Exploring my new hometown

standing next to saguaro

This saguaro must be 200 years old.

I walk every single day and have for at least six years — except for 2018 when tore my ACL and meniscus skiing. I had surgery and months of recovery. Other than that lovely experience, I get out seven days a week without fail.

In Palm Springs, I’d walk downtown among the shops and restaurants or around the neighborhood and park. In my new Arizona home, it’s a wilder landscape full of saguaro, brush, shrubs, hawks and quail. At first I walked every morning in our development but that soon became boring. So I ventured outside to a sidewalk between our development and wild federal land.

saguaro in the sun

The wild views across the street.

I made a pledge to myself that every weekend, my husband and I would explore a new trail and go hiking. I was excited to get off the sidewalk and see more, but not willing yet to do it on my own. Moving into a new area during a global pandemic makes hiking the perfect way to explore safely. The first weekend after getting somewhat settled, we drove 10 miles to Cave Creek Regional Park for our first hike, which was challenging and gorgeous.

To find more trails, I googled moderate hikes in the county and discovered our house was across the street from a conservancy with trails — the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. We’re miles from the main entrance but there are trails literally across the street. A trailhead is two miles down the street from our house. We decided to drive to the trailhead instead of wasting four miles round-trip on the sidewalk. The other choice is to cross the street and walk through the brush and cactus until we ended up on a trail. I nixed that.

During the hike, as we got further into the wilderness, I felt a little anxious as we passed coyote scat and other signs of wildlife. I told my husband that next time I’ll bring my pepper spray or a hiking pole. My husband, of course, thought I was silly.

The hike was easy and we marveled at ancient saguaro and wanted to learn more about other cactus and plants. The landscape is so different from what we’re used to, it’s breathtaking. I wonder if I’ll get used to it and take it for granted? We missed the trailhead that led to our car. We kept going thinking it would be around the next bend. Pretty soon, we were close to our house. So we backtracked — adding more than a few miles to our hike. Not so easy, after all.

Saguaro

It takes a saguaro 100 years to grow an arm. I wonder how old this guy is?

Do you hike or walk during COVID-19 to get exercise? Where are your favorite places to go?

Does illness influence negative thoughts?

I wrote this last year when I discovered a connection between not feeling good and my own negative thoughts. With all the focus on COVID-19 in 2020, I felt I needed to repeat this post.

Palm Springs pool

Hoping to dive in again soon.

I’ve noticed a correlation between how I feel and negative thoughts. I’ve been battling a nasty cold since I got home from my Seattle trip. With my body feeling weak, achy and my head stuffed through and through, I’m catching negative thoughts entering my brain.

Maybe it’s because my brain isn’t up to speed that I can stop them in their tracks? Or, maybe because I’m not feeling well, my brain is producing more negativity than usual? I feel like my weak body is a target for the negativity swirling in my brain.

It reminds me of a webinar about “managing thoughts” that I heard lately and wrote about here. It was by David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life. He talked about how your brain is a tool and it’s not who you are. A summary of what he said was if you don’t use this tool called your brain, it will use you. He explained how we’re bombarded with 55,000 thoughts per day. If we can separate ourselves from those thoughts, we can evaluate them. When a negative thought pops up, like “Who am I fooling?” or “I’m really not very good at this,” I can stop it and say, “Where did that come from?” or “How is this helpful to me pursuing my goals?” After separating ourselves from the thought, it is less likely to get inside and take over our psyches.

Benzel talked about living in the now. He said worry and anxiety are based on thoughts about the future. Our regrets are thoughts about the past. There is only one here and now. That’s all we have control of. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t dwell on the future. Take advantage of the now.

I’ve spent two days mostly in bed, trying to get over this cold. I don’t feel much better today. But, I’m guarding myself against negative thoughts taking over. I know that I will feel better soon because I’m taking good care of myself. I also think that when people get older and are in pain, or if someone isn’t feeling well, they may be filled with negative thoughts. Maybe that’s why they are grouchy or may bite your head off. It’s something to think about, isn’t it? I can empathize with their hurt bodies being inundated with negative thoughts from their brains. They may not realize it, but their physical condition is allowing their negativity to take over.

Do you notice a connection between negative thoughts and illness? If so, what do you do to manage your thoughts?

Beautiful long hair tabby cat.

My constant companion while feeling sick.

 

 

 

How to stay focused when overwhelmed

view of swimming pool

The pool where I swim Masters.

Do you ever wonder why sometimes life is slow and easy and then bam! We get overwhelmed with everything? I’ve been feeling that way all week. There’s a lot of stuff going on in this crappy year called 2020. I’m having trouble dealing with all the emotions hitting me.

Here’s how I try to cope when I’m feeling overwhelmed:

ROUTINE

I try not to mess with my established routine. For going on six years, I have followed Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and it’s served me well. I start the day with three pages of journaling, a long walk and prayer. Even when I’ve got a crazy schedule or upheaval in my life, there’s no way I’ll cheat myself of this time to get my head and body refreshed and ready for the day.

SWIM

Exercise is so important to staying stress free and to keep your mind clear. Unfortunately I have a tendency to let go of swim practice when I’m too busy. It’s my hope to be consistent with three practices a week. I’ve got a good start until this week and I took a few days off and it’s not helping me.

PRIORITIZE and ORGANIZE

Figure out exactly what you need to get done and let go of the other stuff. When I’m juggling a bunch of projects at once, I figure out what is most important. If I do the harder tasks or work I don’t want to do first, the rest is easy. Getting the clutter out of the way helps, too. My daughter is big on color coding her work and putting it on a white board or calendar. I’m going to try color folders for each of my projects so I’m not searching through papers on my desk.

WORK AHEAD

When I have a few minutes of free time, I work ahead. Last week I was waiting on work, so instead of surfing the internet and reading news online, I made a list of everything I needed to get done for this week — and jumped in on it. Lists are my saving grace. I start each day with a list of to dos and work my way through the day. Then, I make a list for the next day, and start in on that, too. One of my friends told me she crosses things off her daily lists with a red pen. I’ve adopted that and it’s so satisfying!

beautiful view of mountain and park

Views from my morning walk.

What are your methods to stay on track and focused when things seem out of control?

Views from my morning walk

This morning was clear, gorgeous and colorful. I stopped several times to take photos of the glorious day.  I was feeling slightly beat up because I overdid it yesterday and I worried myself silly over the missing kitty. I tried to squeeze in as many laps as I could in the 45-minute swim time slot enforced by the city. To do that I put on fins and today my legs are sore! Since returning to swimming two weeks ago, I’ve found it really wears me out. Plus, I walked too much if that is possible. More than 22,000 steps according to fitbit.

So today, I did a rambling slow-paced walk and took note of the beauty around me. I’m sharing it with you, including a friendly roadrunner I filmed a few blocks from home:

 

A view of Mt. San Jacinto from the Wellness Park

sunrise through palm trees

Watching the sun rise through the palm trees

When the walk was over, I felt able to take on another day. Also, I didn’t freak out when kitty took off outside. I realized she’s found a safe place to hide out and will return to my side, once the strangers take off after painting and fixing things around the house.

bougainvillea wall of red flowers

A wall of bougainvillea brightened my day.

What beautiful sights do you see when you slow down enough to enjoy them?

Why Our Kids Need to Play Sports

Two years ago I wrote about the importance of having our kids play sports. Today, so many of our kids’ opportunities have been taken away thanks to COVID-19. With the Big 10 deciding to allow sports to resume this fall, I’m hoping the PAC 12 will join them. My daughter was a swimmer in the PAC 12 for the Utes and I’m a third generation UW Dawg. I think so many activities for our kids, regardless of their ages, will sorely be missed this year. Here are many of the reasons why our kids need to play sports:

IMG_0290

My kids at the last PAC 12 Championship Meet.

I’ve written extensively that one of the best things we did for our kids was sign them up with the Piranha Swim Team, our local USA Swimming club team. There are too many benefits to list, but here are a few: physical fitness, self confidence, friendships, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and time management.

I found a parenting column written by syndicated columnist Armin Brott in the Courier from Waterloo, Iowa where he’s asked “You’ve talked a lot about kids and sports. Why are sports so important?”

His answers touch on several different areas including how healthy sports are for kids. I agree that the health aspects are great. My kids have always been physically fit and never battled with being a couch potato or being overweight. My son who left swimming after high school works out like a mad man. He wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to row in the Bay area’s Estuary with a rowing club and he works out at a gym. My daughter swam through college and likes to try other activities like spin classes, kick boxing and yoga. Their high level of fitness began when they were young kids and it’s an integral part of their life to feel good physically.

Here’s what Brott said in his article:

One in three children is now overweight or obese — triple the rate it was for us — and school shootings and other violence committed by children, which was largely unheard of in our day, is startlingly common.

The question of what we can do to, quite literally, save our children (or at least improve their lives) is a popular one. Despite all the debate, one of the most effective solutions to so many of the problems that affect young people these days rarely comes up: sports.

Kids who get involved in sports during middle and especially high school are better off in a variety of important ways. Compared to non-athletes, sports-involved kids are less likely to be obese, smoke tobacco or take drugs, and have better cardiovascular fitness, coordination and balance. Student athletes also get better grades and are more likely to graduate high school and go on to college; they handle stress better, have better self-esteem and are less likely to report feeling lonely or anxious or to become teen parents.

Sports also teaches kids valuable skills in communication, cooperation, teamwork, goal setting, problem solving, learning to lose, resilience, respect for authority, controlling their emotions, patience, self-sacrifice and more, says Graham Clark, a retired high-school football coach in Kingsport, Tenn.

Another topic the author touches on in his column is Title IX. Although the purpose of Title IX is admirable–allowing more opportunities for women in sports at the college level–like most things a bunch of politicians come up with — there are unintended consequences. The unintended consequences are less opportunities for men. Because of the large rosters of football teams, and Title IX require a proportional number of female and male athletes, lots of smaller men’s teams get the axe. In the PAC 12, the conference my daughter swam in, there are nine women’s swim teams while only six for men. In Division 1 Swimming, there are 136 teams for men while there are 196 women’s team. As for scholarships, men have 1,346.4 and women 2,716.

Here’s what the column says about Title IX:

We also need to develop policies and procedures to ensure that children and young adults have access to sports at every level. Right now, colleges around the country, and a small but growing number of high schools, are using Title IX — which is ostensibly designed to promote equality — to cut sports programs, especially those for men and boys. They’re using the concept of “proportionality,” which states that percentages of male and female student athletes must be the same as the percentages of male and female students in the institution as a whole.

Nationwide, the on-campus female-to-male ratio is 57:43. However, since those percentages are roughly reversed for student athletes, institutions are resorting to cutting men’s teams to produce “equity.”

“With all the known positive benefits that boys gain from participating in sports, it makes absolutely no sense to cut male athletes from high school teams just to comply with Title IX’s gender quota,” says Eric Pearson, chairman, American Sports Council.

171176_1867727056714_561695_o

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

How are your kids’ activities impacted because of the Coronavirus?

It’s never too late….

IMG_6263

View of the moon over the mountain during my morning walk.

I began my fourth book by Julia Cameron. I started with “The Artists Way” trilogy six years ago and a few weeks ago I picked up “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again.” It’s targeted to retired people to help them fill the void from being in a busy career to finding yourself suddenly home with countless hours stretching ahead. Although I’m not retired, I view COVID-19 and staying home as what retirement must feel like. I’ve been home for 139 days — but who’s counting? During this time, I have suffered from too much time on my hands, social isolation and a lack of motivation. I have a couple productive days and then I don’t want to do anything.

The book is divided into a few pages of reading per day, plus an exercise in thinking, writing or doing something physical like decluttering your space. Each week, Cameron leads you though work on a memoir from a certain age in time from you life, beginning with your first memory. Each week you move up an age group. This week, I’m thinking about the years 16 to 20 and who was important in my life, along with sounds, smells and tastes. I’m enjoying it the process. The book has me reflecting about my life, what I’d like to change, and what legacy I’d like to leave behind. It’s also helping me spark my creative spirit and think about what other creative things I’d like to try.

My best friend from college gave me my first Cameron book, “The Artists Way.” She said she had given it to other friends, too and everyone found it life-changing in some way. For me, I began the routine of morning walks and morning pages. Writing three pages when I first wake up is like a brain dump and I get rid my worries, to do lists and clear my head for more creative thoughts. After a few months of following the book’s instructions, I began this blog and began writing parenting advice for SwimSwam.com. It prompted me to return to other writing projects like a mid-grade fiction book that I had set aside for years. Also, I began a non-fiction book on sports parenting. I’ve also taken on other writing assignments from magazines. All because I read a book and did what it said.

IMG_6262

Sunrise during my morning walk.

How are you spending your time while staying home? Have you found any surprising inspirations?

 

 

It’s the little things that count

Prior to COVID-19 and the weirdness of today — pre my ski accident and subsequent knee surgery — I wrote about the little things in life that matter the most. These thoughts are important today. What I wouldn’t give to get up and go to practice at 5:30 a.m. or have lunch with a friend. If anything these two months sheltering place have taught me to appreciate what I have and love the most. My family and friends — and pets.

IMG_3210

The view from our pool makes me happy.

I’m proud of myself today, because I started off the week with 5:30 a.m. practice. I’ve been trying to get up, half-heartedly I’ll admit, for the past month but the comfort of bed is just too much for me at 5 a.m. An extra hour of sleep usually wins out. But, today I did it. I made it to practice on time, began my workout in the dark and found joy in watching the views of the sunrise and pink-hued mountain change color during my workout.

I find a lot of happiness and excitement in the little things in my days. Our lives are made of small moments strung together and if we spend too much time worrying or focusing on the past or future, we miss the little bits of joy in the present. 

IMG_6878

Happiness is my daughter with her puppy.

Here’s a list of moments that make me truly happy:

Hearing the birds sing early in the morning.

My fourth flip turn during my second 200 at practice this morning. I nailed it.

Having lunch yesterday with a good friend and spending a few hours catching up with our lives.

Noticing that a family member got their dish off the table, into the sink and miracle of miracles—into the dishwasher.

Olive the cat honoring me with her presence and stretching out for a cat nap while I’m laying on my side. I have to be careful not to move, so she doesn’t fall off.

IMG_6921

Olive the cat in our back yard.

 

My kids calling just to talk. They aren’t asking for anything and there’s nothing big going on.

Sitting under an orange tree in my back yard reading a really good book.

Walking with my husband and marveling at the beauty surrounding us on a weekend morning.

Reading a positive comment on one of my articles.

Checking things off my to-do list and feeling productive.

What little things in your life make your day?

img_7015.jpg

Beautiful views of bougainvillea.