Sunday, October 17, 2010

The bet's to you, Rabbi.

I just returned from a retreat in northern Marin county, a weekend with people of all ages, organized by my synagogue.  A fun weekend, like being at summer camp again.  The most unexpected delight of the weekend, though, was Candyland Poker.

Our rabbi wanted to learn how to play poker so he could join a rabbis' game he knows about.  So a group of us taught him how to play Texas Hold 'Em.  (A bunch of guys and me.  It was bizarre for me to be the most knowledgeable in the bunch.)  Once we taught him the rules, we realized that without betting it wouldn't really be teaching him poker.  But:

  • We had no chips
  • It was Shabbat, so we weren't supposed to be gambling with money.
Frustrated at this, the rabbi walked off and came back with a Candyland set from the child care area.  Per his idea, we used the Candyland cards as chips, and the rabbi delighted in each bet.  He was so excited about the Candyland cards that he wanted to value them differently based on color and number of squares, with special value for the "princess" cards: the candy cane princess, the ice cream princess, the gumdrop creature, etc.  We talked him out of it; he insisted, though, that when we bet we turn the Candyland cards face up so that we could at least celebrate the colors and princesses.

There was something infectious about the fun of Candyland cards: if someone bet with a double color or a princess, we trash-talked about it -- "Oh, he must be feeling confident!"

The rabbi also suggested that we play what he called "kibbutz rules."  Since we weren't playing with money, and we didn't have very many Candyland cards, the rule was that if you ran out of Candyland cards after a hand, the person with the biggest stack had to give you half.  (There was a brief discussion of welfare policy: Should we tax all equally, or should donations to the cashless be voluntary from the group?  Were we creating incentives to be lazy?)

The rabbi is fine with us calling him by his first name, but no one did in this scenario: it was too much fun to say, "Bet's to you, Rabbi."

A friend had brought his guitar and played and sang for us.  How many people play poker to live music?

There was a lot of wine involved.  We played for three hours.  By the end, the rabbi was telling people to stop the chitchat and just bet -- he was totally hooked.  (The second night we tried playing using candy from a huge bag as chips, but the phrase, "Pass me a Tootsie-Roll" quickly showed that to be a bad idea, and we returned to the Candyland card model.)

Three of us in the poker group, plus our guitar-playing troubadour, formed the Candyland Poker Band.   During the adults' open mic night, we brought the house down (which had been listening to unbelievably lame jokes) by performing a couple of Beatles songs.  Apparently, I can sing well.

The Candyland poker group is going to reconvene back in civilization.  We may end up using chips and money.  I hope that we can still hang on to the levity we found on Friday night.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fear of commitment

On Saturday I bought a kentia palm for my home.  I know it's a kentia palm because I just looked at the label on the side of the pot.  I bought it because it is an indoor plant; because it fit my image of what should go in that spot; and because OSH has a plant guarantee, and since I kill plants I'm going to need that.

Owning this plant is freaking me out.  I don't own plants.  I buy kitty grass for Sophie, she chews it, it dies, and I throw it out.  I buy cut flowers.  I don't remember the last plant I owned.

A plant is a live thing I need to care for.  But it's not like having a cat.  Most people would think that it would be harder to take care of a mammal because the stakes are higher.  But it's easier when the thing interacts with you.  I have no problem feeding a cat regularly and keeping the litter box clean and taking her to the vet when necessary.  If I forget to feed Sophie, she sits on my lap and makes sure I don't do anything without thinking of her first.

It's not like having a person.  With dating and relationships, you know when date night is.  There's a routine.  And if needs aren't being met, you can talk about it and sort it out.  (Or not.  But at least you can interact.)

A plant just sits there.  It has fragility and needs to be maintained.  It needs to be kept alive, but it doesn't tell you what it needs.  How am I supposed to make this work?

I think I'm supposed to buy it a new pot.  Something pretty.  And I'm supposed to water it.  It gets sunlight -- I'm pretty sure it's grown since I brought it home.

It might help to name it.  I'm stuck on a name, though.  I don't want to gender the plant: do I want a male plant or a female plant?  I am not particularly enamored of having to water Bob.

And maybe I should have date night with it.  Meaning, on Saturday nights I make sure it is watered.

I look at it and think, "So pretty."  And then I think, "What am I supposed to do now?"

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Turning over a new leaf

I seem to be dealing with my breakup by eating a lot of pizza, toast, peanut butter, and ice cream.  So today I went to Berkeley Bowl determined to turn my eating habits around.  Here is the inventory:

  • Zucchini
  • Crookneck squash
  • Tofu
  • Tomatoes
  • Corn on the cob (midwestern comfort food -- just husking it makes me happy)
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Mango
  • Orange juice (for the screwdrivers)
I'm promising myself greens, salad fixings, and peaches in the future.

Not that I'm going to stop with the ice cream; I'll just have some healthy stuff in me first.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chasing a buck

As I was walking up the hill behind the stadium to my car today, I saw some burly college boys by the side of the road.  Were they messing with my car?  No.  They'd noticed the deer that live on the steep hill above the road, and one of them was climbing the hill with a big pointy stick.  They were goading each other on.  I've seen a beautiful buck there (tried to take a picture, but with just an iPhone it's impossible -- they are camouflaged, you know?), and they'd seen it.

"That one has four points!" one said.  It was like watching them become cave men: stick, animal, grunt.

I felt protective of the deer, my special buck whom I'd watched for several minutes the other day in a moment of peacefulness.  Although at the same time I thought, "Steep hill, clumsy oafs -- that deer is going to vanish so fast they won't know what happened."

And yet the boys thought they could do this.  Stick, animal, grunt.

As I came up the hill toward them, I glared.  The presence of a woman?  The presence of a mother figure?  It was funny to watch them turn on each other now that the Other had arrived.  One of them picked up his bag, and as he drifted away from the others he said to them, "Man, you came all the way up here just to chase a deer?"

The other two put on their helmets and together hopped on a single teeny tiny scooter and rode away.

Boys and their toys.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Green figs and wood

I went on a bit of a shopping spree at Nordstrom tonight.  I had a fairly unusual experience for Nordstrom lately: everyone wanted to help me.  Not always the Nordstrom experience; perhaps they were grateful for a customer on a Tuesday night?  And it's quite different from my experience at Saks a while back, when, on a Saturday, I was the only person in the store and all the salespeople still ignored me.

I went to the fragrance section to buy a new bottle of Un Jardin en Mediterrannee.  (Has it really been two years since I found it?  I never thought I'd finish a whole bottle.)  The young saleswoman was moving very briskly, approaching me immediately to help me, not schmoozing me at all (it turns out that she was getting off of work in 10 minutes).  She seemed to appreciate that I knew exactly what I wanted and snatched it for me from the locked cabinet.  Then I said, "Is there anything else I should try since I like this one so much?"  She thought quickly and said, "Annick Goutal's new fig fragrance."  Perfect.  Annick Goutal is always a good bet.  She sprayed it on paper, I smelled it, I asked for a sample, she gave me a sample, I sprayed it on my arm, and I was out of there.

... high as a kite on this scent!  It's called Ninfeo Mio, and I couldn't remove my wrist from my nose.  It starts figgy, citrusy, green; the middle notes intrigued me, and all I could think of was some sort of exotic tropical citrus, like etrog or persimmon (?), plus perhaps some orange blossom; it ended powdery and yet somehow a little sour, figgy, citrusy, hint of floral, complex.  So obviously far superior to the fragrances I'd explored at Sephora.

I read reviews of it as soon as I got home.  It is indeed considered a spectacular fragrance.  And I got the name of the perfumer: Isabelle Doyen.  It's so good, I want to follow her career.

Other reviewers mention the floral, and they describe the fig as milky, which does begin to nail down this ineffable smell.  The sourness I was perceiving comes from boxwood.  And some of that citrus was actually mango!  They also mention a lavender note, which I consciously missed but which must be why I found it so immediately appealing.  My favorite review compares it directly to Un Jardin en Mediterrannee as well as to the sibling of my orange fragrance, Acqua di Parma's Fico di Amalfi fragrance.  She says:

Both of those I would describe as fig fragrances with woody citrus, whereas Ninféo Mio I would describe as a woody citrus with fig, in case that makes any sense to anybody.
Makes perfect sense to me.

I'm glad I have a sample.  I don't think I could wear this fragrance regularly, but the way it excites and intrigues the olfactory parts of my brain makes me want to take this journey again.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A dayenu day

I am in Mendocino with my boyfriend.

On the way home from walking around town (which took very little time, and even the shops that said they would open at 11:00 had not opened yet), we decided to stop into the Stevenswood Resort and Spa.

I'd heard of Stevenswood while listening to KQED.  A station I choose to avoid in favor of KALW, but it was pledge drive time and I was navigating through it.  KQED said, "If you donate $120, or $10 per month, we'll give you a $100 gift certificate to the Stevenswood Spa in Mendocino."  Since B. and I had already decided to go to Mendocino, I reached for my laptop to look it up.

Whoa.  The rooms cost $399 to $895 depending on demand.  It's gorgeous.  A bit too over the top for this stage of my relationship.  I sent it to B. with a note saying, "Something to aspire to."

I considered the gift certificate.  It would hardly make a dent.

Then KQED went to a "listener perspective."  Reason #2 that I don't listen to KQED.  (Reason #1 is either that their announcers sound like drunk old men or that their "news" is not news; it's prerecorded narratives that don't tell me anything I want to know when I listen to the radio in the morning.)  The listener perspective was from an Silicon Valley engineer who went on about how MBAs are useless and ruining Silicon Valley, and he told a story about a young woman with whom he didn't work well.  He generalized over this experience.

My reactions:

  1. They've hit a new low.
  2. I will not donate money.
  3. They just alienated people who have money, which during a pledge drive, immediately after they asked for money, is even more stupid than I thought they were.
I went online and told them so.

Back to Mendocino.  B. and I stopped into Stevenswood to check out the spa products and maybe the spa.  We were met by Connie, who is the nicest, most wonderful person in the world.  She gave us brochures, and when I commented that they even have a bar in the spa, she said, "Oh, we are having a free wine and olive oil tasting."  So we joined in -- great wine, yummy olive oil on terrific bread.

If we had just had the wine and olive oil tasting, it would have been enough.  Dayenu.

B. decided we should see a room (for future visits), and Connie gave us a tour.  The rooms are great.  Tempur-pedic beds.  The tasting and the tour would have been enough.  Dayenu.

We asked her if we could have massages immediately, and she said yes.  Dayenu.

But before we have our massages, would we like to go sit in the hot tub?  For as long as we'd like?  She provided a set of bathrobes and flip flops, towels, and showed to the outdoor private hot tub, open to the sky and the trees, totally gorgeous.  It drizzled in a beautiful way.  Dayenu.

We sat in that hot tub saying, "Holy cow, what just happened?"

Prior to the massage, we rested in the waiting area on incredibly comfy chaise lounges with our heads supported by Tempur-pedic pillows.  It would have been enough just to do that.  Dayenu.

Hot stone deep tissue massage in the couples room.  Dayenu.

"By the way," Connie said, "we have champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries for after you are done."  Dayenu.

As we returned to the chaise lounges to have our champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries, they put down comforters over us so we could keep warm.

When we returned to our room, the sun had come out (contrary to all predictions), and it was warm.  We sat on the deck in the sun and looked out at the ocean and said, "Dayenu."

Friday, February 26, 2010

One of those lists

I'm home, sick today.  Therefore, I think I'll find myself working through this.  I know it's a good list because it has the sneezing panda cub on it.

The joy of women's hockey

I am watching the women's hockey Olympic gold medal game.

After a few years of not watching hockey because I wasn't playing, I am starting up again.  I went to a Sharks vs. Blackhawks game and couldn't believe how great it was to be back.  And now in the Olympics I am watching not just great hockey and great hockey players (Hayley Wickenheiser is still playing!) but a different kind of women's hockey.

There are different rules for men and women, and they can be very obviously sexist.  Women must wear full face protection (cage or full shield) to protect our faces.  We could say that full facial protection is really smart, citing men who have lost their teeth or their eyesight, but if it's that smart, why do only women have to protect their faces?  Men can wear full cages, too, but it's their option.

Men can check; women can't.  It's against the rules for a woman to bodycheck another woman player.  Because we're so delicate; because it's not ladylike.  There can be no other reason.  There is nothing about the differences between men's and women's anatomy that would cause checking to be unsafe for women but safe for men.  The result is that women are denied a tool of the game.  It's like saying women who play softball aren't allowed to tag a player to get an out.

In this game, however, the refs are letting the players be physical.  They aren't calling checks.  I'm seeing bodychecks, and the announcers are seeing them.  In the second period, Caihow just checked a player ... and got a high sticking penalty.  The game may get out of hand, as it does with men, if the physical play goes beyond what is safe (and to hockey players and viewers it is possible to see that point), and the refs do risk this if they don't start calling bodychecking, but please let these women play all-out.

I played in a game once where we started checking and the refs let it go.  The game did not get out of hand.  The experience was remarkable, having that extra tool.  Not to mention that the endorphin high gets even higher.

Third period: The American defense looks sloppy; the Canadians are playing superbly.  It's slightly less physical (I wonder if the teams were warned the teams during the intermission).  The American offense is sloppy, too.  They are losing too many faceoffs.  And why aren't they cycling?  They need to keep the puck moving in the offensive zone, keep the Canadian defense on their toes, keep the goalie moving.  Instead they just pass it to an open person for a shot, but the entire Canadian team is in position and ready for it.

I'm rooting for a good game, and right now the score is apparently close -- only 2-0 Canada -- but the game seems tilted toward the Canadians.  They seem to be comfortably in the lead.  The nice thing about the US winning would be the boost to women's hockey's status in the US.  I don't see the US coming back from 2-0, though.

The American defense is falling apart, chasing the puck.  The American goalie is the only reason this game is close right now, and she is playing with incredibly cool poise.  Both goalies are incredibly impressive.

The intensity of the final minute and Canadian win in the Vancouver arena is incredible.  The body language of the defeated Americans reminds me of the Russians after the Miracle on Ice.  I wish more people could appreciate this amazing sport.  I wish I had more opportunities to watch women play at this level of skill.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A shot of adrenaline

I got the cortisone shot!  Now I lay low for two days, letting my hip heal, and then my mobility will return to normal.

It was like smelling the ice: old memories.  I have seen so many orthopedists and have had so much physical therapy that I know the drill about how these exams work.  The number of times I have had someone bend my knee and rotate my hip to see where the pain is is probably in the hundreds.

And I like my orthopedist.  He showed me my x-rays, showed me some calcification on my hip joint that might at some point cause me discomfort.  Calcification is normal and can happen any time.  I bet I've had it forever: I calcify slowly.  I know this because I had to be in a sling for 11 weeks after I broke my collarbone.  It healed so slowly that I was scheduled for surgery.

And then he said that I needed a cortisone shot for my trochanteric bursitis.  Music to my ears.

That he is competent and intelligent and has a decent personality and respects that I ask technical questions about physiology means that, after 10 years in the wilderness, I finally have found a good orthopedist.

My first orthopedist was Arthur Ting -- orthopedist to, among others, Barry Bonds.  I went to him with my first hip injury because he was the Sharks' doctor, and I knew he wouldn't tell me I was crazy to be playing hockey.  He was aggressive with treatment and had a relationship with the best physical therapists.  Back then, he took insurance.

Then he switched to taking only cash, and I was adrift in orthopedic land.  I lost the name of the doctor who gave me my first cortisone shot for trochanteric bursitis, but I had a crush on him.  I had an evil doctor, Jeffrey Mann, when I blew out my knee.  He was a bad physician (over-immobilized me, didn't let me start physical therapy early enough, didn't give me anything for the pain -- and didn't realize that the pain was coming from the fact that I was over-immobilized) as well as an asshole.  As I sat in the waiting room listening to him berate either a patient or a member of his staff, I asked the receptionist if he was like that with everyone, and she gave me a terrified nod.

So now I have a doctor whom I trust, someone who will put me back together when I injure myself again.  It's a sign.  It's time to be an athlete again.  I emailed a student from the doctor's office to say I might be late for a meeting because I was being seen for a skiing injury.  Her response: "I just saw the doctor for a snowboarding injury."  Athletic injuries give you instant credibility.

Two days of rest, and then I'm going to get a plan in place.  Not hockey yet, but soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adrenaline junkie, limping along

I'm limping around now with my latest orthopedic injury.  It's been a while since I've hurt myself being athletic, and it's fun to revisit the orthopedic stomping grounds, so to speak.

Last month, I went to Boulder for my brother's wedding reception, and eight of us piled into two cars and drove to Keystone.

Need I say it was great to be back in the snow?  For five days, I had so much fun with this group of people, plus kids, that I didn't even have a second to consider writing my excitement down.

It's been many, many years since I've skied.  Boots, poles, skis, gloves, jacket -- I love gear-based sports.  I know myself, that I am like a newborn calf on the first three runs, totally unable to point my legs in the right direction, and then I'm fine.

At Keystone, it took me one run to remember how to turn.  And turn I did ... into a maniac!  I realized that (a) I am not in as bad shape as I thought I was, and (b) having become a reasonably good hockey player since I last skied, I have a much greater understanding of using my feet and legs to edge and turn.  Oh, and (c) I am an adrenaline junkie.

I'd forgotten the last, but boy did that come back, too.  Adrenaline is why I love hockey. Primarily, my adrenaline high comes off of speed: I love skiing really fast.  So I found myself throwing myself down the mountain on just this side of control, lightheaded from altitude and asthma.  I am a really aggressive skier.

I managed to get to the backside of Keystone, to the incomparable, endless Starfire run, which since I had last been there (and since last week, apparently) has turned from blue to black.  In California there would be no question it's black.  Starfire is where my legs started to burn.  On the final, icy, steepist pitch I rested, saying aloud, "If I'm going to injure myself today, it's going to be right here."  My cousin, Steve N., said, "You could take it slowly."  Even now I laugh at that one.

I did take it slowly, take it to the bottom, and announce that it was my last run of the day.  I may be an adrenaline junkie, but I also know when to stick a fork in me.  Of course, to get off the mountain we had to go back up and then down the front.  I chose a green run for the way down.  A long way down.  As I stopped to periodically rest my burning legs, I was so wiped I would just fall over sideways.  On a nearly horizontal surface.  Really a lame way to fall.

A hundred yards from the bottom, I looked ahead and saw my brother and cousin waiting.  And ran over my ski pole.  Also a lame way to fall, but a much more dramatic one.

While the east coast has been blanketed in snow, and California has had El Nino rain, this part of Colorado has been very cold and very dry.  All day, we were skiing on hardpack with the occasional ice.  So when I skied over my pole, I landed very, very hard.  First on my butt, and then my head whacked the snow.  Arms and legs and skis tangled up, sliding down the hill, trying to protect my knees as I managed to get my twisting skis below me.  I lay there gaining my bearings and shouted "I'm all right" to the passing skiers.

Steve N. swooped down from above, did a perfect hockey stop, snowed me, and said, "Are you all right?" before realizing the person he had accidentally snowed was not a stranger.  We had a great laugh at that moment.

My brother had made me wear a helmet, so my head was protected, although it really just felt like I'd hit my head on the inside of a helmet.  I wondered aloud if I was going to pull a Natasha Richardson.  I also wondered aloud if I'd broken my hip.

Since I survived the following day, my head was in the clear, although I had quite a case of whiplash.  It all comes back to the hip.  While if I had actually broken my hip I would definitely be walking like a newborn calf, since that day I've been in pain.  Last week, I took a long walk, and the next day I couldn't put weight on my leg.  I have diagnosed myself with trochanteric bursitis, and I know what I need: a cortisone shot.

I love cortisone shots.  I've had uncountable shots ... probably uncountable because if I did count them I'd be disappointed at how few I've had.  Hip, knee, elbow ... knee more than once.  I love them because they feel so good.  Really, the part I like is the lidocaine they put in it.  Because it would be incredibly painful to inject a bunch of fluid into an already fluid-filled, inflamed area, lidocaine is added to enable the shot to be self-numbing.  You feel this pressure and this internal coolness -- and the pain goes away!

And then you have to take it easy for 48 hours, and you can feel smug, because professional athletes get cortisone shots all the time, and you've had to get one for an athletic injury.

I have a referral to an orthopedist. My primary care physician seemed to think that I might not get a cortisone shot.  Certainly, for non-professional athletes doctors like to try gentler approaches first ... like months of physical therapy.  I am going to fight for that shot.  Adrenaline and corticosteroids: aren't they just two sides of the same coin?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Eating like a grown-up

Being single, with no kids, I don't have to think about meals that please anyone but myself.  The other night I had quite the feast.  Out with a friend for a drink, we snacked on herbed fries and some sort of aioli, and I had a half pint of Red Tail Ale.  That was really filling.

When I got home, I wasn't motivated to make dinner, and I didn't have much to work with that could have offset the carbo-grease of the first part of my meal, so I ate two Pop Tarts.  In fact, my friend, A., called  while I was working my way through the first one, and when I told her what I was doing she asked if I was OK.  A. knows that Pop Tarts are my comfort food: a few weeks ago I sat on her couch, miserable, unable to eat anything but a box of Pop Tarts.  Her favorite flavor is strawberry, so that's what I'd picked up then, and that's what I was eating the other night, albeit a fresh box.

Those Pop Tarts were really sweet.  So I finished my meal with Annie's Cheddar Bunnies.

To recap, dinner was:
  • Beer and fries
  • Pop Tarts
  • Cheddar Bunnies.
I was so proud of myself.  If kids only knew that when you grow up you can eat whatever you want.

[Pause to digest....]

The next day, I stopped at Whole Foods on the way home and picked up an apple-butternut squash soup, and I assembled a huge salad.  I know we are supposed to eat a certain number of fruits and vegetables per day.  Do we have to do it on a per day basis?  That salad was probably a several days' worth of vegetables.  Huge.  Awesome.

Tonight, after having two servings of salad for lunch, I stopped to get another one.  I call them super-protein salads.  In addition to the lettuce (I love lettuce), tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, I add egg, tuna, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, edamame, and cheese.

Seriously, in the past two days I probably have eaten the recommended daily amount of vegetables for a whole week.  Does that count?

That's why I call it eating like a grown-up.  We can eat whatever we want.  We can follow our cravings. And it's awesome when our cravings lead us to these massive salads.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ricky Gervais quits Twitter

From the Daily Dish:  Ricky Gervais announced on his blog that he is quitting Twitter and instead will text friends if he wants to tell them what he ate for breakfast.

I'm tempted to post this on Facebook so we can maximize the number of social networking sites encompassed by this.

Life at UC Berkeley

From an email from a colleague who is in touch with our facilities team:

As a side note, I asked about staff offices, and she said that trash from staff offices is emptied every 2 weeks based on a 4-week rotation. She is trying to pin down what that actual 4-week rotation is because it seems to change every month (again, it’s arranged by central campus).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The best way to skate

This morning I skipped the first few hours back at work after a two week break ... to skate with disabled kids.

This is a grant-funded program in the San Mateo schools. Every Thursday in January, several classes of disabled kids come to the San Mateo ice rink and are escorted around by women hockey players. It's a coincidence that we are all women hockey players ... the call for volunteers goes out to the NCWHL, and we respond.

These kids have a variety of challenges. Some have mental/emotional issues, some have sensory issues, some have physical issues. Most have more than one. The therapy of being in the cold and moving so smoothly on the ice does wonders for them.

It takes the strong and nimble skating skills of hockey players to do this. With chairs, wheelchairs, and kids skating on their own, it's amazing we don't have collisions.

We help kids who hang onto the wall: my first kid, Angel (no real names here), went all the way around the rink with one hand on the wall and one arm supported by me. I closed the doors along the boards so he could cross the gaps. He whimpered in fear when I moved away from him by inches to pull the doors shut, although after the third he understood the drill. My feet were enormously cramped after that!

We push a lot of kids on chairs. This is my favorite part. I later took Angel around on a chair. With his limited communication skills, he laughed and expressed that he wanted to go faster, racing the other kids. We spin the chairs in circles, either by pulling the chair in a circle (variously with ourselves or the chair as an axis) or by tossing the chair forward with a spin and then catching it. Angel loved that one. After our first turn around the rink, as I checked in with him, he waved his hands with his fingers spread. I couldn't hear him, so I scooted to the front of him. "Five times!" he shouted gleefully. He'd counted: I'd spun him five times.

As I was resting, one of the teachers turned to me and said, "You'll take Charlie around, right?" I looked at Charlie: a 200-pound kid who was just staring forward, with no response to our words or the world around him. I said, "Sure." We maneuvered him into a chair, and I began pushing. It's actually not hard to push someone that big on the ice. I knew right away that he was smiling, and the teachers along the side told me so. His only reaction to his surroundings was that smile.

We push kids in wheelchairs: my first one was Debbie. She smiled her crooked smile and laughed the whole time. On a couple of occasions a teacher stepped onto the ice to take a picture, and we lined up the wheelchair kids. Debbie was the only one who responded with a huge smile. (I asked for a copy of the photo, but there are legal issues with releasing them.) Pushing Debbie, I practiced spinning a wheelchair on the ice. A skill I am still working on.

My last kid was Susie. During the wheelchair pictures, Susie appeared as a pile of purple jacket. She was curled in a fetal position in her chair covered by a hood, completely rolled up. A teacher tried to prop her up for the photo, but over she went.

I took over pushing her little chair. After a loop around, I stopped to chat with the teachers, and suddenly she turned around and gave me a brilliant smile. It turns out that she loves to be surrounded by conversation. I'd take her around again, and she'd flop forward; I'd talk to someone, and that smile would reemerge. Everyone celebrated that she'd come out of her frightened shell.

Then I discovered that she wasn't completely covering herself when she flopped forward: Susie was watching the ice go by beneath her chair. I knew just the snow and the grooves in the ice were enough for her, but I also took her around the painted center of the ice. I traced the circles, the blue lines, the red line, the dots, the crease. I followed the concrete lines showing through the paint. The brilliant smile, right at me, appeared several times. I don't know what she was experiencing, but I loved providing it for her.