Monday, July 21, 2014

One of many races

This paragraph was written on Saturday, but I decided not to publish it until today.

My daughter's love for the sport of swimming has
always been evident from her smile!
The moment of focus before a race. (photo August 2011)
In just a few hours, my daughter will swim a mile.  She is trying to break a record  - one she has been chasing for a while.  Last year it was nearly within her grasp.  After a year of vigorous training and successful swims at the Division 1 college level, she is faster and stronger.  Unfortunately, her other swims at this meet -  for whatever reason - have not reflected those improvements.  She fears the record-breaking swim she knows she is capable of may not happen.

Last night, I realized it really doesn't matter.  No matter how fast she swims this race, she has already achieved the prize. Every coach she has ever had, every athlete she has ever swum with or against, every person she has ever taught a swim lesson, and all of the families we have known through swimming over the past 13 years are a part of this, and every race.

I have so many treasured memories of times she has been cheered by swimmers, spectators and coaches. The friends we have made, and the life lessons she has learned through this sport are the real prize. A record-breaking swim would just be an extra sugar-rose on an already heavily-iced cake.

There is still a good chance she will break that record.  But no matter the outcome of the race, she is already a champion. I could not be more proud of her than I already am.

A fast time on a stop-watch is something to smile about, but the victory of sports is measured in many ways.
The race was swum and the record remains unbroken - but so does my daughter's spirit.  She knows there will be more races and more opportunities in her future - and that some will work out and some will not.  Sometimes life is about the journey, not the finish.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Wishing You a...

I will be cheering for my daughter and her teammates, during the last day of a five-day swim meet today.
How do you plan to spend your weekend?

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Clandestine Meeting in the Cove : The Papalo Cure (Part 3)

A few weeks ago I began using the Words for Wednesday Challenge from Delores at Under the Porch Light to create a story, The Papalo Cure. Readers commented, requesting to know what happened to Grandpa after Maria got on the bus to South Dakota. I didn't know! His fate is at the mercy of the weekly Words for Wednesday word prompt!

Using the prompts, I have been adding to the story - and even I am surprised by the turns it has taken.

This week’s story can be read without background information, but I recommend reading the proceeding parts first. Start with Part 1: Facing Insurmountable Odds.  A link for each previous chapter is on my FICTION page. This week's challenge words are listed at the end of this chapter and highlighted in bold in the story.

Birds on the beach
Maria hastily paid the cab driver and entered the hospital. After learning the location of her grandfather's room from the volunteer at the front desk, she jabbed repeatedly at the elevator button. Impatient to see her grandparents, she walked quickly down the hall and entered room 610 on the surgical floor. Her grandfather was sleeping and his jaundiced skin contrasted sharply against the white sheets. Her grandmother, always flamboyantly stylish, wore a garish hot pink and lime green dress.

Silently, Maria crossed the room and gave her grandmother a hug. 
¡“Ahh, Maria - te quiero!” Her Grandmother clutched her tightly and in a quiet whisper, she asked, “Do you have it?”

“Sí, Abuela,” said Maria. “It is right here.” Carefully, Maria removed the Papalo plant from under the lining of her bag. Other than being a little wilted and crushed after being smuggled from Mexico to South Dakota, it looked okay.

“Just in time,” said Grandma. “The surgical team is coming to see Grandpa this afternoon. They want to know his decision about the surgery, so they can schedule an operating room. He still won't consent to any treatment until he actually eats some papalo. We can't convince him medical treatments will work without it.”

“Grandma, I don't want to upset you, but I have to clear something up. Mateo is really angry with me. He accused me of trying to poison Grandpa with papalo, and even seems to believe that I might be bringing him a lethal plant and pretending it is papalo. Papalo won't hurt Grandpa - will it?”

“¡Dios mío! Of course not. I told the doctors all about papalo before I asked you to bring it and they said it would be perfectly safe - no worse for your grandpa 
than eating mint or cilantro leaves.” Grandma shook her head and looked exasperated.

“You believe I would never poison Grandpa, don't you?” Maria sniffed back tears, so she could continue speaking. “Mateo seems to think I want to hasten Grandpa's death - and I guess probably yours too - so I can inherit the finca in Mexico. But - you already let me live there just for the price of taking care of it, so why does he think I would be so eager to own it. Why does my brother think I would plot something so evil?”

“Oh, Maria.” Grandma's eyes also filled with tears. “Ever since Mateo lost his job a year ago, he has become increasingly withdrawn and paranoid. We keep trying to get him to go back to see his psychiatrist, but he refuses. We didn't want to worry you, so we just haven't mentioned it.”

“But, this crazy idea, where did it come from,” asked Maria.  Why did he come up with this accusation against me?”

“Maria,” her grandma said gently. “Do you remember the story Grandpa used to tell you two when you were little, about the cove on our property? About the mastodon bones that had been found there?”

“Yes,” Maria said slowly. “It kept us busy for days, digging in the sand looking for more fossils. But that was just something grandpa made up to entertain us. What does that have to do with Mateo's crazy idea?”

Her Grandmother explained, “When Mateo came back from Mexico last fall, he told us he caught you and your boyfriend Tomas creeping back into the house late one night. You tracked in sand, and he said you acted guilty when you realized he saw you. He became convinced you had found dinosaur bones in the cove, and the finca is now worth millions as an archaeological site. Grandpa told him that was rubbish, but Mateo is sure you are just waiting for us to die so you can sell the land to paleontologists and get rich.” 

Maria went pale at her Grandmother's words. “Grandma, you have to believe that I would never come up with a clandestine plot like that! Tomas and I did sneak down to the beach that night, but not to dig for dinosaurs.  We just wanted to be alone.” Maria blushed.

“Say no more,” said Grandma. “I was young once. The cove is beautiful in the moonlight.”

Maria's grandpa stirred, and they both turned to look at him. Grandma said, “Let's wake your grandpa up so he can have some of the papalo he believes he needs before the doctors arrive. Of course I don't believe anything Mateo was suggesting.”

“Okay.” Maria dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “Thank you for telling me about Mateo. We have always worried about his mental stability - now it really does seem like he needs some help. Once we get Grandpa taken care of, we can figure out how to get Mateo into treatment."

Maria sighed.  The peaceful farm in Mexico that she loved so much seemed very far away.  But she put a bright smile on her face and touched her Grandfather's shoulder and gently shook him awake.  “Grandpa, I am here - and I brought your papalo.”

This story is totally fictitious and may not contain accurate factual information. I had never even heard of papalo, until I did an Internet search for “indigenous plants of Mexico.” 

The Words for Wednesday Challenge supplied the following word prompts: 

clandestine, surgical, cove, creeping, mastodon and garish. 
An option to use the phrase “under the mat and off the grid” and a very inspirational photo prompt were also provided, but this week I choose to incorporate just the six words into my story. 

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Life's Full of Little Mysteries - part 2

I sometimes ponder life's little mysteries as I go about my daily tasks.  I’ve realized the readers of my blog may know the answers to my questions.  I'm hoping someone can help me solve these mysteries.

Last week I used this blog to ask my questions about the puzzling topic of laundry. Today, my questions all relate to my shopping list and the grocery store.  Groceries are never very far from my mind right now - my husband and I have two athletic hungry teens, a dog and a cat to feed!

An almost empty food bin and a worried cat!

Have you ever wondered about these questions like I do:

1.  Why do I never realize the pet food is almost gone until we are down to the last scoop?
 2.  Why is what I need always on the highest shelf in the grocery store?
 3.  Why do I always pick the slowest check-out lane?
 4.  Why do I always forget my reusable bags in the car?
 5.  Why do my kids say we have nothing to eat when I just spent money and time grocery shopping?

At least the cat is not complaining now!

You may not think these questions are so mysterious  - but I wonder about them all the time.

I will look forward to hearing what you think!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How "Bout This Weather?

Many conversations begin with, or at least eventually get around to, the topic of the weather. You have probably heard or said statements such as the following:

"How 'bout that weather?
Hot enough for ya?
Will this winter never end?
I'm so tired of rain.
It's so dry - our grass is just burning up."

Humans are fickle.  Perhaps because we cannot control the weather, we feel a need to complain about it. We compare our weather to that of other places.  We wish for weather we have experienced at different times.  We plan important events outside, and then worry and get frustrated if conditions are less than ideal.  We even sometimes talk about the weather as an icebreaker during an interaction, or just to have something to say.

I am attending a swim meet this week in Portland, OR.  Yesterday morning was chilly enough to feel cold - but by afternoon temperatures were soaring into the high 90's, and the sun beat down from a cloudless sky. Today, instead of complaining about the heat, I am going to study the pictures on my phone, which I took this winter.

View out our window in winter

Our deck in winter
Yes - it is sweltering now... but these photos reminds me that I wasn't happy-knee deep in snow with sub-zero temperatures!  If you are somewhere suffering a heat wave, I hope these pictures make you feel a little better.  When I consider the alternative of those frigid days, sweating under sunny skies doesn't seem so bad. If you love winter, perhaps you can use these photos as a visual aid to try and imagine yourself in the climate in the picture.

Happy Summer!  How ’bout this weather?!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

If Scarlett O'Hara and Thomas Jefferson Were Bloggers - Which One Would I Most Resemble?

I just can't think about that right now ... I'll think about it tomorrow”

In Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, main character Scarlett O'Hara says, “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.” Sometimes that is exactly how I feel. But the words of Thomas Jefferson also run through my mind: "Never put off to tomorrow what you can do to-day.” I try to aim for a balance between the two - but usually Scarlett is winning.

I once read a time management tip: when handling paper work, never just put it aside "for later." "For later" is the phrase that dooms us to stacks of papers to go through, and hours of catching up. Better to "handle each piece of paper just once" - although I have no earthly idea of how to accomplish that!

My blogging strategies so far have included a lot of Scarlett O'Hara type thinking. (She would be so proud.) At times, I have practically put on blinders, ignoring the important things I know I should be doing, like all the technical computer stuff I need to tackle to make my blog better. I just can't seem to get to everything that needs to be done. The blinders are a means of self-preservation. Scarlett wasn't kidding when she said if she thought about it, she would go crazy!

Maybe I need to look at the advice from practical old Thomas more closely however, before I admit defeat. He wasn't saying that everything has to be done right away, but just advising not to procrastinate regarding the things that can be accomplished. I'm working as much as possible to meet all my goals - they just might not all happen “until tomorrow.”

So - perhaps I am a little like both of these these famous figures.  But I'd like to think I look more like Scarlett than one of the Founding Fathers of America!  

I even tried to impersonate Scarlett once.  Here's the pictures:

My family: fairy princess, Southern belle, Captain Hook and a wolf (with his costume removed!)
The occasion was my daughter's 11th birthday.  Guests were invited to dress as their favorite book character, as it was a "Story Book Party". The little girls loved this theme; maybe someday I will write more about it.

I wore a long dress with a wide hoop skirt - you might notice you can't see the bottom of the dress in the photos.  That was the best part of the costume - and it is not in a single picture! Scarlett never really was a favorite of mine, but since I had the outfit, I pretended that she was.  I even pulled off a pretty good Southern accent that afternoon!

I should now be spending some time deciding if the title of this post has enough key words in it, but I just can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.”  

Instead, I'm just going to feel good about the fact that I could actually find these photos!

What famous quotes do you live by or influence how you blog?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Worth Sharing!

One of great things about being a blogger is reading other blogs!  I see so many good ideas, this post is an opportunity to pass along a few to you.

1.  Frozen Fruit Ice Cubes.
Earlier this summer, I was adding cut up fruit to a pitcher of water and storing it in the fridge so flavored water was always available.  Then I read Linda’s post, “Frozen Fruit Detox Ice Cubes” on her blog crafts a la mode.  Now I make these ice cubes instead! Be sure to visit her post for the full explanation of how to make them.  Here's a photo of what I made, following her directions:

Flavored water using frozen fruit cubes
I used fruit I had on hand: oranges, strawberries and blueberries.  I filled the glass with ice and added water, then a couple of the fruit cubes.  A mint leave gave it even more flavor.

I learned an easy and inexpensive way to clean my rings from Becky at Your Modern Family.  With all the yard work I have been doing, mine really needed it!  Following her directions, I thought they cleaned up really well!

Ring Cleaners

My family loves the Chocolate- chocolate chip muffins from Costco.  This recipe from Bonnie at The Pin Junkie looks similar, but is probably a bit more nutritious.  I can't wait to try it out - but my oven is not going to be turned on until the heat wave of weather we are experiencing subsides!

Speaking of hot weather - these are the perfect treat for when temperatures soar.  It only take a few minutes of preparation and a few hours in the freezer - and then you have a rich chocolate chilly dessert or snack! The recipe comes from Matt of Real Food by Dad, and his popsicles - and photos - are much prettier than mine.  Next time I may not crush the oreos so fine, or stir them in quite so much - my vanilla layer turned out sort of grey.  They were still eaten though! 
making pudding popsicles

pudding pops - melting fast!

5.  A Surprise for ME
What a nice surprise to learn that the photo I had submitted for the #Mommy Reality “Essence of Summer” challenge was selected as the runner-up!  Thank you Jen of JENerally Informed, Carolyn of A Lavender Life and Celeste of LeapFrog and LipGloss!

Here’s the photo:

I hope you will follow the links and visit all of the wonderful blogs I have mentioned.

Happy Summer!

 What is the most useful thing you learned on the internet this week?

edited 7-14-14  photos added
This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!