What’s In Your Wallet?

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My husband is a very consistent type of guy. And for his four children plus me who know him well, we all know that he carries an odd conglomeration of whatnot everyday. All of the items fit comfortably within the corners of his pants pockets, and each of the them is practical as the day is long. None are overly expensive, and yet together they create more interest than he ever expected.

I, too, have a short list of items that I always carry. My grouping, however, is nowhere near as compact as his. In fact, mine can’t fit in a pocket and are instead kept in a dingy, yet rugged, ziplock bag, plopped in whatever purse I’m using. Mine aren’t near as purposeful and I am very uncertain about the message they generate. Still, I carry them.

His list is simple – a freshly laundered handkerchief for him and for sharing, a few dollars to buy him out of any monetary jam, a scrap of paper with an early morning minted ‘to-do’ list, and a pen. My list is a little more harebrained and non-sequitur-ish.  In no particular order, I carry a pocket-sized copy of the constitution of the United States, my first communion prayer book, a full rosary & a bracelet rosary, and one $2.00 bill.

If I sneeze or if someone else sneezes, I have no immediate particular solution. I’m like a dog chasing its tail, looking round and round for tissue somewhere, somehow.  I have witnessed my husband, on the other hand, reach into his pocket, pull out a crisply folded handkerchief, and use it for the save. In his line of work with patients, I am sure it is more than comforting to have him – without fail – carry an immediate solution to a potential germ crisis.

On the flip side of this coin, I may not be able to circumvent the common household sneeze, but I am able to quickly read the list of names of the Supreme Court justices in order – which happens to be part of the pocket constitution addendum, page 87, seventh edition. I can give guidance on the amendments, offer “Fascinating Facts about Six Founding Fathers,” and help if someone gets stuck reciting the Declaration of Independence. My mini-book is filled to the brim with great stuff to solve all constitutional crises.

However, if traveling on tollways or tipping valets or purchasing a food cart meal, it’s my husband who carries the right stuff. He’s absolutely correct that cash can quickly circumvents calamities. It just does. Need a five, he has a five. Need a ten, he has a ten. Need a twenty, he’s got it. He has all denominations and all combinations of cash and coins too.

He’s always cash rich and I’m always cash poor. Except when it comes to the two dollar bill. That’s my strength. Twenty dollars may cover costs, but a two dollar bill always buys a smile. The two dollar bill buys little, is used little, and is worth little.  But, it’s fun – which I believe is its sole circulation purpose.  No other paper denomination has such crazy-funny power.  And spending a twenty dollar bill is easy, but carrying and spending ten two dollar bills takes a little more courage and thought.  Just try it.  It’s not as simple as it sounds.

Moving on, having possessed my Saint Joseph Children’s Missal since 1964, it is showing severe signs of age. The spine is taped.  The pages are tilted.  And the cover is worn. But, the gentle message inside has the ability to keep me grounded. It’s not a matter of me reading it at a moment of need, just a matter of me being reminded that the world is still in front of me, that I have a group standing with me, and that there is nothing that is impossible when my God is with me.

Likewise is that little ‘to-do’ list that my husband carries. Threaded among the bullet points that remind him to run past the bank or pick up some grocery item are notes that remind him to follow his dreams, to think big and broad, to care for others, and to see the glass half full, not half empty. I only wish I had the fortitude to create and carry such a daily list. He’s got it. I don’t. Nuf’ said.

Then there’s his pen. The purpose of the pen is writing – and the majority of the time that’s what he does with it. But, I have seen him use it to pry things open, to clip something together, and to wedge something apart. He thinks he’s MacGyver.  Always has.  He sees a pen as a tool that happens to contain a little ink. Clogged sink – use the pen. Barefoot and a bug needs to be killed – use a pen. Burgers flaming out of control and spatula is missing – use a pen. There is no problem that the pen can’t solve with a little thought and ingenuity.  In the future, I am hoping to film his uses of the pen to create what I think would be one of the most viral YouTube videos this side of the Mississippi.

Me – my skills with a pen are limited to only those that include paper and writing. If I’m in need of an inventive solution to a difficult problem, I go for the rosary every time. In the short term, the pen might be more successful, but in the long run, the rosary – whole or decade version – may be the best choice.

In the end, the items that we collectively carry are only purposeful to us as individuals. He can’t use my rosary to pray his way out of a sudden sneeze and his handkerchief won’t help me understand the Bill of Rights.

I only hope that my tattered and nearly torn ziplock bag remains in tact for a few more decades. I gotta lot of trouble to explore and I may need its contents.

And I might add a pen for the just in case moments.

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Need a pen?  Or a two dollar bill?  Just ask us.

The Bounce Pass

“Ladies, never ever underestimate the power of the bounce pass.”

How often I have recalled the ten words that Coach stressed to our team moments before we took the court on that snowy December day.

We played in a rag-tag grade school athletic league. Me and six of my closest fifth grade school mates – with all seven of our young fathers standing right behind us – dreamed of becoming the Catholic Youth Council City/County Basketball champs – which at the time was the equivalent of earning a gold medal for the USA Olympic Team, playing in the NCAA March Madness Final Four, and winning the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes all in one.

This was the 1960s.  Sporting activities for women – basketball and/or otherwise – were just starting to come into their own.  The powers to be had been forced to organize a league for us girls, with games played at any time the boys weren’t using a nearby gym.  The good news is that we had gym time for games, but we were out of luck in terms of using an indoor facility for practice.

But being young, budding athletes, who, by-the-way, had little to no basketball experience whatsoever, we cared little about what we lacked (gym time, experience, or otherwise) and more about what we were going to be learning.  So our pops did a little organizing for us, found a suitable outdoor court, identified the one dad who had more than just a little hoop experience, and set us on the course towards the City/County Championship.

Coach quickly recognized that some of us – well nearly all of us – needed to learn a little more – well a lot more – about the artful game of basketball before we ever played a real game.   We would form a circle around him, and he would toss the ball to each of us.  Regardless of whether we tossed it back correctly, incorrectly, or not at all, he would compliment us on our action.  “Great job” were two words that seemed to flow out of his mouth easily.

And because we were basketball newbies, hearing those words helped.  Coach taught us to dribble, to shoot, to rebound, to block out, to dish, to pivot, and to play zone.  We were proud of what we were learning even if it looked like we knew more about double dribbling, fouling, traveling, palming, over-and-back, and violating the key than the afore mentioned list.

Coach didn’t pay too much attention to what we did wrong.  In fact, I can’t remember a time I really did much right, but he gave me the feeling that every pass I made put me closer to becoming Nera White – the most famous basketball player of my time, a 15 year AAU All American and an athletic role model for all young ladies growing up in the 60s.

This new basketball activity seemed to be not just the thrill of the year for me and my BFFs, but also for our dads.  They figured out how to get us matching uniforms, made sure we had enough and the right equipment, created intricate and complex plays for us – in case we ever got to the point of using them, and in general bonded with each other as we, young ladies, were doing.

It was Coach, however, who had us all mesmerized. Though I didn’t know it at the time, he was a little more involved in the world of basketball than the rest of our dads.  He had not only played high school and college basketball, but he had played it well, a member of the 1948 NIT Championship Team.  He knew the rules and the lingo.  He was versed in successful models for offensive and defensive play. He rubbed elbows with local athletic greats.  And he was our coach.

More importantly to me at that time, he was the nice dad who seemed to know how to lead seven sport novices towards the ability to play hoops with pride.  His focus was always on the fundamentals of basketball – and I learned them, one by one.  But, somehow, in some unexplainable way, I seemed to be learning more about honesty, critical thinking, problem solving, and collegiality without Coach ever saying one word about any of those topics- ever.

So on that snowy day in December, we suited up for our very first game.  Moments before the buzzer blasted to start the game, Coach huddled us up for his very last pep talk before we were on our own to make the dream reality.  He leaned in told us that we would be great, and gave us his final instructional mojo.  His eyes wide.  His hands on his hips.  It just rolled off his lips.

“Ladies, never ever underestimate the power of the bounce pass!”

I am sad to say, that I can’t remember if we won or lost the game.  I have no idea whether I played more than a minute or the entire time. I don’t think we made it anywhere near the Catholic Youth Council City/County Championship that year. Maybe we did, and I have forgotten.  It was, however, a most memorable year in a totally different way.

I learned to never ever underestimate the power of the bounce pass.

In this world, it is the two hand push pass that is most commonly used and universally expected.  We receive the ball and hand it off more often than not without a single bounce. We repeat this action over and over, often times routinely and mindlessly. Generally, because it works but not always. Sometimes because it is comfortable.  It’s what we always did before.   That method, however, isn’t always the most powerful, most effective path towards success.

A coach a long time ago told me to consider thinking outside the box.   He told me to act with authority and to think about my ability to control my destiny.  He told me to look up and see the possibilities, think about my options, and choose the path less traveled.  Coach told me to bounce the ball, surprise others, and add a healthy level of wonder into my world.

Ten words to live by.

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I am sure they have never under estimated the power of anything.