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?

 

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?

I almost felt “normal” again

Waffles with my daughter

We got away for two weeks and life felt like it did before the pandemic. It gave me hope that yes, we will return to life before COVID-19 at some point in time. These past six months (or 165 days) of sheltering in place will come to an end.

With my husband required to work remotely, and my writing that can be done wherever, we returned to a tiny beach bungalow for the third summer in a row. We had planned this vacation way before the pandemic, but with the onset of working remotely, we extended our stay and had more time to escape the desert heat and relish in a change of scenery.

There’s something about the ocean that is spiritual and calming. I didn’t realize how much anxiety had been building inside me until I got to the Pacific, walked along the shoreline with waves lapping at my ankles. I could breathe. My back straightened up. I no longer felt trapped and scared.

A beach walk near Santa Barbara

The most freeing feeling was diving under a wave. I’ve always worn hard contact lenses — well since 7th grade anyway. I could never freely dive into a pool or ocean without goggles and worrying about losing contacts, which I’ve done more than once. Last fall I had cataract surgery and no longer wear contacts. It took me a couple dips into the ocean to realize that I could swim and dive under waves without fear.

Our kids joined us for a few days, along with my son’s girlfriend and one of her sisters. We shared meals outside, beach walks, and excursions into the city of Santa Barbara. That felt normal like prior summer trips. We’ve been visiting good friends in the area since before the kids were born. We caught up with other couples and had fun laughing and talking over meals, always outside and socially distanced. But what a nice change from all those months of no social activity.

Santa Barbara Harbor

Yes, I’m back in my house, it’s 109 degrees outside. But, I still have a little bit of that feeling of hope that things will get better. And life is good.

What experiences have you had that give you hope that the pandemic life will end?

4 Ways to Make Your Dreams Come True

IMG_8956Do you have a secret dream that you’ve been working towards for years? Or, maybe a dream you once had, but never reached? What’s holding you back? Why aren’t you moving forward? Do you feel stuck in your daily grind, with no time to finish that project, or follow your dream?

I’m reading a book that provides a strategy to make dreams come true.

It’s called “From Chump to Champ: How Individuals Go From Good to Great” by David Benzel. He’s an author, athlete and sports family coach. I discovered him on the USA Swimming website. He offers monthly webinars and has written books that are inspirational and helpful.

The Belmont Pool, where many dreams came true.

The Belmont Pool, where many dreams came true.

What I’ve discovered and learned so far from reading this book are the following four tips:

  1. Dream—Be specific about your dream. Like going to Olympic Trials. Please take note as a new Masters swimmer in my 50s, this is not my dream. It’s someone else’s dream, but a good one to use as an example.
  2. Goals—Set steps that you need to take to reach your goal. Say, if you’re a swimmer, and your dream is Olympic Trials, then you have a specific time goal. If you need to drop a second to get your cut, what daily things are you going to do to get there? Cut out junk food? Work on underwaters? Those would be specific goals to reach your dreams.
  3. Visualize—Use the theater of your mind to picture what it will be like getting your Olympic Trials cut. Make a movie in your head and replay it over and over all the way through.
  4. Belief—This is the hardest one for me. Get rid of that pesky voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, or your dream is just a dream. “I’m not talented enough to make it to Olympic Trials. Other swimmers are stronger and taller than me.” Change the self-talk to positive. “I’ve worked hard my entire life for this. Nobody works harder than I do.” Reflect on all your accomplishments and the hard work you’ve put in. How you’re setting yourself up for success.

Step #4 is the one that 80 percent of us need to work on. It’s the last stumbling block we need to overcome before realizing our dreams.

Sunset at the beach.

Sunset at the beach.

Can you imagine what it would be like to face life fearlessly every day? Excited to reach your dreams? Carpe Diem! Let’s go for it!

Carpe diem.

Carpe diem. Photo by Debbie Gardiner

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?

 

 

Remembering Ray Bradbury

In honor of the great Ray Bradbury who died in June 2012, I’m reposting this story about what I learned from him.

I was looking through my book shelves for summer reading. I picked up Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing: Release the Creative Genius Within You. It’s a small paperback book that has sat on my shelf, unread. I opened the cover and on page one the autograph of the author and the date May 1996 stared me in the face.

imgresThat’s the first time I heard Ray Bradbury speak — and the first time I asked him to sign a book. My daughter, who graduated high school last week, was three months old, and my son, a junior in college, was three years old. That’s a lot of years to have this book sitting on my bookshelf.

Yes, I’m now reading this collection of essays and remembering how inspiring his talk was. Earlier that same day in May 1996, I recognized Ray Bradbury at Las Casuelas the Original, a small Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from the Riviera Hotel, where he was speaking later. I introduced myself to him, as he ate alone, and I said I couldn’t wait to hear his talk.images-1

It was one of the first writer’s conferences I had attended, and I was kind of in a fog, having a newborn child and little sleep.

Ray Bradbury was amazing. He reminded me of a young child, finding wonder in the world. He had the ability to stay young at heart and observe the world as though seeing little things for the first time. I loved his story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library at a rental typewriter for 10 cents for a half hour. He said he was literally a “dime novelist.” It gave me courage and the belief that we can do anything — if you want it badly enough.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. He advised us to turn off the TV. Don’t watch the news. He said they were selling soap and there was little or no good news and it would rot our minds. Instead, “Read the Bible, a poem and an essay every day.”

How I’d wish I’d listened more carefully and followed that advice 18 years ago. How different would my life be today? The good news is, it’s not too late to start. And I’m proud to say, I started down that path yesterday.images-3

My all time favorite Ray Bradbury book is Fahrenheit 451. My son Robert loves this book, too. I took my son to meet Ray Bradbury during another local speaking engagement years later. Robert has a signed copy of Farenheit 451 that he treasures. Ray Bradbury was a very accessible and kind man, willing to share with all of us enjoying his gift and genius — and striving to be 1/100th the writer that he was. images-4

“What do you love most in the world? The big and little things, I mean. A trolley car, a pair of tennis shoes? These, at one time when we were children, were invested with magic for us.” — Zen and the Art of Writing

What do you think of the Four Agreements?

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The view of Mt. San Jacinto during my morning walk.

I was listening to a webinar on my morning walk and when I got home, I had to jot down a few notes. The talk was from one of my favorite sports parenting experts, David Benzel, from Growing Champions for Life. The topic was “Teaching Kids to Manage Their Thoughts.” It had great information to help your kids manage negative self talk and to get them on the right path when they beat themselves up. Benzel said he got most of the information for this webinar from a book called Managing Thought by Mary Lore.

It also had a lot of great stuff for adults, too. Adults and children alike can get bogged down with negative thoughts about themselves. How often have you told yourself, “I’m not good enough,” or something else similar? If we can recognize that our brain is creating 55,000 thoughts per day and we can separate ourselves from them, they will lose their power. When a negative thought pops up, we can say “Where did that come from?” or “Is that useful for me to accomplish my goal?”

Benzel also said that negative thoughts spread like a disease and once you have one, more and more will pop up. Also, our thoughts are a choice. We can choose instead to rephrase a negative thought into a a positive one. If our child says “I don’t want to fail the math test,” instead they can say, “I will finish my homework and ask for help.”  Benzel made the point when we focus on what we don’t want, the more we focus on it, the more likely it will happen.

Now to the part where I was so impressed that I had to write it down: “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you do these four things, you’ll be happier, more positive and your relationships with others will improve.

ONE

Be impeccable with your word.

TWO

Don’t take anything personally.

THREE

Make no assumptions.

FOUR

Always do your best.

Those seem so simple, but aren’t they valuable? For example, if someone says something you feel is hurtful, don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s more of a reflection of what that person is going through. We shouldn’t make assumptions about people’s motives or intent. Instead we should investigate and ask questions. Try to learn where the person is coming from. As far as always doing your best, your best may change from day to day. Do the best you can on that particular day.

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Views from my morning walk.

What do you think of the “Four Agreements?”