Floating My Way to Nirvana

New experiences slow aging, so for my birthday I tried to float my way to nirvana. As a gift, my Frenchman offered me a Flotation Therapy session. I left my comfort zone, overcame claustrophobia and closed myself in a flotation tank for a total mind and body experience.

Flotation therapy dates back to 1954 when Dr. John Lilly, a physician and psychoanalyst, studied altered states of consciousness, brainwaves and the effect of sensory deprivation. His research led to the development of a flotation device creating a weightlessness state, void of sensory stimulation, which can lead one to a state of mindfulness.

At the Surface Center in Lausanne Switzerland, entering the tank felt like stepping into a space ship. When I lay out in a bath of water heated to skin temperature of 94-95 degrees F and highly concentrated with (800 lbs.) Epsom salt to remove gravity, I felt as weightless as an astronaut in outer space.

Did you know about 90% of your brain’s activity focuses on calculating where gravity is and in which direction to enable you to move without falling over?

Without the necessity of maintaining posture, your mind frees from the physical world, creating a state of sensory relaxation.

Later Ohio State University research showed flotation improved creativity in jazz musicians. The therapy is currently used by elite athletes, like Stephen Curry, to enhance performance.

Hey, if it worked for basketball’s “Baby-Faced Assassin”, it could work for me.

So I floated and waited to reach nirvana.

Nothing happened.

Once I realized I could open the door, I overcame my anxiety of being entombed in a pod the size of a double-wide coffin. Starting from my crooked toes, I visualized each bone and body part being released from every injury and accident. Then, I repeated the process imagining killing off bacteria, viruses and germs plaguing my health.flotation center's relaxation room

Therapy accelerates lactic acid removal, lymphatic tissue flow and reduces the blood pressure, maximizing blood flow. In theory in this state, endorphins are released reducing pain but instead of euphoria, my spine still felt crooked. Even as I visualized symmetry, my posture still felt out of whack with my head twisted one way and my shoulder and hip the other way.

“Your head falls back weightlessly,” the instructor explained beforehand, “so prop your head with hands.”

In spite of my deep breathing and mindfulness, after 20 minutes, tightness in my neck and shoulder blades distracted me. Pressure built up in my head and sinuses.

I began to think, enough already.

For a brief period though, I was a hidden pearl floating in a clam-shaped cocoon on the Dead Sea.

When I stepped on land afterwards, a tsunami hit.

My head ached, my brain fogged, my limbs weighed tons and I remained comatose for the rest of the day.

But to be honest, I can reach paradise a whole lot faster floating on Summit Lake.

float on your favorite lake

For more information on where to float, go to http://www.where-to-float.com/

Call Me Crazy – Celebrate Women Changing the World

Call me crazy, but I have always acted outside the box beginning in early childhood, when no one was going to tell me that I couldn’t throw a football, shoot a basket or run a mile. I was born with a feisty, can-do attitude that served me well in the face of naysayers.

In pre Title IX days when girls were shunned from sports, I stood on the sideline of the boys’ pick up basketball games and demanded, “I got next.”

In a time before accolades, scholarships and professional contracts, I trained hard for no tangible reason. In girlhood, I ran miles across the sidewalks of Sterling, defying the whistles, catcalls, and laughter by putting one foot in front of the other.

In college, while my counterparts partied, I shot hoops in a drafty gym to prepare for next season where we endured conditions more grueling than the game driving ourselves through blizzards to play basketball in empty arenas.

After my team in first women’s pro league (WBL) went broke, I had a good cry. Then I got back up, boarded a plane bound for Paris to play ball in the land of wine and cheese, totally ignorant about French language and culture.

At a time when most women stayed near their hometowns and settled down with neighbor boys, I moved to Europe in pursuit of an absurd dream to play professional basketball.

When France closed the door to foreign women players, I rode the rails across the border to Germany and learned another foreign tongue and way of life.

In countries where I knew not a soul, understood not a word, I learned to observe and listen.

I saw how people could be so different in language, custom and tradition, yet still so similar in the need to be loved and accepted for who they are.

When a car accident ended my career abroad, I didn’t pack up and go home. I married a Frenchman and stayed put. I carved my own niche as one of the few female coaches in the European international high school league.

During my career spanning 5 decades across 4 countries, I have worked with girls from around the globe.

I gladly passed on my knowledge to the next generations of female athletes who never doubted their right to play.

Over the years, I witnessed their opportunities grow greater. I delighted in seeing my daughter and nieces play basketball, soccer, rugby, and run marathons. I took pride in watching my former athletes pursue careers as doctors, lawyers, counselors, and teachers.

By going after my silly dream nearly a half century ago, I helped make it easier for every girl to grow up believing her goal was within reach.

Women, daring to stand up and speak out, have made amazing strides in academics, business, law and politics. For so many girls that courage – to do something never done before – was born on playing fields.

I never had the size, talent, or notoriety of our elite athletes of today. I was no Lisa Leslie, Abby Wambach or Serena Williams. I was just a small town girl filled with my own brand of insanity.

But I learned you don’t have to be famous to make a difference. You just have to dream big.

Go ahead call me crazy.

I am kind of proud of the claim.

It’s my birthday. Raise a glass to all women creating change by being crazy enough to believe they can!

Healing Power of Water

As a Pisces, I have always been drawn to water for solace and inspiration, but it wasn’t until I read Blue Minds, Wallace J. Nichols’ bestseller that I realized research proves water contains therapeutic powers. I joke that in my next life I will return as a fish, so I could swim pain free no longer confined in an upright human body with an injured spine.

Fortunately, I have always lived in proximity to water. I grew up in Sterling on the Illinois’ Rock River. I spent summers on a lake in Wisconsin where merely peering out the cabin window slowed my heart rate. Even when I lived in Paris, I could walk down the boulevards of the bustling city to seek refuge by the Seine River. Today in Switzerland on a clear day, I am mesmerized by the site of sailboats gliding across lake Geneva surrounded by the white tipped Alps.

Scientific research confirms something most of us know intuitively. Proximity to water strengthens the positive effects that the environment has on well-being. It releases those feel good endorphins.

As far back as antiquity people have used aqua’s restorative powers in thermal baths for every ailment known to mankind.

After every accident and injury (and I have had more than my fair share) I return to water to heal. Without pressure on my joints, I rehabilitated from sprained ankles and knees and broken body parts – finger, rib, sternum, collarbone – and a twisted, smashed up spine. I swam lap after lap until pain receded.

The head of the PE department of the school where I taught, a Scottish rugby man, submerges in icy Lake Geneva each morning to stay limber taking water therapy to the extreme. My friend swears the rejuvenating power of daily ice bath restores health. (click here)

Ice Man philosophy (The Wim Hof Method) developed by a Dutchman, claims the submersion in extreme cold water when combined with breathing technique leads to a cascade of health benefits.

Cryotherapy helps elite athletes maintain peak health and recover quicker.

Although I am never tempted to submerge in ice, I found that swimming in cold, open water leaves me feeling exhilarated and pain free for hours especially since I suffer from an inflammatory disease that affects muscles, joints and connective tissues.

Even if you don’t swim, walking along the ocean as waves break against the sand, sitting by a river, or taking a hot bath, which also relieves stress by promoting the release of endorphins, helps heal whatever ails you.

Or take a more extreme tip from my rugby friend and the Dutch Iceman and jump in. Join your nearest penguin club to enjoy the ultimate winter freeze. Just make sure you have a doctor’s go ahead and proper training first

Celebrating Girls & Women’s Rights to Play Sports

February 6, 2019 marks the 33rd annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day, an event that never occurred when I was a girl because females were not allowed to compete until Title IX passed in 1972.

But I loved basketball even before they let me play. As we celebrate extraordinary achievements of women and girls in sports, give a nod to the icons who have done so much to promote the women’s game.

Fittingly, last Saturday, Illinois State University named their women’s basketball locker room in Jill Hutchison’s honor. I felt privileged to play for Jill in the 70’s during the early infancy of Title IX, back in the day before we even had a girls’ locker room. We used to change in a bathroom or borrow the men’s locker room before our games in Horton Field House.

If I had my way, ISU would also put her name on the floor of Redbird Arena. After all, Hutchison led the way making changes in legislation at the national level mandating a woman’s right to be on that court.

That same Saturday, a legend in Wisconsin, UW-Stevens Point coach Shirley Egner notched her 300th win in the tough Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as her team defeated UW-Eau Claire. It was Egner’s 800th game as UWSP coach where she holds an amazing 546-253 record.

Unbeknownst to both us, I would have played against Egner when ISU played at UW-La Crosse. Three decades later Egner coached our daughter, born and raised in Europe, to a DIII Final Four in 2004.

Meanwhile at my old high school, Sterling – home of the first ever state championship girls’ team – Coach Taylor (Carbaugh) Jackson, a former standout player guides her team to a 19-4 record and 10th place 3A state ranking. Five sisters from the Borum and Gould families – the same girls who also starred on Sterling’s first state volleyball championship 2018 – help lead the way again.

And on that same day far, far away, we won our tournament at the International School of Geneva competing against teams from Austria, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.

Around the globe, girls are playing ball driving the baseline, shooting the jumper, taking the charge and learning through sports to be tougher, stronger, and braver.

And yes, the granny of the game is still coaching.

At our tournament, the Basel coach heard other coaches talking about my history, and the younger woman approached me.

“I loved playing high school and college ball in New Jersey,” she said. “I just want to thank you for paving the way.”

As we shook hands, I felt a surreal connection to generations across time.

It was a humbling moment.

This February, as we applaud the accomplishments of female leaders in all sports – not only basketball – be sure to remember the real victory is the right to play.

An opportunity that may be taken for granted, but should never be forgotten.

The plaque on Jill Hutchison’s Women’s Basketball locker room reminds us,

“To play the game is great, to win the game is greater, to love the game is greatest.”

And capping off the celebration, never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that one day a Super Bowl advertisement would feature girls playing football to encourage girls to get in the game. Check it out!

How to Endure Set Backs in Chronic Illness

Endure Set Backs in Chronic IllnessWhen you suffer from a chronic illness your life randomly spins out of control as you try to endure setbacks. Illness with a mind of its own flares up ending temporary remission and teaches you to distrust your body. You never know when it will let you down. And when it does you will blame yourself. You worked too hard, traveled too far, indulged in too much sugar, gluten, dairy or whatever. Don’t go there. It is not on you.

All human beings show wear and tear as we age, but the body parts of those with chronic illnesses age faster.

It’s not fair. But nothing about life is fair. It’s a crap-shoot at best. Otherwise why would good people get sick?

Like Frannie whose battle with lupus has worn out her kidneys and heart. Everybody loves Frannie. She lights up all of Sterling with her smile and fills your soul with energy when she wraps you in one of her big bear hugs.

Like my kind and loyal childhood friend Jane, who has fought multiple sclerosis for decades. When her legs give out she rides around her house on her scooter never complaining.

Like my writing buddy Kathy out east, who pours positivity in every word of her inspirational blog Memoir Writer’s Journey. After surviving Stage Four Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, over a decade later, she now faces dialysis when her kidneys began to fail from the chemo treatments.

As I struggle to breath from a reoccurring respiratory and inflammatory illness, my spirits sink, my energy wanes, my heartaches.Endure Set Backs in Chronic Illness

I cry, I rant, I lash out at the world in anger. Why me? Why not you? You don’t have to look far to bear witness to someone else’s suffering.

Why did this bacteria, cancer, virus pick my body to invade?

I rage at the injustice. Then I pick myself back off the floor and keep going.

Here are ways to help cope during those inevitable setbacks.

Rest but try to keep your mind busy. Watch Netflix series or listen to podcasts.

Read books. If you want good recommendations check out my friend Helen Cohen Bludman’s blog Books Is Wonderful or try one of Lynne Spreen’s Karen/Grace Blues series, featuring an adventuresome middle aged protagonist.

Call a sister, brother, daughter, son, parent, friend or other loved one

Draw strength from others in unexpected cards, emails, FB notices.

Follow bloggers that write/research about your illness like my friend Cathy Chester’s Empowered Spirit‘s blog about living graciously and staying positive despite a diagnosis of MS.

Eat soup.

Strum a guitar.

Form a support group.

Join a forum.

Share a hug.

Though today is our only guarantee, make plans for tomorrow.

Take baby steps.Endure Set Backs in Chronic Illness

As soon as I am physically able, I force myself to go outside and put one foot in front of the other. I look at the magnificent view around me and beseech the mountaintops, “Give me the strength to go on.”

When I can, I walk for Fran, for Jane, for Kathy and for all those people who struggle each day to get out of bed, put on a happy face and keep fighting.

We may be wounded…

but we are still warriors.

Appreciate the Pat-Down: Airport Security Personnel Deserve Thanks

My Frenchmen gets grilled at customs on arrival in the USA, but with my American passport I usually glide through security with a warm, welcome home greeting. Oddly enough, I have more trouble getting out of the country.

On one return trip to Switzerland, I was halted for bringing a tube of nutritional gel in my carry on luggage. Another time, Delta airline personnel stopped me at the boarding gate after checking my passport.

« M’am I’m sorry, you are not authorized to leave the country. »

And so I learned you cannot fly internationally on an US passport if it is within 90 days of expiration.

Everyone knows that firearms, liquids, or scissors are forbidden aboard, but did you know that you may carry on antlers, artificial skeletal bones and air mattresses with built-in pumps? (see rules here)

I would also suggest do not wear dark glasses no matter how light-sensitive you are. Do not wear layers. The more you put on the more has to come off. Do not carry anything in pockets.

After waiting my turn at security, I stepped into the full body scanner and the TSA official insisted, “Empty your pockets.”

I pulled out my prescription sunglasses and Swiss residency papers. When she told me to raise my arms, a Swiss bill fell from the papers and I instinctively tried to grab it. Big no no.

“Do not move arms in the scanner,” she explained as she goosed me. “On the scan, it looks like you are trying to hide something.”

After the pat-down, the agent swabbed my fingertips with a blue tissue to detect explosives. An alarm went off again.

“Security check female passenger, “ she radioed backup into her armpit.

“Please step aside. Come with me. Bring your belongings.”

So as trays flew by on the conveyor belt, I scrambled to collect carry on possessions – Kindle, computer, tennis shoes, jacket, mittens, back brace, neck pillow, eye mask, and an ounce of toothpaste, body lotion, and lip balm in a quart sized plastic bag.

“Do you wear any medical devices?” another TSA official asked.

“Do toe inserts count?”

Apparently so. Off with socks. Out with my individually designed silicone toe separators.

While impatient passengers stared, I stood with my arms out at the sides, as another official felt me up again.

Some folks would be offended by such a rigorous investigation, but I commend the TSA and US Department of Homeland Security for doing their job well.

In the past, as an international traveler, I waited 6 hours with a team for a connecting flight in the Brussels airport, a week before the bombing. On the tarmac in Athens, I evacuated a plane due to a suspicious package and in a terminal in Paris I saw a bomb squad detonate an abandoned piece of luggage.

I am grateful for our security officials. Throughout my interrogation, the St. Paul/Minneapolis Airport officials remained polite, professional and patient.

I will gladly strip down to my skivvies and stand spread eagle if it helps keep our skies safe. Some consider it a violation of rights; I see it as assurance to travel freely in a society where so much has gone wrong.

Kudos to our TSA workers.

How many of us would be dedicated enough to frisk, irate strangers in overcrowded holiday airports without pay during a government shut down?