DIY dolphin

We are getting ready to leave our 1950s house and do a very period thing. Our California family is going to Hawaii.

Just like Elvis and the Brady Bunch.

Unlike them, though, the girls in our family have decided to really swim. It’s all Veronica’s fault. She loves the water.

Most of her life, she’s been perfectly happy to splash in the shallow end with floaties.

Most of my life I’ve been satisfied to keep my head perfectly dry and my feet mostly on the ground.

Chris grew up with a pool, so he is the best swimmer. He worries about Veronica. He would not be able to relax with Veronica in the water.

Me neither really.

So, once again off to swim lessons. We’ve done it before.

THIS time though, there is a shark nipping at our feet.


We are going to the big vacation and we need to take this thing seriously.

A local college student is home for the summer and she offered up swim lessons to the public.

Perfect! Veronica can learn to swim.


This could be the moment that I do something I’ve never done and learn how to do this thing I insist my little one do.

I swim like a dog. Head up.

Time I learned to swim like a person.

Today is the third lesson.

I do a lot of things a lot better than my daughter. Fold sheets, for one.

I do not swim better than she does. She already looks like a dolphin.

I am a DIY kit whose instructions are missing the last page. There are a lot of parts, and some of them are more important than others.

Kick with your feet together…And don’t rock your hips in the water. Keep your head tucked

and *GASP* don’t forget to breathe!

Breathing is the most important part. The most immediate part, anyway

What looks from the outside to be a single continuous fluid motion

for me

is a jigsaw puzzle

Without a picture


I am very good at breathing.

I am expert at many many many uses of legs and feet and arms

Not swimming.


Something new, right?

I’m proud of myself.

and I’m not so happy to feel so ridiculous

My teacher tells me I have all the pieces. I think she is sincere.

But the pieces aren’t the picture yet.

And one of the other important things, close to breathing, isn’t even one of the pieces.

It takes a lot of strength to do this.

I may float like a champ, but I’m trying to move. And I use all the muscles that are quite happy to remain unused in every other activity.

I pulled myself out of the pool and could barely walk.

It wasn’t until I got home that I could tell which parts hurt.

My arms. The muscles right beneath my collar bone.

Is this the joy of learning something new at an age when I’m supposed to have it all figured out?

The exquisite realization that I will never have it all figured out? The joy-pain of knowing I am terrible at something and doing it anyway?

My life is filled with the expected, with millimeter gains and games of small stakes.

I am willing to be weak and ridiculous to try something new. It’s a good practice for experiencing paradise.

Making it

“How’s it feel to be the man?”- Ben Folds

So turns out until very recently the American Coast Guard reported to the treasury department. That doesn’t make sense.

What does the Coast Guard have to do with the treasury?

I didn’t even know this strange fact until I read Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. He told me a lot of things I didn’t know about the starting of America. Interesting to hear blow-by-blow descriptions of the decisions made from the biographical perspective of someone who was living at the time.

They were not at all sure that they were going to win over big ole Britain. It was not at all a sure thing. But they did achieve victory and started a new country.

Back when they were fighting the British all the shipments that came into America were British ships. Pretty much.

So it benefited the war effort for Americans to be pirates and take the cargo from the British ships. A lot of people thought that was a great idea. They got free stuff.

But then–surprise! –America won. Those ships that were sailing into American sports were not British anymore. They were American ships or ships bringing goods to America and taking away American goods. Our new country wanted to protect these ships. America did know that trade would make them strong.

After the war ended and America was setting up a government, Alexander Hamilton founded the treasury department. He needed to get revenue in the treasury as soon as possible.

I know the feeling.

For a nation, one of the best ways to get money is to have tariffs on commerce. People don’t like personal taxes for sure. So commerce is a great way to generate money.

Hamilton needed to generate money from these ships sailing in an out of America. He needed to protect those ships from piracy.

This was not an easy shift for the American pirates. Before they were sticking it to the man.

Now the tables had turned. And they were the man. Maybe they didn’t feel like they were the man but this new country that they had started needed them not to steal from it.

It was a choice:
Benefit from sticking it to the man, and preserve the status of rebellious victim
Make something

Making something is a lot harder. And there is no guarantee of success.

I could be pretty sure that I could be a successful troublemaker, if that was my goal.

Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson and many others worked to create something, getting paid in dollars while dollars didn’t even have meaning.

Makes me look at their faces on the dollars I use a little differently. Meaning is there to be made.