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?”

 

Inspiration can be a daily, family thing

christmasWhen my college roommate was visiting after Thanksgiving, I would hear her phone ping every morning with texts.

Her mom, who is in her 80s, lives alone and asks that my college roommate and her two brothers make some contact via text every morning. That way, they know that she’s okay.

I’d hear the familiar ping of my friend’s phone. She’d say, “That’s from mom. Listen to what she has to say today….”

Then she’d read an inspirational quote that her mom sent. Her brothers would chime in and my friend would respond as well.

I thought, what a great idea. I’m a terrible worrier, and if I don’t hear from my kids for a few days or weeks, I get more worried. With both kids in the Bay area, I feel like they’re both too far away. I sent my kids a group text and explained how it would work. We would send an inspiring note to each other by noon each day. It only takes a moment, we’d check in and pass along some inspiration. Also, I’d know that they were okay.

“Put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” —Swami Sivananda

That was my first text. I told them, “Now you guys need to respond by noon with a quote or a ok thanks,” I texted.

“Would that be ‘an’ okay, thanks. Not a,” my daughter texted back.

She then responded with a meme with the following words:

“What are a few things that have inspired you lately?

To be better than everyone. Cause I hate everyone.”

I take it she wasn’t enjoying my inspirational quote thing so much.

My son responded with “I don’t like inspirational quotes, so here is a good painting.”

A Vase of Roses–Van Gogh, 1890

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The next day, I sent a quote and my daughter responded with “Eew that’s so and so’s bio on Twitter. New quote please.”

I sent “Winners never quit. Quitters never win.” It was a quote we had on the back of our swim club’s shirts a few years ago.

“Except Michael Phelps quit and he’s a winner,” she pointed out. Yes, she’s right about that, too.

My son sent a painting by Henri Matisse.img_2866

“I like it. It reminds me of spongebob,” my daughter said.

“Fun fact: the spongebob art was inspired by his cut-outs,” he answered.

My daughter texted this:img_9775

It’s been interesting to see what they come up with on a daily basis. It adds a little joy to my day like we’re sharing special secrets.

And then my son called, “Thank you, Mom, for starting the inspiration thing. I really love it.”

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Me and my college roommate.

What daily inspirational things do you share with your family?

In a divided era, take time to be grateful!

I received an amazing email from one of our former Piranha head coaches, Tim Hill, who is now coaching in Texas. He has some great words of wisdom that in our heated political elections, I think are important for all of us to read–regardless which “team” you’re rooting or fighting for. He’ll be sharing his thoughts–and a SwimSwam article of mine–with his team. I think his thoughts about gratitude and our common goals are worth posting for more people to read, too. (FYI, I wrote this post November 2018. Nothing has changed. Let’s make it change.)

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I’m grateful to swim in a beautiful pool with my team.

Family & Friends,

Last night I stayed awake (probably because I hadn’t worked out physically in three to four days, which is never good for me) thinking about all that is going on in our world/country, and my daily environment of working with a great cross-section of people, and most importantly our young people. Coming back from a 2.5 hour Senior meet where each of the swimmers did something well, I realized it wasn’t perfect, but I saw progress of young people engaged and challenging themselves. (I went with a small group of five before our hosted Shark meet of 600 swimmers & many parents/volunteers.) I walked away feeling good and that we’re all making progress in our daily lives of living and getting better.

Then after a conversation with some neighbor friends on values and our political system struggles, I read this short piece below from a former swim parent/board person that got me thinking along with watching a Train Ugly video on how our brains can change and how we can continue to learn to have a “Growth Mindset” (I’ll post more next week about it). So, I want to share some thoughts, which are at times difficult for me to put in writing, but I thought it can‘t hurt. Then read “5 Ways Parents (people) Can Handle Conflicts” and see how it might fit into our daily living exchanges.

Here are my thoughts:

Think how grateful we can be every day for so much good in our lives. We are truly blessed with so much that’s good that comes our way.

First, I’m grateful for many things in my lifetime journey so far, most importantly my lovely partner for 41+ years, Shayla—whose strong faith and belief in all mankind being equal is so inspiring. Second, our families/siblings who bring so much laughter, love and joy to our lives, even when we don’t always agree on some issues. Also, I’ve had the good fortune to travel the world in my coaching career, experiencing many different people/cultures, plus working/sharing with some great staff, parent groups and yes—young people of all ages. The one common theme is there are more caring, wonderful people in this world and a great deal of positive things going on that happen every day. Our constant news cycle doesn’t seem to cover that as much, but rather the power struggles that are front page news based on he/she said that it make it appear things are horrific (which as history has shown has always existed before our 24-hour news cycle brought it to the forefront daily.)

Yes, we all face different challenges, some that don’t work out the way we’d like or believe in. We have to decide how we’ll respond to these occurrences. As I like to share/believe – “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” Keep in mind we all come on to this wonderful planet the same way and are made of basically the same substance. At the end of each day, can we realize that we have a lot in common, want peace, security and the love of our family and some friends while sharing our earth and it’s beautiful creatures and resources?

We are truly blessed with so much that good that comes our way and we should take a minute every day to say and share what are we grateful for.

5 Ways Parents (earthlings) Can Help Handle Conflicts
Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham from SwimSwam

One thing I’ve learned through experience is that when there is an issue that involves our children—and I feel like they’ve been wronged—I need to take a deep breath. And, I let a few days pass. I ask how our kids can settle an issue themselves before getting involved. I’m not talking about something serious where they could be in danger, but other issues like being signed up for events they don’t like or not making it into a higher level group.

Here are five tips to use at the pool and in other areas of your life with coaches, teachers and other parents:

ONE
Listen to your kids but do some research. It is possible that there are two sides to the story. If you only listen to your child, you may not have the whole picture. Investigate and find out the other point of view. Then you’ll be in a better position to evaluate if you need to get involved. Often, our kids vent to us but may not want our help.

TWO
Take some deep breaths, let time go by and walk or exercise before making a phone call or writing that email. Sometimes things that seem so urgent at the moment won’t be so worrisome after a few days. In many cases, a new issue will take its place.

THREE
Don’t lose your temper or you’ve lost. Having an issue about our kids can turn a mild-mannered person into a mama or papa grizzly. Staying calm if you do get involved, will help you get the results you’re seeking.

FOUR
Have a solution in mind. What is the outcome you want? I had a boss once say that anyone can point out problems—it’s the people with solutions who are rare. I learned from serving on our team’s board that people can complain a lot. After every decision our board made, we got complaints from someone. Sometimes, just listening made the person feel better because people like to be heard.

FIVE
Understand that you can make the situation worse. This is a sad truth that with our best intentions, we can escalate a small incident into something bigger. Also, by problem solving for our children, we are taking away opportunities for them to learn and grow into independent adults.

What is your best advice for parents when kids are facing a problem?

 

I’m grateful to for time with family and friends.