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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Retirement Plan

As trite as this sounds, roller derby is like that ex you just keep going back to, which is why I tweeted last week that going back to a league practice somehow felt like I was fucking an ex-boyfriend – familiar and comforting, but somehow still just wrong.

It’s been a year and six months since I skated in my last bout, which was the evening of my grandmother’s funeral. At that time, only two months back after my first ever “offseason” (which only lasted several months anyhow), I was dragging my feet. My body was in a place where it could no longer withstand the rigorous training needed to be an All Star, yet my mind wasn’t happy skating home team, and on top of all that we had known for several months that my 93-year-old grandmother was nearing the end. Truthfully, I hadn’t been feeling it for a while. While I knew I loved roller derby, I knew I needed a change but I couldn’t figure out where I fit. Then, just as I had mustered the energy to come back and try on some different hats, we got the devastating news that my closest aunt was dying – my mom’s sister and lifelong best friend. Every moment I spent not alone and not doing something with or for my family I felt guilt, so I pulled back entirely and officially retired from roller derby, a sport I had played continuously since 2005, barring the random off-time for injury.

Retirement has often been more difficult than the worst times I’ve ever spent on skates. While my aunt was dying, I was focused on her, her immediate family and my mom, which took my mind off derby in the interim, but after she passed her words from not a year earlier echoed in my mind: “Why are you quitting? You love it so much!” Why was I quitting? I was broken, more mentally than physically, but physically as well, but what really kept me away was the same fearful thought circulating in my mind – I felt, and still feel like, I cannot possibly live life without derby, and this scares the hell out of me, because I know that even if I were to go back now, I am only postponing the inevitable. At some point I’ll have to learn how to deal with not skating, and I’m concerned that I might not be in such a good place to manage the permanent separation later on. So, sticking to my guns I remained involved at an admin level and found a tiny bit of comfort in that, until last month.

In June I was feeling like I was finally getting to a place where I was happy with the level of my derby involvement. The hubs and I went on our belated honeymoon to Jamaica, I came back, and not a week later I was turning right back around to travel for work in Oregon, getting home just in time for our monthly bout that Saturday. The honeymoon was great, the trip to visit with our author group in Oregon went really well, and I was looking forward to watching our ladies take on the B.A.D. Girls the day after we got back. Exhausted from all the meetings, but still riding the good-meeting high, my coworker and I shared a meal in the airport when my heart stopped. All it took was seeing two rollergirls at first standing in line for food. “What team are they?” my coworker asked. “Bay Area,” I said. “We’re playing them tomorrow.” As we turned the corner to arrive at our gate, there was the rest of the team – sharing our flight back to Baltimore. I felt like I had died inside. I literally had a panic attack as I sat at the gate with my coworker, nodding and responding politely to the cell phone pictures she was showing me of her kids. I wasn’t even paying attention to her, but I knew that in order to get through this I’d have to appear normal. If she had any inclination something was wrong, she’d ask and then I’d lose it right there at the airport.

So what was it about seeing BAD that had me so worked up? Well, I really cared about my last season as an All Star, and consciously or unconsciously I think I had held myself at arms length even from our own All Stars, because I knew how much I missed it, and I knew that being around it would devastate me. What I didn’t know was how much. Being in the airport and sitting in the plane seeing the stewardess ask the skaters the same questions I had been asked over and again when traveling to an away game brought me right back to that moment I was traveling as an All Star. Being part of a team that spends so much time together practicing and traveling and generally fucking around in their spare time is an amazing experience that you can’t know until you’re in it, or in my case, until you’re out of it. Seeing BAD made me miss the aspects of derby I loved so much and that I wasn’t currently getting. I wore my sunglasses on the plane to disguise the tears I couldn’t hold back at times, and I prayed to be out of there as quickly as possible. When we landed in Baltimore I didn’t even wait for my coworker to deplane before I sprinted to catch the bus back to the parking garage. “Just wait until you’re in the car,” I kept telling myself, but when I got there I couldn’t even cry. I raced home, got into bed, and didn’t get out for 3 days – I missed the bout, and I called out of work.

I was 100% honest with my boss, a rugby player in his youth, because I knew he’d understand. Luckily, I was right and the days after I emerged from my bedroom I did a lot of thinking and talking with those people close to me about what I wanted: to skate. I could finally admit that I wasn’t happy completely off skates, holding myself at arms length from the rest of my league, but I also knew I’d have to figure out how to make some version of on-skates derby fit with the rest of my current life and abilities, while also making me happy, hence, The Retirement Plan.

The Retirement Plan is me attending a practice or so a week with the league and choosing to not skate with a team, while eventually helping out the coaches with the Fresh Meat skaters. I have a lot of knowledge and a lot to offer new skaters in the form of one-on-one help when it’s needed. The other day I attended Charm School, our open practice for aspiring skaters, and I had so much fun helping to teach those ladies basic skills. I knew after that practice that I was home. I’m still retired, but through The Retirement Plan I’m trying to carve out a place for other retirees who can’t or don’t want to skate on a team, but who still have a lot of knowledge to share and who still want to skate and be involved in derby. I hope this makes me happy, and I hope I can contribute toward the greater good of our league. As for the derby/ex-boyfriend analogy, I guess only time will tell if this new plan means derby and I really can remain “just friends”. I certainly hope so. Relationships are all hard, but like anything they thrive when you work at them. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Family on Facebook

It’s funny how we censor ourselves around certain people. For several years I've successfully avoided my relatives on Facebook, not because I don’t like them but because, well, I’m largely inappropriate most of the time, and while it truly doesn't bother me that they see the “real” me, I know my mom would disapprove if it got back to her (she’s not on Facebook), and that does bother me. It was several months ago that my first relative on my mom’s side found me and requested to be my friend. I thought I had successfully duped my family by not having listed my real name in association to my Facebook account. Instead, I only identified myself by my derby persona, which I knew they weren't likely to remember. At each family gathering I still get asked, “You still doing that roller blading?” to which I had learned to reply, “Yes, yes I am.” If they can’t even remember the sport correctly, how on god’s green earth would they remember my derby name? Well, I can only assume my cousin either looked up my husband to find me or saw my name in a newspaper article associated with my derby name and bingo! I couldn't deny the friendship, and truth be told, I was eager to talk to my cousins more often than I did – I was just hoping my mouth wouldn't push them further away, especially when they had just reached out to become closer.

That first family connection came a little over 6 months ago, and since then things have been fine. If anything, while my cousins (all older than me) are largely inactive in posting on Facebook, I know that they do read my statuses and I can see that they have become more free in their speech around me as a consequence of our internet friendship. Recently, however, I face a new challenge: my cousins’ kids are now on Facebook, and they have requested to be my friend. Initially I denied one, but then I didn’t hear the end of it from her, so after several months had passed and she requested to be my friend once again, I went ahead and granted her request.  She’s 10. And just this morning she schooled me over Facebook IM as to what “hby” means. In fairness, she had typed, “good hby”, which I took as a typo to mean goodbye. I didn’t answer, and then I was informed that hby means “how bout u”. I couldn’t even LOL at myself, I felt so fucking old. I instead attempted to answer her question and tell her about work, which I’m sure she cares about deeply. So deeply she never responded back. Oh, well.

It’s funny, I often consider censoring myself because I know my 10-year old cousin may see a status update full of potty mouth, but for better or worse, inevitably I don’t. I have another second cousin that I’m friends with on Facebook who just turned 16. I don’t worry about the potty mouth so much with her, because I know she knows how to use discretion and not just repeat everything she hears or reads, but I do worry about things I might say that are overtly sexual in nature, albeit most of the time they are in jest. I’m not a parent, so I’ve never before considered having to censor myself in, say, the privacy of my own home because my kids are there. I assume some level of discretion is needed, so your kid doesn’t get sent to the principal’s office for repeating something she’s heard, but that discretion seems to vary depending on age, and this seems to mirror (at least in part) what I’m now facing on Facebook.

Then there’s the parents. Occasionally I’ll stumble across a photo or status update made by a friend, and a string of comments below that post in which the friend’s mom scolds him or her for having said or shown something “inappropriate”. The friend usually apologizes in another comment, while the friend’s friends bust him or her for getting busted by a parent decades after they’ve moved out of said parent’s house. In this instance, this is why I think Facebook is good: most people are “themselves” on Facebook, and this often forces the people who know or are related to them to see them how they really are. While parents may initially balk at language used by their adult children or something else, it forces acceptance of the adult child for who they really are – flaws and all – which in my experience means that the relationship with a parent is deepened. This, of course, is a totally different dynamic than exposing your true self to children who have not yet developed an adult sense of right and wrong.

I’ve thought about sending a DM to all my little cousins essentially telling them that while I’m a proponent of free speech and that while I am comfortable with them telling me anything using any words they choose, if I find out they start using words or discussing inappropriate topics that they’ve gotten from me, I’ll unfriend them. Still, I’m unsure if this ultimatum or warning is the right approach. Inevitably, I rely on parents to block me if they deem me inappropriate, and I won’t be upset if they do.

This time last year I wasn’t linked to my family via Facebook, and while I spend more time worrying about how I present myself now because we’re all friends I feel that worry is an acceptable price to pay for being able to become closer to many of my relatives who I would typically only see at weddings and funerals. I’m not perfect, but my intentions are good, and I never would have guessed that social media, of all things, would bring me closer to my family. I’m glad it has. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini

I DO WHAT I WANT! And this applies both to blogging and cooking. I've had what could only be considered to be a straight-up assload of zucchini appear in my veggie garden as of late, so yesterday I decided to do something about it... Cook it! But how? Yeah, that was the question... I've had so little time to myself it seems, since I've been back on the ole workout bandwagon, that I knew I wanted to do something easy with the zukes that would be a main dish, and not one that produces many dishes to boot (I still have 4th of July party dishes piled up in my sink). Oh yeah, and did I mention tasty? I like to eat, in case you hadn't noticed - anything I make must be tasty! So, I thought about things I liked (goat cheese and spinach) and how they worked with other things I grow (basil and oregano), and behold, the stuffed zucchini recipe I outline below was born! It was so good that I ate an entire half of the zucchini, and my dog was even begging for some (I know it's good when he begs, because he's become incredibly picky in his old age). If you wind up altering and it tastes amazing, please comment and let me know what you did. Enjoy! 

Stuffed Zucchini
1 gigantic zucchini (or 2 large ones)
16-oz pkg frozen spinach
5 green onions (small bunch), chopped (1/2 whites)
2 seeded pepperoncini peppers, chopped
4oz goat cheese
1c sour cream
1.5c fresh basil
1 lg sprig fresh oregano, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
2tbsp butter

Cut zucchini in half, lengthwise, and place in baking dish or on shallow pan. Scoop out flesh and set aside.

Heat butter. Sauté onions and pepper over medium high heat for 2 mins. Add garlic, scooped zucchini, and frozen spinach. Reduce to medium heat and cover. Simmer for 5-7 mins, stirring occasionally.

Add goat cheese, sour cream, oregano, and basil. Stir until cheese is melted and dairy is blended. Add salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for 2 minutes. Add 2tbsp flour and stir well. Simmer while stirring until thickened (thin gravy consistency), about 5 minutes.

Place mixture in zucchini shells and bake on 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

TIP: The more zucchini flesh you scoop out of the zucchini initially, the tastier the dish IMO. Conversely, if you absolutely love the flavor of plain zucchini, scoop less flesh. Personally, I like when zucchini picks up the flavor of whatever it has been cooked with, so next time I make this I'll scoop even more flesh out initially.