Sitting at the bottom of the pool.

Diving Helmet
Diving Helmet

When I was a kid, I was a swimmer. I was on the JCC team and we’d swim miles a week. It was hard, I remember, but I loved it. Sure, I occasionally vomited from swallowing too much water and sure, I hardly ever won a race. Still, I loved it.

I loved the quiet of it. I loved how the thoughts in my head were all mine and that I could think – really think – without the outside world or any other thoughts or sounds peeping in. Being underwater was this peaceful place that I owned.

When I was around 10 or 11, my family built a pool in our backyard. We’d swim all day long when it was warm enough, though no one had the stamina of my sister who would do laps until someone made her stop for dinner or bedtime.

So speaking of quiet and being underwater, my dad bought this diving helmet. It was just like the one pictured here. I looked it up:

This helmet was produced in the USA in the 1970’s. In those days it was sold for $49. It was used together with a 12 Volt or 110 Volt air compressor.People used it for fun in their pools or to inspect their boats. It is in fact a modern shallow water helmet that needed extra weights.

We would take turns putting on the heavy helmet and walking into the deep end and hanging out there. My father did it best; he’d take a folding chair with him and set it up the deep and and sit in the quiet. The only sound was the air coming in through the tube at the top.

We were talking about this the other day and he told my boys about the time that my brother wanted to get his attention and pulled on the cord – ala Jacques Cousteau – and disconnected the air cord. It’s funny to laugh about today, but imagine sitting there minding your own business at the bottom of the pool when the water starts to pour in. Scary! And that thing was heavy. (Obviously, my dad was okay and he laughs like crazy when he recounts the story.)

Next week, I start a swim class. It’s been 25 years or more since I really swam. (I used to swim laps back in my advertising agency days before work.) So this class is a stroke improvement and endurance class and I figure, I have no place to go but up. Thinking of the days when I could swim miles without even blinking, I wonder if I can make 10 laps without major effort. But we’ll see.

I am looking forward to the quiet.

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The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Or does it?

WD-40
We’ve all long heard the saying that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, meaning that the loudest (or most annoying) problems are the most likely to get attention and be handled. I’m sure we can all think of hundreds of examples where this is true. Just think about the last time you waiting in line at the customer service line at a retailer and (inadvertently) overheard the people ahead of you. Or remember that time you were having a lovely meal and the man at the next table demanded to see the chef? Yup. Squeaky wheel.

I am here today with another theory. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting the Squeaky Wheel Theory (SWT) is not proven time and time again. It is. It is reality. My theory is ancillary and co-exists just fine.

The Squeaky Wheel Becomes Part of the Background Noise (SWBPBN).

So you know how you go to visit someone who lives right by the train tracks? The train goes by and you think, “who could live here?” and come to realize your friend truly does not hear the train. Or, you’re on the phone with your sister-in-law and her children are making a racket to beat all rackets in the background and she keeps talking as if nothing is going on and she’s totally not distracted. But you can’t hear anything except, “I had it first!”

We all have our own realities and everything cannot be a priority. We have to push some of it down. Ignore it. Learn to live with it. Just deal.

And so it goes.

We don’t know we’re suffering, but we are. It’s still there, but we don’t notice really. Until we do.

And then, it’s unbearable.

Our hall closet shelving and rod collapsed a month or so ago. It had that wire rack kind of set-up. No one should have been surprised about the crash, as we had about 5 times more weight hanging than any reasonable person would suggest. There ARE five of us and Andrew does have motorcycle riding gear (heavy!) and I have all sorts of other excuses why this was not a priority. But it wasn’t. And it collapsed.

I sprang into action. Everyone had to get their own coats and put them in their own closets. Then, we’d fix the hall closet.

And then, Reed’s closet shelving/rod collapsed due to the extra weight from his coats. (Can you say, “What were you thinking, Wendy?”)

While trying to help Reed solve this newly created problem, it became apparent that his closet was just not working. It’s small and a weird shape with lots of wasted space. So we decided to make some changes and get some shelving and make it better. We got a recommendation from Angie’s List for ClosetAmerica and they came out to see it. The designer had a great concept, the price was fair (nice Angie’s List coupon!!) and service was perfect. All set now. Except…

The closet doors are so difficult to slide. They’re HEAVY and make noise. They’ve been like that since the day we moved in. We’d have to shave off a little from the bottom or get new doors. Right?

Or I could try a little WD-40.

Which I did. And which solved the problem completely. The doors glide effortlessly.

And then, I took my trusty WD-40 to the hall closet (which is now fixed) but that also has heavy, impossible sliding doors. Except all it needed was some spray. Repeat for the closet in the mud room where we keep school backpacks, wrapping paper, and cat supplies. Opens and closes like the breeze. And no more squeaking.

We put up with those squeaky doors that were impossible to open without a heave-ho for 3 years.

3 years.

It took less than 5 minutes total to solve the problem. And with a product I already had sitting in the garage.

Not to get all deep on you this Saturday morning, but I’m thinking that there are a lot of little things that could make our lives better if we’d just take a minute and pay them some mind. All that background noise – whether we can tolerate it or not – adds up and takes away from the good stuff.

The Wheel.


(just listen in the background, there’s nothing to see here folks…but a beautiful version circa 1977)

The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down,
You can’t let go and you can’t hold on,
You can’t go back and you can’t stand still,
If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will.

The wheel is turning. Oh my, the wheels are turning.

Andrew is making dinner. Soft shell crab and shrimp Po’ Boys, if you’re curious. I know, right? Don’t even tell me how lucky I am. I know.

So Andrew is making dinner. We were chatting. Our son took the car and left for the high school senior awards night.

I’m trying to let that sink in.

He took the car.

He’s graduating from high school. Next week.

I could post a picture of him when he was little here, but I’ll save that for a nice juxtaposition with his graduation photo. Hehe.

So the wheel is turning. So fast. So fast. I’m happy. I’m a wreck. I’m happy and a wreck. Reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:

Guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Help me! I’m a wigwam, I’m a teepee, I’m a wigwam, I’m a teepee.” And the shrink says, “Relax. You’re two tents.”

I know you already knew that one but I couldn’t resist.

I can’t really explain what it feels like to watch your child drive away. Those of you with older kids? I bet you know. It’s just the first domino. I’m so full of emotion. So full of emotion.

Is the kid ready for this? Ready to be so independent? Ready to move away? To be self-reliant? You bet he his. I’m bursting with pride. But that doesn’t make the tears stop.

source: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/mbylow source: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/mbylow%5B/caption%5D

Thoughts at the end of a long week.

source: sxc.hu
source: sxc.hu

Ideas for blog posts keep popping into my head. But lately, I’ve just been too slammin’ jammmin’ to write them. Work has been fascinating lately and super busy and I plan to be posting over there soon. I’ve been writing and presenting at conferences and meeting people and all kinds of good stuff.

But still, I’ve been reading a ton, following you all on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn as best as I can (Though I assure you I’ve missed really good stuff you posted – so feel free to tell me again!) In my reading, observations, and thoughts, some things came to mind that I feel compelled to share:

  1. Hairclips may not be stylish but they truly hold my hair up the best. I wish I could wear them in public, but I’ve been told I can’t.
  2. It’s remarkable how quickly a mob can form online.
  3. I often prefer to keep quiet.
  4. It’s not possible to make everyone happy. But, I hate when people I love aren’t happy.
  5. Laundry is a gift that keeps on giving.
  6. I wished for a lap cat and I got the queen of all lap cats. She drives me nuts when I’m working but I love her very, very much.
  7. It’s rare that I’m alone.
  8. Can you believe that woman swallowed the diamond?
  9. I had a horrible nightmare last night and couldn’t get it out of my head all day.
  10. I haven’t had a good cry in a long time. Not sure if that is good or bad.
  11. My oldest son is going to college in the fall. I know this is true, but it’s hard for me to believe.
  12. It’s polite to respond to people online. Would you snub someone who spoke when you saw each other at a party? Particularly if you’ve crossed paths over and over again?
  13. I try to assume people have good intentions. It feels a lot better than assuming the opposite.
  14. Wine is good.
  15. I like peace & happiness.
  16. I have been cleaning my closet in stages and getting rid of the stuff “Stacy & Clinton” would want me to dump. I’m getting there.
  17. I feel really guilty when I dump on someone. I did that today and I’m sorry. Totally wasn’t fair.
  18. Can you believe it’ll be May in a couple days?
  19. Did I mention the hairclip? Love the hairclip.
  20. I am going to feel this morning’s crunches tomorrow. Mark my words.
  21. The church down the street offers free English lessons. Brilliant marketing strategy.
  22. The Christmas cactus (care of my fab SIL) is blooming again and is totally gorgeous.
  23. Grilling season is really kicking up. This is good news.
  24. I saw my old neighbors today. There are days I wish we hadn’t moved. (Don’t tell Andrew.)
  25. No one really knows anyone else’s life.
  26. Our first shipment of our year’s supply of Seattle’s Best Coffee came today. Woo hoo!
  27. I miss baking and need to fit that back into my life. It’s been weeks, people!
  28. Big project plans in the works for the summer. Exciting stuff.
  29. OMG it’s almost time to plant summer vegetables. Tomatoes, cukes, peppers, arugula, and some herbs. Not sure what else.

So, that’s my brain dump. Now? I’ll sit in the quiet, sip some wine, and chill.

I bought a canvas.

This is a post that I started to write in October 2007.

I decided to try my hand at painting – it’s been a long, long time. So I pulled out my old sketch book and here’s my first drawing.

+++++++++++++++++

We all have our insecurities. No? It’s been over 5 years since I told myself I wanted to start drawing again. Five years since I rushed out a sketch of Andrew. It’s rough. It’s clear I needed practice and focus. But I drew this and decided I couldn’t do it. And I set down the sketchbook.

Just set it down.

Thinking about this now, if it was someone else I’d have encouraged some lessons or some practice or whatever to see if he/she could get some enjoyment out of it. But I wasn’t this generous with myself.

I’ve recently learned that our county arts center has drop in drawing with live models. It’s inexpensive and unstructured. Pretty low risk, if you ask me.

Ballet lessons.

credit to katagaci
credit to katagaci

Before you accuse me of living in the past, let me defend myself. Stuff just crops up in my memory. It’s not as if I think about this stuff all day long. I swear!

But after writing about the quiet girl, it got me to thinking about the boys.

The boys in fifth grade.

I thought they were my good friends. They were popular, but not ‘too’ popular. One was tall and skinny and smart and funny. His friend? Not so tall and a little more solid. And also smart and funny. They were always together. Kind of like Laurel and Hardy. (Not to ruin the story or actually not even all that related but a little cathartic, he was a lot less funny when we re-met as adults. Or at least, he didn’t amuse me. At all.)

So, in fifth grade.

The tall guy. (And when I say tall? He was 6 feet tall in elementary school. Or at least that’s how I remember it.) So the tall guy comes up to me and says, “You need to ask my friend about his sister’s ballet lessons. He really loves his sister.”

And I cared about these guys. So I did. They were my friends.

“How are your sister’s ballet lesson’s going?” I asked about an hour later at recess.

“My sister doesn’t have any legs. I can’t believe you’d say that. I thought you were my friend.” And then he began to cry.

That was 1971. And I still remember the bile rising up in my throat.

It was months later that I learned he didn’t have a sister. Kids are mean. Just saying.

Take me out to the ballgame.

Camden Yards - Season 1
1992. First season of the Orioles playing at Camden Yards. And there we were, young (ish) and dating. I worked for an ad agency that just happened to have great corporate seats. And, evidently, I had weird Flashdance clothes.

As another year ends, I wistfully think about all the years Andrew and I have been together. So much has happened in 20+ years. The jobs. The moves. The babies. And of course, since the babies started coming in 1995, they’ve been our top priority. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of work. I love where we are, but it’s easy to miss the cute little boys when I come across their early elementary school journals with daily (and incredibly cute) entries.

For example, here are 2 of the boys’ entries for October 24, 2005

{second grader} The Great Wolf Lodge was great! There was a arcade, a water park a wave pool, a splash pad and a water rock clime. When you got to the top of the rock clime it squirted out water. I almost finished Harry Potter 5. It is really good. (wgs note: really? He was a great reader but I really let him read that in second grade? oops. He seems okay, so maybe it wasn’t that big a deal. Remind me to ask him if he had nightmares from it.)

{third grader} This is what I did on the day off. I went to see my dad make a speech at the University of Maryland. After that, I went to Willamsburg, Virginia. It was a lot of fun! (wgs note: yes, he spelled a lot correctly! My boy!) The hotel had an indoor waterpark! It also had an arcade, a breakfast buffet and a hotel door decorating contest! The hotel was the size of a four story high mansion! That is what I did this weekend. (Okay, fine, he likes exclamation marks. I think it’s cute.)

{fifth grader didn’t have a journal that year. bet he’s happy about that right now.}

So what have we learned here? We have learned that I stop and read every piece of paper, every notebook, every everything when I clean my office. And, we’ve learned that I am way more sentimental than I often admit.

My boys are all in high school. AND they all spell and use punctuation pretty well. It’s so different being a mom of teenagers. So different. You – out there – yes, you with the little kids. It’s awesome; don’t be scared. But save all the reminders. You’ll be glad for it.

Like I am today.

Drifting.

credit: Billyruth03
credit: Billyruth03
Sometimes we drift apart. Or at least we used to.

I’m not talking about friend breakups. Nothing momentous. But sometimes, there just isn’t as much to talk about. There isn’t enough in common to choose to spend time together.

It’s not dislike. It’s just not priority.

And back in a time before Facebook, there’d be a natural, easy shift. And while it was sometimes a little sad to wistfully think about old times, the reality was that the connection was just not that strong.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t unfriend people unless there’s a real dislike or reason to. It just feels hurtful to me.

Maybe it doesn’t to you. But to me, it does.

And drifting is different from severing.

So in our times, what happens? There are loose ties and awkward peeks into casual or even more – lost – friends’ lives.

What does this say about us? That our communities keeps getting bigger as no one ever leaves the circles but rather move to more peripheral circles as relationships shift and priorities change?

Hallelujah

Rose Milk

Until this year, I’d never seen Handel’s Messiah performed. I suppose this is not shocking, being Jewish and all.

It was really beautiful. I hadn’t ever thought about it being scripture, but yes, it was. But still, it filled the church and drew me in.

The church was lovely. Not too fussy. Warm, nice. And every time the air shifted, the smell of Rose Milk passed by me.

Now, it’s not that I particularly like the smell of Rose Milk. I don’t, actually. But my grandmother, Betsy, used it. And it conjures up such memories. Maybe she was even there with me in that church.

And the music. I could hardly wait for Hallelujah which, incidentally, was the only part of Messiah that I evidently knew.

It didn’t disappoint.

But the best thing about the whole concert was being there with my youngest (now 14 year old) son. What great company.

Me, Max, Handel, and the memory of my grandmother.

Merry Christmas, indeed.