Why You Should be Rooting for Serena Williams at the US Open

Serena Williams

Serena Williams Readying to Hit the Tennis Ball.

If you enjoy tennis, you should be a Serena Williams fan. If you don’t enjoy tennis, you should be a Serena Williams fan. What Serena Williams has recently accomplished is unprecedented. And no, I’m not talking about her alleged hook up with Drake. Hey, don’t judge me – I saw the headline on Yahoo. Anyway, Drake has nothing to do with why you should be a Serena Williams fan.

Serena and the tennis world are focused on the US Open. If Serena wins the US Open, she will have won tennis’ version of the Grand Slam which is comprised of The Australian Open, The French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. She would be the first women to win the Grand Slam since 1988 when Steffi Graf won it. By the way, she has won the last four majors, but it was not done in one calendar year. That’s not unprecedented. Serena herself accomplished the Serena Slam (it was named after her) – 11 years ago.

Serena was 22 at the time she won her first Serena slam. I wasn’t a fan of hers then. While I was happy to see her, or Venus (her sister) or another American woman win (I’m patriotic – what can I say?), I didn’t root for Serena. More than that, I didn’t care for her. While she was obviously talented, Serena seemed to be coasting. Yes, that sounds ridiculous considering how well she did, yet that’s the impression that I, a casual fan, got.

Serena went through ups and downs in terms of her tennis game during her 20’s. It seemed every couple of years she would miss tournaments due to injury. She made comments about what she would be doing after tennis. In fact, she seemed interested in so many things that tennis was just something she did to keep her name recognition up. I want my athletes to be appreciative and determined. And Serena didn’t seem to fill either of those roles on a consistent basis.

But I was wrong. Wrong to judge.

Many athletes – Serena included – are thrust into the spotlight in their early 20’s with some tasting glory even earlier. How many of us were consistently gracious and humble when we were that age? How many of us always thought before we spoke and considered the ramifications of not doing so? How many of us would be that way if we were wealthy, adored, attractive, and enabled?

I, for one, have some moments in my past I’m not proud of. I would not want to have to answer for those moments or be judged for them. What could I say – young and dumb?  I needed to learn and grow, and I’m not the same person now that I was then. How many of you are shaking your heads in agreement remembering your own digressions?

Serena Williams is 33-years- old (will be 34 at the end of September). She’s been a professional tennis player since 1995 – when she was 14-years-old. By 1998, she was part of a doubles team that won a Grand Slam. In 1999, she won the US Open, her first singles Grand Slam tournament. So, she has been competing at the highest levels of her sport for 17 years. As noted above, there have been interruptions to her dominance, but that doesn’t take away from her accomplishments.

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote – How Serena Williams Produced her Second Act. The article puts into perspective just how impressive this recent run of dominance has been. Before Serena, “only six women in the Open era had won a Grand Slam title after reaching the age of 30.”  Serena has won six Grand Slam Titles since turning 30. The second act referred to has occurred since 2010.  In 2010, the article notes, Serena lacerated her foot and surgery was required to repair a tendon. In 2011, she had a life-threatening condition – blood clots in both lungs.  Serena said, “I didn’t think I would play tennis again and I didn’t care, I just wanted to get out and live and start a life.”

However, Serena began playing tennis again and the results were not impressive. Her competitive juices were flowing, and she wanted to get back to her former glory. She hired a new coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, and the rest of the story… Well, you know the rest of the story now.

I love comebacks. I love determination. I love seeing a veteran who knows how to play the game and can use her/his wisdom and experience even if the skillset is not what it once was. Serena Williams is the embodiment of all these things. And I’m a fan. Go Serena!

Pic is courtesy of Nation of Change via Google images

Harry Potter’s Greatest Feat

Reading Harry Potter With BR at BedtimeRecently, my 11-year old son and I completed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I know we’re a bit behind the times, as the book was published eight years ago, but that didn’t affect our enjoyment.

My son and I have gone through many book series together, from Dr. Seuss to Benjamin Franklinstein Lives! to My Weird School to Hank Zipzer and more. However, whenever I asked if he was interested in reading Harry Potter, he declined. But Harry Potter has become an iconic series, so I decided to push it and ask him one more time. I was curious myself to see what all the hype was about.

But it was unnecessary to push this time. He said yes right away, so we began our Harry Potter journey back in October.

Harry Potter was different from the books we read in the past. Besides the fact that the material was more grown up, the series was a saga with a complex plot and many twists and turns. This complexity brought about deliberations between me and my son. We discussed love, good and evil, and judgment. We talked about the nuances of the main characters, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore and Snape.

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Reading to a Dog at The Fair Lawn Library

BR & Jersey Girl, therapy dog, at the F air Lawn LibraryDo dogs understand when people talk to them? Well, dogs certainly appear to understand tone and particular words, such as “walk” and “sit.” Does that mean that dogs can understand when you read to them? Probably not, yet the Maurice M. Pine Free Public Library (Fair Lawn, NJ) offers children the opportunity to read to a dog.

So, why bother reading to a dog? I know why we signed BR up to read to a dog.

BR asks Ms. MMK and me for a dog more often than he washes his hands. Disclaimer: He’s an 11-year old boy. If BR had a tail, he would wag it when he sees a dog. He does a type of jump-skip and says, “Look there’s a dog!” every time he passes one.

So, signing BR read to the dog was a no-brainer. Maybe, it’ll give Ms. MMK and me a break from having to say “no” to BR’s regular query.

BR and I got to the Fair Lawn Library a couple of minutes early for his dog reading session. We were told that BR could select a book to read from some books they had chosen, or pick one from the library’s collection. BR decided to select his own book. He recently became a fan of the Grk series by Joshua Doder (pseudonym) Grk (a dog) and his owner, Tim (a boy), go on a series of adventures.

When BR’s turn came, we entered a special room and were introduced to Jersey Girl, a trained therapy dog. Jersey Girl is a seven-year-old bull mastiff and her owners are Bill and Patricia. Jersey Girl is a trained therapy dog who spent a few years going to old age homes before going around to libraries.

As soon as we entered the room where BR was to read to Jersey Girl, she began licking BR’s face. BR enjoyed the affection and sat still while the dog offered this wet embrace. BR settled in and began reading from the Grk book while Jersey Girl lay on the rug. She was silent and remained so the whole time BR read. In fact, the whole room was silent save for BR’s reading.

BR petting Jersey Girl, therapy dog, at the Fair Lawn LibraryTherapy dogs are trained for such moments. According to Therapy Dog International, therapy dogs need to go through 13 tests to qualify. The last test is reaction to children. In a nutshell, the dog must be calm while children are being their normal excitable selves. Dogs must be at least one year old to become a therapy dog, and training can last up to 16 weeks.

Prevention.com notes that both people and therapy dogs derive health benefits when they interact. In one study, just a 12-minute visit with a dog lowered blood pressure and anxiety in people who had experienced heart failure. Even the dogs reap ­­­­­­­rewards: According to the Veterinary Journal, both canines and humans experience increases in oxytocin and dopamine levels — two chemicals in the body that are increased with positive feelings — after interacting.

The only time Jersey Girl reacted was when I took out my phone to take a picture. She was curious each time I did so. The look she gave me made it clear that Jersey Girl would not take to the paparazzi. Yet after the reading had elapsed, Patricia took a picture of BR and Jersey Girl. The dog was perfectly still. I wish I could train my children to be that still for photographs.

After BR and I said our goodbyes to Jersey Girl, Bill, and Patricia, he walked out of the Fair Lawn Library smiling and content. I’m not sure if Jersey Girl liked Grk, but if she wants to hear the rest of the story, I know someone who would be happy to oblige. Thanks, Jersey Girl. Thanks, Fair Lawn Library.

Are You Looking For a New Tradition?

SJ and I on PBF: Pizza for Breakfast on Friday

A tradition has been born. On Friday, SJ and I will partake in the 2nd PBF.  You don’t know PBF – do you? No surprise I made it up. Hmm, maybe I need to get a patent because this is going to big.

Anyway, PBF stand for Pizza for Breakfast on Friday. I know – sounds great. By the way, I would like to clarify pizza is not the breakfast of choice for hung over college students only. No, we here in the MMK proclaim pizza for breakfast the domain of all.

It is for all too, like everyone.

Pizza By the Numbers

Check out these numbers. According to The Pizza Joint Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second.  Holy Heck Batman, how do you spell D-O-M-I-N-O-S? There are plenty of options too. According to American Business Lists, there are 61,269 pizzerias in the United States.  (Am I the only one who just said the word pizza in his/her mind like Homer Simpson says donuts?)

Talk about options! Thick crust or thin crust, circle or round, spicy or mild, cheesy or saucy. The choices are endless. But is it really so difficult?

Everyone has their favorite pizza place and style. Personally I prefer thick crust, circular, and spicy. I like cheesy and saucy – I’m good like that. Now, if you can’t figure out your favorite kind of pizza, you can just keep eating till you do.

History of Pizza

By the way, this tradition that SJ and I have created could go back centuries to prehistoric times because that’s when pizza was first made. It began as bread that was cooked on flat, hot stones. As we all know, pizza is Italian food. According to The Pizza Joint, “[Italian] Housewives would pound out dough into a thin crust and place leftovers on to bake. Pizza was a peasant food designed to be eaten without utensils and, like the French crepe and the Mexican taco, was a way to make use of fresh produce available locally and to get rid of leftovers.”

By the way, utensils for pizza are still a no, no. I question any person who eats pizza with a fork and knife. So gouache. Eating pizza with your hands is part of the fun.

Smithsonian reports that in 1830 pizza truly began with the opening of the world’s first pizzeria. Named Port’Alba. The first licensed pizzeria in America opened in 1905. Gennaro Lombardi opened Lombardi’s Pizzeria Napoletana, in downtown Manhattan.

Enjoy Tradition, Enjoy PBF

All SJ knows is that he loves pizza and so does his dad. We both know that leftover pizza – a rarity in any home – should be celebrated. Hence PBF.

So, I invite you to put down your bagel, move the cereal over, put the pop tart back in the cellophane.  Grab a slice of pizza and celebrate PBF, a tradition for all to love.