A West Point weekend – ring!

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The journey wading through grief while learning to swim continues. In future posts, I’ll document more about this but I have determined that swimming is an homage to my grandma. Not that she was a great swimmer, in fact, how crazy is this, I’m not even sure she swam though I do have pictures of her in the pool and in the ocean! Nonetheless, swimming has become an emblem, my emblem of moving forward despite the current of sadness which I now possess in my heart.   

West Point firsties during the Ring Ceremony

But over the weekend, I set despair aside and experienced the unmitigated joy and pride of being the mama of a West Point firstie. How sweet and kind of the Lord to perfectly situate a celebration in the midst of a loss. My oldest OS is now a firstie at West Point. In civilian terms, he is a “senior” in college. And when you are a firstie, the plebeian life is wayyyyy behind you. Sure, you have some very big decisions to make regarding your future but for a precious weekend in August, you leave those worries behind. It’s all about one thing…getting your ring. Yeah, it’s a pretty big deal. 

Moments away from getting their rings!



Lowly plebes refer to the ring as a mass of crass and brass and glass but for a firstie, it is an epic embellishment. Overlooking Trophy Point, the Hubs and I along with many equally exuberant parents, observed nearly a thousand firsties savor that moment. Once that ring is slipped over each firsties’ finger, all the muck and ruck and toil and moil they have endured at West Point, kinda sorta melts away. At least that’s what I noticed in my OS. 


My OS marching to the Ring Ceremony.
(That’s not me in the yellow shirt.) 😉

With literally hundreds of stones to choose from, it wasn’t easy picking the right one. Nate selected a striking sky blue topaz set in yellow gold. On one side of the ring are the words United States Military Academy and on the other is the class crest “For More Than Ourselves 2012.” Knowing my OS as I do, I can’t think of a more fitting motto. Two “diamonds” are set on either side and when coupled with the middle stone, a brilliant streak of blue catches the eye. 

Nate’s mass of crass and brass and glass. 

As impressive as the outside, the engraving on the inside of Nate’s ring was as significant. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” is the inscription he personally selected from Romans 8:31 in the Bible. I.love.that. I mean I really love that.

A mama, an oliveshoot, an impending storm 
and a gorgeous ring

This weekend our family will travel to Chicago for my grandma’s memorial service. My oldest OS will be in attendance and that means so much to me.  Grandma loved all my OS and told everyone about Nate attending West Point. Years ago, while out for lunch, she even got the address of a cute waitress for Nate because she was so proud of him and hoped they would correspond. (Um, they didn’t!) 


As an extended family, we will cry and laugh and profoundly feel the gaping loss together. We will eat pizza and Portillo’s then make more memories in honor of her. And that gorgeous sky blue topaz ring will be on Nate’s finger. Grandma would have had everyone gushing over this ring. She would have grinned from ear to ear as if she birthed him herself. 


Again, I sense the Lord’s blessing because my grandma would have beamed with pride seeing my OS united celebrating her life. A mixture of sadness and pride fill my mama/grand-daughter’s heart. Tomorrow I will share with you the reward I received for being a firstie mom…(hint, it’s shiny…)

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Doing hard things – good days and bad days

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This was my Saturday post..since then I have made progress and didn’t give up after all. I’m choosing to document not only my moments of success but also times of setback and discouragement. I’m posting it because some of you might understand my struggles…


Now back to Saturday afternoon…

ergh

I want to give up and throw in the towel. Swimming is just too hard. Nothing seems to work. It’s too complicated, too many things to try and coordinate. I’m too old for this. I look stupid. When my arms are straight, they should be bent. When my legs are kicking, they should be pointed. People look so effortless in the water, strong, brave, athletic, they must be geniuses too. No one can convince me I have the same appearance, what is wrong with me?


This is where I am today. If you were looking for an encouraging word, this isn’t the blog post for you. Sorry, just being honest. Even typing these words creates anxiety within me. 


What quandary pervades my spirit! Competing forces – grief and gratitude, fear and courage, defeat and perseverance inhabit me. 

Swimming and grieving :&

Grief – My grandma was so dear to me. Someone I loved deeply is no longer in my life and it’s terribly painful without her. Mourning is tiring and I want to just crawl into a corner and cry. 


Gratitude – Yet I had a grandma for nearly 50 years, what right do I have to be sad? She brought immeasurable joy to me and lived 91 1/2 years! The Lord gave me a grandma for a longer time than most people. She led a storied life. Thank you Jesus for blessing me!


Fear – Moving forward without her is scary. And I’m finding that swimming is like grief. Is it ever going to feel natural being in the water? Living without my grandma?

This diving board is becoming my friend. 

Courage – Being a land tortoise is a thing of the past. This summer, the diving board and I have become friends, we’re not besties but we enjoy each other most of the time. Like it or not, I’m doing at least two Hard Things simultaneously – swimming and grieving (News flash…on Monday, my orange hair, freckle face OS told me I had “guts!” That meant so much to me!)

Um, yeah, that looks natural…NOT!

Defeat – I have been googling YouTube videos about the breast stroke. Who came up with this swimming maneuver? The breast stroke is a constant source of conversation in my house, when do I glide, breathe, lift my head? OY! This afternoon I practiced my breast stroke techniques perpendicularly on a kitchen stool and on the large leg rest in our family room. Even at the farmer’s market in the parking lot, I demonstrated a possible breast stroke move to the Hubs. None of it makes sense, am I on the brink of figuring it out or is this just another indication that I need to just count my losses and move on? 


Perseverance–  But I have made some progress with swimming. For the first time in my life, I went in a circle while swimming. Don’t ask me how I did it. Most of you do this effortlessly but until Wednesday, all I could do was swim in a straight line. Frankly, I most often swim (accidentally) diagonally. 

I have walked by this lap pool for years.
I jumped in it for the first time. 

I also went into the lap pool at our gym for the very first time. I plunged (sort of) into the much colder water and swam (terribly) two laps. Nearly died, gulping water, had a very unattractive choking spell while flapping my arms and legs at the wrong times but by golly, I did it. The plan is for me to return to this lap pool and eventually to feel comfortable enough with going there by myself. In the meantime, my trusty Hubs is by my side. 

I’m encouraged knowing I’m not the only one Doing Hard Things and pushing through these struggles. Thanks y’all.



Doing hard things – mourning and living

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Sitting by my grandma was always a cozy place

The rain that pounded on my window Saturday morning symbolized my heart. Something I have wanted to avoid and have long feared, had now come true. For the first time in my life, I awoke to being without my grandma. Tears have poured from my eyes for nearly a week and waking to this new reality was crushing.


Navigating through grief challenges us in the most basic of ways. What can we do to acknowledge our sadness but not paralyze daily living? How do we move forward in life while still honoring the memory of our loved one? Is it ok to still laugh and smile? 


So many of you can relate, I’m sure. Grief is complicated, isn’t it? 


Those torrents of rain granted me permission to stay in the house and do nothing but cry. But when the sun burst forth in the early afternoon, I knew I had two things to do. One was to go shopping for a dress for Ring Weekend, a very special celebration at West Point we will soon enjoy with our oldest OS. (stay tuned!)


And the other was not an task-related errand but something equally important. I had to go back to the swimming pool.

It’s hard to stay in the lane! 

My grandma was a fire-cracker, a whipper snapper, a kick in the pants kinda gal. She was a hard-headed, go-getter who didn’t let things keep her down for very long and I always admired those qualities.


So in honor of my grandma and because I believe the Lord has given me this summer to conquer my fears, I swam four laps. They were crooked and awkward. They were not exactly consecutive laps either. I did my own special version of what I believe you people call “breast stroke” and “back stroke.” During the back stroke, in the middle of the lap, I swam into the plastic lap divider rings. (I just realized I called them “lap” dividers not lane dividers, told you I was a swimming newbie!). Instead of just giving up, though, I found myself laughing, the Hubs nearby chuckled also. I’m exerting a tremendous amount of physical energy swimming because I don’t have all the movements synchronized. I’m aware of how silly I look but that is no longer a big concern. Considering all the sadness in my heart, it was a triumphant moment.

Then the perfunctory ten jumps into the deep end followed. The Hubs sat contentedly on the lounging chair as I began the task. Things were going well but then suddenly, while underwater, fear gripped me. I panicked and I doubted that I had enough air to make it safely to the side. The Hubs was reading a book, he had no idea. It was only after I grabbed the side of the pool that I was able to get his attention. From the poolside, I mouthed, “Hon, I’m struggling. I’m scared. I can’t do this. I’m done.”


Left to my own defenses, overwhelming grief combined with lack of confidence, I was ready to go home. Hadn’t I done enough, felt enough for one day? I didn’t see myself as a failure, I just felt like a grand-daughter mourning and that is part of what I am right now.


But the Hubs spurred me on. He said, “I’ll go in with you. Come on, let’s get back in the water.” With that, I returned to the water and not only did ten jumps into the deep end of the pool but I did an extra. The last one was for my grandma. I asked the Hubs to take a picture and yes, I’m crying while making a heart symbol. I will never forget you Grandma. Wherever I am, Grandma, I will carry you with me. 

I ❤ my grandma

I have no idea how I’m going to press on without one of the most significant people in my life but what choice do I have? Therefore I have to hope. Not in myself but in the power of Christ in me. It’s no accident that the Lord chose this summer to be a time of loss and gain. I know the Lord is changing me. 


I don’t really like this part of the process, it hurts like crud but I hear the voice of my grandma saying, “That’s great, Cin! I’m so proud of you!” she would giggle with delight. And I hear the voice of the Author of Life, my Sustainer, the Lifter of my head reminding me that “he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it in Christ Jesus.”

Keep working on doing your own hard things. I am blessed by your prayers and comments.

Doing hard things – out of love

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This is for you, dear grandma
We like each other…a lot

After Friday’s heartbreaking news, I’ve been afraid to return to the pool. Though I may look the same, my sentiments in almost every regard are altered. My grandma will not be getting better this side of heaven. I am not sure what to do. So I cry, I think about crying, I dry my face after crying and repeat. Feelings of overwhelming sorrow are mixed with tremendous gratefulness. My grandma has been in my life for nearly half a century, that is such a blessing. But gosh, I’m going to miss her. I will miss everything about her. Even the things that were less than perfect, she meant the world to me.

If only I could stay in that moment



My OS start school on Wednesday. Prior to the phone call about my grandma; days before, in fact, tears flowed thinking about them not being home. Now the impending loss of my grandmother looms near. I wanted to herald this summer as one of incredible memories. Difficulties pervade on where to put this latest news into my epic summer scenery.


Yet despite my heartache, the Hubs and I went to the pool. My spunky, kick-in-the-pants grandma would want this. 

So to honor her, I plunged into the water. As I came up for air, tears poured into my swim goggles which was a new experience…The salty pool water matched my salty tears. I had to empty the goggles out several times. The Hubs held me tight as I fell into his arms. I’m pretty sure I was the only person weeping in the water. 


As I see it, I have three options:
1. quit = give up (my grandma has always been a spitfire)
2. stagnate = no more progress (my grandma moved forward despite great losses)
or 
3. keep at it = trust in the Lord (my grandma would be proud of me)


A force, greater than myself (which I know to be my Savior), allowed me to do another thing today. Previously, as my orange hair, freckle face OS informed me, I frolicked off the diving board. But with the Hubs’ encouragement, I pushed myself off the surface and into the air with greater vigor. And I touched the bottom of the nine foot pool. That was also a first. And then, of course, I cried.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. Keep doing your own Hard Things, dear friends, even when it hurts.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
Psalm 56:3

Doing hard things – a little easier

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I’m bringing sunglasses, readers and
swimming goggles to the pool and I don’t even care!

With at least a week-long swimming hiatus before me, I decided to take advantage of a beautiful day by heading to the pool. 

I wrote this on the sand in Mexico

A few months ago, I sat among the women in my writers’ group and we were given a writing exercise about the summer. Each of us went around the room and shared our stories, the vision we had for the upcoming season. When it was my turn, I pushed back the tears when I read my entry. For me, sharing it was raw and vulnerable as I had penned a summer that seemed impossible and unattainable.


But a few weeks later, with new found courage, I started to try (again) to swim. 

I feel like a kid!

The hallmark of today was that though the Hubs and the OS all had other things to do, I went to the pool. By myself. Without resentment or angry muttering, I walked there, set down my belongings and I strapped on my trusty swim goggles. With one step off the edge, I jumped into the deep end of the pool. WOW! By myself! And I swam to the other side with no incident. The lifeguard glanced my way but remained on her perch. I bet she thought I did this all the time. 😉

I also hopped off the diving board a few times. These activities are slowly becoming routine which is just remarkable to me. With each jump, plop or frolic into water, my confidence increases. 

It is wonderful to no longer be tethered
to the lounging chair.

When I see the little kids enjoying water, seemingly carefree, the pangs of regret and shame are not overtaking me. Bless their hearts, they have no idea that aquatically speaking, we are the same age! I am less of an outsider and don’t look like a fish out of water. (How could I resist?) I’m like a middle-age mama minnow now. 

A more muscular and manly
version of well, me 😉

This might explain why I then attempted another feat. After I jumped into the nine foot deep water, instead of my usual routine of clinging to the edge immediately following, somehow I turned my body and for about the same time that it is taking you to read this sentence, I, yes, Cindy, former land tortoise, embodied the Wikipedia definition of this commonly practiced aquatic activity. 


May I say that remaining afloat in the water without use of any buoyancy aid and using kicking motions and hand motions is HARD?! With more practice, I hope to master this skill.

Elegant dog paddling



I will be checking my blog, email and facebook as I heal from this out-patient surgery and love hearing from you. Aside from elbow surgery, the summer I longed for, is coming true. Keep doing your own version of Hard Things, friends.

Wednesday remix – no more land tortoises

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So sorry for the Wednesday remix delay. I knew what I wanted to post and it was a matter of scanning the pics, etc. which always takes longer than usual.

Can you say ouch? I can. 

On a side note, I’m having elbow surgery on Wednesday. It’s not major surgery but it might delay some posting since it’s my right arm, my “writing arm.” Time permitting, I might create some advance posts in the interim.


But back to the remix… Tonight I offer my post in honor of my oldest OS who spent two weeks in El Salvador with his bonita and two weeks with the fam this summer. With all that he has accomplished as a young man, Nate has embodied the Romans 8:37 spirit in being “more than a conqueror” in so many ways. By his example, Nathan has shown me how to Do Hard Things. In recognition of our collective swimming accomplishments both past and present, behold my toe-headed boy back in 1995. 

Nearly all known floatation devices were employed. 
The only kid on the swim team with the works. No shame. 
This is sweetest sugar boy I’ve ever seen in the pool!



There is nothing more precious or inspiring than seeing your child doing something you, yourself cannot do. Replete with floaties, nose plugs, swimming goggles and a noodle, that boy persevered. He didn’t worry about how he looked, my OS just wanted to stay alive during the swim meet! Cheering from the pool side, I was crazy proud of him!

As you can see, Nate didn’t inherit his daddy’s natural love of water. At least for a short while, my OS possessed his mama’s land tortoise qualities. 


Go Nate, go! You can doey it! He has come a long way as a cadet at West Point since completing survivor swimming his yuk year. 


Then in a strange twist of genetics, I believe that this summer, I came to inherit his determination. 


Oh and I can barely believe what I’m about to tell you! It’s no coincidence that AT THE SAME POOL, I jumped again into the deep end of the pool with even less forethought. And then although lacking any semblance of finesse, I stepped/jumped off the diving board 15 times yesterday. Here’s the amazing footage and it’s ok if you laugh, just keep it to yourself. Every time I see this video, I feel incredibly embarrassed and joyful. My youngest OS informed me that I “frolicked” off the diving board. Kids these days…

Years separated our victories but we have broken through barriers. Nate was one of my heroes when he was five and will always be as a man, son and Soldier. 

Thank you, dear readers for your messages both public and private. Keep doing your own hard things, if I can do it, so can you by the power of the Lord.