jo skates

Skating in the key of life


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Curses! Foiled again!

Well, it seemed a few weeks ago that I might be getting a little more skating time in. I signed up for a weekly “Skatercise” class that seemed perfect: a small group, socially-distanced, everyone is wearing a mask. And we were working on lots of different edges, a few turns, and some general conditioning. Perfect, given the circumstances.

Well, a little over two weeks ago my husband and I went out for our morning tandem bike ride. After hearing our warning bell, a group of runners moved off the bike path to let us pass. But at the last moment one of them jumped in our way.

I didn’t see her; I am the power generator on the back seat of the tandem. So all I remember is my husband yelling and then I hit the ground hard. As it turns out, I broke three ribs and my right collarbone. Ouch!

So the good news is that the surgery on my collarbone seems to have gone well. A titanium plate and screws is holding everything together, and I didn’t have to have soft-tissue repair done. I am gradually getting back to work and am able to hold things together under the early semester onslaught of preparing for the fall semester (starts next week).

Everything will be online this fall for me, and hopefully will go smoothly. At least I don’t have to commute, and can take frequent breaks in my comfy rocking chair nearby.

I am sad that I won’t be skating (at least for a little while longer). But the good news is that everything seems to be healing up just fine, and hopefully there will be more happy skating (and other) news to come. Fingers crossed!

Here’s pictures from earlier in the summer, with some happy skating and gardening times.


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Kummerspeck und Eislaufen

So I was thinking that there should be a word or phrase for the feeling you get when you open the fridge or the cupboard to get that last ingredient or container of leftovers that you were planning to have for lunch, only to find that someone else has eaten it first.

German seems like a good language for these kinds of expressions, so I went looking but all I could find was “Kummerspeck,” which is a term for emotional overeating. “Kummer” means grief and “speck” means bacon, so this translates to “grief bacon,” as in “Wegen des pandemic habe ich viel getan Kummerspeck.” This too is true, but it’s not the word I want.

The more exciting news is that several skating friends and I went in together on renting ice for a couple of private sessions: six people, all respecting proper distancing measures and wearing masks. Of course there is still risk of infection, but hopefully this is less than a public session (which no one seems to be offering anyway). Plus if any of us get sick, we know who to call.

The first time out was pretty tentative. I have been bicycling and doing yoga, but it took a while to feel comfortable again on skates. However, the following week was better. I’ve been concentrating on skating alignment and all that hard work over the past few years seems to be paying off. I’m not fully back in shape but I also don’t feel like I’m all over the place.

Sometimes just staying balanced is a victory of sorts.

Stay healthy and safe, friends!


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Tiny blood-sucking fiends

Since there hasn’t been any skating for a few months now, I’ve been keeping busy with biking and trying to get my yard and garden in shape. My goal was to get things planted and round one of weeding done before the tiny blood-sucking fiends (a.k.a. mosquitos) arrive.

Almost made it! It rained hard yesterday and this morning while I was finishing one section, I was surrounded by a swarm. I probably should have gone inside, but I was soooo close to finishing.

Now the yard looks great, but I did get a few bites around the ears. The little vampiric creatures were probably going for my neck but missed. Now I know why I miss skating so much. No bugs and no danger of malaria, West Nile virus, or any of those things that we used to worry about before we realized there were much bigger worries in our world.

So what else have I been doing? Well, waiting and worrying, like everyone else. I’ve been working quite a bit–started teaching online in March, and some of the summer will be spent preparing for fall (just in case). Online yoga classes with my sisters-in-law. Baking (bread dough is a wonderful way to knead out anxiety) and cooking (jambalaya, risotto, and other comfort foods). Sometime this weekend I’m going to try my hand at making ricotta cheese.

Luckily we have a porch that’s big enough for skating friends. None of us can skate at the moment, but we can talk and laugh and be together even when we’re six feet apart.

I am gradually moving into summer mode, so hopefully that means I’ll have some more time for this blog. In the meantime, here’s some photos of the past couple of months.


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Curling lesson

Some friends of ours went to a fundraiser and came out with a two-hour curling lesson. They invited me, my husband, and son to join them. So today after we shoveled ourselves out of the snow, we drove to the Chaska Curling Center, which is the national training center for USA Curling. It’s a super modern facility (opened in 2015).

Despite the fact that there are a number of curling arenas in the Twin Cities area, none of us had ever tried curling before. We had two really patient instructors who took us through the basics and then split into our two teams: the Mixed Nuts and the Curling Irons (my friend Emma is very creative). Then the games began!

It was super fun. I never quite got into the most efficient lunge position, and wound up sitting down on the ice quite a few times after releasing the stone. But I managed to get the rock down the ice nonetheless, and even helped score a few times. And boy, sweeping the ice is way more enjoyable than sweeping my kitchen floor.

Though curling doesn’t seem all that strenuous, it definitely made us tired and hungry. Several hours later, we all enjoyed a very late lunch at the restaurant which conveniently overlooks the curling arena. Luckily, my husband was there to drive home while the rest of us zonked out in the car.

While I’m not sure I would hang up my skates in favor of the curling broom, I definitely would do it again. Ice sports rule!

 


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Life is good!

Nothing like a polar vortex (minus 28 degrees F was the worst for us here in the metro area) to make me grateful for temperatures above zero.

Nothing like several bouts of white-knuckle driving through fog and snow and ice to make one appreciate being at home.

Nothing like several days of shoveling to make me appreciate some clear and sunny days.

And skating again, ah . . .

Several other things that are making me happy. First is that my new skates and I are getting along great. They are still stiff (what a great feeling to take them off after each practice!) But I have now switched over 100%. I find that they (a) provide much more support, and (b) make it much easier to turn, which shouldn’t surprise me, given how worn out my old skates were.

Another plus is that the new skates are slightly longer, which means that my right middle toe no longer gets cramped up. Given that I am trying to use my feet more, I need all the toe-help I can get!

Second is that I have started do more regular bouts of off-ice exercises and stretching, and even added some weights to this mini-workout. I think this will help my skating, too.

Third is my son’s college auditions are over (fingers crossed!) and I think (hope) that I have finally finished some of the busywork that has been taking up room in my email in-box. ‘Tis the season!

I tend to worry when things are going well (you never know when the next snowstorm is going to hit) and I know that my email in-box will fill up again, probably by tomorrow. But I’m trying to just enjoy these moments. Life is good!

 

 

 

 


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Great Scott!

TessaScott2018

Regardless of how they do this time around, Virtue and Moir will always be in my  pantheon of ice dancing deities. So I was watching this video about the development of their Moulin Rouge free dance (it has since been blocked on YouTube, sadly, so I can’t share it here), I was amazed that at one point Scott got a coaching tip on an back inside three. He was told that he should just let the turn pivot, rather than muscling it around.

That’s exactly what my coaches have been telling me! Great Scott!

In her recent Fit&Fed post, Mary’s coach told her to identify “the elephant in the room”: the moves or aspects of skating that you should address and change asap. My elephants have been announcing themselves with regularity over the past few years, but I’ve now reached the happy stage when things in general feel much more stable and I’m no longer skating in pain.

This is happy, yes, but also a little too comfy. The elephants are clearly there, but they are no longer quite so obvious, at least not to me. That’s where the coaches come in handy to wipe the skating-euphoria-induced grin off my face.

Both lessons this week were on fairly basic elements, allowing us to focus on some basic things that are still. . . well, quite elephantine. I’ll detail them here.

Inside mohawks. I learned that what I thought was a wonky and unstable back inside edge exit was really a problematic entry edge. The entry edge started flat and took a deep curve for the worse before the turn, which meant that the exit edge had to perform a kind of rescue mission. Smooth even curve into the entry edge and everything is beautiful again.

Back inside push onto back outside edge. Okay, this is sooo basic but has been sooo hard. Laurie pointed out that I have been setting my back outside edge down inside the circle, which means an automatic flat or even inside edge. She had me doing back chassés and putting my back outside edge down right behind the inside (pushing edge), which felt like I was stepping outside my circle with an angled foot.  Hard to describe, but definitely different from what I’ve been doing and definitely better.

Ari and I discussed this push as well (well, he basically talked and I listened, thinking to myself, “oh woe is me!” for doing it wrong for all these years). His advice was more about keeping the pushing foot on the ice longer. What distinguishes this from two-footing is that you basically keep your weight on the pushing foot rather than partially transferring it over (“oh woe is me!”)

Once I am on a back outside edge, I have to learn to keep my weight inside the circle. I tend to try to stand up over my skate rather than using my lean even as I rotate my body. (Trying to stand up over your skates only works if you are going really slowly, as I have been, but if you are trying to get speed, it totally doesn’t work!) Laurie gave me a great image: think of your body as being on an axis (or spit), and rotate the entire thing on the same plane as your lean.

That’s me, rotisserie Jo!

So all of these things boil down to (a) putting your feet in the right place on the circle, (b) maintaining lean, and (c) just letting rotation happen normally as part of the action of the curve, rather than forcing the turn or the edge.

The good thing about these tips is that they make just about everything I do better. The bad thing is that not doing them makes things really really hard.

So what choice do I have? Great Scott!

Lesson notes:

  • forward inside mohawk, back outside three
  • back chassés (placement of outside edge)
  • back inside threes (lean is different from other edges, not into the circle)
  • two foot rocker exercise
  • one foot rocker exercise
  • inside mohawk, push back, outside three
  • inside mohawk, back inside three (feet together after mohawk)
  • forward outside double three, cross stroke, other direction (allow rotation with free side back, don’t spin around)

 

 

 

 


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Poem for today

A poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, “Making a Fist”

We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
—Jorge Luis Borges

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

‘How do you know if you are going to die?’
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
‘When you can no longer make a fist.’

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Published by Far Corner. Copyright © 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye.

Source: Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry (University of Utah Press, 1988)


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Bonus!

Over the years, I’ve learned to be more patient with any interruptions to my skating practice. After all, it’s impossible to respond to work colleagues with “Sorry, I can’t come to the meeting–I have to go skating” or to tell a kid that his chamber music recital takes a back seat to swing rolls.

But when I got the notice that I was selected for jury duty, I immediately started freaking out. Honestly, I don’t mind doing my civic duty, and I didn’t spend too long scheming about ways to get out of it. Still, it seemed a cruel impediment to my summer return to the ice, which has been quite glorious so far.

Our county has a system by which you can call in twice a day to see if you are indeed needed at the courthouse. Lo and behold, when I called in today, I got the happy message that I wouldn’t need to come in after all! I immediately jumped in the car and headed to the rink instead.

My goal for practice today was to see if I could spend the entire session skating with decent alignment, especially where my hips are concerned. It’s been clear since I returned from my little skating-free sabbatical earlier this summer that I still have to make this a priority or I will quickly regress to my painful wild “hippy” days of dropped free sides and unstable muscles. I am especially concentrating on “decompressing” my hips (lengthening through the skating side) which seems to help a lot.

Ballet dancers seem to talk a lot about being pulled up out of the hip joint or being “up on the leg.” In order for this to occur, glute and hip muscles have to support the hip so that the free side doesn’t pull away from the midline.  This is a useful idea for skaters too. Skating unfortunately can encourage a certain degree of anterior pelvic tilt and tight hip flexors, which in turn inhibits these supporting muscles. Couple these problems with my tendency to simply drop onto my new skate or stack up my body in ways that resemble an advanced game of Jenga: a recipe for misalignment!

My goal for the summer is to make sure that I will be able to relegate those problems to the past tense. I’ve been trying to get my hips neutral and “decompressed” while standing, walking, and even sitting. And when I’m not needed at the courthouse, I’ll do this on the ice.

I’m in the pool of potential jurors for the next two weeks. Ack! So I can’t promise much skating news unless I get lucky again. Fingers crossed that the only judges I will have to see in the near future are skating judges!