Friday, July 29, 2011

Doing hard things - an unexpected immensely hard thing

Today was the first day I could return to the pool following elbow surgery. I awoke this morning and went straight from pajamas to bathing suit. Without too much grumbling, so did my orange hair, freckle face OS. Ike has become a trusty companion through this process even though he would drop me like a hot potato if one of his buddies wanted to hang out. I am blessed by his encouragement and company. 

Today was also the first day I jumped into the pool and my bottom touched the bottom of the pool. Ike demonstrated the technique and instead of mulling it over and fretting, I released caution to the wind and capered into the water. The next thing I knew my "biscuit" made contact with the pool floor. It was rather exciting, another accomplishment. Everything is new to me, I am treasuring each effort, taking nothing for granted.

I also did my ceremonious ten jumps into the deep end of the pool. A trace of fear wafted over me and I gulped a far amount of salty water. For an instant, my land tortoise ways were calling me back but I persevered. 
See that crazy lady in the middle?
That's my grandma doing YMCA!

Being in the water, using my right arm, hoisting myself back to the poolside reassured me I was where I needed to be. I was doing my Hard Thing and I was pleased to get back to conquering this fear.
One of my first days as a grand-daughter,
it felt good right from the start. 

But a greater fear waited me at home. It was one that I wasn't expecting but it has always loomed in the back of my mind. A message was waiting on my voicemail. It was from my sister and I immediately called her back to learn that our grandma is seriously ill. She was found in her apartment on the floor, motionless and disoriented. Grandma was quickly transported to the hospital. My precious grandma, one of my dearest friends, has dementia and lately her mental status has been deteriorating. She has also had a seizure while in the hospital. They are transporting her to another hospital, she is heavily sedated and although no one is saying she cannot recover as of yet, things are not looking promising. 

We took Grams to see The Sound of Music,
I loved hearing her humming the tunes.
For many years, I have been known as Cindy, a wife, mom, sister, aunt, niece, daughter, writer, friend and Christ-believer. For nearly half a century, I've also been Cindy, the non-swimmer who still had her grandma. I am ready to discard only one of these descriptions. The Lord knows I want to lose the non-swimmer label. It is the only description that has weighed me down. All the others lift me up and I have worn "Grand-daughter" as a badge of honor and joy. I am trusting in Him, whose ways are perfect but the tears still fall. My beloved grandma should not linger and suffer, but selfishly I wonder, what am I going to do? Suddenly swimming became easier than this...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wednesday remix - part two, from the middle OS

My middle OS Aaron is at it again. My arm is no longer confined to a cast and a sling but I relinquish my blog to him so he can continue exaggerating his dolorous journey to the Quilting Symposium. Here is part two which means that yes, there will be a part three. I had no idea he had this much teenage angst!

Mom and I not at the symposium
Fully aware that the decision I had made could possibly claim my life, I rode in the car with my Grandma and very excited mother. We pulled into Peace College and stepped out of the car. My heart pounded, vision blurred, muscles tightened and senses heightened. I became completely conscious of my surroundings as we walked to the symposium. 

I spot a tent pavilion on my twelve o'clock with two ladies guiding us toward the quilts, another middle-aged lady on my nine also approaching the tent, a lady with a small purse on my four o'clock sitting on a bench, a lady on my three o'clock heading to the symposium, a lady, a lady, a lady, a lady. THEY WERE ALL LADIES! Was I the only male in attendance? Was I the only person under 40 interested in…I mean NOT interested in quilting? I now stood in a desert, devoid of all teenagers, males and attractive young girls. 

Where had I to turn? I was completely on my own. I carried my mom’s backpack with all her essential quilt symposium tools and followed her and my grandma to the front desk. The ladies there gave us sheets of paper with all of the vendors in attendance listed. 

Quilty things
“If you get all of the vendors to sign this, you can enter it in for a raffle prize afterwards.”

“Thanks so much.” I wanted that raffle prize badly, but did not have the dignity...or lack of dignity to go to the vendors and ask their signature for my chance at a quilting prize. 

Then the inevitable happened. And I knew it would happen. My mom looked at me, gave me her purse, and said, “I have to go to the bathroom. Stay here. Come on, Mom.” 

“You want me to just stay here?” 
“Yeah, wait for me and your grandma.”

This was where the nightmare began. In the midst of a tornado of frenzied quilters, my mom left me alone to go to the bathroom. I thought she loved me, now she just leaves me here to wither away in my own dark corner of the Quilting Symposium

Someone remind me, what am I doing here???
"I hope they’re ok. I hope I’m ok." With every passing second, I drew nearer and nearer to my impending doom. If it seems like I’m exaggerating, (and those of you who know me know I am very careful on never being too dramatic) I’m not. I felt sure they had left me at the symposium. All hopes of a safe return home were now smashed. Goodbye world. Goodbye friends, guitars, graduation, college.            
One of these things just doesn't belong here!
“There you are. I’ve been just standing here forever.”
“Oh, haha, people probably thought you were a little cutie.” Thanks, Mom.

We entered the venue starting with a wall of aprons, of which my favorite was the pastel orange and purple. 

The mother of all machines
Then to giant long arm sewing machine. This was the T-Rex of all sewing machines. The Queen of the quilters. This thing could embroider the southern border of the U.S. We continued on with empty bladders and frenzied nerves.
(to be continued...)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Guest blogger - from the middle OS!

"What am I doing here?"
i'm typing with one finger on my left's slow going so i enlisted the help of my middle OS to write this post. it appears that aaron has his own version of doing hard things! :) now here's aaron!

my wonderful mom
Seeing that my mom is at this moment, incapable of typing and, more importantly, incapable of posting embarrassing stories of my family and me on the Internet, I will take the opportunity to tell you a story about my family, particularly my mom and me, through my eyes. 

I am the middle OS, Aaron, and despite all of the stories that you may have read about me, I do think I’m a pretty good son. I mean, I’m taking over the blogging responsibilities for my mother while she sits handicapped with her arm in a sling. If that’s not care, devotion, and sacrifice, I don’t know what is. So, I will tell you now, the purpose of this blog post is to prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am a good son. (I would also like to add that I am the best-looking, smartest, and strongest son, However, this hardly needs to be proven in a blog post.)

Last month, my mom came to me with a question, just one question that presented one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life. She walked into my room and asked, 
“Do you wanna go to the Quilt 
Symposium with me next week?” 
My first and last time using a free arm quilting machine
I felt like a deer in the headlights, frozen, unable to respond. Being mildly asthmatic, my breath shortened. 

"where is my inhaler???"
My eyes shot around the room for my red inhaler. These were the questions that tortured my mind, telling me that if I left home now, and never married, I could be free from this wasteland of lose-lose situations. I could reply with a quick “Naaah” and give a bad excuse why I couldn’t attend. I wouldn’t have to worry about spending the day in a symposium (whatever that is) of quilters, whom I felt sure, if I went, would kill me, wrap in a quilt and leave on the side of the road; but, my mom would be hurt and angry that I didn’t want to spend the day with her. On the other hand, I could sound a cheerful “Sure” and my mom would be happy and excited to go to the Quilt Symposium with me, but I would surely die and spend the last minutes of my short life listening to an explanation of what a free arm sewing machine is and telling which quilt was my favorite and why. 

Still scaling the options to this agonizing selection, all I could respond was a painfully pensive, “Uhhh...ya…nu...wha…When is it?” as if I needed to check my schedule. This was before I had a summer job and spent my days reading, playing my guitar, mowing the occasional lawn, and watching movies. 

My grandma and me at the "symposium."
We haven't quilted anything in our lives.
My schedule was open. At this point, I need to remind you of the purpose of this post: I am a good son. I do not wish you to think that I could not have formulated an excuse to save me from the bloodthirsty quilting monsters, for that would imply that if I said agreed to go, it would not have been out of the sacrificial, devoted, and encouraging love I have for my mother. I’m clever enough to have thought of something. 

“Friday,” she replied hopefully.

My mind, defrosted by the torching decision looming over me, remembered, in the midst of all the fearful quilters and patterns and sewing machines that danced in my brain, all the things my mom does for me. “Sure, Mom, I’ll go.”

Wow! Did you hear that? He said yes! He’s gonna go to the Quilt Symposium! What a great, kind, loving, caring, sweet, sensitive, thoughtful, ambivalent, agreeable, self-sacrificing and loving son he is. 

the hottest guy at the symposium...for real
I know, that was my reaction too when I heard it. He really is a great son
(to be continued...)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday remix - speedos

Since I'm taking a little break to recover from elbow surgery, 
here is a cheery summertime post!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Doing hard things - a little easier

I'm bringing sunglasses, readers and
swimming goggles to the pool and I don't even care!
With at least a week-long swimming hiatus before me, I decided to take advantage of a beautiful day by heading to the pool. 
I wrote this on the sand in Mexico
A few months ago, I sat among the women in my writers' group and we were given a writing exercise about the summer. Each of us went around the room and shared our stories, the vision we had for the upcoming season. When it was my turn, I pushed back the tears when I read my entry. For me, sharing it was raw and vulnerable as I had penned a summer that seemed impossible and unattainable.

But a few weeks later, with new found courage, I started to try (again) to swim. 

I feel like a kid!
The hallmark of today was that though the Hubs and the OS all had other things to do, I went to the pool. By myself. Without resentment or angry muttering, I walked there, set down my belongings and I strapped on my trusty swim goggles. With one step off the edge, I jumped into the deep end of the pool. WOW! By myself! And I swam to the other side with no incident. The lifeguard glanced my way but remained on her perch. I bet she thought I did this all the time. ;)

I also hopped off the diving board a few times. These activities are slowly becoming routine which is just remarkable to me. With each jump, plop or frolic into water, my confidence increases. 
It is wonderful to no longer be tethered
to the lounging chair.
When I see the little kids enjoying water, seemingly carefree, the pangs of regret and shame are not overtaking me. Bless their hearts, they have no idea that aquatically speaking, we are the same age! I am less of an outsider and don't look like a fish out of water. (How could I resist?) I'm like a middle-age mama minnow now. 
A more muscular and manly
version of well, me ;)
This might explain why I then attempted another feat. After I jumped into the nine foot deep water, instead of my usual routine of clinging to the edge immediately following, somehow I turned my body and for about the same time that it is taking you to read this sentence, I, yes, Cindy, former land tortoise, embodied the Wikipedia definition of this commonly practiced aquatic activity. 

May I say that remaining afloat in the water without use of any buoyancy aid and using kicking motions and hand motions is HARD?! With more practice, I hope to master this skill.
Elegant dog paddling

I will be checking my blog, email and facebook as I heal from this out-patient surgery and love hearing from you. Aside from elbow surgery, the summer I longed for, is coming true. Keep doing your own version of Hard Things, friends.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wednesday remix - no more land tortoises

So sorry for the Wednesday remix delay. I knew what I wanted to post and it was a matter of scanning the pics, etc. which always takes longer than usual.
Can you say ouch? I can. 
On a side note, I'm having elbow surgery on Wednesday. It's not major surgery but it might delay some posting since it's my right arm, my "writing arm." Time permitting, I might create some advance posts in the interim.

But back to the remix... Tonight I offer my post in honor of my oldest OS who spent two weeks in El Salvador with his bonita and two weeks with the fam this summer. With all that he has accomplished as a young man, Nate has embodied the Romans 8:37 spirit in being "more than a conqueror" in so many ways. By his example, Nathan has shown me how to Do Hard Things. In recognition of our collective swimming accomplishments both past and present, behold my toe-headed boy back in 1995. 
Nearly all known floatation devices were employed. 
The only kid on the swim team with the works. No shame. 
This is sweetest sugar boy I've ever seen in the pool!

There is nothing more precious or inspiring than seeing your child doing something you, yourself cannot do. Replete with floaties, nose plugs, swimming goggles and a noodle, that boy persevered. He didn't worry about how he looked, my OS just wanted to stay alive during the swim meet! Cheering from the pool side, I was crazy proud of him!
As you can see, Nate didn't inherit his daddy's natural love of water. At least for a short while, my OS possessed his mama's land tortoise qualities. 

Go Nate, go! You can doey it! He has come a long way as a cadet at West Point since completing survivor swimming his yuk year. 

Then in a strange twist of genetics, I believe that this summer, I came to inherit his determination. 

Oh and I can barely believe what I'm about to tell you! It's no coincidence that AT THE SAME POOL, I jumped again into the deep end of the pool with even less forethought. And then although lacking any semblance of finesse, I stepped/jumped off the diving board 15 times yesterday. Here's the amazing footage and it's ok if you laugh, just keep it to yourself. Every time I see this video, I feel incredibly embarrassed and joyful. My youngest OS informed me that I "frolicked" off the diving board. Kids these days...

Years separated our victories but we have broken through barriers. Nate was one of my heroes when he was five and will always be as a man, son and Soldier. 
Thank you, dear readers for your messages both public and private. Keep doing your own hard things, if I can do it, so can you by the power of the Lord. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Doing hard things - the dilemma and the decision

Land tortoises aren't especially attractive, are they?
As I navigate into this world of swimming, I am betwixt calling myself a swimmer and a former land tortoise.

Do it? Don't do it? I did it!
Still on the outside to some extent, I keenly observe human aquatic creatures. How you move about in the water, your level of ease, the effortless way you seem to both inhale and exhale while simultaneously kicking your feet and moving your arms in a horizontal position. And your buoyancy. Me likey your buoyancy. I am among you but not quite ready to say I am one of you for fear I might be revealed as an impostor.

The day before going to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, I could be found at the neighborhood pool. I successfully wrangled my orange hair, freckle face OS to join me and as we all know teenage boys LOVE going to the pool with their mamas, right? And if their mamas are learning to swim, well, let's just say Ike was BEYOND words for this adventure...

We arrived at the pool and I informed Ike that I absolutely had to jump into the water seven times because his dad had told me so. Ike was very eager for me to get the task completed but when you have spent most of your life as a land tortoise, it's harder than one thinks especially if one is an impatient, orange hair, freckle face OS.

But I did it.

This is the scene of the incident,
feel the tension!
And then I told Ike what I was going to do next. I was going to jump into the deep end. With a mixture of encouragement and nonchalance, Ike approved. In a flash, I approached the nine foot water and immersed myself into the pool. I repeated this activity several times.

The whistle blew and it became adult swim time. Again I was in the deep end of the water. Everything was going well until I was mistakenly identified as a swimmer.
That ball bobbing in the water...
what was a former land tortoise to do? 

A little urchin of a boy who apparently hadn't noticed that although I was in the deep end of the pool, I was still clutching the side, approached me. "Could you get the tennis ball for me?" he asked unaware of the enormity of his question.

I was dumbfounded as I looked and saw a bright yellow tennis ball right in the middle of the water. I wish there was some kind of attractive, water-resistant sign I could have as a reminder that I am NEW at this. You know the kind of sign on top of a car used in driver's ed? 
I'd like something along these lines
but cuter, sassier and water-resistant, please.

"Um," I stammered. "I'm not that great of a swimmer and I don't know how to stop in the middle so I can probably get your tennis ball but I'll have to give it to you on the other side." That poor child just wanted his toy not a long explanation. He probably wished he had just waited. 

This would also work but in purple and with squiggles.
Without giving him a chance to respond and wanting to look like the heroine, I dramatically inhaled a big glob of air. In a splash (get it, splash?) I swam my way in the deep end, paused momentarily to intercept the tennis ball and returned it to him on the other side as promised.

As it was on the eve of our big vay-kay, I just had to smile to the Lord. I felt Him winking at me from the heavens saying, "We did this." Another challenge met. It was a proud and humorous aquatic event. I guess  I'm becoming less of a land tortoise after all. But I do have a lingering do you people stop in the middle? 
"Hi, I'm Cindy and I'm a recovering land tortoise."
A terrible picture of me but I love the dents in my
head from the swim goggles. Btw, I don't have buckteeth. 
And would you believe that another astonishing thing happened to me on Monday? Another crazy water story I will share forthwith! You bless me, truly you do with every prayer and motivating message! 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Doing hard things - the diving board

I jumped!
Interrupting my scheduled post about swimming to bring you the latest development in achieving aquatic greatness... on Saturday, for the first time in my life, I jumped off the diving board!!!

This journey began in 1985 when the Hubs and I were dating. He told me he would teach me how to swim. There was a pool in the apartment complex where I lived and occasionally we went there. He soon discovered I was a reluctant learner but it was the beginning of my journey to overcome my fear. I knew he was the one for me because he didn't let me drown. He was someone I could trust implicitly.  

With great coaxing and reassurance, a few times, I leaped into the deep end of the pool where my boyfriend (now the Hubs) was waiting with open arms. 

It was such a significant moment, I decided to express the moment in a painting. My desire was to depict two feet in mid-air, no longer tethered by a sturdy, secure surface (a diving board) and not yet hitting the water. That fraction of a second when one completely trusts carried great symbolism for me. 

this diving board has intimidated me for too long
I never finished that painting. I'm not really an artist either so honestly it wasn't great. Last year, after spending decades lugging the picture to new homes only to shove it in a closet, I threw the unfinished painting into the trash. There was no point hanging on to that picture. I possessed a mediocre unfinished drawing depicting a skill I had never accomplished. Who needs another reminder of failure? Um, not me.

"Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis???"
Fast forward to July 9, 2011...we went to our neighborhood pool Saturday and the Hubs encouraged me to jump off the diving board. Through my trusty swim goggles, I gave him my best "Whatchoo talkin' bout Willis???" face and hopped out of the pool. 

The next thing I knew I was on the diving board plank and a second later, I was in the water. Then I swam to the side of the pool which I did for the first time in my life. I didn't drown or flounder. This was another breakthrough. 
"Did I look like a normal person doing that?"
Afterward, on land, I whispered and asked the Hubs, "Be honest with me, did I look like a normal person doing that?" I have pink highlights in my hair and a henna tattoo on my arm yet I completely believed him when he nodded and said yes. I'm married to an awesome man. 
My goal is for this to be a normal occurrence. Is it possible for me to fearlessly swim and not think twice about it? I pray, I really do, for the day when I'm as comfortable on a pool slide or diving board (not diving!) as I am in the kitchen. I have no hesitation to try a new recipe and can usually handle a culinary mistake. 

Torpor has robbed me of memories, I'm ready as it says in Romans 8:37 to be "more than a conqueror" especially as it pertains to swimming. 
I need to do this again and again until it no longer scares me. 

I no longer have that unfinished artwork.  Instead I have a new canvas. Perhaps I never completed that painting because I was relying on my own strength and not the Lord's.  This time it will be better than the original. 
Aquatic greatness ;)
And it will be created, dear friends, not with brush strokes but with swimming strokes.  I'm making progress. This was an epic event! Thanks again for your encouraging words.    

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Doing hard things - part four, what am I afraid of?

I'm trying to process the best vacation of my life. I'm searching for what the Lord is teaching and showing me after five precious days  in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

As previously mentioned, I'm co-leading a book club this summer for middle and high school girls. The book Doing Hard Things is intended for teenagers but it is speaking to this middle age mama's heart. While languishing at the beach, in Playa del Carmen, under a cabana, with a fruity, non-alcoholic drink within hand's reach, a gentle breeze wooed me to contemplation. What am I afraid of?
Here is a partial list:

Heights - looking down from an unsecured area is terrifying
Planes - I often warn fellow passengers that I am not a great fan of turbulence and can grab their hand at any point.
Water - (I'm working on this one)
The view from my beach chair...
Rollercoasters - there's no point to being scared and nauseous unless during childbirth
Hypodermic needles/IVs - refer to above

and a host of other ones I choose not to mention.

Throw in a nervous bladder and a poor sense of direction. The Hubs is such a lucky guy, huh?

Since facing my fear of water/swimming, I realized I am also afraid of:

Failure - what if I don't succeed? I have taken swimming lessons before but after completing them, I wimped out when I couldn't synchronize my body correctly. Convinced that I looked just too stupid plus my knee hurt very badly, I gave up, defeated and land-locked.

It's scary to ponder, if I'm still at this same point of mastery next year, what does that say about me?

But then, strangely, paradoxically, I am frightened of:

Success - I do not know this new Cindy very well and where is this girl going to take me? Possibly people might expect me to join in aquatic merriment. When doctors suggest swimming as a healthy form of exercise, I might have to heed their advice. I would no longer garner pity for being stranded on the shore. Pity, in a bizarre sort of way, has been part and parcel with summer. If I'm really a swimmer, then people might realize that my swimming strokes are awkward, clearly a sign of a novice.
Summer, I gotta be honest, I find you intriguing and complex. 
And then there's the biggie -
I might enjoy swimming and then what do I do? I'm getting farther and farther from clinging to the secure side. What is on the other side? What is in the middle? Weird. 

I received this card in the mail from an encouraging mama
whose daughter is in the book club. T
his frog and I understand each other. 
Next post I want to share a swimming story that happened just before vay-kay. It's becoming an interesting metaphor on my quest. Thanks again for your support. I hear your collective, sweet voices on land and sea, I'm serious.