Clap Your Hands

We can’t all be heroes.  Someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
– Will Rogers

Today’s Writing Group prompt: Support:  Write about a time you’ve been on the sidelines cheering for somebody else, literally or figuratively.

When I was in middle school, there was literally nothing I wanted more than to be a cheerleader.  In my mind, cheerleaders were IT: cute, smart, popular, beloved by everyone.  I tried out every year and never made it.  The spots all went to the girls who’d done gymnastics their whole lives and could tumble.

When it came time to try out for the Junior Varsity squad – for 9th and 10th graders – at the end of my 8th grade year, I signed up, of course.  We had a week of practice at the high school, learning a cheer and refining our jumps.  I was so, so nervous.  You had to be “on” from the time you ran into the gym before the judges until the time you cleared the doors on the way out.  As I was running out of the gym, something in me knew I hadn’t been good enough, and all of a sudden something possessed me and I did a running roundoff, startling my try-out mate.  She was all, “Uh, I did not know you were going to do that.”

I remember very clearly a few days later, sitting in 8th grade Spanish class at the end of the day when the afternoon announcements came on.  They announced who’d been selected for the JV squad, alphabetically.  My last name was at the end of alphabet, and my stomach was in knots, just waiting.  In a turn no one could have seen coming, the principal’s assistant called my name.  My face turned bright red, my classmates laughed, my teacher congratulated me.  I’d done it.  I was one of the chosen ones, and I’d beaten out several rising 10th graders who’d been cheering their whole lives.

It wasn’t until summer practices that I learned that there was a rule: the squad had to be made up of 7 10th graders and 7 9th graders – and only 7 of us had tried out.  I’d won by default, not talent.  Never mind.  They couldn’t take it away from me, even if they thought I didn’t deserve it, so long as I worked hard.  And I did.  I never missed a summer practice, I followed all the rules, and I never earned any demerits.  The first time I got to wear my uniform at school on a JV football game day was, I thought, the most exciting day of my life.  It was also pretty cool that I got to cheer for my brother, the starting center for the JV team.

In late September of that year, I fell off some bleachers (in a noncheering-related incident) and tore all the ligaments in my right ankle.  I had to wear a walking cast for, I think, 6 weeks, which meant no cheering.  I was devastated.  I’d finally gotten the one thing I’d wanted so badly and then couldn’t participate.  They still let me wear my uniform on game days, and I still went to the games, but I had to sit in the bleachers.  I still remember, to this day, when a classmate came up to me in the bleachers, saw my uniform, and said, “Are you like an alternate or something?”  I was crushed.  An alternate?  Bitch, please.  After that, I basically insisted that they let me be down on the field, cast be damned.  I wouldn’t jump, I promised.  (I totally jumped.  Didn’t hurt in the least, but it freaked people the fuck out.  One guy came up to me after a pep rally and told me I was a bad-ass.)

After basketball season, there was no cheering left to do, so I played softball in the spring.  I tried out for cheerleading again for my sophomore year, but they’d changed the rules and the next year’s squad only had two 10th graders, neither of which was me.  So I played tennis, then basketball, then the lead in the spring musical.

Then it was time to try out for the Varsity squad.  I was chosen second alternate.  That meant I had to come to all the practices in the summer, learn all the cheers and dances, and be prepared in case someone dropped out, but I didn’t get a uniform (or pom-poms – and only the Varsity girls got pom-poms, so I totally missed out), and wouldn’t get to dress on game days.  One girl quit pretty quickly  after the squad was announced, which meant I was bumped to first alternate.  I never missed a practice that summer, and lots of other girls did, but before a certain date, you couldn’t get demerits for missing, so those girls got to stay on the squad.  My dad, who never really wanted me to be a cheerleader to begin with, was really pissed on my behalf about that.  Something about demonstrating commitment and all that.  No one else ever quit, and I never got to cheer under the Friday night lights.

At the end of my junior year, sign ups went out for fall sports tryouts, including cheering.  My dad had already planned his sabbatical from his job as a college professor to do research in Spain from August to January, and my mom and I would have to go with him (well, my mom wanted to; I had to).  That meant no cheering tryouts for me.  I remember the coach, my sophomore English teacher, stopped me in the hall during sign-ups to ask why my name wasn’t on the list.  I told her I wouldn’t be there in the fall.  She seemed disappointed, and told me she knew how much cheering meant to me and had always appreciated my dedication and determination.  I guess that’s something.

When it comes up that I used to be a cheerleader, people are always shocked.  Maybe now it’s my because of my weight, but it used to be because, they said, I don’t seem like the cheerleader “type.”  And I guess maybe that’s true – I’m not especially peppy, and my hair has never had that trademark cheerleader ponytail bounce (see Lyla Garrity for reference), and I don’t particularly care to wear the same thing as 13 other girls once a week.  But I loved, wholeheartedly and unreservedly, the season I spent as a cheerleader.

Go, Team!

Go, Team!

What’s Next?

She loved the big, proud bodies of the women in the choir, and how they could swing, and how planted on the earth they seemed, with no apology for taking up so much space.  It was as if they assumed they were beautiful, and only needed to decide what color to dress the beauty in.
– from Blue Shoe, by Anne LaMott

Another week, another failure of . . . willpower? Determination? Giveafuck?  I don’t know.  But once again, when I weigh in tomorrow, I’m going to show a gain.  I hate this.  I hate myself like this.  And yet, given the choice between, say, chocolate or an apple for a snack, or going to the gym or coming home and screwing around on the internet, I nearly always choose chocolate and the internet.  I’m so tired of being tired of this.

I don’t know how to start making better choices.  I don’t know how to commit to something, for real, long term.  I mean, just DO it, is the short answer, but how?  I can string together days, even a week or two of good habits, but somehow I always get off track.

I think I need to have something to work for, besides just losing weight.  For example, I realized once Couch to 5k training ended weeks before the 5k, which isn’t until the 22nd of this month, that if I didn’t have something to keep me going, I would just quit running altogether.  So I signed up for a local series of 5k Fridays – a 5k each Friday evening in April!  That’s kept me running at least twice a week (though I haven’t done anything else).  I did the first one this past week and finished in 45:00 exactly.  For me, that’s amazing – my mile splits were 14:29, more than a minute faster than anything I did in training!

Once April’s over, though, I don’t have anything to work for.  I don’t think I’m interested in running longer distances – it’s all I can do to stave off boredom in a 5k.  I could maybe do a 10k, but that’s not what’s next for me, I’ve decided.  I think what I’m going to work towards is a sprint triathlon.  I first read about this mysterious thing on Big Life, Little Blog, and it planted a seed. I didn’t even know there was such a thing – I thought all triathlons were those crazy Ironman ones, where you swim 2.5 miles, ride 112 miles, and then your insane ass runs a marathon.  That would probably kill me.  But a sprint tri?  This one, in particular?  I can totally do that.

I can already swim 300 yards, bike 12 miles, and run a 5k.  The challenge for me will be doing those things in succession and in anything resembling a decent time.  Practically speaking, the biggest hurdle for me will be finding a pool and getting there regularly to train.  I love swimming, so much, and I’m excited to get back in the water.

So, I’m telling you here: I’m doing this.  I need to do some more research and figure out a training program, which I will post here, for accountability purposes.  Come September 17th, I’ll be able to call myself a triathlete!

Reverb10: Day 18 – Try

The worst thing one can do is not to try, to be aware of what one wants and not give in to it, to spend years in silent hurt wondering if something could have materialized — and never knowing.
– David Viscott

Almost caught up!  Saturday’s prompt:

What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did/didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)

My 2010 answer is easy – curling.  Tried it.  Loved it.  Joined a club.  Still not great at it, but still love it.

In 2011, I’d like to try to finish a majority of the things on my list.  There are a lot that I haven’t even started that will take some time – making the journals, writing the letters, naming all the photos on my computer – not to mention the ones that involve traveling, so I’ve got to get moving on those.

Also — I’m going to go into more detail on this in a later post, probably outside of the Reverb prompts — 2011 is the end for me, weight-wise – it’s sink or swim, do or die, put up or shut up.  So there’s that.

(I’m skipping yesterday’s prompt – WAY too new-agey for me – but I will return tomorrow with two posts covering today and tomorrow’s prompts.)

Reverb10: Day 7 – Community

On this shrunken globe, men can no longer live as strangers.
– Adlai E. Stevenson

Today’s prompt took some thinking on my part:

Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

Ever since I lost my hearing, I’m not big on socializing generally.  There’s often too much noise for me to hear everything clearly, and too many people talking across each other.  I miss a lot; it’s hard to be the only one not reacting when the group suddenly bursts into laughter at a joke you weren’t even aware was being told.  Plus, David is a bit of a hermit, so we spend a lot of time together, just the two of us.

When I do go places, to happy hours with co-workers, or Christmas parties, or a recent retirement dinner, I really enjoy talking to different new people and catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while, but it takes me a while to get comfortable and it takes an awful lot of energy to focus and pay attention to hear what people are saying.

I was pretty involved in an online community for several years, but that fell by the wayside once David and I got together and I didn’t have as much free time, or, rather, the free time I had, I wanted to spend with him, not chatting online.

This year, in February, David and I decided to try out curling.  There’s a local curling club, and they had an open house right after the Winter Olympics where you could check it out and see how you liked it.  We had so much fun in our one-hour lesson that we decided to join a 5-week league.  We were paired with two other people we’d never met, and our team came in second in the league.  After each match, the teams hang out in the “warm room;” the winning team buys the first round of drinks and we chat and get to know each other.

The club closes down in April and reopens in October – it costs way too much to try to keep the ice up during the summer months – so we talked occasionally over the summer about whether we wanted to officially join the club as full members when the season started again this fall.  Our teammates from the Olympic League were coming back, and we decided to go for it.  So, most Friday nights, we head up to Laurel for curling, beer, and conversation.

This past weekend, we participated in our first bon spiel, or tournament.  It was an internal bon spiel, meaning it was only teams of people from our club (there are a lot of curling clubs in the US, and different clubs host numerous bon spiels throughout the season at which teams from other clubs are welcome).  The rules for this particular bon spiel were created to encourage people to form teams with people they might not already know and who might be way more or less experienced that you.  David and I played on a team with a guy who’s been curling for 7 years and a guy who has 1 year of experience.  They were both really great people, and even though we lost all three games, we had a good time playing with them.

The Saturday portion of the bon spiel was an all-day event, with games and contests (Wii tennis, team sudoku), a gift exchange, and tons of food.  Because we played three different teams, we got to spend time after each match with 4 new people.  It was wonderful getting to talk to so many different people, only some of whom I’d met before, and to catch up with people we’ve played with/against since the Olympic League.  When we left Saturday night, for the first time I really felt like I “belonged” to the club.

So that’s my community.  I hope we remain a part of it for a long time.

Choose My Bicycle!

The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets.
– Christopher Morley

David had to go to the bike store today to get reflectors put on and I met him there after I went to the movies (The Losers = awesome).  I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a new bike for a little while, and we just signed up for a 19-mile ride at the end of the month, so now is as good a time as any.  I found two that I really liked and test rode them both.  First, the Breezer Citizen:

Pros:  It’s SO cute, it comes with fenders, a chain guard (and I usually ride in pants, so that’s useful), automatic lights on the front and back (pedal powered), the spring-loaded basket holder on the back, 3-speed on the handle bars (like a motorcycle), and a bell. I can imagine myself tooling around town, to the farmer’s market and stuff, in this adorable but durable bike.

Cons: Maybe it’s not so sporty for the kind of riding we do (road and trail riding; no off-road stuff), though the guy at the bike shop said it should do just fine.  I also worry maybe three speeds isn’t enough, though I tested them all on my test ride (and I don’t use anywhere near all of the gears on my current 10-speed).  As a womens bike, it only has one place for a water bottle cage.  Also, I don’t love the color (it’s more yellowy-cream than this picture shows) and it’s the only color it comes in this model year.

Next up, the Marin San Rafael:

Pros: It’s definitely a good bike for the riding we do, the seat has awesome shock absorbers, so I hardly feel bumps, the handle bars are adjustable, it’s got two places for water bottle cages (because it’s a men’s/unisex bike – I guess woman don’t need as much hydration), 10 speeds more than fulfills my needs, and I love the sparkly dark blue.

Cons: as-is, it doesn’t have reflectors on the front or back (but those are easy enough to add), and no spring-loaded basket holder (which I really love) or bell – and it’s already a bit more expensive than the Breezer, so adding these things brings the price up even more.

I don’t know.  Or maybe I do.  What do you think?