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June, 2012:

Random Handstand Club

The U.S. Olympic Trials for gymnastics is this weekend! I was a gymnast for 17 years and I love this sport. Unfortunately, elite gymnastics is on TV only 3-5 times a year, so when it’s on, I drop everything and watch it. I’m sure all my ex-gymnast friends will be watching too except for the handful of friends who still live in the Bay Area that get to be there in person. The U.S. has a lot of talent gymnasts on the men’s and women’s side so it will be exciting to see who makes the team.

San Francisco - December 2011 Handstand Ruth Carter

Handstand in San Francisco – December 2011

Gymnastics is a sport that when you stop doing it, you lose your skills pretty fast. At this point, I need a trampoline to do anything except for a few simple skills – like handstands. A lot of current and ex-gymnasts are proud members of the random handstand club.

Ex-gymnasts are pretty easy to spot when we’re traveling. When we take pictures with important monuments or iconic places, we usually take one “normal” picture and one handstand picture. It’s a gymnast thing. I love seeing all of my friends’ handstand pictures from their travels. A few years ago, one of my teammates did a big trip through Europe and made it a point to take a handstand picture in every country.

I’ve been meaning to add a tab to my site for all my handstand photos. The Olympic Trials seemed like as good an excuse as any . . . and I couldn’t think of anything better to write about this week.

If you look through the album, you’ll notice I’m in the same pose in almost every handstand photo. That’s because this is the only position I can hold long enough to get a decent photo. I wish I had better balance so I could do handstands in more daring places, but I’d rather not die because of my random hobby.

I hope to be able to do handstands for a long time and to share my adventures with you. Enjoy!

I Got A Dog

I adopted a basset hound this year. Her name is Rosie. We’ll celebrate two months together this week. I never thought my landlords (aka parents) would agree to let me get a pet, and I was shocked when they said “Yes” after two years of prodding.

I adopted Rosie from the Arizona Basset Hound Rescue. After I passed my interview and my home inspection, they started sending me picture of prospective dogs, and to be honest, I wasn’t that enthused by Rosie when I first saw her. Her head looked too small for her body in her picture but she was the right age (four years old) and her foster parents lived close by so I agreed to do a meet and greet. I knew within minutes of seeing her that she was my dog.

I was so nervous about becoming responsible for another life. I had never owned a dog that I was solely responsible for. I’m so grateful to my friends who have dogs and the clerks at PetSmart for helping me make sure I had everything Rosie would need.

Rosie’s had mostly a good life from what I was told. Her first owner took excellent care of her for about four years but then his job situation changed and he didn’t think it was fair to be away from home for as long as his job required. He supposedly thought he lined up a good home for her, but she ended up with someone who neglected her. Her nails looked like they were never trimmed so they got way too long and curved under her paws. Thank goodness she ended up at the basset rescue after only a few months in that situation.

Rosie is the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet. She has the cutest face and she is a total attention whore. We go walking twice a day and she has become one of the darlings of the neighborhood. She’s mostly mellow and well-behaved. We usually play with her ball every day.  Sometimes I roll it and she retrieves it and sometimes I roll it at her and she acts like a goalie. Sometimes she likes to throw the ball for herself and chase after it. It’s so cute.

When I first met Rosie, I tried to make her howl but nothing worked. I mainly wanted to make sure that she wouldn’t howl when I sang. After I had her for a few weeks, I learned that the only thing that makes her howl is the sound of a ringing telephone. It makes me laugh every time she does it.

Sometimes I look at Rosie and it’s so surreal that I have her.  Having a dog that sleeps at my feet in my office was part of my master plan for my law firm. We’re still working the kinks out of our relationship. She’s not always excited about meal time or walking at my desired pace, but I really couldn’t ask for a better dog.

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Don’t Lose Your Personality When You Get Your JD

Foot tattoos Ruth Carter

My Awesome Tattoos

I got an interesting email from a friend over the weekend. He just graduated from law school and is studying for the bar. He’s also training for an ironman race. He’s been in fabulous shape for as long as I’ve known him and his preferred running outfit is teeny tiny running shorts and sneakers. He doesn’t put a shirt over his tattooed chest. When he was in school he lived near campus but now he lives downtown near the courthouses and a lot of the big law firms. He was concerned that his running attire could have a negative impact on his career if judges and lawyers saw him. He wrote to me asking for my thoughts.

I told him the same thing I tell everyone: “Don’t do anything in public that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the paper.” If you’re ok with being seen shirtless and in little shorts in the newspaper, why would you have a problem with judges and lawyers seeing you? They’re just people. And who’s to say they haven’t already seen you? Most people are so oblivious that they wouldn’t figure out that you were the shirtless guy if they met you at a professional event.

My friend’s question made me reflect on my early days as a law student. I was told that I should change my clothes, my hair, and even my sunglasses before I started law school. I took out my excess piercings and kept the tattoos on my feet covered with shoes, dark socks, and tattoo concealer. I gave all that up and was back to being 100% myself by the end of my 2L year. I was happier for it and got more professional opportunities as a result of being me instead of trying to fit the law student mold.

Why are lawyers seemingly held to a different social standard than other people? When we graduate from law school, we don’t suddenly all become interested in golf, going to tea, or smoking cigars. Lawyers should never give up their personality or interests because they’re lawyers. I see nothing wrong with a lawyer being a shirtless runner in their free time, or even something more daring like a burlesque dancer or a nudist. It’s no more shocking than any other fringe activity like having extreme religious beliefs or seeing your favorite band live in concert 33 times. As long as you’re not hurting anyone or breaking the law, let your freak flag fly!

I can see where my friend might be concerned because he doesn’t have a job lined up after the bar. Bug here’s something else to think about – if you have to hide who you are to get a job, is it a job you really want? I’m not saying that you should flaunt your eccentricities, but you shouldn’t have to hide them either.

The only other advice I can offer of this topic is the wisdom that was bestowed upon me by my friend Evo Terra. He said to figure out whose opinions truly matter to you and then don’t give a shit about what anyone else thinks. It’s easier said than done, but those are definitely words to live by.

Chellsie Memmel’s Olympic Dream Unfairly Cut Short

Olympic Rings at St Pancras Station, London by Jon Dickins, Ruth Carter

Olympic Rings at St Pancras Station, London by Jon Dickins

This weekend is the Visa National Gymnastics Championships. It’s the beginning of the final events leading up to the 2012 Olympics Games in London. Every time elite gymnastics is on TV, my world comes to a screeching halt so I can watch it. It’s my Super Bowl.

I was really pissed off when I heard that Olympic silver medalist Chellsie Memmel’s petition to compete in the national championships was denied. There was also a rumor that USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny pressured Chellsie announce her retirement.

Female gymnasts with Olympic potential are usually identified when they are 8 or 9 years old. They train tirelessly for years often sacrificing their time, their bodies, their families’ finances, and for some their emotional well-being in pursuit of their Olympic dreams. Gymnastics is their lives. It’s cruel and irresponsible to raise a girl to give up everything to chase a dream and then to rip it away from her.

Chellsie is the 2005 world all-around gymnastics champion. She has 6 world championship medals to her name. She’s overcome numerous injuries over the years and she was making a comeback to compete in this year’s Olympic Games. If she thinks she has unfinished business in her gymnastics career, then she should be able to see things through to their natural end, not when the powers that be at USA Gymnastics are done with her. Every gymnast should be able to end their career on their own terms.

Some people may argue that Chellsie shouldn’t have been allowed to compete in the national championships since she didn’t get a high enough score at the U.S. Classic. That argument would make sense if elite gymnastics was fair and objective.  But it’s not. It’s very political. I’ve watched the politics play out since the 1992 Olympic Games. Some coaches have the power to put their gymnasts on an Olympic or World team even if other girls are better than them.

Only five women will be selected for this year’s Olympic gymnastics team, and I think four of the five spots are essentially spoken for so long as no one gets injured. The competition for the final slot and the alternate positions will be fierce. This country is teeming with gymnastics talent. I think Chellsie was a long shot to make this year’s team, but the odds shouldn’t have prevented her from being a player. It wouldn’t have been a big deal to print out one more number and let her try.

Forcing Chellsie out of a sport she dedicated her life to was mean and wrong. I hope she’s not walking away from the competition floor with too bitter a taste in her mouth.

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