Tag Archives: tennis

From Digby with love

digby-boats

I wrote this last night but it didn’t post due to a wifi glitch.

I’ve been busy over the last couple of months working on my fiction, which is great, but it means that I’ve neglected the blog. I’m spending tonight alone in a hotel room and I’ve just realized this is the perfect time to write a post. I have a few things on my mind and it has been far too long since I’ve put my thoughts down on paper screen.

First of all, you may be wondering why I’m all alone in a hotel room in Digby… so let me tell you.

I was invited down to this incredibly beautiful part of Nova Scotia to give a talk as part of an evening being hosted by the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. Very timely because…

miaw

Tonight began with a talk from an expert, child/adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Jerry Gray, and then I followed with my story. As happens sometimes, I got a little choked as I spoke about my university suicide attempt (I’ll chalk it up to me being tired after a long day, work until 1:30 and then the three hour drive) but the audience was warm and receptive and I was able to continue after a deep breath.

After I spoke, Ryan Cook played a couple of songs. It was beautiful music therapy and closed out the evening perfectly.

https://twitter.com/MentalHealthNS/status/783436531008757761/video/1

He’s a super nice guy and incredibly talented. Plus, he’s a huge tennis fan so that endeared him to me quite a bit. All in all, a good night.

The other thing on my mind tonight is the recent decision I made to accept a nomination onto the board of The ALS Society of New Brunswick & Nova Scotia.

als

I’m incredibly honoured because, as you know from some of my previous posts, this is an association that is very close to my heart. At the same time, I really had to think long and hard about accepting the position.

As the name states, this is a shared organization between two provinces so there is a little bit of travel involved. Not a lot, but enough so that it will interfere a few weekends a year with our family life. Before I said yes, I needed to discuss it with The Husband. He was, of course, ready to support my decision either way.

Also, I was a little hesitant because I could already feel the weight of the position. I know how important the Society is in the lives of NS and NB families living with ALS and I had some doubts that I would be able to fill the role well enough. I’ve never been a “Director” before… what if I suck at it? What if I can’t do justice to the memory of the amazing people I’ve watched die from this horrific disease.

Well, I’d quashed those doubts as best I could and accepted the position, but until tonight I was still feeling a little nervous about my decision. That is until I learned that Angie Cunningham died.

Angie was an Australian former professional tennis player who worked as part of the WTA Player Relations and Operations group. I didn’t know her well when I was working on the tour, but whenever  I saw her, she had a huge smile on her face. I’ve heard she kept that smile until the muscles in her face stopped working.

angie

Angie was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Motor Neuron Disease) just over three years ago. I won’t tell you anymore of her story, suffice it to say that her death today has put all my hesitation to rest. I want to play a bigger role in the fight against ALS, I think I’ve NEEDED to do more ever since I had to give up my position in neuromuscular research four years ago.

If you are wondering why, just take a few minutes to read this interview she did earlier this year. For those of you who haven’t been close to this disease,  it will give you some idea of the terrible toll it takes.

Well, that wraps up my musings from Digby. I’m tired and I have the long drive back to the city in the morning. I’m actually really looking forward to it because it is just so damn beautiful this time of year.

fall2

Goodnight everyone.

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The loss of a friend


In this previous post, I wrote about my years spent travelling as an official on the professional tennis tour. If you don’t know about my earlier life, take a moment to go and read it, just promise to come back… I’ll wait.

All caught up? Good.

I don’t miss the on-court work or the constant travel (except when the kids are particularly annoying) but every day I miss the people that I worked with. I miss the core group of people that I travelled with and I miss the local people who year after year made every different tour stop feel like a homecoming.

We were all very different – different nationalities, different ages, different interests – but when we travelled together, we became a family. We were sometimes dysfunctional, but we were still a family. We looked out for one another on and off the tennis court. We supported each other when we had bad days and we celebrated each other’s successes. We laughed and cried together… but mainly we laughed.

I am reminiscing a lot today because last night I learned that a much loved member of our officiating family died. He was someone who laughed a lot and always had a good word to say. He lived his life openly and proudly and inspired others to do the same. Bruce Littrell was someone who always had time for his friends and he was a friend to all of us.

The news of his death was unexpected and it has hit me hard. Because Bruce was so much fun and lived his live with joy, fellow officials are calling for a celebration of his life rather than an outpouring of sorrow. I agree, but I still can’t stop the tears from welling up.

This morning a friend wrote to me on Facebook and said, “… becoming an official began with the love of tennis, but has long since changed to just the love of the people…” I think this is true for all of us and she helped me realize this is what is behind my tears. My love of the people.

I loved my tennis family when I travelled on the tour and I still love them today. Sadly, I will never see most of them again. We just live too far away and lead too different lives. Losing Bruce has driven this point home in a way that nothing else has before.

Bruce was one of the best of us. His smile was infectious, and now that I have shed my tears, I find myself smiling in remembrance. Rest in peace, Bruce.

To all of the corners of the world, wherever today finds you, I send my love… you know who you are.

11 things I miss about New York

Arthur Ashe stadium

Arthur Ashe stadium

Even though my entire life used to revolve around tennis, I very rarely catch a match on TV anymore. When I first retired, I didn’t watch because I was honestly sick of tennis. Now, I watch it so infrequently because it just doesn’t fit into my life anymore; I work, I have kids, the matches are on at weird times, etc…

This weekend, The Husband is away and I’ve been watching oodles of US Open to while away the evenings. It has brought back some really fond memories of the 3 weeks I would spend there every year.

11 things I miss about New York City

1) The tennis – While the Australian Open will always be my favourite Grand Slam, there was something uniquely electric about the US Open. Maybe because it is the last major of the year, there always seemed to be an all or nothing quality about the play. I never thought I’d say it, but for the first time, I actually miss the tennis.

2) The people – New Yorkers get a bit of a bad rap but they are some of the friendliest people in the world. They may not always hold doors open for you but they will be the first ones to stop and help if you look lost. Also, they are funny, in a really smart way, and are always quick to strike up a conversation.

3) Central Park – Although there is some sad history behind Central Park, such as the razing of Seneca Village, as a visitor, the park was always a highlight. Whether it was taking a walk on my day off looking for dead bodies (sorry, too much Law and  Order and NYPD Blue) or a picnic with friends, the park was always full of interesting activity and a great place to take a load off and just people watch.

4) The subway – Unlike a lot of places, the subway in NYC runs 24 hours a day. It is super easy to navigate and I always felt safe. The number 7 train runs directly from Central Station to Flushing Meadows and was always a lot quicker, and more frequent, than the official tournament bus.

5) The architecture – The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron Building, the Woolworth Building, Grand Central Terminal… need I say more?

6) The bridges – Maybe it is because I come from a bridge city, but the bridges of NYC always appealed to me. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best things to do in the city, especially at sunset.

7) The shopping – I hate to shop. Everyone who knows me knows this, but there was something about New York that would inspire me. Perhaps it was because I had lots of time in the city, or that I was headed home after the event, but I always enjoyed shopping in New York. Ahhh, I miss Century 21!

8) The culture – I loved being able to go to  a play or a show at the drop of a hat. And oh, the museums! It was a great city to have days off in which to play.

9) The streets – New York is such a great city in which to walk around. I come from a city that was designed by drunk city planners. Take my word for it, although it is beautiful, Halifax is not an easy city to get around. Manhattan, on the other hand is a paradise for the “directionally challenged”. Perpendicular “streets” and “avenues”, all named in numerical order… it is a beautiful thing. And I loved being a part of the bustling sidewalks.

10) The food – What can say about the food except, YUM! Anything and everything you possibly want can be found within a short subway ride or walk.

11) My friends – This isn’t specifically a New York thing except the US Open (like all the majors) employed a lot of officials, so almost all of my close friends would be working the event. Plus, it was the last big tournament of the year so, once it was over, there would be a three month break before we all got together again in Melbourne for the Australian Open. There were always a lot of group dinners and excellent camaraderie. Dear friends, I miss you the most!

What city do you love?

One life at a time…

As I talked about in this post, I’ve been feeling a need to reach out to high school and university students who may be having their own struggles with mental illness. I want to break down the barriers that surround the subject of mental health and let them know that it’s okay to need support. I don’t want anyone to be too ashamed to ask for help; to die of embarrassment.

Today, I got my first chance to do just that.

I am lucky enough to have a great friend who is a teacher at one of our area high schools and she arranged for me to speak to another teacher’s sociology class as part of their program on brain development. This morning I gave a straight 75 minute talk to this class and it went great! Most of the kids didn’t text the entire time, and I’m sure those that did were just giving me a shout-out.

But seriously, it went pretty darn good, if I may say so myself. A few students stuck around after class to thank me and to tell me they found the talk very interesting. Two girls told me that they thought I was brave to be so open about my mental health and they liked hearing my story because they had each gone through some difficult stuff in the past and could relate. Great feedback.

Most importantly, however, was the student who quietly waited until all of the others were done chatting with me and then just stood looking at me with huge eyes. When I asked if she wanted to talk to me privately, she shyly answered, “Okay.”

My teacher friend showed the two of us to an unused classroom and then left us alone. Things went slowly at first because she was holding on tight, but eventually she opened up. She’s been severely depressed, lonely, and scared. I was the first person she felt she could tell.

I got her permission to include her teacher (my amazing friend) in the conversation and together we walked her downstairs to the school counsellor’s office. I left her with a hug and my e-mail address.

Can a writer be at a loss for words?

I just don’t know how to express how I feel about this experience today. I’m both exhilarated and thoroughly exhausted at the same time.

The process of developing this presentation was an interesting one because it really forced me to go back at look at things objectively. On one hand, I have lived a blessed life; full of loving family, supportive friends and amazing experiences. On the other, my inner road has been extraordinarily rocky and under major construction since I was a teenager.

Would I go back and change any of it if I could?

Although I would like to say “yes” and spare my family the pain that my illness has inflicted upon them over the years, the answer is unequivocally “no”.

If I were to go back and change things so that I was never depressed, I would be an entirely different person. I would have gone to medical school as planned, and missed out on my travel with the tennis tours and all of the amazing experiences and friendships that came from it.

If I hadn’t been travelling with tennis, I wouldn’t have been in Toronto at the right time to reconnect with The Husband. How could I possibly wish to live a life that doesn’t have him at the centre? And of course, if I hadn’t married The Husband, my two beautiful boys wouldn’t exist. The mere mention of that as a possibility makes my heart stop beating.

And now, after today’s experience, I feel even more assured and know that my rocky road life has given me a unique ability to reach out and help ease someone else’s pain.

Turns out, I didn’t need to go to medical school after all.

He’s a charmer!

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If you overlook him plying me with drinks from the open bar, the story of how The Husband and I began dating is quite a romantic one. But it’s easy to be romantic at a beautiful wedding with music and dancing, wooing me long-distance while I traveled around the world was a much more daunting task.

I did a share of the work, by booking my off weeks to visit him in Toronto as much as I could, but when The Husband was merely The Boyfriend, he went well beyond phone calls and e-mails to court me. (Ha! I just realized how funny him “courting” me sounds… considering I was a tennis umpire and he’s a lawyer!)

Over the eighteen months that we dated long distance, here are just a few of the amazing romantic surprises I experienced.

11 Romantic surprises from the early days

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11 potentially interesting things about me

shark dive

For a couple of the blogging awards that I’ve been given, part of the deal is that I’m meant to answer 11 personal questions and/or tell you 7 interesting things about myself. I’ve been putting this off because I hate doing stuff like that. However, if I want to be an upstanding citizen of the blogosphere, I need to complete this social contract.

Because I’m oddly fond of lists of 11 things (and I hate the lack of control of having to answer random personal questions) I’ve combined and modified the challenge. Today, I present to you…

11 potentially interesting things about me Continue reading

Two roads diverge…

Maitre D' from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Maitre D’ from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

14 years ago, on August 13th, my sister, brother-in-law and I were very late for a wedding… Continue reading