Weekly Update, Week 22

I have been battling a cold for a week, which is why I didn’t post yesterday. Posting while I am working on the book has been a moving target. Maybe you, the reader, should not expect it on any specific day.

I am still working on the bibliography. I probably have a few more days. After it is done, I need to look at potential pictures and start trying to get permission to use them. Like the bibliography, I think this will be a daunting task.

Besides working on the book, I have been watching the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) national championships. That has been a lot of fun and a good antidote for how crappy I have been feeling.

New Skates, Part 2

As I said I few months ago, I bought new skates.

Because of  Covid, I delayed picking them up until last Wednesday. The skates are smaller, narrower, and stiffer because they are new. I have skated with them two times with mixed success. Last Wednesday after I picked them up, I went straight to skating. When I first got on the ice, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing or supposed to do. Gradually my muscle memory kicked in and I could do some things including skating forward and skating backwards.

After a half  hour of minimal skating close to the boards, I had a lesson with my coach, Kiara. Because I was warmed up, I did do some more things and even skated out into the middle of the ice which amazed me. The skates felt okay except for a little rubbing where the top of the tongue meets my skin. When I got my skates 10 years ago, I had the same problem and I used to put little round cosmetic pads in-between the tongue and my skin. Kiara suggested I buy gel sleeves which I did.

Monday was the next day I skated and it wasn’t as successful as I hoped. I was very nervous when I first stepped on the ice. My legs were shaking to almost the same degree they shook when I had my episodes of stage fright. After about 30 minutes of the 50 minute session, I did feel warmed up and I was able to do a few more things. I wore the gel sleeves over my socks and the skates were more comfortable.

This process of breaking in the skates and returning to my fairly minimal level of skating proficiency will take some time. One bright note is I am already spinning better than previously. This gives me hope that once I have gotten used to the new skates, because they are the right size and fit better, my skating will actually improve. One can always help hope.

My new skating bag

New Skates

Today I’m going to pick up my new skates. I bought my current skates about ten years ago online. At that time I didn’t skate as much as I do now and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. From my teenage years  to my forties, I had a pair of skates that my parents probably bought for me when I stopped growing. As I have mentioned in other posts, I skated with my father and siblings for many years when I was a child. In my forties I skated with my children and wanted a new pair. I bought them at a local athletic supply store.

Ten years ago, I looked at what size those skates were and then I bought the same size from the online store. Everyone in my club uses the same person for skate sharpening and fitting and buying skates –  George from Skatesport in West Springfield, MA. 10 years ago, my new skates came with the blades unsharpened so I took them to George for sharpening.

The first time  I put them on and started skating, I realized they were probably too big. I bought my shoe size. Skate sizing is usually one size down. I have a size 10 foot, narrow so I should have bought size 9 skates. I unfortunately bought size 10 skates. Because the skates have been sharpened, I couldn’t return them.

Today, looking back on this experience,  I realize one option would have been to try to sell the new skates and buy another pair of skates that fit properly.  However this is where my personality and a big streak of cheapness came in. That possibility didn’t even occur to me. Instead,  I kept the skates, getting George to fix the insoles for a better fit. I’ve skated with them all these years.

About six months ago my coach said she thought that I needed to get a new pair of skates. This made me very nervous, but I have taken the leap or maybe I should say jump  so I have a skating pun in this post. The new skates cost considerably more than that pair I bought 10 years ago online but I have realized that you get what you pay for.

10 years ago when I bought  my current skates and skated on them for the first time, I didn’t have a clue what to do. My feet felt completely different in them and I had to adjust, which took a while. I’m worried about the same thing happening this time and that the adjustment might even be longer because of course I am 10 years older. It is possible if I want to look at this from a glass half full perspective that because these skates will fit so much better – they are a size and a half smaller and in a narrow width –  that the adjustment will take less time.

I will probably skate with them for the first time on Wednesday February 15. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

New Year News, Belatedly

I have been late in posting my plans for the new year – a month late , in fact. My main, overriding goal for 2023 is to get a book contract. In my quest to achieve that, I decided to take a class on Submission that Writer’s Digest University was offering.

I thought the class could help me develop my book proposal, so it is more appealing.  One of the class exercises has been to find books that I could use as “comps”, comparable titles, to convince an agent or publisher that my book has marketability.

The teacher set criteria for our choices which were books published two years ago or earlier and having at least 5,000 ratings on Amazon. That ratings number seems astronomical to me since I have seven ratings for Brewing Battles. Don’t judge.

I did find three books that fit the teachers’ rules and when I revise my book proposal I plan to use them.  One is Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. I am interested in this book because the misogyny that underpins scientific research is the same  misogyny the women I write about faced.

Aside from trying to get Dames, Dishes, and Degrees published, I plan to continue with my other activities – skating, swimming, recorder, and my  Jane Austen book club. I am also trying as hard as possible to stay away from Facebook and Twitter.

If it is not too late to offer, I wish everyone a happy, healthy, New Year!

 

 

U.S. Nationals

January 21, I attended Eastern Sectionals for Synchronized Skating in Norwood, MA. The competition determined who will go to Synchro nationals. I was there rooting for three teams.

My coach competes with the Skating Club of Boston’s adult Excel team. They came in second. She coaches the University of Massachusetts team and they came in 4th. Both teams will be going to nationals which is  in Peoria, March 1-4.

This summer another one of the coaches stated an Open Masters synchro team. I attended the first practice but decided not to participate. That team, River Valley Synchro, came in third, receiving a medal. They are not eligible for nationals.

This week, through Sunday, I am busy  watching  United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) Nationals. This competition determines who will go to Worlds. Since I have been consumed with skating, I haven’t been thinking about much else. As a result, I decided to forgo writing a post for today. I will be back next week with a fully developed piece.

Grand Prix Figure Skating Final

Yesterday and today, I spent a good part of my time watching the Grand Prix figure skating final. The Grand Prix series is six different skating competitions held in six different countries. The skaters who compete get points depending upon their ranking in each competition. After the six events are over, the top six skaters in each of the four skating disciplines; men and women singles, pairs, and ice dancing, compete in the final.

Watching skating has made me miss Twitter primarily because for several years while watching skating, I also followed Jackie Wong’s commentary on Twitter. When I went to Skate America, I got to speak to Jackie Wong, which was a wonderful experience. Despite wanting to see what he has to say about this current competition, I have continued to abstain from looking at Twitter.

The other time I missed Twitter was this past Tuesday when Reverend Raphael Warnock won his Georgia runoff. Again, I resisted going to Twitter to comment and instead messaged my sons and daughter-in-law about Warnock’s historic win, using WhatsApp. I will have more to say about the election in a subsequent post.

Last Friday, after I posted, I did go to Facebook and Twitter to announce that. I thought I might look at both platforms for a bit, but found it very overwhelming and I wound up not doing it. Although I thought not looking at Facebook and Twitter would free up time, that hasn’t really happened yet. Instead of looking at Twitter and Facebook, I have rediscovered games I had on my phone that I had not played in a long time. I guess the part of my brain that wants to aimlessly look at something needs filling whether it is with social media or my paint by number app.

Skate America

I am watching Skate Canada while I am writing about my attendance at Skate America last week. Both competitions are part of what is known as the Grand Prix figure skating series. The International Skating Union (ISU) sponsors this series of competitions each season.

Skate America was the first in the series and was held at the Skating Club of Boston’s beautiful facility in Norwood, Massachusetts. I was extremely excited to go to this competition for several reasons. My coach is on a synchronized skating team from Skating Club of Boston, so I was really interested to see where she skates every Monday.

I was also anticipating seeing such athletes as Ilia Malinin and Gracie Gold compete. Although it was a lot of days and sometimes the rink was frigid, I had a wonderful time. I saw Ilia complete his quadruple axle which was thrilling beyond words.

I found Gracie Gold’s performance very moving. She has shown such grace and determination in her brave attempt at a comeback. Gracie is really an inspiration to anyone who has ever suffered defeat, mental or emotional distress, or physical disabilities.

I also had several celebrity sightings and interactions which made the event even more exciting. The first day there I had a nice conversation with Jackie Wong from Rocker Skating about media coverage of skating and how  the USFSA doesn’t always appear to be aware of  the best way to maintain and grow its’ fan base.

I spoke to Ilia Malinin after he had finished his practice and before he went on to the ring to complete his competition which included his successful quadruple axle. I also had conversations with Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu. I attended the 2016 Worlds in Boston in Boston and saw Ashley Wagner when she won her silver medal, I have always been a fan of Mirai Nagasu, and it was nice to have a brief conversation with her.

The last big competition I attended was Nationals in San Jose  2018. I went with my cousin Marla who died this past June. May her memory be for a blessing.

It is always inspiring to see skating in person and Skate America was no exception. However, it was very draining so I may wait a few months or maybe a few years to attend another big competition in person.  Worlds will be in Montreal in 2024 and in Boston in 2025. Those two will probably be the next opportunities for me to go to something in person.

We came home from Skate America on Monday and tomorrow we are going on another trip. My next blog post will be November 11.

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.