The park near my home where I’ve been walking Waffles.
I have two big changes in my “new normal.” One, because our city pool hasn’t opened up yet, I finally dove into our backyard pool to swim. It’s too short to do more than ten strokes, so I ordered a swim bungee cord that connects to a velcro strap that goes around my waist. It took me a day or two to figure out this is really good exercise — although I don’t swim as long as I would at Masters in the city pool. When you swim against the bungee, it’s resistance training and I get really sore!
I’ve done five days of swimming and I’m making progress. My back and arms are killing me. I should have started this 88 days ago, but hey I’m doing it now! When I take off the contraption, I feel free like I can fly through the water. This has to be good for me in addition to my daily walks.
The second big change comes tomorrow. My girl and Waffles the pug have decided to return to their lives in the Bay Area. I do know this is for the best but wow. I am going to miss them both. I’m getting a little teary-eyed at the thought.
One of the blessings of this horrific pandemic has been the time we got to share together while sheltering in place. It gave us time together for several months that I doubt would have ever happened without COVID-19. I’m happy for her to move on with her life, but yes, I’m going to miss her and Waff.
Waffles on my lap. I’m going to miss this good boy!
Where has the time gone? The days melt into each other, literally with temperatures above 100 degrees. We’re getting up earlier and earlier so we can beat the heat for our morning walks and bike rides.
It’s hard to remember what day of the week it is. I’m trying to stick to a routine as I’ve practiced for years based on Julia Cameron and her books beginning with The Artists’s Way. I think it helps to have a routine in the best of times, and with the oddness of staying home it’s more important.
A couple months ago, I received a few emails from two swim moms asking me for advice because their teen sons were burned out on swimming and wanted to quit. They were both so sad that their sons wanted to give up when they were so close to finishing their age group/ high school careers and could go on to swim in college. As a swim parent it’s easy to go all in and make the pool the center of our family lives, too. It’s thrilling to watch our kids compete, we make friends with the other parents and coaches. Volunteering at meets and supporting the team in numerous other ways takes up hours of our time.
Our home pool at sunset.
Then poof! Out of the blue, your child decides they’re done. But funny thing is, you’re not! Then the Coronavirus hit and all the teams are out of the water. There isn’t any practice to go to. I heard from one of the moms who wrote me earlier. Now that her son can’t go to practice — he wants to. He’s been given a taste of what it’s like to not have his teammates and coach in his daily life. He also doesn’t get to substitute the swim practice hours with anything else. Plus, our school age kids aren’t in school or with their friends.
I guess the lesson is, “Hey it’s not that bad!” The complaints we all had before this shut down seem petty and small compared to loss of life, loss of jobs, income and activities. Another reason to be grateful for what we do have and realize that our lives can change with our next breath.
Me and my swim buddies with the Masters’ T-shirts we created.
What have you found you miss the most during the Coronavirus shut down? Is there something you weren’t thrilled about that you’d like to do, now that you can’t?
Three years ago in April, I signed up for US Masters Nationals — for myself to swim. It was very courageous of me because I’m not a very good swimmer. I went way outside of my comfort zone — which I’m definitely not doing now. I miss the pool with my friends during day 41 of the Coronavirus Shut Down. I decided to take a look at my one big swim moment. I was scared to death and I don’t know if I’d do this again, but I lived to talk about it! I also got to share the experience with my best swim friends, coach and family.
US Masters Meet in January at our Palm Springs pool.
In a little less than two weeks, I’ll be swimming in another meet. This one will be my second meet in my two-year swim career. I attended a meet a few months ago, but right before it was my turn on the blocks, the pool was closed. The transformer was hit during an accident and the power to the pool went out. I haven’t decided whether that was a good thing or not that I didn’t have to dive off the blocks and swim.
This time is a little more frightening because of the name of the meet: US Masters Nationals. Yes, I said NATIONALS! Six swimmers from our Piranha Masters have signed up and I get nervous when I think about it. There are more than 2,000 attending.
My coach says not to think about it, but just show up and swim.
My daughter at a swim meet with her best friend and coach.
I made the mistake of looking at the psych sheets and names like RYAN LOCHTE and NATHAN ADRIAN popped out at me! Who do I think I am to be signed up for this meet? I’m seeded dead last in my events by a lot—in my age group. However, there are swimmers ages 18 to 95, so maybe I should focus on picking off the swimmers 90 and above.
Swimming at this meet does make me more than anxious, so I have to remember what I would tell my kids and other swim parents:
Don’t worry about other people’s times. That’s right. I cannot control the fact that my friend Bonnie is 20 seconds faster than me in the 50 free. Yes, 20 SECONDS!
TWO Relax and have fun. Yes, I’ll have so much fun with all my friends and watch great swimmers. I don’t want to freeze or panic in the middle of my 50 free and have to be dragged out of the pool. That would not be fun.
THREE Try your best. I’ve put in the hard work. I’ve made it to practice for more than a year since my first meet. I can flip turn and dive off the blocks without hitting the bottom of the pool. I can do this.
My son (front) with swim buddies at a meet having fun.
P.S. My daughter, who’s a swimmer in college, will be home that weekend. She told me she plans on driving me to the meet, will stand at the blocks holding my towel, and will make sure I talk to our head coach Jeff Conwell before and after each event! Somehow, I think she’s looking forward to this more than I am!
What have you done that was outside your comfort zone? Would you do it again?
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.
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
Volunteering connects you to others
Volunteering is good for your mind and body
Volunteering can advance your career
Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life
Where do you volunteer in your community and what do you enjoy most about it?
The swimmers gather with their groups. Photo courtesy of Linda Burns.
I feel like I am standing still in cement while I watch my swimming friends fly off without me. I barely make it to the pool more than twice a week lately–and I’ve had to start completely over this year due to knee surgery.
Meanwhile, my Piranha Swim Team Masters’ friends are getting faster, stronger and swimming longer workouts. Not only that, they are taking on challenging open water swims like the Tiki Swim in Oceanside and the Scilly Swim Challenge in the United Kingdom, 35 miles off the coast of Cornwall.
My friends Linda and Karl, who were former Piranha and St. Theresa parents with me, swam the Scilly Swim Challenge for their second straight year. This swim challenge is a 15k swim combined with a 10k walk.
Event organizer Dewi Winkle said, “We are on year five now and 10th Challenge just completed. Nick Lishman and I came up with the idea in 2013 and we thought the islands are so beautiful and the attraction of swimming between them would be well received. We started in 2014 and have now built to three events a year with up to 150 people per event.”
Dewi said their plans include a race around St Mary’s as a relay event and a test event in Croatia in October. Currently, they have a two-day and one-day swim in September and a Spring Swim in May.
A map of the Isles of Scilly and route courtesy of the Scilly Swim Challenge.
6 swims averaging 2.5 km (total 15km) and 6 walks averaging 1.7 km (total 10km) completed as a group with full safety and logistical support.
Whether you choose to complete in one or two days you will experiencethe amazing swimming and beautiful scenery Scilly has to offer.
The event will start and finish on St. Mary’s, the main island, visiting St. Martins, Tresco, Bryher, Samson and St. Agnes.
It’s not a race and the emphasis is on everyone getting round safely.
While you’re swimming we will transport a bag for you which will be available at the next island. You will then carry it to the start of the next swim.
Full safety support is included.
There are food stops at the end of each swim.
The Kestrel, Linda and Karl’s ride for two days, at Hugh Town. Photo courtesy of Karl Siffleet.
According to Linda, her second year was easier than the first. “Coming out early to get used to the water was helpful,” she said. The water temperature was 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). In contrast, we swim in a pool with a temperature of around 80 degrees! Yes, she wore a wetsuit the entire time.
Linda and Karl signed up for the one-day swim but arrived several days early and volunteered to help out or “crew” for the two-day swim. The two-day swim allows a more leisurely pace than the one-day challenge. Linda and Karl checked swimmers in and out of the water and helped with the baggage boat. Linda said the support staff is incredible and includes “30 kayakers—they were awesome! Five safety boats (power cats) and a baggage boat.”
Swimmers can swim as much or little as they want. If they need a break they can hang onto a kayak or climb aboard a boat and go to the next island. In between, they are fed snacks and drinks.
Photo courtesy of Linda Burns.
“There was tea, coffee, other hot drinks. Cakes, soup, salads, rolls, candy bars. Diet Coke, homemade pastry and Cornish pasty,” she said.
Hot tea after a cold swim! Photo from Linda Burns.
The swimmers pick which one of three groups they want to swim with according to their speed. “We swam in different groups and nobody keeps time. You can swim as much or as little as you want.”She said the groups are “Red, amber, green. Swimmers self-select which pod to swim with. Red is fastest. Karl swam amber and I swam green. I was much happier swimming in the front of the green than the middle of the amber.”
I’m sure a lot of the appeal on taking on a challenge like this is the camaraderie. The swimmers must feel so much accomplishment and bond together after their swims. I know it motivates Linda and Karl to keep swimming year round and a goal to work towards in their practices.
Like I said, my friends have been getting stronger and faster. Linda said she felt great swimming. “I felt good. I got into a good rhythm for sighting and really enjoyed it—except the several times a wave broke over me as I inhaled and I thought I was going to cough up my lungs.”
Photo from Linda Burns.
Someday, I’d like to take this challenge, too. I don’t think I’ll be strong enough yet in May, but perhaps in a year or two. In the very least I’d like to travel to the Isles of Scilly and see this quaint, quiet and beautiful area for myself.
What motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and try something incredibly challenging?
I looked at a calendar to see where I’m at in my recovery from surgery. Not that I’m counting the days and hours, but I know I’m stronger and in less pain than a few weeks ago. I go to my last follow up appointment with the orthopedic surgeon next week.
I’m still going to physical therapy, but my therapist has switched me from twice a week to once weekly. I need to do my exercises at home which can be tedious, but I need to hang in there and do them. Like right after I post this I need to do my workout.
The best part of my post-op days is swimming. I rejoined Masters and I started the first two weeks only making it two mornings per week. This week, I’m proud to say, I went four days in a row! I think swimming is a life saver. Literally, because it’s the only activity I can do right now that gets me really tired and exhausted. After being laid up for more than six months, the past few weeks of swimming have been a highlight. I love the feel of the cool water against my skin, the gorgeous mountain view and listening to the sound of swimmers splashing and moving through the water. I also like reconnecting with all my fellow swim friends.
I feel like I’m starting all over. When I started Masters a few years ago, the goal was initially to be able to complete the 1000-yard warm up. I’m able to do that again, but not much more. I wore fins all the time when I first started–they were like my security blanket or training wheels. After knee surgery, it’s not recommended that I use fins, so I’m managing without. Also, I can’t turn, so I stop at each wall and turn myself around. It’s kind of funny to go so far backward, but I am making progress and feeling good and tired every day. I’m thankful to be strong enough to swim again. I realized a few months ago it was a struggle for me to make it across the living room on crutches or even get in and out of the shower. I’m grateful for my health and everything I have in my life—family, friends, and those two fur babies that are driving me crazy. It’s a good time to reflect on the little things in life.
That’s me diving off the blocks in my first swim meet.
What are you thankful for and appreciate in your daily life?
Waffles the Pug this morning after all the action was over.
Literally. It stinks. My day began at 2:20 a.m. when my daughter texted me from Paris, France. She’s over there and wanted to ask me a question. Yes, at 2:20 a.m. because she’s nine hours ahead. I explained that I was sleeping! Then my husband woke up and we were wide awake for the next hour. She explained that she rarely has WiFi and has to text or call when she gets the chance. Lovely.
My husband got up at 4 a.m. He let Waffles the pug puppy we’re babysitting (for our daughter who is galavanting around Europe) out of his crate and they walked into the kitchen. Waffles bolted out the French doors to the backyard. Of course, I’m not back asleep yet, because they are noisy.
I heard “Waffles, Waffles! Where are you?” and then the jingle of Waffles name tag as he scampered back into the house. Next, I heard “Oh My GOD! He’s foaming at the mouth!”
I gave up trying to sleep and bolted into the kitchen, where my husband was holding Waffles and yes, he was foaming at the mouth! I grabbed paper towels and wiped out inside his mouth and tongue. Then, the odor hit me. It was like nothing we’ve smelled before. It burned my eyes and nose. I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone and ventured outside to find out what Waffles got into.
My husband locked Waffles in the guest bath and met me outside and we tried to trace where Waffles might have gone by flashlight.
“What’s that smell?” I asked.
“It smells like chemicals.”
“Maybe Waffles got poisoned,” I said. I ran back to the bathroom and discovered that other than foaming at the mouth and running in circles, Waffles appeared to be okay.
We returned outside and found that some parts really smelled worse than others but we couldn’t tell what it was. It permeated the air, this strong industrial, chemical burning that we tasted and smelled. Eventually, we gave up on the dark yard, and I put Waffles in his crate next to our bed. I decided to try and sleep. But, first I googled “dog foaming at the mouth bad odor” and got SKUNK! It honestly didn’t smell a thing like skunk to me, but maybe that’s because I haven’t had such a close encounter before.
I also found a recipe from the Humane Society of one-quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and one teaspoon dishwashing liquid. I jumped out of bed and mixed up a batch, grabbed Waffles out of the crate and did my best to wash him in the dark on the patio. I used up all the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda we had and then hosed him off. Then I heard the shower running in our bathroom, so I tossed Waffles in the shower with my husband to shampoo once again.
I fell back asleep after all of this, but I missed my morning Masters swim practice because of the timing and exhaustion. And that really stinks. Also, the house doesn’t smell too great either, because the number one rule I learned on the internet when your dog gets skunked—leave them outside. Do NOT let them inside the house.
After I woke up again, I went back to the store and restocked on the de-skunking supplies and applied another batch of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap on Waffles and his crate.
Fortunately, or maybe, unfortunately, I have a dear friend in Carpinteria whose Rottie had several engagements with skunks. She said to simmer orange peel, cinnamon sticks and water on the stovetop all day, and place bowls of distilled vinegar around the house. The house is smelling citrusy-cinnamony now, and this stinky day will be a thing of the past.
Waffles and his crate in the backyard, both soaking in hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and baking soda.
Has one of your pets been skunked before? How did you handle it?