Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Astronomy Picture of the Day "APOD" - Maybe you were wondering ...

why I have the website Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) on my sidebar. Maybe you weren't. If you were: read on. Yesteryday's pic was amazing, and funny. Remember when you used to lay down on the grass and stare at the clouds trying to make out shapes? That one's a dinosaur, there's a dolphin, and look it's spongebob! Well try that with the astronomy image from June 23, 2009. What do you see? I see . . . . . chomp, chomp, chomp, . . . . . a ginormous Pacman! Then I read about the Molecular Cloud Barnard 68 (it's scientific name). How cool, and it's only 500 light-years away. I think that's close in astronomical distances. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around astronomical distances. I can handle 900 miles from home to the in-laws in Florida. I can even comprehend 5,000 miles to Alaska. But light-years? Maybe it's the kinesthetic learner in me. I just can't grasp it.

Of course the next thing that molecular cloud brought to mind was Star Trek the Next Generation. I bet they could have a great episode with one of those. It will require the deflector dish to escape of course. Maybe the already did one. I'll have to check with the ultimate ST geek: my spouse :)

This doesn't answer your question of why is it there, hanging out on a blog about kids with special needs. Well, the great questions of the universe aren't always answered here on Earth. Looking for answers in the heavens is as human as going to the bathroom (sorry - I have a 5th grader!) Ever since I was a child I loved laying on the grass on a warm summer's eve looking up at the stars and the moon. I could sit outside and stare at the night sky for hours wondering and wandering, mentally at least. APOD gives me that moment again, without the mosquitos.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"All who wander are not lost"

I'm watching "The Lord of the Rings" Trilogy with my son. It's been 30 years since I first read the stories and about 2 years since I last saw the movies. 5th graders ask great questions. The reading void has been filled now with the promise of 3 great books.

Gandalf's quote has been my mantra over the past year. I know I'm not lost, but I don't know where I'm wandering exactly. It's a disconcerting feeling - like a dream where you know where you are but it looks different somehow. And like a dream I have so little emotion about it all. It's just sort of there.

This morning I watched the sun rise as I ate my usual breakfast. The sky was the clearest blue - an unending bright blue sea of possibilities as far as the eye could see. An inspiring blue. A hopeful blue. A "future's so bright I have to wear shades" sort of blue. I almost felt something.

Then a distant echoing drumbeat. Today's trash day. Collect all the trash. Clean the fridge out. What's that smell? Really is that watermelon THAT old? One sniff and my nose hairs recoiled in fear trying to run and hide. Vacuum the downstairs. Clean out the litter box. Today is a Physical Therapy/Speech Therapy day. Pack up the car: water bottles; snacks, and diaper bag. Check. Find the coupons and the grocery list. Check. "Everybody get dressed and brush your teeth. We are leaving in 10 minutes." Amazingly we do. The impossibly blue sky was covered with hordes of white/gray clouds. Marching slowly across the expanse.

Leaving early affords me the opportunity to check out the new gas station. Saved $.10/gallon there. On a full tank of gas. Love that. Maybe a few of those clouds are marching away. I am not running late. I have the luxury of driving the speed limit and not worrying about whether I will make our appointment on time. Wow - this feels great. Liberating almost. Relaxing. Especially when Jimmy Buffet crones over the speakers. "Frankenstein had nothing on this body of mine. The villagers still come out to see. To see me. Breakin free. Cuz I've got a schoolboy heart. A novelist eye...."

It occurs to me that he is a great lyricist. I brought along a couple books about writing better. I am not a good writer. Maybe someday. But not today. I wonder if that is part of my wandering. Wandering towards better writing. What else am I wandering towards? What else is out there for me? Emotionally I feel flat. Nothing excites my passions these days. I almost felt something this morning watching that Blue Sky of Possibilities. Those "marching clouds of to do's" cover up the light and impossibilities of a crystal clear blue sky. They lead me on neither happy nor sad, just there, hanging out. Near the crystal clear blue sky of impossibilities, but never reaching it. In my happy dreams I wander past those clouds and realize that impossible sky.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Long Course Swimming . . . Long Steps Forward

So, I was a summer league swimmer as a kid: starting in 8 & unders and swimming through part of high school on the high school team. But things have changed LOTS since then. I have had to learn (or re-learn) lots of new vocabulary: A, BB, B and C times, DQ (dis-qualified, not Dairy Queen), Stroke and Turn, Heat, Short Course, Long Course; to name a few. Well, it turns out short course is what I knew from my past: a 25 yard or meter pool. Long Course is what they swim in the Olympics: 50 meters for one length. That's intimidating. But cool too as you have fewer flip-turns. Today was Alex's first Long Course meet. He was nervous as he had 4 events: 100 back, 50 free, 100 breast, and 50 fly; in that order.

The coaches had to estimate what his times would be for his entry, as he had never swum long course before. Nervously he stood on the block, and jumped in for the 100 back. The starter shot the gun and the swimmers were off. This meet was a fast meet, as most (not all) of the other swimmers had A, BB and B times. Alex has just finished up his first year of swim team - he started last June with a summer team, fell in love with the sport and joined the year-round team at the Y last September. He spent the fall and winter learning the strokes and turns, and only started working on endurance and speed this spring when he moved up to a more challenging group for practice. His times have slowly and steadily improved through the year, but they are still solidly C times.

Today he took a few giant leaps forward in that long course pool. He hit the wall at the end of 100 meter backstroke 14 seconds faster than he ever did before. In that event he dropped his time to within 10 seconds of a B time. Next, he dove off the starting block (his best dive ever!) to a fastest time ever in the 50 free. He broke a minute which was a personal goal of his, and dropped his time down to 55:98; within 11 seconds of another B time! His 100 breast stroke showed a 3 second improvement and his 50 fly time stayed the same, but he looked TIRED by then :). The nice thing I noticed was that his breaststroke and butterfly stroke and kick were still together; right up to the end. No DQs! Woo Hoo!! Today he recognized the culmination of lots of little steps into one giant leap.