Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's my Birthday, so what is there to be scared of?

46, that's what.

Because that is seriously close to. . .

Hmmm. . .


Never mind.

That actually looks kinda pretty.

Ok, I changed my mind. I'm not afraid of 46. After all, it's just another number.

So, here's what I'm really afraid of:

Jelly fish.

I mean, with their brainless suction and long freaky tentacles wrapping around my legs and arms as I swim? Seriously, this is Long Island.

New York.

We're supposed to have muggers here.

And scary bad hedge fund managers.

And traffic.

But we're not supposed to have things that look like they belong a safe distance off a tropical island somewhere on the coast of where I can't pronounce. So, sue me. But I'm afraid of them.

And, you know what else?

The Rejection of my next manuscript.

Yep, I'm pretty darned scared of that.

*checks email reluctantly to see if their is news...

(there is NOT).*

But that's not what I'm most afraid of.

I'm most afraid of my children being hurt or worse.

Because, seriously, that scares the bejeezus out of me. And it just happened here yesterday, around the corner from me. A beautiful, quiet, good, 17-yr old girl from our school district who lost control of her car.

So, all you kids out there, listen to your parents and be careful. And remember to take your time. And know when I'm blowing out those candles, I'm making a wish for all of you.

Because, 46? Nope, not scared at all.

And all those candles just mean that many more good wishes.

I've said one for you and your children now.

Now, somebody pass me more cake.

*dedicated to the memory of Nikki K.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Sometimes it's Blood...

and sometimes, it's sweet and sour chicken."

This saying became famous in my family years and years ago, but has often served me since.

This is how it came about.

My parents have great dane dogs that they love and adore like their own children (we shall not here, now, discuss my love-hate relationship with them - suffice it to say, great dane slobber, hair-shed, and poop are all proportionate with their size which may cause me to appreciate them more from a safe distance).

One day when we were all visiting with them, one of their puppies came into my mother's bedroom with its face covered in blood. Its entire mouth up to one of its eyes, and one of its paws, were bleeding profusely, Also, the dog looked to be in distress.

We immediately went into panic mode. My mom pulled the dog over while my sister and I ran to get my father, warm washcloths, etc., but when we returned my mother was laughing uncontrollably. Apparently, while we were gone, she had discovered that the blood was slightly sticky and too orange and smelled vaguely like their last evening's chinese food. The dog's discomfort was likely attributable merely to the spiciness of the food.

Now, trust me on this, out of context at least, sweet and sour chicken sauce looks a lot more like blood than you think it does.

We loved the whole incident. Not only did it take us fifteen minutes to stop laughing that kind of laughing that comes in waves until the tears roll out of your eyes, but we really felt we learned a life lesson. Therereafter, my mother, sister, and I often reminded each other that sometimes in life it is blood, but sometimes it's just sweet and sour chicken.

The point of this story? Well, remember those jellyfish stings from my 5k?


I wore my new wetsuit this morning out on a longish swim against the current. You know, the sleeveless one that is lowcut and can't possibly cut/chafe my neck in all the usual suspect places where the welty stings were? Well, when I returned to shore, my neck was "stung" and red and swollen in exactly the same places as last weekend.

So, while the threat of jellyfish -- and the dreaded Lions Mane -- does exist (and, indeed, apparently a fairly large one was spotted on the race course by a co-swimmer and race official last weekend), suffice it to say that, this time around, my neck was chafed by, not sealife, but my wetsuit and the memories of sweet and sour chicken.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Oops, I did it Once...

and, after I did, for a few hours (ok, make that many hours), I never wanted to do it again.

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to waking up this morning: I kinda wanted to do it again.

Of course, for those of you not following along before, I am talking about swimming an open water 5k.

First, I wondered if I had simply dreamed it. But, then, the proof was still on my arm.

You have to understand that, other than a short stint as a gymnast from about age 9 - 12, I was never EVER an athlete. I was the opposite -- the kid picked last for gym teams (having no ability to hit or catch or smack a ball or run), the one who quit gymnastics because it was ultimately too hard on my body. The one who quit tapdancing and ballet because, well, because I am a pretty crappy dancer. And, yes, I was the one who skied off a cliff into a tree with my best friend and two boys watching at age 15.

For most of my adult life the extent of my athletism, therefore, was relegated to secretly doing Jane Fonda or Tae Bo tapes in the privacy of my own home. For a few years I did some hot yoga to keep fit.

But if there was one thing I wasn't, it was anything that resembled athletic. Or hardy. Or hard core.

And, then, two months ago, I braved an open water swim. I went from being able to do under a mile to a mile and a half and then two. In doing so, I braved not only cold water, horseshoe crabs and other slimy things that hit your fingers and your face as you swim, but currents that could seriously fool you when you're body was already tired. I began to think of myself as stronger and to believe that I could push myself in ways at 45 I never had before.

And yesterday, I showed up for a 5k.

And, I jumped in.

And I swam.

The first half was relatively easy. The sky was magificent and I swam with a friend. A few times we stopped to adjust our goggles, check our bearings and even laugh so hard that we both swallowed water. At about the half way mark, I stopped her and told her to pay attention to the fact that we were both in our 40's and had actually done it, and made it half way through, and to not miss enjoying the scenery as we swam.

At the three quarter mark, she cramped up and had to stop back at the kayak. I waited for her at the turnaround. By then, we must have been nearing two hours in. The swim back should have been not much more than 20 minutes. I felt good. I could do that easy.

But then the current set in. The guy at the turn around boat warned us. She fell behind again, and now, each time I stopped to try to wait for her, the current dragged me back to where I had just swum from. My body was getting tired and I was afraid that I wouldn't make it and the next time she stopped, the kayakers waved me on. For the first time in the race I was alone. I couldn't see her or our kayak anymore. The swells picked up and my muscles really started to hurt. The yellow house to my right stayed exactly in place at my left shoulder no matter how much harder I swam. Thick sharp (?) seaweed got in my face, kept strangling my arms and legs. I started to wonder if I'd actually make the finish.

But somehow, nearly an hour later I did.

When I got out of the water, I had a battle scar to prove it. Something mean had gotten to my neck. It didn't hurt while I was in the water (too many other things distracting me?), but on land it definitely did.

Exhausted but proud of myself, I went home and slept. And slept and slept and slept. Everything hurt. I was glad I did it, but vowed having done it, I'd never ever do it again.

And then I woke up this morning. And I felt good. And I saw the 14 on my arm. And, the first thought that popped into my head was, "...hmmm, when's the next 5k swim?"

So, I guess maybe we'll see.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What the %!$%! Was I Thinking?

Right now, it's Friday at 6:30 pm.

Around 36 hours from now, I'll be waking up and getting ready to try to swim a 5k. Not for speed, mind you. Just for distance, to see if I can. *


Why not?

Ok, I don't know why.

Maybe just to prove that I can.

And that's where the fear comes in. Because, what if I can't?

And by can't, don't get me wrong. I'm not afraid of anything bad happening. I'm not afraid of drowning. But what if I embarrass myself - veer off course, fall way behind, never make it to the finish line? They only give you one hour from when the first person finishes to finish the course yourself. And then they pull you out.

And, trust me here, I don't want to be pulled out.

But it could happen. Last year, because of intense currents one of the strongest women in my group who is way faster than I am took 3 1/2 hours to finish. Would that mean four- plus hours in the water for me? Er.

On second thought, maybe I DO want to be pulled out.

At any rate, cross your fingers and wish me luck. Either way, I'll report in.

Unless my swimming partner (and the woman who talked me into joining her) doesn't show up to pick me up on Sunday morning. Then I'll be blissfully sleeping in.

(*I think that is me on the left in the red and white cap.)