Day 103: Weathering into Spring

DAY 103:


The Stone Sage Lion and I are report­ing in and are back on duty. From This Ter­race went dark for a cou­ple of per­for­mances, and we apologize.

I have been “under the weather” for the last week or so. Stone Sage Lion’s been sit­ting on his ter­race perch, prob­a­bly a bit lonely. He’s been in the weather and can’t get out of it. It’s been high drama. We had days, strangely too warm, which were fol­lowed with chilly, grey, rainy days. His expres­sion might not be carved in stone after all, as he seems to be growl­ing. We’ve had sun­less days and that’s bad for anyone’s tem­per or mood. Per­haps we’re both annoyed but for dif­fer­ent reasons.

A tree fighing of the haze of WinterI began to write From This Ter­race in the first days of Jan­u­ary for a spe­cific pur­pose. I was deter­mined to record time, and obser­va­tions in a time zone other than chronic ill­ness, but it (my dis­ease) caught up with me in the last days. And that made me both sad and cranky. But I best get back to my job of record­ing this year’s reflec­tions in weekly bites as promised and announced.

The num­ber of emails that came in when I didn’t post last week sur­prised and touched me. Sev­eral read­ers were wor­ried about me, although we have never met in the “real” world. Those of us who reg­u­larly come together each week and gather ‘round the lap­top hearth’ do notice when one of us leaves the community.

But we’re back together again on this the 103rd day of 2011. I can’t make up for the time I lost when I was unable to write (or to think). When the clock ticks and the cal­en­dar moves to the next days of the year, that time lost is gone for­ever, but I can go for­ward. We begin again; we begin now — acknowl­edg­ing weak­ness and also our con­nec­tions to one another.

The ori­gin of “under the weather” pro­vokes some debate. How­ever, the likely deriva­tion is an old British Naval phrase. It was used when the seas were rough and a sailor couldn’t han­dle the con­di­tions. He was sent under the deck to his quar­ters and thus was “under the weather” — or away from it.

Weather has a strangely uni­fy­ing qual­ity in a city like Man­hat­tan, where we are pressed together in small spaces but liv­ing vastly dif­fer­ent lives. Some of our res­i­dents exist in the city with an abun­dance of wealth and a myr­iad of oppor­tu­ni­ties, and oth­ers of us with exactly the oppo­site. Yet, every­one talks about the weather on equal terms, even if our expe­ri­ences of it are far from that. Weather is an almost safe topic for casual con­ver­sa­tion. NYC Streets durring a winter stormUnless, of course, one delves deeper into what it means to endure a win­ter with relent­less snow­storms when you’re with­out proper shel­ter. Or what it is like to be alone and too afraid to go out in the storms — snow or rain. But weather still belongs to all of us. It’s a com­mon loca­tor where we can meet to con­jec­ture about what’s likely to hap­pen next. Will spring ever come? Or, will we have only hate­ful, hot, humid sum­mer and be cheated of spring com­pletely? Weather is a zone where we give one another and our­selves per­mis­sion to whine and com­plain with free­dom and with con­sid­er­able abandon.

I won’t be talk­ing about the snow, or sleet or hail or bliz­zards or cold weather again for a long time. This is the offi­cial end of the win­ter From this Ter­race. On the 103rd day of 2011, the first year of the sec­ond decade of the 21st cen­tury, I want to give a big shout-out to a group of awe-inspiring girls of NYC. I think it fair to say that win­ter might well be their favorite sea­son. Since 1997, an orga­ni­za­tion has been help­ing girls in my city real­ize dreams and go for­ward in their lives. It is known by the acronym of FSH, which stands for Fig­ure Skat­ing In Harlem. The girls who par­tic­i­pate learn far more than how to be good, if not great, ice skaters.

Harlem Ice in a traveling circle.

Karen Paz­zano Markham, who is mar­ried to Michael, coaches a team of 12 FSH mem­bers in syn­chro­nized skat­ing. All the pic­tures you see here of FSH girls, and the ones in our gallery, were taken by Michael. It feels to me like these girls have become an inte­gral part of Karen’s life. I don’t want to cel­e­brate the end of win­ter in this reflec­tion on From This Ter­race or say “Good Rid­dance” to an impor­tant part of every year. Instead, I want to cel­e­brate what these girls are doing today and who and what they will do and become tomor­row. Being a self-identified life­long roman­tic, I also con­fess view­ing Michael’s pho­tographs and know­ing about Karen’s coach­ing, rep­re­sent a syn­chro­nized mar­i­tal dance in my eyes.


The girls of Figure Skating in HarlemA few facts about FSH:

–It is the first (and remains the only) edu­ca­tion and ice skat­ing pro­gram of its kind in the United States for under-served populations.

–The girls sign a com­mit­ment to main­tain at least a B aver­age in their school­work. Last year, 2010, 94% of the girls in FSH met or sur­passed the requirement.

–In the 14 years of its exis­tence, FSH has a 100% high school grad­u­a­tion rate and a 0% preg­nancy rate.

–Grad­u­ates of FSH have attended diverse and demand­ing col­leges. Some have interned at the White House, while oth­ers have worked at major cor­po­ra­tions and in the arts.

I can only imag­ine what the rest of this decade of the 21st cen­tury will bring to the girls who have expe­ri­enced the power of their dreams on ice and how they will then go on to men­tor young girls who are yet to become FSH members.

When I asked Karen about her pas­sion for ice-skating I learned many things about her. I do know that ice-skating is often a fam­ily pas­sion and that is the case for Karen as well.

Here is what she shared with me about her child­hood mem­o­ries of skat­ing and her con­tin­u­ing devo­tion to the art of the sport:

A solo performance at the FSH Year End Show.“My par­ents threw me on skates as soon as I could walk. My dad was an ice skater and roller skater, so he took his lit­tle girl out and to see if she liked ice-skating. I never left and have never engaged in any other sport. I started syn­chro­nized skat­ing when I was 9 and did it through high school. There weren’t any teams in Nashville (where I went to col­lege), but I resumed skat­ing with an Adult Mas­ters team in Katonah, NY.

I didn’t like skat­ing indi­vid­u­ally; so syn­chro­nized skat­ing was great for me. It’s not all about jumps and dou­bles and triples, etc. It’s about foot­work and pre­ci­sion and teamwork.

My mom became a ‘syn­chro’ mom and loves the sport. When I was in col­lege and not able to skate com­pet­i­tively, she trav­eled around the US and to Italy with my friend’s teams to see them skate. I know Mom loves being able to teach the FSH par­ents all about the sport now.”

Karen has been involved with FSH for two years. I wanted to know how it felt for her to be with the girls and part of the process. I asked ques­tions, such as:

FTT: How does it feel when you see them skating?

KPM: How do I feel?

Proud. They work extremely hard and we demand a lot of them. They always rise to the chal­lenge. Also, inspired. I did what they did and didn’t have to over­come their obsta­cles to do it. I can’t imag­ine being a NYC kid.

I am in awe of how smart these girls are. Their skat­ing brings me more joy than my own skat­ing does. Mean­ing: I’d rather be coach­ing than skat­ing. I am also very excited to show/tell them all about syn­chro­nized skat­ing. This is some­thing that they can con­tinue to do in col­lege and as adults.

If they love it, they can always come back to it. Plus, they get to travel and meet lots of other girls from around the country.

Happy. They make me happy with their amaz­ing smiles and spir­its. I’m priv­i­leged to know them and lead them.

FFT: Why do you do this?

KPM: Why do I do it?

Because I love it.

Because syn­chro­nized skat­ing meant so much to me and always gave me so much to look for­ward to that I want to give that to them.

FTT: What do the girls mean to you?  What is your bond with the girls?

KPM: My bond?

They each mean a great deal to me, to my life. It’s like hav­ing 12 chil­dren who look up to you to have the right answer.

The Girls of Harlem Ice

Karen con­densed what I had asked into words and feel­ings I found extremely mov­ing. What she said about the girls and what I’ve dis­cov­ered about FSH have inspired me to get out from “under the weather” of my per­sonal trou­bles. Sadly, I am too old to join on the ice, but not too old to cheer and sup­port FSH in all seasons!

The Stone Sage Lion and I are grate­ful to Karen and Michael for let­ting us have a glimpse of the world of FSH, our home­town stars on ice. Join with us and go onto their Face­book page (if you’re on Face­book) and LIKE them. You might also want to visit them on their web­site.

And need­less to say, this is not the last report you’ll hear about FSH on From This Terrace.

©2011 Alida Brill From This Terrace


Filed under Community, Inspiration, Seasons, Women

9 Responses to Day 103: Weathering into Spring

  1. Priscilla Pazzano

    Thank you for shar­ing this infor­ma­tion about FSH and Karen and Michael. As Karen’s mom and Michael’s mother-in-law, I am so proud of them and what they do.

    • Alida, you con­tinue to amaze me with your inge­nu­ity, your knowl­edge, your com­pas­sion, and your just down­right inter­est in others…all kinds of oth­ers. And it’s a joy to read what­ever you write, and I look for­ward to your blogs. Much love to you, Florence

  2. What an amaz­ing pro­gram! I sup­pose I should come out from under the weather myself!

  3. What a joy this was to wake up to! You’ve taken me on a jour­ney from win­ter to a won­der­land of chil­dren and the adults who nour­ish them. Thank you so much.

  4. Katie Bamberger

    What a won­der­ful pro­gram! This was so enjoy­able to read, and of course inspir­ing! What a great way to cel­e­brate win­ter and the incred­i­ble group at FSH.

  5. Leo Knudson

    Wel­come back , I missed you. After read­ing your arti­cle, what comes to mind
    is how these “friv­o­lous” activ­i­ties can make such an impact on someone’s over­all qual­ity of life and future. Where would a lot of us be today if we weren’t given the oppor­tu­nity to be exposed to and par­tic­i­pate in activ­i­ties like
    music, art, the­atre, and skat­ing out­side the realm of stan­dard edu­ca­tion. Activ­i­ties that are so read­ily cut from our edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions because of
    eco­nom­ics. Where would we also be if it weren’t for peo­ple like Karen who take
    the time to men­tor and nur­ture the poten­tially undis­cov­ered tal­ents and abil­i­ties of those indi­vid­u­als who could so eas­ily be over­looked. All those young girls looked absolutely gor­geous. I also wasn’t aware there is a gallery
    of Michael’s pho­tos to spend a moment’s time with. Delightful!

  6. What a won­der­ful pro­gram FSH is and how won­der­ful that you spot­lighted them this week. The news­pa­pers are full of bad news of awful peo­ple doing awful things, but you have just proved what I have always known. There are so many won­der­ful peo­ple, young and old, engaged in mean­ing­ful lives and com­mu­ni­ties help­ing each other and them­selves at the same time. They rarely get the spot­light, and we need to hear about them, not just because they are inspir­ing — they are — but because they restore our faith in the unseen good­ness around us. It exists. As a teacher, the young women of FSH impress me tremen­dously. Dis­ci­pline, tal­ent, 100% grad­u­a­tion rate? Ladies — take a bow!!

  7. I am espe­cially touched by the sub­ject and spirit of this post com­ing as it does right after your very mov­ing post about the Tri­an­gle Fire and its cur­rent memo­ri­als. And hav­ing worked for many years with those we think of as “poor” or “dis­ad­van­taged,” I love the way you write and Karen speaks about the young women. I, too, found a life­time of inspi­ra­tion in the times I spent with home­less women with AIDS.

    So glad you are writ­ing again, and hope­ful that the weather has changed for you now.

  8. I just read this blog again–what a joy. Alida, writ­ing is your gift, and I speak as one who can rec­og­nize great writ­ing. Long may your gift give plea­sure not only to you but to the world of your read­ers. Florence

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