Everything I Know About Swimming I Learned From YouTube

I never really knew how to swim. Not really. I knew you had to windmill your arms and kick your legs and turn your head side to side, but that was about it. I managed to live a life that way quite nicely. Bobbing and floating was all that I expected when I was in the water -pool or ocean – and I was happy with that.

Now I live in Florida and I have a swimming pool right outside my door. Coincidentally, this happened just about the same time as I was referred to physical therapy for two bum knees. When the insurance authorized evaluation + five sessions were over, I continued on my own but in the pool where gravity could not do its evil work. Those exercises made a world of difference in my on-land mobility and stamina. So since I’m such a fine physical specimen now, I decided to add actual swimming to my repertoire.

“Swimming” as in windmilling my arms, kicking a little, running out of air and getting hit by all the water that I pushed ahead of me to end of the pool just as I was about to take in a breath through my mouth. All this with the added effect of arching my back to keep my head above the water line.

But then YouTube taught me how to swim.

Hey, you guys- there’s a lot to this. I had to focus on one part each week and add it to what I had already learned. It took me WEEEEEKS to get it all together and I still have to concentrate on each part to get it right. But it paid off. I can feel it when everything is going right – I can swim longer because I’m not as tired out from fighting the water and I don’t get overtaken by a big bad wave at the end of the pool anymore. But get this:

My last out-of-state visitor was here earlier this month and we were blessed with beautiful weather almost every day. Lots of pool time. My knees had been especially achy then so I mostly bobbed and floated through the early days but when I finally did a few laps in front of him, something happened that was so astonishing, I’m still thinking about it. When I stopped to take a rest , he asked me if I ever took swimming lessons. And then he said

“Your form is really good. You hardly make any movement above the water. I asked about the lessons because Little Edie had perfect form when she swam and you reminded me of her when you were doing laps.” *

[Now this might not be an exact quote. I was then and still am stunned to realize what he said. My recollection is that he said my form was perfect but I didn’t want to overstate it here in case he didn’t really say that. Something about Little Edie (Beale) taking swimming lessons and seeing her (in a film clip) gliding so smoothly the water wasn’t disturbed at all.]

Well, now I have a wardrobe of swim caps and two sets of goggles that I make good use of. They sit in a plastic bucket with multiple ear plugs and nose pinchers that I never wear but I place them pool side every day in case I change my mind.

I’m up to 50 laps a day now. It doesn’t sound like much but considering the absolute zero of exercise I’ve been doing lately (for years) , I’m proud of that. The pool is only about 12 strokes long, 11 on a good day but a lap is a lap and I’m only comparing myself with myself, not with Olympians or even Little Edie. Okay maybe with Little Edie. This happy state could crumble at any time depending on what’s going on with the knees so except when it’s a full out thunderstorm, I’m out there every day, plugging along, silently chanting Head still Eyes on the floor Cut into the water Power scoop Rotate the shoulder Rotate the hip Straight leg kicks. When I get to the end of a lap where I’ve got it down perfectly and I can feel myself absolutely SLICING through the water, now I pop up for a turn and add Ooh, you Little Edie to the silent chant as a private reward.

And that brings me to this:

pool brush/swim lane marker/Suzette/sunhat

Not only is my friend a sincere complimenter, but he’s also quite ingenious. When he saw that I was pulling to the side and ending up far off from the center of the pool where I intended to be ( because I was staring intently at the floor and not trying to look up to see the pool wall ), he started thinking about how we could mark the bottom of the pool and quickly came up with laying the long-handled pool brush down as sort of an underwater runway. It works! It seems so obvious now, but I never thought of it on my own.

So now , when I come to the end of a lap the silent chant doesn’t change, but when I see the broom handle I realize with relief and pride that I’m headed on the right path and that my form could hold up against Little Edie. It’s a weird feeling.

post script: I haven’t thought about Little Edie in years, not since I saw the Drew Barrymore movie in 2009. In googling around the web fruitlessly searching for a film clip of Little Edie swimming, I did come across many articles noting Little Edie’s struggle to be her own person in the shadow of Big Edie’s dominance. This article The Edies After Grey Gardens discusses how she lived after her mother died. Spoiler: she sold the old house. It made me happy to read this: “Photos taken during that time show the smiling ex-socialite lounging on leather furniture, posing with family members, and—generally—enjoying her life. By all accounts, Edie returned to the world of wealth and pomp with the grace and poise that had always resided beneath the patina of her circumstance. “

So here we are after all this time, me and Little Edie. She returned to the world of wealth and pomp with poise and grace and I’m the backyard athlete that has always resided beneath the patina of my physical circumstance.

Saying Goodbye

They had to go. Even though they were beloved at one time, it was obvious that their time had come.


HIBISCUS I loved this hibiscus plant since the day the day it got here. It was only here for about 2 years but I protected it from burning and freezing, shaped it, fed it and nurtured it, and transplanted it from a lovely container to a magnificent one. But during the last four months of its life, it became a haven for whiteflies and I could not overcome them. I tried picking them off, cooking up my own organic remedies and then full-on chemical warfare. I managed to bring it back from sad little sticks to a reasonably healthy specimen, but the whiteflies never really went away. Since the plant lived inside the screen enclosure and shared a space with two even more beloved dwarf citrus trees, I knew it was only a matter of time until the whitefly migrated over.


They had to go. I chopped off the branches, dug out the roots and solarized the soil by covering the plantless pot with a black plastic bag. When I take the bag off in 2 weeks or so, I’m going to get rid of all the potting soil in there and scrub the pot innards. Then I’ll move in the Persian Lime tree once the current 98° heat wave (aka Florida summer) is over. That will be a good fit because what I’m ultimately trying to accomplish is to have something there of height and interest to take the eye away from the too-near shed right outside that corner. The challenge has been finding something attractive that can withstand a full day of direct sunlight. Stay tuned.

COVERED CHAIR Here’s an old friend that I have been having trouble separating myself from. In fact, I was going to get rid of it when we were deciding what to take and what to jettison in preparation for the move from New Jersey. But my daughter thought one of the bedroom chairs was too big for its space in the new place, so I took this one along, meaning to take off the cover and expose the simple MCM-ish dining chair underneath.


But I could never make myself do that. I made the cover myself sometime in the late 80s and it was so right in the formal parlor that housed the yellow floral lamp. There were curtains out of this same fabric, too. Double balloon valances (see above, “late 80s”.) It hasn’t been much used, not in that house or this one. I guess it’s too perfect for anyone to presume to sit upon? It’s been in 3 rooms here and just never worked. I considered Craigslisting it and curb alerting it, but it would be too sad for me if no one claimed it. So his week I went to take the cover off and was once again stopped by the … sweetness? … of it. The appealing fabric, the piping, the perfect little rosebuds centered on each button.

* sigh *

Dear Lord, Please help me to let go. Thank you for the 30 years I enjoyed it. Amen.

So as soon as I hit publish for this poet, I’m going to rip the cover off and recover the seat. Or maybe I’ll do it later. Or tomorrow.

I’ll do it tomorrow.

Busy Busy Busy

I’m deep into visitor season now. You would think that the colder months elsewhere would bring people around to this part of Florida but it doesn’t work out that way. I’ve had 4 visitors since May 19, looking forward to 2 more in July and hoping for 3 more in September/October. That’s as far into the future as I can see.

Visitors mean lots of ill-advised pool time under the mid-day sun, eating out and a boatful of shrimp in the kitchen and later, lots of shrimp heads in the garbage can. Possibly a slight increase in cocktailing. Fortunately for me, the recent visitors have been from my demographic so it was relatively early to bed/ early to rise. A younger set arrives in June so they will be on their own after ~9pm.

Pre-visitors, there was a flurry of cleaning which as usual was not completed 100%. Are you familiar with a coastal storm surge? That’s when a hurricane force wind blows tons of water along a coastline, and the water floods up on the land. In the case of 2012 superstorm Hurricane Sandy, in NJ not only was the ocean coast devastated but the coast of the Raritan Bay took a heavy hit as well until there was nowhere else for the water to go and it crashed into an area that usually gets a rise in water but not in such volume or violent arrival.

I bring this up because this effect is exactly what happens when I houseclean and run out of time to finish – it’s a furious force pushing things along to the farthest point. This time, it was the master bedroom that sustained the accumulation of things blown in from other parts of the house. I just kept the door shut for a week. Now you know how it is.

In other news, I’m still working on that side garden. Year 2. We’re in the home stretch but sometimes I just can’t face the idea of hauling one more bag of rocks to finish the termite-proof mulching. So I made a little tropical container oasis under the palms out front, also unfinished.

It was glorious in my imagination. Maybe a few more pots?

The Friends of the Library volunteer thing is going well – I manned the information table in another branch of the library to promote our new group – the first event for us. And now another volunteer opportunity has arisen:

They didn’t specifically mention broken down old cripples, but hey – ALL ARE WELCOME. Pretty sure that includes me.

This is a brand new group, – organizing right now but they already have their debut performance – Cat On A Hot Tin Roof – with auditions starting in 2 weeks. Volunteer opportunities in general are limited for those who can’t run around or tote and carry, so I thought I might mosey on over and volunteer my modest sewing skills for the costume department. I figure right now at the earliest stages, they’ll take anybody they can get so good chance they’ll accept me (a broken down old cripple). Or maybe I’ll audition for the part of Maggie the Cat . If that worked out, they’d have to change the play’s name to Cat In A Hot Tin Wheelchair, so maybe I’ll just stick to repairing rips and tears in the cast wardrobe. [Note: I have some concerns that this might be too high pressure for a person whose retirement goal is to loll around, very unlike promoting a library where the focus is on lolling around reading. We’ll see.]

Off to see my new primary care MD for the first time today. That means hours of shaving and scrubbing before I go and then once I get there more time listing all the things that are wrong with me. Let me clarify that: listing all the things that are physically wrong with me. He can find out about the mental defects as we go along.

So now you know why my blogging has been light. I’ve been very busy busy busy.

I’m Your Sponge

Remember when I said that I was going to live a retired life of sybaritic pleasure and do nothing except what pleases me at the moment , answer to nobody and have no responsibility at all? What was that – about 8 weeks ago?

Welp, you’re looking at the new secretary of the Yulee Friends of the Library.

I was looking for some little something of interest to do once in a while so I started investigating local volunteer opportunities. There’s plenty of things to get involved in but considering my physical limitations (gimpiness of the highest degree), the number gets drastically cut down. I had narrowed it down to driving seniors around for medical appointments or delivering Meals On Wheels. Frankly, I could use a little help myself getting around and Meals on Wheels, well… I did that in NJ and 25 years later I still can’t get the smell out of my nostrils.

But then I remembered the January news article in the very local paper about the local branch of the county library moving out of its 500 sq. ft. space in a branch of the state college and possibly into a 6,000 sq. ft retail space right under my nose. That article, repeated on the neighborhood Facebook page, had a comment that suggested joining the Friends of the Library – so I hunted down the meeting and off I went.

My intention was to sit quietly and listen to evaluate if this would be (a) something that interested me (b) something that suited my talents and skills and/or (c) fun. But as it turned out, 40 minutes after the meeting started (and about 10 minutes after I asked if there would be recap notes mailed out to the group), boom – there I was volunteering to be secretary for the organization.

The leader framed the request for nominations or volunteers as “.. or even temporarily” so nothing to lose really except time spent creating and mailing one set of summary notes. But I have to confess that I’m very excited by this development.

If You Open Up The Doors We’ll All Come Inside And Eat Your Brains

Sami and I treated ourselves to a video doorbell for Christmas last year. We don’t live in a high crime area but just in case – you know?

I didn’t really expect to capture a lot of home invaders but I also didn’t expect to see so much animal activity, either. So far, we’ve seen:

  • a cardinal bash straight into the front door, probably trying to land on that faux greenery
  • a cat that periodically takes a casual stroll across the path that leads to the tiny portico over the front door
  • a snake that appeared to emerge from the stone wall and slinked straight across the doormat
  • Godzilla, now a diminished senior retired to Florida too weak to activate the doorbell