Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Diabetes: A Year Later

Not so scary getting on this thing anymore.

Last year at this time, I stared at my reflection in the mirror with the realization that I was a diabetic.

It was probably the best thing to happen to me, since I finally had an answer about what was wrong with me and concrete ideas about what to do about it.

Diet. Exercise. A new lifetstyle.

A year later, looking in the mirror, now what do I see?
I see someone wearing size 8 leather miniskirt instead of an 18.

I see the effects of trading potato chips and candy for baked kale and vegetables with dip. 

I see the feet of an athlete: toned, muscular, capable of more than I was aware.

I'm seeing someone I haven't seen since college.

What I don't see is the 34 pounds I was carrying around a year ago, weight it seemed like I tried losing for the last 20 years. And it's finally gone.

It's been frustratingly slow-going, and there's been plenty of times that I have pouted, eating salad when everyone else is feasting on french fries and chicken wings. Also, even though I'm working on all this, I don't know what my sugar numbers look like (tests I'm sure are looming), and even though I'm seeing all these results, I'm still seeing the side effects of having PCOS on a daily and monthly basis.

I've made changes. Big changes. Positive changes. And I'm pretty sure it's for life.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What's Right with the World: Imma skater too!

"Hey folks, here's the story 'bout Minnie the Moocher!"

Since it's National Skating Month, Nationals is coming up, and I'm preparing for the Deborah Burgoyne North American Adult Invitational (I have competed against a Canadian and a Mexican skater before!), I thought it would be fun to kick the memory banks into high gear and list all the music I've skated to and see what I can tell my faithful readers *crickets* about what I remember.

Fantasie Impromptu, Chopin - my first ever competitive program! This was in 2001, Grand Rapids Open. I was so scared, I didn't eat for 3 days beforehand. I wore a black velvet dress with a white mock turtleneck collar, similar to Gordeeva and Grinkov's 1994 LP. Oh, and I came in 8th out of 9.

Margaret Yang's Theme, from the movie soundtrack Rushmore, Mark Mothersbaugh - very quirky and fun, I competed it a million times for ISI 2, and came in second at the ISI Adult Championships. Blue glitter cocktail dress re purposed for competition.

She Blinded Me with Science, Thomas Dolby - my first artistic/comedy routine! Hot pink Einstein tee with Christmas lights in my hair. I won my first GRO medal, forcing organizers to add an adult category. Many years later, a teen aged competitor revealed herself to be one of the tiny hot pink girls I competed against. She remembered the lights in my hair and how funny I was.

Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin - my bronze test program taken on competition runs. I wore my favorite dress ever for this program, inspired by Josee Choiunard. *sigh* It was a good program, and the first time a program was changed after the initial blueprint because my skating improved. Rawk.

Morning Suite, Grieg - Josee dress re purposed with amazing results. One of the only programs I skated undefeated, the highlight being winning the gold medal at the ISI Adult Champs in Breckenridge, Colorado. I remember the satisfaction of skating very, very well and the shock of finding myself in first place at a national competition.

Time in a Bottle, Jim Croce - This is one of a few of my programs that weren't critically acclaimed I happened to love. I always finished last, or near last. Costuming was a black leotard with a watercolors wrap skirt. Huh.

Gabriel's Message, Sting - my first ice show solo! Pink Hostess Snowball sweater.

YYZ, Rush - My introduction to US Figure Skating Adult Nationals was a hard rock holla. Well, maybe more of a small yay. Music choice was to have my husband on the ice with me. I am STILL the reigning state champion at the Missouri State Games... because they haven't offered this event since I won it.

Minnie the Moocher, Cab Calloway - red satin with black fringe and black fishnets. The program still puts a smile on my face. I skated this really, really well every time I competed it.

Sandra's Theme, soundtrack to Big Fish, Danny Elfman - the music is very sweet, but I made a few competitive mistakes with this program. First, the music was too soft, too tinkly for my style of skating at the time. Second, in order to save on money and up cycle, I wore a dress that didn't fit well. I don't ever recall feeling terrific after skating it, more like "well, that's finally done..."

Riders on the Storm, The Doors - Mary Sue's husband Steve offered this up for me to skate to, and Mary Sue thought I should channel my inner Toller Cranston. What this proved is I don't have an inner Toller Cranston. It was a cool program, and I won Winter Classic even though I forgot a big portion of my program and made it up on the spot.

Jambalaya, Jo-El Sonnier - Fun music, fun program, fun dress. I competed at Winter Classic, where the skaters from all over the world come to compete. I skated out to my starting position to a single pity clap. Then the music started, and this Cajun classic had the stands rocking. They cheered every element, and by time I was done, I had a standing ovation from the Mexican team, thus the term "I'm big in Mexico."

Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground, Willie Nelson - Another program I would say was for me, because the judges certainly didn't think it was for them. White eyelet swim dress re purposed for competition, I thought I skated it very well time and again. Sweet, sad music.

Proud Mary, Ike and Tina Turner - There is a distinct line in my skating "career" and it begins with this program. I can't explain it, maybe a new-found confidence in my ability to perform? I nailed it at GRO, winning my first gold medal at that event, beating many higher level skaters. I also beat national champions at sectionals.

Cielito Lindo, traditional - oh, how I loved this music, this program, and my second dress! I "borrowed" the song from one of my favorite kids as she was growing out of her program. Happy, upbeat. The dress was designed from an art deco turn-of-the-century liquor ad of a senorita sitting on a globe with a bunch of grapes. Ole!

All of My Love, Led Zeppelin - this program will always be special to me, not because of the music, the dress or my results. I competed this program twice, while pregnant with Will, so it was my not-so-secret pairs program. Knowing this was a song written for Robert Plant's son strengthens that bond. Skating and winning, while pregnant, that is SO an adult skater move!

Barber of Seville - New approach to freestyle, I wanted to treat it like comedy. I skated my heart out for this program, and had excellent results.The judges at AN just didn't know what to do with me, and I got ordinals from 5th to 15th.

Little Girls, from the soundtrack to Annie, Carol Burnette - I won an auction to have a private lesson with national senior medalist/world competitor Dan Hollander. An EXPERT on comedy routines. Well, he went above and beyond the parameters of the auction, cut music for me and worked with me for two hours while we choreographed this gem. Why? Because he thought I was hilarious. It is my AN medal moment, pure comedy, a reward for years of hard work, and validation that I finally belonged.

I've Been Loving You Too Long, Otis Redding - Laura Maki was a figure skating judge with a passion for synchro and the high school series. At one of the last competitions she refereed, she lamented how the young girls these days were skating to Gaga and Beyonce, and why can't someone skate to some Motown or sixties soul? This one was for you, Laura.

Flamethrower, J. Geils Band -  I felt this music was very me, and wrote Michelle an email, listing the top 10 reasons I should skate to it. Michelle choreographed an amazing program, it was fun to do and in the only time I performed it for the judges, I passed the test.

One More for the Road, Bette Midler - when one gay guy after another tells you to skate to Bette, you'd best listen. The music felt smoky, intimate, flirty, and wise. I loved most every performance.

Lunchlady Land, Adam Sandler - Dan once again came through with the music, but circumstances prevented us from being able to work together on it. I competed this one at ANs for myself, since I had the revelation the day before that the only one disappointed in my skate was ME. Best lesson ever.

Song of India, Rimsky-Korsakov - a work in progress, my first competitive Silver program. No dress yet, I may reuse the teal from Seville.

Smile, Nat King Cole - in honor of my dad and a reflection of the last year in dealing with his passing. A little clown, a little pathos.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Why Art Matters: Favorite Figure Skating Performances

The Kween, about to unleash.

It's that time of year again... SKATING ON TV!

The sport began for me back in 1976 with Dorothy Hamill winning her Olympic gold. That iconic pink dress, her little bashful shrug when she got her gold, and radiant smile. My folks took me to see her perform at the old Olympia in Detroit when she headlined the Ice Capades the following year.

Since that "saucer-eyed" moment in my youth, I satisfied my skating jones any way I can: Champions on Ice, Stars on Ice, and Disney on Ice; watching coverage on a grainy b&w TV; volunteering at national competitions; playing Scott Hamilton "he/she NAILED it!" drinking games in college; hosting viewing parties with a vile punch named after an iconic skater, such as Rudy Galindo Ice Breaker sangria. Even that was not enough, and I became a figure skating judge.

Ah, but what would I consider iconic skating performances? What had me in a different realm all together? Some may be performances for the ages, others are ones that spoke to me personally, otherwise known as my blog, my rules.

Because show programs are in a realm all by themselves, I'm electing to choose competition programs. There is an added tension to competition that makes the performances that much more thrilling. I'm also choosing modern era so as to allow this list to be realized by me firsthand.

Michelle Kwan, A Day in the Life - From the 99-00 season. First, there's the music, it's the freakin' Beatles. Second, it's the dress, a rich blood red with seductive cutouts. Third was choreography that was sensual, mature, sexy and exactly what you'd expect a 20 year old champion to skate. Last, her interpretation was spectacular. I could list a million of her performances that thrill me to no end - East of Eden, Red Violin, etc. - but this is my favorite.

Battle of the Brians, 1988 Olympics - two men, two countries, the single most electric showdown in skating, ever. Both delivered complex, intricate programs in an extremely high pressure enviornment. I've watched both programs time and again. I was a huge Orser fan, but concede the victory to Biotano, he was magnificent.

The beautiful thing about this sport is I have had the opportunity to meet both men in different settings, and if this were a head-to-head competition in who impressed me more, I call it at a tie. Biotano led the competitors at the 2002 ISI Adult Champs in singing "Happy Birthday" to me. I attended one of Orser's adult skating classes at the Cricket and Curling club in Toronto (it was an early blog post, Octoer 2010?), where he complimented my skills and led me in a killian dance the length of the ice. That means Biotano sang to me and Orser danced with me. What 'cha done for me lately, Victor Petrenko?

Belbin and Agosto, Gypsy Dance, 2005 - My fandom of ice dance is spotty, until B&A made me care. I wanted to BE Tanith Belbin in this program - the hair flying, that amazing dress, the music, the performance. I always liked them as a team from the moment they won Juniors in 2000, but this sent me over the freaking edge. So often in ice dance, the man's role is to simply show off his partner, but Ben was just as talented as Tanith and he commanded you watch him too, a true pair on the ice.

Daisuke Takahashi, hip hop Swan Lake, 07/08 - There are naysayers who declare the IJS system robs the skaters of creativity and all programs now are cookie cutter copycats. This program blows that theory to bits. Using a hip hop version of a classical, if not overused piece of music, he reinterprets the black swan as a badass. When I first saw it at Skate America, I shrieked, rewound, and told all my skating friends "you gotta see THIS!" His programs have only gotten better, La Strada from the Olympic year in particular.

Oh Evan, I miss your messy hair.

Evan Lysachek, 2004 to 2006 - The 2009 World champ and 2010 Olympic champ was but a mere sprite of a boy who transformed from team mate to front-runner. What I liked about his skating during these years was the speed, freshness, honesty, and abandon in which he skated. There was a looseness, a casual energy that was not there in later years, something that I missed. Oh, and when he skates clean and jumps for joy, you cheer right along with him.

Jeremy Abbott, 2009 to present - Oh hell, I tried to pick just one and I can't. He is extraordinarily talented, and it is evident as he has, in most recent years, choreographed his own programs. He is very much his own man on the ice, from music to costuming to interpretation, and thank God for that. It would be a shame if he was never a World or Olympic medalist, because he creativity should be rewarded.

Shen and Zhao, "Turandot," 2003 Worlds - I was in the minority for years when the debate raged about B&S v. S&P - I was the one shouting "what about S&Z?!"  They grew before skating fan's eyes from technical skaters to true artists. This program had people on their feet cheering and crying a full minute before the program was over. And in true figure skating fashion, there was high drama, as Xue was skating injured, practically on one foot the entire time. Brilliant.

Tonia Kwiatkowski, "Hunchback of Notre Dame," 1998 Worlds - Tonia K was the odd girl out with US Figure Skating and sponsors at the peak of her career, heading into the '98 Olympics. Then she sat cozily in medal contention, poised for a spot on the Olympic team, until... *sigh* Ever the trooper, she was asked by officials to keep training, just in case anything happened. The anything that happened was two of the three Olympians withdrew from Worlds, giving Tonia one last shot at redemption. Her skate was flawed, but her raw emotion, sheer determination and skating in front of an American crowd led to a powerful performance that had everyone on their feet for her.

Skating is a gorgeous sport.

Castile and Okolski, "Requiem of a Dream," Nationals 2007 - Brooke and Ben are my favorite American pairs team of the last 10 years, and it was a joy to see them win the national title in 2007. This program was interesting, thrilling, damn near perfect. How did the two kids from Michigan follow this up? With an exhibition skate to Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold." Rawk. 2009/2010's Clair de Lune was my runners up choice, beautiful, flawed. Damn injuries.

Gordeeva and Grinkov, Moonlight Serenade, 1994 Olympics - it was a stunningly gorgeous performance at the time, made iconic by the tragedy that befell the team a year later. They set a standard for pairs skating few in the world have been able to match: the power, grace, artistry, and their relation to one another in telling a story on the ice. They were truly a pair.

Rudy Galindo, "Black Swan", 1996 Nationals - While Rudy had a respectable resume leading up to this event, his performance, one of the most spectacular slam-dunks in figure skating history, sealed his entry into the figure skating Hall of Fame this year.

There are so many more programs and moments like this I could cite, but this will do for starters.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January Playlist: A Classic Rock Ban!

The playlists at certain stations are even more limited than this.

Every new year, Lake Superior State University publishes a list of overused words the school officially "bans," including trite phrases such as "you go girl."

Someone needs to do this to classic rock station playlists.

Over the weekend, Dave and I were on our way to Jackson for family holiday fun, leaving to the overly familiar strains of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It." Eight hours later, we came home to -- you couldn't make this up -- the familiar strains of the same Twisted Sister song.

Go to any sporting event, and the same songs that had the PMRC in a tizzy are now used to fire up crowds at minor league hockey games with nary a hint of scandal. I'm sure this is cyclical, as I recall the extreme overuse of 60s songs back in the 80s. If this is true, the 90s are on deck, with "Whoomp, There it Is!" already being used in a diaper commercial.

So here is 13 for '13, the overplayed songs that need to be purged from classic rock playlists.

We're Not Gonna Take It, Twisted Sister - topping it off with the band that got me started on the topic in the first place. Dee Snyder is a hero for his thoughtful, intelligent and brave testimony to Congress in opposition to the nonsense the PMRC was proposing to "protect" us children from the evils of the band Vanity. Yet this song has not aged well as a teen rebellion anthem.

Play this instead! I perused the "Filthy Fifteen" for a suitable substitute, and settled on the AC/DC track Let Me Put My Love Into You. Take that, Tipper.

Mississippi Queen, Mountain - terrible song I have connected with the groupies of the era based on its use in a documentary about the groupie culture. Is the song really about groupies? I don't really know or care.

Play this instead! Audiobook it with Pamela Des Barres reading her classic autobiography of love, fame and sex, I'm With the Band.

Slow Ride, Foghat - overused pot smoking movie soundtrack song. Flipping channels this morning on my way to work and stumbling upon this did not support the cause of the corporate classic rock playlist.

Play this instead! I don't know what it's like in other parts of the AOR (albumm oriented rock) kingdom, but Electric Light Orchestra isn't played as much as they could be round here. Are they paying the price for their disco leanings? That said, I pick ELO's Strange Magic for its hypnotic use in the movie The Virgin Suicides and Don't Walk Away from Xanadu, just because I can.

Old Time Rock and Roll, Bob Seger - Tom Cruise annoys the hell out of me, and his tie to this song does not help matters in the slightest. This song was banned for my wedding reception, a fact overlooked by the DJ when he was tipped $20 by some obnoxious guest to play it anyway. If I knew who it was, I would ban THEM for life.

Play this instead! Shame on the Moon. End of story.

Dreams, Fleetwood Mac - there's an awful lot of songs from the Mac that could be on this list, but thisone is the most blandly offensive. Thunder only happens when it's raining... really? Stevie, you could do better than that.

Play this instead! I am a fan of the long-neglected song Tusk, with its hypnotic bass and drum dirge with a sudden explosion of brass from the USC Marching Trojans. Still don't know what it means. The album's inside gate fold of the naked woman with a dog's head haunts me still. Yes, I have the vinyl.

Legs and Sharp Dressed Man, ZZ Top - Since New Year's Day lands on an AOR station staple "Two for Tuesday," the boys from Texas are my 2 for 1 special. Both videos for their respective songs are cartoonish scenarios where the Z girls help some luckless doofus find love by sporting new fashion and overthrowing their oppressors to a mind-numbing soundtrack.

Play this instead! I'm not much of a ZZ Top fan, but I know the song My Head's in Mississippi doesn't get the love it should. 

Pour Some Sugar on Me, Def Leppard - Witness, if you will, the abrupt end to a love affair. I adored the lads from Sheffield, UK and their mix of metal-pop-glam. High 'n' Dry bought with babysitting money. Pyromania listened to over and over again, until the writing wore off the cassette. The childish illustrations on school folders of a yellow spotted cub sporting a Def Lep pin on its collar while listening on a Walkman, and winking! The cherished concert tee with the band's faces spanning my chest, from nip to nip. It all came crashing down when this craptacular song inexplicably became their biggest hit. The death of lead guitarist Steve Clark pretty much sealed the deal, RIP.

Play this instead! Slip on your Union Jack shorts and pick any one: Hello America; Let it Go; Switch 625; Stagefright; Too Late for Love; Rocket.

Born to Be Wild, Steppen Wolf - theme to the movie Easy Rider, correct? Because the song has been used, time and again, in nearly every single guys-on-the-road montage since. It is the cliched soundtrack to rebellion and the open road.

Play this instead! God, anything.

Frankenstein, Edgar Winter - Edgar Winter toured with Ringo Starr and the All Star Band in 2007, and performed this song, including all the instruments, solo. One of the single most dynamic songs I've ever seen performed live. That said, it's simply overplayed and radio doesn't do it justice.

Play this instead!  For a replacement, I look no further than the All Starr Band alumni roster, a classic rock playlist all on its own. But who on the list is most overlooked? Let's go with Dave Edmunds and his song Me and the Boys, from the Spring Break movie soundtrack.

Piece of Mind, Boston - This song beat More than a Feeling out by a nose since it simply isn't as endearing as MTAF yet is played just as frequently.

Play this instead! I received the album Third Stage from my sister for Christmas in 1985, and Can't Cha Say quickly became one of my favorites. I snatched it off iTunes when I was given a couple of free songs as a gift, and it is still as bombastically overwrought with emotion as I remember. Awesome! cries my teenaged heart.

Cold As Ice, Foreigner - One of those bands you just don't know how they became so big, and when they went soft in the 80s, they simply became unbearable. The lineup has included so many people and changed so many times, I may have been part of the band at one point.

Play this instead! Thomas Dolby played keyboards on Foreigner 4, and he gets lumped into another one of those limiting genres, 80s new wave. Let's take Europa and the Pirate Twins out for a spin.

Tom Sawyer, Rush - Yikes, we are in sacrificial lamb territory now. The band most beloved by my husband, even he, at the last go-around on the Clockwork Angels tour said, "I don't need to hear this song ever again."

Play this instead! I really think their work from the 90s to now is amazing, and anyone who stopped listening after Power Windows is in for a pleasant surprise. Play BU2B from Clockwork Angels!

Come Together, The Beatles - Mama's band takes a hit this time. Oh how I love Abbey Road, but oh how tiring it is sometimes to hear the bass line day after day. Yeah, I get it, one and one and one is three...

Play this instead! DJ needs a bathroom break? Mama needs a Beatles symphony. Play the medley from the vinyl's side 2, starting with You Never Give Me Your Money and ending with The End, skipping Her Majesty, the not so secret "hidden track." I was once late for work because Uncle Buck played this on his From the Basement show.