What a week it was!

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Waffles at the park. Some unknown person decorated park benches.

What a whirlwind week we had for Christmas. It was fun, but I’m exhausted. We had our second annual Christmas with my son’s girlfriend’s family. We are a family of four and they are a family of nine, plus my dad. Looking back on the past few days, I did a lot of cooking and dishes. It’s a good thing I like to cook — and I don’t mind cleaning up!

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Some of the fun stats from our week included the food we went through:

7 dozen eggs

6 dozen Honeycrisp apples

1 full-size prime rib

2 hams

8 packages of oxtails for soup

8 packages of sweet Italian sausages for sausage and peppers

1 giant pot of split pea soup

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We also enjoyed my son’s charcuterie and veggie platters before each dinner.

I can’t say how much fun it is to be around an energetic, athletic, intelligent and musically-talented family. I’m inspired and in awe. Also, I was amazed to see how well everyone got along — all the time. Coming from a small family, I feel like I missed out on something by having only one sibling.

I will admit as much fun as the past week was, I’m glad to have my quiet and solitude. I’m ready to start the New Year and get back to my work.

On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a viola concert by two of the siblings who are professional musicians. Although the lighting is terrible, here’s a snippet:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Waffles in his Christmas sweater.

What are your thoughts about family togetherness for the holidays?

Santa in the park for the dogs

 

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The view from our park.

Our neighborhood park is an integral part of my life. I take at least one walk around the park every day, enjoying the gorgeous views of Mt. San Jacinto. I’ve walked countless miles around the park for years.

When the kids were young, I’d meet several other moms at the park and we’d sit on blankets on the grass while we watched our kids swing, climb and slide. The park is where we’d go when our kids would get some sort of flying gift like a simple glider, kite or a remote control plane or rocket. When the kids had friends over, they’d go to the park to play ultimate frisbee.

Two years ago on Christmas break my daughter was home with her 16-month-old pug Waffles. It was during that break that I learned something new about our park. It’s a great place to meet other dog owners. In fact, we found a group who gather in the afternoons and let their little dogs play together. Waffles, who is not at all shy, was trying to take over the group and loves chasing and being chased.

 

I’m not sure he’s all that welcome in this exclusive club, except by the two lady pugs, Mona and Sadie. The highlight yesterday was a surprise visit by Santa. Waffles, who thinks he’s a media star, thought all the pictures with Santa should include him. My daughter had to pull him out of other puppy pics more than once.

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Waffles with Santa at the park.

This year, my daughter and pug are home again for Christmas. I’ve been walking Waffles to the park early in the morning to play with some big dogs and meeting up with the 4 p.m. little dog group, too. The people are friendly but without having a dog in tow, I rarely stop to say hi. This week, I get to be in their exclusive group have have been invited in their circle.

Today, I discovered someone decorated our park with style! They covered three park benches with Christmas joy. Nobody knows who is responsible, but we all appreciate it.

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I’m grateful for our park and the daily joy it gives me.

Do you have a special outdoor place in your life?

 

A sharp reminder to enjoy the moment

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Oatmeal Scotchies I made this week for a bake sale fundraiser.

Today I got a sharp reminder to slow down and to enjoy the moment. I was waiting with a heavy armload of Christmas packages for more than 15 minutes in a line that wrapped around the inside of the Post Office. I thought my arms were going to give out and I couldn’t wait to put them down. I was looking forward to the coveted spots along the counter where I could slide my packages as the line inched along.

A loud crash and sharp crack startled me. I thought someone had knocked their packages off the counter onto the hard tiled floor. I was shocked to see a woman laying flat on the floor ahead of me in line. The sharp crack was the back of her head hitting the hard floor. Moments earlier we were chatting about the long line and Christmas rush.

“Call 911! Call 911!” several people called out. We stared at the Post Office employees as they waited on customers and stared back. The supervisor came out to peek over the counter without a phone in hand. Fortunately, a person in line had called 911 before the supervisor was aware what was happening.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly…

The paramedics were there within minutes and the woman must be on her way via ambulance to the hospital. The supervisor grabbed her package and the woman was able to hand her a credit card to get her package mailed before she was carted away on a stretcher. So she was conscious at least. I don’t know if it was a stroke or in the very least a concussion.

The woman didn’t look much older than me. As I work myself into a ball of tiredness and fatigue preparing for Christmas, I realized that could have been me!

Here’s what I don’t need to do: I don’t need to volunteer extra hours this time of year (which I have). I don’t need to have every gift perfectly wrapped and under the tree. I don’t have to get every room in my house in perfect shape for my guests. I don’t need to go overboard on decorations.

Here’s what I need to focus on: being together with family and friends. It’s not about checking things off the list in perfection. It’s about savoring the moments and not getting lost in the mayhem. We need to embrace the Christmas spirit and remember what the holiday is all about.

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I caught this moment of sunrise lighting up the mountain and palm trees during my walk. 

 

 

 

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?

Did you know gratitude has health benefits?

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I’m grateful for these two.

I try to have an attitude of gratitude. I didn’t realize how many benefits being grateful brings to your life until I read “Gratitude yields health and social benefits” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Here’s what they had to say:

Positive emotions such as gratitude open our minds.

With Thanksgiving having passed, we may want a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows such a long list of health and social benefits that families might want to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Researchers at Northeastern University found that grateful people are more likely to be patient and make wiser decisions.

Gratitude also makes us more likely to take better care of ourselves. In one psychology journal, a study showed that a grateful attitude correlated to a greater willingness to eat healthier foods, exercise more and go to the doctor. Some research even shows that being appreciative boosts willpower.

Counting our blessings before bedtime can also translate to better sleep. One researcher said it may help soothe the nervous system. Not only can gratitude improve our quality of sleep, it can also help us fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

The health benefits of gratitude can’t be overstated. It’s been shown to decrease physical pain, reduce symptoms associated with depression, decrease blood pressure and boost energy levels. In fact, simply cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude can add an average of seven years to your lifespan.

Being grateful also makes us more resilient, less envious, more optimistic, kinder and more social. It’s no wonder that the more grateful a person is, the more likely the person is to have strong social connections, healthier marriages, larger friendship circles and improved networking skills.

Not only does gratitude have the power to transform our health, our social lives and our careers, it can transform our personalities. Research shows that gratitude contributes to a wide range of positive character traits. It makes us humble and it makes us more generous. Together, these traits combat entitlement and self-centeredness. Grateful people are more willing and able to focus on others and can therefore contribute more broadly to their communities.

We the parents have both the opportunity and the obligation to raise children who will have a positive and transformative effect on the future. As we focus on grooming an attitude of gratitude in our kids, we are not only improving their own quality of life but we are helping to change the world one child at a time.

I do believe it’s our duty as parents to instill gratitude as a trait our kids should embrace. One way is to start a gratitude journal. Another tip is to ask your children at dinner or bedtime to name three things they’re grateful for. In the book I’m reading called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron, has exercises to list 10 things you cherish. Another day there I was asked to write 10 things I’m thankful for. It’s not a bad thing to do. By the way, I gave my husband a journal of gratitude and he’s enjoying writing a few things each day.

As parents, I think we need to let our kids and family know how much they mean to us. It’s that time of year!

What are you most grateful for in your life?

How I Had Fun on New Year’s Eve

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Palm Springs Pool on New Year’s Eve

I did something I’ve never done before. It was on New Year’s Eve.

December was a crazy, busy month. I’m sure most parents can agree with how the clock runs out at the end of the day in December, and there is always so much more that needs to be done.

First, I loved having my two kids home from college. Don’t get me wrong about that. But, it does take time and effort on my part. My daughter came home as soon as she could before Christmas. My daughter’s trip was quick because she had to return for intense Christmas break swim training.

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Master Swimmers on New Year’s Eve

My son stayed through New Year’s and not only brought his girlfriend, but a couple from Sweden, who are here studying “abroad.”

Add that to a number of other Christmas duties, like sending out Christmas cards, gifts, and preparing our home for Christmas, and it was especially busy. Yes, I kept up with my various writing projects, too.

Which brings me back to New Year’s Eve—the last day of the year. What I did has to do with swimming (big surprise!) As a new swimmer who began US Masters Swimming in April, this was a big step for me.

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Two of my friends, Lori and Karla. They both swam 100 100s.

I went to the New Year’s Eve Masters fundraiser for Angel View, hosted by my kids age group and my masters team, Piranhas. I swam double what I have ever done in my life — 5,000 yards or 50 100s. I enjoyed being a part of the team and the effort. There were more than 40 of us in the pool, including my husband and many friends, swimming and raising money for a great charitable organization here in Palm Springs. #piranhapride!

“New Year’s Eve Angel View 100 x 100s” was started by managing partner of Maryanov Madsen Gordon and Campbell, CPAs, Masters swimmer Steven Erickson, along with our Piranha Swim Team CEO and Head Coach Jeff Conwell. Here are the numbers so far:

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The numbers from the Piranha FB page

I feel strongly about Angel View because my daughter and I volunteered for six years to bring a little joy to the people living in Angel View homes. It was an experience that we both benefited from, and helping there brought not only tears to us, but extreme moments of joy. You certainly learn to appreciate the basic things in life, like your ability to stand, walk and eat. 

“Angel View’s mission is helping children and adults with disabilities reach their maximum potential. Each year, we help hundreds of people make significant gains toward independence through three primary programs. We accept clients without regard to race, color or national origin. We make every effort to accommodate our clients’ cultural and religious customs.”

—from the Angel View website

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Coach Jeff with a few of the Angel View residents who visited the pool on New Year’s Eve.

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Steven Erickson, who started this fundraiser four years ago,standing with my fellow swim mom and master swimmer Sunday, who swam 80 100s!

 

I Couldn’t Wait for the Kids to Come Home

imagesI was looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend so much! I couldn’t wait to have both my kids home, together. I cleaned their rooms, washed their sheets, polished their furniture.

I shopped for turkey, stuffing, potatoes and all the trimmings. I baked a pumpkin pie. I was so excited and the days dragged until the day before Thanksgiving finally arrived. First, my son came in at ten at night. He looked great! I fell asleep before the midnight flight that carried my daughter.

Thanksgiving day was a blast. I cooked a delicious dinner. We had grandpa over and after we ate, we laughed and talked as we walked around the neighborhood. My kids were in a great mood, and I loved being with them.IMG_2814

But, by Friday, I found myself constantly picking and cleaning up after them. I carried dishes and glasses from the kids’ bedrooms into the kitchen. The sink always had dishes stacked in it, no matter how often I loaded the dishwasher. My once lonely washing machine had a constant load.

I got tired. Wow! This taking care of family is a lot harder than I had remembered.

images-4My kids were busy. Not with me. My son had tons of reading and a paper to write. My daughter had homework to do also, but she was off every minute to visit friends.

My husband and I sat together, alone in the house.

I kind of felt like the cat. Olive is my daughter’s kitty. Olive was so excited to have her person home, she went on a wild spree of hunting, bringing in birds to my daughter’s bedroom. She even left her a bird in her suitcase. When Olive wasn’t hunting she was glued to my daughter’s side — when my daughter was home.

The weekend ended, the kids left. I sighed. My first Thanksgiving after three months of an empty nest was not what I expected. I am thankful for my family. But, I learned that it’s also nice to not have the day-to-day responsibility of cleaning and caring for kids.

And once again, Olive is content to hang out with me.IMG_6037