Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Out of Bed

Our 16-year-old son recently had a meeting with his school's college counselor. In preparation for the meeting he had to fill out a lengthy assessment of his non-academic college readiness. Questions included: "can you get out of bed with just an alarm?" Subtext: do your parents have to bang on the door, pour water on your head,  or otherwise force you to move? Daniel gleefully circled "No" for his response, a fact I'm pondering now as three wake-up calls have yielded no movement and the arrival of his carpool looms.

Rob and I both dislike the extra effort required to get Daniel out of bed on school days, though we sympathize with the desire to stay asleep. Both of us parental units have been under stress lately, waking up at 4:30am with phantom physical pains or problems that spin in our anxious brains without yielding a single solution. The goal is always to get enough rest and wake up naturally, before the alarm blares and shocks a sleeping partner. In fact, my specific goal is to be in bed when my earplugs go off.

You read that correctly - my ear plugs power up during the day and provide white noise at night while I sleep. The charge lasts eight hours so when the plugs' noise abruptly stops - first one ear (the plug I put in first) and then the other - I feel like I crossed the finish line, having slept my ideal 7.5 hours and the slowly moving to wake up. Rob gave those earplugs as a present; they block out snoring and other random wake-up noises. They don't prevent me from snoring, but if Rob wants to block me out he knows where to buy his own pair.

Alas, I pulled the earplugs out at a wakeful 4:30am tussle with the covers. My left big toe was hurting for some odd reason that I will probably never understand. Beginning the day with a grouchy teenager and a sleep deficit is no one's preferred modus operandi, but here we launch into Tuesday with the hope of a nap and good goals for tonight's rest.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Grace, Grit and Purpose

My mom texted me yesterday after watching an inspiring interview with President Jimmy Carter. Carter told the interviewer that he focused on living his life with "grace, grit and purpose." Mom knew I needed a dose of inspiration with a salting of grit, so she passed on the uplifting phrase with lots of heart, prayer and thumb's up emojis.

It's interesting how the world - or a few people in said world - can really bring us down, even when we know to our core that we didn't do anything wrong. A few weeks ago, by virtue of rules, regulations and the choices of a few people, I was brought low. I mean under the concrete, so hurt that tears wouldn't even come. The dual fears of humiliation and exclusion came home to roost in my chest and my amygdala took over my internal regulation, causing unending waves of nausea and stress. My frontal lobe didn't stand a chance, couldn't find a way out of the circular thinking and remembering.

Rob was out of town for part of that week so I binge-watched silly SyFy shows that took my brain to a different world. At one point during my TV marathon a female lead preached to another: "The world can't handle a strong woman. If at any point the world tries to bring you down, take it as a compliment." I clung to those words as well as Carter's, trying to process my way out and forward.

Knowing that my hurt doesn't figure at all on a global scale (given earthquakes, wars, environmental devastation) didn't help at first, though it does now. The challenge of the next few weeks is to find a new purpose, and to rise above the circumstances handed to me with grace and grit. I can dig my teeth into the grit piece, but I'm scrambling for the grace to exit calmly, with good wishes, when all I wanted for the past week was to hurl my rage and grief via sharp words. 

I imagine a round table of all my favorite people, those whose opinion I value most. I know they would tell me to keep my head high and a smile on my face, to make my choices from a position of strength and certainty. I just need a few more days to re-charge the batteries of grace and grit before I can move forward with that purpose and make them proud.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Hiking through Heartbreak

Aden and I went winter hiking on Saturday, a sunny warm day which made us think (erroneously) that the trail would be clear. Rather, the shady trail up the first Boulder Flatiron was snow and ice-packed, and we managed the ascent with assists from various trees and rocks (ie crawling on hands and knees). We knew the downhill would be precarious as we weren't wearing spikes or yak trax on our hiking boots., which error was constantly noted by the skilled and well-outfitted Boulder hikers who passed us.

"Be careful" called one mom as we slithered by.

"Don't worry, we're going very slowly" I reassured her. 

Even the precocious four-year-old in her wake piped up, "Oh I see why, they're not wearing spikes."

But the view from the top was stunning: blue skies and pine trees, a broad vista of the plain with Denver and only a faint layer of smog beyond. After exchanging hellos with a prospective CU parent and son from the Virgin Islands (the only people with worse footwear), we decided to go down a different route to avoid sliding off a rock face.

The path we took abruptly ended - or was lost - in a snow-covered rock field and we hesitated, unsure of the best route forward. After checking GPS, Aden fixed a path across and down the mountain, zigzagging from tree to tree. We checked every foot placement, every step, laughing and swearing at the same time, both grateful for the need to concentrate. As two individuals currently struggling with heartache (though of different types) we both found that need for focus and survival helpful in taking our minds off painful subjects.

After we finally arrived at a maintained trail, my daughter realized that we were close to one of her favorite outlooks. Only problem - we had to scale a boulder-covered hill and crawl through a small hole in the rock feature to reach it. I looked dubiously at the narrow aperture and raised my eyebrows when Aden demonstrated how to hoist one's self up through arm strength alone, lower the head so as not to get clobbered, and then slither through on her belly. None of those actions are in my normal repertoire, but there was no way I was going to be left behind.

As I clawed for handholds and dragged my chest and belly across the rocks, I was bombarded - not by rocks - but by a sense of deja vu. My father used to take us out hiking and climbing in Montana when we were kids, dragging us through rough terrain, up steep crevasses and along terrifying cliffs. It occurred to me that my father was literally in the air around us - as well as living through his granddaughter - encouraging me to be strong. I nearly burst into tears (which would have made the ascent even more hazardous), but then I felt embraced and emboldened by my two angels.

I made it, careful not to look down until my derriere was firmly planted on a stable rock seat. We sat and took in the spectacular view for a while, and then Aden helped me down the way we came up. We slipped and slithered the rest of the way to the car, laughing at our narrow escapes. My clothes were much the worse for the wear but my spirit was slightly better, and I was filled with gratitude for the support from family members past and present.

Friday, February 10, 2023

State Championship Finals

 The Colorado 5A (largest schools) State Championship finals are set for this evening and the entire swim season ends with three hours of racing on a Friday night. The wonderful JV squad that I coached swam their final races last weekend at a successful league championship meet, so I wouldn't say that the success of their season - or my season - rests on tonight's results, but our team record and our team banner waits anxiously for record-setting swims starting at 5pm today.

Swimming is a ridiculous tough sport; athletes follow the black line on the bottom of the pool for hours a day, minds busy either focusing on what they're doing (the hope) or spinning wildly through their their to-do list, and their recent social interactions (top of mind for HS swimmers). We swim until our arms are too tired to lift the fork at dinner, until our skin bleaches and peels, until exhaustion becomes familiar.

Coaches write their best, most focused workouts each day, including strength and resistance training, stretching, sprinting, distance, stroke and drill work. We preach technique until we're blue in the face, only to be interrupted by young faces arguing over the playlist emanating from our phones. SZA, Disney, Taylor, etc. seem far more important than the correct catch and pull of the stroke - at least until these final championship weekend when the fast tech suits come on and young faces transformed by nerves.

On deck we agonize over taper, or "resting" workouts, planning the descent in yards for weeks, urging kids to eat enough, sleep enough to rebuild muscle tissue and throw off the overwhelm so typical in high school. For some swimmers (usually upperclasswomen) the taper hits perfectly and time drops away as a result, leading to joyful celebrations by coaches and shocked delight on the face of the swimmer.

For other swimmers, the taper doesn't work or their nerves take over. Arms and shoulders tight with nerves can't move as quickly, and the swim doesn't look fluid or strong but frenetic. Coaches agonize over those swims, wondering if the athlete needed a few more days of rest, a day off, another pep talk. On a weekend when we had 29 best times and multiple drops of many seconds, all I could think about was the one swimmer who had a rough meet. "What could I have done differently?" was a refrain for days after that.

So the season ends tonight and we will have tears of joy, tears of sorrow, looks of delight and looks of disappointment. For all of the varsity athletes, practice will resume again on Monday for their club teams but for the coaches, a well-deserved 8-month break will begin, and we will ruminate repeatedly on what worked, who swam well and how to help those who didn't.