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The Holiday Letter

January 1, 2010

I’ve never done a holiday letter ever.  I get them.  I really enjoy them, but I’ve never sent one myself.  I couldn’t exactly figure out what to say.  For the past 4 years, my life has pretty much revolved around swimming and work.  I get a new plant every now and again and I kill one or two by accident, but that is about it.  Plus then there is the blog which pretty much updates anyone that wants to read it.   Then the light bulb went off, a blog holiday letter!  So here it is the first installment.

This past year has been a tumultuous one to say the least.  It started off with a bang as I traveled down to participate in the Triple Lake Taupo Relay crossing.  It was the race that wasn’t really a race.  A team of 5 men swimming alongside (against) a 6 person female team.  We finished less than 5 minutes apart which in a 60+ mile, 33 hour event is more than amazing.  Mostly I remember the laughter and new friendships that have continued to blossom over this past year.  Unknown to me at the time, we apparently set a new Guinness World Record with this swim too.  YEA US!

The rest of the winter months were spent in my normal routine; sleep, workout, work, eat, sleep and repeat.  There was a new plant, which quickly became an old plant.  But other than that not much was going on. 

I was in a peak training weekend the weekend of May 15-17, 2009.  My task was to swim 3 x 10hr swims.  One on Friday, one Saturday and the remaining 10 hrs on Sunday.  I made it through the Friday swim very well.  Except that I was so tired that I didn’t take my normal evening call with my mom.  She left me the best message.  She was there cheering into the phone “ONE DOWN BABY!  WAY TO GO!  KEEP IT UP! YOU CAN DO IT!”.  As I smiled and laughed to myself, I pressed the delete button and promptly went back to my afternoon of resting, eating, and sleeping.  The next morning I woke up early and my friend came to help kayak as I swam 6 hours outside at Hagg Lake and then transferred back into town to finish up in a pool due to the cold water temperature.  Another friend was waiting for me at the pool, I thought it odd, but thought maybe she too was here to cheer me on.  Unfortunately no, she was there to tell me to call home.  I did and my dad gave me probably the hardest news he has ever had to do “Your mother died in her sleep.  It was peaceful and it was quick”   Life from that point on for me became measured in the Before Death and After Death. 

I’m sure that at that point I didn’t know how to process things, so I kept on swimming and moving towards my goal of completing a triple crossing of the English Channel.  As many of you have followed, I completed a solo crossing of the Channel on June 30, 2009.  My crew provided the heart that I needed to make it that far and I can’t thank them enough.  Then after that swim, I did go back to my beginning of Pennock Island.  I did have fun, but fun felt so much more different these days.  It didn’t last as long and it is only recently that I began to understand why.

My parents aren’t just my parents.  My mom and dad are/were great.  They are my team members and my cheerleaders.  I spoke to my mom every day and I mean EVERY day.  She made it possible for me to have a dual life where I worked a full time job and swam full time.   She was the person that drafted my fundraising letter for the past 3 years.  She has written countless sponsorship letters which resulted in many of my sponsorships.   She created a sponsorship video to include with letters to businesses, which was an amazing feat for my non-technical mom.  She would fly out to Portland every 6 – 12 weeks and spend the weekend cooking and ensuring that my freezer was full of single serve home cooked meals.  She also cleaned, did laundry, decorated and made my home feel more like home.   My dad is my travel agent and helps me make financial decisions, mostly helps me say yes when a unique opportunity comes my way and helps me figure out how to stretch my money to make it happen.

And now After Death, I’m trying to figure out how to get all this Mom stuff done.  For those of you that are wondering, yes I do know how to cook.  Yes, I can do laundry and clean.  Yes, I can write letters and fundraise and talk to potential sponsors, but my mom made all of these things easier.  She helped to carry my load.  But mostly…I miss our everyday talks.  Sure I still talk to her, but she just doesn’t quite talk back.  I miss that, even when we were getting on each others nerves.  I miss that last phone call of the day.  I wish that we could still talk.  I wish I still had that voice mail from the last night. 

But I do have a lot to be thankful for this past year, my friends from all over have been incredible.  They provide the joke when I need the laughter, the shoulder when I need to cry, and often have provided that last phone call/text of the day. 

I have accomplished some great swims, met some amazing people and I continue to have a job that is challenging in a mostly positive way.  I have welcomed a new nephew into the fold which brings my cool auntie status up to 5 nephews and 1 neice. 

On the fundraising front, we have raised over $18,000 for Macyswim for a Cure – In honor of Dr. Kathleen Macy.  We are almost to the halfway mark of our $50,000 goal.  Watch for upcoming posts on new ways to donate.

I have learned that my mother gave me the skills to move forward.  I may not be able to recreate her beef stew or soup, but she gave me so many other gifts.  Now it is just uncovering those deeply engrained skills and putting them to work.  And it starts by me making it successfully out of bed each day.

I hope that all of you that follow this blog had a wonderful year, where you challenged yourself to move outside your comfort zone.  That you cherished your loved ones and made new memories.  And I hope above all that you laughed and loved to your fullest.

Happy New Year.

3 Responses to “The Holiday Letter”

  1. ML Rice says:

    Dear Michelle,
    I just read this aloud to your Dad and Jim (with your Dad’s permission). We are passing around the tissue and sending you love.
    Happy New Year.

  2. Shanna says:

    GREAT letter! Best one I got all year :o) Can't wait to see you in two months time!! x

  3. kc says:

    just catching up on your posts…this was a lovely letter.  miss your mom tremendously!  she's left you with an amazing spirit, carry it with you forever michelle…good luck next week in NZ.

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