Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dance Lessons

I love watching the TV dance shows, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. Apart from enjoying the dancing and costumes, I am also trolling for information that I can apply to figure skating. Can I modify that costume for a figure skating program? Can I do that dance step on ice without giving myself a concussion? Can I use that music for a program?

Last night Nigel Lythgoe was critiquing one of the dancers on SYTYCD and what he said resonated with me. I would like this to become my goal as a skater. Here is roughly what he said: you need to practice the dance steps until they are second nature to you but then you have to not think about them and dance from the heart. I want to be able to do this with my skating program. I want to be able to skate from the heart. I want the music to flow through me. I don't want to just go through the moves: jump1, spin1, step, step, jump2, spin2. I find this type of skating boring and I don't want to be boring. I want the joy of skating to flow through me while the steps are being done from muscle memory. One of the skaters I adore is John Curry. He took this idea of skating from the heart to new heights. I admire his skating the most. He can take simple edges and make them look brilliant. Skating should be joy. I am looking forward to returning to the ice.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Off Ice Reviews: Part 2

This was a great movie week. But be forewarned, only two items are skating related. Yes, I have run out of skating things to watch and read. However, I haven't logged onto Icenetwork yet. I'm a little scared that if I do my husband would never be able to pry me away from the computer.


The only book worthy of mentioning is Ice Charades. I finished it and absolutely love it! I highly recommend it even for non skaters. It is a delightful story and I hope the author does finish a second book as she has been hinting at on her blog.


Cutting Edge 4: Fire and Ice
This is the only skating movie I watched this week. Unlike the last Cutting Edge movie this one is worth watching if you can either get it for free or I would even pay a $1 to rent it from the library. Same premise as the prior movies, partnerless girl figure skater gets paired up with ass boy skater. The twist this time is that he is a speed skater instead of a hockey skater. Unlike the last Cutting Edge movie I watched this time they have people that can act and the actors can skate. Both bonuses. There are some decent skating sequences but of course everything has been warped by Hollywood. The competitions are done in spotlights. The skaters have empty practice ice and do basic moves etc. Still fun to watch if you are bored out of your mind. It is available free on

Ever After
Sorry this was a PG week. This is a surprisingly good remake of Cinderella. There are some excellent well known actors in the cast including Drew Barrymore and Angelica Houston. Well worth paying money to see.

The Saint
While there are some really stupid directions in some of the scenes thank goodness it is limited to only the odd one here and there. Not sure why I like this movie. Maybe it is because Val Kilmer is an amazing character actor or maybe because the heroine is a girl scientist. I love the soundtrack. Chemical Brothers!! Free on Hulu.

Ten Things I Hate About You
Another movie I'm not sure why I like. Yes, it is a teen flick but it is actually good. This is quite possibly because the Bard had something to do with it. It is a modern day Taming of the Shrew. It also has Heath Ledger in it before he became insanely famous. There is good acting and I love the over protective dad. Again another great sound track. Free on Hulu

Never heard of this one before and also never heard of any of the actors in it. However I really liked this little find. It is the story of a city guy that gets sent to India to train his replacements when his department gets outsourced. The movie is about culture shock and culture clash and is also very sweet. I found it on Netflix.

Hey, I have a soft spot for kids movies. They are often very good and sure beats slasher movies. This one came recommended by a good friend. This is definitely worth seeing. The scout reminds me of one of my husband's friends and yes the guy talks just as much as the kid in the movie. I also love the dogs in this. I still like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs better (which I saw when I could still go out to the cinemas) but this one is up there on the list (pun intended).

Julie & Julia
I really enjoyed this one. It is about cooking and blogging, two things close to my heart. I also didn't know much about Julia Child and this is a great way to get to know her life story. Meryl Streep is a genius in this movie. Actually it is filled with very fine acting. I love Julie's meltdowns when her cooking goes awry. Wish I could do that sometimes.


North and South
Found this one on Netflix. It is a BBC production much along the lines of Little Dorit which is another fine miniseries that I highly recommend. This is another show I enjoyed immensely. Fine acting. Class wars. Good plot. Happy ending. Yeah.

Ten Things I Hate About You
What the hey. Found it on Hulu so I figured I'd give it a whirl. Heinous acting in the first couple of episodes but once the actors settled in it wasn't bad. Of course ABC canceled the show as they have had a tendency to cancel anything that is remotely worth watching. Don't go out of your way to watch this one but if you're bored it is something fun to kill time with. One of the things that makes this worth watching is that guy that played the dad in the movie reprises his role in the TV series and I love his character.

SpongeBob Squarepants
Love it. Love it. Love it. This show always makes me laugh.


This is my find of the week. It is a website devoted to blogging. Men submit things as well but the majority of the participants are women. It is a fun site to visit because you never know what you will find there.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Own Personal Saint

Notice the skates on her feet!

Thanks to another blogger, Sk8r Boi, I have discovered my own patron saint, St. Lidwina. She broke her rib skating on the ice and never recovered. Some say it was MS others say it was gangrene. In either case many miracles occurred at her bedside and she became a Saint after her death in 1433. She is now the patron saint of ice skaters and the chronically ill. Since I am both she is my new hero. Here is some more information on her

According to some customs today is her day. Since I don't believe in coincidences what is this telling me?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want

or Lessons Learned from the North Shore Open Competition

I had to withdraw from this competition after months of practicing my program. I was proud of it. I love my music and I love the costume I am making for it. Of course, everything got put on hold when I got ill. Every time I skated I felt like I got the flu the next day. Life does tend to throw us curve balls.

Of course, I went to the competition anyway. My friend was skating in the adult silver group along with another woman I practice with regularly but don't know well. I set up an area in the stands with blankets and snacks so me, my coach, my very pregnant skating friend and my competing friend could all hang out together. It was great seeing everyone again. We caught up on all sorts of news and club gossip. Then the adults took to the ice.

The first group to compete was the prebronze freestyle which is the section I had to withdraw from. I felt that if I could have skated I would have had a chance at gold. I had one judge rank me first place in the last competition I was in and I got a bronze medal at my very first competition. I know I'm not supposed to want to get a medal, particularly a gold one, but I felt like I had a shot and was bummed that I wouldn't be able to go for it.

The first two competitors took the ice and they skated very well. The were both strong skaters who had poise and presentation even if their jumps and spins weren't spectacular. Then the last competitor took the ice. She was the youngest and this was only her second competition. She wasn't very strong and her arms were all over the place. I figured that she would come in last and I would have done well if I had been able to skate.

Later I found out that she got first place. What? Why? I started emailing my coach but we couldn't really have this conversation via email. Between my faulty memory and us talking through the competition itself I couldn't put my finger on why this seemingly weak skater had won.

After a bit of poking around on Facebook (one of the hazards of social networking) and finding the video of her skate on YouTube I figured it out. She basically sandbagged the competition. This is the practice of not taking tests that you are qualified to take in order to compete at a lower level so that you will win against less advanced skaters. While this is legal it is questionable ethically. I have no idea why she did this: nerves? coach? personal? But the day after the competition she passed her bronze freestyle test. So now I am FURIOUS!! This is SO not fair!! You see this happening with the younger skaters but the adults usually have more integrity than this. Now I not only have to compete with kids half my age but I have to compete with this girl that has no trouble sandbagging a competition. ARGH!! This sport is hard enough as it is without having to deal with these issues. This 20 something kid has all of her single jumps, a backspin and back three turns. Of course she won a gold medal she was competing with older adults that can barely do a sit spin and have maybe two or three full revolution jumps tops. She did a flip jump in a prebronze competition!! WTF!?!

Okay rant over, onto the lesson part of this blog entry: you can't always get what you want. Unlike tests, competitions are a one shot deal. There are no do overs if you trip and fall. Even if it is over a sequin a prior skater left on the ice. You can't do the competition over a month later because you didn't feel good that day. At best it is a crap shoot. It is not just a matter of one's skating ability. It is a matter of nerves; if your body can skate that day; if you are in pain that day; if you trip over your toe rake; the judges; the other skaters (I have also had to skate against men in the same flight as myself: my coach claims my bronze medal is really a silver since the gold medal winner was a guy so it didn't count). You never know what is going to happen. I skated perfectly at Colonial and got bronze and skated poorly at Worcester and one of the judges put me first. You just don't know. As the experts say you have to go into the competition with a goal in mind that doesn't involve earning hardware. I think my main lesson from this competition season is that the hardware awards are somewhat random. All you can do is prepare the best you can and then hope for a good skating day for the day of the actual competition. Sometimes the skating gods will smile down on you and other days they take a colossal dump on you. You have to learn to take it all in stride. To not let it rattle you. To get back up and do it all over again the next day, month, year. All in all I am pretty happy with my first competitive season. I won my medals honestly and I achieved my goals of getting over my nerves and skating my best under pressure. Well, the nerve thing still needs some work but I am doing much better than when I started. After all it is all about progress. Getting hardware is nice but it shouldn't be the be all and end all of skating. I'll just have to wait until next year to get my gold medal :-)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Butterflys and Bees

Copied from

Before I was a skater I was a Mom, wife, gardener, optical communications specialist (I play with lasers), etc. Now I am sick. I finally decoded my diagnosis. After doing lots of blood tests and even chest x-rays my doctor said I had 'viral syndrome'. I figured it was a bucket diagnosis meaning he had no clue what was wrong with me so go home and be sick for a while. After doing some reading on the Internet it turns out he left out a few crucial words and a hell of a lot of explanation. What I have is "post viral fatigue syndrome" which is a subset of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Apparently when someone has a viral infection like I did over Mother's Day it can often led to PVFS. This means that I basically can't do anything and most of all can't tolerate any sort of aerobic exercise. This would explain the flu like symptoms the day after I went skating which happened not once, not twice but three times! Okay I've taken the hint no skating for a while. I have to rest. My body needs to heal.

An odd subset of this are the ideas coming out of the alternate healing community. That this is mostly a woman's disease; that it comes of doing things for others; that it comes from not taking care of oneself; that it comes of putting all others before self. Hence the 'cure' is resting, doing things for oneself, taking care of oneself. While I'm not totally sold on everything they are saying it did get me thinking.

What have I done lately for fun?
What do I for fun?
Does everything have to become work?
Does everything have to be perfect?
Can I put myself first?
Do I always have to use my spare time cleaning the house?
Do I really have to take on the role of breadwinner while my husband's business tanks?
Do I have to be breadwinner and housekeeper at the same time?
Can they even coexist? Particularly when I throw athlete into the mix?
Should I have a career or a job? Are they mutually exclusive?

So I sat in the backyard this morning. Contemplating all things me. What I was supposed to be doing was watching the bees and clouds meander by and instead I find myself thinking that I should: pick some weeds, put my tomato plants in, go take a shower, get dressed, start skating figures as soon as I can get back on the ice, brush off the patio furniture, fix the broken wheel on the planter, move the bricks in the walkway, etc, etc, etc.... I really suck at this relaxing thing.

So in between the list of shoulds I managed to watch a Red Admiral butterfly. I saw the honey bees which I knew would be busy in the catmint I moved from the front of the house years ago when it got to big for its original spot. I saw a dragonfly the size of my hand and ones the size of my pinkie. All of them were enjoying the flowers I had put in years ago when I was a gardener and skating hadn't become my obsession yet. I felt the sun warming my skin and finally didn't feel cold. I felt the breeze tousle my hair and make the seed heads on the grass sway. I heard the birds sing and the chipmunk squealing from somewhere in the hostas. The breeze picked up and my wind chimes started to do a random walk through the Gregorian scale. Then one pipe was hit and the note sustained reminding me of the Buddhists call to prayer. The call to meditate on the healing powers of nature. And the world finally fell away.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Off Ice Reviews

I have now been off the ice for roughly three weeks. I did try to get back on, twice now, only to cause a nasty relapse of whatever bug has decided to replicate inside my body. I have been stuck at home for two and a half of those three weeks. I can only take so much commercial TV. Ugh. So what is an ice skater to do when she has lots of time on her hands and not much energy to do anything?

When running a fever watch movies:

Ice Castles (1978)
I finally watched this, mostly to see what all the hoopla was about. I am constantly hearing about how it is some skaters favorite movie. It was even nominated for an Oscar! Although I wasn't fond of it there was some decent acting and decent skating in it. The movie itself is very dated and I can see why they would do a remake. I would be interested in seeing the 2010 version. The original was slow in places and I still don't believe the premise that a blind skater can win nationals against sighted skaters. It was so exciting I almost feel asleep in the middle of it.

The Cutting Edge: Going for Gold (2005)
I saw the original movie, The Cutting Edge (1991), years ago and while schmaltzy I liked it. This one you can skip. Bad acting. Mediocre skating. These skaters aren't believable regional level skaters never mind Olympic level. While the guy is a hunk and there are lots of shots of him shirtless, it isn't worth sitting through the movie just for that unless you are into that sort of thing. I did fall asleep in the middle of this one and had to finish it up the next day.

Blades of Glory
While I didn't watch this movie while I was home sick this time, I did watch it while I was home sick over Christmas. It is a great fun fluff movie that takes the silly elements of figure skating to their ludicrous extremes.

New Moon (2009)
Okay. I had to come out of the closet sometime. I like the Twilight Saga. Again I watched the first movie last year to see what all the fuss was about and liked it a lot. When I was walking through Marshalls before Christmas I found the books on sale for cheap so I got them and got totally hooked. Stephenie Meyer is an amazing writer. She has based each of the novels on some classic romance novel such as Romeo and Juliet but with a vampire twist. Breaking Dawn was the only one I had trouble reading. Anyway, back to the movie. Loved it. The CG was incredible.

While running a fever watch Hulu or Netflix TV:

Robin Hood (BBC)
Yeah, I know it isn't skating but it was awesome. Love this show and I watched the entire series on Netflix. Too bad it got canceled.

The Tudors (Showtime)
Again no ice skating but an awesome series about the life of King Henry VIII. Not for kids though. Lots of sex, nudity and violence but amazing acting, complicated plot lines, fantastic costumes and sets. Wonderful to get lost in. I've gotten through two seasons so far.

The Prisoner (BBC 1960s currently available on
The effects are dated but the show is still very watchable. It messes with some complicated philosophical questions which I always love in a SciFi show.

When in possession of my faculties read:

Toepicks, Cadaver Dogs, and Sports with No Balls by Sherry Bosley
This is a book to take to the doctor's office with you. It is a series of vignettes not necessarily related to ice skating. A fun light read that can be put down and picked up at whim, i.e. no plot.

Ice Charades: Penguins Behaving Badly and Other Follies From the Road by Jenny Hall
By far my favorite ice skating book. It tells the mostly true tale of an ice skater's first year performing in shows. Great whit and a good story.

Primer of Figure Skating by Marible Y. Vinson
This was written by my coach's coach. I use it as a reference all the time since I am trying to learn school figures. Not something I can read cover to cover but great for looking up how to do stuff. While out of print it can still be found for a few dollars through Amazon private dealers.

Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar... by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein
What a great way to learn philosophy! Through telling jokes! This book is a hoot! Lots of great jokes and you learn something at the same time. You do have to have your faculties intact when reading since some of it can be confusing. Otherwise it is great for a good laugh and you can always reread the confusing bits later.

200 Sewing Tips, Techniques & Trade Secrets by Lorna Knight
I'm always looking for information on how to sew complicated stuff for my costumes. This is a great book. Lots of pictures and great explanations. Includes serger techniques, embroidery and beading. Lots of useful information.

Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli & Peter Bronski
Nutrition is difficult enough for an athlete without the complication of an allergy thrown in so I'm always on the hunt for good wheat free recipes. This is a great GF book. The previous "bibles" of GF cooking by Bette Hagman, while a great starting place, aren't for an advanced cook. Bette had to learn how to cook after her diagnosis of celiac. The recipes are basic, often missing steps and are throw-everything-in-a-bowl-and-mix variety, which often doesn't yield the best results. Artisanal GF Cooking is written by cooks. It includes pasta recipes!!! I'm going to make butternut squash ravioli! I can hardly wait! I haven't had any since I went GF. The recipes run the gamut from breads and muffins to entire dinners and desserts. Lots of really good recipes. Some fussy some not. Makes me look forward to being well enough to cook again.

When upright and bored with TV, etc, read blogs:
Life Skate
Ice Mom
Synchro Mom
Life on the Edge
Mahlzeit (food not skating)
Ice Charades
Ice Pact
Axels, Loop and Spins
On Thin Ice

Or for some real brain candy:
TED talks

Just got back from the doc. Tests are all normal which points to some weird viral infection possibly lingering Strep. Another week at home and crossed fingers are the doctors orders and no skating for a while. Yuck!! Guess I'll be doing some more reading.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wait and See....

Well, this is the third time this month, oh wait it is now June so make that the third time within the last four weeks, that I have been ill with some mysterious sickness. My coach has pneumonia so I am guessing that is probably what this is. Besides, I'm hoping that the doctor's guess of Lyme disease is wrong. Anyway, I had five vials of blood drawn and a chest x-ray done today. In a day or two I should have a diagnosis.

Whatever the results I'm thinking that I am going to have to withdraw from the competition Sunday. I'm going to hold out until the last minute. I've already paid the non refundable fees so I might as well wait to see if I have a chance in hell of even skating this weekend. At least I can stop stressing about it. At this point I will count myself lucky if I skate at all. A medal is out of the question considering I've missed so many practice sessions. We just have to wait and see.....