A more organized space

I love my room at this apartment. I’ve never lived in a place with a connected bathroom, and now I worry I will never be able to go back to what my life was like before. I get up around 5:30 a.m. these days because my winter hours at work are 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. (of my own volition). I love being able to get ready in the morning without worrying about disturbing Adele — to the point where I’ve recently ordered a tiny blue one-cup coffee maker for my desk. Starting this week, I can push a button, take a shower, and have a to-go mug full of coffee ready for my commute, all without turning on a light in the kitchen. (Shout-out to my step-mom for getting me a bag of ground Tim Horton’s for Christmas.)

I’d joke about getting a mini fridge, but the thought is too tempting. I’m basically living in a very twee hotel room, and it’s amazing. I knew it was fate when I toured this place and saw my would-be bedroom was already painted yellow.

I am doing an Apartment Therapy thing called the January Cure, an exercise I did with Becca last winter. You get emails with different tasks for bettering and/or cleaning your apartment, and you make your own list of tasks, fixes, or projects that you want to accomplish in a month — mine include making a large-scale collage to hang in my bedroom and re-organizing my clothes closet. One of the first emails instructs you to plan a get-together at your place so you’ll have further motivation to follow through on your plans, and I decided to plan a Galentines Day brunch on the afternoon of Valentines Day.

I didn’t plan an event last year, but the January Cure was really important to me during that time. it was the month Kevin moved out, and I used to the Cure to help completely re-invent the apartment as my own. Oddly enough, those last three or four months I lived there were the only ones during which I bothered to hang up my own artwork and really make that place my home. I didn’t know at the time that it would short-lived, but I am still really glad I did it.

This year is a little different since the majority of my stuff is in my room and bathroom, but I’ve been making great strides in those two areas. Some January Cure emails give you easy tasks, like spending three minutes de-cluttering a drawer of your choosing. Others are more involved, such as clearing out expired and unusable items from your pantry and re-organizing your kitchen cabinets. This weekend’s project was cleaning your bedroom. I am really proud of how mine looks now.

Bonus: While looking for a waffle maker for my Galentines Day brunch this weekend, Jaimi found this treasure at Brown Elephant in Andersonville:


It was only $3! I also found an amazing white Ann Taylor dress there — it has pockets.

I’m really looking forward to having a bunch of awesome ladies over for brunch next month.

Running with the Windy City Rollers

WCRI signed up for a Windy City Rollers skate clinic a couple of weeks ago. I’d emailed to get information about it and was told a series of five clinics was wrapping up January 11, and by the time I emailed, there were only two left. I asked if I could drop in on the final one and was told I could. The clinics are intended to practice skills players would need during a tryout for the Windy City Rollers farm team, the Haymarket Rioters, and I was curious to see what tryouts looked like.

All levels of players attend clinics, and after being evaluated at a tryout, they are sorted into three different skill levels. You might start out at Level 1, basic skating skills, but if you progress quickly enough, you can transfer to Level 2, which covers blocking/hitting, rules, and derby basics. You can’t get into Level 3, however, until you’ve passed a minimum skills and written rules test. Level 3 skaters are eligible to be drafted for the Rioters. They’re scrimage-ready and will learn strategy and game-play skills.

It’s possible for a skater to move through all three levels within a single 10-week session — it’s a matter of how much you pick up and how quickly.

At the clinic’s start, a group of 12-15 of us started out doing warm-ups and stretches in gym shoes. We were sorted into four teams of three or four people and each team was assigned to an instructor. I was lucky enough to be put on a team with a girl named Lindsey, who was an extremely good sport about keeping me posted on what the hell was happening and/or about to happen the whole time. We did some endurance stuff like planks and squats, each for a minute straight. Then we ran laps and did timed suicide drills in our gym shoes. Everyone knew what drill was coming next except for me, and it became clear to me that Lindsey and all these other women had been coming to clinics for weeks in legitimate preparation for trying out for the Windy City Rollers. I was 100 percent in the way and looking like an idiot. Still, I wanted to skate. So I stayed.

At last, we laced up. I felt momentarily validated after seeing that lots of women use rolling suitcases to cart their gear around — albeit theirs were mostly solid ones, and not a polka-dot canvas one made by Totes.

While skating our first warm-up laps, a girl I knew from Groupon saw me and called my name. I was so surprised and thankful to see her.

“I didn’t know you skated,” she said.

I told her I’d just started two weeks earlier. She wished me luck and we skated on.

The instructors at the clinic were helpful, but they also weren’t messing around. No one said I was wasting their time, but there were moments when part of me worried I was. The woman whose team I’d been assigned was cordial, and kindly told me to just do my best, but she was also tough. When I did knee push-ups incorrectly, she drolly corrected my poor form. When she made her way around the track with me as I tried to round turns on only my wobbly left foot, she looked at me, sighed, and said, “Okay, you’re good,” before skating off to the next person. I don’t blame her for a second — It was not her job to babysit me and teach me basic moves during the final week of training for people who’ve been working on their drills since August. I do wonder why I was allowed to just “drop in” when I was so clearly going to be in over my head — I didn’t want to put anyone’s safety in jeopardy with my cluelessness.

This skate clinic was also the first time it occurred to me that not being able to hear well might pose a problem. One detail that had always stuck with me about the movie “Whip It!” was the fact that two of the players on the team were deaf. I had assumed that the game was more visual than auditory, but there was a lot of confusing yelling going on at the clinic that now makes me think otherwise. I don’t think my hearing aids were visible because of my hair and my helmet, but I wish I’d felt comfortable bringing this up to someone at that training.

Overall, the skate clinic was an extremely humbling experience. Doing drills of different types of stops was humiliating because I didn’t know any of them, and mimicking Lindsey’s awesomeness only got me so far. Even the one part I thought I’d have a chance at succeeding in backfired: The speed trials. I was assigned to keeping count of Lindsey’s laps around the track for her. She cleared the track nearly 27 times in five minutes, and I was determined to come as close to that as I could. She began counting for me as I skated off but on the track I got lapped, again and again.

At Derby Lite, I’m a fast skater. At Windy City Rollers, I’m pretty lackadaisical.

When the instructor called 40 seconds left for us to complete our laps, I gave it everything I had and skated as fast as I could. At the end of my last lap I almost knocked someone over as I desperately lapped her on my way toward the finish line. I slowed to a stop and sat in the middle of the track with everyone else. I’d made it around 20 times.

“That last lap,” my instructor said, and I froze, thinking for sure she was going to yell at me for almost hitting the woman. “I want to see more of that.”

Lindsey told me I’d get better and that I just needed  to learn how to do crossovers. I’m still not entirely sure what those are, but I’m intrigued.

“Once you learn crossovers, you’ll skate faster than me,” she assured me.

At the very end, I opted out of doing the final exercise: Jumping in skates. I had been game for everything else, but I had to draw the line somewhere. I was sweating and sore and I’d managed to not fall hard on my ass up until this point. I stayed in the middle of the track instead, and ended up talking to two of the other instructors. They asked me how it was going.

“I was told I could just drop in!” I said with a laugh.

They politely lied and told me I was doing well, and I hoped that meant I was getting credit for basically being a good sport. I’d shown up so wholly unprepared I didn’t even bring a bottle of water. I had to take bathroom breaks and strip off my wrist guards to get water from the sink three times in two hours.

They both encouraged me to come to tryouts even if I was feeling less than ready, because I would be sorted into the best class for me (Read: Level 1). I thanked them and said I’d think about it. I want to go to the tryouts Saturday to be assessed and placed, but I also am not sure I can start the Windy City Rollers class while I’m doing Derby Lite — on top of all of the other things I do in life. I don’t know when their Level 1 class starts, but if it’s offered again in March or April, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up.

I’m just going to do whatever I can to get better and see how this goes. So far I love doing roller derby basics, bruised ego and all.

So continues my tradition of obnoxiously taking selfies in skate gear and hoping no around me catches me.

So continues my tradition of obnoxiously taking selfies in skate gear and hoping no around catches me at it.

Welcome to Derby Lite

Me and my helmet.

Me and my helmet.

My first class of Derby Lite was Saturday morning. I was so excited I got to the Arc in Oak Park a half hour early and suited up, well before anyone else arrived. A higher-level class was wrapping up, so I watched the more advanced skaters round the track and finish their drills.

Queen B, our class leader, reminded me that for our first class we would be starting out in gym shoes. I immediately felt silly, as I already wearing full pads/guards and looking up at her from under my brand-new royal blue Triple8 helmet. “Oh, okay,” I said, trying not to sound disappointed. Despite having my skates with me most days of the previous week, time hadn’t allowed me to make it back to the suburban rink by my office during their open skate hours to try them out. It was kind of killing me. I fumbled with the laces of them longingly and set them back in the rolling suitcase I’d repurposed the night before as my temporary gear bag. I took off my helmet and pads as well and set them aside.

Then I realized I hadn’t thought to bring gym shoes to the class — I’d worn my yellow rain boots, which currently serve as my Chicago winter boots when paired with multiple layers of socks. I’d taken the boots off at the door to avoid tracking in snow and knew wearing them on the slick rink, much less running drills in them, was out of the question. I panicked — then I remembered I’d left my gym bag in my car from a couple days earlier, and thought there was a chance my shoes were still in there. I ran to my car, and luckily, there they were. I carried them back inside and put them on.

My class mates slowly trickled in, including at least two women I remembered from Get in Gear Day. I greeted them and at 10, we were asked to come out onto the rink with our gear AND our skates — yessss. Queen B showed up how to properly strap on our helmets, our knee and elbow pads, and our wrist guards. A lot of the things we went over had been covered in Get in Gear Day, but not everyone at this class had been there for that introduction. Finally we were told to put on our skates, but asked to put in our mouth guards first.

My heart sank again. I’d been digging through my suitcase/gear bag and didn’t remember seeing my mouth guard in there. I’d also forgotten to boil it the night before like I’d been supposed to, to make it malleable and conform it to the shape of my upper teeth. I knew I wasn’t going to be allowed to skate without it. I told one of the co-instructors and she gave me a brand new mouth guard — for three dollars. I’d paid $20 online for my boil-and-bite one. This new one wasn’t fitted to me specifically, obviously, but it meant I could skate. I thanked her and rolled back onto the rink, relieved.

We did a series of drills, including a couple of new ones from Get in Gear. I noticed that when I tried to do a toe stop with my left skate, it was more difficult than it had been with my right. I think now it may have been because that’s not my dominant foot and also because we were skating clock-wise for the first-time and not counter-clockwise, the traditional skating direction. Queen B noticed when I faltered on that one and told me she’d take a look at my skates after the class ended.

At the class’s end, I brought my skates over to her to see what she thought. She told me that the skates my uncle gave me are great, but maybe a little too professional for the level I’m at — the toe stops on them are smaller, and therefore cover less surface area, and are also intended for speed skating.That makes sense, since that’s my uncle’s forte. They also present more of a hurdle because the gym floor we practice on isn’t intended for skating-only, like at traditional rinks. She said I could get different ones, but that eventually I’ll be good enough to be able to rise to the challenge the toe stops present. Part of me wants to just leave those toe stops on there so I force myself to get better, sooner.

I thanked her for her help and packed my bag to leave. I didn’t get to skate as much as I’d hoped, because the more I’m on the rink the more I love being out there, but at least I was able to tell that those skates fit me perfectly. I’m still blown away my uncle got them for me. I can’t wait until next week’s class.

Quality Testing: Derby Gear

When I was home for Christmas, my uncle gave me a pretty amazing gift: A brand new pair of derby skates, like the ones Derby Lite had for us to borrow at the one-off lesson.

New skates!

New skates!

I’d emailed him my blog post about the class because I thought he’d be interested, and he was psyched. I am still in disbelief that he got me these skates. He even outfitted them with better wheels than the default set they came with and showed me how to change them with the tool included in the box.

I tried them on that day, and they felt like they fit — at least, they felt like an appropriately-sized pair of shoes with wheels on them. I won’t know for sure until I skate in them. I had hoped to try them out this past Tuesday, during a Derby Lite event, but when I emailed to register I was told I couldn’t participate in the event until I’ve been through training. That makes sense — It was a scrimmage, kind of, and they don’t want people who don’t know what they’re doing yet on the track.

On Sunday night I placed an order online for my gear. I’d written down the sizes of what I’d borrowed for reference and got my own knee and elbow pads, a mouth guard, wrist guards, and a royal blue helmet. The box containing them came to my office in the morning on New Year’s Eve, and I opened it eagerly.

Helmet, guards, pads

Helmet, guards, pads

An hour later, the CEO and president of our company sent us home early to celebrate New Years Eve. It was noon, and I decided to spend my half-day off at the roller rink. I had checked online earlier and had been surprised to see there’s one only three miles north of my office. Cursing myself for not planning ahead and bringing the new skates to try, I decided to go anyway and at least test out the new gear.

It’s funny how roller rinks across America all smell the same. I don’t know what causes it, but it’s the same at every rink I’ve been to. I showed up around 12:30, and while the door was unlocked, the place was dark inside. I went into the bathroom to change and try on the gear — with the exception of my helmet, because my hair was in a giant, tall bun. I also felt silly putting on a helmet to skate around a giant rink completely alone. After about 15 minutes of adjusting and making sure everything fit, I walked back to the lobby. I saw then that I would no longer be skating alone. A line had formed, of twenty or so kids and teens. A New Year’s Eve skate party was starting at 1, it turned out, and no one was in school for the day.

I paid my admission and skate rental and watched the place slowly fill up. Out on the rink it was fine at first, and I skated quickly and confidently. However, more kids entered the rink every minute and I had to slow down for fear of running into them. The silver lining is that because of this, I discovered I’m really good and weaving in and out among other skaters. I just did so worrying that any second I was going to get told off for it by an employee.

I only skated about an hour, practicing holding the derby play stance I’d learned: full-on squat, butt out, back straight, hands up in prayer position, and elbows in. When I got off the track, I decided to try to T-stop, where you take one skate and place it in front of the other, forming a T, and serving as a brake. Even though I couldn’t have been skating more than 3-5 miles per hour, I absolutely crumpled to the ground the second I did it. It was the only time I fell the whole time, and I wasn’t even on the rink.

The good news is, I had my wrist guards on straight this time. That’s important too, because they’re what hit the floor first.

I am sad I didn’t get to try my new skates, but I’m packing them in my car with the hopes I will get to go back to the rink by work in the next few days. One thing I need now is a zipped gym bag to hold all this new stuff: Skates, pads, guards, helmet. The skates are pretty heavy on their own, so I’ll need something that’s durable and up to the challenge.

I keep resisting the urge to buy a custom Penny Pain shirt. It feels wrong enough that I’ve already settled on a name before starting training, and I feel like buying something with my chosen name this early would be either a bad omen, or presumptuous. Nothing will stop me from looking at all that Etsy has to offer, though.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

I never reach all of my goals for a new year, but I do alright. With all the optimism in the world, I offer my resolutions for 2015:

  1. Do as many live lit shows as I possibly can this year
  2. Complete intro roller derby class at Derby Lite
  3. Do Feminine Comique training
  4. Volunteer marketing services to at least one nonprofit
  5. Bike 500 miles by year’s end
  6. Lose final 9 lbs for a total of 30 since May 2013
  7. Re-visit ASL skills, even if just via YouTube video practice
  8. Take an intro ukulele or fiddle class at Old Town School of Folk
  9. Mull over possible tattoo idea for at least six months
  10. Have the best Chicago summer ever
  11. Travel to visit Eileen and Margaret in Massachusetts
  12. Write for DNAinfo, NewsCastic, and other sites as much as I can
  13. Make a plan for better savings
  14. Ring in 2016 from Portland, OR