Memories of Premarital Tennis

I have fond memories of playing tennis with my husband before we were married. I have not-so-fond memories of playing tennis after we got married. Marriage changes everything, even tennis.

I’ve talked with girlfriends who play tennis, or used to play tennis, and they’ve had similar experiences after getting married. Who knows why things change like this? Let’s not even go there.  They just do.

Frank and I met in a tennis club for singles. Frank was very chivalrous when we were dating, and that extended to tennis. He was much better than me, rated Men’s-A tournament level in our club. I was a Women’s-C. We only played together informally, with friends. Back then Frank was unconcerned about whether we won or lost. We just had fun.

Then we got married, and things changed. After we lost a match he would say things like “You need to work on your serve” or “You need to practice your volley” or “You’ve got a weak slam.” We’d go out during the week and he’d feed me volleys to return as slams, or coach me on my serve, or feed me fast and corner balls to return. We drilled and drilled. He wanted to win his doubles matches.

With the pressure on, tennis became just one more stress on top of my busy life as a working mother. Eventually I quit playing. Frank practiced some weekday evenings and played every Sunday. I alternated between hiking and going to movies on Sunday. On movie days I went to a little theatre that was next to a coffee shop, and after the movie I’d treat myself to a guilty pleasure—espresso and a luscious gelato. In solitary splendor, I enjoyed myself immensely.  

Then Frank broke his metatarsal bone running down a tennis ball, when he was 65. It was quite painful and he wore a big knee-high boot for two months and did physical therapy for a long time after that. He never went back to tennis. He felt the foot was a weak link and susceptible to re-injury at his age. He gave his huge bag of beat-up practice balls to a friend who has a lovable Yorkshire terrier named Maggie.

Now Frank and I go to the movies nearly every Sunday. We both enjoy them. No one competes, no one loses, no one screws up. We laugh and we cry. We have animated, enjoyable discussions of the film afterwards over a nice dinner. We both win. So far the score is Love-Love. Actually, Love-Love-Love. Maggie adores her tennis balls.

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Affirmative Prayer for Today’s World

Thank you, God, for my own team of angels—hidden in the wings (no pun intended), ready to appear swiftly, 24-7-365, and help me with my obscure digital devices.


My angels are the tech-savvy men and women who answer technical help phone lines whenever I need assistance (quite often). I could not function in this high-tech world without these cherished angels. I can hear their voices, sweet and clear and strong, though I cannot see them. But I know these beings are angels because of the other-worldly vibration in the background of the phone line, as like the beating of wings, and occasional soft harp music when I’m on hold.  

My first angel appeared in days of olde, when I got high-speed internet. AT&T sent me a mysterious router thingy to set up myself. Were they kidding? After hours of lonely, futile struggle to connect it, I gave up and called the technical help line. I no longer had to walk alone! An angel disguised in the soothing voice of a young man came on the line to be my unfailing guide for three solid hours. He led me as I looked on the tops and backs of modems and hard drives and other things for specs in unreadable microscopic type, and crawled around on the floor with a flashlight testing phone jacks. Praise God, at midnight we finally found a good connection. To this day my router is located in the kitchen next to the toaster. 

My first sweet Verizon angel led me through updating my iPhone software using the USB port on my PC. I didn’t have Wi-Fi. With the patience of Job, my angel led me through infinite, complex, anti-intuitive steps. She left me only during the hours-long download and with great comfort I sensed her hovering near me all the while, just a phone call away.

When I purchased a new PC from Best Buy I added a year of Geek Squad technical support to my angel team. They’re always nearby, closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet. I renew every year, and plan to do so for eternity.

Through my tech angels God gives me all the guidance I could possibly need, and to spare. At times I have a deep longing to see my angels, but I know deep in my heart I must wait. Here on earth I can see only the telephone through which I make contact with them. But I know with certainty it will happen, when we finally lay down our earthly garments and float up to the iCloud. We’ll all have a meetup, and then we shall see face to face. 

Blogging is good for your health.

Maybe you think the above title is a mistake, that I meant to say jogging. Nope. I mean blogging. You’re getting healthier if you laugh while you blog. 

Everyone knows jogging is good for your health. It strengthens muscles, improves cardiovascular fitness, helps maintain weight…yadda yadda yadda. As long as you don’t ruin your knees.

But how in the world can blogging be good for your health? The answer is endorphins. When you laugh you increase the number of these “feel-good” hormones in your system. The trick is you need to write humor. I write a lot of it. At least my friends tell me my stuff is funny. My blog posts make me laugh, which is the important part. Writing humor increases your health only if you laugh at your own jokes like I do.

Two young bloggers ramp up their endorphin counts.

When I’m at my PC blogging, sometimes I laugh so much that my husband thinks someone is in my office with me. It’s very therapeutic for me because I’ve suffered from depression nearly all of my life. I won’t go into the details, which I’ve been boring my friends with for years, but some very dark things lurk in my family background: suicide, heroin addiction, crime, hellacious accidents, alcoholism, permanent estrangement…the list goes on, but as a public service I’ll stop here.

So when I write about campaigning for a tooth fairy who comes to seniors, or becoming a Victoria’s Secret reject because my bra band size is larger than their max 38 inches,  or trying to meditate at home with Judge Judy’s obnoxious voice blaring from the TV, I’m manufacturing endorphins. These happy brain chemicals also relieve pain.

In a scientific test conducted at Oxford, participants’ arms were wrapped tightly in a blood-pressure cuff and tightness was increased gradually. Some participants watched 15 minutes of comedy, and they were able to withstand 10 percent more pain than participants who didn’t watch comedy. There’s also a bonding effect in an endorphin rush that is important in our social lives, believed to be like grooming for certain highly social animals such as monkeys. Endorphins also reduce stress and create a positive feeling in the body.

So next time someone tells you laughter is good for your health, don’t laugh. It’s true. And it doesn’t ruin your knees.

Poor Man’s Keurig

A small coffee-lover’s miracle recently happened in my life. I love Keurig coffee but their single-cup coffee brewers are too expensive for me. So are most other single-cup makers. I’m at financial critical mass in my retirement. I seriously need to cut down on my spending and am following an airtight budget. The single-cup brewers are also large, and we have a small kitchen with limited counter space. Lastly, most brewers come only in black.

After a lot of shopping around,  I just sighed and figured I’d have to plod through my life without one…drinking boring old ground stuff…the same flavor for months until the container is finally empty.  

I got hooked on Keurig at my church, of all places, which has a big selection of pod flavors and a Keurig brewer in the kitchen. I thought about buying one and reducing my tithe accordingly. After all, the church got me hooked. But the better part of my conscience prevailed.

Enter Procter-Silex, with a single-cup coffee maker for $25.00!! I just couldn’t stop searching, and one day voila! There it was. It’s small and it does the job. I feel almost guilty, finding a single-cup brewer that cheap. Like I’ve outsmarted the gods. And another miracle is that it comes in white, on Target.com. It’s perfect in my kitchen.

My mornings are joyous. Now I go into the kitchen wondering, “What will it be today? Dunkin’ Donuts Dunkin Dark? Green Mountain Southern Pecan? Eight O’Clock Original?” The choices are infinite. And I usually drink only one a day so it doesn’t break the bank. I’m enjoying single-cup coffee just like rich people with big kitchens. And loving it. 

Running Away from Home

I love my husband but I need to get away from him now and then. I do short getaways, like staying in Monterey with a friend or two for a couple days of eating, shopping, and walking on the beach, followed by more eating and shopping. Or I’ll go overnight with friends to experience the fog and the culture in San Francisco. There’s a wealth of things to do close to our home in Silicon Valley.

The getaways are good for me and our marriage. We appreciate each other more when I get back. The passion gets fanned a bit, the flame reignites. It’s a kind of marriage makeover.

I’m always the one who has to run away from home. Frank is exceptionally stable. He worked for the city for 30 years, and bought the house we live in nearly 40 years ago, 20 years before we even met. His 1970 Camaro is older than his house. And he’s a diehard homebody. He never travels except when we go together. He’s stable to a fault.

Once in a while I muse about what it would be like if Frank took a trip and I stayed home. Home alone! Wow, what would it feel like? The whole house would be my oyster. The first thing that comes to mind is the excitement of having control of the remote. That’s been a lifelong—or marriage-long—dream of mine. I could change channels, turn the volume up or down, turn the TV off and back on at will. I’d be drunk with the feeling of power it would give me.

I could have my girlfriends over for wine and Chinese takeout. And more wine. We’d laugh loudly and watch chick flicks and tell off-color jokes. Maybe even get really wild and watch Forty Shades of Grey. Or is it Fifty? I haven’t seen it. And ice cream for dessert, Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked. Yum, gooey cookie dough chunks. I’d get a lot so when the girls leave I can finish whatever’s left. Ice cream is a no-no when Frank’s home. He’s a healthy eater and watches my weight for me.

I could indulge openly in my secret addiction and buy a bunch of lottery scratch cards. Then I’d scratch them off right out in the open, at the kitchen table. I can’t do that either when Frank’s home. He disapproves of gambling almost more than ice cream.

I have a long list of more home-alone pleasures. My at-home getaway sounds great, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Frank’s not showing any signs of restlessness or wanderlust. He’s happy just driving to a movie or to senior drop-in doubles at the city tennis courts. So I’ll just keep my sense of adventure and my suitcase at the ready. It’s for a good cause.   

The Power of Laughter

aI was a very tiny toddler, with a great big belly laugh that surprised people. But early on I learned how to push it down, keep it under wraps. It was muted for decades.

When I was three my family—together in those days—went for a day at the beach. Mom stayed up by the boardwalk while my father and older brother and I went down to the water, a long walk away. It was a cold windy day and the waves were huge. For years afterwards Mom would recount how she could barely see us but she could hear my laugh booming over the roaring breakers.

My brother was the one making me laugh. Mike had found a piece of kelp about five feet long and was cracking it like a whip at the waves, yelling “Get back! Get back!” when they started to recede. It was hilarious to me to watch the waves as they seemed to obey my brother’s commands. I laugh even now, thinking of it.

Life hummed along for a few years. I was a happy child, a fierce tomboy, indomitable. Even though I was the shortest girl in my school, I ran like the wind and outraced boys, climbed trees, hit homers in street softball, caught every fly ball in the field, always won at tetherball. 

The magic wore off. Mike got into drugs in his early teens and shot himself up with heroin for decades. One day he was high on  smack and working with heavy machinery, and he lost his right arm. My father was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and heavily depressed for 20 years. I formed a belief—I realize this now—that laughter was insensitive and uncaring, with poor Daddy so sick and hopeless. I imagined how it made him feel worse and felt guilty, even though he didn’t live with us anymore. So I suppressed it. But he committed suicide anyway, when he was fifty.  

I started drinking in my mid-twenties. I stopped when my daughter was three and I was forty-one. I damaged relationships and not all of them were restored. Life got a lot better when I sobered up. I kept jobs, I was a safe and responsible parent to my daughter, I was just an overall better person. But I sustained painful losses. At seventy, I’m still working to heal the damaged relationship with my daughter.

I’ve had years of therapy and commitment to a spiritual program. Feelings of running like the wind, whipping the tetherball around the pole, scrambling up trees like a monkey are starting to come back to me: feelings of being exquisitely alive. I’m bouncing back, and so is my belly laugh. It’s a little rusty but still there.

Mike became clean and sober at forty. For ten years he had a good life, helping other addicts, then died of lung cancer. I don’t have him anymore to tame waves with his kelp whip and make me laugh out loud. But I have Melissa McCarthy impersonating Sean Spicer. That’s close enough.