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The Winter Doldrums

The Winter Doldrums

Feb 26, 2015

By Mo Breden That’s my excuse.  I’ve not posted a blog since early January.   Yes, I know I live in Florida and you are saying “what winter”.  We do get colder weather here, believe it or not.  It just doesn’t snow and the cold weather does not last very long. But the winter doldrums is my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. As compared to where we were last year at this time, personally we are in a much better place.  Erin’s tumor is stable, she is back living her life fully, I am so thankful.  James is happy, working and settled in northern Florida, I am so thankful. I am busy, almost all the time.  The only time I am not busy is when I don’t want to be.    I recently was certified by USMS (United States Masters Swimming) to teach adults to learn to swim, which goes along with my YMCA Swim Instructor Certification.  I’m happily swimming in the heated YMCA pool, even on the coldest days and have braved the open water several times this winter without a wetsuit. So, what doldrums???  I’m not exactly sure, but I’m going to try to discuss it with you guys.  I turned 60 in July, and my age, or getting older has never bothered me, I’ve actually looked forward to it, but it is not easy looking in the mirror and seeing new lines, wrinkles and folds appear on my face.  It is not easy when society continues careening around wildly, like, well, like it always has.  I get discouraged and disillusioned with humanity and my natural instinct is to withdraw.  Chuck it all, turn on the TV, close the door and hibernate.  Problem with that is, I can’t do it.  I love life and I love most of the people that I encounter.  So I keep going, and I do the best I can to make my little corner of the world better, which is really all I can do. I intend to write more about aging in this society, but that is not primary on my mind today. Something that has been gnawing at me, which I simply have to write about. ...

Looking Back to Learn and Move Forward

By Mo Breden One week into the New Year 2015 and I find myself continuing to assess my choices and options for this New Year. 2014 had some heartbreaking moments for me personally, but it also had some joyous and celebratory moments. I worked hard for the celebratory moments and the heartbreakers crashed into me like a tsunami. I’m not a believer in New Year’s resolutions. You are either going to change and develop better habits or you are not, and the beginning of a New Year isn’t going to make any difference in your chances of success. Life is like the ocean that I love so much. There are tides, and currents and sometimes things flow smoothly and with great ease. Other times, huge waves push and pull you away from your goal and you have to fight hard just to stay in place and not get lost. So very much like life, isn’t it? As each year passes, I realize, I really have learned a lot during my time in the ocean, and each swim teaches me more lessons to help me find my way, just like my life. I love to swim…love is an essential key. I believe the sea loves me too. So when I dive into the water, I feel that I am being welcomed home, again and again. In my life I’ve learned that loving my family and friends is key to my life. I am so grateful for the love I’ve been able to give and the love and acceptance I’ve received. Some days I swim, some days I stay onshore so that others may swim. Giving, so that others may know the same joy I have known is another life lesson, learned in the ocean. Giving of myself for others comfort or joy is key to my life. It really is true that it is better to give than to receive; it’s something to think about and remember in this New Year. I work hard when I swim, but I also have fun. Some days it’s more of a struggle then others, but then there are the days when a pelican flies right over my head,...

Christmas Trees, Past, Present and Future

By Mo Breden When I was a little girl, and throughout my childhood, my father would go out on Christmas Eve, after dark and buy the tree, it was the best bargain, but not always the best selection of trees. He always bought a tree that was full, but the trees were always too tall and wound up taking up half the living room. The smell was, Christmas. We would hang our stockings and go to bed. My parents (crazy as they were) would tell us that Santa was coming to decorate the tree and bring us presents. So from about ten o’clock on Christmas Eve, till God knows when, my mother wrapped presents, filled stockings and decorated the tree. I’m sure my father helped some with those jobs, but not much. On Christmas morning, when we came down the stairs, it was pure and simple CHRISTMAS MAGIC!! Stockings, which were limp, were now plump with treasures, the tree was decorated with lights and tinsel and ornaments and sometimes shaving cream, yes shaving cream. It was messy, but when it’s on the branches for a few hours it puffs up like fresh fallen snow, trust me it was beautiful to a child’s eyes. Since there were four children in my family the mounds of presents under the tree were enough to take your breath away. Never mind that some of the presents were things like a bar of soap and a washcloth, under the tree it looked as good as gold. My childhood Christmas trees will live with me till the end of my time and will always make me smile and yearn for those warm days at home with my family.   One year when I was an adult with children of my own an individual, who shall remain nameless, but who I no longer speak to, very quizzically asked me, “So what’s the THEME of your tree”. She proceeded to tell me that I should have a theme, whether it is red, or teddy bears, I don’t remember much else of that conversation and it’s not important. My Christmas tree as an adult has always been about my life. In my first...

Giving Thanks From This Day Forth

By Mo Breden Today is Thanksgiving, and we all have our own reflections on what the day means to us and to those things and people for whom we give thanks. I want to shift the focus just slightly to center your thoughts on today and every day from this day forward. In order to do that we go back to Robert Herrick in the 17th Century, who wrote a poem, To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time. Don’t know it? Oh yes you do. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying: And this same flower that smiles to-day. To-morrow will be dying. This, the first line of the poem, was introduced to popular culture in the movie, Dead Poets Society. In the movie Robin Williams encouraged his students with Carpe Diem, Seize the Day. I will include the entire poem at the end of my blog post for your contemplation. I came face to face with, Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, when they changed my mother to a new room in the nursing home where she now lives. It hangs in the form of a beautiful tapestry on her roommate’s side of the room. I contemplate it every time I visit my mother. My mom communicates less and less as time passes, so I have had more and more time to contemplate, and reflect on the phrase. Nursing homes are full of flowers, that one day smiled and now, well, are dying. It’s not a happy subject, but it is a reality and the braver we are in facing it, the better we are as completely formed human beings. And so, to gather ye rosebuds, we must live fully in this moment, fully in the day that is laid out before us. I believe each day is a gift, although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, it truly is. For me, being fully aware of myself, engaged in those around me, and actively participating in the life of the day, is gathering rosebuds. There are no do-overs, this day is here for 24 hours and then it’s gone, if we bog ourselves down with bad habits, addictions,...

Swimming Is My Passion. What’s Yours?

Swimming Is My Passion. What’s Yours?

Nov 13, 2014

By Mo Breden Life with Mo took a pretty amazing turn this month. I have written previously about my swim life. On the 5th of November, I celebrated two years as a Master Swimmer. On the 7th of November, I achieved a personal swim goal for 2014 of swimming 500 miles. And finally, on the 9th of November I completed my first marathon swim, of 8 miles. Swimming from Clearwater to Tampa, Florida along the Courtney Campbell Causeway, becoming the oldest female to do this. Some of these accomplishments I shared with others, and some were between me and myself until this moment. The significance of reaching these goals is something I’d like to talk to you about today. First, nobody accomplishes anything worthwhile without the help of others. For the entire summer, I swam at least twice a week in open water, with someone I consider to be a world-class athlete. My training partner pushed me to my absolute limits every time we swam. We swam in some crazy conditions with waves lifting us way up and crashing us way down, we had a few “moments” of disagreement, but the thing I remember most is her laughing through the worst of what the open water threw at us. She made it fun. My training partner has a tough exterior, but she was the first to meet me at the waters edge at the completion of the 8 miles. She was choking back tears as we hugged, knowing we had done it, together. My lane mates, all of you that have ever shared the pool with me, you all gave me something. Watching you improve helped me to improve. Your support and encouragement over the past two years has been priceless. We all have had our ups and our downs, but in the end, we showed up to practice, and we pushed hard every night. Some of you were also there waiting for my 8 mile finish, and I will carry your warm hugs and congratulations with me always. This year I had two coaches. My YMCA Masters Coach took me from not being able to swim with my face in the water, to...

Halloween on Birch Terrace

Halloween on Birch Terrace

Oct 30, 2014

By Mo Breden As Halloween approaches, I can’t help but remember the many Halloweens I enjoyed growing up on Birch Terrace.  Birch Terrace was one street among many in the group of homes known as Laurel Park.   All the streets in Laurel Park were named for trees, except for one, which was named after the developer.  Laurel Park is located about 38 miles south of Manhattan.  It is basically a suburb of Manhattan, but when my parents moved there in 1957, it was considered “the country”.    Birch Terrace was a neighborhood in the truest sense of the word.  Married couples and their children occupied all of the homes.  Most families had several children and a home with only one child was rare. On most days, Birch Terrace, bustled with activity, kids, playing in backyards, baseball games in the street, riding bikes, laughing, fighting, mostly just a whole bunch of kids having fun. On Halloween, it was insanity!!!  We rushed home from school, got on our costumes and hit the streets till dinnertime.  Everybody returned home for dinner, ate as quickly as humanly possible, then hit the streets again at dark and went door to door until we could walk no further.  Our parents did not accompany us.  The streets were filled with children.  My siblings and I went out as a group, and as we got older we branched off and went with friends.  While we were still little, we had hand me down costumes.  The most memorable of these costumes was the wolf costume; it was a wolf jumpsuit and a thin plastic mask.  I can remember my younger brother sitting on the curb crying because he had lost the wolf mask, this scene has me laughing hysterically as I write this.  We never found the wolf mask, so the following year he went out without the mask, he still got candy, and that was all that really mattered. And about that candy.  We had no trick or treat bags, or pumpkins, we used old pillowcases and we lugged those candy-laden pillowcases all over Laurel Park.  When I was in kindergarten my mother made me angel wings and sprayed them with glitter.  That...

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