The look in her eyes when I said good-bye

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Downtown Seattle on a sunny day.

Little did I know that that would be the last time I’d see Mom before the COVID lockdown. My daughter and I were visiting my mom in her assisted living home on a trip to Seattle in March two years ago today. Mom and I share March birthdays and I try to make it a point to be with her. But last year in March they had COVID breakouts in a facility a few miles from her and then it spread to her assisted living home.

The good news is she never got it. She’s healthy and got both her shots. But I miss her. I’m hoping someday this year I’ll get to spend time with her in person.

Here’s what I wrote about my trip to visit mom in March 2019:

I will never forget the look in my mom’s eyes when I said goodbye. After lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant, we sat around a table in the lobby playing a card game our family played when I was a child, Demon.

It was fun and we all laughed as we got more and more competitive. They teamed up against me, as they tried to defeat me–but didn’t of course. My daughter slowed down her speed to make the game more fun for us old folks, because seriously she could beat us handily at anything involving speed and reaction time.

After that, we walked mom back to her room, got her settled in and said good-bye. My mom stared at me, sitting in her comfy chair, like her heart was breaking. Her big hazel eyes filled with water and I fought my own tears. I felt like I was deserting her.

My daughter asked if she wanted the TV on, and she said, “No, I’m fine.” As we closed the door, I peaked in and saw my mom sitting on her chair with her head dropped, staring at nothing.

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My mom was surprised to learn I had a camera in my phone. She enjoyed the selfie.

The good news is I came the next day, and the next. Each day she looked happier and her spark returned. She has a witty sense of humor and kept me laughing. By the time I said my final good-bye, she looked so much better. I think she’s terribly lonely and I need to visit more often.

And to think I was going to visit her more often — and then no visits at all….

If you live away from your elderly family members, how do you feel when you say good-bye?

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Nothing better than a mother daughter trip.

Missing casual friends during COVID

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The view from my morning walks in Palm Springs.

Talking to my daughter yesterday, over the phone, I told her I was feeling lonely. I had one of those moments she told me was FOMO. I looked at an Instagram pic of my friends in Palm Springs going on a mountain bike ride. I wanted to be there with them. I decided a few days ago that I’m going to get a bike and try out the trails across the street. So, I felt a little pang, wishing that I could be there riding with friends.

(FOMO, my daughter told me, is the fear of missing out — for other boomers like me who don’t have a clue.)

I told her that my life isn’t that much different here. My life is still pretty much the same. I’m isolated, sheltering with my husband, and we aren’t out socializing or doing much except for daily walks and hikes — alone. Just like back in our old home.

“Yes, but you had your people,” she explained. “You stopped and talked to your friend Shawn at the park with his Irish Setter pups and you saw your Masters swimming friends.”

I told her that the people are friendly here, too. And we share smiles and friendly words daily on my walks. But, she’s right. It isn’t the same. I don’t know them like I knew my favorite checker at Ralph’s grocery store. We shared stories about how our adult kids were doing. Nor, do I stop and talk to anyone on my walks like I did with Shawn about politics or talk dogs and kids with the lady with the show Pekes. I don’t have the shared experience with anyone here like my swim Masters friends, where we’ve entered meets together, practiced in the rain and swim for Angel View Crippled Children’s Homes to raise money every New Year’s Eve.

I read several stories recently that talk about COVID sheltering in place and how we’re losing contact with our casual friends. Here’s an excerpt from The Atlantic by Amanda Mull that tackles this in The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship; There’s a reason you miss the people you didn’t even know that well:

In the weeks following, I thought frequently of other people I had missed without fully realizing it. Pretty good friends with whom I had mostly done things that were no longer possible, such as trying new restaurants together. Co-workers I didn’t know well but chatted with in the communal kitchen. Workers at the local coffee or sandwich shops who could no longer dawdle to chat. The depth and intensity of these relationships varied greatly, but these people were all, in some capacity, my friends, and there was also no substitute for them during the pandemic. Tools like Zoom and FaceTime, useful for maintaining closer relationships, couldn’t re-create the ease of social serendipity, or bring back the activities that bound us together.

Understandably, much of the energy directed toward the problems of pandemic social life has been spent on keeping people tied to their families and closest friends. These other relationships have withered largely unremarked on after the places that hosted them closed. The pandemic has evaporated entire categories of friendship, and by doing so, depleted the joys that make up a human life—and buoy human health. But that does present an opportunity. In the coming months, as we begin to add people back into our lives, we’ll now know what it’s like to be without them.

It’s partly the pandemic that has cut us off from our normal activities and life. For me, it’s also moving to a new state and starting over. Thank God for my iphone. I’m talking daily to my dad and good friends. But I miss those casual friends, too.

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That’s me diving off the blocks in my first swim meet where I’m surrounded my swim friends, officials and coaches.

How have you noticed a change in your casual friendships going on month 11 of our new normal?

What’s the main role of parents?

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My daughter with her coach, who also was a mentor.

In my SwimSwam parenting articles I often stress that parents and coaches have different roles. There’s a saying that I learned from USA Swimming back when I wrote a monthly newsletter for our swim team: Swimmers swim, parents parent and coaches coach.

As a long-time swim parent, my role seemed to be filled with endless loads of washing towels and feeding super hungry kids.

Yesterday I listened to a webinar that took this topic head on. It was by David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life called How to discuss performance issues with your child — and remain friends. Benzel said that the word coach was first used in the days of the stagecoach. You know, that vehicle that helped people get from point A to point B. A teacher referred to himself as a “coach” back then and today we all use the word to describe the person who helps our athletes on their journey.

Another point he made was that parents main role is to be a mentor in life lessons, while a coach helps on the field of pool with improving their skills. All mentors are coaches, Benzel said, but not all coaches are mentors.

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Coach Dwight was an amazing mentor to our young swimmers.

Here are the words Benzel used to describe coaches: instructional, inspirational, analytical, authoritarian, organized and encouraging.

The mentor or parent is supportive, exemplary, compassionate, authoritative, empathetic and loving.

If you get your roles mixed up and tell your kids how to improve or what they did wrong they can get really confused and upset. They don’t know if you’re coaching or criticizing. If you’re inspiring or disciplining. So often our kids fear they are disappointing us. Coaching them will make them defensive and feel like they’re never good enough in our eyes.

Isn’t that amazing? We are only trying to help our kids be better and want them to succeed.

In order to help our kids Benzel said we need to tell them “I love to watch you play.” And then be silent. Don’t say anything more until you’re asked. He said if we as parents ask thought provoking questions like “why do you enjoy swimming?” or “What are you doing when you feel the best?” — then we aren’t being judgmental but may open up a conversation.

Here are the life lessons Benzel listed that we can help our kids learn in our role as a parent and mentor:

self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, self-control, empathy, generosity, sacrifice, patience, personal responsibility, grit, optimism, handling emotions, humility, gratefulness, fairness and loyalty. 

Boy, that’s quite a list. Yes, I hope my kids learned these things through their years in the pool. I hope I helped them along the way. Because as Benzel said, If not you — WHO? If not now –WHEN?

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My daughter with her college coach at a big meet in Santa Clara. Another coach who was also a mentor.

If your kids are in sports, what do you see as your most critical role?

What I miss most about my daughter

I wrote this when we dropped our daughter off at college. Now that she’s living in the adult world — I definitely still miss these things about her. She spent a few days at the beach with us in August (same beach pictured below when she was a kid). That was the last time we were together. We were lucky to have her sheltering in place with us for a couple of months. That was one of the good things that happened in 2020 — not COVID-19 and being locked down — but getting the chance to spend time together.  

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Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

We took our daughter to college two weeks ago. She looks really happy in the photos posted on FB and Instagram. She’s made new friends, is enjoying her team and coaches -and likes her classes.

My life is busy with new and old projects. But, I notice a quiet, a sort of waiting sense, that I didn’t feel before. It’s the little things about her that I miss.

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Kat swimming

I miss her cracking my back. She could give me a hug, tell me to relax and say, “One, two..” and lift me up in the air before she said three. The result was cracking, popping relief.

I miss her making me laugh. Kat is funny. I love her little half smile when she knows she’s especially clever. And the crinkles around her eyes when she laughs out loud.

I miss her cleaning out my wallet and organizing it for me. She’d say, “Mom your purse is gateway hoarding.”

I miss her walking through the kitchen door after her morning workout asking me to make her eggs. I don’t have anyone to make eggs for right now — except my husband and I — and we rarely eat them.

I miss her cat Olive walking on the skinny end of her four poster bed while she watched Netflix on my laptop.

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Baby Olive

I miss when she was very young and called yellow “lallo.”  And when we’d go to the beach and she’d strip naked as soon as her suit got wet. I used to bring a bag full of swimsuits for her.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

I miss going to the pool and watching practice, chatting with the other swim parents. That was a luxury that I took for granted.

Yes, I miss her and I hope she knows how much I love her.

Kat making an entrance into the room.

Kat making an entrance into the room.

What do you miss most about your kids if they’re away at college or left home for good?

5 Things Parents Need to Know Before Kids Leave for College

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Looking back on college orientation with my daughter, I remember some of the highlights. The beauty of the Wasatch Mountains. An impressive campus. Friendly people and making new friends that I have kept today. Here’s a look back to that moment in time:

I spent two days in the pristine mountainside beauty of Salt Lake City with clear blue skies and intense sunshine. Parents attended most meetings without their kids, who were similarly engaged with topics angled for teenage consumption.summerFun_FrisbeeGolf_LBoye_067

Having been to college orientation three years prior with my firstborn, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. However, in “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development, I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college.

“I think she’s met my son — the one who’s going to be a senior in college,” I whispered to a mom next to me. (He’s also the son who tried to give away the cat on FB.)

She answered, “No, I’m sure she’s talking about my oldest daughter!”

What did Dr. Ellingson have to say that we wished we heard the first time around?imgres-10First…

Children go through changes. But, if it’s your first child going to college, or your last, you will be going through changes, too. We are in the process of changing our relationship from parent to child to adult to adult. We go through transitions, pushing them away and holding them close.

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A student who works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Students working on campus are making connections with the campus, student, and staff. They are completing their identity as a student first.

Students born from 1980 to 2000 are known as millennials. They don’t like to suffer —  they love nice things — and they don’t mind working for them. Unfortunately, this can interfere with their education. So, if they want spending money, suggest a job on campus.

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Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

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They are learning to become themselves. Making new friends. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships, but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes.

They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels. You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!”

Intellectually they are still developing. They see things differently than before. They love to debate. They will try out their debating skills, or how to express themselves by choosing opinions contrary to yours, even if it isn’t what they truly believe.

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Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

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And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


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Day 55 Shelter in Place: Good and Bad News

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The park.

First the good news. Things are opening up a little bit in our county and my daughter and I played tennis two mornings in a row. Prior to this week, the tennis courts were padlocked. I found that almost as annoying as the pool being closed. It looks so wrong to see padlocks and yellow tape wrapping around our park, parking lots, playground equipment, etc.

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Before we became a full-on swim family, my kids took tennis lessons. My daughter was at preschool at the time and two of her good friends were taking lessons with her. My son had his buddies in his group as well. The instructor was a big goofy tennis pro who the kids called “Charlie Farlie.”

I took lessons in high school with my mom at the University of Washington, some sort of fun extension class. It was in the Hutchinson gym and there were huge windows up several stories in height. My mom and I both managed to hit the ball out those windows — several times — and we weren’t even trying! I’m mentioning this because my daughter and I do have some sort of background in tennis, although we’re hardly proficient at it.

Brick north face of Hutchinson Hall on Stevens Way East. The building hosts the School of Drama, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA. The 1926 building (architects Bebb & Gould) was named for long-time faculty member Mary Gross Hutchinson,

Hutchinson Hall where my mom and me took tennis. t

Fast forward to when we decided to homeschool my daughter for middle school. We had several homeschool families on the swim team and I envied their schedules. There were no late nights after practice completing pages of math problems or filling out worksheets for them. These homeschooled kids were really smart, well behaved and looked so happy. So we gave it a whirl. We went through a phase where we started our day with a bike ride around the park, played tennis together and then returned home to hit the books.

This week brought me back to those days. We had fun reminiscing about them and laughed at our bad shots while enjoying the cool mornings. I got a better workout than I do walking around the park. I got my heart rate up because my tennis is mostly running to corners of the court to pick up balls.

Now for the bad news. The city may not open up the pool. It’s been closed since shelter in place began 55 days ago. I was going to write a letter to the city to complain when our team was no longer allowed to use the pool, but individuals could lap swim. By the time I was composing my scathing letter, the pool had closed altogether.IMG_9355

Our town’s main industry is tourism. The hotels have been shuttered along with vacation rentals for two months. There’s no way to enjoy our beautiful weather, golf courses, tennis courts and hiking trials unless you are a resident. That means the city budget is devastated. Along with the pool, the city is talking about closing the library, animal shelter and cutting salaries, too.

We have one of the most gorgeous pools in state. Our Piranha Swim Team has a history of more than 50 years — one of the longest running teams in California. The kids who go through the program can swim in college if they choose. I think our success rate of kids going on to the next level is close to 90 percent. It was the single best thing we did for our kids in terms of activities. They were Piranhas from age five until they went to college. My daughter represented Piranhas in the summer after she went to college. I can go on and on about how great the team was for my kids, and now for me as a swimmer, too. It helped develop their healthy lifestyles, competitive spirits, and their character.

I’ll be devastated is the pool doesn’t reopen.

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Day 14: Shelter in Place

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Waffles heard he had to shelter in place for another month.

I’m a little disappointed. I was doing fine with shelter in place and we made it for two weeks without much of a hitch. Then today, when I thought we’d have a couple more weeks to go, we hear on the news that it will be another month. At least.

Truly, I’m thankful for so many things. My daughter is home with Waffles. We have our health, so far. I did have a fever and sore throat for a couple days which led to some scary thoughts. My imagination and worry had me taking my temperature every hour and waking up in the night to take its some more. I’m never one to slow down when I’m sick. But I went to bed and stayed there for the better part of two days. So, maybe bed rest is a good thing when you’re not feeling well? Who knew?

I also read two books during my hours or rest that I can highly recommend: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand. 

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I’m going to be here for how long?

The weather is gorgeous. We’re all thankfully working and able to do so from home. Things are not that bad. The news is scary and the unknown is worse. How long will this last? How many people will get sick or die? Is it going to hit us personally with our friends and loved ones?

In the meantime, I will share a few pet peeves about Sheltering in Place. One, we lost the garage clicker and one fob for a car complete with necessary keys. We have no idea where they are. They disappeared around Day Two of Shelter in Place.

Next, I have a relatives and friends who are thankfully keeping me up-to-date on how everyone in Washington state is doing with Coronavirus. But every message includes a political swipe. I also see this on Facebook from friends and on Twitter from complete strangers. I don’t like the constant complaining and griping during such scary times of a global pandemic. I think we need to take this time to be grateful for each other, realize what we do have — and try to come together. Maybe it’s because people are angry and fearful in these uncertain times and they need to vent their frustrations. Just my penny’s worth.

One other thing, I’m jealous of my friends who are sheltering in place but not working. They are clearing out their homes like there’s no tomorrow. Literally. I’m working everyday and only get to clean out the occasional cupboard or two. If I can get my writing assignments done soon, I’ll be clearing out junk and organizing with the best of them.

How are you getting through the Coronavirus? Have you been sheltering in place and for how long?