Sunday, December 18, 2011

knowing my place

It's been a couple of months since I've actually played roller derby. I've been learning the reffin' and all game and scrimmage opportunities have been given over to figuring out if I'm a giraffe or a zebra.

Photo by Richard Lowes.

I am both.

Last night, though, I got to play. Reffing, I'm sorry to say, does not improve physical game play skills. It does help with understanding the pack and how it moves and the game overall. I felt yesterday that I knew what was going on quite well. But having the ability to do anything about it was another matter entirely.

Photo by Richard Lowes.

I also know quite a bit more about legal game play and the tendency to shout out infractions is already well established. Colour, number, penalty - I called it mid-jam. I did not say, 'tweet!' Though I might of if the penalty-maker didn't take my moment of distraction while I brooded over the essential unfairness of it all to knock the wind out of me.

Reminder: be a player or be a ref. You can not be both at the same time.

And it's true. All of our refs in our league are also players. I've seen them on countless occasions trying to be both and what usually happens is that someone gets knocked down. Jammers who stop skating so they can signal to the jam ref, shouting at the pack refs, declaring, loudly, "Pack is front!" or, worse, rhetorically asking, "Where the pack? No where! That's right, there is NO pack! Call this shit already!" instead of, ohIdon'tknow, trying to reform the fucking pack.

So, yes, that was me last night. Briefly. I'd like to say that momentarily losing the ability to breath is enough of a wake up call that I shall not try to ref while playing. At least that's my intention.

Of course, I probably would of taken that hit no matter what I was thinking at the time. Last night I travelled down to Calgary to play against the Hellions, CRDA's all-star team, as part of their try out process. They are a group of women with some badass skills and it's completely unsurprising how they can dominate little ol' me.

Another fun thing was I got to meet CRDA's Dazzler.  I love meeting derby bloggers.  I always get this little thrill, sort of like meeting someone famous.  Of course, us writers are usually famous in our own minds, so I think my thrill is justified.

Thanks Calgary for a great scrimmage and your fabulous people! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the Lexi defense

I was going to post something about all the lovely things happening in my little part of the derby-verse and maybe throw something in about a little thing world cup thing-y, but I'm not feeling very much like a reporter today so instead I'm going to tell you about my girl Lexisonfire.

 Lexisonfire by Papa Razzo.
You know, I'm not entirely sure that's even the proper way her name is spelled or spaced.  I'm a little bit crap about derby names.  There's all sorts of odd spellings and strange symbols and I never get the joke.   Word games have never been my strong suit.  Perhaps that's why I'm a blocker.  And a ref.

In fact, I am not sure of the actual given names of most of my derby friends, either, unless they have somehow resisted the pressure to make their Facebook name their derby name.  I myself identify myself now through my derby name on Facebook, mainly after realizing that 99% of my 'friends' were derbies.  Most of whom I would not recognize without a helmet on.  News from any family or non derby friends has long ago been buried under an avalanche of derby related updates.  Sorry family, but there is no Dana, only Zuul.

But back to whatshername, Lexi.  I'm really feeling the need to tell you about her.  First of all because I have all sorts of great pictures of her.

Whatsherface by Richard Lowes
And also because I'm having a really hard time with her lately.  Frankly, she's a bit of a thug.

Hammer and nail by Papa Razzo
I won't go into what started it (though it involved a fire drill, a ball, and all the restraint I could muster to not clock the bitch) but my urge to generally push around, check and knock down Lexi has been great since that day. 

Of course, wishing to knock Lexi down and actually doing it are two different things.  I will tell you now, with no small amount of pride, that my very first knock down ever was on Lexi, but it's actually a rather unusual happening.  The first problem is that she's a sturdy player and track aware.  She also has a wicked hit.  I've seen her hit players hard enough to get air time before crashing into the boards on more than one occasion.  She also excels at surprise hits towards the center.  This is one blocker I'd keep an eye on, even if she wasn't picking on me.

Yep, there it is.  By Richard Lowes.
But here is the other thing.  Just warming up before practice, I like to take a few pot shots at Lexi, but instead of dodging or telling me to fuck off, Lexi drops a shoulder and drifts up to meet my block like a torpedo locked onto a target and we collide like an iceberg hitting a large cruise ship.  The big problem is that, being approximately the same weight, my hull fails to crumple and we basically bounce off one another and experience a bodily vibrating sensation akin to striking a metal pole with an aluminum baseball bat.

Kind of painful.  And not smart.

You'd think I'd learn.  Or she'd learn.  But no.  Stupid is as stupid does and now it's gotten to the point that when we lock eyes upon each other during a free moment, Lexi squints her eyes and sneers while she takes her mouthguard down from her Snork parking position on her helmet and I have another ill fated go at her.

Kind of painful.  And not smart.  But good fun!

So, in honour of Lexissomethingorrather, I hereby am abusing my blogging powers and presenting to you something un-derby that you may not know about Lexi but that may, one day, save you from the same bone jarring slide into the wall that others have suffered.

Got your notebook?

Alright, the goods.  Despite her generally great taste in music, Lexi is physically compelled to dance to Metallica.  As in, if she hears even a few riffs of Metallica while out listening to a band or in a club, she will rise from her seat like a young maiden under a vampire's spell and waft towards the dance floor to thrash around in a trance until the fit is broken by a change in music. 

It's un unusual affliction, but, then again, Lexi is an unusual individual.

So, if you ever see Lexi coming on the track or in a dark alley and she's squinting at your while unhinging her mouthguard from her helmet, quickly start humming the chorus to Enter Sandman to save yourself.  Instead of hitting you, she'll be overcome with a fit of head banging and you can safely make you get away.

xoxo Lexi!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

zero to so-so

Roller derby, for me, has been as much about my psychological growth as physical.  I have spent so much time feeling out of place, out of shape, out classed and out ranked at derby that it's really a wonder that I'm still doing this.

For the first year of derby, every single practice felt like this.

Now only every second practice feels like that. 

Over my just about two years now in derby, my body has reshaped itself (without losing a single damn pound). My mind has also. I believe now that I am tougher, harder to please and less susceptible to cowardice. My language is rougher, my friendships more unpredictable and fun (with a higher tendency towards bruise inducing behaviors) and I actually touch people now. I didn't before, I had a serious aversion to contact. Especially hugs. Hugs made me gag. But now, these days, I sometimes hug people just to say 'Hi, it's nice to see you!' That is how much derby has changed me.

(I realise that that last confession just opened me up to a world of gratuitous hugging amongst those who claim to be my friends and teammates, but it's still better than the frenzy of ass-slapping I endured at tonight's practice. What is with these people?!)

I am still in a bit of awe at myself for sticking with this derby thing.  It must be a drug they put in the wrist guards because from the very beginning I've felt more vulnerable and filled with self-doubt than ever before in my life but I keep coming back for more.
My very first derby practice ever I fell down on my head and barrel rolled myself across the track so many times I was worried about driving home with my double vision.

My second practice we timed our twenty five in five and I achieved a whole eleven laps in five minutes of skating.  

My third practice I tore a ligament in the top of my foot trying to get up from a knee drop and had to rest it for a whole month.

I clearly wasn't made for this. 

It was a whole eight months before I was ready to benchmark.  Transitions took six months, crossovers three months, plows a whole seven months.  I do not have a blogging record on much of it because it was so painful to write about.  Not painful like my ass, thanks to tonight's bizarre gang-spanking, but painful to my ego and psyche.  I can sum it up for you, though: sweat, humiliation, and playing zombie sniper with those nagging self doubts.  Every time one of those little fuckers tried to work it's way into my brain BAM!  I knew if I let even one of them in, I'd be all over for me.

You know, it must be said, that benchmarking is not the achievement I thought it would be.  It was only the first step in many difficult steep steps.  My first post after benchmarkingI am clearly underwhelmed with myself.  I wish that this story right now would be ending with some triumphant, climatic crescendo, where I win over a serious lack of athleticism and self-doubt to become champion of all derby everywhere.

But, of course it doesn't.  I am quite firmly an intermediate level player.  I'm now just beginning to be comfortable enough on my skates to almost forget I'm wearing them sometimes.  I've achieved my mediocrity and brief hiatus from self consciousness by participating in five or six practices a week.

That seems like a lot, even to me, but it's what it's taking to move me up to so-so player level.

About now you are wondering why I am telling you this sad tale of lameness.  So am I actually.  I'm kind of bumming myself out.  But, oh yes, why I persist in something I am so bad at: I'm having just a shitload of fun.  I like being more fit.  I like pushing myself.  I love every tiny bit of confidence I've worked for on that track and absolutely cherish every knock down and jammer push out I do.  I like having started doing eleven laps in five minutes and working myself up to over thirty in the same time.  Working so hard for something makes the reward even sweeter.   

Which is why I believe that if you are feeling overwhelmed, fearful and unfit for derby, you should stick it out anyway.  You don't owe it to your coach or your friends or fellow freshies, but to yourself.  This is you growing muscles and attitude and nobody can do the work for you.  Relish the challenge.  It's what makes mediocre feel like winning a gold medal.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Super Widower

Behind every great derby player, there is an even greater wife.

I have completely failed to find myself a derby wife.  Somehow, maybe somewhat explained by Bonnie D. Stroir's foray into untangling the hidden sociological mechanisms behind derby politics, I just haven't gone through with that particular rite of passage.  I just don't get on that well with the ladies.

Or perhaps I'm being fussy, holding out for that special someone that may not exist?  I've overly romanticized the perfect wife, one whom will hit with me, hit me, hold my hair back after the after-after party and let me air my gear out in her car on a tournament weekend, and my heart beats only for this perfect creature who lives exclusively in my derby dreams? 

Actually, no, that's not it.  I think I have failed on the derby wife front because I don't really give a rat's ass.  I'm just a bit too old for that brand of social corralling and I'd rather just get on with playing the game.

Plus also I already have a derby mate. 

Tonight, I was talking to my widower, The Man, about derby - what else? - and he was breaking down a certain player's style for me, giving some insight to his skating habits and suggesting what I can do to successfully block them.  See, he does this.  He watches the games and instinctively recognizes patterns and behaviors exhibited by players and comes up with a counter-move to kyptonite their asses.  He has helped me before during half-time when I've been up against difficult foes and recently gave his brother, Buster Beaton, a bit of advice that helped him juke out one of the best players around these parts (you can try to spot it by watching here).  I think The Man has an excellent derby brain and would be valuable to our league. 

So, tonight I tried to convince him - once again, with a complete lack of success - as always- to join derby.  I said, 'Come on, you already know the game, you like skating, you're already going on a damn derby road trip without me, why don't you just admit it, come out, and sign up already?'

And The Man says, 'But dear, I'm already very involved with derby.  Who cares for your orphans?  Who brings you sandwiches when you're all day officiating at boot camp?  Who listens to you talk about it for hours everyday?  Who makes sure your gear is aired out and you have clean fishnets the game?   Who slices fruit and vegetables for the half time snacks?  Who comes to the bout to sit with family and friends and explain what's happening to them?  Who comes with you to the after party and hangs onto your ass all night?'

And then I realize, omg, I DO have a derby wife!  A real one!  One that cooks, cleans and does laundry!  And gives strategy tips!  I'm not going to ruin a good thing here by encouraging him to actually get on the track, oh no, he's doing just fine, keeping to his place.

So, who needs a derby wife anyway?  Honestly, I trust my teammates to be there for me on the track and the after party.  I skate with a great group of people, players and refs alike, and what good would come from singling someone out?  I'm thinking that either I marry the whole lot of them or none. 

Of course, I can afford to take this lofty position on derby courtship, because I know I'll still have clean fishnets when I need them. 

I know I wouldn't be able to make the time and energy commitment this sport takes if it wasn't for The "He Who Shall Not Have A Derby Name" Man.  So, to the guy who not only brings me bout food, airs gear, washes fishnets AND reads my blog:

Thank You <3  

And, I forgot to mention, I have an extra practice or two this week, if you don't mind...

(Btw, to check out a little media spot for RDRDA, my Nightshades Vs. Gas City, and an interview with three Team Canada players, click here.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Skate and Destroy recap

Roller derby ate my life.

Last week I bouted, NSO'd two games, helped benchmark a largish group of rookies who went on to play their games, and reffed for the first time ever.

I also managed a few hours of sleep, but only after I visited with some good friends and drank the requisite amount of wine to lead to intoxication.

Stitch Rip-Her whipping off of Cakes on the outside.  Photo by Richard Lowes.
The bootcamp was amazing.  Actually, the rookies were amazing.  They came to camp at 8 am Saturday morning, did dryland with Team Canada's Taz (I mention this specifically because Taz is relentlessly fit and does her manical best to make others so also), had various skating classes with some (from personal experience) tough coaches, and kept at it all day.  The next at 9 am, we had good number of them skating laps and going through their skills to benchmark.  And then they bouted!

I got the easy bit.  I skipped the dryland and drills and went straight to the track with the Gas City Rollers, to play a challenging and hit-y kind of game.

Lip Lash, who's age shall remain undisclosed at this moment but know that you should be bowing down at this woman's feet and telling her how bloody awesome she is, cuttin' in for a BANG!  Photo by Richard Lowes (aka, Mr. Lash).

Of all the Nightshades games I've played (everyone to date), this last one was my favorite.  First off, I had some friends in the crowd, who yelled out encouragements to violence and generalized threats.  Second, Gas City brought some talented and fierce players and it was absolute joy to be able to match them.  The game was close all the way through, and our team just managed to squeak ahead for the last couple of jams. 

Fatal Fantasy, Lady Laceration and Lacee Long-Stalkin walling up.  Photo by Richard Lowes.
I am incredibly proud of our ladies.  Not for winning.  Don't tell anyone, but I hardly think to look at the score during a game.  Sometime during the second half, when the bench starts getting a little intense, I remember to look up and check it out to see what everyone is talking about.  What I am proud of is that we do teamwork well and maintain a positive vibe, no matter how much the game heats up.   

We were a good match up for the Gas City Rollers even though our team foundations are quite dissimilar. Of course I can only know from observation (sometimes, very close), but Gas City Rollers seem like a team of jammers: fast, smart and lithe. My team is one of blockers. We also play smart, but we tend to take over a space and stick to one another like we have our own gravitational pulls.  When we work together, we can seriously get in the way. I have watched opposing jammers round the corner and see one of our back walls of gray up just up the track and their whole body slumps slightly. 

Thanks Gas City for an excellent game.  Can't wait for you to have another crack at us.

I mentioned up at the top that I'm blowing girls now too, but you'll have to wait for another post to hear that story.  I've got to rush off and get prepared for our recruitment night tonight.  I'm excited to meet some new skaters and see some of our freshies who are coming for a free skate.  Our new derby school starts in a couple of weeks and I'm eyeball deep in planning drills and finding coaches.  Btw, now is a good time to share any resources for derby drills or coaching - I could use all the knowledge I can get.  Or for reffing - that too!

I said roller derby ate my life.  Did I mention that I'm not too sad about it?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

the third team... needs a beer

Hey, both of you, I'd like to invite you over to the sports blog, Any Sport Any Time, to read my post on RDRDA's Papa Razzo reffing the World Cup.

Referring is seriously hard work, no doubt about it, but refs are seldom in the spotlight like the players are.  It's hard to say exactly why.


It's one thing to argue, from a spectator's point of view, an invisible ref is a good ref, but us players know that this game wouldn't be nearly as much fun without them.

You should always thank the officials, refs and NSOs, after every game and practice.  Even if you think that some ref is a nasty piece of work and had it in for you the whole game, thank them.  They are there for the love of the sport, just like you, and every call they make is a chance for you to become a better player.

I'd like to start a trend of buying an official, ref or NSO, a beer after the game.  This Buy-An-Offical-A-Beer movement has nothing to do with my decision to learn the reffin' myself so I can help the men out when they get a chance to play - a rare occurance with men's roller derby in Canada.  But, if and when I get into some stripes and start pissin' off the players, I would like to mention that I'm particularly fond of pale ale.  Not 'light' beer, never making that fuckin' mistake.  Pale, damnit.

So, thank you to every ref that has taken the time to penalize my team.  We have become more aware and stronger players because of it. 

Papa Razzo by Christina Molendyk of Argent Dawn Photography

Friday, October 14, 2011

count 'em

Sometimes I have to sit back and marvel at what a bizarre place derby has taken me to in my personal life. 

Last night I was showing The Man the bruise on my ass, because that is what derby people do.  It takes about a week for my butt bruises to show.  My thigh bruises appear after four days, arms the day after.  I'm going to write a paper one day about the time delayed presentation of minor hematomas relative to location on the body.

So, I'm showing The Man my ass and I tell him that I got the bruise during last weeks scrimmage when my jammer went through the pack on the apex, giving me a not so gentle shove/punch out of the way.  It was then that I had one of those moments of cognitive dissidence when I suddenly had a hard time believing what I was saying.  I just thought that when I was an adult I'd spend the time in the evening talking to my partner about more, well, adult things.  Politics or symphony music or taxes or something.  Not showing him the bruise on my ass I got playing a game.  On roller skates.  I suddenly felt weird and insecure about my status as a grown-up.

But then I started to feel weirder that The Man didn't feel weird about this.  So I broke down the story of my ass bruise for him in more detail.  I said, "Gingerdead Man, that's his name, punched me in the ass.  On roller skates.  Honey, some dude punched me in the ass hard enough to leave a bruise.  What do you think about that?"

I thought it worth at least a raise of an eyebrow, but apparently not.  What kind of relationship is this?!  The Man only said, with suspicious eagerness, "Yeah.  So, you got one on the other side?  Want me to check?"


I guess I'm just at a point in my life where it's actually mundane to have a guy punch me in the ass.  Obviously, it wasn't my first time.  All sorts of strange contact is made on and off the track among derby people.  Last night at practice, for instance, Runaway Pain (yep, that's her name), felt compelled to bump her pelvis into my ass repeatedly into me to clarify a rule during a ref discussion.  And then she did it again for fun.  In fact, it happens frequently enough that it's not really worth talking about.  This is what maturity looks like to me.  The closer I get to forty, the more frequently I get punched in the ass and dry humped by people I don't know well enough to be able to look them up in the phone book. 

I'm not complaining.  Better to be forty and bruised than forty and bored.  But I'm not enjoying the bruises and pain with fetish-like glee, either.  And I will say that if The Man came home after a night of having his ass punched, his groin stomped and his booty blocked, he'd have a hell of a lot to say about it and I wouldn't be allowed to just say, 'yeah,' and turn back to an episode of Glee.  I would definitely have to pull out the ice packs and sooth his battered and bruised... ego.

Fact is, when it comes to getting out there and putting my ass on the line (literally), I've got more balls than The Man.  Yes, that's weird, by the numbers alone.  This is normal here.  Is it grown-up?  Probably not.  Is it hurting anyone but me?  Well, yes, but they asked for it.

So, yes it is a bit weird how me, as a mature woman, chooses to spend her evenings.  Weird and wonderful.  Not so much for old school type people anyway.  Have I mentioned that The Man also isn't concerned that his brother hits me?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

runs with stupid

In line with my ongoing efforts to improve my fitness, I've recently began running.  Well, run/walking, or, some days, walk/running.  I've been alternating days between a shorter run of interval sprints and a longer, slow jog. 

Never haven been much of a sprinter, I'm finding the fast days really challenging.  I think it has something to do with the length of my legs.  They're too gangly, messages take too much time to travel the length.  By the time my feet get the notice to speed up, the thighs are already well into the run and my feet end up desperately trying to make sense of the sudden violent assault by asphalt.  Think of a long train that begins to accelerate from the front engine where each subsequent car is jerked into motion.  Not tremendously graceful or comfortable start up.  And then think of that extended train trying to come to a sudden stop, with the back cars shoving up on the front until the whole shebang comes to a painful screeching halt, fifty feet past where the cow stood on the tracks.  This is me doing sprints. 

I've been marking out my sprinting distances using power line poles placed just far enough apart to seriously wind me.  The method is to sprint one length and walk two (briskly).  That is two whole lengths to dread the inevitable arrival of the fourth pole that indicates it's time to sprint again.  To any casual observer, I must look like I suffer from some muscle spasm condition, tragically triggered by proximity to power poles, which causes me to awkwardly race forward a whole fifty feet before I am able to regain control.

But those are the good days.

The slow days are especially trying.  Not more tiring, per se, though I do do a pretty good job of wearing myself however slow I go.  Still, once I hit my pace, which is an admittedly slow trot that is the school zone version of a run, I can pretty much go forever.  On these days I take a leisurely, lung-straining trot around the neighborhood and end up at the outdoor fitness park where I proceed to make my quads scream.  It's actually quite idyllic, in a sweaty way.  Well, most of it.

The problem, my friends, is that I can't run in a straight line.  I'm forever falling off the curb or just barely grazing a tree.  I seem to have the spatial awareness and grace of a berserker robot.  It's not only dangerous to be suddenly taken out at the thigh by a low hedge three feet off the sidewalk into some body's yard or to run directly into the grill of a parked car, it's also embarrassing. Especially since I have spent significant amount of time practicing track awareness.  It's one thing to be knocked over by another player while playing derby, but to find myself ass over teakettle because I veered into some one's garbage can is another thing entirely.   

It's taken me awhile to figure out why I can't run straight.  When I walk I hardly every trip over things (barring small children, who are sneaky and move like tiny ninjas and deserve whatever they get) and am generally not clumsy.  I also sprint while staying to the center of the path and have yet to run into one of my power pole markers.  So why, at medium speed, do I run like I'm chasing a fly around the room?

I had a hint one day when I was once again tripping down a curb, worried that I was going to sprain my ankle and fuck up derby, when I noticed that my head was cranked right around and I was looking in the exact opposite direction that I was running.  As I correcting my course back on the sidewalk, I noted that I glanced over my left shoulder, and then my right, and back over my left.  And all the way down the block, left, right, left, right.  I never looked ahead of me at all.  Practically running blind.

This seemed familiar, all this head turning.  Almost like my head was... on a... swivel...

Where have I heard that before?

Ha!  This mid-pace run takes about the same effort as maintaining pack speed.  Derby instinct kicks in and I put my head on a swivel.  It's the same derby instinct that causes me to throw my hip towards any person that leans into me suddenly.  Generally, on the track, I don't crash into trees or parked cars, but I have been known to run into a person or two.  What saves me when playing is that I'm looking all over the place, keeping my eye on everybody.  On a run, not much is going on, and I space out into my zen place.  I'm not terribly motivated to look all around and the head swivel goes on auto-pilot.  I just do what I've been drilled to do.  Left, stride, stride, right, stride, stride, left, stride, stride, parked car - crash!

If chances of collision is going to continue being high while running, perhaps I should be wearing my pads and  helmet. I certainly could use the knee pads and ankle support from my shin guards.  That would also help my 'neighborhood character' reputation that has been rapidly growing since I've started running. Because walking out of my house three or four days a week wearing booty shorts and carrying a bag big and heavy enough to hide a body in isn't enough.

After being almost exclusively involved in derby for awhile, trying new activities is about as disconcerning as switching from driving a standard to an automatic transmission.  I find a part of me hovering over the metaphorical missing gear shift and clutch, thinking I should be doing more.  I realize how intense derby is, not just physically, but mentally, and how much of me is engaged in the game.  Running may be good for my body, but the lack of mental focus has me running into the street, apparently looking for ways to hurt myself. 

Or maybe I just need a buddy or three to jog along with, who can wall up with me and keep me on the right path.  Just heaven help any race walker who tries to pass us.     

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

break is over, time to get back to the fun

Tonight was my first practice since the end of August.  Our league has been on a break of sorts while we made improvements to our skating space.  Now we have, oh, two and a half weeks until our next game.  Some observations:

My ass fell

Sometime during the break my booty drooped.  While it takes a bit to build up muscle, it goes to hell quickly when you stop using it.  I knew it was happening, but when I put on my practice shorts I realized I had a major butt slide going on. 

It hurts picking my ass back up again

Roller skating really does use muscles that remain hidden and underutilized (with the exception of long distance swimmers and strippers).  I have sore muscles right now just from skating.  My thighs, my calves, my poor droopy ass, all of it hurts.  This is something I haven't felt since I started derby and I am going to keep it in mind at the next fresh meat practice I run.  Freshies don't need as much resistance training as more experienced players to make leaps and bounds in improvments.  Just coming to practice is a major muscle workout.  Roller derby changes you.  And change, even good change, can be painful. 

Garsh, I really missed this shit

Until tonight I was unsure if I wanted to play in the next game.  I've got my hands full planning our fresh meat program and would like to learn the reffing now too, so I thought I'd maybe take a little break from being an active player.  I figured it might be nice to not be over-obligated and not have to make so many practices.  But, getting out on the track tonight I remembered all the things I love about this sport: skating, being pushy, getting knocked down and getting back up even stronger. 

Almost two years ago I was so close to letting my fear stop me from going to my very first practice.  I thought I was too out of shape (I was).  I thought I was too timid (I was and I still am sometimes).  I thought I was too old (yep there too, and getting even more so).  I thought that they were going to laugh at me (they did, but they let me skate anyway).  But with that first time I realized that perhaps I am not made for this sport physically, I am mentally.  Got tenacity and lack the good sense to stay down?  Welcome to roller derby!  The muscles and endurance will eventually catch up.  I've really been damn lucky to have all the opportunities to play that I have so far.

And, hot damn, scrimmage tomorrow night!

My fallen arse and me will probably get kicked pretty badly, but I'm feeling pretty grateful to just be able to play.  No injuries, no hang ups.  The only thing keeping me back is myself and my own sore butt.  But, I've been getting good at stepping out of my own way and juking my fears.  Derby has both showed me that I have a streak of determination and strengthened it with practice.  Right now, what scares me more than having derby take up too much of my life is having my ass stay down and refuse to get up.  Literally and literally.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

my kid: personal trainer

With my ongoing efforts to address my lapsed fitness as of late and test some of my fresh meat fitness training before I actually insist anyone else doing it, I've added some daily resistance training to my life.  Me and exercise, we go way back.  When I was a kid my mom used to rock out to Jane Fonda and her aerobizing ilk.  I learned to associate a rhythmic bass beat with leg lifts and climbing invisible stairs.  I was surprisingly old before I discovered that not all dancing involved a one-two side step and kick, hand ups, whooo!  To this day, when dancing at the after party, I still struggle with my need to point my fingers up at the sky and count and six, and seven, and whooo!

Though, maybe in derby, this isn't really odd enough behavior to deserve commentary.

In middle school I did a fair amount of long distance running.  Couldn't sprint worth a darn (today my quick feet today always look like I'm skating through knee high syrup) but, man, I could go and go and go.  My favorite place to run was around the 1/4 mile track.  Round and round.  Seems a familiar pattern somehow...

And then when I was older I... wait... Nope.  I have no particular sport or enthusiasm that I can claim I did consistently.  A bit of running, a yoga class here and there, mostly just trying to keep up with life.

So, this is me now, on the wrong side of thirty, humbling myself daily doing push-ups, sit-ups, planks and squats on the living room floor.

With children around it is phenomenally difficult to find time to do a consistent exercise routine.  Or to find enough space without conking a miniature person on the head (no free weights here before the kids' bedtime).  I know that children keep you busy and certainly exhaust you thoroughly, but it's not the type of activity that enhances fitness.  It's more of a shuffle-y, bent back series of minor disasters and the type of servitude associated with scullery maids in fairy tales.  In the end I'm more likely to have a back ache rather than any appreciable gain in cardiovascular endurance.

Trying to integrate a bit of intentional exercise into my day has me working hard in short bursts during serendipitous times when I'm suddenly involved in a game of tag or the kids are jumping on me and I can do some leg lifts with children as weights.  I'm becoming good at sneaking fitness in through bits and pieces.  The stairs done twice, once with the kids wrapped around my ankles and back up again with the stroller, the skipping demo, the looong walk with an exhausted preschooler riding piggyback. 

I'm always on the lookout for the extended cardio workout.  Something that will get my heart working harder without having to stop every two seconds to untangle children from my feet or put them into time out.  Today I was particularly excited because I noticed how fast my three year old can scoot on his tricycle.  When I had to run to catch up to him in the yard, I thought there might be an opportunity for both of us here.  If we hit our most excellent local walking trails, he can ride and gain a bit of freedom, and I can run and gain a bit of endurance.

I wasn't entirely certain I could keep up with him if I let him out of our enclosed yard, since he has endless energy and I am, sadly, finite in the stamina department.  Still, to test this, I put on my running shoes and sports bra while the boy put on his helmet and grabbed his trike, and we headed out to pick up my older child from school.

I am impressed at my kid, pedaling what amounted to twelve blocks of distance.  It was his first real extended ride and it's pretty obvious he is born to it.  Of course there were a couple of rest stops, some jumped curbs.  And after we picked up my older girl and our young neighbors, the ride became more like an episode of Jackass, especially between my son and the neighbor boy, who together at ages three and four are already adept at ramp jumping and have come up with some extremely bad ideas involving swinging large sticks and ingesting non-traditional sources of protein.   

My experience was more a series of sprints than a regular jog, but as the boy becomes used to open spaces and I get him a bike with larger wheels, then I can see some real possibility for a full out extended run.   

Yay!  Aren't wheels great?

I was thinking that I'd throw both kids' bikes into the truck later today and pop down to the high school track.  Then I can keep my eye on them while we all go our own pace. 

Round and round.


Monday, September 12, 2011

and go

So, I was writing this post and then I wasn't and then I got all confused and didn't know what I was saying anymore except that it contained a surprising lack of expletives, a whole of self pitying whining and Molly Ringwald.

You can thank me now for erasing the lot of it.

But I will give you a synopsis:

When I was a child, I thought I was fat.

I wasn't.

When I was a teenager, I thought I was fat.

I wasn't.

When I was a young adult, I thought I was fat and making stupid decisions.

I wasn't and I was.

When I was a thirty something, I thought I was fit.

Wait a minute...

So close, but not quite.
Photo by Richard Lowes

While I no longer give a damn about being fat, I do care about being fit.  And I'm not quite at where I'd like to be.  Roller derby, my friends, only gets you so far.  When you first sign on derby can kick start your fitness (and your ability to survive high speed barrel rolls) but at some point you need some extra work to move to the next level.

I began... not fit.  Actually, I have some of my sordid journey through fresh meat here on this blog (check out the archives, though I warn you it's not pretty).  My body has changed, of course, but I haven't dropped a single pound through any of it.  Some parts are higher, some parts are harder.  I still have a good layer of crash padding around my muscle, though, so it's hard to tell.

Why one should never give up peanut butter and chocolate.
Photo by Richard Lowes.

However.  Through life's little bumps (and fucking craters), my own personal fitness line chart has reached a plateau as of late and I'm feeling somewhat embarrassed.  Particularly since I am putting together the fitness portion of our winter fresh meat program and it's becoming glaringly obvious to me that I may not be the best example.


So, what to do?

Practice what I preach, probably.


Here's the thing.  It took me over thirty years to find a sport I like.  My previous sports experience was skate boarding when I was thirteen years old and bar hopping from fifteen to twenty five.  I get very bored and discouraged doing the things that make for good fitness.  If my brain can't get into it, it doesn't stick.  Derby is brilliant because there is no chance of getting bored.  It has the complicated strategy of war games, the senseless violence of video games, and the visual appeal of a burlesque show.  On wheels!

How in the world do you find fitness-making activities to compete with all of that?

Yep, push ups and planks during commerical breaks are good and should be done.  Running around the neighborhood with Sir Mix-A-Lot in my ear, s'okay.  But, really, if I'm going to do a bit of cross training to help me break my skills plateau and go up a level, it has to be soul enriching the way that derby is.  Because I'm a busy person with kids, an income to earn, a fresh meat program to plan and two freakin' blogs and I don't have time to climb pretend stairs at the gym.  If I'm going to climb stairs, they'd better take me someplace pretty damn awesome.   

Just give'r.
Photo by Richard Lowes

So, dear derby reader, time for you to talk to me.  I'm looking for some suggestions for happy fitness activities that are smart, inexpensive, entertaining, kid friendly, and do not chafe.  Bonus points for anything that won't break my leg and screw up my chance to hit me some jammer in October when we play the indelibly attractive Gas City Rollers.

What kind of side activity does a person who likes to hit other people (on wheels!) for fun do?   

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

derby orphans

Friday last week, I was sitting at the dining room table of the most indomitable Stitch Rip-Her along with jammer killa Lacee Long Stalkin', having a bit of derby meeting and chit chat, while Stitch's four year old son and my boy played around us. Lacee, as much as she'd like to think of it as being out of character (though it's not so much while we're allowed to call her 'Lacee'), dropped the F-bomb shortly into the meeting. Immediately afterwards she registered the young ears in her presence and began to apologise to Stitch and I. To which we said, 'Phhtt, whatever.'

I don't want to make light of this, but the word 'fuck' isn't going to rattle either me or my kid.

Don't let that scare you.

I have a normalish family. We're actually pretty nice vegan nuclear-type, a boy and a girl, two cats, who mow their lawn and vote 'n shit.  The Man works out of the house and I work in it so I can be with our children.  I bake muffins and come up with clever ways to turn empty ketchup bottles into craft supplies.  It's all very Leave it To Beaver, assuming Ward and June had tattoos, facial piercings and enjoyed the occasional zombie apocalypse on the big screen.

In addition to being mama, wife and pack mule, I also am an athlete.  Okay, I don't look like Sporty Spice and I don't wear yoga pants on the school run but I do play a sport and spend a ridiculous amount of time practicing, thinking, writing, studying, and playing it.  Under all this mama softness is some serious muscle.

Me NSOing.  Rudeness comes complimentry to the main service.
Photo by Anthony Canada

So, okay, my sport is sort of on the fringe culture-wise.  There are many things said about derby and the most often used terms in the media are fishnets and bitches.  Of course, us skaters know better.  I have met many smart, dedicated and insanely tough women (and a couple of men too) playing derby but I've yet to meet a 'rollergirl', that vampy cartoon nurse/housewife turn violent vixen at night.  So, it's a good thing derby kids live with real women, not caricatures, because then they truly would be orphans.  Even if real women (shockingly even ones who do not play roller derby) do say the c/f/s/d-words occasionally.

Kids come along with derby like stink comes with wristguards.  Sometimes they're at the arena but mostly they are at home watching mom do planks during Sponge Bob, or rifling through the derby drawer trying to find just the right fishnets to play ballerina dress up.  They are the witnesses to the behind the scenes action.  The hard work involved in moving butt cheeks two inches higher during the first six months of practice, the healthy breakfasts and protein smoothie snacks.  They are the ones failing to give mom any privacy in the bathroom while she reads the WFTDA rule book.  They hear the long laments about how no body can figure out how to make tights that don't cause muffin-top and see the hours doing paperwork, phoning sponsors and vendors, stuffing goodie bags or whatever it is that mom does extra for her league.

Hard work, reading rules, healthy eating, exercising... uh-oh, derby might start losing its bad-ass image if I keep revealing its secrets.

Stitch Rip-Her on the jammer line
Photo by Argent Dawn Photography

Alright, kids also pick up a few other things.  Derby orphans may occasionally hip check their friends as a sign of affection.  They tell grandma that mama can't come to the phone because she's halfway stuck in her sports bra, getting ready to hit some bitches.  The may decide to play 'blocker' to you when they don't want you to walk away from them and 'jammer' if they don't want you to catch them at bedtime.  They may decide to poke your bruises to get back at you after you make them shampoo their hair.

Kids always learn from sports.  Playing and watching.  Think of mainstream sports like hockey, wrestling, baseball and football.  They learn teamwork, hard work, preparation, self esteem, humility, how to sweat and give an effort to be proud of.  They learn they are strong and capable.  And they learn other things.  Like smack talk and disrespect of officials and bullying of weaker players.  They learn their job is to 'Kill!'  Oh, and do their best.  They learn to run out in the streets and randomly trash shit because their team lost.  Or because their team won.  It's a religion, it's the only way to make a parent proud, it's another way you'll never fit in.

Roller derby has the potential to teach any of those things to our youngest people.  It can be good or bad.  Usually it's a mix of both.  But it is up to us, the kids are paying attention, and even if there is no child around, you are probably talking to a mama (either now or in the future).  What impression are you giving?  What's your main message?

It's up to us, bitches.  How's it gonna be?

Here's my suggestions:  We show them our sweat leads to more play time and our dedication leads to self respect.  We show them how to fail gracefully and then pick themselves up and try again.  We show them how to work cooperatively to run a league and to respect strength and integrity in others, whether they be your teammates or not.  We speak well of each other, focusing on encouraging and raising spirits, and not worrying if the occasional shit or fuck works its way through the conversation.

All this positive stuff and we get to hit bitches too?  How fucking rad is our sport?!

The boy assuming his camera pose.  Wonder where he got this idea from?
Photo by mama

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

jersey fix

This post is for my mates who wear the same jersey as I, but if you have ventured here through IndieTutes, Hello!  Welcome to roller derby.  Sorry for the cussing.

We have this small issue with our jerseys.  First of all, they aren't ours.  Our team is a development team and it is assumed that at some point most of the players will be moving to another team eventually.  To cut down the costs on jerseys, it was decided that we'd all wear loaners with generic numbers on them that can be passed along to another player when the times comes. 

This is working pretty good so far except for one aspect.  Our jerseys do not naturally flatter the derby girl form.  The jerseys are meant for men: broad shoulders, narrow middles.  We are women playing a sport that favors players with ample junk in the trunk.  What ends up happening is that the lower part of the jersey hugs tight to our middles, emphasizing our belly jelly while the armhole folds into flaps that make us look like a bird in flight and the shoulders continue to flare out an inch past where our shoulder's end.  The final effect is of a portly dictator of a polyester producing country in discount epaulettes. 

My country may be small and only exports polyester, but we have big guns.
Photo by Fatal Fantasy, Winnipeg Feb. 2011
How do you alter something to fit without changing the original form?  We can stitch, but we can not cut.  Most of the sides have been taken in to fit their individual hosts at this point, but the problem with the extra wide shoulders and flapping arms has been ongoing.  With the flag on our shoulder, putting darts in that area has been impossible without it looking seriously awkward.

Fatal Fantasy - Nightshade, ref, and super geek - had previously addressed the shoulder/flapping issue by ye ol' hockey tape around the shoulders fix. 

Hail! to the crow queen
Photo by Argent Dawn Photography, Red Deer March 2011

After reviewing some photos and videos of past games, Fatal decided that trying to force two pounds of polyester into spaghetti straps wasn't the most alluring option and handed it over to me to solve while we were laying track the night before.  All I could think was, I don't bloody know how to fix this!  If I did, do you think I would be skating around with shoulder fins?  

Fortunately my dithering was distracting to others because Lady Laceration - Nightshade's co-captain, jewelery maker and hydration activist - came over to see what I was gaping about.  A bit of fussing, pinching, and generally making Fatal standing in her jersey feel like a questionable melon in the supermarket, Lady suggested we gather the material below the shoulders with elastic.


Excellent idea.

This is what I did.  Seven inches below the shoulders I drew a parallel line with tailor's chalk.  Then I cut a piece of clear elastic to the desired gather.  Regular elastic, maybe 1/8" or 1/4" would be good too.   My desired elastic length turned out to be slightly shorter than the shoulder width. 


With the elastic stretched and sewn in, the final result is this:

Less flap, more boob.
photo by Adam the derby widow Aug, 2011.

Remember to use a round tiped needle (for stretchy fabric) if possible to prevent the fabric from tearing.

In theory, as with the taken in sides, this should come out without damaging the jersey.  I'm still trying to come up with more ideas to continue shaping the jerseys, but I'm a little stumped at how to create more room through the midsection.  Might have to just spend some time with this playlist instead (thank you Teri Fying).   

Monday, August 29, 2011

behind the hit

Day two after the bout is usually the worst day in terms of bangover.  It's the day when all the happy chemicals caused by adrenaline and after party shenanigans have finally run their course and now you're left with only the bruises and sore ribs to show for it all. 

Today is my day two, so you are going to have to put up with a little bit of laziness from me here.  I was going to write about our game last Saturday, where we won a blow out against OCDG's Tank'er Girls, a fine as bunch of women as you've ever want to beat (literally).  I was really looking forward to this game because OCDG is where I did my freshmeat training and benchmarks and if I had not moved to Red Deer last October, the Tank'er Girls would of been my team.  It also meant I not only got to play with my friends on the Nightshades, but also got to hit my OCDG friends.  Good night all around really.

But, due to bangover laziness, I'm feeling less analysis-y and more advice-y.  Tonight is RDRDA's freshmeat, a practice I like to go to after a game for a less intense workout and chance to stretch out while skating, and I'm thinking a lot about what it means to go from a freshmeat skater to regular player on a team.

Besides learning how to skate derby (a skill that is challenging even to accomplished inline and ice skaters), moving from freshmeat to rookie also means learning how to be an athlete and play on a team.  I know there is a certain percentage of freshmeat skaters who have athletic backgrounds (we love our rugby, hockey and ringette girls) but for so many of us, we haven't really played sports since high school where the main game was trying to figure out how to skip gym so we go for coffee and smoke cigarettes.

Considering I've done everything the hard way, from not being too active as an adult, probably partying too much, smoking cigarettes for years, having two difficult pregnancies and failing to recover from them adequately, eating too much pasta and chocolate covered almonds.  (Hmmm... chocolate covered almonds...)  Starting roller derby was like a bucket of ice water on a hot day.  Turns out this skating shit is shockingly hard fucking work.

While I may not be qualified to give great advice about skating (because I still often reassemble a giraffe on ice), nor dryland training (because between two kids and work, my only workout is being the family pack mule), nor strategy (because sometimes I'm in the middle of a jam and suddenly I'll be thinking, 'where the fuck am I?!') I am able to speak with authority about getting yourself in over your head and swimming like a fucking maniac to the surface.

If you are going to freshmeat practices and you are feeling out of place (you can read that as fat and/or scared shitless), then you need to take two steps back from Whip It! and give yourself a bit of room to get reacquainted with your body and how to care for it as an athelete.  As adults, especially as mamas, we often treat our bodies as uninteresting utilitarian tools that we only start to care for once it's broken.  Sometimes the only fix is a figurative strip of duct tape, with vitamin C capsules and an Advil, and then we go about dragging ourselves through our long list of Shit To Do.

Because we are old, because we are fat, because we are out of shape, because we are nervous, we need to take it slow.  The instinct is to jump right in and start hittin' sum bitches right away - after all, that is what we are there for in the first place - but good bitch hittin' takes a solid base of practice and skill.  That is so important, I'm going to say it again in another way: there is more to effective blocking than just launching your body at an opposing player.  You need control, fitness and technique.  My day two bangover reminds me that I need to relearn this after mostly unsuccessfully trying to control OCDG's Wytchy last Saturday.  Freshmeat practice will help you with some of that, but you are ultimately responsible for your derby-ness.  What I want to talk about right now is how to get to the point where you are ready to accept the teachings.

Hang on, it's about to get a bit Zen.

When you first go to freshmeat practices, skip the fishnets and tutu (unless you wear them all the time, in which case, go for it).  Wear what you would if you were going to the gym in hot weather.  Wear gym shorts (longer ones that the guys wear are great) or leggings.  Wear a t-shirt that you can sweat in.  I also recommend knee socks to protect the skin on your lower legs, especially if you are doing a bit on baseball slides (a stop that I usually only see used to take out the penalty box chairs as a girl slides in on a major).   Remember that much of freshmeat practice consists of feeling awkward and sore.  Don't make it worse by feeling uncomfortable in your clothes.

To practice bring your water bottle, skating gear (if you have it yet), a mouthguard (boil and bite at your local sports store), some soccer shin guards if you can (they will increase your confidence and spare you the trauma of getting a freshie skate to your shin) and, most importantly, a good fucking attitude.  A good attitude includes:

- the willingness to try anything even if it's modified greatly to suit your current skill level.
- the habit of being quiet and listening while the coach or anyone else is speaking to the group.
- the habit of assuming the best in others (even if it looks like they wanted to break your nose, assume that they threw their elbow by mistake and that they will work on not doing it again).
- some serious consideration for the safety of other skaters. Learn to control your elbows, feet, and falls before you start knockin' bitches around.
- the knowledge that even if the drill seems too easy for you, you can still learn something and be a role model for struggling skaters by doing it as perfect as possible.
- knowing the skaters around you will most likely become your teammates and it's time to develop some fierce communications skills because they are the ones who are going to protect your ass on the track one day.  Good communication includes saying something positive first and giving credit when it's due.  Speak loudly, clearly and with kindness. 
- practice time is practice time.  It is not gossip time or bitch about how hungover you are or play the pecking order sorting game.  You can tell me what an ass I am after when we're having beers (or get your blog ;)
- knowing it's not personal.  No, really, it's not.
- working your ass off until your swass and swoob soaks through your shirt.  Getting up over and over again.  Do not stop.  You can do this.

The next thing to do is to remember that you are now a derby chick even when you are not wearing skates.  Small changes to the rest of your life will help you when you are on the track.  If you can fit in regular workout at the gym, particularly something cardio, weight lifting and core exercises, then you will be so much farther ahead because of it.  Whether or not you can add extra workouts, everyone should:

- drink more water.  All the time. Use the extra peeing time to gleefully visualize hitting a jammer into a ref or study the rules.
- Make small nutritional improvements, like eating a handful of nuts instead of a chocolate bar (okay, add a couple of dark chocolate chips in, it won't hurt) or switching to whole wheat bread.  Have a salad before eating your spaghetti.  As time passes, those small changes will add up, even if they don't mean weight loss - extra pounds in derby isn't necessarily a bad thing if they don't affect your health - but you'll feel better overall and be able to use that strong and healthy body to dominate on the track.
- work your leg muscles and core at home.  Do planks and sit ups while you watch DNN.  Add a 20 second squat whenever you go to your refrigerator.  Use your kids as weights and airplane them to strengthen your legs.

The final thing you should do is concentrate on learning the game and the rules.  Derby has a lot of rules.  They are there for your safety  That doesn't mean, though, that they aren't sonnabitchin' finicky.  There are quite a few technicalities and some referees seem to wallow with great delight like a pig in muck in calling out a pivot because she's an eighth of an inch over the line or some other such nonsense.  Don't get upset at anal refs, outsmart them.  There is an ongoing evolution of the rules of flat track derby, but we all have to play with the ones there is now and not knowing them is no excuse.

So read the rules.  Go to games.  NSO whenever possible.  Talk to referees.  Ask questions.  So many rookie mistakes are made because the rules are not clearly understood and bad habits were developed during freshmeat practice.  Elbows, forearms, tripping, hitting with the head, cut tracks and back blocking penalties are often incurred for no other reason than the player didn't practice it before the game.  Get to know what the rules are and then train within the guidelines.

Remember when I said there was more to hittin' bitches than just hittin' bitches?  (Or something to that effect.)  When you are playing, having a positive attitude, solid fitness and knowledge all comes together into a hit worthy of pictures.  Good attitude means your hit will be clean and effective, having paid attention during practices to learn the technique and legality.  Solid fitness means you'll be able to get into position and time it right.  Plus you won't be tired and sloppy, throwing yourself off the track at the same time.  Knowledge means less time in the penalty box and making that hit double effective by using the rules to force the other player to come in even further behind the pack.  The rules (as physically manifested by the referees) are your friends or your enemies.  Know them and you can use them.  Ignore them and, as derby Yoda says, in the box you must sit.     

Last Saturday I had a fairly hit-y game for me.  Most of my 'hits' were actually jammer force outs and I happily backed my ass up on the track to slow them down even further, but I was more engaged than ever and I never once went to the box.  Today I received the best compliment from a teammate in reference to last weekend's game.  She told me, "You hit them bitches real good."  I'm so proud of this, especially considering how much work it has taken me to get to this point.  And I believe her, because it takes one good bitch hitter to know another.   

Skate, Brixxx, Skate!
Lexis on Fire taking aim on Brixxx HitHouse
Photo by Sandra Deevil, courtesy of SmackBook Pro

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Am I tough enough to be pleasant?

Apparently not.

While playing derby has helped me overcome my fear of confrontation with random strangers and bitchy clerks, it appears it has also taken down some of my walls which prevent me from being nice when I don't have to be.

For those of us walking around with general rage against everything, derby is no way helpful.  I know that there is a popular belief that says that playing a physical sport, especially a contact one, helps diffuse violent tendencies, but I haven't found that at all.  I think it actually stokes my rage a bit.  Sort of like how venting doesn't make anyone feel better, it just creates a bad habit of whining.

So, to the minivan lady in the crowded parking lot, who idled close to my kids while they were waiting for me to join them at the car, forcing all the drivers to go around her while dodging tiny pedestrians, when you pulled close to demand if I was actually leaving or not, I'm sorry I went on the defensive and snapped at you.  What I should of said was, 'yes, I am leaving,' and failed to say anything more, except maybe to politely direct you to the nearly empty parking lot behind the building.  Of course, I didn't shut up after giving the basic information, but I do believe there was little smile at the end of my choice words, though I fear it was more of the sarcastic type.

I really am a nice person.  It's just that I forget sometimes.

Feeling hot, cranky and aggressive is a bad combination for a woman hauling around small children.  There are so many small slights, so much thoughtless behavior, so many near misses on the road that it's very easy to feel justified when you decide to figuratively drop the gloves with someone equally cranky in a parking lot.  But, when I think about it with some emotional distance, I can't see how the solution to rude is to be rude right back.  I think of how strong people are made stronger by showing restraint.  By giving people the benefit of the doubt.  Keeping cool even in the face of extreme provocation.  I would be so easy to go off on another person, because I typically assume I am smarter and stronger, plus I frequently hit people for fun, but where would that lead me?  And, holy fuck, my kids are watching!

I can hear the snickers now by those who know me, but I actually began college learning to become a social worker.  I lasted one whole semester before I transferred my freaked out self right out of there into an academic stream, but my application essay comes to mind frequently.  I was asked to write about someone I admire and I choose to write about Mother Teresa, who was all kinds of awesome.  It is her example of compassion and mercy that pops guiltily to mind every time I find myself using hip checks to navigate the frozen food section or screaming out the window at bad drivers to, 'Put some skates on, bitch!'

What would Mother Teresa do?  I like to think that she would indeed put some skates on and come kick my punk ass, but I know she wouldn't.  She would probably just shake her head sadly at the way I allow my anger to move me through the world and perhaps give me some soup.  Put me to work with leper kids or something. 

The world does not need more ugly, especially from me.  My goal right now is to practice patience and control.  To take the next step beyond being a bad ass.  To say, yes, I could throttle that very annoying person, but I'm choosing not to because I'm a good person, fuckingdamnit.

Maybe some of this emotional control will transfer to the track.  Or maybe they're right, and I can bottle it until it's time to open up a can of whoop ass (which I'm not entirely the meaning of, but I'm starting to suspect it involves cow bells somehow).  Or maybe I'll just get into the habit of seeing people with a more compassionate eye and treating them accordingly.  As long as it doesn't interfer with derby.  Because right now I'd rather be the hammer and the nail, even if it doesn't make me popular with minivan ladies.

Got to have priorities, you know?

Monday, August 22, 2011

derby diffusion

I've talked about how the rest of my life becomes irrelevant when playing derby, but I didn't tell the other side of this story.  Derby may seem impermeable when viewed from the track, but it has, in fact, infected the rest of my life much like an aggressively cancerous tumor.  There is nothing anymore in my real life that has not, in some way, been tainted with derby.

Besides the little things, like the tendency to open doors with my ass and remembering only after I've hip checked my husband in the kitchen that I should of asked him to, 'pardon me, please' instead, The Way of the Derby has rooted itself in my primary ways of dealing with shit.  I don't think derby has changed who I am, but it has changed how I move in the world.

I've begun borrowing heavy from derby when I'm dealing with my kids.  When crossing the street or in a busy store, I yell, 'pack up!'  When they fight, I find myself wadding in and shouting, 'Illegal hitting zone!  Major!  Two minutes!'  Or when leaving the movie theatre I call, 'Snake on Smootch!' and we all manage to get out together single file.  

I also handle other people differently now.  I have always been a little understated socially, particularly in larger groups, and very much avoided physical contact.  Learning to play derby, I've had to fight my own social conditioning and learn to speak up.  Also is my instinctive tendency to move back when someone gets too close.  My first few games in particular, I used to shy away from other skaters, which made it appear as I was avoiding hits (while moving myself just far enough away for another blocker to get a good run at me) and I was missing opportunities to effectively positionally block.  This is an ongoing challenge for me and I am working on it by sticking my ass into any set of hips that may present themselves on the track and touching everybody that I can, just to let them know where I am and to continue to break this conditioning.

Guess it's not surprising then that I'm also starting to push back in real life.  When confronting a difficult person, be clerk, friend or landlord, instead of stepping back to avoid a conflict, I find myself now leaning forward and maintaining eye contact in an unmistakable display of combativeness.  If my life was filmed by National Geographic, a voice over would be announcing how my wide legged stance and attempt to physically loom over the bank teller is not-so-subtle display of dominance and that, no, I will not be paying an extra fee for this withdrawal.  Sometimes if the other person is equally disinclined to back down, I imagine I can hear the screams of a troupe of chimpanzees, excitedly circling around to watch a fight.   

Or in the pub, when buddy is too sloppy drunk to read body posture that already says, 'Fuck. Off.' gets too close, then I no longer try to spare any feelings or dilute my message with pleasantries in order to avoid something ugly.  I find my new appreciate for succinct message to actually be easier and less messy, though it isn't making me too popular among the lecher crowd. 

Not saying I wasn't a bitch before I started derby, but I know I am just so much more now.  I have to wonder about the few times both my derby and my mama bear selves have been simultaneously activated and how it might have been for someone on the receiving side of things facing someone who isn't impressed by swagger or intimidated by tattoos and muscles.  When they've cut through the playground on their drunken stroll and tried to menaced a three year old when his seemingly inoffensive looking soccer mom in nonthreatening baggy capris and sweater set suddenly takes three rapid steps towards you and rips you a new one? 

Which brings me to another way derby has affected my non-derby life: letting it go.

I am a dweller, muller, and sulker.  I have a hard time not taking things personally.  I can't let things go, particularly my own mistakes.  I've been beating myself up long before I anyone else thought to do it on skates.  But derby provides so many ways to make mistakes and look like an asshole that the sheer amount of gaffs, biffs, and fuck ups is overwhelming and de-sensitizing my critical self.  After awhile I either have to learn to let the last jam or bad driver or hurtful dig or unfair accusation go.  Otherwise I become overwhelmed and can't focus on the task in front of me or the big blocker who has been gunning for me.

Fall down.  Pick self up.  The more I practice, the easier it becomes.  No matter what happens during a jam, there is someone on the bench who will tell you what you should of done instead.  No matter how awesome you are, somebody is going to knock you down.  There is no way to get through it all with getting some bruises, both inside and out.  The real mark of a good player, and integrity, is what you do afterwards.  Are you going to get up and continue?  Are you going to hold onto to it and ruin the party after?  Are you going to let some bully push you around or are you going to push back?  And the biggest question of all, are you going to take it personally and carry it with you? 

Well, I'm still working on it all.  Letting the physical confidence I'm gaining from derby help me where I need to stand up and then learning on how to let it go, no matter how it happens.  I've suggested before that there may be an aspect of zen in derby and I'm becoming more convinced as time goes on.  As much as derby has created some difficulties in the rest of my life (see: time management, monetary resources) it has also given me lots of good stuff to carry around.  Not to mention an impressive selection of expletives by which to tell off bratty kids, random drunks and bank tellers.