Mix a French Printer and an American Writer and Watch the Fireworks Explode

IMG_4003_copyAfter 30 years, ze Frenchman said, “I am so sick of hearing about the damn book, publish it yourself.”

So I brushed off the dust of a manuscript I had worked on with 3 agents and a dozen different editors and started over again. Long before I felt that the 88th edition was ready, my other half gave me an ultimatum, “Now or never!”

Unite a pragmatic, logical, French, feet-on-the-ground-no-nonsense-businessman and a flighty, idealistic, touchy-feely artsy American writer and then watch the fireworks! I live in my dreams. He worries about reality – about spaces, margins, and quality of images.

Ze Frenchman, a CEO in printing, formerly headed a French book printing company; now he manages newspapers in Switzerland on a 24-hour deadline. However, I have worked on this memoir nearly half a century changing the content according to the whims of a regiment of editors.

“I hate WORD (the computer program)!”  I hear ze Frenchman scream from our attic office.

Ze American loves words. I am driven by words. Do they dance across the page delighting the reader?

“If your cover doesn’t catch the eye, no one will open your book.”

I worry about content; he focuses on form.

Meanwhile the website crashes. Spammers from outer space invaded the blog. Drafts are lost in cyberspace.

“Putain, vérole, bordel de merde!” he yells enriching my French vocabulary.

I learn new curse word every time something goes wrong upstairs in the attic. I jump, fearing his foot, slammed so hard, will smash through the floorboards.

What in the heck were we thinking publish a book? He wants it to be done; I want it to be perfect.IMG_3961_copy

His reputation is not at stake, he is the loving husband who endured three decades of his wife’s eccentricities: writer’s block, creative outbursts, artist angst.

I want to reread, revise, re edit, resubmit. The Frenchman says, “Non! Stop!”

I press forward, trying to sneak in one more rewrite quickly, so the Boss will get off my back! Fine for him to say “Just Do It,” he’s not the one standing on the high dive with acrophobia!

There is no hand holding, no coddling, no ego stroking, back patting, confidence boosting. It is just YOU and your idea flying solo through the universe on a wing and a prayer. Self-doubt is your sidekick.

I second-guess myself on every sentence. My English language fluency regresses daily. I live in a country with four national languages – none of which are English -and work in an international school where students speak in 84 different mother tongues.

Ze Frenchman adds a comma. I take it out. He questions the origins of a word. “You can’t use that word in English. It’s French.”

“No it is not.”

“Yes it is.”

We race to our respective language dictionaries.

“It’s not in Webster’s,” I lament.

“It is not in the French dictionary either. You can’t make up words with nice rhythms, just so they can dance!”

Oh la la…how is a marriage to survive.

What was I thinking?  Write a book.

Ta da boom! Three decades later, longer than it took to raise our doctor daughter, my dream, -his nightmare- takes shape.

Together we created a book baby, Home Sweet Hardwood, A Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Barriers Through Basketball. I hope that my story inspires readers of all ages to never give up on their dreams. He hopes that after publication, I will quit writing.

I could never, ever have attempted to publish a book without my techie sidekick, to whom I am forever grateful for standing by me.

What advice would ze Frenchman offer anyone embarking on such an all-consuming endeavor?

“Never marry a writer!  Especially an American!”

 

 

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“Olympic” Moms Teach Us To Get Up

first stepsFrom the moment a baby takes its first step, a mom’s heart is torn. With one hand, Mom beckons her toddler forward, while the other hand lingers behind ready to catch the fall. In the push-pull of motherhood, moms encourage children to step up to the next challenge, while longing to hold them back in the warm, safe, cocoon of unconditional love, knowing full well the world will never be so nonjudgmental and forgiving.

My mom cringed each time I got knocked flat playing sports. After every concussion, broken bone, and heart wrenching disappointment, never did she suggest that I should give up the game I love.

In turn, when the time came, I perched on the edge of a hard bleacher – my heart was lodged in my throat each time my child hit the hardwood. Yet, I continued to drive my kids to and from practices and games, doctors and chiropractors.

My daughter, long and lean, had so many injuries during her career that she received birthday cards from the urgent care center. From the time my hyperactive son’s feet hit the floor, he ran recklessly, slicing open his hand before the age of two, splitting his head as a 4-year-old.roller skate

Sprained ankles, twisted knees, separated ribs, compressed vertebrae, broken fingers. During my son’s ankle surgery in the middle of the night, I lay awake worrying about the long-term effect of a growth plate break in early adolescence. Would his right leg be shorter than the left one?

A shattered finger. A bruised rib. A broken dream. An ice pack, a back rub, a favorite meal. Moms know instinctively how to comfort, to console, to care.

After every setback, I cheered. “Go ahead try out”… for the team, the band, the play, the scholarship, the job.

“What if I don’t make it, Mom?”

“Don’t worry. There will be another game, performance, employment. Don’t give up.”

Very few kids will stand on an Olympic podium, but whether they play sports or put their energy into other interests, our children will be stronger for having given it their best shot.

Life will knock them on their butts. More than once. The greatest lesson a parent can impart is, « Get back up!”

When children need the extra oomph to rise after those discouraging losses, thwarted goals, career-ending injuries, Mom will be there with a helping hand, a kind word, and a chocolate cookie.

My dad taught me how to throw a ball and shoot a basket, but Mom was the one who listened to my fears, wiped away my tears and encouraged me to follow my dream. I’d apologize for unloading my problems, but after teaching all day, my strong Norwegian-American mom would point to her back and say, “I can carry the weight. God gave me broad shoulders.”

We all stand on shoulders of the women who brought us into the world.

And every mother knows there is an « Olympian » in each child, then coaches it out of them.

“This remind me of you,” my daughter posted on social media acknowledging that strength passed on from one generation to the next

Thanks, Mom. For teaching us that falling only makes us stronger.

Congratulations to all the competitors at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games!

And to the moms that picked them up every step of the way.cross country skiing Jura

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Never Too Late to Play – Join Boomer Basketball Clubs Across USA

Hey, it’s hoop time. Today anyone can find a team and play at any age and skill level. It wasn’t always this way at least not for girls. In 1980, I left my homeland to continue playing basketball abroad, after my professional team collapsed due to lack of support. I thought one of the best things about living in Europe was their club system where anyone could play any kind of ball.

Last summer I was thrilled to speak at National Senior Games and see that the New World finally caught up with the Old World. Now basketball clubs exist for women, all ages, many who grew up pre Title IX and never had the opportunity to play as children.

One of the biggest perks of speaking at the NSG on behalf of National Senior Women’s Basketball Association was meeting a dynamic group who love sport, fitness and promoting a passion for playing games.

Kudos for these ladies from coast to coast, who have been promoting the game for boomers.

Kirsten Cummings, a personal trainer, spearheaded NSWBA, a non profit organization promoting Fitness for Life, Basketball Forever. Kirsten never let physical limitations define her. Though she is hearing impaired, she became a top flight professional basketball player who competed overseas for 14 years  and now heads the San Diego contingency. Kirsten was joined in the movement by Helen White, NOVA Basketball and Deb Smith, owner of Not Too Late basketball camp.

On the East Coast, Helen is a founding member and first President of the NOVA United Senior Women’s Basketball Association, located in Northern Virginia. She helped initiate the local Think Pink and National Girls and Women in Sport Day. In collaboration with the WNBA, she arranged for NOVA United teams to play half-time exhibition games during Mystics and Liberty games. In addition, to raise awareness of senior basketball and to show support for the professional players, she connected senior women’s teams in Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, New York, and Texas with WNBA teams in Connecticut, Houston, San Antonio, and Minnesota.

Deb Smith, a Senior National Games board member, is the owner and director of the Not Too Late Basketball Camp for women ages 50 and above. In 2001, she received the State of Maine’s Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Individual Award. She is the Coordinator of the Maine Senior Women’s Basketball Program and plays on the Maine team, where she can post up, block out and board with the best.

In Dallas, Kay Seamayer is founder and president of Basketball and Fitness for Senior Women in the Dallas area where she plays on the 65+ Texas All Stars team, and serves as head coach. They also promote senior women’s basketball through their “Granny Globetrotter” halftime show with exhibition play at WNBA, NBA, colleges, universities, and special events including a special promotion with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Women have arrived! Want more proof? My sister plays on a women’s team with her 24-year-old daughter.20140209_185251

So lace up those hightops, ladies.

Gear up for the Senior Games 2015!

Minneapolis here we come!

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In High School Basketball Friendship Wins, Cancer Loses

I spent the first half of my life fighting to be allowed on the court and the second half learning to graciously cheer for others when I could no longer play the game I loved.

ISG teamEven though I can’t drive the baseline anymore, I get a kick out of seeing the players I coach at the International School of Geneva make a perfect pass, hit a jumper, and run a fast break.

Teamwork is a beautiful thing. I love watching well-balanced WNBA teams like the Minnesota Lynx run the floor or the precise passing of the UWSP college women. None of that coast-to-coast garbage.

But high school basketball is best. Players put their heart and soul on the line every week in front of the family, friends and community that shaped them. They play, not for money, or prestige, but for the camaraderie and love of the game. Most of these young athletes won’t make the college roster; even fewer will sign a pro contract. But the lessons learned on the hardwood during their chaotic, fleeting adolescence last forever.

Not a day goes by where I don’t wish I could still play basketball; not a minute passes where I don’t forget how lucky I am to be here wishing just that, because I could very well be 6 feet under. I am grateful to be in the game even if only from the sidelines. I love giving halftime talks, drawing up last second plays, and encouraging kids to gut it out in tough circumstances.

If I ever forget the gift of “overtime” on my own game clock, a twinge in my back, an ache in my shoulder, or a pain in my skull – repercussions from my accident – remind me of the other option. Life took on new meaning after I came so close to losing mine.

Fortunately, rarely is a young athlete confronted with his/her mortality.

Some win. Some lose. Some survive. Some die. Cancer, a formidable foe, strikes down opponents indiscriminately, but the loss is particularly painful when the disease steals the life of a child.

Hopefully most teenagers won’t be confronted with cancer, but they have all faced hard times which were made easier with the support of that special parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, teacher, coach or friend. When an innovative basketball coach at Bishop McGuinness High School in Greensboro suggested that his players dedicate the game to someone who had influenced their lives, he never expected his idea to go global.

One of his players, Spencer Wilson dedicated his game ball to an inspirational friend on the cancer ward, Josh Rominger.

On January 24th in that North Carolinian gym filled to capacity, a boy made a 50-foot last second shot to win the game in memory of a friend and found the courage to carry on.

Sooner or later, we will be faced with those defining moments when our best laid plans and deepest hopes are derailed by injury, illness, accidents and unforeseen disaster. Do we give up or go on?

We get one chance. To give it our best shot. To dedicate our game.

Bad stuff happens. So do miracles.

Friendship is eternal.

Keep fighting.

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Swiss Champions U21 – June 2008
Christoph Varidel,Paul Costello, Nicolas Lechault, Michael Shumbusho, Alex Gromadski

Together.

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Congratulations, Debbie! Your name was selected in a random drawing of commenters to receive a copy of my memoir, Home Sweet Hardwood: A Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Barriers Through Basketball.

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Little Free Libraries Bring Books to Your Neighborhood

First_Little_Free_Library_-schoolhouseWhat an innovative idea to promote reading. In Hudson, Wisconsin, in a tribute to his mom, who was a book lover and a teacher, Todd Bol built a miniature little red school house, stuck it on a post in his front yard, and filled it with books to share. Since its inception in 2009, ‘The Take A Book, Leave A Book’ movement, which took off especially in the Upper Midwest, has gone global.

The goal was to create over 2,509 Little Free Libraries to exceed the number of large libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie from 1883 to 1929. It also commemorated a courageous librarian, Miss Lucie Stearns, who between1895-1914 brought nearly 1400 little traveling libraries to different parts of Wisconsin.

IMG_4348_copyMy sister, Karen, told me about a Little Free Library (LFL) located a half a block from her house in Golden Valley, Minnesota. While visiting her, we ventured out on the coldest day of century because I couldn’t wait to see it. Under a cobalt sky, the snow-covered, rooftop of a dollhouse-sized hut, brimmed full of books. I would have loved to browse and pick up a book for my flight home, but my fingers froze merely posing for the photo. What an honor to discover that Karen had tucked a copy of my book, Home Sweet Hardwood into her neighborhood library.

I shared the gift of reading, a love passed on from my grandparents and parents, with my children. While growing up, my kids read under the bed covers, in the bathtub, and even à table. During dinner, they sneaked peeks at their books hidden under the dinner table to avoid their father’s scowling eyes. The ultimate taboo in a French family to focus on anything other than food while dining!reading on the lake

Though reading may seem like a lost art and books sales have dropped, surprising The Little Free Library movement is booming. All 50 states and 40 countries have been involved. Grass roots movements to bring books to remote parts of the world and help produce literacy in India and Africa have grown. Hudson High School (Wisconsin) students built mini libraries and shipped them to Africa where local Rotary Clubs installed them. LFL has also partnered with Going to School, an organization which brings books to schools in India. All across the USA schools are joining, like in Minnesota, where the Minneapolis School District, LFL, and local sponsors have combined to bring 100 Little Free Libraries to Northern Minneapolis.

As of January 2014, an estimated 15,000 Little Free Libraries exist worldwide. To find one in your neighborhood, consult the index. LFLs can be found in England, France, Italy, and other European countries, but as far I know none exist in Switzerland yet. However, if I can get past the bureaucratic red tape, I am building one in my front yard, modeled like a miniature Swiss chalet, natürlich.

Join the movement. Take a book, return a book, meet a neighbor, make a friend, build a library, create a community.DSCN1346_copy

In support of Little Free Libraries worldwide, I am giving away a copy of my memoir Home Sweet Hardwood to a commentator whose name will be selected in a random drawing. The winner will be announced next week.

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Hug a Coach Day – Celebrating Our Mentors

IMG_4467_copyAfter 3 decades wondering what I should do with my life, I found my calling. From waitress to lifeguard to pro basketball player to journalist to educator, I have taught everything from primary PE to freshman English to learning support.

Whether I am teaching a 6th grader to do a forward roll, a dyslexic child to spell, a 10th grader to understand Shakespeare, a senior to write a personal statement or a ball player to make a jump shop… I am a coach.

When I help kids makes sense of their lives, my life makes sense to me. 

I help students discover their strengths, so they can one day navigate solo in our fast paced world filled with overwhelming demands and challenges.

However, when I was growing up, coaching was not an option. How could a girl have a coaching career if female athletes were non-existent and women weren’t allowed to participate in sports?

Today, coaching is in vogue. Coaching specialties run the gamut including life and personal coaches, to health/wellness/fitness/ coaches to business/leadership/executive coaches to organizing/ career/creativity coaches to parenting and retirement coaches. Even ADHD coaches are listed to identify tools to assist those with attention deficit hyperactivity and to develop positive coping strategies for every day life and specific tasks.

When I randomly googled transition coaches, Paula Ray’s website popped up. She explained the that transitional coaches base their principle on different disciplines, and states that her coaching philosophy is rooted in biomimicry.  Huh? It’s no surprise that Paula Ray, who sounds like a New Age guru, is based in Del Mar, California.

Here is a list of some of the transition coach specialties.

    • Transition from one extreme socio-economic level to anotherCoach Mac in action_copy
    • Transition from a stress-filled negative life into a life you love
    • Transition from one extreme socio-economic level to another in a short period of time
    • Transition out of a corporate career
    • Transition into your most enjoyable, rewarding and healthy retirement
    • Transition in marital status
    • Transition from an energy draining career to an exhilarating one
    • Transition through unexpected health care challenges

But hey, I am not knocking the career.  No way. After my parents, coaches had the single greatest influence in my life.

Now everyone from CEOs to writers to retirees discuss their favorite buzzword, my coach. Once upon a time, coaching was learned almost by osmosis from playing a sport, now college degrees in coaching abound. Ohio University offers a Coaching Education master’s program to prepare coaches with the knowledge they need to become elite coaches.

Hopefully more female athletic coaches will join the ranks because they serve as excellent role models for girls. Like men have known for years, sports teaches life lessons and teams provide the best training grounds for the work place.

Women'sBasketballNorthernKentucky_Feb1979_L39O-2-79_ACCESS_copy

Legendary ISU Coach Jill Hutchison

Yep, everything I needed to know I learned in basketball.

      • Life is not fair. Get over it.
      • Leave your ego in the locker room
      • Pass to the open player
      • Rebound, rebound, rebound
      • Learn from each mistake
      • Hustle at all times
      • Lose graciously
      • Win humbly
      • Always credit teammates
      • Never give up

With all the emphasis on coaching nowadays, I propose we add a new celebration to the calendar.

 

In loving memory of my grandfather Ralph « Mac » McKinzie, a coach extraordinaire, I hereby declare December 7th as the official Thank Your Mentor Day!

Coach Mac October 1, 1894 December 7,1990

Coach Mac
October 1, 1894 December 7,1990

Have you hugged your coach today?

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