because they were afraid maybe something deadly had happened. Everyone including the cops were relieved we were okay. An officer threatened to write up Angus for a ticket, but that didn’t happen.
For my son’s second grade birthday party, we held it at the city pool and he asked for donations for Guide Dogs of the Desert. He raised more than $1,000. I wrote a story about it that was published in the Los Angeles Times. You can read my story HERE.
Angus was with us until after he was 15 years old. We knew it was time when he’d get lost in the garage trying to pick up newspapers. He also fell into the pool several times. He had trouble standing up.
Why were we keeping Angus alive? It wasn’t for him, that’s for sure.
My husband said he’d take Angus to the vet. Then my daughter, who was a senior in high school, said she’d go. That left me feeling like a coward. I had to go, too.
Once in the examining room, we all petted and loved on Angus. The vet took a needle and injected it into his front leg. The syringe broke in half and the medicine sprayed all over the room.
We finally said good-bye to Angus. A nurse came in with a baggie of his hair and asked if we wanted it.
“With her widower’s help, a splendid new documentary explores Mary Tyler Moore’s private side,” is an article from the Los Angeles Times by television critic Robert Lloyd. Here’s an excerpt:
“Who can turn the world on with her smile?” It’s Mary Tyler Moore, of course, and you should know it.
To be precise, it’s Mary Richards, a person Moore played. But the smile was her own, and it worked magic across two situation comedies that described their time in a way that some might have regarded as ahead of their time. Although Moore proved herself as an actress of depth and range and peerless comic timing again and again, on the small and big screen and onstage, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” made her a star, and incidentally a cultural figurehead, and are the reason we have a splendid new documentary, “Being Mary Tyler Moore,” premiering Friday on HBO. Were it titled simply “Being Mary,” there’d be little doubt who was meant.
My daughter called to tell me about a documentary I had to watch called “Being Mary Tyler Moore.” If you’re wondering why someone born at the tail end of the millennial generation would watch a documentary about Mary Tyler Moore, you have me to thank.
I loved the Mary Tyler Moore show with great characters like Lou Grant, Rhoda Morgenstern and Phyllis Lindstrom. My family watched the show religiously in the 1970s. Not only was it a ground-breaking show, it was one of the first sitcoms to employ women writers. The original writers (who were men) realized they had no clue what was in a woman’s purse, so they hired women writers to make the show authentic. Not only was the writing fabulous, the actors were, too.
I have faint memories when I was very young of Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie in the Dick Van Dick show and Van Dyke tripping over their ottoman. That show propelled Mary Tyler Moore to become a full-fledged Emmy-award winning star.
When my kids were growing up, I believed they were missing great shows that were no longer on the air. I bought the entire Mary Tyler Moore, I Love Lucy and Seinfeld TV series on DVD. My daughter loved them. One of the things she like best about Mary Tyler Moore was the fashions.
I took my daughter’s advice and watched the documentary over the weekend. I found out many details about Mary’s life and how she changed how women were presented on TV forever.
Do you remember Mary Tyler Moore in the 1960s and 70s? What shows were your favorites when you were growing up?
Today is my son’s birthday. It was also our big yellow lab Angus’s birthday.
The following story was first published in the Los Angeles Times Sunday paper in the Kids’ Reading Room section. It’s the true story of my son’s second grade birthday party.
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 are too much for one eight-year-old. It’s decadent.”
“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.
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 swallowing noise.
“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”
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 licorice jar decorated with photos of Angus.
Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.
While I’m in the heady first week of NaNoWriMo, where I attempt to write a novel in November, I looked back at my last attempt at a novel. It’s a mid-grade manuscript based on my kids’ swim team life. It explores the struggles with friendships amid jealousy and competitive spirits. Sections of it were published in the Los Angeles Times when they had the Kids’ Reading Room and published children’s fiction in their Sunday comic pages. I hired an editor for a big picture and line- by-line edit. I edited and rewrote it. I created a storyboard based on the book Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. At some point, I gave up. I think it’s when I took a zoom class which included a critique by the editor giving the lecture. The critique landed in my email box and the editor said he couldn’t imagine reading any more of my manuscript because he couldn’t stand my protagonist — who by the way was based on my daughter when she was nine years old. I was out.
I ran across this blog post I wrote several years ago while I was actively working on that project. I wrote this before the above critique that hurt:
I got an unfortunate email yesterday. It was from an agent, who was reviewing my mid-grade novel I’ve been working on for years. Long story short, it was a no.
This is a big goal of mine, to get this book published. Finding an agent is one step along the way, and I had glimmers of hope when a couple agents were truly interested and one in particular, wanted eight weeks to take a deep dive.
When my husband consoled me I said, “I have two choices. I can quit or keep going.”
Four times since that email, I ran into messages like someone was placing a big neon sign in front of me with specific directions.
Dad shared that he spent almost three hours fishing yesterday. He was ready to give up, but decided to cast one more time in the last few minutes before he was due to return the boat. Yes, he caught a fish!
I was looking at FB and a writer friend posted how lucky she was to find several four-leaf clovers yesterday after hours of looking. She said to never give up. Never!
On Twitter, I saw from bestselling author Brad Thor a book recommendation for #Grit, a book about passion and perseverance. Yes, I’ll order it from Amazon today.
Here was part of his advice to get in touch with your feelings when you started on the journey:
“What are the reasons that I want to achieve this goal? List 2-3 reasons for why this goal is important to you. This is the simplest way to get in touch with your original set of motivations.
How will you feel when you push past the resistance you are feeling now? Think back to the last time you kicked down the wall of resistance that was in front of you. Yeah, that time. How did you feel afterwards? Proud? Like a certified O.G.?
Will you regret giving up a year from now? Imagine yourself a year from now. A year smarter, a year older, and hopefully a year further along. Is “Future You” going to be pumped about you having quit today?”
I got the message loud and clear. I’m not giving up on my goals or dreams. This is all part of the process, and yes there will be some ups and downs. It’s so cliched, but it’s also true.
In masters swimming we have a new slogan and shirts. After a hard set that I was convinced I couldn’t finish, I blurted, “Hey, it’s not that bad!”
Yes, getting a rejection letter is not great, but how much better is it than quitting on a dream? Honestly, it’s not that bad.
How do you handle disappointment? Do you believe there are more choices than giving up or to keep trying and what are they? I gave up on that manuscript, but I’m off and running on a new one.
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!
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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?