Expectations vs Reality and self fulfilling prophecies.

I have an artistic friend who sees art everywhere. She can look at the close up of boxes stacked together and see a pattern that, to her eye, creates a work of art.

I often look up from what I’m doing and marvel a little at the beauty that surrounds us. Little things capture my attention, like the way the sun or moonlight is glimmering off the rib of a palm frond. I take photos of the sunset almost every night, because there is always something different in it that appeals to me. The setting sun might be casting perfect palm tree shadows on the pool. A cloud will be glowing pink and gold. Even the storms here are beautiful, with the contrast of dark clouds against the varying blues of the sea.

It occurred to me recently that I’ve started looking at people in the same way. I expect the best of everyone. I expect honesty and kindness. I used to be more wary of people, and I still find it difficult to get to know someone. I have found, from talking to neighbours and friends, that if you look for the worst in people, you’ll probably find it.

Consider some of our prejudices, and I’m sure I have my own. People of my generation speak dismissively of “millennials”, yet I wonder, what age is a millennial? The young people I know are not glued to their phones. They are not selfish and self-absorbed. They don’t have any sense of entitlement. They are hard-working, social, intelligent and thoughtful.

Yes, we hear about certain behaviours that make us say, “Entitlement!” I don’t think that word is exclusive to any age group. There are people in their 30’s, 40’s 50’s, 60’s and older with a sense of entitlement.

My point here is that when we have these prejudices, we treat people a certain way. Are you giving everyone a fair chance to demonstrate what is great about them? Are you open enough to accept people with their differences and still see their inner beauty. Have you had a real conversation with that young, single guy, or that beautiful young woman? You’ve made your assumptions, but do you really know them? Do you know how much loss they’ve had in their lives? Do you know if they are happy where they are in life?

Look for the best in a situation, the “silver lining” to use a cliché. Look for the beauty in your surroundings. (I know, easy for me to say that here in Paradise, but I find beauty wherever I am.) Finally, expect the best from people. Sometimes you’ll be disappointed, but I think, more often, you will learn how complex each individual is and that almost everyone has something wonderful to offer.

There is a lovely quote from Mother Teresa. I am not a religious person, but I did like this. “People are often unreasonable and self centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best, anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

Whether you believe in God or the power of the universe or nothing, what can it hurt to be kind and generous and honest? It can only help make the world better.


Flowers Sea Swim: Mission accomplished!

My training period was short, only a week, but I knew I could go the distance. Three days before the race, I swam for sixty minutes. The sea was very rough, but not any rougher than what I’d experienced so far. I didn’t think I would take longer than sixty minutes to do the course, so I was satisfied with my training. It was time to taper.

I was supposed to do a shorter swim on the Thursday, but I was feeling a little queasy and exhausted, so my son told me to take a rest day. I had a little pool swim and did some yoga, but otherwise it was a rest day.

The day before the race I went out for a fifteen minute swim, just to get a feel for the sea. It had calmed down quite a bit, but there was still a strong current. I was getting concerned about swimming against the current on race day.

When I got home from the beach, I learned that the direction of the race had changed. Instead of starting at the Kimpton, we would start at the Royal Palms and swim to the Westin. In other words, someone had noted the direction of the current and wanted us to actually finish the race. That news made my day! Surely I could finish the mile going with the current!

Friday evening I ate pasta to provide my body with carbohydrates which would be stored as glycogen. Glycogen is the main source of energy during exertion.

Friday morning I swam for a few minutes in the swimming pool, just to loosen up. I did my yoga to relax and help my breathing. I carefully taped my foot and sunscreened everything except my arm, where my race number would go. We scoped out the parking areas and planned when we should go.

Our neighbour and his friend agree to join us, to save on finding parking. I have to admit that I was relieved to have them along. It helped me relax to have someone to chat with on the way there. I was feeling pretty relaxed when we arrived and I picked up my swim cap and got my race number on my arm.

It was time to sunscreen and pack up my belongings to be picked up later. My husband was walking along the beach, but he didn’t need to carry all my things. I gave him my phone, but that was it.

We were all counted off as we walked through a sort of gate to the water. I had prepared my goggles to defog them, so I rinsed off the defog, put my swim cap on, which was too small for long hair, and put on my goggles. We found places to start in the water and we were off!

Not very far in I realized my goggles were leaking. The seal had come off the lens portion. With great effort to keep moving on my back, I managed to put them back together, but not before the whole eyepiece fell off.  I’d guess that cost me at least 3 minutes.

I remember seeing the first eighth of a mile marker. After that I was in survival mode. I tried to find people to catch and pass. I tried to breathe rhythmically. At one point I was gaining on someone doing backstroke. He suddenly looked up and looked at me with a pleasantly surprised expression, and then I felt it. It was the current actually giving us a bit of a push. I hadn’t really noticed it before that.

I ploughed on. I told myself, like Dory, just keep swimming, just keep on swimming. I tried to recognize the buildings along the beach, but I don’t walk that beach enough. I alternated between front crawl, breast stroke and back crawl. The back of my knee began to hurt with what I thought was a cramp. I could no longer do whip kick. I was so tired, but I pushed myself to do the crawl as I noticed the race officials. They were waving everyone to the right. I realized that I must be almost done. I swam under a rope and pushed myself to finish and get my number. It said 855, but I later was listed as about 844. As I walked out of the water to the beach I saw a time clock with 51 minutes on it, but again, I later learned I’d finished in about 50 minutes. I felt a little disappointed that my time with the current wasn’t better, but happy to have finished.

Race volunteers put “Finisher” medals around our necks. I took my number to an official and got my gift bag. I found the food and beverage tables. I took way more food than I would be able to eat, a bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade. I still hadn’t seen anyone I knew.

Finally, after I managed to claim my belongings after what seemed like ages, I saw my friends, but not my husband. My neighbour saved a spot with our stuff and we went off to find my husband.

What followed was the most exhausting part of the Flowers Sea Swim; waiting around on the beach, in the afternoon sun, for the prizes to be announced. The Flowers Sea Swim is known for their generous prizes, but in order to qualify, you have to finish the race and be present for the announcements. We could have gone home and showered and come back in time for the prize draws, but we waited through the speeches, chugging our water and Gatorade, munching on fruit and sandwiches and pizza. Honestly, I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I’d be. I was thirsty and hot.

So, we waited, while speeches were made, winners announced and finally, draw prizes. Names were called and sometimes a name would be recognized, but none of those names were ours!

By the end of the day the prize announcements were cutting well into evening plans for others, but not for us. We hadn’t planned to do anything that evening except eat and crash.

In retrospect, I’m glad I did the swim. I’m proud to have finished with so little time to train, and yes, I would do it again.






Flowers Sea Swim: New goals, new discoveries and a rude awakening

I returned to Cayman with the best intentions. I planned to train for the Flowers Sea Swim, the one mile swim along Seven Mile Beach that has competitors from all over the world. There are up to 1100 swimmers in this competition, all ages and abilities.

I’d been told that it was a fun event with lots of prizes for anyone who can finish the mile swim within the allotted 75 minutes. I was told that was a generous amount of time and would be no problem for me, a daily swimmer.

I discovered a few things when I set out to prepare for the competition.

First of all, the date was a lot earlier than I remembered from previous years, when I’m sure it was closer to the end of June. This year, the race is on June 10. That left very little time to prepare after over a month away. Sure, we’d done lots of walking, but I didn’t have a sea handy to swim in or even a pool.

Secondly, it’s  much less convenient to prepare for a sea swim every day than it is to jump in the pool in the morning and kick off  a set number of laps. The sea has no shade, so that means either thorough sun screening or  a sunscreen shirt. The sea outside our door is rather rough this time of year. We require a drive to a more well-situated beach for access and calmer seas.

With an attitude of “Let’s do this!” I set  out the first day, a little queasy, presumably from the rum punch I’d had the night before in addition to wine with dinner. There was a current, but not too strong. I swam for 35 minutes, feeling every one of them as if I was going to die or at the very least, throw up. My head was pounding. My goggles kept fogging up. My hair kept getting in my face.

I came out feeling worse and spent the day in the prone position after a soothing bath. Throw up I did, leaving me completely spent. I was unable to eat anything all day. I had a slightly high temperature, which told me that this was not a hangover.

After some sleuthing, we determined that I had eaten some bad leftovers. It was food poisoning. I swam in the pool the following day and I was very careful with my food intake. It was time to get some training advice as time was running out.

After a long Skype session with our son, I had a training plan. I can do this.

On Monday I went for my next swim, wearing my sunscreen shirt and swim shorts and a swim cap. Here’s the thing about the sea. There are waves. It’s salty. There is no shade. For every stroke in the pool I would need at least two or three to make the same distance in the sea. I swam for 40 minutes, swallowing sea water when I took a breath, resting frequently and wondering if I was completely out of my mind. The positive was that I’d defogged my goggles and they worked just fine.

When I finished the swim, I felt good. I stretched a little, drank a whole bottle of water and enjoyed my little shady spot on the beach until my husband came to get me.

Tuesday; it was a rough looking day at sea, but I checked the forecast and determined that it would be okay in the afternoon. No sunscreen shirt today, as it seemed to hold me back in the water. Swim cap on, goggles defogged, better sunscreen on my face, I went in. It was much rougher than the day before. There was a small craft warning, but fortunately, I’m not a small craft. I stayed in the swimming section for safety purposes while my husband went for a snorkel.

It takes some skill and practice to breath without having a drink of sea water. I tried to build up a rhythm, but my pace didn’t match the pace of the waves. I later found out that the waves were 4 to 6 feet. At one point, I almost choked on a mouthful of sea water. That unfortunate delay was quickly followed by a feeling like something had bitten me on my chest. There is life in the sea. Some things bite. I still don’t know what it was, but sometimes when the sea is rough the jellyfish come closer to shore. Maybe it was a baby jellyfish.

I finished the 50 minute swim, and surprised myself at how good I felt afterwards. I just wish I felt good during the swim. Here is how it goes. I start out and immediately feel the fatigue in my arms. I push through and start to feel stronger, but eventually I need to switch to breast stroke. I look up at a buoy marker and set a goal. I swim for what feels like 10 lengths of the pool and look up, only to get a wave in my face. The buoy doesn’t look any closer. I continue on and check my watch, setting goals for myself along the way.

At one point I took twice as long to swim between the marker buoys as I had the previous run, but I cheered up when the return swim took much less time. Obviously, the current was getting stronger.

I have a 60 minute swim to do today. The forecast hasn’t changed. I know I can do it and I’m actually looking forward to it. I hope the weather improves, but I’ll go anyway, unless there’s a lightning storm.

This is even more important to me now than when I signed up. I need to show myself that I can do it. I also need to do this now, while I’m healthy. I learned yesterday that I may need another foot surgery. I don’t know how long the recovery would be, but this is my window to do the swim.

Three more days to train! Let’s do this!

A brief and unplanned hiatus

Doing nothing but sit around with one’s foot up isn’t always a bad thing. I managed to find many things to keep me busy, including planning a trip and learning a new language.

Now that I’m on my feet again, in a limited capacity, I still have the language to learn and the trip to plan, but I also have the food to buy and prepare and the apartment to clean. We’ve been away for three weeks as well. To top that off, we had company for four days, so I’ve been trying to fit it all in on limited sleep.

Now that I am able to walk, swim and exercise, I’m trying to get back in shape. This recovery business is not for the impatient. While away I found myself lagging at the back of the group many times on our way to dinner. I wasn’t ready for the trip, physically, so took lots of time to put my foot up and ice it.

I’m much better now, but still have swelling and I’m still limited in the shoes I can wear. I often think “I’m all better” and immediately the following day I’ll have to baby my foot again. As my surgeon says, the body will heal itself.

I’m going to be going away again, for five weeks. Unlike some very organized bloggers, I haven’t prepared anything to automatically post while I’m away. I have so many things in my mind about which I’d love to write. I guess it will all have to wait!

Our next travel adventure awaits and I can only think about coming home with a healthy foot and cooking again. Until then, I’ll try to take good notes on our travels.

It’s beautiful in Cayman today, slightly overcast and about 27 Celsius. Why do we leave? Life is too short to stay home when you’ve always wanted to go somewhere in particular. I confess to being a travel addict, but the good news is I’m always happy to come home.

Science, human decency and politics; one of these is not like the other.

With a lot of time on my hands lately, I’ve been on Facebook a lot more. This subjects me to a lot of unwanted information. I have friends of every political stripe. I have friends from various walks of life, and from a few different countries, too.

I get posts from “Occupy Democrats” and from “Justin Trudeau Not” and from Unite Conservatives. I see articles posted by friends who are the smartest people I know. One thing I’ve tried not to read, but can’t always help, is the comments. I lose my faith in the human race when I read the comments.

Since when did being compassionate and caring become a “liberal” value?  Why is science being treated like a liberal conspiracy? When did smart and educated people become the”left wing elite”? I started life as a conservative in Canada, which isn’t even close to being as right wing as the Republicans in the US, and I admit I’ve become more open minded as I get older. Why can’t I be in favour of pipelines and immigration? I am first and foremost a member of the human race and I believe we are all in this together. No man or woman is an island. No country, whether island or not, can stand alone.

Speaking of islands, I can’t begin to understand politics on this island, so I just follow the news and try to keep up with what is going on. I know less than ten people here with the right to vote, so we don’t discuss local politics a lot. Still, there is a lot of that anonymous comment syndrome here, too.

I am so tired of all the bickering and the stupid tweets coming from people who should behave with more dignity and compassion. I’m tired of the trolls and the blanket statements by the followers of one faction or another. I’m tired of the ignorance.

I’m not American and I’m tired of the American news. I turn on the Canadian news and I get American news. I have exactly four American friends on Facebook, yet my news feed is flooded with American news and debates and outright insults towards one party or another.

I’m most dismayed by the complete disregard of some groups towards science and fact. I saw a t-shirt I want. It said: Science, It’s not a left wing conspiracy. Seriously, one would think so these days.

My solution should be to avoid Facebook and any social media, but my options are limited these days. I’d love to go sit on the beach while my husband goes for a walk, but I don’t want to risk sand in my dressing. I’d love to go for a walk, but I wouldn’t make it very far. I’d love to swim, but I still have stitches. I’m stuck here with my feet up, reading mindless insults. (I know, don’t read the comments!)

I’ve taken to doing puzzles offline. Yes, that means on paper; crosswords, sudoku, any word puzzles. I’ve got hundreds of books on my e-reader. I just finished one that was pretty silly. A lot of the free books I download are pretty silly, but you know, that beats internet comments.

The obvious solution is to re-read some of the great novels I brought with me, or to take on another learning challenge, like a new language. Now that I’m off the serious meds I might give that a try.

Life challenge update: now what?

My father said to me the other day, when I finally remembered to call in the morning before his lunch, “This getting old is not for the faint of heart.” He is 26 years older than I am, but I know exactly what he’s talking about.

I felt great on Saturday morning, did a few extra lengths in my swim, did a 10 minute strength circuit later, and felt fine. We went out for the afternoon to check out the last of Pirate Week. It was really windy so it felt lovely to be out and about downtown. We stopped for food, talked to some tourists, and checked out the pirate ship. By the time we walked back to the car, my feet were sore. I didn’t think much of it, but later on at home, I really needed to put my feet up.

Later, in the evening, I was overcome by fatigue. I waited for the fireworks, which we were able to see from our place, but after that I was done. Even the lovely neighbourhood bonfire couldn’t tempt me.

I was in bed, sleeping, shortly after 9:30. For me that is unheard of! I am a night owl! Midnight has nothing on me! I slept for at least 10 hours.

You would think I’d wake up feeling refreshed, but no. I woke up feeling tired and sore. My shoulder was sore. Days later, my shoulder is still sore. Swimming seems to help, or maybe it’s just that the water numbs everything a little.

Here’s the thing: I’m afraid to get this checked out. Maybe I pulled something and this is only something temporary. At this stage of life, I’ve been discovering that the little aches and pains are a sign of something bigger. Apart from the fact that our insurance coverage for doctor visits has run out for the year, I’m just not ready to go for another x-ray and find out that yet another joint is defective. I’m afraid to find out that swimming is actually bad for it. What forms of exercise do I have left?

No, getting old is not for the faint of heart, but I’ll figure this out. My aches and pains are nothing compared to what my own parents have gone through and what many people live with every day. I still have so much left to do and to offer.

There’s just one thing bothering me and that’s the fact that too long at a keyboard also seems to bother my shoulder. I’ll have to find a way to improvise on the writing.


Challenge update: It’s a real challenge now!

Not only have I not been writing about my life challenge every week, but I’ve had more setbacks than I care to count.

At first I was doing great. I was getting toned and fit and I lost a few pounds. I could fit into some of my old clothes again. The first setback was being sick with the flu in the spring, then going to Canada for two weeks. I didn’t gain weight, but I had a set back in my fitness regime.

I was back into my regular activity, adding new challenges regularly, until my foot surgery. Major setback number two.

The recovery from surgery seemed endless. Even now I have twinges in my foot and it seems swollen at the end of the day. I can’t do all the exercises I had added to my routine.

Next came another trip to Canada. That one wasn’t too bad, because by then I could go for long walks and I could do a little exercise circuit in a small space, like in my parents tiny guest room or in a hotel room. I returned home feeling like I had made some progress since surgery, but it was time to get serious again. I had gained a couple of pounds back.

I started swimming again regularly, trying to increase my laps every day as my tolerance grew. I tried to add a workout or yoga every day. Things were going moderately well. Our daughter came to visit. She’s all about fitness, so I was able to mostly keep up with the swimming and yoga.

Now, I’m fighting a cold. This isn’t the every day “permacold” that I put down to allergies. That daily congestion that is actually relieved by a good swim. This is a wake up feeling fatigued, stuffed up and my throat feels tight kind of cold. This is a sinus headache, “I just want to read while lying outside on the anti-gravity lounger” kind of cold.

It’s a challenge, but that’s life. If you let every setback stop you, your goals will always seem unattainable. The thing is, I don’t have an end goal. My goal is to be fit and healthy and to find a routine that works towards that, and that I can live with. I think I’ve found it, but sometimes the challenge is to keep it going, even with the setbacks.

Life Challenge: Surviving surgery

I had surgery on my foot on Wednesday. It was a day surgery, but I was under a general anesthetic and the surgery lasted 2 hours. It ‘s my first surgery since I was a young child and had my tonsils out. I remember some things about that surgery very clearly. I remember getting a needle in my hip. I remember being told to count backwards from 10 and I don’t remember finishing the countdown. I remember having a sore throat when I woke up and a sore bum, from the needle.

This time it was a little different. I remember chatting and joking around with the doctors and nurses in the OR, breathing in oxygen and getting something to make me “woozy” in my IV. I woke up in recovery with a sore throat, this time from having had a tube down my throat. I still felt a little woozy.

My husband had brought me in to the hospital in plenty of time to prepare for the surgery, and I had a very nice nurse from Jamaica  to prepare me. He set up an IV with saline and antibiotics. He washed my foot and put my booties on.  When it was time, he helped me onto the stretcher to take me into the operating room.

By the time I came out of recovery I had new nurses to take care of me. In order to start me on pain medication, my doctor requested some food for me. The nurse brought me some soup, crackers and apple juice. It was very familiar to me as the post op “light meal” we would send patients when I worked as a hospital dietitian. The soup, a chicken broth, was very good!

By 7 pm I was allowed to go home with a huge bandage on my foot and a post op shoe, instructions to rest and keep the foot elevated for 4 days and to take my medication three times per day.

I’ve been managing to follow the instructions, mostly because my husband is a tyrant, the good kind of tyrant, who makes sure I keep my foot elevated and don’t stand or walk too much. He makes meals for me and cleans up. The first 2 days he brought me water, food, my phone, whatever I needed, so I wouldn’t have to get up. He is still cooking and cleaning for me.

The pain has been surprisingly minimal. I credit my doctor who did the surgery and was taught to treat the tissues and bone delicately during surgery. I have also been following directions well. I feel very fortunate. The most pain I’ve had is when I get all cramped up from trying to type with my foot raised up higher than my hip!

Of course, this affects my life challenge. I can’t do anything.  I can’t exercise. I can’t swim. I’m home all day and I have to eat when I take my medication. I’m having a hard time regulating my intake and figuring out how much or how little I should be eating. I want to eat enough to help my healing process, but I don’t want to gain back all the weight I lost. I am also a little worried about losing all the fitness and strength I’ve been working on.

I was told, in the literature I was given about the surgery, that the first day or two would be the most painful. Again, I feel very fortunate at how little pain I experienced. I know I was on 3 kinds of pain killers, but still…

Five days post op and I am finding this is my most difficult time. I haven’t slept well, not because of pain in my foot, but because I can’t get the rest of my body into a comfortable position. I wake up several times each night. Consequently, I am very tired today.

I am also feeling a little queasy today, which is surprising, considering that I am only on ibuprofen, which I am taking with food. I also find myself studying my foot and worrying about the bruising. Is it normal? Is it excessive? Should I ask the doctor?

The projects I had lined up to do are still there. They will take longer than expected. I guess that’s a good thing, because so will my recovery.

I am feeling the loner side of my personality taking over. When I am active and physical, doing things like cooking, swimming, snorkeling and other forms of exercise, I also feel more sociable. I take part in grocery shopping and running errands with my husband.

When I can’t do those physical things, I find myself lost in a book, either reading one or writing one. I lose my desire to socialize and I just want to be alone.

I’m not lost to the world yet. I still have a burning curiosity about what is going on around me.  I’m sure as I become more mobile again my social skills will gradually return.

For now, I’ll use this opportunity to have quiet time and reading and writing time.

Life Challenge, weekly report: My life challenge can be very challenging!

This will be short and sweet. I’m keeping the weight off and lost some inches. I’m swimming and/or  working out every day. We have a guest, but he’s pretty independent, so I still have time to fit my routines into the day. We’ve eaten lunch out twice, but I’m trying to keep a balance with my other meals.

I woke up on the weekend feeling wiped out. I took Sunday off. I honestly had no energy to do anything. I think it helped. I’ve been much more energetic since then. If you feel exhausted, take a day off. Sometimes I feel more energetic later in the day and I fit in a yoga session or an exercise circuit.

I hope to add some more posts about the local activities or about the South American cruise, once we have our routine back. I’m too busy living the life right now to write about it! 🙂

Life Challenge report: trying not to fail my own challenge…

The week isn’t technically over, so I’m not too late for my weekly update on my life challenge. I’ve been very busy. Somewhere in there I had a birthday and entertained two young and very energetic people for 2 weeks.

I’ve managed to maintain my “maintenance level” of food intake, although it certainly has been a challenge with birthday cake, happy hours and cooking gourmet meals for the guests. On my birthday I decided to say “fuggedabout it!” and ate what I wanted.

Another plus is that I’m still swimming and working out, and even added a few snorkel trips into the mix. My weight is down four pounds from the start of the April challenge. In the past I might have gained all that weight back while entertaining guests.

I have the weekend to get my house cleaned and get back on track with my workouts. We have another guest arriving on Monday.

Who wanted to know what we do here?