We picked up my dad at the airport on Wednesday. Thursday I cooked all day and we had friends over for Thanksgiving dinner who moved from our old home town to one mile from us. It was a fun evening of friendship and family.
Then the text came in at 2 a.m.
We’ve been worried about our friend Mark. He lives down the road from us and got a cold that turned into pneumonia earlier this month. He couldn’t breathe and was coughing so hard that he went to the hospital two weeks ago. This past week the doctor put him on a ventilator and induced a coma. He tested negative for COVID.
Everyday we waited for news from his son who came down from Seattle. Every day the news wasn’t good.
Mark left us Thanksgiving night at 2 a.m.
My husband said, “What do we do now?”
He talked to Mark every single day until Mark was on the ventilator. I don’t think we’d be living in Arizona if it hadn’t been for Mark. We visited him in Arizona after he moved here from Seattle several years ago. Mark introduced me to my husband 37 years ago. Mark introduced us to our realtor and he went house hunting with us on the day we found our new home. He introduced us to other friends who are moving to Arizona from Seattle. They will stay with us for Mark’s service this week.
The last time we saw Mark was a few weeks ago before he was in the hospital. He seemed healthy. We invited him over for dinner and ping pong. I cooked one of the best meals of my life.
Now he’s gone. I feel raw and fragile. We pushed through the weekend, trying to carry on. We had to entertain my dad. Saturday we went to the ASU UA football game with a group of friends from my kids’ Palm Springs swim team — their former teammates and parents. It was a good distraction for a bit.
But now what?
I can’t express how much we miss Mark. How hard it is when someone dies unexpectedly who is one of your close friends. It’s surreal how they’re a big part of your life one day and then leave a gaping hole when they’re gone.
I wrote this two years ago — well before the Pandemic days. Back then we had a crowd for Christmas and lots of activities to fill our days. We won’t be hosting my children, dad, and my son’s girlfriend’s family for Christmas. His girlfriend’s family includes seven siblings and mom. The two years they stayed with us were amazing.
This year, I am moving out of state and out of our home of 28 years. So, although we aren’t social butterflies, I am still busier than I’d like. I’m reminding myself TAKE TIME TO BREATHE.
My children’s first Christmas picture together.
It’s that time of year and feeling festive, I agreed to go to more events than normal. But while I’m bouncing from event to event, I’m stressed thinking of all the work I have at home to do.
I have to find a tree! I have to clean out my kids’ rooms for the guests (We invited my son’s girlfriend and her family to stay with us Christmas week.) I have to meal plan and grocery shop and yeah — shop for presents, too. So many to dos are filling my lists. It’s freaking me out a bit.
The entire tree thing seems too much. There’s a tree seller down the street and during an evening walk, my husband and I stopped by to look. I only want a little tree, nothing stupendous. Just a four-footer or so. I just about choked when I saw the price tag on the smallest tree on the lot — $225! I remember when I’d pick up a tree in front of the grocery store for $30. I’ve been against fake trees on principle all these years. But, I think those principles are now telling me that it’s a crime to buy a real tree and pay a small fortune just to have the garbage man haul it off in a couple weeks. It seems so wasteful to destroy a tree, too, for a few week’s pleasure.
My son in the Palm Springs Christmas Lights parade in the Nutcracker Sleigh next to the Sugar Plum Fairy (pink tutu).
One funny story about the Christmas tree lot near our house: I remember when my kids were young and one night we walked there to pick out a tree. My husband carried our toddler son on his shoulders. I was pushing the stroller with our infant daughter while holding on to our Rottie’s leash. We walked the few blocks to the tree lot and began walking in an out of the rows of trees. Something jumped out from under one of the trees — scaring me to death! It was Sherman our black cat! I guess he couldn’t stand being left out. I had to walk back to the house with baby and dog in tow, herding the cat home, too!
Now with my busy schedule on my mind, it’s my saving grace to take time for myself. I’m grounded with my morning routine of walking, praying and writing. I am forcing myself to swim at noon Masters a couple days a week. And then I find a moment to sit in the back yard, close my eyes, listen to the birds and breathe.
What’s your secret for staying calm through all the Holiday fun activities and things you have to do?
Act like a child to improve your health. You too can pretend to be Sailor Moon!
I’m beginning the New Year with a focus on health. It is something I attempt each year, to do something more and better than the year before. I started walking seven days a week several years ago, and have doubled the miles I do each day. Then, I started swimming and I definitely have improved—from not wanting to drown to swimming five thousand yards. In addition to freestyle, I’m getting the hang of breast and back, too. Butterfly is still an enigma. However, this year after I tweaked my knee skiing, my health goals have little to do with activity.
Instead, I ran across two articles that I can do while awaiting knee surgery—work on breathing and acting silly. Yes, according to these articles breathing and acting like a child can improve your physical and mental health.
When I took a prep course to pass the Series 7, a financial advisor exam, our instructor Tina from Training Consultants gave us some advice about breathing. She said during the exam, to stop every 45 minutes and breathe. She said to lift our arms to the sky and inhale through our nose, release our arms slowly and exhale through our mouth and repeat five or six times. She guaranteed a five-percentage-point higher score if we did the breathing during the test. I did it and didn’t worry about looking weird. I wanted to pass–and did.
In The New York Times “Want a Better Workout? Just Breathe” by TATIANA BONCOMPAGNI the article gives several tips to better breathing, gives some app ideas, and tells you the benefits:
Twice a week, often between video calls or meetings, Andrew Lowenthal takes a break from work to open an app on his phone that helps him focus on his breathing.
The payoff? Better stress management, clearer thinking at work and — to Mr. Lowenthal’s surprise — more strength and power in the gym. “It’s such a fundamental part of being human but not something that we think about often,” Mr. Lowenthal said about his breathwork.
As the executive director of Out in Tech, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, Mr. Lowenthal, 33, typically spends three to 10 minutes on an app created by Inscape, a New York meditation studio. He inhales, holding and exhaling his breath for various lengths of time according to prompts. Mr. Lowenthal said that he now exercises more regularly and takes care of himself better because of his breathing exercises. “It definitely helps me with my endurance,” he said.
Long a key part of meditation and some kinds of yoga, breathwork is now becoming a discipline in its own right, with proponents offering classes, one-on-one sessions and apps dedicated to the practice. And whereas the focus has predominantly been on the mental and psychological benefits of breathwork, fitness industry professionals are increasingly saying that it can also enhance athletic performance or speed muscular recovery after a workout.
As far as acting silly, I will always remember when we were visiting our daughter in Salt Lake City and she was cranky and angry. We tried to lighten the mood, but it seemed to frustrate her more. Then, my husband stopped at a Walgreen’s for a quick errand. A few minutes later, he sat behind the steering wheel and slipped on a big red clown nose (which he found in the store.) He turned and looked at my daughter and we couldn’t stop laughing.
I found a story on a website called StudyFinds.org, “Be Sillier For Long, Happy Life? Study Finds Key To Feeling Younger Is Acting Younger.” This article inspired me because I felt so much younger by taking up something I did as a child—skiing. However, it was short lived as my old body didn’t live up to my memories. So, I may try some card or board games instead–or just stick my tongue out at someone while waving my hands from my ears.
LONDON — It’s hard to ignore tired feet and that constantly-achy back as we get older, but a new study finds that a key to a long life of good health and always feeling younger — no matter our age — is to simply act younger from time to time.
Researchers from Healthspan, a supplier of vitamins and health supplements in the United Kingdom, polled 2,000 British adults on the effects of nostalgia and youthful behavior on mental and physical health.
Woman wearing gag Groucho Marx glasses
Being silly gets tougher as we get older, but a new study finds that acting immature is actually good for your health and well-being, and a great way to start feeling younger.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated that occasionally forgetting you’re an adult and tapping into a more immature mindset — be it watching old cartoons, pulling pranks on friends, or playing classic board games — was important for their health.
Smile and don’t forget to breathe!
What goals do you do to improve your health each New Year?