A Brag & A Story

A couple of disclaimers before I start: First, I’m writing this about an hour past my bedtime. So, if you think my typing/editing is bad on a good day, I anticipate the pain level to be turned up 10 notches before I finally hit “Publish”. Please say a tiny prayer now that my editor David has seen this before you had to endure reading it. Second, I’m about to brag. In the past you’ve seen the “strong language ahead” warnings, but today, today is a brag warning since I recognize that listening to people brag (or reading their posts) may cause involuntary eye rolling. I get it. Feel free to call it good at this point and return to your regularly scheduled email/social media browsing. I’m sure, without much browsing effort, that you can enjoy fun astronomy tidbits like how the moon is actually part of Mars. Fingers-crossed they reinstate Pluto as a planet soon. C’mon little guy, I’m pulling for you! Anyway…

Beth and Bragging

Let me start with some backstory: it’s a rare day that I brag. Sure, I do it on occasion, but most days I don’t feel I’m doing something so amazing that it warrants a herald shouting it from the rooftops. I just kind of do my thing – nothing really special about that. I’m ordinary – a bit dry-witted, and exceptionally sarcastic (my parents are so proud). If you were actually to pin me down and say, “Beth, name two things you feel you do well,” I’d tell you, “I’ve got great penmanship,” and, “I’ve got a great smile.” That’s really it. I can smile and sign things like a champ, and smiling is really not a thing I do; it’s genetics. My parents get more credit there. If you asked for a third thing, I’d struggle and then would probably offer up uncomfortably, “I’m the current holder of most f-bombs dropped on a Monday.” (Again, my parents are super proud.) In all fairness though, being asked repeatedly for sage advice about an upcoming potluck pushed all of my crazy buttons (there are multiple buttons varying in severity, but asking about the potluck was like you’d smashed all of those buttons at the same time). I started wanting to say, “I don’t have a dog in that fight, Carol – my ‘give a fox’ are super low,” but found that was taking much too long, especially when I could more easily give someone a wild-eyed look and carpet bomb them with colorful expletives. Hey, it’s seriously more effective at conveying the message of: “I’ve lost my mind. Now, lay down your offering right now, don’t lose eye contact, back away very slowly, and RUN!”

I’m also not particularly big on praise. Sure, I love it. Who doesn’t enjoy being told they’re good? valued? or what have you? That’s great. Thanks! But whatever I’m being praised for, I typically don’t feel – not deep down. I remember being at a friend’s grandfather’s in high school. She was introducing me and heaped on the praise. I demurred; it felt so keenly uncomfortable – like bragging, but bragging that was out of my control. And I didn’t want to say, “Why yes, I actually am as brilliant as she suggested. In fact, I feel she held back and didn’t quite capture the radiant and spectacular being that I am. Now get your genuflection on, briefly bask in my glory, and toddle on, please. Good day. I said, good day, sir!”

Yeah, that’s just not me. I keenly remember his cool response as he considered me with a frown and said, “False modesty is a sin.” I just blinked as if I’d been slapped. Needless to say, I’ve flipped him off multiple times in my mind for decades now. It’s to the point that if I were given the opportunity to go back in time, I’d revisit that moment (once I’d finished having dinner with Jay and my Mom, of course). I’d pop into teenage me, and treat him like it was a bad Monday and he’d just asked whether people enjoyed pizza from a donut shop at a potluck. In other words, I would have sworn a lot at an old man. (FYI, donut shops shouldn’t serve pizza. I’m just saying. That’s not a thing.)

Hrmmm… I probably should have thrown in a language warning, too. Oh well.

Another Small Story

There’s another piece of my story you need to understand before I get to the brag. My Mom was an athlete. She played tennis, badminton, basketball, and speedball. Mom bowled and swam and occasionally played volleyball. She could ice skate, as well. When she was a girl, her idol was Babe Didrikson, and she’d work on her forehand/backhand against the garage door. Growing up, I was taught to idolize Billy Jean King. The game against Bobby Riggs was a huge deal at our house. I was taught to worship Little Mo, too. On Saturdays, Mom would go off and play tennis with her girlfriends, or she’d drag me to a pool where she’d swim a mile or two while I splashed around.

Being an athlete was part of her identity, and then she had me. I was never headed down that road. I was clumsy, slow, and bad at almost every sport she dropped me into. I spent one summer, where I was forced into little league, sitting on the bench in the dugout for almost every game, because I’d do insane things like swing at balls rolling on the ground or I’d daydream while hanging out in the outfield. At nine years old, no one can really hit that far – at least in our league – so I didn’t feel a need to engage with what was happening on the field. In tennis, I was decent at serving aces, but terrible at returning balls over the net. Gymnastics was a complete disaster, and we don’t need to talk about volleyball ever. I was also the only kid in our pre-K group who couldn’t pass the swim test. Now some of that can be attributed to having no interest in the sport at hand, but the other part of that was my depth perception was/is poor. Eh, but mostly it was that I had no interest; I wasn’t Mom. Sports weren’t my thing. I enjoyed reading books, listening to music, and staring at the stars.

Now there are a lot of great things about my Mom, but when it came to sports Mom didn’t hold back. She would let me know how disappointed she was in my lack of athletic ability. She once told me she wanted an athlete, and I felt guilty that she got a book nerd instead. Eventually, how I viewed my physical abilities bubbled-up during one of the initial assessments with my trainer. I had a lot to offer about what I wasn’t… what I couldn’t…

At some point Jenn and I had a frank talk, and I’m going to misquote a bit, but know this is what my takeaway was, “Beth, I’ve worked with you and seen how you perform. You are not uncoordinated; you have athletic ability. I just think you were never directed to the right sport, and didn’t have someone really working with you.” (Jenn used some of those words, if not all of them. Ok, she may have only said, “the,” but hey I got some of the quote right? Maybe? Look, I’m not a professional journalist!)

The Actual Brag: What You Came Here For

Whew! You’re caught up! Hi, Buddy!

Now that we’ve knocked out all of that background fluff, I can move on to the brag. Here we go! Today I went to my lessons – week four of my Advanced Beginning Class, and eight weeks into swimming. My swim coach pulled me aside, away from the rest of the group, and said my freestyle was looking good, especially my side breaths. She was also very happy with my backstroke. Apparently, all I need to do in order to advance to the next level is learn the breast stroke and work on increasing my stamina (I still get winded, which drives me crazy – I mean, I can actually row for nearly two hours, yet swimming 25 meters, much less 50, which probably takes a few minutes tops, is incredibly challenging.) All that said though, I’m pretty excited about arriving at another new level. And to think I got here without sitting in my chair and holding my breath. GO ME!

And what it tells me is that there’s a lot I can do – things I never thought I could, yet here I am. I’m swimming. I’m rowing. I’m deadlifting. I’m throwing weight bars over my head, I’m squatting, and I do it six days out of the week. So, maybe if I could go back in time, in addition to Monday-screaming at my friend’s grandfather (who’d want to pass on that opportunity), I’d also stop by to visit me and say, “hey, you’re not your Mom. Those sports aren’t your thing, but take a look at these other things. You’re going to rock those. “

Anyway, it’s a small brag, but this non-athlete was pretty pleased with herself today.

All the May New Things, Or How I Did Nothing

I said, “I’m going to try something new each month in 2019! Yessirree! It’s going to be so great! Maybe I’ll discover something about myself! Reinvent myself (in a good way, of course – no meth addictions or running that bar I’ve always dreamed of)” Yep, that’s what I said. You read it.

Now when I repeat all of that in my head, I do so in my “near-Beth” voice – that one that has heavy mocking overtones and undertones (really, it’s got all the tone – it’s rather tone-rich – tone-full?), and of course it’s accompanied by an overly dramatic eye roll. Oh yeah, new thing in May… mm hmmm… the year isn’t even half over, you had 30 days, and nothing? Really? Solid work there, Maynard!

Truthfully, I had an idea, and then my idea blew up spectacularly. In fact, I’m still smarting from this idea, and it makes me contort my face into a perfectly grumbly stink-face just thinking about it. I’d shake my first at it, but my idea is completely impervious to my attempts at intimidation. Rude!

So, here’s the May update on the nothing new I did.

  • I moved to the big kid’s class in swimming – a side story to that – I told a group of people that I was taking the adult swimming class, because I didn’t know how to swim, and they decided I meant, “I have a fear of water.” Nothing beats trying to explain to another adult that, “no, I don’t think that sitting in my chair and holding my breath for long periods of time will actually help my swimming. I don’t have a water fear.” “But what if you practiced holding your breath?” “Yeah. Still no. Won’t make me better at a front crawl, but you’re adorable! Go on! Hold my breath you say?”
  • My gym idol came up, said he wanted to take a photo of me to encourage one of his friends, and told me I was doing great – that I was really inspiring. (I’m pretty sure he actually meant to say, “I actually want the photo to put in my locket,” and he confused his words. I mean, I am kind of a hot, sweaty, old lady gym-babe. Who wouldn’t? I’m practically a hot, sweaty, old lady gym pin-up girl! (Hrmmm… or maybe just a hot sweaty old lady at the gym. One of those.)
  • I hit a new rowing pace low of 2:26/500m for a 9000m row. I maintained that pace for my 10,000m row yesterday. That .9 rounds down! Hey, it may not be the best, but considering I started at a 3:15/500m pace when I first started, and I couldn’t row 1000m without wanting to wheeze and die, I feel pretty good about that pace.
  • I was interviewed for my company’s newsletter – had a lovely conversation with the in-house journalist (he formerly worked for the San Angelo Standard-Times where he reported on the whole Warren Jeffs’ FLDS stand-off – fascinating guy (the journalist, not Warren Jeffs)). We have about 35,000 employees, so that felt kind of good. I look forward to seeing the article. Who knows, I may reprint it here depending on how it reads. Hey, I’m not above bragging! I’m not proud.
  • I said goodbye to my 10 year old mentee. We celebrated with pizza, fake fingernails (not on the pizza), and spicy hot Funyuns (BLECH!! But she loved them.) I reminded her of how amazing I think she is, and let her know that I believe she will do incredible things in this world. She’s so kind, sweet, curious, and plain fun to be around. I’ll miss making slime. (I can now make about four different kinds. Who knew there were so many??) Also, I’m kind of a whiz with baking soda experiments.
  • I had an anxiety attack (’tis the season), melted down, called a counseling referral service, had another one on that call (Happy Anniversary – this is how I celebrate that annual event these days), and met a lovely counselor. We’re now talking about how to manage those moving forward. I don’t judge how you celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month, but I feel I personally did my part.
  • … and while this is getting into June things, I want to add: The counselor asked me how I honored Jay, and told me to think on it. So, while I’ve been thinking on it, I found an artist, and I’ve commissioned an original piece – something that represents the two of us. I’m not sure how it will look or if it will match my particular vision, but I rather like that I’ve inspired art – even if it’s only in a small way. And I love that something wholly new will be brought to life – something that in its own small way will honor Jay.

Heads-up: I’ve also got no idea what I’ll do in June either. Go new things in 2019!

That Thing I Did in April

With April having just wrapped up, I feel I need to provide some sort of report on the “new” thing I did last month. The inspiration for this particular update has nothing to do with 1) not having any other topics/ideas in mind, nor 2) that any topics I might have had in mind actually sounding a bit preachy/screechy and would really have only applied to about three people. Nosirreee. (Blargh, ok fine, here we go. Nut-shelling it so I can finally get it out of my system: LEARN TO READ, three people, LEARN TO READ. Is it so hard? I wasn’t talking to you before, but you got my attention so I am now. GRR! Whew! That was cathartic! Good thing I wasn’t talking about anything. Moving along.)

Swimming: The New Thing I Did in April

I absolutely love it. I’m not really sure what to add here except for possibly a “really” or a “very.” So, I really very love it! Which isn’t to say I’m good at it; I’m not, but I’m learning and my teacher is infinitely patient and cheerful (what I like in a instructor). My big takeaways:

  • Fins are fun and make you feel speedy!
  • Some people may not be the absolute best at sticking to a straight line (not your point A to point B types). They cover the whole pool as if they’re conducting a detailed grid search as they make their way toward the other end; however, all is forgiven because they’re super sweet and you should do your part by just hugging/scraping the sidewall to clear their path. (Hey, it’s really either make way or get hit, and we all know there’s nothing that Mercurochrome or a splint cobbled together from pool noodles can’t fix.  Wait, Mercurochrome isn’t an option anymore? Ok, just hop out of the pool until they’re through. They have to take a break sometime, right?)
  • Tankinis will roll up to your armpits, especially when everyone is underwater and staring right at you. Hi! This is my belly, y’all!
  • Goggles – all these years I denied myself. Why? Chlorine eye burn, I don’t miss you.
  • I’m stronger than I thought, stronger than I look, and more athletic than I appear.
  • Swim dreams – I have them, and they’re the best!
  • Swim days – I count down the days until it’s Saturday again because I get to swim more. In fact, I’d really like a few more hours in the day just to have the time to work on swimming. (FYI, I genuinely get that excited about row days, too. I love you, rowing! I haven’t abandoned you. I’m just cheating on you a bit.)

Truthfully, I really only want to row, swim, and do strength training. Oh, and write ridiculous blog entries, of course – that’s SOOOO my number one, and THEN like all the other stuff is number two or maybe four or five on the list. I’m here for you!

Y’know, I’m not sure when I became “that” person – the person who feels happier/more themselves exercising.  Ok, I’m lying, it was totally August 18, 2015. I’m not even kidding. Well, at least that’s when the whole thing started. Although, I can say with some certainty that, at the end of that day, I wanted to curl up in a tight little ball and die. Then the next day happened, the 19th, quickly followed by several days after that, where I could barely stand without wanting to cry; all of my muscles hurt so badly. I even remember declaring to Jay (or to anyone who could hear my pitiful voice) from the bathroom. “I can’t stand up. I think I’m going to just flip onto the ground and lay here for a few days. Don’t worry about me. Bring food and stuff.” Jay laughed, but I was actually serious about this floor-living plan. It seemed like the best option.

Anyway, it probably wasn’t that first week or even the weeks that immediately followed where I began to truly enjoy the gym, but sometime between then and now it did happen: I like moving. There are days I’ll tell myself I’m not feeling “it” and actually have a solid plan to skip the gym, then the next morning I find myself in my gym clothes, grabbing my bag and heading towards the door.

Now, if I could apply that same will power to eating, and stop treating my body like a garbage can, that would be great. I’m not there yet, though. Hey, we’re all works in progress, right?

Back to Swimming

Last Saturday my teacher pulled me aside to tell me that she planned to move me up to the Advanced Beginners class in the next couple of weeks. Ok, I recognize this sounds a bit like an oxymoron, “advanced beginner,”  but you know what else it sounds like? Progress! And progress allows me to move from the kiddie pool to the big kid pool with the other adults (and really anyone over the age of like eight, who also actually know how to swim). There may even be dips into the deeper water. (Right now the pool I’m in is only 3 ½ feet deep, which is fine by me since it allows me to take my very important panting and wheezing breaks wherever I choose. Three strokes, turn head, take a breath, take additional strokes, drop feet, stand up, wheeze/pant, push off, two strokes, and touch the wall. Great job! You go, girl! Make note of where cheerful pool grid gal is, mentally plot her trajectory, and begin again! You got this! I’m pretty sure this is what Olympic swimmers do, too. I’m such a pro!)

That’s my swim update. Now I need to decide what new/interesting thing I’ll try in May.  

Recap: (Mostly, because I personally keep forgetting. Sure, there are only three things I have to remember, but hey, do I judge you? Ok fine, bad question. Can we just move to the part where you bless my little addled heart?)

February – Painting with a Twist – painted the Eiffel Tower, and discovered I am quite gifted. Unfortunately, my gifts do not include painting.

March – Live-streamed my Beginning Yoga attempt with my good friend Anna, went to Ao5 Gallery with my favorite people where we got to see the Dr. Seuss exhibit (you really should check out his art beyond his children’s books)

April – Began Beginning Adult swim lessons

I’ll be sure to report back next month with what I got into in May. I will also try not to rant again (no guarantees) – not even at those three people who really really deserve it.

Did I Say Rowing?

I was ready to row. I had set my April goal – sign up for classes, get on Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake? the Colorado river? that watery spot south of the Capitol?), and row my little heart out. I had looked at the class times – twice a week, two hours each class, and for three weeks. In my mind, I had already joined my new crew where we bonded over our individual learning hurdles, and then in that last hour we finally got “it,” and really came together as a team. We would probably meet-up afterwards to celebrate – likely somewhere mid-town, where we’d a little too loud over a breakfast taco or two. Beer might be involved. We’d exchange numbers. Then we’d plan to meet-up the following week. We’d joke about competitions – old ladies like us, and then Amanda (my imaginary mascot of our gang) would start to make us actually believe we could. We’d find each other on Facebook, and start sharing our lives.

I love this imaginary gang of people – so supportive. Amanda is really the best.

On the rowing website it said, “watch the safety video before signing-up,” and like any good lazy soul, I immediately saw the 45 minute run time and scoffed. I mean 45 minutes of safety? Couldn’t they just nutshell that into: “Don’t hit each other with oars,” “Watch where you step,” “Try not to drown”?? I’ve blown that video off for weeks, but the day I was about to sign up, I finally forced myself to comply.

Ten minutes in, and something became clear, I was a hazard to my future crew besties, and myself because I can’t swim.

Let me clarify that a bit. I can air-quote “swim.” I can get from point A to point B if we’re talking the standard width of a kiddie pool. I can swim underwater, dog paddle, and even float on my back a bit for short distances. What I cannot do is be dropped into the middle of the ocean, or let’s say a lake (be it Town, Lady Bird or otherwise), and expect to survive more than seven minutes. Add to that the stress surrounding how I’d likely end up in said water: the boat tipped, me upside down, my feet locked in place, have to release my feet, get out from under the boat, tread, right the craft, then hopefully pull myself into it while remaining relatively calm. In other words, I can’t swim.

The video promised a swim test, and that I would likely need to tread water for about 15 minutes. Treading water is something I’ve never mastered. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was the only kid at my elementary school who never passed the Red Cross Level 1 class. I’ve also nearly drowned three times. When I say that, I mean it literally. I had to be fished out of the water once by an adult who happened to see me go under, a friend grabbed me as I was being swept away by a current, and well, there was the other time where I’d slipped out of a float, couldn’t get my face above the water to get air, did a 3-2-1 countdown (universal sign of drowning, or so I thought) as I’d seen on Bugs Bunny, thankfully found the pool ladder, and then sat on the edge of the pool coughing water out of my lungs. Granted all of this happened before I even turned 10, and truthfully most it happened before I had turned 6, but where some would see this as a rallying cry of, “I need to learn to swim!” I saw it more as a, “I should always avoid deep water! Maybe I’m a hot-tub girl!”

Anyway, those two thoughts were clearly at odds. I want to row! I can’t swim. Something had to give.

So, today I went to my first beginning adult swim class. It was FANTASTIC! (And a bit exhausting – and Jenn, I janked my shoulder a bit, but I’m watching foam-rolling videos right now, so go me?? It’s like actual rolling, but with my eyes. Like you’re probably doing now.)

The teacher was absolutely wonderful and exceptionally patient. Mid-class she stopped another coach and introduced us, “Beth, this is Sam. At some point, I’ll be sending you with her to work on what to do if you ever find yourself in the middle of a lake. You’ll learn to tread as well as other survival techniques.” I’d clearly made my “I’ll die in open water” and “I’m currently a danger to myself and others” points quite well. Go me!

So, my new thing in April? Swimming, and I’m pretty excited about it. Good thing since it’s probably my May, June, July, and every month thereafter thing. BUT, glass half-full, the weather might be cool again by the time I actually get to start rowing, and maybe my future crew will have some fun stories from their summer to share. I just hope they don’t mind me holding the team back like this. Save a taco and a story for me, ladies. I’m doing my part to keep us safe.