How Roller Derby Saved My Soul…

I heard this song by Rachel Platten a few days ago (and, yes, I realize it is now in a car commercial).

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

It made me think about the past few years of my life and roller derby specifically.  I get a lot of questions from people like “Why the hell would you ever want to play roller derby?”

You see, roller derby fundamentally changed my life for the better.  I wouldn’t change a minute of it. Let me explain.

I had been stalking local roller derby teams for over a year.  It sounded like the most fun.  I loved roller skating when I was a kid and I thought this was an opportunity to do it as an adult.  I read Facebook posts, studied the rules, and followed all of the local teams.  I bought all of my gear, but still had not worked up the nerve to actually attend a practice.  Why?  I was scared to death.  Scared I wouldn’t fit in.  Scared I’d fall.  Scared I’d make a fool out of myself.  So, for over a year, I sat staring at my brand new pair of skates and trying to muster the balls to go to practice.

Then, something amazing happened.  My friend, Morgan, suddenly tells me that she has joined a roller derby team and she thinks I should come to practice with her.  She continued to pester me every week until I finally showed up one Sunday night. My fears of fitting in were quickly gone.  There were women of all different ages, sizes, professions, races and they greeted me like an old friend.  It was clear that there was no “fitting in” in roller derby.

There was a girl named Straight Jackie who was assigned to show me the derby ropes.  She was 18, had a bright pink mohawk, and was wearing the cutest red sailor dress I’ve ever seen.  In my 36 years, I’d never seen anyone like her and I suddenly wanted to BE her.  She was testing my skills and I kept repeating “I don’t want to fall.  I’m scared to fall.”  After I whined about falling the 100th time, Jackie shoved me to the ground with all her might.  I looked at her with a stare that said, “This crazy bitch half my age just knocked me to the ground.  Who do you think you are?”.  She simply said to me, “There.  You fell.  You didn’t die.  Get back up and let’s do it again.”  At that moment, I realized life really was that simple.  You fall.  You fail.  You get back up.  You survive.

When I joined the roller derby team, I was in a really bad place in my life.  I was in a miserable relationship (we were both miserable…not just me), I hated my job, I missed my family, I was overwhelmed.  I was doing everything for everyone else…kids, work, boyfriend, school, community, friends…but, I had nothing that was for me.  I was unhappy and stressed out.  I was drinking too much and avoiding reality.  I think there was maybe one friend who actually knew how bad things had gotten and what a terrible spot I was in.  I was excellent at pushing down my feelings and pretending things were A-OK.  I knew, however, it was only a matter of time before the facade I’d built came crumbling down.

Derby gave me an escape from all of that.  It gave me a place where I could truly be myself for the first time in a long time.  I finally found the old Ginger again.  I found new friends who loved me, flaws and all.  I realized that I could get knocked down a million times and still get back up.  I discovered that nothing makes you feel quite as powerful as having bruises all over your body and knowing that you earned every last one of them.

Derby gave me the courage to leave my bad relationship.  It gave me the strength to be my authentic self.  Roller derby has made me a better mother because I have an outlet for my stress.  Without derby, I never would’ve had the guts to go on an online dating site and meet the wonderful man who would become my husband.

People are amazed that I still plan to continue playing once my ankle is healed.  Why would I leave something I love so much behind?  It would be like abandoning an old friend.  An old friend who made you discover a strength inside yourself that you never knew you had.

For all of you considering stepping out of your comfort zone, I highly recommend it.  Train for that marathon.  Go skydiving.  Strap on some skates.  Travel to a new location.  Change jobs.  Go back to school.  You’ll be amazed how much letting go of your fear will change your life for the better.

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For Father’s Day

Since Father’s Day is rapidly approaching, I thought I’d write a post for the Dads out there.

I was blessed to be raised by a pretty amazing Dad.  He worked incredibly hard to provide a good life for my Mother, brother, sister, and I.

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No matter how gruff he was or how much we disagreed, I knew that I was loved.  I knew that we all were.  He especially loved my Mother and greeted her with a kiss every day when he got home from work.  They were best friends, sweethearts, and gave me an example of the kind of relationship I wanted (although, it would take me years to find it). He liked to make up rhyming nicknames for everyone (Gingy Wingy, Lizzy Whizzy, etc.) and to do little dances when he won a fight with my Mother.  He loved Budweiser and Kools and canned meats.  He had forearms like Popeye and an impressive beer belly.  He was either deeply loved or violently hated by all who knew him because he refused to take shit or back down from what he believed.  He was my Father and I have missed him every single day since he passed in October 2012.  I still pick up the phone to call and ask him how to fix a leaky sink or what kind of car to buy or to talk about the crazy weather.  I have to remind myself that he’s gone and that calling him is no longer an option.

I got a tattoo of his signature shortly after he died as a small reminder of him and because I knew a tattoo would drive him absolutely insane.  (Daughters still have to cause trouble sometimes…)

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I now have three children of my own from two different relationships.  (I know! Slut!!) They are amazing kids. I am thankful every day to the men who gave them to me despite how terribly our relationships turned out.  I couldn’t imagine life without these three little humans.

I still get along with the men who gave me these children and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I could spend my days filled with hate and anger and tears, but I simply refuse.  People often ask why it is important to me to maintain a good relationship with my children’s fathers.  First, I never want to be the reason that my children don’t get along with their other parent.  If they screw it up, that’s on them.  Second, the things that happened between us to end our relationship, is between us.  It has nothing to do with the kids.  We are all adults and should be expected to act like it.  And, finally, I’m tired.  I don’t have enough energy to hate anyone or to spend my time worrying about someone else.  My goal is to raise happy, healthy, productive members of society.  That’s all.

I am now re-married to a man who is an amazing Stepfather to my children.  He has never for a minute treated them like they weren’t his.  He loves them unconditionally and does his best to have a good relationship with their biological fathers.  He has changed our lives so dramatically in the past year and I am so very grateful.

I am fortunate that the kids love him just as much as he loves them.  One of my girlfriends told me that he is the best thing to ever happen to my kids and, sometimes, I think she is right.  He paints my daughter’s nails, gives them bubble baths, transports them to their activities, makes them brush their teeth, treats their boo-boos, and worries about them growing up right.  He also loves their Mother and greets her with a kiss every day when he comes home from work.  There really should be a Stepdads Day…

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