The look in her eyes overwhelmed me

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Downtown Seattle on a sunny day.

I will never forget the look in my mom’s eyes when I said goodbye. My daughter and I were visiting my mom in her assisted living home on a recent trip to Seattle. 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.

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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.

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

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Nothing better than a mother daughter trip.

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One year ago today — the toboggan ride was fun!

 

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A perfect day at Alta, Utah.

All my excitement of the New Year came to a crash on the slopes when I made one turn and lost my balance. I went skidding down the mountain spinning on my back and side—but only after feeling a rather awful snap in my left knee.

I stood after a friendly stranger helped me up and I thought I was okay. I skied a hundred yards more and “yikes!” The pain in my knee was sharp, intense and I collapsed. After a third try with the same result, I told my ski companion that I needed help down the mountain. I crossed my poles and we waited until a ski instructor stopped and called a number for the ski patrol to come get me.

Long story, short…actually, it’s a short story because it was only the first turn of my third run on a perfectly beautiful, sunny day in Alta. I was lifted into a toboggan with my left leg in a splint and wrapped like a burrito as ski patrol Chris, skied me to a snowmobile patrol, who took me the rest of the way to the clinic. I held onto a little flap of tarp over my head because the ski patrol Chris said it would keep the snow kicked up by the snowmobile from hitting my face on the way off the mountain.

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My view from the Ski Patrol toboggan.

 

The nurse, doctor and receptionist were really kind. They empathize with all their patients whose vacation has been ruined. In my case, I’m not worried about the torn ACL ruining my skiing days. I’m worried about the rest of this week taking care of my daughter’s house and puppy. (I’m in Salt Lake City, Utah to housesit and puppysit for my daughter, who is with her swim team in Florida. I thought I’d take advantage of her proximity to gorgeous ski resorts and ski for the first time in a decade.)

I have a lot going on and I don’t have time for this. In addition to taking care of the pup, there’s a swim meet I was going to compete in early February. Also, I’m traveling back to Salt Lake for my daughter’s senior day and final dual meet. Plus her final PAC 12 swim meet in Seattle. My cousin is coming to visit. My high school friend plans to stay with me. Yikes again. How do I have surgery and participate in all the momentous occasions ahead? What will I do to keep my sanity without my daily walks and swims?

I think a lot will depend on my attitude and outlook. After a good cry that hasn’t happened yet, I’ll pull myself together and face life every hour the way it’s put before me. I remember after my big accident in college, when I was crossing a street and hit by a pick-up truck going 35 miles per hour, it hit me to appreciate the little blessings in life. Don’t take anything for granted. And live life the best you can.IMG_9968

What life lessons have you gained when adventures don’t go as planned?

Celebrating a birthday at the beach

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Carpinteria State Beach.

We had a great weekend and I loved every minute of it. We went to one of my favorite places, Carpinteria, to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday. I was asked to bring a veggie platter and was shocked to find out how many people would be attending the party. But, when I think about how wonderful my friend is — and the close call she had in August — it makes sense that everyone in her life would want to be there.

I enjoyed meeting her mom and sister plus reuniting with the sister I’ve known. They flew out from the East coast. I also enjoyed talking with all the people in her life and marveled at how many friends she has and how they’ve known her for years and years. She’s a good friend to have and I’m honored to be in her number of friends.

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She made a joke before blowing out her candles that she knew everyone at the party was afraid she wouldn’t make it to her birthday this year. That is so true. She had passed out while at the gym the last time we were in Santa Barbara. She had a blood clot lodge in her carotid artery and a stroke! She was so fortunate to be here to celebrate this birthday a few short months later. And guess what she did for her birthday? She drove to Las Vegas to ride in an 80-mile bike ride! One of her sisters met her there and after the bike ride, they drove back to Santa Barbara in time for the party!

In addition to spending time with friends, I was able to spend a little time doing my most favorite thing which is sitting on the beach reading a book. Also, we found a cute condo we rented on VRBO that was great. I hope to be back for my friend’s birthday next year, too!

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Waffles with the beach dogs where my friend had her birthday party. Photo above is of my dear friend and my daughter, sailing in Santa Barbara.

Just breathe

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I start my mornings with a walk.

Lately, it seems like people get really upset at just about everything. I find myself getting honked at while driving, snapped at by a total stranger in a grocery store. Even family is pretty snarky. I’ve found that taking a deep breath can really help. I wrote about handling conflicts this week on SwimSwam

If I don’t say so myself, I had some pretty good tips that I’ve learned through the years—through my own mistakes and how I handled things badly. Some of my advice is to take your time before you react. Think if you really need to say something or not. And, exercise before you speak. 

When my kids were young, I’d get riled up over the littlest things and march into their classrooms to talk to their teachers. I often felt that my kids weren’t being treated fairly or that something was “wrong.” I felt a moral obligation to point out and try to correct all things amoral. I’m afraid my son is also a stickler for what’s right and wrong, rather than letting some things slide. Here’s an example of one time I felt things were unfair: the same kids at their grade school were picked each year to ride the homecoming float in our town’s parade. I thought that wasn’t “fair.” My kids were never picked and felt left out.

Years later, I realized that the family who donated all their time and money to create the annual float were picking the kids. And guess what? They picked their kids’ friends. Actually, with thousands of dollars and hours of donations, why shouldn’t they get that right?

Was it worth complaining to the teacher or principal about? Probably not.

So with everyone running around with short fuses these days, just stop. Take a deep breath. Think about what you want to accomplish. Are you looking for a fight, or do you want to let it go?

It makes me think of the Anna Nalick song Breathe.

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A beach walk can cure mostly anything.

How do you deal with conflicts with other people? Why do you think people are short-tempered lately?

How to live longer by walking faster

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Our Palm Springs city pool.

I read some good news today in “Scientists from five universities say walking faster could add years to your life” by Quentin Fottrell, Personal Finance Editor of Market Watch. He said if you want to “prolong your life, put some pep in your step.”

 “Walking at an average pace was linked to a 20% reduction in the risk of mortality compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24%, according to a new study. A similar result was found for risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

“It’s not too late to start. In fact, the benefits were far more dramatic for older walkers. Average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46% reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53% risk reduction, the study found.”

Now that I’m back to walking every single morning, still sporting my DonJoy FourcePoint knee brace, I found this motivating. I’m walking faster than when I began walking a few weeks ago. Now, with this information, I will pick up the pace.

In the article, Fottrell cites another study, this one from Harvard:

A recent Harvard University study concluded that you could add 10 years to your life by following five habits: eating a healthy diet, exercising 30 minutes or more a day, maintaining a healthy weight — a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 — never smoking and drinking only a moderate amount of alcohol.

In that study, the researchers analyzed 34 years of data from approximately 78,000 women and 27 years of data from more than 44,000 men. The authors predicted that women who adopted these five habits would see 14 more years of life, and men would add 12 years.

This sounds like good advice for all of us. Amazing how we literally can add a decade or more to our lives by walking and keeping a healthy lifestyle. As far as walking, I’ve found that since I’ve returned to walking around the park, I wasn’t motivated to continue my pool walking. It’s been so hot, I haven’t felt like being out in the pool in the bright sun. But, yesterday I forced myself to go to the pool in the evening while my daughter was coaching. I used the pool ladder to get in and out rather than the handicapped steps. Yes, it hurt, but what a major accomplishment for me.

I told our coach that I’d like to come back to Masters but I needed to be able to swim more yards first. He told me to come back now and not wait. He’s right. I will do what I can do. It’s so much easier to be motivated to swim if you have people to swim with. I’m looking forward to seeing my swim friends after five months.

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The view of Mt. San Jacinto from my daily walk around the park.

What do you think about daily walking and the impact on our health? Does it work for you?

RIP My Dear Friend

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Rebecca with my baby girl.

I have a sadness in my heart ever since I looked at Facebook this morning and saw that my friend since childhood, Rebecca, passed away Saturday.

She had a huge personality, was fearless, beautiful and brilliant. I received private messages from her on Facebook constantly, and I noticed I didn’t reply to the last one which I received Saturday afternoon—the day she died.

I wonder if she knew she was leaving us? I had no idea that she was ill, but I’ve since learned that she had diabetes and died from DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis).

The first time I met Rebecca was at my own house. Her older brother Paul had been hanging out with our family for a few weeks that summer before seventh grade. One day, Rebecca decided to come over to our house with him because she wanted to meet me. We went to different elementary schools but for junior high the town’s elementary school students would all attend the same school. I was shy and wouldn’t leave my bedroom to meet her. Finally, my mom coaxed me out to meet Rebecca Coombs and our friendship of a lifetime began.

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The last photo she sent me of herself. “When my baby grand wants a kiss, I oblige. Sir-Mix-Alot this as good as I can get! lol.”

She was the opposite of me in so many ways. She was bold, outgoing and not afraid of anyone or anything. Her long straight black hair hung past her waist and she had a huge smile. Some of my fondest memories were her introducing me to Taco Bell—which I still love today. I got a burrito supreme today in her honor.  Also, because of Rebecca, our entire high school won the local radio station KJR’s competition for a free concert—which was the first rock concert I ever attended, “WAR.” I went with her to see Natalie Cole at the Paramount in downtown Seattle, too. She introduced me to so much music and laughter. I remember always laughing with Rebecca and her sister Mary. Mary became as close of a friend to me as Rebecca.

Rebecca was one of a few students from our high school that went to the University of Washington with me. I remember spending the first night in the dorm, with Rebecca in a sleeping bag on my floor.rebecca 1

My sophomore year Thanksgiving weekend, I was home and I went with Rebecca and Mary to a concert at a local Grange. I was going to ask a family friend who was there to a Tolo (a dance where the girls ask the boys for the date). We were crossing the street on the Bothell Highway when I panicked at the oncoming lights of cars. I froze in the middle of the street. I grabbed onto Rebecca’s parka hood and she wasn’t able to escape the oncoming pick-up truck either. I shattered my pelvis and Rebecca lost a kidney. We became connected by that one experience forever.

Later on, she married the family friend who I was going to ask to the dance. The marriage didn’t last that long and she did find someone she said was the love of her life, who sadly died a few years ago. Also, her brother Paul died years ago as well as Mary’s husband. Her life had so much tragedy, yet she stayed positive and filled with joy. Near the end, she moved to Hawaii to be close to her son Jake, who she was so proud of. She posted pictures of her new life and her grandchildren whom she called “the grands.”

I will admit she was much better at reaching out and staying connected. Throughout our lives, she’d call me and during the last few months send me private messages on an almost daily basis. One funny story I remember about Rebecca was she called me up and asked who Bill Gates was. She had attended the Microsoft Christmas Party with a friend who worked there and met Bill Gates. She had no clue who he was. It was well known in Seattle that Bill was looking for a wife. He had asked her to Sunday Brunch and she said no. She told me that he was kind of a geek and she was felt awkward and made up an excuse why she couldn’t go.

I miss my dear friend and how full of life she was. God bless you and RIP, Rebecca.

 

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Why Women Will Own the World’s Wealth

imagesWomen are a powerful group–and despite what certain bloggers say–that includes those who marry and raise kids. Today, women control almost 3/4 of America’s wealth, about $19 trillion from inherited and earned assets. Women are gathering assets by working, marrying and inheriting.

The question that needs to be asked is–not whether you stay at home, or follow your dreams to a high powered career–but can you handle being in control of the world’s wealth?

In the 1960s, my Dad drove a black VW Beetle to work — our only car. Mom shared coffee with neighborhood moms after the kids walked to school. Later, Mom cleaned house and hung our laundry outside to dry. Our clothes and sheets smelled delicious, like a spring breeze. My Dad handled the checkbook, banking, and the business.

Many women from Mom’s generation have zero financial experience when they find themselves suddenly alone. It can happen to younger women, too. Take my close friend whose husband died of a stroke. She found herself a single mom at 47. She had never paid a bill, didn’t know how to write a check, or which bank they used. Her husband had been a day-trader in commodities. During the months it took her to unravel the mysteries of their finances, she and her daughter could have been completely wiped out by not knowing where or what they were invested in.

On the flip side, many women are very financially savvy and they make the investment decisions early on. I know a doctor’s wife who handles their medical office bookkeeping and has taken extensive courses in investing. Her husband is the one that doesn’t have a clue about banking or investing.

We need to face the fact that we will be in charge of our finances — if not now, then in the future. How prepared and knowledgeable are you? Do you have any idea how much money you need to send your children to college? Even though it may seem like an eternity away, do you know how much money you need to retire comfortably?

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and picture your life twenty years from today. Do you want to travel, spend time with your family, or read a book on the beach? Write down what your perfect retirement looks like. This is the first step in taking charge of your financial future.

Don’t be afraid by how much you don’t know. Start with what you do know and what you desire. To learn more you can read a financial article daily, meet with an advisor, and be an active participant in your financial life. Remember, we women will end of up with the wealth. Let’s be prepared.