Friday, September 5, 2014

Something in the Water



Technically, it is still summer - at least that's what the calendar says. Here in Colorado, we're getting a taste of fall. Leaves are starting to take on a different hue; the grass is no longer growing like a Chia Pet. There is even a dusting of white stuff on top, and I'm not talking about my hair (I don't think). Life is slowly starting to go into hibernation...except in one place.

Yes, it's "THAT" place and "THAT" time. 
It's yet another season of Baubles, Bangles and Beads.Another season of planes, trains and automobiles - of hotel rooms and finding a nearby Starbucks. And another season (for some young parents and coaches) of Darth Vader Dads and Dragon Lady Moms.

For me? I guess it must be something in the water, but you know what? I'm still here. I'm paid up with Ice Network. I'm stalking Twitter for early season competition reports and videos. I'm applauding the young ones who are the next generation of excitement. I'm hoping they develop tough skins in this millenium of social media prophets and pundits, and that parents help them understand that success does not always come in gold; occasionally it is humbly but proudly displayed in black and blue. 

Now, in my 25th year, I'm mapping out "Final Season - Part Deux." It's somewhat of a curtain call, if you will, for this quarter-century skating mom who still loves our insane sport more than any other. What I'm finding this time around is:
  •  I'm not as frantic (though my son might disagree)
  • I'm not as fanatic (though my husband might disagree)
I'm simply resigned and I'm ready, though I won't deny that I was hoping this year to be writing like one of my writing alter egos - Anthony Bourdain - and speaking with "no reservations." Alas, however, I'm still working on my PC skills  for one more season as my other alter ego, dear Erma Bombeck, when all I'd really like to do is occasionally verbally (S)MAC(K) someone -only in the literary, and not literal, sense.
I'm not a cynic about our sport by any means. Coming into this year, the exciting part for me is that there's a whole new generation of skating parents out there I haven't met;  a lot of fresh-faced, young and enthusiastic skaters who will be the next generation of brilliant athlete/artists. With all great luck, good coaching - and a lot of dedication, hard work and passion - a privileged few will get to experience the thrill of representing our country at international competitions, Worlds and Olympics. 

However, there is no "Easy Button" to get there. Scotty can't beam you up. There is only a long, winding and often (pitch) forked road with lots of detours and potholes.

So, to those parents, and young coaches, and new followers of Life on the Edge of Skating, I offer up again a blog from 2010. It was far and away my most read blog. I suspect there was a good reason for that. If you just starting out, take time to read 
understanding that I am not a reporter, but more of a Yoda figure who has been there, done that for a very long time, and who wants parents to understand they are not alone in what they are experiencing, though - like snowflakes - each life, and each situation, is unique. 

For me? Here I sit. Nothing's changed, other than age, time... and just about everything else. It must be something in the water. That's the only explanation why I'm still here. 
I'm grateful for that.
Post Script:
Those of you who have followed me for a long time will understand the picture above.
The rest of you will learn, in your own way and in your own time, 
the art of making lemonade. 



Sunday, August 3, 2014

The "YoYo" Paradigm Shift



Skating certainly has its highs and lows - kind of like a Yo Yo at times. It can string you along for awhile; it can move smoothly for quite some time before taking a twist and turn that is totally unexpected. 

We have lived the Yo Yo life for 25 years now.The names even seem somewhat like subtitles to the various chapters of our lives:


During the past quarter century, we have been tossed and turned. We've been toyed with, tested, beaten and battered; sometimes we're completely unstrung.  
Has it always been fun?
Recently, I've resembled all of those things, and usually within a "New York Minute." First, I'm feeling loose and carefree; the next I'm defining my experience as shackled and constricted. 

But when it comes down to the final definition of Yo Yo, you can choose to feel like 
Randy Jackson and use it as an intro to a diatribe on what's right or wrong with something... ("Yo-yo, listen up..)


OR...you can choose to use it the way we do in our family..
     Y-you're
O-on
  Y-your
  O-own
 

Paradigm Shift: 
"A theory or a group of ideas 
about how something should be done, made, or thought about."

  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

That's What Friends are For: A Cyber Lovefest



Totally unsolicited comment from a friend of mine while we were enjoying a short lunch break the other day: "You're not REALLY going to stop blogging, are you?"

My answer was direct: "No."

Now, this friend is one who is involved in skating but is not someone who follows me on any other form of social media (at least that I know of). I have to admit, I was flattered. I've been at this since 2009 and, as you all know by now, I don't monetize my blog. My intention has always been to have it as a journal - or an open diary, if you like. I've invited you all to see my world. 

However, that started me thinking about the people on social media I admire. There are many, but four are my key "Go-To" people, not only because of their great love of figure skating, their voluminous knowledge about the sport and their passion at preserving it, but because over the years they have become great friends. I have to admit, too, that two of the four I have NEVER met in person. I know that may seem strange, but our world is small. Sometimes just trusting, respecting and eventually confiding in them is what makes friends into family.

First, there is my namesake counterpart.


Allison Manley has one of the most intelligent podcasts around. ManleyWoman Skatecast has been on the scene for awhile. As an adult competitive skater, mother of two, web wizard and incredibly intelligent all-around person, Allison and I have become close friends and confidants. If you are not familiar with her work, and if you are a true fan of skating, do yourself a HUGE favor and listen to her wonderful interviews. I was honored to be one of her early subjects. She has gone way beyond the "skate mom" interviews since then, including some of the truly GREATS in our sport.


Next is a former skater, current coach and choreographer, on-beyond prolific Tweeter and one of the most respected voices in skating, Doug Mattis. We first met in San Jose. Since then, we have been cohorts in so many wonderful causes, including Nick and Tricia LaRoche's fundraising event "An Evening on Ice," the powerful and important "Skate for Hope," and support of Audrey Weisiger's "Young Artists' Showcase" where some of the top amateur and young professional skaters show off their incredible choreographic talents in an annual, web-based competition. If you don't follow him on Twitter - DO! @DougMattis is the place to be.


Speaking of Audrey, this is a woman who has my total respect. Noted as an iconic coach, Audrey Weisiger has taken her knowledge and brought new hope into what has been called the  "dying swan" sport of skating. Never deterred by outside voices, Audrey has built her Grassroots to Champions and Young Artists' Showcase into the voice of skating where the "art and sport" become one in an understandable and unexpected way. I have had many chances to actually meet Audrey in person. I cannot believe it has not happened. I've been interviewed by her and I have even been a guest judge for YAS. But we have never met face-to-face. Perhaps this year, Audrey.

Finally, I have one friend whom I have never met but whose writing is thoughtful, intelligent, well-researched and passionate. Ryan Stevens was a competitor for Canada, a former female impersonator (check out this incredible interview by another favorite blogger/podcaster of mine, PJ Kwong) and probably one of the best chroniclers of skating history - present and past - out in the bloggisphere today. I'm not quite sure how I "met" Ryan, since we have never had the pleasure of being in the company of one another - but I can tell you we are truly kindred souls. Ryan's blog "Is That a Skate Guard in Your Pocket or are You Happy to See Me," has become a bible, of sorts, for skating interviews with an edge, as well as a research source for those who really want to know some of the lesser-known facts of our sport.

Four friends. Two I know in person; two I have never met personally. All four of whom have not only influenced my life publicly and privately, but who have been my cheerleaders over the past five years.

In a way, I guess this is a public "Thank You" card. If it were not for the four of you, I probably would not have had that friend at lunch the other day ask me if I was going to end my blog. 

Yes, Virginia, we can still believe there is a Santa Claus. Life on the Edge continues...whether I want it to or not. 
As the saying goes, "It is what it is."   

 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Remembrances of Things Past: Confessions of a Hoarder

I admit it. I am a bit of a hoarder. Not as bad as the TV show, but I do have years of memorabilia to sort through. There are trophies, scrap books, clippings and all the accoutrements that come with being a skating parent. There are literally more than 150 old VHS competition video tapes, countless photos, dozens of lanyards and credentials - and boxes of travel folders, hotel reservation confirmations, boarding passes, Starbucks receipts and  - of course - credit card bills. Yes, they are all still tucked in some nook and cranny, some file folder or even old suitcases in either my closet, office or garage. It's a lifetime in the world of competitive figure skating, and one that I look back at with great love and reverence - as well as a bit of confusion as how this all came to be, back in a cold rink in 1990 in Aspen, Colorado during an ice show as we watched the great Robin Cousins skate and this little face turned to us in amazement and said, "I want to do that."

It is now quarter of a century later. I thought I was going to able to abandon my seat in the Lutz corner (for those of you who are uninitiated, it is the place you will find more than 90% of skating moms at competitions) and take my rightful place front row center. I thought I would figure out where I was going to put all this "stuff" so I could start the next, few chapters of my life. I figured it was time to stop hoarding and clean my skating house.

While sorting, pitching and packing, I came to an epiphany of sorts. All the photos - boxes and boxes of them; all the videos, old music cassettes (who
remembers those?), competition medals, test certificates, chaperone credentials, ticket stubs,years of costumes and other memorabilia were actually representative of the really what is really important: Favorite trips, favorite rinks and cities; favorite competitions over the years. Certainly, those mattered. But what is truly the MOST important thing in this quarter century of frozen moments is all the friends I've made along the way. If it were not for skating, we probably would never have gone to some of these places nor met any of these people. Whether they are around the corner, the block or the world, they are the most important part of my collection.

So, I'll  happily hoard my friends. I hope to keep them long after the music stops and the ice is resurfaced and the lights are shut off in the arena. 
  But along the way - starting very soon - look for me in the bleachers or standing by the glass (in a Lutz corner, of course) at some of my favorite past non-qualifying competitions; not to have "Remembrances of Things Past," (well, maybe a little..) but to look into the eyes of the new young ones coming up in the sport while I remind myself about how it all started, how far we've come, and still how far there is to go - in whatever direction life leads us. And, along the way, I hope to surprise a few people, see old friends, make new friends, encourage some young skaters and their parents - and in the process create new memories.  After all, skating is a family. And family is everything.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Deja-Vu...All Over Again





While my loyalty to the Boston Red Sox is well recorded, there is one Yankee who coined many, if not most, of my mantras over the past 25 years of competitive skating. Yogi was the one every reporter could count on for what are now called "sound bites" - those juicy bits of language that can sum up a baseball game - or life - in the matter of a few well, or ill-chosen and juxtaposed, words. 

I've been thinking about Yogi a lot lately. So many "Yogi-isms" continue to define my past, present...and apparently my furture. See if you agree:
 

“If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
(because...)
 “We made too many wrong mistakes.” 
(however...)
 “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

WHEN IT COMES TO SKATING...
  “90% of the game is half mental.”
(so...)
 “You have to give 100 percent in the first half of the game. If that isn't enough, in the second half, you have to give what's left.”  
(because)
“The future ain’t what it use to be.”
(that's why...)
“When you come to a fork in the road, 
take it.”
(however...)
“It's not too far; it just seems like 
it is.”  
(that explains why...)
“We're lost, but we're making good time.” 

AND WHEN IT COMES TO BLOGGING AND SOCIAL MEDIA...
 “I never said most of the things I said.” 
(so...) 
“If you ask me anything I don't know, I'm not going to answer.”   
(and that's the reason why...)
“Never answer anonymous letters.”
(...direct messages, emails or posts)
FINALLY...
“It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
(because...)  
“No matter where you go, there you are.” 
 (and, of course...)

AND POST SCRIPT...(PS:)
 “I just want to thank everyone who made this day necessary.”




Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Conundrum




co·nun·drum
k??n?ndr?m/
noun: conundrum; plural noun: conundrums
    a confusing and difficult problem or question.
    "one of the most difficult conundrums for the experts"
    synonyms:     problem, difficult question, difficulty, quandary, dilemma; More
    informalposer
    "the conundrums facing policy-makers"
        a question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle.
        synonyms: riddle, puzzle, word game;
        informalbrainteaser
        "Rod enjoyed conundrums and crosswords"
Origin
late 16th century: of unknown origin, but first recorded in a work by Thomas Nashe, as a term of abuse for a crank or pedant, later coming to denote a whim or fancy, also a pun. Current senses date from the late 17th cent.



Here you have it. I haven't blogged in a long time and I do apologize for that, but life has gotten in the way many times since Sochi. However, now I find myself faced with a conundrum: Do I end this blog of "Life on the Edge" as I have stated many times in past months, or do I continue? I have to admit, I'm not quite sure. So many things have changed, yet so many things seem to stay the same. 

My gut says, "Finish a winner. You've been at this since 2009 and you've shared a wonderful journey. Walk oh-so-softly into the night. Take a center row seat and enjoy after 25 years of competitive skating."

My heart says, "Are you really ready to abandon this monologue? Are you ready to throw in the chamois and abandon the Lutz corner?"

I don't know.

This month we hit 25 years in this sport. In "dog years," that's the lifetime of Methuselah. I am two-and-a-half times again that old. That makes me the skating equivalent of dust.

So, here I am - not knowing what to do. I guess I'm not the only one. We'll see what the future holds. We'll see if life on the edge of skating puts on its skate guards and departs the ice, or if it becomes the never-ending story.

Stay tuned.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

From A Life Lived On The Edge - A Modest Proposal

 "I grant this food may be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who as they have already devoured most of the Parents, seem to have the best Title to the Children."


Much as Jonathan Swift, who wrote the original essay anonymously in 1759 to mock the heartless attitudes of the hierarchy towards the poor in Ireland, I was going to make this  piece my own form of Juvenalian satire - "contemptuous and abrasive, addressing social evil through scorn, outrage, and savage ridicule. This form is often pessimistic, characterized by irony, sarcasm, moral indignation and personal invective, with less emphasis on humor."  Somehow, that wasn't me. I try to be funny, occasionally glib but with a point - you know, the way I have written for so many years when talking of things I feel passionately about in skating. However, events of the past seven weeks have made me rethink my approach. 

You know that I have been a "modest" supporter of IJS. I am a realist. The 6.0 system is gone, so we need to make the best of what has been handed out. Since the original COP-cum-IJS was instituted in 2003, incessant tuning and tweaking has taken our sport to a place I not only strongly disagree with, but I truly feel will ultimately kill it, if it doesn't kill our athletes first. The latest problems became abundantly clear this Olympic season, though they had started to rise from the ashes of 6.0 a long time before. Programs have given way to a battle for points; with a few exceptions, skaters and coaches are being rewarded for being good mathematicians. Music is redundant and, in a majority of cases, seems to be superfluous to the smelly-foot spins, mechanical movements and flailing footwork. I thought this was supposed to be the "art and sport" of figure skating. 

We should have seen this coming. I don't think any of us wanted to believe it.  I was in denial until I saw what was going on, live and in person, from the stands in Sochi. And it wasn't just our skater's epic fall that resounded around the world; it wasn't just watching Plushenko crumble under the weight of his injuries. It wasn't watching mathematics defeat magic, or flailing defeat form. It was ALL those things that came together in one Perfect Storm on the Black Sea. 

I pondered this for a long time afterwards, mostly at 3AM. What insidious thing has taken over since 2003 to bring us to this point? What series of carefully placed monkey wrenches has been thrown into the mechanics? I started looking at programs closely.
"After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points."
  1. Skaters are over-training and injuries are overtaking the sport 
  2. Math appears to be the only prerequisite to doing well
When did this start? Well, of course it began with the new scoring system, but it took a stratospheric leap, so to speak, when one rule was instituted - bonuses after the halfway point in a program. 
"As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of other projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in the computation."

If you are one who is only interested in the math, be it a coach or a skater, in my humble opinion a dangerous precedent has been established. Push yourself through. Forget choreography; don't worry about presentation. Break out the abacus and start ticking those little beads from one side to the other. It doesn't matter if you fall. You started with a high base mark. "Calculated" risk is worth taking. Jump...jump...jump, jump, jump. If you need to relate to the judges or the audience, simply exaggerate your arms, point, wink and shake your booty. It doesn't matter because those little boxes are filing up. And a beautiful thing is being lost in the process.
 "I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection."

So, with apologies to Jonathan Swift, here is my "Modest Proposal" to the ISU:
  •  Rescind the rule of bonus points. It is causing skaters to either attempt things they shouldn't be doing, or making them abandon choreography in favor of a higher score which is contrary to what the "art and sport" of skating is all about.
  • Institute a form of the "Zayak Rule" for jumps that limits quads to one in the short program and two in the freeskate. No more. No plus points for having them late in the program. 
  • Make skating to the music worth something. It's supposed to be worth something.
  • Somehow give acknowledgement to clean programs.
  • Stop the practice of submitting program content in advance as it telegraphs a "bias" to the judges and the technical referees before a program is even presented. Score what you see, not what you think you're going to see.
 There you have it. My opinions are mine, as unsophisticated and uneducated as they may be, I firmly believe they are modestly reasonable. 

Of course, if the ISU eliminates the short program all of this will be moot. Because, like a master chef who readies his knife to surgically slice the fresh young meat he's laid upon a slab of ice while administering his final cuts, skating will be poorly served - not as an amuse bouche, but as entrails - the remains of which will be set upon the floor as scraps, to be devoured, spit out and then forgotten.
"A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter."
Food for thought.