My Tennis Resolutions

There are two types of people. Those who like New Year’s resolutions and those who don’t.

I’m firmly in the camp of resolvers. I love envisioning a new and improved version of me, one in which I’m flossing religiously and filing all my paperwork away and running 10Ks and drinking juiced kale for breakfast. That me is friggin’ awesome.

About a decade ago, in the days leading up to New Year’s, I made twenty-six resolutions. I had to write them down just to remember them all. I had all the bases covered—weight loss, housework, writing, exercise, learning a new language. I drew up a giant chart with colored markers and stocked up on shiny gold stars. It was all so exciting and promising…

…until January 1st came and I had to execute this monstrous self-improvement plan. I spent all my waking hours trying to keep on top of my chart, constantly checking to see which tasks were still uncompleted and feeling inadequate every single minute of the day. It was exhausting and dispiriting, and the chart was in the trash by the end of the week.

The key, of course, is to shoot for small changes—and not too many of them. Every year my resolutions shrink in size and number. Two years ago, I resolved to never leave a hair appointment without setting up the next one. Not exactly inspiring, is it? Nevertheless, that small change has stuck and has made my life marginally more manageable. That’s probably all we can reasonably expect from a resolution.

By now I feel like I’ve mastered this resolution business, which is why I was surprised to see that I didn’t make any tennis-related resolutions on this blog this time last year. How can that be? It surely isn’t because I have nothing to improve. I could have resolved to poach more, or learn a drop shot, or play more singles. I could have resolved to upgrade my tennis wardrobe. (Yes, you can steal that last resolution, if you want.)

This year, setting a tennis resolution is trickier since my shoulder is still frozen and I don’t know when I’ll be able to play again. But after a little reflection, I’ve come up with these three:

Resolution 1. Do my physical therapy twice a day, every day. Is it cheating if I’m already doing this? I don’t care. I’m including it anyway.

Resolution 2. Write a blog post at least three times a month. That’s a pretty low bar. Remember when I was churning out three posts a week? I must have been on crack.

Resolution 3. Be kind to myself when I play. When I get back on the court, I’m going to suck—and when I suck, I get negative. But what I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that sucking on the court still beats not sucking on the sidelines. Going forward, I resolve to just be grateful that I’m playing and enjoy.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Do you have any resolutions, tennis-themed or otherwise? What do you hope to achieve in 2020?

Gongoozling in the Digital Age

Have you forgotten our new vocabulary word already? Gongoozling means to be a spectator. (It also means something else which is NOT the subject of this post.) Go retake our vocab quiz if you need a refresher.

My (now frozen) shoulder still has me sidelined, so instead of playing yesterday, I gongoozled. I couldn’t watch my own team—they were playing an away match and I didn’t have time to make the trip. Instead, I watched one of my club’s other teams play its home match. Such inspiring tennis!

Here’s something I noticed yesterday, and not for the first time. I was talking quietly with another gongoozler when I overheard someone say, “Oh, wow—great shot.”

I looked back to the court, but of course I’d missed the whole thing. “No matter,” an inane voice in my head piped up. “I’ll just rewind it.”

You know, rewind. Like we can do with live television now, whether we’ve programmed the DVR or not. Just hit that handy left-facing arrow button on the remote and you get a second chance to see what you missed while you were busy googling what language is spoken in Greenland (West Greenlandic, English and Danish) or checking on the state of your cuticles (deplorable).

Only, much to my dismay, it turns out that real life doesn’t work like that. There’s no remote. If you missed it, you’re plum out of luck.

Probably in the dystopian future, when the world is so saturated with security cameras that no inch remains unsurveilled, we’ll be able to open an app and see a replay of anything we want. I figure it’ll work something like this: I set my time parameters (e.g., the last 3 minutes), point the phone camera at the area I want to see, and voila! I’ll have a replay of Eileen’s perfect poach.

But until that glorious day arrives, we’re mostly stuck in a you-snooze-you-lose reality. Better pay attention, bub, because this moment is happening one time only.

As I indicated earlier, this isn’t the first time I’ve come face-to-face with my bizarre belief that I can rewind real life. Almost always, it happens when I’m watching a tennis match in person. I’ve tried to explain this experience to other tennis players, only to have them look at me with an unmistakeable mixture of pity and concern. Apparently, I’m an anomaly. Or we could say I’m exceptional, which certainly sounds better.

Mostly it just amuses me when these mental blips occur. But they’ve got me wondering whether I’ve become a less attentive person overall. It’s clear that I’m less attentive during television shows or online because I don’t have to be attentive. As a kid, I was completely absorbed in Scooby Doo or Happy Days because rewinding live television wasn’t an option. If you missed it, you missed it. My default setting, like everyone else’s, was attentive.

Today, when it comes to television, my default setting is inattentive (except for Breaking Bad, of course). It’s especially that way when I’m watching tennis matches, because let’s face it, it’s hard to stay riveted when Rafa is toweling his face, kicking clay off the baseline, touching his shoulders, nose and ears, and picking his shorts between every point. He finally serves…and it’s a let. He gets another ball and starts his OCD ritual all over again.

The amount of actual high-quality tennis action in any match is small, compared to the time eaten up with unreturned serves, double faults, face mopping, ball sorting, ball bouncing and changeovers. And my attention, like everyone else’s these days, is frayed. As much as I love watching tennis, I multitask and daydream and end up missing some quality points. I have the luxury of doing that because of that wonderful little remote.

All that’s fine, until I find myself adrift in real life without my trusty rewind button. Fortunately, in most environments, my rewindlessness doesn’t affect me. I had a long walk in the snowy woods with my dog this afternoon, sans cell phone, and I was fully present, no need for a rewind. So all is not lost.

All I have to do is recapture that mindfulness on the tennis sidelines, in my new role of gongoozler.

Have you gongoozled any matches in person lately? Did you momentarily—even just for a nanosecond—have the instinct to reach for the remote and rewind something? (Please? Anyone?) Is the only solution to my inattentiveness less television? (Nooooo…..)

Holiday Tennis Gifts

Happy Cyber Monday, guys!

If you’re tackling your online holiday shopping today, check out the gift shop at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The shop stocks some nifty tennis-themed items, like Sugarpova candy, adorable ball-and-racquet cheese spreaders, fun hair ties, tote bags, vintage tennis can thermoses, and much more. They’re perfect for that special tennis player or blogger in your life.

Of course, they’re also good for treating yourself, if you’re into that kind of thing…which I am, so enough blogging. I’m going to shop!

(And, no, I don’t earn any money when you order. I’m still waiting for this blog to turn into a cash cow, or even just a cash hamster.)

🎾☃️

Little White Ball

Now that the leaves are off the trees (and hopefully off your lawn) and the summer clothes are packed away, a New Englander’s thoughts naturally turn to golf.

Wait—what?

Yup, I’m posting a golf essay on a tennis blog the day before Thanksgiving. Why would I do that? Four reasons:

  1. Golf is just a metaphor for Important Life Lessons.
  2. The essay does mention tennis. Three times, in fact.
  3. The theme feels Thanksgiving-y, in a counting-your-blessings kind of way.
  4. I needed to clear the cobwebs off this blog and post something. This is what I have on hand.

 

A Thanksgiving Golfing Essay

As anyone who has taken up golf knows, the first few outings can be rough going. You hack up a giant clod of sod while the ball remains placidly on the tee. You shank the ball off the butt of the club. You twist your spine, rotate your shoulders and unload on the ball, only to see it roll a begrudging ten yards. It’s a lesson in humiliation, especially if you’re in the company of seasoned golfers.

My mother came to golf late in life. A childhood tomboy and college tennis player, she enjoyed most sports, yet the plodding pace of golf held little appeal to her. When my father retired, though, she wanted to join him on his long golfing afternoons. Her early forays weren’t pretty.

My mother, God bless her, was a master of positive thinking. She knew she’d eventually conquer this sport, if she could only get past its two initial hurdles: one, learning the correct technique, and two, dealing with the soul-sapping frustration that comes with recording scores of 17 or 18 on a par 4 hole. That early frustration can itself lead to bad form and worse results–and ultimately drive a person to quit the sport altogether.

So my mother invented her own scoring system. She called it “counting my beauties.” While my father and their golfing friends would dutifully add up every stroke, my mother would record only the shots that soared straight down the fairway. Any shot that dribbled off the tee, or bounced meanly along the ground, or veered off in an unexpected direction, simply didn’t count in her score.

In essence, she turned a blind eye to her failures. She neither censured herself nor gave herself pep talks. The failures weren’t something to curse, accept, or forgive herself for. They just didn’t exist.

I was a young adult when my mother adopted her unconventional approach, and I found it a bit embarrassing. Her game of “let’s all pretend I didn’t take eight shots to get out of the sand trap” seemed childish. I imagined her fellow golfers rolling their eyes as she cheerily penciled in a “1” at the end of a hole.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the wisdom of her self-deception. Although her failures were evident for all to see, she refused to incorporate them as part of her reality, as part of the measure of her worth. By refusing to give them any weight, she robbed them of their power.

Of course, my mother was blessed with a healthy dose of confidence and optimism. (“Moxie” was one of her favorite words.) For me, such blithe blindness to failure is harder to come by. Losing a tennis match can leave me in a funk for the rest of the day. A publisher’s rejection invariably provokes a minor existential crisis.

But while my mother’s natural disposition helped her to focus on the positive, it’s also true that ignoring her failures reinforced her optimism. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, fueled not just by outlook but by choices.

As the weeks went by, my mother’s beauty count steadily increased. The higher her score, the happier she was, exactly the opposite of how most golfers want to see their scores trending.

Eventually, my mother didn’t need an alternate scoring system anymore. She worked her way up to the point that her score matched my father’s, in the process becoming an accomplished golfer.

I’ve spent most of my life outside the optimism loop, not seeing an on-ramp for someone with a naturally pessimistic outlook. While I’ll never be as sanguine as my mother, her scoring system makes me wonder if I can become more optimistic simply through willpower. Rather than focusing on my win-loss record in tennis or publishing, I’ve started counting my beauties. That well-placed serve. That well-turned phrase.

On my mental score card, I pencil in my “1.”

 

Hope you all have a beauty-filled Thanksgiving! 🦃🎾⛳️

**Essay originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor.

The Word Nerd Quiz

Did you know November is National Novel Writing Month? Participants in NaNoWriMo, as it’s commonly called, commit to writing a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days. If you haven’t started your novel, it’s not too late—you’re only 1,666 words behind. (Unless, of course, you’re reading this on Sunday, in which case you’re 3,332 words behind. Better get busy.)

I should have no trouble tapping out 1,666 words a day since I’m again sidelined from tennis. More shoulder woes. I’m hoping it won’t take too much longer before I’m back on the court. In the meantime, I’m relegated to the lesser role of gongoozler.

Isn’t that fun to say? Gongoozler! As you’ve no doubt surmised, it means spectator. You can also use it as a verb—gongoozle—but after looking that up online, I’ve discovered an alternate meaning I’d prefer not to invoke. I’ll leave you to uncover that particular definition on your own—I am NOT going there.

Yes, I know. Now you want to go there. Fine. I’ll wait while you go google it…

(Ick, right? Why is there even a word for that?!)

I, for one, am not about to let the pervs usurp and distort this wonderful word. I’m going to say it with pride, or as much pride as one can muster sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else have all the fun. I’m the gongoozler!

Over the last week, I’ve learned a slew of other excellent words, courtesy of Joe Gillard’s Little Book of Lost Words. And because I’m always thinking of you, I’ve done the hard work of digging into this collection, identifying ten fun and useful words to throw around at our tennis matches.

What’s more, you’ll be able work these words into your NaNoWriMo manuscript. Now you only have to write another 49,990. You’re welcome.

Learning new words is fun. You know what else is fun? Vocabulary quizzes! Because nothing says weekend like a pop quiz.

The Vocab Quiz

The Match-Day Recipe Contest Winner!!!

The food has been cooked and the votes have been counted. We have a winner for the Match-Day Recipe Contest!

Let’s look at the recipes one more time. First we had Martha’s recipe for Rainbow Quinoa Salad. I made it, and it was everything it was cracked up to be. Colorful, healthful, flavorful. I can see why this dish is a crowd-pleaser. But as Martha herself pointed out, it wasn’t exactly easy to make. I’m not throwing this together the morning of a match.

Plus, the ingredients include pomegranate molasses, which I’ve decided is automatically disqualifying. It’s true the contest rules didn’t explicitly state “No hoity-toity ingredients,” but if you read the fine print in the original posting, you’ll see the following legal disclaimer: “Contest rules are subject to change on whim and without notice.”

(It’s very fine print. You have to zoom in a lot.)

So Martha’s recipe is a no-go for me, but definitely a keeper for those of you looking to use up that bottle of pomegranate molasses. Continue reading “The Match-Day Recipe Contest Winner!!!”

The Match Day Recipe Contest

QOn Saturday, I took the train to NY to see the Downton Abbey movie with my daughter. (Yes, I’m a nerd. We already knew that.)

Here’s what I ate during my day in one of the great food capitals of the world:

  • A banana
  • A Dunkin’ Donuts “Beyond Sausage” breakfast sandwich (insufficiently greasy)
  • A bag of movie popcorn (cold and stale)
  • A TGI Friday’s house salad (almost 100% pale lettuce)
  • A TGI Friday’s brownie sundae (very awesome)

From this food log, we can infer two things. One, I’m an unhealthy eater. And two, I’m not a foodie.

Although I wish I were a healthier eater, I’m okay with my low-brow food preferences. Judge me if you will, but a bowl of cereal for dinner suits me just fine. I’d rather make super-quick Minute Rice than spend half an hour on basmati. And for my money, one of the world’s greatest cheeses shoots out of a spray can.

But Raisin Bran and Cheez Wiz won’t cut it when my team hosts a tennis match. On those days, our tennis league expects us to provide refreshments. I usually bring a fruit salad, a store-bought dessert, or some other dish that requires no skill. I leave it to my more sophisticated teammates to handle the “main course” items. Continue reading “The Match Day Recipe Contest”

Friday Fashion Face-off: Worst-Dressed Award for the US Open (2019)

It’s that time again! The day we vote on the worst-dressed at the US Open! I’m all tingly with excitement.

I should note that as I’m selecting my nominees, I’m dressed in old baggy boot-cut jeans, a shapeless red shirt and purple sneakers:

Yup, blogging isn’t all glamour, folks. If I played at the Open, I’d be nominee #1 for this blog.

Instead, we have these three worthy candidates. Continue reading “Friday Fashion Face-off: Worst-Dressed Award for the US Open (2019)”

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