Tag Archives: girlboxing

About last night … women boxing

 

WBA champion Erika Cruz and  WBC, WBA, IBF, champion Amanda Serrano fighting for the undisputed feather (126) title in MSG’s Hulu Theater on February 4, 2023. Photo credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

MSG’s Little Theater — these days under the moniker of the Hulu Theater is a fun venue for boxing. Back when the Daily News Golden Gloves was a New York fixture every April, the stands would erupt with cheers as this or that young man or woman entered the ring in blue or gold.

The nice thing is there really is no bad seat, whether for an amateur or professional night of boxing, even way up in the back in the “300” sections, one can see, and it’s often where the true partisan cheers and flag waving abounds.

Last night was no exception. The Puerto Rican flags were in abundance waiting for Puerto Rico’s own (by way of Bushwick, Brooklyn), Amanda Serrano, and her main event fight. An undisputed contest for the feather (126 lbs.) championship.

The Amanda Serrano/Erika Cruz fight was at the top of a nine-fight card — made all the more special by the fact that it contained two undisputed women’s bouts and three undercard female “baby-belt” bouts.

France’s Elhem Mekhaled in the fight of her life against Detroit’s own Alycia Baumgardner who prevailed through ten grueling rounds to become undisputed champion at junior lightweight (130) on Feburary 4, 2023 at MSG’s Hulu Theater. Photo credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

The co-main event featured Alycia Baumgardner contesting for her chance at an undisputed championship against Elhem Mekhaled, who was previously unknown to most fight fans in the United States.

Baumgardner who had defeated Mikaela Mayer on the all-female card in October at London’s O2 arena, came not only to fight and win, but to prove that her family’s deep legacy in the sport of boxing culminates in her as an exemplar of excellence and her and her family’s dreams.

Sitting with Marian “Lady Tyger” Trimiar and boxing writer Chris Benedict, MSG Hulu Theater, February 4, 2023.

Sitting for a time with boxing legend, Marian “Lady Tyger” Trimiar brought home just how far the sport has come. Lady Tyger began boxing as a teenager and first applied for a license in 1974 back when even amateur fighting was denied to women. She was finally able to become a licensed professional in New York State three years later. Boxing in earnest for no money to speak of ($1,500 was a lot) and in places like California which had a modest if growing boxing scene for women in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Trimiar went so far as to stage a hunger strike in 1987 to help garner support for women in the sport.

Still, she never imagined it would come this far, and watching so many fights at such a high standard of excellence brought solace of a sort, knowing that her battles on and off the canvas were important to the growth and acceptance of women inside the squared circle.

Certainly the sold-out theater — which is truly Amanda Serrano’s house, having fought there since her own beginnings in the Golden Gloves — gave truth to not only Serrano’s acceptance, but the notion that the fans came to watch excellent boxing … period.

For Serrano who made the point that she may be in a group of undisputed women champions, but she remains the only champion in seven weight classes; winning was the chance for her to revel in her achievement at the pinnacle of the sport.

Her next step was announced as she stood beaming in the camera’s eye — a second battle with Katie Taylor set for May 20, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland. She went on to say, “Katie Taylor is a true champion. She came over here. She deserves to have [the rematch] in Ireland.”

Befitting of a true champion — Serrano fighting Taylor will mean yet another first for both women, the chance for one undisputed champion to fight another in one or another’s weight class.

Thinking about Lady Tyger as representative of a lot of women who contested in the sport for the love of it, seeing Serrano and Taylor in the ring, the fans, cheering and waving, brought a deep sense of joy to my own heart. And as we exited, the latin beat pulsating, I felt exalted knowing that something really good had happened

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The results:

Amanda Serrano (USA) defeated Erika Cruz (Mexico) by UD, 97-93, 98-92 x 2. Serrano became the undisputed feather (126 lbs.) champion retaining her IBF, IBO, WBC, & WBO titles, and winning the WBA title from Cruz. Some pundits scored the fight more evenly giving a round or two more to Cruz who having sustained a deep cut from a head butt in the third round and was wobbled badly in the 6th round, put on a display nothing short of heroic.

Alycia Baumgardner (USA) defeated Elhem Mekhaled (France) by UD, 99-89, 99-89, 98-90. Baumgarder retained her IBF, IBO, WBC, & WB0 titles and won the vacant WBA title to become undisputed champion as junior lightweight (130 lbs.)  Mekhaled went down twice in the third round but never quit till the last bell tolled. Baumgarder tired in the latter half of the fight in spurts, which may have meant the scoring should have been a bit more balanced.

Shadasia Green (USA) defeated Elin Cederroos (Sweden) by TKO at 1:08 of the 6th Round in their WBA super middle title eliminator. Green also retained her WBC Silver belt at super middle.

Ramla Ali (UK) defeated Avril Mathis (Australia) by UD, 99-91 x 3 (some thought this was overly generous). Ali became the IBF Inter-Continental Super Bantam title holder.

Skye Nicolson (Australia) defeated Tania Alvarez (Spain) by UD, 98-92, 97-93, 100-90. Nicolson became the WBC Silver Feather champion.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – January 15, 2023

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shortly after his release from Reidsville Penitentiary, Georgia, 1960, Photo Credit: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Jack Lewis Hiller, ©1960 Jack L. Hiller

Today would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 94th birthday. Imagine that he would have been with us now. Our moral conscience. Our hero of justice. Our voice of truth…

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his last speech on April 3, 1968 at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. The following day, he was assassinated while standing on the balcony of his motel.

He had come to Memphis to support the city sanitation workers’ strike. He had been feeling ill with a sore throat and fever, but at the behest of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, made his way to the Church and spoke in front of the enthusiastic crowd.

Prophetic born of tiredness and at times a despair, his final words reach us as the true pastor’s call to fight injustice everywhere no matter the consequences. The struggle remains … as does our profound debt to Dr. King’s sacrifice at the alter of truth and justice.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

Full speech here: Note it is audio only.

Of endings and beginnings … Welcome 2023!

Paris-Brest for New Year’s Eve

I admit to a hard December. Everything out of sync. Stressed. Uncertain. Out of balance. Scared at the enormity of the challenge of caregiving. But finding joy. Moments of peace. Being present even when things felt chaotic. My therapist even asked me if maybe I was done because my goal of living in the moment of my emotions was reached.

I was, admittedly, taken aback.

“What? Finished?”

Reflecting a little bit more I said, “No. Not yet.”

That hesitancy was the realization that caring for one’s mental health is never over. And having that chance to dwell for 50 minutes every couple of weeks is like finding bits of gold panning in the stream of one’s own psyche.

And yes. I’ve been really depressed in my life so this all feels so normal. Sleep well and I have that much more opportunity for riding the ebbs and flows with ebullience, sleep too little and I’m grouchy and stressed. Pretty simple formula!!!

Meanwhile, in the real world of day-to-day … I have a book to write (I am behind), Jed’s health to attend to (Cardiologist on Friday), part time consulting work to augment the bills, and all the rest + those kitties.

Still. The New Year is a pause. A chance for something. A blank slate to relish in. Clean, unlined, and absent of any smudge marks from the erasures of the things one doesn’t feel inordinately proud of.

2022 was an enormous year for me. I can brag about getting a book contract for a new work on women’s boxing, a monthly column for my friends at Women’s Fight News, and a memoir piece to be included in a book called The Difference (working title), that will be published in 2023.

I also had a blast with my iconoclastic pals Chris and Eddie on our WAAR Room podcast and finished up a nine month mastermind group with dear friend Achim Nowak’s My Fourth Act,which brought me new connections and new friends.

As for 2023. So much to do! And not so much resolutions as a list of challenges!

  • Finish The Promise of Women’s Boxing (working title)!
  • Be more in balance with caregiving
  • Maintain my journal again (yep, been a while)
  • Write pieces for Girlboxing with more regularity
  • Be more consistent in the gym! Months cannot go by any longer!
  • Mindfulness in all things
  • Nurture my friendships and explore new ones
  • Expand the community of caregivers
  • Have fun

I have so appreciated sharing the bits and pieces of my life-and all of you for reading them and giving of yourselves in your thoughtful comments and insights. I used to think I could do things alone. Perhaps a sign of finally growing up is knowing that I can’t.

Thank you all for teaching me that.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a fabulous 2023!

 

 

 

On Women’s Boxing-what an October!

I had the honor of introducing the 16 inductees to the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. Held at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on October 22nd, the 9th class of inductees celebrated women’s boxing’s past and present in high style.

The brainchild of founder Sue TL Fox, herself an American pioneer from the 1970s when the denizens of women’s boxing went to court to win the right to box professionally, her insistence that women give themselves the accolades they deserve reverberates through the community.

Yes, we love that since 2020, women have been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. And that in Hall of Fames across the United States and beyond, women are taking their place for the brilliance of their achievements.

There is something; however, to that wonderful notion put forth by Virginia Wolfe, of having a room of one’s own. And whether actual or metaphorical, the sisterhood of brilliant athletes swapping stories is irreplaceable. This year’s class included Tori Nelson and Suzi Kentikian, boxers you may well have heard of, but it also contained Cora Webber who not only boxed in the 1970s, but in the 1990s to great effect. And men too, including Irish promoter Jimmy Finn, who along with 2014 Inductee Barbara Buttrick promoted the actual first all-female card in the UK in 1994; and Tom Gerbasi, who has led the way as a boxing journalist giving space to the stories of women in the ring since the late 1990s.

This year’s event was also held amid women’s boxing’s dazzling October.

The all-female Shields-Marshall card at London’s O2 Arena on October 15th was held in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,000 cheering fans, not to mention the 2,000,000 eyes that caught the broadcast of the card on Sky and ESPN+. The card delivered not only in terms of the number of fans tuning in, but the brilliance of the performances from one end of the card to the other. The Shields-Marshall fight itself, produced a fight of the year contender to rival the Taylor-Serrano bout on April 30th whose main-event battle was held in front of a similarly sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.

What was notable, is that while Taylor-Serrano had 1.5 million views on DAZN, a full .5 million more viewed Shields-Marshall—to my mind, showing the strength of the Taylor-Serrano card to the women’s boxing “brand.” Afterall, it is highly unlikely that Bob Arum and Top Rank would have pushed to have their fighter Mikaela Mayer contest for the unified Super Featherweight title against Alycia Baumgardner, without the precedent of a sold-out Madison Square Garden.

Nor does it stop there.

Katie Taylor after her win over Karen Elizabeth Carabajal. Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

Consider Katie Taylor’s seemingly effortless retention of her undisputed lightweight crown and undefeated record against the mandatory Argentinian contender Karen Carabajal. Taylor led the card at the Wembley Arena—the very place where she had her pro debut. At that event, a mere six years ago, she walked out to nearly empty stands. At her homecoming of sorts, the cheering crowds floated her to the ring on a wave of love and admiration.

The two female fights on the undercard were also great action bouts showing off the prowess of Ellie Scotney as she pressured Mary Romero to a loss. And then there was the impressive professional debut of Maisey Rose Courtney, frankly one of the best I’ve seen, female or male. But think about that for a minute. She had her debut at Wembley Arena on a Katie Taylor card positioned as the swing bout leading into the main event.

Thinking about it more, Maisey’s entire boxing career has been informed by Katie Taylor.

Taylor’s amateur prowess and trailblazing amateur career provided Maisey with a goal to strive for. While her pro debut was on the undercard of a major fight by an undisputed champion in one of boxing’s more venerable arenas in the United Kingdom. This is Maisey’s world with the likes of Adam Smith stating Sky Sports commitment to putting on good cards as demonstrating “a move towards total parity and total equality in pay.”

The latter in particular remains to be seen. The boxing efforts on Saturday, October 29th across the globe; however, gave truth to the idea that parity and equity are long overdue. Consider Arley Muciño who wrested the IBF World Fly title from the Argentinian champion, Leonela Yudica, in a non-stop action fight at San Diego, CA’s Pechanga Arena and shown on DAZN. It should be noted it was Yudica’s 10th defense of the belt since she first captured it in 2014—a momentous upset by Muciño who had at one time held the WBO World Fly title. Announcing for the Golden Boy Promotions card was none other than current unified champion WBA and WBC World Fly champion Marlen Esparza, who immediately called out Muciño for a unification battle.

Let us also not forget that Yamileth Mercado successfully defended her WBC World Super Bantamweight title against the venerable Mariana “La Barbie” Juarez in her fourth defense of her title, her loss to Amanda Serrano in 2021, notwithstanding.

Those showings, the Taylor card bouts, and the women boxing at venues large and small establishes the sport has the potential for an even more magnificent future.

Let us all hope that actually comes to pass.

 

Damages

Damages reappear as unbidden apparitions

Big rivulets of unsealed fissures

Felt as a dull ache

A knowing sense of debilitation

Laced with unnamable remembrances.

 

I wonder about it

About how pain returns

How it comes due

The recompense

That and the vigorish

The payments on account

The little bits of soul separated in the rush to move forward

Hurriedly refusing the calls to look back

The map points

The cavalcade

How intransigence is the loss of everything.

 

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Of caregiving and caregivers

I will admit the notion of bringing in a companion / caregiver had been and still is daunting. As seemingly social as I may be, the die-hard New Yorker in me is loathe with a capital “L” to expose myself. After all, generations of New Yorkers have lived in tiny overstuffed apartments with doors that never open more than a few inches when someone knocks on the door. Why else constantly live life in cafes, bars, and restaurants? Right? We can just as easily have “at-home” dinner parties, but seem to prefer keeping our real selves, messy desks, unmade beds, and all, to our selves. It’s how we roll, and how we live, and our preferred state with out prying eyes and the “tsk, tsk, tsk” of disapproval. Of course, once one has kids, the calculus changes a bit. The living room, kitchen and bathroom do become public as well as any rooms where kids sleep and play. But one’s own bedroom remains a sanctum free of intrusion.

But really, I am indulging in a tangent, when it’s something closer to my own sense of failure at not being the end-all of caregivers. Admittedly I am much better at it than my housekeeping, but the nagging sense that I am not doing enough does punch through. And yes. It’s ridiculous, but who ever said that being human is anything other than a silly state of affairs.

The real truth is, at this stage of unrelenting progression, having a companion caregiver to augment care is absolutely the right call. One cannot be all things and the stimulation provided by another is extremely helpful. Sure, routine is good and important, but so is changing things up a bit. Forcing conversation. Another view of the world. And a new paradigm of routine that includes the companionship of others on a regular basis.

Having crossed that divide some months ago, I’ve come to depend upon the twice-weekly time Jed spends with his companion caregiver. As much for him as for myself, it gives me some relief and the chance to hang the “gone fishing” sign for a few hours.

What I hadn’t prepared for is what happens when that is disrupted whether through illness or other changes. In our case, our caregiver became ill with COVID. She is okay, but was out for three weeks. That change, aside from worrying about her health, also meant that Jed’s world became confused — and truthfully, it set him back a bit.

After my day or two of self-recrimination (hey, see the human thing above), I started reaching out to find some alternates. That in itself has been daunting, but I have been been meeting some fascinating people along this new journey of discovery: the remarkable world of New Yorkers interested in providing friendship to a challenged person.

I’m still talking to folks and setting up meetings to see if things will work out, but what it’s shown me is that in opening up one’s self and yep, even one’s home, bits of magic can form.

Jed’s illness will continue to progress as will his need for care, but what I am finding is that in trusting myself enough to trust others, the caregiving I provide is all the better for it.

 

 

The thing about a good night’s rest

I admit it. More to myself than anyone else. It’s been a long haul lately.

I came back from a week’s writing retreat and boom, whatever demons that had been lurking, engulfed me as so many microbes of infection. Seeping in everywhere at once, I’ve spent days that have morphed into weeks swatting away the no-see-ums of depression, hopelessness, and the nagging sense that I have no where to go. And in between, the daily stuff. Writing. Aiming for vulnerability. Spending time with Jed so that he feels loved, and wanted, and needed, and relevant.

And we’ve been through Jed’s rounds of medical appointments. His latest MRI showing progression, but only a small amount from last year to this year. Of course, adding them up, one year, plus one year, plus one year, and so on means more than a little when counted together. But it only confirmed what I already touch. The new realms of confusion. My own sadness at facing this new normal masked by a determined bravado, but in truth, as palpable as Jed’s “I do not understand” expressions.

Back in my late-30s, I experienced a major depression. Each day was a buzz of activity from my early morning runs on through my exhaustion as I rolled off to sleep having worked till 7:30 or 8:00 at night, and socialized or something else till late in the evening.

In the spaces in between, my eyes would leak tears as I tried to suppress the misery I felt. The aloneness. The despair. All wrapped in the package of not knowing what it meant to be. And how ridiculous I felt at being so late century. So post-modern. So wrapped up in the throws of my existential crisis. Not for a minute allowing myself the truth of it all.

In moments where my guard was down, I could hear my own ironic inner core whispering that the payment was due for an adulthood spent existing without making certain I’d examined all the nooks and crannies of hurt and trauma. For not living the truth of my own existence.

“Not those, again,” I’d decry, while also knowing that my life was as precarious as my sense of being. That I really was tipping over the line a bit, so much so that friends talked and queried, and offered me sanctuary.

So, here now, 30 years later. So much of a brilliant life later, I feel the edges of it. Not that tears leak, or that I despair, but that it is easy to lose sight of one’s reason and place in the world if one remains cut off from living it. From the touchstones that are the little bits of the jigsaw puzzle that is life and has just as much meaning as the larger corner pieces that anchor one’s self to the reality of one’s life.

Yesterday, I woke up having had a brilliant night’s sleep. I was so well rested and in turn felt so refreshed and happy. It’s not necessarily that the no-see-ums had spent their annoying course till next time, but I was reminded that life is this wonderful panoply of joy and fun intermixed with the range of stuff that can sometimes feel like quicksand and at other times like the sweetest of clouds scented by the privet flowers that have permeated the air in this part of Brooklyn.In other words, it’s just life. A moment’s blip in the scheme of things. And truly, nothing like a good, restful night’s sleep to bring on the brilliance again.

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A reminder that caregivers can face special challenges–and that you are never alone. Here are a few resources:

Alzheimer support for caregivers

AFTD caregiver support

Caregiver.org caregiving and depression

 

 

Katie, Amanda, Lady Tyger, and Me

Author, Malissa Smith with Hall of Fame, women’s boxing trailblazer, Marian “Lady Tyger” Trimiar, Madison Square Garden, Taylor/Serrano Main Event, April 30, 2022.

It’s already May. The boxing ring dismantled, the people who filled the Madison Square Garden arena already home or having taken a few extra days in New York City readying to go.

And yet, the enormity of being surrounded by and among a sold-out crowd of nearly 20,000 people; on their feet, cheering, crying, and cheering some more for Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano both, reverberates. A crowd so loud the veteran Canadian referee, Michael Griffin, couldn’t hear the bell at the end of a couple of the rounds, and a few days later said he’d “never felt that kind of electricity.”

Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano fought the fight of their lives.

They fought for themselves, for boxing, for women, for little girls and little boys, for their families, for history, for the record setting, 1.5 million eyes who viewed it on the DAZN streaming platform, and all of us who could make it to that arena.

And we felt it.

I felt it.

Jolted through with the special juice that is an event that transcends its time and place. Becomes already immortal. Engrained in our consciousness. Where we view over and over the special magic of the tender smile that passed between Katie and Amanda just before they fought. Taking in the enormity of what they were about to achieve. A history making main event prize fight between two of the best boxers in the world–who because they happened to be girls meant the special sauce of a well-matched contest, was also infused with all the opportunities that had been denied in the past. With fights relegated to the unstreamed portions of fight cards, for little money, and far, far less than equal treatment.

In a world where gender defines and sets rules for how we live and what our agency is as women, boxing has proved itself to be the perfect medium for amplifying those inequities.

Sitting in the stands with the great trailblazing, International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, Marian “Lady Tyger” Trimiar, it was not lost on me that her achievements and fights for equity were not unlike those of the fictional character, Don Quixote, jousting with windmills.

Her hunger strike in 1987 to protest the inequities towards women in boxing, a grand and beautiful stand for something, caused a ripple or two, but was largely forgotten.

A life time later, sitting in a majestic box above the Madison Square arena festooned with green light, she smiled, and with a wistful tone to her voice, said, “One million dollars for each fighter. I never earned much more than a thousand dollars, and that was for a title fight.”

If we measure equity in dollars and cents, women essentially earn the equivalent of a nightly bar bill of the Mayweather’s of the world.

Even the Taylor/Serrano fight, which passed the crucible of a minimum of a million for each fighter, an absolute first, still seems paltry in the scheme of things. Think about it. Two top-three pound-for-pound fighters duking it out in the ring together, what should that be worth?

Having had the honor to write about the women who’ve donned the gloves to contest in a sport that breaks their heart, watching Katie and Amanda fight with every ounce of their beings was among the most compelling evenings of my life. Here were two warriors of heart and spirit, meeting their moment of greatness, with power, with fortitude, and with grace.

Would that each of us could achieve an equivalent transcendent magnificence.

[Note: a version of this article was published in the Women’s Fight News eZine, April 2022 edition]

Girl Alone

Girl on the block alone.

One friend.

One brother.

I want to be a superhero. Really, ever since I was seven.

Share it with Milton Spivey. Trade stories.

He is cool because his letter to the editor is published in an issue of Spiderman.

Girl alone on 12th Street.

I love to read. To understand the world at large.

I sneak passages in my mother’s paperback copy of William L. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” The pages thin, already starting to yellow, with that old paperback smell even though it is fairly new.

Love that I know his full name. The importance the author places on it.

I read about concentration camps and the number of Jews murdered from this and that European country. Some in the hundreds of thousands. Some in the millions. Going back to the table listing the number of deaths over and over again.

She keeps hiding the book and I keep finding it.

She needn’t worry. I already know the world is mad. Have known since I was five and learned about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I am forever scorched.

Trying to imagine my superhero self, going back in time to smash the crematoria. To get the Jews out from behind the German lines. To make the shadows of the disappeared in the ruins of Japan come back to life again.

Girl alone.

I listen to Mom’s Coltrane, and my Chopin, and my Songs of the Negev on the portable record player Grandma gave me.

“I could be a soldier there,” I think, “the equal to everyone.”

Know that of anyone I know in the world, it is Grandma who would understand.

Girl alone. Springtime.

I like the silence of my thoughts. The feel of my hair in a plait down my back.

My beige jeans.

Worn-out Hush Puppies with my toes starting to poke out.

Myself. Nine years old.

Going somewhere as swift as the wind.

So much done

Sometimes we all need to remind ourselves that we do a lot — and not so much rest on our laurels as to acknowledge the good work accomplished, with a nice “atta-girl” pat on our own backs.

For caregivers, that is especially essential because we can feel our lives to be nothing more than a Sisyphean task wending its way as so many cycles of frustration and grief.

Successes though, do happen, and should be celebrated!

My big success has been the introducing companion care to Jed. For three hours, two days a week, he meets a lovely lady who hangs out with him. It is a bit rocky at times — because it is kind of hard to get to know someone new in the best of circumstances — but they persevere!

Jed and his companion have chitter-chattered, gone for a walk to our favorite local Pizzeria, tried and failed to do a crossword puzzle and two or three art projects, but through it all, it has given Jed someone new to engage with, no mean feat in the pandemic era, which has enforced isolation.

The other laurel I am allowing myself to take a bow for, is gaining approval for Jed to have in-home physical therapy. Provided by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, he will have two weekly sessions aimed at helping him regain his physical stamina, muscle tone, and flexibility. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect! With Spring underway, there is no better period to walk about the side-streets and parks of Brooklyn as flowers begin to bloom and bird migrations fill our skies with beautiful sights and sounds.

And finally, Jed had his jab number four yesterday, with the fervent hope that he continues to remain COVID free!

So, yup! Three-cheers to myself for this week’s accomplishments. I’ll take them where I can find them.


The Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY), is part of a national network of organizations providing home health care services.  A doctor can put in an order for a range of services including, skilled nursing, home health aid, and rehabilitation services.

 

Up before sunrise

 

It’s been a while since I was up before the sunrise.  I’d forgotten how noisy my street is at 5:00 in the morning with trucks making deliveries and buses idling before rush hour begins.

Before I retired, it was the time I had to myself. I’d get up around 5:00, patter around a bit, and then shower and dress for the walk to Gleason’s Gym or on off days, perhaps practice yoga before getting ready to leave for work.

Being up now feels like a holiday. An extra bit of time I hadn’t counted on. So far I’ve been filing away the huge pile of stuff that had obscured the wooden patina of my old pine desk, the one piece I have from my aunt. And yes, grabbing the tax papers I’d missed to send off to my accountant who is still doing taxes remotely.

The new cat, Sugar Ray, is not quite certain what to do. So far, he’s pretty much been letting me sleep until at least 8:00 am. He was certainly happy to be fed earlier and has been sleepily following me from room to room as I’ve been filing things away. And as is his way, now that I’m at my desk, he’s back at his perch on the window sill watching the early morning traffic go by. My perfect little sentry who has thankfully found something more interesting than my laptop.

As if on queue, with the perceptible lightening of the sky, I can hear the first faint sounds of bird song above the din of traffic noises. The sounds floating in on the top register as little bits of sweet chirping. Locating my city dwelling space within the urban landscape of life that flows in and around us if we bother to look.

Soon the birds will fly by as ephemeral whisks of light. Fleeting glimmers frozen in memory as something to delight. And so it goes.

Another week

Sugar Ray in the afternoon

Is it a week already since my last post?  What a blur.

I went to Gleason’s Gym on Monday and Thursday. Even added crunches in the sit-up chair at the end my workout. I felt a sense of accomplishment. The reminder of what a touchstone the gym has been and how much I miss it when I don’t go on a regular basis. The moments of self-care so revitalizing to my sense of well being.

The emotional rollercoaster has been moving forward to find part-time companion care for Jed.

I feel he needs an interesting someone to have contact with for a few hours a couple of days a week. Someone who isn’t me and who won’t invoke feelings of being infantilized from time to time. Still it gives me such an overwhelming sense of responsibility as I make decisions on his behalf. I admit that it is tangled up with my sense of helplessness and failure. And yes, I know I do not have the power to fill in the missing spaces in his brain. Or unknot the tau protein clotted ends of his neuron cell axon terminals that can no longer communicate. And no, me beating myself doesn’t help either, but the feelings are there for me to work through.

Meanwhile, plowing forward, I made a connection with an organization that specializes in matching folks up and will have a first preliminary meeting this coming Tuesday. The challenge will be figuring out how to introduce the companion caregiver to him so that it will be something that he wants to do. We shall see, but I have the hope that once we get past the introductory phase, it will help Jed engage more. And maybe even pry him outside when the weather eases up a bit more.

And so it goes.

In the pocket …

Between Covid, cold weather, and the vicissitudes of life, I admit to a rather scattered boxing training schedule since the beginning of the year. Last week, though, I was determined to get back to two days a week with a view towards three as soon as I feel able.

Unstructured training has its place I guess, but for me it’s meant a backward slide when it comes to stamina with a capital “S.”  The twinges in my right shoulder by about my 10th round also reminded me that such breaks can effect muscles and tendons as well. And in case you were wondering, nope, I didn’t pay particular attention to stretching either!

Hmm. Note to self. STRETCH!

Still, tiredness and heavy breathing aside, it felt great to dance around the ring when I shadowboxed, and by the third round on the pads with my trainer, Lennox Blackmoore, I felt in the pocket.

“Good job,” he said with a laugh and a mock wince, when I executed a straight right, as directed to his body, followed by a left.

He also had me working on my up-jab, overhand right combinations, with a sneaky left hook or upper cut thrown in at the end.

On the double-end bag, twinges to the right shoulder aside, I worked on feints and combinations, and the accompanying foot work that had me taking steps first one way and then the other, before executing right hand leads or doubled up jabs followed by the straight right.

Saving the best for last, I completed four rounds on the speed bag for the first time in a couple of months.

Always, my favorite way to finish training, it felt as if I was back hanging with an old friend, alternating my standard da-da-da-da-da-da speed bag drills with thirty second spurts of shots to the bag in combinations.

Given where we are in the world, I also felt humbled by being in the gym at all, as if I were a stand-in for all the people whose circumstance precludes such luxuries.

I was in my home away from home. Practicing what I love. Being in the moment with it. Feeling so much that just by being there I was doing honor to my boxing brothers and sisters in harm’s way in Ukraine. And I felt a gathering in. A welling of love and support as if the energy itself would heal the parts of my body in pain and in turn across the world. Magical thinking to be sure, but there’s a part of me that wants to believe.

 

At the dentist

 

One of the issues caregivers face is ensuring proper dental hygiene for their loved ones. As memory slips, so does the concept of the kind of routines we take for granted as part of our normal day. The wakeup, hit the bathroom, shower, shave (if needed), floss, brush teeth, et al., becomes an illusive construct. The end of day wind down is the same. A foreign movie without benefit of subtitles.

“What? Brush my teeth, you’re so bossy!”

Caregivers know it hits straight into the dilemma of an individual’s sense of self and autonomy in the midst of an on-going memory meltdown.

At the dentist last week for Jed’s six-month check-up, we ran into the issue of dental hygiene. I’d warned our dentist on the phone when I made the appointment so she was prepared. What struck me though, was her incredible gentleness as she cleaned his teeth even as she used quite a lot more rigor than usual.

Sitting outside, I felt by turns sadness for what he was going through, guilt for not having implemented the secret sauce for twice daily brushing, and a sense of being beholden to her for her kindness.

“You’re doing good, Mr. Stevenson,” she said. “I’m so proud of you. I know this is hard.”

Jed didn’t complain and then in speaking with us afterwards she said, “Mr. Stevenson, I do need you to brush your teeth twice a day. And your wife, Malissa, is going to get you a special new toothbrush. It will be a lot of fun.”

One new Philips Sonic electric toothbrush plus a special new heavy duty prescription floride toothpaste later, we headed back to the dentist this week for a followup appointment to top off a filling that had come loose.

Sitting in the waiting room, I observed again the kindness the dentist showed Jed.

“Did you use your new Philips Sonic toothbrush today, Mr. Stevenson?”

He didn’t quite respond, and then taking a look inside his mouth said, “ah, it looks as if you did. Very good, Mr. Stevenson. That is wonderful. Keep up the good work.”

Yes, she was speaking to him like a six year old, but her manner had a sweetness, that disarmed his sense of violation at being told what to do.

What I felt was beholden to her. In what can seem like an indifferent world, her tenderness touched me deeply. I tear up now thinking of it. Just calling him Mr. Stevenson gave him an agency that was powerful.

Reflecting on it, I realized that it also gave me the sense that I wasn’t alone.

For further information on dental care for dementia patients, the Alzheimer’s Association has a very good primer, the link is here: Dental Care.

Aging Care also has some good suggestions: Oral Care Tips for Dementia Caregivers.

As always, please feel free to contact me if you need help with caregiving.

 

 

 

Where does time go

Getting ready to speak about procurement opportunities for M/WBEs and small business owners at the New York Build 2020 Expo, March 3, 2020, Javits Center,

The one year anniversary of my retirement is coming up at the end of February. Not that I’m *that* old, but it was time to hang up my shingle so to speak from working for the City of New York in a variety of administrative procurement leadership roles. What you say? Procurement? A civil servant?  I know. Perhaps a bit incongruous from my boxing and writing life, but, hey, bills had to be paid, and I have to say, I never felt prouder of any profession than my years with the City.

With the retirement anniversary looming, I’m trying to figure out what exactly this year has wrought, other than figuring out pension filings, social security, medicare, and all of the other pensioner-life experiences that have been by turns frustrating and surprisingly easy.

I admit that I didn’t have a plan, per se. It was just time to move on and of course, Jed’s struggles were certainly foremost in my mind. The pandemic also played a role. As I ponder its meaning, I own to having been caught up in the sociological phenomenon of the The Great Resignation.

Looking at time through the prism of retirement has brought me to the realization that I live mostly outside of industrial constructs of time. No. I don’t need to get up at 6:15 AM in the morning for an 8:00 AM start to the day. Or go to bed by 11:00 PM. Or live by endless meetings on a calendar, or deadline dates for this or that report.

Time is my own. My own waking and napping and sleeping. And much as a spoon embracing another, I meld myself to Jed’s time. To having breakfast, and pills out to swallow, and coffee made. But even in that, there is no have-to. Just that it’s there within a window that is morning, as distinguished from later in the day.

Feeding the cat is kind of the same. Our new guy, Sugar Ray, waits patiently. Just needs my attention once I stroll into the kitchen area to set up his morning can of something tasty. And of course some pets and a bit of play, but no alarm needed.

I think it was late June before I grasped that I didn’t have to do anything. That my rigid plans for execution of this or that set of chores was no longer necessary. Rather, I could sit with a coffee and watch the plants. Watch the way the clouds swirled to the left of the Brooklyn Municipal Building (The Ruth Bader Ginsburg Building I should say) as I cock my head to the right looking out the window.

And then the writing started to come.

I’d started Journaling on Saturday, February 27th. By summer it was pretty much every day in some form or another. I journaled, wrote haikus, posts for the blog.

As the summer moved forward, little bits of real writing started to come through.

That practice has nods to time in that I try to set aside segments of the day to write, but even with self-imposed deadlines, there is an ebb and flow to it that seems outside of the world of work. The impositions that trading time and energy for the cold hard reality of a pay check can bring. Those have-to moments, when perhaps you don’t have your heart in it, but have-to anyway. Face getting reprimanded in one form or another for not adhering to the schedule of nine-to-five work and all of its incumbent responsibilities.

I see that most clearly in the changes to relationship. Where folks who formerly worked for me can now be friends. How the static of “boss” has taken some time to unravel. Almost as if we have been collectively taking a hatchet to the fences around us, as so many booby traps to our communicating in any real or meaningful way. This year has brought me the understanding that I can freely roam in my own thoughts and on my own tangents without owing anyone anything. Yes. I get up in the morning, but the clock is internal. And while my writing projects, and such things as the WAAR Room podcast have certain time constraints, each moment seems ripe with possibilities.

My life has become a series of wonderful options and opportunities, and for that I am truly blessed.