Why volunteer?

One year ago I wrote this post, when things were normal. I’d love to volunteer now in my new town. I think it would be a great way to meet people and feel like I’m contributing in some small way. Hopefully, I’ll be able to jump back into the pool and find a Masters team as well. One year ago at the beginning of February we had one known case of COVID in my hometown of Snohomish, WA. We had no idea what the year ahead would be like. Here’s to getting back to normal!

 

Long course at the Palm Springs pool.

I’m really missing our gorgeous Palm Springs pool, my swim friends — and long course.

I gave up part of my day to volunteer at the Piranhas Masters meet. I was too chicken to sign up to swim. I haven’t done a meet since pre-knee and eye surgery.

I took on a new writing job for trade magazines in the last few months that has me chasing deadlines and sources — even through the weekends. Maybe I shouldn’t have been there and should have stayed home and worked.

But, I went and feel so good about helping out, cheering on my teammates and friends.

Two things that stood out today:

The first heat I timed, my lane had a 98-year-old woman, who needed help to get on the blocks, who dove in and swam a 200 free. I said to my teammate and friend sitting next to me, “What was my excuse again for not swimming?”

Then there was the 20-something-old autistic young man who doesn’t function well in day-to-day life. I watched as he got up on the blocks, dove in, swam amazing underwaters, gorgeous strokes and won events with personal bests. His friend and coach told me he’s part of the US Paralympic Team. Although he doesn’t function in the “real world” he gets the pool. It was beautiful to watch. The support he got from his competitors was amazing, too. Everyone was on his team.

Volunteering was exactly the medicine I needed to feel fulfilled, connect with my community and get away from the stress of deadlines.

I recently read about the benefits of volunteering from several articles. Here’s one I read called “Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits” from a website called Help Guide: Your Trusted Guide to Mental Health & Wellness. Here’s the link and an excerpt:

Volunteering can help you make friends, learn new skills, advance your career, and even feel happier and healthier. Learn how to find the right fit.

Why volunteer?

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.

Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.

Benefits of volunteering: 4 ways to feel healthier and happier

  1. Volunteering connects you to others

  2. Volunteering is good for your mind and body

  3. Volunteering can advance your career

  4. Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life

    US Masters swim race

    Sights from the Masters swim meet.

    Where do you volunteer in your community and what do you enjoy most about it? Are you able to volunteer during COVID?

Reflections on 2010 — a normal year

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Laguna Beach in 2010.

Looking back on what my life was like 11 years ago, I was in full-throttle, hands-on mom mode. We had no idea that there could be a year like 2020 with COVID changing our normal daily lives. The 2010s had had a ton of milestones like high school and college graduations, my husband changed companies and we lost our loving dog Angus. It’s interesting to look back on FB to see what we doing in 2010, 11 fast years ago.

Here are some of our highlights from 2010:

I started a new career in 2010 as a financial advisor working with my husband. I went to Orange County and took a five-day class to prepare for the Series 7 and 66 from Tina–the same instructor my husband had a million years earlier. Nowadays, the classes are online instead of in person! I passed the tests.

I wrote on FB that Robert finished filling out his college applications with three hours to spare! He went to Boy’s State on the same day Kat went to the Kevin Perry Meet in Fullerton. Our days were spent around the pool cheering for Kat as she got her first Junior Olympic medal for an individual event and qualified for higher level meets. We spent the summer in Laguna beach hunting for sea glass and had the team over after relay day. Reading through my old posts, we seemed super busy and happy.

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One day’s catch of sea glass.

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Robert and friend Lynette during the Physics’ boat races in their cardboard boat. Lynette’s now married and we attended her wedding right before the pandemic struck, Feb. 2020.

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Kat with her first individual medal at JOs.

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Girls’ team t-shirt painting party in our backyard.

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Swim Festival in the old Long Beach Pool that we loved. It sat on the sand on the beach.

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My nephew’s wedding at my brother’s house.

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Angus. I miss this good dog.

What were you up to in the 2010? What were some of your highlights and milestones?

 

 

 

 

 

I’m back with my team!

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View of our pool with Mt. San Jacinto in the background.

Yesterday I swam with my Masters team. I can’t believe how much better and stronger I feel today. I used to whine about “having” to go to practice — and skipped all the time. Getting back in the pool after so many months of not being able to reminded of  how I used to say, “I don’t have to — I get to.”

Our pool was closed March through August and teams were unable to practice until a few weeks ago in September. I now understand how lucky I was in the past. I could leave home at the last minute and dive in — at any time. I had the option to swim laps or swim with our team. Today, I need to reserve and plan ahead. And for months, I had no option at all.

We aren’t back to normal yet, but our coach has the pool for one hour 15 minutes Monday through Friday afternoons. He can have 20 people in the pool for practice at once, each of us in our own lane. So, although I didn’t get to see all my swim friends, I saw several of them, and appreciated chatting and talking before and after practice — chatting while doing my kick set.

It’s a welcome change to have a coach push me a little bit — but not too much — so I’ll return again.

I really missed swimming, my friends and my coach. I remember at my first meet (where I was the swimmer and not my kids) a fellow swimmer told me “Swimming is the secret fountain of youth.” I really believe that because I feel great today! In addition to the low impact workout, and increased oxygen to my brain — I truly missed the social interaction with a diverse group of people I might never have known outside of our common love of swimming.

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Where I swim. View from the deep end.

What activities have you been able to return to that you missed because of shut downs? What are you excited to return to once again?

 

 

Why Salt Lake City?

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Scenic walk from our airbnb to downtown Park City.

Salt Lake City has been in the spotlight because of the historic vice presidential debate last night. Salt Lake City is a vibrant, clean, friendly yet small city that I fell madly in love with while my daughter went to the University of Utah. During her four years as a student-athlete, we took many trips to watch her swim meets and enjoy the gorgeous sights in SLC and surrounding mountains resorts.

We were impressed by the community spirit of rooting for the Utes. Everywhere there are “Go Utes!” murals, flags and signs. The football stadium is always sold out–rain or shine. The gymnastics team is the most attended women’s sport in the country with more than 15,000 fans in the Huntsman Dome.

When my daughter graduated and moved out of Utah, I really felt sad. I thought we’d never visit Utah again without her there. But, instead we rented an airbnb in Park City the past two summers. I love it more than ever. It is such a healthy, beautiful place to be to beat the desert heat.

A friend asked my daughter and me to put together a list of things to do in SLC for her niece who’s a freshman at the University of Utah. Most of our things to do revolved around food. But, all in all it’s a list of our favorite memories during four years of being Ute fans. Here’s our Salt Lake City guide for UTE students, parents and visitors:

 

Hotels

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A view of the Grand America from the pool deck of the Little America Hotel.

The Grand America Hotel — nicest in SLC, fun to walk through, even if you don’t stay there. I never made it to Sunday Brunch, but it’s supposed to be amazing.

The Little America — same company, Sun Valley Company, owns both the Little and Grand America hotels. It’s very nice but a little more low key than the Grand America. Restaurants are great, try the Coffee Shop for comfort food and amazing hot rolls with butter. I loved the gym and pool and big rooms at a great price. Our home away from home in Salt Lake City. 

Restaurants

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A sandwich and salad at Les Madeleines.

Valter’s Osteria — fine Italian, special occasion, delicious and great atmosphere. The owner Valter is so personable!

Market Street Grill — Pacific Northwest seafood flown in daily. Great for big parties or family lunch and dinner.

Sushi:

Takashi My favorite sushi restaurant. They have an excellent menu with many hot dishes, too.

Sapa My daughter’s favorite sushi restaurant. I think she and her friends liked the “all you can eat” special. Plus it was exciting because you aren’t allowed in unless you’re with someone 21 years old or older.

Casual:

Les Madeleines — small Parisian bakery/cafe for breakfast and lunch. I love the tomato basil soup with salad!

Freshies Lobster Co. — Park City must! Casual restaurant that started as a food truck serving lobster rolls and lobster salad, amazing! The best meal I ever had in Utah! So simple but delicious. Here’s a review by the Salt Lake Tribune which says they opened a Salt Lake City restaurant blocks away from my daughter’s former house!

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Amazing lobster roll at Freshies in Park City.

Italian — Antica Sicilia and Doce Sicilia. Recommended by Matteo Songe,  a teammate of my daughter’s from Italy. He said this was authentic Sicilian. The Carbonara pasta is prepared with flames in a cheese wheel table side!

Aristo’s — family-operated Greek. Delicious. Outdoor seating on the patio in the summer.

The Pie — pizza hangout for students.

Copper Onion and Stoneground Kitchen are two other restaurants we went to a lot that were always good.

Kat’s breakfast list and what to order:

Blue Plate  — Benedict omelette

Ruth’s Diner — Anything! Have the biscuits.

Finn’s Cafe — Eggs Benedict

Eggs in the City — Literally anything, if you want something sweet get the cinnamon roll pancake

Park Cafe — Michigan hash

Bruges Waffles & Frites– amazing waffles and fries. Only order a size small of the fries though

Kat’s shopping list

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City Creek Center

Love Street Apparel — super cute boutique and not expensive.

City Creek Center  nicest mall with the most stores including Nordstrom, Lush, Apple, Sephora, etc. Shop on  Friday or Saturday if you’re there for a weekend, since the entire mall is closed on Sunday!

Patagonia Outlet in SugarHouse

Things to do:

hiking under chair lifts.

Park City hike on the ski slopes.

Liberty Park — beautiful city park for walks or running.

9th and 9th — small area of shops and restaurants you can walk to and from Liberty Park. Thursday nights 9th and 9th at 9 pm bike ride.

Sugar House — more shops and restaurants

Salt Lake City and County Building — historic 1890s building with 2002 Winter Olympic display.

Temple Square — interesting to walk to and around. We never made it to find our geneology, but that is supposed to be available to the public.

Park City — day trip to walk and shop — or perfect summer or ski vacation spot.

Deer Valley — chair lifts in the summer. Spectacular views and hiking.

Skiing — Alta, Deer Valley, Brighton, Park City, Snowbird, Alpine skiing at Brighton has beginning to more advanced, plus rentals.

Hiking

 

 

Living Room Hike

Fifth Water Hot Springs

Sports at UTAH — go to football, gymnastics, basketball, swimming, etc. The crowds at football and student MUSS section are so enthusiastic. Red Rocks Gymnastics is a top five NCAA team consistently and they have 15,000 plus in attendance — the most attended Olympic sport for collegiate women in the U.S.

Church — CenterPoint in Orem. Pastor Scott McKinney. Scott and my husband were best friends from grade school through high school. It was so nice to reconnect with Scott and his wife Sara. They provided our daughter with a home away from home. 

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Downtown Salt Lake City, UT

Where your favorite places to visit and do you have any recommendations? 

 

Taking a break from Facebook

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Waffles sad face.

I used to enjoy Facebook to catch up with friends from my small home town in Washington and other family members and friends around the country. I also like the memory feature where something I posted years ago pops up.

But lately, Facebook is driving me nuts. I get aggravated that so many people are using Facebook to gripe and complain. It’s a very depressing place to go on a daily basis –regardless of your political or religious beliefs. I get upset when I see misinformation being spread and I feel a need to correct it. This hasn’t earned me many heartwarming responses.

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That’s me diving off the blocks in my first swim meet.

Yesterday morning, I made two decisions. First, I decided to go back to the pool. I joined a couple friends for lap swimming with new protocols in place. We got our temperatures checked, we entered and socially distanced as we soaked ourselves in the outdoor showers before walking with masks on to the far side of the pool. We swam for 45 minutes when the lifeguard blew the whistle and we exited, masks on once again. I struggled but managed to eke out 1,150 yards. Not bad for my first time in the city pool since shelter in place last March. I loved being back in the water. I was sharing an experience live with my real friends. Not looking at posts from Facebook friends.

The second decision I made was to take a vacation from Facebook. There’s enough stuff on the news that I don’t need to see my friends and friends of friends discussions over it. Hash and rehashed. So I’m on day two of life without FB and I’m not even tempted to peak. I won’t delete my account, I just will take a break for awhile. My blog posts will still automatically post there so my friends who follow me can see my posts. I can tell that I’m already in a better mood.

Now my daughter said to give up the news altogether. I’m not sure I can do that.

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Now I’ll have more time to spend with Olive the cat.

Have you ever decided to take a break from Facebook and how did it make you feel?

If I could go back in time, I’d do this instead…

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My young Piranhas.

If I could go back in time, say 15 or 20 so years, I’d do things differently as a parent and a swim mom. I’ve loved every minute of being a swim parent and truly believe that signing my kids up for our local club, the Piranha Swim Team, was the single best thing we’ve done for them. Sticking with the team through ups and downs was a plus, too. Not only did my kids become crazily physically fit and skilled swimmers, they learned to never give up through tough times—whether it was an illness, a plateau or learning what a new coach expects.

So what would I do differently? Here’s my list:

One
Not focus on performance.

Sometimes, I get way too caught up in big meets and best times. I wish I could kick back, relax and enjoy the little moments more.

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Medals at a meet.

Two
Not get involved in parent drama.

Like most sports today, where you find a bunch of enthusiastic and involved parents, there’s bound to be some drama. If I could do it over, I’d never take sides or get involved. At times, I didn’t have a choice because of being on the board. But, the drama and problems we lived through don’t amount to beans, anymore.

Three
Realize everybody is different.

Not every swimmer has the same drive or goals. Not every family is going to focus their lives around the pool. It’s okay for some kids to skip practice and have other interests besides school and swimming. I’d be less judgmental if I got a do over!

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Signing day.

Four
Not compare my kids to others.

When my kids were young and new to swimming, it was common for us to compare their progress to other swimmers. That led to upset feelings all around. Looking back on it, things that seemed so big at the moment, were only a fleeting moment in time.

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My son learning to dive with the swim team.

Five
Enjoy every moment of the process.

The years go by so quickly. The friends made with other parents, coaches and officials are ones to treasure. Enjoy it all.

What would you do differently as a swim parent?

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Back when my daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.

How Michael Phelps Is Fighting Against the Stigma of Depression

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A few years ago, I got to hear Michael Phelps speak at a fundraiser for Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children. It was very enthralling and I couldn’t believe the darkness he had gone through on his quest to become the GOAT (Greatest Olympian of All Time). Also, It was special to me because I was present at the groundbreaking for the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center held on Frank’s 75th birthday (yes, that Frank!) during my tenure as a PR account executive for Cliff Brown Associates. Today, Phelps continues to work to help others who are battling depression and other mental illnesses. HBO is releasing “The Weight of Gold” documentary starring Michael Phelps and other Olympic athletes that details the mental health struggles they experience. Here’s my post about my experience hearing Michael Phelps open up about his battle with depression:

I sat with my Piranha Swim Team fellow swim moms and Masters swimmers at a fundraiser where Michael Phelps was the keynote speaker.

He had some really good stuff to say and seems incredibly happy with his life. As he said about his comeback from retirement and Rio Olympics, “I got to show the world who I am.”

He said he wouldn’t trade anything in his life because even the struggles have made him who he is today. What an amazing person he is and has become. Not only was he speaking at the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children, he spent time with our local Piranha swimmers and other high school swimmers before the event. How special will that memory be for those kids? It will definitely be a day they’ll remember forever.

 

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Alex Flanagan interviews Michael Phelps. Photo from Steven Erickson, Piranha Masters swimmer.

Sitting for an interview with NBC’s Alex Flanagan, Michael was relaxed and comfortable. Accompanying him were his wife and baby Boomer, who could be heard crying occasionally in the background.

Phelps said all his many accomplishments and discipline were “all in my heart.” He said, “I started with a goal and a dream. I wanted to do something. I wanted to become the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz.”

When he talked about his darker days and struggles with depression, Phelps explained that he “said affirmations every time he walked through a doorway.” He said, “If you keep track of how many times you walk through doors in a day, it’s a lot.”

He said it’s important to “not be afraid to ask for help and talk about things. You can’t do everything yourself.”

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A lot of his strength, he attributes to his mom Debbie Phelps, who he called “the most powerful mom. She single-handedly raised us. Growing up, I learned about hard work and dedication from her.”

Abut his coach Bob Bowman, “He has been there all the steps of the way. He taught me how to drive. The two of us get along so well. We’ve been together for 20 years.”

On his return to swimming for Olympic Trials and Rio, Phelps recalled that he called Bowman to tell him he wanted to come back. Bowman was skeptical and said it wasn’t going to happen. Phelps waited and called him back the next day, and Bowman agreed so long as he bought into his program and did it completely his way. It worked out well.

With his parents separating when he was young, Phelps found the pool to be an escape. His coach told him to “leave everything at the door and focus on swimming for the time he was there,” whether it was one and half hours or two. “That stuck with me. If you look at anyone great, they find the time to do their best under any circumstance.”

Phelps is enjoying his time as a husband and father and looks forward to a growing family. He’s focused on his brand MP and his foundation that is saving children’s lives through water safety.

Although Phelps Olympic career is over, as the most decorated Olympian in history with 28 medals and 39 world records, he said “The pool is very relaxing for me. It’s very Zen.”

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Our local USA Swimming and high school swimmers meeting Michel Phelps.                      photo from Piranha Swim Team