Wait a Minute ….

 

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Patience may be a virtue but it has never been a virtue of mine.  It’s a failing.  I hate to wait.

I’ve had some practice in the last year or so with my twice-daily walks with our aging pug.  He cannot see or hear and it takes him quite a bit of time and effort to find the exact right spot to take care of business.  He cannot be rushed.  I should be getting better at this. I am so not getting better at this.

Lately, my challenge with patience has been pushed to its limit.   Our family is in a holding pattern.  It’s no one’s fault but our own and it is something that we could put an end to but we have consciously decided to wait and see.  As with Heinz ketchup, the waiting is the hardest part.

There is a point in the near-ish future where we will not be waiting.  We will be seeing.  And doing.  It’s not that far away.  But as each day goes by, my patience is more and more threadbare.  It’s beginning to unravel.  The thing is, the possible outcomes from all this waiting are all pretty good ones which, in theory, should make it easier to wait and see.  But I’m so darn ready to do something that I’ve kind of lost sight of the fact that, in the words of Bob Marley, everything’s gonna be alright.  Let it go, already.

My son is in the vortex of this waiting game.  I am trying so hard not to be an annoying gnat (or am I more of a horse fly?) circling his head.  We have promised him we will wait.  We will see.  We should make good on that promise.  We will.  I just may not have much sanity left by the time we get there.  I hope at least one of us does.

<I also hope that you hear Bob Marley singing in your head after reading this, rather than the Heinz commercial or the song from Freeze ….>

Sunny and Dry

IMG_1159Colorado is in some sort of crazy weather pattern.  As nasty, cold and snowy as it has been back east, we have been ridiculously warm and dry.  We enjoyed the sunshine tremendously as we sat in the bleachers watching the Alpine World Championships.  Vitamin D, anyone?

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Truly fab and preferable to shivering, toes frozen, next to a race hill during a blizzard.  Been there, lived that.

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Now that the ski racing world has left our valley, we look around and notice that the snow is melting away and leaving us with brown dirt everywhere, rather than the pristine white we love so much during the winter months.  The bit of snow we got over the last couple of days was just a tease.  The sun is back, melting it all away.  We look at Boston and think, we’ve got use for all that snow, send it this way!

An up-side to all this warm sunshine and dirt:  maybe we’ll get to stay here this summer.  Typically, I start to get a little cabin fever (or is it valley fever?) as we slog our way through March.  By that point, I’m over winter, the tourists, the dirty car, the muddy boots and wet floors.  My better judgment goes out the window and I start to plan a whole bunch of trips for the summer.  I map out travels to the beach, the lake, anywhere that feels better than the end of winter here. By June, I always regret that I scheduled all those trips away from here.

Memories of Summers Past in Our Lovely State

Memories of Summers Past in Our Lovely State

Summer in Vail is pretty spectacular:  warm days, chilly nights, biking, hiking, fishing, golfing, concerts, evenings on the deck.  Let’s hope that this streak of warm, sunny days is enough to hold my March madness at bay.

Winners Are Always Losers

Yep, another Alpine World Cup life analogy.

Lindsey Vonn, perhaps the most well known ski racer in the U.S., accomplished the incredible feat of returning from back-to-back knee surgeries to compete in and win World Cup speed events this year.  She is now the winningest female alpine racer ever, with 64 World Cup wins.  The expectations placed on her to medal at the World Champs last week were outrageous.  And she only got a bronze in Super G, a 5th place in Downhill and failed to finish the Super Combined.  Loser.

When she later apologized for her 5th place finish in the Downhill, I was dumbfounded.  Girl, you just skied a very tough hill on a doubly repaired knee against the best women in the world and you took 5th place.  Yay!  You rock!  Go, Go Go!

The announcer at the races repeatedly reminds the fans that fourth place is losing, since it doesn’t win a medal.  He talks about a racer “just not bringing enough” to the hill when they were a second and a half out of first place.  I’m sorry, but anyone who is willing to send themselves careening down an icy mountain at 75 miles per hour is bringing more than enough, buddy.

The stands empty after the big name American racers compete, especially if they don’t finish in a winning spot. I look at the competitors out there from Czech Republic, Chile and Argentina, the young racers coming up, the older ones who keep at it, and I think they are all fabulous.  Even when they don’t cross the finish line.

We live in a world where winning is everything. We celebrate the guy who crossed the line one hundredth of a second faster than the next guy.  Do you know how little that is?  It equates to the blink of an eye.  The loser is angry, defeated and berated because of that  blip of a time difference.  And our memory is so short. Lindsey’s 64th win was less than two weeks before her embarrassing 5th place “loss.”

In normal, non-sports life, we compete through professional accomplishments and finances.  We compete through our children (he walked sooner than she did, he throws the ball faster, she got into Harvard, he just made partner …).  We admire the prettiest, the wittiest, the wealthiest.  Whatever-est.  Often it feels like a zero sum game.  If he is succeeding, I must be failing.

In the end, all winners are also losers.  With almost no exceptions, they have lost a match, a game, a race, a promotion, a something.  The focus we and they place on being the best blurs the backdrop of hard work, support from others, determination and dedication a winner must have to survive losing.  And it devalues the accomplishments of all of those out there who never quite win, who are bringing everything they have every day.  Who may be winning in every way but the one that “counts.”  Without the losers, there are no winners.

Mikaela Shiffrin is our next great hope for Slalom and Giant Slalom this week.  At 19, because of what she has been able to pull off in her young career, she is expected to win.  Anything less than a gold will be a disappointment for many.  The announcer will express shock and dismay. The fans will leave shaking their heads.  I hope she accomplishes what she sets out to do.  If she does fall short, I hope she doesn’t apologize.  I hope she is proud and happy with who she is, looks forward to the next chapter and congratulates the rest of the field for doing what they do so well.

When Your Heart Isn’t In It

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Bode Miller, one of the greatest and most entertaining ski racers of all time, is on the verge of racking his race skis for the last time.  Maybe.  He’s leaning that way, they say.  At 37, he’s had a pretty good run.  His life has been full of winning, excitement, disappointment, injury, partying and living large as a celebrated global athlete.

The world watched him go a little crazy in his younger years, cheered him on to his Olympic and World Cup medals, questioned his choices and his lack of training, marveled at his ridiculous and raw talent, and watched his great performance and disappointing injury at the Olympics last year.  He went through painful back surgery this fall in hopes of skiing in the World Championships in Beaver Creek this month.

We all looked up the hill and hoped for more spectacular-ness from Bode as he started on the Super G course last week.  He was flying, leading the field.  Crazy and on the edge.  Classic Bode.  And then, he crashed.  It was horrendous to watch.  His ski sliced a tendon in his leg, requiring surgery.

In an interview afterward, he said he is considering being done as a racer.  He has two small children and a beautiful, talented wife.  He has priorities other than chasing a dream that he has already lived.  He can’t put the level of intensity into his training that competing at the World Cup level requires.  Sounds to me like his heart isn’t in it anymore.

I can relate.

Perhaps one of the harder things in life is knowing when to say when.  If the inner desire is gone, do you call it quits or push through?  Do you dig deep or throw in the towel?  When is enough enough?

If you walk away from something you have worked hard for and been successful at, something that other people are clambering to achieve, are you a quitter?  Are you ungrateful for what you have?  Will you regret giving it up?  Or will you be freed?  Will you be someone who knows yourself and lives accordingly?

Bode Miller’s body has been through the ringer, for sure, but he probably has a few more medals in him.  I’m guessing a lot of athletes would give some small body part to have the ability that he has right now.  And yet, he is considering giving it up even though the rest of the world is crying for him to stay in it. Good for him.

To thine own self be true.

If you’re in a profession for a certain length of time, it can become tiresome.  The shine wears off.  You get down-trodden, bedraggled.  Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to make a choice to walk away when we have a loss of heart?  We could have a sort of train track switch to shift us in another direction, triggered at that point when we just don’t have whatever it is anymore.  We wouldn’t have to confront the need to make a change — it would just be done for us.  No fear of second-guessing or regret.  No judgment.  That guy’s dragging big time at his accounting firm, CHING, he’s off to become a developer.  This one’s lost his curiosity as a surgeon, BOOM, he’s on his way to teaching origami.

Most of us don’t feel that we have the luxury of changing course when our heart isn’t in it.  We hang on much longer than we should.  Most of us are tied to the income, the status, the comfort of what we know.  We fear failure, we fear what others will think, we fear starting over.  We fear.  What would our world look like if more of us let go of the fear and followed our heart?

Doing Crazy

I forget how weird we are. At dinner the other night, our friends in Denver were remarking, again, on the monumental choice we made by moving to the Valley four years ago.  You’ve heard about people who sell everything and become RV nomads, with kids in-tow?  Or the executive who, after getting out of the slammer for insider trading, is now happily mowing lawns in New Jersey?  To the folks who knew us way-back-when, we’re like that.  We might as well be living in a shack on a Chilean beach, our hair in dreads.


shack-164044_1280Surf Shack Equivalent to Our Mountain Life


Flashback to 2010.  We lived in Denver in a suburban McMansion.  I had a high-powered, high-stress career.  My husband had a successful consulting business.  My kid, in 6th grade, was fairly normal.  He loved sports.  His two main passions were ski racing and lacrosse, and he was drowning in one of Colorado’s best private schools.  Balancing his already demanding training and travel schedule with the aggressive curriculum was next to impossible for him.  Our choices seemed to be to take him out of racing, his true love, so that he could focus his energy on surviving school, or to move him to Vail where the ski academy would let him continue to race in a more supportive environment.

We couldn’t take away his true love.  We jumped, with both feet.  There was no halfway.  We enrolled him in Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.  At the time, it had four classrooms crammed into a corner of a middle school in Minturn, Colorado.  He was ecstatic.  We were terrified.  Were we letting our kid become a ski bum?  Had we destroyed his future by over-indulging him in pursuit of a nearly impossible dream?

Our friends and colleagues in Denver looked at us in horror when we shared our news.  What the hell were we thinking?  Vail is where they have their vacation homes.  They come up for a weekend here and there.  Do people actually live there?  Can they converse?  Do they have all their teeth?  Yes, yes, and mostly.

We settled into a community of people who were as certifiable as we were.  Some even crazier.  Some moved half of their family here, one parent in Vail and the other back east, making the money.  Some gave up their professional jobs in Elsewhere, USA and became ski instructors and bus drivers so that their kids could live here and pursue their passions.  Some, like us, teeter between Denver and here.


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Together, we live a vagabond life in the winter, following the race circuit, dragging around tuning benches and six pairs of skis, standing on the side of a mountain in a blizzard watching the kids battle the hill.  In the summer, we send them off to places like Oregon, Chile and New Zealand to continue to ski.  Living in Weirdo Land, I forget how strange we are, until we see our friends from Before and they say things like “monumental choice” when referring to our decision to move here.

We gave up a lot, but we also got a lot.  We got a kid who found his right place in the world.  We got a family that spends time together and shares experiences that most people don’t even dream about.  And, big bonus, we got to live in a place that is spectacularly beautiful.

Yes, we’re weird. And it’s all good.

 DSCN0210Ski Bum or Beach Bum? Same Difference.


Where Else Would We Be?

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Surefoot Holiday Classic race at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs last night. We stood with friends in the side-blown, ice-pelleted darkness and watched 90 “men” fight down a slalom course that developed into a feet-high rutted luge adventure. Those who survived the first run got to do it again. I think the athletes had fun. Lifetime memories.

Go Speed Racer! (and study too): Parenting(?) a Competitive Athlete

2014-03-23 09.12.25Many of you can relate to the peaks and valleys of raising a teenager.  If that teenager is a competitive athlete, the peaks can be towering mountains and the valleys bottomless caverns. I’m struggling a little lately with how to parent in this ecosystem.

Our son has reached a level of ski racing competition that is truly global.  We hear French, Russian, Czech, Slovenian, German, Norwegian and Finnish at the finish line (see what I did there?) of his races this week.  The Australians and Kiwi’s were on the start list. World Cup racers came over after their races in Beaver Creek this weekend to brush up on their giant slalom technique. My son’s body, which has grown quite a bit in the last year, is still small in comparison to many of these men’s tree-trunk legs and beefy arms.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this world, ski racing is a brutal sport.  The young guys compete from the back, fighting nerves and huge course ruts left behind by the bigger, stronger guys.  They compete on a point system, lower is better, and those points go down gradually as the racer fights, race after race, to finish in a better position.  They must complete two runs in order to get a race finish, and often half of the pack fails to cross the finish line in both runs.  They train year round, in the gym and on the hill.  They travel a lot.  They get hurt a lot.  And then they show up at a race and their day could be over after the 6th gate of the first run.

After today’s race, our team packed up their gear and drove to school so that the boys could prepare for finals next week.  Many of their competitors probably went out for a beer.  It’s a little weird and somewhat understandable that my son’s focus on studies is a bit hazy sometimes.

So yesterday, when I woke up to make him a “healthy breakfast” (he got to sleep in until 8:00, a rare luxury) I had the bad sense to check his grades on-line.  And I got a little frustrated with his apparent lack of attention in a couple of classes.  And I woke him up to say, “You better get it together, kid!  You’re clearly taking your eye off the ball.”  And then I stopped.  He had a race beginning in a couple of hours.  He would be pushing his body down an icy hill on razor sharp skis, trying not to mess up, on the edge of crashing, and I was yelling at him about his English grades.  Yikes.  I chose the completely wrong moment to unleash.

<Deep Breath>

He is a good kid.  He is 16.  He and his teammates work extraordinarily hard.  He has passion.  He is critical of himself for not racing as well as he believes he can, and he always feels like he can do better.  I am not a former World Cup ski racer, as are many of the parents of his competitors.  I never ski raced at all.  I can’t give him any advice about how to approach a delay on the course or when to release his edges for the next turn.  I can’t even give him much help with the mental aspects of ski racing.  In fact, I’ve learned to say nothing about any of these things, because I really don’t know what to say.  I’ve never faced the pressures of highly competitive athletics that he does.

I do, however, know how to be a student.  19 years of studentry under my belt, thank you very much.  And so I focus on his school work and try to give him pointers on study skills and time management and suggest that he work ahead.  If I’m honest (though he doesn’t need to hear this) I’ll admit that I wasn’t the best at time management and study skills when I was a junior in high school.  Procrastination seems to be genetic and he is as good at it as I was at his age.  It’s hard to watch him make the mistakes and not-great choices that I once made.  I remind myself that this is his journey.  I cannot be Captain Jean Luc-Picard and “make it so.”

Still, I’m a mom and part of being a mom is nagging a bit here and there (in future at more appropriate times than just before a race) to remind the Young One that this school thing is important.  Racing will end and he will have to make a living some day.  As far as I can tell, the rest of my job description includes providing food, shelter, clothes, gear and a hug from time to time.

Go get ’em! Ski fast! Have fun! (And get some sleep and don’t forget to brush your teeth.)