I can be just a bit of a control freak. And that almost caused my skating to go off the rails. Other things caused me to only skate a few times in the past six weeks as well, shin splints, an eye infection, a spree of nausea induced head aching, Even new shoes and a blister. But what was really causing a bigger problem was my control freakishness.
Here is an example: A popular thing for blind people to do is tandem bike. Often, you go to a blind people recreational event and there will be biker volunteers with their tandems for you to climb on back of and ride away on. Its cool. But not for me. I HATE tandem biking, because I am a control freak. I hate being on the back of the bike and feeling like I have no control over where it goes, what it does, how far it leans, etc. So, what do I do? I drive the tandem. I have the (very courageous) volunteer make tactile gestures on my back for left, right, break, etc. And I drive. Now, I’m not an idiot. I wouldn’t do this on a major street with a bunch of cars and stuff. I would only do this on a bike lane that is fairly unpopulated. But still. I think driving the tandem is fun, but not being the rear person. Even better is when I have been able to ride my own bike behind or beside a person riding a bike. But I can only do this on a really easy straight route.
So, doing my lesson with Anthony kind of felt like being on the back of a tandem bike. I felt like I was being driven around. Now, I just want to say here, if any one ever reads this who knows him, I don’t think Anthony did anything wrong. This is nothing to do with him, its all my psychosis. Its a level of not being used to skating with a partner, not being able to see while someone is pushing you around the rink at a speed you aren’t used to, not being able to confidently do the steps independently of him, and not being able to control the pain in my legs I have sometimes when with someone else. Its overwhelming and I was dreading skating. I did not want to dread skating.
But I also see where Anthony could really help me out eventually, so I think if I take these things one at a time, I could get to where I am not feeling like I am on the back of a tandem bike and having a control freakout. So, I think I am getting healed with my shin splints and the time off was good for that. I still did shin/ankle/leg exercises the whole time. I think if I could do most or all of the individual steps independently then I would feel more in control when skating with him. I could also have more confidence with the speed. Then the only thing left is just getting used to the whole not seeing and skating with someone else. I think when I learn the dances better, like where I should be on the ice (I mean they are pattern dances, this is not hard) that will help and then it will all come together.
So, I’m taking a coaching break. Anthony was all cool about it so its good. I returned to skating today after only skating like…twice in the last 6 weeks and got my mojo back. I had very little pain. I mainly only worked on forward stroking and some edge stuff. I’m ready to go back to my list of basic skills and start chopping away on them. And it was my birthday today, so my motto for the year is #48skategreat!
I know in the grand scheme, no one really cares that I skate and its just a frivolous little hobby of mine. But it has been “skate therapy” in some unexpected ways. Stuff like the above comes up, where my personal anxieties and issues come in and I have to decide to deal with them or quit. Its good to push through and work outside of your comfort zone (within reason.) But other stuff is getting worked through my head as well.
I was a caregiver for disabled people for around 28 years. Most notably, I was a primary caregiver for a quadriplegic family member for 22 years. It wore my down. It screwed with my mental and physical health, it was hard on my family, but it was no one’s fault. It just was a difficult situation. Near the end of my time, I would walk over there and feel like throwing up I had such burn out. I quit in late 2016 after finding hired replacements for myself. But it was a hard adjustment I still feel like I am going through. A year after I quit, a lot of things fell apart for this man and he ended up losing his apartment and is now living in a nursing facility, which is not ideal. I feel a lot of guilt over that.
There are three reasons I am even able to skate now. One is because my kids are older and more independent, another is because my husband’s business is doing well and the work I do for him I can do on a very flexible schedule, and the third is because I am no longer a caregiver. While his life declined, mine got dramatically better. Our business got better because Nik and I were not so stressed out trying to take care of him and had more time to sleep and manage things. The kids are not so stressed either and we have more time and energy to hang with them, help them with school, etc. I was able to focus more on my health, eat, sleep and exercise more. Everything got better for me while everything got worse for him. I still see him in the nursing home regularly and we still text and stuff. I still help him out with small tasks from time to time when I can and bring him things he needs. But it is a complex emotional trip. It became one of those “put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help another” things, and I know if we kept it up, our business might have failed and my health may have more rapidly declined. And he is not helpless, much of his decline happened because of some poor choices on his part. But I see daily that it is all an awful system that he has to contend with as well that is just really really challenging to be successful in. Its just…sigh. In the last year I’ve been spending a lot of time working out stuff in my brain about the whole thing.
So, I try to keep skating as a happy place, an anxiety reducer and unclouded by controversy and drama. I want it to stay that way because it is important that I have something that can be that. I think this means that I have to take things very, very slow. No rushing into dance lessons, no rushing to gain skills when my muscles aren’t ready. I’m 48 and I can still skate. I’d like to keep it that way.
Ok, you all may have surmised that I had a little trouble getting a coach who would take me. I started at Winterhawks and didn’t even get any “no” responses, I got completely ignored. Emails and calls went unanswered. Friendly “hellos” at the rink got nervously rushed away from. So, when Anthony agreed to work with me, I was very appreciative, and I always attempt to make the newbie comfortable with me with a combination of telling them what I need for it to work but not making it be too much that I need for it to work. I try to be competent and fun to work with (hopefully) and sprinkle any education about my disabilities over time as we go to not be too overwhelming.
Last week went well. But this week was crazy bad. It was not his fault, nor too much my fault. So, my kidney illness that makes me have to count spoons manifests itself with these symptoms: headaches, nausea, kidney pain, and a lot of fatigue, in various degrees and intensities. So for the past four days, I was struggling to manage headaches, a bit of nausea and trouble eating, and fatigue. But, even though I took some Tylenol at 2:00am, I was good to go on Monday morning.
However, transit was not good to go with me.
It was fleet week in the lovely PDX area, and I skate across the river. The Willamette River, on Monday morning, was saying good bye to a bunch of navy ships that had been docked there. To do that, it needs to close down and lift up a ton of bridges. It took me two hours to get to the rink, and I ended up walking onto the ice in a hurry just one minute before my lesson was supposed to start.
Remember how last week I was happy because I took ten days off skating and thought my shin splints had all but healed? Well, without warming up both off and on the ice for my usual 45 minutes, they decided to come back with a vengeance. So, I had a trace headache, I had taken some tylenol and that always makes me woozy, I hadn’t been up in 4 or so days, I can’t see functionally at all when I skate with Anthony, and I had the worst shin splints I’d had in maybe…ever, after we started skating.
Do you know what your tylenoled, 4 days of no activity hungover, blind brain does when its being manhandled around the ice while in sharp pain? It panics and stops working altogether. He was telling me steps and left foot right foot and I was just like, “Wha?? Ow, ow, ow. Feet? Ow. Ow. Trip on toe pick, scrape, lose balance, ow.”
Here is what a smart person would have done. A) Asked the woman who has lessons after me if she would have switched times with me so I could warm up. She was RIGHT THERE, I could have asked… or B) told my coach to forget it, I’d pay him for the lesson but we either needed to quit or slow way down and just work on some really easy, basic stuff.
But instead, I just kept going in a blur of brain panic and blinding (ha!) pain because I didn’t want to be wimpy and have my needs be too overly “special” (barf) and so thus reignited my stupid shin splint pain. After the lesson, I had to get off the ice immediately and recover with skates off. I thought I would just take a break and maybe go pay for a public session so I could skate past the Hooky Club time, but when I got back on the ice, the pain was still dizzying. I even almost contemplated Uber-ing home because I thought I may die on the walk, but the billion dollar price tag encouraged me to tough out the walk. I ended up just getting back on the train after almost maybe 40 minutes of skating.
Ok, but WTF, Shins? Can’t we be friends again? I know at 47, I am not going to do as well as I used to. I know that it is more important to warm up and all that. But, really? I can’t let my illustrious ice skating career be killed by shin splints, can I? How stupid. Here is a video of a 95 year old man that skates twice a week. If he can do this, I should be able to do this, right? I’m nearly half his age! (Seriously, this is pretty cool, though.)
So, I’ve iced them. I stayed off of them for the rest of the day yesterday. Today, I went back to the Dr. Jo videos and did those series of stretches and exercises. They have improved a lot today. But I’m wondering if its something more. My skates? My orthotics? A more mechanical injury? Should I stop with lessons for a while? Should I stop skating for a while? I am completely confused as to whether I am over or under doing it. Do I actually have to go to the doctor over this? Annoying. I did go to a podiatrist years ago for my plantar fasciitis issue (which seems to be no longer a problem once I put orthotics in my skates) but I never had this much of a shin splint issue before. Someone said to try compression sleeves? I’m getting very high maintenance in my old age.
Dr. Jo (I have been using her videos a lot, lately.)
I thought I would write a little about chronic illness management, because it has come up this week and it seems to be such a tough subject for people to understand. I did not skate on Thursday because I was sick. I was not so desperately sick that I couldn’t have done it if I really wanted to, but its an issue of pacing and management and where skating sits on the priority of my life.
So, you may have heard of “Spoon Theory.” If you haven’t, it may help to go read this.
So, yeah. Only I think it is more complicated than even she makes it because for me, I don’t know how many spoons I will get a day. It could be anywhere for 5 to 50. Also,when I refer to chronic illness, I am referring to my kidney disease However, my dual sensory loss also plays a role in spoon management. The same task may vary greatly in amount of spoons it takes based on how well my vision and hearing is accommodated. Say I go to a social event. It is an event with a bunch of blind people so all my blindness needs are met, and since they are disability savvy, they are better than average but not perfect about my hearing. That event will take much less spoons than an event that is not disability aware, just everyday people. In this event, NO ONE is going to tell me who they are, where the food is, what is going on, they will point and say things like “over there, ” I will have to go to them because most will be too afraid to talk to me, and when I do, I will have to answer a bunch of monotonous questions about disability and go into “education” mode even though I would much rather talk about other things. This event will take maybe triple or quadruple the spoons of the disability aware event. The other thing that is more complex is that I don’t necessarily start with a fresh supply of spoons every morning. If I used too many spoons yesterday, I may have less today. If I decide to use too many today, I may be borrowing them from tomorrow. Its complicated.
Here are some of the things I do to try to make sure spoon management is more of a physical thing to deal with than an emotional stressor:
I put things into categories. I’m lucky that I rarely have too many days where I can do absolutely nothing. So, I can arrange to do things from a less demanding category or a more demanding one based on my level of energy. For example, most desk work, I can do unless I feel so shitty I can’t concentrate. So, there is always something I can usually do to make myself more productive at home.
I don’t think of sick days as days where I am just waiting it out getting better. I know that there will be a time when there is no more “waiting it out.” This is it. I don’t waste days being sick. So, I have a running list of tasks in all different spoon categories. There are always low spoon tasks. And even if I can’t do a whole day of low spoon tasks, I could do one…or two, or three. At the very least, I can hug my kid or my dog or my husband and try to be a good family member for a few minutes. Then I have not wasted a day.
I have back up plans and more back up plans. Life for myself, nor my kids or others should not stop if I’m sick. It may be rearranged, but there should be no wait around to get better type of things.
This is important when making commitments which is almost impossible to do when you have a chronic illness. Its scary. So, I give people advance warning and I tell them what my back up plans are. For example, every term I have to volunteer for 4 hours for my kid’s school to get a tuition break. I tell them upfront about my situation. I pick three things on three different days to do. I prepare substitutes for myself. And then I will be able to get one of those days done without too much letting people down. In college, I would talk to professors at the beginning of the term and say I may be here for ever class or I may miss too many classes. Lets negotiate what I can do if I miss too many. How many is too many? What alternative assignments or learning can I do to make up for missed days? It worked so much better to do that upfront.
If I do commit to something that absolutely cannot be changed. There is about an 85% chance that I can push through it no matter what. But then I make sure that there is recovery time both before and afterwards. I would schedule easy days around it.
I don’t listen to any kind of talk about my being “not sick enough” or “too lazy” or any of that shit. I and only I decide what I am well enough to do. No one else can judge me. I see what other people call “sick” and its bullshit. People who are well all year and then get a cold and take off a week and whine about it. The same holds true if they say “You are too sick to participate.” Chronic Kidney Disease is not contagious. Only I decide if I’m too sick to participate in something. I know I’ve done way more sick than they’ve ever done, so its just impossible for others to judge you appropriately. I try to do my part to lessen any impact on others if I can’t do something, but that is where my responsibility ends.
I also have a responsibility to take care of my health and try to work at as full capacity as possible whether that means going to the doctor, eating the right foods or understanding how to use Braille with a computer or finding a communication method that works. But I also understand that these things are ever changing, my body is ever changing, science is ever changing, and there is no way to always know the best way to take care of and manage my disabilities at all times. I do my best to keep up with it all, I’m not perfect, and I’m not going to feel bad about not being perfect.
I understand and appreciate the concept of partial participation. With skating, I know that I cannot skate every day, do every class, competition, test, etc. I appreciate what I can do and don’t have an all or nothing attitude about anything. I try my best and measure myself against that and not what others can do. Doing a part of something is better than doing nothing at all.
I prioritize based on my own priorities as much as possible, not others. Its not always possible. There are some bullshit things you have to do in life, like paying my water bill every two months by hand because the stupid water company won’t let me set up auto billing. Its stupid, but no water in the house is a very bad thing, so I do it, (fortunately its on my easy list.) But many, many other things do not have to be done, nor done by ME. This sometimes means my house is messy or the kids are eating McDonalds food. But my priority is that my kids get fed, healthcared, educated, and feel included and loved at home. How I do that is sometimes fantastic and sometimes (McDonalds) just getting by.
I am extremely lucky to have been able to set up a very flexible schedule for myself where we still earn enough money for the necessities of life (largely thanks to my husband, who is a workhorse and entirely supportive of me.) I know that this is difficult and not everyone can do this. But more and more work is getting more flexible and things like telecommuting, gig economy, work-life balance programs can help with this. As much as humanly possible, I’ve tried to build a life where my disabilities and illness are not obstacles but can be used as strengths. I am lucky to have several outlets where I can help my husband earn money, help other people, be creative and have a meaningful life even with disability and sickness. There are sacrifices to this. I could have had a more prestigious career, made more money, etc. But really? Perhaps not if I was always failing because I was sick all the time or unaccommodated and killing myself to make it in a full-time working world.
I know that life is precious, at any time an instant could change your whole life, and there is only so much in my control. I try to make the best of what I have control over and forget the rest. I have a good inner core about who I am and what I can do. I don’t get concerned with who I am not or what I can’t do. I try to just expand upon what I can do and who I am. We are all in a decline, I know that there will be day I can no longer skate or remember who I am or fill-in-the-blank here. I can’t be scared about that. I can take advantage of what I can do today.
Whining is extremely irritating to me. I try not to do it (much.)
None of this ever works perfectly nor do I always have the perfect attitude about it. But it tends to balance out in the end. I come back to this core. I was disappointed to have missed Thursday skating, I would have rather gone and done my group lesson (Its been three weeks!) But I did some other things and that day is done. I can’t get hung up on it. And I plan to go back Monday and so I am still a skater.
I’ve often said, oh-big deal about being Deafblind, but CKD is kicking me in the ass and making me feel like I can’t be who I want to be. It has been what feels like an “impairment” vs. the other stuff which just felt like an identity that has brought me more good than bad. I’ve often wondered why I can’t seem to look at CKD in the same light as my sensory disabilities. And…I finally think I’m starting to a bit more. This is who I am. I can do this today. I can’t do this today, maybe tomorrow. I’m not going to feel bad about it or apologize to anyone for it. I’m doing as much as I can and that’s enough. That’s me.
I have a confession. I was so unmotivated and disappointed by the skate I did at Winterhawks on 5/25 that I just wanted to quit this whole thing. I was in constant pain, I look like shit. The Winterhawks people seem to barely tolerate my existence. I have a busy life which is filled with work, kids, a loving husband and friends. Why am I making more problems for myself when my whole point in this was to feel better. Here is some video from that session which i did not want to show, but why not? (Someday I will actually show improvement and this will be the sad “before”….I hope?)
So last week I did nothing. I did not skate for ten days. I think I might have done 1 Daily Burn and maybe a few walks and only worked out for like, 2:30 hours. Then, I remembered that I have two paid skating sessions left with the Hooky Club as well as an appointment with my new coach. I should keep the appointment, use my last two sessions, and see how it goes.
It went great! First of all, I think the ten days off helped my shin splints heal. I had almost NO pain today. I did not even take off my skates and they felt pretty good. It was really the first time that throughout the whole session, I didn’t have pain. I did feel a bit out of breath, but that was probably more to do with the fact that I literally did almost nothing for ten days physically.
OK, so coaching. My coach was a dancer, and he almost immediately launched in to teaching me the dutch waltz. Which we did in parts together with the Killian hold. Except for that one time I practiced with a precision team, this was the first time I skated with another human where I have to keep together with him. Now, He was giving me A LOT of support, and I’m sure I looked just as bad as that video if not worse. But! I felt the familiar edges, The muscle memory of some of those steps started kicking in, I don’t have the muscle and balance ability to hold those positions on my own, but with his support I was able to get the feel for them. It was challenging and fun.
And a bit scary. Speed has always been a problem, and although I am sure he was slowing way down for me, I was going his speed. Visually it was a bit overwhelming. I could not orient myself at that speed. Then he would say stuff like, “left foot toward the center or the wall” and I would be like, “I have no idea where I am in space and time, I don’t know where the wall is!” I think that will get better when I’m not so freaked out about thinking about what steps I am doing, keeping balanced, and going so fast. Although I could still see a bit of light and color, that was really skating blind. Everything was just whipping by in a blur that I could not cognitively/visually interpret.
So, if I skate with a partner, I suppose that would be the easiest way to accommodate this. As a kid, I knew that I could never compete because of figures. I couldn’t see them. I did test in freestyle a bit, but that was it. Back then, it never occurred to me to try pairs or ice dance. That was for older adults. And Ice Dance, well, it was for Russians! There was not ice dance in the US (I thought). Although clearly JoAnn Schneider Farris proves me wrong, she was totally ice dancing then with a whole US team at the Broadmoor. In my twenties, I wanted to learn ice dance but I could not find a coach or partner. Partners for women are rare, especially for ones who are already in their twenties and just starting. The adult competitive scene was just getting started then and was not developed as it is now.
So now, I just figured I would learn solo dance because that has developed a lot in adult in the past twenty years. But now I recently found out that at the lower levels, you can dance with your coach as partner. Hmmmm, maybe this is the way to get past my speed problem. Dancing with your coach is expensive, as you have to pay all the expenses instead of splitting them, but it might be something to think about.
My husband, Nik, said he wants to learn ice dance with me. And although he CAN skate–he is Swedish Canadian so he was practically born with skates on–he is totally blind so would not be able to serve that role as guide. We could do it, and we might just for fun. But the bigger problem is that he really doesn’t get how much work and dedication it takes and he doesn’t have the time when ice is available. Besides, my plot to get him on the water in his own sport seems to be working. He is really liking rowing. (Here is a video of him on the dragon boat. He is the very last rower in the boat in the forefront that is moving ahead.)
So, I think I have recovered from my funk. And I think it might have been a good thing to take the time off. I had been skating in pain for over two months. Maybe things just needed time to heal. So, this week the plan is to skate today and Thursday, Finish up the last of my “Daily Burn: True Beginner 8 week program” which has taken me significantly longer than 8 weeks, and work up to heading back to the gym. This week and next week have lots of end of school year obligations and event for the kids and then we have dragon boat races on the weekend to go to! (He trains for 6 weeks and he already gets to race in a top-tier boat! I spend 12 weeks just trying to get my skates to feel ok. Ice Skating is a hard sport, you guys.)
I’ve been feeling blah about skating since Friday when I skated at Winterhawks for likely the last time until fall. They don’t offer that morning session in the summer and they were not very forthcoming towards working with me on any other possibilities. (I mean, maybe there aren’t really any, which is fine, but it would be nice if my questions were answered.) That rink! It seems to have such a tense and no fun atmosphere and people tend to be really territorial. Its like no other rink I’ve skated at, which all have their little quirks. I haven’t really been there that much, so maybe if I went a different time it would be more lively, but WOW people don’t seem very friendly there. I mean, even if you think I am a lousy, non-serious skater that takes up space, my kid and I are still paying customers and could be brought in to take classes, find a coach, join the skating club, volunteer, etc. Its just night and day different from the atmosphere at Lloyd or the old Clackamas. I wonder how much of this has to do with the lack of ice in this town. People may just feel really pressured to make use of the ice when they have it? I mean, I don’t expect social hour, I’m there to work, too. But a friendly hello would go a long way. There have been a few people there who have been friendly, but there are some that go out of their way to avoid us.
Now, I’m not blaming the rink for this, but I was absolutely terrible on the ice that day. I figure I was about 30% worse than I am at Lloyd. I have a snippet of video that I don’t even want to put up because I look timid, awkward and SLOOOOW. So, so very slow. Part of it is that I think because of the cold it takes longer to warm up there for me (and in general it takes longer to warm up now that I’m old.) The ice is colder, hockey ice so it feels different, and also–and this is probably most to blame–I’m so intimidated there! I know that there are about 6 people there skating around at top speed who basically are going to do a triple on my face before they adjust course for me. I do, I really do try to stay out of their way. I try to stay to the outside, give them the right of way, etc. But its very difficult. Since they treat the public session like a freestyle session, they aren’t staying to the middle like I would have in my day. The coaches station themselves around the penalty boxes, and the students come and go to them. I’m more used to the coaches coming to the middle with you and not having this horizontal disruption in the flow of traffic. Back and forth, back and forth. I love the space there and the standard ice size, but its hard going for me. I feel like I”m constantly having to slow down or not even get started on anything because it is so intimidating.
In better news, I have a potential coach at Lloyd! We will call him A. I don’t start with him for another week yet but he was a senior national level ice dancer in the early 90s, so I am excited that I found someone with a dance background. The other person I was looking at, R, I knew from before a bit. I think she is a great coach, all business, goal oriented, and very talented, but I remember her not really knowing dance. She was a freestyle skater. So, I’d be happy with either one, but I am going to try A and see if it is a good fit. My Mondays at Lloyd were feeling a bit wasted, and I wanted to pick it up a notch. Although I have said many times that I don’t have delusions of grandeur, I also don’t plan to skate around in endless circles, either. I don’t know how far I can really go, but I am going somewhere. I need goals to work toward…testing, skills, local competitions, something.
So, I did meet all of my goals this week. My total exercise time was 6 hours and 40 minutes. I skated two days and worked out the other days, did my outside walks, and 3 Daily Burns and also skating specific off-ice workouts. The only thing I did not accomplish was the renal dietitian because she doesn’t work there anymore and they don’t have a new one yet. So instead I went back to the DaVita site (I’m not the biggest fan of the for-profit DaVita. I always kind of feel like they might steer me wrong so that I get on dialysis sooner. But it is kind of the only game in town.) Anyway, DaVita has a lot of meal planning, recipes and health tracker for people with CKD, and its always good to review and refresh.
This made me happy: Midori Ito, 1992 Olympic silver medalist, skated at the ISU Adult International competition in Germany last month. I got my description of her performance via Dave Lease (from The Skating Lesson) and he was…not so complementary about her. Her spins traveled, no extension, no jumps, etc. But (except for the jumps) that was kind of how she always skated, wasn’t it? Anyway, She is a year older than me and Dave’s Co-host, Jonathan Beyer, complimented her on her obvious exuberance for the sport and her joy in being there. She always seemed like a nice, fun person. So, I’m happy to see that she skated in the Adult competition (Master Elite II, which is senior level skaters with past national and international medals who are between 40-50, I think??? The Adult categories are complex.) The camaraderie around adult skating has always been fun for me, as long as you are out there doing your best, people are happy for you, and so I’m happy for Midori.
I’ve decided that even though I’ve been griping a lot, I’m doing really good. I’ve skated 12 times in the last 6-7 weeks after an almost virtual 15 year hiatus. Four of those times were in old, ill-fitting skates and the rest were with breaking in new skates. And I’m well within working through the first 4 classes in the Adult Basic Skills Series. I’d give myself approximately another couple of months to work through the rest? Hopefully that isn’t getting too ambitious. The last half is much harder than the first. I’m already playing around with next steps which I think will be starting Moves in the Field and Pattern dances.
On Thursday, my skates were doing much better. I only took them off once, and even then, I was contemplating whether I needed to. I still have shin pain, but nearly no foot pain. By the time I did the group class, I was in awe of the fact that my feet and legs barely hurt! And you can accomplish so much more when not skating in pain. I can do pretty much everything they have us do in the group class (although some is not so neat. And some I modify to fit my level a bit.) I worked on edges, chasses, short (easy) footwork sequences, and stroking. My leg unevenness is improving a lot.
I skated both Monday and Wednesday. Fitbit says my total work out time this week was 5 hours and 33 minutes. I did a lot of walking this weekend, and then some Daily Burn and Fitbit Coach videos on the off days, along with stretching. I still have some stretching left to do today, so that will add another 20-30 minutes or so to the total.
I did get into contact with Jo Ann Schneider Farris so I was excited about that. We have exchanged a few emails and she put my review up on her blog. Its always fun to connect with other skaters and authors and just people who are enthusiastic about life.
I also reconnected with two of my skating friends from before. I had a substitute coach and I KNEW I knew her from before and I figured out that she was my old friend’s coach. So, I had been thinking about them anyway and decided to see if we could connect, and we did! One of them has now (oh, what is the appropriate wording????) changed? from male to female. I have not seen her since and all my memories are of her being male. I’m all cool with it and it was not that surprising to me, really, when I heard. (Weirdly, I was probably more surprised when the other friend got married to someone he met on the internet! Heh.) But I still find myself saying her male name and pronouns so I am trying to correct myself. I was talking to Nik (husband) about her and I kept switching back and forth and he was laughing at me. I know other transgender people and I don’t have this trouble with them. I think it is just mostly because I haven’t seen her in so long and all my memories are of her identifying as male. We may all three of us meet up (people live a bit further from each other and are much further away from skating life, so we’ll see if we get it together to meet up) but I will get myself straight by then and it would be fun to see them again if only every once in a great while.
Anyway, did I say how excited I am that my skates are getting better? Also, I’m getting into a groove with my other responsibilities and working around skating. I’m not falling asleep so much all the time now, either.
So, this week:
Skate two times. Continue to work through the list of basic elements.
Concentrate on Cardio and ankle-leg strength three days.
Try to make an appointment with my nephrologist dietician. I want to see what she says about my leg fatigue and anything else she thinks about my diet. Its been a couple of years since I’ve seen her.
I’m still trying to work my way back to the gym and work on more pilates/core. I think it will come in summer, because my school responsibilities will be less and the kids will want to get out and swim and stuff. School ends in about three or so weeks.)
I’d like to hit Valley/Winterhawks one more time before school is out as well. I like to make them remember I still exist every once in a while and see if I can become a bit of a fixture there. But I’m thinking I’m going to be cut off over the summer due to the kids at public session. My Lloyd Ladies will be my saving grace over the summer, I think.
I first came into contact with Joann Schneider Farris when she wrote this story about me for About.com, which has now seemed to change to Thought Company. At the time she contacted me–I think it was about 2006 or 2007–I was about as far away from skating as I could be and up to my eyeballs in being a single mother of twin toddlers. Also, I got her confused with someone else. A middle school kid had contacted me because she was doing a story on disabled athletes. She had also contacted Eve Chalom, a Deaf skater (and much, much, much more successful than I ever was) so I answered her questions but kind of felt like an imposter. I was not in Eve Chalom’s league at all. Anyway, I think I got her and Joann mixed up, and so I really wasn’t aware that Joann was going to write an article about me to be put on the internet.
But I am going to try an find out how to contact her and thank her now, because that article has come up in my life several times and has helped me out! I think it has come up twice in job interviews, when the employer had obviously done a search on me.
“So, you are a figure skater?”
“Oh, (laugh) in a past life. Just recreationally.”
“Tell me about that experience.”
It was a fun and more relaxed way to bring up disability and how to work out problems. Legally, employers cannot ask about your disability in the interview process, but you know if they don’t, there are just so many unanswered questions in the air it becomes a massive elephant in the room. Then you have to try to answer the questions you think they have without acting too obvious about it. The figure skating article allowed me to talk about what it is like to be a Deafblind skater, how people reacted to me, misconceptions I had to dispel, different ways I got around and worked with my disability, etc. Along with just the usual stuff people like to hear in interviews like working towards goals, working with others, being well-rounded, etc. (I think I got both jobs!)
The article also helped me just this past April when I was rink shopping and buying new skates. People really don’t know how to take a middle aged woman who walks in to their rink or pro shop with a guide dog and says she wants to skate. “I can skate. I’ve skated before. Look me up, you’ll see…” I think my experience at Valley has been helped by that article (though its still a work in progress.)
I had seen Joann’s name around and about figure skating over the years, but when I was looking up the Dorothy Hamill book (Similarly called “A Skating Life” which I wrote about here) Joann’s My Skating Life also came up. I bought it off Kindle and read it on the train to the rink with voiceover. I only read it while on my hour long trip back and forth to the rink, so it took me weeks to read it. It became a little tradition. I would get up and be reluctant to go, but I knew if I could just get dressed and get to the train station, Joann would be with me the rest of the way! Then all was good and I was motivated to go. It made the long ride enjoyable.
The book is very long and detailed and really focus’s on skating and just skating. There is a lot of detail of places, names, competitions, etc. that I will not remember exactly right here, but it really does take you on a 50 year skating journey from the 60s to now. It could be roughly divided into four parts: her amateur career growing up, her coaching career, her children’s competitive career, and her journalism career after her kids were mostly grown. I am going to write a few impressions about each section.
This was probably my favorite part of the book because her childhood was very different than my own. It was her father’s love of skating who got her and her two siblings into skating. It did not sound like a “skate parent nightmare” type scenario. I believe her sister quit after a few years because it wasn’t her thing. But the stories of her father sharing his love for the sport with his children were quite sweet.
One lesson I had to learn as an adult that was really difficult as a child was that its ok to just try things or go as far as you can with them even if you aren’t going to be great at it and even if it doesn’t directly hold any monetary/career value for you. I was told the day I started skating that I was never going to be good enough to be an Olympian. And although this was very likely true, so what? Everything seemed so all or nothing in my family. You concentrated on school, you did your housework. Anything else was completely trivialized. It seemed that Joann’s family (her father was a doctor at a university) had way more money than mine did, and I know that my family simply never could have pulled off what hers did, but even so, it would have been nice to know that its ok to like skating, or singing, or music or dancing or art or anything and just do it for the love of doing it as you are able. It doesn’t all have to be monetized and utilized in some way that will advance your career. (And even so, skating did end up advancing my career a bit!) Its ok to do something even if it is going to take a ton of work, even if you will never be the best at it. It can help and motivate you in a lot of other ways and bring value to your life. This, I did not learn until adulthood and I think I missed many opportunities because of it. Even though Joann’s family was much more serious than just “doing it for fun” I think they had this spirit in mind.
Which leads to my next thought: Oh, my GOD is it hard to get to Nationals of any level! These people worked their asses off and went chasing down many hours of ice all over the LA area everyday, and still only made it to Nationals once (and then not senior level, IIRC). There was driving around to three or four different rinks, there was skating at midnight to 4:00am, there was traveling to camps, there were high level coaches and still…the people who make it to nationals are few and far between. Her brother did make it quite a few times, but so much of this is just talent, luck, and timing.
Her family went on ice skating vacations. They would go to camps in skating meccas like Squaw Valley, Lake Placid or Colorado Springs. The descriptions of these places were fun to read. And Juli McKinstry’s, my first skating coach’s–name came up again. Apparently Juli’s mother pretty much had a skaters boarding house in Squaw Valley and those kids were known as McKinstry Kids. Joann was a McKinstry kid. And here again, it was nice to read about regular people (not the superstars) of skating. The difference in abilities and effort between McKinstry and Dorothy Hamill was probably minimal (she had beat Dorothy and come in second behind her on a few occasions), but look at the differences their lives took. It shows how even when you do not become a skating superstar, you (and your family) can still greatly impact the sport.
It was fun to hear about all of these rinks in LA that they drove to when they were chasing down the ice, especially the Paramount Ice Rink where the first zamboni was invented. The descriptions of the pipe organ and the big ice and everything made you feel like a part of the culture there. All the driving made me feel like my hour long commute to ice is not so unreasonable.
Her descriptions of the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs led me to watching the 1978 movie Ice Castles again (it was filmed at the Broadmoor). I haven’t seen it in decades. The funny thing about that movie was when I saw it as a kid, the fact that the main character went blind went completely over my head. I thought she had to start over again because her coach was mad at her because she did something wrong. I totally missed the fact that she couldn’t see and that THIS was the problem, because I couldn’t see either and I missed the parts (or misunderstood) the parts where they showed her seeing blurry. To me, that was like, so what? It wasn’t until years later when people started calling me Lexie that I had it explained to me and got it.
It was fun to see how she developed into a coach and how versatile she became. One of my favorite images was when she talked about being very pregnant and skating around on hockey skates at a PSA conference to test for her Hockey Coach certification. She could pretty much teach it all. I liked how she seemed to teach her adults and Learn to Skate group classes with the same amount of enjoyment as her private, better skaters. I sometimes felt like I was wasting my coaches time (or they thought that) because I was never going to be elite and great. But she got into, again, just the joy of people skating at whatever level. She branched off into roller and inline skating and coaching as well. I’ve only inline skated once, it is similar to ice skating and I could skate ok. I also now totally want to try sled dogs, which are a type of ski boot that has a very short ski-type sole on the bottom that skaters are supposed to transition easily with. Skis seem so cumbersome, but I felt like Id like to just jump in and try these. I bring this up because I had never heard of them before reading this book (also need to look up Pic Skates!) Joann did anything that glided as an adult. Roller, ice, ski, sled, scooter. You name it, if it glides and balances on your legs, she was on it.
She worked for several Ice Capades Chalets, and it was interesting to see that sort of corporate philosophy in action. When I skated at Clackamas Town Center, it was an Ice Chalet (previously owned by Ice Capades, then owned by Dorothy Hamill when she owned Ice Capades, and then somehow was just an Ice Chalet, which was a chain). A lot of what she said about how Ice Capades Chalets worked was similar to my Ice Chalet. The emphasis on ISI and Learn to Skate, the uniformed jackets the coaches wore, the low level competitions, the setting up your month long calendar for freestyle sessions and then getting tickets for lessons was all stuff I was familiar with.
As was the precariousness of the ice. It seems like rinks open and rinks close but its hard for them to stay around. Ice Chalet is gone. Mountain View Ice Arena is going soon, Lloyd is barely a rink anymore, and Winterhawks remains but probably largely due to the hockey team. For such a big metro area as Portland is, there is a scarcity (or ice famine as she called it) of ice. It seems like this is happening everywhere, all the time. (Except, she later explains, Canada, where 8 sheet rinks were common. So Jealous!)
Third Generation Skaters
What is interesting about her kids is that they just seemed to organically become ice skaters because they just grew up on the ice with her as she coached. My son Naim has taken a lesson or two and is ok on the ice, but he doesn’t have a strong passion for it. My other two kids show no interest. I wanted to give them the experiences that I missed out on. It didn’t have to be ice skating, it could have been another sport or music or art or something. So, I try to expose them to different things over the years, but nothing really sticks. Its an interesting concept to figure out how much to push (and how much you logistically can push.) Naim wanted to do soccer, but I just couldn’t handle the transportation to all the games. But if I worked on the ice like she did, if it was right in front of them, would they have taken to it? (or something else?) Like many kids, my kids are into electronics and screens. But then, we work with electronics and screens professionally, its what is in front of them. Is that why? I don’t think she pushed her kids into skating, its what they breathed in that family. Her 3 generations of family (Her father, her brother and herself and her children) supposedly have earned the most Gold Medals of any family in the USFS. (Gold Medals as defined as testing at the top/senior level, not gold medals won in competitions.) I have a blind friend whose father was an auto mechanic and now he is an auto mechanic even though he can’t drive a car. Its funny what influence you have as a parent that you don’t even think about. We teach adaptive technology and ALL of our kids use voiceover and other adaptive technology even thought they don’t really need to. They just naturally fit it into their lives.
Also interesting is that she homeschool’s her kids and so do I. It sort of came naturally to me, as it seemed to her. As a skater, I imagine she saw many different types of schooling and she saw the advantage of flexibility of homeschooling (as did I). It does become a lifestyle, more than just a “thing you do” or an education choice. It does give a lot of opportunity for pursuing interests on a greater level. It was fun to see her kids move through the skating ranks.
And I haven’t mentioned ice dancing, which is featured thought out the book as she was an ice dancer and so was her dad and kids. I didn’t really even know what ice dancing was as a kid until the 80s when I was fascinated with Natalia Bestemianova and Andre Bukin, it wasn’t so much an idolization as a total “can’t look away” awe of them. WHAT are they DOING? I never thought ice dancing was for me until I was an adult and I actually tried it. It is hard and it is fun! Its mentally and physically challenging. I also found it something that I could really work to improve, especially now when jumps are out of the question. Its interesting that when I was a kid I knew of no other kid who ice danced. But Joann did and so did her kids. I think it is becoming more popular as the US does well in it and people like the Shibutani’s have popularized it to a younger generation. I also wonder if more parents would rather have their kids do ice dance because it is not so harmful for your body as jumping. It really is sort of the soul of figure skating (after figures, I suppose.)
A tragedy in the family brought her coaching career to a slow stop. Although after some time, they were able to recover from the tragedy, I empathized with how caregiving a disabled family member can change everything and wear you down. I have also had to figure out how I could make ends meet by finding work at home and flexible hours. I was a caregiver for a quadriplegic for 22 years. One of the main reasons I can skate now is that I am no longer the primary caregiver of my family member (although we are still in contact and I sometimes do small things on his behalf). Skating to me still feels like a luxury that I struggle to be able to justify, but for her family, it was such an integral part of their whole family’s life that it would be quite an adjustment to give it up.
Her about.com gig was pretty sweet. I think she is a very knowledgeable and thorough writer, but not so much the best writer as a craft. (I wished I could have put her book through an editor. Its not necessary to tell us every time you mention USFS that it used to be called USFSA. Only the first time is necessary. And after you say that getting a (testing) gold medal is like earning a Ph.D. in figure skating, it is unnecessary to say it ten more times. And she also really likes to use “quotes” when they are not needed. Does something feel “normal” or does it feel normal? I think you meant that it feels normal without a bit of irony there, so its really ok to say that without quotes. But we all have our writing quirks. God knows I am in desperate need of editing, myself.)
In any case, it was fun to read about her trip to the Vancouver Olympics. Around that time (2010), we were really close to moving there and had a job lined up and almost had a place to live. We took a few trips there and I poured over maps and learned all the public transportation lines. When we went, it was after the Olympics, so it wasn’t quite the madhouse she describes, but still it was fun to read about all the places I had gone and to be like “I’ve eaten fast food in that mall! I’ve gotten off at that sky train stop!)
Overall, this book is probably a skater’s skater book. Its probably a little too tedious for the average reader to sink into. But if you want to learn more about how most skaters live, not just the famous ones, this is a good book. I really enjoyed reading about a person whose life has revolved around skating even though she is not a superstar and has not won a ton of medals. This is the reality for 99% of the skating community. And it is a natural community that I have found pieces of throughout my life. People like Joann are greatly responsible for holding it together so well. The book has a lot of fun links (the Kindle version, at least) so you can actually click and link to the exact program or concept or person she is talking about (many of her About.com articles are linked.)
Skating is a joyful activity that has a lot of positive by-products such as physical fitness, creative outlet, musical enjoyment, perseverance, courage, friendship, community, etc. If there is anyone who has taken her love for the sport far beyond what anyone might have thought it could be (and do it without a bunch of gold medals) it is Joann. She has really taken advantage of everything it could offer her and her family and taken it as far as anyone could go. I can only strive for that kind of enthusiasm and perseverance that she has.
Here is a new thing I am trying. I forget what to work on when I’m on the ice. I have an app that shows descriptions of the skills in the Adult Basic Series. I transferred those to a google spreadsheet which is more accessible to me. So, I’ll keep a running list of my progress there. I’m not quite sure how it will work to share the document, so experimenting here. But at least I have it for myself now!
Last week was a week with a lot of sickish days. I only got one skate in and exercised 5 days total. I also had a light rail delay problem so it made it harder to get to the rink and back in a reasonable amount of time. Mornings are hard for me because I always wake up feeling nauseous, headachy, and unable to eat much. Often I have to work out the night’s worth of toxins or whatnot that your kidney’s usually filter. I take a medication in the morning that gets that process started, but it can take a few hours for it to work. One of the main reasons I decided I probably needed to work from home was because of this issue. Its hard to get up and work by 8:00am when you know you are going to be barfy, yet hungry and want to pee every five minutes for the first 2-3 hours of your day. Skating is not particularly early (I usually leave around 8:20ish) but it is a challenge those first few hours. I remember when I skated at 6:00am!
So, Monday just wasn’t happening. I did skate Thursday for the first time with the superfeet inserts in. I think they helped! Before I was dealing with plantar cramping and shin splints. This time it was only shin splints. An improvement! Also, by the time the group lesson rolled around (we had a sub) my skates felt pretty good. The sub had us doing a bit of simple synchro, which was fun. She wanted to know if we were doing the “Fourth of July Show” and they said that there were too many new people (raises hand), but she had us doing some line skating anyway.
I once joined a synchro team for a practice when I could skate well. I thought it would be easy because I watched them and I could do every thing they did. However, its a whole different ball game when you have to skate at a pace and timing not your own. Also being connected to people feels weird and it feels like you are getting pulled in different directions at once. I must not have liked it too much because I never joined the team. I had a new appreciation for how hard it is, though.
I really, really wanted to skate Friday at Valley, but my kids had a field trip and there would be no one to watch my littlest guy. And he doesn’t like to skate. : ( But then I did off ice training at home and I could tell my legs were really tired so it was probably for the best. I’m not yet ready to skate without a day or so in between.
I was sick the entire day yesterday. Very bad headache and then just dizzy and low BP all day. It always amazes me that I can go skate for two hours one day and then I can’t walk to the bathroom without looking like an 90 year old woman the next. I had to take breaks! Ugh! I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it today to the rink, but I did. I felt really nauseous on the way to the train but it got better on the ride.
I finished reading the JoAnne Schneider Farris book called “A Skating Life” on this trip. I have been reading skating stuff on my hour long train rides. I’m going to make a post about that book, but not today. This book took me weeks and weeks. I’m going to miss it, I will have to find something new for the train now.
Today, I worked on forward outside edges, two foot turns, stroking, and forward and back 1/2 swizzles on a circle (prepping the muscles to work on crossovers.) Here is the deal, it took forever to warm up and get the pain out of my legs, I still take small skate breaks where I take the skates off for a few minutes, but it IS getting better (with the boots) and I am getting better. Its just slow, slow, slow. Every single time I skate I improve, but its incremental. About the time my feet/legs really start feeling good, they are tired out, so its a balance. I’m hoping with some work on stamina and taking breaks in between skate sessions, I will shorten my warm-up time and lengthen my “good to skate” time.
It is extremely hard to set goals when you are dealing with chronic illness. I did not meet all of my goals last week, but I am happy with what I was able to do. It has become a day-by-day thing and my main goal is to keep going. #keepgettingup as they say. There are days that are a total bust, like yesterday. I barely made it outside where my kids had planned a picnic. It even got moved from the park down the street to my backyard. There are days when you can’t do all you want to do, but you can modify it and do something. And then there are days when you defy your own expectations, like Thursday when I was able to find a different bus to take, walk an extra 1/2 mile, do the group lesson (with synchro!) work a bit on edges, walk an extra 1/2 mile to find yet a different bus, come home and stay awake all afternoon and get other stuff done. So, the goal is to be able to see the differences between these days and take them as they come.
I’ve been so focused on skating, I think I am driving everyone nuts, but it does help my anxiety if nothing else then my giving me different anxiety. And this is sort of a grateful anxiety if that even makes sense, because–I don’t HAVE to do any of this. I’m lucky that I can worry about boot break-in or whether I’m improving my edge quality and all that type of thing. Its a relief a lot of times to just worry about this kind of stuff that really has hardly any consequence to anyone else but myself. I’m working it out.
I’m pushing nearly 50 and I have kidney disease. As annoying as that is, that is my reality that I have to accept. Its ok, I was never under delusions of grandeur, here. (Ok, after seeing stuff on Facebook about USFS Adult Nationals, I did secretly want to go…but even if I skated well enough for that, then we get into both money and time. You have to FLY to both sectionals and if you make it, nationals and pay for hotel rooms, your coach, etc. Again, reality is annoying. But it does look like they have a lot of fun.)
All this is to say that I’ve hit a bit of a wall and it will not stop me, but it has slowed me down. It hasn’t even slowed me down…its just slowed my expectations down. So, its more accurate to say that my skating didn’t really hit a wall, my brain did. This is a management and strategy issue, as are most things related to getting shit done while disabled. I’m still improving, just at a much, much slower level than I expected. By seven or 8 weeks, I thought I’d have a lot of things back already. Nope. Still working on boot comfort and stroking.
This week, I decided to not skate Monday because I wanted to go to the pro shop on Friday and get my blades mounted the rest of the way and talk about boot adjustments. So, the pro shop is next to the Valley rink, and I can only skate there on Fridays. So, I did Pilates Tuesday, then skated with a group lesson on Thursday (lessons always make me work harder) and then skated again on Friday. By Friday, my legs were literally going to stop working. I had to take more breaks than I wanted to.
This leg fatigue I’ve never had before quite like this. Its a CKD thing. Its when the large muscles in your legs don’t get enough oxygen and protein to recover and they literally shut down. I would stop about 5 minutes before they had me splayed on the ice requiring me to slither off like a floppy fish in shame, but its a weird feeling. Its like, you can tell your legs to move, and they ain’t gonna do it. They just don’t have the juice. When skating, your legs are in a continuous squat or lunge type position since everything in skating is done with bent knees. I’ve been doing basically constant squats for up to two hours at a time. When I skated two days in a row, my legs couldn’t take it. They just started to shut down. After I dumped my skates off, I didn’t even think I could go home if I wanted to. So, I went to a nearby Italian place and had a big piece of chicken and some vegetables. Then I sat in the rink and rested and drank lots of water and watched the hockey guys practice for a bit. By that time, I could make it home, but was still pretty tired. I did nothing on Saturday except I did have to walk a bit at an event my kids wanted to go to. It didn’t feel great. Today I did nothing but stretched a bit.
I haven’t slept at home after working out, but some days I’m really just pushing myself to stay awake and I don’t get much done. So, this week and for the next few weeks, I will be “dialing it back.”
So this week, here is the tentative plan:
I’m no longer going to do Pilates Reformer. Its not just the class, its the whole trip. I may go back to it later, but for now, I’m putting it aside.
I’m going to skate for just an hour two days this week, and not two days in a row! The light rail is a mess this week, so I’m not yet sure which days. I can avoid the light rail mess if I go to valley. And there is no group lesson this Thursday. Also, I’m noticing a bit more friendliness at valley as I show up more and put my time in. Nothing to get too excited about, but people are saying “hi” to me a bit more now. Besides, I like that rink in many ways, its big enough to get some work done.
I need to warm up and stretch before getting on the ice. Duh. But it didn’t feel like I was doing all that much before to warm up for. But I am hoping that warm up will help.
I will concentrate on low/no weight cardio and stretching at home this week.
I will try to front .load more protein at breakfast before I skate. I have trouble eating in the mornings, so I’m not sure how well this will go, but I can usually do smoothies and “drink” my breakfast so I’ll try that.
As far as skating itself…I AM improving, just very slowly. I can skate on one foot on both sides with much more control, but stroking is getting better. In group class, I worked on edges and stops. (I can do a right foot snowplow and hockey stop just fine. I can probably even do a T-stop just fine. But I’m week on the left side.) I’ve worked on the adult basic stuff like dips and front back swizzles and marching and all that. I even worked a bit on front crossovers, but was not successful because by then I was getting major leg fatigue. I continue to work on getting used to my boots (the blades are a nonissue thus far) and am going to try some superfeet inserts this week.
Here is the score card I’ve been keeping. This isn’t very accessible and I’m going to come up with something else, because its not ideal for me either. But basically, its the Adult Basic Curriculum. If I can do something satisfactorily, it shows a + for that skill. If I can do it but it needs work, it has a -. If I can’t do it or have never worked on it yet, it is left blank.