It’s never too late….

IMG_6263

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.

IMG_6262

Sunrise during my morning walk.

How are you spending your time while staying home? Have you found any surprising inspirations?

 

 

Tips for Parenting and Stress During the Pandemic

IMG_5888

Morning walks help keep me grounded.

I found my self getting anxious a few weeks ago. It’s a weird fluttery feeling in my chest with my heart beating wildly, my breath getting short and my palms sweating. Why does it come on like that out of the blue? I think it’s all the uncertainty around us. Will my husband ever go back to his office to work? Will we ever get to go to the movies again? Will I have swim practice with my friends? When will this end? Right when we think it’s getting better, it gets worse. The number of cases are going up. We don’t know what will happen with the economy. I have three of my closest friends diagnosed with breast cancer during COVID-19. Yes, there’s lots to be anxious about.

We were fortunate to have our daughter come home to work remotely. She had just moved into a new apartment and didn’t really know her two new roommates. They had a 24-hour notice to shelter in place, so she headed home. I remember her deciding to go to the hardware store to purchase lumber for a bed frame she was making. The very first day she was with us, she was intent on getting supplies. “We could shut down here tomorrow,” she said. She was correct. The next day we were told to shelter in place.

I work in my son’s room and my husband works in our master bedroom. Our daughter took over the guest room. We were a busy bunch until she got laid off due to COVID-19. That was stressful in itself. Also, having a grown up adult in the house took time for us to get used to. We managed to get along most of the time and it’s a three-month period I’ll treasure. Without the pandemic, she wouldn’t have come home and spent time as a young adult. She’s back to building her life away from us, interviewing for jobs.

I read an interesting article called Parenting, stress and COVID-19 by Annie Keeling in The Union, a website with news for Nevada County, Calif.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS

Despite feeling close to their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% of parents say they have shouted, yelled, or screamed at them at least once over the past two weeks, according to a new report from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (https://www.psychcongress.com/article/covid-19-stress-taking-toll-parent-child-relationships)

“For a large number of parents, financial concerns, other worries, social isolation, loneliness, and sadness are getting in the way of parenting,” said lead author Shawna J. Lee, PhD, an associate professor of social work, who compiled the report with coauthor Kaitlin Ward, a doctoral student.

This uncertain experience is asking a lot of parents: full-time playmate, teacher and caregiver can take its toll. What can you do to help yourself? The first step is recognizing that this is a challenging time and that there are ways to ease the effects of uncertainty and stress.

CALMING TECHNIQUES FOR THE PARENT

Take care of yourself. Parents know that they must do this so they can be a good parent, but it’s often easier said than done. The Power of Three is essential: eat well, exercise, get sleep. Put a post-it reminder on your mirror, by the stove, by the screens in your home. Check in with yourself each evening. How did you do with your Power of Three today?

Take a breath. Or five. Research shows that it takes more than one deep breath to really affect the parasympathetic nervous system. Five deep breaths can change your state.

Reach out to others. Phone calls, Zoom, and yard dates with other adults- physically distanced on lawn chairs — are a few ways.

Take (even a tiny) break. Try splashing cold water on your face, stepping outside or planning a parenting partner hand-off. Identify what you might do to take a break before the day starts. This helps our psyche to anticipate the relief that is coming.

List healthy coping skills for yourself and your family. Avoid behaviors such as excessive alcohol drinking, online gambling or taking drugs. Negative coping mechanisms further compound your stress levels and can make your situation worse in the long run.

The article goes on to describe tips to calm the entire family with lots of fun things to do. Keeling also discusses talking about the pandemic and how that can lead to less stress as well.

IMG_5883

My daughter bungee swimming in our backyard. It’s hard but it does help with stress.

Have you had stress or anxiety during the pandemic and what are you doing to fight it?

 

Do Early Birds Get the Worms?

IMG_0597

I plan on starting my mornings here when the pool reopens someday.

During Shelter in Place and the summer heat, I’ve been getting up early. For me that’s somewhere around 5 a.m.. I like to get outside for my morning walk before 7 a.m. or it’s already uncomfortably hot. I wrote this story about crazy successful people who get up at the crack of dawn a couple years ago and thought I’d share it again.

After sleeping in this morning, I thought about people who get up at the crack of dawn—or before—and how successful they are. I’m talking about success like Mozart, Ben Franklin, Tim Cook and Oprah Winfrey.

It was my friend, Linda, who asked for my thoughts about if swimming helped instill this early riser lifestyle in children. I hadn’t thought about it before, and I hadn’t made the connection to success with what time you roll out of bed. I began reading articles about this phenomenon and it makes sense. I believe kids, ages 13 through the end of their swim careers,  who are ready to jump into the pool at 5:30 a.m. a few mornings a week isn’t so bad after all. No, I didn’t like driving in the dark or leaving the house at 5 a.m. But it was a sacrifice we did together—me, my husband, and another swim mom. We took turns with driving to early A.M. practices for years.

Our kids had to be ready to go. They not only needed their suits on and swim gear ready, but their shampoo, conditioner, school clothes, assignments, books and lunches ready too. That meant preparing the night before. What a great lesson learned—because of swimming. If you want to have a great, productive day—start the day before. Don’t scramble around printing or finishing an assignment, looking for clean clothes and books 15 minutes before school starts.

Here are some excerpts from articles I read about early risers and success:

10 highly successful people who wake up before 6 a.m.
by Abigail Hess, CNBC

Waking up can be one of the most difficult and dreaded parts of going to work. But for some of the most successful people in art, business and sports, rising early is key to their success.

Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his mornings at 3:45 a.m., Ellevest CEO and co-founder Sallie Krawcheck wakes at 4 a.m. and Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Indra Nooyi have been known to rise at the crack of dawn.

Benjamin Spall, author of “My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired” and founding editor of my morning routine.com has spoken with hundreds of successful figures about their morning regimens. “It’s not a coincidence that all of these people these people have routines,” he tells CNBC.

While Spall says the biggest predictor of success is simply having a steady routine, it cannot be ignored that many of the most successful figures in his book wake up early — as in, before-6-a.m.-early.

1. Bill McNabb, Chairman of the Vanguard Group, wakes up around 5 and gets to his desk by 6:15 a.m.
Bill McNabb, chairman and former CEO of the Vanguard Group, has a strict early-morning routine that he has not changed in decades.

“My routine has varied about 30 minutes over 30 years,” he says. “When I became Vanguard’s CEO in 2008 (a position I held until early 2018), I started coming in a little earlier so I could have some additional preparation time in the morning. Other than that, not much has changed since I joined the company in 1986.”

His routine includes waking up between 5 and 5:15 a.m., grabbing a cup of coffee on the way to work and settling in at his desk between 5:45 and 6:15. Getting into the office early, he says, gives him crucial time for creative productivity.

“The quiet time between 6 and 7:30 a.m. is when some of my best work gets done,” says McNabb. “It’s my time to read, think and prepare for the day ahead. I try really hard to preserve that time.”

Click here to read about the next nine people interviewed for the list of 10 in the article.

Another article I read dealt strictly with creative minds and writers. “Rise and shine: the daily routines of history’s most creative minds” by Oliver Burkeman, was published by The Guardian.

Benjamin Franklin spent his mornings naked. Patricia Highsmith ate only bacon and eggs. Marcel Proust breakfasted on opium and croissants. The path to greatness is paved with a thousand tiny rituals (and a fair bit of substance abuse) – but six key rules emerge in “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey.

But very early risers form a clear majority, including everyone from Mozart to Georgia O’Keeffe to Frank Lloyd Wright. (The 18th-century theologian Jonathan Edwards, Currey tells us, went so far as to argue that Jesus had endorsed early rising “by his rising from the grave very early”.) For some, waking at 5am or 6am is a necessity, the only way to combine their writing or painting with the demands of a job, raising children, or both. For others, it’s a way to avoid interruption: at that hour, as Hemingway wrote, “There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”

There’s another, surprising argument in favour of rising early, which might persuade sceptics: that early-morning drowsiness might actually be helpful. At one point in his career, the novelist Nicholson Baker took to getting up at 4.30am, and he liked what it did to his brain: “The mind is newly cleansed, but it’s also befuddled… I found that I wrote differently then.”

From LifeHack.com I found “This is Why Productive People Always Wake Up So Early” written by Ciara Conlon. She made a number of interesting points from finding quiet time, time to exercise and finding your muse:

Successful people are very often early risers. From Franklin to Obama, from Branson to Darwin, all were known to rise with the morning sun. Whatever their motivations, they all reaped the benefits of putting their feet on the floor before the cock opened its beak.

The Winner’s Mindset
There is a sense of control acquired from beating the inner voice. If your mind wins the battle between victim and success, things start on a high note and usually only get better. Recognizing the voice is your best defense against him. When the alarm goes off and the voice tells you that you went to bed far too late to get up this early, or that five more minutes won’t hurt, DON’T LISTEN! Those who stay in bed won’t be competition for the big guys, but they will have to watch out for you. When you are in charge of the inner voice, there will be no stopping you.

More Time
If you were to get up just one hour earlier each morning you would gain 15 days in a year. Scary when you put it like that. How many days of our lives do we waste sleeping? I don’t know about you, but I have too much I want to achieve to waste my life in this way. If you are time deficient, sleep less. We only need six to seven hours a night. Any more is wasting life.

Get Active
The morning is a great time to exercise. It sets you up for the day with energy, focus, and enthusiasm. Some mornings when I come back from my new habit of running, I feel invincible. Stress has to work a lot harder to get hold of me, and all my relationships are happier and calmer. Exercising in the morning will make you more productive and contribute to making you more successful.

After reading all these articles yesterday and understanding how effective it is to get up early—why did I sleep in? Well, the main reason is that my husband is an early riser. His alarm goes off at 3:45 a.m. and he uses the quiet time to read about markets around the world and prepare for his day. I know I enjoy my quiet time in the morning so I let him have his space. I usually get up when I hear the garage shut. My goal, beginning in September, is to be an early riser and get to the pool for 5:30 a.m. practice, three days a week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

20746242_10214458425398231_3553132080478612037_o

Morning walk at the beach

What benefits do you experience by being an early riser? Or, do you get up later in the day and how does that help you? What’s your morning routine?

Day 50: Shelter in Place

IMG_5672

Someone is sporting some fancy toenails! 

It’s a milestone day. I seriously thought this was only going to last for 40 days and 40 nights. That seemed reasonable and I thought if Noah could last that long confined to an ark with a bunch of smelly animals, then we could do the same in our home, with one cat and a pug.

But here we are on day 50 and there’s really no end in sight. Except they may open the tennis and pickle ball courts. But I don’t play those sports. No word about the city pool or when my team will be back in the water. I hear that retail is opening up for curbside pick up. But when you’re not going anywhere — what does anyone really need?

On the bright side, we’re saving a ton of money on gasoline, dry cleaning and nail and hair appointments.

IMG_5666

Views of Mt. San Jacinto from my neighborhood walk.

I’m walking 10,000 steps a day.  Other highlights are riding bikes, kicking in our backyard pool and playing the occasional game of smashball in the water. I’m also reading, writing and watching music documentaries. That’s my week in a nutshell. It’s not a bad life. It’s just weird to walk with a face mask and feel like I’m taking my life in danger every time I go to the grocery store or post office.

Some days I’m motivated and have lots of ideas and make lists of what I want to accomplish. Other days, not so much.

IMG_5662

I found a pirate hiding in the bushes!

Any idea of how many days this shelter in place will last? Are things opening up in your area? What are you busy doing during these strange days?

Morning Motivation: Get out and walk!

Two years ago, I wrote this about my morning walks post knee surgery. It was a long struggle to get back to normal. Now, I’m hobbling around the park and neighborhood — again. This time the injury isn’t as dramatic as a ski accident, but instead is me stubbing my toes against the tub and furniture, repeatedly! A little clumsiness has made my normal activities a challenge. Is that pathetic or what? I desperately need my walks during this “shelter in place” so I haven’t stopped. I’m slower and gritting my teeth the entire way, but I’m doing it. It’s fun to look back on when I was really struggling and the milestones I accomplished.

IMG_0796

The view of Mt. San Jacinto from the park this morning.

MAY 2018

Today I reached a milestone. I walked around the park. I appreciate my morning walks more than ever. After my surgery, for weeks I couldn’t walk to the bathroom, around the block, let alone to the park. Waking up early to the brilliant blue sky and the beauty of the desert makes me feel hopeful. Each day I’m trying to get a little further and build on what I’ve done the day before. This weekend, I walked 1.2 miles, then 1.3 miles. Today, the complete walk around the park made it 1.6 miles.

What’s even more fun is having my daughter and Waffles walk with me. I look forward to spending that slice of time with her. Waffles meets other doggos along our walks each day and we stop and let him play. I only have a few weeks left of my daughter at home and we’ll make the most of it.

IMG_0781

A morning walk this weekend in Las Palmas.

I used to walk much more, and twice a day. But, I am just so happy to get outside and enjoy the gorgeous views and feel the slightest bit physical. I wish I had more energy, but if I compare myself to where I was a month or two ago, I’m absolutely dripping with energy today. When I go to the pool, it is so exhausting to swim. That probably means it’s really good for me. I will try to add more days of swimming to my week, along with daily walks and physical therapy.

IMG_0782

Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway

What is your favorite way to start your day?

Another good reason to walk: a longer life

IMG_5012

The Wellness Park

I’m big on walking. I’ve walked everyday for the past five or six years — except when I had a ski accident and knee surgery. But everyday — except for those months — I walk at least 10,000 steps a say.

It’s a great way to start my day. It gets oxygen flowing through my brain and stiff joints. It helps me manage stress. I am impressed by the beauty I see and hear, like the singing birds, clouds, blue skies, flowers, mountains — whatever lies in my path is a sheer delight.

So, when I saw a tweet that said, “Steps For Longer Life: The More You Walk, The Less Likely You’ll Die, Study Finds” I had to click on it. 

Here’s the entire article to read by John Anderer from StudyFinds.com. The study is published in JAMA. 

BETHESDA, Md. — Get up and start walking. The more you do it, the longer you may live. That’s the main piece of advice from a new study that found a higher daily step count is associated with a lower mortality risk from all causes. Who needs the couch anyway?

Even better, the study also noted that it’s not about intensity; you don’t have to run or even jog all day to enjoy a longer life. Just put one foot in front of the other.

The study was conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Aging, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While we knew physical activity is good for you, we didn’t know how many steps per day you need to take to lower your mortality risk or whether stepping at a higher intensity makes a difference,” says Pedro Saint-Maurice, Ph.D., of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, first author of the study, in a release. “We wanted to investigate this question to provide new insights that could help people better understand the health implications of the step counts they get from fitness trackers and phone apps.”

There have been other studies performed in the past on walking and lifespan, but those projects focused heavily on the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions. This study, however, examined a sample of roughly 4,800 U.S. adults aged 40 and over who wore tracking devices for up to seven days between 2003-2006. After that, each person’s lifespan was tracked up until 2015 using the National Death Index.

After accounting for a range of potentially contributing demographic and behavioral factors, they found a significant connection between steps taken daily and mortality risk.

Generally speaking, 4,000 steps per day is thought to be low for adults. Participants who walked 8,000 steps per day had a 51% lower risk of dying from any cause than those who only walked 4,000 steps per day. Moreover, 12,000 steps per day was linked to a 65% lower mortality risk than 4,000 daily steps. Again, there was no connection found between step intensity and mortality risk.

My husband and I wear Fitbits and we love to get that little celebratory vibration and animated fireworks when we hit 10,000 steps each day. In today’s Coronavirus world, walking to and around the park is one of the only things we’re allowed to enjoy. However, I did return to bike riding and that is another exciting thing to do, too.

IMG_5005 2

Sunrise on a morning walk.

Do you walk everyday? If, so how many steps are in your daily goal?

Day 17: It’s a Good Day to Shelter in Place

IMG_5457

The Wellness Park during my morning walk.

I’m in a great mood today! I finally sent off the last of four magazine stories that were on deadline. It fills like a great weight has flown off my shoulders. WooHoo! Now what?

I feel like I can do all the things I’ve been wanting to do, but didn’t have any time, like cleaning out the laundry room, my closet, do the taxes and make tamales with my daughter. We’re also going to try DIY pedicures later today.

The stories I’ve been working on were for trade magazines and I found them interesting, but challenging. I had to call to interview various business during “Shelter in Place” for most of the nation. I made a ton of calls to get a very few live people on the phone. Mostly businesses have a message that they are closed due to COVID-19. But, I eeked out enough and talked with some very interesting people. I learned how they are coping with these strange and uncertain times in places around the country very different from where I live. It was educational to say the least.

Now that I’m done, I’m proud to report that our Shelter in Place is going well. We are all getting along. That’s remarkable, since we have three adults working under one roof.

IMG_5463

Too much raw pork makes pup’s tummy ache.

The only problem we encountered was Waffles, who ate last night’s dinner of pork chops while it was defrosting. I had the package out on the counter. My husband moved it into the sun on a bench in the back yard. Waffles jumped up and ate a pound of raw pork and plastic wrap while nobody was watching! He’s finally getting back to normal a day later.

IMG_5448

My new scarf-mask look when I leave the house.

What’s going on in your part of the country with Coronavirus? Are you sheltering in place and working from home?