Wednesday, April 25, 2018

#462 Dear John

I couldn't resist a good photo op!

Dear John,

The time has come for me to say goodbye.  You have been a good companion to me for these past 18 ½ years.  Although I’m not sure of your age, since you were already a part of my home when I arrived.   

We’ve been through a lot together.  Yours is one of the longest relationships I’ve ever had, and you know me better than probably anyone.  You provided me many moments of relief, along with moments of cool comfort after the occasional violent upheavals.  You started to show some signs of age on your shiny façade.  I overlooked that, as I am showing some signs as well.  What bolstered my decision is that your effectiveness had fallen off.  I tried to get you help, but after the plumber recommended your eventual replacement, I felt it was time. 

I appreciate that you were gracious in your exit.  You didn’t put up a fight.  Your replacement looks and acts similar, but is stronger and, to my great delight, is a bit taller.  As we all know, I prefer taller companions. 

After saying farewell, I propped you up outside in the front yard (as east-siders sometimes do) to enjoy the warm, summer day, hoping someone else would see you and think you were a good fit for them.  Three young girls flirted with you for a bit, before pushing you over, shattering the top of your tank.  I’m very sorry about that.  I had no idea that would happen.  I sensed your anger when you bit my pinky finger as I picked up the pieces of your broken heart. 

Maybe I should have cried for you, as the little girl did who came back to sweep you up.  Or maybe her father’s disciplining words provoked her tears.  Nonetheless, there was sadness around your passing.  And along with the girl’s tears, there are now tiny droplets of my dried blood at the end of my driveway. 

I will miss you.  I still have hope you can be re-used or re-cycled.  If not, I wish you a quick and painless end.  You certainly served my end well. 


Tall Chick in the City

P.S.  It’s now three days later and you are still with me.  I never thought I would be that neighbor who has a toilet in their front yard for several days.  The Habitat for Humanity Re-Store said they could not use you because you are missing a tank cover.  (Picture me shaking my fist in disgust at the three little girls.)  Heavy trash pick-up is the third Monday of the month.  Strike two.  You are too heavy for me to carry back to the garage, so I must wait for assistance from a neighbor or a friend.  Or I may take a hammer to you and put your pieces in my trash bin.  I abhor violence so that is my last resort.  I appreciate your continued patience, and that of my neighbors. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

#461 Barbara Bush We're Proud Of You

Upon learning of the passing of Barbara Bush, I recalled the one and only time I saw her in person.  And at the time I had no idea it was her.

I was cycling through Kennebunkport on my last day of Bike Maine 2015.  The week had been quite enjoyable but the last day biking from Kennebunk back to Kittery was exceptionally glorious.  The sun was bright, and we rode along the coast for several miles. 

After passing the Bush summer home in Kennebunkport, my riding companion Duane and I stopped at the beach at Sandy Cove.  The tide was out, and it was a long way to the water, but we took our shoes off and dipped our toes in the cool water.  In the distance I noticed an elderly woman walking on the tightly-packed sand close to the water’s edge.  She used a walker and had a few people around her.  As I watched her move slowly along the sand I thought, “Good for her!  I hope I’m out and about walking on the beach with my walker when I’m her age.” 

I don't think that's her in the background but this is how far away she was
Duane and I returned to the sidewalk to put our shoes back on and continue our ride.  A couple walked by with their dog, so we asked them to take a photo.  We asked them questions about the area and they asked us about our ride.  Then the woman asked, “Did you see Barbara Bush walk by a minute ago?  She walks every morning on the beach.”  That wonderful elderly woman with the people around her was the former First Lady with her secret service!  She was far away, but I enjoyed my brief brush with Mrs. Bush. 

And after posting my trip photos on Facebook I learned that a high school friend spent several summers in Kennebunkport.  Her interaction was a lot more involved than mine – her husband worked security detail for the Bush family for four years.  Two degrees of separation!  Not bad. 

Mrs. Bush has left a legacy of faith, family and a love of literacy.  As a book-lover myself, I especially like that!  She even has a school named after her in Houston – Barbara Bush Elementary.  Every Friday morning the students sing the Barbara Bush Song. 

Barbara Bush is our school’s name, from a grand first lady it came.
Our school puts us to the test, helping us to do our best.
To our school we’ll always be true, Barbara Bush we’re proud of you.  Proud of you."

Barbara Bush, I’m proud of how you served your family and your country.  And I’m proud that you made the effort to get out on that beach with your walker.  Proud of you! 

Monday, April 16, 2018

#460 Sleepless In Seattle (Part 2) -- TCWT Stop 1

I had heard from several of my friends that Seattle had changed a lot.  To be honest, I didn’t remember a lot about the city, except for the areas I used to frequent and the downtown tourist district.  My apartment (formerly Avanti on the corner of Pike and Boren) is now a Homewood Suites.  The Washington State Convention Center takes up more of Pike Street after its 1999 expansion.  Gameworks and my movie theater are still there, as is the Nordstrom Rack and the Elephant Car Wash.  As much as some things change, others stay the same. 

I arrived in Seattle late evening on the last day of January.  Since my free hotel nights expired in July, I had to get moving.  Spring was too busy work-wise.  June looked to be busy personal-wise.  I decided on February, which, although not ideal weather-wise, turned out great as I avoided the summer rush and the cruise ship madness along the waterfront (another change from when I was there). 

I spent three full days in the city and flew home Super Bowl Sunday morning.  While in town, my mornings consisted of walking.  A lot.  I did some serious shopping Thursday morning, and straight-up walking along the waterfront Friday and Saturday mornings.  Even with the rain, being around the water was glorious.  I could even make out the mountains across Elliott Bay.  

I struck up a conversation with an off-duty ferry driver at the Bell Harbor Marina who offered to take my picture.  He then proceeded to take one with his phone (?!), before taking one with mine...

I continued to the Olympic Sculpture Park and stumbled upon the Pocket Beach, stopping to enjoy watching a man and his dog play fetch in the water.  I enjoy traveling with company, but I also delight in exploring places alone now and then.  It’s nice to be on your own schedule and truly do what you want to do.   

Olympic Sculpture Park walkway

Pocket Beach
This pup was having a blast!

Thursday afternoon I met up with Peter at Rival Fitness.  After a fun and informative workout, we had lunch nearby at Tentenyu Ramen.  Peter is the modern-day Jack LaLanne.  Simple, yet effective exercises.  Wise on all fronts.  And he continues to hold the title as the only person to get me to gain weight.  As I once told him, “A good-looking guy and a free dinner is my best motivator.” 

Friday night was scheduled for my Reign team reunion, or aptly named “Reigniacs Revisited.”  We met at Melinda and Mark’s house in Queen Anne.  Melinda was the Reign’s director of community relations.  We lost some of the reunion lineup due to kids' basketball games, illness and travel, but the final roster consisted of players Tara Davis, Kate Starbird, Val Whiting (and her two boys Joe and Victor) and myself.  And Melinda and Mark’s adorable and hilarious kids, Rees and Julia.  Missing was Karen Bryant (GM), Cindy Fester (director of media relations), Migee Han (coordinator of merchandising and community involvement), Robin Moore (trainer) and Rhonda Smith-Banchero (player). 

LG, Melinda (on a chair), Val, Kate, Tara
We had a fun, relaxed night telling stories, reminiscing and reminding each other what had happened.  I am sad that not everyone was able to join the fun.  I guess I will have to make a second trip to catch the rest of them.  Hopefully when the weather is warmer. 

Even though the ABL was short-lived, I feel blessed to have been a part of this league.  I am happy that women today have a place to play after college in their own country, but, for various reasons I won’t get into, I carry a tiny spec of “bitterness” for the WNBA and how the ABL was pushed aside.  Despite that little blip, I wouldn’t trade my time in the ABL for anything.  I don’t recall if it was just my team or for the entire league, but we were each given a small, gold wagon-wheel-like pendant with “ABL Pioneer” inscribed on the back.  I still wear it now and then.  No one knows what it is or what it means.  I do, and that’s all that matters.  

So the title of this blog is “Sleepless in Seattle” and I’ve not yet talked about my sleeplessness.  The time difference is “only” three hours, but I usually feel the effects more when I travel east to west.  The first night especially, I tossed and turned, and seemingly woke up (and had to use the toilet) every hour. 

In the movie of the same name, Meg Ryan’s character flies from New York City to Seattle to see Tom Hanks’ character, a widower who is sleepless after the death of his wife.  Yes, part of my sleeplessness was because of the time change.  The other part was because I was going to see Bryan.  I had no doubt we would have a good time.  I just had that “pre-date excitement-bordering-on-nausea” feeling.  Although, technically, it wasn’t a date.    

Bryan picked me up Friday afternoon at my hotel and we had lunch at Eve Fremont.  We met up Saturday as well, hitting Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Museum of Pop Culture and the Frye Art Museum.  The Indianapolis Children’s Museum has a 43-foot tall Chihuly piece, so I am somewhat familiar with Chihuly’s work.  So beautiful!  The Seattle museum was a bit smaller than I expected, but still very nice.  MoPOP was fun and huge.  It just kept going and going.  It was one of those museums where you can’t remember where you have and haven’t been.  (Where are we?!)  These first two museums are located close to one another at the Seattle Center.  Frye was a short drive away. It’s smaller and free, with more “regular” art.  There was one large room with paintings, and some other special exhibits.  Our afternoon ended at Homegrown in Queen Anne, where we grabbed a bite before bidding adieu. 

Chihuly's Mille Fiore (Italian for "a thousand flowers")

Bryan and me at Chihuly

Cool guitar sculpture at MoPOP

From one of my fav movies, Pet Sematary (MoPOP)

Also a fav, The Princess Bride (MoPOP)
Despite having no contact with Bryan for the past 20 years, we quickly fell into easy conversation.  I expected such, but was pleased to see he hasn't changed.  He's still intelligent, funny, handsome, and one of the nicest, if not the nicest, man I've ever known.  As I told him, his company was the best part our time together, but I relished being around a tall man.  He brought up the fact that we only experienced one comment about our height the entire day at the museums.  Alone, we get numerous comments.  Maybe we tall people are more intimidating in pairs?

If you have read my prior post about Bryan, you may be wondering what my prayer was this time around.  That, my friends, is between me and my God. 

The first stop on my Tall Chick World Tour was a huge success.  Where will I go next?  I have no idea.  But I have no doubt that the location will reveal itself to me when the time is right. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

#459 Sleepless In Seattle (Part 1) -- TCWT Stop 1

My Tall Chick Work Tour begins at the end of my career – Seattle.  My playing there was a long shot.  I retired in 1994 after playing four years overseas.  I loved that overall experience, but struggled with feelings of isolation, as I was usually the only foreigner on my team.  I was also 25 and ready to get a “real” job.  I fell into sporting goods sales and was happily on track for six months when I learned about the formation of a new U.S. women’s professional basketball league – the America Basketball League, which would play during the traditional basketball season.  During the next six months, I whipped myself back into shape, attended the Atlanta combine in May 1996 and entered the draft pool.  Draft day came that June, and I waited.  And waited.  By the time I left work, I hadn’t heard anything.  During my drive home I had accepted that my playing days were over.  As I pulled into my driveway, my mom ran out and told me the Seattle Reign had just called and drafted me in the 10th and last round.  I’d made it! 

My excitement gave way to the realization that I would be playing 2,000 miles away from home.  I had hoped to be drafted by the Columbus Quest so I would be near my family and friends.  My reasoning was that I had spent the past four years in other countries and wanted to be as close to home as possible.  Looking back, I am thankful I played where I did, even if it was the furthest city.  Nothing personal against Columbus, Ohio, but I can’t imagine having lived there compared to Seattle.  And the team may not have had the best record, but I liked my teammates and we had the best front office in the league.

My dad joined me on a three-day cross-country drive to the Emerald City.  I grew up with road-trip vacations and, despite the long days, we had a blast, taking time out to see the Field of Dreams, the Corn Palace, Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore and Wall Drug

I lived downtown at the corner of Boren and Pike, near what they call Pill Hill (lots of hospitals).  I was also close to Capitol Hill, which, to this naive Hoosier, was like another planet.  Very entertaining. 

My team experience was a roller coaster.  I was making good money for a 20-something and playing a game I enjoyed.  The season began and I found myself starting and playing well.  I won’t get into any details (you’ll have to hold out for my book), but my playing time and confidence soon took a hit.  I wasn’t the only one with issues.  It’s interesting as you go up each level (high school, college, pro) how egos can come out.  Add coach turmoil to the mix and it was not pretty.  

Program photo

We won our home opener.  It was quite the spectacle! 

That uniform is swallowing me!  

That's me, always stretching.  

We may not have all agreed on the court, but I enjoyed getting to know my teammates and I spent off-court time with a few.  Venus Williams (Louisiana Tech University) was a college nemesis at the 1988 and 1990 Final Fours.  We spent a fun afternoon shopping at a tall women’s clothing store.  Stanford University put a dagger in my heart in the 1990 Final Four and I managed to make friends with my Cardinal teammates Christy Hedgepeth, Kate Paye, Kate Starbird and Val Whiting.  Purdue University All-American Joy Holmes joined the team in its second year and brought her son Gary Jr. with her (then he was around three years old; he now plays for the Denver Nuggets).  Joy is one of the nicest people I have ever met (and fiercest competitors) and it was not lost on me that she went through all the stuff we did and then went home to be a mom. 

I don’t like to play favorites, but Angela Aycock (University of Kansas) was especially fun to be around and we had a lot of laughs together.  I went to my first gay-friendly bar with her (on New Year’s Eve no less) and quickly realized it was pointless for us to be there since all the good-looking men were there with other good-looking men. 

My personal experiences in Seattle were the polar opposite to my playing experiences.  No ups and downs, just calm.  I had fun going out and about, but still spent a good bit of time on my own.  When I wasn’t hanging at the Re-bar (I think Angela and I went there twice), I did some shopping (Nordstrom Rack!) and sightseeing (Roslyn, Washington and Victoria B.C.’s Butchart Gardens)  I loved walking along Alki Beach.  Yes, Seattle lived up to the legendary dreary, overcast days.  But when the sun came out, the gloriousness outweighed the suffering.  I remember driving down the highway on a sunny day thinking, “I could live here.” 

I played for two seasons (1996-97 and 1997-98) and loved it.  To this day, it was the best job I ever had.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get picked up for the third season, and in the middle of that season, the league went bankrupt.  Make way for the WNBA.  After that last stint, I was really done.  I was 29 and didn’t feel like trying out for a new league in a new city.  Peace, I’m out. 

Over the past 20 years I’ve thought about going back to Seattle.  But it’s far.  And expensive.  And I seemed to run out of vacation days after planning my other trips.  After dreaming up my World Tour, the idea was more on my radar.  And things started to slowly fall into place. 

About a year ago I got back in touch with our strength coach, Peter Shmock, after hearing about his Life Athlete movement (see Post No. 431).  Last summer I had a blast from the past, hearing from my weight-gaining and workout partner Bryan (see Post No. 415).  He had recently begun working out with Peter and eventually my name came up and, voila – he decided to contact me.  And thanks to Facebook, I realized that several players and front office staff still lived in the area. 

Armed with a fresh desire to go and combined with free hotel nights that dropped into my lap, fairly cheap (and direct) airfare, plus an increase in my PTO days, I decided to go for it. 

Stay tuned for Part 2! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

#458 Open Arms

As I chatted with a female co-worker the other day, she talked about the stress of her day and said, “I need a hug.”  Being the jokester (and good friend) that I am, I held my arms open and she got out of her chair and we exchanged a brief hug.  And it hit me – I haven’t had a full-body hug in a long time.

I like hugs.  I hug my family and some of my friends (a few are non-huggers).  Pretty much all the people I hug come up to my shoulders, therefore I give "squatty" hugs with no body contact except for the arms.  Or side hugs.  Otherwise, my chest would be in their face.  Which would be weird. 

Hugs provide numerous benefits.  They convey affection.  They offer comfort.  We use them in celebration.  

According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, hugs can provide several health benefits.  People who hug have a perceived greater social support and are less likely to get sick.  Hugging also reduces stress due to the release of oxytocin into the bloodstream.  Benefits of Hugging from US News Feb. 3, 2016

It’s no secret I prefer dating tall men.  Why?  Partly because I don’t want to bend over to hug a man.  I don’t like the feeling of not having that full physical contact with a man.    

I came across the photo of Dustin Hoffman and I saw myself in the dark-haired woman he’s dancing with.  (Although he’s not that much shorter than her.  I would actually be ok with that height comparison.) 

Some might argue that I’m missing all physical contact since I’m currently not hugging anyone.  Touché.  I’ll take my chances.  Somewhere out there a tall man has the same complaints I do about hugging.  When we find each other, we'll come together with open arms.