Views from COVID-19 — We’re still the same

I was looking through my posts from this past year amidst the pandemic. I was feeling frustrated in September when I wrote this post. That was before we decided to put our home of 28 years for sale. Before we decided to leave California. So much has changed in my life since September. And again, so much has not. This post could have been written by me today. When will we see a return to normal? Or will we?

sad pug on sofa

Waffles had the pandemic malaise too.

Do you ever have days where you wake up full of energy and ideas and can’t wait to get started on the day? Today was that day, and somewhere after my walk, doing laundry and sitting down to work, I lost that drive.

I struggled with what to start on, staring at my computer screen for a fresh burst of inspiration to come back at me. I have too much on my to do list — from writing to cleaning out the laundry room. I don’t know what to do first. Second, I started to worry about what this fall and winter season will bring. Will we have a second wave of the pandemic? Will I get sick? Will loved ones and friends get sick? I want to hurry to next Spring and skip the next few months.

Worrying about the uncertain future makes it hard to focus. How do you stop worrying? I also started thinking about how I miss my life before this virus hit. I think it’s going to take a toll on a lot of people emotionally and mentally — let alone physically. As human being we crave interaction with others. I miss my family, my occasional social outings and my swim friends. I don’t think it’s healthy for people to be cut off from each other.

I miss my mom. She’s in assisted living a few miles from where that first nursing home outbreak started by Seattle. If I were to visit her, I don’t know if I’d be allowed in. I’d more likely be waving to her from outside her window. I’m not going to hop on an airplane in the near future, so it’s a moot point.

On a more positive note, we had a treat this weekend with my son and his girlfriend making an impromptu visit. Since my kids live in the Bay Area and all the gyms are closed, by son has been looking for weights. Weights are one of those premium items where the prices  skyrocketed. It’s ridiculous! More than $2,000 for an Olympic bar and weights. We have a set laying around and my husband said if our son came down to pick it up, he could borrow it for as long as he wants.

It was great to see them in person and give them hugs. I’m lacking in hugs from other family and friends. Maybe someday soon?

Are you able to carry on like “before” or do you see a change in your motivation? Has your ability to focus changed?

How prejudice changed in a few generations

Dr. Sammy Lee sitting on diving tower
Dr. Sammy Lee, gold medalist and doctor, on a diving tower.

It’s unbelievable how our world has changed. I’m not talking about the pandemic. I’m talking about how far we’ve travelled away from prejudice and racism in my generation and my parents.

I was working on a story about a swimmer, Paul Jeffers, who grew up in Southern California in the 50’s and 60’s. He swam with a swim school called the Sammy Lee Swim School. He’s working with a friend and fellow swimmer, Bill Brown, who graduated from USC in Cinema on a documentary about the life of Dr. Sammy Lee.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Dr. Sammy Lee, Olympic Gold Medalist and Doctor:

Dr. Lee overcame years of racial prejudice with a positive attitude and hard work. As a young diver aspiring to be an Olympian, he was only allowed to practice diving Wednesdays at the Pasadena’s Brookside Park segregated public pool on “International Day.” The pool was drained after International Day and white children swam the other six days a week. His coach at the time, dug a hole and filled it with sand so Sammy Lee could practice the rest of the week. He believed diving into sand made his legs stronger and was helpful to his Olympic aspirations.

He attended Occidental College where he was able to dive each day in a pool with teammates and pursue his Olympic dreams. His parents, who sacrificed to come to America and start a small business, pressured Sammy to become a doctor. He was able to do both.

Although Dr. Sammy Lee served in the Army during the Korean War, was an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist — and an Olympic Gold Medalist — he encountered more prejudice. He was blocked from buying a home in Orange County.

Simply amazing to me that such an accomplished man would face such prejudice, and it was not that long ago. What’s also remarkable is how he kept positive and succeeded with hard work and grace.

Sammy Lee at the pool with divers Dr. Sammy Lee with other divers.

Do you have any stories to share about how our country has changed for the better in the last five or six decades?

 

It’s never too late….

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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.

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Sunrise during my morning walk.

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

 

 

Don’t wait to say I love you…

IMG_5838People around the world are losing loved ones. Now more than ever, take time to tell them that you love them. Don’t wait. I currently have three close friends who have been diagnosed with breast cancer during the COVID-19 closures. How scary is that for them, their families, and friends like me. While on my walk this morning, I thought about how important people are in our lives and how empty it can be without our usual social encounters. I remembered when my husband wanted to talk with a close friend who had cancer. Here’s what I wrote about that five years ago when it happened:

Twice this year… It’s happened. We knew a friend was sick. One was 92 years old. The other was 57.

We wanted to tell them how much their friendship meant to us. But when they got sick, they didn’t want to see anyone. You have to respect that.

“I’ll call and talk to him on the phone,” my husband said about our 57-year-old friend. He never reached him by phone. 

Yesterday, we heard from his family that he was in hospice. My husband said, “I’ll write him a letter. I’ll tell him how much his friendship meant.” He immediately sat down and wrote the letter. The last time we wrote a letter like this was to our 92-year-old friend. Family members told us it arrived in the mail the day she died. She never had the opportunity to read it.

My husband ran this letter over to the family’s house. Literally ran because the house is around the corner from us. The brother said thank you. The brother thought it would make him feel good to read it. But, he said, he’s not seeing anyone outside of family.

My husband and I went for a walk. We walked and talked about our friend. This life thing is so fragile. We take it for granted sometimes. When I was 21 years old, I walked across a street and got hit by a truck. It made me realize how uncertain life is. A car almost hit us when we crossed the street last night. I screamed out loud. I can’t help it. It’s residue from my encounter with the pick up truck.

Life goes on. You get married, raise kids, drive kids to swim practice, sit on PTA boards, help with homework and have your own work to do. Pretty soon you can forget how fragile life is.

We finished our walk and returned to our house. The letter my husband wrote to his friend was stuck in our gate, unopened. It could only mean one thing.

Make sure you tell the ones you love — I love you while you have the chance.

Day 76: Sheltering through Crisis

The world has turned upside down. Again. That’s how I feel this week. After a wonderful weekend were we ventured out of our bubble to the wide open beaches in the Santa Barbara area with family, we returned home to crisis and chaos. I feel so badly and grieve for the Floyd family. I feel badly for others who have been hurt and killed. I feel badly for our entire country.

I haven’t been able to focus or concentrate. I wanted to post something, so I can remember this week years from now: the sadness, agony and distress. 

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Sunset beach walk with my daughter this past weekend.

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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?

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Beautiful views of bougainvillea.

 

 

Remembering a perfect day for a sail

I like to look back on what I was doing during the same week on another year. This looks so wonderful. I’d love to be sailing in Santa Barbara this week. Instead I’m sheltering in place and it’s 108 degrees outside in Palm Springs. So, looking back at the photos and videos will have to do. Soon, we’ll be back and on that boat with our good friends, I hope.

On the lookout for Humpback Whales.

On the lookout for Humpback Whales.

Sunday was a perfect day for sailing. I went with my daughter, who’s home from college for a short break, and our friends—who own a sailboat. They live near Santa Barbara, and as an Aussie, Rob sails in and out of his slip at the marina, and the first time I went sailing with them, we were in a regatta. So, he’s very good at sailing.

I’m a fair weather sailor. I like a gentle breeze, sunshine, and no waves. The weather was perfect. We watched as 14-footers raced, brightly-colored spinnakers hoisted, gliding over a glossy sea.

A couple of the 14 footers with spinnakers racing by.

A couple of the 14 footers with spinnakers racing by.

Then, we spotted a dolphin. Then tens of dolphins. Soon the boat was sailing with dolphins leaping all around. Several were playing and cruising along the bow. There were dolphins leaping in all directions, tens upon dozens of them everywhere!

Then they slowed down and turned around.

We watched pelicans and gulls dive into the ocean.

Then–the spray of a whale blowing. The broad humped back, then the tail. WOW! We all yelled together. Soon we spotted whale number two. Then three. We were being treated to a pod of humpback whales.

A whale's tale.

A whale’s tale.

We spent the next several hours on the lookout for whales. After the tail goes straight up the whale dives. It was incredible to hear their loud gasp for air as they filled their lungs with oxygen before their dive. They hold their breath and stay submerged for at at least five to ten minutes. We would wait patiently, scanning the sea for a sign of the blow, and the back breaking the surface.

What a truly amazing day. How sad I was the following day to hear about the oil spill.

Here are more dolphin photos. These are from my friends with the sailboat on a recent sail they had from Santa Barbara to the islands. How I wish I had been there. IMG_4906 IMG_4912

Dolphins having fun with the boat.

Dolphins having fun with the boat.

Two dolphins at the bow. Photo by Debbie Gardiner.

Two dolphins at the bow. Photo by Debbie Gardiner.

Reflections during sunset at the Santa Barbara marina.

Reflections during sunset at the Santa Barbara marina.

Here are the latest photos from my friends from their June sail to “the islands.” Photos by Debbie Gardiner.IMG_4947 IMG_4979 IMG_4961 IMG_4976