axel paulsen and alois lutz walk into a bar



We’ve been out of LA for the last week because of Lucy’s “spring break” from kindergarten – actually, it’s the first of two spring breaks, which is something I certainly never had growing up. Then again, I did my homework on the back of a coal shovel and walked to school while gargling shards of broken glass, so my perspective is a little warped.

We spent the first part of the week on Mammoth Mountain, but I know “My Ski Vacation” ranks up there with Tylenol PM in terms of yawn-inducement, so I’ll skip to where things get interesting. First off, the drive over the Sierra Mountains south to Death Valley and Las Vegas… absolutely stunning. About as bizarre and breathtaking as I’ve ever seen, and you know me, I drive a fucking lot. At one point on the mountain pass, the road went to one lane without even a sign:




Our goal? Las Vegas, of course, for the Regional Ice Skating competition for adults held at the Fiesta rink, and the pressure was palpable. Tessa had been training for her two routines (one freestyle, one artistic) for months, and hundreds of skaters were participating. Between practices, she’d come over to the hotel and we’d do things like visit the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay:


actual shark swimming overhead



Tessa was a bit of a child skating star, winning several competitions when she was 7-8 years old, but stopped competing when she went to boarding school in Scotland, where I’m told there was ONE RINK in the entire COUNTRY. Skip forward thirty years or so, and I got her and Lucy some ice skates for Christmas – totally the wrong pairs, it turns out, but it rekindled something in my wife that was pretty fantastic.

For the last year, she and Lucy have been frequenting the Culver arena in LA, and when it came time for Regionals, my wife threw her hat in the rink, as it were. Like any intense microcosm, it always sounds a bit dorky on the outside, but when I got there, I fully understood how intense this thing was. Plus, I admit: I’m a sucker for other people’s passions. If someone loves garden mulch, Uranus or the tax code enough, I’ll always find their dedication addictive and join in.

As adults, most of us stopped being graded and number-judged about 25 years ago, and yet here are these skaters, willingly putting themselves in front of actual judges to leave a hero or a heartbreak. After three days, I started to hear the gossip, and know who they were talking about.




So Tessa did her dramatic program on Saturday, and said she made most of it up (although it looked gorgeous to me). Skating to “Golden Slumbers” by the Beatles, it was theatrical and heartfelt. Unexpectedly, she walked away with the silver medal, which I thought absolutely rocked the free world.

Then yesterday morning, she had her lighter program, this time doing choreography to “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. This might sound a little weary given our proximity to March, but Las Vegas was going through one of its coldest days ever, threatening to snow for the first time in four years. Tessa fell during one of her “waltz jumps” in warm-ups, and I was worried she’d tense up.

Instead, she steeled her will, connected with the judges, and skated her best performance against much stiffer competition. She probably won’t let me show her whole performance, but I’m going to sneak one of her spins on here just for fun:



After watching all the skaters, Lucy and I ran to the scoring results, and there it was: SHE GOT THE GOLD!

Of course, the lesson for the Lulubeans is to work hard, and it’s all about having fun, and even if you come in last, it’s still a fantastic experience… but the words tumble off the tongue a little easier when you’ve got the hardware glittering around your neck all the way home.


25 thoughts on “axel paulsen and alois lutz walk into a bar

  1. Salem's Little Sister

    Emma- I just did my longest run yesterday, 20 miles and the race is March 20th! I’ll keep you posted.
    Tessa-I also love the shot of Lucy seeing you on that podium. I think it’s so important for our kids to see us devote ourselves to more than just them. Again, Congratulations!

  2. Anne

    More video, please. Do you have video of her first event, too?
    Next up: The Mrs. America pageant. (Not her thing? Too bad; she’d win it!) Kudos, Tessa. Beautiful in every way.

  3. dct

    Congratulations Tessa! Please, please, please let Ian put the whole program up. It looks so marvelous, and this awesome story totally made my day!

  4. jje

    Wow! How incredibly impressive! Congrats on the medals and kudos to you for following your passion.
    Lovelovelove the last shot – it says so much. That’s a framer for sure. Bet it will be on of Lucy’s favorites when she’s an adult.
    Now I feel all inspired. ;-)

  5. Kelly

    Wonderful Tessa!!! I’m with Neva… seeing this made me think of something I’ve put aside (playing squash) that brings me joy of focus in competition, that I’ve set aside for too long. PLEASE lets see the whole routine!
    Also, SLS, way to go! Good luck on the 20th.

  6. amy

    YAY TESSA!!! i’d love to see the whole video, please!
    that last photo is pretty incredible, in so many ways. what a great lesson for lucy, and for all of us.

  7. LFMD

    Somehow I missed this entry and just read it this evening. Tessa – you are an inspiration! I am so impressed with all that you do!

  8. Randy

    Ian, Just getting back to the site to check on your Dook post and got to see this as well. This is the coolest thing I’ve read in a while. Congrats to you and Tessa and Lucy! What a memorable experience.
    Carpe Diem! LIve life to the full!


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