Swim in a meet, meet new friends

Watch and learn: even when you're waiting for your event, other swimmers teach a lesson.

Watch and learn: even when you’re waiting for your event, other swimmers teach a lesson.

I drove (and swam) a little outside the proverbial comfort zone this weekend. I went to a three-day swim meet about two hours away.

I’m wiped out, but it was worth it.

I was the only swimmer from my team to make the trip (hey, you’ll have to ask the other swimmers why they didn’t go!) and of course, it gets a little lonely being a solo act. Fortunately, I was adopted by another team. The group was from Georgia, and there wasn’t a “y’all” to be heard from any of them. Actually, they all sounded like they were from anywhere except the Peach State. Their hospitality, however, was pure Southern. They want me to come to their next meet. They’ve promised me great barbecue and adult beverages. I’m not planning on turning any of that down, by the way.

As for the meet itself: it went well enough. I brought back some hardware.  There were a lot of better swimmers there, and a lot of old swimmers. And by old, we’re talking about athletes age 85 and older, who can still go fearlessly off the blocks and haul hindquarters up and down the meter lanes with the best of the whippet-thin whippersnappers. I saw family while I was there; my niece was my counter for one of the long races. I warned her that what she would see at a Masters meet was nothing like the high-school team she coaches. “You’ll see bodies that don’t belong in these kinds of swimsuits,” I said. “And body parts that should never, ever see the light of day. Just letting you know.”

Her reaction? “I hope I can still swim when I am as old as some of these people!”

Kids say the darndest things. And I agree with her. I hope I can still swim when I hit the age where they stop bothering to keep official records. By the time I reach that age, it shouldn’t matter anyway. What should matter is that I’ve made more friends than I can count (and hopefully, they’re still around) and that I can stagger out of bed each day and steer my rear to the nearest pool.

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Filed under Aging, Exercise, family, Relationships, Swimming, thought, travel

They say the legs go first…they may be right

My heredity has finally caught up with me. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa: thanks, but no thanks anyway.

The varicose veins have not just arrived, they are making my legs look like a Rand McNally road map with construction issues.

It’s a family thing, with the previous two generations not only suffering from the condition, but going through the only treatment available back in the medical Stone Age: vein stripping, which was a rather brutal means of dispensing with the problem. It required hospitalization, general anesthesia, a month of down time and offered a host of complications, though the surgery did work.

Methods have gotten kinder now, with chemical injections done in a specialist’s office over a period of weeks or months. I’m grateful for the newer treatments, as they have little or no down time, no surgical issues, no anesthesia (other than local) and no hospitalization. The drawback is that the treatments will be for life, as there is no guarantee that once injected into oblivion, the veins will not return.

Ugly legs suck, even when you are as lucky as I am to be in the good end of the gene pool for most everything else. I cannot complain about much of what I inherited. I still have my hair and teeth and the basic body parts I was born with and still require for survival. My failing vision has been replaced with brand-new technology (thirteen months, and 20/20 vision has yet to get old!), my hearing is perfect and I can smell and taste without issues. Still, I look at the newspaper and magazine ads with the leggy models advertising the vein clinics, promising “the youthful, beautiful legs you once enjoyed.” Thing is, I never enjoyed them youthfully, either. I’m built like a cross between a cube fridge and a tree stump, so the concept of great gams never applied in the first place.

A cousin of mine, who passed away a few months ago, had legs so beautiful she was a leg and foot model for a famous New York department store . I always liked her, although I’m convinced she got every atom of good lower limb genes the family had and left the rest of us with nothing. I’ll think of her when the first of many needles destroys the first of many bad veins, beginning next month. I’ll get my good-looking legs; I just won’t come by them as naturally as she did.





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Filed under Aging, health and beauty, technology

It’s not just about Ray; it’s about Janay

Love shouldn't hurt.

We can stop the violence. We all need to get involved. This means you. Now.

By now, you’ve seen the video of Ray Rice and his then-fianceé Janay going at it in a casino elevator. She comes at him, he hits her hard enough to knock her down, then drags her out of the elevator. Rice was suspended for two games by the Baltimore Ravens, who saw only the dragging; when the knockout portion was released, the NFL suspended him indefinitely and the Ravens cut him from the team.

So much wrong on so many levels with this one. And for many, the most shocking wrong is why Janay not only stayed with Ray, she married him after the assault.


A few suppositions:

It wasn’t the first time his fist had connected with her face. That was one well-practiced punch. It was only the first time it was caught on camera. And Janay knows it. The look on her face when they faced the news media was hard, cold and almost glaringly daring the press to ask her the obvious: What the hell are you thinking?

What is she thinking?

The NFL was as much her meal ticket as his. He had a $10 million contract with the Ravens. Plus the perks, prestige and popularity that goes along with being the wife of a professional football player. It’s gone and she’s not happy.

She remembers what is good about him, and knows he is capable of being that good person. What she does not realize is that the violent man is likely the real man; the good “outbursts” are only temporary.

She really thinks she can change him and make him a better person. Change never comes from outside, only inside. And if other women failed, you will, too.

She places blame on others; instead of acknowledging the real issue, she blames the media and the public for ruining their happiness by using the story for ratings. Honey, there’s more important stuff to pay attention to. And it’s not anyone’s fault that the casino happens to have a plethora of photographic devices. Casinos usually do.

Oh, and she does love him. A well-conditioned victim can love their abuser, even if it’s not love as most of us would define the word.

I may sound harsh, but I hold them both at fault here. I hold Ray Rice responsible for assaulting Janay Rice. And I hold Janay Rice accountable for her actions after the assault. No amount of money and fame is worth the price of your self-esteem.

Janay defender her husband with one of the saddest declarations I’ve ever seen, posted in her Instagram statement:

“This is our life! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels.”

Yes, Janay, it is your life.

And no one hurt, embarrassed or caused you more unhappiness that you did to yourselves.

It’s an odds-on bet that you won’t be living that life much longer. Standing by your man, not taking a stand that love shouldn’t hurt, that no one should be scarred for life or scared to die in a relationship means that Ray Rice now has a blank page to write the next more violent chapter of your relationship.



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A woman’s work is easily undone

Is it housework or punishment? Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Is it housework or punishment? Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Did you ever wonder why a clean house, weed-free yard and washed and waxed cars in the driveway matter?

Yeah, me too. And yet I keep doing those things, only to see them get dirty/overgrown/muddy again. It’s like being on a diet for six days, only to have the ice cream truck break down in your driveway on day seven. All the counting calories and fat and carbs, then the goop hits the eating device.

It’s the classic definition of a vicious cycle. And in my case, I actually guilt myself into the everlasting cleaning parade by worrying about what people will think about the yard (don’t want it to look like we abandoned the place), the house (a random human could stop by and white glove-judge the coffee table and countertops) and the cars (The Husband is an ex-racer and lifelong automotive junkie, so when it comes to cars, I have to keep up with the in-house Joneses).

And worst of all: I clean my house completely before I go on vacation.

I could be talked out of doing some of these chores, if anyone cared to try a little arm-twisting. My mother worked, and had a once-a-week cleaning service, a tall blonde Valkyrie of a woman named Helga. She never said much, but her capacity for work was astounding. She certainly gave credence to the phrase “heavy lifting,” back in the day when everything was ironed (including sheets and pillowcases), all the floors were washed and waxed and furniture wasn’t just dusted, it was polished. I’m no slouch, but Helga’s ability has me beat any day of the week. I cannot imagine having a stranger in my home to clean it, though. I’d never stop wondering what they were thinking.

I look forward to the occasional day or weekend away because it forces me to break the cycle. Of course, I return from the time off in a panic, because now I’m “behind” on things and “have to” catch up. Is it too late in the year to make a resolution to do less housework, or am I doomed to run forever on the cleaning carousel, like a gerbil on speed?

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Filed under home improvement, relaxation, thought

‘Tis the season for family reunion fallout

A good family reunion is more than just a packed picnic table.

A good family reunion is more than just a packed picnic table.

A friend of mine is planning a family reunion for next year. It’s going to involve big numbers and already involves big drama.

My friend is trying to keep the attendee list to “immediate” family, meaning grandparents, parents, sons, daughters and grandkids. No distant relations, twice-removed cousins or folks known as “Uncle” or “Auntie” but whose actual blood ties are unknown.

His mother was one of eighteen children, and each of those eighteen children have an average of six children each. And that generation of children all have children now.  My friend figures it’s somewhere around 250 people to invite to this party.

That’s not a party, that’s a full-scale invasion. He was asking for advice as to where to have the party. I’m thinking he needs his own empty country, complete with hotels, campsite and industrial-sized cooking facilities.

To be fair, he is not paying for any of this, is considering using a state park, doing potluck and is looking for a central location to make everyone happy. Except that the words “family reunion” and “making everyone happy” don’t belong in the same sentence, because it’s about as likely as a guarantee of perfect weather.

He’s posted the reunion information on Facebook, and there’s already whining about who can come and why others are not invited, how cousins are related to one another, whether “other” dads or moms are invited (some of my friend’s family members have multiple kids with numerous partners  inside, outside and alongside conventional marriage), and this is before getting all these people to agree to one really massive potluck. Because 250 people cannot simply be told, “Bring a dish.” You wind up with soda, fried chicken, potato salad, napkins and not much else. So food has to be assigned, either by alphabet or family. Then there’s where to stay, the games people can play (to prevent gossiping or arguing about religion and politics during the reunion) and how to get there via car, plane or  train.

I really want to attend this reunion. I want to be there for the hair-pulling, name-calling, manicured nail breaking catfights and of course, that booty-and-ball-busting moment when the police show up and tell the adults to behave. Meanwhile, the kids will raid the tables, fill their plates, eat like deprived hyenas and go play with whatever they can find, while making new friends among this family. The kids know better than to fuss. There’s food and new people in a place that merits exploring, and that’s all they need.


Filed under Children, family, food, Relationships

Busting the comfort zone and annoying others

I may not do it well, but I'll show up and annoy you anyway.

I may not do it well, but I’ll show up and annoy you anyway.

I’ve mentioned many times that I swim, run and bike.

I’m pretty sure I’ve also mentioned that I do none of them especially well. In fact, last place and I are pretty good friends.

I’m reminded of that every time I see a results sheet at a race or a meet. People wonder why I don’t have apps on my phone to send my results and keep me informed of the competition. I don’t have a smart phone (I am getting one next week, which will certainly be fodder for another blog post) and how excited should I be to see that I’ve come in last, on a tiny little screen, no less?

The whole idea of busting out of the comfort zone is nothing new. We’re encouraged as kids to try new things, from food to sports, and told that we only have to “try it just this once.” Sometimes we decide to hate it out of spite. Or pretend to love it because our friends love it, or our parents pressure us.  How many of us played a musical instrument, played baseball or danced for far too many years, with no talent or hope of progress to show for it, just because someone else wanted us to participate? We feel bad for slowing down other people, we feel dumb for looking bad next to better people and spend years wondering why we do it. Then some of us have kids and put them through the same thing.

As kids, we had no control over where our comfort zone ended and adventure began. As adults, we don’t have to ask permission or look to the bleachers to see if anyone is cheering or not. If it’s affordable and the time is available, it’s doable. Don’t look around to see if anyone thinks you’re awesome. Their opinion doesn’t count. Just go play, and in the process, you will likely be showing someone else with more fear than faith in their own ability that the impossible can be done and the goal attained. And you’ll be annoying the more accomplished souls in the process, because they’ll wonder why you’re having such a good time.

Note: This post is dedicated to Raife Snover, a cyclist, trainer, swimmer, dog trainer, barrel racer, pilot, wonderful son, husband and a guy his fellow swimmers miss very much. Thanks for letting us all know how much he meant to you.

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Filed under Exercise, inspirations, Running, Swimming, thought

Dear Apple, You’re A Customer Service Zero

To the staff at the local Apple store,

You suck big, slimy rocks covered with sharp objects.

Imagine being such a big moneymaking company that customer service takes second place. A very distant second place.

Someone comes into your store, wanting to do the right thing: turn in a lost and very expensive new iPhone, hoping you can find the owner. And you don’t even allow that person into your store, let alone stoop to performing such an act. “That’s for the police to do,” you say. Really now? The local cops have the time to stop chasing crime, plug in every new phone that comes down the tech pike and hunt down the owner? That must be the twenty-first century version of the fireman showing up at your door to get Fluffy out of the tree.

Must be nice to be able to make a lot of money and diss people. But then, you know it’s a throwaway society. Lose a phone…oh, well. Just go buy a new one. Or get Mom and Dad to buy it. No big deal, right? You know that a certain percentage of people will lose or break phones rather than treat their purchases with care, and be right back in your consumer clutches, begging to be allowed to spend money on a new one.

Call me a Luddite, but at least plugging the phone in would tell you that it’s either locked or the battery needs charging. As I sit and write this, I’m attempting to charge the phone with a power cord from my iPad. If it fails, it goes to the scrap dealer, along with the old iPad. I’ve been looking for a reason to part with that anyway, and you’ve just given me that reason.

I was considering several brands in my quest to buy a smartphone. At least the list just became one brand shorter. My decision won’t make a bit of difference in the Apple juggernaut, I know. But take that, anyway.

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Filed under consumer products, recycling, technology, thought