Month: July 2014

Taking To The Course

Golf. Most people either love it or hate it or know nothing about it. I was one of the know nothing about its for most of my life. Now, it’s one of my recent new loves.

It wasn’t until last November when I picked up a club for the first time. I’ve been on this golf journey with my dear friend, Ashley.  Thanks to a series of lessons, we’ve been hooked.

Except for one thing: We hadn’t played an actual game.

After completing our lessons and watching the pros, it was time, we decided, to take to the course.

It’s funny what nerves can do. Both of us have smacked the heck out of many a driving range ball. We know the fundamentals, but something about playing.an.actual.game. was just…daunting…for both of us.

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With borrowed clubs in tow, we arrived ready for our 11:30 tee time. It was a drizzly day and the sky wasn’t looking promising. But, as any good die-hard golfer would do, with clubs on the back, we hopped on the cart and drove over to the first tee.

“Herrre goes nothin’,” Ashley said, pressing the hot pink tee into the ground.

She lined up and swung. The ball landed right in the middle of the stream.

Two shots later, two more missing balls.

“So, we get 18 holes or 24 balls, whichever comes first,” I joked.

“Your turn,” she said. “This is not the start I was hoping for.”

I put my ball on the tee. Lined up. Swung. And with a big loud whoosh, I whiffed. Twice.

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The third time seemed to be a charm for both of us, so we went to grab an iron for our next shot. Only to realize that we had borrowed left-handed clubs.

“Are you kidding me,” Ashley laughed.

I attempted to line up and see if I could swing. Who was I kidding? I can barely hit the ball on my dominant side on a good day. Left-handed clubs wouldn’t do.

At this point, our only option was to back up our cart and borrow a couple of irons to go along with the right-handed putter and driver that we did have.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever backed up a golf cart. But when we backed that puppy up, the beeeeep alerted the entire golf course and surrounding community of exactly where we were and what we were doing.

“Who has to borrow clubs from the pro shop,” I laughed on our way back.

“Us, apparently,” Ashley said.

After finding a couple clubs that would work for the day, we hopped back on the cart for a Take Two, which ended up getting off to a much better start than Take One and with that, we were off.

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We cheered at the good shots, cussed at the missed ones and played our way through 12 rainy holes before lightening forced us off the course for the day.

While it started out as a Lucy and Ethel moment, we stumbled, fumbled and laughed our way through it. Our best scores were 4 on a Par 3, our worst wasn’t recorded. We celebrated our first shots, finishing our first hole, my first time driving a golf cart (!), and being brave enough to take to the course.

By the end, the daunting course was not only a lot less daunting, it was a lot of fun.

There can be a lot of humor in stumbling, fumbling and finding our way through the awkwardness of something new. There can be a moment of personal victory in facing something scary head-on. There will always be nerves to get past and challenges along the way, but sometimes, what matters is not so much what the score or outcome may be, just that we are brave enough to take to the course.

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What To Do When The Waves Come

The best job I’ve ever had was folding t-shirts for eight hours a day at a t-shirt shop in Nantucket. I was 19. It was the summer of 1999. I was there with one of my best friends in the world. It was there that I met another one of my best friends in the world. There were lots of days and lessons and memories of that time that I’ll never forget.

Like the day I learned about what to do when the waves come.

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I was at the beach with Aine, my new friend from Ireland. We were enjoying our day off on an empty beach. It was hot and the waves were fun that day. We walked into the water and jumped a few of them. Then swam out to catch the next one. Then swam out farther still to the next one.

Within a few minutes, my feet could no longer touch the ocean floor. As Aine made her way to shore, I started to swim towards it. However, regardless of my plan to join her on land, I was being pulled in the opposite direction.

I didn’t know about rip currents or how to swim parallel with the shore to get out of them. I was from North Dakota, after all.

So, aimed directly for the shore, I’d swim a few solid strokes and a wave would come and crash on my head while the undertow pulled me out farther. As my efforts increased, so did their intensity. I swam harder, faster and took in a few mouthfuls of salt water.

I looked up. Aine looked so small. She stood there, looking at me, not really sure what to do. There was no one to ask for help and no lifeguards at that particular beach. I could feel her silently cheering for me.

Thanks to years of summer swimming lessons, I was a decent swimmer. By this point, I was exhausted and still had a long way to go. But I had my sights set on the shore. I was going to make it or die trying I decided.

So I muttered some kind of Help me, God prayer and kept swimming.

And finally, after about 25 minutes of solid swimming with every ounce of will to live and energy and strength in my body, I could touch. The sandy ocean bottom never felt so good as I walked onto the shore. I collapsed onto my towel, heart pounding, gasping for breath.

But I made it.

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I didn’t realize the severity of the trouble I had just escaped, at first. Once the shock wore off, I let a few silent tears roll down my cheeks. I could have died. That’s a harsh reality the first few times you’re faced with it.

And while I haven’t been caught in anymore rip currents (thankfully!), the waves of life still crash on my head every now and again. Since then, I’ve learned about rip currents and what to do when the waves come, both in the water and out.

The answer that’s worked for me when the waves of life come: Resolve to make it or die trying. Face them with every ounce of strength in me. Ask for help. Stay strong and focused on the goal.

And just keep swimming.

 

 

 

 

What Really Makes Us American

Parades. Barbeques. Fireworks and fireflies. Apple pie and lemonade. Pool parties and sunburns. Baseball games. Smores. Laughter. Boat rides and beach waves. Hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cold beer. Ladder ball and corn hole and kickball. Watermelon. The national anthem. The American flag billowing on houses and high above buildings. The pledge of allegiance. There is nothing quite like taking a few days in the summer to celebrate our nation and being an American.

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This year, however, it wasn’t the fireworks, although they were spectacular. It wasn’t the ice cold beer, although it sure was refreshing. It wasn’t the patriotic kids’ parade down Main Street, although it was adorable.

It was there, at a minor league baseball game where we watched the home team win while the crowd sang along to Take Me Out To The Ballgame and YMCA, when a stranger sitting behind us in the stands reached into his bag of souvenirs and handed my daughter a brand new baseball cap.

“She should have this,” he said, as his wife nodded and smiled in approval.

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As she hesitantly put it on her head, it was then that I realized : This is what makes us American.

Kindness. Generosity. Lending a hand. Befriending a stranger. Willing to be an unsung hero whether it costs you your life or a baseball cap.

So while the fireworks and Fourth of July celebrations will be over for this year, the celebration of who we are as Americans can continue.

I didn’t get their names, but each time I look at that cap, I will see their faces and I will be grateful. I can’t pay them back for that heart-warming act of kindness, but I can certainly pay it forward.

Maybe that’s what it’s all about after all.