Thursday, June 4, 2015

An Open Letter to My Son on the Occasion of His 30th Birthday..

There are many things you know, many you remember, and some you may not. But on the occasion of your 30th birthday, it seemed like an appropriate time to share with you 30 very special memories:

1.       I had eight miscarriages between you and your sister.

2.       I had a tubal pregnancy and emergency surgery.

3.       You were supposed to be “twins.” (Looking back now, I can’t imagine having two of you – identical or fraternal.) I lost one six weeks into the pregnancy. You were tenacious and hung in there. Thank you.

4.       I was confined to bed for three months after you decided to shift. I begged the doctor to allow me to work through World Cup on Aspen Mountain. When the event ended, so did that stint of working for Aspen Skiing Company. The upside was that I learned how to crochet; it’s a skill I’d like to relearn when I have the time, and inclination.

5.       You were going to be named Gregory. Your sister chose your name.
6.       After having one Cesarean, because Gwen was quite comfortable hanging out, I was going to try to have you in the “normal” way. Like everything in our lives, “normal” is how you define it. Apparently, for me, that meant another C-section.

7.       In the delivery room, I lost a lot of blood and they nearly lost me. I remember hearing general chatter go to hushed whispers. I remember seeing a white light. I also remember thinking this was not how this story was going to end.

8.       When they put you down beside me, the only clear memory I have was looking at your hands and saying to the doctor that you had remarkably long and slender fingers. At that point, I thought you might play piano. I was correct about the musicality, just not the instrument with which you would create it.

9.       During a short hospital procedure , to the amazement of the doctor and two nurses, instead of crying you fell asleep on the table. That was the start of your being able to sleep almost anywhere and at any time, a trait that has served you well.

10.   You (mostly) slept through the night right from the start. When you didn’t, I’d sit in a rocking chair and sing a song I made up for you.

11.   You never had colic. I learned from having Gwen six years before that Mexican spices and breast milk are a lethal combination.

12.   Both you and your sister had chicken pox – TWICE. As you get older, remember that because you’ll need a shingles shot when you are my age.

13.   You hated (and still hate) peas and tomatoes, which always made me wonder if you were switched with another baby in the hospital. Same could be said for your sister and her taste. Apparently I failed you when it comes to pedestrian veggies, though you recently taught me to like Brussel Sprouts.

14.   You were blonde. Sometimes, you still are.

 15.   For years, you worked on a “condo” made from a large box that was stored in the garage of our friend Laura in Denver. It was quite intricate, with wall paper, furniture and – oh yes – curtains. I would never criticize your curtains as a guest in your home. That would be impolite.

16.   Your favorite books were “Good Night Moon,” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” but you also loved Dr. Seuss, and anything that had sounds, like “Smelly Jelly, Smelly Fish.”

17.   Your sister used to be merciless in her teasing. I told her that when you were big enough to whip her tail, you would be best friends. Moms are smart like that.
18.   I still have the ONLY Halloween costume I ever made by hand since my favorite response to you and your sister, when you’d say, “So?” was, “No I don’t.” Actually, I don’t. I do wish I still had your red felt crab claws from the costume I made you when you were Sebastian in “Under the Sea.”

19.   Costume boxes that started out for Halloween but turned into so much more for you, Aaron and Gwen. It became a constant source of amusement.
20.   I still have your derby hat from “Big Spender,” and the leather one from your John Denver version of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” in the Aspen club shows.
21.   I still have your “Happy Feet” bejeweled neck tie from the Silver Circle opening.

22.   I still have most of your collection of masks, like the one you personally “negotiated” the price during a visit to Chicago when we visited an international fair on Navy Pier. You were so proud of yourself for haggling the price.

23.   I still never hang clothing on the rear hook in the car behind the driver’s seat after I smashed the car on the way to Pueblo Invitational. That was your second-ever competition. You got an ear infection and were sick as a dog but you wanted to skate. I had been up with you all night and we even stopped outside of Monument at a rest stop where you tossed your cookies and I considered turning around. We stopped in Colorado Springs looking for the old World Arena and I saw the International Center. Thinking it was the arena, I parked and we went in to find out it was a convention facility. As we were pulling out, we were hit by another car. It was Valentine’s Day. When we got to Pueblo, I had to call Allen and tell him about the accident, something that was not easy since he had roses delivered to our hotel room. Funny that, all these years later, I now work next to that building at The Broadmoor. I think about it every time I walk outside.
 24.   Having you take me through my basic dance tests was a highlight. I remember judge Virginia Mount watching stoically as we skated by. You came just above my waist and it was everything she could do from laughing – not at your ability, but at my lack thereof.

25.   Pueblo Invitational Solo Dance when you were seven or eight. Aspen Skating Club competitors Gary and Ozzie were standing in corners signaling “One Two Three – Four Five Six” as your dance coach Lisa Warner and I sat on the floor laughing so hard we were crying because you appeared to be dancing to music playing in another rink.

26.   Ice Dance and Pairs. Ice Dance and Pairs. I’m happy you are still friends with at least one of those partners. I don’t know how teams do it. I bow down to Meryl and Charlie, who we saw for the very first time at Junior Olympics when they both were no bigger than a minute.

27.   Drives every weekend from Aspen to Colorado Springs, then flights when Allen started working for the airlines so we could get the benefits.

28.   Planes, trains and automobiles. Fighting over map directions (pre GPS and Siri) and redefining “Terminal Entrance” when we couldn’t get out of the airport in Philly on the way to Wissahickon.

29.   HSBC bag from Junior Nationals in Buffalo that was redefined by Jack Courtney as “Holy S#!T Buffalo’s Cold” when we went from warm to a foot of snow overnight. That was also the start of the now famous “Go Alexander!”

30.  People don't realize that you have an oh-so-not serious side that you graciously share with us. As you continue in your journey, do more of this.

 We have been around the world and back; been to two Olympics and countless national and international competitions. It all happened because when you were four you saw Robin Cousins skate at a show in Aspen. That was the beginning of this amazing journey that is far from over. Thank you for that.
Happy Birthday, Jeremy. You are the SON-SHINE of my life.
Love, Mom

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Don't be Stumped: A Cautionary Tale for Mothers Day

In 1964, Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" was published. As a mom, you've read it. You've related to it on some level. You've cried at the end. I did. Every mom who has loved her family has been "the tree" at some point.

And ever since the book was published, there has been controversy over its interpretation. Over the years, I've grown to dislike the message of the book on a number of levels.

Don't get me wrong; I love Shel Silverstein's works. He was brilliant and his stories resonate. Perhaps that's why this one bothers me to the core.

As parents, we give life to our kids. Hopefully, we give them nourishment, a roof over their heads; we encourage their hearts; we encourage their minds; we support them through victories and defeats, and we give them the tools to become adults.
From all of that, we also should teach them to appreciate what they have, to give back to others and to simply say thank you. These are the roots of a strong family tree.

Apples don't fall far from the family tree. If we have provided all the things necessary for it to grow, our family tree should provide protection and sustenance. We shouldn't be stumped if we give our kids strength. Only we can provide the seeds to make that happen. 

After all, it is our job to teach them to grow some.  
(dedicated to my daughter Gwen who is  a tower of strength and most certainly her own orchard)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Common Ground

While reading the Sunday morning "funnies," (also known as my Facebook newsfeed) and sipping my coffee, I happened on a post by a new friend who was telling her friends about her daughter's first USFS competition and how she felt about what she, as a mom, had just experienced. While reading it, I realized I could have written it myself (except for the "hair" thing) many years ago, in another rink and in a time long ago and now far away. (Posted with permission with names edited out.)

So looking back over the weekend, I learned a few things…
1. This sport is hard core. And can make or break you. It is also an amazing parallel to what life is like. It is mandatory to have a phenomenal circle around you both at the rink and at home to hold you up.
2. Skating moms don't just see their kid. They see and cheer and hug and help and fret over EVERY kid. Even when they aren't at your rink. (We FEEL those falls AND those landings kids.)
3. This is a subjective sport. So even if you fall OR skate your best program ever, not every judge scores the same way.
4. There is a reason they put tissues in every greeting bag.
5. Jumps and spins mean NOTHING if you don't look like you are having fun out there and enjoy yourself.
6. Early and late practices are really important, and really a pain in the ass.
7. Vendors know their audience.
8. I am a target audience.
9. Rink coffee sucks.
10. I could fund her skating and her college and my retirement by getting a coffee food truck that serves every skating event at 5am until 11pm.
11. Coaches do not get paid enough. They are highly qualified coaches, sure, but they are parents, counselors, drill sergeants and morale boosters as well as organizers, guard dogs and cheerleaders. 
12. My kid is MUCH more competitive with herself than anyone else.
13. Hotels aren't home.
14. People who do hair are no joke. That s#!t is HARD.
15. We are a little too excited for the next one. I did NOT expect that going into this.
And most of all, we are so proud. She was terrified of competing in her first USFS competition and she got medals in both her events.
I'm going back to bed now. To do NOTHING.
 That was me about 20+ years ago at our first USFS competition, before we had Facebook where we could share these feelings with like-minded people, old and new friends and family. We didn't have a sounding board. There wasn't a way to express what we were feeling and experiencing. When it all begins, we are enveloped in the euphoria of every skater and every parent. That doesn't last long at the lower levels. (See Darth Vader Dads and Dragon Lady Moms)

But as skaters have to learn new skills in order to advance and be successful, so do wise parents. This is a path that is constantly under construction and one riddled with toe picks, bad advice, and more ups and downs than a Learn to Skate session.

So, for parents like my new friend who used to skate herself, my advice is Yoda-like:
  • Learn from the "Elders"
  • Enjoy every victory and learn from every experience
  • There are no defeats unless you let them be so. There are only opportunities to grow
  • Not everyone has your best interest at heart
  • Remember that your skater is your most important asset - your child. Nothing else -not even a sport - supersedes that
  • Ask questions; don't "coach" (unless you are a coach then that's a whole different story and subject of a totally different blog)
  • Remember that you employ a coach. Be a responsible employer
  • Be respectful
  • Make sure you have a life outside of the rink
  • Stay excited and caffeinated. Find the nearest Starbucks - Immediately. You won't survive long at competition without it
And no matter what, enjoy the ride for as long as your skater wants to skate and keeps turning in "E Tickets" (sometimes that's easier said than done, and if you don't understand the E Ticket reference, look at my some of my previous 207 blogs or Google it because you're probably too young to remember, which is not a bad thing at all; just fact).

If you do all this, somewhere along the line you'll look back and smile - whether it is two years from today or 25. And isn't that what it's all about? We only get one time around, so make sure it is always done with enthusiasm - and hopefully a little humor, just like my new friend who shared this on Facebook not knowing that I would ask her if I could use this as a way to make my point, and not knowing I do a blog. Now, she knows. We all begin this journey on common ground. That makes me smile! 

Cheers, Denise! This one's for you.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mine Your Own Business

Leading off "Life on the Outside Edge of Skating" is a short dissertation on miners:

Conventional mining usually takes place underground and is done for personal gain, not for the love of digging a hole. Armed with shovels, pickaxes and a firm belief that they will strike the "Mother Lode," miners set a goal, stake their claim, figure out a path and then start to excavate. If they are young and inexperienced, their digs are unsophisticated and amateurish. It takes years to hone the proper skills.

Smart new recruits observe the more proficient practitioners. They take mental notes; they make preliminary tests to see where the ground may be softest and they can have the most success in the shortest period of time. They save playing with explosives until they feel well prepared.

 So, what does this have to do with skating? Think about it for a moment. It should be quite obvious.

The next time you are at the rink, at a competition, on Twitter, Facebook, a fan board or just being a casual observer in the stands, see if you can identify the miners. Some of them are very obvious with their psychological shovels and verbal axes; some of them are a bit more difficult to identify, but usually they are digging a hole somewhere and trying to cover it up along the way.
Being a miner is a dirty business.

But sometimes, when they least expect it, the roof caves in - or something blows up in their face. Best rule to always remember: Keep your distance so you can experience this.. 


Saturday, March 21, 2015

I'm Back..

You didn't think I could stay away, did you? I know it's been a long break since I said I was ending Life on the Edge of Skating, but apparently I've moved from an inside edge to an outside one - not with the grace of an accomplished athlete, but with all the falls and scratches that come with learning a new skill. I think I need a helmet and butt pads.

After Nationals, I was done. I was sick and tired of skating. My emotional tank was on empty and I was in need of a tow truck to come drag me away. I had become jaded. Personal circumstances for the family had overwhelmed us all and that was that. I walked away feeling as if there was no period at the end of this very long 25 year sentence; someone had just locked me up and thrown away the key.

I stayed away from virtually all aspects of skating. I did watch some of Four Continents because it was being broadcast at a time that worked well with my morning coffee. I had too many other things going on in real life with family and health to really care much about the synthetic drama being played out on the tiny screen of my tablet.

It wasn't until I got hooked into watching World Junior competition that I realized there was hope for me to make a comeback. This was an incredible display of athleticism and artistry on ice. I was impressed with the sheer talent I had not seen because my view had become myopic. It made me reassess.

Now that we are on the cusp of Worlds, I'm looking at what I might have to offer readers and lovers of skating. I'm wondering if there is any perspective that might be useful. I'm not totally sure, but what the heck. I'm going to give it my best shot. I'll watch Worlds  - not for the skating and the placements, but for what most people don't see. There are many pundits and pontificators out there who will happily fill you in while giving you their perspectives on why it is good or bad. Of course, they're not out there doing it. I'm going to be looking at what most do not notice and seeing if I can share a new view from outside the edge. You may like it; you may not. What I hope to accomplish by this approach is to get you to be observers of the big picture. As always, I hope to do this with humor, and now with a slightly sharper edge from outside the curve.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Thanks for the Memories..And So It Goes

Rewind to August 18, 2009:
"Welcome to "Life on the Edge," a place we have lived for more than 20 years of being figure skating parents.

By way of background, we are both professional communicators. We have spent our lives either reporting or promoting other people's lives. We have been observers and chroniclers; we have been students of many aspects of life - particularly the peculiar life of figure skating. What started as an avocation has become a vocation. What started as a diversion has gone through obsession and into observation.

We are on the final pages of the biography our skater has written during his competitive adventure. But we are just beginning to write our autobiography - where we have been, what it has taken and what roads we have yet discover as we reach the denouement.

Warning: Unless you have a crystal ball, do not attempt to write the ending. Like us, just sit back and enjoy the ride, and hopefully the writing."

January 27, 2015:
That was 207 blog posts ago. That was nearly six years ago. The "final pages" now read more like 27 volumes of the encyclopedia of skating.

If I had a crystal ball, I would not have predicted the end quite like this. Certainly, we have had more than a fair share of comedy and drama. We've had cornucopia of life experiences that played out very publically, and also extremely privately.

Through my blog - which truly has been more of a journal of our journey - I hope I have given you a different perspective of competitive figure skating. If you are an observer or a fan, my wish is that you now know more about what it is like to be a skating parent. If you are a parent, I hope you found some universal truths in my musings. If you are a coach, I hope you understand parents better through what I've written; that you  learn to respect us - and that we, in turn, learn to respect you. We both have to earn that, you know. It is not a right just because we are who we are.

So, as abruptly as I began, I now end. My E Tickets are retired. My washing machine life goes from whatever "normal" is to a new setting. Life on the Edge of Skating has been a ride. We can only wait to see what's next. Thank you for joining me on this wild and wonderful ride. I'll see you soon, though. I'm not just sure how or when, but I'll let you know right here, and on Twitter, too. I promise.

Allison Scott

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Dear 2015,
I know we just met late last night, but somehow I find myself attracted to you. I hope this isn't too forward of me; after all, it's only been a few hours. I'm going to take my chances, though, and let you know how I feel. If this ends up unrequited, so be it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The first time I saw you, it was from a distance. Surrounded by people in Times Square, you were resplendent. All eyes were focused on you, including mine. I was tired. My last relationship - the one with 2014 - was exhausting. On so many levels it was fulfilling, but somehow incomplete. Seeing how many bright faces were focused on you last night, I thought to myself, "Self: Maybe it's time to let go of the past and look for something new. You learned a lot from 2014. He was a tough taskmaster. But there's something fresh and exciting with this new 2015. Give it a shot."

Change is always difficult, 2015. For those last few seconds before you dropped into people's lives, including mine, I was reluctant to let go. Clinging to what's familiar is always easier than taking a deep breath, opening an unfamiliar door and walking in. There's comfort in what you know. But, familiarity can breed complacency. There was nothing more 2014 could offer our relationship. Looking at those millions in Times Square who were celebrating your arrival, I felt perhaps they knew something I didn't.

My loyalty to 2014 made me turn away. I thought to myself, "Self: You invested so much into this relationship. Is it fair to be so fickle and give it up so quickly in favor of a handsome new face? You don't know this 2015. No one does. You might want to think about this."

So, I thought. I remembered. I laughed. I cried a bit.

The next time I saw you was about an hour later. You'd left your fans in New York reveling in the streets and rife with anticipation. They were filled with the promises you hadn't yet made. They were ready to march with you without question. You were on the move and I was drawn to follow, but somehow you'd disappeared from view. I found myself feeling uncomfortable and anxious. You didn't even know me and you'd abandoned me. I was going to  be stuck with 2014 for another year. I started to panic. I couldn't face 2014 again. I wanted to move on.

At that precise moment, exactly an hour after first witnessing your arrival, a text message appeared on my phone. 
"Happy New Year!"
The number wasn't familiar. 
"Happy New Year to you. Who is this?"
For a moment, there was no reply.
"I'm just a friend. 2015 will be spectacular. I wanted to share that with you."
 "Thank you, whoever you are. I hope you're right."
The text fell silent. Once again, I was alone and in search of you. Now, I was more than curious. I was intrigued. I had to find you; I needed to know more.

Exhaustion overtook me. I must have fallen asleep. The next thing I knew, it was nearly an hour later. My door flew open. A frigid breeze blew into the living room. Outside, the Christmas lights in my courtyard created back lighting; a mystical halo effect that seemed both ethereal and somewhat surreal. Was I dreaming? Could it be you?

The clock struck Midnight. In the distance was the sound of fireworks. Two glasses were raised. A kiss was exchanged. 

You may call me fickle. Maybe I am. But I've lived life on the edge for so many years, taking on this new relationship seems normal, somehow. Let's walk together for about 365 days and see how it goes. I won't make any promises. I know you won't either. It's all about the journey, really. We'll find the destination soon enough.
With Love,