Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stroke, Float, Sink...Repeat

The cold weather is slowly setting in throughout the Southwest over here in the good-old UK.  Barefoot running is more like numb foot running and my hips are acting up to much for me to even enjoy the sport at the moment so my runs have become minimal.  So I am trying to make the pool my friend at least once a week to take the pressure of my joints while I get the blood flowin and the heart pumpin.

Problem is...the water and I aren't friends or really even associates yet.  We have this weird relationship.  If I don't visit the pool on a regular and consistent basis then when I do get in I feel as if she is going to swallow me whole and then spit me out.  It's like she is back handing me and making me feel bad for cheating on her with the rowing machine or free weights.  I then feel I need to tell her it's not her...but me.  My confidence in the still body of water is still minuscule.  I can kick and stroke but not for very long or very far and if I can't put my feet on the floor then I don't go in...PERIOD.

However, that has to change because I have gotten this crazy idea in my head that I want to learn how to row next year and I want to join the Bristol women's rowing club.  But to take the learn how to row class I need to be able to swim 100 meters in light clothes - makes sense if I am to be in a BOAT in the middle of a BODY of WATER.

Now some of you might be thinking "Why would you want to learn to row if you don't necessarily like the water?"  Answer: "Why the hell not?"  See I miss a team sometimes.  I miss the camaraderie between teammates and the fun of being active with a group of people.  Plus, it's a good way of making friends in a new place where I am still learning the local ways of...making friends.  Besides, it just looks cool.

I mean let's face it - I taught myself to run long distances even when doctors told me I might not be able to even walk properly again.  I jumped out of a plane twice in one day attached to another person.  I got myself on a bike at age 27 and learned to not fall of.  I made myself get in the water and learned to at least get my feet off the floor and kick not long after.  I even found myself on a side of a mountain in snow on a new years morning with no crampons and a bad fear of heights, and got back down without killing myself.  So I figure if I can get myself to make the water my friend then I can find myself one day in the middle of a lake in a row boat with 5 other women working up a sweat and getting some definition back into my shoulders and back.

Today I got back into the pool.  Second time in two weeks.  I said hi to the water, took a deep breathe, and pushed off the wall all by myself.  I had Mike stand next to me instead of in front and I made it down and back again - stopping only 7 (ok maybe 8) times.  6 lengths total which is a nice start for me.  It's a shallow pool. I still have problems learning how to breathe, and my body gets tired quick with the new movements but dammit I will be able to swim 100 meters in light clothes so I can at least see if I can learn how to row a bit farther.  I'll keep you updated.

Oh and HAPPY AMERICAN THANKSGIVING to all...and to all a good day.

Monday, November 15, 2010


My dad was a man who use to tell stories.  Stories oozed from his lips like smoke from a cigarette.  Long drawn out stories from days gone past, my dad taught me about life through his elaborate tales.

I learned how to drink by listening to my dad recall his days of old.  My favorite? The time he says him and  two friends "accidentally" drank his grandpas potato moonshine.  From the "old country" my dad's grandpa liked to brew his own drink. To great-granddad beer was always room temperature and alcohol always homemade.  My dad was a skinny red head who didn't realize the difference between moonshine and regular vodka.  The only thing he remembered was drinking in the basement of his grandpas house and then waking up in his room in a rocking chair naked.  His car was on the front lawn and the front door wide opened.  His dad asked him what the hell happened and my dad replied "Well I was drinking grandpas vodka.."  His dad cut off by saying "that shit is pure moonshine.  Surprised your not dead."  The hangover lasted 3 days.  Lesson: Don't drink shit you don't know.  Easy enough.

My dad also taught me the fine art of enjoying my liquor.  To him a good woman should know how to drink whiskey straight and play blackjacks.  When I was 10 he sat me down with his good Jack Daniels cards (ones we were NEVER allowed to touch without him being present) and instructed me on the fine art of blackjack.  He showed me when to hit and when to call, and tried to guide me in the practice of bluffing (or what it also know as bullshitting).  These transferable skills of bullshitting are ones  I call upon often in academic writing.  I use my understandings of whiskey on the weekends to recover from the bullshitting performed during the week.

I also learned to appreciate the musical artform known as country.  A hard core country (and Elvis) listener, my dad always had 99.5 US 99 blasting from the radio on all car trips.  Brooks and Dunn, Garth Brooks, Wynona Judd, Reba MacEntire, and Trais Tritt were all some of my favorite singers in the 80s and 90s.  As the years went on I leaned away from my country roots, letting the opinions of others influence my music preference.  But then I moved to the South and my relationship with country was mended.  One of my dad's proudest moments was when I called him to tell him I bought my first real pair of cowboy boots at a cowboy store in Baton Rouge.  He told me "good job" and then proceded into another story about his first part of cowboy boots.  Apparently they were a bitch to break in and the first few times he put them on he looked like he was crapping his pants cause he was walking so bad.  So his advice was to start off small and break them in.

Being a know-it-all I didn't really listen to the story and its lesson until it was to late.   I was on the streets of New Orleans during Halloween in so much pain all the whiskey in the world wouldn't cure.  I still have the scares of the multiple blisters that appeared on my feet that night.  But I broke them damn boots and have been stompin in them every since.

I loved my dad's stories as they took me to other places and times.  When I was kid all I could every dream about was getting out of the Southside of Chicago and into the world.  Books, school and my dad's stories let me escape.  When he died I decided I needed to stop living in book and through his stories and make some stories of my own.  So I took a little backpacking trip to Guatemala 6 months after the funeral and it was there, in the back of a chicken bus on a old mountain road that I realized something that I have kept special in my heart to this very day.

I realized that I am my father's daughter...and I wouldn't have it any other way.