Getting back to my normal routine

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This is my view as I write.

After a busy week celebrating Christmas with my kids and guests, today I’m having a normal day. My routine feels great. I swam for the first time since last Friday and also found time to work on writing projects. Yay for me!

We were fortunate to have a houseful of interesting, intelligent people in our house for Christmas. My son’s girlfriend arrived with her mom and six siblings. They’re all talented go getters and crazily accomplished. I felt at first like we were being invaded by a superior race of human beings.

On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a viola concert by two of the sisters, who happen to be professional musicians. One was a Cal grad and the other has two Masters degrees from Yale. I came from a musical home, and having a live concert in our home moved me to tears. My dad was with us and he was amazed and delighted, too.

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One of our meals together.

The family drove up to Joshua Tree to watch the sunrise, ran the Tram road, hiked the Karl Lykken Trail, and worked out in the gym. We managed to fit in a walk to Robolights, too.

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Robolights

Athletically gifted, most of the family rows and they work out and run. One was an NCAA champion from Cal and coaches for the East Bay Rowing Club. I wrote about one of the daughters and her first running race — the Boston Marathon — here. The second to the youngest is double majoring at U Penn in Engineering and the Wharton School of Business — while being team captain of the Women’s Rowing. Yikes, it’s mind boggling to have so much going on in one family. It makes me feel like a slouch.

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The nightly charcuterie board created by my son.

Along with the energy and big personalities, everyone seemed so happy and appreciative to be in Palm Springs. They lifted my spirits and filled my empty nest. They also ate an amazing amount of apples. On Christmas Day, I bought 24 Honeycrisp apples and the next day I was off to the store for 18 more.

 

 

As much as I loved having guests, my empty nest is welcomed once again. I was sad at first to have my kids leave and our newfound friends, but getting back to my normal routine is nice, too.

 

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Have You Read This “Life-Changing” Book?

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Me and my friend Cindy.

Four years ago my best friend Cindy gave me a present. It was a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It took me a while to open it up and dive in, but Cindy kept pushing and prodding, explaining how this book is magical and life changing.

Doesn’t that sound a little crazy to call a book “life changing?” It did to me. But Cindy told me stories about how the book changed a few of her friends’ lives. It led them on entirely different life and career paths that proved to be more satisfying and creative. At the time, I had quit working with my husband as a financial advisor and was facing my empty nest with both kids away at college. I learned the secrets the book offered—morning pages, prayer or meditation, and daily walks. I incorporated each into my daily life and Voila! I saw changes. I made a routine for myself—and best yet, I stuck with it.

Soon after starting my morning routine, I started this blog, submitted a story to SwimSwam.com, rewrote a mid-grade novel, began a project writing the history of Southern California Swimming with the website socalswimhistory.com. I also dove in and learned to swim myself and joined U.S. Masters Swimming.

Looking back on reading the book The Artist’s Way, it was life-changing for me. My writing projects have multiplied and my biggest problem right now, is not spreading myself too thin. Writing my morning pages, walking and praying keeps me grounded. On the rare occasion I have had to miss my morning routine, I feel at odds with myself — a little off like something isn’t quite right.

It dawned on me to buy another one of Cameron’s books and the title I chose was Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance. It’s more of the same, but pushing me further along my path as a writer. Then, I sent The Artist’s Way to both of my kids. I have no idea why it took me four years to share this gem with them. I just spent a week with my daughter, and we took our daly walks together and we sat at her dining room table writing in our journals.

My son called me this morning and said he had begun his morning pages today. The book says to write three pages every morning when you first wake up. It’s a brain dump of getting rid of all the little worries, fears and negativity that you’ve carried over into a new day. By eliminating all this garbage, or writing down what worries you—or even the tasks you need to get done—you become free. You’re free to see the creative forces and beauty around you. My son said although he found the spirituality in the book a little “90s” he thought the book had some really good stuff in it.

I’m sharing this with the hopes that whether you’re an artist or not, read The Artist’s Way. Give it a try and see how it changes your life.

Have you read The Artist’s Way and how did it change your daily life? I’d love to hear your story.

3 Things About That Empty Nest

Four years ago, I wrote about my empty next and the three things I noticed. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that my kids were away at college–but they weren’t really gone. Not permanently. Now I have two fully-employed kids living their own adult lives. My nest is empty. Well, maybe not totally. My son came home for the weekend, my daughter visited two weeks ago. It just feels empty in between.
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Towels

Let’s start with towels. First off, we own too many of them. I gathered our towels into one room and separated the wheat from the chaff. I asked my son Robert if he needed any. I recall sending him off to college four years ago with a small set of matched towels. He’s survived with those two towels all this time? Plus, a beach towel of course — since he goes to UC Santa Barbara.

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

Eighteen towels and two dozen or so hand towels and washcloths sit on his bed, awaiting his return Thanksgiving weekend. These 18 towels didn’t make the cut to remain members of our family — unless they commit to being shredded into rags.

images-3The next thing I noticed about my towels is that I’m no longer washing them every time I turn around. I raised two overly hygienically-conscious kids and since they were swimmers, I believe they went through four or five towels daily — each — which never got a second use. I no longer have to hear the thump, thump, thump of my washing machine doing a jig with the over-packed, heavy towel load.

images-5Groceries

Have I mentioned that I raised two swimmers? We joined the Piranha Swim Team around 1999. I honestly believe that having my kids involved in swimming was the single best thing we ever did as parents. Sure, the kids worked hard. Yes, it was a time commitment. But, I will repeat, it was the single best thing we ever did. You can find a lot of my articles about the benefits here and here and here. Read what my friend has to say about swimming here.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

So, what does this fact have to do with groceries? Well, it means I bought a lot of them. All the time. Robert drank a half gallon of milk a day and a box of Cinnamon Life every two days. Kat could eat whatever she wanted and she liked my sole, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, and brown medley rice. At least I think she did because I was always cooking and buying more groceries.

Life-Cinnamon-Detail.sflbToday, my refrigerator is bare and I rarely cook. There’s no reason to buy more than three items at a time at the grocery store. When I enter the store, I don’t need a cart. I use the little hand-held basket.

images-4Dishes

 I cannot seem to get a load of dishes to wash for the life of me. My sink is empty. My dishwasher sits bare and lonely.

I guess that’s what they make Thanksgiving weekend for. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year and having a full house once again.

This is a photo of Kat. She didn't want to be a ballerina. She wanted to swim!

Why Kat joined the swim team. “I don’t want to be a ballerina!”

What differences do you see in your home if you’re an empty nester?

What I’m Dying to Do on My Daughter’s First Day of Work

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My kids four years ago.

She starts work on Monday. This is her first post-college “real job.” I’ve been looking at all the pics on Facebook with the first day of school photos. Something that parents of younger kids do today that we did not for the photo of that momentous day each year—they pose their children with signs. Some are simple cardboard with black sharpie touting “First Day of Kindergarten” and some are elaborate and framed.

I never did that. In fact, I don’t know a single person who did that during our day and age of being parents of young kiddos. We did snap a picture — and back then it wasn’t digital— of our kids glowering at us in their carefully chosen first-day outfits. I guess, looking back, it would be helpful to have the grade and year staring back from the photo, but I can mostly tell which year it was. I’m only off by one or two years.

So, my daughter’s first day of work is coming up. I’m on my way to spend a few days with her in her new home. I’m planning on helping her build a few pieces of furniture from Ikea, unpack boxes and organize so she doesn’t feel like she’s drowning in clutter and chaos. On her first day of work, I’d love to go with her. I’d like to pretend that it’s back in the old days when I could walk into her classroom with her and see where her desk was. Where her cubby was for her lunchbox. But, of course, I won’t do that.

But, what are the odds that she’ll pose for me holding a sign? Slim to none? Well, I think it would be cute. Fun. And of course, I’m kidding about going to work with her. And taking the picture. Sort of. But if I can’t get her to take the “First Day of Work” pic, I can always try one with Waffles. “First Day Home Alone.” Or, “First Day in Doggie Daycare!” He’s a known poser for sure.

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Waffles Utah Grad Pic, Class of 2018.

What’s your opinion of the first day of school pictures? Do you have a family tradition that you follow?

How early is too early?

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Morning in the neighborhood at the normal time I walk.

This week, I’m driving my husband to work because he’s recently had shoulder surgery and has not been cleared by his doctor to drive. I am not complaining and have no problem with this at all. I enjoy the 30-minute drive with him to his office. The problem is that his alarm goes off at 3:45 am. Yes, before 4 o’clock in the morning.

Of course, his alarm has gone off at that exact time for years. However, I had mastered the art of putting a pillow over my head, rolling over and ignoring it and the noise he makes getting ready for work. I managed to sleep until the late hour of 6:30 a.m. and sometimes even 7 a.m.

This week, I have said to him, “Wake me up at the last minute before you’re ready to go and I’ll be ready to drive in a few seconds.”

However, knowing that I’ll be leaving the comfort of my bed in the dark, isn’t conducive to falling back to sleep. Instead, after failing to return to my dreams, I give up. I’d rather drive showered, with clean teeth and a freshly washed face than stinky.

The end result is that I’ve been in kind of fog this week. I get back home ready to start my day, but within a few hours, I’m really, really tired. Yesterday I fell asleep at 5 p.m. I sat down to read and nodded right out. It was only a brief nap, but I’ve never been able to nap well before.

Today was much easier to get up and so far I have more energy. Maybe I’ll get used to this new early riser schedule. I wonder how many days it takes to change your internal clock? It makes me think about how tough it is for most kids at the start of a new school year. That’s another reason why we appreciated swimming. Although our children’s summer schedule was not as early as during the school year, they were used to getting to the pool by 7 a.m. all summer long. It wasn’t a stretch to transition back to the school schedule.

I’ve always liked the morning, just not the hours before 5 a.m. But after all, the early bird gets the worm. I can do this! Maybe I’ll be more productive with my work by getting an earlier start. Or, I could swim at 5:30 a.m. Masters like it’s no big deal.

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Sunrise

What time do you get up in the morning? How long has it taken you to get adjusted to a new schedule?

My super crazy, unbelievably busy August

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Waffles at the beach

Thank goodness I’m almost through with a momentous August. Usually, my Augusts are quiet and peaceful with countless hours reading books by the ocean or a mountain lake. But not this year. It’s been by far the craziest couple of weeks I’ve lived through.

Here’s a replay of the past few weeks:

• My husband’s pre-op nightmare battery of tests where they kept ordering test after test so he can have his shoulder surgery tomorrow. This is an entire story in itself that includes a cancer scare that I may write (complain) about on another day.

• Our dear friend passed out at the gym, having a blood clot lodge in her carotid artery causing a stroke—the morning we were driving four hours to see her.
 She spent a few days in ICU and after a few days was released and went on beach walks with me.

• My son’s girlfriend’s car accident on the day they were coming down to see us at the beach. The next few days helping them find a car. Eventually, they made it on vacation with us—in their new car.

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The VRBO we had for one week in paradise.

• Finally, a one week’s beach vacation. Gone in a snap.

• Driving up the mountain to move the RV back to the desert with a friend to help us drive it down the twisty, windy roads. It wouldn’t start by the way. The batteries died. I asked to borrow jumper cables and then a truck because our car has a “weird-ass” battery that can’t be used to jump a car.

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Big Bear Lake at the RV Park and Marina.

• Next, we drove to AZ to my daughter’s new house. My husband flew from Phoenix to Salt Lake City so he and my daughter could drive a U-Haul for 10 hours with her worldly possessions through flash floods and monsoon winds. I spent two days cleaning the dusty, dirty house until I was exhausted. But, I did have lil’ Waffles by my side the entire time.

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They arrived in the U-Haul after a 10-hour drive.

• We hired movers to unload the U-Haul because of my husband’s upcoming shoulder surgery, plus my daughter’s distance-swimmer shoulder. We were told about a website where you can hire two guys for two hours for moving, which I did. Guess what? The movers didn’t show up!
 I’m currently trying to get a refund.

• We spent Sunday putting together Ikea furniture and unpacking boxes before making the trek back home.

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My kids body surfing during one relaxing moment at the beach.

What could we squeeze in next? Shoulder surgery tomorrow and I get to be nurse and caretaker. Then I’ll return to AZ and help my daughter get settled—and bring the things I forgot to pack on our last trip–like her work wardrobe! Whew! No wonder I’ve been stressed lately.

What was your August like? Did it seem crazier than usual, too?

7 Tips for parents of college freshman on move-in day

Move-in day for the parents of college freshman can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips I wrote when we moved our daughter into her dorm room this week four years ago.

 

The check-in table at Move-in day.

The check-in table at Move-in day.

Yesterday was move-in day for our youngest. It was easy to spot check-in with bright red pop-up tents, a field of red carts and dollies, and a line of students ready to help move us in. Not us, but my daughter. It sure felt like us, though.

Being 15 minutes early was an excellent idea. There was parking. There were carts. There was a small line. Later in the day — parking was in the outer limits — and it was wall-to-wall students and parents making their way to the dorms with carloads of matching “Big Box College-Bound” gear.

In her dorm room getting settled.

In her dorm room getting settled.

Once in the room, we began lifting bedding, towels and clothing out of the cart. I wondered if I’d be strong, without tears, and how I’d get through the day. 

Here’s what worked and didn’t work:

1. Don’t try and unpack for your kid. Don’t try and put things away. This is their space, their new home. They need to make it their own.

2. Don’t hover and stay in their room. Make sure they have what they need and leave them alone. Be sure to be nearby for when they will invariably call.

3. Be prepared to shop multiple times during move-in day. We made one trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond, Home Depot and Costco — and five to Target. This was after we drove a packed-to-the-hilt Sequoia through four states with everything she needed.

4. Make lists. The large stores have lists for your student to make shopping easier. Of course, they have way more things on their lists than you actually need, but it’s a good starting point. Make your own list with the store’s list as a guide. After you move in your freshman’s things, you’ll discover what you didn’t think about or forgot — like strips to hang up pictures and art. Revise and rewrite your list as the day goes on.

5. Don’t try to stay up with the roomie. Some roommates will come equipped with flat-screen TVs, $1,000 bikes, and the best and latest technology. Don’t worry about what they have and you do not. In a dorm room, keep remembering the mantra — LESS IS MORE!

6. Don’t go out and buy a router for the dorm’s WiFi until you read the section on technology on the college’s website. Most likely routers are not allowed and it’s a simple passcode that is needed instead.

7. Feed your student. He or she may be so intent on getting unpacked and settled and meeting dorm mates, that he or she won’t take time to eat. Make sure to stock bananas, apples, yogurt and other healthy snacks in their room and fridge.

The swim tee shirt quilt I made for my daughter's dorm room. Years of memories.

The swim tee shirt quilt I made for my daughter’s dorm room. Years of memories.

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 goodbye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes. You can read about how I said goodbye here.

18 years ago.Here’s a song “Teach Your Children Well” that fits my mood today. Listen and enjoy!