Lifeguards Do More Than Save Lives

I always found it odd when people said I was “more than up for the challenge” while I was growing up, especially when I really wasn’t given a choice in the matter. However, those types of voices get fewer as you get older, and I’ve discovered that I really do like a challenge.

One day while leaving the pool I noticed that there would be a swim challenge. After looking at the flyer, and checking my unreasonable expectations at the curb, I signed up.

I’m not the biggest fan of lifeguards, especially ones I see all the time and they act like they can’t be bothered by anything. So, my least favorite part of the swim challenge was that a lifeguard had the sign off on the number of laps I swam each day.

There were a few problems with this:

  1. No one other than the swimmer was counting the laps.
  2. Most of the lifeguards were clueless about this challenge so asking them to sign off came as a surprise.
  3. Keeping the record sheet dry was difficult, to say the least.

I had a feeling from the beginning that I wouldn’t reach the end point of the virtual swim but I still held out hope that I just might make it anyway. At some point, I realized there were few days left and I wasn’t even going to make it to the half way mark. I was really thinking I would make it at least that far.

Feeling defeated I thought about taking my foot off the gas and taking a few intentional rest days, but I also wanted to see just how far I would get by the end date. On one of the last days I got out of the pool and approached the lifeguard after writing in my laps.

Swim Challenge 16 Close Up

I didn’t reach my goal but that lifeguard refueled me, which people need once and a while.  It took some of the sting out of not reaching my goal and encouraged me to try if the opportunity ever comes around again.

Lifeguards are on deck in case a life (or more) needs to be saved but sometimes they don’t just do that, and that’s just as important.

The Gift Of GIFs

Graduate school has officially taken over my brain. I can’t formulate my own thoughts without consulting some set of instructions and analyzing them to death before doing anything.

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And even then, nothing makes sense.

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I embark on the assignment anyway praying I’m on the right track furiously texting classmates under the theory that, “if most of us do the same thing, we’re not wrong.”

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I still lose my mind the second someone says something that I consider to be criticism.

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Then I question every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life.

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And then I swear it isn’t worth it.

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In the end I get up the next morning & do it all again.

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Why I: Survived Bullies

I’ve been called an old soul a few times, as most recently as a few weeks ago. This makes me laugh because I am nothing of the sort, at least I don’t feel like it.

It’s true I use to play At@ri, jumped on the St@wberry Shortcake/C@re Bear bandwagon before my peers, and I counted down until the premiere of the new D@llas series because I’ve watched nearly all the episodes of the 80s series; but I think that hardly qualifies me as an “old soul.”

I’m my parents’ only child; however they come from big families themselves so my extended family is vast, yet fairly close.

My aunt grew up taking care of my dad, because that’s what kids in big families do. Their birthdays are a day apart (and a few years), which just adds to their closeness.

My childhood was filled with family events and play dates of every type, shape, and size available.

For the most part I was around boys my own age or people who were older (& I won’t be saying how much in case some of those people ever find this blog). Plus only children are pretty much “grown up” by 7 since they spend so much time around adults, or so I’ve heard.

It’s all ingredients for an interesting childhood. As Opr@h says, “It’s what I know for sure.”

(This also explains why the first time I lived with girls I was almost 20, and had a really hard time with it all. And the first time I moved into a house with people I barely knew I was not-that-secretly happy that one was a dude. It’s an absolute myth that girls are cleaner, at least when it comes to bathrooms…..especially when it comes to bathrooms)

I’ve been more or less “at the end of the line” when it comes to development (CP aside). When everyone’s babies became kids, I was the baby. When the kids became teenagers, I was the kid. When everyone had school years in the rearview mirror I was looking at colleges.

Let’s not forget I was the little kid for all the big kids to practice parent, and just flat out have fun with. Although there was one time during the flood of “how are things going at school” emails and calls when an older cousin was having something of a midlife crisis and decided to share it with me, when I was 18 and trying to not flunk out of school.

The funny thing is, if you want to call it that, was that I don’t ever remember telling anyone I was bullied (except for begging my parents to let me transfer schools). My all knowing babysitter knew, but her younger sisters went to the same school and had classrooms on the same floor, so she had an exclusive to my preteen/teen torture.

If I ever said anything no one ever made a big deal out of it. It would’ve made matters worse anyway. Instead I was almost always given advice that didn’t pertain to the moment, it was lifelong advice. It would’ve been nice to have someone go in an “have a talk” with one of the bullies but what I got instead ended up being exactly what I needed.

Proof that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

And some pretty great people I get to call my family.

I survived being bullied because I knew the “b!tchy girl phase” doesn’t live in everyone forever. I saw enough of it in my home life to look past it in my school life, and when I couldn’t someone managed to get some sense into me one way or another.

*A similar version of this post was written on September 26, 2012

Why I: Am Not Meant To Be A Catholic Blogger

I’ve had this post in mind since Benedict’s resignation. I don’t think I’m able to write it better now than a few months ago, but if I wait any longer I’m going to forget it altogether.

I found my first Catholic blog by accident. It wasn’t long before I thought I would be a good Catholic blogger too. At the time there weren’t many known Catholic bloggers, in fact many young adult Catholics were being told to stay away from internet Catholicism.

I thought I could be a voice for young adult Catholics like myself. It made perfect sense. The internet didn’t scare me & I had plenty of resources at my disposal (at least then).

However it didn’t take me very long to figure out that I wouldn’t be good at it. I did compare myself to other Catholic bloggers, but that was only part of it. I just wouldn’t be good at it. I’m not meant to be a Jennifer, Arleen, or Chelsea.

I don’t find God in church.

There was a time when I never went to mass at all. It wasn’t doing anything for me, except for filling me with rage & anger. Then there was a time when I went to mass daily. I have to do what works for me when it works for me. I can’t go to mass if I’m not feeling inspired to do so. Mass is a piece of the puzzle that makes up my faith life; it’s not the be all end all.

I struggle with modesty.

 It was a long standing debate between friends and me whether I was dressing modestly. In the end we decided that it was best to agree to disagree. I find wearing a dress to be incredibly uncomfortable, in fact I didn’t own anything that wasn’t pants for a long time. I don’t understand the obsession that modesty automatically means dress & immodest equals wearing a tank top. In wind a dress can blow & expose everything, pants don’t move. Tank tops are more complicated so let’s just leave it at I like to have all my bits and pieces covered.

The Church (or rather churches) isn’t accessible.

It’s true that it’s not accessible for people intellectually but that’s not the type of access I’m talking about here, although all types of access shouldn’t be ignored. Many people with disabilities can’t even get into a church to celebrate mass. It’s true that many churches have a handicapped row at the front of the church and it does provide a great deal of access for those who choose to use it. I however find a downside to it. I jokingly call it the “crippled and lame” section. Everyone wants to feel a part of the community. Putting people upfront, because it’s the only place there’s space, can make them feel like objects on display instead of being part of something. There’s also the issue of ramps & elevators…..

The pro-life movement.

I consider myself to be pro-life personally but on a global stage pro-choice. I think the pro-life movement overshadows many of the other issues the Church should also be taking a stand on. I also feel like there’s a piece of the pro-life puzzle that’s missing. We shouldn’t be ignoring other issues for the sake of one.

A feeling of lack of understanding.

I’m guilty of this as well, so I’m going to attempt to treat lightly. One of the biggest reasons I turned my back on the Church was the lack of understanding (and even the desire to try to understand). People were too focused on trying to heal me and tell me I needed to be a better person. People are different and share and express their faith in different forms, even among Catholics

I don’t know the Rosary.

At one point I’m sure I knew it, but not anymore. Even more shameful, at least to some of you, every time I try to learn I miscount my Hail Marys and/or fall asleep in the process.

I can’t be a good leader if I’m not a good follower.

I can’t tell people how to be a Catholic if I’m figuring it out for myself.

*A similar version of this post was written on May 10, 2013

Why I: Joined A Discernment Group

Ten years ago I was looking to make a fresh start after a near crash and burn of my academic career & a list of personal issues. (Side note: The fact that I started college more than a decade ago makes me feel kind of old.)

Here’s what’s awesome about going to a university with an active campus ministry:

There’s always something going on.

It’s almost kind of ridiculous how much stuff you can be involved in (or not).

At the time I wasn’t a practicing Catholic, in fact I was still in the recovery from Atheism phase of things, because that kind of journey practically requires a recovery period. I called myself a Christian but I wasn’t ready to “drink the Catholic k00l aid” just yet.

I steered clear of any organized group outside of the theatre department my freshman year and I was reconsidering that plan for sophomore year. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, so I didn’t want to do the same thing.

There are always plenty of things to do in a theatre/drama department as well. There are always “other duties as assigned” (to put it one way) or a friend is working on some sort of project at all hours so if you want to see them it’s best to go to them (and then you end up helping on the same project, somehow). But I didn’t want to be a “drama kid,” at least not exclusively.

At some point during orientation, sometime after neighborhood orientation, I huddled into the campus ministry office with other new students to hear their “sales pitch”. This was some place I wanted to be involved. I knew that from visiting a friend earlier in the year. The how was the part that needed to be determined.

I’m not a try everything once type of girl but that’s pretty much what ended up happening. The first few weeks the only thing I had second thoughts on was solemn adoration; anything labeled solemn or somber means I’ll laugh uncontrollably. I needed to be better versed at adoration before the sound was turned off.

The first group I showed up for (I think) was women’s group. I loved that group. In fact many of the ladies I met thanks to that group I’m still friends with today (maybe I’ll tell you about that someday).

The next night discernment group would be meeting. I had no idea what “discernment” was but I figured it would be similar to women’s group so I showed up.

I probably should’ve looked up what discernment was before I decided to go to the group. But if I did I probably wouldn’t have gone.

Instead of sitting in the lounge area we met in the prayer room. And instead of one of the campus ministers facilitating there were two nuns, from The Little Sisters of the Poor (an order I knew nothing about, but have come to love dearly).

At some point during the hour I realized I was in a room full of ladies who were considering becoming nuns. I was in the wrong place, but I didn’t want to get up and leave (for fear of embarrassment only).

I may have countless sisters these days, but back then I had only known two, and the impression they left wasn’t one of full warm & fuzzy memories.

I left that night thinking I probably wouldn’t go back (because I wasn’t even in the same hemisphere of that life path) but when Thursday rolled around again I did. I’m still not sure why. The funny thing is I kept going. I think I only missed a few meetings during the year, when being a drama kid had to take a front seat.

I even went the night when we’d be saying the Rosary most of the time. When I grasped even less of it than I do now & I had to borrow a Rosary from the spares that someone always seemed to have on hand.

For me it wasn’t about discernment, at least not at first, it was about meeting people who just might be like minded. When that didn’t work out so well it was about having concrete examples of what I might aspire to. Not to mention meeting some religious sisters who were not only nice, but they went out of their way to invest in others.

I will never ever forget that Sister Mary David told me it was perfectly fine to fall asleep during adoration “because the Lord knows you need your rest.”

Never mind that I had agreed to sit up with the blessed sacrament only to fall asleep face down on a futon that was in our makeshift retreat chapel.

My original intent couldn’t have been any more off. However I think I got a lot more out of it than I realize (yes, even now). I made a mistake in judgment but it was one of the best mistakes I could’ve ever made (especially given my history with mistakes).

Even if I have come to have a love/hate relationship with the discernment process.

*A similar version of this post was written on September 4, 2013

A “Fit” ting Realization

I’ve made a few changes in my fitness routine. I won’t go into the details because I don’t know how much of the new will “stick” and how much of the “old” return, or if at all. It’s also more complicated than just feeling the need to change things up; although that was part of it.

In the midst of all of the change and transition I’ve realized something about myself.

I would make the worst workout partner on earth, possibly the universe.

Exhibit A: I’m on an elliptical next to someone else on an elliptical. I’m barely able to keep the machine going under my own power. That someone else inches from me is going close to 100 rpms (or whatever) while texting full conversations and listening to an iPod, like it’s no big deal.

I realize we look like an exercise infomercial, and he has no clue what he’s doing (and how his actions may be effecting the self-image of others.

I resist the urge to push him off the elliptical, mostly due to my personal safety (balance) than any other repercussions.

Exhibit B: I’ve just finished up a few minutes on the recumbent bike. A feat that would have been laughable not that long ago but now I can keep a steady (albeit painfully slow). The seat also has to be “just right,” pretty much the ultimate short people setting but not quite. I hear a lady behind me say she hates the bike (can’t say I blame her) because she’s too short (she’s actually a little taller than me). I think, she’s going to be pretty surprised when she realizes she’s going to have better luck today.

I watch her out of the corner of my eye and she peddles twice (or maybe it was four times) and quits.

I resist the urge to give her a five minute lecture on how it took me years to do what she just did and she gives in, because she probably surrounds herself with people who allow her to throw in the towel far too soon.

Exhibit C: I get to the pool 5 minutes “late” (5 minutes after opening) so all the official lap lanes are taken. I “trudge” down the pool ramp wishing it was deep enough that I could roll my wheelchair to the edge of the pool and “jump” in.

The lady in the lane next to me is doing “the old lady dog paddle.” She shouts to my mother (who has to bring me to the pool because of a lack of automatic door openers) that she forgot to close the door (the door closed by the time she got back to it). She does 2 more laps before getting out of the pool. She uses the ladder (which happens to be in my lane), she almost kicks me in the head in the process.

I stop myself from wanting to shout at her about noticing an opening a barely open door yards away but she can’t manage to keep her heals within striking distance of my eye.

Exhibit D: I’m using the upper-arm bike trying to keep a pace in the 50s rpm range. I realize I’m actually keeping steady in the mid-60s without much difficulty. Someone is using the upper-arm bike next to me.

It doesn’t take me long to realize I’m trying to out due them, without knowing how far they’re going or who they are. But I did get to 70 rpms.

Exhibit E: Lest we forget why I spend the extra money (which I don’t really have), because I’m not the best person to be left to their own devices. For all intents and purposes I need a “babysitter,” because if you tell me to do 3 sets of 10 of anything and walk away I’ll just make it look like I’ve done 3 sets of 10 & then lie to you about it.

But at least I’m honest about my dishonesty, within reason.

Exhibit F: Even when I win (a board game, cards, anything) I don’t consider it a real win unless it’s by a fairly large margin.

My name is Sarah, and I think I have a problem.

*A similar version of this post was written on October 15, 2014

 

CP See, CP Do

“Breaststroke, drill, 6 count glide.”

My coach says at some point during practice, somewhere between warm up and the time when I wish I was in bed sleeping.

I love breaststroke, even though my stroke is 100% pull and 0% kick, so just hearing the word “Breaststroke” makes me happy (or slightly less unhappy depending on the previous set).

But hearing the words, “Breaststroke, drill, 6 count glide,” at this point makes me roll my eyes (thank goodness for darkened goggle lenses).

Although it’s my favorite stroke the drills are killer.

Why?

I have no back end to speak of, literally I’m working with half of what everyone else has at their disposal, especially in Breaststroke. I’m well aware of this, at this point almost everyone else is too, but that doesn’t get me out of doing drill work, and on the rare occasion it does I’ve at least tried the drill.

But this time is different. I know I’ve done this drill, my brain just can’t pull it up. So, I turn to my teammate, “It’s pull, 1-2-3-4-5-6, pull, 1-2-3-4-5-6, pull. Right?”

She puts her arms in front of her and does the drill using every verbal cue to match the visual cues. My teammates (and coach) also know I do better with visual cues and having verbal cues doesn’t hurt.

I stay behind as everyone else heads to the other side of the pool. I’m sure I know what I’m doing but I want to be really sure. I scan across the lanes and pick someone to watch.

“The goal isn’t to go fast. Make it clean,” my coach says standing behind me. This isn’t new either. Although I took up swimming a few years ago, drills are still new. My brain is used to stop or go, not maximize what you have to use less energy. She’s now used to giving me a single focus, spelling it out before I completely tire myself out trying to do what I think I’m supposed to be doing.

“Don’t go fast. Make it clean,” I say outload and scan across the lanes one more time before I push off.

Pull.

1-2-3-4-5-6.

Pull.

1-2-3-4-5-6.

Pull.

I’m saying everything in my head while I’m doing it. Keeping my neck long and straight with my head down all while my arms wobble erratically in an effort to keep my body balanced. My chest is starting to burn and I can feel my heart beating lightly in my ears. This doesn’t feel like what I see anyone else doing.

I forgot to breathe. When am I supposed to breathe? Oh, yeah. 5-6.

Pull, breathe.

1-2-3-4-5-6.

Pull, breathe.

It’s better but still awkward. Eventually, pretty much an eternity, later, I touch the wall.

“That was a really nice Butterfly pull at the beginning of that last one,” my teammate says with a smile on her face. She knows I messed up & I didn’t realize it. I didn’t do a Breaststroke pull until my 2nd pull.

I’m mad, but at myself. I can’t even do things I like right, never mind well.

I remind myself why I’m here & why I’ve stayed with this group. A few months ago, I would’ve finished out practice and kicked myself until the next day, at least, over it. Now I know no one really cares how I do the fact that I try to do it is enough.

I’m lucky that I’m with a group of people who care about how I do but help me keep my personal expectations in check. I want to do things perfectly the 1st time every time. No one can do that. When someone laughs, they aren’t always laughing at me, they’re trying to get me to laugh at myself, because they’ve been where I am.

I’ve even luckier that I have a group of people I can watch. I can see it before I do it rather than just thinking I know what I’m supposed to do. I have a good idea of who to watch depending on the stroke, distance, and/or drill, and it really does help.

I sometimes joke that my team is a motor planning think-tank because sometimes it’s how I can get the most out of practice.

  • See it.
  • Plan it.
  • Do it.
  • Make needed changes.

Athleticism + CP = ?

Personal note: The timing of this post and the events in my personal life are in the realm of “God laughs at me, all of the time.”

Growing up people always seemed interested in whether or not I had athletic aspirations, conversations which never seemed to go how you would expect. I was always picked last in gym class and never could try out for a team. I was somewhat relieved when I went to a high school that didn’t offer team sports, then my answer could be “my school doesn’t have sports” without further questions. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t have athletic aspirations.

I didn’t think I’d ever become an athlete but now I can’t help but call myself one, if asked. Although I do get more quizzical looks now than I probably would have way back when people would ask about my interest in sports.

People think I swim as part of rehabilitation, that’s how it started but that’s not what it is now. Are their rehabilitative aspects of it, sure, but that’s not the primary goal these days.

I’ve made the mental shift from recreation and rehabilitation to athletic pursuits and then the physical shift followed.

As I spent more time in the pool I realized I needed to spend more time in the gym. The more time I spent at the gym has meant, among other things, that I’ve needed to spend less time picking myself up off the floor after a fall.

The more time I spend at the pool and in the gym the more I ate, and the more attention I paid to what I ate. I can’t just eat whatever I want and expect it to sustain me through a 2 hour swim, just one 25 yard sprint makes that point really fast.

Never mind the fact that people with CP burn calories at a faster rate than able bodied individuals, and that certain foods seem to have adverse effects on muscles prone to spasticity.

If I don’t have the fuel I can’t workout. If I don’t have the right fuel I can’t get the most out of my workouts.

Not everyone can be an athlete, but having a disability doesn’t automatically exclude you from becoming one.

People with CP can be athletes. I know, because I am one.

Owning It

After all my thinking I’ve come to a realization.

I think.

And it wasn’t even a result of all the thinking.

Instead a statement from the oddest of places.

“I can’t believe I get to live in this body”

You could practically hear my brain scream “THAT’S IT.”

I can’t believe I get to live in this body.

Not

I can’t believe I have to live in this body.

Which is pretty common statement when you have CP, because if your body doesn’t always do what you want it to do it’s not always your favorite thing and you resent it every once and a while. It’s a part of poor body image that no one ever considers; your image is poor because your body is often at times, well, poor.

Anyway.

It’s not that I had a poor self-image, other than the teenage years and whose self-image is great at that time anyway, but there were times I wished things were different. Mainly why I wasn’t naturally gifted at most things that interested me. I didn’t want to work as hard as I had to to do anything, which included working out.

I knew what I had to do to maintain function. I’d been told it countless times. I didn’t listen. I didn’t want to. I didn’t care. I wasn’t like all the other people I’d been told about. I was different.

I was in denial.
(Am I saying that I spend 20+ years denying that I have CP? Probably, yeah.)

Then I had my wake up call.

And rolled myself off to fix my mess.

Part one was surgeons.

Part two was all me.

And I thought I knew how it was all going to go.

I may talk a big game but I’m still in the early stages of figuring this all out.

I thought I’d recover from surgery, just like I have from all of my other surgeries, and return to some sort of status quo I’d been living with, and hope I’d have a good chunk of time before I had to repeat the pattern.

Because that’s how CP works.

WRONG.

I felt (and still do) so different with my new hips. I have my good (when I could tell my jeans wouldn’t fit) and bad days (when my jeans didn’t fit) with them. At first it was difficult to adjust to them. My brain recognized the correction but often couldn’t get it together to work with it. Even though it was/can still be frustrating it’s amazing.

I’ve come to a level of acceptance that makes every day fun in some aspect.
”Let’s see if I can do this.”

Some days I do.
Sometimes it takes more work.

It’s O.K.
It’s me.

I’m still in shock that this body is mine.

It’s really cool.

Work with what you have & own it.

Keep raising the bar.

You’ll keep surprising yourself.

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on February 25, 2011

Grad School: The 3nd Fall Semester

I’ve come to realize that I have no idea how engrossed I get in class until I sit down to write about it, without words that can be found in a Catholic encyclopedia.

This semester was up in the air for me up until the first day of classes, at least that’s how I felt about it.

This semester I finished fulfilling my required number of elective credits (I hope). I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still have some apprehension about it. There’s a level of “done but not done” I just haven’t gotten comfortable with.

The semester was fairly light in terms of workload since I was only taking one class, but other than that it was pretty challenging.

It was a small class, which I typically like. However, the make-up made it challenging for me, sometimes in a good way, sometimes not. I’ve gotten used to interacting with the same group of people in so many of my classes it was an adjustment just interacting with different people.

That alone made class hard.

You know how they say sarcasm should never be in an email? It’s kind of like that. If people don’t know you well, like at all.

I spend hours choosing the “right” words, and it turns out the “right words” and the “best words” aren’t always the same thing.

I can’t really tell you if I learned anything related to the topic of the course because most of my focus was on effective online communication (or at least trying to be better at it). I’m sure I learned something, the results will come with time, not unlike a lot of other topics I’ve studied in these last few years.

At the beginning of the semester I wish I could’ve taken more credits but now I can look back and see it as a nice break before heading into a heavy workload.

In all honesty, I’m glad things turned out the way they did, especially now that I don’t have to deal with it anymore, because it made me realize that I had become too comfortable in terms of how I conduct myself as a student.

I also read books that I actually enjoyed, a feat that’s hard to accomplish in graduate school.

Now onto the longest stretch of work I’ve ever had to do, and if I’m lucky at the end of that stretch will be the finish line (oh God please let it be the finish line).