Who Do You Love?

My Darling,

    Oh how I adore you.  You understand my needs like no other.
Alas, I am not a morning person. There are those that like to hit the snooze button or cuddle with their bed partner. I am not that woman.

I will never give you reason to be jealous my beloved. Even though I make a quick trip to the loo and let the dog out first, it is you that touches my soul.  It is you that I long to embrace and to give a good morning kiss. You are the reason I get out of bed each morning.

    Any other lover wouldn’t likely tolerate my unbrushed teeth and foul morning breath, but you don’t mind that my appointment with Colgate and Listerine will wait. You graciously accept that I don’t want to talk just yet and you give me sweet silence.

      My daily grind is selected after a bit of thought. If I feel the day may hold adventure I might begin with Dark Magic. A tough day may call for Jet Fuel or No Surrender while if I feel the need to escape I may select Ethiopian or Sumatra.

    We first entered into our relationship when I was a mere 16 and was working 20-30 hours a week after school to save for college. You stuck with me even though back then I only used you to keep my body stimulated and alert. Sorry about that.

    You are the one that stayed true through college, grad school and all the men that passed through my life.  It was you that I could always count on and you never once complained. When I was in need you were never far away.

    The grunting and whirring that erupts from the machine as it gives birth to you is music to my ears and I can hardly wait to hold you in my hands.  First, I inhale you and pull your rising steam and rich aroma into both my nose and mouth. You fill up my senses more than a night in a forest could ever even attempt (Sorry, John Denver).  Sometimes I wrap both of my hands around you and cradle you close to my heart. Oh I love you so!

    Certain others try to change you, they add things; sweeteners, sugar, milk, cream or some kind of powdery crap. They don’t understand your depth and complexity.  I respect you far too much to pollute you, my darling dear. You are perfect for my palate without any qualification or accessories. Screw the latte, frappe, cappuccino crowd! You and I understand each other; we are not wimps or fragile flowers.

    When it comes to you, once is never enough and I trudge a bit more easily back to the kitchen to select my second dose. There you are, waiting for me with patience and robust devotion.

    You and I and know each other well but we like to change things up and keep it hot.  My stash is full of the exotic blends we that meld together.

  I have no stash of bottled water and non-perishable food in case of emergency.   I will remain faithful to you my steamy, hot, aromatic, dark, liquid inamorata. I love, love, love you! My coffee.

Thanks for stopping in. Take a few seconds to tell us what goes into your your morning cup. What other things have become so much a part of your daily rituals that they feel a little bit like family?

Copyright: Suzanne Pogue May, 2019

Thanks to the following who provided photos through unsplash: Mae-mu, Clay Banks, Tyler Nix, Devin Avery, Nathan Dumlao, Mike Kinneally and Danielle Maccines

Mom’s Last Gift

My maternal grandmother lived 102 years and my maternal great grand-parents were each in their late 90’s when they passed away from natural causes.  As my mother, a 19-year colon cancer survivor, approached her 83rd birthday she seemed to be in incredible health.  She had mowed her almost two-acre yard all summer with a little push mower.  When I tried to hire someone to take care of it for her she scoffed that she needed the exercise.   I didn’t expect that she would not be alive to see her hundreds of flowers bloom in 2018.  I thought I had time.   She did too.

Few people like to think about end of life, the less severe term for death.  Call it what you will, we all know it will happen, even one day to us.  Unlike most, my mother was a realist and she tried very hard to have her documents in order.   She talked frequently to me about her requests for the end of her life and her estate.  I had the original forms of her Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney and Living Will.  I had keys to her house and safe deposit box.  She often emphasized how these had to be kept in a secure place where they would not be forgotten.  Fortunately, I had them tucked away in my own safe deposit box. 

My mother was a very private person but I think she would approve of what I am about to share because it may help you when you face some of life’s most difficult decisions.  I hope I am right.

My parents at my grandmother’s 100th birthday party

My mother and I had always shared a good relationship, but it grew much stronger after dad was gone.  She became my best friend and we talked daily, often for over an hour.  I tried relentlessly to convince her to move in with me.  She insisted that she was quite capable of taking care of herself.  She was very strong and active but lived in a remote location. I knew that if she fell or got hurt and couldn’t reach the phone there would be no one to hear her calls for help.  She lived well over an hour away, so even if she would have accepted my offers to drive her to appointments and such it would have been difficult.  She was too independent and insisted on staying put in her little country home.  I understood, after all, that was where she had friends, and a house and yard she could tend the way she pleased.   It was home.  She enjoyed doing things her way on a schedule that she monitored herself.

As I said, Mom (and Dad too when he was alive), tried very hard to have documents in order to make things as easy as possible for me.  Both had gone through the process to donate their bodies to U.K. Medical Center for research purposes.  They always looked for ways to help others.  It turned out that neither of them had their body accepted due to various factors.  They would have been disappointed to know that.

Both had made it known they preferred cremation to being buried and neither wanted any kind of funeral or memorial service.  I am told this is becoming a more common practice.  When Dad passed away my mother seemed fine with there being no service but I found it difficult.  I needed closure and to be reminded by friends and family that he was loved.  Months later Mom told me she was hurt that so few people sent sympathy cards.  I explained that I suspected people didn’t know what to do since there was no visitation or service to attend.  I appreciate that sentiment even more now since only a few cards of sympathy came to me after Mom’s passing.   I have made a mental note to myself to be sure to send a card to the families of those that I love even if there is no service for me to attend where people sign a book or send flowers.  I have told my son that I don’t feel the need for there to be a funeral for me either, but if he wants me to have one that is ok too.  Like my parents, I want to make that time as easy for him as I can.

June 1957, before they were anyone’s Mom and Dad.

They probably put more thought into their Last Will and Testaments than most people who have wealth.  My parents were simple, honest people.  They worked very hard for what little they had and were proud to be debt free.  I think that is why it was important to them to be specific and fair in how their estate would be settled.  I have one child so along with my niece and nephew we would be the four heirs (my sister had passed away 7 years prior).  My parents talked openly with all of us about how things would be handled because they didn’t want anyone to be angry or surprised.  They would be very proud at how the four of us are took care of things in the manner we know they wanted.

My mother was diagnosed with cecum colon cancer on December 5th, 2017 and surgery was scheduled for the 7th.  This was a different type of cancer than what she had previously battled 19 years prior.  We were relieved when the surgeon told us that it had been caught early and that the surgery to remove the cancer would be the treatment.  We were told that cecum cancer does not respond to chemo or radiation, which I think Mom would have refused anyway having had such a hard time with it during her first battle.  The plan was that she would spend about a week in the hospital and then another week at my house for recovery.  Her surgeon assured us she would be ready to push her lawn mower again by spring.

Plans. The surgeon reported everything during surgery went as planned and that she felt certain that all the cancer had been removed.    I like plans, they let me know what is coming and I can prepare.  Nothing could have prepared me for what was coming.  Complications started in less than 48 hours.  Mom spent almost 2 weeks in the ICU of the small hospital she had selected.   It was not close to either of our homes, but she felt confident in the facility and staff from previous her experience.  Even after she had left the ICU, for what is called a swing bed, her health seemed to take one step forward two steps back.  My routine became spending two days and nights with her then going home for clean clothes and a night’s sleep in my own bed. 

I gave them a copy of her living will and was thankful that it was easy to find.   Besides taking care of Mom my house was under contract to sell and I was packing boxes any time I could find a few minutes.  If she hadn’t hounded me to keep her documents in a safe, easy to access place they might have been in no particular box. 

A safe deposit box is the most secure place for important documents. Be sure the person named as your power of attorney has access

She had made decisions ahead of time and her Living Will dictated there was to be no life support or feeding tubes and included an order for Do Not Resuscitate, DNR.  I was not in any kind of emotional state to make these decisions and her cognitive abilities seemed to come and go effected by both her pain and the medications.  I am so grateful that she had already made these decisions.

On Christmas morning my plans, (Crazy, but I was still trying to plan.) were to go for a quick run then shower and go spend the day with my mother in the hospital.  I forgot to take my phone with me while running and when I realized that fact I cut the course short.  I hurried home to find that my intuition was right.   My phone flashed announcing two missed calls from the hospital.  When I picked it up it started ringing again.  “Your mother has taken a sudden turn for the worse, you need to get here.  Drive carefully but come immediately.”  All of her vital signs were quickly dropping.  I was afraid she would be gone before I could get there.

I arrived to find 4 nurses and 3 doctors in the room with my mother.  They seemed to all be talking to me at once, some asking questions others asking for information.  She needed to be transported to a Lexington hospital where she could receive a higher level of care, but they were also doubtful that she could survive the trip.  I was the one named in her durable Power of Attorney, P.O.A. so I was the one who had to make the call on if she would stay or go. 

Because of her pain, my mother thought she was hooked up to life support. In reality all she had was a blood pressure cuff, heart rate monitor and I.V. nutrition.  I know this is what she thought because in the midst of all the chaos she mustered the energy to lightly pat the side of her bed motioning me to sit by her.  She begged me in a weak whisper to make them turn off everything and to let her die.  In that moment I understood and if that had been possible I would have granted her wish. 

They found an open bed and arranged for the transport while I signed papers as P.O.A.  One of the papers I signed was an ambulance DNR.  Even though they had her living will I didn’t question signing because I didn’t want to waste precious minutes.  I would learn much later that a regular Living Will does not cover measures that may be used in an ambulance.  If you or your loved one wants assurance that there will be no CPR, shocks or intubation in an ambulance then an additional document must be signed.  As difficult as it was to sign the form I was so appreciative that Mom had already had conversations with me about this and I knew I was following her wishes.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of conversations.  Even the best made plans encounter unanticipated circumstances.

She was approaching a month in the hospital so it was also time to activate her P.O.A. at her bank so that I could pay her bills and handle financial matters.  I was surprised that as P.O.A. I could write checks or close accounts but I could not add my name to them to make them joint accounts. 

Mom had set up almost every payment as an auto-draft.   I learned that I couldn’t just tell the bank to stop such payments, rather, I would have to contact every biller.  Some were easy to work with and others were beyond difficult.  To make things easier for my own child in the future I will not have payments auto-drafted from my checking account.

Taking care of her bills was surprisingly emotional.   For the first time in my life I knew everything about my parent’s finances and assumed control.  Uncomfortable is too mild of a word to describe how I felt.  My parents had never been ones to share information about finances, it just wasn’t done in our family.  I imagine that having P.O.A. documents ready was a hard decision for Mom but taking care of bills and banking would have been ten times more difficult had she not trusted and cared enough for me to have this in place.

I’m sure everyone finds different things to be the most difficult.  When my mom was first admitted to the hospital I took her purse home with me to keep it secure.  Even then, when I thought I would be returning it to her in a week, it felt odd to have her most personal possession in my care.  I sat it on the bed in the guest room where it would be ready for her when she arrived.  Her purse, with it’s contents, is still on a shelf in my closet.  I am just not ready to completely empty it. 

There is much that could be told about how I hope you or your loved ones never find yourself in a hospital in need of critical care during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but that is its own story.  On January 5th additional scans were conducted to determine why Mom was not getting better.  The next day, while I had stepped out of the room to stretch my legs, Mom was informed that the cancer had metastasized and that she would probably live one to two months. 

She took the news much better than I did.  Before I got back to her room she had already talked to Joyce, her favorite cousin and told her, “I have good news and bad news, which do you want to hear first?”  When told to share the good news first Mom replied, “The good news is that I get to go to heaven soon.  The bad news is that I am dying.”

When her pain was at a 7 or higher, and it often was, she would think that she saw cats or dogs in the room.   Sometimes she would think she had conversations with her mother or my father.  I tried to prepare myself mentally for the time she would not recognize me or talk in harsh tones.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen.  I learned to assess her pain level by the look on her face.  When it was a 9 or ten she would not respond to questions and I would give the nurses the number.

Her weight dropped well below 100 pounds.  She was no longer able to get out of bed without assistance from at least one, often two, nurses or assistants.  Morphine was given every 12 hours and oxycodone every two hours.  One of her many complications was a fistula, a non-surgical colostomy, the bag had to be changed daily.  Most of the time she was unable to turn herself in her bed.  Still yet, I was informed that she would be released from the hospital into my care. 

There was no other family that lived close or was able to help with care so we had to select a care facility.  It’s easier for me to call it a care facility instead of a nursing home, even though I know, a rose is a rose is a rose.  It was a small blessing that when we were asked to select our top 3 choices for a facility that she was having a day where she could think clearly.  The reason we couldn’t pick just one facility was because they might not have an open bed.   They would not be able to delay her discharge so we would have to go with which ever one of the three had an opening.  We studied Medicare and Health Department ratings for the facilities that could provide the care she needed. 

I wish I could tell you that they were able to make her comfortable, but her disease was spreading at such a wildfire pace that by the time her medications were increased to lower her pain the intensity of the pain had multiplied too.  I believe they tried, medications were increased about every other day. 

In mid-February the social worker asked me if I wanted to consider Hospice.  I knew that was my “hint”. They had told me during admission that they were not allowed to make a Hospice recommendation.  I told them that I wanted any and all measures that might help take away some of her pain.  A meeting was set up for the next day and Hospice took charge of her medical treatment after I signed what felt like dozens more forms.

She hadn’t eaten in a long time and eventually reached the point that she couldn’t swallow to drink.  I gave her drops of water from the end of a straw and even with that she sometimes couldn’t get it down.  The slightest touch caused pain and I had to remind well-meaning friends to not touch her.  During her final 2-3 days it seemed her pain was more under control and I could again hold her hand.  She was too weak to talk and only opened her eyes for a second or two when I first came in the room and spoke to her.  The nurses said that hearing was the last sense to stop working so I talked to her.  I talked about anything I could think of.  At one point I laughed and told her that I bet she wished she could tell me to hush.  When I ran out of things to say I would either read aloud from her devotion book or just hold her hand.  Every time I walked into her room the changes in her appearance were shocking.  I took a final picture of her less than 48 hours before she passed, I can’t share that one.

The Social Worker told me during the admission process that once Hospice took control of her care that Medicare and her supplemental insurance would no longer pay for her room and board or therapy.  I was glad they had gone over that ahead of time.  I am sure it varies from place to place, but for us the out of pocket cost to the care facility was about $230 per day not including therapy.  They had also explained that if the combination of her personal finances and the value of her land went below $2000 that we would be able to apply for Medicaid to cover expenses.  When it comes to care for your family you don’t want to have to think about cost, yet for many families, it is another source of great stress when life is already extremely difficult.  Mom lived 15 days after Hospice took over her care.  The out of pocket cost for those days was about $6000 even though Medicare and her private insurance were still paying for the medical part of her care.  Various bills continued to filter in for payment for the next 8 months.

My family in 2010

My parents had decided that they wanted their estate divided equally among their 3 grand-children and me.  They had stated that my niece and nephew would split what would have been my sister’s share and that instead of giving me the other half they would split it giving my only child a fourth.  All of us were 100% fine with their decision and agreed it really was their decision anyway.  The Last Will and Testament named the four of us and used the words, “share and share alike”.  The only problem is that my parents must have thought that their wills would override names on deeds, which of course it didn’t.  My name was the only one listed on the deed to my mother’s property where she lived with a life estate.  If I wanted to be greedy I could claim it for myself.  I won’t be doing that.  The deed to another property that was given to my mother by my grand- mother lists me, my niece and nephew as heirs without any mention of my son, the youngest child.  I think my grand-mother gave the land to my mother before my son was born and that is why he wasn’t named.  Again, they must have thought the Last Will and Testament would prevail.  Because of their open conversations we know they wanted each of us to have an equal share. We will honor their wishes, that is simply how it will be.

Again, my parents led a simple life and their modest home was not full of expensive furnishings.  The antiques were family items that had been handed down through generations.  Their value was more sentimental than it was monetary.  Still yet, I already knew from things they had said who was to get many of these items.  For example, the old communion table that my sister had rescued from the family church before it was demolished was to go to my nephew, the butter-churn that my great grandmother had used was for my niece.  There was not a comprehensive list of every household item but as I packed up the contents of the house there were several items that either on the back or the bottom of the object I found a little paper with one of our names on it. 

Even though Mom didn’t have everything perfectly in order she had tried and her efforts made things much easier for me to make decisions and take care of her finances and estate.  If she had put this off until it was needed she would have been too ill and unable to do so.  I am also glad that she verbally made her wishes known to me and her grandchildren while she was still healthy and there was no doubt that she was thinking clearly.

Getting you documents in order doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Hospice has forms for power of attorney and living will. They are easy to complete but must be notarized. Notary service is typically available at your local public library among other places.

Many people opt to create their Last Will and Testament from online sources such as Legal Zoom or Office Depot if their wishes are not complex.  If you are more comfortable or your estate is complex using an attorney is always an option. 

As for me, I am trying to pay Mom’s gift forward by sharing this information and encouraging you to take care of preparing these documents and making your family members aware of your wishes for end of life.   Regarding my personal documents, I used the forms from Hospice for my P.O.A. and Living Will.  I used an online service for my Last Will and Testament.  I only have one child so it is very basic.  I had these forms notarized and appropriately filed.  The originals are in a large envelope that I keep at the top of the stack in my safe deposit box at the bank, my son knows this.   He is listed on the card so that he can have access when he needs it.  Now I must give him the key, he will need it at some point.  I want to think I have time; but none of us know that for certain.

Photo credits Bence Boros, Alex Smyntyna, Artem Maltsev and piron guillaume on unsplash

This is a shorter version of my story originally published in Southern Kentucky Health and Family Journal, May 2018. Copyright Suzanne Pogue, 2018.

Kermit Wasn’t Always Right

Dear little Kermit the Frog. I love his humbleness and easy going manner. Remember his ditty, “It Ain’t Easy Being Green?” He was talking about being different and I agree, that isn’t easy but when we are talking about being more environmentally conscious we can do lots of little things that make little differences and lots of little differences equal something significant

I have a challenge for you. Read the following ten easy things. If you already do all of them then hats off to you and you need to share at least one more tip in the comments that the rest of us can put into practice. If you don’t do all of them pick a few to turn into new habits. The earth will thank you.

Every cow releases 70 -120 kg of methane gas each year. Can I get an excuse me!

Eat More Chicken – Even if you just can’t commit to Meatless Monday consider cutting back on the amount of beef that you eat. Beef consumption is at an all time high and this equals more cattle. Cows burp and fart, they burp and fart a lot and that releases methane gas which is a serious risk to the ozone. If we cut back on eating beef farmers will not need to increase the number cattle that they raise for this purpose.

Raising the deck of your mower will not cause you to need to mow more often.

Raise the Deck on Your Lawn Mower – I used to think that mowing my grass short would allow me to not mow as often but it always looked shaggy in a few days. A friend of mine that has a lawn mowing service told me that raising the blade will reduce the growth of weeds and the lawn will look more even. I was skeptical at first but now I keep the deck raised high and my lawn looks better. I also do not need to use as many chemicals and that is earth and budget friendly

Hanging your clothes to dry saves energy, saves money and clothes will look newer longer

Give you clothes dryer a break – Purchase drying rack (if you can’t install a clothesline) Put your clothes in the dryer for just a few minutes to remove the wrinkles then hang them up to dry. Besides the reduction in energy you will be surprised how much longer your clothes stay looking new.

Reusable shopping bags It takes a little practice to teach yourself to remember to take and reuse your own shopping bags but stick with it and you will bet the hang of it. When self check out stations were new I found that bringing my own bag always slowed things down because the camera thought my shopping bag was something that I was trying to get around scanning. They have made many improvements and that rarely happens now. I know some people that will not use self check out because they say that eliminates a job. Maybe but at least the automated system says things like welcome, please and thank you.

Never, ever, never leave your pets waste behind. It is called being a good neighbor!

Pick up trash –When you go for a walk around your neighborhood take along some sort of bag. I suggest one that came with a product that you had to purchase such as bread or produce. Look for litter as you walk and grab it up. Cleaner earth and a little extra stretching from bending and picking. Win/Win.

Use your Public Library – Years ago I used to purchase every book I read. Now I wish I had that money back. I love books but have matured to the place that I no longer have to own so many. More recently I enjoyed reading on a Kindle. For the first few years it saved a lot of money. Not so much these days. I am one of those people that takes really good care of their stuff so when my 3rd Kindle stopped working even though it had been treated with TLC I was finished. Besides books most public libraries offer many other activities and events and either low or no cost.

It will taste better on a real plate and eaten with real cutlery that gets washed and used over and over.

Paper Plates and plastic cutlery – I know a man that almost never washes dishes. The first reason is that he eats out or gets carry out about 4 to 5 times a week. The other reason is that he uses paper plates and plastic cutlery all the time. I keep a stash of paper plates but a package of 50 will last well over a year. I also like eating from a real dish. I am not a big fan of take-out but on those rare occasions I often find that they have added 3x the number of napkins I will need and a little sealed up bag with plastic cutlery. I add the napkins to my holder and I tuck the plastic away for traveling or other times when dish washing is not an easy option.

Make your own window cleaner. 2 cups water, 1 cup rubbing alcohol and a tablespoon of ammonia in a spray bottle

Use cleaning rags not paper towels – I have noticed while visiting others or when they visit me that most people use a crazy number of paper towels. Try to look to paper towels for things like emergency spills or for jobs where if a cleaning cloth was used it would have to be thrown away instead of washed. For most jobs you will find that a good old cotton rag or microfiber cloth will work much better. When you wash them do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets. Besides saving on softeners they will clean better and without streaks.

Plan meals to avoid waste –If you have a large family this probably isn’t an issue but cooking for just one or two makes not wasting a little more of a challenge. A few of my favorite ways to reduce cooking and wasted food is when a roast or grill chicken I make several pieces. The left overs are good to use in casseroles, salads or just reheated. There are lots of little left over tid-bits that make yummy salad additions. If you have just a few berries, or other fruits throw them into the salad bowl. The same idea works with other salads with a mayo or oil and vinegar base. Pizza is another good place to add small amounts of left over meats and vegetables.

Not sure if it is should go into compost or the garbage? Google or Alexa will be happy to help you out.

Compost – I don’t live in a location where a backyard compost heap is practical. However a few years ago my church created a community compost. I simply save vegetable peels and other compostables in a sealed tub I store in the freezer. After church each week I just empty it into the community compost and start again. Easy Peasy.

Little things mean a lot, not just in our relationships with people but also in how we respect this beautiful planet the Lord has provided to us and trusted in our care. Have a blessed day!

He is Risen!

Easter Reflections!

I wanted today’s post to be special for Easter yet my own thoughts weren’t coming together in an organized fashion. Special thanks to simpledimple for giving me permission to reblog one of their posts. Today and every day let us give thanks to our savior. We are blessed beyond measure.

This is the Lenten Season.

A period of time where Christians especially the Catholics observe lent and engage in fasting as they reflect upon the teachings of Christ. His death and what it signifies to the body of Christ – The Church.

Easter signifies the victory over death by our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s a defining moment to ponder on the climactic events leading to the crucifixion of our Lord.
Easter is the reason we are Christians in the first place.

If Christ did not rise from the dead, if there was no resurrection, there wouldn’t be any Easter to celebrate because He would have been considered just another teacher or a mere scholar.

However, the resurrection power changed the narrative and it is the irrefutable proof that Jesus Christ was really the Son of God.

So as we celebrate this symbolism of our Faith for those of us who believe in Him, it is a time to reflect on our Christian ethics and values.

As Christians, this is the period when we ask ourselves pertinent questions regarding our Christian walk and work.
It’s a sobering time for self-examination.
Are we really for real? I mean, are we really Christians in the real sense?
Do our beliefs tally with our actions?
Are we practising what we preach or the word of God that we read?
In other words, does our lifestyle reflect good moral values as they ought to be?
Are we shinning the lights and tenets of Christianity the way it ought to be or are we just pretenders and hypocrites, calling the name of God in vain? 

Do we do what we preach or we preach the word and turn around to act otherwise?

Perhaps, we should spend some solitary moments to answer these questions sincerely in our hearts before we celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Good Friday is the commemoration of his crucifixion.
And Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection with glee.

So can I call you a true Christian? 

This season calls for introspections and inner search of our humanity
A time dedicated to prayers and fasting too.

A time to reach out to people with LOVE!

May God hear and answer our supplications even as we pray in this Lenten season.

God bless you.

Peace and Love!

Copyright © 2019 by Simple Dimple.  All Rights Reserved.

Photo credit to Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

We’re #1

We’re number, We’re number 1!  It’s perhaps the most basic of all fan chants and it’s typically attached to a sports team and accompanied by gleeful whoops, jumping, hugs and even chest bums. We love out sports. When asked who are your teams, the answers are quick and easy, right?  Just for the record mine are, University of Kentucky Basketball, followed by Villanova Basketball and Chicago Cubs Baseball.

    It is human nature to want to feel a part of something greater than ourselves and sports may very well be the best stage. It isn’t much fun to watch a game if you don’t care who wins. I have been to the first and second round of NCAA men’s basketball tournament several times where my companions and I watched multiple games in a day.  I always picked a team to cheer for even if I had previously never given them a second thought.

    At one such tournament game we found ourselves sitting in a section surrounded by students from Georgia Tech. They were a most enthusiastic group and they shouted their fight song with reckless abandon. They must have assumed that we were fans too and so it was that I cheered right along with them and even made an effort to join in their fight song. It was hilarious at the time because in their excitement and with the roar of the crowd the only words we thought we were sure of sounded like, “and we’re all engineers.” Now I know they were actually chanting, “a helluva an engineer!” It really is a great fight song, check it out.   

    Another cool thing about sports is that it allows us to exhibit behavior that would be deemed crazy in almost any other venue.  Some men will attend a football game bare chested in the middle of winter other die hard fans paint their faces with the teams colors. We don’t worry about friends or family that shout at that referees even if it is on their television. That is considered normal fan behavior the same as cheering and shouting when we like the way the game is going or the exasperated cries when our team makes mistakes dares to lose.   Ok, I admit I find it amusing when people shout at televisions, but it doesn’t make me question the person’s sanity if they’re watching a sport, the way it would if they shouted at the television during episodes of The Voice or This Is Us.

    Sports give us an excuse to dress up in clothes that identify us as part of the team.  While I am not big into clothes with graphics or officially licensed gear I still have a Chicago Cubs windbreaker jacket that I wear in the spring. It isn’t unusual to hear a shout,”Go Cubs” while wearing the jacket and when I turn I find a stranger that smiles and gives me a thumbs up I smile back. They are letting me know that they too are a fan and therefore we have a kind of bond even though we don’t know each other and probably never will.  That is kind of crazy when you think about it.

      When a group of fans talk about their team’s victory they say things like, “We’re Number 1!” or “We Won!”  When the same team is defeated the same people say things like, “They threw it away” or “They lost”. Without thinking about it we tend to distance ourselves when the final score declares someone else the winner.  I mean, who wants to be a loser? No one jumps up and down screaming, “We’re number two.” We are more inclined to mumble wait until next year.

What makes us pick particular teams to be our favorites? It can’t be because of the players, they come and go quickly especially when college players get drafted after a single season. Few admit it, but it can be as something as simple as the team colors or that we like mascot. Sometimes it has to do with location.  In professional sports players get traded all the time yet we remain loyal to the team because there home field or court is close to where we live our still where we grew up.

Mascots like the Phillie Phanatic are smart marketing. Kids love it and that can lead to making a life-long fan.

   Sometimes teams even get purchased and relocated.  For the majority of fans that is the deal breaker. I can’t see the Cubs ever leaving Chicago but if they were moved to another city I think fans would react as if the team had given them divorce papers. I know I would. I would whine about how I had stuck with them through season after awful season and waited over half of my life for them to win a World Series. I would want to pout like a jilted soon to be ex-spouse with cries of, “How could you do this to me?”

In case you are wondering, I grew up in Northwest Indiana, not far from Chicago. I learned about baseball sitting on the arm of my dad’s recliner as we watched WGN and he explained things like RBI’s and sacrifices. It was not uncommon for me to get my dolls and seat them on the couch to watch the game with me. My dad (probably knowing they would be pitiful for decades) promised me that when they went to series he would be sure I was there to watch. Alas, my father died before that happened. I did finally make it to The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in my forties along with my son, a White Sox fan (somethings are beyond explanation!) It was an experience I will never forget. It even landed me on ESPN for about three seconds. Derek Lee clobbered a pitch that I knew was going to send the ball out to Waveland Avenue. I sprang to my feet and let out a whoop full of southern drawl and as I turned my head there was the ESPN camera guy guy inches away.

I bleed University of Kentucky Blue

    I cheer for the University of Kentucky and my reasons are easy enough, that is where I attended college and earned my first degree.  In some ways I might even feel like I am a sort of special fan because my bachelor’s degree and my favorite team share the same name. There is no shortage of UK basketball fans among people that not only did not attend the school but have never set foot on campus. My theory is it goes back to wanting to belong. Kentucky doesn’t have any major professional sports team making it all the easier to cheer for the Wildcats. It also doesn’t hurt that they are the winningest team in college basketball, that is the cherry on top of our sports ice cream sundae. When they win, we win. At least it feels that way to fans.

    I am not exempt from enjoying being part of something fun and successful. Even though I sometimes go several years in a row without attending a game it never fails that when I am in the stands of Rupp Arena or Commonwealth Stadium (I can’t bring myself to call it Kroger Field) and the band starts playing the fight song I stop talking, I stand up and a smile spreads over my face as I clap to the beat.

My reasons to cheer for Villanova in every game they play other than when their competitor is my beloved Kentucky Wildcats takes a little more explanation. I have never set foot on their campus. I honestly don’t think I know anyone that earned a degree from the small Pennsylvania University.

Hard-core college basketball fans may remember the 1985 tournament. Little, 8 seed, Villanova started winning and was dubbed the Cinderella team. I decided to cheer for them because anytime I don’t have a favorite team in the mix I opt to cheer for the underdog (as if my cheering makes a difference). My Kentucky Wildcats had been eliminated in the third round so I figured I would just continue to cheer for the team with the same mascot and colors that needed all the help and Hail Mary’s they could get.

The final game was played at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. Unfortunately I was a first year teacher and was barely making my rent and car payment. Buying a ticket was out of the question.

They didn’t let me down and they beat Georgetown, who for reasons I don’t recall was high on UK fan’s hate list, and became the season champions. The game is still often referred to as the perfect game. Villanova still holds the record for being the lowest seeded team to win the tournament.

In 2016 I decided to fill out a bracket for the pool at work. I hadn’t been watching lots of games but I felt certain it was not in the cards for the Big Blue Nation (UK) to go far. I also knew that many die-hard fans and co-workers would select UK to be the champion in their bracket just because some fans think that is the way a real fan behaves.

My bracket was close to immaculate and I had selected the Wildcats from Pennsylvania, not Kentucky to win it all. Some made fun and said I wasn’t a real wildcat. That was a bit funny to me since out of almost 100 staff members I was one of either three or four that had actually attended UK. A few were all but rude over it but I didn’t mind because after the final game was over I took home the money. See why I like Villanova?

Who do you cheer for and why? Do you scream at the referees even if it is just on TV? I would love to hear your favorite and/or funny sports memory. Use the comment sections and share about the teams you love and the the ones you hate.

Photo credits to Blake Guidary, Heather Mcguire and Markus Spiske on unsplash.