The secret is out: the bowling league is a source of inspiration for his career


I lied for 20 years, and it’s finally time to tell the truth. On my office wall is a framed clipping from an essay I wrote on marriage that appeared in The Washington Post in 2010. It was the first thing I ever published…or at least that’s what I told everyone.

To be honest, I had already posted. But those facts aren’t nearly as glamorous as the story of how I launched my career as a columnist after writing an essay for a huge international publication. So for the last two decades I’ve been lying about it.

But now, in honor of National Bowling Day (August 13), I’m telling the real story of how I became a military spouse columnist. Get ready for the boring, mundane, mundane truth.

It all started when our military family was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. I was going through my pathetic post-move-will-you-be-my-friend stage. Sensing my desperation, an Army woman approached me in our neighborhood on Patch Barracks and asked if I would join her bowling team. As a Navy wife, I didn’t know about Army spouse bowling leagues, but I would have joined a naked bobsled team if it meant making new friends.

Having no knowledge of bowling, I wrote a check for league membership fees and joined the “Great Balls of Fire” team. However, I soon found out that the mostly army wives league members didn’t take kindly to the navy wives who intended to sit and chat at the bowling alley. Unfortunately, they actually wanted me to play…competitively.

For the first few months, I tried my best, but I just couldn’t improve my abyssal bowling skills. What else could I do to win the league members’ approval, I wondered?

One week, I came up with an idea and told my teammates about it. “You know how we always complain about putting on pounds from all that heavy German food? And we sit here every week eating nachos and pizza? Well, I have a fun idea for a league-wide weight loss competition! Everyone will love it!”

The following week, I announced my new weight loss contest, which I had cleverly dubbed “BUTTOKS” (Bowlers United To Take Off Kilograms Sensably) to the league. The plan was simple. My teammate, a registered nurse, brought a scale and confidentially recorded and tracked the competitors’ weight. Each week, and at the end of the season, the weight loss winners would receive prizes. Genius!

I thought the league would call me “creative,” “witty,” and “fun,” but I was greeted with blank stares, defensive grimaces, and shaking heads. Now I wasn’t just a bad bowler, I just insulted the whole league by implying that they all needed to diet.

Too late to backtrack, I lobbied a few league members to join the challenge and continued, contributing healthy recipes each week and giving away prizes for those who lost weight.

A month after the start of the contest, I spawned another “brilliant” idea. I would submit an article to the grassroots newspaper – The Stuttgart Citizen – about our bowling league diet competition, unfortunate as it was. Desperate for content, they agreed, and soon my first feature appeared with the title “Women Bowlers Enter BUTTOKS Challenge”.

I’d like to think the ladies bowlers were impressed with my media savvy and bright future as a journalist, but alas, they weren’t impressed. However, the play caused enthusiastic discussions among the ladies of the league, who enjoyed reading about themselves in The Citizen between rounds of bowling.

At the end-of-season banquet, I handed out grand prizes to BUTTOKS winners while others watched resentfully. My plan to find my group of friends in the bowling league had backfired; however, writing for the small, grassroots newspaper (not the Washington Post) is actually what initially inspired me to become a columnist.

I offer this confession on National Bowling Day to clear my conscience, but while we get real, I will also concede that no matter how many columns I am inspired to write, Spouse Bowling League will not will never forgive.

Learn more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com and Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: [email protected]

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