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One more day until vacation…

May 12, 2011, 7:36 PM

Yes, one more day to go. I am one “It’s Friday, ya bastards!” away from a week’s vacation. I am looking forward to it. This is going to be something of a hybrid, too. Last time I took a vacation was when I went to Chicago. Thus almost the entire time was spent out of town. Then two vacations ago was two weeks just hanging out at home and around town. This one will be about half just chilling out at home and thereabouts, and half out of town.

So you may ask, where am I going? A day and a half in Stuarts Draft and thereabouts, and then off to Kings Dominion with Mom and the eighth graders for “Math and Science Day”. It’s kind of funny, too, that I’m finally going to Kings Dominion. See, I’ve lived about two hours’ driving time from Kings Dominion for almost 19 years (believe it or not, my parents’ house and my house are about the same distance from Kings Dominion), and I’ve never been. We’ll see if it was worth the wait. The waterpark won’t be open (still too early in the season), but the rest of it will be. So we’ll see how it goes, I suppose. Otherwise while I’m in Virginia, I’m hoping to swing by SDMS again and visit Mom at school and such, do some photography in Staunton or Waynesboro or so, and then hopefully see Katie if all goes well, since it’s been far too long since last I’ve seen her.

Then in the first half of the week, I’m going to give lap swimming a try again. There’s a county-operated indoor pool in Olney, and considering how close it is to my house (only four miles), I should visit, and give it a spin. I’m thinking I’ll do it on Monday when all the children are at school. They have designated lap lanes, and so we’ll see how it goes.

When I was a child, I used to swim all the time. At the Walton Life Fitness Center in Bentonville, I did lots of swimming. First I was in the beginner swimming course (though I was already comfortable in the water before then). Then it was on to “Instructional Swim Team”, as they called it, with swim instructor Rhonda Dossey. The class was well-intentioned, but served the wrong purpose, and would ultimately lead to my no longer swimming regularly. They were using it as a recruitment tool for the competitive swim team, the Bentonville Stingrays. Kids would come in, spend some time there, and then they would say, “I think you’re ready for swim team”, and off they would go to swim team. I was in that program for about two years before I consciously chose to quit. The tipping point was one time when just about all the kids were about ready for swim team. So the whole class was going through the testing and such for it. Having been in the instructional program for two years and having seen many of the other kids go through to swim team, I was ready to go and I thought this was finally going to be my time. The other kids all started coming to class in speedos, and so I saved my allowance and bought a speedo, too. That I bought the team suit was indicative of my intention – I really wanted to go to swim team. And I busted my butt on the testing, and then when it was all said and done, all the other kids went on to the swim team, and Rhonda Dossey told me that I was still not ready yet, and couldn’t go. For an eight-year-old who had put in two years of effort and saved up to buy the suit, that was crushing. The next class session had a whole new group of kids, and me, the failure, now the only one wearing a speedo to class. I stayed in it for a few more months after that, but after being told I still couldn’t go to swim team, my heart wasn’t in it anymore and I eventually quit.

Looking back with 20 years’ hindsight, the problem was this: my path to success was blocked. I think if I had been allowed to go on to swim team, I would have done well. I knew all my strokes – the front crawl (aka “freestyle”), the backstroke, the breaststroke, and even the butterfly – and while I could certainly have used some refinement on my technique, I could have done it, but no one would give me a chance to prove it. And I don’t see the harm in letting me prove it, either, especially since they had three levels within the swim team: white team, red team, and black team. If I had been allowed to do swim team, I think I would have done well.

Later on, the fitness center restructured the instructional program. Its name changed from “Instructional Swim Team” to “Instructional Swim Program”, and began teaching Red Cross swimming courses. I rejoined the instructional program in the Advanced Beginner class. I had a different instructor, and things were going well again, and I progressed well, eventually earning the “Advanced Beginner” certification. I still have that card somewhere, I think. The beginner card is on the Web site and has been there for some years.

After advanced beginner, it was on to intermediate, and guess who: you guessed it, Rhonda Dossey. And going to show that you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks, it was Rhonda Dossey’s same exact class with a different title. And once again I didn’t make it, and that was the last straw for me. I quit again, and that was the end of any sort of swim instruction for me.

Now my sister had a better time with swimming. She got into things when we moved to Virginia, and so she did her swim instruction at the Waynesboro YMCA. She started out doing swim lessons in the YMCA’s program, and did the summer competitive swim team for two summers. Then when she started fourth grade, she joined SMAC, the real swim team, also at the Waynesboro YMCA. She did very well, and stayed in it for nine years, until she graduated high school. And as far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong), she remembers it fondly. The big difference here was that the YMCA’s swim lesson program and the swim team were entirely separate programs. You did not graduate into the swim team from the swim lesson program. And unlike the Bentonville Stingrays, SMAC took anyone who was willing to give it a try.

I think that if I had the experience that my sister had, I would have done similarly well. Honestly, I just wanted to swim, and swim well. I wanted to see myself improve and become a really good swimmer. The swim team was made part of the progression because of the way the program was structured at the time, and I was denied continued progress, and what’s the point of pursuing something if you’re at a dead end?

I still love to swim, albeit on my own terms. When I was up in Pennsylvania for a training class, over the course of like three nights, I swam around and photographed the hotel pool with Duckie. And let me tell you, I tired myself out in that hotel pool. But it was all about having fun and doing something constructive at the same time, and I got a good bit of exercise, swimming to find a spot to photograph, and then setting the camera up and taking the shot, especially in situations where I was floating above the camera in the middle of the pool and had to keep station over the camera (holding it still, mostly). That was quite a workout, but it was a lot of fun. I even asked the hotel to turn the lights in the pool on at one point so I could play with the light levels a bit more. The shoot had no particular purpose, and I only ever published three photos out of it (in the aforementioned Journal entry), but that wasn’t the point. It was just fun to do, and I did indeed get some good exercise.

So let’s see how lap swimming goes while I’m on vacation. Olney Swim Center has some course offerings as well, and so if I like the facility, a few adult swim lessons might be worthwhile as well. We’ll see, I suppose…

Web site: Montgomery County, Maryland's aquatic offerings. I really need to take advantage of all this.

Song: Totally unrelated, but I was discussing Garfunkel and Oates' "Sex with Ducks" song with a friend last weekend, and so here it is. Good message, and it's still really cute.

Quote: Meanwhile, I think something is working. My pants are starting to fit differently (but don't expect a repeat of a certain 2006 incident - you only learn that lesson once), my blood pressure is doing much better, I'm really getting into walking home from the Metro, and the diet is doing well. My next appointment with the doctor is in July, and we'll see where I end up weight-wise at that time. I'm looking forward to seeing what the weight is, though I admit I always hate it when they call me in and immediately show me the scale and tell me to step on.