Wuzzes & Willbees

While visiting Costco and the park the other day, I looked at all the eyes behind the masks. Some of the eyes were expressionless, other eyes appeared determined to get more toilet paper, and a few seemed just O.K.

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Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

But behind every mask, there is very likely – a case of The Wuzzes.

That sounds kind of Dr. Seuss-ish, but it classifies most of us…here are just a few samples of what the Wuzzes might be saying:

“I was just about to land this huge new account, but they had to temporarily close.”

“I was supposed to go my Senior Ball last week.”

“I was headed to visit my elderly mother in Florida, but can’t.”

“His collegiate ___________ (name the sport) team was going all the way to the championships, but they were cancelled.”

“My building project was put on hold, so there goes some future income.”

“My daughter was supposed to get married next month, but they postponed everything.”

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Everyone has an “I was…” tale or two…or likely thirty or them! They are mostly sad events, stories or moments, which cannot be rescheduled or replaced. My own “Wuz” consisted of not seeing our son graduate from college in early May, nor swimming in a US Masters meet – last weekend. Those were 2 events I’ve been looking forward to for ages. What a Bummer for all of us Wuzzes.

BUT…..

Now that COVID-19 appears to be at its plateau (at this writing), it’s time to bid “Adieu” and “See you later” to the Wuzzes!

It is time to evolve into a Willbee. Yes, I know… now it’s sounding more like the “Who Moved My Cheese” author, but it IS pretty simplistic…and maybe you’ll get the point here.

Ask yourself – What I WILL BE doing in the future!!  There are still many unknowns, but shouldn’t we at least do some verbal planning? Talk about that trip you WILL BE taking with your spouse or significant other. Pick up the phone and reach out to your customer, and tell them “I WILL BE seeing you soon.” Prepare yourself to say “I WILL BE attending that game, match, or meet.  Do that Zoom Meeting with family members you’d plan to see a couple of months ago (down South-or someplace really nice) and inform them you WILL BE paying an extended visit – when this crazy, mixed-up, surreal time in our lives is past us.  Time for some optimism, it’s sorely needed right now.

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Photo by Garret Schappacher on Pexels.com

Simply Surreal

COVID-19 has everyone on edge. All of us have been trying to come to grips with this silent, invisible monster. Pretty obvious.

It isn’t easy. And it’s just so odd.

Sheltering in place, homeschooling our kids, risking what seems like life and limb to pick up groceries at already-busy supermarkets like Wegmans (a recent visit there freaked me out, and I won’t be returning any time soon), and living in paranoia is taking its toll on us.

So, finding bright spots in this dark time are seldom, but they’re out there. Take your neighborhood for example:

Young moms and dads playing street hockey in the driveway with their elementary school age kids…who they likely spent time teaching them ABCs earlier that day.

Many people are walking their dogs. Good for them, good for their dog.

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Or my favorite – the teenage brother and sister playing a game of “HORSE” under the hoop – and getting along?!

This time reminds me of a throwback to the late 1960s, when Sundays were really a day off. Except for church and a quick trip to the drugstore before it closed, on Sundays, we were home.  While at the drugstore, my mother faithfully picked up the New York Times for my father and would treat us to a Milky Way bar. Then – everything closed, and wouldn’t re-open until Monday morning.

I think our parents and grandparents were grateful for that time.  

I’m just grateful. Period.

Case in point – When making a prescription delivery to my mother-in-law, I saw a large hand-built sign on the front lawn of a nearby house:

“Thank you Healthcare Workers”

There are so, so many other “thank yous” that need to go to a new, special class of workers who’ve joined the brave doctors, nurses, attendants and researchers on The Coronavirus War Front Line. Gas station attendants, postal workers, grocery and convenience store clerks, child care workers, pharmacists, trash collectors, restaurant owners, and all the delivery people who transport our produce, our meds, and yes, our toilet paper – all need to be lauded. It’s so nice to hear people thanking them for simply working, but what important jobs they have right now. They truly are warriors.

To the manufacturers who’ve changed equipment over to produce masks, gowns, plastic shields, and “PPEs” (I had to throw that in, as our world abbreviates now) to distribute to hospitals and other first responders:

THANK YOU!

That’s another throwback…to the 1940s wartime production.  Factories were in high gear producing all kinds of equipment, but we are certainly waging a much different war.

Financially, it’s going to be (and already is) a struggle for so many of us.  We are saving some money here and there by not driving, paying tolls, airfares, and not shopping for extravagant items or raiding Marshall’s for bargains. We are cooking at home and have resurrected the family dinner, a virtually lost institution.  We are communicating more than ever – and NOT texting, but talking, face-to-face, via Zoom, Facebook, Facetime, or just the good old fashioned landline.  That’s good stuff.

We will get through this, surreal as it is.  Just remember some of the positive experiences you may have encountered during this strange path we are all taking.  It will make us all stronger in the long run 🙂

Inspiration

Do you ever wonder how or why you develop an interest in a hobby, a sport, or if your parents or friends were possibly the inspiration of your career?

I just sent a letter to the Editor of the Syracuse Post-Standard today, as it occurred to me that my love for writing was likely inspired by my mother, whose writing was inspired by a man named Dick Case. Dick was a columnist for decades at The Syracuse Newspapers, and passed away recently. In a story about his passing, the reporter asked readers to share a favorite column that Dick Case wrote. Instead, I sent a tribute piece to the editor. Here it is:

To The Editor:

There are simply too many wonderful columns that Dick Case wrote over the years, so instead, I wanted to share a memory.
My mother, Jackie Coley, was a columnist at The Herald-Journal/Post Standard for 2 decades, and joyfully wrote the “Social Notebook” column. 
Jackie felt truly humbled to be in the ranks of reporters, editors, sports guys and columnists like Dick Case, Brohmann Roth (and his daughter Anne), Don Pickard, Bob Haggart, Sean Kirst, Lois Vosburgh, Arnie Burdick, Pat Spadafore, Stan Linhorst, Hart Seeley, Margie Cheney, and Bud Poliquin, to name a very few.  There were so many other reporters and columnists that she would mention to me during my childhood, so forgive my memory lapse, but I’m hoping I have most of them listed.
And, oh, the articles and columnists’ clippings she would cut – so many of them – especially from Dick Case. Mom would even make a trip up to the Fayetteville Free Library to make photocopies of them – for preservation’s sake, and to place them on the kitchen table for all to view in passing.
Jackie said she never took herself too seriously as a journalist, yet she worked very hard to produce a column that was informative, enjoyable to read and beneficial to the charities in Central New York. 
She mentioned that Dick and the aforementioned colleagues were “A-listers,” and they would often run into one another from time to time upstairs in the large white building in Downtown Syracuse (and so beautifully decorated during the holidays).
(Photo by John Berry)
She thought the Herald-Journal and Post-Standard staff were just “tolerating” her. After all, she got paid to attend parties and write about them, a common mis-conception about what her column was really all about.

My most vivid memory is that one day, probably 1990-something – Jackie called me and was simply ecstatic. She said that Dick Case paid her a compliment on a recent column, and that his genuine and heartfelt words to her “was like winning a Pulitzer Prize!”  She went on to say that he was always gracious to her, a valuable trait that she always wanted to see in others.  Now, Jackie and Dick did have a common thread – she was a child of Skunk City, and Dick wrote a column or two about the area, which happily struck many sentimental nerves – especially with the Irish-American community.

Mom considered Dick Case the “Dean of Columnists” in Central New York, and he was the very essence of who a journalist should be. She also felt that Dick inspired her to do her homework carefully, making sure every name and detail were accurate. 
I’m quite confident Jackie Coley is introducing Dick Case to all in Heaven, and perhaps they are sharing the news of what a wonderful place Central New York is.

‘Tis The Season to…decompress

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

But the pool is so delightful

Thanksgiving food-filled to the brim

Gotta swim, gotta swim, gotta swim!

My “normal” swim workout 3 to 4 times per week has been somewhat upended due to the holiday season. Be it end of the year doctor appointments, or traveling like a boomerang on the NYS Thruway for work, my time in Lane 3 has been limited.

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What, me worry? Alfred E. Newman was right.

This time of year my goal is NOT to put pressure on myself. It doesn’t matter if it’s working out, or preparing for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas. We all seem to develop that stress during the holidays to suddenly become Betty Crocker, Mr. Clean (anyone remember “The White Tornado?”) or even Martha Stewart (sans that insider trading thingy). Wonder Woman I am not.

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Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

“Caroline, did you get your Christmas tree up and decorated the day after Thanksgiving?”

“My shopping is almost done and my 100 cards (that I also hand-addressed in calligraphy) are already sent out, how about you, Caroline?”

Oh, please…..

I was just emailed a winter/spring US Masters swim meet schedule, and as much as I’d love to swim in all of them, it’s just not happening.

And I’m OK with that.

My point is…at this time in our lives, we’ve likely already done so much for family, friends (and often people we barely know) that it’s NOT a crime to say “no” to party invitations, over-decorating your house (unless you’re into that kind of thing), or making yourself swim 3,000 yards rather than your normal 2,000 since you missed a few days.

Swimming is definitely my favorite exercise as well as my refuge from life, but I can also hop on an exercise bike at home or run around the snowy backyard with the dogs as a workout.

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My holiday decorating comes in spurts, so I’ll grab what I can carry up from the basement – when I have time – and when I feel the motivation to do so. The tree and the trimmings will go up, but not when others tell me when they think it should.

So, my friends, please pace yourself, try not to get caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays and make the most of each day – your day, that is. If you can swim or workout somehow, that’s great, but do not beat yourself up because you ran out of time or are just too tired. The superheroes are out there, just let them do their thing.  Cheers!!

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Summer Swimmin’…had me a blast

In the early summer of 1972, my adolescent wisdom directed me to competitive swimming.  Certainly not the fastest, nor the most coordinated 10 year-old girl in other sports, I just loved being in the water since I was a toddler.  So, I joined the summer swim team at our country club pool, which didn’t open until school let out in mid-June (yes, mid-June) and would abruptly close Labor Day weekend.  Not too long of a season, I thought to myself, so hey, this might just work for a kid like me.

Every weekday morning at 8:30, I’d ride my bike up to our club for practice by 9 a.m.  We had a 25-yard, 4-lane pool, which looked so big at the time.  Swimming in crowded counterclockwise circles and looking up at the rising sun with each breath, I thought it was pretty “neat” to swim outside.  The water would glisten from the sun’s rays in the deep end, and often, I would dream about diving down to the bottom and pick up pennies rather than completing my laps.

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The OGCC Pool – still 4 lanes, but a very nice upgrade from the 70s!

Practice ended at 11 a.m., and we had to wait 1 long hour for the pool to open for the day.  Just like summer camp, we spent that time laying on the lounge chairs wrapped in damp towels, gossiping about boys, weaving boondoggle, or playing games of pitch around the white-painted metal tables.  There were many, many great families – with plenty of siblings who swam, some as large as 5 in a clan.  Among those families included my wonderful cousins who lived right near the club.  Our golfing parents would look over the fence to check on us while they were passing by on Hole # 5.  And sometimes – if we were lucky, Dad would slip us some cash for the snack bar.

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What a bunch – The Onondaga Golf & Country Club swim team. And for local golf trivia buffs, behind that hedge is Hole #5 – the oldest hole in Syracuse in its original condition.

Home swim meets were extremely fun and quite exciting, especially for the little kids.  Held in the early evening, we’d help Coach Ed set up lane lines, flags, and the four cumbersome, wood-constructed starting blocks (which would give me slivers every time).  We hollered at our teammates to GO...while we poured red Jell-o down our throats for “energy.”   Our parents would venture from the golf course or the clubhouse to cheer us on, while enjoying a Tom Collins in a plastic cup.

For a few years, we proudly wore those VERY cool stars and stripes swimsuits – just like Mark Spitz wore in The Olympics in 1972.  We were all inspired to win 7 gold medals that year.

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Mark Spitz – my sister had the famous full-length poster in her room

We traveled to other country clubs for away meets, and each opposing pool had different shapes, widths – and sometimes length.  Our team especially had “pool envy” with one particular club’s pool – and of course, was our arch-rival. The Cavalry Club* boasted an Olympic-sized pool that was T-Shaped and had an enormous team.  Therefore, the meets seemed to be crazy-long since the coach (and the parents) wanted to give every kid the opportunity to swim.  This era in the 70’s was really the infancy of age-group swimming, so learning the fundamentals – strokes, starts, turns – and rules – were quite important.

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The Cavalry Club pool.  So big!

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Another big meet was known simply as City/County.  That was held at what we thought was the “Mother-of-All-Pools” – the City of Syracuse-based Schiller Park Pool.  We would camp on the side of the large hill overlooking the pool and the City of Syracuse.  There was always a huge turnout for this meet, which is where I learned what a “heat” was.  We would swim against anyone and everyone in Central New York, and we would often cheer for our club rivals to beat the kids who we’d never seen swim before.

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Schiller Park Pool

At the end of the summer, which for us was usually the 3rd or 4th weekend in August, we participated in the 2-day “Interclub” meet.  Interclub was usually hosted by one of clubs with larger pools (like The Cavalry Club, which could handle the numerous club teams – and also did a great job of moving the meet along).  It was always our final barometer, a measurement of our improvement from the start of the club season to the last lap.  It was also a bittersweet ending before school began after Labor Day.

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My OGCC teammates, cousins, and friends would return to their home territory – and their surrounding school districts – Cazenovia, Jamesville-Dewitt, Henninger, and Fabius-Pompey to name a few, but they were always a phone call away.  Sometimes, we would see each other at off-season club functions and dinners – but barely recognizable since we had to get dressed up – and bundle up – since most often we’d visit the club during the chilly winters and soggy springs.

Many of us have remained friends and/or acquaintances throughout the years, thanks to our time spent at OGCC.  Many of my teammates stuck with swimming and continued to swim competitively.  I’m quite certain that my cousin took up diving for the entertainment of it all, doing some crazy stunts with his summertime buddies, but pursued diving a bit more seriously and ended up enjoying a successful high school tenure on the board.  Some of us evolved into “frenemies” since we remained competitive swimmers – and had to swim against one another in high school.  But no one can ever take away the fun memories of our team, the early practices and meets, and all those boxes of red Jell-O.

*Just a note about the Cavalry Club swim team – as great and as dominant as they were, one of the young swimmers from Cavalry Club disliked swimming so much, she would sneak away from the pool – in just her swimsuit – to the nearby driving range to hit golf balls.  Today, Suzy McGuire Whaley is President of the Professional Golfers Association. 

Weedfest

A fundraiser to fight breast cancer – and to have the opportunity to swim in open water – took place recently. Since 2012, the Gillie Girl Triathlon is held close to my neck of the woods at an area known as Gillie Lake Park. Now, Gillie Lake really isn’t a lake, it’s a man made pond, yet its size is sufficient for the triathlon to work. The Gillie Girl is a “sprint” triathlon, so the swim is a half-mile, the bike ride is a 14-mile jaunt on rural roads toward the western edge of Onondaga County and back, then the run is a 5K around the lake, out of the park, down and up a large hill, and back to the finish line.

Since my biking and running skills are sub-par, I have always chosen the relay team route. My cycling sister Melissa drives up annually from New Jersey to bike, and a local friend, Mary Jo, is our amazing runner. Together, we are called “Shanna’s Warriors,” in honor and memory of my sweet high school classmate, Shanna Cunia McCoy, who died from breast cancer almost 2 years ago.

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I’ve been in this event since its inception, and have worn the same, black, kneeskin swimsuit, which works fine. Laughing to myself each year at the dozens of women who choose to wear a wetsuit for this “short” swim, I could never understand why they’d want to wear something so cumbersome in 77-degree water. In its defense, a wetsuit does provide buoyancy and security to swimmers who aren’t comfortable with open water events.

So, it’s always been a fun event. Until this year.

You see, Central New York was inundated with spring rain, which left lakes, rivers, streams, vegetation, farmlands and anything you could think of saturated beyond belief. It took at least a month for water levels to recede and as a result, thick weeds have plagued lakes…including Gillie Lake (oh, did I mention it’s really a pond?). From staring out from the beach area, one could see the weeds floating on top of the water, directly in the path of the scalene triangle swim course.

It won’t be that bad, I thought to myself.

My dolphin-style start into Gillie Lake was fantastic and I got ahead early – just second behind an Aqua-bike competitor who wore a “tri-suit” which is similar to a wetsuit. Then came the first patch of weeds…a rather small patch, but all along I told myself that I could get through it.

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(Second place on my way to Marker #1… so far so good!?)

(Drone photo by Alexander Mainville)

At the first marker turn, which becomes the widest part of of the triangle, was a swath of weeds a machete couldn’t cut through. My years working as a Water Safety Instructor, or WSI, reminded me to not panic. Feeling concerned for the women who weren’t comfortable swimming in the first place, I hoped that no one would panic from the green, spaghetti-like abyss.

A streak of jealousy then emerged to all the Wetsuit-ers who had protection from the sneaking and crawling weeds, most of which easily relocated into my suit. It became so ridiculous that I flipped over and swam few strokes of backstroke just to fend them off. Sadly, this was not going to be a pleasant endurance swim with my usual “distance finesse,” this was just survival! So much for improving my time from last year, I sighed.

With the 2nd marker past me, and the homestretch in sight, and with one more patch to wriggle my way through, there was just one other problem… Did I mention that Gillie Lake is a pond – and not a lake at all? In order to complete the swim, one must go around twice – TWO TIMES – around the scalene triangle.

Ugh! Déjà vu! More weeds!

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The Jungle Section!

(Drone photo by Alexander Mainville)

I crawled out of the water, pulling weeds out of my suit the whole time, ran around a lifeguard chair and back into the watery garden. As luck would have it, some of the weeds had been chopped up a bit, but the swim remained tedious.

All. Done. Hallelujah! With a fairly substantial lead, off I ran to the transition area, and Mary Jo secured the timer chip on Melissa’s ankle. Melissa gleefully rode away on her 14-mile journey through the Central New York countryside. While waiting for her return, I poured a bottle of water down my suit in an attempt to rid myself from the weeds. A couple of other swimmers helped pull them off my back where I couldn’t quite reach.

Melissa returned (still as gleeful) and away flew Mary Jo, lightning fast, and ended up smoking past 2 relay runners and bringing it home for our relay win! Yay!

During the 15-seconds-of-fame awards presentation, all I could think of was heading home and taking a shower. Then burning my suit. That Sunday victory came and went – along with that long, warm, soapy shower.

On Monday morning, however, there IT was…on my chest, my ribcage, and my abdomen. I’m quite certain I actually heard the attack theme from Jaws….bumbum-bumbum-bumbum-BUM-BUM… I had “Swimmer’s Itch”…a.k.a. DUCK ITCH!  Red and white bumps were all over me, Eew! Then – it started itching a day or two later. If you look Swimmer’s Itch up, the “experts” claim it will last just a few days.

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Two weeks later – and 2 types of medicines later (there’s that one stinky cream I still can’t pronounce), the itch is just about gone. Even my doctor was surprised it lasted so long.

For now, I’m taking a lengthy break from open water swimming. My body is done with the rash, and I’m happily back swimming in Lane 3 at the Skaneateles YMCA. I may even consider buying a wetsuit for my next encounter with weeds, things, creatures or suspicious lake water in general. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get the last laugh for wearing it.

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Swimming with The BUMS

At the ripe old age of 24, I competed in what I thought would be my very last swim meet, because, after all, I became a “working professional” with some very long and crazy hours in the cable and broadcasting industry. I trained almost every morning before I went into work with some very nice “older” people at an area high school pool. Eighty year-old Morey and his wife Shirley would show up faithfully at 6 a.m. and get their 20-minute swim in, while I would turn into a whitewater monster that no one wanted to be near.  I swam in the “last” Masters meet in Buffalo, New York, and placed fairly well in my age group and headed 2 1/2 hours home with my medals, enjoying my youth of the mid-1980s…

Fast forward, 33 years later, and here I am, back in the pool, only after after work, marriage, dogs, kids, and travel consumed me, but very happily I must say. My time in the pool has provided me with a comforting solace, given me mental and physical strength, and allowed me to be my “young” self without delving too much into my past and attempting to re-live my 20-something years.

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But there’s always been the itch to compete.  To feed that swim ego once again. To go against someone and beat them while experiencing that immense high one feels from winning, or at least placing in my age group. Well, along came that itch, and it wasn’t too long ago when I received an email that a large statewide Masters swim meet was coming soon to somewhat nearby Binghamton, New York. Too enticing not to pass up, I registered and quickly entered my old high school and collegiate events, including my “signature” event, the 500 Freestyle.  Seed times needed to submitted as well, so I had a huge reality check when I realized I could no longer break 1-minute in the 100 Freestyle. But I’m 57, not 24. My “new” 100 Free time is the approximate time I swam in a pool recently, not going all out, but a baseline with which I could try to beat in this meet of the ages.

This was definitely a venture into new territory. I really won’t know a soul who will be there, as I’m back to “Independent” status, just like I was right out of college.  No team, no “Swimmers Sisterhood of the Traveling Goggles”….just…little…old…me.

My biggest fear about the meet? My goggles will fall off when I dive in. A nightmare.

Most of my events were freestyle, but just for “fun” I signed up for the 100 Individual Medley, aka the “IM” (25 yards each of Fly, Back, Breast, Free).  I did some IM practice turns recently and I believe all I did was provide many laughs for the lifeguards.

Then came time for the meet at Binghamton University.  I walked in (very early!) to the women’s locker room and was warmly greeted by one of the BUMS, that is, Binghamton University Masters Swimming.  I felt immediately at ease.  No butterflies, no apprehension about driving south for an hour and a half at 6 a.m.  One of the women, whom I’m certain was in an upper age group from me, acted as if I was her long lost cousin and escorted me to the beautiful pool I hadn’t seen in years.  Crystal clear water, bright lights above and below, and a separate diving well, one couldn’t ask for a better place to reconnect with competitive swimming.

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There were BUMS everywhere – BUMS in green coats, green hats, green sweatshirts and BUMS in green swimsuits.  I had recently purchased a black suit with green trim to honor my alma mater, Oswego State University (and wore a gold cap the first day), but I was happy about the color choice because I also felt a sense of “BUM belonging” –  like I was one of them. 

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My first events came and went, the 100 and 500 Free.  I won both events in my age group which came as a total surprise – but most important – my Goggles stayed on! I also survived the 500, and a nice BUM counted my laps, just they way I like it.  My husband quickly captured my 100 Free time on the scoreboard (Lane 5), and this will give me incentive to break that time with more training (and perhaps a few less lbs?!).

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Some of the BUMS congratulated me on my way back to my bleacher-based campground, which was unexpected, yet so very nice. My husband, camping with me for that first day, was quite impressed with the organization, dedication and friendliness of the BUMS.  I had to remember this wasn’t a bunch of over-competitive college kids (although…I must tell you… the 30-something men had some serious races going on that day!).

Day 2 left me truly alone, as my husband remained home since it was going to be a longer day with 3 events spread throughout. But I wasn’t alone, I was in BUMS Country! Meeting many more BUMS and other swimmers along the way, I ended up breaking a 25 year-old meet record in the 200 Free, one of the highlights of the weekend.

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My itch had been satisfied, and I will DEFINITELY take advantage of the next exciting season of Masters swim meets, well, just as long as I can hang out with those BUMS again.

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The Love of Spectators

Most of the recent conversations and/or text messages I’ve had with my siblings and friends lately are about their upcoming journeys to watch their child compete in high school, prep school or – in most cases – college sports events.

Just log onto Facebook, Instagram or any other social media site and see the many destinations in the country your social media friends are heading to – simply to see their kid spike a volleyball, slam dunk a basketball, or snipe a goalie.

It’s quite apparent that college spectator sports have evolved into a huge, huge business. Take Syracuse University and the construction of the Carrier Dome, likely one of the greatest happenings to the city of 250,000 in 30 years. People come from all parts of Central New York and beyond to watch S.U. football, basketball, lacrosse, and a myriad of local, state and regional games and tournaments hosted there.

Let’s not forget other events in “The Dome,” like the big- name concerts (Paul McCartney for one), Big Truck racing, and the annual New York State Field Band competition each fall, packing in thousands of spectators to see the fanfare and performances of high school marching bands from Buffalo to Long Island (The band kids will say, “what’s the football team doing on OUR marching band field?” but that’s another story, another time…).

One can get spoiled by watching football in an enclosed stadium like The Dome. This stems from a girl who grew up in a household with a father who was a die-hard Colgate University football fan (and a proud alumna who played both football – and – OUTDOOR hockey there). Week after week in September and October, we’d prepare food and beverages, then over-pack the car for pre-game tailgating. My mother, Jackie, was on board for the social aspect of it all, catching up with her “bestie” named Pat. Together, Pat ‘n’ Jax would chat, nosh on deviled eggs, and most often, huddle (and cleverly remain) inside the warm, running car while my father and I would venture over to the wooden bleachers to view the football game.

But just like the U.S. Postal Service, it was in “Rain, sleet or snow.” It was what Colgate Football was all about. Outside!

To take the chill out of the afternoon and to and pass the time, Dad explained to me what football downs were, demonstrated penalty signals and taught me the various plays of football, which, surprisingly for a young girl, I found far more interesting than my mother’s conversations. Mother Jackie would hob-nob with Bestie Pat when the next fashion show was, who got divorced, or who the new family was joining “The Club” this year (yawn).

This experience with my dad set the stage for my future as a Hockey-Lacrosse-Marching Band-Swimming-Cross Country and Golf Spectator. There is nothing better than watching your child focus on a sport they love to play, or seeing the end result of a unique skill they’ve worked on for months. My daughter gave age-group swimming a try for a year or so, but matriculated into performing arts. She spent 4 years with color guard in the state champion high school marching band (4 in a row!). So much fun to experience, and we truly admired her athletic-looking spins and dance moves, all while tossing and twirling a series of large, colorful flags.

My husband was an athlete, in marching band, has always been an avid sports spectator, but he also loves a good Broadway show or concert. Together, we have just about seen it all. We are on our way South to watch our son play in a college golf tournament, the first time in awhile – now that the weather permits and we have the time. We rarely got to see him play golf in high school as it was just one of those sports where parents and friends simply didn’t attend. Luckily, he played in some Junior Golf tournaments which took us to some beautiful courses in some wonderful cities and areas during those high school years (Toronto, Hilton Head Island, and PGA National in Florida to name a few!).

Watching someone play golf is not the most exciting thing to do, unless you’re a golfer – or your child plays golf. But seeing him crush the ball off the tee box and have it land 275-300 yards smack in the middle of the fairway will take your breath away. Watch him sink a 20-foot putt to save par can bring tears to your eyes.

So, fellow Spectator Parents, stand on those sidelines and savor the minutes your child is “out there.”

Take some video after the coach puts him on the field and he immediately scores a goal past the top goalie in the conference.

Enjoy the outdoor spring blossoms while driving to the golf course, and relish in the 18,000 steps you walked on the course during his 36-round day (in the rain, and fighting the wind).

Cheer loud and proud from the stands while she performs a volleyball “kill.”

Or – remain quiet while he does a double somersault with a full twist off the 3-meter board.

These are among the best of times for us, yet they come and go so quickly. Sure, it’s an expense, and it will always be a way for colleges to make a profit, yet it reminds me of those creative Master Card commercials from a few years ago…

Airfare: $850

Rental car: $275

Hotel: $400

College regalia (including 2 badly-needed umbrellas): $165

—Watching your college golfer son chip in for Eagle: PRICELESS

That’s what being a spectator is all about….love.

The Depth of It All

I’m off the deep end, watch me dive in

I’ll never meet the ground

Crash through the surface

Where they can’t hurt us

We’re far from the shallow now

             “Shallow” by Lady Gaga

As we head south to our bi-annual sanctuary of Hilton Head Island, I can’t wait until I reunite with the Atlantic Ocean. While it’s too cold to swim, visiting an ocean or walking the beach brings me an inner peace and comfort which many studies suggest is good for you mentally.

No surprise there.

scenic view of beach
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I would love to really explore the depths of the Atlantic ocean, or any ocean, but right now, I just don’t have the nerve to take SCUBA classes. I’m not exactly claustrophobic, but I must admit, I don’t like super-deep water. Perhaps it’s the intense pressure and pain my 12 year-old ears experienced since I twisted, flipped, and cannon-balled from the club pool board into the 12-foot “deep” end.

Ouch.

Instead, we’ve snorkeled just off the bleached sands of The Cayman Islands, where there’s a real-life paradise of tropical fish, colorful coral, and, if you plan ahead, stingrays. A trip to Stingray City is well worth the time (and a slight expense) to frolic in knee to chest-deep water with the enormous, mystical creatures, who look like they can simply fly out of the aqua waters and into the sky.

gray fish
Photo by Will Wu on Pexels.com

Chest-high water is great, but diving “deep” with a snorkel is just…well… painful! I’m hoping to combat that with my next physical – and numerous questions – to my family physician (who seems to want to retire to some beautiful blue waters himself someday).

To combat that deep-water fix I long for, there are some great aquariums to visit in our wonderful country. One of them is The South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s vast aquarium to view all walks – or swims – of ocean life and to learn about our amazing oceans – and a lot of fun to experience at feeding time. Divers venture into the tank in to hand out krill and chum to the fish – and the sharks. Talk about fearless – and probably the best job ever if you have no fear.

group of people taking picture of shark
Photo by Valdemaras D. on Pexels.com

My husband’s friend has been after me to try SCUBA to really get deep and see what lies beneath the ocean.  It scares me, but I’m not dissing it just yet.  Bob is a HUGE – I mean HUUUGE — SCUBA guy, and has has sent me postcards, brochures with gorgeous pictures and incentives to give it a whirl (or dive). About a year ago, left me a message on our office answering machine (yes, we still have one of those)…

“Hi I’m calling for Misses Caroline Stanistreet, this is Bob from down South…and you are prepared to go on a great adventure with the underwater world and it could be super cool…and…oh, gosh, if you get inspired, give me a holler, we would love to have you down in Key Largo and the North Florida Keys…give me a call…”

I haven’t erased this message yet.  Nor do I plan to.  Bob’s cheerful voice is my little reminder that anything is possible.  And between Bob’s postcards and my upcoming Masters swim meet (the first one I was going to do was cancelled), maybe I’ll get the mojo to give SCUBA – and the depths – a try. Stay tuned!

Hats Off…to Swim Caps

While at swim team practice at our club pool during summers of the 1970s, the girls were expected to wear swim caps. The rules were clear:

“SWIM CAPS MUST BE WORN IF HAIR IS SHOULDER LENGTH OR LONGER”

Seriously, folks, everyone in the 1970s had long hair, even the boys, but somehow, they escaped the horror of wearing the thick, white, rubbery beast.  It felt like a helmet, enveloped the head since it was simply too large for most young girls (one size fits all!!).  Thankfully, there were no chin straps, or large flowers throughout to make things worse.

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There’s been an on-again, off-again love affair with wearing a swim cap.  Rarely used during my high school and collegiate competitive swimming days, my hair fell victim to the “chlorine invasion.”   Hairdressers could tell immediately who was a swimmer by the golden-sheened strands, the disintegrating ends, and, for the poor blond-haired kids,  that unmistakeable green tinge.

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Anti-chlorine shampoos weren’t invented then, in fact, my swim club teammates thought it would be cool to use the hair lightening product known as “Sun-In” on their hair to really “blond it up” after swim practices.  Why? Because being blond was THE THING back then when it came to popularity (and probably still is).   Trouble is, many of the kids were brunettes, and this early version of Sun-In turned their hair orange.  Some of our teammates looked like a bunch of cute, brassy-haired children from Ireland.

One of my college teammates was a faithful cap wearer, and her hair, for the most part, stayed “normal” looking where the rest of us could pull our wet hair in different directions and it would stay. (Oh, the fun we had on Halloween…).

Today’s caps are superior to the boxy caps of old. Thinner, quite colorful, and shaped more like someone’s head, they aren’t as cumbersome and odd-looking, not to mention they look pretty cool when worn with mirrored goggles.

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As my very first Masters swim meet in “a few” years approaches, I get to choose one of many of my new, updated caps to don.  I cannot wait!  However, my biggest fear is of this meet is not the huffing and puffing I’ll do after the 500 Free, but that my goggles will fall off after I dive in, so I’m considering wearing a cap over my goggle straps – and another cap underneath.

Kind of like a goggle sandwich.

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There is a great deal of gratitude I feel towards today’s swim caps, and wearing a contemporary, well-fitting cap at this meet will boost my confidence like never before.

Stay tuned to see how I survived my first meet in 33 years…it should be interesting and fun!!