The Pains of Aches

Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, was a real turning point in my life.  That’s the night I decided I would see if I had what it took to become a member of a roller derby team.  I met the people who would coach us, signed the release forms, and strapped on the gear after finding stuff that fit us.

We didn’t do much.  We got on our skates and went around the rink and did a few exercises and introduced ourselves.  I discovered quickly that I was out of shape:  I had to lay down three times because I was getting dizzy due to not breathing.  (Hot Tip:  every kind of physical activity goes better when you breathe.)  But I made it through the evening and resolved to return for practice the following night.

The next day at work I had a couple of people ask me how things went.  I told them I didn’t do as well as I hoped, but it was a good time and I was going back.  Oh, and this:  “I don’t feel that sore.  I thought it would be worse than his.  I shouldn’t have a problem with this.”

That was perhaps the dumbest thing I’ve ever said.

That Wednesday, the 31st of May–that was the real deal.  The Fresh Meat–that’s us, the new kids–had to get out there and actually work out.  Like we were training.  I think the first thing we did was thirty laps for cardio.  I managed like…  five.  And I fell.  Hard.  Actually I fell several times that night and a couple were pretty good wipe outs.

How did I feel at work that next day?

Sore.  Real sore.

Since becoming a HARD Derby Woman there hasn’t been a moment when I haven’t had an ache or pain somewhere on my body.  My shoulders tend to hurt at various times throughout the day, mostly due to throwing my arms out to keep my balance.  I’ve hyperextended by right elbow because of balance issues.  I’ve had some soreness in my hands due to falls.  I hit my chin and nose on the floor when I fell during a game.

The ones that were really bad were the slight groin pull I experienced during the above mentioned game, and then, last Monday the 21st of June, I went down hard and jarred my left hip so bad that my first thought was that it might be broken.  I was actually laying on the ground going “Ouch, ouch, ouch,” because there was a whole lot of pain.  I eventually got up and continued, but the next day I hobbled around work wondering how long I’d need to recover from this injury.

This has all happened in the course of seven practice sessions.  Seven.

Here’s the progress of that Monday night practice.  First, notice how I look like I can’t wait to get out there and kick ass?

Let's see how I look in a couple of hours. #HARD #RollerGirl

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Yeah, this was me two hours later.  I kicked some ass all right:  my own.  You can see it in my eyes:  I was just dead to the world and ready to get out of there.

I died tonight. #HARD #RollerGirl

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I’ve discovered quickly that if you train for a sport–and let’s not kid anyone, we are training for a real sport–you are gonna get sore.  You are gonna feel like hell sometimes.  You might not be able to go to sleep because some part of your body is in pain.  You may spend the next day walking around like a 90 year old woman because some joint or joints or the muscles that control those joints were overworked the night before.

As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, “It’s always somethin’.”

A couple of days before that Monday practice I even joked about it:

Well, I'm ready for derby practice. 😊

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This is getting ready for practice?  Sure is.  Because just as you need pads and a helmet and a mouth guard and skates, you need that stuff as well.

Ibuprofen.  These days I take two to four a day to help with minor pain.  I can’t take Aleve because the active ingredient in that, naproxen sodium, can mess up my liver, so ibuprofen is the go-to drug of choice.  A 200 count bottle should be good for three months.  Should.

IcyHot is my liniment of choice.  Some people prefer Bengay, some prefer Tiger Balm, some get totally insane and go right for the Deep Heat.  This last Tuesday and Wednesday I was rubbing IcyHot in my groin to help with the injury there and it seemed to help, though I’m walking funny again today–probably because I skated about sixty laps last night.  I’ll get to that in a bit.

I also have two ice packs that I use to ice down the parts of my body that need it.  Here’s a picture of me around midnight after the 12 June Monday night practice, cooling down my sore shoulders and getting twelve ounces of water:

Even mermaids gotta drink, you know?

 

One night I slept with one of those ice packs strapped to that hyperextended elbow because I couldn’t sleep due to the pain.  After my groin pull on the 14th I jammed one of those in my crotch and rested for about twenty minutes, letting the pain subside.  They’re life savers, y’all.

Now, what about that Kleen Kanteen?  You need that to work out?  Damn right you do.

Even if you’re not working out in a hotbox, you need to keep hydrated so your muscle work properly.  When you’re skating your working out the largest muscle groups in your body:  your thighs, your gluts, and your abdomen, and those muscles need to stay properly hydrated so they can continue breaking down fats and acids into triglycerides, which becomes the energy that powers you body.  When your muscles aren’t hydrated you lose energy and eventually hit a wall–and in the case of skating that last can be a literal thing.

My Kleen Kanteen holds twenty ounces of water and I take two with me to every practice.  And I generally go through both within two hours ’cause you sweat your butt off doing the things we do.  And when I get home I usually fill up that twelve ounce mermaid mug and drink that down after getting out of the shower because I want to make sure I’m well hydrated before going to bed.  I also drink a lot of water throughout the day because staying hydrated is important even if you’re not skating a ton of laps.  It’s not just something you do during workouts:  it’s a constant thing.

I never thought I’d start working out like this at my age.  And I never thought I’d feel all this soreness, either.  But it’s part of training.  It’s part of becoming–dare I say it?–an athlete.  Oh, sure:  you may not think we are, but once you’ve spent some time with us you’ll see it differently.

Maybe you’ll even feel what we feel the next day.

It’s a Freshie Thing

I’m back in Pennsylvania, which means I’m back to work.  In these days, work that only means getting up and going into the office every day, it also means I have training as a member of HARD: the Harrisburg Area Roller Derby team.  I know there’s probably a few of you who thought after I put up my first post, “Cassidy can’t really be serious about this, can she?”  The short answer to that: yes. The long answer to it?  I don’t think there is a long answer. Yes suffices.

Just so you get an idea of our practice schedule, Monday and Wednesday nights, every week, are mandatory.  That’s when everyone gets together and does their thing.  As a new person I’m usually with the other new people building up my skills, but as you’ll see we do get out there and work with the vets every so often.

But Tuesday nights are Fresh Meat nights, and that’s what I am: Fresh Meat.  Fresh meat is when you’re new on skates in your building up your skills and you’ve yet to be certified to get out there and tussle with the rest of the ladies.  And yes, in order to get on a track you have to be certified. As I go through this post I’ll discuss some of that.  What, did you think we just threw a bunch of women out on the course and let them beat the hell out of each other?  Nope, there are rules here!

So the first three days of this week are practice nights–something good to come back to after a week of no skating.  Monday has already segued into a kind of blur, but I made it through and you seen those pictures.  For my Tuesday night practice, however, I brought along my video camera, set it up on a tripod outside the rink, and turned it on.  The idea is that every so often I’ll videotape myself so I get an idea of what sort of progression I’m going through–if I’m actually progressing at all.  It’ll help me see where I need to work and what I need to develop.  Hey, professional athletes look at training videos of themselves all the time, so why shouldn’t I?

Plus, it allows me to show you, the Fans of my Blog, just what it is we go through when we’re out there on skates.  Because for damn sure I figure most of you would have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about if I didn’t show you some pretty images.

Let’s go to the video then!

Now first off I’ll tell you this: the video does not track me. In fact you’ll see us and me go off camera every so often, particularly in the majority of videos we’re actually moving across the short end of the ring from one wall to another.  But you will still get an idea of what we’re doing.  And I’ll fill in the blanks were necessary.

Right off the bat I come up to check on the camera just before we sit down and do a bit of stretching.  I’m learning rather quickly that stretching is important, particularly for my feet, because if you don’t go out and stretch properly you get real sore real fast.  And after last night I discovered a couple of slow laps around the track is a good way to get relaxed and let your feet get settled in so they don’t cramp up.

I will also point out that this is a good chance for you to see the a tank top I’m wearing, which is sort of a violet.  So when you’re looking for a skater out on the track, look for the violet tank top.  That’s me, in all my glory.

 

 

This was our first exercise of the night: Push Me, Push You.  It’s very simple: you partner up with someone and one of you becomes the pusher, while the other becomes the pushee.  You start out skating to laps around the rink, then switch position, so that if you were pushing you now going to get pushed for two laps by the person whom you were pushing.

Lap progression is simple: first it’s two laps, then three, then four, then five, then you work your way back to two.  I’ll work out the math for you: that’s forty-six laps.  Forty-six laps of you either pushing someone around the track, or being down in Derby position, a.k.a. in a squat with your head up looking forward in your arms to the side or in front of you.  So it’s not just the pusher who’s getting a workout, because trust me: after you’ve been in a squat for three or four laps the lactic acid starts building up your quads and you begin feeling the pain.  Or, if you’re like me, you also start feeling in your lower back.  And if you’re pushing you not only pushing the person in front of you but you pushing yourself.

Needless to say I did not make it all the way through the exercise.  I ended up having to drop out for about five or six laps before I got back in and finish it out.  Still, I managed to get in around thirty-five laps, which I consider something of an accomplishment.  Particularly since it was only my fourth practice night.

This is the longest of the video, running almost 18 minutes.  It starts just before we begin and ends just as Ida–our Freshie trainer–and I come to a one knee stop almost in front of the camera.  Enjoy.

 

 

Then it was time for us to get into a bit of skills work, but before that happened I came over to check the camera once again, mostly to see how the battery was doing.  As you’ll see I’m sweating and there are beads of water on my hair.  Let me tell you something about roller derby workout: you will drip sweat.  I have every night I’ve been out on the rink.  It has been a long time since I’ve drip sweat during a workout and in many ways, it’s an indication that you are working yourself.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what that pink thing is sticking out of my tank top/sports bra, that’s my mouthguard.  For these practices we have to wear a mouthguard–or at least it’s highly recommended.  After a while you don’t even know it’s in, but it is necessary. And I found that out the hard way last night…

 

 

So, skills. The first thing you’re going to see is meatball practice.  A meatball is when you drop down to one knee, or in some cases both, and then get back up without pushing off of the floor with your hands.  As we’re reminded, pushing off of the floor with your hands during a heat is a bad thing, because other ladies wearing skates might just accidentally roll over your fingers as her going around you. And do you really want your fingers rolled over by skates?  No, you do not.

Now, I don’t have that much of a problem pushing up with my left leg as I’m left-handed and that’s my more develop side.  I’m going to have to work on pushing up with my right leg, as it doesn’t have quite the same strength.  For certification we have to be able to get up from either leg to a standing position, without using her hands, and I believe we have to do it within three seconds as that’s how much time you have during a heat to get back on your skates if you go down.

 

 

The plow stop is a simple stop: you move your legs out to the side, point your toes inward, and then pull your legs together using the muscles of your inner thigh.  It looks simple, but looks are always deceiving.  I believe it was mentioned that for certification you have to be able to plow stop within a four-foot area, which means coming at speed and then bringing yourself to a stop.  The women who’ve been doing this for a while do make it look easy, and I hope to get to that point soon.

 

 

A T stop is when you take one of your feet, turn ninety degrees to your body, and then press that skate to the ground to bring you to a quick, dragging stop.  Even though we need this for certification we’re told not to use this during a heat, because if someone were to trip over your foot they could easily break your ankle.  Of the four T stops I attempted, only the last one was good; during the other three I allowed my skates to write on the inner wheels, which in turn twisted my foot–and that’s another good way of breaking your ankle.  A good T stop makes a lot of noise when it’s done right.

 

 

Gliding  is another thing we need for certification.  It’s simply being able to move along on one foot for certain amount of distance.  Again, I can glide pretty well on my left leg, but strength and balance are not my strong suit from my right. Last night, during practice, I spent more time gliding off my right leg that my left so that I can begin to learn how to balance and hold myself up.

 

 

Backwards skating: the bane of my existence.  Back in the day when I used to skate a lot I never got the hang of backwards skating.  Transitioning–the ability to spin around quickly from forward to backwards–is easy for me, but then again, I am something of an expert on transitioning.  Bi–who was with us last night helping Ida–told me I need to figure out how to swing my hips more and then it becomes a simpler matter of pushing off and going backwards.  This is something that I will need to be able to do to get certified.  No backwards skating; no hope of ever mixing it up on a track.

 

 

Egg shells are another simple maneuver.  You use your legs to move your feet outward and inward continuously, and if done right it will propel you forward–sometimes at a little more speed than what you’d realize you could generate.  There’s also one skate eggshell, or a sticky skate, where you just do that with one foot and alternate between feet.  As we learned Tuesday night, you need something like that when you doing pack work, because sticking a layout is a good way to not only trip another person, but to trip yourself up.

 

 

And speaking of pack skating… Almost got into a tight pack and went back and forth across the rink a few times so that we can get an idea of what it’s like.  You need to do this because this is a big part of what blockers and the pivot–four of the people on a team–do.  At least until one of those two pesky jammer–the team member who scores points–gets past you.  At which point things get crazy.

You will see that one member of our team went down but that it wasn’t a catastrophe.  I’ve already went down in a line skate once, but on Monday night all us Fresh Meat did a skate line around the rink many times, even having a chance to weave in and out between people as we moved away to the front.  Which, I have to tell you, was a lot of fun.

 

 

And finally, the end. This was right when we were getting ready to do about twenty minutes of stretching after all the skating, and several of my teammates managed to get on camera.  As I said in a Facebook post last night, even when we’re dead tired we still know how to find time to have a good laugh.

 

 

That was my Tuesday night.  Last night, Wednesday night, it was a bit different situation as we are working with the vets.  And here they are, getting their gear on–

 

The Calm Before The Practice. #Hard

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–While I’m just sitting off to the side all by myself, snapping selfies before I got out on the floor.

 

Ready to roll. #HARD

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It was a bit different situation than what we had the night before.  We started out by teaming up with the veteran and we do a strength and aerobic exercises.  While one stands on the sidelines doing strength work–squats, push-ups, leg lifts, whatever–the other person skates.  We go through that progression of laps again, this time two, three, four, five, six laps and then back down to two.

Although I was the last skater off the rink, I finished all my laps, and I did so with a lot of encouragement from my partner.  One thing to say about roller derby: all the women there are giving you a tremendous amount of encouragement while you’re busting your butt to get into shape and develop your skills.  In case you need me to do the math for you, you skate thirty-four laps.

We went through a lot of her skill training as well.  During some of the skill training I look like a hot mess, but I will improve.  A lot of these moves are nothing more than a combination of balance in developing the proper muscle memory, and that takes time. I have to remind myself not to think I suck because I’m not getting these moves right off the bat.  I haven’t been an athletic person for decades, so there’s no way in hell I’m picking this up right away.  It will take time; it’s a learning process.

And I learned one thing in a big way last night.  I talk about derby position.  That’s where you get down in a squat, sort of moving your weight a little bit back toward your butt so that your center of mass is somewhere over your skates, and keeping your head up and looking straight forward while you’re going around the track.  We are told not to lean forward, because leaning forward means you’re probably going to fall forward, and if you fall forward at speed he could hurt…

Last night we played a game that everyone called Highlander. The rules are simple.  There are two pool noodles on the floor.  When the whistle blows skaters pick up the pool noodles and proceed to hit other skaters to get them out.  When the whistle blows again the noodles are dropped and upon the whistle being blown after that, they are picked up again, onward and so forth and so on.

Well, during our second game one of the pool noodles happened to be directly in front of me as the “pickup whistle” blew.  Which meant I leaned down to pick it up–oh, I should say, I leaned forward to pick it up. At speed.  While not having good balance.

You can guess the rest.  I went down pretty hard falling forward the entire way.  I managed to get my knees and my elbows under me a little bit, but I still hit with enough force that both my jaw and my nose made contact with the floor. However, I had my mouthguard in and as I started falling I clamped down with my jaw so I didn’t rattle my teeth, and knowing to get my arms under me a little bit managed to keep me from smashing face first into the rink.  Even as it was, when I got home I noticed there was a bit of dried blood inside the right nostril of my nose.  If I had fallen correctly I could’ve broken it quite easily.

And that, ladies, is why we wear a mouthguard.  It’s also why we don’t lean forward.  As you can imagine, I won’t be doing that again anytime soon.

Anyway, I made it through practice:

 

I survived– barely. #HARD

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And even got a chance to show you just how much we sweat, particularly under our knee pads.  I take two bottles of water with me to practice and last night I went to one and a half of them.  Training is hard work, yo!

Your knees get sweaty… #HARD

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So this gives you a bit of an idea of what I’m doing.  To some of you it may seem like torture, and there are few times when it’s actually felt a bit like torture.  But even though I walk out of the ring tired, the two weeks of training I’ve done has actually left me feeling pretty good about myself.  There’s a lot of encouragement coming from your derby teammates, and it empowers you to work even harder to become better skater. And by becoming a better skater, we get that much closer to being certified to actually skate in a meet.

And ultimately that is my goal: to be able to get out there in full gear with the rest of my teammates and help do my best to bring glory back to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  But before I can get to that point, I have to learn the basics.

And at the moment, that is exactly what I am doing.

For Love and Sleep

Last night was watching Better Call Saul–only one episode to go–about six hundred words in the novel, and Freshie practice.  Skating about twenty-five lap either pushing someone or being pushed by someone–don’t worry, I have video of this.  And I hope to have it cut and edited for tomorrow.

Anyway, there were also skill drills and about twenty minutes of stretching out of gear.  It’s like we’re training for a sport, or something.  Anyway, the smile below is probably due to endorphins kicking in and making me feel good.

Did I suvive Freshie pratice? I think so.

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Anyway, not only am I doing practice tonight, but I’m also getting involved in something tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

It’s time to bring Chapter Thirteen to a close, which means Chapter Fourteen starts up in a few days, and I’m reaching a point in the first scene where I’m about to write something that I know will bring tears to my eyes.  In the meantime Annie and Kerry continue reminiscing about the past–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

But there was a far more serious implication that came from not going out on patrol that day— “If I don’t go out on the Day of the Dead, I don’t end up in the hospital. If I’m not in the hospital, you don’t get to spend the night with me. And if none of that happens—”

“Then you don’t remember the dream where you read to me. You don’t remember what I meant to you. I don’t snuggle up in bed next to you as you fall asleep.” Annie rose out of her chair and kiss Kerry on the lips. “I don’t hear you tell me you love me.”

Kerry blinked several times to clear the tears from his eyes. “I don’t hear you tell me you love me in Bulgarian. And then I don’t tell you I love you the next day, that you are the most important thing in my life.” He sniffed a couple of times, trying to hold back the swirling emotions he felt just below the surface. “You don’t tell me that you love me, that I’m the most important thing in your life.” He felt his head spin. “So many things don’t happen.”

 

If not for Kerry deciding to throw caution to the wind and head off on some unauthorized racing, he’d have likely never told Annie he loved her–at least not at that time.  Would Annie have needed to suffer through Yule wondering when her Ginger Hair Boy would remember her?  We’ll never know–though I have considered this and kinda know the alternative history to this question.  Yes, I look at all the angles.

And there’s something that Annie knows as well:

 

“So true.” Annie sat on the edge of his bed and looked down as she caressed the un-bandaged portion of his face. “The Kerry of two years ago would have ignored Franky today. He would held his emotions in and waved Franky off and walked to class. He probably would’ve been upset the entire time, but he would’ve done everything he could not to tell the girl he loves what walking away did to him.” She closed her eyes as a single tear trickled down her right cheek. “Even without all the hormones swirling about inside you, I don’t believe you would’ve walked away from Franky. I believe that no matter what, you would have confronted him.”

The tears were flowing a little more freely now as those emotions Kerry fought to keep repressed broke through. “I don’t know—”

I do. You’re not that same boy from two years ago.” She used tissue from the nightstand to dab at Kerry’s tears. “And you confirmed what I’ve always known: that I will never have to worry if you’ll be there if we’re in a bad situation. No matter how much we’re hurt, we’ll persevere.”

As soon as his cry out was over Kerry felt the medication he’d been given hit him hard. He reached out with his right hand. “I don’t think I’m going to be awake much longer.”

Annie leaned down kissed him again. “Then don’t fight it: go to sleep, my love.” As she stood she saw his eyes were closed and his breathing was starting to become regular as he slipped into unconsciousness. She kissed the index and middle finger of her right hand and pressed them against the right side of his face near his lips. “Otidete da spite, skŭpa moya. Obicham te.”

After making certain his blankets was secure she put the chair back and slipped under the covers of Bed #1. She turned out the lights and rolled onto her left side so she could take one last look at Kerry as he slept. As her eyes close only one thought filled her mind: and dream of us.

 

Nurse Annie is always there to make sure her soul mate is taken care of the right way.  And she knows she better not get into bed with him least she have Coreline on her in the morning talking about the possibility of infection.  Still, she’s right there and it’s almost the same as being in the bed.

Now lets get ready for racing!

After some morning drama…

Rolling Away the Years

There’s no one reason I can point to and say, yes, this is why I wanted to try out for roller derby.

It’s a weird sort of relationship I’ve had with the sport. I can remember watching it when I was a kid.  At the time I was between her and a young teen when they used to show matches on the UHF stations in Chicago. At the time the teams were mixed, both men and women, were about as fake as they got. I mean, it was obvious to just about anyone watching that the hits were fake, the falls were stage, and the winds were determined in advance.  My grandmother believed it was only, but I didn’t.

The thing is, I knew that there Had Been something real about the sport years ago.  I’d read stories about things that happened in the 50s and later find pictures, mostly of women who look like they’re having a great time, and often appeared in photos a bit bruised and sometimes bloodied.

To me, a kid who is both sexually and gender confused, it seemed like a lot of fun.

But to the 80s, 90s, and nearly 2000’s it was impossible to do anything concerning the sport.  Reason being: wasn’t quite myself, at least not the self I am today.  I couldn’t even watch Whip It, the ultimate fan girl movie on roller derby, until I could load it up from Amazon and watch it when I had a free afternoon.  In fact, I may do that again this week.

So ever since coming out as myself I’ve had an interest in roller derby, as in actively participating in the sport.  Big problem, however: I’m no longer a young person and my fear was I’d be competing with a lot of people who were in their mid and late 20s.  I don’t have the endurance I once had, I don’t have the agility, and I certainly don’t bounce back from an injury like I use to, so I was somewhat bothered that I’d be a flop.

But what I do have is an understanding that a lot of my past life has been built around failures.  And, frankly, I’m tired of being a failure.  I’m tired of having the same things happen to me again and again, and after failing so many times, you crave for that moment when you can place a check mark in the win column.

Now, because of my association with a certain person during the Clinton campaign, I was aware that there was a derby team in the Harrisburg area.  I also knew that this woman was on the team.  So a couple of times we met I expressed an interest in trying out for the team, which she encouraged.  I mean, she knows my age, so her saying I should come out and see what it’s like, that meant I should.  Of course, my biggest fear was I’d come out looking completely stupid–I even express that sentiment to her in a PM the day of tryouts. She assured me that I should at least give it a shot and if it wasn’t for me, no big deal.  But if it was…

I know. I’ll never find out if it’s for me unless I come out and see if it’s for me.

So that’s what I did: on 30 May, 2017, I got out my leggings, threw on a T-shirt and something like a sports bra, and headed out to the roller rink the Enola, Pennsylvania.  I strapped on protective gear, put on my skates, and got out on the rink–

I’m not gonna lie: I sucked.  I was out of shape; I needed to lay down; I was gasping for air at times; and it was nearly impossible for me to do anything.  But, I stuck with it the best I could.

At least I looked fetching in my gear.

But you know how they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?  Well, I didn’t die that night, and there was a practice the next evening–a legitimate practice. And if I wanted to continue I needed to show.  So I got myself together, headed out to the rink again, strapped on my gear and got on the rink. And you know what?  I didn’t suck quite as bad.  I did take three hard falls and had to lay down once, but it made it through practice.

Not looking as great after, but I was alive.

I was not only alive but I was sore as hell and had to ice down my right shoulder the next night.  I imagine ibuprofen and ice packs are going to be my friends for some time, as I have decided to continue with this.  I have a month decide if I want to go from pitching in my five dollars every practice to becoming a full-blown, dues paying member and work towards improving my abilities and even getting my own gear.

I’m away in Indiana this week and already I’m feeling a little guilty that I couldn’t hit practice last night.  But will be back next week, and for sure I will show up at Tuesday night and Wednesday night practices.  And the following week I’ll be at the Monday and Wednesday night practices.

And I’m going to keep writing about it, because if there’s one thing I learned it’s that keeping a chronicle your adventures are a good way to remember how you went from zero to hero.  And if I were a certain ginger kid from Cardiff I could imagine an incredibly old spirit telling me that a new chapter of my life had begun, but it was up to me to write that chapter. It was up to me to put in the words that described the experience.

Good thing for me I can do that.

After all, writers are good at starting chapters…