Sunday, March 23, 2014

Just Another Day in Paradise

Tonight we ventured to Paris to steal a tough four-set win (25-20, 19-25, 16-25, 21-25) against a formidable rival.  It felt so great to get a W!

I also finally found my name on USAVB dot com.  It doesn't really matter, but for some reason it feels super good just to see my name on the same list as some of the greatest female volleyball players in the world right now (Logan Tom, Nicole Davis, Alisha Glass - just to name a few)!

That's all for now.  More later!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Flying Dream

I soared over a cobble-stone swirl of city streets at the base of a dark green forested mountain range.  The sky was gloomy and gray, but I was looking down through low clouds over the town to choose where I would touch down.  I zoomed in onto the town square where a woman wore her dark hair down.  Her hair was parted down the middle and dangling in thin layers over swoops of cotton clothing.  A mother sat nearby watching her daughter dart about the wicker cafe seats.  


I promised a former student-athlete of mine that I would blog as soon as I started flying in my dreams.  Normally it means that I'm in a really good place in my life.  :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

On Overcoming Obstacles

Scars are cool.  When you're a volleyball player, bruises, floor burns, and contusions on your knees become kind of like badges of honor. Every scar has a story.  Well, the scars on my knees are kind of a long story...

I was a climb-two-stairs-at-a-time kind of kid.  At 6, I was the girl organizing a bracket for foot races with all the boys on the playground.  Athletically, I was never extraordinary, but ever since I can remember I've always *wanted* to be the fastest, jump the highest, and be the best.  That desire drove me to make the jump to a big, public high school volleyball team after playing two years for Victory Christian (a small private junior high in Fair Oaks, CA).  Freshman year I was most-improved. Sophomore year I was most-inspirational. By my Senior year I was captain on Varsity.  I've loved the game ever since.

Flash forward to college - In 2004, at our last home match against cross-town rival Holy Names (during my fourth and final season playing at Mills College in Oakland, CA), I blocked a ball and landed on a hyperextended right knee, causing my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) to snap and roll up like blinds.

That December, I elected to undergo ACL surgery.  I awoke from sedation with my sister Sarah and my mom by my bedside.  The searing pain in my knee caused involuntary tears to pour from the corners of my eyes and down my cheeks and soak my hospital gown.  For fear of this pain returning, I finished all the prescribed meds (which left me useless and drooling on my parents couch for two weeks).  Haha...  This half-baked state was perfect for appreciating my parents' two thousand cable channels (mostly TCM and the food channel).  My mind was a perfect *mush* when I went back to Mills on crutches to finish my Senior spring.  But I was prancing around in high heels by graduation day and, the following August, after 8 months of physical therapy, I was back at Mills getting taped up for the Alumni match.

I continued to play, and in 2007, in a qualifying match at an outdoor grass tournament in Detroit, IL, it happened again, but this time to my left knee!  After planting a kill cross-court on the three meter line, a crack sounded out that sent shivers down my spine.  I knew instantly it was another ACL tear. This meant another surgery and another year of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (ie, no running, no jumping, no climbing two stairs at a time, and, worst of all... no volleyball!).

Six months later... After my second elective surgery, I stopped the meds after the first day.  Falling asleep without pain-killers that night was a little like jumping off a cliff, but I woke up basically pain-free the next morning.  It sounds crazy, but being awake and aware and not all drugged up helped me meditate on my body's natural ability to heal.  I put some of the tools my college coach, Marla Mundis, had taught me to good use.  As I dredged through 6 more months of rehab, I visualized my recovery.  This may sound a little ridiculous, but I imagined a mini-construction crew going up and down the inner workings of my knee joint on scaffolding, soldering and smoothing over all the rough surfaces.  Being off the meds also gave me the presence of mind to focus on the challenge at hand...  REHAB.  Once again, I re-learned how to stand, walk, run, tip toe, kneel, climb, jump, land, cycle, swim, and play.

Over the long run - being hurt was an obstacle that created so many positive outcomes in my life.  I became closer to my parents and Billy (who I relied on incessantly during this time).  My goal of maintaining healthy knees drove me into the yoga studio.  I started coaching to stay involved in the sport.  Ten years later, I'm still using my knowledge of ACL injuries to teach proper mechanics in the next generation of volleyball players: how to jump and land and quickly change direction *safely* and how to improve leg strength in ways that will support the whole body.  The rehab made me completely unafraid of square one.  Today I am fully recovered...  And now, I would venture to say that *my wounds healed me*.

The original injuries were scary.  They made me feel broken and (albeit temporarily) strangely robbed me of my femininity.  Being hurt changed the way I moved through the world and the way I saw myself.  However, the surgeries were even more scary.  Afterwards, I felt physically, financially, and spiritually crippled.  Violated and maimed.  And then, of course, this was abruptly followed by the demanding uphill road of rehabilitation, which required time, planning, and - most of all - conviction.  After my second ACL surgery, it took me a good five years to get back where I was (that is, back to taking stairs two at a time).

Now, I'm not sure if I'll ever stop taking two stairs at a time, but I know that if I do, I will do so knowing that my strength doesn't come from knees.  My true strength as a human being comes from a deep hidden place within me that I discovered thanks to my knees.  :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Natural

"You've got a gift, Roy.  It's not enough.  A clear mind and the ability to see from the heart.  That's real strength.  Just pick a spot and work at it.  The secret is confidence and concentration...  you got them you don't need much else."  - Quote taken from the movie The Natural

I've never been called a natural.  Ask any one of my coaches.  My athleticism has always been forced.  So, while my sister Sarah was a game-winning-goal-scoring soccer star and my sister Chrissy was landing back flips on a balance beam, I was best known for being wimpy and wiry and choking under pressure.

Coaches never recognized me for having natural talent or a gift - not once - and for good reason.  Ha!  In my youth, I saw this as a setback, but looking back now I've realized that this mindset really helped me.  I remember one time, after missing a wide-open game-changing shot, my dad took me out to a soccer field to practice my aim.  I didn't go on to score many goals after that, but this evening did teach me a valuable lesson:  "just pick a spot and work at it"

Being programmed from a very early age to believe that success was not going to come as easily to me as it did to others gave me the quiet confidence I needed to tryout for the Bella Vista high school volleyball team (despite my dad telling me "Amy, there's no way you're going to make the Bella Vista volleyball team!" Haha... he was almost right!).  I barely squeaked by with the last spot on the JV roster.  Bella Vista drew from a pretty strong pool of girls who were already playing club, so once I made the team my mission was clear:  try, fail, repeat.

For the four years that I played at BV and the two years that I played club (at Orangevale and Twin Rivers) my parents were a constant source of support.  They drove me all over Northern California to games and tournaments.  They shelled out copious amounts of hard-earned cash for club fees. They gave me pep-talks and cheered me on from the stands. They did all this probably not even realizing how desperately I needed it... Blah blah blah - I was a HUGE nerd with no friends who ate lunch alone in a bathroom stall - wah wah.  I digress!  The point is - I never expected volleyball to come naturally, but instead relied on a sticktoitiveness (which stemmed from my parents' steady support) to fuel every single inch of my progress in this sport.

Moral of the story?  Natural or not, having great parents is helpful.  And if you aren't talented don't worry about it because hard work works!  :)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

French Milestone #3

This evening I celebrated International Day of the Woman with a whole stadium at the Tours vs. S├Ęte professional men's volleyball game. A few guys from my men's regional team were seated up in the stands together like a good volleyball mafia family, so we watched together as TVB won handily.

We caught the tram back to Saint-Cyr and bantered the whole way.  Now, granted, #1 these guys are joksters (most of the time they're laughing anyway because they'll laugh at almost anything), #2 they are accustomed to my accent and humoring me, and #3 it isn't always easy to differentiate whether they are laughing at me or with me, but - audience aside - I'm pretty sure I was on fire tonight.  I made a couple of well-timed zingers that genuinely made this whole group of native french guys laugh out loud.  Ahhhh - felt so good!  Group laughter is a new high for me - so I thought I'd share!  :)

Alright, that's all for now.  More later!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Random Ramblings - Part III

Forget About It

The French say "laisser tomber" like gangsters say "forget about it".  What does it mean??  Make up your minds!!!

A Tall Drink of Anything

You know the feeling when you order a large orange juice at a diner and you're super let down when it comes out because it's 8 oz?  Imagine a whole country with cupboards packed full of this special brand of diner-sized disappointments.  French cups are designed for sipping on much smaller serving sizes.  I now guzzle juice directly from the carton and (more often than not) while standing in front of the refrigerator.  I know - it's sad - but it doesn't make sense to dirty a glass for one gulp...  it's not even a big gulp.  Hehe... ;)

Basic Instincts

Dropping Billy off at the airport reminded me that I haven't seen a wax paper toilet seat cover in a while.  In fact, you're lucky if you get a toilet seat at all in most public restrooms around here.  And, oh, instead of the little handle, the French use a myriad of levers, buttons, and hand-sized trick-door-style contraptions to flush their business.  Each visit to the lou is followed by a multiple choice quiz:  a. #1, b. #2, or c. all of the above.  You can normally choose c (all options available) without fail, and yes, sometimes you still have to jiggle it a little.  Ha!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Home Is Wherever I'm With You

Here is a cheesy slideshow of the precious time Billy and I spent together in France! *

* These photos were put in chronological order for the most part, so it's a total coincidence that this song weirdly corresponded to a bunch of the shots...  Also, I tried to use photos that we didn't already photobomb you with on facebook, but I was not entirely successful, so sorry for the dupes. 

For the best results, watch all the way through with your eyes glued to the screen.  For those of you who want a *real* challenge, try watching without blinking.  It's only five minutes!!  You can do it.  If you're new to this kinda thing, your goal is to stay in the room.  That's a super nerdy bikram yoga joke.  Haha!  :)