Friday, August 28, 2009

Going Away to Windy City

Going Away for Windy City

The woman on my left has a bad case of the tofu farts - you know, the brand of vegetarian fart that smells the way I envision hot rubber would smell. Not tire rubber, but the kind of rubber that condoms are made out of - latex, I suppose.

The man on my rght is worse than the woman on my left, only because the frequency with whch I smell the stench eminating from his filthy mouth is mere seconds apart with each exhale. I can only describe the smell of this man as 'dirty teeth'. You know how if you haven't flossed in a while and you dislodge something you somehow missed there's a smell of rotting food mixed with the worst case of halitosis ever? That's what I smell with every exhale of my travel mate - every 5 seconds.

What's worse, these smells are makng me have to concentrate very hard to not throw up right here. And here's the kicker, if I puke, I think United Airlines is gonna call the police to pick me up at the gate. Before takeoff, Rosie the Rioter was inquiring about the empty row ahead of me. She and I are both riding bitch on this flimsy piece of shit plane, yet we are not allowed to sit in the empty seats because they are 'premium economy' seats that, if they had been sold, people sitting there would have paid extra for. After noticing Rosie arguing across the aisle with the flight attendant, I take off my head phones to join in with the fun.

"You mean no one can EVER sit there during this flight," I ask. "What if someone were to get sick and puke all overhimself or his neighbor - the person wouldn't even be moved then, to get the other passengers away from the puke?"

"No," the attendant said. "We'd get something for you to help clean yourself up where you're sitting."

"Really," I ask. "Even if you puke???"

"Are you feeling sick?"

"Not particularly, but I might."

Time passes and the attendant is packing up the cabin by me agian, when Rosie starts back with him. I can't hear what she's saying, but I then feel a tap on my head from behind me. It's Minnie Piledriver and someone else passing me their barf bags. I can hear Dolly yelling up from several rows back, "You can have mine too if you need it!"

I pull out my earbuds and notice the attendant looking at me with a face full of "am I gonna have to clean up puke in Chicago or are these bitches fucking with me?".

"Are you feeling all right," he asks me.

"Im fine," I reply. I give him a look I would have given my mother or a teacher had I been 3 instead of 30 and having done something wrong.

My teammates bust out laughing all around me. I hear someone in the back of the plane ask what's going on and a response regarding them passing me barf bags because I'm not allowed to sit in the 'premium' row in front of me that's empty. The attendant is not amused, but luckily the woman sitting beside Rosie is. He leaves, annoyed with our adolescent antics - my two travel buddies making the bread of the lop-her sandwich look scared - real scared. I don't say anythng to put them at ease, because I can already smell the garbage can mouth stench and I can't yet tell who it's coming from. I now know - the one on my right.

Sweet Jesus this plane ride cannot end soon enough! My only comfort is knowing this thing should land pretty soon, and if I do puke, stank-ass to my right appears to be wearing the Dockers pants that are stain resistant, so I probably won't bother him as much as he's been bothering me, even if I do puke on him.

I've finished my can of gingerale - holy crap, he just yawned!!! Almost lost it there... I've finished my can of gingerale, and I think the plane is descending. Jesus, I promise I'll never intentionally fuck with another flight attendant again if you get me through this. I'll be good, Ill go to church. Well, I won't fuck with another flight attendant again - isn't that good enough?!

The condoms are again warm and saturating my breathing area. Does anyone know how to make one of those masks come down?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thank You, Mr. Photog!

photo by dennis_l&t's_dad (Flickr)

Before this season started, I stated somewhere that one of my goals was to come away with at least one good action shot of myself. Since then, there's actually been a couple good actions shots taken of me, but the series above from Saturday's bout against Philly's Liberty Belles is FREAKING AWESOME!!!

Now, before you chastise me for that elbow (which I got sent to the penalty box for on a major), let me explain how I think this series validates my execution of a near perfect block.

The block I was landing here is a lean block, where my ass is supposed to be behind the other skater, my shoulder is supposed to be in front of the other skater, my foot is supposed to be in front of the other skater's foot and in front of her, and I'm supposed to be pushing with my right leg while my thigh, hip, and ribs are making contact to push the other skater out of bounds. I had perfect form! Except for that elbow, which I'll come back to later...

I have STRUGGLED with form ever since I knew I had played 3 years with bad form. It is so much harder to unlearn bad habits than it is to create new good habits, so this past year has been frustrating and difficult for me. That being said, I am so happy to see a photo of myself where I have good form!!!

Now, for the elbow. I'll tell you now that I'm an idiot. I knew while I was executing that block that it was my shoulder and core that were moving her, not my elbow, but my arm is bent, and I can see how it looks like I'm elbowing the jammer. However, if you look at the progression, my elbow is the same in all four shots. I wasn't chicken-winging, I wasn't jabbing, it was just bent. And I always had contact with another part of my body. That said, I've also learned a lesson here to straighten my arm and perhaps move it out of the way, so I don't get sent to the box again for having my arm bent.

I know some of you will disagree with the elbow, and that's cool. You have to admit, though, these are some pretty bad-ass shots!

This Saturday: Windy City...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Azaleas & Fishing Poles

The first time I recall ever seeing an Azalea bush and learning what it was, I was sitting in the center-seat of a Ryder moving truck, about to pull away from our house in Mississippi, when just as my dad released the emergency break, our landlord’s car squealed into the driveway and blocked us in. As I tried to ignore the argument in front of the truck, I looked to my left – a line of Azalea bushes that I had never noticed before. “What type of flowers are those,” I asked my mom. “Azaleas,” she said. The next thing I remember, I was waking up in Maryland as we pulled into the driveway of the house of my paternal grandparents, whom I had never met. Three months later, with nowhere to go, they kicked us out of their house.

Last week was a typical week. I worked, I skated, I worked a whole lot more, and then I skated some more. In between all the work and skating, I was especially disturbed each time I read the news or turned on the television. The top story here in Baltimore last week was the assault of a local black fisherman by a self-proclaimed white supremacist and two juveniles while his wife looked on. After work and before practice or after practice and before work the next morning, my boyfriend and I had the same discussion each time we heard about the incident again on the local news: if we had been there, what would we have done? Would we have said something? Stepped in? We knew we hoped that if we’d been there we’d have done something to stop the horror of what happened.

On Thursday I was talking with my coworker about her need for more regular exercise. I offered to take her to my gym the following morning, and (gasp!) my ass actually made it up and there by 6am, a feat I haven’t accomplished in quite some time. As I was running on the treadmill, listening to my new workout mix and reading the captioning on the array of televisions ahead of me, I again saw the news story and I again became utterly disgusted. “I wish I could do something for that family,” I thought. Only this time that thought was followed by an idea: “I think I CAN do something for that family!”

As soon as I showered and got to the office I typed up an email to our league and posted a poll: Do you approve of donating 5% beer sales from tomorrow’s bout and giving a $150 gift card to the victims of the recent hate crime? Do you approve of collecting donations at the bout? And it began.

Emails flooded back replying to my post. In a matter of minutes we were preparing radio copy and emailing the Baltimore Sun reporter who broke the story. Within two hours we were writing a press release, designing a PayPal donation button to place on our website, and making plans to make DIY spray-painted ERACISM tees to give away at the bout. Three hours later we got a call from the mayor’s office who wanted to present us with a community service recognition award, and they weren’t even on the press-release list. It was a good thing I had planned to take off work Friday at noon, because almost immediately there was a lot to do!

Facebook posts, emails, phone calls, and a shit-ton of art supplies consumed Friday night. I could hardly sleep. I was so nervous that we wouldn’t raise a respectable amount of money to donate to the family, and I really wanted us to be able to make a difference. That, and I was so overwhelmed by pride for my league and the amount of support and hard work that so many ladies put into making this fundraiser happen, and happen successfully. It still blows my mind, thinking about what we pulled off in only a matter of hours. The next day, the bout.

The next morning I almost forgot I would be skating against Philly’s Liberty Belles that night, because I was so worried about making the fundraiser “perfect”. When I realized this was happening, I asked myself why this fundraiser had become all consuming. We’ve done fundraisers for charitable organizations before, but somehow this was different. Maybe it’s because the need was tangible – because I’d seen the couple who was assaulted on the news twice a day for the last 3 days – I don’t know. I do know we all became incredibly driven like we’ve never been before, and it paid off.

Last night we raised $2,000 for the Privott family. We’ll be leaving the PayPal button up on our website through this coming Friday, and we’re hoping to raise another $1,000 by the time we close donations. Our goal? To show this family more love this week than they had seen hate. Love can’t be measured in dollars, but I hope the dollars will help.

There’s something else that’s been on my mind throughout this whole ordeal: I really hope Mr. Privott is able to continue fishing. On Friday when I proposed the fundraiser to our league, I posed the question: Can you imagine packing up your skates and pads after practice, only to be attacked with a sledgehammer because of what you looked like?

I believe sports are important – not just for children or rollergirls, but for everyone who has a passion for a sport – even a man in his 70s, and I really don’t want a fishing pole and tackle box to be Mr. Privott’s Azalea bush. I want him to be able to continue to do the thing that he loves, even though for a while I’m sure it will be a symbol of pain. I can only hope that negative association will fade with time.

When I was 11-years-old and briefly without a home, I was amazed that this community that we’d been a part of for only 3 short months would be so kind to provide small things that made all the difference in our day-to-day life, like toiletries and food. And most of the people who helped us out, I’ll never know. I hope my small contribution in response to this recent horrific event can make the Privott family feel the same love I also felt from this Baltimore community at a very low point in my young life.

I made a decision when I was 11: I would never be homeless again. Sixteen years later, I purchased an old house in Baltimore. Each day when I arrive back home, I look at my house, my front porch, and my Azalea bush, and I can’t help but fell full of love. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and with time horrible memories do fade. But the good memories – even those that we experience in dark times – they become clearer.

If you’d like to help offset Mr. Privott’s medical expenses, please click here to make an online donation. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Like I Need a Hole in My Head

Last time I wrote I was expressing a problem I was having about being motivated for the rest of the season. I really thought it was an internal motivation issue. I also had been thinking for the past two weeks that I really needed a new pillow because my neck hurt so damn bad. Then there was the mystery “peak of summer” pollen that was causing me to have a headache every day. It’s funny how we justify things to ourselves.

Early last week, after mentioning a growing bug-bite to my boyfriend and showing him the rash (both things I hadn’t given a second thought), he convinced me to show it to my doctor. Good thing I did, because it explains a hell of a lot: I have Lyme Disease.

Now, if you live outside Maryland, Pennsylvania, or New York, Lyme Disease may sound exotic to you. Actually, it sounded exotic to me until last week. Turns out, something like 90% of all Lyme Disease cases each year are in the three aforementioned states. It really is super-concentrated in this area, and on top of that mid-summer is peak tick season. If you’re like me, you learn something new every day.

I feel kind of validated knowing that my lack of energy is due to Lyme disease and not apathy, but is this not the WORST time for me to have gotten this sickness?!?! Regionals are in a month!!!

I’ve been super depressed over the last week, and Sunday marked my worst symptom day yet – I slept damn near 28 hours straight, and I was only awakened by my 24-hour headache that was completely non-responsive to 800mg ibuprofen. In the past 2 days, I’ve fallen asleep while driving twice. It’s only been a week, but I can stand my sofa no more.

After contemplating my life without derby during WFTDA finals, I’ve decided I must somehow figure out how to push through this and make it happen. I’ve worked too damn hard to be taken down by a fucking deer tick.

The good news is that it was caught early. What I can’t seem to figure out is how long I can expect to be feeling like shit. I plan on taking Co-Q10, B12, and superfood to try and increase my energy, so I can make it to practice and finish this thing that I’ve started.

If anyone out there has any useful resources, please send them my way! I’ll update more later. I’m off to acupuncture now…

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Enjoying What Will Be the Time of My Life

It’s funny to me how people often say that high school was the best time of their life. Really? Because I was a neurotic mess until I was 24 or 25, and some people I know will tell you I still am. In all seriousness, I remember my high school years as often being lonely, confusing, and full of anxiety. The best time of my life? I think when I have a chance to look back on it, I’ll tell you it’s right now. Yet even knowing this, on a daily basis I struggle to be mindful of my life. Right now it’s the same day-to-day, the daily grind, too much work, too little time, and nothing new, but I know that in 10 or 15 years I’ll remember the underlying joy I have for and the pleasure I take in skating. Knowing this, I fight daily to “not sweat the small stuff” and enjoy the things I have and am doing right now.

I didn’t learn about mindfulness until after my dad died and I was apathetically perusing the “grief” section at Barnes & Noble during my lunch break. Sometimes I get an idea in my head during the work day, and working within walking distance of an urban shopping Mecca proves all too easy to make a purchase or two on a whim. This was one of those whims. I had gone months without ever picking up a book on bereavement or death or chicken soup for this rash that won’t go away, but that day I decided I needed a book on grief.

If you’re ever already depressed, it’s probably not a good idea to go stand in the grief section of a major bookstore chain, because once you start reading the titles you’re bound to feel not only depressed but also hopeless now too. As I stood there I could imagine a salesperson saying “With such a wide selection, there’s a book on grief for everyone!” and me responding to the imaginary salesperson, “Book for everyone, my ass!” With rows of books titled things like Gay Nephews Remembering Their Uncles, How to Go on when Someone You Love Dies, and Jesus Suggests You Take up Underwater Basket Weaving to Deal, I almost walked out; I wasn’t a gay nephew, a hippie Christian, or suicidal – I just wanted something to help me sort through my intense and often inexplicable waves of emotion. Then, just when I had given up hope for finding anything normal, I saw a title called Grieving Mindfully.

The book was not only practical, offering real explanations for my rollercoaster ride of emotions, but it also introduced me to mindfulness – a concept I could kind of already relate to and that I would research even more over the following weeks. In a nutshell, mindfulness is the calm awareness of your body, feelings, emotions, and intent at any one moment. Although I never did finish the book, I liked their take on using mindfulness to acknowledge each feeling I had associated with the death of my dad.

Outside of using mindfulness to help deal with grief, I’ve also tried to use it in daily life. If you know me, then you know my outlook on life is simple: have as much fun in the small amount of time you have here; life is short, enjoy it. This does not mean I’m a proponent of doing whatever the fuck you want without any regard to rules or responsibility or respecting others. This does mean I try my hardest to appreciate what I have in the moment and make the best of it, but like I said earlier, it’s a struggle to keep up this train of thought, especially when you’re working 12-hour days and have little time to yourself.

When I tried out for the All Stars last February, I hoped and prayed and have been anxious to play with my team at Nationals. Recently, however, I’ve been ready for Nationals to be over already. And it’s not just me, too. Even some of the most die-hard derby players on my team often joke when discussing our impending “off season” that they don’t know if they’ll even last that long.

At a time when I should be kicking things up a notch, I feel as if I’ve been coasting in a lower gear – staying just within sight of the rest of my team and that destination ahead of us: Nationals. It’s not that I don’t want to go to Nationals or that I don’t want to skate, but I’m tired, and the rest of life has been demanding my attention even though I know and want to be spending that time on derby.

The other day I was talking to a teammate who was feeling similarly, only on this day she couldn’t even hide it at practice. As she wore her outlook on life and derby on her sleeve, I couldn’t help but preach what I’ve been recently unable to practice. “Look around you,” I said, “Things aren’t so bad here, today.” I went on to tell her that this is our year – we’ve worked hard, and we will go to Nationals – and when she looks back on this time, 20 years from now, she’ll remember this as the time of her life, so she should enjoy it now while she’s living it. I couldn’t have put it better if I was telling it to myself, and I wouldn’t have said it at all if it wasn’t for her.

I need to follow a bit of my own advice. Life is for having fun, and this will likely be the most fun I ever have, so I should be mindful and enjoy it, despite the nagging everyday stresses that don’t mean dick when everything’s said and done.

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have… Yeah, I wrote it, The Facts of Life! Enjoy yourself today.