Apologies for the void in production of blog entries, I am drowning in all things high school swimming! (Pun absolutely intended). My voice went missing a week ago, my sleep schedule is off and my dreams haunted by the question of which girls need more taper (rest). Our team has four meets in one week and the meet lineups are driving us to distraction. Perhaps on Sunday I can rest for a half-day, before composing the final weekly email to parents and the last meet lineup. That's right, our season is close to the finish line, and perhaps soon I can wrestle with words again, find creativity in my brain instead of swim sets and sendoffs. My husband and son will be glad to find dinner on the table and their wife/mother more emotionally stable. It's coming, all, I promise!
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Monday, January 2, 2023
A friend of mine posted on social media that his resolution for 2023 was "set the bar low." My eyebrows raised of their own accord, and I stopped mindlessly scrolling to read in more detail. Did he mean to give up? Schlump away my January in PJs and pizza boxes? While that sounded appealing, I couldn't in good conscience click "like" until I read more.
"Set the bar low" was a missive cloaked in click-bait, of course. My friend meant to accept what is and appreciate all the good that exists in the present state. Offering encouragement to love yourself as you are, to appreciate everything you can about current circumstances; he even asked readers to lower the bar for family members. "Don't expect much," he said, but enjoy all of the quirks and idiosyncrasies that evolve.
That last sentence holds challenge and appeal for any mother. If I could lower the bar for my 16-year-old, would that look like more chips and salsa in the bedroom? More spilled chocolate milk on the stairs? Or would it give me space to enjoy the unique sense of humor, the endless sports trivia, and blur the edges of a harmless snack-food addiction?
The New York Times recently offered the best advice from its readers over the year of 2022. One of my long-time favorites emerged: "be where your feet are." The reminder to be in the present, free of expectations, worries, regrets, echoes out a part of the "low bar" post. They both urge us to let go and live. But the more I read the words and the more I write about them, the harder this advice seems. Why is it so much easier to spin up the anxious, forward-looking movies in my mind than to appreciate the present moment?
So I'm going to attempt to set the bar low and stay where my feet are in 2023. Despite the humble words, I suspect it will be difficult. But difficult's my happy place - a hard-to-achieve standard for the year to come. Now that I've warped my friend's words into a terrible challenge, I'm finally resolution-ready.
Thursday, December 15, 2022
My father passed away three years today. Our family was 'fortunate' that he was taken before the pandemic, in that we could all be together at my parents' home to say goodbye. Dad had a full life and filled our upbringing with his vibrant, "can-do" personality. Because his illness was progressive we had forewarning of our loss. But today it still hurts - a lot.
As I get older, the awareness of loss increases exponentially. Earlier this week our community lost a wonderful husband, father and dedicated activist for the visually impaired. He lost a battle with a rare blood cancer, and now his family must step forward into each day this holiday season without him.
People in my extended family are also dealing with loss and personal grieving; some are amazing women, mothers and wives who carry the burden of creating a wonderful holiday for their children even as their thoughts are consumed by, and bodies dealing with, pain. I hope that our experience with Dad helps me and my siblings understand this better and empathize more deeply.
In Saturday Night Lives opening skit last Saturday the comedians sang about "don't remember December." They focused on current events that no one wants to think about under the mandate of being merry. I chuckled agreeably, but it's not so easy to forget, even with a Xanax in the egg nog (as one sang). Some of my favorite memories of Dad center around Christmas, which he loved. His deep voice telling us to wait on the stairs as he checked to see if "Santa had come," the miracle of a gorgeous tree and a river of presents springing forth in the living room overnight, singing "O Come, All Ye Faithful" in church, drinking endless bottles of red wine as adults gathered around their long dining room table.
So as the Christmas wave and resulting riptides pull the sand out from under us, let's remember that every person we encounter probably struggles with something hard. We can forget or push aside the world's ongoing woes but I hope our memories of good times with loved ones serve as a life preserver in the strong holiday current, and that they carry us through together.
Sunday, November 6, 2022
I just returned from a jaunt to Indianapolis, a pleasant city which I'd never before visited. We stayed at one of may high-rise hotels in the compact downtown and walked each day down a pleasant tree-lined path, crossing canals and dodging runners, to get to the famed IUPUI Natatorium. FINA, the international body that governs swimming, held a fall series of World Cup swim meets where top swimmers from all over the world competed for cash prizes, and Indy was the last stop. As swim-fans and sport-nerds, a friend and I grabbed the chance to buy cheap plane tickets and watch some of the best and most beautiful swimmers in the world compete.
We went early each day to grab the best seats (like Southwest, swim meets almost always have open seating) and watch warm ups. Swimmers glided up and down the clear 25M pool like airplanes, seemingly unaffected by the heaviness of water and the resistance of friction. With beautiful technique they flew up and down the lanes, stopping to jump out of the pool and stroll along the pool deck like Greek gods and goddesses, solid and strong but spare, without an ounce of extra flotation on them. On the second day of the meet we witnessed three new World Junior Records with an excited crowd. One young athlete broke two (in two different races) within a span of 13 minutes. Katie Ledecky set a new World Record while we were on the plane home, breaking yet another standard in the 800 M free.
My companion, the head coach of our high school girls' team, knows many coaches, assistants and athletes from her years in the sport and generously introduced me to the head of USA Swimming, gold-medal winner Cullen Jones, national team member Gabi Albiero, and others. I felt not in awe but greatly appreciative, noticing how many years of hard work and dedication sculpted the broad shoulders and narrow hips of both men and women, how swimming fame isn't widespread or invasive enough to build big egos but instead makes our athletes open to meeting fans, to signing kickboards of the young children who lined up in the hallway outside the pool deck.
Adventures can fuel the soul and a change of scenery opens up new possibilities. Coach and I worked for hours each day on plans for the upcoming girls' season and plowed through to-do lists like nothing could stand in our way. The opportunity to shake off routine and pursue passions doesn't come along too frequently in these days of pandemic, and I am grateful for the trip and freedom to take it. Next stop, Olympic Trials 2024 at Indiapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium? We just may have to go back.
Sunday, October 16, 2022
CU Boulder hosts a parent weekend every October, like many other universities across the country. Yesterday was Aden's last one as an undergraduate, and we made the most of the crisp fall weather, glorious mountain backdrop and fan-full football stadium. Starting with an early morning arrival at the crack of 9:30, we invaded William's apartment with prosecco and orange juice, bagels and lox, fruit salad and cream. William had just emerged from the shower and had to beg Aden to bring plates; he apparently has none, which leaves me to wonder how he's been eating dinner.
Brunch was consumed in short order, prosecco bottle duly emptied, and off to the tailgates we went. The parents of William's roommate hosted a tailgate just outside the stadium and we chatted and consumed beverages with them for a while. I stuck to caffeine, hoping to make it through the afternoon on still-shaky, post-COVID legs, while Aden and William downed hard selzers. We were dutifully wearing white t-shirts, to follow the brief of "white out" requested by CU, which looked great until William shot-gunned a selzer all over the front of his shirt.
From there to the stadium we went, eager to watch the countdown toward Ralphie's run. If you aren't familiar with CU, let me explain: the mascot is a buffalo (a real one!) always named Ralphie, and the buffalo runs - with it's madly scrambling handlers - around the field before and at the halftime of every game. The Ralphie we have now is a "baby" female which only requires four handlers, while the Ralphie before her was a giant requiring six. Before each game the countdown highlights a video of all things Ralphie, including interviews with former football players and handlers who describe the buffalo in loving terms. I always cry, either because I was deprived of a mascot while at Harvard or because Ralphie is just so dang cute.
We didn't have high hopes for the actual game because CU was the last team in the NCAA to get a win, the sole fanbase without one. But the day was fine, the stands were full, the white-out working to best effect - and Cal, our opponent, was also ranked poorly. After a full afternoon of good defense, halting offense and bonding both with our family and with everyone in the stands around us, CU pulled out a win in overtime. Our three kids joined the hordes on the field as Boulder officials scrambled to get the goalposts down and out of the way before the students could tear them down and abscond with them (a la Tennessee). Parents in the stands with us danced, sang, took photos and generally lost their minds over a 1 and 5 record. What can I say? Coloradans know how to celebrate the small things.
At the end of the day the kids seemed shocked that we'd had so much fun. William mused "I've never had so much fun at a game, and I wasn't even sitting with friends!" I laughed and he tried to backtrack, saying "But family of course is the best, Mom." On this occasion, as on so many others, I have to agree.