Tag Archive | summer

How Not To Employ Yourself When You Hate Water

When the frigid waters of the aptly named Frio River greeted me like a slap to the face I should have known I’d made a mistake.  I sucked in my breath and squinted at the dock that was about 50 yards ahead.

Frio is the Spanish word for "cold enough to make you want to hurl."  Image credit: Wikipedia.com

Frio is the Spanish word for “cold enough to make you want to hurl.” Image credit: Wikipedia.com

“You can totally do this,” I assured myself through chattering teeth.  Late May temperatures and rainfall the night before made me feel like I’d just dunked myself in a glass of icy sweet tea.

My heart was beating so fast I didn’t hear the whistle blow for us to start our swim.  It was the first exercise of lifeguard training, and I gripped the shore like algae on the pier.

I watched as the other swimmers’ legs kicked them away from me; water splashed my face until they were far enough away that they became a school of fish leaving me behind, a fatally wounded comrade who would die alone at the bottom of the sea.

I couldn’t be a lifeguard but I didn’t know how to get out of it.  Hell, I didn’t know how to get out of the water.

The plan was set before I left college for my summer job as a camp counselor: I would teach step aerobics and swimming.  I’d already taken CPR and this “water test” was the final step before campers would arrive and entrust their lives to me during “open swim” time.

It was a solid plan until I got into the water.

All my theoretical fears and resistance became inescapably real as I shivered in the water watching the other lifeguard trainees receiving instruction on the other side of the river.  Our instructor had a whistle that he enjoyed blowing with gusto, and he apparently hadn’t yet noticed that one of us was still clinging to the shore as if it was the last oxygen tank on the moon.

What was I thinking?  I had no business trying to become a lifeguard.  I was terrified of water, and watching people swim made me swoon with terror.

I treaded water to warm myself up, wondering if it would always be this scary.  My body grew warmer as my arms and legs swirled in jerky motions under the murky waters to keep me afloat.

I fucking hate water.

When I admitted defeat and hoisted myself out of the water, my pruned hands reached for a towel to wrap my shivering body.  I was shaking in that way you shake when you’ve faced a fear and the fear won.  The shake of having not even put up a fight.  The shake of a terror so deep that when you step into the ring you don’t even put your dukes up– you simply ring that little bell and watch your opponent raise his hands in victory.

Water had won.  Again.  Against me, it always would.


5 Ways To Ruin Your Summer

I am not going to hide my light under a bushel during this post. No-sir-ee.  I’m going to brag like a teen-aged boy who scored with a 24-year-old hottie.  But this isn’t about statutory rape or premarital sex or hormones.  This is a post about summer.

And how to ruin it.

Please excuse this F bomb. image credit: http://images.cryhavok.org/v/Souffle+is+Ruined.jpg.html

Please excuse this F bomb. image credit: http://images.cryhavok.org/v/Souffle+is+Ruined.jpg.html

If summer is a delicate souffle, then I’m a loud clanging gong-y monster with a pitchfork I use to pierce eggy dishes.

Oh, I ruined it alright. It’s not even over, but I did enough damage during June and July that it will reverberate for the next 6 weeks.  Someone please get me an ice pack, I am hurting my shoulder from patting my back so hard for the great job I did zapping joy and squashing fun all summer.

How’d you do it? you might ask.  Let me distill this down to a handy list.  Really, any three of the following five will work, but when you overachieve like me, you knock ’em all out before August.

How To Ruin A Summer Break

  1. Read A Scary Book.  It’s possible that this alone might have ruined by summer.  While all of you were watching the Zimmerman trial and waiting for Kanye’s spawn to be born, I was buried in a book about a school shooting.  The book was well written, expertly researched, and riveting, but it was about school shooting, which is a topic that I can’t handle without terror-induced panic attacks.  The minute I read the introduction to the book, fear like a virus spread through my body, leaving me tense and headachey.  Did I stop reading about Columbine? No, because that might have saved the summer. I read the whole thing and now find myself obsessed with psychopathy and deathly afraid of alienated male youth.  I am considering home schooling.
  2. Publish A Post On A Heated Topic.  This one too might have done it alone.  I wrote a post for a public website, and when the editor accepted it, she said, “you might get some heat here.”  Ever the woman of the world, I was all I can take heat! Bring it!  But then the comments came and I crumpled like a paper doll in a hail storm.   I read the first one and felt my breakfast inching up from my stomach.   I can’t take the heat.  Heat scares me.  Offending other people terrifies me.  Having anonymous strangers lash out at me sends me to the bathroom with GI distress.  (You will note I am too chicken to link to any of this here. Maybe next summer.)
  3. Turn 40 And Concentrate On How Life Is Half Over.  Yep, the big four OH.  It was a lovely day in my blessed life, but then I started collecting statistics about things that go wrong in the female human body after 40.  Now when I get a headache, I am sure that it’s menopause or a hematoma, but either way it’s a sign of my internal decay.
  4. Decide You Have To Move.  This decision should be made in a haze of panic and fear that a long school commute in the fall might shorten the lives of your family members. (You’ve read those studies that commuting adds stress and makes otherwise healthy people lose their hair, right?) Then, whip yourself into some urgency and pick out one neighborhood across town where you’d be willing to live, but where the houses rarely go on sale in your price range.  Once one you can afford goes on sale, drag your husband– who’s fresh out of oral surgery– to a showing and put in an offer.  Because you know what? Those insurance charts that say moving is one of the “most stressful” things humans undertake should be tested by your family.  During the summer.
  5. Put Yourself On A “Have No Mercy” Budget.  I should have been on a budget all along, and I used to adhere to one, but after my second child was born, I fell off my family’s financial grid.  And I developed some spendy habits.  Like treating myself to something material for accomplishing banal tasks like bathing my children or wearing matching shoes to work.  Did I deserve Ann Taylor Loft bauble for completing tasks concerning basic hygiene? No.  Did I do it anyway in fits of self-entitlement and delusion? Sometimes.  But now I’m on the fiscal straight and narrow, which is great, except it came on the heels of the previous four items so it’s like pouring alcohol on a gaping wound.  It hurts. 

Ever ruined a perfectly good summer? How’d you do it? I might need tips for next year.

5 Things I Won’t Complain About This Summer

New leaf? Turned over.  That’s why I won’t be complaining this summer.  If you are looking for a rant, then look elsewhere, because I am all about sunshine and dew-drenched daffodils these days.   While I am super busy not complaining about anything this summer, I still had time to make a list . . . of all the grumbles you won’t hear outta me.

Mmmm. Picnic.  Image credit: www.github.com

Mmmm. Picnic. Image credit: http://www.github.com

  1. Bugs.  I won’t complain about the ant and mosquito bites that make it a challenge to maintain my professional composure during the day.  I was just trying to take a picture of my kid playing T-ball, and my reward was an ankle ringed with bug bites.  I wonder if my boss enjoys watching me scratch my left ankle with my right toe?
  2. Picnics. No one loves picnics more than my husband.  Dining al fresco to him is what a Tory Burch outlet sale is to me.  Heaven.  In years past, I have mentioned in a quiet and not-at-all-annoying way that I hate eating outdoors. Why? He asks.  Well, the wind blows my hair into my food and the big gusts blow parts of my meal away.  The non-ergonomic seating hurts my back and my ass and then there’s the bug thing and how the kids are impossible to corral.  But this year, I am all smiles as I crouch on the semi-wet ground, gripping my corn on the cob and eating potato salad with my hands (because we always forget forks).   This summer, I don’t even care if you use picnic as a verb.  Go for it! I love picnics! 
  3. Tourists.  Today, I embrace every single visitor to my fine city.  Even the ones whose fanny packs are bigger than my thighs (which are smushed together and dripping with sweat), which make it impossible to get around.  Hell, I am even sending love and light to that family of five who walked down State street, a giant horizontal barrier of good old-fashioned family strolling.  Did they get in my way as I was speed walking to work? Yes, actually, they did.  But I’ll admit I enjoyed their Rain Forest Cafe bags and comfortable walking shoes.  Everyone should start her day with a slice of Americana.
  4.  Rallies on the Plaza.  My office overlooks a plaza that is a popular summer destination for pan flutists and people who like to chant in support of their causes.  My favorite was the group whose them song was Gangam Style.  That was a long afternoon, people.  But instead of burning up energy kvetching about how public demonstrations make it hard for me to concentrate on my Very Important Work, I am looking forward to the next time a vocal group of citizens plans a rally.  Gosh, I hope it’s on a day when I have to do some math or translate middle English.  I love a challenge!
  5. Sweat.  I am super tempted to rant about how much I hate breast sweat and the more southernly sweat that makes summer feel like such a pain in the ass.  I won’t though– no complaining about the fact that it’s not fair that people with more flesh have a greater cross to bear during the high perspiration months.

It’s going to be a long and peaceful summer. 

What are you NOT complaining about these days?

Our Big Summer Trip . . . To the Front Yard


It’s that time of year. My Instagram and Facebook feeds are full of pictures of other families’ travels.  Just last night, I saw Cayman beaches, the Grand Canyon and some quaint little lake up in Michigan as I scrolled through while laying in my bed in my own room in boring old Chicago.

And to all of you with the money, energy, and cajones to travel, I say “Bon Voyage, brave warriors.”  La Familia de Outlaw Mama is parking it right here this summer.  There will be no long car rides, no bucolic country sides and no jet travel.  Why?  Because it’s my idea of living hell to travel with small children.  Especially Even those precious small children I would lay down my life for.

So this summer my passport is gathering dust and my luggage is staying put.  If you care to read more on the subject of my exciting summer plans, please click yourself through to my latest post on Mom.me.

In the meantime, travel safely, wear your sunscreen, and send me a postcard from your adventures.

Texan Heads East

If you grew up in Texas (and so did your Daddy and his Daddy and all of their kinfolk), you don’t have much use for other states, especially those far away on the eastern seaboard.  All those little jumbled up states that are so full of themselves with their blue blood and sacred battlegrounds– they don’t mean much to a Texan once you pass your fourth grade geography of the United States test.

Image credit: blogs.wsj.com

Image credit: blogs.wsj.com

However, in a burst of (unwarranted) academic arrogance, I made a few feeble attempts to muster support for my idea of an eastern destination for college.  No one took that seriously.  Where was I gonna go? Somewhere in Connecticut? Not a chance with my SAT score (decent verbal and squarely below average math) and my pedigree.  I may have been minor royalty in the late 1970s on a three-mile stretch of route 4 in Forreston, Texas by virtue of my Grandmother’s benevolence and my father’s charisma, but none of that mattered across the county line.  It sure wouldn’t open any ivy-covered doors.

Putting Dartmouth, Princeton, and their ilk out of my brain, I made my way through a large (aren’t they all?) Texas state university, where a decent academic record became a passport out of the greatest state in the nation.  (Full disclosure: the lowest grade on my college transcript is the unsightly B during my junior year.  The course? Texas History.  For shame.)

My subsequent bids for ivy education in both English and law were thwarted, though I at least received courteous rejection letters on paper bearing a fancy school seal– they all cited the “high volume of well-qualified candidates.” 

I settled in a city that makes as much sense for a Texan as any other foreign locale.  Chicago history boasts of stockyards and cowboys and bravado of its own.  Its temperature is all midwestern, but its mentality has enough western lawlessness to remind me of home.   Most importantly, Chicago doesn’t spend too much time gazing to the east or the west; it likes the view out its own window, thankyouverymuch.

But then one February afternoon, my California-born husband took my two kids to Costco without me.  Before the garage door closed behind them, I’d hatched a plan.  A summer writing program read my Google search.  Links stared back at me.  One of them was over there– way, way over there in ivy country in a single-syllable university that was the home to lots of presidents, and it accepted the actress who played Blossom to join its ranks.  (Mayim Bialik).  Most notably, it was the school that Rory Gilmore set her sights on in Gilmore Girls.

Folks, I’m so tempted to joke that its standards are slipping. But I won’t.  For three more seconds, I am going to refrain from undermining my own process and say that it feels scary as hell to be packing for a summer writing course at . . .  that place. I can’t even say it.

It feels like a betrayal of my Texas roots to succumb to the East’s siren song.  I haven’t even lived in Texas since I was 22 years old.  But for almost 2 decades I’ve remained aligned with Texas in some fundamental ways, if not with my property taxes.  I can’t explain this.  So, I won’t.  Even to myself. 

So please don’t tell Texas where I am going next week. I don’t want it to excommunicate me forever.  It’s still recovering from the news that I bought a pair of cowboy boots at Target last year.

My plan is to load my iPod with hundreds of Willie songs and a coupla Bob Wills classics and head out to see what all the fuss is about out East.  Then, I’ll learn all I can about writing because I have this great idea for a book about a young girl grappling with the meaning of home and memory and music and . . .  TEXAS.