Monday, March 15, 2010

I'M BACK with Part One of 20 Questions Q&A

Yes, I'm back. Did you miss me? Apparently a few of you did because I received a number of blog suggestions and questions that got my post-Vancouver brain working again. To be honest, I like this format. It is similar to what I do for a living. People ask me questions all day and I answer them. 
   So, the next few blogs are dedicated to Q&A's from friends and strangers alike. 
Here we go:
Q: "How does it feel not to go to the rink every day?"
A: I actually had to think about this question for awhile. In a way, it is like asking an alcoholic what its like to be sober. 
   I started going to the rink back when there was still patch. Does anyone remember that? Patch was spending hours in a rink watching kids use scribes to carve out figure 8s on the ice and then attempt to trace them with their blades using a series of inside and outside edges. It was cold. It was like watching grass grow. It was something that was done at 5AM every day before school all bundled up in ski clothes, hats, mittens and neck gators - and that was for the skaters! The rest of us headed to the coffee machines (pre-Starbucks: Yes, there was a time before Starbucks!), attempted to watch in the rinks from the boards but mostly stayed in the relative warmth of the rink lobby, sipping brown water, eating Pop Tarts and talking about the next test session, Board meeting or club show. It was not a glamorous life, folks. 
   In the those days, we went to the rink in the early mornings but we didn't have ice for freeskate every afternoon in the mountains. We went on Mondays, Wednesdays, Friday nights, Saturday mornings before skiing and on Sunday afternoons. Those days were mostly spent schlepping bags, tying skates, playing policeman so the coaches could get something done, designing sets for the shows, arguing about designing sets for the shows, figuring out how to keep the club going and deciding who of our incredibly young and inexperienced skaters were "high level" and who were "low level" when, in fact, they were pretty much one in the same. It all seemed so incredibly important then, and in a way I suppose it was, because it formed the foundation for dealing with life as it exists now.
   My "every day" at the rink was a bit different. For two years when our skater was ice dancing competitively (bet most of you didn't know that, did you?), we would leave our mountain home on Thursday mid-day to drive nearly  300 miles each way to Colorado Springs for training. School work was done in the car. There was a lot of great conversation then, too. In retrospect, that is a time that I truly miss. It is my most treasured memory of skating. 
Driving was not without its challenges, however: Snow slides, flat tires, horrendous thunderstorms, closed roads, aborted trips for numerous reasons. In good weather, it was a little over 3 1/2 hours rink door to rink door (don't ask about what the speed limit was through South Park - and YES - there is a South Park!). In bad weather, it could take up to eight hours each way. It finally got so bad that my wonderful husband took a second (or was it third) job with an airline so we could fly back and forth. That also helped getting us to and from far-away competitions, the subject of another blog about making ends meet in this sport. 
   Finally, there was "The Move."
   When our skater's coach told us that she had taken him as far as she could and that he needed to get to a training center to continue his skating, we made "The Move." Actually, our skater made the move first, living with a host family for a year. We followed after that, realizing that we could not have it all; we could not continue to live in a mountain resort, have two other children in college, have one costing us more than the others combined. Yes, like so many other skating families, we uprooted our lives. After nearly 30 years for me of living in the mountains, I found myself finally - in the rink every day.
   Until our skater got his driver's license, my schedule consisted of driving to school (fortunately not that far from our house), picking up after three periods to go to the rink, watching a session over lunch, going back at the end of the day, watching a late session and then driving us home. Once there was the freedom (and yet another expense) of having a third vehicle in the driveway (never mind the mail box that got taken out on a late day to school or the neighbor's car that got taken out when a parking break did not engage, allowing our skater's car to roll backwards across the street and into the innocently parked Honda), things changed...I think. Going to the rink then became juggling lunch schedules to beat feet down during lunch, bolt a sandwich in the stands, drive like a bat outta you-know-where back to work and then, maybe, getting in a late session after work if the planets were aligned and the phones weren't ringing off the hook in my office.
   Then came yet-another version of  "The Move." That story is well chronicled so I won't go into it again. Let me just say that it was absolutely the right move - for all of us. 
   You know, going from this self-imposed and frantic schedule of doing the rink shuffle to being persona-non-grata at what was arguably your "home-away-from-home" is very much like going cold turkey. At first, you don't know what to do with yourself. Lunchtime rolls around and you are actually eating lunch. After work, you actually go home. There is a room that is clean, a door that is open. There is a sense of empty nest but a sense that, like a book popular in the 70's by Gail Sheehy, you know you have reached a level of Passages. It is your own version of AA. You take each day at a time, saying to yourself along the way, 
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;The courage to change the things that I can; And the wisdom to know the difference."

So, how does it feel not going to the rink every day? Pretty good, actually!


  1. Where is the button for "fascinating"? When a skater skates perfectly, like J did in Spokane, it looks superhuman, divine, like something directed on the silver screen. This post makes clear it was a human enterprise, all along. Which makes the perfection even more astounding.

  2. This is like a looking glass of reflection for me. We spend time caring for them, and it is then time for them to fly. They are like little monkeys.......they leave the nest, but the tail is still wrapped around a parent's wrist. We are so fortunate to have those memories.

  3. I didn't know J was an ICE DANCER.... next to singles... THEE ONLY true form of Figure Skating.... of course this is from a former/permanent Dance Judge! LOVE your work! the Beginnings of a novellela!!!!!!

  4. Thanks, Leary! And thanks Linda and Georgene for the comments, too. I always wonder if anyone out there is breathing or if I am simply writing for my own amusement - which is perfectly okay. This has been a different "adventure" for me, and sharing it with those who care to read my tomes is cathartic. It also keeps my sense of humor intact, something that can at times be challenging. Thanks for taking this path with me!

  5. You drove 300 miles for practice. That makes my 5:15 a.m. race to the rink seem like very small potatoes.

    That's it, Allison! I'm making it official: you're mother/driver of the century!

    I can imagine what people said to you: drive how far? For skating? Are you insane?

    Turns out, you weren't insane after all, hey?

    The ice dance explains Jeremy's beautiful edges, footwork.

    Ice Mom

  6. Ice dance was a BIG part of it. As much as he hated it, so was patch. Jeremy didn't truly understand the importance of edges until choreographer Tom Dickson started everyone doing patch again. Also, Jeremy had the good fortune of going with Tom D to work with skating icon Janet Lynn a few years back. They were doing a demonstration video on edges. Another suggestion: Get Ann-Margreth's "Elements of Style" videos. They are wonderful and still very relevant. BTW, you can see Jeremy in Elements of Style III when he was eight years old. He is doing edges with Eddie Shipstad, who later went on to become one of Jeremy's coaches and is now a great coach and friend of ours. Eddie is at the World Arena and is from the famous Shipstad and Johnson Ice Follies family. He also has his own company, Shipstad Entertainment. He produces skating shows, most recently he did a holiday show in Mexico City.

  7. Thank you so much for telling this story. The only thing more lonely than being a skater is being a skater parent. There aren't a lot of people out there who can completely understand the strange mix of love, dedication to the sport, dedication to your child, and - let's be honest - a little dose of craziness. I usually lose my non-skate-parent friends somewhere around, "And we wake up each morning at 6:00 AM...." Which now saying it sounds like cake. The 5:00 AM calls will come next year for us.

    And I think it's great for young skaters to hear successful, dedicated skaters say that there were parts of the process they didn't always enjoy as much, but still got through to attain their goals. Whether it's a competition or just a personal goal for the month, there will be days when it's fun, but maybe not as fun. But you still do it and get to the other side.

    Love your blog!

  8. TFS! Loved reading this entry (I love all of them actually LOL). I am truly enjoying the days at the rink, because I know that eventually the drivers license thing will happen and I won't be as necessary. No, I don't live through my skater, but I do treasure each moment, even those 4:30 wake up calls...well, most of the time ;)

    Oh, and I'm sure there are lots of us that read your blog, but just lurk most of the time, so keep on writing!