Friday, April 27, 2007

The Shotput: a Love Story

When I was eleven years old, Coach Alexander put a shot-put in my hand and told me to keep my elbow up and throw. I threw that iron ball so far that Coach A handed me a boys shot-- I launched it, too. From that moment on I was a woman obsessed.

I was fortunate as a youngster to have a community of coaches that recognized my talent and passion and supported me in every capacity. I also had amazing parents that allowed me to tear up the front yard with shot put divots, hurdle in the driveway, and throw javelins through windows. I emulated Jackie Joyner Kersee and decided that hell or high water, I would be a heptathlete. So my parents drove me all over the country all summer every summer for track meets. When I qualified for the Junior Olympics we hopped in the car and drove to Cleveland. When I qualified the next year and it was sponsored by Disney's Wide World of sports, we drove to Orlando. My Aunt and Uncle even came to offer their support.

Even as I trained for seven events, the shot put was always my favorite. Finding the technique that worked best for me took years, and my parents and coaches were all apart of the journey. We invested in dozens of track camps, books, and movies. Rival coaches adopted me and offered their advice. Night after night I would come home with a bruise on my jaw from one too many throws, only to get up early the next morning and do it all over again: Step into the circle, grind right foot into position, roll the shot put across my fingers, set my body into position, and FIRE! I get high just thinking about it.

For all the joy involved in training, competing was the most difficult aspect of my relationship with the shot put. For years I was a complete headcase, working myself into such a tizzy before big meets that the anxiety overtook me and I choked. Choking became an art form for me, followed by suicidal rants and being talked off the ledge by my coaches. It was a terrible pattern that resulted in great inconsistency for years. As someone who had often defined themselves by accomplishments, failure was a devastation of catastrophic proportions. Thankfully, by the time I got to college, I learned how to channel my anxiety into productive energy, rather than let it destroy me. (This involved many silly superstitions like sleeping with my shot put next to my bed, which my parents and coaches have never let me forget)...

Track in college was everything I hoped it would be! I had a crazy but amazing head coach who lived/ate/and breathed for his track athletes. From the first day I walked into his office on my recruiting visit he said, "Well you sure don't look like a shot-putter" a phrase I would hear and use to my advantage my entire career. I continued to improve my throw my first few years, getting stronger and perfecting my technique. I knew my freshman year when I hit a personal record at A-10 Championships that I was a choker no more. Soon it became clear that I would be a much better thrower than heptathlete, so we switched gears and I focused more on my shot put than I ever had before.

My junior year brought devastation when I tore my biceps anchor in my right shoulder, resulting in surgery. I had to sit out for almost a year. I was heartbroken, feeling like I had lost all the hard work I put in for years before. My senior year I began my slow and painful comeback. I was miserable, inconsistent, and throwing worse than I ever had in college. I started to worry I would never place at Championships and I was inconsolable. I suddenly hated the shot put and wished I had stuck with the heptathlon. When the spring season came around, I had a knot in my stomach. For the first time in my life, I didn't know if I wanted to compete anymore. Every practice and every meet when I didn't perform, I thought to myself, 'This is not how I am supposed to end my track career," until one day when I decided: this is NOT how I will let my track career end.

I worked harder than I ever had, trying to make up for lost time and retrain my body. If my arm was not as strong as it used to, then my legs would have to be more powerful. Because getting the snap back in my arm had become an issue, I laid in my bed at night and did speed drills with my arm. When I got up in the morning, I did technique in my bedroom mirror. By the time Championships came around, I was still inconsistent, but mentally, I was ready.

A-10 Championships carries enough pressure in itself, but this Championship was particularly hard and emotional for me. It was my last A-1os, I was coming off an injury, and I had been inconsistent all season, seating me at a disappointing sixth place going in. As a jumped nervously around in my warm ups, I looked at my brass shot put sitting on the ground and became religious for one of the few times in my life. Please, I pleaded with the universe, just one throw. Give me one throw. When they called my name I took a deep breath, stripped out of my sweats, and slowly walked towards the circle. As I rolled my brass shot put in my hand, I thought about all the wonderful things that that shot had brought me: championships won, school records shattered, Junior Olympic medals... I thought about all the amazing people it brought into my life. Then I did what I had done for so many years before: Step into the circle, grind right foot into position, roll the shot put across my fingers, set my body into position, and FIRE! My family and teammates cheered; I knew when it left my fingertips that it was a good throw. And as the officials read the tape, the knot left my stomach, and I was THRILLED for the first time all season. It was a personal best that would place me in 3rd and medal at my very last Championship meet.

And that right there is what fairy tales are made of.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Backyard Distractions

Productive day overall, but I had to abandon applications for a bit because it was too bloody gorgeous this afternoon!

Friday, April 20, 2007

"What wound did ever heal but by degrees..."

The last few weeks have been emotionally challenging and physically draining but thus far I have survived. Getting back into some semblance of a routine has proved more difficult than I imagined, but I am pushing through. I am healing and I am pushing through...

Breakthrough of the week: I am at peace with the fact that I haven't had my dream job in the last few months. Grateful, even. With a dream job I would have lost many precious moments with my Grandmom. I am so happy I was able to be here when she needed us.

My first Ireland-related reunion happens Monday when Jeanne arrives for an overnight layover. SO excited!

I got an incredibly uplifting letter from one of my professors at Trinity this week. Definitely gave me the boost I needed to get my head back in the game. Its amazing how a few simple words can change your whole outlook...

Happy weekend to all.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The following post is one I wrote last year in Ireland. Having lost my Grandmom last week, I take comfort in memories during this time of grief.

One of my earliest memories of Grandmom is a Sunday morning when she and Grandfather drove down to our old house on Lightning Lane, bearing donuts, no less! I remember climbing up on the chair next to Grandmom and reaching my little grubby hand into the white box of decadence. Jelly donuts were like gold to me as a child. Grandmom cut mine in half and i proceeded to lick the jelly out, getting powdered sugar virtually everywhere. As I munched away and Grandfather caught up with my Mom and Dad, Grandmom whispered to me, "Tell Grandfather he's full of baloney." "GRANDFATHER!" I shrieked, interrupting he and my parents: "You're full of baloney!!!" He mocked horror at my declaration, Grandmom laughed, and my mom yelled at me.
I will forever associate Grandmom with sweets, which my sisters and I were deprived in our daily lives. Trips to Grandmom's house meant the CANDY DISH: a never-ending supply of jelly beans, mint leaves, and chocolates. Velvetta cheese and ritz crackers. Chocolate milk. Cooper-sharp. Tea Cooler. When Grandmom would come a stay a few days with us when my parents went away, it was a Tastykake party! No matter what "junk food" my Mom would buy in preparation for her anticipated arrival, Grandmom still arrived with an armload of sugary goodness. Tastycakes and Cooper- sharp cheese; my sisters and I were never happier. When I collected dolls as a kid, I remember going with Grandmom and my mom to the Doll Hospital to fix a few antiques. When I first became interested in the Kennedys, Grandmom was one of the first to assist my obsession, letting me climb through the den and route around for books. She was the only person who could rival my excitement for Jackie Kennedy dolls. When I was in college, Grandmom and I had laundry parties (where I'd come over with a hefty bag full of dirty clothes) having all intentions of completing the task in one night, but never finishing the job; she would always finish for me. One night, Jenny and I came over and we watched Miss America and tore the contestants apart. Jenny had such a good time she asked Grandmom to move in with us in Manayunk. Just last summer, when I was working in Chester (God-forbid), I would frequently come have lunch with Grandmom. Those were some of my favorite memories. We got to chatting about Grandfather and Great Aunts and Uncles that I never knew all that well. I loved learning more about her, Grandfather, and my family. Also the photos were priceless. One of her best friends Mrs. Gallagher frequently joined us and often shook her head at Grandmom's stubbornness, referring to her as "Irish to the core"- a phrase I never forgot. (I believe it was taken as a compliment, though it was certainly not intended that way). Grandmom is one of the strongest women I have ever met, and I am so thankful to count her as a role model in my life (and especially thankful for her sweet tooth).

Monday, April 9, 2007


Any holiday my Dad is out to sea inevitably brings chaos; like Christmas-tree-falling-over-Christmas-morning chaos. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but I am more inclined to believe that the energy of we four women (me, mom, middle sister, little sister) is bloody radioactive and just throws the cosmic universe for a loop. This weekend was no different.

Saturday we trucked out to Mechanicsburg for my cousin Megan's bridal shower. As much as I love Megan, I hate bridal showers, and I really hate driving two hours on my day off for bridal showers. However two Kaiser Chief CDs and one carsick sister later we arrived, Ooo'd and Ahh'd appropriately over cake pans and dishes, and returned home. Then Jared (who has been in training for the JAG test for months) broke his ankle in the middle of a run. So to Philly I drove to deliver chocolate to my hurt, miserable boyfriend.

Sunday the Easter Bunny brought Godiva which was pretty fabulous. But then I had to go to work (booooo) and deal with grumpy managers and customers who thought it was a "sin" to tax a Bible. Shortly thereafter Grandmom wound up in the hospital, so frantic phone calls were exchanged all afternoon between family members. Amidst the chaos Rosie (dog from hell) managed to climb onto the dining room table and eat an entire Angel Food cake. Family collectively shouts expletives. Middle sister is cursed for bringing the beast home. Rosie throws-up entire Angel Food cake. By the end of the evening, all messes (both human and otherwise) were cleaned up, Grandmom was sent home, and we ladies plopped down on the couch to watch Easter Parade and decide Easter will be renamed Diseaster... just as Rosie goes for the Godiva.

There really is no place like home.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

"Watching the people get lairy..."

This evening I stood in the front row at a Kaiser Chiefs concert.


The lead singer came down and held my hand during "I Predict a Riot" (so he wouldn't fall over).

We shared a moment (I groped his leg).

It was HOT. I know he felt it too.


Thursday, April 5, 2007

Where the Old Life and New Life Intersect

I spoke with Nugie on the phone for what must have been hours tonight. A conversation that should be had over a bottle of chardonnay but was sadly reduced to cell phones and cold lattes. Though we were mostly playing catch up, it was one of those amazing conversations that should just never end- memories of an experience shared, something so unique and spectacular that she is one of the six lovely souls cemented into my heart.

We haven't seen each other since we've been back on this side of the Atlantic, which is completely ridiculous because we're only two hours away. I have just been "too busy" trying to sort my way out of a life I don't recognize and she has been lost in a sea of law books somewhere south of the Mason- Dixon line. We talked about our friends and going to graduation and giggled over the silliness of Dublin, missing a life that is no longer ours, and worst of all, no longer exists. We can always go back and visit, but it will never be the same. There will always be longing for the past- it must be one of life's greatest tragedies. Regardless, it was really nice to have someone to commiserate with.

Next week we are going to get together when I'm in DC for an interview. Drinks, vacation-discussions, and Sex and the City are already on the itinerary, along with aggressive career planning. Its something familiar and it will be wonderful. Especially with everything so up in the air and a new life that is not yet determined, its a comfort to know that at least one part of my old life crossed the ocean with me.