A Good Man Gone Too Soon

At the beginning of the week, I saw that Sherrie Davis Ebersole, a member of the Sterling High School girls’ first State Championship Basketball Team (1977), posted on facebook a Chicago Tribune article which announced Bruce Scheidegger’s untimely death due to a car accident. Across the Midwest and beyond, we mourn the loss of a beloved former  coach, athletic director, husband, father and son.

Even though Bruce’s career took him to the big city, he never lost his small town ways. He took those same values along when he left Sterling for the athletic director position at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, where he continued to be respected for his honesty, fairplay and integrity.

He may have left Sterling, but he remained in our hearts.

I met Bruce when my dad introduced him to me as the new Sterling High School girls’ basketball coach (1998-2007). During my visits to the States over Christmas holidays, I went to the Dixon Tournament  to watch the girls play. Seeing Bruce coach his daughters reminded me of when my dad coached my sister and me. I admired the way Bruce spoke to the media,  interacted with his players, and called time out just at the right time.

Kind, upbeat, sincere. He remembered names and faces.Whenever we were back in town, he invited my Franco-American daughter to practice with the team. When she played for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, he followed her career.

He once told me his family originally came from Switzerland. Years later, when I visited Kleine Scheidegg, 6,762 ft, the mountain pass between the Eiger and Lauberhorn peaks in the Swiss Alps, I wanted to send him a postcard of his ancestral village. He was the kind of person you never forget.

Kleine Scheidegg, Wengen -Switzerland

Kleine Scheidegg, Wengen -Switzerland

I did not know him well, but I know well where he came from – a tight-knit family from a small Northwestern Illinois town. He graduated from Chadwick a year after I graduated from Sterling. He attended University of Illinois; I went to Illinois State.  He played baseball; I played basketball. We both loved coaching. Whether he was coaching at Prophetstown, Dixon, Sterling or Carl Sandburg, he advocated for all student/athletes, especially girls.

Bruce was truly the kind of AD that looked out for coaches, including old ones. How many big school ADs would take the time to write a letter to an 80-year-old-coach (my dad) to commemorate his birthday?Read more

Thirtieth Anniversary of My Second Life After Car Accident in France

Thirty years ago, at the peak of my pro basketball career, I fell asleep in the back of a car dreaming of driving the baseline on a fast-break. One second I was on top of the world with all-powerful high of a victorious athlete, and the next, my body careened weightlessly through air. Folded into the fetal position, I slammed into hard metal and when I regained consciousness, icy water sucked my breath away.

No normal human beings should have survived the impact or the relentless current when our car flipped off the French autoroute, sailed over a 100-foot high embankment, and crashed into the La Meuse River. But then we were not normal. As pro basketball players, our 25-year-old bodies had been honed to perfection, trained to withstand trauma.

my last game, Marburg, Germany

my last game, Marburg, Germany

Yet within seconds, years of training meant nothing; I was reduced to an invalid. If I wriggled my upper body, I could peek out over the hospital window ledge at the red rooftops of Verdun. Graveyards covered the hillside of the famous WWI look out point? Why wasn’t I buried beside yesterday’s heroes. I had lost my job, my identity, and my purpose. What was left?

Life.

I spent the past three decades trying to get my head around it. I survived…but why?

In addition to the endless support of my husband, family, and friends scattered round the globe, the one thing that has kept me going through years of pain was the drive to write.

I spent an inordinate amount of time in the reclining position due to an ultra bad back. I taught myself to type lying down with my eyes blindfolded to stop words from spinning off the page in my dizziness.

Old manuscript drafts are stacked from floor to ceiling. I could wallpaper my entire house with rejection letters. Yet, through endless transitions from athlete to coach, student to teacher, daughter to mom and through dozens of moves across two continents between four countries, I penned my existence.

coaching next generation of doctors, lawyers and businesswomen

coaching next generation of doctors, lawyers and businesswomen

Even when common sense told me to give up, I kept going. I was compelled to record the story of a lost generation, the pioneers of women’s sports that grew up as the first generation Title IXers coming of age in 1972 along with the groundbreaking law mandating equal opportunities for women in education and sport. The result is a personal testimony that echoes the voices of the past, who helped paved the way for our high-flying daughters of today.

Coming soon… our story seen through the twinkle of my blue eyes.

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Tall American Squeezes into Small Country

Whenever I step aboard the return flight to Switzerland, I feel like Alice in Wonderland falling through the hole into the land of miniature. I have an 8-hour flight to transition to what awaits on the other side of the Atlantic. I squeeze my 5’10” frame into compact seats designed for dwarfs. I eat baby-sized servings with doll-sized spoons on a mini tray.

In the Geneva airport, I tower above Europeans while lugging baggage twice as big as and three times heavier than theirs. Not all expats are hoarders, but like many of my compatriots living overseas, I bring back as much of the homeland as possible, hence my bags are laden with Tootsie Pops, cake mixes, chocolate chips and other American staples.

When the taxi pulls up in front of our twin house, my husband leans out the window to announce, “Oops, honey, I shrunk the house.”

Switzerland is a “petite” country; the price of real estate is premium. There are no sprawling ranch homes or suburban mansions here. Our yard is the size of a postage stamp. Surface wise our ground floor is no bigger than an American garage. But we are lucky we have four floors stacked like baby’s colored building blocks. It’s great! This way I don’t need a gym membership; my home is a StairMaster.

kitchen

kitchen

Our kitchen is three-square meters. The refrigerator is smaller than the mini bars in most American hotels. The fridge, stove, and sink are within an arm’s length, so I can remove foodstuff, sauté veggies and wash dishes simultaneously. But I rarely do any one of the three. It is a one-butt kitchen, and I am always the first volunteer to butt out.

Europe has a different scale of measurement and I am not talking metric here. Cupboards are more like the size of American drawers. Walk in closets? Forget it. My sister’s Barbie wardrobe was bigger. Appliances are also more compact. Our microwave fits in a kitchen cupboard. The washing machine holds five articles of clothing or the equivalent of two American sweatshirts.Read more

Confession of Social Media Phobia to Facebook Friends

I confess I am a fraud. My fancy, dancy website…didn’t touch it. Don’t understand a thing about the technological aspect of social media. Nada! As my live-in techie, aka Frenchman, develops more skill at troubleshooting problems, the less adept I become.

soul sisters

soul sisters

I am able to log onto facebook only because my Frenchman set an automatic entry; I can’t remember any passwords. [div]When my home page pops up and I see the little bubble space under update status with the the question, « How are you feeling, Pat ? » I honestly thought the whole world was worried about my health status.

I would write back, « Not so good today- sore throat, backache, migraine, thanks for asking,» until my daughter, complained, « Mom stop facebooking about how you feel, no one cares. I don’t care and I am a doctor! That question pops up automatically everytime.»

Ditto for the grey comment box with my mug shot – I thought it meant that I was supposed to comment on every posting on the running page.

Actually facebook terrifies me because I understand so little about it. I am not sure how it works, where it goes and who sees it. As a writer I am used to exposing my ideas, but people know stuff about me that I’d rather forget. Like my birthday.

But friends, that is not why I have never answered your request to add birthday to your calendar. The real reason I haven’t responded is  because I don’t know how.

college pals

college pals

Sorry, if I haven’t accepted your offers to play games. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like you, it just means I don’t like games (unless they include a ball.) If I am honest, I’ll admit I don’t know how to play online games. So I won’t be joining the other 41 million enjoying FarmVille, Lucky Slots or Zynga Slingo.

FB’s popularity is a bit superficial like the old autograph hounds we carried in 6th grade where you run around begging everyone to sign your stuffed dog or little book of blank pages. For what? Or the high school yearbook signing – I’ll sign yours if you sign mine.Read more

Clubs Lift Our Spirits In Support

From the beginning of time, women have found strength in groups. I have never been much of a joiner; the only club I ever wanted to belong to was the ol’ boys club….just kidding. No, seriously though, once I longed to be included in – the exclusively male S Club, a group of Sterling High School boys, who owned the coveted Varsity letter S proudly worn on letter jackets. Fueled by Title IX, they finally allowed girls to join.

Mom's stitches holds family together

Mom stitches generations together

My mom’s generation knew the value of women’s social circles. As the ultra clubber, she belongs to a half dozen groups that support one another through life’s transitions. From sorority to AAUW to the Methodist church’s Rebecca Circle, Mom has always been a do gooder. She works at FISH (a food pantry) and plays chimes at church. Her Piecemakers Quilt Club creates quilts for babies, children and military people in hospitals and also holds auctions with profits going to local charities.Read more

Schools and Violence – A Sad Reflection on Society

I don’t want to write about it; I don’t want to think about it…yet the pictures haunt me. Every parent holds dear images of watching little ones skip off to school or dropping the inert lump, our adolescents, at the gym door before practice. We have state of the art learning centers, sports fields, theaters and play grounds and yet, it is no longer safe for children to walk to school in America. Why?

I come from a family of teachers-my grandparents were teachers, my dad taught high school, my mom taught kindergarten in Sterling, my baby sister 1st grade in a Minneapolis suburb, my middle sister teaches in Yorkville, one French sister-in-law 2nd grade in a village school at Honfleur, the other in middle school in Rouen France. My son is in teacher training working with at-risk kids in St. Paul after school program. Many of my former students have gone onto to teaching careers around the world. Our belief in education as a birthright is as natural as the right to breathe.

I teach at the world’s oldest and largest international school in Geneva where I work in a global

quiet walk to school

quiet walk to school

community representing 138 nationalities and 84 mother tongues. My century old school, tucked on a slope of open fields and vineyards, offers an exquisite view of Lake Geneva surrounded by the snow-peaked Alps. I teach in a classroom without walls. No fence surrounds the property, no security guards patrol the campus, and no backpacks are inspected at the door. Yet daily, students from all races and religious affiliations -Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Mormon – sit down together to learn about one another’s beliefs and discuss ideas.

Everyday when I walk to school I gaze at the sun rising over the mountains with a prayer of gratitude on my lips that such a place still exists.Read more