Looking back: A birthday for the dogs

robert

Friday was my son’s birthday. I miss him so much but am looking forward to his visit when we are all vaccinated. Hopefully, he and his girlfriend will be here in a few weeks. I’m so proud of the caring and sensitive person he is and how he’s enjoying his career.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1

In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his 2nd grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one eight-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swalloing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8

Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

Why coaches act like parents

coach and swimmer

My daughter with a former coach.

I found an interesting article on a website The Ozone called “Morning Conversational: How Is Coaching Like Parenting?” by Tony Gerdeman.

I’ve always wanted to know, do coaches recruit the athlete? Or do coaches look at the entire family? Should that determine how we act or behave at meets? Is there something we parents should be aware of during the recruiting process? What I’ve discovered does come into play is that when we are away, back home–and our kids are at school on a team–often the coaches take our places as semi-parental units. Coaches are the adult figures in a position of authority. They make take our place as a sounding board, confidant, and guide.

From the article about how coaching is like parenting:

When recruiting players, coaches from all sports have to also recruit players’ families.

They want to know what kind of son or daughter, or brother or sister they are recruiting. A son that doesn’t respect his family is generally going to be a player that doesn’t respect his coaches.

A couple of years ago, Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford told a story about recruiting Ezekiel Elliott when he was at Notre Dame, and how he still remembered the interactions he saw between Elliott and his sister and how he could tell just through those moments that Elliott was the type of person he would like to coach.

When parents and guardians then sign off on their sons and daughters going to a particular school, they don’t do it thinking their child is going to be running amuck and without any supervision.

It is at this point when coaches stop being recruiters and become extended parents. Most players are too far from home to visit when they’d like, so coaches have to fill those needs where they can. Including providing the occasionally needed tough love.

Coaches — like parents — have to be consistent, however.

“Coaching is no different than parenting. Everyone is treated fairly,” Alford said this spring. “People say, ‘I’m going to treat you all the same.’ You’re not. You’re not going to treat them all the same. I don’t treat my children all the same. I’ll treat them fairly. And the expectation levels are all the same.

“The way I talk to Master [Teague] is vastly different than the way I talk to Demario [McCall]. Or how I talk to JK [Dobbins]. The way I talk to Mike Weber is very, very different than how I talk to Marcus Crowley. But you have to know your players, you have to know your clientele, you have to know your kids, and what’s going to push them.

“And if they need something mentally, then how do I make that happen for them? How can I help facilitate that? And make them understand, ‘Here’s where you’re at, here’s where we have to go, and here’s how we’re going to do it.’ And every kid is a little bit different.”

When I interviewed several coaches for an article for SwimSwam magazine, I found that coaches weren’t that interested in how parents behave during the recruiting process. Instead, coaches were far more interested in how the kids treated their parents. Jeanne Fleck, head coach of the Fresno State Bulldogs, said she watched in horror as one recruit screamed at her mom over the phone. Fleck thought that she’d pass on that swimmer because of her actions. She said she becomes a mother figure as much as a coach and she definitely wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of being treated by that athlete the same way she treated her mom.

When going through the recruiting process with our kids, we want coaches our kids will look up to. We want them to develop a mutual relationship of respect. If we’ve done our jobs well, our kids won’t be horrifying prospective coaches with their nasty treatment of others. Instead, they’ll impress with their kindness and warmth.

college coach with college swimmer

My daughter with her college coach.

What are your thoughts about coaches and parents and their roles?

How to stay focused when overwhelmed

view of swimming pool

The pool where I swim Masters.

Do you ever wonder why sometimes life is slow and easy and then bam! We get overwhelmed with everything? I’ve been feeling that way all week. There’s a lot of stuff going on in this crappy year called 2020. I’m having trouble dealing with all the emotions hitting me.

Here’s how I try to cope when I’m feeling overwhelmed:

ROUTINE

I try not to mess with my established routine. For going on six years, I have followed Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and it’s served me well. I start the day with three pages of journaling, a long walk and prayer. Even when I’ve got a crazy schedule or upheaval in my life, there’s no way I’ll cheat myself of this time to get my head and body refreshed and ready for the day.

SWIM

Exercise is so important to staying stress free and to keep your mind clear. Unfortunately I have a tendency to let go of swim practice when I’m too busy. It’s my hope to be consistent with three practices a week. I’ve got a good start until this week and I took a few days off and it’s not helping me.

PRIORITIZE and ORGANIZE

Figure out exactly what you need to get done and let go of the other stuff. When I’m juggling a bunch of projects at once, I figure out what is most important. If I do the harder tasks or work I don’t want to do first, the rest is easy. Getting the clutter out of the way helps, too. My daughter is big on color coding her work and putting it on a white board or calendar. I’m going to try color folders for each of my projects so I’m not searching through papers on my desk.

WORK AHEAD

When I have a few minutes of free time, I work ahead. Last week I was waiting on work, so instead of surfing the internet and reading news online, I made a list of everything I needed to get done for this week — and jumped in on it. Lists are my saving grace. I start each day with a list of to dos and work my way through the day. Then, I make a list for the next day, and start in on that, too. One of my friends told me she crosses things off her daily lists with a red pen. I’ve adopted that and it’s so satisfying!

beautiful view of mountain and park

Views from my morning walk.

What are your methods to stay on track and focused when things seem out of control?

I’m back with my team!

Palm Springs swimming pool

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.

swimming pool with palm trees

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?

 

 

Taking a break from Facebook

pug with sad face

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.

diving off the blocks

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.

cat sitting next to flowers

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?

Diving back in!

swimming pool in Palm Springs

Our beautiful city pool where our team practices.

Today I am returning to the pool. I’m nervous yet excited. I haven’t been swimming at the city pool for months — since February would be my best guess. The pool quickly shut down when shelter-in-place began in March. It reopened while we were out of town in August.

Although I keep saying that swimming outdoors should be perfectly safe, I’ve been a little bit afraid to swim anywhere but in my backyard. I tried swimming at home with a bungee cord, which is hard because it’s boring! Plus it’s swimming against resistance.

I see one of my Piranha Masters friends at the park during my morning walks. He’s been swimming three times a week and asked me to join him this week. It’s been my goal to return to swimming, so I’m diving back in. I’ve also invited Linda, my Masters buddy to join us.

I think getting back in the swim of things is going to make a big improvement to my overall health — physically and mentally.

It’s time to get ready. I wonder if my swimsuit still fits?

bungee swimming in pool

My daughter using the bungee in our backyard.

What are you doing to stay healthy during this COVID-19 year?

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

kidpsp

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.

482023_4501677623832_667860262_n

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!

1424421_10152067957624612_1586533978_n

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.

blogphoto

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?

swimblog3

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