Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Moment of Thanks

It's Veteran's Day and I wanted to take a moment to thank all the veterans who have so bravely and selflessly fought -- or otherwise put themselves on the line -- to protect the freedoms we all so strongly believe in.

My father is one. A reluctant one, who was anti-war and never believed violence was the way, but went anyway, because he was called, and served valiantly, in a MASH unit in Viet Nam, 1966-67.

War changed him, even in some good ways. It made him a better and stronger doctor, and, likely, a tougher soul. Things that were also good qualities for a father. :)

During the year he was gone, my father wrote to my mother, my sister and me every single day. I have stacks and stacks of the letters - they are a fascinating, poignant, and honest chronicle of young love, death, fear, disillusionment, family, hope, medicine and the horrors of war. It is a huge regret that my sister and I have not yet managed to do what we hoped we would: put them together in a cohesive collection and have them published. I still hope we will.

This photo, above, is from the day my father arrived home from Viet Nam, to two children who were young enough when he left that a year away made him a stranger to them. He was never a stranger again. He came to my sister's class for show and tell right after that ("see, I have a father!") and to every recital, school play, gymnastic competition, moot court competition, family dinner, grandchild's baseball game, etc., etc. after that. He has been, truly, the best father a girl could have -- those of you blessed to have strong, hands-on fathers who teach, champion, support and protect you -- not to mention love and adore you -- throughout your lives know how precious this is.

So, on this veteran's day, a valentine to my father, and by extension, to all fathers out there, then and now, who leave their families to serve in war. May there never be another one. Ever.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

At the End of a Season, I Conquered.

     With water temps dropping precipitously into the 40's and air temps no better, the head of our swim pod (much to both my sorrow and relief) officially declared the 2010 open water swim season closed today. Even though I knew it to be true, the fact was a hard one to swallow. It's been an amazing season for me. In the end, I've not only done something I never thought I would or could do, but it has become an inexorable part of my being.

    From barely making it a mile the first day, to swimming a 5k by mid-July, from worrying about bunkerfish and horseshoe crabs to completing a swim where I alit from the water covered in jellyfish stings, this season has been one triumph after another. Granted they were small, quiet triumphs, but there they were triumphs, nonetheless.

Nothing illustrates this more than a look back on a snippet from my blog post from June 1:

"Conquer and Fail, But More Conquer than Fail...

So, this weekend I squeezed on my wetsuit... neoprene booties and a beanie cap, and, yes, special gloves, got up at 6:00 am and trekked off to join up with a group of water-loving strangers to do my first-ever "open-water" swim despite talk of mating horseshoe crabs, and water temperatures that hovered easily below sixty.

I didn't chicken out which was huge; and I swam over a mile in much harder conditions than I am used to in my and the local "Y" pool.

The fact that I did it made me feel good. Although, I was admittedly frustrated with my performance as well. I did not, on Day One, make it as far as the rest of the group... I had trouble breathing -- getting the pace of my breath -- in the cold with all the tight straps around my neck. I had to keep stopping ... and, at one point, I ended up separated ... and my anxiety got the best of me. I turned back ...short of the goal. All the way back, I asked, "Is this a metaphor? Will I stop short in my life of where I want to go?"

So then, so far the answer to that question is, NO. I did not fall short. Not only that, but I went farther than I ever thought I could go.

Believe me, those are nice words to write. There have been plenty of times in my life I have fallen short, turned back, sorely disappointed myself. So just for a moment, I want to reflect on the triumph, bask in the conquer, and remind myself never to answer the question with anything other than a resounding NO. As I embark on this second half of my life -- and especially this big scary year ahead -- I plan for my answer to be "no." I know there may still be times that I fail, but I hope there will never be times I don't give it my all.

     Now, enough sappy, here's a shot from the day I realized only after our swim I'd forgotten my pants. It's a good thing I wasn't ticketed on the way home. <3


p.s. if you're interested in reading more about our open water exploits or seeing some awesome photos, here's a great place: