Thursday, April 30, 2015


- Thinking about swim (I'm always thinking about swim. I spend maybe ten hours a week doing swim stuff, and the other 100-odd waking hours thinking about swim stuff). Thinking about Baltimore, and about all the images I've seen and discussions I've had over the past few days. Thinking about the letter from my professor, and how I think it probably shaped me even more than I realized when I wrote that post.

- Wanting to be asleep; I'm so tired, but I had a splitting headache this afternoon and needed caffeine to get through the day, so I had a flat white plus an inch of coffee that I begged/borrowed/stole from my boss. Wanting to read Rachel Evan's book In Search of Sunday (my autocorrect tried to make it "in search of coffee" just now); I read the first chapter as a sample on Kindle and I'm hooked, but I think I want a real hard copy. Wanting to buy a fan so the air in my trailer will be evenly distributed, but annoyed that I can't find what I want (less than 8" blades, multiple speeds, pivoting head).

- Planning out a road trip to Floyd and then to Blacksburg, VA. Planning out a long weekend (yay!) and a nice mix of fun and projects to be completed. Planning out crafts to do with triplets.

- Making a to-do list (Finish cleaning the ceiling. Plant the green bean plants OUTSIDE before they take over my trailer and eat me. Fix the stupid broken compartment in my truck before drives me stark raving mad.). Making a lot of steamed veggies lately (thank God for microwaves!). NOT making much of a dent on the piles of stuff to be sorted that are everywhere.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Praying for peace in Baltimore tonight. It's such a beautiful night here, and I'm safe and warm and have enough of everything I need. I've never been judged for my skin color, never been afraid of the people who were supposed to protect me. And sometimes it's shamefully easy to look at other people and shake your head in righteous indignation.

I'd rather be heartbroken. I'd rather approach people from a place of sorrow than a place of judgement. I would rather recognize the tragic mistakes being made tonight by precious people made in the image of God, than to be the one who blasphemes by calling His children animals. I'd rather pray for His voice than add mine to the noise.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


I'm a sucker for letters. Handwritten ones, typed ones, emailed ones, long ones written on college-ruled paper, short ones scribbled inside greeting cards, it makes no difference to me.

Once my boss scrawled "Thanks for doing a great job!" on a post-it note and stuck it to my paycheck. It came at just the right time, affirming that my decision - to follow the thing I loved at the possible risk to the thing that paid the bills - was the right one. For months I kept it stuck to my doorjamb, where it blessed me as I left and greeted me upon my return, and then the tack began to wear off, I feared losing it, and I put it away, safe, to rediscover another day. (I still have it.) And months later, after I broke down and admitted that I felt constantly like I  was in over my head (and I was), he wrote me an email in which he said, basically, "You did the right thing. Keep going." It was permission to be flawed, permission to be still growing, and it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Right before graduating college, one of the professors I respected the most wrote me a letter (and I think, perhaps, that if anyone knows the power of words, and what a precious gift they are, it would be him). He said, among other things, "You refuse to pigeonhole the subject into some comfortable niche, or to render it abstract, not connected to you. You refuse to participate in the convenience of willed ignorance... it makes you a good person."

I wept, reading those words. It was May, and I was recovering from my latest bout with depression. I was tired of never feeling good enough, of feeling fundamentally flawed, and I was haunted by the fear that I wasn't a good person who struggled with a disease, but that I was essentially a diseased person who occasionally had glimpses of goodness. But he was someone I deeply respected, and his words had authority. I could trust his words. He named me, in a powerful way, and I clung to those words like a drowning person. I printed the email, and eventually tucked it away where I knew I would someday find it again.

The last time I found it, I was packing my things, getting ready to move out, having learned the agonizing, precious truth that humans will often kick you to the curb to save face, and that God never will. Everything had changed in the last six months, and everything in the next six was completely uncertain. I found the two sheets of paper, folded, in the bottom of a drawer, sat cross-legged on the floor, beside the boxes and bins, and began to read. And I sobbed again, crying until I was breathless, because they had returned at just the right time, speaking into my life once again.

My coaches left this week; I knew this, mentally, but it was still a jolt to wake up one day and realize that it was the last day I would see them, some until next fall, but several probably never again. I spent the triplets' naptime with a stack of thank-you notes and a pen, writing out everyone's name on a crisp envelope, and trying, in some way, to condense my gratitude into a few brief sentences. To let them know that I see them, their strengths, their growth, the things that make them good coaches and good people. To say, in a nutshell, you have value.

"Thank you for your everlasting patience (even with the difficult kids)!" "Thank you for your positive attitude - it always brightens my day!" "Thank you for making sure that each student feels important. That's a gift that not many people have, and you've blessed so many kids with it!" "Thanks for being so dependable - I always know I can count on you to jump in and do whatever needs to be done and I appreciate it!"

And to my seniors: "I hope life brings you good things." "Be blessed in your future endeavors." "I will miss you so much!"

I hope someday, in an unexpected moment, they run across these turquoise cards again, and read the words inside. I hope they're what they need to hear. That they feel loved, appreciated. That they remember the kids that they taught, and know that they had an impact on their lives each time they got in the water. I hope the words return at the right time.

The words we give each other are guideposts, signs we leave to point the way. They name us; they affirm us. They cast light into our lives when sometimes, there has only been darkness. They are gifts, precious gifts, that cost nothing and everything to give.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Looking at the calendar, there's no way last week should have felt as busy as it did. This week, on the other hand, has about three times as much stuff penciled into it, but doesn't feel as overwhelming. Go figure.

I got a lot done last week, though! Began another major decluttering purge. Cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. Dragged the girls' cage outside for a major cleaning - bleach, scrubbing, the works. I gave them a bath, too, while I was at it (no bleach, just super-gentle pet safe shampoo lol). Zinnia didn't care much and got incredibly fluffy, while Zhiva cried in distress :( and looked like - well, like a drowned rat. The place smells much better now. ;)

On Saturday, we had another training session for swim, and I volunteered/bribed Ruth into being our model (for both legitimate and selfish reasons: I legitimately learn better by observing, not being the student, but I also love my job and I sort of feel like if my boss ever saw me swim as poorly as I do that he'd be obligated to fire me on principle). She did well, and I'm proud of her. This has all been very far outside of her comfort zone - first swimming in a class with other kids, then being used as a demo a lot under the new coach, and probably definitely being the guinea pig in front of a crowd (although she didn't bat an eye when I asked/told her, and said afterwards that she'd learned a lot). Like I said, super proud of her!

I came home last night to be informed that there was a police manhunt going on in our neighborhood, and that as part of that manhunt, they'd come by and searched my trailer. ?! My mom showed me photos she'd taken of them entering, and while not exactly upset, I have to say I'm kind of creeped out that there were strangers in my space. Also not exactly thrilled since the place was torn apart from cleaning/decluttering. Apparently they were tracking the fugitive's cell phone, which showed him on our road (our thick, densely wooded road), but then it started thundering and the chopper had to land so they all just left, with the armed guy still out there. I was tired by the time I got home, and I really didn't think much of it (beyond locking my door and deciding that tonight was the night to run the a/c instead of open the windows) but I swear I slept with one ear open all night. Every time I woke up, I thought, "Am I awake just because, or did a noise - the noise of someone breaking in! - wake me?" Needless to say, I was not thrilled to see the morning.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

More Happy Things

- The triplets and I spent all morning playing outside. I feel like someone just sprung me from jail lol. I brought out the easel and chalk, we dragged the ride-on toys back to the patio, the girls spent half an hour making baskets with the new basketball hoop, Miles spent just as much time happily "parking" all his trucks, and when lunchtime rolled around, we had a picnic. I got to soak up the sunshine, and everybody crashed, hard and happy, for naps. I'm so ready for this!

- Apparently I'm not swimming as well as I thought, because the past couple of times I've had longer swim s, I've also had neck pain. :( Yesterday I could barely wait to get everyone down so I could gobble some ibuprofen and lay on a bag of frozen lime beans. This morning I has still stiff, so I decided to skip. I've been trying to be hyper-aware of my head position lately, so this is discouraging. (It's hard to get better at something on your own without being able to see yourself.) I need to get Maggie to watch me swim and see if she can figure out what I'm doing wrong.

- Looks like our summer staff problems are going to work out! I made the conscious decision a few weeks ago to not worry about it, even through it looked like we were going to be in trouble (mostly because I'd just survived one of the most stressful weeks in recent history, and I just didn't have the brain capacity to worry about something I couldn't change, anyway). But this week, everything has started to fall into place. We have two new potential coaches, and a returning coach, and one of the current coaches will be staying through all summer, so we're almost there! Thank you, universe. :)

- Of course, getting new summer staff is kind of bittersweet cuz that means my current coaches are getting ready to head home for the summer. :( I've enjoyed working with them, and I'll be sad to see them go. Even though there have been moments lately where I've wondered if we'd hired a lot of college students or kindergarteners. There's the coach who hasn't shown up yet to teach his classes (after two weeks - the excuses keep getting better and better). The two coaches who started dating (cringe), and went to great lengths to coach their classes in adjacent lanes (I was tolerant, if a bit dubious). The they broke up, and went to great lengths to NEVER coach their classes in adjacent lanes (again, I was accommodating, if only because I was relieved it was over). Now the guy is trying to win her back, and apparently the gal has less sense than I gave her credit for, so there's far less actual coaching going on, and a lot of flirting and "swapping teaching ideas". (My tolerance has run out. I'm thisclose to just assigning them lanes on opposite sides of the pool and telling them to GROW UP ALREADY.)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Life, Lately

- Eating homemade burritos, baked salmon (still nowhere near as good as Amy's) with a mountain of steamed broccoli, Lara bars (mostly apple pie flavor. Wish I could find the key lime pie ones I had in Florida!), hummus (new brand with only "real" ingredients that is hands-down my new favorite!) and pretzels.

- Spring cleaning (mountains of laundry as I work my way through cushions and slip covers), finally and reluctantly tackling the ceiling (there is no good way to do this; no matter what you do, you end up bent backwards with a scrub brush trying not to topple over), working in the yard (packing away heat tape, planting elephant ear bulbs that Ryan gave me, giving my old plant stand a new coat of orange paint).

- Enjoying spring (open windows in the trailer and the truck; iced coffee; shorts and tank tops and sunscreen; feeling the sun against my skin), planting seeds in my little greenhouse (tomato, green bean, watermelon, and pumpkin) and praying over the ones I'm trying to plant in my life.

- Contemplating (how I feel so inadequate in almost all areas of my life lately, except, maybe, my ability to love on people. Maybe that's a gentle reminder from God?).

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Just Things

- Sunshine! And warm temperatures. I needed it this weekend, and nature pulled through. Open windows, the breeze wafting in with all sorts of "moist earth and budding flower" smells. Listening to birds sing. Laying in bed after waking for awhile on Saturday, because it was the first time in a long time that I could (don't hate me).

- I got to watch two of my kids compete in the swim meet this weekend. A third was also competing - he was swimming later in the way and I had to go to work (it nearly killed me to have to leave!!!) - but I was able to let him know I was rooting for him and that I knew he'd do great. I'm so proud of these kids. They make me so happy. I went back today and got to watch the entire afternoon session since there was nowhere I had to be. :)

- I did it. I planted seeds. I shouldn't, I'm no good at growing things and every year I swear I quit, but there's just something about dirt and spring. It calls to me. This year I'm killing green beans (for the triplets), watermelon, and tomatoes. And that's IT! (I might buy some herb plants once it's warm enough to put them outside full-time, too. BUT THAT'S IT!)

-  I have a regularish schedule this week and a crazy-overloaded one next week. I don't know how this happened, lol, but I'm trying to get a bunch of things done over the next couple of days before everything explodes. Also: it's just about a month before Abigail gets out of school and I get her back for the summer! So excited.

- Have you seen these pictures? I think I want to change careers...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Two Poems

"Part of the loving"

 After everyone is tucked into bed,
my prayers whispered into the dark above their cribs,
I patrol the house,
parking toy trucks in the toybox, 
returning books to the shelves,
lining up blankets on the couch.
I fold a load of laundry, 
matching up endless tiny socks.
And I realize,
it is as much part of the loving
as the hugs and kisses.


 Oh my gosh!
The stars are so bright tonight
and just perfectly arranged -
there, a big bright one
here, a trio of tiny ones
sprinkled out onto the night sky like chaos.

It gives me hope, this lovely disorder,
because so often
I feel like my life is as random as these stars,
bursting in a thousand unfinished directions,
lacking focus, scattered.
But these stars?
They are beautiful.

Friday, April 10, 2015


The past two weeks have been ridiculous, and I arrived at this morning just feeling... discouraged. Kind of sad. Nothing major is wrong, but the pile of little things that are less than ideal have started to pile up. I'm tired. And nothing I do lately seems to turn out right.

I spent today cleaning, sorting laundry into piles, organizing clothes, airing out blankets that had been piled up since winter and were now headed back into storage as we headed into glorious warmer weather. The electric blanket was folded neatly. I washed the new dishes and admired the way they stacked up, orange and vibrant and perfect, on the drying mat. When I reached for the dish soap I squeezed the bottle, and a cascade of tiny bubbles shot out into the air. I laughed at the unexpected delight, their spontaneous luminescence. I burned candles - "Easter Lily" and "Vibrant Spring Morning - and inhaled the scent deeply. I reached to turn off the water just as a bird landed on the birdfeeder outside my window, and we both froze, motionless, sizing each other up. He relented first, deciding that I was no threat, and picked through the seeds with an impossibly slender beak, before selecting one and darting off.

I swept the floor, emptied the trash, restored order foot by foot as I worked my way from one end to the other, thinking wryly how much twenty-seven feet could expand when it was dirty.

By the end of the day, I was covered in the grime that had once covered my living space. I ran the water for a bath and slid into the warm tub. I washed my hair, breathing in the luscious scent of coconut and lavender, rinsing off a day's worth of dirt and, with it, a fortnight's worth of stress and flubs.

Here's to new beginnings, to starting over, to trying again with new resolve. Here's to the small everyday magic of coffee, a nap, and hot showers. Here's to fresh pages where we get to write the story again, and again, and again, until we get it right.

Here's to clean starts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Of Lately

- Last week, I could not do anything right. I flubbed and goofed my way through the entire week. It happens, but it also happened to be a very long, very busy week (and even busier weekend), and I was stressing. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was feeling the effects: tendrils of pain from my temples down to my shoulders, sound and light sensitivity, and a massive headache. It was a pointed reminder from my body to chill out, already. (Point taken.)

- Last night one of my coaches "borrowed" my goggles. I should have known better. Goggles are easy to break and a pain to break in, and I always have to track them down again whenever somebody uses them, but I was nice and lent them out. And that's how I came to the pool this morning for my swim, sans eyewear. I learned a lot; for instance, if somebody had asked me if I could swim freestyle in a reasonably straight line without goggles, I would have said "Yes, of course," when in actuality the answer is "No, not if my life depended on it." I bounced back and forth like a pinball, whacking my hand on the lane lines, which is why my fingernails look like they were chewed on by a dull meat grinder. I am so good at looking ridiculous. It's one of my special talents. (Along with stressing and nagging, apparently.)

- We had the most glorious sunshiney day yesterday, with temperatures into the 70's. I had a pile of housework to do between job #1 and job #3, and I ignored it all in favor of dragging a blanket and pillow out onto the grass and sleeping in the sunshine. I didn't mean to fall asleep. I took my favorite leatherbound copy of The Hobbit out with me, intending to read, but instead I left Bilbo and the dwarves (not dwarfs, Tolkie points out in his introduction. It makes me happy) to their unexpected party, and drifted off to sleep, still vaguely conscious of the sound of the wind through the trees and Maggie's bees collecting the first pollen of the season, and I woke up twenty minutes later positive that I was sunburnt to a crisp and would die an early melanoma-ridden death. But my skin seemed happy, and I felt less fragile, so apparently it was okay.

- This was especially nice since we have nothing but rain in the foreseeable forecast. ! My boss laughed at me last week and said, "You're the most sunshine-dependent person I know. You're, like, some kind of alien plant-humanoid that needs sunshine to convert into energy." Well, okay, then. Sorry for being an alien plant-humanoid. When the sun isn't shining, I just want to sleep. (I even bought a special candle to burn on days like this, hoping that would make them less onerous. Nope. Not even close.)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

On Rough Days

It's been a day. 

It's spring break week, and you can tell; everyone is slightly off-kilter, short-tempered, more tired than usual. There have been more tears in the last three days than there have been in the last three months. On Monday, one of my tiniest students burst into tears when I greeted her and asked if she was ready to get in the pool. Her mother looked equal parts frazzled and resigned. "It's been that sort of day," she told me, looking near tears herself. I spent half of the class with her head on my shoulder, floating on our backs, looking up at the ceiling and the skylights, before her mood had brightened and she was ready to go back to her coach.

I'm still laughing, but just barely, which is why I inwardly groan when one of the kids a lane over starts sobbing - a sudden, violent howl of frustration that I recognize all too well (having done it a few times myself). He's embarrassed to be crying. He clings to the side of the pool, his head ducked between hunched shoulders like a turtle, and the more he tries to be quiet, to disappear, the more frustrated he becomes, until finally he lets go and sinks several feet below the surface, hugging his knees to his chest. He's still crying, even underwater, and it's only a second before he has to kick back to the surface for air. He takes a quick, half-strangled breath, ignoring the coach who tries to talk to him, and ducks back beneath the water.

I paddle over, and the coach throws his hands up in frustration. "I don't know what's wrong!" he tells me, exasperated. "He won't tell me why he's upset. He's just staying down there."

I tell him it's okay, "I've got this," and he swims away, glad to leave the problem to someone else. My kid surfaces, glances at me defiantly, and disappears under the water again.

I tread water, waiting as his breaths even out and his up-and-downs become smooth bobs, and I can't help but notice the water running across the palms of my hands, the slight resistance of it against my feet. It's one of the things I've always loved, the sheer physicality of the water. The touch of it against my skin. On a whim, I stop kicking, blow out my breath in a steady stream, and let myself sink.

All is quiet under here, muffled, soft. It's easy to feel alone, but in the best possible way, surrounded by light and warmth and the soft pressure of the water on every inch of your body. I open my eyes, and I catch my kid studying me from behind his goggles, trying to figure out what it is that I'm doing.

(The truth is, I have no idea. Anyone watching would think I'm nuts, and I can't blame them.)

For few moments, we do bobs together, first independently, then eventually in sync, breathing and bubbling, rising and falling in time together. Every time we break the surface he glances furtively in my direction; gradually his look changes, from one of resentment to one of expectancy. The next time we surface, I ask quietly, "Want to go sit on the bottom with me?"

He doesn't respond, but he folds his legs neatly - criss, cross, applesauce - and sculls to the bottom with me, our breath trailing above us like the irridescent tentacles of a jellyfish. We're deeper than I thought - it takes more effort and more air to reach the bottom than I'd expected - but we do, sitting still for one brief second before pushing ourselves back to the surface for a breath, then sculling back down again.

We do this only a few times before he grabs the wall, and follow suit. I'm tired, and so is he.

We catch our breath silently.

"I'm having a horrible day today, and no one will just listen to me," he exclaims suddenly, angrily, studying the tiles in front of him.

I nod sympathetically. "I'm sorry. I'm not having a good day, either," I tell him.

He looks at me curiously. "What happened to you?" he asks.

"I forgot something important today. I left my swim binder on my kitchen table last night and I forgot to grab it this morning, so I didn't have everything I needed for tonight." Just saying it makes me want to growl in frustration.

He shrugs. "I forget my stuff all the time. My mom says it drives her crazy."

"It drives me crazy when I do it, too," I nod, and impulsively add, "It makes me feel like I'll never be good at being a grownup when I make stupid mistakes."

"My mom says everyone makes mistakes," he tells me, unimpressed with my candor. "Maybe you just need more practice."

And I laugh, because he's right, and because I knew that, and because what you know and what you feel are sometimes worlds apart.

"What happened to you today?" I ask, and almost instantly regret it. His eyes darken.

"I was trying to do a freestyle flipturn off the wall, and Carl wasn't watching where he was going, and he knocked me, and I swallowed water and choked and I had to breathe right before I flipped. And coach told me, 'don't breathe right before you flip,' and I tried to tell him that I know how to do a flipturn, that Carl knocked me, but he didn't listen. I know how to do a flipturn," he finishes defiantly, turning to face me.

"I know you do," I tell him. "I've seen you."

"Carl always knocks me, because he never looks where he's going," he adds, frustrating tinting his voice. "I never get to do a good flipturn."

We are the last ones in the pool; even the slowest class ended ten minutes ago. The lanes are empty, the water still and undisturbed.

"Want to try it now?" I offer, beckoning to the empty pool. "There's no one to run in to you. You can have the whole lane to yourself."

He starts to say no, but the novelty of the empty pool wins him over, and he pushes off the wall and treads water in the middle of the lane, suddenly uncertain. He looks at me.

I open my mouth because I know what I want to say - "Remember, freestyle into the wall, don't breathe, flip, push off and roll, and freestyle back" - and I have to stop myself.

"You know what to do."

When he decides to do it, when he commits, he is like a locomotive, and nothing in his way can stop him. I watch his swift, mechanical strokes as he shoots toward the other end of the pool. He rolls to breathe a perfect three strokes before the wall, and his face doesn't rise again before he flips, his feet landing neatly on the wall, and launches himself back into the lane. I couldn't ask for better.

He pulls himself out of the water, and his eyes are shining.

"See? I knew I could do it."