Do You “Super Bowl?”

Welcome to the first day of February, friends. The US of A is kicking off 2015’s second month with its biggest party of the year, I guess. (I’m wondering if New Year’s Eve might be the frontrunner, but Americans will jump on any positive event to celebrate—yes?—and a sporting event always seems to be that much more fun.)

Super Bowl Sunday is usually a double-sporting event for me. Just finished watching the Australian Open Tennis Championships: Novak Djokovic is starting to own Melbourne Park the way Rafael Nadal is Rolling Garros reigning monarch. Congrats to Novak, and to finalist Andy Murray. Their display was dynamic, especially those first two sets.

Later in the day, of course, is the crowning glory of the NFL’s season. All the best to the Seahawks and Patriots—and to Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s repeat MVP (another personal favorite of mine–the guy seems a class-act :)).

FullSizeRender (3)  Okay, so I fell short on the plates, lol. At least they coordinate with the napkins. Pizza dough is on the rise and onion dip’s a-chillin’ in the fridge. (No tacos and no brownie–the oblong bake pan I used went to pieces a while back… 😦 )

Before I was actually into “the big game,” I always looked for a party. (What’s better than one more excuse to chow down on junk food while hanging out with folks you like?) Since the NY Giants’ crazy run to the championship game in 2011, I decided I wanted to stay home so I could better focus on the action. My kids planned to have a few friends over that night, and a friend of mine showed up as a surprise.

I threw together a few pizzas—maybe tacos too—slapped snacks and drinks onto the table and baked a football-shaped brownie. Some football-themed paper goods rounded it all out and our Super Bowl tradition was born.

So, do you celebrate the Super Bowl? Are you a party person or do you prefer to be in front of your own big-screen so you don’t miss a play? Do you wish the hype would just go away? Any votes for Super Bowl SATURDAY? (Hear, hear!) Should the US declare Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday?

No matter how you spend it, have a wonderful day–and a great upcoming week too! Someone kindly tell that pesky ground hog in PA to feign temporary blindness against any shadows–just sayin’… 😉

Happy Birthday, Danny!

Joanna

To Seed or Not to Seed: Wimbledon 2013

Hi all. Hope all of you are doing well.

My apologies for having gone missing these past weeks. The 2012-13 school year should have been done, but we earned the better part of an extra week in to make up for Superstorm Sandy lost days. (She will haunt us for a very long time, on many levels.)

Not that I’m off for the summer. Extended school year (a.k.a. “summer program”) starts June 30th  and runs through July. What can I say? It helps cover August and September bills when cash flow is definitely “out” with very little “in”. Then again, one needs a whole lot of $$$ to buy time.

Anyway…

Wimbledon, considered the most prestigious of professional tennis’ Grand Slam Championships, starts today.

The seeds are seeded. (Translation for non-tennis fans: Based on their world ranking and likelihood to win a particular tournament, professional players are “seeded.” At the grand slams, 32 spots in each of the women’s and men’s draws are considered.

So: The draw has been drawn. (Translation: This would be the line-up of who will be playing whom for the first round, which of course, will impact to some degree, who will play whom in subsequent rounds).

Maybe—just maybe—the powers that be who seed the players ought to take another look at the system. And I, who like to believe the best about anyone and everyone, wonder if there wasn’t some inside fan of a particular top male player who wanted to make that player’s road a little easier. Seems as though three of the other top names have a much harder road to the final based on the seeding and the draw.

But what do I know? I am merely a fan. The articles I’ve read though, bring out my cynical side.

Fine. I AM BIASED.  In the words of Michael Baisden, “I said it. Yes I did.” And because this is my blog and I can grump if I want to, I will. 0:-)

My favorite, Rafael Nadal got seeded 5th, partly because he went out in the 2nd round last year. That means he’ll go head-to-head with a higher seed (most likely Roger Federer, who is seeded third) in the quarterfinals. This will result in a major fan favorite top player eliminated one round shy of the semis, and with no chance at the final. Andy Murray won at Wimbledon at the Olympics, but has technically never won this tournament, yet he’s seeded ahead of Fed (who only won 7 measly Wimbledons, let’s get real, people). David Ferrar is 4th, which is fair enough given he’s been fairly consistent, but he’s NEVER won ANY slam, let alone the one considered most prestigious among the men’s and women’s game.

Truth is, no matter the seeding, whoever plays his game and possibly has a bit of luck on his side will come through.

But…

Who is the ONLY guy besides Fed and Novak Djokovic (current World Number One who has only won it once, thank you very much) who’s won it in the past ten years???? Oh yeah! (Slaps self in head.) Rafa! The number five seed, who, BTW, is currently ranked NUMBER ONE for this year in finals and titles (9 and 7, respectively) and the first to qualify for the Barclays ATP Men’s Tour Finals, despite being ranked Number 5 in the Emirates/ATP rankings.

Just sayin’.

Have a great week and happy Wimbledon to those of you who love the slams as much as I do! Special thanks too, to ESPN and Tennis Channel, for awesome coverage! Beats how it was once-upon-a-time when coverage was kind of limited to weekends and quarterfinal-and-on action.

Joanna

Are You Published or Want to Be?

Happy Friday, friends! For those of you in the area who might consider joining me, I’ll be at the Howell Library, Howell, NJ tomorrow! I’d love to see familiar faces and some new ones, too!

Here’s the flyer!

What I Wish I’d  Known—and Done Differently—

 BEFORE I Got Published!

WHERE:     Howell Library   318 Old Tavern Road;    Howell, NJ 07731 (732) 938-2300

WHEN:         July 28, 2012    10 AM-12 Noon

That manuscript burned a hole in your hard drive. You prodded it, polished it to a blinding shine, then sent out query letters to agents and editors. Nothing to do now but wait for a response, right?

Maybe not.

New Jersey author of romance and women’s literature, Joanna Aislinn, has been there, done that and earned the tee-shirt. Armed with the knowledge and perspective only hindsight brings, Joanna will share important tips on what aspiring and soon-to-be-published authors should do while waiting for that first contract.

Joanna Aislinn’s debut novel, No Matter Why (originally published by The Wild Rose Press), was hailed by her editor as “…what a contemporary should be…an emotional journey…a beautiful story well told.”

When not working her day job or attending to a husband, two boys and two cats, Joanna is crafting sequels, planting seeds for future stories of love and commitment, judging contests, networking and expanding her writing and speaking horizons. Friend her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/joannaaislinn) and follow her on Twitter (@JoannaAislinn).

                                                                                                             

For a variety of articles and tips on craft, social media and so much more, check out Joanna’s blog (https://joannaaislinn.wordpress.com) and website (www.joannaaislinn.com). 

Tribute to the Birthday Boy!

As I stated in my Monday post, last week brought its share of challenges.

And every now and again adversity will show you exactly with whom you’re facing life on the day-to-day.

 

FYI: We are not Melissa and Adam. These were taken in a photo booth at their wedding; I was rushing to get this photo uploaded before work. (Just got that desktop the scanner is connected to up and running, remember?) Guess I was already getting dance-tired but who cares? The night was young, lol. Obviously, Hunny had a great time. We all did. 

The life-obstacles that reared their annoying heads last week were financial. Without getting into details that don’t really matter (for purposes of this post anyway), I’ll simply own that I had fault in both scenarios. One was related to procrastination and the other gets blamed on my ever-increasing faulty memory. (That’s the hormones’ fault, right?)

Anyway, in both cases, a hero stepped up: mine. My hunny had every right to be highly miffed with me—and was briefly after our accountant delivered a bit of back-setting news.

Hunny calmly told me his feelings and then retreated to our room. I headed out for a walk, the kind designed to process more unwelcome info than one wants at any given time. (I understood, too, that the whole situation was not completely because of lack of action on my part. A third party’s action figured in, none over which hubby, myself or our accountant had control. Knowing that helped.)

Anyway, as I processed through this situation via a phone call to a friend as I walked, I received a text: I’m sorry. I have a plan. We will be okay.

Another couple might have wound up in one of those nasty, drop-down, dragged out fights. In the past, we might have argued. (Luckily, we know how to do so respectfully, most of the time anyway. J) I’d already been coming up with ideas of my own and am not in total agreement with his but—well, I screwed up to get us here, right?

Anyway, figured his birthday would be the perfect time to share with the cyberworld how blessed I am to have such a wonderful man in my life. We have our differences, but he’s always striving to do the next right thing, as the saying goes. And each of us takes a step back and looks at how we’ve never lacked no matter the situation, getting back to that place of being each other’s support and best buddy is that much easier.

Happy Birthday, hero, and all my love. Hope your day shines like you do!

Joanna

Assuming You’ll Observe Mother’s Day…

How will you be spending it?

Happy Saturday everyone. I’ve got today laid out–in honor of Mother’s Day, my birthday and my niece who turned a whopping six earlier this week. (I’m sure she’s the girl twin my favorite Fran Fine gave birth to before the show went off air, right down to the fashion sense and the whine. :D)

  Hubby threw this one together last year, spur of the moment, right out of our yard. Aren’t they gorgeous?

After dropping off one kid at work, one at detention and then doing a whirlwind of food and last-minute flowers/card run for mom and my sister-in-law, we’re looking to spend the day making pizzas, possibly BBQ a burger or dog and enjoy birthday cake.

Tomorrow I’d LIKE to do NOTHING. That, however, will not work-me mam is big on Mother’s Day and is sort of disappointed we’re keeping it simple here. She would have loved a Sunday-afternoon pranzo (i.e., meal) to celebrate the day. I’m much more into the All-American idea of giving mom the day off. Not to be but it’s okay.

So how will you be honoring mom (including yourself) this weekend?

Have a great day and Happy Mother’s Day!

Joanna

More Thoughts on Angels: Tribute to One in Particular

I’ve written about angels before. (Faith and Angels: Parts One and Two.) I truly believe they exist, taking on all kinds of forms. They touch our lives and sometimes alter a given person’s life trajectory. At times we’re aware of their presence or the forces/events they evoke. Sometimes, we’re angels to others and may or may not know about it until ages later—possibly never.  (BTW, knowing is a humbling experience, but a blessing too. Just another reason I have to believe.)

Doesn’t matter whether we’re aware or not; kind of like that tree in the forest falling and making a sound. Sound waves happened. Just because ears weren’t around to perceive the noise doesn’t mean there was none.

Quick disclaimer: I speak only for myself, from MHO and my experiences. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Sigh. Almost three years ago, I was assigned to a child who received home instruction and related services (i.e., occupational therapy) due to a combination of significant medical conditions incurred when he was a little under two years old. Until I entered the home the first time, I didn’t realize he was my neighbor too. He was pretty-much wheelchair-bound, and I had already seen him being wheeled around by his nurse on many occasions in my neighborhood. One more thing: this guy was roughly my younger son’s age.

That day I showed to meet him, his dad told me to expect the boy to cry. He did not. We shared our first session, engaged in a couple of activities and set our schedule.

I saw him once weekly for a full school year and during our extended school year summer program. I’ll never be sure how much he looked forward to me in particular coming (I really believe he preferred my colleague who also saw him once/week), but we hung in there just the same.

During many of our sessions he did cry. But during others, he tolerated me doing things hand-over-hand. He put up with me getting him up to dance to my favorite on his I-pod, The Jackson Five’s Rockin’ Robin. (On one occasion, I hit REPEAT so many times, the boy’s dad came in, wondering if something was wrong with the device, lol.) We practiced dressing, getting out of bed with as little help as possible, then wheeling into his adapted bathroom to do grooming and hygiene tasks (i.e., washing face, brushing teeth, combing hair—you know, getting handsome.)

He didn’t speak but signed for me here and there: mostly yes/no via clapping (or not) to indicate whether he wanted to do a given activity. He never verbalized directly to me but loved one nurse in particular and engaged in “conversation” with her. She’d say words and he’d repeat them—always immediately after my session, while I prepared to leave. He also talked to his dad. (I didn’t get to see too many interactions with his mom, but he always cried when she left for the day. She works a day job while his dad stayed home as primary caregiver.)

I didn’t know then that his condition was already deteriorating. By last January, his oxygen levels had already started declining and he often looked very blue. I spoke to his dad about this; he stated the doctors were very aware of the condition and that only so much could be done to stabilize and/or improve it. (For confidentiality purposes, I’m not at liberty to disclose more details.)

My student hung in there and we switched more to activities and tasks I hoped he found fun. Although I believe he enjoyed at least some our sessions, he still cried often, so this past September I asked my colleague if she’d be willing to take on the second session. He rarely cried when she was there. (The running joke was I did the show tunes; my colleague went by Mary Poppins.) Since she’d become his all-time favorite kid, she went twice weekly and always stayed longer than the scheduled time. He wasn’t work.

This boy didn’t have functional speech. He had physical challenges and was cortically blind. His ability to use his hands and walk was very limited and he was dependent in nearly all aspects of self-care. Yet, he was very aware of those around him, knew what he wanted and how to communicate that in his unique way.

He loved music and signed for it. He preferred kiddy tunes but his dad slowly transitioned him to more age appropriate, contemporary hits. As per my colleague, he’d tug at his hair to be told how handsome he looked. He did a Stevie Wonder impression and indicated his desire to engage in his favorites of the activities my colleague brought to their sessions. I’d tease him about ‘defecting’ to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ camp (from my newly beloved NY Giants) after one of his nurses’ sons joined the former NFL organization. (I’m thinking he was big on Elmo too. The floral arrangement pictured here is the only image I could find to give an idea of the full-body one made of red-dyed spider mums (?)—it was amazing!

 www.babiesgottahaveit.com

Here are some of my colleagues thoughts on their interactions: “He loved his routine and would start signing or pull on his hair if I went out of order, or forgot his favorite activity.  He knew. He had the most beautiful smile I ever saw. As you mentioned he had a great sense of humor.  If I laughed with favorite nurse or his father he would join in.  I believe he sometimes understood what we were laughing about. Wanted his music on immediately and his water ready. Could be stubborn as well, when I was ready to leave and asked if he would miss me he always refused to sign.  I could go on and on.”

His parents obviously adored him and dedicated their lives to making his the best they believed they could. I’m thinking he was their angel and vice versa. Recently he took on the abstract form we associate with those spiritual beings. He took a very bad turn after a recent medical procedure and passed away. (He turned my younger son’s age a little over a month ago.)

At his wake, I met the physical therapist who’d worked with him longer than any of us. She gave me more background on how many things this boy had been able to do before his health started its downward decline. I marveled at how much I’d missed coming into this boy’s story late as I did. From what I understand, he had a pretty cool sense of humor. (Think he showed it to my colleague more.)

Why am I writing this? I attended his funeral the day before and found myself tremendously listless the rest of the day. I’m still can’t stop thinking about him today. He crossed my mind every time I passed his street and will do so even more in future days. I think of his parents and how they handled their trip to Holland when they believed themselves Italy-bound. I’m looking to write a tribute to give to his parents and hope the best words come as I explore my thoughts and feelings. I won’t tell you he didn’t touch me before. These past two days I realize just how much and very deeply affected I am with his passing.

I’ve worked in my current school district (where I reside, too) for a very long time. I’m sure other children have passed away during my stretch-in-progress, but any who may have weren’t my students, so I wasn’t aware. In the past fifteen months, five have gone on to become angels. Four of those five were mine in some shape or form.

Makes me sad.

Makes me think.

Teaches me to see this particular population of earthly angels in a completely new way.

Thank you for taking time to read this.

Joanna

O. M. Giants!

How they did it is beyond me. Amazing.

Photograph: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Shouldn’t Eli look a little more excited? Just sayin’.

Go Giants–unbelievable!!!

Thanks for indulging me, 😀

Joanna

Just in time for Super Bowl Weekend!

I’m celebrating my 200th post! To everyone who visits regularly, I so thank you for doing so. And to you first-timers, my humble thanks and a special welcome too!

So, friends, here we are on the Friday preceding the biggest Sunday of every football season.

  (Yes, I’m just a little excited about Sunday’s big game :D)

Photos courtesy of my older son and his I-phone–thanx! Love the Giants’ colors, too. Oh, and before I go further I’m adding a disclaimer: I don’t pretend to fully understand that whole (somewhat complex) wildcard and Rounds 1 and 2 progression parts of the Road to the Super Bowl. Please forgive any errors as I’m still learning a lot of how it all comes together on that first Sunday in February. 

Anyone out there been following NFL post-season play? Excuse me, but did somebody bother telling the NY Giants that they weren’t going to make it to Super Bowl XLVI?

Maybe it’s just me, but seems like Eli Manning and the boys missed a few memos, and those may have gone something like this:

You may not beat the Dallas Cowboys to win a wildcard spot.

Let’s see you get past the Atlanta Falcons to win the wildcard game.

Forget winning against the Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl XLV winners and super-season record holders of 15-1.

You’ve got your work cut out to get past the San Francisco 49ers, those mega-aggressive guys who literally snatched the win from the Saints the week prior—now there was a nail-biter of a game—to become the NFC champions AGAIN.

Oh, and you could get past the New England Patriots, seeing as you upset the H-E-goal-posts-minus-the- crossbar last time y’all met? (I mean, has anyone been watching footage of the last 90 seconds of that match-up? Eli was Houdini getting out of the pocket—he had NO business not being sacked. Then David Tyree had even less business making that too-amazing-for-words catch to set off that final, victory-claiming, drive.)

  It’s a mother-son thing! We both turned down SuperBowl parties to watch the game together at home.

I mean, all I’ve been asking myself since the Sunday night they manufactured the 2011 season’s miracle is: How did they get here? Pull off what may be their most memorable run yet? And how do they continue to do it?

I wrote this as I watched Rafael Nadal walk off the quarterfinal court victorious at the Australian Open Tennis Championships. At end of the second set, Rafa was one set-point down.

As is true of most tennis champions, set and match points are simply something to get past. It’s a mindset. Rafa is frequently described as relentless, as he bats away ball after ball until he forces an error or hits a winner. (His forehand has this lasso-like action that’s so cool to watch, and I’m noticing current Number One Novak Djokovic using a very similar motion with his forehand. Hmm!)  Oh, and Rafa is also known for this quote: “Every point is match point.” (BTW, Rafa wound up rallying from 2-5 in the fourth set to tie things up in the final match against Djokovic, and take it to their first five-setter–wound up being one of those matches one wishes both players could win.)

Years ago, when I first got into tennis, my first all-time favorite player was Stefan Edberg. Like Rafa, he was a pretty humble champion and one who never gave up. During the 1992 US Open he was down three match points to hard-hitter Ivan Lendl.

Want to guess how that one turned out? I’m sure the little bit of rain that suspended play until the next day didn’t hurt, but Stefan fought off those match points and went on to win not just that match, but the whole darned thing as well. (Was I happy then. I had tickets to the final and got to watch my first mega-favorite win his last grand slam title.)

Brings to mind the Giants and their past five games. As I said, they don’t seem to have gotten the memo—or, like any great champion(s), they blew it off.

As a writer—and an occupational therapist, I’m a watcher. Observation skills were usually my forte on most of my evaluators’ write-ups. So, I watch Eli Manning’s game.

Now mind you, I’ve gotten highly annoyed with him at times. Not that I could coach or head up a team but I’ve learned a whole lot about the mental part of football this season. (Think I need one more season under my belt before I totally get the ‘running game.’) I am, however, starting to get Eli’s game—and his brilliance. And having watched the Giants these last five weeks—and even some old footage from Super Bowl XVII—the word relentless comes up over and over.

So do the notions of “progress not perfection” and “easy does it.”

Watch how, little by little, Eli inches his team down the field toward the red zone. He obviously keeps his eye on the prize (i.e., touchdown or field goal) but tends to use smaller efforts to get them there, as in one first down at a time, and of late, a third-down conversion (kind of that “never say never” attitude over and over until payoff).

Not only did the Giants not get the memo, but I don’t think they realized they weren’t going to be Super Bowl contenders this year, especially going in to play the Packers. (I hated seeing Aaron Rodgers roughed up, but his team kind of fell through a little on that one too. Almost a smaller-scale version of what the Patriots did to Tim Tebow and the Broncos—and there’s more fodder for that never-say-die attitude: what rookie Tebow accomplished with his flailing team this year.)

OMG, make sure you check out these photos: the best shot ever and another that show it all!

Yes, I’m done now. For now. Who are you rooting for and/or which teams would have made up your dream Super Bowl?

TTYS and go Giants!

Joanna

Serbian Superlative and Star-Spaniard Set New Open Era Record

Good day, all (with a special hello to all my extended family Down Under :)). Got a little tied up last week, but all the more reason to make sure I posted today!

5:53—the longest men’s singles final ever played at a tennis championship and a stat now owned by Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and the 2012 Australian Open.

And what a match it was. A nailbiter, especially well into the fourth set, when Rafa looked as though he was about to hit the Aussie road back to his hotel. Being the champion he is though, he manufactured enough chances to take the fourth and go quite a distance in the fifth.

   Photograph: Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images

A true battle raged and yes, a winner had to emerge. For the seventh time between these two, Djokovic found the way. Even he said, too bad there couldn’t two winners, because these amazing young men both proved their mettle today. (Besides being a major Rafa fan, a win from him today may have set a very different tone for the rest of this tennis year as well as a rivalry that has potential to be that much more fun to witness. We’ll see how the various tennis seasons progress.)

   AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Back to the finalists: Each took his win and his loss in the most gracious manner I’ve seen yet.  A final note: when Djok called for chairs, it was nice to remember how human these guys actually are.

   Image Source : Zimbio’s 2012 Australian Open Rafael Nadal Photo Gallery

On to the rest of the tennis year!

For those who want more detail than I can provide, more on this epic match here!

Looking forward to Super Bowl Sunday (and a break from sports action for a while). The Australian time difference really messes with a sleep schedule, lol!

Have a great day!

Joanna

Merry Christmas to All!

Just taking a moment to share a few photos and wishes for a wonderful Christmas to all of you. May each of you be blessed with the joy you bring to me! Best wishes for health, happiness and safety during all the festivities, whether they’re rooted in Christian, Jewish and other traditions! Thanks so much for being there!

   

Peace,

Joanna