7 reasons I shouldn’t have reached my 10th birthday

I was am a klutz. I own it.

I fall down the stairs, ricochet off walls and trip over air regularly. (Just ask my boss, husband or running pals.)

As summer officially started this year, I  found my mind wandering back to how I spent my summers as a kid in central Pennsylvania. I was what you’d affectionately call “a spirited pool rat.” As I look back, I recall several “near disasters,” most of which took place in the summer months thanks to my impulsive personality.

So today, dear friends, I shall share with you my top 7 close calls. And let me say, this list in no way suggests poor parenting by Mom and Dad. It’s all thanks to my own curiosity and/or stupidity.

  • I fell from a moving car. Truth. I was 3 or 4 at the time and my dad was driving my sister and me to the pool when the incident occurred. Sissy and I shared the front seat of my dad’s Thunderbird. I was on the outside. Seat belts? We didn’t use them back then. I found myself wondering about the locked car door. I knew if it was locked it wouldn’t open from the outside and when unlocked, would open no matter what. But would the locked door open from the inside? I wondered. In retrospect. I should not have tested this theory when the car was still moving. I clicked the lock into place and pulled the handle. I tumbled onto the pavement and rolled onto a nearby lawn. The car screeched to a halt, my dad scooped me up and took me home. Aside from nasty road rash all over my body and screaming bloody murder when my mother applied the medicine, I was fine. More than anything I was peeved that I wasn’t allowed to go to the pool that day.

littlevpoolIn the pool, where I loved to be

  • Stabbed with a dart. I was 9 when Sissy and I bought a dartboard at a garage sale. We couldn’t wait to use it, but mom kyboshed hanging it on the wall, even in our messy basement. She didn’t want holes in the walls, apparently because of our wretched aim. Our solution was not brilliant. We took turns holding the board while the other whizzed sharp darts at the target. Neither of us had great aim, but a few turns in, one dart reached its mark – in my upper left leg. Blood started spurting. I still have a scar. And I no longer play darts.
  • Head first into the shallow end. I absolutely knew better. But alas, no one was around to stop me when I dove into the two-foot section at our pool club when I was 8. I was new to swim team that summer and I knew the older kids started their long course practice from the shallow end. I wanted to be just like them, so I dove into the packed pool and landed on my head. I actually saw stars raining from the sky and thank God that I didn’t actually hurt myself. No one noticed, by the way, not even a lifeguard posted nearby.
  • Climbing the roof. This activity drove my mother nuts. She repeatedly told Sissy and me to stay off the roof of our house, but we rarely listened. Every chance we got, Sissy and I would crawl out my bedroom window and onto the roof. I realize now, had we fallen off the top of the back roof, we’d have fallen 3 stories. I slipped on the shingles nearly every trek, but never slid off the side of the house, thank goodness. A family friend jumped from the second-story one summer and hurt his arm. Mom kept a much tighter leash on us after that.
  • Underwater at a water park. I never admitted this story to, well, anyone, because I was so embarrassed it happened. On a family outing to a water park, I headed into the park’s huge wave pool. I was a strong swimmer, but somehow got caught in the underwater current and stuck in a cycle with the wave. I couldn’t get above water for air for what felt like minutes. (I’m sure it wasn’t that long, but it was far longer than I was comfortable with.) I panicked, underwater. I remember some kind adult grabbing the back of my swimsuit and yanking me up. I avoided waves pools for years after that. Once I finally ventured back in, I always stopped once the water reached chest high.
  • Reckless sledding. As the lone girl in most of my childhood playgroups, I became a bit of a tomboy. I often would try to keep up with the guys, even when I knew I couldn’t. One winter, we decided it was a brilliant idea to sled down a steep hill – and over a ravine at the bottom. I never made it to the ravine, as my sledding skills were weak. My friend landed in the ravine, injuring himself slightly. His neighbor, however, didn’t fare well at all. His sled jumped the ravine, but the boy landed on his head. His trip to the hospital ended our fun.
  • Walking pneumonia. This one was for real, kids. I was 5 and was laid out on the couch for months. I apparently spent time in the hospital and my mother tells me that she thought I was going to die. All I remember from this multi-month illness was a great aunt hovering over me for what felt like months on end, eating ice chips and wanting to play with my sister. Oh, and a celebratory trip to see E.T. in the theater once I was officially “on the mend.”

So there ya go! Tales of my klutziness, stupidity and curiosity that could’ve ended it all well before my 10th birthday. I share this with you, so when your kids act up this summer you know you aren’t alone.

We all make bad choices. We all have had at least one close call. And we all have some pretty spectacular memories as a result. Just be sure to learn from those mistakes.

Were you impulsive like me? Did you flirt with disaster? Tell me all about your brush with death as a child. Don’t have a such a moment? (Good for you!) then please share a favorite summer memory from your childhood.


Swimming: love it or hate it

Last weekend I went for a swim on a whim. And it felt great.

Swimming is no longer something I regularly do. It was once the center of my life. I swam, daily, for more than a decade.

swim1With my sister in our first swim team photo, 1984

I was a fish and I loved the water. I proudly reeked of chlorine and my hair felt like straw. You couldn’t drag me away from the water. For years, kicking and pulling my way through a pool was my favorite place to be.

ymcaCirca 1986. Can you spot me? (hint: top row)

I swam year-round and by the time I was in high school, I competed for one summer team and two winter teams. I often wore my pajamas to school over my swimsuit for early morning practices. My weeknights were spent at one practice or another (occasionally I had two in one day). And my weekends were spent at meets around southern Pennsylvania and Delaware.

I loved to swim, until I didn’t.

All of a sudden, competitive swimming wasn’t fun anymore. Yes, I learned such incredible life skills through the sport, including the importance of teamwork, the vitality of one’s attitude and that one had to put in the work in order to see results.

I learned numerous life lessons that shaped me into who I am today – thank you Coach Dan! I wouldn’t trade my swimming years for the world. But I was done. It was time to move on.

Eighteen years have passed since I raced my last race – a states meet as part of a medley relay. I remember it like it was yesterday. As part of my YMCA team, I was the 100-butterfly leg of our four-person relay. We swam at an indoor pool at a university in Philadelphia.  We fared well and left it all in the pool. It was a fantastic way to end my competitive swimming career, the end of an era.

swim2My summer swim team photo in the early 90s. I think I’m 15 here?

More than once, I’ve since hopped back into the water with goggles and a swim cap to attempt a few laps. I’d always complete my laps, but my heart was never in it.

Instead I walked, I hiked, I ran and I rowed.

Several friends tried to encourage me to tackle triathlons. I politely declined. Later, as those same friends repeatedly pressed, citing my swimming skills as an asset for triathletes, I “not-so-politely” declined.

Swimming was no longer fun for me. Why put myself in a position where I’d most likely loathe each workout? That would be a recipe for disaster.

Then last summer, I joined my friend Jess in the pool as she trained for her first triathlon. Together, we swam laps at a local indoor YMCA.

Stroke after stroke, I started to smile.  Unexpectedly, my attitude had shifted. Swimming again became enjoyable.

There was no pressure to go fast. There was no coach shouting improvements for my stroke. It was just me and the open water. And finally, I found myself looking forward to a swim.

It’s funny how you can fall right back into old (swimming) habits.

I can still don a latex swim cap one-handed.

I still count my freestyle strokes on every lap. (It’s typically 21 strokes, if you were interested.)

Backstroke flip turns are still the bane of my existence.

Those rainbows surrounding indoor pool ceiling lights? Yep, they haven’t gone away.

I’m still an awful breast-stroker, but that doesn’t stop me from using it as a “rest lap.”

I still inhale way more chlorinated water than one person should ever consume.

Even when swimming alone in a lane, I still swim on the right side. I have to make room for my fellow swimmers.

Sunday evening, I headed to the pool to tackle a cross-training workout. I laughed at myself as I jumped in the water. In all, I swam more than a mile.

Some strokes were easy, others were hard. But I wanted to swim every one of them. And that, my friends, is something worth cheering about.

Have you ever burnt out on a sport or beloved activity? How do you handle it? Did you ever go back?