Gold Medal Shot

Gold Medal Shot
Jason Lezak and Me!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cool air, cool water

Record-breaking temps here, nearly cooked us all when the A/C stopped working. Plumbline told us that it would cost too much to fix and we should spend $7,000 on a new unit (at minimum). Bill from 1st Call came over and fixed it in a half-hour for less than $500.

To celebrate the cooler air in our house and the cool water of the pool, here's a swim poem:

Mom Watches Child Swimming

Can you be what I cannot?
Sinuous, flowing, far-reaching, fast.
A creature of water, exhaling silver circles,
Watching light bounce off your fingertips
As you extend from the shoulder,
Hips rolling, chin turning.
Your inhalation finds 
Narrow channel of oxygen between
Body and wake.
Flexible feet beat in six-eight time
Through turquoise medium, 
Splitting the atoms
So chlorine releases to air –
A jet trail of clear water marking your flight.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Longest Day

Today has been a string of sleeping teens who won't wake, broken bicycles, late appointments and near-tears-reaching-for-a-hankie moments. My brain liquefied and drizzled out through my ears and I think the best blog entry format will be short poetry, for today and the foreseeable future.

Here's one I wrote at the library during Daniel's math tutoring session. I scribbled it on a piece of paper pulled from the recycle bin because I left my backpack at home. (See previous paragraph). Perhaps the lines will partially explain my addled state.

Longest Day

Dizzy, tipsy,
Dark circles drooping
From runny eyes weeping
Sunscreen stings and sleepless nights.
Pencil red around the white
Light explodes early startling
Robins, wrens and doves mourning
Loss of night as hooting
Gives way to cackle-chatter, gossipy
Glorious dawn song.
Sly husband steals sheets, covers
Face against cat scratching, nails sliding,
Slipping down bedroom door.
Tiptoe downstairs, cradle quiet
Stillness, kitty crunching,
Settle in for longest day.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sibling Rivalry

Ah, summer. A petri dish for petulance, rivalry, complaints.  "He can't eat MY crackers!" says one, though I'm the one who bought the crackers, a gigantic CostCo bag that will take a week to empty even at the current carnivorous rate.  "He doesn't like my shoes!" says another, as if a brother's approval is required to don appropriate footwear. "He got into the car the wrong way" - an inexplicable stoop to the silliest of accusations.  Here's a short poem, an ode to summer sibling rivalry.

Sibling Rivalry

The voices spiral upward in supplication,
With anger at supposed injustices or in fear of retribution.
They swirl and bind me, helpless as a bull's eye, 
Where the accused descend like arrows, 
Demand arbitration (never mediation), conviction and sentencing,
Yet stubbornly refuse to accept my verdict.

Instead seek out the cracks in my armor,
The bias in my reasoning. 
Prove my prejudice, turn their ire toward me.

At least then they stop fighting each other.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Summer Swim Fest

First home meet of the season. Air temp a chill 58 degrees, pool water at 80 and slightly steamy. Adults clutching coffee cups and young children shivering, searching for towels, goggles, swim caps. My kids are the veterans now, the cheerleaders and assistant coaches, and I am the oddball oldtimer, sitting in the shade of a pine tree and working on my laptop.

But we still love the sport, still rally to cheer for the 6 and Unders swimming their first solo lap to the cheers of the crowd. The feeling of relief when the big kids finish a 200 free on minimal training, the delight when the meet runs quickly and finishes ahead of schedule, perhaps in time for lunch and a nap.

Earlier this week I had the privilege and thrill of meeting Jason Lezak, who competed in four Olympics and won eight swimming medals for the United States. Lezak swam possibly the greatest relay leg of all time, anchoring the US 400 Free Relay in the 2008 Games in Beijing (Relay You Tube).  I unabashedly lined up with the kids to get my photo taken (see above) and then my coworkers surprised me with an autographed print of the photo, upon which Lezak had written "Dream Big."

I'm almost to a half-century on this beautiful earth, and those words still have the power to thrill and motivate. Lezak's pep - talk to the swimmers worked for me, too, especially his description of failures and how he learned from them. The older I get, the more I realize that our failures and mistakes are key components of our ultimate success. Would Lezak have stayed in the sport, have been able to come from behind against a world-record-holder, if he had not made big mistakes in previous Olympics?

We can still dream big, we can fall hard, and we can make our falls into the building blocks of our future success. That's a lesson I want to teach my kids, and all of these little swimmers running around on the dewy grass, smelling of suntan lotion and sugar. It's a lesson for a sport that never grows old.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In the Shelter of Each Other

I belong to a group that issues their invitations with the following phrase, "In the shelter of each other . . .."  The events that they stage include potlucks, prayer, salsa and singing. The most recent invite was for a singalong. On my Facebook Messenger app it read, "In the shelter of each other, the people karaoke!"  Quirky, funny, heartwarming.

While I hurriedly painted the bathroom this week (it was on my list of things to accomplish before summer break, which starts tomorrow), that invitation ran through my head like a meditation. Each time I picked up the brush, dampened the roller, or paper-toweled my mistakes, I heard the refrain "In the shelter of each other." It reassured me, brought a smile to my face, made me wish I had been able to go to karaoke.

The beloved community, "everyday's Most quiet need," as per Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The bonds between us grow stronger when we let ourselves be vulnerable in community. We share joys, and heartaches, we salsa and we karaoke. The common theme among these activities? We are face-to-face, we pay attention, we let go our reserve.

Upon reflection, the group's invitations do not read "in the shelter of each other, the people watch TV, see a movie, play video games, look at their phones."  We can do those activities in large groups and still feel alone, but I challenge you to feel alone while attempting the salsa, or delivering "Take me home, country road" via karaoke machine. I am no expert, but I think many of the world's ills could be solved by acting "in the shelter of each other."

Monday, May 22, 2017

Homecoming and Homeleaving

My friend Ingrid, who has been in Sanctuary at a Friends Meeting since late October, 2016, was granted a temporary stay of deportation so that she could pursue her court case safely. She went home joyfully with her two sons and partner last Saturday. Though the stay only extends through early August, it enables the family to spend their summer together, and allows the boys to play outside with their mother.

It's wonderful that Ingrid has the opportunity to pursue her constitutional and human rights, that she will be allowed to follow legal channels to appeal her immigration case. Many thousands of individuals locked in immigrant detention do not have that opportunity, and it is a blemish on our nation. To remind us of why people risk their lives to come here, I copied Warsan Shire's incredible poem below. Shire is a Syrian refugee and the words speak for the plight of those fleeing poverty, war, abuse, danger of any kind.

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
--Warsan Shire
(About the Syrian refugee crisis)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Happy Birthday to William

May 18 dawned with snow falling and spring flowers freezing in their roots. My newly minted fourteen-year-old stumbled downstairs, grumbling a response to my cheery birthday wishes. After a minute or two on the phone registering Snapchat HBD's from friends, however,  his smile lit the room. Ah, teenagers.

The kids had five different activities between 3:45 and 6:30 last night, and the pressure to rally for a good birthday weighed heavily on me. Good thing Aden likes to bake - and procrastinate. While putting off a final English essay, she decided to construct the leaning tower of Pisa. I had purchased both chocolate and a vanilla (gluten free) cake mixes, thinking to give William a choice of flavors. In his absence and in favor of both surprise and overwhelm, Aden decided to use both to create an alternating vanilla-chocolate, four-layer masterpiece.

Relegating to sous-chef, I watched in amusement as she skillfully constructed her tribute to a teenage brother. We ran out of frosting, so the cake looks like it put a hat on but went naked from the neck down.  I was grateful for the enthusiasm and help, the brightly colored gift bags I found in a basement closet, and the friend support this morning. Parents can't do it alone, nor would we want to. Developing community for our children is a privilege and a responsibility, and one that we start to hand over to them as they grow. Happy birthday to William, may it be both memorable and delicious.