Awesome Blog Content Number Three

I have been nominated for the ABC Award for the third time! The ABC stands for Awesome Blog Content. And this glorious nomination was passed on to me by Dr. Angela of A Kiss of Bliss. Thank you, Angi, so much for this awesome award, for reading my blog, and finding me worthy of this humbling recognition. I am truly grateful, as well as honored!

Here are the rules for this award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you
  2. There is no limit to how many fellow bloggers you can nominate so go wild. He-he.
  3. Share some things about you but alphabetically just a word or two about you starting with each alphabet. (Or alternatively, just write the first word you think of.)

My Awesome Blog Content Award Nominees:



Five Reflections

Assia’s Kaleidoscope

♡ The Tale Of My Heart ♡

Baker Bettie




Lea & Jay

My A to Zzzz’s:



























These ten bloggers do have some awesome things posted on their blogs! In following my food theme, some of them have great recipes, but some of them are great for other reasons. Can you guess which is which? If not, the answer lies within a simple click!

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Johnny Mathis

Oh my! The memories that this man’s voice brings me back to. I woke up this morning thinking of my mother. This ended up being a cue for me to think of music from a different time in my life that I have enjoyed or that has meaning to me.

My mother loved country music, as do I, though I love almost all music. We had a radio/record/cassette player exactly like the one in the picture above, and when I was young, my mother would play records on ours on Saturdays while we did our chores. I can’t remember all the albums she had, I’m sure, but I do remember some. She had Dolly Parton, Charlie Pride, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, and one of my favorite at the time, Johnny Mathis.

It has been a really long time since I have thought of him, and so when I got onto my computer this morning, the first thing I typed into YouTube was Johnny Mathis. I recognized the songs that are strongest in my memory right away; It’s Not For Me To Say, Chances Are, and Smile. I kept going back and forth, trying to decide which one I would include in this post, and in doing so, I came across another song that he sang.

This song has been a favorite of mine for a long time, but was originally sung by Roberta Flack. The song, as Roberta sang it, was Killing Me Softly With His Song, while Johnny sang it as Her Song. Well, since I am more of a her person rather than a he person, I found this  version to be quite delightful. But now I had a dilemma. Instead of three songs to choose from, I now had four. What to do?

What am I thinking? There are no rules that say I can only post one song per post. Why not post all four songs? Ok, so sometimes I am a little slow, but better late than never, yes? I will even give you two options to listen. Either click on the link in the written part of this post, or scroll down a little farther and click play. I have also linked Roberta Flack to her version of the song, for those of you who are more a he person than a she person. Go ahead! Sit back and listen to some sweet, sweet music.


“Tell Me About Yourself” Blog Award

I have received another really cool award that I would like to honor some blogger friends with. Carla from Seasons Change, and Change… has nominated me for the Tell Me About Yourself Award. I am happy and excited that she wants to know more about me and is affording me this opportunity to post these things on my own blog for others to get to know me better also. Thank you so much, Carla!

Do you have people who you enjoy the exchange of reading each other’s blogs every day? I do and I learn a lot about who they are and I like that. I also like the people who are reading my blogs and getting to know me as a real person. So, I am going to present the nomination of this award to 7 of my blogger friends whom I think are very interesting people and I would love to know more about them.

  1. You will need to Thank the person that nominated you first (me) and link the blog to that person before you start.
  2. Then you will have to tell the world 7 things we might find interesting about you.
  3. Then you add your 7 nominees.

Seven New Things About Moi:

Ooooo! This is going to be good! I have come up with some really old and unique memories to share with you. And a few that you may never have seen coming. Are you ready?

  1. I think I was about five years old when my father started teaching me how to bowl. He coached me for quite a few years. When I was eight, he entered me into a youth tournament and I made it to the state championship, where I won first prize with a score of 188. I still have my little bowling shirt which is covered in patches I won through those years of bowling.
  2. Do you remember when you learned how to ride a bike? I do. At first, I had a bike that was mostly plastic, had training wheels, and looked like a little motorcycle. My friend, Polly, and I rode that thing up and down the street all the time. When the training wheels came off, we both tried to learn to ride it without them, but we were not very successful. When I was eight years old, I received a pink Huffy for Christmas (ok, so I was almost nine, as my birthday is in February). My aunt and uncle and two cousins were coming to visit us in Florida, all the way from Michigan, for the holidays. My poor mother spent two hours (in her robe, since I absolutely could not wait a single second, not even long enough for her to get dressed) working with me on being able to ride that beautiful two-wheeler before my cousin got there. I learned, finally, and when they got to my house, my cousin, Dawn, borrowed my mother’s 10-speed and we went for a ride around the block. A great day and a great memory for me!
  3. On July 4, 1953, my Aunt Teresa was born. Tragically, on July 4, 1978, a short 25 years later, she was killed by a drunk driver. It was her 25th birthday and she and her husband, my Uncle Kyle, and my sweet baby cousin, Ryan (18 months old), were on their way to my Memaw and Pappy’s house to celebrate her birthday. In the few miles from their house to my grandparents house, they were struck, on my aunt’s side of the truck, by another truck driven by a 15-year-old girl, accompanied by two other 15-year-old girls, all of whom had been drinking. The girls had blown right through a stop sign, side swiping my aunt and uncle. Aunt Teresa died less than two hours after arriving to the hospital. I was only seven years old when this happened, but remember it like it was yesterday. Aunt Teresa was my mother’s younger, and only sister. The cake my mother baked for her that day was an owl, as my Aunt Teresa loved owls. I don’t remember her very well, but I do remember that she was very sweet.
  4. My very first pet, at least that I remember, I received when I was about four, and shortly after we moved from Michigan to Florida. He was a “mutt” dog, but I remember he had white, super curly fur. His name was simply, JJ, and was very playful. Then one morning I woke up and he was gone. My father had to tell me that JJ had run away. The only other thing I can remember about JJ and his running away was when my father showed me a newspaper clipping that had a picture of JJ running across some street somewhere. I never say JJ again.
  5. When I was in my early teens, my Pappy agreed to let me clean his house once a week, so I could earn some money. First let me tell you that my Pappy served a million years in the Air Force, so clean for him was so far out of my league, that this was quite the challenge for me. Also, my mother had told me, on more than one occasion, that she and My Aunt Teresa would spend the entire day on Saturday, every Saturday, cleaning the house and putting all they had into it. They wanted to please and impress their father. He would come home after spending the day at the base, and say things like, “What have you girls been doing all day? I thought I told you to clean this house.” And this was seconds after walking through the door. My poor mother’s heart was broken week after week. Fortunately for me, my Pappy had mellowed quite a bit by the time I came along to try to fill my mother’s shoes. He would actually say that I had done a good job, “…but let me show you something…” he would tell me. He would then find one thing that I had cleaned and showed me, himself, how to do it better. That turned out to be a good thing, as I am much more thorough in cleaning than I might otherwise have been. (Whew! All of that and I have not yet come to the part I want to share. I better get to it then, wouldn’t you say?) Pappy paid me $25 every week for cleaning his house and I would take the money home and stuff it under the pads that lined the frame of my water bed. One day, I decided to look and see how much I had saved. I was shocked to have counted over $500 and showed my mother immediately. After some discussion, she asked me what I wanted to do with it. I chose to redecorate my bedroom. I got new sheets, pillows, throw pillows, comforter, blinds and curtains, books, cassette tapes, garbage can, and other stuff that is eluding me at the moment. And I had money left over! I was very proud of myself for not only having earned and saved the money, but spending it in a way that I had something to show for it for a very long time.
  6. Here is something very few people know. My real, birth certificate name is Cynthia Lynn. My sister’s was Virginia Renee. Our last name was Riemersma. My father has been a police officer his entire adult life (he retired in 1998); eight years in Michigan and another 23 years in Florida. When we moved to Florida, south Florida in Homestead which is about 40 miles south of Miami, he would answer the phone, “Officer Riemersma” (Ŕē-mer-smŭ—best I can do), and, because so many people in that area were from Cuba, they thought he said, “Ramirez” and would proceed to speak to him in Spanish. This became really frustrating for my father, so to fix the situation, he petitioned the court for a name change. His full name was Clark John Riemersma, and he elected to change it legally to C.J. Clark (the last name changed for all of us). My little sister spoke right up and said she hated the name Virginia and wanted my father to also change her name to the one we called her, Ginger. This name change occurred in 1980, when I was in the fourth grade.  I got married in 1992, taking the last name Messer, and when I divorced in 1998, I requested that I could return to my birth certificate surname of Riemersma, rather than go back to Clark. Now, backing up quite a bit, followed by jumping to quite a few years later, I will tell you the boy names my mother had picked for myself and my sister, and then the girl names I had picked for both of my boys. Had I been born a boy, my name would have been Nicholas Wayne, and had my sister been born a boy, she would have been named Benjamin Dwayne. The first names are cool, but I would not have been too thrilled with either of our middle names. For my first-born, Jeremiah Claybourn, I had chosen the name Monica Mae if he had been born a girl. I like the name Monica and Mae is the name of the best friend I left behind in Florida when I moved to Oregon. For my youngest son, Zachariah James, I had picked out the girl name of Lela Mozelle. Lela was Jeremy and Zachary’s father’s paternal grandmother’s name, and Mozelle (don’t you dare laugh!) was the name of my Memaw, my mother’s mother. I still think it is a beautiful name!
  7. This last one is a doozy! When my parents divorced, my mother had to return to work, and to ensure she could support my sister and I, she pulled us out of our private school, which we had attended since kindergarten, and placed us into public school, Avocado Elementary School. I was in fifth grade and my sister was in second grade that year. One morning when my sister had walked to school (I cannot for the life of me remember where I was that day), as she came to the edge of the property, she cut through a small field that led to the parking lot. As she was walking through the field, she tripped and fell. What she had tripped over was none other than a women’s dead body! Naturally, she freaked out, and ran all the way back home. When she got through the door, she picked up the phone and called my mother at work, but she was so hysterical, she couldn’t speak. Finally, when my mother could get nothing more than screams and sobbing out of her, she told my sister to stay right where she was and then drove like a maniac to get home. Again, I cannot remember where I was during this insanity, but I vaguely remember cops being at the house to interview my sister. She had nightmares for many months after that.

Is that enough about me???? Yeah, I think that’s enough for one day! (I am going to borrow this, Carla, as it seems appropriate after all I have written. Lol I hope you don’t mind?)

My Seven Nominations are:

      1. Raw Recovery
      2. Rockdweller’s Blog
      3. Ladywithatruck
      4. I Am Not Lost, Just Weird
      5. iamnotshe
      6. Dreamwalker’s Sanctuary
      7. Bluebird Blvd. This last blog is written by Courtenay, a sweet and amazing woman, with wonderfulness throughout her blog. Now, I must acknowledge that she has requested not to be nominated for any awards. As a matter of fact, I have all the blogs I follow listed in a Word document for easy access when I post my awards and she is listed like this: Bluebird Blvd.— No awards, please! I have done really well in honoring and respecting her wishes, and in no way expect her to post this as a result of my nomination. I nominate her for two reasons. First, this is my way of letting her know, as the award implies, that I would like to know more about her, whether through the award or by other means, as we have been doing through comments. And secondly, I would really like anyone who reads this post to go see her blog, if you haven’t already. It truly is amazing!

Now, don’t get me wrong; ALL of the blogs I have listed, including the one that nominated me, are just as amazing, very insightful, and ones I read regularly and cannot seem to get enough of. But don’t take my word for it. Give them all a click and a read and see for yourself.

Bring It On!

Ahhh… Bring on the Rain by Jo Dee Messina is a great song with a great message, in and of itself. This song really resonates with me in that I am not one to give up or let life beat me. Because I am still here, still alive, and still growing and learning, I can see that I am a fighter.

This song also has special meaning for me because my oldest son, Jeremiah, and I decided a few years ago that this was our theme song. Yes, we may feel like we sometimes want to hide away somewhere and lock the door, and that is ok. We also recognize that at these moments, we may have lost a single battle, but not the war. We look to tomorrow as another day, a brand new day, putting the struggles of yesterday behind us and ready to face what is ahead of us with a clean slate and renewed strength.

One year, I took Jeremiah to see Jo Dee Messina in concert, just the two of us, and we had an amazing time. The memories from that night will be with us both for the rest of our lives. It was my only my second concert, and his first. We danced, we sang, and we took turns looking through a monocle, actually a child’s toy, but it was strong enough to see her on the stage from where we were. We were inexperienced as far as concerts went and left after her supposed last song. We had no idea that she would return for an encore, but as we walked down the long hallway, we heard her start another song, so we grabbed the first door we came to and entered into a section of seating that was completely empty. We had the entire section to ourselves for the last hour of the concert! I will never forget that wonderful night with my sweet boy.

I wanted to post the official music video, but it was the shorter version of the song, so instead I am posting this video. Though it maintains a still picture throughout, and is accompanied by lyrics, it is the extended version. In the full extra minute at the end, Tim McGraw’s voice is highlighted and the runs they do together, for me, is mesmerizing. I really love this song and I hope you will too!


UPDATE: Louise brought it to my attention that the video I posted was not working; therefore, I have replaced it with the official music video afterall. It is shorter, but still very good!

Just Me, #9

Hello Friends and Fans,

A lot going on in my life right now, as you may have read in some of my previous posts, that is once again preventing me the time to respond to comments, post 4 more awards (since the last I have posted), return emails, read my wonderful blogger friend’s posts, and of course, write all that I have building up in my head that will, eventually, fill pages. I am still looking for a job while keeping up, barely, with my school work, and lately, my anxiety level has been at an acutely diabolical height that is unusual, even for me.

Yesterday, hours before the onset of my panic attack, I had a very productive day. Yes, you know me, there is always a bright side, and here is one facet of this chaotic time in my life’s bright side. I completed and caught up a lot of my homework, and then Mary took me to the bowling alley for more research on my English class ethnological, subculture study. I took a lot of great pictures, found someone not only willing, but eager to talk to me and I learned a huge amount of information from this gentleman including being introduced to several people who will be willing to give me an interview. Having turned in my Literature Review, the interviews will be the last leg of my study, before I will piece it altogether into one final report. Not only that, but I had a really nice time hanging out with Mary.

My Panic Attack post that I wrote very early this morning, I did from my WordPress app on my Blackberry, so I know how that works now. This is a very good thing, because it will allow me to post when I cannot be near my computer and can utilize time when I am also away from my school work. I will, of course, edit that post to include category (Poetic Detours), tags, and a picture of some sort. I have also been taking pictures, other than at the bowling alley, with my Nikon CoolPix digital camera, and when time permits, I will figure out how to upload the photos to my computer so that I can post the best of the bunch here on my blog. There you go, something for you to look forward to!

A quick note in regards to my panic attack—first I want to say thank you to all of you who posted comments and for the words of encouragement and support. I am, once again, very touched by how much you care about me and am very grateful for you! One common thing that was mentioned was how well I worked through the attack. I want to give recognition to three women who have made it possible for me to do this. The first is my treatment counselor, Kathy Ward, in 2005/2006 who encouraged me to seek a doctor in regards to severe depression when I first started experiencing panic attacks, roughly four months after I got clean. In taking her advice, I did seek a doctor and that led me to getting into therapy, along with a medication that helps balance both my anxiety and depression. I was dead-set against it at first, not wanting to replace one drug with another, but the attacks were becoming debilitating and I finally conceded. It was also explained to me, by Kathy, that I had done a lot of deceitful manipulation to my brain and the normal functions of the chemicals therein, so the medication will help repair and replenish those chemicals to the level they are intended to be at. Between the medication and the therapy, and staying clean and healthy, I felt much better and could function again. And the panic attacks subsided considerably!

The second woman was my second to last therapist (the last was her replacement, but her style was so basic it did not work for me), Dr. Kerri in 2008/2009. Being a therapist, she gave me different exercises to do. We would first do them together in her office and then I would take them home, work on them during the week, and then share with her how well or how little it worked. We would either add it to my “tool box” or discard it and try something new. There are two that I use regularly for panic attacks. One is deep breathing. The technique that I use is to count to eight while slowly inhaling. Not only am I counting to eight, but I am visualizing clean, positive light and energy coming in through my breath. I then hold it for two seconds, and then exhale through pursed lips, slowly but deliberately, again counting to eight, while visualizing dark, negative, energy leaving my body. This works really well. Aside from the physiological aspects that accompany deep breathing, I am also disengaging my brain from not only focusing on the thoughts that may have kicked the panic into motion, but also from focusing on the attack itself.

The second is another exercise of visualization. I close my eyes, see a bright blue sky, and see my every thought written into a balloon and drifting away from me, releasing my focus on those thoughts. This one takes a little more effort, but it does work. I generally go with the breathing, but depending on the intensity of the attack or how quickly it hits, I latch onto the first technique that enters my mind. In having made it a habit to do these exercises as soon as I think of them, I have learned to get through them without potential self-harm, which is how they were when they first started occurring in 2005.

And last, but most certainly not least, my very wise and intelligent best friend, Cherie. Through the course of our friendship, which began in 2009, I have developed a trust in her that is unbelievable to me, even now. I have opened up and shared so much of what goes on in my head, and what I have endured throughout my lifetime, that along with her support, insights, and deep understanding, has allowed things that have been broken inside of me for years, to come to light and to begin to heal. This healing and growth has resulted in my panic attacks to be very far and few between. The do occur, but on the rarest of occasions and I am able to pinpoint exactly what set them off, whereas before, I could never be sure. In opening up to her, I have opened myself up to me. Please believe me when I say, that is a rare and lovely gift!

That is all I can do for now, folks. I have an exam to prepare for and several assignments due this weekend, so, though I will try, I may not be back for a few days. I am sorry I keep getting behind, but such is life. {sigh}

Happy Spring,


Panic Attack

Nerves crackling like a wild-fire out of control
Stomach churning so fast, the motor is going to burn out
Head spinning like a top on the edge of the table
Feet pacing deep grooves into the carpet
Sweat pouring down my back like a waterfall
Body trembling so hard, it triples my vision
Fear claws its way up the back of my throat with razor sharp talons
Walls closing in quickly, nowhere to go, nowhere to hide
Can’t think or feel or breathe or move
This too shall pass, this too shall pass, this too shall pass
Why isn’t it passing?
Eternity threatens and tortures me with no mercy
Silence and stillness for which I have prayed for comes
I am now left broken, exhausted, and shadowed by shame
But I have survived and made it through, yet again

Let the Games Begin

Another Wednesday night and I am once again on my way to Summit Lanes Bowling Center to do more research. The weather is a nice 40 degrees with not a hint of a breeze here in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. It is February 15, 2012 and it is also my 41st birthday. I know I should be taking the day off to celebrate, but I have work to do and I have already had a wonderful day full of surprises from the most unexpected places. Tomorrow, my roommates, Cherie and Mary, will be making homemade broccoli-cheddar soup, fresh biscuits, and my favorite—carrot cake! Such a delicious meal will be well worth the wait.

Mary and I pull into the parking lot right at seven o’clock and I quickly get out of the car and go in while Mary finds a parking place in the packed lot. As I enter, I am greeted with many sights, sounds, and smells that I have become familiar with. As soon as I come through the entrance, I turn left and head down one side of the alley. I immediately notice that the first 12 lanes are empty and it appears they will remain that way throughout the evening. I stop and make a note to ask why. I spot a team that is second in from the empty lanes, putting them at lanes 15-16, and am drawn to the fact that they are wearing team shirts. They have the same logo that reads, “Rockin’ Willy’s Tattoo and Piercing,” but one is a muscle shirt, with no sleeves, another a t-shirt, and a third is a hooded-sweatshirt. The other three bowlers on this particular team are wearing normal street clothes. The first sight of team shirts, of course, piques my curiosity, so I decide I will observe this team as they bowl their first game.

I grab a seat at one of the tables that is just behind the bowling area, open my notebook, and then sit, listen and watch. I do want to take notes on what I observe, but I need to first observe something of significance. One of the team members, a jolly, round man about my age, is sitting at one of two scoring tables in the bowling area, the one on the left from where I am sitting facing the lanes. He is wearing a pear green shirt, has a bald spot starting in the center of his head, and a mustache that is kind of reddish, which is odd because his hair, what little there is, is more brown. Two of his other teammates join him at the table, though they remain standing. One, a woman, is wearing a tight taupe colored shirt, her hair pulled back into a pony tail and she smiles as the other member, a younger man covered in tattoos and with large wheels in his stretched out earlobes, sets down a pitcher of beer. I later learn that the woman’s name is Wanda, and she is the only female on this team. She is also the only one I actually spoke to. In my notes, I referred to her young teammate as “tats and rings” as I was unable to get his name. This guy spent as much time talking on his phone and texting as he did bowling.

As Wanda pours herself a cup of beer, she and “tats and rings” begin to discuss the handful of bills in the balding man’s hand. They are making bets on tonight’s games amongst each other. What he held in his hand were several twenty dollar bills, so it will be a good take at the end of the night for whoever has the highest combined score, “…with handicap,” a condition that was readily accepted by the other teammates. As I make note to remember to find out what a bowler’s handicap is and how it is determined, I have a vague recollection that has something to do with their personal average, but little more.

Mary suddenly appears, taking a seat next to me, pulling me out of my daydream of bowling as a young child and trying to draw into my memory what a handicap is. I glance over at her, giving her a nervous smile, and she says, “Don’t worry about me. Just relax and take your time. Do your best, as you always do. I am in no hurry.” With that , she pats my hand, then points my attention back to the bowlers and the activity on the lanes. I have no idea exactly what it is I am looking for, but I figure if I just watch, it will come to me. And so it did.

Though I was staying focused on this one team, when I noticed that they seemed to stand in line, each waiting their turn, I looked to my right, down the length of the alley, and noticed that this was common of all of the teams. The bowlers have a certain way in which they prepare to throw their ball. There are little arrows on both the approach and the lanes that look like geese in a flying V formation. The bowler looks down at his feet, places them precisely on the arrow that will guide their approach to the exact spot, just before the lane, they need to be in order to hit the exact same spot on the lane arrow. For each bowler it is different. The weight of the ball, the force in which they throw, the arc that their arm follows, and the number of steps, swivel of the hips, and whether or not they pull their right leg up and back once they let go of the ball; all of these things combined determines how soon and how much the ball will hook, or curve, toward the pins as it reaches the end of the lane. How much of a hook each bowler has determines where he or she needs to stand.

One of the bowlers stands all the way to the left, approaches the lane in a diagonal line to the right and when he releases his ball, his right hand twists to the right. The result of his throw is that the ball remains on the far right side of the lane, hooking sharply at the very last second, into the pocket. The pocket is the area of the pins that you want to hit in order for all, or at least most of them to fall. The pins are set in the shape of a triangle, one pin in the front, two directly behind the one, three behind the two, and four pins closing the back, for a total of ten pins. If you hit them just right, they have a domino effect, knocking each other down. When all of the pins fall on the first throw (for each turn, a bowler gets to throw their ball twice), it is called a strike—quite the opposite of a strike in baseball, where three strikes and you are out! In bowling, when you get three strikes on three turns in a row, they call it a turkey, and a turkey is a very good thing.

If you only hit some of the pins, or none of the pins, in what is known as a gutter ball, then a second chance is granted. The machine behind the lanes reaches down with its unusual claw and grabs the pins that have remained standing. A long plastic “arm” drops down and sweeps the fallen pins out of the way, the machine setting the standing pins down gently, as not to knock them over, and the bowler’s ball is sucked into the underground tunnel, very similar to the tube that takes your cash and checks from the drive through at the bank to the teller inside, and deposits it back into the ball return for the bowler’s retrieval. The bowler then repeats his ritual of finding his stance, but this time, he adjusts it to match up with where the remaining pins are placed. Again he throws, and this time he knocks down all the pins. Because they went down on the second, rather than the first throw, his score will reflect what is called a spare.

The next bowler is up, this time the balding man. He places his feet near the center arrow, takes three giant steps forward, and as he releases his ball, his right leg crosses behind his left leg, his right arm arcs far to the right as he throws his ball and then crosses over to the left in front of his chest in what is called a follow through. As he watches his speeding ball rush down the lane to conquer the army of pins, the balding man tilts his head, as if willing his ball to curve in the same direction, walking backwards with little careful steps over the same ground he covered in three strides just seconds earlier, and as the entire set of pins come crashing down, his right arm, hand in a fist, shoots straight above his head as he turns on his heel with a huge grin, looking for praise from his team. Wanda claps and gives him a high-five, as “tats and rings” takes his place on the approach.

As I sit and watch the bowlers go through this process, I think of how it is similar to a golf game and how the golfer also carefully places his feet, grips the club in just the right way and looks back and forth from his ball to his target on the green. Because I am not a sport loving person, I find it amusing that I keep making references to other sports. I am eager to do some research and learn about the history of where this game of bowling started, when, and why. My concentration is broken by the only team to my left. Interestingly, the team I have been observing happens to be a local business, while the team to my left is a family. Grandma, grandpa, dad, two teenage boys and one teenage girl seem to comprise this team. They are not the only family members there that night, as there are also a couple of older children, sitting at tables in the empty bowling area to the left, doing homework and three smaller children—the youngest girl appears to be about four years old—running around and having a good time with each other.

My attention is diverted to this other team when the father walks over, standing almost directly in front of me, and speaks to one of the teenage boys on the team. “Who is up first?” the father asks his son, who is wandering back over to the bowling area from either the arcade or the grill.

“She is,” the boy replies as he points to his older sister.

“Exactly! Who is up next? You saw her throw her ball. How long do you think she is supposed to take? Come on…you are holding up the game.” At this request, the son quickens his step and grabs his ball. The father was direct, but calm, and I caught the hint of a grin on his face as his son whisked by. This entire exchange took less than a minute and I turned my attention back to my focal team, never giving the family team another thought, until later that evening on the ride home.

Just as I looked, “tats and rings” was making a bee-line straight for me. Much to my relief, considering the frustrated grimace on his inked face, he went over to his bowling bag, one of the nicer ones on wheels with a handle, and reached in, producing another ball, while he said out loud, “I don’t know what is going on with me tonight, but I am getting very, very angry,” the last few words forced out between gritted teeth. He nearly stomped back over to the lane. He took his spot on his chosen arrow, shrugged his shoulders a few times while twisting his head from side to side, as if to break his muscles from the tense clench they were in. He stood there for several seconds, leaned forward, swinging his ball behind him, and then let the weight of the ball pull him toward the lane. It was fascinating to see how he slowly set the ball in motion almost without throwing it. The ball didn’t THUD this time, rather, you could hear the smooth shell of the ball sliding very methodically down the oiled lane, colliding with the pins in an unexpected crash and clatter. Before the pins could settle and quiet themselves, he let out a loud, “WOOOOO!” clearly satisfied with the end results of this ball’s performance. Wanda stood by the scoring table and clapped her hands above her head before heading over to take her turn.

The team continued to take turns, switching from the first to the second lane. This rotation of turn-taking allows the game to move along smoothly. Bowler one bowls on the left lane, followed by bowler two. While bowler two is taking his first turn on the left lane, bowler one is taking his second on the right lane. When bowler one finishes his turn on the right, bowler two then rotates over to the right lane, while bowler three is up on the left, and so on. As I mentioned before, each bowler gets two chances per turn, and these turns are called frames. There are a total of ten frames per game. Fortunately, technology has advanced to the point that a computer system keeps score for the team, but it was not always this way. Yet even with the computer scoring system, it is important to know how your score is calculated.

In the first frame, the number of pins knocked down is calculated in the upper left corner of a box; this main box is called the frame. If some pins are left, then the number that fall on the second chance is calculated in a separate, smaller box located in the upper right hand corner of that same frame, while the total of the two throws is placed on the bottom center of the frame. All ten frames are connected in one long row, and all of the team’s players are listed in a column, three or four names, depending on how many players are in the team, on each of the two lanes’ screens. (Remember, each team uses two lanes in a rotation to keep the game moving). The second frame is organized in the same fashion, but the score in the bottom center of the second frame is the combined scores of frame one and two.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. If all pins are knocked down between the two throws, the second throw is calculated with a diagonal line through the little upper box in the right corner of the frame, but in this case, the total is not yet calculated. For a spare, the next throw, which would be the first chance on the following frame, gets added to the ten pins of the former frame, added again to the running total thus far, and then the score is placed in the bottom center of the frame with the spare. In the next frame, the first throw gets counted again, along with the second and the new total goes in that frame. If that is not complicated enough, when all pins are knocked down on the first throw, thus eliminating the need for a second throw, it is a strike and a large X is placed in the mini box of the frame. For a strike, the next two throws are calculated with the ten pins of the strike to determine the score for the frame with the strike.

Imagine getting strikes for your next two throws. Your score would be the first strike, ten pins, added to two more strikes, which is 20 more, a total of 30, added to the running total and recorded in the frame of the first strike. Yes, it gets very confusing. The highest score that any bowler can achieve in a single game is 300—that is a total of twelve strikes in a row! I know, there are only ten frames, so why twelve strikes? Well, the final strike in the tenth frame needs two more throws to add to its total, and therefore, two more throws are granted.

As the game continues to play out, I notice other behaviors that are characteristic to bowlers. They do talk amongst themselves, but keep a close eye on the others in the team who are bowling. The conversations are mostly centered on skill, inconsistencies in their approach, what they could do better next time, or in some cases, how it was not their fault, but that of the lanes, the shoes, the lighting and a myriad of other rationalizations.  The facial expressions and body language of the bowlers depends on how well the ball connected with the pins. If they are happy with their throw, they will return to the group with smiles, confident looks accompanied by a nodding of their head, a number of silly dance moves, and or reaching out for their high fives. On the other hand, if it was a bad throw, they come back with slumped shoulders, rolling eyes, pouty lips, a fist being socked in to the opposite hand, or they just shrug their shoulders as if to say, “Oh, well, no biggie.”

The reactions of the other team members are also similar. Good throws elicit claps, high fives or high tens (two high fives at the same time, using both hands), and hollers of “Alright!”, “Way to go!”, “I knew you had that one!”, or just flat out screams that resemble different vowel sounds, but are not in any way words that are identifiable in the English language. If the throw is not so good, encouraging words are spoken, yet in a much less enthusiastic tone, followed by a sympathetic pat on the back. Those who have the most fun are those who can laugh at themselves and others. It is clear, though, that far too many of the bowlers, have very high expectations of themselves, and it is not the other teams, or their own teammates they are competing against, but rather themselves.  One woman, several teams over to my right, maintained absolutely no expression on her face at all. Whether she got a strike or a gutter ball, her face was always blank, and her body movement was both stiff and flowing.

The most common thing I saw my team do was to tag each other. The bowler walking away from the lane would hold his hand up, fingers together, while the bowler taking his place, palm down, would tap their fingertips. This was done not as a full slap of “give me five,” but more of a sliding of hand over hand. If you have ever watched team wrestling, where they tag each other in and out of the ring, you know what I am talking about. It was a supportive gesture, but because it happened every time the bowlers would trade places, it appeared to be more of a signal that one bowler was finished and the other was free to take their turn.  Some of the bowlers used the fan on the ball return or towels or talcum pouches to dry their hands, while others used none of these things.

Wanda is up next. In an attempt to guarantee that nothing interferes with her approach and release, she first adjusts her pant legs near her ankles, pulls her shirt down over her waist, makes sure any loose strands of hair are behind her ears, then takes her ball out of the ball return. She steps up to the arrows and takes her place, double checks her grip on her bowling ball, and then looks forward at the pins to make sure her visual and mental focus are in line with her physical stance. One, two, three, steps and a slight slide to the front of the lane, more gracefully than her male teammates, she leans in and releases her ball. It rolls down the center of the right side of the lane, barely hooking into the pins and hitting between the far right pins of the second and third rows. Four pins on the left of the lane remain standing. Her score for the first throw of this frame is six.

Wanda is not at all fazed by her inaccurate throw, but instead is concentrating on her next move as she waits for her ball to arrive. She once again goes through what I am beginning to see as her own personal ritual, and when she releases her ball, everyone watches to see if she is successful. The ball strikes, and it is clear that three of the four pins are definitely going down, while the fourth one wobbles round and round on its haunches, trying to catch its balance. Wanda turns for a moment as she is walking back to the score table, but then turns her head and again looks at the lane just as that final pin loses its battle with equilibrium, and slides off the lane and out of sight.  The cheers ring out all around her and she laughs. Really impressed with this accomplishment, I say to her, “Good job!”

She turns and looks at me with a look of bewilderment, and while she fixes her pony tail for the umpteenth time, she says, “I thought it was going to stay up,” shrugging as if to say, who knew? I feel I have an opening and begin to talk to her. I tell her my name and why I am watching and taking notes. I then ask her how long she has been bowling. “Not long, really. I bowled a few times as a kid, but didn’t really learn how to bowl until my boyfriend taught me. His shop needed one more bowler for this league and I got roped in.”

“Oh, you don’t like to bowl?” I ask.

“No, no, I do. It has been a lot of fun. None of us are really good enough to win the grand prize, but it doesn’t seem to matter to these guys. They do it for the fun, and to boost their ego.” Wanda laughs as she says this.

“Grand prize? What is that?”

“There is a fee to form a league, and most of it gets pooled together for prize winnings. This league started with 22 teams and is down to 18 or 19, I think. The grand prize is for the highest scoring team overall, but they also award second and third place.” This explains the empty lanes. As teams fall of the grid, less lanes are needed.

“Wow! Do they give trophies too?”

“I don’t think so. They should though. I think they used to, but I don’t know about this alley.”

“How much is the grand prize?”

“I don’t know. No one here [her team] expects to win it, so I never bothered to ask.” Note to self—find out what the different winnings are for each of the three top places. Also inquire about trophies.

“When my parents used to bowl on leagues, they wore team shirts. I see you guys are, or some of you at least, but not many of the other teams are wearing them. Why does your team?”

Wanda chuckles before saying, “Ah, no, those are what they wear at the shop. They come straight here after closing up. They are for the league.”

So, how does the league work? How are the winners determined?” This conversation is going really well, although she is new at bowling and does not seem to know a lot of the semantics. She is watching the screen, but she answers, as it is not her turn yet.

Again, she shrugs and says, “Sorry. I really have no idea.” Just as I suspected. I will have to go and ask the woman at the front desk a few of these questions in order to get more accurate information. Wanda is done talking to me anyway. She gives me a polite smile and nod and then walks over to the man who I assume is her boyfriend, judging by the kiss he gives her before grabbing his ball and moving over to the right lane from the left.

The balding man sits between turns. “Tats and rings” is continuously on his phone—if not texting, then standing off to the side talking. Maybe that is what is wrong with his game. If only he would put his phone away and concentrate more on his bowling. Wanda always returns to the score table in the bowling area, fixes her pony tail, and drinks beer poured from the pitcher. The others stand around the ball return, watching intently and waiting for their respective turns. Another point of focus that the bowlers give a lot of their attention to is the scoreboard.

The scoreboard is a show in and of itself. There are, of course, the scores; all names in a column on the left with five frames showing at a time to the right of each of the names.  At the very top, the person who is up, or rather, whose turn it is on that particular lane, is listed in a red banner. This visual is helpful to the bowlers in that they can see, at a glance, when and if it is their turn. As soon as a ball is thrown, if all the pins are knocked down, the screen changes to a cartoon of pins and balls illustrating the strike. What is interesting is that the cartoons are always different. If the person knocks down only some of the pins, the screen will change showing an animated lane, the exact pins that are left standing, and a bowling ball positioned at just the spot that will ensure all pins will go down. For the less experienced bowler, this pictorial suggestion gives them a guide on where to aim their bowling ball. If on the second chance, all pins do indeed go down, an animated array of star, lightning bolts, and fireworks graphics comes up on the screen, celebrating a “star frame,” meaning that the bowler “picked up” the spare. I wonder if anyone is getting as much of a kick out these graphics as I am.

As the final frame is bowled by all members, the score board gives each bowler’s individual scores. At the top of the screen, where the names were, until now, announced to alert bowlers of their turn, it now has a scrolling message that says, “The game is finished. Roll a ball to begin a new game.” The bowlers take a few minutes to take care of things such as replacing empty beer pitchers with full ones, ordering snacks, or going to the bathroom. I see that it is now 7:50 PM and make note that one game takes roughly 45 minutes to complete. I have had my fill for one night and realize that I forgot to eat before I came, so I look over to Mary and say, “Let’s go. I have enough for tonight and I am starving!”