Showmee de Monet

I’m four days into Cherries training.  Last Wednesday night, as I packed up my gear and headed to practice, I had a few butterflies.  I know that the trainers and the other Cherries would be nothing but encouraging; but, as is always the case, fear of the unknown can paralyze you if you let it.  I practiced lots of deep breathing, distracting myself on the ride to the Castle, blared loud music…anything I could come up with to just suck it up and get down to it.

Last weekend, the Desert Dolls had a booth at Phoenix ComicCon.  They picked up several new recruits, some of whom have never skated.  They joined us on Thursday night for their first practice…scared, unsure of what to expect and some even wobblier than me.

Suddenly, I was no longer the slowest, weakest or most hesitant.  I was the one high-fiving girls and encouraging them.

Don’t get me wrong…I still have a very long way to go before I’m smacking into anybody; but, the last two nights of practice were better than the two before, and a huge boost to my confidence.

In addition, I’m making friends with the other Cherries and the trainers.  The league’s founder set up a Facebook group specific to our Cherries training set.  We are setting up time to meet outside of practice, to work on skating other nights of the week.  One skater, upon hearing that I want to swap out my wheels, offered and then showed up with extras that she’s not using.

Some girls already have derby names picked out.  I’ve been kicking around several options, checking them against the international registry.

I thought about the fact that my ultra-conservative boss refers to me as his “favorite little Bolshevik,” thanks to my liberal tendencies.  I toyed with variations of that and emailed my mother.  She suggested “Belle Shevik” and I added “Bomber.”  I also considered “Belle Throttling” after Belle Wattling, in “Gone With the Wind.” 

The one that I’ve submitted to the league is a play on my ancestry.  I’m related to Claude Monet on my grandfather’s side.  I fancy myself a sort of artist, so I came up with “Showmee de Monet.” 

I kind of like that…I think that I’ll sit with it for a while.

I did it…but, I almost didn’t!

Desert Dolls Roller Derby League Cherry Posse

The scariest moment is always just before you start. Stephen King

It’s official!  I am a member of the Desert Dolls Roller Derby League’s Cherry Posse.

And, it almost didn’t happen.

This has been a goal of mine for almost a year.  After attending my first bout last summer, I decided that I wanted to try it.  Committing myself online meant that I couldn’t back down.  I am notorious for starting things and quickly abandoning them afer being distracted by something else.

Last year, I joined a gym, started working out with a trainer and talked about derby…a LOT.  I didn’t spend much time (read, “ANY”) on skates, not really considering how tough that might actually be.  It would be like riding a bike, right?

I didn’t sleep well Tuesday night.  I didn’t know what to expect the next day; but, the knowledge that the time was finally here made my heart race and my stomach roll.

The first order of business was orientation.  The league’s founder, Evol Star, talked about the league’s history and handed out thick packets.  There are a lot of forms and assorted bits of administration involved in signing up for derby.  We had to provide proof of insurance in about four different places.

The Cherry trainers introduced themselves and spent time going through the handbook.

Finally, it was all done but the skating.

Here it was…my moment to be exposed as a fraud.  As I changed into my shorts and Beatles tee-shirt, I started to panic.  Who was I kidding?  All around me, the other Cherries were putting on their pads and lacing up their skates.  I quickly discovered that my pads were woefully inadequate.  I had gotten a cheap set, with wrist guards, elbow and knee pads last year.  Mine were made for recreational skaters, not suitable for the much more intense protection needed for derby.

I got one skate on, and couldn’t force myself to put the second one on.

The other Cherries all headed for the floor, and there I sat…sweating and near hysteria.  One of the trainers, Temper Tantrum, came over and asked me if I wanted to be in the group photo.  I couldn’t muster the courage to get out there that quickly.  She nodded, and told me to take my time.

After a couple of minutes, I gathered myself up and dug through the bag of spare pads the league keeps on-hand.  I found some “real” knee pads and strapped them on.

I gradually worked my way over to the rink.  Evol Star and another skater, Honey Badger, were there watching.  Evol Star asked me if I was ready, and I told her that I didn’t know if I could do this.  She told me to take my time…she even said that if I didn’t want to, I didn’t have to go out.  She was giving me permission to quit.  Then, she had to leave.

As I stood there, Honey Badger came over and started talking.  She told me that I needed to go at my own pace and not compare myself to anyone else there.  Several of the Cherries were skaters who had either skated with other leagues, or had taken a leave of absence and come back.  League rules stated that they had to go through the Cherries class, regardless of their ability.  I looked again at the Cherries now in lines, learning T-stops.  I could see girls who were clearly not new to derby; but, I could also see girls who were wobbly and hesitant.

Temper Tantrum checked on me again.  She suggested that I just come out onto the floor and skate along one side of the rink.

Honey Badger opened the gate for me and said, “You’ve GOT this, Brandee!”

For the next hour, I skated up and down the long side of the rink as the other Cherries moved on to knee drops.  At that point, I was more concerned with staying on my feet than I was throwing myself on the floor on purpose!

Toward the end of practice, Temper Tantrum skated with me.  She pointed out that my actual skating form is good, and that I’m much more steady than she would have thought, given my reluctance to get out onto the floor.  She told me that they’ve had girls that had to hold onto the wall the whole way around when they first started.

Each of the trainers made a point to come up to me after practice and each said that they hoped that I wasn’t discouraged and that I’d be back the next night.

When I got to my car, I collapsed into the driver’s seat and sat there for a couple of minutes.  As I started the engine, I burst into tears of relief, release and complete joy.  I had done it…sort of!

Last night, as I laced up my skates for round two, I was determined to get out onto the floor right away and to try every single thing that the rest of the Cherries did.  Several trainers congratulated me and said that they were glad that I had shown up.

I skated laps, worked on T-stops (these continue to confound me) and then got stuck on knee drops.

A knee drop is simply a way of stopping.  It’s a controlled fall.  As you skate, you drop one knee down, like you’re doing a lunge.  You slide to a stop on your knee pad.

As often happens, I was over thinking it.  Two trainers pulled me out of line and took me down to the far end of the floor.  I wasn’t the only one having a tough time; but, they could see that I was stuck in my head.  They talked me through it, and suddenly, I drop and get myself back up without putting my hands on the floor.  This is a must, as you don’t want your hands down where they can get rolled over.

All through the practice, one of the league photographers, Daddy Skittles, snapped picture after picture.  Each time I came around a curve, within his view, I’d get a goofy grin on my face.  Hopefully, pictures will show me working hard, sweating enough to look like I’ve been dunked in a pool and having the time of my life.

We ended practice with a game of freeze tag.  One person was “It,” and if you were tagged, you would do a knee drop and stay down until unfrozen.  As I played, I started to build up some speed and was able to drop when tagged.

We did some ending stretches and then were sent on our way.

This time, I was euphoric.  I can see a path…practice will only help me get better.  My time in the gym has paid off handsomely in that I’m a bit stiff today; but, I’m not sore or hobbling around like I would have been eight or ten months ago.

I have a long way to go before I’m bashing my way through a pack or jamming.  Today, though, I can actually see myself doing this.  I would even like to set another goal of becoming a trainer.  Wouldn’t that be something?

Don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.

You’ve Got Mail

There it sits.  It hit my inbox last night.

The call to arms…the announcement for the first sign up/practice for the Cherries with the Desert Dolls Roller Derby League.

Next Wednesday, all of this talking will be done, and it will be time for me to walk the walk…or skate the skate, as it were.

I knew to expect it sometime toward the end of the month.  I’ve been excited about it; and, I’ve been dreading it, too.  Against my better judgement, I’ve continued to talk about it, write about it, and think about derby non-stop.  I started working with a trainer at the gym late last year, so that I could get into some sort of shape to be able to try out.

After spending all day with derby on the brain, and a stomach in knots, Dave, Ben and I headed to the gym.  My trainer, Jill, was excited to hear that the date had been set, and took Ben and I out onto the floor.  She came up with some new exercises to try, geared toward helping with balance and agility.

One of the first ones she wanted me to do was an easy one.  I was to stand facing a pedestal.  It was a small one…only about a foot high.  She wanted me to jump up onto the stand, landing as lightly as I could with both feet.  Suddenly, the fear that had been clawing at the edges of my psyche all of this time over derby ripped through and I got stuck.  I couldn’t make my feet move off of the floor.  I started sweating, and tried to will myself to do it.

I knew that it wasn’t going to tip over.  I’ve watched people do the same exact thing.  Ben can jump up onto the higher ones with no hesitation.  In my mind, I kept picturing a guy that we’d seen jumping several months ago.  He’d been jumping up onto one of the stands that was much higher…maybe four feet high.  Suddenly, he missed, and hit his shin on the way down.  He hit so hard that it raised a huge knot immediately, and he couldn’t get up off of the floor.  The pain was incredible and they had to half-carry him out.

Jill could see that I was having a hard time, and wanted to move on to something else.  She’s good at adapting to my skill level, while still pushing me.

I took a deep breath and jumped up.  I did it!

She had me do it nine more times, and it took a lot of mental scolding, telling myself that there was no reason I couldn’t do it.  If I had just done it, rather than stand there thinking about it, I would have been fine.

This is a lesson that I am going to have to remember.  It’s like that line in Bull Durham:

Tim Robbins & Kevin Costner in Bull Durham

“You just got lesson number one.  Don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.”

About a week ago, I found a group on Facebook, called Derby Over 40.  I started reading the posts and I was blown away.  like so many other people who I’ve “met” online, this community is full of some truly inspirational people.

Suddenly, I have a place where I can pose a serious question and, rather than the “Rah!  Rah!  You can do it!” responses (which are great in their own way) I get honest, thoughtful advice, tips, reassurance and support.

Posting that I am feeling absolutely terrified because I was never a great skater as a kid, because I haven’t been on skates in years and years and because the first time I put on skates in years, I ended up with a broken elbow earned countless comments about how many had never skated at all before derby, or who went to their first practice with their skates in the box they’d come in.

I got links to YouTube videos and all sorts of tips.  My favorite was, “Don’t look at the floor.  It’s not going anywhere and if you watch it, you’ll end up kissing it!”

I’m a little distressed at how many broken bones people have had; but, they all healed and went right back to skating.

The best part is that every single person in this group is over the age of forty.  Many didn’t even start derby until after forty.  Time and again,  I saw, “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number!”

With one kid graduating from high school on Tuesday, and the other getting promoted from eighth grade on Thursday next week, I’ve got plenty of reasons to try to forget my age and try something new…just in time for my 44th birthday on the 28th!

P.S.  Once I get my derby name, I’ll get to update my signature.  I have some ideas; but, they have to be cleared through the Derby Name Register.  Stay tuned!

We can rebuild her!

Seven weeks, post-break. 

We can rebuild her!

There hasn’t been much to report over the past several weeks.  I’d been going to physical therapy a couple of times a week, right up until last Tuesday.  During my last therapy appointment, I complained of additional soreness on the spot above and over from my funny bone.  Increased stress, whether with exercises that I’ve been doing, pressure on the spot or ultra-sound in that area all caused my arm to really ache.

The weekend prior to that, I’d absent-mindedly picked up my little cousin, to put her in my lap.  She weighs about thirty pounds, and it wouldn’t be unusual for me to just swing her up.  The moment that I lifted her, I knew something wasn’t right.  From that point, my arm really hurt.

When I saw my PT, he decided to suspend therapy until I had been back to my doctor.  He was worried that perhaps there was a hairline fracture or something that had been missed with the initial x-rays.

Today, I went back for my follow-up with my doctor.  They took new x-rays, and thankfully, I was able to extend my arm and bend it so that they could get good pictures.  Dr. R. reviewed the films, and then came in to meet with me.  She spent a lot of time manipulating the elbow, checking strength and pressure points.

The good news is that there are no additional breaks, and the radial head fracture has healed nicely.  The pain that I have been feeling in my wrist and up through my arm is normal, and to be expected when there’s been trauma to the elbow.  The ligaments take longer to heal & recover.

She decided that the soreness on the inside of my elbow is probably due to tendonitis.  To deal with it, she ordered a steroid injection.  She left the room, and the nurse came in to set up for the shot.  I KNOW that shots aren’t a big deal; but, sitting there, waiting for the doctor to come back in, staring at the needle and the big bottle of numbing spray made me really anxious.  By the time the doctor came back in, and figured out the angle that she needed to have me in to do the injection, I was sweating…a LOT.  The only thing remotely comforting was the bottle of numbing spray.

The next thing that I knew, she was swabbing my arm with alcohol, pinching my arm and saying, “You’ll feel a poke, a pinch and then a burn.”

Um, hello???  What happened to the numbing spray?

It was over faster than it took me to type that, and yes…I’m a huge baby about shots; but, really.  I guess she figured if I’m tough enough for derby, I should be able to handle a little shot.

We talked about skating, and how I should proceed.  She wants me to see how the steroid does.  I can start PT again, and can do some training at the gym; but, she wants to see me in a month.  If things aren’t better by then, she’ll order an MRI.  If my elbow is improving, I can start skating again…WITH pads.

Good grief.  What a joke this has become!

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been up and down.  Part of me sees that things take longer to heal, and that I have to seriously consider the risks of derby.  And then, I see pictures on Facebook from the Desert Dolls sight, and I could kick myself for not being there for the January start.  The new class is a month in, and from what I can tell, having a great time.

I just have to get to the point where I can put my skates on again, get over the fear and try this again.

Damaged goods #postaweek2012

Broken Derby Girl

It’s been roughly three and a half weeks since I broke my arm.  In that time, the new Cherry Posse has started training, I’ve had to lay off working out at the gym, and I’ve been suffering from a crisis of confidence.

Last week, the Desert Dolls posted a photo of the new Cherries on their Facebook wall.  I’ll admit, I did shed a tear or two out of pure disappointment.  To know that I was so close, had talked about going out, written about it and then blown the opportunity with a bad decision, I was kicking myself.

As more time has gone by and my arm is still hurting, I’m starting to doubt myself.  I worry that maybe I don’t really have what it takes to be a derby dame.  Knowing how unsteady I was, combined with the real consequences of an injury, I’m afraid.  I have to constantly convince myself that I can do it; but, there’s a little voice inside me, whispering that I’m way too old for this shit (to quote Danny Glover.)

The teasing that I’ve endured hasn’t helped.  I realize that this whole derby thing appears to be pretty ridiculous to some.  Even my mother will occasionally ask, “Are you SURE you want to do this?”  That’s usually after I’ve been whining about my arm hurting.  It’s also been suggested that there are plenty of hobbies better suited to someone my age…knitting being the most popular.

A broken arm and a sling make great props for insurance open enrollment meetings, though.  Standing in front of a group of employees, serving as a real life Show and Tell example of how things like urgent care visits, x-rays, durable medical equipment and physical therapy sessions are covered, I provide a better understanding of their benefits.  My partner loves to have me explain how I broke my arm.  I know she gets a kick out of the idea of me on skates.

This morning, I had my first physical therapy appointment.  After a pile of paperwork, full of redundant forms, I spent about an hour with the therapist.  He moved my arm around a lot, took measurements to determine loss of range of motion and had me do several exercised.  He also used ultrasound therapy.  He reassured me that my wrist is probably not fractured, based on how it felt during the ultrasound and with movement.  He gave me a list of exercised to do twice a day, and cleared me to start going to the gym to work on cardio.

For now, I’m going to work on healing, conditioning, and my bruised self-confidence.  As soon as I get cleared to skate again, I’m going to have to put them on (along with my pads & helmet) and try again.  Maybe if I don’t think about things too much, May will get here and I’ll just get myself to the next Cherry Posse start-up and make this happen.

On the List! #postaweek2011

I’m supposed to be answering reverb11 prompts; but, I am completely distracted.  Yesterday, I took a deep breath, screwed up my courage and fired off an email to the Desert Dolls Roller Derby league.  The subject line?  “I Wanna Be a Desert Doll!

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and with crazy work days, time with family and Christmas bearing down on me like a truck, I promptly forgot about it.

This afternoon, I got a response.  It was simple…they’ll be sending out an informational email right after the first of the year, and I’m on the list.  I know.  I know.  That doesn’t mean anything more than that I’m “on the list.” To me, though, it’s a huge step.

Suddenly, this is more than just talking about it or writing blog posts about a pipe dream.  Now, it’s a matter of putting on the skates and doing it.

Derby has become a bit of an obsession with me.  I find myself daydreaming about it a lot…every part of it.  I wonder if I can actually be tough enough to take a hit, what I’d have to wear (fish nets DO seem to be a part of the uniform,) what I’ll call myself.  I wonder what it would be like standing up, conducting an enrollment meeting with a black eye or a cast on my leg.

Jesus.  What if I really do break a hip?

Then, I get past all of that and think about actually skating.  I’ve always loved sports…both watching and playing.  As a kid, I liked being part of a team.  I’m really looking forward to competing, cheering teammates on, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

This obsessive tendency isn’t new.  As a kid, I was really disgusted when I learned that girls couldn’t play for the Phoenix Suns.  (This was before the WNBA.)  I wore my Youth Basketball Association tee-shirt as many days a week as my mother would let me, carried my basketball everywhere and was always practicing “the perfect lay-up” in the driveway.  I was the only girl on the block, and you could always find me, pigtailed, freckle-faced and sweaty, playing guard with the boys.  We kept medical tape and clean popsicle sticks in a drawer in the kitchen for those times that I’d come running in with a jammed finger.

This year, I’m pretty sure that Santa is bringing new skates.  I asked for a pair that’s a recommended brand, but not the high-end skates.  I’ll save that for when I actually get drafted to a team.

I posted something on Facebook about the league email, and my mother’s reaction was, “Oh, my God!  This is happening!”  When I talked to her later in the day, she said that she gets a big grin on her face, as she sees that this is more than just talk.  I think that she’s excited.  She likes the idea of being a Roller Derby Mama.  Knowing my mother, I will have plenty of glitter and sparkles on any uniform that I end up in, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Renewed inspiration…#postaweek2011

I’m so excited!  We’re going to a derby bout this weekend.  One of the trainers at our gym just recently made a derby team.  She’s in a flat track league, and the more that I hear about flat track, the more that I think that this may be the direction that I go.  They’re holding a bout to raise money for charity on Saturday and we’re going to go.  I want to see how different it is on flat track vs. banked track.  I also want my husband to see it in person.  He already thinks that I’m crazy.

Training is going well, but as it gets closer to the end of the year, I’m finding that doubt creeps in.  LC said before he left that he thinks that I am ready to try out now.  I still feel like I need a bit longer.

With this flat track league, they hold try-outs after the first of the year.  I spent some time talking to the gal at the gym, and she said that she initially thought about trying out for a banked track team.  Because Fresh Meat (rookies) don’t really get to skate in bouts for at least a year, it would be a long time before I ever saw some real competitive time on the track.  I didn’t realize that the banked track league had already held try-outs in October, and I know for sure that I wasn’t ready at that time.

In her league, she got to start skating right away.  Every time she sees me, she tells me to come to a practice or a bout, so that I can see that I can do it.

I’m going!  I’m going!