Doing hard things – the dilemma and the decision

Land tortoises aren’t especially attractive, are they?

As I navigate into this world of swimming, I am betwixt calling myself a swimmer and a former land tortoise.

Do it? Don’t do it? I did it!

Still on the outside to some extent, I keenly observe human aquatic creatures. How you move about in the water, your level of ease, the effortless way you seem to both inhale and exhale while simultaneously kicking your feet and moving your arms in a horizontal position. And your buoyancy. Me likey your buoyancy. I am among you but not quite ready to say I am one of you for fear I might be revealed as an impostor.

The day before going to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, I could be found at the neighborhood pool. I successfully wrangled my orange hair, freckle face OS to join me and as we all know teenage boys LOVE going to the pool with their mamas, right? And if their mamas are learning to swim, well, let’s just say Ike was BEYOND words for this adventure…

We arrived at the pool and I informed Ike that I absolutely had to jump into the water seven times because his dad had told me so. Ike was very eager for me to get the task completed but when you have spent most of your life as a land tortoise, it’s harder than one thinks especially if one is an impatient, orange hair, freckle face OS.

But I did it.

This is the scene of the incident,
feel the tension!

And then I told Ike what I was going to do next. I was going to jump into the deep end. With a mixture of encouragement and nonchalance, Ike approved. In a flash, I approached the nine foot water and immersed myself into the pool. I repeated this activity several times.

The whistle blew and it became adult swim time. Again I was in the deep end of the water. Everything was going well until I was mistakenly identified as a swimmer.

That ball bobbing in the water…
what was a former land tortoise to do? 

A little urchin of a boy who apparently hadn’t noticed that although I was in the deep end of the pool, I was still clutching the side, approached me. “Could you get the tennis ball for me?” he asked unaware of the enormity of his question.

I was dumbfounded as I looked and saw a bright yellow tennis ball right in the middle of the water. I wish there was some kind of attractive, water-resistant sign I could have as a reminder that I am NEW at this. You know the kind of sign on top of a car used in driver’s ed? 

I’d like something along these lines
but cuter, sassier and water-resistant, please.

“Um,” I stammered. “I’m not that great of a swimmer and I don’t know how to stop in the middle so I can probably get your tennis ball but I’ll have to give it to you on the other side.” That poor child just wanted his toy not a long explanation. He probably wished he had just waited. 

This would also work but in purple and with squiggles.

Without giving him a chance to respond and wanting to look like the heroine, I dramatically inhaled a big glob of air. In a splash (get it, splash?) I swam my way in the deep end, paused momentarily to intercept the tennis ball and returned it to him on the other side as promised.

As it was on the eve of our big vay-kay, I just had to smile to the Lord. I felt Him winking at me from the heavens saying, “We did this.” Another challenge met. It was a proud and humorous aquatic event. I guess  I’m becoming less of a land tortoise after all. But I do have a lingering question…how do you people stop in the middle? 

“Hi, I’m Cindy and I’m a recovering land tortoise.”
A terrible picture of me but I love the dents in my
head from the swim goggles. Btw, I don’t have buckteeth. 

And would you believe that another astonishing thing happened to me on Monday? Another crazy water story I will share forthwith! You bless me, truly you do with every prayer and motivating message! 

Doing hard things – the diving board

I jumped!

Interrupting my scheduled post about swimming to bring you the latest development in achieving aquatic greatness… on Saturday, for the first time in my life, I jumped off the diving board!!!

This journey began in 1985 when the Hubs and I were dating. He told me he would teach me how to swim. There was a pool in the apartment complex where I lived and occasionally we went there. He soon discovered I was a reluctant learner but it was the beginning of my journey to overcome my fear. I knew he was the one for me because he didn’t let me drown. He was someone I could trust implicitly.  

With great coaxing and reassurance, a few times, I leaped into the deep end of the pool where my boyfriend (now the Hubs) was waiting with open arms. 

It was such a significant moment, I decided to express the moment in a painting. My desire was to depict two feet in mid-air, no longer tethered by a sturdy, secure surface (a diving board) and not yet hitting the water. That fraction of a second when one completely trusts carried great symbolism for me. 

this diving board has intimidated me for too long

I never finished that painting. I’m not really an artist either so honestly it wasn’t great. Last year, after spending decades lugging the picture to new homes only to shove it in a closet, I threw the unfinished painting into the trash. There was no point hanging on to that picture. I possessed a mediocre unfinished drawing depicting a skill I had never accomplished. Who needs another reminder of failure? Um, not me.

“Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Willis???”

Fast forward to July 9, 2011…we went to our neighborhood pool Saturday and the Hubs encouraged me to jump off the diving board. Through my trusty swim goggles, I gave him my best “Whatchoo talkin’ bout Willis???” face and hopped out of the pool. 

The next thing I knew I was on the diving board plank and a second later, I was in the water. Then I swam to the side of the pool which I did for the first time in my life. I didn’t drown or flounder. This was another breakthrough. 

“Did I look like a normal person doing that?”

Afterward, on land, I whispered and asked the Hubs, “Be honest with me, did I look like a normal person doing that?” I have pink highlights in my hair and a henna tattoo on my arm yet I completely believed him when he nodded and said yes. I’m married to an awesome man. 
My goal is for this to be a normal occurrence. Is it possible for me to fearlessly swim and not think twice about it? I pray, I really do, for the day when I’m as comfortable on a pool slide or diving board (not diving!) as I am in the kitchen. I have no hesitation to try a new recipe and can usually handle a culinary mistake. 

Torpor has robbed me of memories, I’m ready as it says in Romans 8:37 to be “more than a conqueror” especially as it pertains to swimming. 

I need to do this again and again until it no longer scares me. 

I no longer have that unfinished artwork.  Instead I have a new canvas. Perhaps I never completed that painting because I was relying on my own strength and not the Lord’s.  This time it will be better than the original. 

Aquatic greatness 😉

And it will be created, dear friends, not with brush strokes but with swimming strokes.  I’m making progress. This was an epic event! Thanks again for your encouraging words.    

Doing hard things – part four, what am I afraid of?


I’m trying to process the best vacation of my life. I’m searching for what the Lord is teaching and showing me after five precious days  in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

As previously mentioned, I’m co-leading a book club this summer for middle and high school girls. The book Doing Hard Things is intended for teenagers but it is speaking to this middle age mama’s heart. While languishing at the beach, in Playa del Carmen, under a cabana, with a fruity, non-alcoholic drink within hand’s reach, a gentle breeze wooed me to contemplation. What am I afraid of?

Here is a partial list:

Heights – looking down from an unsecured area is terrifying
Planes – I often warn fellow passengers that I am not a great fan of turbulence and can grab their hand at any point.
Water – (I’m working on this one)

The view from my beach chair…

Rollercoasters – there’s no point to being scared and nauseous unless during childbirth
Hypodermic needles/IVs – refer to above

and a host of other ones I choose not to mention.

Throw in a nervous bladder and a poor sense of direction. The Hubs is such a lucky guy, huh?

Since facing my fear of water/swimming, I realized I am also afraid of:

Failure – what if I don’t succeed? I have taken swimming lessons before but after completing them, I wimped out when I couldn’t synchronize my body correctly. Convinced that I looked just too stupid plus my knee hurt very badly, I gave up, defeated and land-locked.

It’s scary to ponder, if I’m still at this same point of mastery next year, what does that say about me?

But then, strangely, paradoxically, I am frightened of:

Success – I do not know this new Cindy very well and where is this girl going to take me? Possibly people might expect me to join in aquatic merriment. When doctors suggest swimming as a healthy form of exercise, I might have to heed their advice. I would no longer garner pity for being stranded on the shore. Pity, in a bizarre sort of way, has been part and parcel with summer. If I’m really a swimmer, then people might realize that my swimming strokes are awkward, clearly a sign of a novice.

Summer, I gotta be honest, I find you intriguing and complex. 

And then there’s the biggie –
I might enjoy swimming and then what do I do? I’m getting farther and farther from clinging to the secure side. What is on the other side? What is in the middle? Weird. 

I received this card in the mail from an encouraging mama
whose daughter is in the book club. T
his frog and I understand each other. 

Next post I want to share a swimming story that happened just before vay-kay. It’s becoming an interesting metaphor on my quest. Thanks again for your support. I hear your collective, sweet voices on land and sea, I’m serious.

Wednesday remix – bathing suits

The Hubs back in the day doing the Baywatch thing
What family vacation wouldn’t be complete without a trip for some sort of medical issue? The tradition began on our honeymoon in Portugal almost 24 years ago when I sliced open my big toe. While walking upstairs to our condo, one misstep with a flipflop and the next thing I knew, the Hubs was carrying me piggyback style to the car. Soon we arrived at a medical center with questionable hygeine practice and I got several stitches! Oh the memories! 
Hence we have been to countless pharmacies, hospitals, urgent care centers and doctor visits. This trip to Mexico is no exception. This time it was not an especially life-threatening event but nonetheless embarrassing for a special member of our family.
The first day at Playa del Carmen was spent in the ocean. The Hubs is quite the fish, having spent two years in Guam as a young boy. But as good and strong of a man he is, (and ladies, he is strong like bull!) the delicate bathing suit area commonly covered with mesh and elastic is easily irritated.
The waves, although gentle to the rest of us, assaulted the Hubs. Grains of sand rubbed against him and by the end of the day, the Hubs was beyond miserable. How ironic to believe that if he didn’t get any relief, I might be the only parent in our family in the ocean! This would be a first.
“I will not be limited by mesh lining and elastic.”
Our Spanish vocabulary is quite limited despite the fact that our oldest OS has been to El Salvador four times in a year and is in love with a beautiful Salvadorena. Nate has learned many words but “chafing” isn’t one of them. We strolled into the hotel store but lacked the vocabulary to adaquately and appropriately explain the problem. I had no choice but to point to the affected area. I used myself as the model and she giggled as she tried to understand my question. 
“Hotelshops…your one stop spot
for all your ointment needs.”

The cashier, the Hubs and I debated whether the Hubs might need a diaper cream or something with retinol for wrinkles. This was no time for pride and soon we finally decided on the wrinkle ointment. No sooner was the purchase made then the Hubs scooted into the bathroom for prompt application.

I’m happy to tell you that he is now a happy camper/fish. To remove any chance of recurrence, the Hubs also went to the front desk and borrowed a pair of scissors. The mesh has since been removed and all is well in our little aqua world in Mexico.
This post has been approved, albeit begrudgingly, by the Hubs. He is my macho man with a sensitive side! And one more thing, should you ever need it, here’s a helpful phrase in Spanish…estoy rozando = I’m chafing! 
They were NOT all chafing simultaneously! They were acting like guys!

Doing hard things – part three, in Mexico


(Connectivity is a struggle here so I apologize in advance for the visual quality of this post). 

We arrived in Mexico on Saturday. Comfortable fitting goggles, three different bathing suits and a new found sense of anticipation about water were securely stowed in my spirit and suitcase. 
And in a way, I have packed you too. Truly, your support has meant so much. I hesitated for a short while about even blogging about my fear of water but now I’m happy did. Though you, dear readers may be avid swimmers, I sense you understand because likewise you have a hard thing you have mastered or need to look beyond, so as we say in Mexico, muchos gracias, amigos. 🙂

This morning my orange hair, freckle face OS announced that he wanted to go snorkeling. We are staying in an all-inclusive resort so without the concern of money, it was an easy decision. Yes!

The Hubs and I strolled to the beach to meet the OS. As picturesque as the view is (and it’s magnificent), the loveliest sight for us as parents is seeing our three bairn together. At 21, 16 and 14 years old, their lives are busier and more diverse. We see our time with them like grains of sand flowing from our hands but I don’t want to cry so let’s not go there. The OS had ventured to an outlying reef and were bobbing their heads in and out of the water dazzled by the creatures.

Aaron met us back on the beach and urged us to join them. “Mama, you’re going to love this!” he exclaimed.

In a moment, I found myself in the water. This is a new Cindy. I’ve been to beaches in several countries throughout my lifetime and never has a body of water beckoned me as the Atlantic Ocean at the Playa del Carmen has done.

Instead of looking for excuses as to why I couldn’t snorkel or get into the ocean, I believed I actually could. My middle OS told me to look underwater and without hesitation, I did as instructed. The view did not disappoint. Schools of yellow and black striped fish glistened past us. Small black fish darted in the reefs. With another gulp of air, I witnessed a larger fish that truly was painted by the hands of God, this one aquamarine with other hues of blue in its body. I was not marooned by fear or shipwrecked by sadness any longer. I rode a wave of gratefulness the entire day. 

It no longer concerns me how many times I have put my head underwater. It’s not natural quite yet but I’m moving forward and not counting or dreading it. At one point during our snorkeling adventure, it was as if the fish were approaching me saying, “Hey girl, what-choo doing here? Looong time, no see! It’s great to see you!” The Mexican fish are friendly like that!

Yes, I tasted a fair amount of ocean water. I got a bit scared and hoped a shark wouldn’t come and ruin the whole thing. And I admit to being VERY clumsy on the reef and narrowly avoiding an ankle injury plus I appear to be melanin deprived. But…

I belong. With my family. In the water. Making memories. Splashing and beholding. Cherishing and treasuring.

Doing Hard Things – part two


As many of you now know from previous posts, all my life I have been afraid to swim. The amount of toil and moil I have wasted in making sure the words of “non-swimmer” stayed on me like the world’s worst tattoo or the longest acting sunblock ev, ugh.

To be sure, there is no badge of honor or virtue attached to the title of “non-swimmer.” Your words of encouragement and support help mend that broken place I have carried too long. 

Last night as we gathered to discuss Chapters 7-8 in Doing Hard Things, I decided to share with the girls in the book study, my personal struggle with water. As suspected, everyone in the room knew how to swim but me. When they heard that I had jumped into the pool SEVEN whole times earlier this week, they giggled good-naturedly and rejoiced in my feat. As I told them how difficult it’s been for me to face this fear, the girls and my co-leaders didn’t show condemnation, instead I sensed…


flowing from their hearts. As they listened, one of the girls, bless her heart, even clapped for me. When the night ended, those girls said they would be praying for me and I believe this to be true. 

And you know what else has been incredible? 

For years I have told myself that at the very moment I enter the water, EVERYONE and I do mean EVERYONE in the entire pool or any significant body of water for that matter, stops whatever they are doing and begins to notice. Like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, adults and young children jeered at me most assuredly. The floundering limbs, exaggerated gasps for air, combined with hopelessly blanche skin all belonging to me, the voice inside convinced me that the world stopped in horror at seeing a middle aged non-swimmer mama in the water.

But you’ll never guess what I have noticed lately. Sit down for this because it’s a biggie. No one cares about me in the pool. The lifeguards are on standby but really no one else gives a whoop. I don’t look like I don’t belong because I do belong. 

A friend who regularly reads my blog, shared this with me in an email…“I think my grandmother was about 65 years old when she took swimming lessons. I remember her proudly showing us she could float. She was a pretty hefty woman at that time of her life. It is a sweet memory. If she can do it, Cindy can do it. 🙂 I also admire her for losing many, many pounds after she had a heart attack. She had always been heavy – great Southern cook with a sweet tooth. Sometime in her sixties, she started walking almost every day and dropped down to a beautiful, normal weight.”

I will be in that water!

An anchor of shame and incompetence has dashed decades of warm weather memories. I’m so over it. It is long overdue that I jump into the turquoise blue ocean of opportunities. I hope to be sharing with you another accomplishment as it pertains to my relationship with water in Mexico! Yes, Mexico

Breaking news – Cindy swims!


Hope you weren’t blinking because you would have missed it but the Hubs captured 10 seconds of me swimming. In nine foot deep water I might add rather boastfully. 😉 Your small child can do a better job, for sure, but somehow, albeit fairly clumsily I did it. And if you can stand more excitement, I jumped into the water SEVEN times today! And guess what? I might do it again tonight. 

Please join me in singing the following song

“I am just an embryo with a long, long way to go, until I make my brother understand…” (Not sure why my brother needs to understand but um, Mark, if you’re reading this, I am SWIMMING, DUH!)

I’ll post a Wednesday remix later but I just had to share this. Thanks for the encouragement, y’all!