Thursday, October 25, 2012

On This St. Crispian's Day


Highland Games is a small community, international though it may be. Tight knit and foul mouthed, we share something that was best described by The Bard, and best preformed by Kenneth Branagh more than a score of years past as Henry V in his St. Cripsin's Day speech.

The entirety of the speech is littered with historical and battle field references, but it is the few below that speak most strongly of what I am attempting to define for the uninitiated.

"The fewer men, the greater share of honour."

Not everyone can we do what we do, and many hold themselves back for fear of failure, or worse still for fear of looking foolish. Donning a kilt to throw sticks and rocks will never carry a lot of glory to those that haven't done it, for those that have medaling at one of the Big Shows is an honour.

“He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”

Should we ever get old and grey enough to throw no longer, some never do, we will have some stories to tell of the crazy goings on with the Iron Thistle, the stupid stone and that one time at Pleasanton. Names that will forever make you smile in fond memory when they fall off your tongue to tell some new kid about the occasion when...

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.

Callused hands, iced backs, ART bills may fade, but the memory and limps remains. Experience will temper our humor, and allow us to smile when the “Next Big Deal” comes in full of swagger. Shared looks of understanding will pass round and slow grins of old age and treachery will abound.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

Coming from a large family, and a small school, a sense of belonging is paramount to me. No community has been so warm and welcoming as the Gamers I have encountered. Distance and language have been no barrier, fellowship has been extended at every turn. Graciously accepting me as one of the family since day one, folks have opened their homes and ,most importantly, their vast wealth of information without reservation. Much talk has been had while much iron has been moved, and though we may not have solved all the world’s ills we built something. Hours on the field are never wasted, no matter how many blisters and calluses they bring. Clan has a whole new meaning for me these days.

This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Damn right.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Oh, look, a rabbit hole, wonder what's down there...

Alice chased her rabbit into a world full of confusing and confounding new experiences. Perhaps that is just what I am doing by agreeing to join the blogging community of Joining the realm of the strength athlete is a cross between WonderLand and NeverLand - places where I either don't know all the rules or no rules apply! Not to mention all the characters you will meet along the way.

Caterpillar: Who... are... you?
Alice: Why, I hardly know, sir. I've changed so much since this morning, you see...

Who am I? A mouthy short stack from Texas full of puns and obscure references with a strong desire to be more than I was the day before. Having come late to the athlete party by not showing up until my 30s, and only then as a seriously overweight noob, I am making up for lost time!  

Tripped over highland games by way of the local renaissance faire, and decided it was the thing to do. Bit of training up by the “Old Man of the Mountain” here in Texas, Mark Cooper, and I tried out a few games. A local gamer, with a Cheshire Cat grin, advised me that should I “actually try” I might be “not awful” at highland games. That was my invitation to the Mad Hatter’s tea party that is this sport I love so dear. It was a lot of passed tea cups and move down a seat while the boys showed me the real deal on the games. Four years later, thousands of traveled miles and 80lbs lighter, you get the current incarnation of me. 

Mad Hatter: Why is a raven like a writing desk?
Alice: Riddles? Now let me see... why is a raven like a writing desk?

Riddles, indeed! As the off season for games kicks off it is time to retool the machine, and get things in proper working order for goal setting, both as an athlete and a member of the TCAA (Texas Celtic Athletic Association). This will be the place to see the progress I make aa  thrower, recruiter, coach and host for the highland games. Having earned my stripes with sweat and laughter, this promises to be an adventure through the looking glass. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Sadly, I am smart enough now to be aware just how much a mess my relationship with food is, and always has been.

At times it is like a separate personality, the foolish defiant teenage angst you should be done with by now, that piece of you that wants instant gratification. The rebellious slice that demands you throw societal convention into the wall and do what you damn well please, they can get bent; you don't need their approval anyway...right? That is the lie we tell while we binge on the foods we know are our personal undoing. Mine? Chips and dip. This little bit of kryptonite should never be allowed within the walls of my Fortress of Solitude.

Food never says no, or talks back, or ignores you, or judges you. This may well be why so many people in this country full of needy, self-indulgent, media addicted, non-communicators are obese and unhealthy. (says the girl blogging about her issues, first world problems, baby) Comfort food, the name says it all, we find our comforts from the familiar tastes that drive sense memory to the past and give us that scrap of nostalgic joy of something not quite remembered. We do this because it is simple, easy, attainable and in lieu of creating new memories full of happiness.

It is looking at what you are "supposed to be" and knowing that is never going to happen that drives so many cars for Big Macs. That defeated sense of why bother, where we forget that perfection differs person to person. Magazines and Hollywood don't hold the keys to good looks (most of the shows I watch are filmed in Montreal, thank you SyFy, but you get my point!) and certainly not to healthy attitudes. I suppose the trick must be finding a way to use an internal sense of self to establish your ideal you, rather than allowing the constant barrage of external sources for Health/Beauty/Value. Neat trick if you can manage it without rolling right back around to the Teenage-Angst-Beast previously discussed.
Realizing, repeatedly, that no amount of exterior help or support can make the choice for you. Knowing that even with all the right tools readily available, you can still opt out on yourself. The golden moments (plural, it will happen over and over) when you recognize your failures, values, strengths and pick your health over all the noise of the blaring world.

Willpower can't be bought or sold or found, only made.
Made through an unending series of choices.
Choose wisely.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Should You Ever Need Us...

The movie Labyrinth is a favorite of mine, full of silliness, muppets, Froud Fairies, fantasy fears and ,most importantly, friendships. Helping, guiding and letting each of the cast of characters grow into who they are meant to be, all in less than two hours! The children of the 80s and their parents can name them for you and quote the lines, or in my house - sing the songs and dance the dances. The one that always sticks with me is when Sarah leaves the Labyrinth with the truest friends she is likely to ever find in her fictional life, and they let her go with the phrase "Should you ever need us."

No matter how many shiney things you trade with Hoggle, that isn't why you are friends.

Friendships cannot be weighed or measured in things or stuff, but in moments and memories. So many of the cliches are true, the best of friends are those with whom you can fall into comfortable silences and pick up conversations as if no time had passed. Where you can simply be at peace, without a need to fill the silences and space. Folks that have held your hand, your hair and your heart at some point in your life, and are always welcome to the extra place at dinner.

There are times when a hug from your Ludo will set the whole world right again, and remind you that you are perfectly capable of dealing with whatever comes.

Not everyone that rolls into your life will be such, we are lucky when we have a handful. Some newer folks in my world have questioned associations of long standing with quizzical faces. The answers are never what they expect, it isn't simple tolerance of quirks and poor habits. It isn't that I don't see them, or get annoyed by them, it is the embracing of those things making my friends who they have ever been. Those cherished folks that have seen me at my worst and still loved me best, who will get to live forever in the clear and get a pass for their foibles. That is what love is - knowing someone, all of them, and wanting them in your life just as they are all the time, because they know you and want you around too, just as you are.

Jareth swathed in tight pants, pretty promises and seeming magic can't hold a candle to the bumbling Sir Didymus on his trusty fluffy steed, Ambrosius.

There will be Labryinths, misleading door knockers,lonesome oubliettes, unhelpful hands, bogs of eternal stench, trixy firey goblins, junk ladies who try to pull you back to the past, and all manner of unmentionable hardship. All of which can be overcome, surmounted, or simply endured with the right friends should you ever need them.

 Just as Sarah said to her Hoggle "I don't know why, but every now and again in my life, for no reason at all, I need you. All of you."  All of you, and a bit of dance magic, dance.

You haven't lived until...

Living in Texas this phrase usually preempts some deeply silly stories, just this once I am ganna break the mold. You haven't lived until you have spent a day coaching the next generation that wants to explore something you are passionate about. Being neither a coach or teacher by trade or training, it is a rare privilege to be allowed the opportunity to be on the other side of this equation. For the second year in a row the Oklahoma Scottish Festival has allowed me to run the juniors division of highland games. This gives me a group of kids ages 7-14 that want to give the games a try, and in some cases they really do give it their all.

Joe giving the breamar stone his first attempt.

The enthusiasm of youth puts a whole new shine on an old routine. Watching up-tilted faces with an earnest desire to learn something they believe you have the keys to is both intimidating and inspiring. From those that are ever ready to do the next toss, to shrinking violets who tuck themselves behind their kilts with shy smiles, these kids will light up your day. Soon enough some of them will be chasing our field records and we will be forced to employ all the tricks we know to keep up. And that is as it should be!

Many thanks to Matt Thompson and all the parents for trusting me with the kids, helps me get my head on straight for the off season and reminds me why we do this.

Photo Credit: Larry Ventress -

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Want It More

Sorry for the extended radio silence, could give any number of excuses, but that is exactly what they would be.

Today's topic is never an easy one, and with any luck this will be the last time I have to address it from  this particular angle. Precisely how to find a way past the self sabotaging habits and back sliding comforts to be able to move on to the next progression.

Want It More is a phrase I picked up from my throws coach a while back, and now need to implement beyond the trig.

  • To want my health more than I want trashy comforting quick fix foods
  • To want my fitness more than my ass groove on the sofa
  • To want a clean and calming environment more than my over lengthy lazy times
  • To want better for myself, my family and my team rather than continuing with the same old routine
The trick to WIM, is finding the drive, the motivators to get from your currently level to the next. For me that means getting past the ideas of being a fat kid, a non-athlete, a not-a-home-maker, a not-a-cook and doing all those things for myself. All the tools are there, and I have the support I need to do all these things. There will be guidance, don't think I could shake my coaches with the help of the Witness Protection Program, but it is well past time for me to WIM. 

Here we go. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

That time of year...

The time has come, when the sweltering heat of summer gives way to the crisp mornings of fall. When the morning's dew on the grass lasts well past the rising of the sun. When the rich greens fade into warm browns, orange and red. 

Autumn is my season. Full of rich foods, warm spiced drinks, hearth smoke, sweaters, tall boots, Friday Night Lights and reasons to snuggle down beneath soft throw blankets and wear fuzzy socks, it draws me home. The first cold snap inevitably brings out all my deeply rooted Southern Girl traits, the desire to bake, write hand written letters and clean everything before decking it out in holiday finery. The entire season is about going below the surface and finding strength, shoring up weak spots and storing what is needed for a later date.
My home and office get decked out just as quick as I can get away with it by social standards. This means Fall decorations can go up in mid September, Halloween on Oct 1st, Thanksgiving on Nov 1st, and Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. Trust that my fingers are itching to toss garlands, floral arrangements, brick-a-brack and holiday trees across every available surface with a maniacal glee. 

The traditional meal of roasted tomato soup and crab meat fritters is shared with friends and family during the Texas State Fair in early October. A simple and deliciously hearty meal done time and again, just once a year and always a treat. 

Holiday cards are nearly always hand written, though there have been a few years when picture cards went out instead. There is something soothing to me about pen to paper, so much more personal than typewritten communication. The feel of good paper-stock and a well crafted pen are tactile pleasures. Knowing that just seeing the colorful envelope mixed in with daily junk-mail and bills will cause the recipient to smile before they even open the card inside makes me smile in turn. 
In the land of personal traditions there are the movies of each season, Harry Potter for October, West Wing in November and Lord of the Rings in December. Movies that have become the sound track of those holidays for me over the years, they play while I decorate and bake, background noise for meal preparations. The stories intertwined with our holiday tales.

Fall is my season, and I am glad it is finally here.