Monday, January 1, 2018

Sightseeing


 


I am packing for San Jose today. I leave for Nationals early this coming Thursday morning. And like the last few, this is another year when I can be a cheerleader since I have no "horse in the race." However, this year is the Triple Crown, the World Series, the Indy 500 of skating because it is the end of the quadrennial and that means only one thing in in skatingdom - Olympics! 


It's always a time for me to get somewhat teary-eyed remembering back, oh nearly 30 years now, to those first forays onto the ice. How quickly that time has gone. 

I don't mean to sound maudlin at all. I wouldn't trade a moment of it. In the early years of competitions, it was fun and games. We'd go to the rink, warm up, skate, go out for pizza and go sightseeing. Even if it was somewhere close to home and a place we'd been many times before, we'd find fun things to do. 

Somehow, that all changed when things got "real." Not real in the truly real sense; real as most skate parents perceive real to be. 

For a way-too-long time, sightseeing at competitions - both non-qualifying and qualifying - became something like this:

  • Map out how far it is from your hotel to Starbucks
  • Look at the practice schedule
  • Map out how far it is from the hotel to the practice rink
  • Figure out the time between getting from practice back to the main rink
  • Map out how far the main rink is from Starbucks
  • Figure out if you can bring Starbucks into the main rink or do you have to bolt it down outside, or find a way to sneak it in
  • Look on line to find where you are sitting and how far away it is from the nearest bathroom
  • Find out who you are sitting near because you may need to move
  • Calculate how many laps you need to do around the concourse to get some modicum of exercise, then not do it
  • Find the nearest cafe that sells wine in the arena
  • Look for a restaurant close by so you are sure not to miss a moment of official practice ice
  • Look for over-priced essentially junk food on the concourse because there isn't time to go out for a real meal (oh those Nachos..)
  • Buy souvenirs from the vendors that you end up throwing on the ice, never to be seen again



I mention all of this because if you are a relatively new skating parent, or even a skating fan, I'm mapping out what your reality may be. I know some of you are sitting there saying, "Oh no, that's not ME. I love to get out and see the sights." Okay. I believe you. I used to say that, too. I still do. And, I'd like to say that it has changed. Sadly, it has not. 
Yes, I do get out more now that I don't have a competitor, but when I go to Nationals, most of my best sightseeing could be categorized more as sightings. 

Nationals is an annual family reunion on steroids (not the USADA kind; we don't have to pee in a cup - well, at least not on purpose). While you would like think you can escape from  the arena, chances are you won't even make it out the door. I rarely make it from one section of seat signs on to another on the concourse without getting stopped by another skating family, a skater, former skater, coach, official, friend or fan. I'm as guilty as everyone else when it comes to this. I have my friends whom I stalk at Nationals. We've even been known to text, Tweet or Facebook to find one another. 
"Where are you?" 
"I don't see you."
"Look up. Im' in section 108."
"WAIVE!"
"I still can't find... Oh, I SEE YOU now!" 

It's a game we play every year that allows you to either see your favorite family members - or avoid that crazy relative you can't escape if they corner you. 


So, as I pack for San Jose, I'm grateful that I've "been there; done that." If I see the light of day, I'll count my blessings. If I make it to their fabulous art museum again, I'll consider myself lucky. The good thing is that I KNOW where Starbucks is and how to get to my favorite restaurants quickly. The rest? I'll map it out when I get there.


As we do our sightseeing in the SAP, all I really want to do is see our athletes do their best, no matter the outcome. Good luck to all who are looking to earn their way to PyeongChang. If you make the team, it will be a sightseeing trip like none you've ever imagined. 


Madison Chock and Jeremy Abbott - Photo by NBC



Sunday, December 31, 2017

Pentimento, Kintsugi and The Art of Figure Skating



I am a huge fan of CBS Sunday Morning. I have been watching it for decades. I've found their stories wonderfully informative, entertaining and thought-provoking. This morning, however, watching a piece by Faith Salie on "How Art Can Help Shape Your New Year's Resolutions," I had an epiphany, of sorts. 

First, let me say that I have a mostly-unused university minor in art history. I say "unused" the same way I say "algebra." While I served as a trustee of our Fine Arts Center with great reverence and pride for three years, it required me to use my knowledge of art about as much as I use algebra.

Anyway, in her piece on New Year's Resolutions, Ms. Salie used art to make a very good point; one that was not lost on me as I start to pack my bags and get ready to head to San Jose for the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships where our new Olympic Team will be named. From the depths of my schooling, Ms. Salie reminded me about two of my favorite things in the art world: Pentimento and Kintsugi. 
A Matisse drawing with erasure marks.
CBS NEWS

Using her words, here is the definition of Pentimento:


"This past year, I learned two life-changing ideas from the world of art.One is "pentimento," which I first encountered when I saw a drawing by the artist Henri Matisse. 

As I got closer, I could see that Matisse had sketched over and over and didn't entirely erase his scribbles.
A friend explained this is called pentimento, which is Italian for "repent" -- to regret, to change your mind. Matisse, a master, left his stumbles for us to see, and the ghosts of his mistakes inspire us to strive not for perfection, but for creation."

Mind blown. A master left his stumbles for us to see, and the ghosts of his mistakes inspire us to strive not for perfection, but for creation. Hmm..

Then there was this from Ms. Salie on Kintsugi:
Kintsugi -
filling in a ceramic's cracks with gold.
C
BS NEWS

"The other notion is "kintsugi," which is the Japanese method of repairing broken ceramics with gold.

The idea is that the cracks of something are part of its history and should be kept visible, even shiny! It's the art of embracing damage while making something whole.

An object becomes more beautiful because of its flaws." 

Wait. What? Repair something broken with gold, embracing the damage while keeping it visible, and even shiny because the flaws are beautiful? 

Ms. Salie continued her piece with this observation: 

"What if we consider kintsugi and pentimento in our New Year's resolutions? The word itself, "re-solution," suggests we return to our shortcomings, chronically trying to solve ourselves again and again." 

Without even knowing it, Faith Salie just summed up everything about figure skating. The fact that only three men, three women, three dance teams and one pairs team - a GRAND TOTAL OF FOURTEEN ATHLETES - will represent our country at the XXIII Winter Olympic Games just mere weeks from now is important, but not totally the point. 

After San Jose, there will be many who will feel imperfect, cracked, flawed or perhaps broken - either in their own minds, or made to feel so by those around them - because they were not "perfect." It will take awhile for them to look at what they did, the hours they trained and the art they presented to realize that the gold they may not have collected this time, on this frozen canvas, does not mean that what they did to get there should be dismissed or discarded. Whether they  choose to continue to create, or move to another discipline in life, make no mistake about this one very important thing: What each one left us with was their personal form of art. The gold may not have been there for the crowds to see atop the podium, but it was - and will be - forever in their hearts. Despite critics; despite the crowd, these artist-athletes were chosen to exhibit their works because they earned their place in the grand gallery of San Jose. They may have left flaws for us to see, but in doing so they presented heart.  

"But we'll never be perfect, so perhaps our re-solutions can involve being humble enough to shed light on our cracks -- and brave enough to repair them visibly. Maybe that's a kind of time travel in which we make peace with past and future at the same time."

Words  for all of us to consider, to live by, and to use as part of our re-solution heading into San Jose, Ms. Salie. Thank you for helping bring clarity to our flaws. Happy New Year. 




Friday, December 29, 2017

Advice to the Lutzlorn and Things I Won't Miss at U.S. Figure Skating Championships 2018 This Olympic Year



I have been spending a lot of time in the role that seems to suit me - being a small, green and war-weary trooper who everyone seems to think offers sage advice. I'm not quite sure how I achieved such revered status and respect. I don't seem to get it from within my four walls (which are appropriately decked out with lush padding), so I'll just go with it out there in cyberspace. I guess that, along the way, I somehow earned my scars and stripes.


Which brings me to my week. 

I have been in contact with no less than three skating parents who, if their ridiculously talented kids do what we know they will in San Jose next week, will be faced with the task of summiting  Mount Olympus for the first time. 

There are so many questions; so many financial concerns; so much fear and trepidation surrounding:

  • How do I get there
  • Where do I stay
  • How do I pay
  • Can I cut costs
  • Will I see my skater
  • Should I get tickets
  • Is it safe
  • I don't speak the language
  • Can I drink the water
  • What if I get sick

(and so on, and so on, and shoobee doobee doo)

I guess because I'm old and green, I'm supposed to know. 

So, I've been trying to answer all the questions and allay the trepidation. I've been  networking my  parent friends with my legion of wonderful Korean friends who have been there for us since 2008 when they discovered my skater at the Grand Prix Final. I cannot tell you how truly special these girls - now women - are to me. Actually, they are way
beyond special; they are part of my worldwide extended family that spans many continents, countries and cities. I have learned so much from all them over the years. The laughs and the stories we share are some of my most treasured memories. When I put out a message on Facebook for help, my Korean family answered the call immediately. I am so grateful.They jumped in with lodging suggestions, offers of assistance in Seoul and at the Games; transportation ideas. I had an instant South Korean travel and guide agency at the ready. How special is that to have those kind of friends halfway around the world with a 15 hour time difference. They were answering me in real time. I'm convinced they don't sleep, but then neither do I, and I adore them!

Which leads me to the second part of this blog. 

Here are the things I won't miss as I wing my way west to San Jose on Thursday and prepare myself to cheer on our athletes: 

  • I won't miss any event after I arrive for which I am gratefully ticketed
  • I won't miss another opportunity to sit in the Lutz corner (force of habit)
  • I won't miss saying hi and hugging every skater, judge and coach I know
  • I won't miss hanging with my Tweeps and Facebook friends because they are special
  • I won't miss attending the Hall of Fame party
  • I won't miss helping out at Friends of Figure Skating brunch
  • I won't miss, as a Gold Sponsor of Destination PyeongChang, the Olympic Team Sendoff
  • I won't miss seeing my son because we both know how important it is to be there to support the next generation of gladiators who will glide into the most breathtaking experience of their lives with one of the greatest responsibilities they have ever shouldered - that of representing our country with the best they have to offer as athletes, no matter what the outcome
The last thing I won't miss is what my competitor parent friends are going though now: The sick-to-your-stomach feeling of knowing, and not knowing, that all your love, support, time, money and life has come down to a few moments on a frozen surface in the U.S. that could lead to another frozen surface half a world away and in front of a worldwide audience. 

Being excited, scared and so incredibly proud thinking that you could see your kid march into that stadium wearing the mantel of Olympic Athlete - that is truly priceless.
Jeremy Abbott taking photos during Opening Ceremonies in Sochi

While I will miss being in PyeongChang and being with my other family, I won't miss that feeling of being a competitor's mom at all. I will revel in my memories of Vancouver and Sochi while I cheer for all those who represent us proudly and so well.

It's not easy being green..either from nausea, or from being Yoda.
See you in San Jose.


(This blog is dedicated to our Team Leader in Sochi, Kathy Slack. May you smile down on all of us. We miss you terribly.)


Friday, November 24, 2017

Keepsakes


There it was. 

In an Instagram story on the day before Thanksgiving, it all became clear. My son, sitting at a table with his idols, who became mentors, then friends, were now his extended family. Twenty nine years of skating was summed up in only a few words inserted over a photo taken in a restaurant.

I don’t know how to describe exactly how I felt; perhaps that’s why it has taken me a few days to organize my thoughts. But as the last Grand Prix of this Olympic season got underway in Lake Placid today, it made me think of everything it took to get us to where we are now, to every experience along the way, and to all the people who were the tight fabric – or the loose threads – that wove our journey to this revered and almost sacred place in skating called “Family.”

The timing for his post could not have been better because I had just spent a week with my daughter in Idaho culling through a mélange of literally hundreds of old photos that had managed to find their way into boxes, envelopes, tattered scrapbooks, crates and suitcases. Some I hadn’t seen in more than 25 years; some were more recent. For better or worse, they all brought back a flood of memories surrounding that one particular moment now frozen in time.

Images scattered on the floor took me on a visual and mental roller coaster ride from Vancouver in 2010, back to Aspen in 1989, and forward at seemingly warp speed to Sochi 2014 and Stars on Ice this spring. Years of competitions were laid out before me. Not all the images were salvageable after decades of wear, weather and bad storage, but most of the memories remained, even if the pictures were faded.

I bring this up mostly because today we live in a digital world where we are posting our lives by the hour and minute to a multitude of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Tumblr. Everything is in the “now.” Many are designed to simply disappear. It is true that they are not all jewels worth preserving, but the aggregate make up the more linear stories of our lives.
Nick Kole, Evan Gibbs, John Coughlin, Jeremy Abbott

My point is this: 

Make sure you document and preserve important milestones for posterity. Make sure you don’t discard those photos from a young age with friends and competitors alike. Take pictures with coaches and judges. If you meet someone you look up to, make sure to record the moment. We live in a world of disposable media, but that doesn’t mean we should also dispose of the memories that caused us to press the button and save the moment. Images are catalysts. They can remind us where we have been so we can appreciate how far we have come, and how quickly the time in between has passed. And how, along the way, idols became mentors, and mentors became trusted friends who are now truly family - not just in skating, but in life.










Sunday, June 25, 2017

Closing The Book




Ice Network Interview MP3

It was Tuesday, June 20, around 7PM. My husband, Allen, was driving. I was sitting in the back seat of the car as we drove away from the Colorado Springs airport, heading home with our son. The conversation went something like this:


Me - I saw that  you did an Ice Talk interview for Ice Network with Nick McCarvel. It's supposed to air tomorrow? 

Jeremy - Yeah, I think so. (pause) Uh, you probably should know that I announced my retirement. It just kind of slipped out...

Me - That's interesting. 
(A moment of silence ensued followed by a backseat Happy Dance)

And so it went. There was a sudden panicked realization that a LOT of key people probably needed to know about this: Coaches, officials, family, friends, U.S. Figure Skating (though we "assume" they already knew at that point if they  had previewed the segment). 

There was a flurry of activity and some continuing conversation about "what's next." To be honest, I don't even remember all of what was discussed, other than that making a public statement was kind of like graduating from college and looking out over the sea of faces, caps and gowns and feeling alone in your thoughts as you contemplate an uncertain future. After all, for the past two-plus decades, you had structure. You had places to be on time; a schedule that was unrelenting. You knew where you were going and what was expected of you - and what you expected of yourself. Now, with one short sentence, it all changed. All that was left seemed like a void in front of you; a vast sea of nothingness.

Of course, that's overly third act of La Traviata dramatic. The feeling, however, is quite palpable. 



The wonderful interview aired on Ice Network June 23, giving us all an extra day to come to grips with our new reality. For me, it was probably easier. I had been quite vocal about my readiness to move from the frozen tundra of competitive skating. I'd even written several blogs that were intended to be the final word of "Life on the Edge of Skating." 




Then I listened to the interview - much of it being about our family, and about me as a skating mom. Jeremy talked about all of us telling him that we would be supportive no matter what he chose to do. But to hear him state it was very different from having Allen, Jeremy's sister Gwen, and me say those exact same words. 

I'll admit it - I misted up. Well, okay, I cried. We are an emotional clan, so that should be no surprise to anyone who knows us, or has observed us in the stands at competitions.

In a brief 20 minutes, Jeremy put a period at the end of a more than 20-year sentence so he could begin writing his own new chapter in the sport. Because of that, I had a feeling I needed to write one more chapter myself. The only difference was that, this time, mine would truly close the book. 
After all, I began this chronicle in August of 2009. It was intended as a diary of my experiences and observations as a skating mom writing about my personal experiences in hopefully an intelligent, enlightening, mostly lighthearted manner. I wanted to take readers through our very personal adventures, ups-and-downs, giant steps and a few missed-steps in the sport that has consumed nearly 29 consecutive years of our lives. 
I did that. 
No apologies, except for the things I could have said but didn't along the way. Now, those things are best left unsaid. They serve no great purpose anyway, other than to make me feel better. I'll simply leave this statement as a "gesture" of goodwill aimed at those who more than earned it over the years.

NOW we move on, each in our own direction. I'm truly grateful to oh-so-many people who helped us along the way; those who guided us, and even those who were misguided. We learned from every experience, and isn't that what life should be about?



I hope that "Life on the Edge of Skating" finds a home in cyberspace for a long time. I hope that what we have experienced as a family, and what I have shared as a skating mom, will resonate with those who are new to the sport. Some things don't change in our world; they are universal truths, even if the individual experiences are as different as every skater who dreams a dream, and every parent who dares to follow. I hope that there will continue to be new readers who find value in what I've written, and who feel free to pass those thoughts along to others coming along in this sport. After all, we are a small, close-knit and slightly dysfunctional frozen family, bound together by a sheet of ice and three-sixteenths of an inch of steel. Find your path - with kindness, civility and, most of all, love of this incredible sport that makes the most difficult look easy. 

Now, I bid not au revoir, but à bientôt. Like my son, though this book is closed, I plan on being around supporting skating until I cannot stand - or find words to write. It's what I do. It's what I love, along with all of you who have joined me on this journey.


May the Force be with you always.


Allison Scott




 











Sunday, January 1, 2017

Taking Stock at the Start of 2017


 It's now 2017, and it is time to take stock of what's important in my life. Certainly, my family is at the top of the list. I am eternally grateful for all of them. My husband continues to be my rock and my anchor. My 94 year old mother keeps life interesting, as do my adult kids, their partners, a beautiful and precocious grandchild and a grand-dog. They all are my thousand points of light that make up our anything-but-normal family.

 However, lately I've found myself on the fence about things outside of heart, hearth and home. I've relatively successfully transitioned from being a skate mom to being a skating mom. (There is a difference - a slightly lower level of crazy and a somewhat higher level of respect.) I don't  wear a hair shirt or flail about wailing at the loss of my previous life. I have other things to occupy my time. 

To a degree, however, that is my conundrum. 

For the second straight year, I am heading to Nationals as a spectator and not a skate mom. It is an important season for all skaters hoping to make it to PyeongChang in 2018. This is a dress rehearsal, of sorts. This is the competition where skaters will start to jockey for position and show that they are worthy opponents on the frozen world stage. Of course, next year in San Jose everything will be on the line. This year, though, we will see who stands out - and stands up to the pressure. 

This year, however, I'm going not only for the standout stories, but for the ones that are lesser known, among them is competitor-turned coach-turned competitor again, Dennis Phan. 


The same age as my son, I watched Dennis compete for many years. He was a US National Champion at Junior and a Junior Grand Prix Gold Medalist. His last senior competition was Spokane in 2010. A beautiful, stylist, Dennis did  shows and then turned to coaching. However, at 31 he felt he had not put a period at the end of his competitive sentence. Against odds, he began training again. He competed at Regionals and qualified. I watched him compete at Sectionals here in Colorado where he took Bronze. I watched him tear up with pride knowing that he had done something most adult skaters would not even dream of doing after not competing for six years. I will be there to watch him skate beautifully, for his family, friends, his coaches and himself. That will be a victory in a season of personal and professional growth. I, for one, will stand and applaud.

I will also cheer loudly for many others who continue to train hard, ignoring the sands of time that are inevitably sifting slowly to the bottom of the glass. These are the heroes of our sport. Some better known; some not. They exist in all disciplines and they continue to fight to do it their way against what others would consider insurmountable odds. They are the warriors, the soldiers and the cement that allows ice to take shape. They do not melt; they continue to add layers for the next generation of dreamers and doers. 


Why is this a conundrum for me? I should be there looking at the bigger picture, and I will most certainly be doing that. I will cheer for the men, ladies, pairs and dancers, most of whom I've known since they were mere babes on blades. My heart is with them as they make their statement about representing Team USA in 2018. I know what they are going through right now. It is all too familiar. It is a level of nerves that strikes me to the core. 


 So, I'm taking stock of what matters to me right now, and that is seeing the lesser publicized stories play out on the ice in Kansas City. It's important to remember that each skater who earned a spot by qualifying through Regionals and Sectionals made a personal statement. They worked hard to get there and they deserve their moment, and our respect. 

 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Take Note


This entry has nothing (directly) to do with the presidential debates.However, it has everything to do with how one is perceived when in the company of others -  and when one thinks they are not being watched, or heard. Today, everything is under a microscope. There isn't a move, a breath or a word that doesn't fall under the glare of some form of media, or that goes unnoticed, not only by steadfast friends but ardent critics. 

I mention this to remind you that no one is immune.

Lately, I have had texts and messages from friends who are just beginning their foray into the frozen tundra. While two are not new to skating and have been involved on the athlete side, they are now adjusting to the slightly ill-fitting and uncomfortable role of being "skate mom." Like an expensive costume, it takes a number of adjustments until it feels (somewhat) like something one can live with. The comments to me outlined not only what was happening on the ice, but in the stands. Unguarded snippets of conversation were overheard about other skaters, coaches and parents. There was discussion of body type and weight; who could do what jumps and what was "under-rotated." This was coming from parents of preliminary skaters. 

  I know that one blog isn't going to be a reason for behavior to stop, or even take a momentary pause. It is part of the fabric of who we are as people. We talk. We observe. And, yes, we gossip. It gives us something to do. For some, they use it it is used to establish their position of dominance within the "tribe." It is our nature.


But today, nothing goes unnoticed. There are virtually no secrets, no private conversations and particularly no subtle gestures, glances or physical stances that escape the eyes - or ears - from those who are merely casual and amused narrators to those whose existence seems to be defined by minutely reporting such things in great and somewhat lurid. There is no casual conversation anymore.It is all observed, scrutinized and reported in some form. 

You are not even safe in the bathroom. I have stood in many lines during an ice resurface overhearing conversations about my skater. I've sat in arenas next to strangers who have taken great pleasure in analyzing his every move, and have even made comments about our family. (Those are the most fun, particularly when I introduce myself and watch the display of 50 shades of red faces and a tumble of nonsensical words and shallow apologies.) 

All of this brings me back to the debates. The spoken word is powerful, but so is the unguarded one. The choreographed gesture is not as noticed, or reported, as the silent stance. When you step outside your private enclave, you step on stage and there is a spotlight just waiting to follow you. 

The cautionary words of a Stephen Sondheim song from "Into the Woods" drives home my point.
 
 How do you say to your child in the night?
Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white
How do you say it will all be all right
When you know that it might not be true?
What do you do?
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say "Listen to me"
Children will listen
Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free
Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes a spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you

Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen

 Everyone is watching. Everyone is listening. As my actor grandfather was fond of saying, "There are no small parts, just small actors." Nothing goes unnoticed. Nothing.