January 25, 2012

Living with Spiders

Outside of my parents’ house there is a shed where we keep our lawnmowers, pool chairs, floats, sleds, and all the other outdoor equipment/toys that we’ve accumulated over the years. As a kid, that tannish colored shed, with red shutters and flower window boxes was a regular pit-stop for me before embarking on all kinds of adventures (read: trucking my fake gas pump, chalk, and bike up to the cul-de-sac to play ‘traffic’) and activities (read: making mud pies on my Barbie kitchen set and trying to get my brother to eat them).

The shed was such an exciting place for me – I’d get all of my fabulous ideas about what to play and how to keep myself entertained by what was inside. Unfortunately, the shed had one crucial flaw: spiders. I really don’t like spiders. After I read one time that the average person swallows seven spiders a year, I was never the same (I honestly don’t even know if that’s true, and I continuously question how they gathered that data). Regardless, I am convinced now that whenever I wake up with a sore throat it’s because a spider crawled into my mouth during my sleep and thrashed and scratched all the way down my esophagus before making its way into my stomach. I’m sorry; I’m realizing that is a super gross thing to talk about. Maybe I should have prefaced this blog with some kind of ‘disturbing imagery’ warning. Anyways, back to the shed. The shed didn’t have just any kind of spiders on it, but daddy-long-legs, the creepiest of creepy spiders. Their legs are just SOOO long, and I know people say that about me, but I have a pretty normal-sized body to match my very long legs, whereas daddy-long-legs do not. They have those teeny tiny bodies and you can’t help but wonder if there is even enough space to fit a brain in there. And if not, what tells them how to function? Plain and simple, if there is a brain in there and if it is that small and relying on those long, long legs to do its bidding, well, I just don’t want any part of that.

Whenever I couldn’t get to my toys in the shed because of a parade of daddy-long-legs covering the door, I would run and get my daddy (who also has long legs incidentally) to move them for me. I always thought it was so awesome that I could just run to my dad and he’d make my fear of spiders a non-factor, removing them for me and opening those shed doors to the realm of infinite playtime possibilities…

At some point, and I’m not sure exactly when, and as we all do eventually, I stopped running to my dad to make my fears disappear. The awesome thing is that together, my mom and dad were able to give me the tools I needed in order to make a lot of my own fears disappear. When I realized for the first time that I had fears that they couldn’t take care of for me and I couldn’t take care of for myself, I learned the serenity prayer. Through the serenity prayer I started to understand that there are things I cannot change, and rather than let them stew inside me and cause all kinds of ruckus, the best thing I could do with those fears was acknowledge them, and then let them go.

When I first got to my apartment in Limoges, I was greeted by none other than a community of spiders. Since I obviously couldn’t run to my dad to have him take care of them for me, I gave myself two minutes of freak-out time, and then got a cup and a magazine putting them all outside, one by one. That is except for one. That one spider was super quick and I just could not catch her (she’s also pretty big and super scary looking), so I let her be and named her Charlotte. She lives in a hole in the wall where the pipes are in my bathroom, poking her head (and creepy legs) out from time to time. I don’t find her nearly as scary as I did that first day I came here, and in fact, her presence doesn’t even bother me anymore (except for when I wake up with a sore throat and run to the bathroom to make sure I didn’t eat her in my sleep).

I think it’s pretty incredible that sometimes there are fears that we not only overcome, but actually learn to even enjoy (unfortunately, I think that’s where my analogy of this spider fear ends). Before coming to Europe, I’d never really spent much time alone. In all honesty, I feared what I might discover if it were just me and my thoughts and lots and lots of time. At first, I didn't know what to do with myself, but after a few weeks, and then a few months, I slowly started to really enjoy the time I had alone. I’m not trying to say that there aren’t days where I miss home like hell (today was actually one of those days), but in the grand scheme of things, I’m really proud of myself for ‘Eat. Play. Love.’-ing my way to a place of serenity I didn’t know I had. 

Living with spiders isn’t so bad after all.

January 18, 2012

Basketball is a game of...

The other day I was enjoying one of my favorite activities during my down-time in between practices: thinking. Particularly on this day, I was thinking about how I made it this far as a basketball player, because let’s be honest, it isn’t my unmatched athletic and physical prowess that got me here. I like to think that I’ve made it to this level because of the way I think about the game, a mentality I started learning under my first basketball coach, really started to understand during my one year at Saint Joe’s, and continued to apply and hone in on during my time at TCNJ.

While I was home during Christmas break, a former NBA player, my agent, and I got into a discussion about what type of game basketball is. The argument laid out there was that basketball is a game of speed, and whoever is the quickest would end up winning games - the rationale being that if the defense can’t catch them, the defense can’t stop them. Since I think that players and coaches tend to over-analyze the game, and since that premise was simplistic enough to make a lot of sense in my mind, I wanted really badly to agree. I thought about that idea for a while and eventually came to the conclusion that realistically, if that were the case and basketball was a game of speed I’d be screwed out of a job. That’s when I stopped wanting to agree. Then I remembered that basketball is a team sport, and thank God for it, because that’s why I’m still working, and is also why it makes that argument null and void. Even if you are fast than your one defender, are you faster than a collective five? Most likely, chances are no, you’re not; not unless you’re Carmelita Jeter, and even then, I’m just not sure. Our conversation definitely got me thinking about what basketball was a game of, and here’s what I came up with…

Arguably, I think THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT aspects of the game of basketball are timing and spacing. Even in a basic transition set (for non basketball players, this is the time when you run really, really fast down the floor and try to score on the other team before they have time to set up their defense), if you don’t have good spacing and know where your teammates are or where they are headed, you can easily throw the ball to the bench, your own coach, the other team’s coach, or what I think is the funniest mistake you can make while executing a play, run into your own teammate (essentially doing the defense’s job for them). I actually did run into a teammate once in fifth grade, and I ran into her HARD. I vividly remember the noise she made when I knocked the wind right out of her (it sounded like a cross between a mouse’s squeak and a cat crying in a vet’s office). Honestly, I was scared out of my mind that I’d broken my best friend’s sternum and killed her…now I’m not so sure why I think this is funny…I digress.

There are probably millions of offensive sets out there, but I like to think 10-15 feet between players is a good basic rule of thumb (unless someone is setting a screen) when it comes to spacing. Those 10-15 feet give each other enough space to react to one another if someone starts driving to the basket, making a cut, setting up their defensive player to make them look like an idiot out of position when the ball gets skip-passed, and so on and so forth. Spacing is so important and, MY GOSH, when someone comes into my space and brings their defense with them, it takes just about every ounce of self restraint for me not to yell, “GO FIND YOUR OWN SPACE,” at them. Maybe I should start doing that; it would probably be pretty effective.

Of course then there’s the timing bit to this complicated puzzle we call basketball. Let’s say you’re player B. If it takes two seconds for player A to set a screen for you, player B, on the wing, and it takes four seconds for player C to set a screen for player D in the corner, and the two screens are supposed to happen simultaneously in order for player B, to have a pass/drive option, at what time should player C leave to set the screen for player D? It seems like it should be easy enough right? Player C should start two second before player A so that you, player B, and player D are coming off the screens at the same time. Unfortunately it isn’t quite that simple! A lot of timing success depends on reading how the defense is playing screens. Are they hedging? Are they switching? Are they bumping and recovering? Is it different for ball-screens than for off-the-ball screens? Then, when you finally think you know how to read exactly what the defense is doing and how much time reading the defense will take, player E beings to feel left out and starts to pinch in from the decoy position, essentially messing up all the spacing of the play. After you yell at player E to “GO FIND YOUR OWN SPACE,” and try to run the play again, player C’s shoelace becomes untied, she bends down to tie it, and once again you, player B, are throwing the ball to the bench, your coach, or the other team’s coach.

All jokes aside, I have seen teams who execute offenses perfectly using spacing and timing. Teams who work together to get one another open are my absolute favorite teams to watch (*cough cough* Stanford, Tennessee, *cough cough*). Also, to be honest, I like saying that basketball is a game of timing and spacing because somehow and someway, I became quite good at using timing and spacing to my advantage and understanding how powerful both are on the court. Timing and spacing are probably the reasons I still have a job (oh, and I guess it helps that I’m 6’3”).

January 12, 2012

Sisters, sisters; There were never such devoted sisters…

@ Rochester
Sometimes I forget that this is supposed to be a basketball blog. My bad, basketball blog readers, that’s on me. I guess I advertise this blog the same way One Tree Hill was originally advertised – that the main focus would be basketball, and what a let-down One Tree Hill turned out to be in that regard! So, to bring the blog back to focus, I’m going to talk about an aspect of the game that I really miss over here: my sister. I’ll explain.

In the 4th quarter of the movie Love and Basketball Quincy asks Monica what was missing from the game that eventually made her want to stop playing. Spoiler alert!: Monica eventually confesses it was actually the absence of Quincy. Now, I’m not about to try to play my sister in a one-on-one game for her heart (just typing that made me giggle to myself), but I can surely understand why Monica was so happy at the end of the movie having Quincy (someone she loved) in the stands cheering her on.

@ Moravian
One of the loneliest things about being over here (other than not really speaking the language) is coming out of the locker-room after games and looking into the stands to find zero familiar faces (I guess I should really say zero familiar English-speaking faces, since I now recognize a lot of our fans). Running up to my sister, Mom, and Dad after games was one of my favorite parts of a game-day in college. They’d always tell me I played so hard and did great (regardless of how I actually felt I did). I feel like once you hit a certain level of play, when people expect a certain amount of points, rebounds, blocks, steals, or whatever from you, it’s just nice having a few people in the stands who you know will love you unconditionally regardless of whether or not you made your 3s, foul shots, or layups. Plus, now that I’m a lot of miles from home with no one to talk to after games, there’s also nobody to take such flattering pictures with like the ones you see here.

she even took a picture of the pre-game passing!
I also really miss having a non-basketball-player’s perspective after games to point out things I would never ever think about. For example, back in college, our guards and posts would split up to work on position-specific drills during warm-ups (e.g. the guards would get the hoop for a few minutes to shoot 3s and then the posts would get the hoop to work on post moves). Of course while one group was shooting the other group would be closer to half court doing some other non-shooting drill. The posts always opted to do some kind of passing. As a player I never thought anything of it, it seemed normal enough that we would pass while the guards shot, and I guess it still does, but I remember my sister telling me one time that she really thought we should practice our passing before games if we wanted to win. She was kidding (or at least I think she was), but I think that’s hilarious, and it is comments like that that I miss more than anything after a tough game.

@ Senior Night
While I was home I was lucky enough to enjoy the spectator experience with my sister at a TCNJ basketball game. After driving down four hours to Marymount University and having to pay nothing to get into the game (up top!), we relished the intensity level of the refs, what my half-time speech would be, and how I was never ever as little as how some of the players out on the court looked (which I wasn’t; I’m pretty convinced I was 5’8”, 150 lbs. out of the womb). Not to mention how we spent about three hours of our ride home working on our British accents ‘requiring’ and ‘declaring’ things only Russell Brand would truly understand. She made that road trip fun as hell and I’m so glad she went with me – actually, I don’t know how she came to so many of my college games without someone to giggle and speak British with; she must have been so bored.

She’s always there to support me, make me laugh, cheer me on, and giggle with me. I guess that’s why there really isn’t anything on this earth comparable to having a sister.

January 3, 2012

Oh Hello 2012!

After touching down in Paris at 10:15am yesterday morning, hopping on the RER metro to get to the Austerlitz train station, traveling three hours by train to arrive back in Limoges, sleeping for twelve hours, practicing this morning, watching the latest How I Met Your Mother episode, and finally getting to see this season's premier of The Bachelor, I decided I should probably put my mind to some kind of use and catch my blog followers up on my life a little bit.

Apples to Apples
I was lucky enough to spend the last two weeks at home for the holidays, seeing a ton of my friends and getting to spend quality time with my family. I got to do a few of my favorite things which I mentioned in my, "The Countdown" blog, including: catching up with friends (some who are newly engaged (yay Rach!!!)), hugging my mom, laughing until I cried with my sister, playing games with my brother, walking my dog, seeing Monster swim in his water bowl, drink Dunkin Donuts coffee, seeing TCNJ play a game, driving down to D.C. to see Chloe, et cetera, et cetera...

The aforementioned list basically sums up my two week vacation, which is why I needed to sleep for twelve hours to regain any type of strength. Even so, possibly the most enjoyable night I had over my holidays was New Year's Eve, which I really wanted to spend this blog talking about.

Since I knew that I was going to have to hop on a plane on the 1st of January, I decided to stay at home for New Year's Eve this year and spend some time with my family (minus my bro since he already had plans with his friends). My sister, Mom, Dad, and I went out to an enjoyable dinner where we discussed our desert island scenario entertainment, including which books (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), movies (Remember the Titans, Ratatouille, Moulin Rouge) , tv series (LOST, duh!), and musicals (where I came up surprisingly short in options, but went with Les Miserables & Wicked) we'd bring with us if we were stranded on a desert island. After dinner, we went home and played Apples to Apples, which was a real treat since my Dad usually isn't a game-player. If you've never played that game, you should, because it is just hilarious. Since my sister and I basically have the same sense of humor, we knew what nouns to play for each other's adjectives, but what was really interesting and entertaining
New Year's Best (we're so funny)!
was seeing what my parents found funny, disgusting, nasty, or unique. After Apples to Apples was put to bed, it was basically time to start to New Year's Eve countdown. Naturally, Annmarie and I ran upstairs to ring in 2012 in our New Year's best, aka the oldest and fanciest dresses we could find in our closets. With both of us looking glamorous in dresses we'd bought back in high school, we counted down the New Year with my parents, banged some pots and pans, and toasted 2012 with some champagne.

The evening was simple, but fun-filled and enjoyable. I was surrounded by people I love and I knew love me. With goodbyes looming over the next day, I decided that I would not have wanted to spend my last day with anyone else (another desert island scenario perhaps). It was really nice to not think about all the stressful crap that clutters our lives on any given day, and to just enjoy the moment. So, for 2012 I resolve to a) enjoy the simple, and b) live in the moment.

 Happy New Year everybody!