Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ein Wettbewerb or Un Concurso

Jack has randomly decided to take German this year. Well, maybe not totally randomly. Many of his friends are also taking German. And when he was little he always made me play the German version of the Bob the Builder theme song when we visited the show's website. And whenever we talk about going to Europe someday, the city he wants most to visit is Berlin. So not totally randomly.

I want to learn Spanish. I've studied it in fits and starts over the years without much progress. Now that Jack only has three years of school left, and less than three years until he turns an independent 18, I'm more determined than ever to learn. I want to be prepared for the next phase of my life, and I think that knowing some Spanish could open up some valuable opportunities for me.

So in honor of Jack's first day of German class, I set up a Duolingo account and have already earned three "lingots" (the program's virtual currency) by practicing Spanish words and phrases. I know at some point, I will have to find real people to converse with, but this is at least a place to start.

And it's free.

And it's competitive. I can link up with friends who have accounts and compete to see who earns the most lingots. I'm going to see if Jack wants to set up an account to practice his German.

Anyone else want in? Click here to see what languages they have courses for. Then sign up and come find me there! I could use the pressure.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pencils (More Than You Think)

Last night I told Jack that I would pick up some school supplies for him after my fall orientation meetings on campus today, but I needed a list. Tenth grade starts tomorrow.

He owned it. Went through the things he already had and put together a detailed list. 

Pencils (more than you think)
Erasable pens (like 4+)
Paper (college ruled)
Spare 1" binder, maybe 2 (because then, he explained as we went over the list, he could have one for A days and one for B days)
And so on.

I'm taking this as a good sign that he's gearing up to own tenth grade in its entirety.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Feat #21: Eyes Wide Open

I faced down a demon with this one.

I used to swim with goggles (to protect my contact lenses) across the Spanish Oaks reservoir until one day something totally freaked me out. You can read that story here: What Lies Beneath.

Jack and his friend Rex at the reservoir, circa 2007
Since then, instead of really swimming across, I do a leisurely breast stroke without putting my face in the water or I just do 10 or 12 freestyle strokes at a time with my eyes closed before getting too far off course.

Frankly, it's ridiculous.

So for this feat I swam a nice, hard, steady freestyle across the reservoir and back, with goggles, eyes wide open. All I saw was green murky depth. Not a single dead body. It felt good.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Feat #20: The Approach

A couple of weeks ago, I watched my 81-year-old uncle dive off the diving board, classic springboard approach and all.

I thought, "I hope I can still do that when I'm 81!"

Then I realized that, now at 51, I couldn't remember the last time I dove off the diving board using an approach. If I dive off the board at all, I just stand at the end and dive. Usually, though, I just dive off the pier.

I thought, "If I want to be doing it at 81, I'd better start doing it again now."

So I did. And I made Jack witness it with a recording:

Yeah, I need to work a little on my form. Keep those feet together. I'll be practicing over the next 30 years.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Feat #19: Tradition

I don't know how many years ago--maybe ten?--Dad and I started a new summer lake tradition that I love. I take the shore path about three miles to Black Point, and he takes the sailboat. We meet at the pier there, then sail back home.

We did it today. Perfect wind and weather for it! And, it was my birthday. Can't think of many things I'd rather do to celebrate.

Normally, I wouldn't count this as a physical feat, but I accidentally gave Dad the estimated time it would take for me to run, not walk to our meeting place. I haven't actually run at all since last fall because I'm nursing my right knee, which has bothered me off and on since I slipped on our stairs and smacked it on the tile floor in our front hall.

He'd have been fine tacking back and forth in the boat while I walked, but I didn't want him to wait too long for me. So I decided to run intervals on the parts of the path that were grassy or smooth pavement or packed dirt and walk on the parts of the path that had more challenging footing, like uneven flagstones or lots of loose gravel. I figure I ran at least half of the distance.

Not bad for this particular 51-year-old.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


I texted Jack, who was up at the cottage. "It is wild and windy and not too hot here on the point! Bright blue sky and big fluffy clouds! Wander down and breathe the fresh air!"

Back to my book. The author was writing about Israel.

You stand on the high hills and look out at a thunderstorm rolling in from the Mediterranean. The depth-less blue sky becomes a steel gray, rain and hail lash down on you and you struggle to hold your footing in the violent wind. Rivers arise out of nowhere and rush in the canyons below you, sweeping away everything in their path.

Moments later, our own sky turning to a steel gray, my sister Maryann said, "Look!" and we watched the sudden squall across the lake, headed right toward us. We quickly packed up our stuff and I yelled to Dad who was fixing something on the sailboat. He turned, saw, grabbed his tools and jumped off the boat.

Maryann and I couldn't run up the hill fast enough to escape the rain, but cousin Jody was waiting at her front porch to open the door for us. Dad took cover down on the point in the lee of a shed to keep an eye on the boat, which wasn't tied down to the hoist.

Ten minutes later, the rain stopped and we walked the rest of the way up the hill to our own cottage to change into dry clothes. By the time we got there the sun was shining again.

Back again to my book to pick up where I left off.

Ten minutes later the storm is gone but the world is covered in a glistening dew. The olive and lemon trees glow under the sun and the red earth under your feet throws off the smell of rosemary. God is here, you think. His glory and grace just appeared with might and fire.

Sunday synchronicity.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Summer Hours

I am about to have an extra crazy month. House guests, conference, annual pilgrimage to the lake, parties, work. So I may or may not post anything until the middle of August. It is summer after all.

In the mean time, here are a couple of useful things I learned today:

If a person hits the emergency button on his cell phone and calls 911 without meaning to, then hangs up as soon as he discovers what he did, they will call him to find out if he either (A) meant to call and accidentally hung up or (B) accidentally called and meant to hang up.

If a person happens to get oil on his shorts while he and his friends are taking apart the old broken lawn mower, just spray some degreaser from the auto supply store on the stain and then throw the shorts in the wash.