Tag Archives: high school


I wasn’t going to write anything about the Olympics because a) I don’t watch them that much b) there’s a saturation of coverage already and c) it’s hard to find a way to make it all about me.

But thanks to Michael Phelps, I found a way! So if this post is lame, blame him, as everyone seems to be doing that in some way, shape or form already anyway.


Ugh…what happened?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock—no judgment, as I can imagine it’s nice and quiet under there—you know that he failed to medal in his first race this Olympics, the 400 IM. American Ryan Lochte took gold, and two other people with names I won’t attempt to spell took the other two pieces of hardware.

There was a bit of an uproar. “He didn’t try hard enough!” “What’s his problem…doesn’t he want it?”

Let’s come up for air a minute, people.

This isn’t 2008 when he accomplished complete and utter domination of the sport and came home with eight gold medals to prove it. While everyone said that they didn’t expect a repeat gold medal run, the fact that he didn’t dominate in his first race has already raised some concerns.

I get it.

We all have idols we put on such pedestals that when they fail to reach the superhuman standards that are placed on them—by fans, coaches, family, themselves—and remind us that they’re human, we’re disappointed.

He considered retirement in 2009. He was tired. He had accomplished everything he had set out to do. He was scrutinized after he was photographed practicing breathing techniques (ahem) on a bong.

I read comments he recently made that getting out of a warm bed and into cold water every early morning since the age of seven takes it’s toll. He told the story of being on vacation and having everyone tell him to go swim in the ocean but wanting to stay on the shore. Getting wet was the last thing he wanted to do.

I can relate, on a very minor scale.

I was a swimmer in high school, and although I wasn’t fabulous, I was All-City and had a school record. The training was ridiculous—5 am practices before school, two hour practices after, dry land work, summer camps—and I constantly reeked of chlorine. But while I enjoyed the sport, I didn’t swim my senior year.

The reasons were varied, but I was just tired of everything swimming and  tired—period. While I had support, others freaked out and I was also told I was insane, that I had talent I was wasting, that it was selfish not to compete, that I was lazy.

Maybe they were right — maybe it was a waste — but I never regretted my choice. My heart wasn’t in it anymore — to this day I have no interest in water — and a lesson I learned is:

Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.

The same thing goes for Phelps. I don’t think he wanted to compete in London as much as he felt that he should, and I have no doubt that some of the rumors about less-than excellent training are true. From his interviews, body language and other speculative things that hold no weight, he looks like someone going through the motions.

But no athlete wants to lose—ever—and I can guarantee that no one is more disappointed than Phelps about that race. And at the time of this writing, he still has six more to go, six races I’m sure he will give all he has.


If you’ve never swam fly, you have no clue of pain.

When he was 16, he told an agent that he wasn’t worried about winning medals—although today he’s three away from becoming the most decorated Olympic athlete ever—but instead, "I want to change the sport of swimming."

And whether you like him or not, he’s done that with each race he’s won. He’s done that by establishing the Michael Phelps Foundation that provides swim programs at Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide. He’s done that by making the sport relevant through his accomplishments.

While it’s a “what have you done for me lately” culture and he might not be doing as much, what he’s done in the past has changed the sport of swimming—for the better— but he’s also changed as well. 

He is human, but if history is any sort of indication, he’ll do his best each race this year to show us that he’s not.

He’ll remind us he’s still Michael Phelps.

Like the blog? Buy the book.

*Back to regularly scheduled ramblings next post. I was feeling rambly. Blame Phelps—or better yet—NBC.

Vive la France!

There’s just a certain, je ne sais quoi about the melodic sing-song nature of the  French language.


Let me rephrase that.

There’s just a certain, je ne sais quoi about the melodic sing-song nature of the  French language when spoken by someone who can actually speak the French language.

When you’re in high school and studying French as a graduation requirement, the cadence of dialogue resembles a choppy staccato more than a flowing  ballad. The words don’t exactly ebb and flow in intensity with each inflection, rolling off the tongue like butter from the croissant that students are struggling to remember the gender of as they reenact an awkward café scene in front of their overly enthusiastic French teacher.

For my high school teacher, to teach our class was to teach us about a life she was meant to be living 3,000 miles away.

Madame was convinced she was born in France and not in Michigan, and to prove that she immersed herself in the culture of a country she had visited just twice.  This love extended to not just her professional life, but also to a mullet, unshaved legs and children who could speak better French than half of Paris. 

As high schoolers, our first goal was to learn the curse words, how to ask for the bathroom and how to proposition complete strangers to sleep with us. Our second goal was to convince Madame to throw French “rendezvous” with snacks and “French” movies.


Considering her children had the complete collections of both Babar and Madeline and that she took our desire for food as a desire to experience the culture hands-on, we had an alarming number of that more resembled a two-year-old’s birthday party.

The conversation was only marginally more advanced.

We were forced to endure workbook after workbook of conjugation and verbs, describe our mood and the weather with alarming frequency and take an unnatural interest in the lives of manically happy strangers talking on videos and tapes about how where they were going in their blue car on various days of the week.

While I got to the point in my studies where I could read and understand a great deal of French, my spoken attempts remained choppy at best.

Madame, who eventually refused to speak English after two years, would speak to us as if in song. The ebb and flow in intensity with each inflection lulled me into a false sense of security that the same thing would happen when I opened my mouth and attempted to reply.

Yet when I set out to join her in a duet of dialogue, the words seemed to stick in my throat. More cacophonic than melodic, I struggled in vain to tell her that I was going to the bibliotheque on my bike on Tuesday and that I was happy about the weather.

“Viola! Can I can write it down instead?

How about another Babar party?

I’ll bring the crepes.”

At any rate, I recently ran into Madame at the store. Twelve years later she was still rocking the mullet and still refused to speak English, but we did have a brief and friendly conversation.

I believe I either told her I was fine or that I was a car.

She appeared pleased and either told me it was great to see me again or that I was still —how do you say it in English?—a pathetic monolingual loser with no rhetorical rhythm. 

Either way, je m’appelle Abby.

Ou sont les toilettes?

Click the link to watch it on YouTube.


This post was in response to this week’s RemembeRED prompt:

Write about a time that rhythm, or a lack thereof, played a role in your life. And don’t use the word “rhythm.”

The Graduate

I hoped no one was looking up my dress.

The requisite white gown I had worn over it was unzipped just moments before, moments filled with waves of heat and confusion as my vision blurred and ears went deaf.

The next thing I knew, I was lying in a pool of sweat on the ground with a headache and no idea why. All I knew was that there was a crowd of (still blurry) faces looking on. My first thought?

I was sure they all looked up my dress.


This was 12 years ago and I no longer even resemble this person, unfortunately, but you needed to see the dress.

Graduation was overhyped—we all knew it.

It was simply a ceremony you had to go through at the end of four years of awkward moments and hours of academic effort. The last few weeks (and by weeks, I mean months) were simply gravy, going through the motions of showing up to ceramics  and an English honor’s class taught by a teacher resembling a haggard Meryl Streep who included sexual innuendo into every lecture and project assigned.

Since I was proficient in skipping, we’ll keep the streak alive and skip past those years for now.

I was actually out of school the final two weeks of my senior year due to an unfortunate incident involving my wisdom teeth, emergency surgery and a head that morphed to much more Ernie than Bert. It was not fun or attractive—much like the aforementioned randy English teacher.

That unfortunate incident was closely followed by a bout with pharyngitis. I know—it was a delightful month or so to be me. I tell you these details not for sympathy—although donations are always accepted—but because they all led up to me feeling rather under the weather come graduation day.

But I was a trooper—or forced to go, the details are fuzzy—and after a pre-graduation dinner with my family and Danny (of the Goldfish Cracker Caper, and no, I did not steal his food this time around) we set off for the ceremony.

Now picture hundreds of graduates shoved into a stuffy hallway outside of the auditorium for what seemed like days, the smell of body spray and lotion vainly trying to mask the smell of smoke.

I started to feel funny—lightheaded and very, very warm.

The noise around me dulled to a muted din, but I could read the lips of my best friend as she asked me if I was alright (or maybe she asked me if I had a light or that I was quite a sight—again, the details are fuzzy.)

The next thing I knew, I was lying in a pool of sweat on the ground with a headache and no idea why. All I knew was that there was a crowd of (still blurry) faces looking on. People rushed to my side and started asking me questions and fanning me with caps and papers.

I was sure they all looked up my dress.

After being reassured that the pervs were at bay, I was taken to the training room and seen by the on-call paramedic while my classmates received their diplomas.


I, on the other hand, received my diploma from the paramedic.

The next day I was fine in that I didn’t have any teeth extracted from my head, the equivalent of strep throat with a migraine or the experience of passing out before a graduation ceremony.

In fact, I felt much better. While resting on the couch in my cap and gown—I had to wear it sometime right?—I decided that 12 years from then I would blog about that experience in an effort to break out of blogger’s block. OK, maybe I made that last part up, but I really did get my diploma from the paramedic.

And I’m pretty sure he never looked up my dress.