Introduction to Athletics

Yearbook Photo 1984 - Orangeburg-Wilkinson Tennis Team

Yearbook Photo 1984 - Orangeburg-Wilkinson Tennis Team

Watching tennis greats like Martina Navratilova, Billy Jean King, and Chris Evert in the 70's and early 80's made me want to play tennis.  My parents were happy to support this interest but only if I promised to stick with it.  I had to prove that I really wanted to play especially since I was only 8 years old when I asked for my first tennis racket.  My dad finally went to Kmart and got me a wooden Chris Evert racket after seeing me glued to the TV week after week and hitting a tennis ball against our house with my hand.  From that point on, I remember hitting a tennis ball almost every day for years and played on a team from 7th grade through high school. I also learned about Althea Gibson who the first African American to win the French Open in 1956. If she could compete, I thought so could I.  Although I was never a star tennis player, I did develop a mean backhand and a consistent serve through lots of practice.  After high school, tennis remained in my life but only as a social outlet.  Except for that one time during my postdoc when I was asked to teach beginning tennis at the University of Miami.  It was either tennis or anatomy and physiology.  I opted to be outside with no regrets.  It was actually fun to be back on the courts again showing others how to play.  

Practicing with my Prince tennis racket - New Hillcrest Courts

Practicing with my Prince tennis racket - New Hillcrest Courts

My first coach, Mr. Carl Williams, also taught me about responsibility.  I heard him say many times, "excuses only satisfies the man who makes them."  That has stuck with me all of my life and it helps me to stay focused on my commitments.  I truly believe that my playing tennis taught me many invaluable life lessons and I am grateful that my parents supported my participation in this fine sport.  As for now, I occasionally catch one of the major tournaments on TV and have fond memories of this sport that taught me the importance of dedication, endurance, and persistence. 

Relaxation, Rejuvenation, and Resilience

Rituals have always been a part of my life.  From hot baths to slow walks in nature, finding ways to relax and recharge has been my strategy for coping with stress.  Today has been unsettling particularly as I think about my personal safety as well as the well-being of those around me who may be targeted for being different.  So, I reflect on the times that I spent in rural South Carolina wandering through the pastures and woods near my Aunt Yvonne's childhood home.  The pace was slow there. The grass seemed just a little bit greener and the bugs screeched just a little bit louder there. We were in the middle of nowhere (country road ~5 miles from the main town of less than 3,000 people). So why would I willingly go visit this place?  I was drawn to the slow pace and relaxing environment.  There was time to lie around reading books or to go exploring in nature.  It was the perfect  place for an introverted person like me as there were not other kids besides my little cousin to disturb my peace.  The ritual of eating, wandering and sleeping was a great counterbalance to the hectic schedule of a child athlete and AP student.  I still use rituals to get me through tough times.  Right now, aromatherapy, massages, writing, and bubble baths are bolstering my resilience.  But my true strength comes from the knowledge that my ancestors survived the unimaginable to produce me so I will not be moved.  I hope that you will stand strong and find activities that feed your soul during these uncertain times.  ~Namaste

Photo Bug

As a kid, we never want to believe that we are like our parents in any way.  Call it nature or nurture, but I have to admit that I see so many ways that I am like both of my parents.  I definitely have my mom's travel bug but my dad definitely exposed me to the photo bug.  Although he was an amateur photographer, he shot weddings, social events, church functions and even some forensics pictures (image discovering some of those as a kid -- yikes).  I can only image the kind of pictures he would be taking now with all of the new technology we have.  But he took some pretty cool shots with old 120 film cameras, 35 mm,  and the polaroid One Step 600.  He even shot movies with his Super 8mm video camera. My dad had talent. Heaven only knows how he got into the picture taking business but his photo bug has been passed down to me.  I actually learned a lot about composition and lighting from my dad and I use these skills to compete with my husband who thinks he is the master of everything photography.  Ermanno may have more technical knowledge than me but I have old school experience.  Let's see what you think.  Below are the last pictures I took with my dad before he passed away and the last picture he took of me.  As they say, the apple does not fall too far from the tree.  Here's to you, dad.

Baits and Crickets

Fishing was a major leisure time activity for my family.  When I was growing up, my dad would take us fishing many places around the state.  We would sometimes go deep sea fishing on his boat but mostly we took our little bamboo poles to Mr. McClain's pond just down the street from our house.  But first, we needed to get some lures to make our hooks a bit more appetizing for the freshwater bream, catfish, or bass.  Although my dad used plastic flies for catching the big guys, my mom mostly used live earthworms (aka baits) or crickets. Sometimes we would go digging for our own earthworms or catch crickets from our yard. The trick was then to scoop out just one, grabbing it strategically to get it on the hook so that it was not too easy for the fish to get it off without getting caught. On a good day when the fish were "jumping" we would catch enough for everyone to have 2 whole fried fish with a side of rice and tomatoes and cucumbers.  I think these meals were more delicious that usual since we worked for our meal.

To keep the family tradition of regular fishing trips,  my dad built a fresh water pond on our land near my mom's current home.  A short walk down the trail behind her house is an amazing outdoor oasis.   Last time I was there, I saw many small bream and my mom caught a huge catfish.  It still amazes me how small things that we take for granted can bring so much pleasure and relaxation.  This pond is a part of our family legacy of outdoor connectedness that I hope will provide rejuvenation to my family and friends for years to come.



Blackberries, plums, cherries and peaches

Growing  up in the country has its advantages.  We had wild fruit all over my neighborhood and my mom would make desserts for us if we made it back home before eating them all.  My favorite homemade dessert was peach cobbler but my favorite fruit to eat while picking was blackberries.  Not too tart and not too sweet, I could eat  them until I was sick.  Of course, my mom loved for us to pick blackberries so that she could make a blackberry dumpling but she was not too happy to see our shirts forever stained from our berry picking adventures.

It was amazing to have the freedom to roam around the neighborhood picking berries, cherries, plums and peaches but real dangers were a part of our reality as well.   Where there is food, there is wildlife trying to get their share.  Luckily, my dad had taught us about snakes (poisonous vs. nonpoisonous ones).  And yes,  I saw many snakes during my childhood including that one faithful day when I was about 10 years old.   I was picking blackberries near our garden at the end of a very large backyard when I stuck my hand deep into the berry patch to get the biggest blackberry I had ever seen.  And as my had got close to it, I froze.  There was a giant rattlesnake curled up asleep within inches of my purple little fingers.  I knew it was poisonous from the diamond pattern and the triangular shaped head and I was terrified.  While holding my breath, I quickly eased my hand to safety and ran to tell my dad about the big snake that almost got me.  Of course, in one fell swoop my dad chopped off the head of the snake and saved his little explorer.  And I went back to berry picking but making sure to look before I reach after my near run in with mr. rattler.  Blackberries are still one of my favorite fruit and I still think about that snake encounter everytime I go wild berry picking.  Most of all, I think about my dad and how he was there to save the day.