Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dying to swim

Public announcement: if you are paying attention, you'll notice that I am no longer putting two spaces after periods. This is a big adjustment for me, but I read this article and had the mind-shattering epiphany that I've been wrong for my whole life. I am not someone who likes being wrong, particularly when it comes to nitpicky issues of grammar and punctuation.

Friday morning we got another snowstorm. There is a Groundhog Day like quality to all this snow--one snow day morphs into another. (Was that the snow day, or the 2-hour-delay day?)  Here is the obligatory picture of our snowy front yard:

I was supposed to be in a retreat at work from 9 to 2, and I had planned to swim when the pool opens at 6:30 am so I could get in my workout and make it to the meeting all showered and respectable. I woke up around 5:20, fed the cats, had some coffee, then checked the information line at work. No cancellation, and the public schools website showed no closing or delay, so I left. As I was getting in the car, the paper delivery person (a thing of unidentified gender that whizzes by in some kind of small car) threw our paper in the driveway, which I took as a sign that the roads couldn't be that bad. I was wrong.

There were about 5" of fresh snow on the ground, no signs of any recent plowing, and as I slid my way down the hill from our house, I thought, "This may not be such a smart idea." 20 minutes and about 3 miles later, I revised that thought into, "This might be one of the dumber things I've ever done." There were a couple plows out and a few other drivers, but my well-meaning non-4-wheel-drive Civic was having trouble making any forward progress on uphills. At about 6:20 my husband called my cell phone to tell me that in fact my college wasn't opening until 10:30 (so no pool), and the kids school was just plain closed. I turned around (which was a much longer process than that phrase conveys) and slowly white-knuckled my way home. The most awesome part was when a car egregiously tailgated me for about a mile while I tooled along on a slippery, snow-covered road at about 17 mph. Do people like that really think they can stop quickly? How optimistic of them.

After Patrick and I shoveled, I went for a short grudge ski--I was grumpy that I was missing the retreat, grumpy that my swimming plans had been foiled, and kind of annoyed that the plows still hadn't hit our neighborhood, so I took advantage of the unplowed roads to ski my way over to some fields about a mile from our house. Skiing on the roads was great, in the fields not so much, because of the layer of ice 5" under the powder. I kept breaking through up to mid-calf, but I consoled myself that perhaps I was breaking a trail for the next person. The best skiing was on a well-worn trail made by our friends' golden retriever; I followed this into their backyard, said hi at their back door, and skied home.

By the time I got home the plows had made an appearance in our neighborhood, so I went into overdrive trying to find a way to hand my children off to someone else so I could make the end of the retreat.  (My husband had to give a talk later that day, so we had already had that fun conversation that working parents everywhere have on snow days, the undercurrent of which is something like, "Are you saying your work is more important than my work?") Earlier in the day Patrick had told me he wanted to go to a certain friend's house, and I told him, "You can't just invite yourself over to someone else's house."  But now I did just that, and the friend's parents kindly took him in (actually, they took him sledding, and even better, they claimed they had been just about to call to invite him).  My friend Nancy (who still evidently feels she owes me for driving her to knee surgery) took Charlotte, who was thrilled to spend the day with Nancy's daughter, and off I went to the retreat. At the end of the day I picked up Patrick, brought his friend's parents a bottle of wine (I wasn't sure if they drink but figured by the end of a snow day with Patrick, probably they would), and we hosted Nancy and her family for movie night and pizza. (Or pad thai, for those of us with more sophisticated palates.)

Friday night I did a bike workout on the trainer, and today I got in the run I was supposed to do Thursday (foiled by the first day of the retreat--yes, this was a long retreat). Charlotte and I took a walk this afternoon, and she asked me why lakes freeze over, but the ocean doesn't. This is the wrong thing to ask a physical chemist, because I couldn't stop myself from giving her a basic explanation of freezing point depression, which of course required a detour into entropy. We came home and started an experiment to compare how quickly a cup of water will freeze compared to a cup of Heed. I like the way this activity captures all aspects of my life: parenthood, chemistry, triathlon training:


  1. I used to do 2 spaces at the end of a sentence too. I think it came from out typing background where there was one space after a comma and two after a period. Now, I think they call it keyboarding instead of typing.

  2. Periods and spaces are fascinating. How did I not notice you're barefoot on your bike in the picture. Do you skip bike shoes and go right to running shoes for the third leg of the triathlon?

  3. I'm happy to see that others are as caught up in the drama of punctuation as I am. Coming soon: that vs. which. Joel, the bike shoes are under my feet--I just took them (the feet) out in preparation for getting off the bike to run. You non-triathletes are so adorable (as your wife would say).