Removing Tons of Litter from Lake Geneva on Global Clean Up Day

From a childhood growing up in a river town, to summers spent on a Wisconsin lake, to weekends of young adulthood walking Normand beaches to raising a family in a Switzerland with a view of Lake Geneva, no matter where I have lived, water has been my solace bringing comfort, inspiration and peace.

When you are lucky enough to grow up near water you learn to never take it for granted. We were raised with an appreciation of our lakes, rivers and seas. Even as kids we walked around Summit Lake picking up discarded beer cans to take to the local dump.

Now every morning when I see my jaw dropping view of Lake Geneva surrounded by snow capped Mt Blanc, I feel blessed. Lake Geneva, on the north side of Alps nestled between France and Switzerland, is the largest lake on the Rhone River and one of the largest lake in western Europe (It’s northern shore is 95 km (59 mi), the southern shore 72 km (45 mi) in length)

A pearl of the region, Lake Geneva is of indescribable beauty, so for me it is hard to imagine why anyone would carelessly pollute this national treasure.

As part of Global Day of garbage clean up, my husband volunteered to join Aqua Diving’s club in their 28th year of cleaning only a mile long shoreline in Geneva. This year, due to the pandemic, participation was limited to 150 people in each region ,but over 1000 people helped out across the nation.

Wearing masks and gloves volunteers lined the shore of Lake Geneva’s right bank. Divers hauled mesh bags filled with champagne bottles, beer cans, plastic waste and handed them to strong workers like my husband who dragged them up on shore and sorted them into categories of waste.

“How was it?” I asked when he came home six hours later.

“Exhausting,” he said as he collapsed on the couch, “and disgusting”. Divers found discarded bikes, tires, wagons, weapons and even an entire grill. Last year they hauled 1.5 tons; this year we collected twice the amount.”

In the 1980s the lake was too polluted with waste and chemicals to swim in, so a French- Swiss transnational effort was implemented. Today water-treatment plants recycle waste water around the lake; now the water is almost too clean because there is not enough nutrients going into the lake for the fish to grow. That hasn’t stopped human littering.

Yet even in Switzerland, a pristine country where citizens value cleanliness, people still discard trash everywhere including into lakes and rivers.

I grew up appreciating our natural resources and water is one of the most precious ones.

How can anyone spoil water that we are so lucky to have access to? I love the taste of water, the feel of water, the sound of water rushing over rocks and ocean tides lapping on the shores. I adore the sight of water reflecting in the shimmering sun and changing colors with the winds.

“Every piece of litter discarded carelessly” Gerald laments “eventually ends up in our rivers, lakes and seas.”

What can you do to tidy up the bodies of water near you?








Long Road To Recovery

Recovery from an illness, injury or accident can be derailed by feeling hopeless so keeping a positive attitude is imperative.

After brain surgery and 6 weeks in the hospital, my focus was on leaving as soon as possible. When Gerald drove me home, I hung my head out the window and howled with joy. But getting out of the hospital was only the beginning of a long journey.

But after a few days of being home, my euphoria was replaced by reality. I still had a long way to go.

How easily we forget how much we have to be grateful for? Not  long ago I couldn’t walk, talk, move my left arm, read a book, follow a conversation.

Though I am frustrated that I may never run, ride a bike or drive, I am still in the game. I am lucky to have been an athlete raised in a coach’s family. From an early age, training became a way of life.

I work out as if my life depended on it. It does. I set mini goals to walk a little farther, a little faster each day. I continued physical therapy until I had memorized all the exercises I needed to do.

“With your self discipline,” my chiropractor and physical therapist said, “you of anybody doesn’t need PT, just continue the exercises on your own.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qWX-BJGyjQ

I walk everyday, lift baby dumbbells and practice online “yoga with Adrienne” as she talks me through the postures and breathing techniques while teaching me mindfulness.

Setbacks are part of the recovery process.

My neurologists explained that my recent EEG showed abnormal brain wave activity in the frontal lobes indicating the potential for another epileptic episode.

“Don’t even think about driving yet, or even doing anything involving balance or risk of falling” he said and added, “A full recovery from brain injury takes up to a couple years.”

Years? I fight off disappointment. Getting released from the hospital was only the first step of my journey to recovery.

Progress can be slow and indiscernible.

“Maybe recovery won’t be as fast as you’d like, but you have gotten so much stronger, made so much progress” my daughter reminds me.

“Reframe your expectations. It might take longer than you hoped, but you are getting there. Don’t give up!”

Look for an inspiring role model. Mine is my 89-year-old dad who slide steps holding onto the kitchen counter, lifts weights from his reclining chair and walks around the block everyday.

Depend on a loyal teammate. When I wake up with tears in my eyes wondering how to push through another day, my husband drags me out the door. We walk the fields across from our sublime view of Lake Geneva and the Alps and I chide myself. What am I pouting about?

Surrounded by people who believe wholeheartedly in my ability to recover, when my hope wavers theirs lift me up. So I face each new day whispering my mantra.


“Get up. Get moving. Reframe. Go forward. One step at a time.”

Farewell to our beloved French Mamie (Feb 13,1926 – Aug.22,2020)

Though she was 94 and ready to go, we are never prepared to say that final farewell to our mothers. On the day we buried our beloved Mamie, we were overcome with waves of sadness that come and go like the tide crashing the shores of Trouville by the Sea where she lived for over 6 decades. Fleeting memories of her emerged like rays of sunshine poking through the dark clouds.

Mamie cut the quintessential image of a traditional French woman, “toujours bien coiffée”, scarf wrapped around her neck, wicker basket swinging on her arm, bustling off to market to banter with the local merchants for the best cuts of meat and finest cream. No one would dare try to pull one over on Mamie when it came to selling second rate fruits and vegetables, only the finest for serving her family.

Though she had a difficult childhood, she was never bitter about her lot in life. After meeting at a tea dance popular after the war, she married Guy Lechault in 1951. She had 2 beautiful daughters and one fine son, who became my loyal, loving husband.

Growing up during the hard times between two world wars, she dedicated her life to raising her family making sure her children never had need for naught. Family was the center of life and her 5 grandchildren were the apples of her eye. She was so proud of them; they were so fortunate to have had her as part of their lives during their growing up years. 

Nathalie her eldest grandchild remembers when she was old enough to drink alcohol and had her first glass of wine à table with her French family,

“Mamie was so delighted,” Nat says, “it was as if the messiah came!”

Mamie made everyone’s  favorites dishes, often serving 5 different menus when the kids were little, but they all grew up appreciating healthy food and mealtime remained sacred-a time to gather round the table to tell stories, talk about food and savor the tastes.

As soon as we finished one meal, Mamie, a woman who never served a sandwich in her life, would ask, “What would you like for lunch tomorrow?”

Lunch meant dinner in the old-fashioned sense — a five-course meal with a starter, main course, cheese platter, dessert and coffee with chocolates that she had hidden for special occasions. Then she would set out thimble sized glasses and poured “just a taste” of her homemade plum liquor.
We had barely cleared the table before Mamie started preparing for the next feast, scurrying back around to the village shops filling her wicker basket with fresh supplies from the butcher, the baker and the creamery.
She lived in a 17th century fisherman’s flat chiseled into the falaise on the quay of Trouville. The small rooms were stacked on top of each other like building blocks connected by a creaky, winding wooden staircase.Her home was her castle; the dinner table her throne, although she never sat down; she was always so busy serving others.
No matter how crowded the 12” by 14” living room, there was always space to squeeze in around the big wooden table that could always accommodate one more.

Mamie could be stormy with a sharp tongue that you never wanted to cross, but she was also sunshine filled with warmth and the first to offer consoling words in times of trouble. Ever since my car accident in France 40 years ago, like a mother hen she welcomed into her family nest and watched over me as if I were a baby chick with a broken leg.

Mamie was the sun and the sea, the wind and the rain, the beach, the boardwalk, the open market, the fish sold fresh off the boat on the quay. She was Camembert, strawberries and cream, chocolate mousse, apple tart and homemade red current jelly.

She may be gone, but she will never ever be forgotten. Our every memory of Normandy is a memory of Mamie, the matriarch, the heart of our French family.

 

Trouville sur Mer, Normandy, France

https://pattymackz.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Jirai-revoir-ma-Nomandie-2.mov

86th Birthday Mom’s Child raising Advice Still Spot On

Even though I have lived abroad for nearly 4 decades, due to covid making travel from Europe impossible, I couldn’t be with my mom at the family cabin to celebrate her birthday for the first time ever.

Fortunately, last Christmas before we heard of social distancing and couldn’t begin to imagine a pandemic separating us from loved ones, my daughter gave her gift called, Storyworth, a computer program to record photographs and memories. My mom, Lenore, is having fun recapturing wonderful memories, recording history of days gone by and creating a priceless treasure for generations to come. Every week, Storyworth sends a question to trigger her memories and she writes her answer and sends it back to them to be published into a book. https://welcome.storyworth.com/

With the covid epidemic and no timeline for when we will be able see loved ones again, discovering family history, recording historical events and reconnecting with long distance relatives reminds us we need our stories more than ever to suture those connections between generations .

Lenore was only 19 years old and just graduating with her elementary education degree, when she began raising a family, 4 children within a span of 6 years. This was back in the day before child raising gurus and the self help motherhood books were popular. When her last little one went off to school, l my mom went back to the classroom, too, where she taught kindergarten for 25 years.

Lenore instilled the love of stories in me. First she read storybooks to me and later passed on that love to her grandchildren

As we reminisce on the phone and my mom tells her stories, I realize that although I flew far from the nest long ago, her philosophy of life has always been a part of me. Today, her reflections on raising children are still spot on, so I wanted to share her answer to the Storyworth question of this week.

“What is the best advice you would give about raising children?”

“The best advice I would give about raising children would be to love your child unconditionally, appreciate their uniqueness and know there is NO such thing as a “perfect parent”. The best parents are always willing to learn, change and improve their skills as well as allow their child to take small risks and let them make decisions on their own. That means there will be falls, scrapes and injuries”.

“Let your parent strategies build on mutual respect and a natural drive to get through the day smoothly. Be patient and persuade your child to calm down and cooperate. Work toward self discipline and allow them failure because a child will learn from his/her mistakes. Think of yourself as your child’s trusted and effective guide, not their dictator. Learn what is age appropriate so you won’t be expecting too much or too little.”

”Let them know how very precious he/she is to you and how much you love them. Tell them what it is you love about them. Enjoy every stage because time goes very fast. Encourage and praise and when very young (toddler age) try using distraction to avoid always saying No! Be playful and especially loving when (the child is) having a “meltdown” if possible. Remember you will make mistakes and that is OK. It is best if both parents agree and stand firm.”

My sister, who is a kindergarten teacher, wants to share this with her parents. My daughter, a pediatrician, imparts that message to the families she works with and in my role as a mother, teacher and coach it was the principles with which I tried to guide my charges.

As a young mother, my mom was wise beyond her years and even now on her 86th birthday she is sharp enough to continue imparting that wisdom. Her message is timeless. It shaped my life. It shaped the lives of my children. And it will probably continue to influence the way my eldest niece raises my mom’s first great grandchild.

Therapists in Rehab Hospital Inspire Hope

Unfortunately at different times in my life, I have been hospitalized in 4 different countries, but none of them could compare to my six week stay in Lavigny, Switzerland.

After nearly 2 months in the hospital, I am still trying to piece together what happened to me. I don’t remember any details about my fall, about the harrowing helicopter transport and emergency brain surgery or the first 2 hospitals where I laid in a bed too weak to stand, too confused to carry on a conversation to process everything I was facing.

Fortunately over time, I began to heal. But I am the first to admit I did not do it alone. I was transferred to the 3rd hospital, Lavigny, a neurological rehabilitation center specializing in treatment for epilepsy, stroke victims and brain injury. Set in the rolling hills between the Jura Mountains and Lake Geneva, the bucolic countryside with majestic views filled me with peace, but my therapists stoked the inner fire to thrive.

At Lavigny, I relearned self care, how to use muscles properly and how to regain my voice after intubation during surgery. Everyone was so encouraging and kind and young.

When I arrived at Lavigny, I felt as old as the mountains surrounding me. Tasks that I once completed effortlessly, seemed insurmountable. Maneuvering down the hall 30 feet to the dining rooms without toppling over felt as exhausting as completing a marathon.

The first thing the nurses and therapists did was get me out of bed. With words of support, they refused to let me mope around and feel sorry for myself. We became a team with a common goal— make me strong enough to function independently so I could go home.

Therapist in Rehab Hospital Inspire Hope

The village of Lavigny, with the hospital in foreground

At times I felt like giving up, but my team of therapists wouldn’t let me. With their never ending encouragement, I took one step forward and then another. Nadine taught me how take a shower safely, how to tie my shoes and how use eating utensils again.

Carla and Benoit helped me regain balance and walk without staggering side to side like a drunk. They trained me to lift my left arm again and to make a fist with my left hand. Manon helped me recover my voice, which squeaked as if I had just coached a European championship.
No one knew for sure how much of my abilities I could recover or how quickly, but no one ever let on they had any doubt that I would return to normal, so I never doubted either. That combined with the positive verbal encouragement from loved ones’ nightly phone calls surrounded me with positivity.

Lisa, my neuropsychologist, explained what trauma does to the brain and helped me regain its function even before I realized it wasn’t working. At first I wanted to lash out at all my therapists in frustration over my loss of abilities, ashamed of my dependency, my physical weakness, my mental handicaps. I complained to Gerald over the phone, “They treat me like a baby. They will keep me here forever.” It was as though I couldn’t admit my loss of skills, losses I was reminded of when I saw other patients slumped over in wheel chairs, hobbling behind walkers, unable to walk, to talk, to swallow. Contrary to my misperception, each action was a challenge to become more self-reliant, so I could live independently again.

Each day was the same rigorous routine, 5 intense 45 minutes of therapy — PT, OT, neuropsych, speech therapy —that left me feeling so exhausted between sessions that I fell asleep between each one.

When I was finally released from the hospital, I was convinced that my therapies and my team’s commitment and care, literally saved my life. I was filled with gratitude to Lavigny and its staff.

When I met with the psychiatrist in charge of my case after another month of therapy as an outpatient, he reminded me,”The therapists certainly helped you reach your goals, but what they all told me was that it was your will power and drive that made the biggest difference to come back from such a devastating accident.”

In retrospect I am not sure how I overcame such great odds alone in a hospital in Switzerland during a global pandemic. I wish I could impart that combined force – family, therapists and iron will to readers who may be facing insurmountable odds in their battles against cancer, illness, life altering accidents. The human spirit is so fragile, life challenges so insurmountable, our mortality so fleeting, but don’t give up. Never underestimate the power of love and the role you play in your recovery, in your capacity to heal .

I will always credit the therapists at Lavigny with giving me back my dignity. They celebrated every success – the day I could raise a glass to my lips, butter my own bread and walk to the dining hall without assistance- was worthy of a standing ovation. They acknowledged the courage it took each day to get out of bed and confront the shadow of my past and I will be forever grateful.

Pat leaving the hospital

4th of July 2020 – A Time of Reflection

4th of July 2020 - A Time of ReflectionOn our nation’s birthday I want to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July, but I don’t feel happy. I am deeply troubled about our future.

This is the first 4th of July since I moved to Europe 4 decades ago that I am not in my homeland celebrating the American holiday with family. Due to the present situation, I am not welcome there nor is my French husband or anyone else from Europe. No planes from abroad are allowed to land on American soil due to the Covid epidemic, but the great irony is that European leaders have done a much better job of handling the crisis than. Trump. The pandemic is under control here especially where we live in Switzerland.

The US has the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the world.

Americans are not allowed in Europe either, which is sad for European business.

“In 2019 around 18 billion Americans came to Europe spending 70 billion Euros (about 78 $billion dollars), “says Tom Jenkins CEO of the European Tourism Association.““

Europe’s borders have reopened to Europeans and 14 other countries – no one knows for how long— but they won’t be open to Americans anytime soon. Long haul flights and exchanges between Europeans and Americans look even more doubtful.

The financial fall out from lack of international trade between Europe and the US is massive; the emotional toll on families even greater.

I don’t know when I will see my children in the States again. My British daughter- in- law does not know when her family will be allowed to visit. My niece’s Chinese boyfriend has no idea when he will see his parents. And my eldest niece, who will be a new mother in two months, wonders what kind of a world awaits her baby.

Like most Americans living abroad, I am ashamed of our country’s leadership. I am alarmed by our President’s incompetence, his total lack of diplomacy, compassion and integrity.

I am worried for my daughter and niece who work in the medical health field in the States at a time when people show lack of respect for human life, refusing to do something as simple and innocuous as wearing a mask.

I am troubled by social unrest created from years of blatant inequality and lack of tolerance

I am horrified by the anti woman, anti gay, anti black, anti European rhetoric that fuels hatred and gives free license to bigotry.

Families may not be as international as mine, but so many of us can trace our ancestry to other parts of the world and so much of our nation was built on the backs of immigrants and slaves. To ignore the role of the African Americans, Asians and Europeans in the making of our country is a travesty, to sever the ties to our motherlands is a crime.

But I hope there are still pockets of America where the old values I grew up with still remain. Places like Summit Lake where time stands still, where hope runs eternal ,where nature heals our broken hearts. A place where the 4th of July is a celebration of a forgotten way of life of what is good about Americans, their childlike optimism and joie de vivre.

4th of July 2020 - A Time of Reflection

 

A place remarkable in its simplicity. Every 4th of July people dressed in costumes ride in decorated pontoon boats that circle the lake waving flags and throwing out candy and icees to people sitting on their docks. Later in the evening fire works explode from the public beach across the lake rivals any big city display. On the dock, wrapped in blankets, we swat mosquitoes while admiring the burst of sparkly colors illuminating the black waters and believe in childhood dreams again.
4th of July 2020 - A Time of Reflection

This year though I am sad for my country, I am thinking of happier 4th of July memories. Still my heart aches for family, for the lake and for a simpler time when we weren’t isolated and separated by a pandemic.