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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Derby Diary #2 
Challenges Thus Far 

This is an occasional series chronicling my start in roller derby, presenting both perks and challenges of the sport. Today focuses on some of the initial challenges I've face when training to be a full-contact athlete on roller skates.

In case you missed it, here's my first entry.


Photo credit: Derby Baby

Starting anything fresh almost always has its challenges.

Most 16-year-old drivers aren't parallel parking experts. Professional athletes rarely become professionals on natural talent alone. Accomplishing most things, whether its career or personal goals, takes practice, patience, motivation, among other things. Sometimes it's even a matter of rethinking goals.

Back to relating these various challenges to roller derby: The learning curve in this sport is steep.

It starts with learning to skate. It sounds simple enough, but it's not just being able to skate in a circle at a rink. There's learning various stops (T-stop, plow stops, turn-around toe stops), how to accelerate (via crossovers), how to turn around while skating (transitions), backwards skating, and jumping over objects. There's also training for laps, essentially the sprints of derby. We're expected to complete 27 laps in five minutes by August in order to to be drafted onto a home team.

The first six weeks of our training was dedicated to skating alone. Adjusting to being on skates, learning derby stance (essentially a never-ending squat), was challenging enough. My knees ached in ways I have never experienced before. (Solution to knee aches? Fish Oil supplements, cardio cross training, and tons of stretching pre- and post-workout.)

Last month, I passed non-contact testing alongside 17 others in my fresh meat class, which was a great accomplishment. The keyword here is that I passed. I'm certainly no expert on wheels yet. There are still occasions when I fall over simply from losing my balance while standing.

On top of everything else: None of us are in high school anymore, when athletics and the trial and error lessons are fairly common. Many of us are learning a new sport in our 20s, 30s, even 40s.

Despite those challenges though, the group I've been working with has been so encouraging. Many of the ladies are from rec leagues, so they've mastered a lot of the basics. Others are like me, learning everything for the first time.

Transitions and turnaround toe stops at times are still very difficult for me. It mostly depends on my state of mind. And I know my crossover form (crossing one skate over the other to accelerate) could be much better. But I'm light years ahead from where I was in January, when I tied on skates for the first time in probably more than a decade.

I'm learning just how cerebral this sport can be. It's being able to training your mind to say you can when it seems impossible.

We're now learning various contact skills, another layer to add to our new found skating foundations, which includes a lot of hip checks and shoulder checks. It's all derby fundamentals we'll use in future bouts.

One thing I do seem to have a natural knack for is taking a hit, much to my surprise. Learning the contact aspect has been one of my biggest fears, but as it turns out, I'm much better at blocking than I thought I would be for just starting out.

Learning to hit others is the challenge I'm finding in contact. Knocking others over, or hitting others hard enough to get bruises and welts, is frowned upon most other life situations. On our fresh meat forum, some of the ladies are sharing pictures of their bruises like badges of pride. This kind of cultural sadomasochism is something I'm still not quite used to yet.

The other big challenge so far, albeit a bit less essential, is getting my lap requirements. While I've improved, I'm falling short of the 27 laps I eventually have to make. It's been frustrating. And I know part of that frustration comes from seeing others who can accomplish it so easily.

But like in anything else, comparisons are fruitless. We all learn at our own pace. That's perhaps the biggest challenge of all for me to learn.

Another meatie also has a blog with a feature about her roller derby experiences. Read her blog here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

We need to talk about (my) flair

This ensemble is mostly a typical office outfit, thanks to some Christmas gifts from loves ones that know all too well my appreciation for Modcloth wears. But a recent little secondhand store find made it just a little better.




Outfit: Dress, cardigan and shoes, Modcloth (old); brooch, vintage via Avalon Exchange; tights, Target.

Did you find my find yet? It's the little skate pin, of course, to reflect my newfound roller derby hobby! I found this gem at a local buy/sell/trade store Avalon Exchange for three bucks. Not bad, considering I had just sold them a bunch of stuff and got a bunch of cute things for under $20 after sales.

A few co-workers found out about my new extracurricular the day I wore this outfit because they asked about the pin. It obviously works as a great conversation starter.

I think this guy unofficially set off a new pin collection, too. Since wearing this outfit last week, I found yet another skating pin over the weekend, as shown on my Instagram feed:

A photo posted by Kate (@thriftburgher) on

Yikes, look past my chewed up nails and super red palms. I blame the lighting.

I think pins are a great fun way to add some character to an outfit inexpensively. I think it's something that can be easily overlooked, and it's a detail that I wrote off as too "grandma chic" for way too long. I think small, subtle ones are best as to not look over the top or cheesy.

And let's face it: I'm definitely on a roll with skating pins, pun intended. :)

Of course, you don't want to go overboard. I haven't watched the movie Office Space in ages, but this scene in particular has always been memorable to me, since I was once an angsty server in college. Which is impressive because this movie has so many great quotables.

Do you wear pins with outfits?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Flea Market Find: Games for Grownups Book

I knew I had a treasure in my hands when I found this "Games for Grownups" book (published in 1951) at Rossi's the other weekend in the quarter bin.


Games I might actually try at my next house party:
The Smelling Game, Guggenheim, and Memory Lane

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Weirdest games:
The Orange Game, Sew a Button, and Applesauce

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There were cute little stick figure gems throughout this book, too, which was adorable. And there are more than 100 games chronicled in this hardback book. Considering I paid 25 cents, that's unbelievable value. ;)

The introduction goes on to explain that many of these games were played overseas during World War II to lighten the mood. Kinda crazy that the book was published only a few years after. The original book owners had actually lived through that period and had their own memories of those times.

I was a little bummed the slipcover of the book was long gone, but still a great find. Hopefully I can put it to use next time Mark and I have friends over.

Have any of you ever seen a book like this?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

From Pittsburgh to Philly on the Lincoln Highway

I found another little piece of American history at a nearby flea market. It cost me a dollar. The Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast highway in the country, has a significant 324-mile leg in Pennsylvania.

Lincoln Highway top envelope
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I knew Mark would enjoy this one, since he grew up right off of the Lincoln Highway (Route 30).  The road crosses through Pennsylvania, but these first two are from right near his parents' house.

Lincoln Highway Postcards-2

Nearly a century of development have radically changed the land, but the shape of the road has more or less remained the same.  Mark was instantly able to explain to me where the pictures on these two postcards came from.

(Read more below.)

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But not everything about the road has changed.  Many of the beautiful scenic views driving through the state are still found along the highway.  We're hoping to take a trip to Gettysburg sometime this year, which will take us directly along this route.  Maybe we can even find some of the same views that are in these postcards.
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The Lincoln Highway, which stretches from San Francisco to New York City, was dedicated in 1913, and remains a well-traveled historic route. Even Rick Sebak, a well-known Pittsburgh documentary filmmaker (essentially a local legend), made a movie about the highway a few years ago.

Judging from the looks of the cars in the postcards, I'm guessing this booklet was distributed within a few years of the highway being dedicated. Like some of the other postcard booklets I've collected, these cards are attached and two-sided, and accordion fold in and out.

But more than anything, what makes this collection most special for me is the fact that I'm familiar with several of these areas. I haven't driven the Lincoln Highway intentionally, per se, but I've driven small parts here in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Seeing how roads and landscapes change over time is always fascinating to me.

Another fun fact: Back in the day, it could take 30 days to travel the road from end to end.

According to the Association's 1916 Official Road Guide a trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific on the Lincoln Highway, to make it in 30 days the motorist would need to average 18 miles an hour for six hours per day, and driving was only done during daylight hours.

I can't imagine driving thousands of miles at 18 mph, but of course, it was a different time 100 years ago.

How do you think roads and landscapes where you've lived have changed over the past century?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

On the Catwalk

I never thought I'd walk a cat on a leash. Not ever. But then Waldo happened.






Outfit: Dress, J. Crew, via Avalon Exchange; scarf, Modcloth (old) (similar); shoes, Marshalls; tights and cat leash, Target.

In case you don't know, he was a stray we brought in from outdoors that's been spooked by a variety of stimuli outside, like speeding cars and rain. He'll cry, howl, hide, or sometimes, have a combination of those reactions to those things. We call it kitty PTSD, probably as a result of his abandonment.

However, he's an extremely friendly, affectionate, people-loving cat otherwise. And he does love looking out the window. And following the sound of birds. We live near a busy road, and don't really have a yard, so Mark and I have been trying to leash train him. I think it's a nice middle ground where he can breathe some outdoor air on occasion while not completely freaking out.

The vet guessed he was about five months old in the fall when we took him in, and I did some reading online about leash training cats. Basically, the younger they are, the more adaptable they will be.

So we occasionally strapped the harness onto him in the winter, rewarding him with an excessive amount of treats for tolerating it. But just within the last few weeks, we began taking him outside with the leash because it's finally freaking warm enough. But I'll tell you now: Cats aren't like walking dogs. I kind of just follow where he wants to go, within reason.

Waldo tends to start slow. He'll bask in the sun for a few minutes, laying around and adapting to the outdoors, and then he'll start walking when he's ready. I've been taking him out about once a week for 20 to 30 minutes. It's just enough time where he can get his paws dirty and explore some fresh scenery.

A friend who walks her cat outside told me it's been a great way to curb door dashing. Her cat associates the leash with the outdoors and he'll purr as she's putting it on. Waldo isn't quite at that point yet.

For this photo shoot we drove to a nearby park, so Wally was a little more nervous than usual about going outside, but I think he did really well. Hopefully we'll make it back over there soon.

In other news, ahh it finally feels like spring. A dress without a sweater was totally doable on this day, with the high temp reaching a fiery 60 degrees! Also, I hope you enjoy the new look. I made some tweaks to the layout, including a new banner and navigation bar. I kept the polka dot background (for now) for some flair. :)

So how have you been? Enjoying the warm weather? Have you ever tried walking a cat? Haha.