Blogging Along Through Life

My daughter with her relay celebrating in the pool.

When I started my blog in 2014, my focus was financial news for women. I had a short stint as a financial adviser working with my husband. At that time, I thought I had lots of knowledge to share. I had passed all the exams and went through training by two big firms.

One fact that stood out to me was that women own the majority of the wealth in our nation, yet they have less knowledge about investing than men. I thought I found a perfect niche to blog about. Funny thing, nobody wanted to read those posts. Maybe it was because I was new and didn’t have an audience — but when I wrote about other topics, I got way more views and comments.

My next niche was parenting — particularly sports parenting. I submitted one of my blog posts to the most read swim website, SwimSwam, and got feedback from the owner/founder Gold Medal Mel, Mel Stewart. He asked me to start writing parenting advice. He wanted me to write once a month for three months. After that trial period, I wrote every week. You can check out those articles HERE. I continued with that for six years, mostly basing my articles on my past mistakes. I didn’t want newer sports parents to go through the drama and issues that I had. I was thrilled when parents would email me and ask for advice. I started an “Ask Swim Mom” column from those emails.

My other favorite topics to blog about were about college admissions and being the parent of college kids. I learned a lot during those years. But as my kids grew, I felt I had less to offer in the parenting arena. In fact, I think my swim parenting articles put pressure on my daughter or made her feel exposed. I realized I’m far from an expert. Who am I to give advice?

Now, my blogging is me slogging through this phase of life trying to figure it out. What I enjoy most about blogging now is the community of bloggers I read every day. It’s more satisfying and supportive than before.

I’m curious how you see your blog evolving or changing through time. Do you feel you have a niche and what is it? What are your favorite topics to blog about?

Friendships new and old

Arizona sunset.
Arizona sunset.

This past week was a tough one for us. But, I learned to appreciate friendships — new and old. We lost our dear friend Mark on Thanksgiving night who we’ve known for decades, but afterwards we got closer to his friends and family. We attended a viewing that was for his family and closest friends. There will be a funeral in Seattle, where he grew up and lived until a few years ago, after the holidays.

I wasn’t anxious to attend the viewing. It seemed to be on the morbid side to me. But it turned out to be very comforting. It was in a building with a nice waiting area with comfortable couches and chairs. The 20 or so of us friends and family gathered and hugged. By ones and twos people would go into the separate viewing area. My husband and I chose not to because we wanted to remember Mark as we knew him. One of his sons went in and one stayed out.

Afterwards, we went to lunch with some of Mark’s family and with one couple who flew down from Seattle for the viewing. Mark had introduced us to the Seattle couple in the spring. We hit it off and I’ve visited the Seattle couple when I’m up there to see my mom. They are planning on moving to Arizona when they retire and they bought a house here because of Mark that they’ve rented out. They asked to stay with us. I’m so glad they did. It was nice to be with them and share memories about Mark. I feel like our friendship has been cemented and that we’re in a special club for “Friends of Mark.” We are new friends who will become old friends — God willing.

In the evening, we all gathered at Mark’s house for finger foods and a pasta dinner prepared by his family. All the time with these friends and people I haven’t seen for years, or who I met for the first time, was a big step in healing. I returned home feeling peaceful and less sad and fragile. I’m happy for the time we had Mark in our lives and I’m amazed at how he touched so many people.

Do you think that since March 2020, we lost connection with friends and family and the joy it brings to our lives? Did you, or were you able to stay close to your loved ones?

Out of sorts…

Desert Views in Maricopa County
View from Cave Creek Road.

Everything and everyone is irritating me today. I think it’s a mixture of one part grieving and two parts too many interruptions. I have had more than a week straight of guests, visits with friends, preparing meals for guests. I just want to get back to my normal, quiet life.

Yesterday was a day of constant interruptions. Have you ever had one of those days where the phone rings nonstop? And people in your house need your attention while you’re on the phone? That’s what yesterday was like for me. And I have this extra long list of things to do before tomorrow when our new friends come for the funeral. But I keep getting pulled away from my list, so I feel out of control. I’d like to sit outside and finish my book — or go back to bed and start the day over.

I’m trying to print something out for my husband, who just interrupted me. Paper jam. Go figure.

I have to be very careful today. I do not want to act irrationally or snap at my husband. Everybody is getting on my nerves. I can say it’s a good thing my dad returned home to Palm Springs yesterday. I think when my house is empty, when the funeral is over, I can exhale and decompress.

I think my aggro mood is rooted in the death of our best friend and not having the space, quiet and time to grieve.

Have you ever had an “out of sorts” sort of day? How do you handle it?

 Unexpectedly.

cloudy morning sky
Cloudy morning sky.

We picked up my dad at the airport on Wednesday. Thursday I cooked all day and we had friends over for Thanksgiving dinner who moved from our old home town to one mile from us. It was a fun evening of friendship and family.

Then the text came in at 2 a.m.

We’ve been worried about our friend Mark. He lives down the road from us and got a cold that turned into pneumonia earlier this month. He couldn’t breathe and was coughing so hard that he went to the hospital two weeks ago. This past week the doctor put him on a ventilator and induced a coma. He tested negative for COVID.

Everyday we waited for news from his son who came down from Seattle. Every day the news wasn’t good.

Mark left us Thanksgiving night at 2 a.m.

My husband said, “What do we do now?”

He talked to Mark every single day until Mark was on the ventilator. I don’t think we’d be living in Arizona if it hadn’t been for Mark. We visited him in Arizona after he moved here from Seattle several years ago. Mark introduced me to my husband 37 years ago. Mark introduced us to our realtor and he went house hunting with us on the day we found our new home. He introduced us to other friends who are moving to Arizona from Seattle. They will stay with us for Mark’s service this week.

The last time we saw Mark was a few weeks ago before he was in the hospital. He seemed healthy. We invited him over for dinner and ping pong. I cooked one of the best meals of my life.

Now he’s gone. I feel raw and fragile. We pushed through the weekend, trying to carry on. We had to entertain my dad. Saturday we went to the ASU UA football game with a group of friends from my kids’ Palm Springs swim team — their former teammates and parents. It was a good distraction for a bit.

But now what?

I can’t express how much we miss Mark. How hard it is when someone dies unexpectedly who is one of your close friends. It’s surreal how they’re a big part of your life one day and then leave a gaping hole when they’re gone.

Benefits of Old Friends

friends reunited wearing face masks
Me and my best friend from college, showing off our masks at Pike Place Market, during a visit a few months ago.

I read an article today in the Wall Street Journal that made me feel good. It was about the power of friendships. It stated that reconnecting with friends from our past helps our mood. I looked back on my visits with college friends and I agree. I do feel better after connecting with my close friends. It gives me a lift that is more powerful than getting together with new friends. According to the article, we feel that someone from our past understands us, knows us better. I have a few people in my life that fit that bill including two friends from college and a couple from our early married lives. Whenever I get together with any of them, I feel warmth and peace.

My husband has a few friends like that, too. We reconnected with his best friend from grade school through high school when we visited our daughter while she went to college in Utah. Their laughter and fun stories are contagious when they are together. It was such a joy.

Here’s an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal Article by Elizabeth Bernstein:

The Secret Power of Reconnecting With Old Friends
There’s a special boost that only old friends can give us. Here’s why we need it now.
Missing old friends? You’re not alone. Pals from our past can give us a sense of stability in turbulent times.

Research shows that psychological distress often causes nostalgia. People tend to experience this sentimental longing for the past when they are feeling sad, lonely, anxious or disconnected, or when life feels meaningless or uncertain.

“Covid represents a big sense of discontinuity in our lives. We’ve lost a sense of who we are,” says Clay Routledge, a psychologist and professor of business at North Dakota State University, who has studied nostalgia for 20 years. “Recalling cherished experiences from our past can remind us who we want to be, who we want to be around, and what we feel is important in life.”

Nostalgia increases positive mood, self-esteem and self-confidence, according to studies conducted by Dr. Routledge and others. It makes us feel more socially connected and optimistic. It helps us feel that life has more meaning. And it’s highly motivating, pushing us to pursue goals, reconnect with people who were once important to us, and make new relationships.

We can become nostalgic about any period in our life. But it’s most common to feel a longing for our adolescence or early adulthood, likely because that’s when we developed our sense of identity and forged our own relationships.

Dr. Routledge says that most people feel nostalgic about social experiences, typically with family or friends. We may long for their support or feel we can trust them. Old friends—especially ones from our youth, who may also know our family—are often the people we believe truly understand us.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-secret-power-of-reconnecting-with-old-friends-11637069401?mod=hp_listc_pos3

Do you have people from your past that make you feel good when you reconnect? What do your old friends mean to you?

college friends reunited
Reunited with a college roommate.

What is toxic positivity?

Waffles the pug smiling and showing his teeth.
My daughter’s pug Waffles putting on a happy face. “Treats, please?”

When our daughter calls me upset, my reaction is to try and tell her that it’s not that bad. That things will improve and maybe there’s a silver lining. My desire is to make her happier, to make her pain go away.

After reading an article in the Wall Street Journal called Toxic Positivity Is Very Real, and Very Annoying by Elizabeth Bernstein, I understood why my daughter gets upset when I try to cheer her up. I never heard the term “Toxic Positivity” before, but it’s what I do. The article gives a ton of examples of well-meaning parents and friends making someone with an issue feel worse. Here are a few paragraphs from the story:

Forcing ourselves or others to always be positive can be harmful to our well-being and our relationships. There’s a better approach.

Pushing away difficult emotions, such as sadness or fear, and forcing ourselves or others to be positive can be harmful to our mental well-being and our relationships, psychologists say. This is because practicing false cheerfulness—which they call “toxic positivity”—keeps us from addressing our feelings, and the feelings of others.

Yes, cultivating a positive mindset is a powerful coping mechanism, especially in tough times. But positivity needs to be rooted in reality for it to be healthy and helpful.

“Toxic positivity is positivity given in the wrong way, in the wrong dose, at the wrong time,” says David Kessler, a grief expert and the author of six books about grief, including his latest, “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.”

It sounds like this: “Cheer up!” “Don’t worry!” “Stop focusing on the negative!” “Try to have a better attitude!”

We’re all guilty of it. Many of us were taught as children to banish so-called bad feelings—to pick ourselves up when we fall, stop complaining and count our blessings. And our fix-it-fast culture reinforces the message that to be positive is to succeed. (Just consider the phrase “winning attitude.”)

Often, we go overboard on positivity because we just don’t want to feel bad. And we don’t want the people we care about to feel bad, either.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tired-of-being-told-cheer-up-the-problem-of-toxic-positivity-11635858001?mod=life_work_lead_pos1

My daughter told me that when I say “look on the bright side,” I don’t find her feelings to be valid. What she wants from me — and there are many examples of this in the article with other parents and children — is to listen to how she feels.

I’m sure my glass-half-full outlook is based on my childhood emotional issues, like my parents fighting or divorcing. In other words, I covered up my feelings and fears with a veneer of a positive attitude that was like hiding under the covers, which I did every night.

My last kernel of truth for today:

“It’s not our job to solve problems for our children, but it is our job to listen and love them.” — E.A. Wickham

Have you heard of toxic positivity? What are your thoughts about it?

Do you have someone in your life that uses it, or have you used it yourself with family members and friends?

Mourning the good old days

Coit Tower with kids
Last year we were climbing Coit Tower together on a trip to visit our kids.

I’ve learned that our adult children no longer hold things of value that we do. It’s distressed me to learn that the years I spent raising my kids that I view as some of the best — they don’t view the same way.

The values I worked to instill in my kids — they don’t value.

I’m talking Family. Marriage. Home ownership. Religion.

How did we go wrong? Did I spoil them? Was I too strict? Was I too lenient? Did we empathize the wrong things?

Should I be thankful they have separated from us and are their own people with their own ideals? That they are adults with their own opinions? Or, should I be hurt that they find our traditional values to be worthless. Right now I’m feeling a mix of emotions.

All I want for them is to be happy and hopeful.They do believe in some of the things we tried to teach them. Honesty. Hard work. Perseverance. Those things stuck. Don’t get me wrong. We still can spend time together, talk and have good conversations. I’m just feeling sad that everything I want for them they don’t care about.

Do your kids value the same things you do? What do you want for your children’s futures? At what point did your kids break away from you politically, religiously or in other ways?