Heartbreak Hangover

Yesterday, my day started with hope.  I agree with the SiriusXM sports announcers who say it is the greatest day in all of sports – Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament.  It’s Christmas morning and the best birthday you’ve ever had.  You wake with that anticipation.  Swelling music should follow you around.  You’ve set your bracket.  You start the trash talk.  You watch all the videos March Madness has to offer.  You relive dunk shots and swats, and those perfect 3-pointers.  You recall the stats and heights of players who are preparing for battle.  You learn about campuses that never existed in your brain before.  You are full of the madness.  I was full.

My bracket probably looked a lot different than yours.  At the center of 64 was my alma mater – PURDUE – written in capital letters and highlighted.  #boilerup scrolled on top.  #hammerdown written beneath.  A loyalty bracket, they called it.  Mine looks the same every time, in the years when I’m lucky enough to see that name in the group.  Fellow alumni may have chosen North Carolina or Kansas again.  I can’t do that.  Call it delusional.  Call it stupid. I don’t care.  I call it faith.  I call it hope.  I see the world through gold and black colored glasses.

I am an all-weather fan.  It comes from sitting in Ross-Ade Stadium during the Fred Akers years.  It comes from the hope that, if you could just beat iu, that it would make the whole season okay.  My first football game, freshmen year, was Purdue vs. Miami of Ohio.  I sat there with a couple hundred of my closest friends, sweating in black, wool All-American Marching Band uniforms, when the skies opened up.  I think it rained four inches during that game.  Lightning hit the field.  That should have been a sign.  But week after week, for four years, I sat, marched, and played through those games – sweating, freezing, hoping.

I always hope.

Yesterday too.  I felt it.  I didn’t even consider that they wouldn’t win that game.

I was elated at the half.  I loved watching the dog fight.  I yelled their names and threw my fists in the air.  I hopped up and down and clapped with joy.  And then …  and then …  Double OT was what I got for loving the dog fight.

And then …

You feel pain differently when you go from hope to heartbreak.  Those damn colored glasses.

And then …

Negative internet commenters are the drudge of the earth.  You hide behind your anonymous Twitter profile and slam a 22-year old who misses a shot?  You call for firing the coach?  You use words like “hack”, “choke”, and “pathetic” to describe a team that could have just as easily given you a metaphorical blow job with one more basket and a stronger 3PT%.  You sit on your couch and you run the world.  But you are not there.  You are not them.  You are not.

They are.

They were there on that court with talent and pride, knowledge and muscle memory, with training and coaching, and yes, with hope.  You can’t tell me RayD didn’t feel the same hope I did.  And the joy I felt when AJ dunked was the same as Isaac’s joy.  The pride, the loyalty … they were shared feelings across many miles yesterday.  The frustration, the disbelief, the heartbreak … they were shared.  They are shared.

We’ve been there before, and I have to hope we won’t be there again.  I must.  After years of heartbreaking situations, I remain ever grateful, ever true.

Thank you BoilerBall.  It was a hell of a season.  I’m sorry it didn’t go our way.  Your way.  But I believe in you as players and coaches, as a team, as good men.

I remain proud.  I remain hopeful.  I believe.  Hail Purdue.  Boiler Up.  BTFU.


Twelve Months. Twelve Days. Twelve Moments.

To wrap up my year, I decided to choose one picture from each month of my phone’s 2015 camera roll.  When I actually sat down to do it, it wasn’t so easy.  Do you choose your favorite picture, or a picture of your favorite day, or a shot of something you still laugh about now, months later?   And it’s different choosing a picture now versus what I may have chosen months ago.  Our memories change.  Our emotions change.

These twelve pictures were clicks on my phone.  So fast.  They were simple and memorable and perfect in their own way.  That’s what moments are.  They add up to the hours of our days, and the days of our months and years.  Sartre compared moments to little diamonds.  Aren’t they though?  Some small, some big, some you’ll never have … some brilliant, some rough, all perfect in their own way.

It’s good to look back as we set intentions for the new year.  There are important people and important things that happen in our lives every single day.  It is about those big goals we set in front of us, and it’s about the little things too.  The lovely perfect and not-so-perfect things.  It is about the things we looked forward to, and those we never intended on, never planned on, never knew would come.  It is about the every day, and how we live each moment.


“She smiled and said with an ecstatic air: “It shines like a little diamond”,
“What does?”
“This moment. It is round, it hangs in empty space like a little diamond; I am eternal.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason


“If the whole world I once could see
On free soil stand, with the people free
Then to the moment might I say,
Linger awhile. . .so fair thou art.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: First Part

What Does It Mean

One of the best aspects of my personal happiness project is finding places or knowing places where I am supposed to be.  A feeling comes over me.  I’m at peace.  I’m doing the right thing.  I’m happy.  Rotary is one of those places.

I first joined in the mid 1990’s.  We were a new club, full of energy and service.  I didn’t know what I had back then – didn’t fully appreciate it. I was years away from my project, so bitterness and worry still played too big a part in my life.  Now, twenty years later, in a different club, I know and understand.

The Greater Anderson Rotary Club organizes and participates in many service projects throughout the year.  When I saw the blurb in our newsletter about mentoring in a local kindergarten class, I jumped at the chance.  And when a friend asked me to help with a dictionary delivery, I jumped at that too.

For years, the club has donated dictionaries to every 3rd grader in Anderson County, South Carolina.  I was lucky enough to go with Kathryn to Starr and Iva Elementary Schools in District 3.  What a fun group of kids!  We had five or ten minutes in each classroom, explaining our project and how they can use the books.  Teachers had the option to keep the dictionaries in the class or send them home.  We also introduced them to the Four Way Test, an important part of Rotary clubs all over the world.


Kathryn had each class of students look up “beneficial”.  In 3rd grade, they haven’t all covered dictionary use in their curriculum yet.  I suppose many just use dictionary.com or an app.  It seemed like the kids enjoyed swiping their finger along paper rather than a screen.  I hope so.  I hope they’ll learn many new words, making check marks as they go.

Rotary is important in our world.  The Four Way Test is important.  This international organization, founded more than 100 years ago, and now with more than a million members, has an impact on local communities, countries, and our world.  It has an impact on me.  Rotary has played a tremendous role in moving our world closer to polio-free status.  #endpolionow  http://www.endpolio.org/take-action  Rotarians know the value of mentoring, a local dictionary project, coins for Alzheimer’s research, and the fight to end a crippling disease.  Try the Four Way Test on that.

May you all find a place where you are supposed to be.  Enjoy.



A Morning Walk

Years ago, I posted about my daily walk in Shenyang.  I made that walk so often going to Chinese class and the gym.  My view is different now that we’re back in South Carolina.  I still think of that vined archway that isn’t there anymore, the guitarist playing for small bills in the tunnel under Qingnian Dajie, and the way the buildings tower above.  I miss it.

Within a week back in the US, my friend D told me that I would grow tired of the question, “Are you glad to be back?”  Well, of course we are.  We’re glad to be back in a country where we can read everything and understand.  We’re more capable of navigating the politics and bullshit.  But people don’t ask that question in the same way we answer it.  People ask as though it’s a comparison.  “Glad” to be back here rather than still in Shenyang, as though the last five and a half years were tragic somehow.  A hardship.  And being back is better.  It’s difficult to be with people who don’t think about or appreciate our life there, and that we miss it from time to time.  But at least some people ask something.

This is part of culture shock.  Or maybe it’s just part of every day life.  Folks go on about their business.  Maybe they ask questions so they can answer it themselves.  Or they ask questions about only that which they know.  Many just live their lives in a state of comparison.

I’d rather live this life than that life.  I’d rather be a country mouse than a city mouse.  I’d rather be like me than be like her.  Well, you know what?  I’d rather Daniel Craig acknowledge that he is my secret boyfriend.  I’d rather peanut M&M’s were actually good for you.  I’d rather be sure that Glenn is still alive.

So, yes, I am glad to be in the United States, where life in Smalltown, America is pretty darn good.  I am glad that my morning walks are highlighted by blue skies and red brick.  I am happy to drive my little car down highway 29 every morning, saying hello to the cows on my way to work.

But I would be happy there too.  It isn’t a question of rather.


On the Trail

For my first post since moving back to South Carolina, I take to the outdoors.  We had heard a lot about the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, and I took a field trip to check it out.

I started at the grocery-cafe near Old Buncombe Road and walked in a northerly direction to Sulphur Springs Road.  This is about two miles one-way.  I saw plenty of other walkers, runners and bikers on a beautiful morning under a perfectly blue sky.  I would imagine that Saturdays and Sundays are busy on the trail, but on this morning, it was calm and quiet.  There were times when I couldn’t see anyone in front of or behind me.  And it is a beautiful place to be alone with your running, your breath and your thoughts.

I think this trail is a year round spot for those interested.  That includes me.  It is a beautiful location in Upstate, South Carolina.  Enjoy.

To take a look at how the Swamp Rabbit Trail meanders along the Reedy River in Greenville SC, just GoogleMap “Swamp Rabbit Trail”.

Greenville County PRT has a good bit of information too, including maps, descriptions and photos.  Click the link to visit their website.  Take a look at the info on TrailLink too.

A Four Hour Lunch

An ode to the four hour lunch in China … Over the years, there were times when a friend would invite us for a meal on a special occasion.  You must plan for a lengthy event, and T always had to plan for a significant amount of beer.

On such an occasion in early August, it was our driver, Pan, who invited us and friends to a newly renovated restaurant in Shenyang.  We arrived and socialized, took some photos with friends, then Pan exited to make the food and beer order.  Then the nine of us sat around a large, round table with a formidable lazy Susan perfectly placed.  Dishes began to arrive and chopsticks were put to use.

There were toasts and discussions in Chinese and English.  Memories and laughter were shared.  There was sad acknowledgment that we would soon leave Shenyang, but this lunch was a celebration of friendship and food.  It was a celebration of how friendship crosses borders and cultures, defying distance with hopeful longevity.

I won’t say this is my last post about our life in China, but it is for now.  Enjoy.

What Is It?

I don’t know.  Try it.

Every once in a while, someone would give us something to eat in Asia, and we wouldn’t know exactly what it was.  It could be identified as a chip-type snack, or a meat product, or a fruit or vegetable, but we wouldn’t know the name or what the flavor would be.  For the kid who wouldn’t eat green things growing up, this was a challenge.

I am a big fan of the seasonal way they eat in China, especially the fruits.  Little oranges in winter, perfect Dandong strawberries in spring, gorgeous peaches and expensive cherries in summer, crisp and just sweet enough apples and pears in fall, etc.  There are also giant pomegranates, sweet grapes, different watermelons, colorful tomatoes (yes, fruit), persimmons, blueberries, clementines, big and small bananas, pomelo and all manner of citrus, passionfruit and more.  I’ve eaten lychee, longan, mangosteen, Hami melon, berries I don’t know the name of, kumquat, hawthorn, apple pears, star fruit, yangmei, durian, rambutan, jackfruit, dragonfruit and loquats.  Loquats are, by far, my favorite.  I have not tried the reptilian-like custard apples or bitter cucumber fruit, but there is still time.  There is still time for quite a few tries.  And these are just the fruits!  We benefit from what is grown in China, and also what is easily and quickly imported from India, the Philippines, Thailand and beyond.

Over the years, Chinese friends have introduced me to many Asian fruits and snacks.  They can usually tell me the name in English, but maybe not.  At home, T asks, “What is it?” Then I say, “I don’t know.  Try it.”  That’s how it often goes when people try new things.  Sometimes, you like it.  Sometimes, you don’t.  Sometimes, you’ll discover a new favorite that you will crave when you can’t find it anymore.

Join me in this taste test of two Asian fruits.  To begin, we have a small melon.  It is about four inches wide and tall, with a thin, variegated, edible skin.  It grows on a vine and ripens in July/August.  The only English names I could find were green melon or Asian green melon.  Many eat it like an apple, or you can skin it and seed it too.  On the inside, the fruit is pretty green with a pale, seeded center.  It is soft with just a slight bite to it.  It tastes a bit like honeydew, but not that hard, out of season honeydew you get at salad buffets and breakfast meetings.  It tastes like sun-ripened piece of summer.

Second, we have a small snacking fruit called husk cherry, husk tomato, husk cherry tomato, physalis, ground cherry, cape gooseberry, and a cousin to the tomatillo.  They turn yellow and are harvested from the ground once they fall.  Easily peel the thin, papery husk away from the fruit and chomp.  One bite.  The skin has the texture of a cherry tomato, though the inside is thicker than one.  They have an interesting flavor that varies on your tongue between sweet and savory.  Perhaps depending on when you buy them, they might be sweeter or more savory.  They are perfectly good to snack on, and I’m imagining the more savory ones in a breakfast casserole with sausage and egg and some herbs I haven’t decided on yet.

That’s it for our latest installment of “What Is It? I Don’t Know. Try It.”  Enjoy.

For a funny view on Asian fruits, check out the Fung Brothers video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgfegiWS3Ds