For my birthday in 2011, I picked out a new tennis bag. I never had one in this color or style before – definitely something “new and different!”

“The @#%&ing Fifties Club”

I informed the other three ladies in my women’s doubles game that my cell phone would indeed be off today. I like to have it off so I can truly be able to take a break from my stressful life. That actually means I have the bell off, but I check to see if there is a voicemail or text message on every changeover.

One of the ladies had read my tennis essay, and she laughed when I told her about the lost key. As I verbally shared the story, I had far more anguish than the written word conveyed. I loved the fact that her empathy was so potent; she really knew how I had felt. In my “prior” zombie like existence, I would never have shared the experience with my tennis friends.

I don’t know most of the women I play with off the tennis court. This particular friend was at my fiftieth birthday party. But like all the wonderful people I have met while playing tennis, I am very impressed with her. She is in her late sixties, and plays tennis about five days a week since she’s retired. Her game is steady and consistent, unlike mine.

I always appreciate the fact that my tennis friends know my game and accept me.

These days, I am in my “improvement mode.” A few weeks ago, I took a half-hour private lesson where I almost fainted. I’ve also attended a few workshops.

It was very hard to make a change to the “same tennis game” after 25 years! My body likes the “old habits,” and just trying to change something can throw everything off.

I notice that I hit the ball with improvement since those lessons; I definitely feel the difference. I still make the same mistakes, because knowing that I’m doing it wrong doesn’t make it right the next time! All my tennis friends know this.

Today, I had to laugh when I heard one lady say the “F” word for only the second time. I told her she was now in my “The @#%&ing Fifties Club.” Of course, that’s the same club I’ve recently joined where I can’t keep track of the score or who is serving.

But then again, I do have a lot on my mind.

I am posing here with a new, tennis outfit my mother bought for me in 2004. It still feels new! But a lot of my clothes are too big for me now that I’ve lost so much weight!

Improving by making changes in my game

I started playing tennis in my early twenties, so I am calculating that I have played approximately 27 years. I am very, excited to improve in all areas of my life.

So today I decided to take a tennis lesson! I shared it with a tennis friend who most motivates me. She always wins, unless she’s sick or injured. I want to play as well as her. I want to give her more of a challenge.

I have been known has, “The one who doesn’t move.” That is because I have been overweight most of my life. I am noticing how much better I am moving since losing 15 pounds.

I absolutely love, I mean love, this tennis teacher. She is real. She is human. She is a mom. She is a flawless, tennis player. She gets it. She is going to teach me how to end a point so I am not looking like “a deer in the headlights!” She is going to help me win!

I don’t care if I win, even though it does sound like that. I just want to improve, that’s all. I have a lot of room for improvement, and why not?

Here is some of the dialog that went on during my lesson:

Judy, stop admiring your shot, watch where the ball goes and move with your partner!

(Did I mention I play doubles? That’s the easy tennis game where you don’t get as much exercise.)

Judy, you are dancing and flailing around! Get in the ready position!

(Me) I am trying, but I have bad habits I’ve been doing for the last 27 years!

(Me) That ball you just nailed into my stomach; don’t worry! I’m not planning on having any more children!

(Me) Ouch, I just hit my other hand with the $#%@ racket! Have you ever done that?

I ended up getting a “crick” in my upper foot. That was because I was running for a ball and couldn’t stop. I was totally off the court, when the ball flew right by my other side.

“Judy, stop admiring your shot again!”

I tried to learn a “spin” serve. I am known as a fairly “flat” hitter. It was weird and very strange. I needed to hold my racket with a grip that felt contorted. The tennis teacher said to me, “You must hold it this way! Come across like you’re carrying a tray.”

That shouldn’t be hard for me. Soon, I was flailing again.

I exclaimed, “It’s not me, it’s my cheater hand. It is not listening to me (just like my children); it has ADD!”

I swear – I said most of these things. On my last attempt at the spin serve, these were the words I heard:

“That hurt! You just hit me on my head and I’m your partner!”

“My workshop the following week”

I left to go add more therapy into my life; to play tennis. I have mentioned this before; I love this tennis teacher. Okay, I’ll share her name. Her name is Suzi.

The last time I saw her, I mentioned to her that I had written about her in my blog. I sent her a link to it. As I walked onto the court for the workshop, I wondered if she might mention it.

She smiled at me warmly as I walked up and she said, “Well if it isn’t the blogger! Oh my god, your blog is no small bit of writing. It’s a volume!”

I said, “I only started it recently, too!” (I just checked, and the first post was February 17, 2010. It has not even been one month!)

Then she said, “It’s a page turner! I was late picking my daughter up from school because of reading it! I’m only on #8!”

I said, “Suzi, you mean you haven’t even read what I wrote about you after our lesson last week?”

She said, “I’m not there yet! I’m reading them in order. Please don’t write any more until I catch up!” (She has no idea; I can’t stop.)

I resisted the urge to crush her with a giant hug. There was definitely a word for my feelings right now: EUPHORIA!

There were five ladies in the workshop. I will list with numbers the funny things that inspired me to write. So here I go:


One lady said, “I have one of each!” I overheard and thought of something completely different. Before saying something silly, I asked “One of each, what?” The answer was tennis rackets! Here was what I was thinking:

One of each:

One boy and one girl

One alive and one dead

One dog and one cat (I have two cats, a puppy, and a bird; a pet family of 4)


After I missed a shot I said, “Once I hit that ball 1,000 times, I know I’ll get it right!”

The lady next to me said, “Boy, you’re an optimist! I’m not sure I’d ever get it, even with 1,000 times.”

Well that’s me; the optimist. My mother always was one; it was an absolute fact about her. She has unfortunately changed with age. She is now filled with anxiety and fear about so many things. She has started to think the worst. Therefore, I am always reminding her of how she used to be. The role reversal is complete.


This reminded me of more on the subject of shouting inappropriate things during tennis. One of the ladies actually yelled out, “OH, SHIT!”

I grinned and thought that saying those words were helpful for her. I was also thinking, “I can’t believe how well I’ve done holding it in today at this country club.” I believe there is actually a sign that says, “No cursing” at this club.

However, I didn’t say what I thought. Instead I said, “Watch out! We’re not allowed to curse at this club.”

To which Suzi replied to everyone, “She’s right about that!”

I was right! Good thing I’ve been careful; no inappropriate language allowed here. Then Suzi added, “JUST KIDDING!”

Okay, now I know why I love this woman so much! She’s definitely on one of my favorite humans list.


Suzi yelled at me, “Judy! JUST STOP!” I tend to run and hit the ball and continue running. I could fall over the net if I’m not careful.

Gee, haven’t I heard that all the time at home? My kids have gotten so tired of hearing me nag. They have said to me daily, “MOM! JUST STOP ALREADY!”


Suzi said, “You, two! I’d rather see both of you smash racquets, than look clueless at the ball going between you! Stop looking at the ball. GO FOR IT!”

I thought, “It’s not mine! It’s a backhand and it’s her forehand.” All my tennis friends reading this will laugh at that line – they know me! I suddenly realized that my new titled for this blog should be, “GO FOR IT!”


We were practicing overheads (shots that are high balls, which you smash down upon.)

Suzi yelled to one of the ladies, “ANSWER THE PHONE!”

This one didn’t register right away. I thought, “Did I forget to turn off my cell phone?” That spiraled into:

a. It could me any one of my children expecting me to be at their beck and call.

b. It could be my husband with some request to call his doctor or somebody else. Since his mom died in November, he has had far less requests for me.

c. It could be my father. He has missed talking with me.

d. It could be my mother. She needs me to bring tissues or something else to the nursing home.

Then I figured it out. Suzi always says, “ANSWER THE PHONE!” to have the players put their racket back behind their shoulder in the proper position to hit an overhead!

My mom went with me to a “Sectionals” competition, when I was playing USTA tennis years ago.

Responses to my writing about tennis from two, tennis friends:

On Feb 20, 2010, Lisa wrote:

Holy cow Judy! This is one incredible story and blog. I’ve never read one before and I had no idea of your back-story. As you state numerous times in your blog, tennis is our outlet and our release. I know that you have had many difficult issues and we’ve talked about them briefly before, during and after our tennis games. But tennis is when we leave out regular lives and just forget. I don’t think that anyone can understand the connection that woman have through tennis. As you’ve stated so eloquently it is our escape.

I’m grateful that you let me into a bit of your life, which I would otherwise never have had a clue about. I so enjoy our tennis time, even though it is infrequent!

All my best, Lisa

Hi Lisa,

I am so glad you were able to read it, Lisa!

I can only imagine that you have quite a story of your own to tell. You can certainly understand the therapy of tennis. I am certain that when tragedy occurred in your life, you continued playing tennis and it helped. Your message meant so much to me. Thank you so much for taking the time to care and share.


On Feb 21, 2010, Theresa wrote:

Sweet Pea:

As part of your wife/daughter/friend sisterhood, I often get chills reading your notes. Sometimes I nod knowingly, and other times I get teary simply in empathy. I know that it is out of love that you share: thank you. Have you heard the notion of surrounding one’s self with people who “raise you up”? You do that for me. While your journey has been an immense challenge (if I may say), your love, grace and courage inspire me be a good wife/daughter/friend – on or off the court.

Some believe one’s worth is measured not in possessions, but relationships – you, Judy are one of the richest people I know.

Love you, Theresa

Dearest Theresa,

What a lovely, special message! When I read the part of “surrounding one’s self with people who raise you up,” that applied to why you are my friend! You don’t have to survive some tragic past be a “hero,” you are fabulous to be around because of your spirit, smile, and warmth.

And that is why I’ve been sharing my growth with you; I’m definitely feeling very rich today!

Love, Judy

My friend Magda with her husband, Matt.

Message from my dear friend and former tennis player, Magda:





Dearest Magda,

You taught me so much because of your bravery regarding your loss. It helped me to learn that it doesn’t matter what age a child dies; you had unfulfilled dreams and simply the desire to have held for one second something you would mourn forever. I remember your horrible stories about life in Romania; how you labored in agony for almost a week and almost died. And then when you finally had the C-section to deliver your dead baby; you never had any children after that.

And you’ve never taken an antidepressant? I know you are very sensitive to medication, but your incredible attitude is what makes you exactly the way you described me! You love children, and always “adopted” mine when I lived in Sylmar. I didn’t remember that you had babysat Jason once; I am so glad you shared that memory with me, recently.

The harder story will be writing about Jason. I will need to save an entire weekend for that one. I have a box that contains all the sympathy cards that I received after he died. Inside that box are his pacifier, photos, and memorabilia. I am sure once I open that box I will have a lot to write about.

However, when I was in my grief group I told his story quite often. It has been quite a few years since then, and I stopped telling his story because I was proud to think I had moved on. Unfortunately, my heart is still broken.

© Judy Unger and 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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