Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Haha on Me

I did a whole blog this morning regarding Rachael Maddox' appearance on Dave Letterman show last night and instead of saving it deleted it.

I must  get a copy of her new book called Drift which she was promoting.  Loved one of her comments:  we should never let people who have a vested interest in a passing a particular piece of legislation vote on anything.  

We really have got ourselves in a fix with the real entitlements including "Unions" for civil servants jobs.  What a dirty joke for the next generations.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gentleman Jack? NOT!

It’s 3:45 am and I’m blogging.  I woke up to a fierce level of pain (sciatica) in my left hip and leg about two hours ago, so I stayed in bed for a long time trying to work it out.  I’ve been working on reviving my hip flexors with one of those Styrofoam rolls for the last couple of weeks and have had some success.  This morning, though, I don’t know what the heck happened.  I am usually a very good sleeper.

I lay in my warm bed for a long while, recalling my brief but stellar tennis career.  Boy did I ever have fun for about 4 years!  I guess I was thinking about it because yesterday my 16-year old grandson asked if I would hit some balls with him when the weather clear.  I kind of think it’s cute:  the baby boy wants to play tennis with his Gran!

A not so gentle man, by the name of Jack introduced me to the worst kind of tennis match I ever had.  It was my first “real” match, playing in real mixed doubles tournament, with my friend’s husband for my partner.  Bill and I were total greenies, and had played social mixed doubles where people understood that we 50-something newbie’s weren’t going to be much of a challenge.  Anyway we wanted to compete and what an introduction we got to Dirt Bag Tennis!

We came onto court, introduced ourselves and shook hands – tennis is such a gracious, polite game I’m getting the warmish just thinking about it.  We flipped a coin for who serves first then assumed our positions.  I played ad court (the one on the left) because I have a natural back hand; Bill played deuce court (the other one), and we won the toss for first serve.  

Bill served to Jack, who then drilled the ball hard into my chest.  It shocked me.   It was painful.
And I became Gentleman Jack’s game plan for the match.  Every time he got the ball he slammed it at me, hitting face, legs and chest way too often.  I was scared and furious and trembling tearful and shaky.  I held the racquet in front of my face for protection.

Our spouses were furious, and other spectators were jeering and Partner Bill asked if I wanted to withdraw.

“No Billy.  I’m going to try to teach him not to do this to me.  But I’ll be playing mostly off-court.”  I felt my voice tremble.  

“What do you mean by that?” 

“Just cover your side, Bill and let’s go get meat,” and Bill grinned. 

Dead Meat was a game a group of us Seniors collectively invented for our Friday night Newbie Social-Slam Club.  It meant trying our inexperienced best to steal points while drinking a measurable amount of homemade wine from Gordon’s Jug.  Over a dozen folks showed up to celebrate the coming weekend with this mixed doubles debacle.  We played non-ad sets of 4 points each.  

Players rotated in when a person on court screws up a point in any way.  That person is then booed off the court to the wind jug with the other three yelling “You’re Dead Meat!”  and a new person rotates in.  We always had a steady group of 50-somethings Seniors willing and ready for our fast-moving, barbarian tennis.

So on this wine-less day Tournament Day when Bill served, I stood about a yard off-court.  I could hear the crowd of twenty or so mumbling about my strategy.  Bill served, but now Jack could not return to me…because he was forced to hit it out and would lose the point.   So he returned to Bill who then lobbed the ball back to Jack’s partner, and she returned the ball nicely to my side of the court…. at which time I zipped in and returned it to her and left court.  She sent the ball to Bill; he “inadvertently” slammed it at Jack’ shorts.  Jack blocked it clumsily and sent me what I learned later was called a “perfect sitter” at the net.  

I saw it in freeze time, the yellow orb dangling over the net.  I ran on court backed by fury and without aiming hit it as hard as I could.

I heard a yelp as Gentleman Jack’s racket hit the court.  And I realized the fans were roaring; cheering me on!  This was terrible form in a tennis tournament!  Egged on by the crowd and Jack’s brutality I continued playing Dirt Tennis: remaining off court until I thought I could get the ball, and then aimed as best I could at Jack’s crotch. I got a couple of shots at his pants before we lost dismally.

I was fifty years old, and extremely new to tennis and thanks to Gentleman Jack, I never again experienced fear on the court. Being able to persevere under attack gave me great confidence. 

My tennis career was stellar, and like a comet: fast and very, very short. 

In the very beginning, I took a series of lessons by a pro that worked for our city recreation department.  Paul Sheppard taught me one serve that he promised would win me lots of “free points”.  It’s called a pronated serve, and he knew what he was doing.  Few people could return it, and to this day I don’t know why.  I don’t know what it looks like to receive: nobody else has my serve.  Opponents have told me the ball just doesn’t come up from the bounce.  

I went to the cub with my then fiancĂ© who played USTA competition tennis.  I was impressed with his teams going to District and Sectional championships.  I joined USTA as a 3.0 player and learned all the basics of court etiquette and scoring, etc.  And no matter whom I played with, my partner and I rarely lost.   I really wasn’t playing seriously; in my mind I was just having fun.

I found I had lots of time to myself being a newcomer to tennis.  I got bored with hanging out, waiting for Gary to hit with me so I took a bucket of balls, a couple of hundred and went down to the lower courts to practice serves.  At the time it was Paul’s pronated serve, the only way I knew how to serve.  I practiced serves for literally hours.  I worked on getting my ball toss really high, using a tree branch above one court as a target for the right ball height.   

My work attracted the attention of some of the club’s highest ranking National Champs who spent time with me teaching subtle varieties of grips and stances.  Their tips and my work paid off handsomely when I started to compete in doubles.  In retrospect, I had about 15 different serves using the same toss.

It was so fun during the first year or two, playing competitively.  And then during the Indian Wells Tennis Tournament which we attended for about ten years, I had the opportunity to hit some volleys against the Australian pro Mark Philippoussis!  I actually put one or two away on him. And I got to take a number of tennis clinics at Shadow Mountain Resort in Palm Desert, we stayed there for several seasons.  

I had no understanding how consistent my serve was until I had taken a few clinics at Shadow Mountain.  One day during serve practice the resort pros pulled me out and asked if they could test my “consistent serve” in front of the class by blind-folding me to see if I could get the ball over the net and into the service court.  I did several times in a row, and they put me in their teaching video.  They asked me in front of the camera how I developed such consistency and I answered it was those many hours and hundreds of balls all by myself on an obscure court, waiting for someone to play with.  Not what most people wanted to hear, I’m sure!

I ended up being in other training films demonstrating net volleys, overheads as well as “consistent” serving.  I thought the pros were just being kind and truly had no understanding that my skill level was notched up in a number of ways. 

Back home, when higher ranking teams asked me to fill in I thought they were just being kind.  I had no concept of anything other than just having fun with tennis and I guess I was innocently quite bold about inviting the better players to hit for a while with me.  They always did.

I paid no attention to my ranking on USTA’s website, because I didn’t consider myself a serious player.  My husband was always checking it to see the record of the next team he was playing.
I suppose he checked mine, but he never mentioned it, never told me that I had an excellent record of 24 wins, 2 losses.  I found it out by myself.

When opposing teams invited me come on board and play for them, I thought that was sweet.   Eventually I was recruited by a team in a nearby town that had been to District and Sectionals Championships and really wanted to make it to National Championships.  Two years later there we were, in Tucson, Arizona, ranked fifth in the Nation.  

I even have a small collection of trophies of my own now!  I do get a kick out of how funny how life is.  How quickly it can take one down from a huge high into crash and in just a matter of weeks.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

One Thousand Days

I feel as if I've come out of a drugged sleep. I’ve spent three whole years of digging myself out of a hole, barely doing life-maintenance duties?  Well, yes.  I chose which need is to be done this day in order to get by the next day. I discovered how and why "pain-brain" works: when I'm in great pain, my attention will be totally focused on ME getting relief, not listening to someone else’s instruction/commentary or to watching television – even less who is singing on television! If I'm focused elsewhere I’m branded forgetful, something we baby-boomers are very edgy about.  I learned it is my responsibility to say "Working on pain -hold that thought -be back later!"

I assumed I was fighting depression, but now I believe it was compression: because now, in 2012 I feel younger, lighter and am able to move so much easier. I'm not younger, but dang it I am much lighter in weight and spirit and am moving faster and easier than in the past decade.  I caught myself thinking of hitting a few balls on the courts yesterday.

So what did I learn in my thousand days? You might profit from my experiences:  1) avoid those who make me feel depressed; 2) So, you invited him/her/them into your space?  Ew - don't take it to heart, just breeeeeatttthhhe.  It will bore him/her and he/she will go away!  3)  I faithfully watch America's Funniest Videos daily:  it makes me laugh and is a Wonderful Total Release; 4) hugging my pets, dancing with my Border Collie; and 5) doing my best to get out in the sunshine & garden.  I require sunlight and in Northern California for the past three years guess what we have had a serious lack of?    5)  That second little glass of wine at the end of a tough day is guaranteed to set me up for even creakier joints the next day. One is Fun; two is Boo!  Often I stop with none, now.

My Great Compression gave me a chance to worry no longer about being one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who'd expected to work 'til we are seventy-ish and are now no longer required in the work force and all of the I don’t know what to do’s around this sad situation.  I found alternative works that have boosted my morale and my outlook on life in the field of writing.  So I'm now going back to blogging and will make certain not to pick subjects which serve to irritate me like Politi-caca, Econo-caca, and Eco-caca.

I will do only what I can do something about!  Redirecting my planet's Political/Economical/Ecological mess is NOT in that arena other than spreading awareness in general conversations (different from general conversions.)

I believe existing PEE frameworks must continue to buckle and fold.  I plan on being alive and useful for our rebuild.  Rebuilding is one of the things I do best.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Happily Surfacing from My Hiatus

New Start Blog
16 March 2012
1016 words

Well it’s not quite a whole year since I have blogged! Just two-thirds of one!  My last was in July.  I was planning on blogging a little more consistently really did think about blogging, but I guess I was working hard to pull myself out of the doldrums I’ve been in since I lost my job, my dogs, my sister and my health way back in the last quarter of 2007. 

Today, seeing it said on screen in black and white makes me have a much better appreciation of that 90 day “war” that more or less paralyzed me. 

The war was the beginning of a lot of firsts for me: first time I’d been on unemployment being the real revelation.  I was much vested in being a productive working woman, one with a talent:  Fraud Investigator and it became my identity.  I worked over 30 years in an industry that valued my abilities, hired me specifically for them and then one day no longer wanted my services. 

A few years later I saw clearly why.  My employer had gone to the dark side, dealing in fraud, not trying to avoid it.  When I first sensed the turn, my weight started to layer: hired for one thing then beat up over it. 

Then the other grieving didn’t help much.  Treatment for my back injuries caused me to gain more weight and created a moon face, someone I didn’t recognize represented me for several years.   

My 401k lost about 30% during the Bush Years, which I call the Zips due to the many Zeros involved; and, undiagnosed physical disabilities surfaced big time.  I dissolved my small business I created because I never was sure when I could meet a commitment or not.  I really took a dive, figuratively as well as physically. 

Looking back it appears my brain and body provided some real down time for me.  One always gets what one needs whether it is wanted or not.

Last year when I dropped the business, the remaining “wraparound” months of depression, accidents and lethargy served in re-energizing me by preventing me from much activity!

It didn’t seem like I was doing anything at all, but I’m sure seeing results -the best of which is a rather dramatic weight loss.  I’m thinking the weight is sliding off because my emotional/physical balance which had been so out of whack became balanced.  It took about ten years to pack my weight on and so far just months to slip down a couple of sizes.  You are what you eat they used to say.  For me I am "when" I eat – which requires grazing, not hard to do if one keeps handfuls of nuts and fruits (yep I’m 5th generation Californian) and tread lightly at the Wine Bar.  I’m sure it will be enhanced now with some regular home exercises. 

I’m expecting I can go back to walks long enough to tire my Border collie.  After all, I’m approaching my Third Act, as Jane Fonda calls it.  Like Jane, I’m working on my own memoirs.  I come from a shattered background, but I never knew much about my parent’s lives as neither liked to discuss the subject; maybe I was too young to inquire.

So I was born in a dark room that got darker with each passing of my immediate birth family.  Nobody lived as long as I have so far, not even my brother Bill, who was eighteen months older then me.  I used to think I would write The Great American Memoir about my life after everyone died.  The title I selected was to have been Now That They’re All Dead

Well, they are all dead, having been for 15 years now.  And happily I am finding that all are not dead!  Not everybody!! No, I am surrounded by cousins I never new I had; and one, Mom’s sister’s son, who I recall vaguely from my toddler days.  He laughed when I said all I remember was his trousers, his looong trousers with his pin-head on top.  I couldn’t have been older than two or three, and he was a teenager.

I remember a number of people this way from the toddler days, especially my mother’s mother “Nana”.  She was so mean that I made it my business to avoid her at all times.  She was a grey haired troll with a tiny head perched above enormous bosoms.  She might twist my cheek if I got close enough.   Later on I hated Nana because she always made my mother cry.  A half century later I learned why she made her cry:  it is the adage of the scorpion.

I decided to try an online genealogical site offering free trial for two weeks.  I have now been on it for nearly two years and am amazed at the story unfolding about grandparents I never knew I had and their parents – all emigrated as colonists!  I doubt that either of my parents knew anything about that.

And research indicates that a big “Booga-Booga” that affected my parents and their families at the turn of the 19th Century:  two scandalous divorces, several abandoned children, a riffraff of step parents and half-brothers, an unknown adoption, and finally, my mother’s kidnapping by her natural father. 

I now have a great respect for the difficult upbringing my mother gave me:  she created a survivor, because she didn’t know what the hell to do with children.  I only wish she could know that I not only was going to be okay, I would be successful, well travelled, and resilient, even into my own Third Act!

Every day I am writing about 3,000 words and am seriously pursuing my dream of writing.  A memoir for sure, but I think instead it will be called Living an Unremembered Life.  That will cover their past histories coupled with my own experiences in dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It may not sound like much of a happy note I’m ending this on, but believe me, it feels like one.