Why Me Syndrome

dsc01302Ever suffer from the why me syndrome? Those times you are immobilized by anger, frustration, and fatigue and wondering why you have to go through whatever it is you are enduring. Anyone who knows me knows that I have coped with an abundant amount of physical pain. Some of it was self-inflicted during my career as a pro athlete, but most of it accidental, random sh**.

I don’t have to look far for inspiration to find someone who is fighting an even greater challenge. Compared to others, my life is not so bad. I have lost friends to cancer, suicide, and bad, bad bugs like MSRA. I have friends who are coping with MS, diabetes, and depression.

I have friends enduring the crippling loss of a parent, child, sibling, spouse or friend. I know people facing surgery, dealing with dialysis, and going through chemo. I have friends who encounter each day without complaint, staring down each personal setback with dignity.

Early on, we must learn life is not fair. We don’t get to pick our opponents. Some obstacles are insurmountable. Some rivals are bigger, stronger, better. Some battles cannot be won, no matter how hard we fight.

I have cried a million tears, pounded my bed in despair and prayed to the heavens. Why am I here if only to suffer?

Because suffering is universal.

It is what makes us human.

img_0006Life is not fair. It is not fair that I was born into a stable, loving family. That as a child, I grew up with 3 of my 4 grandparents still living to help shape me. That my community was so safe I could play outside until the street lights came on. That doors opened for women in sports that had been forever closed offering me opportunities to travel and compete. That my father was a coach and I, an athlete, so I had a head start. That I met my soul mate half way across the globe. His family adopted me just as mine cherished him helping us to create a new cross cultural, bilingual family. That I had not only one, but two children that enrich my life. That I have loyal, steadfast friends and former students and athletes scattered around the globe cheering me on in my darkest moments.

img_1963Thanks to all of you who reached out to support me with calls, comments, text messages, FB shout outs and emails.

I have been blessed beyond measure. As I roll out of bed onto the floor and into the downward dog to stretch my limbs that lock up overnight, I toss-up a prayer.

To all of you grappling with the loss of loved ones, job insecurity, crazy bosses, growing older and the gamut of emotions ranging from rage to fear to anxiety that are an inherent part of the human condition, I hope you have the resiliency to weather the next storm.

As you face a new day, I wish you Bon Courage.

Be bold, be brave, believe.

Embrace life…a gift at any age.

Speaker Graduation International School of Geneva

When I accepted the honor of speaking at the International School of Geneva’s graduation ceremony during my final year of teaching, I was filled with trepidation. Who was I to give advice to such a talented group of students and their families? How I could bid farewell to my community and career without bursting into tears?

I am uncomfortable being in the limelight. My story is only one of many of the stories of the trailblazers who fought for civil rights, but my message – the right to pursue one’s dream – is universal.

As I stood on stage in front of a packed gymnasium, I fixed my eyes on my husband, sister, brother-in-law, former athletes and students and my racing heart calmed. I entered the zone, knowing I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was destined to do.

 

Students, colleagues & parents congratulate the speaker

« You each have a gift. You all have a story. Share it. As I step back into the shadows, you go out and shine. Show up. Stand up. Speak up. Be the best you can be. Raise the roof for the class of 2016. Go out and rock the world. »

At the end of my speech, people hailing from every corner of the globe gave me a thundering standing ovation and I was deeply humbled. Due to illness and injury I can no longer do so many of the things I love, but in spite of pain I continued to show up even when I didn’t feel like it and focused on what I could do. I was bowled over by an outpouring of appreciation from the community that has sustained me for the past 2 decades. Though I can no longer run, jump and play, « I can still walk, talk, write, speak, and inspire. »

And maybe that is enough.

Guest Post: Daughter Gives Mom Remedial IT Lessons

Disclaimer: This piece should not be used to judge the state of interpersonal relations in our family. My mom is a wonderful person, and I love and admire her. My parents have been happily married for 32 years, despite the fact they have owned a computer through most of their marriage.

I am not a tech-y person. My friends mocked me for refusing to upgrade to a smartphone until 2014. My approach to my computer woes is to shut it down, restart and cross my fingers that the problem will fix itself. So when I tell you that my mom makes me look like a computer genius, you can see the problem. Usually she asks my dad for help, but since his assistance is accompanied by a lesson in French expletives, I became her IT resource during my last trip home.

I realized she was having problems with Facebook Messenger when Nic’s girlfriend approached me about their communication difficulties: “Pat told Nic that I don’t answer my messages, but I do! She just never answers back”.

I opened Facebook and demonstrated the “complicated” process of clicking the message symbol in the upper right corner of the screen and we discovered that she had dozens of unread messages, dating back to early 2015. If you need to communicate with Mom, I recommend you email instead.

The next issue: Spotify, which I set up for her last time I was home. “It always plays the same songs,” she says, “Show me how to erase those and download new ones.”

“Mom, you didn’t download anything, Spotify is a streaming service. Just make a new playlist.”

Pause. Quizzical stare.

“What’s a playlist?”

Since I wasn’t making progress on the computer, we moved on to the iPhone. Unfortunately, she does not know any of her passwords, or where to find them, so setting up Facebook and Goodreads accounts was challenging. Luckily my dad, foreseeing this problem, installed the password manager, LastPass. Next, she wanted to learn to use the camera, which she grasped quickly. She was chuffed by her ability to take pictures at her retirement party, and indeed she took many. Some were of her finger, and most were too dark, but it was an accomplishment and I was proud of her.

That pride was short-lived, however, because at this party her English department colleagues gave her a Kindle, a thoughtful gift for my mom, who is an avid reader. I just wish they had thrown in a bottle of wine for Dad and I, who had to teach her how to use it. Dad set it up, and Mom browsed Goodreads trying to figure out what book to buy first. Then she screamed: “Help! I don’t know what happened, I was just browsing and suddenly the pages of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ popped up and now it’s stuck”. A lot of things ‘just happen’ on computers when Pat is around. I don’t believe in the occult, but who knows? Maybe she is the victim of a particularly mischievous poltergeist. That would explain how, a few years ago, she received emails about random men after she inadvertently signed up for a Swiss dating site (unless maybe my dad signed her on in hopes that she would find someone else to help her with her computer issues).

Returning to the Kindle saga, since nothing was stuck – she had merely opened a book sample – so I show her how to use the ‘back’ button. But when she opened the sample, a message was sent addressed to ‘Sarah’. My dad, in his haste to set up Kindle to get my mom out of his hair, connected her to someone else’s Amazon account. Surprisingly, once we connected the correct account the Kindle store switched to German (we are in Switzerland after all). Google search revealed that this is a common problem with a less-than-straightforward solution, so we navigated through10 different steps on the Amazon account in French, English, and, German, and managed to reset the country to ‘USA’. But it was too early to celebrate our victory. When trying to re-connect Goodreads after resetting the Kindle, we faced a new challenge: Pat has multiple accounts, and multiple incorrect passwords recorded in LastPass.

When she first joined Goodreads, my dad made her an account for her book, and a personal account. Now this makes perfect sense for someone who wants to use the site for marketing while retaining a second, more private online identity. It makes no sense for someone who already has accounts on a half a dozen other social networking sites and doesn’t know how to use any of them.

Finally, we got the Kindle set up and working. But we still don’t have a book on the thing though – Mom continues browsing and can’t decide what she wants to read.

From Corporate World to Homestead – Reinventing in Retirement

IMG_0407In my final year of teaching, I have been a basket case of emotion, while my husband appeared to waltz effortless from the corporate world to the homestead in retirement. When Gérald lost his job; he found a new life. What happens when a caring boss goes head to head with the powers that be in the cutthroat, save-at-all costs, corporate world? At perpetual odds with top management for the past 5 years of his career, losing his job was inevitable, but what surprised me was how much happier he is now without his printing career.

I chose the early retirement option, while I always assumed Gérald would pursue his career into his 80s. After working long hours from the age of 14, instead of pining over his lost job, he embraced early retirement and found the freedom liberating.

Gérald worked in the printing business for 36 years producing everything from carton packaging to brochures to books to newspapers. As director of a newspaper printing firm, he lived on the edge ever ready to meet the impossible demands of clients and shareholders in a dying industry. Sleeping with one eye open, he waited for emergency phone call in the middle of the night. How do you put out a half a million copies every night without making a mistake somewhere along the line of distribution?

IMG_0294To be honest I thought he would be lost without the constant buzz. Instead he found time to enjoy his passions long overlooked when trying to make ends meet as a director, father and husband.

Now he plays volleyball, manages the neighborhood association, and serves as CEO of my website. He fired the gardener and finds pleasure in doing his own yard work and is giving our home a much-needed facelift after 2 decades of neglect. He learns new sports, helps me coach, and takes online classes. And he cooks gourmet meals and serves up fare that would put most restaurants to shame.

As my final school days approach, I look to him for inspiration. For the past 30 plus years, I have worked with kids. What will I do with my hours if I am no longer helping students write papers, organize schedules, navigate exams and wait for the next bell to ring?

IMG_0310

personally designed wine labels from colleagues

With his new found joie de vivre the Frenchman demonstrates that happiness and fulfillment is attainable even after one quits the day job. And he bowed out of his arena with so much class. While I was crying over the injustice and worrying about his mental state being put out to pasture, he sailed into retirement with the same grace that he faced each day in a field filled with adversity. I admired his dignity as he spent the last 6 months training his replacement and preparing his staff for the transition of management. Then after the fanfare of colleagues, clients and employees heartfelt farewell, he never looked back, content in knowing that he served his company as an honest, well-respected, hardworking leader.

He left his profession with his integrity intact.

Sharing My Story at the International Women’s Day Celebration

2014-03-20 05.50.16As someone who grew up in a time period when women, like children, should be seen, not heard, I grew up without a voice. I wrote Home Sweet Hardwood, a Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Barriers Through Basketball to tell the story of the pioneers. Since its publication, I have been invited to speak at dozens of functions including ironically those hosted by organizations like the Rotary, Kiwanis and NCAA, who for years denied access to women. I never passed up a chance to share our story and felt especially privileged to be invited to speak to the next generation at the International School of Zurich (ZIS) for their International Women’s Day March 8th celebration.

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

Coincidentally, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) as part of the International Women’s Year 1975, which was the same year the groundbreaking Title IX (June 23, 1972) was to be in regulation. This year, the IWD theme “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up For Gender Equality” focuses on women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.

As a misfit in an era when female athletes (especially in team sport) were ostracized from society, I grew up on the fringes of girl groups, hanging out as one of the boys. In adulthood, as a basketball coach in a field dominated by male coaches, officials, and athletic directors, I often felt like the odd “man” out. It has been a pleasure to see more women joining the ranks in sports and to offer a tribute to the women and men who contributed to women’s rights advancement in my homeland.

Gradually, Title IX revolutionized women’s lives in America by opening doors to education and athletics. Though we may be growing closer to gender parity in the West, women lag far behind in many parts of the world. Women are subject to sex abuse and domestic violence and continue to be denied access to health care, education and equal opportunity in the work place.

The need to celebrate women’s day remains crucial.

Step It Up Highlight“Everyone – men and women – can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly and each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to help include and advance women.”

Change begins with one voice, one dream, one step.

On March 8th, I will be speaking in a room filled with girls from around the globe, movers and shakers of the next era, who will go on to become doctors, lawyers, diplomats, and leaders in their own countries. It dawned on me, maybe, my role all along was not to play ball, but to share my experience to inspire, to light the fire, and pass the torch to a younger generation who can use their talents to make this a better world.

I finally know who I am… an international woman.

Please join us in the party. Take time to celebrate the women in your life and make a pledge for parity.

Timeline: Women's Footprint in History

fascinating timeline – be patient, takes long to upload, but it is worth waiting

Happy Halloween Shake Dem Bones

HalloweenHalloween is one of my favorite holidays. When I was a child, I ate bags full of candy in one sitting and then stole from my little sisters’ stashes. This year I plan to dress up as a skeleton. My limbs are aching, but I keep shaking cause dem bones were made for dancing.

Anyone who suffers from chronic illnesses and injury can relate to crushing bone, joint and muscle pain. This old carcass has carried me across the globe. Broken, bruised, battered, the bones on my slender frame have taken a beating. I hit a brick wall chasing a basketball, flipped off a bicycle careening downhill, and flew out of a car crashing out of control on an autoroute.

I can no longer remember a day without pain, but the secret to outsmarting the soreness is to keep moving. Anyone plagued by any of the myalgias knows that everywhere hurts. Joint pain in the knees, hips and shoulders reign, then migrate to the ankles, wrists, fingers, toes and infiltrate every spinal notch where muscles and ligaments attach to the vertebrae.

I don’t have a flexible cell in my body, but I dared to learn yoga in my fifties. I still can’t touch my toes, but I keep trying and that makes all the difference.

Jim's walking sticksI follow the examples set by my eighty-four year old dad who walks daily even though his legs are tingling and heavy from neuropathy and my Grandpa Coach Mac who defied the odds by continuing to help coach college football in his late 80s and early 90s.

As soon as my feet hit the ground in the morning, I start humming Dem Bones to keep me going.

As kids we sang Dem Bones, which we thought was a funny children’s song, designed to teach us the parts of the skeleton. However, Dem Bones, is actually a popular spiritual, composed by African American, James Weldon Johnson, and inspired by Ezekiel 37:1-14.

skeletonToe bone connected to the foot bone

Foot bone connected to the heel bone

Heel bone connected to the ankle bone

Ankle bone connected to the shin bone

Shin bone connected to the knee bone

Knee bone connected to the thigh bone

Thigh bone connected to the hip bone

Hip bone connected to the back bone

Back bone connected to the shoulder bone

Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone

Neck bone connected to the head bone

Now hear the word of the Lord.

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.

Now hear the word of the Lord.

Boo! Now scare those old limbs into action. Celebrate the season. This Halloween put one foot in front of the other. Join those pint sized ghosts and goblins creeping and peeping around your neighborhood. Get up. Get moving. Shake your booty. Dem bones were made for jiving.

Happy Halloween to you and all the cute lil’ pumpkins in your life!