Sunday, April 25, 2010

My second trophy

Patrice and I won the Moorland tournament we played in this weekend!

On Friday night, I followed my usual pre-match routine and ate chicken tacos from Qdoba for dinner. Typically I eat Qdoba on the day of the match itself, but that wasn’t really feasible because we were scheduled for two morning matches.

Patrice’s pre-match consumption: a burger and some gin and tonics. She did say that the sugar woke her up in the middle of the night. But she’s never deterred by physical stuff. (She had the flu the night before our last tournament.)

We won our Saturday morning match in straight sets. During our post-match debrief, we talked about what I learned on Friday. At the high-interest day, I had lunch with Kevin, who was teaching a session on NASCAR racing. He also coaches volleyball, and he shared some of his philosophy.

What he said also applies to tennis. There are five things you can control:

1. Attitude.
2. Communication.
3. Conditioning.
4. Effort.
5. The serve.

So Patrice and I talked about those things. Which was helpful for me, because we relied on all of them to win our second match.

The team we played: hard hitters who made very few unforced errors. They were also unafraid to take low-percentage shots. We tried to stay calm through some very long rallies and not fixate on our mistakes. That was tough — oh, the regret of a failed shot at a critical time. But who among us hasn't made that mistake? At one point, after a game we lost where I had made many mistakes, I thought, "Game over." But not in a bad way. Just, "That game is over. Done. Move on."

Somehow we stayed in it: 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. Another great weekend of tennis.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pizza, pizza, pizza and the mystery of the gnome

Katy and I celebrated her 40th birthday at Balistreri’s (which also happens to be where she and her husband had their first date). We ate fried eggplant and a modestly sized pizza. I wish I had gotten a photo; I could probably show a whole series of the times she and I have been there.

A week later, Balistreri's again. Jane, Erin, Kelsey, and I met up for fried eggplant and a very large pizza with cheese, sausage, onions, and fresh mushrooms.

Jane and Kelsey prefer the gooey insides of the pizza, while Erin and I like the crispy edges. Our pizza preferences made for a symmetrical dismantling of the pie. (Kelsey admitted later that she missed having green peppers.)

And last Monday, I had pizza to celebrate another big birthday — Eric’s 60th. He didn't want Becky to make a big deal about it, so we all surprised him after his court time to celebrate.

“I feel like I'm 20,” he said. Then he pointed to his head: “But only up here.”

Dave, who just turned 50, presented the gnome statue. He — the gnome — travels to people on their big birthdays. He still has a price tag on; it’s part of his folksy charm.

No one seems to remember the origins of the gnome. I asked Pat, Sandy, and Marilee. I even asked Dan, who was the first recipient. No luck.

But I guess the important thing about the gnome is not where he's been, but where he is. Cheers to my friends with big birthdays!

Jewelry making on High-Interest Day

Kelsey and I taught jewelry making for a high-interest day, and it was a blast!

Michelle, who organized the day's activities, let us snap some photos of her daughters, Julia and Jenna. Since we didn’t get permission from other parents, I’ve included just the jewelry from a couple of the kids.

I wish I had thought of this beforehand — one of the girls, who made the set with the big flower pendant, was thrilled. "Awesome!" she said. "Is this gonna be in the magazine?"

Everyone seemed to have a great time, despite a few dropped beads. And they made beautiful jewelry from the hodgepodge of supplies we gave them, mixing metals and materials, combining earth tones with gold, and even doing some color blocking. A boy made that last set for a Mother's Day gift; I love the pairing of the teddy bears.

There were about 20 kids in the first session, and everyone got done at the same time! Luckily Jenna was there to help. She took our class two years ago, so she knew how to attach clasps on necklaces and bracelets.

So thanks, Jenna, and all the kids we met. We had a great time and hope to be back next year. And who knows, maybe next time we'll pop into the other sessions — dog training, cake decorating, pizza and gelato making, it all sounds fun!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oh no, Papa. It's my bed!

I have insomnia. Often.

During those times, I actually envy Papa. Like when it's 1 a.m. and I get out of bed to grab a crossword puzzle, and she sleeps. Impervious to my suffering.

Comfortable, Papa?

By sleeping on the diagonal, she can maximize her space on the bed.

She's also an aggressive snuggler, treating me to every twitch, gurgle, sigh, and snore. Sometimes I manage to sleep through Papapalooza only to wake up in the morning and find we're sharing a pillow.

Oh no, Papa, you are sneaky even when you sleep!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why I've been making lists

There’s more to my life than my mom and two ex-boyfriends.

Those were the first essays I wrote. Now I'm at a loss for ideas, essay-wise.

I came across a statement: “Having ideas doesn’t make you a writer.” There have been so many times I’ve had ideas — especially while walking Papa — only to never put them to paper. "Ideas" can feel promising or intimidating, depending on the kind of mood I'm in.

What does it mean to say, “I have no idea”?

To avoid lingering too long at my pity party, I cracked open my Listography journal, a gift my friend Linda gave me. She always encourages me to write. I'm not exaggerating: I have a post-it from her on my fridge that says, "Keep traveling. Keep writing."

I started with the easy lists: cars I’ve owned (only two), places I’ve lived (many), favorite movies and games (surprisingly, not a long list).

As soon as I got stumped, I moved on. Bucket list, regrets, personality flaws — those I'll save for another time.

I recognize that the lists themselves are a form of procrastination. But as long as I keep the pen moving, I feel like I'm doing something tangible. If only the writing part of writing wasn't so hard.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oh no, Scout.

This is Scout.

He is a beautiful border collie who belongs to my co-worker, Andy. He was the first dog Andy and his wife saw on a day-long trip to shelters in southern Minnesota. They met many dogs but couldn't stop thinking about him.

Andy shot these photos in the fall and winter, but I didn't want to wait to post them. I've become a sucker for border collies in general (not just Pops).

Scout is way more obedient than Pops. But like her, if he doesn't get enough exercise, he gets into stuff: shredding toilet paper and leaving it all over the floor, chewing on the cat, etc.


“She’s allowed on furniture and he’s not, so if she wants to get away, she can,” Andy says. “Usually, though, she’ll just bat her paws at him and he’ll growl at her and chew. It’s pretty funny to watch.”

Oh no, Scout. Not the cat!

Scout will chase anything that moves: “Waves crashing on the beach drive him crazy; he’ll nip at the waves like he would a sheep’s heels. He chases after the embers coming off a fire (that’s what he’s doing in that second picture), and sometimes catches them. He pounces on moving shadows. It’s that herding dog instinct: If it’s in motion, he’s interested.”

And yet it's hard not to be charmed by dog antics. As Andy says, “We clean up after them, buy them stuff, and take lots and lots of pictures.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

“Losing Ugly on Court 6: An Update”

That's the subject line of an email Charlie sent to Patrice and me on Thursday. I’m including some gems along with my analysis of our singles match. Excerpts from his email are in italics.

We started with a discussion of the tennis trophies won by you and Naomi, and how tennis is a mental game.

A bit of hyperbole here: one trophy. I’ve won a grand total of one trophy. Not including tournaments with me, Patrice has won many.

Charlie has an “Aw, shucks” attitude about playing singles. But he has a tricky slice. It either has some pace on it (and I almost run through it) or it doesn’t have pace on it (and I can barely get to it). And of course there’s the angle.

I ran a lot in the first set and eked out a win, 6-3. Then I lost the next game.

“I need to come up or hit better ground strokes.”
“Depends on what I’m doing.”


Fearing that my fragile male ego might be damaged if she didn't make it closer, Naomi then spotted me 4 games in the second set, letting me get up 4-0.

Um, no. Charlie does not have a fragile ego. He does, however, have a killer drop shot. He’d slice a short ball and then calmly follow up with a passing shot, usually to my forehand side.

“So if I want to come back, it has to be now.”
Charlie nodded. “You can do it. It’s all mental.”

I did manage to come back: 1-4, eventually 3-5. I was serving at 15-40. Set point.

Then I told myself it was not set point. Because that's too much pressure. (When I’m serving a set point in matches, I also pretend it’s not. Especially if it's match point.)

4-5. Then 5-5. But Charlie stayed in it, 5-6. Finally, 6-6.

In the tiebreaker, I got up 6-1, but Naomi prevailed 8-6.

I have no memory of the tiebreaker, though I do recall being far behind. I wish I knew how I got back in. It would be useful to know how to win seven points in a row in a match. “One at a time,” I can imagine Charlie saying.

Surprisingly enough, I really had a good time. However, Naomi reminds me of the expression we use about you on Monday nights: "Patrice likes to win."

Indeed. Patrice and I both like to win. But it's rare that we play opponents who encourage us to. Thanks, Charlie!

In case you were wondering, the subject line refers to Brad Gilbert’s Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis—Lessons from a Master. I’m only halfway through, but I like the message so far: There’s always a way to win.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Oh no, Papa. Again with the lip balm?

Papa loves makeup. Loves to scatter it, loves to eat it.

So even though she’s been an angel lately, I shouldn’t be surprised that she chewed my Burt’s Bees lip balm (pomegranate, yum!). I can never get through a lip balm; she always pounces on it.

Small consolation: she didn’t get far with the mini bottle of lotion.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sliders and Sluggo's and basketball, too

On Saturday, Addie and I went to The Red Accordion. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a tapas and sliders place that also had TVs. I was also skeptical because I liked the restaurant that had been there previously, CafĂ© Vecchio. But the owner wanted a change.

Changed it was.

The place was very red: red walls and ceiling, red curtains at the tables, signs with red lettering. And in addition to TVs showing the Final Four games, each booth had its own flat-screen. Very high-concept-meets-sports-bar.

But just like at the old place, the service and food were excellent. The bartender was enthusiastic about making me a ginger-ale-like concoction. And thumbs up on the puff-pastry number with mushrooms and boursin sauce. What’s more, it reminded me of a dish I'd loved at Vecchio. Change is okay.

After dinner, we headed to the Bucks game. This was my first game during the Scott Skiles era, so I was dazzled by the video presentation and live music. And during the pregame dance, a season ticketholder from Stallis got to be in the circle (this was more entertaining than it sounds).

Check out these photos that Addie took. I don't usually have a favorite part of the tipoff, but looking at the photos, I do now: Jason Richardson (#23) looking mildly interested.

Of course I miss the old Bucks. But our new players (compared to two years ago) played like a team. As if that wasn't entertaining enough, a group of 60-and-over women and a couple of men — Seniorgee! — danced to Ludacris. And the Bucks won.

Just so we didn’t have to deal with too much change in one night, Addie and I went to Sluggo’s after the game. We drank wine from teensy bottles while listening to Hall and Oates.

When I got home I was too tired to put my laundered sheets back on the bed, so I decided to sleep in the upstairs bedroom. Lo and behold! — my favorite jeans were hanging on the back of the door. I hadn’t seen them in weeks, and I couldn’t figure out if I left them at the gym or in the hotel in New York. But there they were. "I lost my jeans, then I found them" might not seem story-worthy, but have you ever lost something and been grateful to get it back?

It’s funny what a change of habit, whether in the menu or the venue, can do.