Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Monday, April 23, 2018

25th Reunion Report

I received my Harvard & Radcliffe 25th Anniversary Report on Friday. William sliced open the heavy cardboard packaging and hefted the hardbound crimson tome in one hand with the comment, "Impressive."  Trying to hide my eagerness, I snorted and wiped my dinner-greasy hands on my cloth napkin, saying, "I probably won't have time to look at that until after the reunion." Then I reached for the book and have had my nose buried in it ever since.

Life stories and reflections of my Harvard Classmates are endlessly diverting, and their job titles and multiple degrees are both eye-opening and slightly unsettling, given my modest efforts in the area of career. The class of 1993 can lay claim to the individual who designed the NFL Madden game, the governor of Rhode Island, many doctors /researchers / med-tech consultants (doctors needing to diversify to protect themselves in the changing health care industry).  Professors and teachers abound, as well, as do (of course) the lawyers**, investment bankers, financial analysts, entrepreneurs and high tech gurus.

I knew that my classmates had reached for the stars but am charmed to find that most of the individuals who self-reported, emailing commentary as well as contact information, spend the majority of their words and white space describing the importance of family and connections.  Not a surprise, really, as we're all in middle age and have had more than two decades to learn life's greatest truths, but reassuring that many others have traced a similar path on their journeys, starting out with urgent need for achievement and status, and later turning towards loved ones and community for life satisfaction.

None of us can gloss over the fact that twenty-two of our classmates have died in the years since graduation, and many of us have survived health scares of our own. The realization that each day is gift - that resonates through the many messages, lists and poems submitted by my peers. As a companion to gratitude is the desire to do good, give back, leave this world a little bit better than we found it, whether that be on the family, neighborhood, town, state or national level.

The words of my classmates have buoyed me over this weekend, reassured me that my modest achievements align with the values and desires held by many of them. When I decided to participate in the Anniversary Report and attend the Reunion itself, I hoped to integrate the Harvard experience into my life. For many years I denied it or held it apart, feeling unworthy and unable to include that institution into my story. Finally, now, I can fold it into my life experiences, gifted by the stories of my classmates who have labored to weave it into their own.

**So many lawyers. Judges, too.

Monday, April 16, 2018

State Masters Meet

Two years after swimming my first Masters State meet in decades, I donned the team cap and tightened my goggles to do it again. As the starting blocks have gotten taller and my balance has receded, the racing starts were my biggest concern. I also worried that my shoulders would stay together and my heart rate would hover below 200.

The first dive I took from a block was Saturday in the warm-up, right before my 50 free, my "baby."  Shoulders squeezed, biceps close to the head, I tightened my streamline and held on for dear life. Though I saw stars from the impact of the water, I felt no tearing and safely navigated a half-length of a sprint. That one warm-up start was enough - I couldn't risk any more before the real thing.

 When it came time for my event, I reminded myself to breathe, and at the whistle I cautiously stepped on the block, toes feeling for the edge and hands reaching down to hold on. I couldn't risk standing up, so held my crouch until that feared beep sent me off into the cold, deep water. Between the beep and surfacing I always close my eyes, and have to open them to remind myself where I am and what I need to do: "kick like crazy, pull like mad, look for the wall, hit the wall, breathe."  I've done it hundreds of times, thousands if you count the visualizations. And yet there's a moment of panic when I hit the water, of trying to wrestle the mind back to the present moment. As I get older, it's more a shock to find myself in that situation, more difficult to remember what comes next.

Somehow I got my hand on the wall, .13 of a second faster than I did it two years ago, though second in my age group this time, to a 45-year-young speedster who just aged up. It was some consolation that I wasn't even close to her. My team was supportive and complimentary, and asked why I wasn't doing more of the freestyle events.  I fumbled for excuses, tried out a number of different lines, and finally admitted the truth, that I was scared to push my body too hard.  The longer events mean a longer stretch of elevated heart rate, a greater risk for migraines and semi-conscious post-race slump.  It's telling that my friends were confused by this, though respectful, while my family was hyper-aware, making sure to warn me not to "push too hard."

Because, when I get in the water, knowing that a time will be posted after my name, I want to bust through walls. Leave no cell untapped, no iota of energy unspent. It hurts, no matter what. At least the short events hurt for a short time.  I empathized with my kids, who train and race year-round, and who are astonishingly faster than me in the strokes. William is 4.5 seconds faster in a 50 backstroke and Aden faster by the same amount in her 50 breast. That is a lot of separation for a fifty-yard race, both humbling and gratifying. At least I don't embarrass them in the fly or the free, the fly being a pleasant surprise because I couldn't do it until my shoulder finished healing a few months ago.

But it was entertaining to share my experience with Rob and the kids, terrific to share stories and swap remedies with my teammates, amazing to see the larger swimming community and the 400 adults who participated in the state meet. I'll be diving off those blocks when I'm in my 70's, I promise.

Monday, April 9, 2018


I was so eager for William to start swimming with the Creek boys' swim team.  He was going to meet upperclassmen, bond with a group, feel a deeper connection to the school, and of course improve his times and love for swimming. All has come to pass, and yet it's not as straightforward as I anticipated. Life never goes the way we plan.

The angst that Rob and I feel derives from the fact that William moved up to swim with Varsity at the invitation of his coaches. They didn't mandate his jump from the Varsity Prep group (kind of a JV+), but said they thought he could do Varsity - if he wanted to. That's all the encouragement William needed to sign up for 10 practices and five early wake-ups each week. He's never trained remotely as hard in his young life.

He had two  bad colds to start the season and one ear infection that required antibiotics. When we went to the doctor for his ear, William discovered that he has lost four pounds, despite growing and training with weights. We were mutually horrified, and I pledged to feed him more while he determined to eat fairly constantly in order to reverse the slide.

School is stressful, practices are extremely difficult, and yet he persists. At the meet last Friday, William swam a 100 back and a 100 free for the relay almost back-to-back and he needed help getting out of the pool after his second swim. He buried his face in his knees to breathe and sat on the deck for the rest of the race, prompting Rob to run out of the bleachers and down to the deck to hand him a bottle of water. William waved him off, saying only, "Please go away."

After a mellow weekend he was ready and excited to head back to training, determining that no further time off was needed and letting us know we should keep our concerns to ourselves. We're proud of his dedication, his strength, his passion, and yet we harbor lingering worries about recovery time and stresses to health and grades. William assures us it's only three - or four - weeks more of hard training, and I try to revive my excitement in his improvements, the possibilities of his taper and final meets, laughing at the irony of my mother role taking over my swimmer / coach persona and reminding me that the only important thing is to love my kids.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April Fool

Though April Fool's day got lost in Easter, the universe took revenge by placing me on a pedestal of foolishness . To wit: I feel asleep in the waiting room at Daniel's therapist's office while they met one-on-one. When his therapist opened the door and saw me slumped on the worn leather couch with drool inching down her plaid pillow, she could only say "Oh, Laura."  In my embarrassment, I got up too fast and lurched across the carpet into the wall, using precious moments of Daniel's time as the kind lady asked after my health, offered to get water, inquired concernedly about my sleep schedule. Only repeated blasts from Daniel's nerf gun recalled us to the issue at hand - namely, him.

I was the only person to turn up at writing group without any writing, I had to go back to the pharmacist three times in one day because I kept forgetting prescriptions, and I tripped over the (black) cat in the early morning darkness as I prepared to take William to morning practice.  I'm not witty, but I make up for it by creating many laughable moments.

As I roll my eyes at myself (only useful if looking in a mirror), I mourn the loss of my stability and the absence of writing time. To be clear, I'm not so busy that I could not write, but I've lost motivation in the hullaballoo of spring sports, work and household management.  After four decades of thought processing I know that practice and dedication are the only means for gaining proficiency (dare not even dream of excellency) in an activity. And yet....I procrastinate, I watch TV, I make excuses. 

So I promise to write, using all my foolishness as raw material and hoping that my lurches into walls, my stumbles over cats, and my random episodes of napping yield only new material and not broken bones.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Gather in Galilee

"Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He was raised; he is not here. Look there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."
- Mark 16: 6 - 8. The Green Bible, New Revised Standard Version.

Rev Mark preached on the Gospel of Mark yesterday during the Easter service. He focused on two things: the terror and fear of the women who found the empty tomb, and the advice of the man in white to gather with friends and family, and go home to Galilee.

The Easter gospel is not all yellow Peeps and smiley soft bunnies, it holds pain and fear and loneliness. Thank God, because today's world is more a vale of tears than a valley of Easter lilies and sunshiney prisms. Mark speaks to us through the women who are bereft of their leader, their roles in the world, their old fellowship.  They would understand our feelings of rooting around in the darkness, searching for hope.

The unrecognizable risen Jesus tells them to gather all the disciples, including Peter (especially Peter, who betrayed him three times) and go home.  In the gathering of friends and family, he promises, they will see God. Surely that is a Gospel truth, if there ever was one.


Good Friday 2018 coincided with my birthday, a funky coincidence with not a little irony.  I enjoy it more when my birthday meets Easter, as it does every seven or so years.  But the day was full of well-wishes from family, friends, co-workers, Facebook associates (though I may pull back from Facebook, I made sure to wait until after my birthday). I got singing voicemails from the family gathered in California and cards from around the country, texts from brothers and lilies from SwimLabs.  A day in which the true present was the presence of others.

We gathered with friends to watch Villanova roll over Kansas on Saturday night, and I had occasion again to revel in the Willow Creek community - even the ones who cheered for KU over Nova ;-).  If my children learn nothing else from growing up in the church, I hope they learn this: that we can find God, strength and salvation in community of those we love. On our own, we feel the fear and terror that lurk in all the corners of this world, but together, we find hope and overcome.