Swimming Hope Laps for Serenity

When discouraged as a child I would play ball until my mood lifted. Now as an adult, as I face down demons and depression from a disease that threatens to defeat me and from alarming, discouraging world events, I swim in defiance. I swim hope laps for serenity. I can’t hurt myself in water. Without the pressure of gravity pulling on my knees, back, shoulders, I glide through the water weightlessly pain free. In my darkest moments, I swim. I would rather shoot hoops, climb mountains, run marathons, but illness and injury make those options impossible. Instead I swim. If I can still swim, I can hang onto hope for a better day.

I would much rather swim with sisters in open water than alone in public pools. It’s boring swimming from one end to the other, so instead of counting laps I say prayers. After a few times down and back, slapping the water in fury, fuming over my personal state and my trials, I shift my focus to others that I know are facing even greater challenges. Each length I think of someone else.

I backstroke down one lap focusing on my French sister-in-law and niece who are struggling, and my uncle who underwent emergency brain surgery after a fall. Then down a lap for my mom who is the caregiver and back one for my dad whose heart and legs grow weaker from neuropathy. Down a length for another uncle who lost his wife and back for my cousin who lost her mom.

I breaststroke for my brother-in-law who still suffers from a car accident that injured his neck. I breaststroke for my student whose mom battles cancer. I swim for my friend on dialysis, for my friend with leukemia, for my friend fighting depression.

Then my circle of thoughts widens to reflect on the world. I swim for the people caught in the crossfire of nature’s wrath. For the victims of wildfires in California, for the folks in Texas, Alabama, Florida, Puerto Rico, whose homes have been decimated by hurricanes, for the Mexicans suffering in the aftermath of earthquakes. And I freestyle harder and faster in frustration and despair for the innocent victims of man made violence, for the families whose lives were shattered instantly in the Las Vegas mass shooting and terrorist attacks in London, Paris, Brussels, Mogadishu and elsewhere around the globe.

I don’t have to look far to see someone far worse off facing even greater obstacles.

Swimming puts my problems in perspective.

I inhale serenity, exhale anger, inhale tranquility, exhale anxiety, inhale calm, exhale hostility.

Maybe we should all take to the water in prayer to sooth our troubled souls and focus on bringing serenity to mankind.

Breath in hope. Breath out hate.

May peace be with you today.

My Minnesota Lynx Win WNBA Championship

Minnesota Lynx Win WNBA ChampionshipHow do I put into words my emotions at being part of a packed arena of WNBA Minnesota Lynx fans cheering for women playing basketball? Almost 40 years after my teammates and I played ball with empty stomachs in empty arenas in the fledgling WBL, the first women’s pro league, I witnessed the first game of a WNBA final series between the nation’s 2 best teams.

The Lynx hosted the LA Sparks in front of 11,823 fans electrifying historic Williams Arena (University Minnesota) known as the “Barn.” Four league MVPs –Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, Candace Parker, Nneke Ogwumike – and Alana Beard, defensive MVP, matched up on the floor to compete.

From the moment I entered the arena, I felt like a star, as I pulled on my complimentary 2017 MVP Sylvia Fowles T-shirt draped over my seat. Before tip off as tradition, fans stood until the Lynx scored their first basket. Only they didn’t score.

The Lynx started the game with a 28-2 point deficit and clawed their way back into the game. In the final minutes, the score ricocheted back and back forth and noise reached a crescendo.

The Barn rocked. The roar deafened. The intensity grew. In the end, my Lynx lost by one point on a fade away jumper by Chelsea Gray in the last 3 seconds. My disappointment was short-lived; they were all winners in my book exemplifying what it means to be champions.

Using sport as a platform to bring about positive change, and in solidarity with the NFL, LA Sparks stayed in the locker room for the national anthem and the Lynx players stood and faced the American flag with their arms locked together in unity.

The athleticism of players like Maya Moore, hanging in the air with Jordanesque moves, or Sylvie Fowles ripping the ball off the glass was stunning; their ability to defy age was equally commendable. With a median age of 30.7 Lynx players, the oldest average in league, showed the young bloods, they still got game.Minnesota Lynx Win WNBA Championship

Nowhere I’d rather to be than Lynx home court. Where else are we offered such wholesome entertainment?

In “our house” we put our differences aside and people of every age, race, and religious affiliation share a moment of good, clean fun. We sang, we danced, we chanted, we waved rally towels, we held our breath in suspense.

For me seeing kids wearing Lynx jerseys emblazoned with favorite players’ names brought the greatest joy. In the children’s eyes dreams sparkled. Today no girl grows up feeling like a misfit, an oddball, or a loser for being big, strong, and athletic. She knows that she belongs on the court, in the classroom, and at the head of the company.

The subliminal girl power message was not lost on me a Title IX pioneer who fought so hard for the right to participate in “boys” games.

How fitting that I should watch the game with my little sister and my daughter. After each great play, Karen fist bumped me with her 1977 first ever girls’ Illinois state basketball championship ring. My daughter, who developed the perseverance playing ball to reach her dream to become a doctor, pumped her fist.Minnesota Lynx Win WNBA Championship

Dreams my generation made possible.

Nearly four decades after women’s pro basketball made its floundering debut and failed, we finally triumphed.

“You done good sister,” Karen said squeezing my hand. “Look what you started, what we started.”

In an epic series, the Lynx would go on to win game five of in front of a sold out crowd at the Barn making history as 4 time national champions.

Unbeknownst to all, I was with them every step of the way

How to Survive a Summer Shingles Attack

shingles treatmentI was sailing through summer vacation minding my own business, staying out of trouble, then it hit like a tsunami – shingles attacked my spine. Shingles? What me ? I thought only old people got shingles. Well hello, reality check, I am old.

Consequently, I have been off-line and out of commission. Everyone over the age of 50 has a shingles tale to tell. With me, it started feeling like the inside of my left arm was sun burnt and bruised, then came the shooting pains down my arm and into my rib cage. But the worst symptom was upper back pain so excruciating, I thought I had herniated a spinal disk. For five nights, when pain woke me, I took Tylenol 3 and slept on an ice pack.

When I explained the throbbing, burning pain and phantom itching to my daughter, a doctor, she immediately suspected shingles, but the telltale rash didn’t appear until several days later. Fortunately my outbreak was under my arm and not near my face because shingles around the eye can cause vision loss.

Remember those awful chicken pox you had as a child ? Well, they can come back to haunt you in the form of a nasty, strip of blisters that appears only on one side of your torso or face. Once infected the varicella-zoster virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Shingles affects nerve roots causing burning, itching, throbbing pain, headache, and blistering skin. Due to a weakened immune system or stress, the virus can reactivate.

Each of the nerve roots that supply sensation to your skin run in predictable pathways on each side of your body called dermatomes. Shingles usually affect a single dermatome. In my case, pain stemming from the C8 dermatome shot across my left shoulder-blade, down the arm and into my left pinky and ring finger.shingles attack

I am not a specialist but after my own personal experience here is what I recommend.

  • Call your doctor as soon as you suspect shingles.
  • Get on an antiviral – acyclovir, valacyclovir, famciclovir -which can reduce the pain and duration.
  • Stock up on calamine lotion, creams containing capsaisin or lidocaine, or topical antibiotics
  • Try ice packs, baking soda pastes and other home remedies to ease the itching and burning.
  • This is no time to gallantly suffer in silence – take a pain-killer.
  • Better yet, get vaccinated. Zostavax is recommended for people age 60 and over.

shingles vaccineFrom the fluish fatigue, to raging pain, to constant discomfort, shingles is no fun. Hopefully I won’t develop postherpetic neuralgia, which causes the lingering pain long after the blisters disappear due to damaged nerve fibers that send exaggerated messages of pain from your skin to your brain.

Alas, misery loves company. Do tell. Have a shingles horror story you’d like to share ?

 

Chiropractors Keep Me Dancing

With the trauma my back has endured, I should be in wheelchair or limping around with a walker, but chiropractors keep me dancing. Forty years ago, when my right leg went numb from my first herniated lumbar disk, a chiropractor saved me from surgery.

Today chiropractic care is recognized as an integral part of the American health system, but back then it was controversial. Doctors were often referred to as quacks.

Historic caged elevator

But after my first visit, I was sold. Chiropractic looks at the body holistically and emphasizes the patients’ role in recovery by promoting exercise, nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

I have been chiro chasing around the globe ever since. Though the treatments may be similar, the settings are not and each chiropractor’s office reflects the unique personality of the practitioner.

In Geneva, I ride a creaky, caged elevator to the 3rd floor of an 18th century building to see Dr. G., a film fanatic. Posters of famous movie scenes cover his walls and his waiting room has an authentic jukebox. While I wait, I boogie down to old hits like Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” C’est Chic’s “Le Freak,” and Rose Royce’s “Car Wash.”

My chiro in Eagle River, Dr. D works out of his state of the art stone edifice with cathedral ceilings and gold plated fixtures nestled at the edge of the woods. While enjoying complimentary coffee and cookies from his dad’s bakery you may see deer outside the windows of the waiting room. After an adjustment, chill out literally as you ice down sore spots in comfortable recliners or recharge injured

Chillin with dad at Dr. D’s

body parts with electronic muscle stimulation.

My latest great find, Dr. A, has a family practice in Minnetonka. I thought that meant that he treats families, which he does including babies for free, but it may also mean his family is part of the therapy. His baby and pets accompany him to the office.

His place is like an amusement park. While waiting, you can play pass the baby and pet the dog. No sitting around bored waiting on back breaking straight chairs. Before a treatment, enjoy a free massage on a roller bed or take wild ride on a whoopee seat.

Ever so cheerful, Dr. A sings while he works on you. After my last adjustment, I asked what I should do to help it hold, he said, “Go home. Relax. Put your feet up. Drink a G & T.”

I laughed so hard I rolled off the table.

Convivial. Holistic. Optimistic. Chiropractors are lifesavers.

They make everyone believe – You should be dancing!

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JoZS6LgqYI[/embedyt]

FitBit – Tamagotchi for Adults

 

When our kids gave us a FitBit for Christmas, I had no clue what it was, but FitBit is like a Tamagotchi for adults. Remember those digital pets we babysat for our kids in the 90s? Well, FitbBit vibrates if you haven’t moved your butt in the past 30 minutes. A message flashes across the screen, “Wanna stroll?” And if you forget to feed FitBit with daily motion it will die. When I realized FitBit was another electronic gadget I was mortified because I am techno impaired. Alas, ze Frenchman to the rescue. Sure enough, he programmed that little wristband do everything except cook dinner.

Tamagotchi

For those not in the know, FitBit is a physical activity tracker designed to help you become more active,eat a more well-rounded diet, sleep better and live healthier. Or at the very the least, it can make you a more obsessive human being.

FitBit records time, measures motion, counts calories, steps, and stairs. It records pulse, tracks sleep, and differentiates between biking, hiking, skiing, climbing, strolling, and running.

FitBit data can be synced to an online account. You can track every breathing moment even while sleeping. Which may not be a good thing. Over morning coffee ze Frenchman checks my profile and scolds me, “Pot you did not sleep well. Only 4 hours and 18 minutes.”

“I know,” I grumbled. “Why do you think I wake up feeling like I’ve been run over by truck?”

For many FitBit is a great motivator. It collates data about your weekly fitness level and sends you virtual badges rewarding positive behavior.

London Underground Badge: You’ve walked 250 miles—as many as the world’s first underground railway.

My Frenchman, who is 62 going on 16, is really taken with it. Since retiring he never stops moving. He plays volleyball, lifts weights, skis, bikes, hikes and kayaks. With my bad feet, bad knees, and a bad back, I limp along a mile behind him.

“I am struggling to keep up with your dad,” I confessed to our daughter.

“Somebody needs to remind him he is retired.”

Good luck with that,” I said. “Your dad used to time his sisters when they walked to school. Now if FitBit shows we are not moving fast enough, he yells at me to hurry up.”

“Mom, what have we done?” Nat lamented, “FitBit will be the death of you.”

Ah, but for an old athlete I can’t think of any better way to go… on the move breaking records.

Sterling Salutes Illinois’ First Girls’ State Basketball Champs

Forty years ago, my little sisters made history and on April 4, 1977 newspaper headlines read “Sterling High Girls win first ever-state title over 7,000 greet Illinois number one basketball team.” Five years after Title IX passed into legislation mandating equal opportunities for girls in all publicly funded schools, a new generation was born. While our country was struggling with civil rights and gender equity issues a small town team united blacks, whites and Hispanics in one dream – a state championship.

If I close my eyes, I can still see Marche Harris pumping her fist in air after a break away lay up, Fran Smith with her wicked ‘fro soaring at the jump circle, Dawn Smith grabbing weak side boards, Jojo Leseman, running the court like a platoon captain in fast forward, freshman, Amy Eshelman gliding the baseline. And my sister, Karen McKinzie, standing at the line swishing another free throw. Harris, Smith, Leseman, Eshelman and McKinzie names that have marked SHS record books for years.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-7JPSXcr2s[/embedyt]

An odd trio of coaches, Jim McKinzie a retired boys coach, Sue Strong a GAA coordinator and Phil Smith the first African American teacher in the conference fought behind the front line to make sure female athletes were granted equal rights at SHS in those crucial years after Title IX. Before anyone dared to utter words like racism or sexism in public, they shaped a team far ahead of its time indifferent to gender or race. That group of unassuming girls enchanted an entire community. Part of the magic was their cohesiveness. No divas, no superstars, no drama queens, just selfless teammates who knew that they were stronger together than they could ever be alone.

It was too late for me. A 1975 SHS graduate, I became a Redbird and moved to Illinois State University where the first girls state tournament was held on my new home court. I watched with pride from the bleachers of Horton Field house as my little sisters made history under my father’s tutelage.

“What stands out most was how this team brought the community together,” he said reminiscing, “Nothing like it before or since. The Golden Girls were goodwill ambassadors for Sterling, a place no one heard of before was thrown in the limelight. When we returned as state champions, we were wined and dined like celebrities.”

Forty years ago, we had no clue that the old Golden “Girls” would bear daughters who would one day be recognized as Golden Warriors. All we cared about was finally being allowed to play the game we loved. Do the girls that play today know how lucky they are to compete on center court wearing fashion’s latest apparel? To prepare before games in weight rooms and repair afterwards in training rooms? To be immortalized in a state of the art Hall of Fame room?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Stop by the open house at Woodlawn Arts Academy on Friday April 7 from 4:00-7:00 to salute that first state championship team and their coaches. Tip your hat to those pioneers who grew up in flimsy, canvas shoes and one piece gym suits, who played ball when no one was looking or worse yet when people looked and laughed. Pay tribute to those women who gave their heart and soul to dreams that no one understood, dreams that became our daughters’ reality.

When you sink a jumper and drive the baseline young blood, hear our stories whispered from the rafters. Walk tall, be strong, be brave. Be proud of your past, Golden “Girl”. After years of battle, it’s an honor and a privilege to be called a Warrior.

A chapter of my memoir is about the 1977 state championship team.