The Revenge of Anna and Hannah

I was pretty thrilled about  getting my girls. Yes, of course, the skates are girls.
I was pretty thrilled about getting my girls. Yes, of course, the skates are girls.

I have decided to name my skates Anna (left) and Hannah (right). They’re named after two girls I knew in high school. Anna was my best friend, and Hannah was a girl she met through other friends of ours. When Anna and Hannah met, they immediately hit it off and noticed a lot of things they had in common — starting with their similar sounding names, but they had a lot of little personality traits and physical features in common. Turns out, they were even dating the same guy. High school homedude had been juggling the two girls for a few months it seemed. But instead of getting mad at each other, Anna and Hannah got pissed at their boyfriend for lying to them, and they decided to show him up. Homedude worked at Taco Bell, so the two chicks decided to go in while he was working, sit down and have lunch together, all the while acting like everything was totally normal. He had no idea the girls had met to begin with, so of course he was pretty floored when they showed up chatting like old friends and giving him the kind of knowing “eat your heart out” look that only a smart bitch out for revenge can give. It was cool because they didn’t have to ruin his life or anything, but they clearly won.

So, Anna and Hannah arrived last Monday, and I promptly put them on and began skating around the house. Of course, there’s no room to go very fast in my house, so I just practice maneuvering around without breaking anything (self included), going forwards and backwards very slowly, and turning without stopping. I’m getting pretty good at these things, and it’s starting to make a difference when I do go to the rink. Jenn and I went to a new rink on Wednesday afternoon, and the girls performed beautifully.

On a different note…

 

They say roller skating burns more calories than running, which seems crazy to me because running is such a miserable activity that it really should burn the most calories — there should be some reward for it, I think. However, after skating at least once a week for several weeks and doing a little bit of easy practice at home, I’ve already noticed a subtle difference in muscle tone and how I’m feeling overall. I didn’t know I was looking for a new workout, but I think skating is an excellent compliment to my yoga practice. I’m definitely working in a different way than I’m used to, so I’ll have to adjust my yoga practice to account for it. After Thanksgiving dinner, I sprawled out on the living room floor and stretched for two hours, which felt AWESOME. On the other hand, when I go to the rink and see people doing things I don’t know how to do, I ask myself what yoga pose I could work on to help me get there. It’s definitely a fun challenge, and it’s making me think about teaching a class especially for derby girls or for athletic women in general.

Funny, earlier this year I knew I was ready to pick my next direction with yoga, but I had no idea it would come in the form of taking up derby. I’m pretty happy with the way things are going. Can’t wait to find out what comes next… I guess blogging about derby is officially a thing for me now, as I’ve added a category for it.

xoxo~

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A Different Gratitude

Homeless_on_bench_stencil_Melbourne

I’ve been feeling unusually grateful lately because I’ve come to realize I have just about the best husband, family, and group of friends a woman could want. But yesterday, I had an experience that humbled me, and made me feel a different kind of gratitude.

My friend Katie and I planned to meet up at Starbucks. I was running early because I expected traffic to be worse than it was. She was running a little behind. So I sat on a couch and fiddled with my phone while I waited for her. An older black woman shuffled in. She moved slowly, carried two reusable grocery bags full of stuff, and wore two hospital bands on her wrists. The weather had been just above freezing and rainy for over 24 hours, and she had clearly been out in it. She asked if the couch across from me was taken, took a seat, and at a fast food sandwich from one of her bags.

When Katie arrived and went to order her coffee, the woman asked me if she could use my phone to make a call. She told me the number, I dialed it for her, and she proceeded to talk on my phone for about 30 minutes while Katie and I sat and talked. She kept saying, “I am sick. I am tired. I need to heal.” She was asking people for money so she could stay in a hotel. When she finally got off the phone, I asked her if she was OK and if I could help her get somewhere like a shelter or a church where she might get assistance. She didn’t want to go to a shelter because they stole her clothes. She didn’t want to go to any churches either. She said they used to sometimes pay for a hotel room for her, but they wouldn’t anymore, and they told her not to come back. But she had a friend up Rt. 2 working at a cell phone store who said he could give her a few dollars. She was sure he wouldn’t give her a place to stay, but “every little bit counts,” she said.

If I were by myself, I probably would have wished her luck and gone on my way, but with Katie there, I felt a little braver. Katie’s a former public defender with the social skills and resources to connect with people in need, like this lady was. I offered the lady a ride to the cell phone store. She said she could’ve waited for the bus, but it would take a really long time and there are no shelters at most of the bus stops here. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and it didn’t seem right for her to be standing around in the rain. So, we drove up Rt. 2 more than half way to Baltimore, and dropped her off at this cell phone store. She didn’t know if the guy there was going to actually give her any money. I did not offer to hang around in case he wasn’t even there or wouldn’t help her.

On the way there, she told us a little about her life. Her name is Linda. She says her mother hates her and stopped her from marrying the love of her life. When Katie asked if she was sick, Linda gave her her hospital release papers, which we didn’t read. We started talking about Christmas movies somehow. Linda’s favorite Christmas movie is the Charlie Brown Christmas Special (mine, too!) and we both hated Scrooge. She and Katie agreed on Miracle on 34th St. I was the standout vote on claymation. It was a silly conversation, but it felt good to find something we could all have in common.

I didn’t really feel good about leaving Linda. I wanted to help her, but all I did was literally move her up the road a bit to an unknown destination. Katie had been going through her mental files thinking of places we could bring her, but if she wouldn’t agree to go to a shelter or church, there wasn’t much we could do but drop her off where she said her friends would be. Her contacts in the court system could only step in if Linda if had been arrested. And although she had just been released from the hospital, she said she had no case worker or social worker to ask for help.

Still, by the end of the ride, Linda was smiling. I have no idea if we helped her, but she certainly made me realize how lucky I am. Today, my family is coming over to celebrate with us, and really, the only thing we’re celebrating is the fact that we’re so lucky. Linda probably won’t have a Thanksgiving dinner. She told us to eat some turkey for her. I don’t normally eat turkey, but what the hell. It seems a little ungrateful not to.

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Good News and Bad News on Project Derby

skating-with-kiddo2

Happy Saturday! It’s time for another derby update!

We’ve become regulars at the roller rink. The manager knows us, we recognize most of the employees, and last night, I think I got hit on by a 14-year-old. Jenn and I brought her cousin and daughter skating, and while I was out doing a couple laps on my own, a group of three boys skated up behind me. I heard one of them say, “Do it, man,” to his friend, who then skated up and surprised me be by grabbing my right hand. I gotta say, for an eighth grader, homesauce was pretty suave. I wasn’t sure whether to scold him for being inappropriately forward with an adult or encourage him to try again with someone his own age. It was very weird, but then it was over, and I rejoined my friends in the middle of the rink where we helped kiddo practice her balance and I learned to skate backwards for the first time. Gotta admit — I was pretty proud of myself for skating backwards, and it’s easier than I expected.

As for the rest of the week … let’s get the bad news out of the way first: The $10 consignment store skates totally are not gonna cut it for derby. I took them to Department of Skate (a derby-girl-owned skate shop in DC), where an extremely cool chick named Raptor (Velocityraptor — awesome name!) literally begged me not to try and skate in them. I asked her to tell me why, not because I didn’t believe her but because I needed to be educated. She explained in detail the difference between these adorable but totally impractical vintage skates and a derby skate. Key point: the $10 skates had wheels made of plastic, like a Rubbermaid trash bin or a Tupperware dish. Raptor skated around the shop in them and a little bit of plastic actually broke off. There was absolutely no way those skates would survive a derby practice, let alone a bout.

The good news is that I ordered skates, and they should be here Monday! Raptor was super friendly and helpful, even though her teammates were arriving for a meeting in the store as she was helping us. I was actually starstruck as I recognized some of the women from the previous night’s bout. Even though it got crowded, warm, and noisy very quickly, I loved the atmosphere of all those awesome chicks in one room.

So, while waiting on my skates, I’ve continued to practice. Skating with Kiddo last night was particularly fun because even though she had a hard time, she really tried. I admire the adventurous nature of little kids. This girl believes she can do anything, but she got frustrated watching glide around effortlessly while she had to hold someone’s hand or lean on something to stand up — I relate! It was fun to encourage her and see her learning even in the short time we were at the rink. We spent most of the night going slowly to help her learn, but that gave me lots of chances to practice going forward and backward without picking my feet up.

All in all, I’m feeling kinda confident right now. Taking on a new challenge has been really rewarding so far, and it’s fun to make little bits of progress at a time. I feel certain that if I keep skating regularly, I’ll keep getting stronger and better at it. Part of me is chomping at the bit to try out for a team right now, but I have a ton to learn, so I better value the practice time!

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Kindness is Cool

Two Words About Friendship
While working on my post about volunteering, I asked my friends and family via social media to tell me about their favorite ways to volunteer. I received many welcome replies including one from my cousin Lorena, who is one of the sweetest and most thoughtful people I know. She wrote:

It is so much easier to be charitable with people that we do not know. It is much more difficult and much more important, in my opinion, to be charitable with the people that we do know, the ones with whom we have the most contact and on whom we have the greatest impact. It isn’t volunteering per se, but perhaps a name should be given to it and a logo, right?

She makes a great point. Volunteering is easy because it’s an organized activity, usually with a clear beginning and ending. On the other hand, being nice to our friends, family and neighbors isn’t so clear cut. There is no end to being nice to your neighbors, listening to your friends, or remembering to call your relatives.

Because I really love volunteering, I strongly encourage you to try it. Contributing to your community is incredibly rewarding. But remember to look at the people right in front of you, too. The way you treat the people closest to you will shape their lives, so act with love.

 

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Little Lies: Freddy’s Winter Commute

icy road
This is the pretend Freddy.
This is the first in what I hope will be an occasional series of fiction
experiments. Thanks to my friend Freddy Nassar for volunteering his 
likeness for my studies.

It would have been appropriate to get on the road a little early, but he didn’t. There were numerous little things to be done before he could leave the house. Shower, shave, feed the cat, clean the litter box, and scrub the spot on the floor where the cat had expressed his dismay with the state of the litter box. He checked his e-mail while waiting for the coffee to brew. He checked it again while sipping his coffee pensively, quickly, wishing he could gulp it down like water, knowing he should be getting on his way. He checked his email once more from his phone as he sat in the car waiting for the engine to warm up and melt the ice on his windshield. No new messages, except for the usual barrage of sales pitches from online retailers used once to purchase a Christmas gift for a girlfriend who was no longer so much as a friend. At 7:45, he put the car in reverse and began to move only to glimpse a dark, hulking figure in the rearview mirror. Brakes. Park. That fleeting moment of insanity: Is that a fucking bear? A fat, ruddy face lowered into view, leathery red cheeks smiling idiotically.

“Sorry!” shouted the stupid face. Two hands appeared alongside it, one wearing a mitten, one bare-fingered, both waving stupidly. “Have a nice day!” The idiot bear man moved on with snow and ice crunching under his feet.

At 7:54, the car was warm, sitting at a traffic light, and grumbling away like an old man. Freddy checked his phone. Nothing. Greenlight. Acceleration. The way the tires spin until they can get traction on public roads when winter catches them by surprise. Freddy’s car scrambled as though having a bad dream of its own, then bolted into the intersection just as the cars behind him began to honk. “Fuckoff!” Freddy shouted as he fishtailed through.

The next time the car stopped, it was facing a low, grey building nearly identical to every other building within a radius of about 5 miles. The front door was locked, and Freddy opened it with a key that he carried along with his car and house keys. His gloved fingers fumbled for a moment, human error, but the key slid into place and the door recognized its partner, and the grey building opened itself up, offering him a slightly less grey and rewardingly warm interior. Lights, automatic. Carpet, grey berber, that bland mélange of colors that is not a color unto itself, intended to disguise the stains of everyday abuses.

Freddy’s lungs overtook him with a spasm that produced something that he was compelled to expel emphatically onto the floor. “Ugh,” said Freddy, as he scuffed the filth into the carpet with the sole of his favorite shitkicking boots.

Freddy used to enjoy being the most competent person in the office. That was before he learned there were no rewards for competency. If you are good at your job, efficient, if you ensure that rules are followed and schedules are met, you get the occasional pat on the head or an invitation to lunch with the boss. You get invited to play golf. Freddy did not want to play golf. He had learned the rules of the game and how to swing that stupid stick at that stupid little dimpled ball, and he sometimes tried playing mental games like in fourth grade — imagine your boss’s head on the ball, et cetera. He drove around in golf carts with old men droning on and kept score for them and was jolly about being the looser of every round. After all, bosses and clients love to win. They invited him back often when he’d been good, guided some tough project through the weeds and made everyone a bit of cash.

Good-boy Freddy rolled his eyes, pulled off his gloves, and stuffed them in his pockets. With a groan, he unzipped his pants and pissed on the carpet, letting the morning’s coffee finish it’s journey to an unexpected destination. He listened thoughtfully to the sound of piss on berber, a sound he’d never contemplated before, and at the same time felt a thrill not entirely unlike the first time he dragged his tongue up the length of a woman’s body. Strange, he thought, that those two things should be connected in his mind. But then, life is certainly strange. Sex is strange. People are strange. What wasn’t strange was this office and golf and the coworkers who were now officially late.

8:46. Work started at 8:30. No fucking respect for schedules, Freddy thought. No fucking respect for each other or themselves — what a waste, he thought.

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