GAME ON!!

I stumbled upon the Encouraging Dads Project on Twitter. It’s a lovely site that does just what it’s name implies: It invites contributors to write short memories of how their own father, or father figure influenced their lives.  Here’s an article I wrote about how my dad never let me win at anything….Enjoy.

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Game On

When I was six years old, family friends gave us their old ping pong table. On day one, my dad handed me a paddle and it was game on. Games were to 21 and in the beginning, he would spot me 19 points.  That meant I had to score only 2 points before he could score 21.  He won every game.  As I got bigger and better, he would spot me only 10 points.  And still, he won every game.  By the time I was 10, there was no more spotting of points but still, I could never beat him.  The battles were fierce and I would often take the lead.  But I would get so excited or nervous when I was about to win that I would inevitably miss a serve or send a slam halfway across the basement instead of straight down onto his side of the table.

It wasn’t just ping pong. My dad taught me how to body surf in the ocean before I was five. We would catch the same wave and see who could ride it farther. But even when my belly scraped up onto the sand after holding my breath for the impossibly long ride, I would look up and there he was, always in front of me. When we played cards, Gin Rummy or Casino, I would lose every game.

Seen from the outside and certainly through today’s “everybody wins” mentality, my father’s unsentimental thrashing of his child in every arena might be seen as harsh or even psychologically damaging. But that’s not how I see it. My dad was just having fun.  And it was simply more fun to play ping pong against a 6-year-old when the stakes were set so that he could only lose 2 points. And wave riding was way more fun when he could look back at his competition and know for that one moment, on that one beach, for that one wave, he was the best in the world.

As a girl growing up in the 1970’s, before Title IX, before Flo Jo dominated in Seoul or Mia Hamm lead her team to victory in Atlanta, I was included.  My father never let me win but he always taught me how to play better, think smarter and want to win. It never crossed his mind to exclude me.  Why would he?  He wanted to play and I was always willing and able to join him. Simply by including me, by not telling me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t participate, my father taught me to stand tall.  In the 4th grade, I was the only girl to play in my town’s basketball league. In college, I was the only woman on my intermural softball team.  I have never shied away from raising my hand in class nor stating my opinion in a business meeting.  I grew up never questioning my own right to pursue any of my dreams and I never feared the hard work it took to achieve them. So, if I may make one request to dads of girls everywhere it’s this: Please take the time to hand your daughter a ball, a paddle, or a deck of cards and say “Come on.  Let’s Play.”

Game On

How Fat Monk Syndrome Changed My Life

Here’s a ridiculous article I wrote a few months back and forgot to upload here.  Oops.  Enjoy!

I read an article the other day. No, I listened to an interview on the radio the other day. It was about a new study being done to understand why a certain sect of monks in Thailand, or maybe it was Taiwan—I don’t think it was Tibet—are suffering from obesity at an alarming rate. I could Google the place they are from, but so could you if you really want to fully understand the plight of the aforementioned fat monks. This particular essay will in no way provide any useful understanding of the topic.

Fat monks in Thailand

This essayist is not so interested in the how’s and why’s of the pitiable state of those poor suffering monks. Though, from what I gathered, despite the fact they are eating a controlled diet, fasting often, and meditating all of the time, these particular monks are obese. To be honest, I couldn’t hear the whole interview because my kids were in the car with me and were arguing about whose turn it was to kick the back of my chair.

Maybe those super smug hot yoga junkies aren’t the pinnacle of health and fitness they seem to be as they ring out their sweat-soaked towels. Apparently it is a low protein diet coupled with a ridiculously sedentary lifestyle that leads to their tragic weight problems. There may be other contributing factors, but my children staged an all-out whining mutiny imploring me to change the station when the lady on the radio began to describe the diabetes and subsequent leg amputations that are often associated with Fat Monk Syndrome.

The condition is not actually called Fat Monk Syndrome. At least it wasn’t called Fat Monk Syndrome, or FMS for short, but after this article hits the mainstream media, I have no doubt that the use of the term FMS will become as ubiquitous as PTSD and LMFAO.

I’m not sure how much time and resources have heretofore been dedicated to the FMS issue or how long the study is to go on. But the point is, there are fat monks out there. Fat Monks! Unhealthy fat monks!

These are the folks in our world that are supposed to have it all figured out. They have devoted their lives to a higher power. They spend their time doing the things we are all supposed to do: they meditate, they contemplate, they practice extreme self-awareness all while breathing deeply into their navels. These poor individuals have not spent their lives docked in front of flat screen televisions plying themselves with football and nacho cheese sauce. These humble humans have not Supersized themselves at the drive through. No. The fat monks of Timbuktu have spent their lives dedicated to something larger than themselves (and clearly that something must be really, really large to keep ahead of those monks).

How then is it possible that there is an entire population of monks that are extremely obese and extremely ill?

The moment I became aware of FMS changed my life. Just before I yelled back to my kids, “Can’t we ever listen to something that I want to hear on the radio for minute? I’m the one spending hours a week chauffeuring you to birthday parties and oboe lessons all week! Is it too much to ask that I get to finish hearing this story?” I had an epiphany.

Unfortunately, while I was yelling, I missed the explanation as to what is being done to ameliorate the devastating impact of FMS. But luckily, my epiphany was about me, not the monks per se. So for the purpose of my thesis, I had all of the information I needed for a massive revelation—an enormous, if not altogether fully informed “ah ha” moment: all of a sudden, those monks represented every enviable lifestyle that I, for my entire adult life, could only dream about and deride myself for being too weak and too unfocused to ever embrace.

And it was at that moment, for the first time in decades, that I learned that I may have been right all along to avoid such aspirations. If these holy monks were victims of FMS, maybe they weren’t the only ones. Maybe FMS is a worldwide epidemic afflicting all extreme lifestyle practitioners! Maybe those super smug hot yoga junkies aren’t the pinnacle of health and fitness they seem to be as they ring out their sweat-soaked towels in slippery locker rooms across the globe; maybe they too are unhealthy and silently suffering from FMS.

And maybe all of those marathon runners, with their ice packs and knee braces, should be pitied, not envied. What about the raw vegans and the PTA presidents? How about those people who manage to save all of their receipts for tax purposes or those who get up and make their beds every single day or remember to get their dogs vaccinated every year?

These extreme humans used to represent for me the unattainable. I used to read about them in magazines that I’d skim through at the checkout line at Walmart. I used to hate those people. And I would have gone on hating them had I not been made aware of the underreported epidemic of severely overweight religious devotees across some swath of Asia or Africa. Now, I just feel bad for them all.

I am almost tempted to start an FMS awareness campaign, but that sounds like an awful lot of work.

How Fat Monk Syndrome Changed My Life

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW LOVES CODENAME CUPACKE!!!

 

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Here’s what they said about it………

“Codename Cupcake” by Jillian Green DiGiacomo is a deftly crafted and absolutely entertaining satire that reveals the author to be an extraordinarily gifted and original storyteller with an impressive gift for wit and humor. Very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections

Here’s the link!!

 

How Much Tension Can You Create in Just 3 Sentences?

 

Jillian Green DiGiacomo's photo.
I survived my visit to my high school alma mater last week.  It was a bit of an out of body experience to set foot in the building after so many years. But it was a blast hanging out with the students.  As I mentioned in my last post, I was asked to discuss the best ways to build tension when writing fiction.  I gave a modified version of the balloon theory and then introduced the literary device of a time clock: a deadline, a ticking time bomb, a damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks are all literary time clocks that help keep a reader riveted. Fiction can be engaging if, for example, two characters may or may not eventually fall in love.  But if one character is to be married within a matter of hours or shipped off to war at daybreak or turned into a werewolf at sunset, that love story is now bursting with intensity.
So, gave each class about 10 minutes to write a 3 sentence time clock: a mini scene with a built in sense of urgency. The students came up with their own brilliant time clocks: they wrote about an avalanche, a basketball game, a child locked in a hot car, and a race for the last brownie at a bake sale to name just a few.

Give it a try. Limit yourself the to 3 sentences and see just how much tension you can create. Then share it here please!!