Posts Tagged overcoming challenges

Skating with Molotov: Portland Renegade Roller Derby

Last week, after I wrote a post that referred to my own elbow-throwing, competitive propensities, a woman who skates by the name of Molotov approached me on my Facebook Page, Running from Hell with El, to see if I was interested in sponsoring a growing derby league, Portland Renegade Roller Derby. We started talking, and this Q&A is what resulted. Oh, and my answer is yes, hell yes I want to help support this league of hardy souls!rollerderby521293_320380494737815_1774815638_n

El: I just think roller derby is the coolest, most fascinating thing!

Molotov: It is pretty great. And seeing how it can bring a community of women together is kinda amazing too. My league is a renegade league, which means we broke off from a bigger league here in our town.

El: Ahhh–I was wondering what the renegade meant. I mean, I see renegade and I automatically smile!

Molotov: It was too big and micro managed and became for profit and lost a lot of its community feel. What they are doing is great for a lot of people, but we just wanted something different. So it thus has became a lot of hard work starting a league and team from the ground up!

El: Grinning. How long have you been playing roller derby (is “playing” the right word?)?

Molotov: I’ve been skating most of my life, but only have been skating derby since November.

El: So it’s called “skating” derby?

Molotov: Most of our coaches and base teammates have been playing for four to six years. It’s called “bouting.” Once I made the mistake of calling it a “game” the first time I went to a bout. And I was very embarrassed.

El: LOL–I can imagine.

 Molotov: But we say skate usually.

 El: you’ve been skating most your life? Hockey or ice skating?rollerderbytwo54333_308446725931192_1930708213_o

 Molotov: Just roller skating and blading.

El: This is fascinating! And you were a runner before?

Molotov: Yes, since I was 18. I still want to run again. I haven’t really since last June.

El: I don’t think we ever lose that desire. Did you suffer an injury?

Molotov: I have anemia and it was too much. I was getting out of breath and really sick. My 7 year old beat me in the last 5k we did together.

El: Shaking head–that’s rough.

Molotov: So I knew something must be wrong then.

El: Yes for sure. How did you find derby?

Molotov: I wanted to play derby for a long time. My kids and I watched Whip It back when it came out.

El: That was awesome!

Molotov: My best friend is involved in another derby group in our town.

El: That’s the main league right?

Molotov: she has been skating with them for years and still not on a team. I went with her to a bout a couple of years ago and met the person who is now the ringleader of our group.

El: The ringleader–is that the league commissioner of the renegade league?

Molotov: Yes, our president. I just call her ringleader to be silly.

El: LOL! What does roller derby do for you?

Molotov: I always wanted to do derby, but always thought it was too expensive, too much time, I didn’t deserve to spend then time on myself, etc etc. I was in a very unpleasant marriage up until just a few years ago and never would have been doing this if I was still married.

El: I’m so glad you’re out of that marriage hun! I was talking about derby tonight with my husband, and he grinned at me.

“You know Cutie, if you were younger . . .”

 ” . . . Yep. I’d do it for sure! Nothing more fun than throwing elbows and hitting people, lol.” I replied.


© Earl McGehee

© Earl McGehee

does that sound familiar?

Molotov: Lol! Totally.

El: Grinning. I thought so!

Molotov: We have people of all ages.

El: What’s the range?

Molotov: 23-43, currently.

El: How old are you, if you don’t mind my asking?

Molotov: I’m 32.

El: Oh you’re just a kid!

Molotov: Ugh–wish I felt like just a kid.

El: Are you kidding me? 32?! You’re in your athletic prime!

Molotov: So I met this crazy, fun, positive, happy gal at a bout. Her name is Julie Locktress and a year later (last November) she invited me to be part of what we are calling the Renegade movement. At first I thought I was too weak and tired to even skate because of my anemia. I hadn’t ran since June or May. I hadn’t been on skates in two years, since I had taken a fall and hurt my tailbone. But I was depressed and anxious and needed a cause for myself other then just raising my kids and carting them around to their sporting events and working 50 hours a week to keep a roof over their heads I don’t get any child support from their father and am basically on my own.

El: Oh man–50 hours a week and no child support? And hun, we all need something greater than ourselves, you know?

Molotov: Yes, exactly. So I figured at least I could help with the admin part of it.

El: (nodding)

Molotov: But then I started taking derby classes and I went broke and ate Top rRmen and oatmeal packets for lunch to buy skates and gear

El: that is *awesome* good on you!

 Molotov: And I’ve beePortlandrenegades29544_308788379230360_644203395_nn working ferociously to get better and stronger and raise awareness and get sponsors and skaters. I got in touch with a friend I had not seen for 10 years and now she is going to skate with us. And she brought another girl, who also brought a friend and so on and so on.

 El: Right!

Molotov: So we have a mix of new skaters and older experienced skaters. we are from all walks of life

El: Like what careers?

Molotov: One is a Native American and she is a licensed Drug and alcohol counselor.

Locktress is a hairdresser.

El: grinning.

Molotov: We have a waitress/model, a graduate student, a nurse, a logistics worker/liberal arts major.

El: A nurse!? LOL!

Molotov: Yep . . . and a construction/flooring sales personrenegades

El: And what’s your 50-hour week job?

Molotov: I work in shipping/receiving/inventory control for a laser test equipment company. I was a full time student too up until a couple of years ago . . . I’m hoping to get back to school one day.

El: (nodding) I hear ya.

 Molotov: Yes . . . no time to be sad or feel sorry for myself. When I am not busy that is when I start to fade. So I work hard, love hard, play hard.

 El: Seriously I get that. And don’t think too hard or too much (that’s my problem lol).

 Molotov: Mine too.

El: Yeah.

Molotov: I wanted to be a philosophy major.

El: And that’s where sports and competition help me. Who is your favorite philosopher?

Molotov: Tolstoy.

El: Loved War and Peace. Why Tolstoy?

Molotov: His writings on women and love really speak to me for some reason. I like a lot of the less known ones too… like Karl Marx. Economics and philosophy are very closely related.

El: So as a philosopher, what does derby signify to you?

Molotov: Oh wow . . . that is very deep . . .

El: that’s where I abide lol!

Molotov: I suppose it lies in the theory that we must make today count . . . and each moment . . . and I want to inspire and help others the way that I have been inspired and helped by so many. If I had know that my life could be as good as it is now, I would have chosen a different path very long ago. But it matters not now, because here I am and I am what I do with it. I got a tattoo on my back a year ago that reads ” take the pieces and build them up to the sky” its a line from my favorite song and summarizes the journey of my life.

El: Beautiful. What song is it?TwoNorthWestJammers

Molotov: It’s a most beautiful song . . .

El: Biffy Clyro?

Molotov: YES.

El: Listening now. OMG if I were building a soundtrack for Ripple this would be in it. It’s profoundly moving to me, in ways I can hardly explain. There’s a scene in Ripple when Phoebe, the rape victim, is falling apart, but her friend talks to her, helps hold her together, and this song, it could be playing.

Molotov: I’ve had a lot of people who have helped hold me together . . . so yes.

El: Same here. This song, the one tattooed on your back–is this what derby kind of means to you?

Molotov: I think what derby means to me . . . is a dream that I had given up on coming true. And an exciting journey just beginning. One I am so honored and proud to be a part of.

El: That makes me so happy to hear, almost happy tears, you know? Because we should all find those dreams and take part in those journeys.

Molotov: It’s easy to find excuses not to follow our dreams. The hard part is doing what we really want.

To support these great women, please follow them on Facebook. If you’re interested in sponsoring them, as I sure am, please contact them here: Sponsorship packages start for as low as $50.

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Walking Away: G&T with a Lime on Top

I walk into the kitchen and I smell it before I see it.  Lime.  Gin.  Tonic water.  I lick my lips.   Remember the old movies?  The alcoholic walks into a bar and his face contorts in misery.  He licks his lips.  He covers his mouth with his hand.  He fidgets and shoves his hands in his pockets.  And you think to yourself, He’s going to end up drinking.  He looks so weak, in so much pain.  How can he possibly hold on?  Damn him.  Damn his for surrendering.

I could walk over and drink it.  Or maybe just take out the lime and suck on it.

That’s my favorite part.  The lime.  Just like my mom’s favorite part of a Manhattan was not the whiskey or the vermouth.  It was the maraschino cherry on top.  “Why, Mom,” I would say with childlike innocence as a teenager, “Can’t you just pour the cherry juice and a few cherries into a soda and drink the part of it you really like?”  She would chuckle, and so would my father as he mixed the Manhattan.  That’s one of the things he did well: mix drinks.  My brother is good at it too.  And then she would wave her hand with a devil-may-care bravado and eat the cherries and drink the whiskey and vermouth.  After all, it’s the cherry on top, but the alcohol beneath it, that makes the fucking cherry taste like heaven on earth.

I glare at the lime and the gin and the tonic.  It is not my friend.  One time, before we had children, we drank many G&Ts and I said, “Let’s paint the dining room.”  And he laughed and we got out the blue paint and the rollers and brushes and turned on the music and we had a grand time painting and dancing around until it was . . . stop.  Good memory, and good memories are bad when you’re staring at a glistening crystal glass filed with gin and tonic and a lime on top.

When do you know you have a drinking problem?  Is it when you lick your lips and imagine the liquid burning your throat as it works its way into your belly?  Is it when you close your eyes and wait for the buzz that only a stiff drink will bring?  Even bad buzzes are good buzzes at least at first.  And bad buzzes make worse memories fuzzy.  Fuzzy bad memories hurt less than clear memories, clear like crystal glasses filled with . . . stop.

When do you realize you’re an alcoholic?  Is it when you mourn, and celebrate all in the same instant, the fact that you turn, and tighten your jaw, and walk away from the glistening crystal glass with the gin and the tonic and the lime on top?

I don’t know.  I don’t know anything.  Except that I turn, and even as I lick my lips, I walk away from the glistening crystal glass with the gin and the tonic and the lime on top.  I walk away tonight, and that’s all that matters.  Tomorrow?  Tomorrow is another day and I don’t contemplate tomorrow until it’s today.

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Seizures are No Joke

Good morning my friends.   I hope you will bear with me and listen for a minute or two.  A joke about seizures caught my eye this morning, and it touched a sensitive place inside me.  I have a seizure disorder. Please do not pity me. It is a diagnosis and sometimes a grim one; however, it sure as hell is not a death sentence. To be honest, those of us with epilepsy do have shorter life spans (sorry dear husband if you are reading this: this is why I don’t like to plan for retirement), but while alive, I LIVE.

I do not sit around worrying when the next grand mal is going to hit.  I cram as much living as I can into my life.  I swim, just not alone in the ocean.  I run marathons–nine, soon to be ten.  I bore three beautiful children, despite the risks, and they arrived without the genetic defects that anti-seizure drugs sometimes cause; indeed, my daughter survived the two grand mal seizures I suffered while pregnant without sustaining any damage.

I drive . . . but not at night.  And I write.  It is true that I lost my vocabulary bank when one grand mal lit up my temporal lobe, but I rebuilt most of it.  And while I never regained my map section, I navigate with a laugh and a lot of circular reasoning.

When I read stuff that equates a seizure to an emotional reaction, or uses the analogy of having a seizure to tell a joke, it upsets me.  Hearing bad news does not cause seizures.  An epileptic is not a spaz; she does not wig out and then convulse on the floor when she gets over-excited or emotional.

In a normal brain, millions of specialized nerve cells, called neurons, transmit electrical impulses.  These impulses communicate with other areas of the brain and help us function. When these impulses misfire, a seizure occurs. Or as I explained to my children, sometimes an electrical storm goes off in my brain.  Lightning flashes.  Thunder rolls.  Usually, the seizures last for a few minutes.  If a seizure goes on for more than five minutes, I am in Status epilepticus (SE).  This is a life-threatening condition in which the brain is in a state of persistent seizure.  Watch the clock.  Pick up the phone.  Call 911.  And pray.  At that point, the brain is destroying itself and Mom might die.

Friends, there is nothing funny about having a seizure.  When I hear seizure jokes, it reminds me of my own mortality, which I can handle most days.  Hell, I remember it each night when I say my prayers and thank God for watching over me while I sleep.  What I cannot handle is feeling that you think I somehow can corral these neurons that zip around inside my brain.  I take my meds every day, try to get enough sleep, avoid bright flashing lights and alcohol, but beyond that, I cannot reduce the chance that another seizure will strike.  It is not within my volition.

Don’t feel sorry for me.  But please don’t make fun of me either.   And if you would like to learn more about seizures, please visit:

What words upset you?  What jokes hit a nerve?

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