Here's some more evidence for male homosexuality's having a biological basis. Just found it on Google News - worth a read.
I also just took my camper (Margaret) over to Camp Laurel for riding, and she had a great time. She rode a pony named Tinkerbell, and had a little trouble with her in the beginning (Tink doesn't like to walk - she'd prefer to just trot all the time), but after the first ten minutes (spent learning half-halts) she got a handle on the pony's quirks and started having a good time. I was really impressed with Sara, the instructor, too - throughout the whole lesson, she said and did exactly what I would have said and done. She got on the horse herself for a minute to demonstrate something Margaret didn't understand, and she also interspersed her advice with regular praise ("I like the way your shoulders are very open!" etc.). I could tell she really knew her stuff; it sort of made me want to be a camper again so I could take a lesson from her. :)
I have about another hour of free time (it's my period off), and then we have lunch and rest hour, and then I have two periods of waterfront (at least one of which will be guarding on the boat, yay) and golf cart. I like A days. Although Margaret and I were counting, and there really aren't that many days of camp left for the two-weekers. Tomorrow is Thursday and we're going to Aquaboggin, a water park; Friday is an A day; Saturday's a B day; Sunday we don't do activities (we wake up later, have a long rest hour, get to watch movies, the kids can call home, etc.); Monday's an A day; Tuesday (the 4th of July) we're going to a baseball game and fireworks show; Wednesday's an A day; Thursday's a B day; Friday's an A day, and Saturday the kids go home. So only 4 more A days and 2 more B days in total, and then we get the second batch of kids. (Although some of this group will be staying; kids can stay for 2, 4, or 6 weeks, and quite a few choose 4. My camper, Jordan, is staying 6 weeks, although she's switching rooms after the first 2 weeks to be with her old friends, so she won't be 'our' camper anymore.)
Guess that's all for now. I'm off tomorrow night (from 18:30 to 1:00) and then my On-Duty (OD) group is on on Friday night. I'm assigned to Wesleyan (which is the dorm/office building), meaning I have to stay up until 1 AM and supervise the floor so the other counselors can go out, use the Internet, etc. It's not hard; I'll just take a book. Those are the youngest kids, so they'll turn the lights out early and I probably won't have to do anything at all. We haven't been told when our DAYS off (a full 16 hours, 9:00-1:00) are going to be, though, and I really want to know, because I need to get my car in for service and I also want to go to the L.L.Bean outlet in Freeport :) which is pretty close to here. Anyway, we get 4 of them spread out over the course of summer, so I'm sure we'll find out soon.
I'm starting to get annoyed with this place. They have me, a certified lifeguard, driving the golf cart around for most of the day (to refill the water stations), the veteran counselors are getting overbearing, and the evenings programs are very shoddily run. The three girls who plan them are nice enough, but when I try to give suggestions about how things were done at Ton-A-Wandah (because a lot of the activities are the same), they all say, "Oh, that's a good idea," and then move on to something else and forget about it. Counselor hunt was a disaster tonight because of their idea that we could 're-hide' once we'd been found. How are you supposed to run away and secretly climb a tree or anything with 140 campers running around trying to find you? They also had the campers split up into way too many groups - over 20 - meaning that a counselor had to accompany each group, meaning half the staff couldn't hide. If they'd made bigger groups, say 8 or 10, most of the staff could have hidden and then we could all have hidden well and been found once, the way Ton-A-Wandah did it, instead of this ridiculous re-hiding business.
And a couple of the other counselors are really starting to piss me off. There's this one girl, Vicki, who's never worked at a camp before, and yet when I mentioned that one of my campers (Margaret, the new girl) was at the nurse, Vicki waved her hand and whispered in a know-it-all fashion, "She's just homesick." "No, she was actually sick before she came, and just finished a course of antibiotics on Sunday. She's still got a terrible cough and a headache." Vicki shook her head, with a half-smile and that annoying, I-know-better-than-you, I-still-don't-think-she's-really-sick look. Finally I just snapped, "You can believe what you want, but she is truly sick," and walked away to talk to someone else. What I really wanted to say is, "You know, I have five years of camp counselor experience, while you have two days' worth. I know when a child is faking it, and your being a second-year nursing student does not make you an authority on a camper of mine that you've never even met!" But, of course, I didn't say that. She sits at my table, so it's better not to get too deeply into it. However, the 'real' camp nurse (not Vicki, the student who pretends she's a full-fledged nurse but has never even heard of lupus, the autoimmune disease that my roomie Mel has) confirmed for me that Margaret really is still having problems with congestion, etc., so I was right. Margaret has been to other camps before, longer than this one; she's comfortable away from home, and she's made some good friends here already. If I wanted Vicki's opinion, which I didn't, I'd have asked.
And then there's "the other Jess". There are three at this camp - me, this other Jess (who's one of the three evening program planners), and Jesse, the baseball director (who is awfully cute... LOL). Anyway, "the other Jess" has been here three years, and, granted, she does know a lot about the camp and how it's run, but my hackles went up within ten seconds of meeting her. I place a lot of stock in pheromones and first impressions, and I knew from the first moment I met her that we were not going to get along. She hasn't really done anything outright mean, but we just don't click. And tonight, I was putting my last two girls to bed, including Jordan, a veteran camper who had just had candy from Snack Shack and was thus very hyper. And Jess walked right over me, saying, "Time for bed, Jordan, let's go," and hustling her along. Then, out of the side of her mouth, she said to me, "That's the one good thing; they do at least listen to me."
Excuse me?! The first thing that I wanted to say was, "Uh, they listen to me too!" but I realized how juvenile that would sound, so I kept my mouth shut. The fact is, Jordan is loud and easily excitable, sure, but she's been here before; she knows the drill, listens to the counselors, and follows instructions. It's not as if "the other Jess" has some magical power to make campers listen, just because she's been at this particular camp for longer than I have. And Jordan is my camper, not hers. All I had to do was look her (Jordan) in the eye and say, "It seriously is time for bed now," and she calmed right down and nodded at me (in a way that said, louder than any actual words, "I'm not really out of control; I know I have to go to sleep; I'm just just having fun stalling.") I understood, smiled and nodded back, ready to close the door. And again Jess came walking over me, "Okay, for real, Jordan, go to bed, let's get moving." She gently pushed her inside her room and closed the door.
At that moment, I had to walk away, because I was about to say something I would have regretted. It's better not to piss off the people in power. But if anything like that happens again, I need to find a concise way to say something like, "You know, you've been at this camp longer than I have, but I do have a ton of camp experience - actually more than you - and I know what I'm doing. I'd appreciate it if you'd let me handle my own girls instead of walking over me as if I'm incompetent. The girls need to respect all of us, not just you, so please don't try to do my job for me."
On the other hand, being in a dorm setting rather than separate cabins, things are just done differently here. Maybe it's perfectly normal to be telling girls other than your own assigned campers that they should go to bed. Maybe I'm the one with the problem. But like I said, my hackles went up about Jess on the first day of camp, and I didn't like what she did to me tonight, whether it's normal or not. Sigh.
I also haven't gotten particularly close to anyone here yet. Well, okay, my roommate Mel and I are fairly close, and I've gotten to know a couple of other people (Laura, John, Meghan...), and I like almost everyone aside from the aforementioned two girls, but it still seems like every time I start to get a little closer to someone or we start to talk a little more, that person then sort of pulls away and doesn't seek me out the way I do him/her. I've complained about this before when it comes to friendship - me having to make all the effort - and this has now happened three or four times already, with staff members of both sexes. I thought Mandy in particular would be a good friend, after we discovered that we'd swum in meets against each other's schools, but she seems to be cooling off towards me now. I'm really starting to wonder if I'm saying or doing something that makes people not want to be friends with me. But maybe I'm just paranoid.
To end on a good note, a few things I do like about this camp:
1) Counselors having separate rooms from campers 2) Having modern showers, toilets, and sinks right down the hall 3) The food 4) Being surrounded by athletes with similar mindsets 5) The Internet access 6) The athletic facilities, especially the access to weights and treadmills 7) The low camper-counselor ratio 8) Having other water sports besides just swimming and canoeing 9) Being in a blue state (awesome bumper stickers around here :))
And despite my complaining, my schedule is actually pretty easy:
So I take our ONE camper who takes riding class over to the beautiful neighboring Camp Laurel and read/kill time while she takes a lesson... I lug water coolers from place to place on the golf cart and refill water stations... and I ride along on the waterskiing, wakeboarding, and kneeboarding boats as the 'official lifeguard' while the kids (one by one, all in life jackets) take turns at the various activities. (I haven't had to teach swimming yet, but that might come tomorrow, in period 3A, depending on which of the lifeguards has that period off and which of them take the morning boat shifts.) So it's not hard at all. And yet... somehow I'm not thrilled to be slacking off. The bottom line is, I was hired to be a lifeguard and swim instructor, not golf cart driver and hurry-up-and-wait gal. I've told this to all the appropriate people, and they did at least get me on the waterfront for three periods (out of ten), but that's still pretty ridiculous. I don't hate the camp, not by a long shot, but one week has passed and I now have the answer to my internal question: I do not think I will be coming back next year.
Campers are here! 107 boys and 35 girls. The three of us (Mel, Faith, and I) are in charge of 4 girls, all 13 years old: Margaret, Jordan, Tori, and Emily. Tori and Emily are first-years, but they're best friends from Brooklyn and roommates here, so we're having no issues with them as far as homesickness, etc. Jordan has been here three years and is outgoing and friendly and knows everything and everyone, and her roommate Margaret is a quieter first-year but is very excited to be here - always smiling, even though she wasn't feeling well today, and seems pretty athletic and confident - so the four of them are fine together so far. We'll see how activities go tomorrow.
Waterfront was insane today; we had to do swim tests for all 140 kids and rank them 0-4 by skill level. It wouldn't have been so hard if the lake were on camp property, but the kids have to be bused to it and the minibuses only hold 14 at a time, so that was tedious, even though we didn't have to drive them. We had long breaks in the middle which we used for critiquing one another's swim strokes, cracking jokes about Winfield (our lone male guard)'s newly christened fishing boat ("Esther"), arguing over who was going to attempt to pull the sunken, algae-covered cinderblock up from the bottom (nobody yet), debating the intricacies of the 0-4 scale, and, in my case, rescuing Barbara's sunglasses from the bottom of the lake. But all the kids got in the water with almost no hesitation, regardless of ability level - that's one of the good things about being at a camp with boys. I was having fun with a few of them on the bus back; they're very talkative and thrilled to be here. I talked to one ten-year-old from Canada who speaks fluent French. What a cool country, to have bilingual education.
There was one first-year kid, David, about 15 years old, whom I noticed was keeping himself apart from everyone else - twirling sticks around, whacking at plants, etc. He didn't look at anyone or talk to any of the other boys, and it seemed 'off' to me, so I tried to intervene before he set a precedent. The way he moved the sticks seemed practiced, almost like a baton twirler, so I walked next to him and asked (the first thing that came into my head) if he did capoeira. He didn't know what it was, but when I told him it was a martial art from Brazil, he eventually (in as few words as possible) told me he had done tae kwon do for a while. When we got back to camp, I saw David walking silently at the very end of a row of chattering boys, so I sped up and positioned myself at the opposite end of the row (so that I'd have to talk across all of them) and, at a lull in the conversation, asked him some more questions about tae kwon do. He actually smiled a little when giving the answers and explaining some things to me, and I was hoping that having the other boys there would encourage one of them to get interested and ask him some questions too, but unfortunately nobody did. Oh, well - I've let a couple of the male staff know about him, and I'll keep my eyes open. He seems like a sweet kid, but he also seems like this might be his first time away from home for an extended period. People deal with things like that in different ways, and he seems to be internalizing. Hopefully things will get better for him.
Note: this camp actually drives the kids' luggage up to their dorm rooms by golf cart. Unbelievable. (That was my task this morning during the kids' arrival.) No work for the parents at all! And they can't scrape up a little more moolah for the counselors?!?! ;)
So the kids arrive tomorrow, and we've spent most of the day discussing all the worst-case scenarios: eating disorders, homesickness, body image issues, etc. One thing I've never had to deal with before (being at an all-girls camp) is the possibility of boys and girls sneaking off together. There have apparently been several issues - a potential orgy busted up by eavesdropping counselors, kids who pack condoms in their bags or bring alcohol in their shampoo bottles, et cetera. Up until this point, I've been thinking that All-Star is run a lot better than Ton-A-Wandah, but then I hear about things like that - which never happened there - and start wondering. I know that most of this stuff never surfaces, that campwide there will probably only be three or four major issues all summer, but it's still sort of depressing to have all this negative stuff thrown at us all week long.
I have to come back to the camp food: it's amazing. At Ton-A-Wandah, the food was served "family style" - two different cabins set the tables each day, and what was on the table was what you ate. If you didn't like it, you could go get a PBJ from the kitchen window. That was it. I walked into the All-Star kitchen on the first morning, and saw plain scrambled eggs, scrambled eggs with cheese, sausage, and bacon. How nice that they have the option of cheese on the eggs, I thought while serving myself. Then I turned around to go grab a drink... and saw more tables and counters, laden with fruit, bagels, various breads and spreads, a toaster, a waffle maker, muffins, and assorted pastries. My jaw dropped. You have GOT to be kidding me!
And it's like that at every meal - variety galore, and good stuff, too, like turkey melts, ravioli, enchiladas, and veggie burgers. Plus dessert at every meal, and often more than one dessert - brownies, Rice Krispie treats, or lemon meringue squares. It's unbelievable. And almost everything is homemade - the kitchen staff often add their own little touches, like Butterfinger pieces in the brownies. And there's a deli bar with cold cuts, and also a big salad bar, complete with spinach leaves, feta cheese, olives, bacon bits, and various other toppings. I'm extremely impressed by it all.
Which is why I was so surprised today when people started complaining about the food. I'd heard various complaints - "Oh, I can't eat this stuff; it makes me sick." "This food is pretty gross." "Looks like I'm having salad again!" But I didn't pay much attention to it; just dismissed it as spoiled rich girls. But this afternoon we were sitting in a meeting with Craig, the director, and one brave male counselor raised his hand and mentioned that some of the counselors were having issues with the food. "We feel hungry, but then we go in there and smell it and just can't force anything down - or if we do get it down, then it... well... goes right through you." Heads were nodding in agreement. I was disbelieving. "I'll discuss it with Vago [the cook] later today," Craig said. "How many people are experiencing these issues?" Half the hands in the room went up. "No way!" I exclaimed involuntarily. "Well! I'll get Vago in here right now!" Craig said in surprise, striding toward the door. The poor plump cook - who always has a smile and cheerful comment for me, who encourages us to take multiple desserts, and whose ten-week-old daughter Katya is the cutest thing alive - was dragged into the room, and people were asked to repeat their grievances to him. "It's making us feel sick." "It's just not the quality it used to be." "Last year there was more variety." My jaw dropped at that last one. Vago fielded everything very politely and diplomatically, never losing his smile, but I felt so sorry for him that I had the beginnings of tears in my eyes. This poor man is so kind and cheerful, works so hard and makes what I consider to be such wonderful food, so many different things every day - and this is how we repay him?
After the rest of the staff had finished voicing their complaints, I couldn't take it anymore. I raised my hand and smiled at Vago. "I just wanted to let you know that it's my first year at this camp, and I think the food is amazing - it's way better than what I'm used to at other camps - and I just wanted to say that I really appreciate all the effort you guys go to to make it."
Vago thanked me, but nobody else agreed. I saw no nods, heard no murmurs of assent. "We appreciate the positive along with the rest of it," Craig said briskly, then moved on. All I could do was shake my head and sigh. I am the only one in this entire camp who will freely admit that I love the food and think it's amazing. Am I crazy, or do the rest of the staff just have expensive tastes and delicate digestive systems? I don't understand it.
Quickly: I got to go kneeboarding today! The "official" premise of our trip was to show us lifeguards what we'd be doing when we guarded on the boat (as an extra precaution for the kids doing water sports), but we all knew going in that it was supposed to be just a fun afternoon and an excuse to get us out of the boring afternoon activities. Which it did, and boy, was it fun! Waterfront director Amie stayed onshore and finished a final few things, but my fellow lifeguards Mandy, Julie, and Barbara, plus the fishing-instructor-cum-lifeguard named Winfield and the water sports supervisor Denise, came along too. John (the boat driver) took us out for about three hours, and we all got a turn at the various pieces of water equipment. Denise, Barbara and Julie are Maine natives, and Julie actually went to school here at Kents Hill, so they were all awesome when their turns came (Julie waterskied, Barbara wakeboarded, and Denise did both). Mandy, Winfield, and I were the beginners, so we started with the easiest option: kneeboarding. Mandy got herself onto the board on her third try but then couldn't pull it off again, and so gave up; Winfield got up a couple of times but never hung on for longer than a few seconds; I got up easily all five times (it's a quick little bouncing maneuver, from the stomach to the knees) but didn't grasp the knack of how to scoot forward to the correct position (with my knees fully into the knee grooves) until the fourth attempt. It takes some balance! And the board material grips so well that you really have to almost walk on your knees, one at a time, until you're there; sliding isn't really possible. But once I was up, I was golden; I was able to hang on forever. The only times I fell off all day were when John got tired of dragging me around and did things like speeding up to the fastest gear and cutting sharp corners. ("Yeah, I was trying to dump you," he admitted.) Hopefully we'll get another afternoon like that sometime, because Mandy and I both want to try wakeboarding next time (which is basically like snowboarding, but on the water). Can't wait!
I just found out that I get to supervise first period horseback riding three days a week. Which is great, because from the sound of things, it's done off-site and is a private arrangement, so someone else is doing the teaching and I just have to go along as sort of an adult warm body representing the camp. Maybe I can even ride at some point myself; I did bring my riding pants just in case...
Things are still going well here. There are certain things that irritate me - they plan orientation discussions for an hour, finish them in 20 minutes, then feel obligated to keep us busy with inane games and so forth until the hour is up. Sure, some of it is "bonding", but they're wearing us out - about half of us fell asleep on the floor/couches in the Mezz (meeting room) today during a 15-minute break, myself included. If they would just give us a rest hour after lunch, that would make all the difference. I guess it isn't so important to some people who have activities without a lot of setup, but waterfront requires a ton of work to get it ready to go - stretching lane lines, threading buoys, disposing of trash and big rocks on the lake bottom, carrying kayaks, swimming ropes out to various places and bringing them back - not to mention the fact that there's an incredibly steep hill (we call it the Ski Slope) running from the woods to the water, meaning the trucks and buses can't come down to where we need them, so we have to hike the hill multiple times a day, usually while carrying heavy things. Ugh.
One thing that surprises me is how many people here don't like to swim. In Florida, it seems like everyone is a swimmer, is related to a swimmer, dates a swimmer, et cetera. Here, almost every single counselor (who isn't a lifeguard) has complained about how they don't like to swim or are such slow swimmers. It surprises me that even athletes would be so averse to getting in the water, especially this water - the temperature is perfect. (Albeit too warm for someone who's supposed to be training for a 60-degree swim...)
Anyway, the other counselors are all still very nice. I have two roommates, Mel and Faith. Faith just got here last night, and she seems nice, but we haven't gotten to know each other that well yet. Mel and I hit it off right away when I got here on Tuesday and are getting along great. I also met a girl named Mandy who looked familiar and had a familiar-sounding last name, but was from Cleveland, so I thought there was no way I could possibly know her. Then, when I (in passing) mentioned Gainesville to her, and she asked, "Oh, is that where you go to school?" Upon further discussion, we realized that she swam for the club team at Miami of Ohio, the university my club team traveled to for a competition in January - and invited to our own meet in February. So we swam against each other twice without ever meeting! (At least not that we can remember.) Funny.
We had to sign something today about Internet usage policies, and although I believe its intent was mostly to ensure that we didn't download porn, etc. onto the staff computers, there was also a mention of not connecting any nonregistered devices to the All-Star network. Which confirms what I already knew: that we are not supposed to have Internet access in the dorms. I'm keeping this very hush-hush - only my roommates and three or four other people know about my setup - and once the kids get here I'll be hiding all the paraphernalia in my desk and only hooking up to the connection at night after they go to sleep. But I'm not going to stop using the network, not when it's right here, and especially not when they haven't even got our staff computers set up yet.
On that note, I'm off to bed. Tomorrow we get to "be campers", meaning we get to go through a typical camp day as if we were campers. I think the lifeguards also get to go out on the boats and get a feel for what we'll be doing when we guard the waterskiers and wakeboarders. It sounds like it won't be as pressured of a day as the past two have been, since we've read through the entire manual now (meaning no more discussions of policy) and also had a guest speaker about child abuse and all that fun stuff. Tomorrow is "be a camper", Saturday is swim tests, games, and a couple more discussions, and then the kids come on Sunday. I'll keep you posted.
I'm once again posting very late at night and don't have time to write much, but on the whole, I think I'm going to like this place much better than Ton-A-Wandah:
(a) There are five periods a day, not six (and we get one free). (b) We get four FULL days off (9am-1am) plus most nights after the kids are asleep. (c) Swimming isn't mandatory, so the only kids in it are the ones who WANT to swim, (d) and there aren't many of those, so we get to try wakeboarding and waterskiing sometimes. (e) We also get to ride along and lifeguard from the boats, for the kids who are participating in those activities. (f) There are awesome out-of-camp trips to water parks, movies, the beach, rafting, and even whale watching. (g) The food is great, and there are so many choices at each meal that I can't believe it. (h) They have SKIM MILK available for us at ALL MEALS - so I can finally have milk with a camp dinner! (i) I have my laptop (even if it does have to be a secret), and I certainly wasn't the only one to sneak one in, (j) and there's Internet in my room (also secret, since I'm not supposed to know that or use it, but who's going to tell?) (k) There's an awesome gym that we can use in any free time we have. (l) The lake is, surprisingly, the perfect temperature. (m) And best of all? I have not yet met one person whom I don't like.
Because it is late and I am exhausted I will say nothing of the trip at this point besides "long, boring, high tolls, broken AC, 1400 miles". However... Craig? The camp director? Fully lied to me. There most certainly are Internet connections in this room, and they most certainly do work, as is evidenced by the fact that I am now typing on one. I hate bringing anything "extraneous" along on a trip, but I tossed in my Ethernet cable just in case, and what do you know? It works. Of course, I can't say anything to him about it, but still - it's nice to be vindicated. :)
This will be my last post before I go to Maine. We aren't supposed to have laptops there, but I'm taking mine anyway, for iPod and digital camera purposes. I can just keep it in a bottom dresser drawer or something, and take it along on nights out and try to find a Panera or Starbucks or someplace with free wireless Internet. I can write blog posts in Word and publish them when I get a Net connection. But I can't not take my computer, not when I've only got two memory sticks for the camera (and such a short iPod playlist attention span). :)
I finally made the decision and signed up for the Boston Light swim in Boston on August 12th, six days after camp ends. I don't know how well I'll be able to train for it, what with my being at camp and all, but at least I'll have access to cold water and a weight room. And I'm excited about this race - it's a little bit shorter swim (only 8 miles) with good current assist, and the water is cold (60-65 degrees) so it'll be good Channel practice as well. I'm tired of this warm Florida water that feels cold when you get in but then after five minutes feels uncomfortably warm for the rest of the swim. Now I just have to find a boater. Any of you readers live in Boston?
Speaking of the Channel, though, I found out this week that even though the rules say a relay team is composed of six people, it doesn't necessarily have to be six people - meaning the fact that I haven't heard anything back from my sixth swimmer doesn't necessarily have to be such an annoyance after all, because we can just be a five-man team. Which means the cost per person will be higher, but at least it takes some of the stress off. I don't want undependable, difficult-to-contact people on the team anyway.
Not much else has happened this week. I bought a new red duffel bag for camp, we finally found a sports bra that fits me properly (after trips to nine, count 'em, nine stores), and of course I've been swimming with the Masters team as well as using my weeklong free trial at Bailey's Powerhouse Gym. Which I really like - it's a cut above the YMCA, I can tell you. We also had a 'grandparent dinner' last night so the three of them could see me before I left, and then some old high school friends wanted to go to Third Street Diner out at the beach, so I had a yummy Greek omelet at 11pm.
I also finally went to the doctor, just because I didn't want to leave the state for two months with so many little issues still niggling at me. My acronym for remembering them all was U C R A B ("you crab!") Urinalysis, Cough, Rash, Arm, and Back. I had a rash from something that stung me during the Key West swim, and a nerve-like pain in my lower back (cause unknown), both of which the PA dismissed as unimportant and self-resolving. (So far, the backache is gone and the rash seems a little better.) The other three were a little more complicated:
Cough: I'd been coughing for over a month but had resisted going to the doctor, so when I finally went, the symptoms had reduced to occasional throat-clearing, and she said my lungs were clear. Yet she still ordered a chest X-ray (which I'm not going to have done since Mom and I both think it's unnecessary and is just the office trying to cover its ass). The interesting part, however, was that she turned on her little examination light, said "Let's see if you have any allergies you don't know about," stuck it up my nose, and said, "Hmm, you actually do!" Apparently the inside of the nose turns blue as a "classic" allergy symptom. And it makes sense in a way, considering (a) you can develop allergies later in life, (b) my dad and sister both have them, and (c) I've been having these odd exercise-induced asthma symptoms on and off for a year or two now, which could just be the result of allergies (especially since the symptoms usually occur outdoors). So she prescribed Singulair for that - which I'm going to hold off on until if and when I feel like I need it, since the symptoms are better now, but it was an interesting development nonetheless.
Urinalysis: I had to have one done while I was still at UF, as part of my camp physical, and it came back with a small amount of blood (listed as 2+) in the results. So they repeated it, and there was less blood (only 1+), but still a little. The doctor said it was probably just due to my high level of physical activity, but they still wanted to run a bunch of tests to check my kidneys. Which I resisted, since they'd already charged me an arm and a leg by this point and I didn't want to rack up any further charges before graduation. I asked if I could do it when I got home to Jacksonville, and they said yes. So I brought it up at the appointment, and they repeated the test again and gave me the results on the spot, which were: still a trace amount of blood. 'Trace', so even less than the earlier 1+, but still there. So she ordered a CBC and metabolic profile, and I wasn't allowed to eat after midnight the night before the tests - just like before surgery. This was all done yesterday morning, so I don't know the results yet.
Arm: This is the odd one. I've had a small, hard lump in my left arm for about three months now, which I noticed during our drive back from the campus visit to Chapel Hill this past spring. It doesn't hurt and doesn't change in size, and the doctor thinks it's a lipoma (a fatty, benign tumor). She said it can wait until I get back from Maine, but she's setting up a surgery consult for me. Which means they're probably going to want to take it out. Which is okay, except that I don't want a scar on my arm. The (second) one on my heel was really fat and purple and ugly for years, and I didn't really care because after all, nobody has to look at my feet but me, but I don't want anything like that on my arm. The surgeon better know what s/he's doing.
So that's the litany of bodily malfunctions. Other than that, there isn't much else to say. I'd better be off, because I'm in the day-before-a-trip whirlwind of doing laundry, charging various electronic devices, making a Driving To Maine playlist, trying to find a hotel to stay at tomorrow night, and packing last-minute items like toiletries, socks, and earrings. I'm sure I'll forget something - I always do - but I think I've done a pretty fair job so far, knock on wood...
Well, I'm back from Key West, and it was not a success. Any Floridian can probably make an educated guess as to why, but here we go anyway. There were two big problems with this race: first, the fact that the race director misjudged the start time by an hour and a half and sent us all swimming into the current (he used a new system, some multimillion-dollar government computer - "your tax dollars at work", he told us - and it was wrong), and second, yes, you guessed it, the small fact that we happened to be swimming through the beginnings of Tropical Storm Alberto (!). The very fastest swimmers (those who could do the 12.5 miles in less than 5 hours) made it through okay, but the tide changed after that (and the wind picked up a lot, too) and trapped the slower swimmers back behind Sigsbee Island (the halfway mark). I was right at the front edge of that slower group (we had the lead boat in sight for the first 4 miles), and managed to make it through Key West Harbor and up to the top of Sigsbee's, but I can tell you it was pretty discouraging to stare at the bottom and see each stroke gaining me only a few inches of ground. It took me an hour to swim a mile. (And others behind me weren't so lucky; I know of one guy who pushed forward into Key West Harbor, then got sucked backward the way he came at the tidal change.) And as well as getting discouraged, my usual bodily problems were playing up as well - seasickness (although the Dramamine did help) and some moderate shoulder pain.
And then, as if we didn't have enough problems, a nasty thunderstorm blew up; we could see the wall of rain and lightning moving toward us. I had no desire to turn poor Christine and her kayak into a lightning rod, so we got out and waited out the storm under an old pavilion-slash-tiki bar that just happened to be within easy reach. (Some swimmers apparently stayed in during the storm, but that was a dangerous move - the wind was insane, rain was blowing horizontally, we could see nothing but white, and the thunder and lightning were right on top of each other and very violent, if shortlived - so I think we made the right decision, despite the fact that that invalidated my swim.) Later, we heard that a couple of kayaks had actually capsized during the storm and had had to be rescued by a tiki boat, not even part of our race. Pretty funny.
Anyway, after the 35-minute storm, we looked out at the water, and it was like glass - better than it had been all day. I had been fighting wind, current, and big waves for four and a half hours before the storm, and this was a complete 180, and a welcome sight. The rescue boat informed us that we'd made it past the hard part and the current would be with us for the remainder of the swim, so I said, "Who cares if it's not official - we can at least finish." So we got back into the water... and had maybe five good minutes before the wind was back, and stronger than ever. The captains kept insisting that we'd be with the current, but Christine and I didn't believe them - when she stopped to get me a drink of water, her kayak got pushed twenty feet backwards in the blink of an eye, and whenever I tried to say something to her, I had to break it into two-word increments to allow for the waves (caused by the wind) that were constantly smashing me in the face. ("I feel like a salmon swimming upstream!" I laughed at one point.) Whatever current there was - maybe a half-mile an hour - was being more than overshadowed by the wind, because we found out later that it was blowing at almost thirty miles an hour!
When the rescue boat came back, around mile marker 8, we decided to just get out - my swim was already invalid because of our decision to get out during the lightning, and we were both tired of fighting wind and water and waves and never getting anywhere. Not two minutes after we'd pulled Christine's kayak up onto the rescue boat, another boat came by and asked our pilot, Dave, "Are you taking them back to the start?" "Yeah," said Dave. "Don't," warned the other guy, shaking his head. "Have you seen the waves on the other side of the island? They're like this." And he held his hand up, nearly twice as high as the side of his boat. "They're 300 yards out and they're breaking." "Are you serious?" "Dead serious." "Wow. Okay, then I'll just take them back to the marina. Thanks, man," Dave said. "No problem!" And the other boat roared away.
Dave turned to us. "I can't take my boat out there; we'd capsize," he said. "Sorry. I'll take you guys back to the marina, and you can call a cab." "Looks like we picked the right time to get out," Christine and I muttered to each other, wide-eyed.
Anyway, believe it or not, some swimmers actually did finish; most were fast swimmers who were close to the finish when the big weather problems started and just couldn't bring themselves to give up, but a couple were bound and determined to fight through the weather no matter what happened, and after eight and a half hours (!) they crawled up onto shore. (Those are the crazies who stayed in during the storm.) There were a lot of others, however, who got stuck like we did; there was a definite 'dividing line' as to who finished and who didn't, based on swim speed, and I believe it was drawn right in front of me, because as far as I know, I was the fastest of the non-finishers, stopping at mile 8 instead of 5 or 6 like the rest. And judging by the slow finishers' times (all of whom were still in front of me), if I had pushed through it, it would have probably taken me a total of about ten hours to finish. However, judging by the amount of time I spent in the water, I think I swam the equivalent of about 11 miles, which is almost the full race distance anyway. So I didn't do too badly - I did what I could with the cards I'd been dealt. It's always disappointing not to finish, but sometimes you just have to cut your losses.
Christine and I went back to the starting line to watch the last few people come in, and it was almost as miserable for us on the shore as it was in the water. The wind was unbelievable; you had to speak in raised voices, and innumerable grains of sand were stinging our legs like so many sharp needles. The best part, however, was the birds: they couldn't fly. The wind was so strong that it was the equivalent of a birdie treadmill; the birds that tried to fly into it couldn't make any headway. They'd flap helplessly in the same spot for a few seconds, then give up and go the other way. It was really pretty funny to watch.
Well, we're back from Georgia. It wasn't the best trip we've ever had, as far as mini-vacations go - the hotel had only wired (no wireless) Internet (after making it sound like they did), the gym's AC was broken (rendering it unusable), and we (of course) ate only restaurant food for all three meals of the day. Also, I wasn't able to exercise - I'm not yet allowed to run (stupid foot), the gym was, as I've said, unusable, and the hotel pool was all of maybe twenty feet long and four feet deep. So I haven't had any exercise whatsoever since Tuesday's swim practice - and the Key West swim is this weekend. So I missed a pretty critical training window. I'm sure I'll still finish the swim and be fine, but I didn't get to lead up to it the way I wanted to - which would have been tough workouts (swimming, cycling, weight lifting) every day until the Sunday morning beach swim and then starting to taper. Oh, well. I leave for Coral Springs (where I'm spending the night at Monique's house) on Thursday and then for Key West the next morning. The swim starts at 6am on Saturday and I'm spending Saturday night on the island as well, so we'll be done by 1pm or so and then I'll have the whole afternoon and evening to explore and do some of the things I didn't get to do last time (take my picture at the Southernmost Point, see the Hemingway House, etc.) And hey, I'm staying in a hostel, so who knows, there might even be some nice people to hang out with. I remember how lonely I was last year on the second night, after Christine (my kayaker) left - I sat in the hotel room alone, SMSing everyone I knew, looking for some human contact.
Oh, but I'm making progress on the "foot front", finally. I can now walk normally (meaning the heel strikes the ground first, then a gradual roll forward onto the toes), which is something I haven't been able to do for a very long time. I'm not entirely pain-free yet, but I'm definitely moving in that direction. Monique and I signed up for the Disney half marathon last night - that's how confident I'm feeling. (The race isn't until January, though, so that gives me plenty of time to recover.) My plan is to keep babying the heel until camp, then see how that extra activity level (lots of walking around, wearing flip-flops on the dock all day, etc.) feels. If that seems to be okay, and I'm no longer having any pain in the mornings, then I think I'll start getting up before the kids a few mornings a week and going for walk-runs to see how it feels and get back into "running shape". This is going to sound awfully cancer-patient-ish of me, but I have dreams where I'm running and it doesn't hurt, where I'm thinking, "I'm not supposed to be doing this, am I?" but then "But it feels so good!" and I keep on going. I'll get back there one of these days.
In other news, the kittens are gone; the mother apparently got nervous and moved them. Actually, we think the reason we didn't find them until they were five weeks old is because they weren't behind our shed until very recently; she's probably been moving them every few days ever since they were born, and our backyard was just one of the stops. Anyway, we're sad that they're gone because now they have no chance of going to good homes - they're just going to grow up to be feral like their mother and birth litter after litter of similarly wild kittens into the neighborhood. Sigh.
Oh, and my friend Lisa from high school had a "Graduation Open House" party yesterday, which I thought was just a sort of 'reunion' party for all the Stanton folks. Wrong. Erin called me an hour or so before I left, asking, "Are you getting Lisa anything?" "Why would I get her anything?" I asked blankly. "Uh - 'cause she graduated?" Erin replied. "I graduated too, and none of you guys got me any presents - why should I get her anything?" I retorted, half-joking, half-serious. I showed up empty-handed. Erin brought a card and chocolates. Thinh brought a card. Chris, like myself, brought nothing. And... that was it for the Stanton contingent. The rest of the partygoers were Lisa's family members and church friends - meaning she got plenty of envelopes handed to her over the course of the afternoon. I'm sure mine was neither expected nor missed. We had a good time, though - the food was wonderful (and plentiful) and the five of us got to catch up with each other, as well as (by extension) other 2002 class members whose gossip (engagements, pregnancies, other scandals) was carried in on the tongues of the five of us. It was a nice afternoon.
Guess that's all for now. I have to go deposit a graduation check (which is not from Lisa or any other member of my high school graduating class... LOL), take my car to Costco and get the tires rotated, balanced, and possibly replaced (one of them is looking really awful), and then find a place to swim. I don't really want to go to the pool at Cecil Field because the lifeguards take 10-minute breaks every hour and make you get out of the pool, but that's the only pool I know of that's free. Ah, well, you take what you can get.