Life, Again

I recently completed a hectic ten days which is one reason I didn’t blog last week. Before this period of intense activity, I had blocked out several weeks’ worth of posts. Theoretically I have post topics for the next few weeks. Today’s topic was supposed to be about the show Stars on Ice.

On April 30th we spent the night in Boston so that I could see Stars on Ice. Everyone who was on the US Olympic team was in the cast as well as Mirai Nagasu who competed in the Olympics four years ago. Although our seats were high up, we were dead center and had a great view. I found it very exciting to see athletes such as Jason Brown and Mariah Bell.

We had a wonderful time but to be honest it feels like that was a year ago. A few days after we came home from Boston, we flew to Florida to spend time with my Aunt Ruth. She is the relative who had a bad accident last year fracturing her hip and wrist. My aunt is quite elderly and still has some chronic health problems which I am trying to help her with.

Although it was nice to be in Florida because it was at least 30 degrees warmer than it is here in western Massachusetts I wouldn’t call the five days we spent there a vacation. Although my aunt is 91, she is not ready to cede any of her authority or autonomy over her own life and there’s really no reason that she should. Her desire to remain as independent as possible does sometimes make caregiving for her more difficult. Therefore, the time in sunny Florida had a decent amount of stress attached to it.

My aunt’s current medical condition has made me think about my own health and what illnesses I fear getting. My mother had Alzheimer’s so any lapse in my memory makes me panicked about getting dementia. My father died of heart disease but somehow, I don’t worry as much about that. I can’t really explain why.

Both my brother and my first cousin died of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and I do worry some about that. My cousin did genetic testing that revealed a mutated gene that may have been responsible for his disease. My brother never did that kind of testing so whether he had a genetic component or not we will never know. I just don’t want to burden my family with either dementia or ALS. I also wouldn’t want my children or potential grandchildren to get Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Even though I worry sometimes about these diseases I realize that life is a crap shoot. A bus could hit me tomorrow and that would be it. I am going to focus on the beautiful skating I saw at Stars on Ice, the shiny warm sun I experienced in Florida, and the fully in bloom trees I returned to while continuing to lead my life.

Ice Show

Last Sunday I skated in an adult group number, the chimney sweep song, Chim Chim Cher-ee, from Mary Poppins.

The number was part of the annual show of the Skating Club of Amherst. The club had planned to have a Disney themed show, Be Our Guest in 2020 but had had to cancel two weeks before the performance because of COVID. When that happened, I wrote this post.

My regular readers may remember that in October 2019 I competed in an ISI event, the 33rd Halloween Classic, Winterland Skating School, Rockland, Massachusetts. You can read more about that here and here.

When I was competing, I was extraordinarily nervous and didn’t perform the way I had expected to. My hope for the show was that I would be less nervous this time. I practiced extensively both with the eight other people in the number and on my own. I also tried to be mindful around the event including repeating a mantra that went something like:

I know how to do it.

I can do it.

I will do it.

I believe in myself.

Saturday was the dress rehearsal and as soon as I stepped on the ice once again my legs were like jelly. One of the coaches, perhaps concerned that I might hyperventilate, said I could take my mask off while we were practicing. Another one of the coaches, Kyla, said that I could skate with her and that really made all the difference.

Saturday, we ran through the program about four times and by the last time my legs felt a lot better, and my nervousness had decreased. The problem with the actual event on Sunday was that I didn’t think I would have any practice time. I did try to walk around the rink wearing my skating guards to warm up my muscles a bit. Since all the mindfulness that I did on Saturday hadn’t made any difference I didn’t do any on Sunday. I was able to do  warmup skating for a couple of minutes in an alley behind the curtain.

Once the music started, I was nervous but because I was holding on to Kyla, I was able to perform all the steps. A lot of people told me to try and have fun. I can’t say that I did. Mostly what I felt when the one minute of performing was over was significant relief. A deep sense of accomplishment came next.

Now that I have skated two separate times, in front of an audience, and had intense stage fright, I realize that stage fright is a physiological reaction and there isn’t that much you can do to control it. Given that, I am proud of myself that this time I did all the steps and did not let my fellow performers down.

I am not sure I will ever compete or perform again in front of a crowd but that is something I don’t have to decide at this moment. I can just revel in the fact that I did it on Sunday.

Sorry that I am late with this post. Yesterday just got away from me.

 

 

 

Sundays

Today’s post is an edited version of another piece of free writing I did in one of Nerissa’s groups. The prompt was probably something to do with Sundays.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Sundays is ice skating. I have always ice skated. Some of my earliest memories are of my father taking us skating. We went to Yonkers every Sunday and skated, my father, Fred, Sara, and me. I don’t really know how my father who grew up in poverty in the Bronx learned how to skate but somehow he knew.

Carol Heiss won an Olympic figure skating gold medal in 1960. I had a Heiss brand pair of  skates and a book about her that I read all the time.  My dreams were of Olympic figure skating but I never took lessons.

When we moved from the East Bronx and the Eastchester housing projects to 3900 Bailey Avenue in the West Bronx, right there on Broadway next to Stella Doro’s, was an ice-skating rink. My friends and I would go every week. I remember watching a stately older couple skating together every time I went.

After Louis, my older son, was born, I wanted him to learn to skate. When he was three or so I started teaching him. When I got pregnant with Alan, I realize it wasn’t safe to continue doing that. Instead I enrolled him in the Skating Club of Amherst which is the club I now skate with.

When Alan got old enough, he learned to play hockey. During those years we went to public skating a lot. Aaron watched on the sidelines. When the children got older, our skating times declined.

About ten years ago, I joined the Skating Club of Amherst (SCA) and stared skating on Sundays. I picked Sunday at 5 for my session because it seemed the most practical and least disruptive to our schedule. Perhaps subconsciously I associated Sundays with skating because of my father.

Now I skate two to three times a week. Although the Olympics are not in my future, I do know how to do some things that I only dreamed of when I was a little girl.  My sincere  regret is that my father can’t see how I skate.

NaNoWriMo Day 10

Yesterday, after I had written for the day and also had a rough draft of my blog post, I suddenly had a blinding headache that would not go away.  I went to the doctor and she said it was eye strain from staring at the computer . She advised me to take it easy and to try to reduce my exposure to blue light.

After posting my blog, I didn’t look at my computer or phone for the rest of the day. This morning I also did not look at either until a little bit before my writing group meeting was starting. My head feels okay right now but I am still going to try to take it easy.

I know I have been working furiously and I should probably slow down. Also combining strenuous exercise almost every day with hours of concentrated thinking and staring at the computer is not a great idea. I have decides to do yoga and tai chi as my exercise for the rest of the month. Of course I will still go skating.

Today I wrote 982 words which brings my NaNoWriMo total to 9,157 for the ten days. With the over 900 word I wrote on Halloween, I am at at least 10,000. Since my original goal  was 500 words a day for a total of 15,000 in the month, I now only have to do 250 words or one page a day for the rest of November. That is reassuring to me since if I need to rest I can.

Fall

Tomorrow  will be the first day of October. We have been living with the pandemic for almost seven months. Time is moving both slowly and quickly. Looking back at my post, Goals, from the beginning of this year, I want today’s post to reflect some updates and changes.

The biggest deviation from my stated plans in January is that I did not participate in the year long non- fiction writing group that the Pioneer Valley  Writers’ Workshop offers. I felt that I would be a fish out of water in a sea of memoirists with emotionally challenging life stories. My gut told me not to do it. I have not regretted my decision.

I did two rounds of Nerissa NIelds’ Writing It Up in the Garden. It was really helpful for finishing the fifth chapter of my book. The chapter focuses on the Angell family and its’ many academics. A particular focus is Constance McLaughlin Green, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian

In January, my goals included being part of an adult group number at the Skating Club of Amherst’s annual show. Of course Corona prevented the show from happening. I have only skated five times since March 11th and none of them were at the Mullins Ice Rink.

In January, I said finishing my book was imperative and would require keeping my schedule light. I have had mixed results with that endeavor. As October begins, I am still trying to finish the sixth chapter which deals with two  white middle class, middle aged women who were social justice activists in the 1950s and 60s.

Right now, I am writing about Sarah Patton Boyle, a faculty wife from Charlottesville Virginia who became an early white ally of Martin Luther King, Jr. Her attempts to dismantle  Jim Crow and help American society achieve racial equality have been  very inspiring to me as I have tried, since the murder of George Floyd, to become a more actively anti-racist person.

There are three months left to the year. I hope to finish this chapter, get my skating back to a pre-pandemic level and defeat Donald Trump. What are your plans and goals for the remainder of the year?

 

Skating, Again

Last Thursday I was able to skate for the first time since March 11. It was a unique experience. When I got on the ice my legs were like jelly and I was holding on to the boards for dear life. I felt like I had never skated before.

Luckily for me, my coach, Kiara is a wonderful, kind, and supportive teacher. She encouraged me to do a little bit at a time which was great advice. Eventually I moved away from the boards, did some stroking and swizzles. By the end of the session, I had done a pivot and tried a spin.

I remembered that I do know how to skate and that I love doing it. Unfortunately I can’t go again for at least two weeks. Hopefully both my brain and legs will remember what I did last Thursday so I won’t be starting from scratch again.

Skating Camp 2020

Last Friday through Sunday, I attended a virtual skating camp, hosted by Scott Hamilton and Kori Ade. I was a little apprehensive before it started since I didn’t know if I would be able to keep up with all the planned physical activity.

Several years ago, I attended a weekend skating camp in Cromwell CT. That camp mixed on-ice teaching with off-ice training. Last weekend’s camp was obviously all off-ice. The training sessions alternated with webinars on different topics.

Friday began with a welcome talk from Scott and Kori, mostly Scott. Scott Hamilton is a skating legend who has given so much to the sport. It was really thrilling and very entertaining to listen to his anecdotes.

Max Aaron gave the other standout talk. His topic was “Competitive Mindset”. He stressed having rituals to help you get through a competitive program. Max also talked about thinking through what your response to different situations that can occur at a competition will be. He said he even found out, through Google, what the event rink looked like a month ahead of time so he could familiarize himself with the setting.

I have only competed once. I essentially had a panic attack and didn’t really perform my program. It was definitely a learning experience. Reflecting on Max’s talk, I realize I can plan, ahead of  time, what I will say and do to calm my nerves and get oxygen to my jelly legs so I can really feel the ice. Hopefully my next competitive experience, if I ever have one, will  have a better outcome.

Every day at the camp we did between 2 and 3 hours of exercise. It was a lot and I was very sore. I haven’t skated since March 11th. It is possible that I could start skating September 8th, but I have to decide if I think it is safe, given COVID.  I was definitely out of my comfort zone during skating camp. My plan, going forward, is to do the camp exercises for the month I have until I start skating. I will let you know how it goes.

 

Most Viewed Posts

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my goals for 2020 but I didn’t say anything about my plan around posting and tweeting.  I will continue to post every week and tweet at least once a today.

I thought it would be fun to look at what were most viewed posts in 2019. By far, Methylated Spirits, which got 1,948 views, was the most popular. I posted this on July 8, 2013. Next was HomePage/Archives with 831 views. This is actually always my most current post.

My most viewed post that I wrote in 2019, besides the Home Page, was Schlenly Distillers Corporation with 295. A post, Skating, that I wrote about a test my coach gave me got 37 views while the post I wrote prior to competing, Skating Competition, Part 1, got 33. The post I wrote after I competed, Skating Competition Part 2, only got 9.

I don’t really know how to evaluate these statistics so I will probably just continue to write about what interests me and what I am doing. In April I am giving a paper about Faculty Wives Cookbooks at the Popular Culture Association  annual meeting so maybe I will attend a session that will generate as much interest as Methylated Spirits did.

 

Goals

My main goal for 2020 is to finish my book on faculty wives. I hope to complete chapter five, which I have been working on for over a year, shortly. I would then have five or six chapters left. At the very least, I need to pick up the pace.

When I was thinking about my progress, I realized that I would need more structure, focus and motivation to achieve this goal. Beginning the end of January, I will be participating in the year long non-fiction manuscript group that the Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop offers. Most of the other members of the group will be memoirists but I think paying for the workshop and having regularly scheduled meeting once a month will provide a lot of structure and motivation.

The other writing commitment that I am undertaking is being part of Nerissa Nield’s Writing It Up in the Garden workshop for ten weeks. This is two hours once a week. Both of these writing groups require a commitment which I hope will benefit my rate of production for the book.

Besides writing the book, my other big commitment is to my ice skating. Having competed in October, my focus is now on being part of an adult group number, for the annual skating show of the Skating Club of Amherst. I hope I will be less nervous skating on home ice. My other skating goal is to complete at least one three turn this year. Here is link to a video, by a professional, of a three turn. After today I will have 357 days left to do it.

Because finishing my book is imperative, I am going to try to keep my schedule free from the other activities. This will not be easy; I have trouble saying no. The only thing I will consider getting involved in is efforts to defeat Donald Trump.

What are your goals for 2020? I would love to hear them.

Skating Competition, Part 2

I competed for the first time, Saturday, at the 33rd Halloween Classic, Winterland Skating School, Rockland, Massachusetts. Here is a picture of me before I went on the ice.

Despite all my preparation, I was extremely nervous and did not skate the way I had planned.  My legs felt like jelly but I did go on the ice and skate, which I feel was a big accomplishment. I was the only skater in my event, so I skated against “the book”. I am not sure what the criteria for judging was, but I got second place and received a medal.

I also earned four points for the Silver Lining Club. The club came in second for the competition so I contributed to that result.

I can’t say I enjoyed myself but it was a learning experience. If I compete again, I will try to find an event where Kiara, my coach from the Skating Club of Amherst, can be the one takes me. She knows me really well and I have complete confidence in her.

I would also practice skating my program from different places on the ice so I would be comfortable no matter where the judges were and where I had to start.  Connecting certain moves to specific points in the music would also help.

It turned out that competing in a spotlight event meant that the rink got dark, very dark. The only light was a spotlight the followed the skater. I didn’t realize what spotlight meant until I got to the rink. Next time, I would know, be more prepared, and not get so freaked out.

The nicest part of the experience was the support I got from the audience, other skaters, Kiara, Andrea and Aaron. I appreciated that so much and I am very grateful.

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