Call Me Coach – A March Madness Epiphany
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IMG_4467_copyEver the misfit, I struggled to find my niche as an athletic girl on the cusp of Title IX. Even in adulthood, I continued to wonder what I was supposed to be doing with my life. During March Madness when I checked scores and brackets long distance, it dawned on me. I am a coach.

Last year, I had opportunity of a lifetime to speak at the DIII Final Four at UWSP. For the first time since moving abroad, I experienced March Madness firsthand. I marveled at the evolution of the woman’s game and realized the impact the pioneers had in paving the way.

Some children know what they want to be from the time they are five-years-old; I was in my fifth decade before I figured it out. In kindergarten, my dad announced that he wanted to coach like his dad, Coach Mac. But when I was growing up coaching never crossed my mind; girls weren’t allowed to play ball, so how could a woman make a career out of coaching.

I used to think that I was born to play basketball, but when that dream ended abruptly it took me decades to grow into my real calling.

I went on to coach middle school, junior varsity, and varsity girls’ and boys’ teams. I called La Chat boys teamplays in English, German, and French and learned to swear in a dozen different languages. When the opportunity arose, I humbly assisted coaching a wheelchair basketball team in Germany. I was equally inspired teaching kids with Down Syndrome how to shoot hoops.

As I helped athletes cope with divorce, depression, disappointment, academic pressure and the death of loved ones, we held it together with jump shots, high fives and team huddles. We created a bond that one cannot fathom unless having been a part of a team.

During hard times, sometimes the only difference between hope and despair was knowing that someone believes in you.

Coaching at an international school in an international league, every year the team composite is unique – with African, American, French, German, English, Indian, Japanese, Philippine, Puerto Rican, Scottish, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Uruguayan players– but the outcome remains the same. We put differences aside to become a tight knit group in pursuit of our goals. We shared our camaraderie, competitive drive and love of the game.

In a lifetime of seasons, coaches never really know how many lives they helped shape. La Chat teamRecently, one of my former players – who now runs marathons and the Wellness Program of entire city – honored me by calling me her mentor on the front page of the local newspaper.

Though I have won my share of championships, there is no greater testimony of success when working with kids, than seeing them as productive adults.

“It’s not about trophies,” Coach Mac said it best to the Chicago Tribune in 1985, “The important thing is how you develop your athletes, how you mold their hearts and minds. The real reward is being able to look at your athletes in later years and seeing how you’ve contributed to the development of their character, so that they can serve as leaders of their community.”

In college, I thought I would save the country, as a social worker instead I became an international coach guiding kids from ‘round the globe, to go out and save the world.

I never dreamed I’d see the day when one of the senior boys would stop me in the hall to say, “What’s up, Coach.”

I have arrived! Today even the guys address me with respect.

They call me coach.

riding the rails to another tournament

riding the rails to another tournament

Stitching a Memory Quilt Made of People
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images-1Though my mom is a quilting bee extraordinaire, I can’t sew a stitch to save my life. Not even a button. But I do have a knack for knitting folks together. The Internet made it easier to weave the people in my past and present into a wonderful patchwork.

I didn’t blog about my birthday so people would shower me with wishes; I certainly didn’t post it twice on Facebook to get more likes. That mistake was due to my technological ineptitude. But a neat thing happened anyway, especially after I posted birthday wishes to my baby sister born the day after me. Comments from literally around the world gave me a heartwarming lift.

Growing up with 3 siblings 5 years apart, we shared not only clothes and closet space, but also friends. School classmates multiplied by 4 gave me oodles of childhood chums. Sterling logoWithout any explanation, they understood what it was like to live for Friday Night Lights in Golden Warrior Territory. They grew up jerking burgers, selling pizzas and mowing lawns for pocket money with the taste of corn on the cob, Maid Rites and RC Cola imprinted in their minds forever. Each completed a piece of the mosaic of my roots growing up in Illinois.

Circles existed long before the advent of Google+. They were called family, school, church, community, and team. My college family, basketball buddies, summer friends – cabin dwellers sharing lake lore – form other squares.

Friendships from parts of the globe where I have spent time, as well as my Norwegian family up by the North Pole, create other patches. My international community of colleagues in Switzerland from Canada, France, England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, and Trinidad add other block.

Teams representing different ages and stages of my life add a colorful motif of mascots: Sterling Golden Warriors, ISU Redbirds, UWSP purple Pointers, Paris blue Rebels, Geneva green Hawks.

My cyber friends, the writing buddies like Lynne in California, Debbie in Central Illinois, Kathy in New York, Clara in Chicago, Helene in New Jersey, Sharon and Anne on the Midlife Boulevard bringing me laughter and inspiration through their words, add their own Hoops quiltunique pattern.

Friends my folks age to my own former students, to the pals of now my grown children form other pieces of my multicultural, cross-generational comforter.

During February, I wallowed in misery with the duvet pulled up to my nose, lamenting my misfortune bedridden with illness, but only weeks later I was reminded how blessed I am.

Just like the piecework stitched lovingly by my mom, I wrapped up in my memory quilt of people to ward away cold, fend off sickness, and shield my soul from heartache.

I am the thread binding this colorful kaleidoscope of images-3humanity.

And so are you. And that is a beautiful thing.

Next time you are ill or down in the dumps, crawl under the covers and have a good cry, then draw that cozy comforter up to your chinny, chin, chin and image being wrapped in a patchwork of people making up your own life quilt.

Playing the On Line Dating Game By Accident
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stock-vector-vector-cartoon-of-swiss-man-walking-st-bernard-rescue-dog-in-mountains-230097001What have I done this time? With my technological ineptitude, I signed up for this crazy kind of online dating game, not once, not twice, but a half a dozen times.

Now Fritz, Gunther and Ueli want to meet me.

Geez, what will I do if one of these Swiss mountain men show up ringing my doorbell?

How do I get myself into these things?

The first time it happened and I starting receiving messages from handsome strangers, I pleaded to the techie sidekick I married to come to my rescue. “Help! Get me out of this!”

And he roared. “You got yourself into it, you get yourself out of it!”

So I appealed to my daughter, who laughed even louder. But she took pity on me and disabled the link to OKCupid with a word of warning, “Mom, quit clicking on every pop up that appears on your page!”

Now I have done it again! I am in even deeper doo doo.

When something pops up on my screen and I want to make it disappear, abracadabra, I click, click, click like a nervous tick. Before I know it I have subscribed to dozens of sites from around the globe. Now Jean-Marc, Paul-Henri, and Pierre-Andre are sending a big bonjour from villages across France. Jurgen, Helmet, and Ludwig are grüssen me from die Strasse of Germany. Juan, Santiago and Diego are shouting hola from the tabernas of german_previewSpain.

With organizations catering for every age and interest group in every language, the variety of combinations is endless. Check it out: Edarling. Meetic, Amoureux, France, Elite Partner, Friendscout.24, Parship, DatingCafe, Finya, OK Cupid, Plenty of Fish, Baboo….

Heck, I was never adept at real dating back in the day; I would be clueless navigating the cyber dating scene in 2015. Can you believe this? Sites members can upload photos and videos of themselves as well as browse the photos and videos of others. Sites also offer additional services, such as webcasts, online chat, telephone chat (VOIP), and message boards. Get out. Next step… virtual marriage.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking Internet relationships. I know an intelligent, lovely, young lady who met her future husband on-line and if that wasn’t a match made in heaven, they even had the same surname. When they wed years later, she didn’t have to change her name.

But holy cow, I am no spring chicken, I can barely keep up with this one Frenchmen, Lord knows I don’t need a houseful of yodelers.

Any advice out there from you techni- sauvé gurus in the cyberworld?

Eek! Eek! How do I disengage from the on line dating game merry go round?

imagesHey, BTW while I am busy untangling this virtual mating snafu, any avid storytellers out there may want to pop over to my friend Kathy Pooler’s Memoir Writing Journey blog on Monday and see my guest post, “All I Needed to Know about Writing I Learned Playing Ball.

See you next week unless Wilhelm drags me off to his cave.

Another Birthday, Another Ball Game, Another Big Reminder
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image1Why is it the older we get the less we feel like celebrating our birthdays? We knock ourselves out planning parties for babies who have no clue what is going on and then when we reach those senior age milestones when we really should be rejoicing at reaching another year, we downplay the idea trying pretend we are not aging, not a day over 40something.

When you feel like you have been granted 9 lives, birthdays feel like a blessing. The earliest birthday I recall is when my mom made me a bunny shaped cake covered in coconut. Growing up celebrating with my lil’ sis whose birthday is March 1st only doubled the fun. And who can forget those slumberless parties as teens when friends gathered in your basement giggling and offering earrings that turned your newly pierced ears green. Ah, part of the joy was picking out that perfect present at the brand new Northland Mall.

But wB-partyhat I associate most with my birthday is ball games because my birthday always fell during the height of basketball season. In the day before Instagram, I freeze framed those priceless moments in my mind when my folks came to my game carrying a cake and teammates gathered round in a corner of the gym to celebrate. Regardless of the outcome of the game, I felt like a winner.

What makes birthdays so meaningful is not really the fanfare, cards, or cake –although I do LOVE cake – it is knowing that family, friends, colleagues, teammates, and players want to commemorate the day you were born.

So how am I celebrating this birthday? I’ll be in a bus on a road trip to Zurich to coach my team in a Swiss basketball tournament. We will laugh and sing and share chocolate cake and Cutie Pies and I will feel like a kid again. We will enjoy being together, sharing the moment, knowing that we will never pass this way again.

From the surprise party my husband threw me in a Swiss wine cellar, to the unexpected cakes appearing in my classes, to the time my friend and her daughter decorated my homeroom, bringing cheesecake for breakfast, the birthday memories blur. The place and party may change but what remains the same is the date on the calendar, and the way the people around you fill your heart, the touching little ways they remind you they are happy that you are still around to celebrate.

Oh yeah, even though my back may be breaking, my knees aching, my legs quaking, I am dancing today!

I’m Baacckkkk!
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http://www.dreamstime.com/-image1188925Back from the brink. Again. I felt like I had one foot in the grave and the other in quicksand. Though I sure don’t feel like dancin’ yet, I can hear the music again and it sounds oh so sweet. I am recovering from what could easily have developed into a life threatening illness. Ever the athlete, I gallantly battled forward sucking up the pain until I was very ill. I’ll spare the details cause diarrhea is not the sort of thing one wants to know details about. Suffice it to say, it’s scary when no matter what you eat goes through you as fast as it hits your digestive track.

Food is life; the human body is a miracle machine.

I never stopped to think how a chomp of that apple could turn into a cell-fueling vitamin. From teeth to tongue, down the gullet to the stomach through the intestines, with the liver, gall bladder, and pancreas adding to the mix. What bio chemical processes allow enzymes to disassemble macromolecules, to take whole foods, and turn them into nutrients, to allow the body to function, grow, and repair itself? Ingestion. Secretion. Mixing. Movement. Digestion. Absorption. Excretion. Wow! The digestive system is an amazing assembly line with so many bit and bobs that can break down anytime.

I lost 15 pounds in a week while kind offers poured in from around the globe of people willing to part with spare kilos. Alas, no one would agree to allow me to choose of which body part I took the weight from.

For days, I dragged from couch to bed doubled over. Clostridium difficile colitis rates right up there at the top of the pain pyramid alongside acute sciatic and late stage labor.

I couldn’t write a blog. Heck, I couldn’t even string words together and speak a coherent sentence.canstock8394947

In the middle of the night when my intestines turned inside out and twisted into a fiery knot, I succumbed to fear. With the devil looking in me in the eye and laughing, I whispered prayers. Oh yea of little faith.

Without H2O and antibiotics, no wonder entire Third World villages are wiped out by this bad bug. With my head bowed to the porcelain throne, I praised the Lord for running water, toilet paper, and modern plumbing.

When I realized I survived another night, I offered thanks to those who stick by me during the toughest times.

To a BFF who hears my tears long distance and shushes me saying, “Nooo, don’t cry…it will make it hurt worse. Let me tell you a funny story.”

To a daughter who reminds me the latest studies show it’s okay to eat whatever sounds good when the thought of another banana made me nauseous.

To family members who drop everything to reach out with phone calls from across 6 different time zones.

To mon bonhomme who nursed me to back to health. Again. Oh, if only I could be cured by his sublime cuisine.

Never, never under estimate the power of the healing touch even through cyberspace.

Now I am impatient; I learned my lesson. I want to get in the driver’s seat and cruise back into the relentless pace of the living. But my legs still buckle under me, my head still spins and I have yet to gain a gram. Enough already. I get it.

Why me? Why not me?

Suffering does not discriminate.

I am discouraged, but my outlook will improve when I start gaining back strength physically. I’ve been down and out before especially in February. And this ain’t nothin compared to that car accident thirtysome years ago.

Ah, February, my month of reflection. I am reminded again: life is a gift. We are blessed with another day. Fill it with kindness. Surviving is tough enough. Think of the magic your body performs every bite “of life” you take.lake in winter