Thursday, August 30, 2018

Like a Phoenix - Time to Return to the Edge

I know it has been a while - actually March - since I posted my thoughts. Frankly, I haven't had much to say.

However, events of the past few months have made me think a lot about friends and family- ones who are here, ones who have left us, and new friends I've made who are just starting their journey into this strange life.

Stay tuned. The door is opening again and I will have a post shortly. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Talking in Whispers

If you have followed my blogs for any length of time - say, anywhere between 2009 and just a few weeks ago - you know that I try to use humor to talk about the "universal truths" of skating framed in my perspective and through our experiences over the past 29 or so years. Humor is important in keeping sanity, and in getting a message across. It has been my savior - and my shield - for a long time. 

This past weekend, however, I had something happen that I wasn't expecting. I had a bit of a breakdown. Actually, it wasn't just a "bit," it was a full-blown I-don't-know-what's-going-on-or-what's-wrong-with-me breakdown/meltdown, whatever one chooses to call it. 

Being - well - me, I had to try and figure it out. In doing so, I came to the realization that what we don't talk about - except in whispers to ourselves amid tears at 2AM - is what happens to us when the stress of however many years, is gone. Pile on top of that all the things that happen at work, at home, with family members, with finances, and what is left is a very large bucket filled with a mixture of anxiety, uncertainty - nothingness, and everything-ness. 

For me, things went from survival to feeling like the story about Lemmings and the cliff. However, this cliff was atop Mount Everest. I'm not quite sure how I made it to the summit, but now I was looking down from 29, 029 feet with no oxygen and no clear egress. Apparently, I packed a lifetime of emotionally gunnysacking over the past decade or two, and the weight was crushing. My mother passed away in October leaving us all with volumes of papers and a warehouse full of collected "stuff" to sort through. Several weeks before she passed, I was crushed with finishing a book, as both an editor and contributor, one that exacted a year-and-a half toll out of my life. The week before, our daughter came home to see her. The day before, our son had MOHS surgery for basal cell carcinomas on his head. He made it home hours before she left us. A few months after that, I gave my work a year's notice to my retirement at the end of this year. 

With the end of the quadrennial and the naming of the Olympic team, work changed for our skater and many of the shows he had the great fortune to do for the past eight years evaporated, going to the next generation of skaters who had now earned their way. 

Everything I had known, for the 69 years of my life, and the past 29 years of my life on the edge of skating, was either drastically changing - or gone. Disquieting does not adequately describe that realization. Terrifying may be more accurate. 

There has been a lot of conversation about helping skaters who come to the end of their competitive careers without a goal, or even a plan. It is a problem that is being examined and, hopefully, addressed. But no one is talking about us. I suppose it is because, as parents, it is expected. We are the "skating moms" and "skate dads" who stoically sat on metal bleachers, who quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) did our jobs so our kids could reach their individual levels of success. This competition thing - this sport - takes its toll on us, too. And when it is over, we are faced with different lives because of it. We are older. For the most part, our kids are grown and gone. For many, our families are divided - either by distance or by choice. We are faced with that universal question of "What do I do now?"

The answer to the question is as individual as the people who have gone through it and are now seeking the answer to what we do. It is not as simple as just moving on. That gunnysack has a lot in it that needs to be sorted through, and purged.

So, there I was over the weekend, not knowing what was wrong; crying for no seeming reason; unable to verbalize out loud the flood of emotions that were overwhelming me. In whispers, I spoke to my  husband, who listened, understood and did not think I was falling off the cliff, just teetering on the edge. 

I'm fully aware that not everyone has that kind of support, and I could not be more grateful. However, all of you who have children who are athletes, or prodigies that required nurturing - and lives  that we have either put on hold or ones that have gotten in the way- there will come a time, sooner or later, when you will reach that that point. It is our rite of passage, I suppose. 

The only constant is change. The question is how to prepare for it - or if you even can. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A Short Note to Those Journalists Covering The Olympics -

I don't normally step away from my admittedly self-ordained role as one who attempts to chronicle parental skating life with a sense of humor, but I need to take a moment to speak to media covering the Olympics - some, perhaps, for the first time.

Please remember this: There are NO ex-Olympians (unless they had their medals removed for cheating); there are NO former Olympians. The athletes that represent their countries in all sports - winter and summer - are forever always Olympians. 

Like generals who lead their troops, these athletes earned their stripes. They earned the right to take the hopes and dreams of their countries with them into "battle" on the world's biggest stage. Some are victorious; some are not. They are all heroes. And NONE who served so well deserve the moniker of "former" or "ex". 

So, as we head into Olympics in PyeongChang, honor those Olympians who came before; who stepped out, and stepped up, to serve proudly. Please speak and write with respect about what they went through to earn their right to represent. They serve an important advisory role to a new generation of leaders who are trained, prepared and wear their country's colors with great pride. The Olympic family is just that - family. Give them credit for going where most will never tread. They deserve that from you. They deserve that from all of us. 

Monday, January 1, 2018



I am packing for San Jose today. I leave for Nationals early this coming Thursday morning. And like the last few, this is another year when I can be a cheerleader since I have no "horse in the race." However, this year is the Triple Crown, the World Series, the Indy 500 of skating because it is the end of the quadrennial and that means only one thing in in skatingdom - Olympics! 

It's always a time for me to get somewhat teary-eyed remembering back, oh nearly 30 years now, to those first forays onto the ice. How quickly that time has gone. 

I don't mean to sound maudlin at all. I wouldn't trade a moment of it. In the early years of competitions, it was fun and games. We'd go to the rink, warm up, skate, go out for pizza and go sightseeing. Even if it was somewhere close to home and a place we'd been many times before, we'd find fun things to do. 

Somehow, that all changed when things got "real." Not real in the truly real sense; real as most skate parents perceive real to be. 

For a way-too-long time, sightseeing at competitions - both non-qualifying and qualifying - became something like this:

  • Map out how far it is from your hotel to Starbucks
  • Look at the practice schedule
  • Map out how far it is from the hotel to the practice rink
  • Figure out the time between getting from practice back to the main rink
  • Map out how far the main rink is from Starbucks
  • Figure out if you can bring Starbucks into the main rink or do you have to bolt it down outside, or find a way to sneak it in
  • Look on line to find where you are sitting and how far away it is from the nearest bathroom
  • Find out who you are sitting near because you may need to move
  • Calculate how many laps you need to do around the concourse to get some modicum of exercise, then not do it
  • Find the nearest cafe that sells wine in the arena
  • Look for a restaurant close by so you are sure not to miss a moment of official practice ice
  • Look for over-priced essentially junk food on the concourse because there isn't time to go out for a real meal (oh those Nachos..)
  • Buy souvenirs from the vendors that you end up throwing on the ice, never to be seen again

I mention all of this because if you are a relatively new skating parent, or even a skating fan, I'm mapping out what your reality may be. I know some of you are sitting there saying, "Oh no, that's not ME. I love to get out and see the sights." Okay. I believe you. I used to say that, too. I still do. And, I'd like to say that it has changed. Sadly, it has not. 
Yes, I do get out more now that I don't have a competitor, but when I go to Nationals, most of my best sightseeing could be categorized more as sightings. 

Nationals is an annual family reunion on steroids (not the USADA kind; we don't have to pee in a cup - well, at least not on purpose). While you would like think you can escape from  the arena, chances are you won't even make it out the door. I rarely make it from one section of seat signs on to another on the concourse without getting stopped by another skating family, a skater, former skater, coach, official, friend or fan. I'm as guilty as everyone else when it comes to this. I have my friends whom I stalk at Nationals. We've even been known to text, Tweet or Facebook to find one another. 
"Where are you?" 
"I don't see you."
"Look up. Im' in section 108."
"I still can't find... Oh, I SEE YOU now!" 

It's a game we play every year that allows you to either see your favorite family members - or avoid that crazy relative you can't escape if they corner you. 

So, as I pack for San Jose, I'm grateful that I've "been there; done that." If I see the light of day, I'll count my blessings. If I make it to their fabulous art museum again, I'll consider myself lucky. The good thing is that I KNOW where Starbucks is and how to get to my favorite restaurants quickly. The rest? I'll map it out when I get there.

As we do our sightseeing in the SAP, all I really want to do is see our athletes do their best, no matter the outcome. Good luck to all who are looking to earn their way to PyeongChang. If you make the team, it will be a sightseeing trip like none you've ever imagined. 

Madison Chock and Jeremy Abbott - Photo by NBC

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Pentimento, Kintsugi and The Art of Figure Skating

I am a huge fan of CBS Sunday Morning. I have been watching it for decades. I've found their stories wonderfully informative, entertaining and thought-provoking. This morning, however, watching a piece by Faith Salie on "How Art Can Help Shape Your New Year's Resolutions," I had an epiphany, of sorts. 

First, let me say that I have a mostly-unused university minor in art history. I say "unused" the same way I say "algebra." While I served as a trustee of our Fine Arts Center with great reverence and pride for three years, it required me to use my knowledge of art about as much as I use algebra.

Anyway, in her piece on New Year's Resolutions, Ms. Salie used art to make a very good point; one that was not lost on me as I start to pack my bags and get ready to head to San Jose for the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships where our new Olympic Team will be named. From the depths of my schooling, Ms. Salie reminded me about two of my favorite things in the art world: Pentimento and Kintsugi. 
A Matisse drawing with erasure marks.

Using her words, here is the definition of Pentimento:

"This past year, I learned two life-changing ideas from the world of art.One is "pentimento," which I first encountered when I saw a drawing by the artist Henri Matisse. 

As I got closer, I could see that Matisse had sketched over and over and didn't entirely erase his scribbles.
A friend explained this is called pentimento, which is Italian for "repent" -- to regret, to change your mind. Matisse, a master, left his stumbles for us to see, and the ghosts of his mistakes inspire us to strive not for perfection, but for creation."

Mind blown. A master left his stumbles for us to see, and the ghosts of his mistakes inspire us to strive not for perfection, but for creation. Hmm..

Then there was this from Ms. Salie on Kintsugi:
Kintsugi -
filling in a ceramic's cracks with gold.

"The other notion is "kintsugi," which is the Japanese method of repairing broken ceramics with gold.

The idea is that the cracks of something are part of its history and should be kept visible, even shiny! It's the art of embracing damage while making something whole.

An object becomes more beautiful because of its flaws." 

Wait. What? Repair something broken with gold, embracing the damage while keeping it visible, and even shiny because the flaws are beautiful? 

Ms. Salie continued her piece with this observation: 

"What if we consider kintsugi and pentimento in our New Year's resolutions? The word itself, "re-solution," suggests we return to our shortcomings, chronically trying to solve ourselves again and again." 

Without even knowing it, Faith Salie just summed up everything about figure skating. The fact that only three men, three women, three dance teams and one pairs team - a GRAND TOTAL OF FOURTEEN ATHLETES - will represent our country at the XXIII Winter Olympic Games just mere weeks from now is important, but not totally the point. 

After San Jose, there will be many who will feel imperfect, cracked, flawed or perhaps broken - either in their own minds, or made to feel so by those around them - because they were not "perfect." It will take awhile for them to look at what they did, the hours they trained and the art they presented to realize that the gold they may not have collected this time, on this frozen canvas, does not mean that what they did to get there should be dismissed or discarded. Whether they  choose to continue to create, or move to another discipline in life, make no mistake about this one very important thing: What each one left us with was their personal form of art. The gold may not have been there for the crowds to see atop the podium, but it was - and will be - forever in their hearts. Despite critics; despite the crowd, these artist-athletes were chosen to exhibit their works because they earned their place in the grand gallery of San Jose. They may have left flaws for us to see, but in doing so they presented heart.  

"But we'll never be perfect, so perhaps our re-solutions can involve being humble enough to shed light on our cracks -- and brave enough to repair them visibly. Maybe that's a kind of time travel in which we make peace with past and future at the same time."

Words  for all of us to consider, to live by, and to use as part of our re-solution heading into San Jose, Ms. Salie. Thank you for helping bring clarity to our flaws. Happy New Year. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Advice to the Lutzlorn and Things I Won't Miss at U.S. Figure Skating Championships 2018 This Olympic Year

I have been spending a lot of time in the role that seems to suit me - being a small, green and war-weary trooper who everyone seems to think offers sage advice. I'm not quite sure how I achieved such revered status and respect. I don't seem to get it from within my four walls (which are appropriately decked out with lush padding), so I'll just go with it out there in cyberspace. I guess that, along the way, I somehow earned my scars and stripes.

Which brings me to my week. 

I have been in contact with no less than three skating parents who, if their ridiculously talented kids do what we know they will in San Jose next week, will be faced with the task of summiting  Mount Olympus for the first time. 

There are so many questions; so many financial concerns; so much fear and trepidation surrounding:

  • How do I get there
  • Where do I stay
  • How do I pay
  • Can I cut costs
  • Will I see my skater
  • Should I get tickets
  • Is it safe
  • I don't speak the language
  • Can I drink the water
  • What if I get sick

(and so on, and so on, and shoobee doobee doo)

I guess because I'm old and green, I'm supposed to know. 

So, I've been trying to answer all the questions and allay the trepidation. I've been  networking my  parent friends with my legion of wonderful Korean friends who have been there for us since 2008 when they discovered my skater at the Grand Prix Final. I cannot tell you how truly special these girls - now women - are to me. Actually, they are way
beyond special; they are part of my worldwide extended family that spans many continents, countries and cities. I have learned so much from all them over the years. The laughs and the stories we share are some of my most treasured memories. When I put out a message on Facebook for help, my Korean family answered the call immediately. I am so grateful.They jumped in with lodging suggestions, offers of assistance in Seoul and at the Games; transportation ideas. I had an instant South Korean travel and guide agency at the ready. How special is that to have those kind of friends halfway around the world with a 15 hour time difference. They were answering me in real time. I'm convinced they don't sleep, but then neither do I, and I adore them!

Which leads me to the second part of this blog. 

Here are the things I won't miss as I wing my way west to San Jose on Thursday and prepare myself to cheer on our athletes: 

  • I won't miss any event after I arrive for which I am gratefully ticketed
  • I won't miss another opportunity to sit in the Lutz corner (force of habit)
  • I won't miss saying hi and hugging every skater, judge and coach I know
  • I won't miss hanging with my Tweeps and Facebook friends because they are special
  • I won't miss attending the Hall of Fame party
  • I won't miss helping out at Friends of Figure Skating brunch
  • I won't miss, as a Gold Sponsor of Destination PyeongChang, the Olympic Team Sendoff
  • I won't miss seeing my son because we both know how important it is to be there to support the next generation of gladiators who will glide into the most breathtaking experience of their lives with one of the greatest responsibilities they have ever shouldered - that of representing our country with the best they have to offer as athletes, no matter what the outcome
The last thing I won't miss is what my competitor parent friends are going though now: The sick-to-your-stomach feeling of knowing, and not knowing, that all your love, support, time, money and life has come down to a few moments on a frozen surface in the U.S. that could lead to another frozen surface half a world away and in front of a worldwide audience. 

Being excited, scared and so incredibly proud thinking that you could see your kid march into that stadium wearing the mantel of Olympic Athlete - that is truly priceless.
Jeremy Abbott taking photos during Opening Ceremonies in Sochi

While I will miss being in PyeongChang and being with my other family, I won't miss that feeling of being a competitor's mom at all. I will revel in my memories of Vancouver and Sochi while I cheer for all those who represent us proudly and so well.

It's not easy being green..either from nausea, or from being Yoda.
See you in San Jose.

(This blog is dedicated to our Team Leader in Sochi, Kathy Slack. May you smile down on all of us. We miss you terribly.)

Friday, November 24, 2017


There it was. 

In an Instagram story on the day before Thanksgiving, it all became clear. My son, sitting at a table with his idols, who became mentors, then friends, were now his extended family. Twenty nine years of skating was summed up in only a few words inserted over a photo taken in a restaurant.

I don’t know how to describe exactly how I felt; perhaps that’s why it has taken me a few days to organize my thoughts. But as the last Grand Prix of this Olympic season got underway in Lake Placid today, it made me think of everything it took to get us to where we are now, to every experience along the way, and to all the people who were the tight fabric – or the loose threads – that wove our journey to this revered and almost sacred place in skating called “Family.”

The timing for his post could not have been better because I had just spent a week with my daughter in Idaho culling through a mélange of literally hundreds of old photos that had managed to find their way into boxes, envelopes, tattered scrapbooks, crates and suitcases. Some I hadn’t seen in more than 25 years; some were more recent. For better or worse, they all brought back a flood of memories surrounding that one particular moment now frozen in time.

Images scattered on the floor took me on a visual and mental roller coaster ride from Vancouver in 2010, back to Aspen in 1989, and forward at seemingly warp speed to Sochi 2014 and Stars on Ice this spring. Years of competitions were laid out before me. Not all the images were salvageable after decades of wear, weather and bad storage, but most of the memories remained, even if the pictures were faded.

I bring this up mostly because today we live in a digital world where we are posting our lives by the hour and minute to a multitude of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Tumblr. Everything is in the “now.” Many are designed to simply disappear. It is true that they are not all jewels worth preserving, but the aggregate make up the more linear stories of our lives.
Nick Kole, Evan Gibbs, John Coughlin, Jeremy Abbott

My point is this: 

Make sure you document and preserve important milestones for posterity. Make sure you don’t discard those photos from a young age with friends and competitors alike. Take pictures with coaches and judges. If you meet someone you look up to, make sure to record the moment. We live in a world of disposable media, but that doesn’t mean we should also dispose of the memories that caused us to press the button and save the moment. Images are catalysts. They can remind us where we have been so we can appreciate how far we have come, and how quickly the time in between has passed. And how, along the way, idols became mentors, and mentors became trusted friends who are now truly family - not just in skating, but in life.