Category Archives: Sports

The Crazy Mind of a 1st time 5K Runner

One of the things on my old Bucket List was to run half a marathon so I could get a t-shirt that said ‘I did a half-marathon because I’m only half-crazy’ – cute and funny, heh? But I knew I needed to start with a 5K and work my way up to Marathon status. I attempted to use that Couch to 5K app on my phone that says when to run, walk and timing – so I could gradually reach my goal. A couple of months into it my knee was injured and that ended the desire for over a year. But just this week one of my BFF’s says she needs someone to do the 5K Run Against Cancer on Saturday morning with her. I didn’t want her to have to do it alone and I knew I needed to just try it instead of talking about it. I paid my entry fee the night before and joined her. I figured if I haven’t done a 5K for myself, maybe I could do it for all our loved ones and friends who have had their lives affected by cancer- For all those who have died from it, and those who have survived it.

Now I have to be honest here. I didn’t pay the fees until the night before because I was still on the fence about doing it. And after a sleepless night, I was considering backing out that morning. But I forced my mind off and just showed up. First hurdle accomplished. The people that were running the Marathon took off at 7:30am to a glorious sunrise. We started off at 8 a.m. The sun was shining bright and the wind was blowing cool (temps ranging in the 60’s.) The plan was to use Annette’s phone app to tell us to jog 2 minutes, then walk a minute, jog 2, walk one – etc. and that’s how we started off leaving downtown Victoria.

And now I will allow you to enter my mind and the rest of this post will be like hearing my thoughts out loud. So, if you know how my voice sounds, please envision me speaking the rest.

Wow. This is a LOT of people taking off at once. I hope I don’t get stepped on. I hope I don’t step on someone else! Oh, good, this part is down hill. Annette’s pace is a little much for me. I’m breathing too hard already. Geez, we’ve only jogged 2 blocks and my lungs are burning! It’s so crowded, they need a fast lane and a slow lane, it would help keep people like me from tripping over their feet while trying to wind around these groups.

Shewwwhhh! Glad we’re walking fast now. I don’t know how I can keep this up for a whole 5K. What in the world have I gotten myself into? It sure is a pretty day though! Thank God it’s not hot! I’d definitely pass out in the heat of summer. Heck, I may still pass out! If she keeps jogging this fast she is going to lose me. My lungs are on fire! I’m losing my ability to breathe. Body feels like lead. Must slow down.

Oh no way am I running up this hill! Are you crazy? Bye Annette! I’m walking up the hills. No way can I run up. Just walk fast. Stretch those short legs out! Faster! Ok, once at the top start jogging again. I can do this. Yes, I’m doing this! Oh *#@! My Knee!!!! The shooting fire of pain – Auggghhhh! Don’t fall down, don’t fall down Deana! Just hobble, limp but keep walking. A few more blocks and I will be by the parking garage, I could sneak in there, climb into my Explorer and just lay down and wait for Annette to finish. Hmmm….

No, you’re doing this if you have to limp the whole way!!! Crap, they have a whole bunch of people standing on the sidelines cheering and yelling. And I have to limp past – just don’t make eye contact and keep moving. Be determined.  Did that photographer just take a picture of me limping?!!! Really??? I better not see that in the newspaper. It would be just my luck. Not even half way through and I look like I’m in agony. Oh well, now I really have to finish!!! Great. See ya later parking garage.

Ok, this walking thing is getting easier now, maybe my knee is more warmed up? Oh boy, we’re going to have to cross a major street and the police have the cars stopped and lined up waiting on us. I can’t be the one walking and holding everybody up. Start jogging slow, yeah that’s it – not too hard or fast. I hope my knee doesn’t give out in the middle of this highway! Nope, I got this! Jog, jog, jog. Walk fast. jog. walk fast. jog. Another freakin’ hill? Are you kidding me?!!! We live in the flattest place in Texas and they have our 5K route cover the only hills in town! Figures. Just walk the hills Deana. Then jog. Oh, this is much better, jogging down the hill. Oh, I’m getting really thirsty. But I have to pee. Will have to hold out a little longer for water or I may wet myself.

Oh great, another hill. And people running past me? I really need to get in better shape. That’s just sad. Jog more. Jog, jog, oh nope, gonna have to walk or I am going to trip over some of the pot holes. Not only did they give us lots of hills to maneuver but also bumpy streets with gravel and potholes and uneven roads. I hope I don’t twist my ankle. Just concentrate on not twisting ankle, forget about breathing. I lost breath on that other block anyway. Maybe I can pick it up on the way back!

What??? Not even half way yet? And I am exhausted. How in the world did I ever think I could do a half Marathon? I’m crazy. Well, I guess that ain’t happening, I can take that off my Bucket List. I’ll be lucky to finish this 5K!!! Oh, Water! Yay me, wet and cold. Mmmm. Phooey, I still have to pee. No more water for me. Bye bye water girl. Jog. just jog slow and easy and watch out that you don’t twist your ankle. Downhill now, woo hoo! I can do this. keep goooinggg. Walk fast now. Jog down again. Walk fast now. Oh, this is an easy hill to jog down, it’s steeper than I realized when I was going up it. Uh oh. Too steep, too fast! Slow down or you are going to eat pavement at the bottom!!!! Gravel, oh no. It literally hurts my thighs to try to slow them. And now, Oh yeah, that’s right, up another freakin’ hill. Just stretch those legs and walk. I sure do like all these historical homes down here, so pretty. Oh, I’ve been inside that one! Oops, watch out or you’re going to trip over your own feet. It sure would help if I could lift my legs higher, but really, they feel like jello now, all the way down to my ankles. Is that jello on my ankles? No. Ok. There’s the streetlight and another traffic stopper. Must run so horns don’t honk at you. Oh, that hurts my knee, oh my gosh – I hope I don’t wipe out and face plant in the middle of this street in front of all these people!!!!

Ok, made it. Walk fast for a block then jog, and hey, is that the end corner coming up? Yes! Almost there! Bladder feels like will explode. Must not pee myself in front of everyone! I will jog the last two blocks no matter what! I’m actually going to finish this thing!!! Uh oh, Mucho people standing around cheering, I hope I don’t wipe out in front of them right before the finish line! I’m pretty sure that would make the local news! Stop thinking and just run Deana!!! Oh, there’s Annette on the side waving – wave low back, no energy left. What’s that, somebody running up behind me? Oh, I don’t think so! You ain’t passing me up Chica, I’m hitting that finish line before you!

Yes! I finished. I want to raise my hands and yell ‘Woo Hoo’ but I can’t raise my arms. I may pass out. Ouch my legs hurt! Keep walking or you will fall. Lungs burning. Water, where’s the water? Where’s Annette? “

After that, it’s kind of blurry, but we walked, I grabbed some water and fruit and we looked to see where our times landed in our age groups. In the middle if you’re curious, we were both relieved we weren’t last.

I have to say it feels really good to be  able to say I did run my first 5K at 47 years of age. I don’t think I’m going to make that half Marathon, but maybe I can do another 5K and try to beat my own time. For now, I will have to concentrate on the present. Which means hobbling around moaning and groaning with any movement because my whole body is sore!

And why run against cancer? The info packet they gave us says:

Exercise is an important step in reducing the various cancer types & being physically active can play a key role in preventing cancers caused by lifestyle factors (not genetics.) And more. We all know exercise is good for people, no need for a lecture.

But I did want to share my adventure, thinking everyone might get a laugh out of my crazy mind’s first 5K. (P.S. I did make it home before peeing myself.)

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NFL Sports Suck

The owners of NFL teams complain about fans being fickle – HA! They cause this – one day they are all for a player and/or coach and the next they dismiss them from the team. We are expected to pay outrageous, overpriced hard earned cash to sit in the stands or just wear one of our favorite player’s jerseys, then all of a sudden – POOF! That player/coach is no longer a part of the team we were rooting for and the jersey/# is worthless- but wait – there’s more changes – and, well – what team are we raving about? Because half the players have changed and we no longer know who is playing for which team, wait a minute? Was I going for this player, or this other team, or that Coach…I’m confused.

Such is life if you pay any attention to American NFL Football – and anyone who doesn’t – well, I will tell you now, don’t waste your time – It’s just another money pit – a heartless, soulless, business that only wants your money – I tried to like it for the sake of having teenage boys who LOVED football and played it and if I wanted to have a conversation with them I needed to know what was going on in the NFL and have a somewhat idea of football plays and positions.

And while I do have an appreciation for the intricacies and intelligence of specific plays and their execution – I no longer have any appreciation for the NFL. The actual game of football , yes – but once the ‘professionals’ get involved – no – it’s all about money and don’t let anyone tell you any different because that would be a lie.

Cheating? Oh, if you can get away with it (PATRIOTS) sure – go ahead – be a winner. Cheat all you want and make extra money. Beat your wives, rape your girlfriends, but don’t whip your child’s butt for misbehaving, because that’s just going too far. (I digress, that’s not the Patriots of course, only other teams get in trouble for that) The NFL decides on punishment with a roulette wheel – there is no rhyme or reason – probably it amounts to who pays the people  in charge the right amount of money – yes, I said it.  They allow thieves and other criminals to be leaders of teams and then act surprised when other team members get arrested for ‘real people’ crimes.

I really tried. I tried hard to understand the love of football that my boys had – and I say had because they have come to realize much of the same things I have – football coaches these days have much going against them – the main thing being FACTS. If you aren’t tall enough, big enough, or black enough, then you don’t stand much of a chance playing football. They can scream about heart and team as much as they desire – but the facts remain the same – and anyone who watches or pays any attention to the sport of football knows the deal. Athleticism, is the first and utmost importance, but who you know, do you know how to cheat and get away with it, color of your skin (yes, black people rule in football), but it really all comes down to luck in the long run. Because Coaches stack their teams the best they can, and smart coaches rule their teams with great plays both offensive and defensive, but the BIG thing – the one that EVERYYONE conveniently forgets – is that IT TAKES AN ENTIRE TEAM of people working together – there is not one star that can make a winning team – it takes multiple people and that right there my friend is the biggest challenge for all sports, professional and other. (Because when a team gets a ‘star’ athlete they tend to forget about every other player – thus the eventual downfall of all).

Everyone likes to place blame on the quarterbacks, running backs, or in some cases the entire defense (or pitchers, catchers, hitters, for baseball, you get my point) for any loss – BUT there is not ONE person to blame – it takes an entire team. ALL positions must work together, including Coaches. Including Owners who think they know and push their ideals when they don’t have enough experience to boss people around who should be allowed to make the decisions that make a difference in a great team working together and just a team that was randomly picked for nefarious reasons of an egotistical owner. (Do I have to say Jerry Jones for example?)

Yes, I said it. Does anyone have the balls to prove me wrong?

Ah, don’t bother – there are too many other things of relevance I can do besides waste my time watching criminals make money on national TV. Oh crap, there’s still more political debates though – same difference, different game.

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SPORTS BRA WARNING: WOMEN BEWARE!

I have to share this embarrassing moment with other women simply to warn them of a possible issue that may occur while trying on sports bras.  I really am shocked that this hasn’t happened to anyone else yet, but I definitely want to get the word out so that no woman is harmed by these treacherous ‘sports’ bras.

Here’s my story:  Every new year I start a new exercise routine for inspiration and variety.  This year I decided to challenge myself by attempting this Couch to 5k program that so many of my Facebook friends have been posting about.  After a couple of weeks I realized I was going to need some new ‘support‘ and went to our local sports store (Academy.)  I discovered some new bras that were not only cute but promised to “Banish the Uni-boob!”  The tag touted it’s schtick “The Great Divide – Shaping, Support & No Uni-Boob.”  Wow.  I was not aware that my old sports bras were giving me a ‘uniboob,’ but upon reflection, maybe they were!  “What a wonderful new bra,” I thought to myself.  I gathered two of them with hangers that declared them a size Medium (my size, at least in my old sports bras) and decided not to try them on since I had other shopping to do and a limited amount of time.

Fast forward to the next day, Monday morning.  The kids are gone to school, husband to work and I’m flitting around the house like a, well – a dragonfly, because while I tinker on the computer, I also stop to do other things like:  “Oh, yeah, I wanted to finish cleaning the bathtubs.  Oops, laundry needs to get started.  Oh, I need to go through those papers cluttering the dining room table.  Uh, there’s some dishes that need to be put into the dishwasher.  Are those leaves on the floor?  Let me just sweep those up.”  Are you getting the picture?  I am an ADHD homemaker.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, the bra fiasco.

My daughter and her two fellow cosmetology students/friends generally swing by our house for a quick bite to eat & bathroom use before continuing on to their Cosmo class located on the other side of town.  When  they arrive this morning I’m scampering about the house when I realize I never did try on those new bras.  I needed to try them on before cutting the tags off and washing them with the laundry so I excused myself from the gals in the kitchen and shut myself in the master bedroom to get started.

“Hmmm.  I think I’ll try on this cute pink one first.”  I took the top half of my outfit off (Ok, I took off my pajama top,) released the sports bra from it’s hanger and began pulling it over my head.  “Hmm, this is a tighter squeeze than it should be.  I think they might have mislabled this one.  It seems extra small.”  I get the bra over my head and barely get one arm through it, struggling in a vain attempt to pull the other arm through and while trying to pull it down over my breasts I wonder, “Maybe it’s the new fabric, but it’s still not stretching enough.”  When I begin turning red in the face and the bra still won’t move, I give up.  “This must be an extra small!”  Geez.  Alright then, I will just take it off.

I try to pull my arm out and get it back over my head to no avail.  I am stuck.  Both literally and figuratively.  After many deep breaths, groans and near muscle pulls, I am now breathing heavy, starting to sweat and very seriously stuck half in/out of a sports bra!  It ain’t going down over my boobs and it ain’t going up over my head and I can’t move my arms.  UH OH!!!!!!!

I hear the girls talking in the kitchen and say aloud, “Thank God!  Tara is still here!”

I crack open my bedroom door and raise my voice (as much as I can considering I am out of breath from the struggles with that damn bra) “Uhhhh – Tara!  Tara, can you come help me for a minute?”

I hear her approaching and when she walks around the hallway corner she sees me peeking my head out from behind the door.  She looks at me curiously while saying, “What is it Mama?”

Yes, indeed.  What is it.  “Uhm,” I say, “This is kind of embarrassing, but uh, well – I was trying on one of my new sports bras and I think it was mislabeled because now I am stuck and I can’t pull it off!”

She starts giggling and enters the bedroom.  I can’t imagine how I must look.  A forty-four year old Mama, one arm stuck in the air, one arm stuck down through the bra, boobs popping out underneath from the pressure of being squeezed diabolically by the tightness of the fabric and hunched over – because I couldn’t even stand up straight at this point!

I bend over more at the waist, half waving my one free arm that is stuck upwards and beg, “Just pull it off of me!”

She’s laughing as she yanks it off and I sigh with the freedom of release.  She looks closer at the bra and says, “Yeah, this is a small.  Have you tried the other bra yet?”  I’m frustrated and complaining as I show her the hanger, “Look it says Medium!  Darn!  I guess I better try the other one on too- while you are here, just in case I get stuck in it!”  By this time we are both laughing about my predicament.

The other bra is much easier to get over my head and one arm into, but – uh, nope.  I can’t get both arms into it either!  I bend over at the waist (again) grappling to pull it off and I hear Tara say in disbelief through her laughter, “Don’t tell me you’re stuck in that one too!

Yes, I’m stuck,” I say with disgust.  She’s laughing so hard now that I imagine tears are rolling down her face.  “Just pull it off of me,” the frustration is evident in my voice.  I know we are both girls and related, but it really is embarrassing to be witnessed half in/half out stuck in a sports bra, no matter who is viewing the chaos.

After I get dressed into regular clothes and come walking back into the kitchen where the girls are now all congregated, a light bulb goes off in my mind and I say to them, “Oh my goodness!  Can you imagine if I would have tried them on at Academy?  I would’ve been in a uni-sex dressing room stall mumbling, “Help me, I’m stuck.  Can somebody help me?  Ahh!!!!”

We are all laughing while we picture that scenario, but really – how could I have faced a store clerk stuck in that position? Can you imagine?  That’s why I am writing this and sharing my embarrassing moment – because whether you are family, friend or enemy – I would never wish that on any woman!!!!

P.S. And by the way Academy store clerks – You are very welcome for me not attempting to try on those sports bras in your store!!!!!!!

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Behind a Smile

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters…compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I pulled out some old pictures from my childhood the other day and a flood of memories hit me with each one. One photograph jumped out at me. It was the juxtaposition of emotions that this single picture produced that made my heart skip a beat and my throat tighten. To a bystander, it was just an old, color faded 8×10 school photo. The colors look as if they have been put through one of the new digital age photo filter mechanisms – the one that gives the picture an orange tint. For me, this picture represents the light, happy innocence of childhood before the darkness of oncoming turbulent adolescence.

This photo was taken my 4th grade year in elementary school. I was 9 years old and wearing the proof of my ‘Tomboy’ moniker. I remember my mother questioning my choice of clothing for the school picture that year, but I was adamant that this was the shirt I wanted to wear. Most of the other girls were in frilly dresses or nice button down blouses. Not so for me, I was proudly sporting my Cincinnati Reds T-shirt. My hero’s name, Johnny Bench, emblazoned across my chest with a picture of him catching a baseball on the side of his name. The previous summer my step-brother, Scotty, and I had orchestrated a backyard baseball game every single day of the vacation. We lived in a rural area and rarely had enough kids to fill two full teams, so we created ‘Ghost Men’ to play. I also had a shoebox full of baseball cards, always looking to trade for more‘Reds’ players. Once school started, baseball resumed on the playground, but only boys were allowed to play. Scotty took exception to that when he told them I was going to play on his team. I immediately proved myself valuable and became the only girl player. I was never picked last when teams were chosen either, because I played better than some of the boys. Those were fun times. (Later in the year, the adults would interfere and made us include other girls and then it became boys v. girls and that is when I quit playing. Most of those girls didn’t even know the difference between a mere ‘run’ and an actual ‘home-run’ and that irritated the tar out of me.)

When I attempt to look at that 4th grade photo using a stranger’s eyes, I can see that I could easily be mistaken for a little boy. My short burnt orange hair, green eyes, light skin with a spattering of freckles across my nose and cheeks blended with my clothing choice makes me look a little androgynous. My smile, though genuine, reveals the beginnings of the crooked teeth that would sully my life and contribute to the self image problems I still battle today. My teeth were the most crooked monstrosities ever possessed by an unassuming child. Each large, adult sized front tooth, besides protruding enough to be what was labeled at that time as being ‘bucked’ went outward in opposite directions of each other, as if trying to run away because they didn’t want to touch. The teeth next to them wanted to overlap them in confusion. And for some odd reason, I had too many, so they all crowded crookedly vying for space in my extra small child sized mouth. The effect of this dental horror show combined with my untamed natural curly red hair provided fodder for many jokes and name calling by both mean kids and adults alike.

As I became aware of the grimaces I would receive when I smiled, I began to try to cover my mouth with my hand. I am probably the only child ever who was okay with the orthodontia pain I would later have because I knew that it meant my teeth were being corrected. Trips to the orthodontist involved replacing or tightening the wires on my braces and I would not be able to eat for days afterwards because of the soreness that caused, which left only the bitter iron taste of blood in my mouth. I still remember one visit to the orthodontist where he had to prop one of his legs up on a chair in order to get enough leverage. He grunted and strained so hard he began to sweat. All that, just to get the wires on my braces to tighten around my severely crooked teeth. Ouch.

While the braces were working on my teeth, I worked on my hair. Learning how to style naturally curly hair is an acquired skill, as is learning how to manage it when the weather changes. Remembering the childish, cruel taunts of “I’d rather be dead than red on the head,” as a teenager I begged my mother to allow me to get my hair colored. When she finally agreed you can imagine my exasperation when the Stylist refused to do it, saying that my natural color was too beautiful to destroy. I had to go home to do a double take in the mirror. What was that stylist talking about? I still saw that rusty haired little Tom-boy with crooked teeth when I looked into the mirror. But after blinking a few times, I began to see the teenager looking back at me, the transformation of an ugly duckling to a swan, right before my eyes. It’s amazing how orthodontia, hair and make-up can make such a huge difference on how one is perceived by others. Materialistic as it may be, people treated me differently once they began to recognize me as ‘cute’ and this is when I made a silent vow to myself that I would never judge a person by their looks. I knew from personal experience that the cover of a person is not necessarily a true representation of what lies inside. And what is in a person’s heart is what matters most.

I do admit though, I enjoyed the fact that now, when I smiled at people, they smiled back.

My 4th Grade School Photo

My 4th Grade School Photo

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Victory Over Fear

The year of 1988 was a hot, sticky, steaming summer in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  Tall Pines, Cypress and Oaks stood around the Base, teasing us with shade while we practiced drills in the blazing sun.  The ground was sandy and provided a good work out on the long marches we travailed while wearing standard Army issue camo BDU’s (battle dress uniforms) and black Army boots.  There were times when the Drill Instructors would allow us to take off the hot camo jackets, which left us in our dirt brown t-shirts sporting various shaped sweat stains.  At times, the temperatures became so overwhelming and the heat index so high, that we would be forced to take ‘shade and water’ breaks to prevent heat stroke.  I was not surprised or weakened by any of these things.  I signed up for Basic Training and knew in advance that almost immediately after graduating high school I would be spending the summer tackling all of the challenges the Army tossed my way.  I knew some things would be difficult and intense.  I didn’t know that I would have to face down a fear that I never knew existed – and accomplish it in front of not only my whole platoon, but the entire Company B (B for Bravo, ironically.)  That’s around 250 people.

Army Basic Training requires you to pass many different tests, both physical and mental, before you can successfully complete it.  I had fun with the bayonet training and all the weaponry training and tests.  (Blood & guts make the green grass grow Drill Sergeant!  Kill, Kill without mercy Drill Sergeant!)  I passed the sit-ups, push-ups and 2 mile run tests with no problems.  I marched through dense, jungle-like forests, shot M-16 rifles, threw grenades, bivouacked, went into gas chambers, learned hand to hand combat and basic first aid.  The only obstacle that I found insurmountable came as a surprise.  I discovered it after I did the ropes challenge and climbed to the top of Victory Tower.  Once at the top, I was to rappel down – what seemed to me like a 100 foot wall (but I later learned that it was only 40 foot.)

To start rappelling, the Drill Instructors told us to stand backwards, feet on the edge of the wall, keep the body stiff, hold the rope in front of you with both hands and fall straight back off the edge.  Next, you keep your legs stiff and straight while raising your upper torso into a sitting position.  Once situated, you use your feet to kick off from the wall, maneuvering the rope so that you give it slack, thus sliding downward.  You develop a rhythm doing this until you land on the ground.  I watched others complete the task and deduced that it would be easy for me.  But when my turn came to lean backwards over the edge, I froze.  My mind refused to concede that my body could lean back into nothing but sky.  Fear gripped my insides.  I stepped away from the ledge to let the next person go down.  I looked around frantically and noticed a steel beam that was part of the structure.  As a Drill Instructor screamed at me to get back in line, I got down on my knees and hugged the beam tight.  “I’m not going anywhere!”  I had never experienced a fear of heights so extreme before.  I decided I would rather feel the wrath of my Drill Sergeant than go over the edge.

I remembered that, as a child, I would climb up a ladder onto the roof of our house.  It was always scariest when you had to let go of the ladder and move to the roof.  But once that was done, I would be fine and could walk around on the roof, albeit gingerly, but I did it multiple times with no problems.  This tower was higher up, but only 2 to 3 times higher, so why was I suddenly frozen with terror?

I could see that others were doing it with no injuries.  We had ropes connected everywhere so that even if I let go of the rope I was holding on to the Drill Instructors would still have control and not let me plummet to the earth.  But out on that ledge, leaning straight back into nothing produced a gut-wrenching fear inside me like I had never known.  I gripped my beam tighter and squeezed my eyes shut, saying a prayer for God to magically remove me from my surroundings.

God didn’t say anything, but another Drill Sergeant did.  “Hey Tipton, watch me!”  We were known by our last names, a patch sewn onto our jackets to distinguish us from our identical uniforms.  I opened my eyes in time to see the Sergeant running forward, yelling in excitement, straight off the ledge.  He just ran forward down the wall to the ground amidst cheers from everyone on the ground.  “See Tipton, it ain’t nothing, come on,” my Drill Sergeant said.  I knew he was trying to encourage me, but I gripped the beam even tighter as fear pulsed through my veins.

The soldiers waiting below began yelling encouragement for me to go.  I knew I had to do this, I couldn’t fail.  I looked into my Drill Sergeant’s face and the terror must have been showing in my eyes because I could see a look of pity cross his face.  He walked over to me, kneeled down and pulled a stick of gum from his pocket.  Now, I don’t know how Basic Training is these days, but back then we weren’t allowed care packages or treats of any kind and it had been weeks since I felt the sweet, juicy goodness of a satisfying gum chewing.  My mouth began to water as I eyeballed the gum in his hand.  “Hey, Tip, will you go down the tower if I give you a piece of gum?”  My Drill Sergeant’s hopeful look turned into a smile as I immediately let go of the beam and grabbed the gum, putting it into my mouth before he had time to change his mind.  I stood up and went to the ledge, barely listening as they went over the instructions again.  I was focused now on controlling my mind and getting this over with.  I stopped thinking and just leaned straight back to start my rappel.

After kicking off from the wall my first time, I realized there wasn’t anything scary to it at all.  “There you go Tipton,  – you’re doing it! That’s great!”

I rappelled from the wall with ease and laughed, “Hey, this is fun!”

All of the soldiers below were whooping and clapping, cheering me on.  I kicked out extra far from the wall and rebounded with a smile plastered on my face.  It was over way too quick.  I turned to the Drill Instructor at the bottom of the tower and pleaded, “Can I do it again?”

I felt a true sense of accomplishment after completing that near insurmountable task.  Fear of the unknown can be disabling if you allow it to overcome you.  Sometimes, the best thing to do is to stop thinking and just start doing.  Since that moment in Basic Training I have never allowed fear to overcome me again.  Anytime I begin to feel that crippling dread, I remember going over the ledge of Victory Tower.  I did it.  Once you’ve crossed the edge it’s easy.  All life has its rough spots.  You get through it, and go on living.  You can’t live on the edge.  But you can go over it and get through it.

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The Games People Play (Part 1)

I used to LOVE Baseball.  As a child I took to the game naturally.  It just felt right.  I never once was told that I throw the ball like a girl, yet I was never specifically taught how to throw the ball.  I was never taught how to swing the bat correctly either, but I did swing and hit the ball pretty good quite often.  I can remember my older brother giving me tips on how to catch fly balls in the outfield, but that was really the only instruction I ever received.  I just absolutely loved playing the game.

I grew up in the 70’s in Southern Indiana, with the closest major league team being the Cincinnati Reds.  This was around the time of their ‘Hay Day‘ when they had (MY HERO) Johnny Bench as the catcher, Tom Seaver pitching, Pete Rose on 3rd or 1st, Joe Morgan on 2nd, and well, you get the picture.  I loved them all and collected their baseball cards.  I even had my 4th grade school picture taken wearing my Johnny Bench t-shirt.  I knew how to keep up with their stats.  I can remember one summer break from school when all the kids who lived nearby would gather in our backyard and we played baseball everyday.  (Reminiscent of that movie the Sandlot, we wanted to hit a home-run over the fence, but then again, we feared the neighbor man who lived there – but there was no big dog, lol)  Since I played with my step-brother, who was one year older than me, the most – I learned to play the game like a boy and actually played better than quite a few.

Team sports didn’t start at birth back in those days, so we didn’t get the opportunity to play on actual teams until about 4th grade I think.  When the time came, I wanted to play Little League Baseball.  But they didn’t allow girls to play.  I was livid.  My argument was simple,

“I play better than at least half the boys, why can’t I play with them?!”

The powers that be said I could play Softball with the girls.  For those who don’t realize this – there is a huge difference between the two games.  The biggest difference is the feeling of satisfaction.  When you hit a softball with bat, it just goes ‘thunk.’  There is no good, true sweet spot.  But now, Baseball, when you hit that sweet spot just right, there is a delicious, satisfactory ‘Crack!’ and you can feel the power you just transferred into the ball.  Sure, baseballs are harder, move faster and can be dangerous.  But when you are in grade school that kind of power is not an imminent threat.  I was totally miffed that I had to play softball instead, but I did it since it was as close as I could get to the game I lived for.

Which leads to my 2nd complaint – all the boys Little League teams were given actual uniforms mimicking the professional teams.  Us softball girls – our teams were colors.  We were issued only a cap & a t-shirt, the color of the name of our team.  Red, Green, Yellow and Blue.   They were plain, no designs, logos, or even numbers!!!!  We had to provide our own shorts.  I was placed on the Blue team.  I quickly realized there were going to be problems as it seemed there were only a handful or less of girls who actually knew how to play.  Since I had been throwing overhand my entire life, the under-handed pitching in softball eluded my skills.  I couldn’t pitch under-handed to save my life.  The coach’s daughter (thankfully) could pitch that way and became our pitcher.  I was the only other one on the team that could be counted on to catch the balls thrown to me on a regular basis, so I became the 1st baseman  (even though I was short.)  Every so often one of the other girls would whine about it enough that the coach would let them try 1st and move me to 3rd, short-stop or 2nd.  I liked playing those positions too, so I didn’t mind.  But after too many ball drops causing the score to get out of hand, the Coach would always move me back to 1st.  It became apparent that the Blue team was also the losing team.  I hated losing.

I tried again the next year and was once again placed on the Blue team.  This time with a different Coach and a new set of girls – most of which actually threw the ball like girls.  I was the only one who could throw the ball from the outfield and get it into the infield.  This year I was placed in the outfield.  After wasting me away in the Right field and our team making pitiful sad losses, the coach did move me – back to 1st base.  It was another sad losing season.   I still looked forward to the baseball games I would play at home or at school recesses.  (When the boys starting playing baseball during school recess I was the only girl they would allow to play with them.  This was thanks to my stepbrother who not so politely informed them that I could play just as good or better than them.  At 1st when they picked teams, I would always be one of the last ones picked.  But after a few games, that changed and I was quickly moved up on the list of desirable players.  More on recess baseball later.)

After noticing that the other colored softball teams always kept the same players and the Red team always had the best players, I told my Mom when we signed up for the softball the next year that I wanted to be on the Red team.  The powers that be refused, and totally LIED saying “We don’t let the kids choose their teams, they are picked on a random basis.”  I was only in 5th or 6th grade at the time but I was smart enough to see this for the BULLSHIT it was.  You can’t say that the exact same kids wind up on the exact same team 3 years in row ‘RANDOMLY‘.  Yeah, right.  And it just so happened that all those kids also lived in the same ‘special‘ neighborhood.  What ‘the powers that be‘ were actually saying was “You’re just a poor country girl nobody, some silly hillbilly hick, just be thankful we let you play at all.”  I heard them loud and clear.

This would be my last year playing because I was angry to be once again placed on the Blue (AKA:  Losers) Team with a bunch of whiny, bratty girls who didn’t even know what a stinkin’ actual ‘HOME-RUN’ was – they were so ignorant to the rules that they called all runs ‘home-runs’.  If you know the game at all, you know there is a difference between a ‘Run’ and a ‘Home-run’.  I even tried to educate them, by screaming at them,

It’s only called a ‘home-run’ if you hit the ball from the batter’s box and run around all three bases and make it to the home-plate scoring!  Any other time you cross the plate IT’S JUST A ‘RUN’!”

Not all the girls were bad, some were sweet & had good intentions, but you know how memories are –  some things stand out and sometimes it’s the worst of things that reverberate loud in the mind.  After that Hellish season, I told my Mom I didn’t want to play anymore.  The Powers that Be had totally ruined it for me.  If I couldn’t play the sport I loved or even be on a decent team in the 2nd rate sport, well, then enough was enough.  I lost my desire even for baseball because of the unfairness of the situation.  Grown-ups had turned something that was once a fun, magical, wonderful game into something more akin to a popularity contest – a political, power-tripping, who’s who.

This was my 1st lesson in the Games that People Play.  There are different kinds of games in life.  There are games that are played for fun.  Then there are the games that devious people play with other’s lives.

You get your first whiff of this stuff in Elementary school and Junior High.  By High-school you begin to hope like Hell that once you graduate and get out in the real world with other adults that the absurdity will stop.  But then Reality smacks you in the face – most people never grow up or out of this.  They continue to play (mind) games into the workplace and beyond.  It never ceases.

(I’m going somewhere with this, stay tuned for the next post.)

P.S. I kept a special place in my heart for the game of baseball even though I had given up playing and I still enjoyed watching it on TV on occasion.  Right up until 1993 – the year of the Strike – that’s when I realized Professional Baseball had become just a mockery of the game – it was just another business full of greedy people wanting more. I haven’t felt the love towards baseball since then.

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Filed under Kids, Psychological rabble dabble, Random Thoughts, Sports