A Reality Check and Giving Thanks

What's this?! A blogger being thankful two days AFTER Thanksgiving?! Stop the freakin' presses!

It's been a really strange few weeks. I'm at that point where worry about my impending unemployment has me stressed and paralyzed with fear, and I've been kind of cranky and surly and liable to either want to bite peoples' heads off or curl into a ball and cry (hooray, real life!). But last Sunday, someone I used to work with at Miami passed away. We didn't know each other very well, but... jeez, he was 20. And on Monday, I got word that a coworker's wife was suddenly in critical condition in the hospital.

Talk about getting some perspective, huh?

I originally wasn't going to write a thankfulness post because I figured it'd just blend in with the millions of others out there in blogland. But in light of Siah's death (and the fact that I hate Black Friday), I decided to take some time and appreciate a few things I'm thankful for. Because there's nothing like a reminder of the brevity of life to make you appreciate yours all the more, even after the day you're "supposed to" be thankful.
I'm thankful for this wonderful, weirdo family I'm a part of.

I'm thankful for this little feathery jerk.

I'm thankful to have a job I'm going to absolutely hate to leave.

I'm thankful for the people I've met this year, and the friends that never fail to put a smile on my face.

I'm thankful for being a Cane.

I'm thankful for the amazing experiences I've had.

I'm thankful that that my favorite holiday lived up to all expectations. Being home is a wonderful thing.
(I'm also thankful that my mom took pictures on Thanksgiving, made a collage out of them and will be totally okay with me stealing it. 'Cause I'm a terrible blogger and don't take enough pictures, hollaaaa.)

And if you're reading this, I'm thankful for you, too. :)

So if you're upset about how your Black Friday shopping went (or even if you're not), take a minute to think about a vibrant, athletic kid whose life was cut short and suddenly none of your problems seem all that serious. Life is pretty good.

Happy (semi-belated) Thanksgivukkah!

post signature

Biking, Bowling and Bruising My Ego

When I went to Berlin back in 2012 with Jen and Amanda, we did an hours-long bike tour around the city. They were super gung-ho about it, and I was slightly warier. I mean, I couldn't remember the last time I'd been on a bike. But I used the stationary bike at the gym all the time, and Berlin is a very bike-friendly city, so I threw better judgment to the wind and went for it.

I was atrocious.

Okay, so a big part of it definitely had to do with the fact that my bike was just plain too big for me. They didn't have anything smaller (gee, this seems to be a pattern in my life!). So every time I had to stop, I fell over because my foot couldn't reach the ground, and then I had so, so much trouble getting going again.

It was bad. I was perpetually at the back of the group, holding everyone up, and I felt so bad for the guy designated to be at the back of the pack to make sure we didn't lose anyone. 'Cause it was me and him together, ride or die, that whole stinkin' tour. And he was an incredibly experienced biker, too, so I felt like a complete moron. But he was super nice about it, encouraging me and giving me pointers.

At some point during those endless hours, I learned to throw out whatever ego I had left. I was awful, plain and simple. No use trying to play it cool or getting upset about it or giving two hoots what everyone else thought of me. All I could do was laugh at myself, figure out how to correctly fall off that stupid, too-big bike and learn how to get myself started again.

And I did. I still wasn't fantastic, but by god, I improved.

Photo courtesy of Amanda. I did NOT have the wherewithal to take pictures on this tour!

Yesterday, I was right back on that tottering bike in Germany.

USA Volleyball held a Turkey Bowl, which was early office closure, bowling and nothing to do with turkeys. I hadn't bowled in god knows how long, so I knew I'd be bad, but what the heck? I'd go, do my best, and hang out with some awesome people.

Well, LOL, I was awful. Like, let's-not-even-talk-about-it awful. I just could not get the ball to stay out of the right gutter. I was trying to aim left, but my arm did whatever the heck it wanted, and it wanted to go right. It was like falling off that damn bike over and over again; I knew exactly what I was doing wrong and I still. couldn't. fix it. People were trying to give me pointers and coach me; do this with your body, do this with your feet, do this with your arm, do this with your hand, and you'll be good to go! Er, maybe it's just me, but trying to think about a zillion different things while simultaneously doing all of them just made me even more confused.

So I just laughed at myself. I mean, it still stung a little when people joked about how horrible I was. But hey, it was true! No point in denying it! I was even bestowed the honor of the Twinkle Toes award, given to the worst bowler on staff. Just in case you thought I was exaggerating!

As documented on the USA Volleyball Twitter account, lol.
Yep. That's a thing.
Towards the middle of the first game, the owner of the bowling alley came over to help. I kid you not. I don't know if he did that of his own volition or if someone asked him to, and quite frankly I can't decide which is more embarrassing. But either way, he broke it down for me. As you're bowling, point your index finger at the pin you want to hit, and when you follow through, make sure it's still pointing at that pin.

Lo and behold, it worked! I improved steadily for the rest of the game, and hardly got any gutter balls in game two. I ended the second game on a strike and a spare (it would've been two strikes if there hadn't been a freaking gutter ball in between!) and beat all but one person in my lane, improving my first score by almost 70 points. Twinkle Toes my ass!

That's more like it! #ballslap
As I was sitting there in this Twinkle Toes jersey that proclaimed loudly, "HEY LOOK, I SUCK AT BOWLING!", my boss turned to me and said, "I smell a blog!"...Am I really that predictable? (Don't answer that.)

Let's be real, it sucks being awful at things. But being named Twinkle Toes also gives you the chance to be Most Improved. So learn from people who know what they're doing, laugh at yourself, and don't worry, that bruised tailbone from riding a bike for four hours will heal itself way slower than your pride will.

post signature

Hockey in the Rockies

First, I take no credit for the title. And second, if I could give this post a subtitle, it would be: starting with a horse and ending with a blizzard.

In other words, what started off as a plan to go to Vail and see some hockey ended up being way, way more of an adventure than anyone had anticipated.

As evidenced by #5 on my Colorado bucket list, I've been planning on making this trip ever since finding out about the NCAA women's college hockey tournament that would be held there (for Mark Johnson reasons). I ended up sending a group email to all the interns about it to see if anyone would be interested in joining... and it ended up turning into this complicated organizational task involving several more group emails and buying tickets for people that would eventually bail on me. Suh-weet. But eventually we had our final group, the day finally arrived and we hit the road en route to Vail!

The adventure started less than 45 minutes into the almost three hour drive. We hit some crazy traffic, only to realize it was being caused by a car that was forced to stop when the trailer attached to it flipped over. And there was a horse in the trailer. As we drove by, it was flailing around in there trying to find its footing, and we were able to watch through the rear windshield as it got itself out and began walking around on the road. It's lucky the cars were moving so slowly, otherwise that horse would've survived its trailer flipping over only to end up as roadkill. Nothin' like starting the trip off with a bang!

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful and absolutely gorgeous. Colorado is unlike anywhere I've ever seen before.

Credit for both photos goes to Lauren.
We stopped in a little town called Frisco for a bathroom break, and it was like something out of a movie.

When we got to Vail it was snowing lightly and I was immediately in love. I love these quaint little mountain towns, and Vail had a very European feel to it. So we stopped at the arena to pick up our tickets before wandering around for a little while.

Our tickets were good for both of that day's games; Northeastern vs. St. Cloud at two, and Wisconsin vs. Boston University at five. Since we a) really wanted to explore a little bit, and b) were really there to see the second game, we ended up getting to the arena again just in time to see the third period of the first game. I've got to say, I really enjoyed it. I might actually now be partial to women's hockey over men's hockey. There were so few whistles, and I'm a big fan of how there's no unnecessary fighting or crunching people into the boards. The final minute was also kind of ridiculous: Northeastern pulled its goalie, and St. Cloud had two opportunities to score on the empty net. On one, the shot hit the post, and on the other, the puck was cleared out of St. Cloud's zone and juuuuust went wide. It was intense!

Let's just talk about how inconvenient ice rinks are to take pictures in, okay? Yeesh.
We had about an hour in between games, which was plenty of time to figure out which bench Wisconsin would be using and move over there. ;) And then I got to wait in agony for the coaching staff to come out. (Really excited + really cold = lots of shivering, just FYI. Not that I know from experience or anything. *shifty eyes*) But then they came out and I was literally five feet behind Mark Johnson. If the glass wasn't there, I could've leaned forward and tapped him on the shoulder.

Not even sorry for the creeper pictures. Not. Even. Sorry.
There were two little girls sitting in the row in front of us, and I'm pretty sure he knew them because he turned around and waved to them. And I was right behind them wearing my bright blue coat, so I'm like 99% sure he noticed me in his periphery. ;D I was having the most epic internal fangirl attack. It was awesome.

It may sound strange, but it was really cool seeing him as an actual person. I've seen what he could do as a player, but outside of that he's just a guy, wearing a tie with a funky pattern on it and joking around with his assistant coaches. And he's a coach, calm and unruffled until a bad call is made, prompting a heated discussion with the ref, or until no call is made at all, leading him to throw his arms in the air, lean back against the glass and rub his hands down his face in frustration. I'd never experienced him as anything other than the 22-year-old who put the puck between Vladimir Myshkin's legs and looked like he was 15. But now he's well into his 50s and is one of the most successful women's hockey coaches in the country. It was great getting to see him from this perspective!

Oh, wait, there was a game going on too, right? Yeahhh, I think I recall something like that happening. Wisconsin beat BU 5-0, which surprised the heck out of me, considering both teams are top 10 in the nation.

There were some craaazy penalties in the second period...

It's a little cozy with three of you in there, isn't it?
...which completely blew my initial perception of women's hockey out of the water! Hah.

By the end of the second period, it still hadn't stopped snowing and the roads were getting bad, so we left before the third period to attempt to make some headway before the weather got any worse. That ended up being a fantastic decision, as it was now basically a blizzard and the roads were atrocious.

Photo credit goes to Lauren.
But Katie and her trusty car Felix handled it like champs, and we made it through the storm (on mountain roads, no less!) alive and in one piece. A drive that's usually less than three hours took us upwards of four and a half, but we made it! And finally, of course, no true adventure would be complete without a desperate-times-call-for-desperate-measures food run at McDonald's.

One small check for my Colorado bucket list, one giant check for an awesome day. :)

post signature

IDK My BFF Kerri Walsh Jennings

My internship is pretty cool sometimes. Well, a lot of times. I've already told you the story of how I had a Twitter conversation with Misty May-Treanor, and saw the men's national team play against Bulgaria, and talked to Karch Kiraly on the phone... but this one takes the cake:

I interviewed Kerri Walsh Jennings -- Six Feet of Sunshine, four-time Olympian, winner of three consecutive Olympic gold medals, most winningest women's beach volleyball player ever -- live and in person.

She's in town for a few events with Peak Vista Community Health Centers; first was a volleyball clinic for kids followed by a VIP reception, and the second day was a "Breakfast of Champions" at which she was the keynote speaker. USA Volleyball got a table at the breakfast so Kristina and I claimed seats because, hello, Kerri Walsh Jennings. But then word came down from The Powers That Be that we should give the event some coverage. Twist my rubber arm!

It was decided that we'd do a quick "Humans of Volleyball" photo/blurb of her on Instagram. Kristina and I were all ready to do it at the breakfast, but yesterday the plan changed -- we were going to the clinic that afternoon to catch her there instead! *insert mild panic here*

So we just, uh, casually strolled into the World Arena (seriously) and, y'know, introduced ourselves to Kerri Walsh Jennings (seriously). Luckily, though, we were with our boss; Charlie's interviewed pretty much every big-name athlete on the planet (seriously), so he breezed right in, chatted her up and presented The Interns. And she introduced herself back, as if we haven't known who she is since we were in middle school.

The actual clinic stuff came next, and Kristina snapped away on her fancy camera as Kerri helped some little kids play volleyball.

(My iPhone photos are pretty lame, but click HERE for a gallery of Kristina's pictures!)

I shagged a couple of balls, waiting nervously with my recorder and trying to keep my feet from going numb with cold (the floor was laid over the ice rink). The initial approach is always my least favorite part of interviewing people, and I felt like a really awkward vulture circling her as she signed autographs for a bunch of little kids. But I eventually snagged her! And LOOK, there's proof!

Photo cred to Kristina, awesome my partner in crime! #BallsNetsAndMoney
Clearly, she's about eight feet taller than I am. But it was a really great interview! Important people sidled up to her to try and steal her away, but she never broke eye contact and actually made me feel important. She's also incredibly sweet. :) Every sport should be so lucky to have an icon so passionate about growing the game and giving back to the next generation of players. (And I'm not just saying that because I work for USA Volleyball. Kerri gets it.)

It was a very giddy drive out of there with Kristina, let me tell you!

This morning, it was up and at 'em bright and early to head over to The Broadmoor (fancy shmancy) for the breakfast (they served steak. STEAK). It was definitely a good call talking to Kerri last night, as she was totally surrounded by people today.

Please ignore the giant ear on the right.

Kerri started her speech by stepping up to the podium, kicking off her shoes and saying, "Seriously, I don't know how you do it, ladies. I spend my days in bare feet. This is awful!" So I think it goes without saying that she's overwhelmingly, ridiculously likable, even before she donated a ton of money to Peak Vista and then offered a two-hour volleyball clinic to the silent auction to raise even MORE money. She's also a really good speaker. She flat out said that public speaking is way out of her comfort zone, but instead of being awkward about it, she was actually incredibly personable and engaging. (Again, not just saying this because I work for USA Volleyball.)

And when it was over, I got to go to work and transcribe my interview with Kerri. Then THIS HAPPENED!

We got a HEART from Kerri! :D

But my favorite part?

Who the heck are these random 38 people favoriting this?

And there's also this:

Yay, that's me! I'm one of the newbies! :)
I never know how to end posts like this. I'm all "FLAIL FLAIL FLAIL, so uh, yeah, it was pretty cool." But just know that Kerri is every bit as awesome as she seems on TV and in interviews and that we're totally BFFs now, obviously!

EDIT: Sooooo...

*drops mic*

post signature

7 Things You Don't Know About 1980 Olympic Hockey (But You Should)

As I mentioned briefly in a previous post, I am the proud owner of DVDs of the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic hockey tournament. (That's the Miracle team, in case there are any poor souls people following this blog that don't know that.) I don't even really know how I found these DVDs, because I sure wasn't looking for them. But whatever the circumstances were, I basically fell out of my chair when I realized what was in front of me. Now, I'm normally not one to happily shell out 50 bucks for... er, well, anything. But this was seven DVDs of games played by my favorite team in the world, games that I'm fairly certain don't exist online anywhere. So I counted down the days until payday, and made my purchase.

And guys, it's kind of the greatest purchase I've ever made. I totally understand why this team's entire history is boiled down to Mike Eruzione's game-winning goal against the Soviets and Jim Craig's brilliance in net, but damn. You kind of forget that there was a whole tournament leading up to that game and so, so many other heroes that played a role in that journey. Hell, I pride myself on knowing a ton about this team, and there were some things that made my jaw hit the floor.

So here we go. Prepare to be educated!

7 things you don't know about 1980 olympic hockey (but you should)

1. Bill Baker is a freaking hero. What Miracle showed happen during the game against Sweden is entirely true; the U.S. was down 2-1 and Bill Baker scored in the last minute of play to tie things up. But what the movie (and public knowledge) kind of glosses over is the fact that if Bill didn't score that goal, things would've looked very, very different for the U.S. for the rest of the tournament. That goal gave the team a ton of momentum and a little bit of a cushion. Had they lost, every game would've been a must-win. Could they have performed as well under that kind of pressure? Could they have rebounded after a loss? Well, thankfully they didn't have to find out because of Bill's goal, as the commentators reminded viewers at least once in every. single. subsequent. game. It felt like every time Bill touched the puck his prior heroics were mentioned, actually using the word "heroics" more often than not. Not sure how this got lost in the shuffle of history! And then, in the following game, he got hit in the neck/mouth area with a shot on goal. He was down on the ice for awhile, but didn't miss a shift. You go, Billy!

Bill Baker

2. Ken Morrow is the guy you want on your team. He's not the guy that was making the flashiest plays, or the guy that was lighting up the stat sheets. But Ken Morrow was always in position, always where he was needed, and always executed solidly. I'm far from a hockey expert so I can't really explain what I'm talking about, but watching these games I feel safe whenever the puck is on Ken's stick. He also apparently separated his shoulder during the game against Czechoslovakia. I didn't notice anything happen, and only knew he was hurt when Al Michaels said something during the following game, in which Ken played his normal amount of time. How the heck do you separate your shoulder without drawing attention to it and then miss zero ice time?! Jeez. I mean, after the Olympics he went straight to the New York Islanders and won three straight Stanley Cups, so clearly he was doing something very, very right.

Ken Morrow
3. Two words: Mark Pavelich. It's no secret that Pav holds a special place in my heart, but it's not even my bias speaking when I say HOLY COW could that boy play! He was always in the right place at the right time to poke the puck away from the opponent and shovel it across the crease to an open teammate, and if he wasn't, he'd just casually catch up to whoever had it. Seriously, Pav was crazy fast, and his passes were like works of art. You don't have to know a thing about him to know that he spent more time in skates growing up than he did in shoes; his hockey instincts are freaking ridiculous. It's so much fun to watch him play. You know something exciting is going to happen when Pav is on the ice.

Mark Pavelich
4. Mike Eruzione is more than that one goal. Let's talk about the captain for a sec, shall we? In Miracle and in the media, it's pretty well focused-on that Rizzo was far from the best player on the team. Herb Brooks actually almost cut him several weeks before the Olympics. Somehow, in my mind at least, this turned into thinking that his game-winning goal against the Soviets was his only scoring contribution at the Olympics (that would've been a helluva story!). But he actually scored several times during round robin play, including the first goal of the 7-3 win over Czechoslovakia. Color me surprised!

Mike Eruzione
5. Mark Johnson is more than those five goals. I've raved about Mark Johnson's hockey wizardry in the past, but a little context makes a huge difference. Mark scored five goals at the Olympics, three of which came in the two games of the medal round. So that means that he only scored twice in the first five games, and in watching them I was wondering where the Magic I'd known had disappeared to. But when you think about it... he was on the ice for penalty kills. He was on the ice for power plays. Herb liked him to play for 40% of games, nearly had a (well-televised) conniption when Mark was injured against the Czechs, and told Al Michaels that, "Mark Johnson makes this team go." If I had to guess, I'd say Mark's intangibles were almost as valuable as all those points he accumulated.

Mark Johnson
6. ...And so is Buzz Schneider. On the complete flip side of Mark, my main man Buzz scored four of his five goals in round robin play and only one in the medal round. So those first five games basically belonged to Buzz. Imagine my sheer delight when, time after time, Buzz scored a goal with Pav credited for the assist! I love me that Conehead line. :) As a line (those two and Bah Harrington) they were the highest scoring on the team, and it honestly looked like they'd played on a line together for their entire lives. They were so in sync, like they knew where the others would be before they got there. So what they may have lacked in pure technical talent they made up for in "...wait, how the HECK did they just make that play?!"

Buzz Schneider

7. About 90% of them looked like they were 15 years old.

1980 US Olympic hockey team
How? HOW?!?
 That's right: a bunch of adorable little boys are behind America's greatest Olympic moment ever.

Venus Trapped in Mars

post signature