Fun Night at the Bowlerama

I’m not even sure how it happened, but we took first place this year!

Yes. We did. The Ball Busters!

We only do it for the fun of it. We’re there for the laughs and to enjoy a few drinks. We’re loud. We lack any serious skills. We come early and stay late. And we usually end up placing somewhere near the bottom of the ladder. But we’re on the top rung this year! First place, Baby!

The season is divided into two halves. On the last night of the season, while the other teams get to goof off and do silly things just for fun, the team who placed first in the first half of the season, rolls off against the team who placed first in the second half. That is, unless it’s the same team placing first in each half. Then there’s no roll-off and everyone gets to play along in the Fun Night festivities.

We won both halves and first place is ours, (in case you hadn’t caught on to that fact already!) In all seriousness, we pulled it together this year. Alishea and I both pushed our averages higher than ever before. And when the team bowled well, we knocked it out of the park. We had fun while still managing to improve our games.

So Fun Fight was all about having fun. A few weeks before, the team responsible for organizing the activities approached me and asked what our team did last year when it was the Ball Busters’ turn to coordinate the festivities. I couldn’t remember off the top of my head, but promised to print off the flyer I’d saved on my computer and bring it the following week. Apparently they  decided not to mess with a good thing. Fun Night 2014 was an exact copy of Fun Night 2013. And we had so much fun!

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We played 9-Pin No Tap with prizes for high and low scores. Then we played Alternate Ball, where instead of throwing two balls each, the first bowler threw a ball, and then the next would finish the frame and so on.

Then we played Opposite Hand Bowling, where right-handers were required to throw with their left hand, and left-handers were required to throw with their right. Sheila got so caught up in laughing at one of the other girl’s attempts to bowl with an unfamiliar hand, that she forgot to switch hands herself. The whole league booed her after she threw a perfect strike with her dominant hand. Jodi made sure Sheila didn’t forget again. She tied Sheila’s wrist to her belt loop while we all howled with laughter.

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Sheila’s wearing her CHICKS WITH BALLS tournament shirt!

Oddly enough, I bowled pretty well with my opposite hand. I scored over a hundred while many others struggled to keep their balls out of the gutter. Who knew? We laughed. We got silly beyond silly. And we remembered why we do this. It’s not for the prize money. It’s not for the competition. Okay, maybe it’s a little bit for the competition. We do it to get out of the house and put a little excitement in our weekly routines. It’s about being together, doing something fun with women from all walks of life, building new friendships and strengthening the old ones.

And we’ll be back next fall to do it all over again!

The Big Bowling Event of the Year

It’s state tournament time and I was invited to go along for the second year with nine other “girls.”

We had a good time and skill isn’t a requirement, just to give some perspective. Each player has to enter the tournament using last year’s average, unless this year’s average is ten or more points above last year’s. Mine wasn’t, (just barely wasn’t,) soI was registered with a 143 average.

This year’s tournament is based out of a local casino/hotel/bowling alley. (NICE bowling alley, I have to say!) Our ringleader got us registered and booked three hotel rooms to be shared among the ten of us. We weren’t scheduled to bowl until Saturday, but in order to make a girls weekend out of it, we stayed Friday night too. Some of the girls were looking forward to gambling. Others, including me, planned to see a country music band that was playing in the casino’s lounge on Friday night before bowling began the next day.

I don’t do casinos. I’ve only been to one a handful of times in my life. So I either didn’t know or failed to remember that smoking is allowed in them. As we checked out a few slot machines and later hung out listening to the band, I realized that the vast majority of casino guests were in fact smoking. Cigarettes, cigars, you name it. There was a lot of smoke. And I’m not judging anyone for the habit, it’s just that it’s really overwhelming to be exposed to that much smoke in an enclosed place for an extended period of time. To top it off, our room reservations weren’t submitted in time for us to get non-smoking rooms. Plenty of sneezing, and red, watery eyes ensued.

We hung out near the band until 1:30 in the morning. For a non-night owl like me, that was a really late night! But thanks, I thought, to all that smoke, I woke up Saturday morning feeling slightly sick.

We were scheduled to bowl the team event on Saturday afternoon. By the time we were starting, I had a full-blown headache. I popped as many Tylenol as I dared just before we began to play. As the three games went on, the headache grew worse. I couldn’t even think about how I was bowling or what I needed to do to bowl well. All I could do was think how much I wanted to be done so I could go back to our room and try to sleep off the headache. Ironically, I bowled out of my mind and even earned a pin for bowling a 200 game!

200 Pin

After the team event was finished, I was beyond miserable. While some of the other girls headed back to the casino, I crawled under the covers and buried my head between two pillows to drown out the noise being made by some of our team mates in the adjoining room. (Ours was a wild, slap-happy, LOUD group of ladies.) And I was having one of the worst headaches I could ever remember! I managed to fall asleep for a while and escape the throbbing in my temples.

A few hours later, around 10:30, a bunch of girls returned to the room, bringing along some friends of ours from our Monday bowling league that they’d run into in the casino. As I extracted myself from under pillows and blankets, I tried to breathe, but couldn’t. I tried to talk but could barely. The headache was a little better, but still hanging on. Michelle insisted I had a caffeine headache because I hadn’t had my usual one cup of coffee that morning. I told her I didn’t typically drink enough caffeine to be suffering a withdrawal headache, but she kept insisting I needed some. More to appease her than anything, because she was feeling pretty good and maybe couldn’t remember that she’d already insisted several times that I have some caffeine, I opened a Diet Coke and sipped on it while my team mates were sipping on stronger beverages and whooping it up. And dang if my headache didn’t improve significantly over the next hour! I could have kissed Michelle! (But I didn’t!)

Thanks to my headache, the nap, and the avoidance of alcoholic beverages practiced in fear of making the headache worse, I was one of the few who woke up on Sunday morning without at least a mild hangover. In fact, I felt like a million bucks! Feeling that good, I was sure I could pull off another impressive performance for the singles and doubles events that day.

But it wasn’t to be. Oh, I didn’t embarrass myself or anything. I just bowled about average. And besides, I had fun, which is the most important thing. Thankfully, some of the other girls pulled off some impressive games, so we should come out of this thing alright. As long as we earn enough to pay for our hotel rooms next year, we’ll be happy!

Bowling is Right Up Our Alley

I was running a little later than I’d planned and found myself watching the clock as I headed for the freeway entrance. The newbies were going to be there and I’d promised to show up a bit early in case anyone felt uncomfortable walking in amongst a group of strangers. I pulled into the parking lot and immediately noticed Alishea just stepping out of her car. Good. I wasn’t totally late!

We walked in together through the bar entrance and there they were, the lady bowlers! It was so good to see them after a summer apart! Hugs and hellos were exchanged as friends caught up with one another’s’ summer adventures. Soon, our secretary announced that the season kick-off meeting was ready to begin and she herded everyone into the banquet room.

There have been a few changes since we were last together. We’re a small league and we only had five teams last season, as few as the management would allow while still supporting us as a league. When at the end of last season, a few of our bowlers announced they weren’t returning, it looked like we were going to be down to four teams. A few of the girls were left without a team and it looked like our league might have to fold. I love this league. I wasn’t letting it go without a fight.

As soon as I knew we were in trouble, I started asking everyone I knew if they were interested in joining our Monday women’s bowling league. One of my favorite coworkers, Belinda enthusiastically agreed to join. Three girls from our Saturday couples league were interested. And one woman who I met at the state tournament last spring and who had passed me her phone number, agreed to join, even though she didn’t quite remember me when I called her a couple of weeks ago.

We had a fifth team again!

Our first order of business was to introduce the newbies – Megan, Jodi, Dori, Belinda and Alice – and they were graciously welcomed. The “orphans” from last season whose team had disbanded were absorbed into vacant spots on two of the other returning teams. Once the teams were established, we reviewed the bylaws and voted to do away with a few rules, like the one that says you have to wear a team shirt or pin, or else pay a dollar for each time you’re caught “out of uniform.” None of the other leagues require team shirts anymore. And being as we’re such a small league, this rule wasn’t a money-maker anyway. Everyone was glad for the new “free-dress” rule.

Some of the standard, but necessary rules were reiterated, like the one that says a late bowler can make up her missed frames as long as she arrives and starts before the end of the fifth frame. Everyone looked at one person and shouted, “GLORIA!” The room erupted in laughter. Gloria is eternally late for bowling.

Responsibilities for Fun Nite and the end-of-season banquet were handed out. My team is in charge of the banquet this year. Seems like every year we end up running one or the other. But we don’t mind. Our team puts on the best fun nights and banquets. Everyone always tells us so.

Once the bylaws were finalized, I agreed to do my presidential duty and type them up all nice and pretty within two weeks, just in time for the first night of bowling. The meeting adjourned and we headed back to the bar for some drinks and to continue the conversations that seemed to never want to end.  It’s going to be a fun season!

Us and our favorite opponents

Us and our favorite opponents

While the boys are gone fishin’

I bowled last night, really badly. I would mentally go over all of the mechanics of throwing my ball, position my feet in my spot, stay low, roll the ball forward while following through, hit my mark… Everything should have been perfect, right? Or at least respectable, right?

But it was far from perfect. I can’t tell you how many times I watched my ball head for the pocket, just where I wanted it, and then it would suddenly hook in the opposite direction. Instead of hitting the head pin and taking down the rest of the pins, I was hitting the ten pin. Or worse, landing the ball in the gutter. At one point, I stood there after throwing my ball, just looking down the lane and thinking, “How in the heck did I even make the ball do that?”

Almost to the end of our first game, I threw up my hands in defeat, looked at my teammate, Preacher Dave as if it was his fault and said, “I give up. I hate this game!” Dave said, “No you don’t. And lemme see your ball.”

He inspected it quickly while I pouted and in an exasperated voice, informed me, “Your fingertips are coming loose.” (Fingertips are rubber inserts that fit inside the finger holes.) I was aware of their looseness, but had simply been pushing them back down in the holes for several weeks with no ill effects. But last night, they began inching up over the edge of the finger holes, enough that my ball went sailing in the other direction when it rolled over them. I got the guy in the pro shop to glue them back in after game one. He brought it back to me in time for game two, told me I should be good for the night, but to come in early next week to get new ones put in. I then threw two strikes right off the bat! Too bad I didn’t realize this before I threw my first game in the trash! BUT… as always, I had fun. And that’s all that matters. (Translation: We lost.)

Meanwhile, Mark and the boys have gone off on a man vacation. They’re spending a few days fishing on Lake of the Woods, way up north where I suspect it’s still cold. I suspect that because Brad sent pictures and in them, it looks cold!  But it seems apparent that there is some male bonding going on as evidenced by the good humor being displayed by the subjects in the photos.

Brad says: "Dad's fish... Excuse me... Dad's sorry excuse for a fish."

Brad says: “Dad’s fish… Excuse me… Dad’s sorry excuse for a fish.”

Brad says: "Jake's fish. Look, I got him to smile and show his teeth!"

Brad says: “Jake’s fish. Look, I got him to smile and show his teeth!”

Jake is smiling! With his teeth and all! I know he’s having fun if he’s smiling with his teeth.

Kacey and I didn’t get to go on a vacation this week. We’re consoling ourselves by eating pancakes for dinner, watching girl shows on Netflix and we’ll probably throw in a little retail therapy for good measure. Maybe I should buy a new bowling ball.

“Twin” Bowlers

Maybe because I’ve spent so much time worrying about my parents lately, Monday bowling league was an especially welcome break this week. Of course, I always enjoy Monday night bowling. It’s fun! It’s girls night! What’s not to love?

Our team loves the Who’s Up? team. They are a group of women who have been friends for a long, long time. Most of them are retired now and they come together every Monday for bowling and friendship. They are fun and funny and always seem to be laughing. They tell stories and make jokes and sometimes they dance a little bit. (I asked Carol to do the Mashed Potato one time and without missing a beat, she did!) We Ball Busters have a strong admiration for these ladies and the feeling seems to be very mutual. We always joke that if the league ever breaks up, our two teams would happily continue to show up every Monday anyway and just bowl against each other week after week.

A while ago, someone decided that each Ball Buster had a “twin sister” on Who’s Up?. We each relate to one of the ladies in some way. Joan claimed Carol as her twin. Alishea claimed Gloria, (probably because they’re each the youngster on their teams!) I claimed Marje, and she instantly welcomed me as her “sister.”

Last week we realized our teams would be bowling against each other. Someone decided we should dress alike and we each agreed to wear the same color as our twin. (This didn’t end up being as impressive in reality as was imagined, but it was fun anyway.) And so last night we bowled. We were, of course, the last ones done bowling, because there was so much talking and laughter and lollygagging. We beat ‘em two to one resulting in a tie for second place in the current standings. When it was all said and done, we commemorated the evening with a photo.

Bowling Buddies!

Bowling Buddies!

That’s Michelle and Sharon in pink, Joan and Carol in “pure-as-the-driven-snow” white, (Cough! Cough!) and Alishea and Gloria in red. I’m next to Marje in the back, wearing yellow and Pat and Lori wore black. Over the course of just a few years, seeing each other once a week, we’ve come to know a bit about each other’s lives and formed a special bond. These women are a big part of why I love to bowl so much.

My Little, Fuzzy, Yellow Godsend

Connor took a bowling class at college last semester and has become somewhat of a fanatic. I can’t say I’m displeased! We got him a bowling ball for Christmas.

Mark’s bowling ball suffered some damage from a ball return recently. He had it repaired but was told not to expect the repair job to last forever. I got Mark a new bowling ball for Christmas.

I’ve been complaining for a year about needing new bowling shoes. While at the pro-shop buying Connor’s Christmas present, I pointed out to Mark a pair of shoes that I liked and thought I might buy after Christmas. Mark got me new bowling shoes for Christmas. (We should be on the preferred customer list at the pro-shop now!)

We’ve got all this new stuff. And Connor has been suggesting for a few days that we should all go bowling. And since he and Kacey are home on break from school right now, the four of us went bowling last night.

The only one not all that interested in bowling is Kacey. She inherited my old shoes, but other than that has none of her own equipment. And whenever she bowls, she complains afterwards that her fingers hurt. And still, she bowled a 165 with a house ball and beat all of us in one game. Connor and Mark are just getting used to their new bowling balls. That was their excuse. My new shoes were great, but I am still struggling with pain from my recent back strain and so I blame my substandard performance on muscles that refuse to relax.

My chiropractor says I’m suffering from Sciatica, most likely the result of a pinched nerve. Last week the worst pain was in my lower back but over the last few days it has moved to the back of my leg. While at the chiropractor, I learned some stretches that are supposed to provide some relief, but so far, they haven’t done much. I was miserable as I bowled my first game. I could barely bend over to release my ball and was limping around in pain. I was almost ready to call it quits when I discovered something about the hard plastic seats that surround each set of lanes. While I was sitting and waiting for my next turn, if I sat forward just so, the edge of the seat dug into the back of my leg and put pressure on my strained muscle in such a way that felt SO amazingly good. Finally, finally something that provided a reprieve from the radiating ache that hadn’t let up for ten days. I wondered how I could get that chair home with me…

I was so happy to sit there, stretch my leg forward and bounce it up and down on the seat edge that I stopped paying attention to the game. Kacey finally asked me what I was doing and I explained that I had discovered a way to (at least temporarily) help me stop being such a whiner.

I suddenly remembered this little wooden ladybug that we had at home. It is supposed to be used for giving massages but no one ever uses it and its whereabouts were uncertain. I thought about how good it would feel to jam that wooden ladybug  into the knot of muscles in my leg and I asked Kacey if she knew where it was. She said, “Maybe in the upstairs linen closet, or maybe in the downstairs linen closet, or maybe in your bedroom closet.”

“So you don’t know where it is,” I stated. She shrugged.

“You should book a massage at the chiropractor’s office,” Mark said.

“I don’t want to spend a hundred dollars to have a stranger dig into the back of my leg,” I said. “Besides, I’ve already paid for two chiropractic visits that have been marginally helpful.”

I was beginning to accept that the chiropractor was right. I’m getting older (just a tiny bit) and things like this are just going to take longer to heal than they did a few years ago.

“You should sit on a tennis ball,” Kacey suggested.

I felt my face light up. “That’s genius,” I said! I knew it would be perfect, and I just so happened to have a container of tennis balls in the laundry room at home. (That’s where you keep your tennis balls, right? You know, for putting in the dryer with down jackets and such!)

Once at home, I immediately grabbed one of the fuzzy yellow balls and positioned it underneath my thigh as I sat in my recliner. Such a simple little object was the answer to my prayers. Two visits to the chiropractor, many sleepless nights and plenty of complaining and it turns out that all I really needed was to sit on a tennis ball.

I slept well last night for the first time in almost two weeks. The first thing I did when I woke up was find my little yellow masseuse and take it with me to the chair to loosen things up again. I was happy, happy, happy!

Apparently this is a well-known remedy. WHY didn't anyone tell me this sooner?

Apparently this is a well-known remedy. WHY didn’t anyone tell me this sooner?

As I prepared to leave for work today, I put my tote bag on the kitchen floor and tossed in some things to help get me through the work day – a big bottle of water, my lunch and… (light bulb!) my little, yellow masseuse. Bella was whining for some attention, so I scooped her up and carried her to Kacey’s room so she could snuggle up in bed with her. I came back to the kitchen and grabbed my bag and almost headed out the door when I realized that Lucy wasn’t on my heels like usual and pleading with those puppy dog eyes for me to take her along. In fact, it occurred to me that as I’d descended the stairs to the foyer, Lucy seemed oddly content,considering my impending departure, as she stretched out on the living room floor, playing with one of her toys.

I made a quick trip back up the steps to check on her and make sure she was okay and not eating something she shouldn’t be eating.

And she was just fine! While I was busy making sure Bella was happy and comfy, Lucy had taken advantage of my moment of inattention. She stuck her face into my tote bag and stole my tennis ball! I couldn’t help but laugh, even though she looked up at me sadly as I rescued the ball before she could remove the cover from it, which would have happened in short order had I not realized what she’d done.

At work, I laid claim to a good chair that seemed like it needed a home. And then I happily sat on my tennis ball all day long. Happy, happy, happy!

Filling Up the Fun Tank

During all those years the kids were growing up, we were busy. It was important to me that my children be involved in “activities.” When we were growing up, my siblings and I didn’t get to join clubs or teams. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal, but from my kid-perspective, I felt as if I’d missed out on something. I was going to make sure my kids didn’t miss out on those experiences. Between the three of them, there were sports. You name it. They tried it all – soccer, baseball, softball, football, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, roller hockey, karate – and thankfully, they chose a few and stuck with them. They developed some talents and made some true friends in the process. There were also a few years of boy scouts and girl scouts. There were school productions, summer camps and there were church functions. Mission accomplished. My kids were active!

As parents of three busy kids, Mark and I spent our free time chaperoning them to practices, games and a multitude of events, not to mention all of the social activities that came as a result of all of this involvement. I often wondered when there would be time for me. 

Well, over the past year, my time has become mine again. I relish those pockets of quiet, uncommitted time to do anything or nothing. And believe it or not, I sometimes find myself actually feeling bored. After so many years of coordinating all the aspects of our life around the needs of three young people, I often forget that I now have the freedom to go out again and immerse myself in new experiences, soak up new knowledge, stay up late (though I don’t have much desire for that) and have fun without worrying who or what might suffer as a result. Which makes me glad that we have our bowling league to alleviate this occasional new-found boredom.

I do a lot of bowling, being a member of both a women’s league and a mixed league from September through April, and a member of a summer league as well. Our mixed league bowls every other Saturday which means, having a husband who is required to work every other weekend, any of our free weekends are spent at the bowling alley. I sometimes think it would be nice to do something other than bowl on a Saturday night when Mark is off work. The problem is, we still haven’t learned to plan ahead. If left to our own devices, we’d probably spend many a Saturday night at home, in our recliners, channel surfing. So I’m  mostly glad that we have a regularly scheduled “date” every other Saturday.

Elf AnnieWhen I was growing up, other than church, my parents didn’t have regular commitments to socialize with their peers. This was not because they were antisocial, but more likely due to their financial restraints. But I think because of their example, making a long-term commitment to an organized group felt foreign to me at first. I initially struggled with feelings that there was something I should be doing as opposed to being out gallivanting, as my parents used to refer to my social activities. But the longer I remain involved, the more I realize the importance of doing things like this. It gives me a chance to fill up the fun tank, to connect with others who share similar interests and who are at a similar stage in life. And it’s fun! I relax. I smile. I laugh a lot! We are very comfortable around one another and there’s no shortage of hugging and good-natured teasing. Our bowling friends really know how to have a good time and I look forward to seeing what crazy things someone will do each week. This weekend, Buddy the Elf (aka, our friend, Ann) showed up to bowl!

I truly enjoy being a part of my bowling leagues. I have a chance to have “girl” time with the women’s league. And we’ve made some great friendships in the mixed league. It’s more than bowling. On Saturdays, a bunch of us bowlers get together early for happy hour and dinner before bowling. And after an evening of competition and fun, we usually reconvene after the games just because we enjoy spending time together. It’s the kind of thing that helps feed the soul. It allows us to put aside work, stress, worries and life’s obligations for a while and helps us to re-energize so that we’re more able to tackle the things life throws our way throughout the week.

And it also doesn’t hurt that I’m bowling really well these past few weeks. My average has jumped up ten points in recent weeks and I’m holding top positions for high game and high series among the women in our mixed league! Our Saturday team has now won 24 straight games and has climbed from the bottom of the barrel to gunning for first place position. But as long as we’re having fun, that’s all that really matters. ;-)