Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Candice: 5 going on 50

So me and my heating pad have been getting reacquainted. Perhaps like the Electric Blanket character from The Brave Little Toaster, my heating pad is happy to be cuddled again once more despite the shift in Texas towards spring. As for myself, I'd really rather I didn't need to desperately cling to it in order to stay in bed or get out of it.

Three weeks ago (that's three, as in almost a month) I was failing to master choctaws when my feet went out from under me and all 900 feet of me (approx.) hit the ice squarely on my tailbone. I got up again and skated for another 15 minutes in an effort to prove that I was tougher than skating. And maybe I did, but by that night I had a lovely purple bruise blooming like a flower in a crack of concrete (get it?) and a lot of soreness. Skating got the last laugh, but I thought with the fading of the bruise, so to might the pain fade.


Nope times 100.

For a few days walking and sitting and sleeping and existing were all reason enough to be in pain. Walking, sitting, and existing did eventually became comfortable again, but sleeping (ALAS! My FAVORITE thing) did not. Even taking ibuprofen before bed was laughably ineffective. For the past three weeks no matter what I did, I would wake up roughly once every hour as the pain punched through my slumber and demanded that I roll over and try to find a more comfortable position. Once or twice there was nothing for it, even lying on my stomach hurt and I just had to wait for sleep to win out over the discomfort.

Thus, the most embarrassing Google search in a long time: "falling on ice butt injury." My butt, it was injured from falling on ice. Last time I posted I wrote about how I felt skating was, in some ways, an expensive and showy waste of time and money. Now I feel like skating is turning me into a hybrid baby old person, someone who falls constantly; someone who when they fall looks up at the ceiling in pure shock that such a thing could happen before clutching their hip and whining about not being able to get up; someone in need of some miracle cream to cure their butt woes.

Alas, there doesn't appear to be a miracle cream. Or even a miracle pill. According to WebMD I either have butt cancer, or I'll just have to be patient, stay active, avoid positions that hurt, and either ice it or using the heating pad until the pain disappeared. I was worried ice would trigger some sort of PTSD attack for my poor traumatized butt, so heating pad it was. It helps. I used it Sunday and, though I still woke up, slept much better than I had in a while. I used it last night, and woke up only in a little pain. Five extra minutes lying on top of the heating pad made me simultaneously more capable of getting out of bed and less willing.

And yet still I shall skate. Neither cold, nor lack of talent, nor lack of money, nor aching butt will keep my from the ice.

My butt isn't too happy about that, but oh well.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kate: Breaking News: Nine Year Olds are SASSY.

We got split up into groups in my last skating class and told to create a footwork sequence. The tiny blonde nine year old who was clearly the bossiest member of my group (in a group the includes me AND Candice, trust me, that is impressive) was like “let’s start with a twizzle!” I informed her that neither of us could, in fact, twizzle. She put her hands on her hips and gave me a look of disdain usually reserved for parents or people who don’t know who Justin Bieber is. “What? You can’t TWIZZLE?” In my head, I was like “Um, I can DRIVE and VOTE and STAY UP AS LATE AS I WANT, so NYAH” but out loud I just asked her to show me what to do.

Why was I in a class full of sassy pre-teens? Well, I’ll tell you.

Candice and I were doing the whole Adult Workshop class thing for a while, but that class was full of people and became really stressful because we just couldn’t seem to learn anything new in the crush. So we decided, what would be a better idea than switching to a footwork class with one of the most popular coaches? A footwork class that just happens to be full of nine year olds and one other adult besides us?

Let me tell you, people, there are a lot of better ideas than that, at least if you want to hang on to your dignity.

I feel that we have made it clear that we’ve made peace with the lack of dignity that comes along with learning to figure skate, though, so we were pretty much in heaven. Except for the part where all those nine year olds could do WAY better than us at footwork. Wait, hang on. Let me rephrase that. They were doing way better than ME. Candice could sort of keep up with them as they were galloping across the ice, doing three turns and Mohawks and whatever like little mini gazelles. I was always the last one lumbering across the ice, struggling to get the footwork sequences or turns or whatever we were doing.

I got really, really frustrated in that class. It showed me that my half-assed approach to practice is really coming home to roost as we come up on a year of skating and I’m still struggling to learn the most basic of things. The coach who ran the class managed to keep me from exploding in a ball of frustration by 1. Expecting me to try as hard as I could and 2. Encouraging me when I got things right. It’s so basic, so childish in a way, but all I really needed was someone besides Candice to be like “I know you can do this, so shut the hell up and DO IT. Awww, that was good, try again.” I’ve been practicing more often so that I don’t embarrass myself when I go back to classes. Magic of magic, wonder of wonders, my footwork has really improved.

My next class will be with adults again, though. Seriously, y’all. Those kids are BRUTAL.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Candice: Wait why am I doing this again?

At some point in the last week I probably would have sold my soul to go back in time and not pick up skating as a hobby. Between the misery of being over invested in the state of Japanese skaters after the quake and tsunami as well as figure skating World Championships which were to have occurred in Tokyo, and the misery of being unable to sleep because I hurt myself sort of badly skating, I was ready to wash my hands of it.

Beyond that I was also experiencing a major crisis of faith. Kate and I are toddling up to our first full year of skating and lessons. With the exception of a two-month break from classes, we've been making a concerted effort at this for a long enough time that everyone is expecting some results. On my birthday a few months ago, my sister who had not yet seen me skate at all asked me if I could jump. I suppose I can, a waltz jump has the word "jump" right in the title, but my waltz jumps leave something (everything) to be desired. They're about as timid as they can be without never having both feet leave the ground. My sister smiled encouragingly at what I managed to show her, but didn't exactly express any awe. It was okay, I wasn't that impressed myself.

A month later I'd learn the lead up to the half flip jump, but after being taught how I never received any follow up on why it didn't feel comfortable. It's not my instructors fault really, there was just too much else to teach. I was still struggling with some aspects of 3-turns, my spins, my spirals, my lunges, and pretty much everything. I've already had to dial down my expectations a lot from where I'd started, but I never would have believed that mastery of a Basic 5 skill would still be just out of reach after a year of trying.

It was beyond frustrating. Even embarrassing. What an obvious, and overly advertised waste of time. And all this after posting about how Bright Girls give up when things get hard. It was right there in front of me, "Keep working, keep practicing," but still I was pouting. In an effort to prove the article and everyone wrong, I went to my practices and spent an hour and a half on the ice each time. By last Friday I was still frustrated, still half-thinking about quitting.

Yesterday I went to the rink with Kate and at the end of an hour and a half I realized I could do a LFO (left forward outside) 3-turn, LFI (left forward inside) 3-turn, and LFI mohawk on a circle. I did a RFO 3 turn, RFI mohawk, and an RFI 3-turn on a circle. During my last class we were taught twizzles and the choctaw step. As of yesterday, I can do an ugly example of both going one direction.

For those of you keeping score at home: 3 new types of turns that I could not do last month (inside 3-turn, twizzle, choctaw). I also completed a pretty good looking LFO spiral. I think we can all be proud of me.

Last Thursday I skated by myself and practiced my waltz jump and, while they're not going to win any medals any time soon, by the end they started feeling like actual jumps. My lunges and spins are... improving. A little. Too little if you ask me, but horrifyingly the paragraph right above this one seems to indicate that I will still have keep to skating, and keep trying to improve them because they may, in fact, get better.

Ah well.

PS- A shout out to everyone who reads and the few that comment. I get beyond excited about each comment, but I can't figure out who to reply directly to you. No matter, just know I'm thrilled about you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Candice: I'm Not a Natural But...

I just came across a wonderfully insightful article, The Trouble With Bright Girls at the Huffington Post website. The article is based around a study which revealed the following:

...Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses.

Hello, Candice's reaction to High School, how are you aside from being perfectly summed up?

Psychologist Carol Dweck has discovered the way in which girls are praised have affected their outlook on difficult tasks. "Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their 'goodness.' When we do well in school, we are told that we are 'so smart,' 'so clever,' or 'such a good student.' This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't."

Hello, Candice's entire life since birth, how are you aside from being a mind blowing revelation?

A little back story, my dad was a tall, smart, creative, funny and hard working person. This, according to my mother, meant I was also destined to be tall, smart, creative, funny and hard working. To listen to her tell it, I didn't have to try to be any of these things, they were just coded into my DNA. Done and done, all I have to do is sit back and wait for my innate talents to bloom.

With the exception of being tall, obviously that attitude was not exactly true. Through a beneficial confluence of circumstances I did manage to become 5'10", get on a few honor rolls, a Dean's list, etc. My creativity, nascent in the "drawing things with crayons" phase of life, did in fact blossom once I entered the "write well enough to put a story together" part of life. Funny didn't really all come together for me until high school and the internet. That just leaves hard working.

I have to work hard at being a hard worker. If I think something will reflect poorly on me as a person I will diligently work at it until absolutely no one can deny that Candice should not be chastised, and should even be praised. If I think I can get away with it though, oh the corners I will cut.

Which brings me back to high school (and then college), when I could do a paper in the hour before it was due and pull a B+. I could coast through math and get a passing grade. I could do the summary, annotated bibliography, and first draft of a paper and then not turn in the actual final draft of the paper and pass the class. So I did. My intelligence was never really doubted by my teachers, but my ability to get shit done definitely was. I've stated many times that if I could just go back in time and slap myself across the face, and tell myself that doing homework DID have a point and that point was opening doors later in life, I would. In a heartbeat.

I'd also tell myself to get up and move. My basic motto about sports was, "If at first you don't succeed, write it off and never do it again." If running was hard, then why bother running? Not being able to run didn't affect my intelligence, my creativity. All I had to do was show up to PE in order to pass the class, so I cut all other available corners that required effort. And more importantly, required I fail the first few times.

Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., "If you would just pay attention you could learn this," "If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.") The net result: When learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren't "good" and "smart," and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.

They're talking about schoolwork here, but where I needed to hear it most was physical activity. Kate likes to say she was a natural at skating, a little whiz at the ice from an early age which she later abandoned in pursuit of tween-age ennui. It's an aspect of skating that we simply cannot share with each other. The first few times I was on ice, I was slow, I fell, and I was not a natural. Replace "first few times I was on the ice" with "any sport I ever tried ever and you've got the summary of my ability to instantly pick up a sport.

For me the ice is something I have to "pay attention and try harder" at. All the time. Every time. Working a regular schedule means that I'm able to make a weekly appointment with myself to skate for an hour that I rarely miss. Kate's had interruptions here and there described before in this blog. If I had to say who had practiced the most, it would be me.

And after almost a year of skating there are things Kate can do better than me, and things that I can do better than she can. The results, unique to each of us, are roughly even. Our enjoyment of the sport? Dead even. The result of the experiment is that if I'd put in time, effort, and practice as a child I might well have been a decent player of any sport. A star? A natural? I suppose not, but I can confidently say that doesn't detract from the value, and enjoyment I could have had.

This article was a lesson learned too late in some ways. I can't go back and re-do my years in high school and undergrad. I can't go back and tell myself that volleyball might have been a worthwhile thing to keep trying at. I can use the lesson now, in skating, at my job, and in a lot of other things.