Thursday, June 16, 2011

The death of graciousness

Lately I've been annoyed at the ungrateful behavior of some people around me, and I've noticed a common thread: the general decline of the niceties of cheerful, polite behavior - especially at work.

People don't say thank you anymore. Some have even taken thank you completely out of their vocabulary - or never put it in the first place.

For example, a reporter came into my community relations class last week for a Q and A, talking about how she has a colleague that hates it when people thank him for his stories.

Whaaaat? You mean you write a good piece of work, get it published, impress those involved, and you find it rude when those people thank you?

Well excuse me, but I'm sure they are just being polite. If you helped them gain publicity for something while at the same time writing a great story that people needed to know about, it is a win-win. You have helped them whether or not that was your intention. If you think that them saying "thank you" means you've done them a favor, then you are looking into this polite phrase way too much in depth. It is not rude to say thank you, and to take it personally in that way is narcissistic, at the least.

I used to be a newspaper reporter, and all the negative comments from the public got under my skin after a while. If I got a "thank you" or other positive comment from the public, I held onto it like a life-line, a rare golden nugget discovered buried in the treacherous fields of journalism. It was something that kept me going for weeks.

Did your parents teach you to say please and thank you?

Mine did. Yet my students, not so much. We have something called the "Four D's: Dreams, Decency, Dignity, and Diligence." We have to teach our students the meanings of these words in their lives because usually no one has. This year I did dignity, and I talked a lot about common niceties such as saying thank you when someone holds a door open for you or goes out of their way for you in some way.

Yes, we had to teach them that. It's a sad world we live in.

Yesterday, I was talking to a colleague that I had never met who had been assigned to coordinate a current events/government seminar with me for students at a university. After some lengthy rambling, he did put forth a couple of good ideas and agreed to do the power point for the beginning of the session. Since he was a government teacher and had more knowledge than I do on the basics of government, this took a lot of pressure off of me. All I had to do was coordinate the roundtable discussions following the power point.

So, before getting off the phone with him, I said "Thanks for your help, I appreciate it."

To which he replied, "Well, I didn't do anything, but ok."


Well I respectfully disagree. Yes, you did do something: You director assigned you to help coordinate an event you knew nothing about with a person from a different city that you had never met. You spent time working with her and coming up with ideas and then agreed to put in the work for a large part of the presentation.

Yes, you did something. And yes, you deserved to be thanked.

And if you can't accept being thanked than keep it to yourself. You are not my subordinate and I do not have the power to boss you around, therefore you are acting upon your own will to make this task much easier on me, whether you intended to or not.

And frankly, I find it most ungracious that you refuse to accept my thanks and I will remember that every time I see you.

You want to know what I think? I think people who don't say thank you, are unappreciative and ungrateful. I think they have issues. Not saying thank you is very close to being entitled. And entitlement is an even nastier thing.

So I'm going to say thank you to people whether they like it or not.

I think people who can't accept thank you from others have some sort of superiority complex.

Do you know someone who never says thank you?

Have you ever been mad at someone for saying thank you?

And that's my rant for the day.

Thank you for reading. :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer of Firsts - My First 5K Race

Five years ago, if you would have told me I’d run a 5K, I would have laughed at you. Okay, maybe not to your face, but I'd definitely be laughing inside.

Not because I wasn’t active - I’ve always loved to bike, swim, hike, etc.- but mostly because running is just one of those things I was never able to do very well.

I’ll never forget the annual impromptu mile run they would make us do in elementary school gym class. There was no training or practice, whatsoever.

It was like; “Hi kids, you’re here, now go run a mile. And don't think about stopping or we will yell at you and blow our whistles on our comfy little bench here.”

I was that kid hyperventilating in a bag and sick to my stomach the rest of the day (there were actually several of us). I just couldn’t breathe when I ran.

The thought of running thereafter tended to conjure up painful and even kind of embarrassing images for me.

As I got older and started living more actively and working out, running was still not amongst my usual workout activities. Sometimes I’d attempt to run on the treadmill for a while. I remember being so excited to do just 15 minutes on a treadmill. That was a big accomplishment.

Regardless of how much I pushed myself, eventually I always began to choke on my own breath. I would be panting for air - my lungs on fire and my chest compressed. I knew it could not be normal. My legs and body were not at all tired, but I just couldn’t get past this wall I would hit with my breathing.

You know how they tell you that when you are working out, you have a safe heart rate when you can still talk to the person next to you? Well, the breathlessness I experienced when I ran prevented me from saying so much as one word. Sometimes my face would be bright red or my fingers would get tingly. I simply felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Sometimes I would cough a lot when I was done and my nose would run.

Last spring, when I was recently divorced and living at my parent’s house, I was determined to pick up some new healthier habits. I got a second wind.

I thought, well I have more time on my hands, why not give it my all and see if I can finally overcome this breath thing and become a runner? I read articles about different techniques and I talked to runners.

I had always thought it would be amazing to run regularly: The changing landscape, the wind in your hair,  enjoying a sunrise or the smell of spring or fall, all while getting a great workout.

I wanted to be a runner so bad I could taste it.

I had already gained confidence by getting up to a mile on the treadmill, but I was bored staring at my parents’ basement walls. So, I thought I was prepared to take on outdoor running.

I thought wrong. I got around one block and had to stop. I also tried running around a small lake on campus where I work and could only get like a third of the way while students breezed past me with ease. I remember seeing them pass me twice and they were still not breathing hard, and there I was, a third of the way, wheezing like a dying person.

I thought; what is going on here?

I was disheartened, to say the least. I sulked back to my treadmill.

Later when spring turned into summer, I was telling my little sister about my experiences and she mentioned how she had the same problem and her doctor diagnosed her with exercise-induced asthma and gave her an inhaler.

I thought: why had I never heard of this? It sounded exactly like what was going on with me! I just thought it was my own endurance issue and never thought to get checked out at the doctor. Duh.

Fast forward a year later and I have my own Proventil inhaler that I puff before running. It definitely has helped. It doesn’t take it completely away, but it makes running bearable. I still struggle with my breath when running -- I have good and bad days. However, I’ve greatly improved from where I was a year ago.

I had a great time running on the beach in Florida in October, something I never would have been able to do before.

Now I'm to the point where I don't even bother with treadmills unless I absolutely have to for some reason, because to me it is nothing like real running. I work on a university campus and in the winter I use the tracks at the gyms here.

Most of this year I ran two miles several times a week, but I just recently got up to three miles...the week before the race, which is 3.1 miles! I guess I needed that push.

So let’s get to the event in question.

It was a humid morning in the beginning of June when Kyle and I went out to run the Sunburst 5K in South Bend. He was awesome for running slow with me for moral support - if he tried he could probably win that race.

And here’s the kicker: I forgot my inhaler. How dumb is that? The one thing I really needed to remember and I forgot it.

I was determined to complete it regardless, and I did.

My main goal was to keep a steady pace and not try and run fast and burn myself out. Inhaler or not, if I try to run really fast my breath goes haywire. I started at the 9-minute mile marker and was excited when I noticed I was passing people. Then halfway through, when we hit a hill, people all around me were stopping to walk (OK, some of them were kids, but still!)

I am not the fastest runner - especially without the inhaler - but when I saw that, I knew my training had paid off.

Kyle and I were just fine, high-fiving each other up the hill.

I could tell that many of the participants had not trained or prepared to run a 5K. I knew that all those mornings I got up early to run had finally paid off.
Even passing so many people, in the results I still ended up at a pretty slow pace of 35 minutes. Maybe I would have pushed more if I'd had my inhaler, I don't know. But I learned a lot from that experience.

I remember in the spring when I was breathless at two miles, and worried I’d never be able to get to three miles and finish the race. Now that I know I can do it, I’ll be running three miles at the minimum unless I’m having a bad day or short on time. Three miles doesn’t seem like a lot to marathoners, but coming from where I was a year ago - 15 minutes on a treadmill and breathless!? - It’s a huge accomplishment for me.

Now, I know finishing is no problem. Even without the medicine. 

Give it another year or five – who knows what I’ll be able to do?

A friend said she was running the Sunburst on her Facebook page, and a younger relative commented; “What’s a Sunburst?” You can tell she’s young.

South Bend residents tend to know what the Sunburst is since it’s been closing roads and stopping traffic since 1984. More than 7,000 people participate in its ten events which include a marathon, half-marathon, family walk, and, of course a 5 and 10K run. It was really cool to be a part of the event and I’ll definitely be going back every year.

Someday, I’ll be running the 10K :)

On a side note, have you seen this snarky Q&A page on the Sunburst website? Having directed a race myself before (a fundraiser for my job), I find it absolutely hilarious. The dog thing especially cracks me up.

How can you not laugh at that?

Summer of Firsts: My First Triathlon, will be the final part in this series. It will post the second week of August. Hopefully I can finish in two hours (without drowning, haha), since I'm taking students to see Beauty and the Beast on Broadway in Chicago that same day! Wish me luck :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Summer of Firsts - Scuba Dive Part 2

Scuba Dive, Part Two: Barron Lake Dive. (PS I could not find a pic that would illustrate this entry, but I think this poor dog will suffice.)

My first dive was absolutely terrifying. We'll get into that. But, first, the details of the day.

Barron Lake is a little dirty lake in Michigan that happens to have a huge dropoff, so it's a great place to practice diving. I was to do two dives that morning: the first, just swimming around and getting used to it. the second, completing some skill sets underwater.

It was 60 degrees, overcast and cold on the morning of my first dive. I had two (fitting) wetsuits though, so I actually stayed warm this time.

I felt prepared that morning as well - I had a good night's sleep, good breakfast, I was not too caffeinated, and I had brushed up on the textbook basics the night before. I may be spacey at times, but I'm not one to make the same mistakes twice.

The day started going downhill, however, when I was given a new "buddy" or dive partner. Because Kyle was just doing a re-certification, his dive plan was different than my group's.

There were six people in my group. The partner they gave me was a quiet, laid back young man who didn't seem real educated on diving. Now, I'm not going to say I was an expert, but at least I knew that my goggles needed de-fogger and how to properly put my fins on. (Even though he had gone through the same pool course I did, he seemed like he didn't know any of these kinds of basics).

He even left his tank standing up on a grassy hillside, where it could easily fall and explode (a big no-no), and wandered off to talk to someone until I went to get him and told him I had laid down his tank for him.

In the pool, Kyle had served as my buddy, and I kind of liked having a person who knew what they were doing and could refresh my memory if I forgot something. Plus, I know Kyle cares about me, so in an emergency situation I can assume he will look out for me.

This new buddy, however, I wasn't so sure about.

Since the lake was so murky, the six of us were told to hold on to each other's SPG, which has all of our dive information on it, including depth and amount of air left in your tank. Which meant that he was supposed to watch my air and signal to the instructor if it got low. This guy seemed seriously inexperienced and a little slow (everytime they would say, "get with your buddy" and do this or that, I had to lead the way, otherwise he would just kind of stand there.) Not suprisingly, I figured he would be more concerned with getting comfortable diving rather than worrying much about my air.

I admit it was probably a good learning experience for me to have new buddy and be forced to rely on my own memory, but it certainly did not do anything to soothe my nerves. It was highly unlikely we would run out of air with two short dives, but the last thing I needed was some sort of paranoid fear about my air level in the back of my mind while we were at the bottom of the lake.

To add icing on the cake, the experienced instructor that owned the dive shop and taught us our pool skills said he was training someone and she would be taking us on our dive that day so he can observe her teaching us on our first dive.

I thought, "Greeeat. Now I have an inexperienced buddy and an inexperienced instructor. I am so dead."

But no time to think. All of the sudden we were going under.

We were to dive off and down over the side of the cliff, which was a sudden dropoff into a dark, murky brown-greenish depth.

I expected to feel a little nervous. I expected to have some issues clearing my ears, and maybe some buoyancy troubles.

What I didn't expect, however, was the loss of my eyesight completely. I was blind. Have you ever played that game where you get blindfolded and someone leads you across a field? Scary, huh?

Try doing that swimming.

They told me it was going to be murky.

By "murky," I thought that meant fuzzy images, cloudy water, etc. In this case, "murky" meant blind and dark and black as a cave. I could not see my hand in front of my face.

When you are blind, how do you find your bright yellow BCD  inflation button that takes you to the top when it's time to go up? When you are blind, how do you see your instructor's hand signals or signal to your instructor if you are out of air or some other problem?

When you are blind, how do you know if you are floating right side up? (And no, I could not see the bubbles)

Hint: You don't. Somehow you just have to figure it out on your own.

I tried my best to hold onto my instructor's SPG and trust in the situation. For awhile, I thought I lost my buddy. I thought he had done something stupid, like let go, and then got disoriented and floated away from the group.

I thought, "Nice. First dive and I lose my buddy. We are supposed to watch out for each other's safety. Crap, I'm going to flunk this. What kind of buddy am I?"

Turns out he was never gone. He said he held on the whole time -- I just couldn't see him.

There were small, slight, quick moments where we were swimming and passed an area that was a little clearer, but they didn't last long. Looking back, I think those were the moments of light the helped me to keep my sanity.

Then it felt like we were stopped on the bottom, and something happened. Amazing how you can sense things without hearing or sight. Through only my sense of touch, I knew something was wrong.

I didn't know why we were stopping or why we were huddled so close, because (and I found all this out later) my instructor's fin had become lodged into the black muck, kicking up a cloud of fine black mud in the water that looked like smoke engulfing us. Except smoke blows by and this never went away. A couple of times, I felt myself floating around --- this way and that ---- sideways, etc. I completely lost my bearings.

I had to give up my worldly comforts of my sense of balance, safeness, and sight. I had to rely only on trust.

So there we were, floating in blacker-than-blackness, and stopped. There was some dizzying arrangement of hands and fins and bodies and I think we were a little tangled up. But it was obvious we were supposed to be stopping for some reason.

We were there a loooong time. It was probably only like five minutes, but it felt like eternity, because I didn't know what was going on. I thought, something must be seriously wrong for us to be just stopped here. We were supposed to be just swimming around and coming back.

A whole cornucopia of ideas flittered through my mind: Maybe my instructor had blacked out and we were all just sitting there, connected to her, waiting for her to guide us somewhere....until we all inevitably ran out of air. What a story this would be for the papers tomorrow.

Or, maybe someone was having a seizure or was out of air. Or someone was stuck on something.

I can't even remember what else crossed my mind, because I think I went to my happy place and said some prayers at that point.

I find out later that the guy connected three people away from me had almost lost his weight belt -- it had loosened and dropped around his ankles. Through just hand motions (not signals, because you couldn't see) his buddy had grabbed the instructor and showed her what was happening. It took her a while, but she re-secured the weight belt, so that is the reason we were all sitting there waiting.

When I started to feel us rising, and could actually see my instructor's face with the thumbs-up sign, I could have kissed her.

When we ascend to the surface and into the sweet, sweet air, my buddy looks at me, wide-eyed.

"I really freaked out for a minute there," he said.

For once, I agreed with him on something.

Thankfully, my second dive that day (can you believe I did it again?) was to a completely different part of the lake, and it was more clear and relatively uneventful. I could actually see things. I felt much more comfortable and even explored a little, picking things up from the bottom and completing my skill sets with ease.

After getting through that first dive, I seriously felt like I could do anything. Oh, how I long for the clear salt-water lagoons of Bora Bora!

Next week's Summer of First post: My First 5K race!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Haiku for June

Humid balmy breeze
my hair sticks to my forehead
makes me feel dizzy

Your face hot and red
calling me closer to you
we laugh and we melt

Jump in cold water
float underneath the surface
there you'll find heaven

It's the first summer
where I can recall
what it feels like to be alive

Sun rises, sun sets
Beach sands carry in the wind
My eyes close, joyful

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Summer of Firsts! Part One

Summer of firsts - Scuba Dive Certification

This is an exhilarating a summer of firsts for me. I’m trying a lot of new things in a short period of time. I have always wanted to be more active and step up my fitness, so what better time is there but now?

So far turning 30 has been the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’ve made a commitment to myself that my “next 30 years” as the song goes, are going to be so much better than the first. I  love to grow and learn new things, and I want to experience life at its fullest.

So, this summer is my first time scuba diving, my first 5K race, and my first Sprint Triathlon. There’s more, but we’ll start with those three.

I’m going to write about each one from a newcomer’s perspective. I promise, you will hear about every honest “first” experience in all its gritty detail.

Part one is about scuba diving, but I’ve split it into two parts because there is just too much to say for one blog.  Later this week I'll finish the Scuba Dive blog with part two, and then in a week or so I'll write about my first 5K, which I completed yesterday. Enjoy.

Part One of Scuba Open Water Certification: Pool skills

I decided to get certified for open water scuba diving through the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Certification offered in Granger.

So how is it that I decided to get certified to scuba dive? When Kyle and I first started dating, we were having these crazy deep discussions like new couples do, and one day he asked me “What is one thing you've always wanted to try but have never done?”

I answered, “It would be cool to scuba dive.”

He replied “I'm advanced certified. We should do that someday.”

I remember thinking he was kind of a showoff for answering like that, (Really? the one thing I want to try in this world and you are advanced certified?) but, I was secretly impressed anywho.

And so the story begins.

Nine months later, Kyle and I are planning a honeymoon to Bora Bora, and we aren’t going to miss out on some of the world’s best diving in the blue lagoons of Tahiti. In order to dive in Bora Bora, he needed to re-certify (because it’s been a few years since he dove), and I needed to get certified. So we did it together this May. The course consists of two weekends, both Saturday and Sunday, where the student has to complete certain scuba skill sets. The first weekend takes place in the pool and the second weekend consists of four actual dives in a lake or quarry.

We were lucky to have another couple learning with us on that first day, and strangely enough their wedding date was exactly the same as ours. So when we got in the pool and our instructor told us to tread water for ten minutes, the four of us chatted about our impending nuptials and honeymoons rather than dreading the tread. Before we knew it, time was up.

Next was a 200-meter swim. I have been swimming freestyle to prepare for my first sprint triathlon for about 8 months now, so I was kind of excited to be put to this test. The 200 meters (four laps in a 25-meter pool) is the exact length I will swim in the lake for my first triathlon. Although I feel comfortable swimming and have incredibly improved my freestyle skill in the last few months, when I’m in the pool I have the tendency to stop and rest when I get just a little tired. I had never pushed myself to do the whole 200 meters. Also, lately I haven’t been practicing in the pool weekly as I should be. I knew I was behind. So, being forced to swim the 200-meters-without stopping was a good thing.

Turns out I had been limiting myself by taking breaks in practice. I exceeded my expectations and did it just fine without stopping. In fact, the only thing that really irked me was that I didn’t have my swim cap and my hair kept plastering on my face when I came up to breathe. I was breathing a little heavy, but I probably could have done another couple laps, and I’m sure the immediately preceding water tread had something to do with that. It felt fantastic because I knew I could do it for the triathlon as well (and I have until August to prepare for that even more). For a girl growing up just swimming for leisure and not for sport, (and never having freestyled correctly until this year) I felt pretty accomplished. I know it will be a little harder in a choppy lake surrounded by people, but now I know I am ready and able to do it – an unexpected perk of my first day of scuba certification.

The rest of the day was kind of challenging. I was a little nervous and felt unprepared, like I should have studied the scuba book better (yes, there is a book, and homework, and a test!) I had perused it over a time period of two months, just for half-hours here and there in the evenings when I found the time (I am working towards my masters degree and work a very demanding job, so time is not exactly of the essence right now). When I got there that morning, I realized I had forgotten a lot of what I read in the beginning. I felt like too much time had elapsed since I had gone over the basics.

We just jumped into it, without any prep. People were quickly barking out commands with the equipment set-up and I couldn’t remember the different names of parts of the equipment ( BC, regulator, octopus, etc.) Also I had too much caffeine that morning and felt jittery and foggy-headed, which did not help.

After the first hour in the water my teeth were in a full-on chatter. Not a surprise as I tend to get cold easy, and we weren’t moving around much, kind of just standing in shallow water and going over instructions, maybe dipping our head in now and then to clear the water out of our mask.

The instructor then gave me a wetsuit to wear, which was nice, except it was about 3 sizes too big. I’m a size 4 pants and about 5”2 height. I’m built little. Here I am with this bulging, drooping wet suit, wearing a weight belt that was way too big for my waist but was supposed to help hold me down in the water since there were huge air pockets in the too-big wet suit. Because I kept floating up, one instructor threw an extra weight bag in one of my pockets, which kiltered me sideways a little. To say the least, I was having problems with buoyancy.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Buoyancy is one of the most important skills you can learn for scuba. When you look at pictures or videos of people scuba diving, it looks so serene, so cool. They look like streamlined fish floating effortlessly through the water with the flick of a fin. I found out quickly that it’s not really like that, at least not at first.

Scuba tanks alone can weigh 35-50 pounds, and that doesn’t include your welt belt, vest and other equipment. It’s like having a small person riding around on your back - in the water. Imagine how hard it sometimes is to swim underwater, staying upright and getting to wherever it is you are trying to go on your own. Then imagine how that might be with another person on your back. You do have a buoyancy vest that helps you float depending on how much air you put in it, (you have to fill it up at the surface so that you can stay afloat when you begin and end a dive), so that helps, and the tank is filled with air so obviously that floats as well. Regardless, having weight in unexpected places, such as your back or hips, can throw you off with the smallest current or misstep.

Flip to the right to avoid seaweed, and your tank pulls you towards the bottom. Try to sit back and put your fins on in shallow water, and your tank pulls you backward. Just imagine trying to climb up a pool ladder or boat ladder with that much weight on your back.

I have to say I did not know scuba was as physically demanding as it was. I wouldn’t have changed my mind about trying it, but it would have been nice to have a heads up. I am a pretty physically fit person – I work out at least five times a week – and yet I was very close to not being able to pick up the tank or carry the tank on my own, which is something you have to do to help your buddy gear up. My back and arms hurt for days. After all this, you have to put fins on your feet and walk backwards to get in the water. Talk about awkward!

So, all that being said, my too-large wetsuit situation did not help my balance and buoyancy situation. I felt a little dizzy too because it was so hard for me to keep my bearings in the water, floating and rotating this way and that. Luckily, I had a very patient instructor, so there were a couple skills he said to sit out because I wouldn’t be able to perform them with my out-of-whack buoyancy. Most of the other skills I was did okay, except that I had an old mask which had broken-down rubber seal. So that made it difficult to keep water out of my mask, and to clear the mask of water when it fills (that was one of our skill sets).

The first time I tried to clear my mask at the bottom of the pool (about 12 feet under) I panicked a little because I couldn’t get all the water out of the mask and it was going up my nose. It was my first time going that deep (which really isn’t deep at all) and I was a little freaked out. So, even though I had oxygen coming into my mouth, I felt like I was being suffocated with water up my nose. The instructor took my hand and led me to the surface, explaining to me that I wasn’t doing the technique exactly right. After that he had me practice it some in shallow water and I was able to do it, but you better bet the first thing Kyle and I did was go buy new masks before our next dive.

Also, we had to practice taking the regulator out of our mouth and finding our alternate air source (or octopus) and then breathe out of that. You always have an octopus attached to your tank, in case something goes wrong with your own regulator or if you need to provide breathing assistance to a buddy. However the mouthpiece sits in the water while you dive, collecting water. To use it, you have to first “purge” it of water by pressing the purge button, which uses the the air to quickly shoot the water out. You need to practice using the purge button in case you get in a situation where you are out of breath and don’t have an exhale left to clear the water on your own.

 When it was my turn to show this skill, I used the purge button as instructed, but forgot one very important step: To lift up my tongue to touch the roof of my mouth and put it as a shield between the mouthpiece and my throat – enough that I could breath the air that comes out, but at the same time prevent the excess water from shooting down my throat. I immediately felt like I was choking once again, with tons of chlorinated pool water shooting down my esophagus. It was actually probably not that much water, but it sure felt like it.

One thing I learned from that situation: It was really scary for a quick second, but I coughed into the octopus and then the next breath I took, I was just fine. It is interesting how quickly your mind goes to panic mode when faced with the notion of not being able to breathe. All bets are off, all skill sets forgotten. If you don’t learn how to control these natural panic urges, you can’t scuba dive. No matter what situation you get in, there is always a protocol and a back-up. Just because you may choke on a little water or have a little water go in your mask and up your nose, or something might feel scary for a second because you are really far underwater, that doesn’t mean you are not going to be able to breathe. By staying calm and patient and not panicking, giving it a second and thinking logically about what you need to do next (signal that you need air to your buddy, or try to blow out your nose and clear your mask again, for example) you will be able to scuba dive just fine.

It’s all about conquering your fears. And everyone is different; Kyle said he did not have any of those first-time jitters or fears that I did when he first dove (maybe that has something to do with the fact that he was a testosterone-filled 17-year old boy, I don’t know) Personally, I think I needed to go through those situations to get through a little bit of my own fear. I was determined to get certified regardless of my fears, so I felt good about being able to complete my skill sets at the end of the day.

My instructor said that he and his family have dived so many times – hundreds upon hundreds of times around the world – that they “joke” with one another by coming up behind each other and turning off the other’s air tank underwater. (yes, that's what I said).

They don’t know what’s happening until they try to take a breath and there’s no air left (you would have to be really flexible to be able to reach back and turn back on your own air valve. Probably the only way out of that situation is to swim closely to someone else and grab their octopus to breath out of, and that would take a minute or two.) Haha, funny. Not sure I’ll ever be comfortable enough to joke on that level.

After that day in the pool, though, I did feel much more confident and more prepared for the lake dive, because I knew I handled my own panic situation successfully.

I have to admit there were times laying in bed at night that I thought about that feeling of the water going up my nose and shooting down my throat, feeling that familiar racing pulse again, and wondering how I will handle that if it happens at 25 feet in a lake rather than the safer and shallower pool practice. I was a bit anxious for our lake dive the following weekend.

In next week’s blog: My experience diving in Barron Lake at 25 feet.

Conditions: Dark, murky, 60 degrees.

My first dive was terrifying. We’ll talk about that in part two.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Very Angry Bird

Last week, Kyle and I (my fiance) decided to go see the movie Pirates of the Caribbean 4 in 3D. Pretty good movie (I am a huge Johnny Depp fan), but it turned out to be a semi-bad experience.

Let me tell you why this innocent night out at the movies to see Johnny Depp act like a drunken pirate turned into a bad experience.

Kyle and I got there really early. We were on our way back from looking at a 14-person tent at Target (that's a story for another day). So we were done shopping and there was no need to return home on the other side of town before the movie.

We showed up 20 minutes early, got our snacks and, as the only people in the movie theater, commenced to pulling out our phones and doing the only thing sensible people could think of doing when faced with 20 minutes of waiting -- playing Angry Birds and laughing about one another's defeats.

We were just passing time before the movie, very innocently I might add, with our phones on silent.

First, a note about Angry Birds.

I am NOT a gamer. I really don't like games because I am usually not good at them and they make me anxious. Not on cell phones, PlayStation, or anywhere. I can totally conquer Scrabble, but hand me a Xbox controller and I'll drive off a building. But Kyle would play Angry Birds for hours, and upon a curious glance one day, I thought it looked kinda fun with the animals and all.

So I tried it.

And anyone who has tried this game knows the end of the story. I was immediately hooked and now have an insatiable need to kill monkeys in my spare time.

Does it piss me off? Yes. Especially when those spider monkeys try and climb back up the box or branch and then shake their heads like they are laughing at me.

Am I good at it? Not really. Sometimes it takes me an hour to get through one level.

Do I keep playing it anyway? Yes. I can't help myself.

So there I am, a few days a week, in my supposedly relaxing evening lull, randomly yelling at the phone and getting ready to throw it across the room, because despite my awesome slingshot skills there is still one monkey left, cowarding under cement bricks and boards and laughing at me because I'm out of birds.

Kyle and I often joke about our Angry Birds addiction. We have a phrase around the household: "Families that play Angry Birds together stay together."

But anyway. I digress.

Soon the previews started, people trickled in and the theater was about halfway full. Through my peripheral vision, I spied a weird old man sitting behind us and to our left. It was obvious he was staring in our direction. Like I usually do when weird old men stare, I ignored him.

Let me explain just a few of the top reasons I call him "weird:"

1.) He was wearing a red plaid flannel shirt that looked like it came from CVS and a hat pulled down far over his hair - hair that was strangely straight, blond, messy, and wig-like.

2.) He was VERY tan, like an orangey-brown tan, even though he was old and wrinkly. I am going to guess about 65 years old.

3.) He looked drunk. He had glazed crazy-eyes and slurred speech.

A couple of minutes later, the little Sprint ad came on the movie screen that says to please "silence your phones - no texting or talking." (It did not say "no Angry Birds-playing," although it would have been funny if it did).

The movie had not started and the lights had not dimmed yet, so we continued to play. I am one of those people that hates when people use cell phones during movies, so I was prepared to turn my phone off immediately when those credits started rolling.

Suddenly I hear grumbling from behind us to our left, something to the effect of: "These idiots don't know how to read.....blah blah, something or other....cell phones....."

Kyle did not hear it, lost in his Angry Bird oblivion.

I chose to ignore it, once again, thinking maybe this crazy surfer-hunter-wigman will shutup.