Secret of Eternal Youth

That got your attention. Mine, too!  An eager seeker of the secret of eternal youth, of course I read it. Should have taken a better look at the source of the advice, or not. It definitely was not a rag mag as the secret to eternal “youth” revealed was mental, not physical. (Call me shallow but, I confess to a degree of disappointment.) Nonetheless, I read on:

The key to keeping mentally open and vibrant is having friends of all ages, the article expounded. It stressed that we should actively—purposefully—seek interaction with people of both genders from each decade. That doing so exposes us to new ideas, new music, new fads, new mores and conversely to old ones.

Cultivate friendships with people of all decades and genders.

In case you’re doing as I did, mentally slotting friends & family into decades, go back and put question marks by “Family.” Do our interactions with children, grandchildren and parents counts? YES…and NO. Yes, culturally, family members will and do expose us to so much we wouldn’t know about otherwise. But as for interacting with them as “friends. That depends. . . .

Do you/Would you tell your mother or father, or your auntie, the same things you tell your woman/male friends?
"Ok so we'd had a few drinks and we weren't wearing seatbelts when..  ."

"Ok so we'd had a few drinks and we weren't wearing seatbelts when..."

 

 

What about your children?

 Be honest, do you really want them confiding “those things” to you? Do they? Do you? (I don’t.) 

"OMG, Dylan! That mother of yours..."

"OMG, Dylan! That mother of yours..."

Knowing this truth—befriending people of all decades is good for you—and doing this are, like many things that are “good for us”: not necessarily easy.

 

 

 

Shortly after learning this secret of youth, I shared it with a friend who’d recently moved to L.A. Ironically, the friend who was a decade and more older, physically recoiled at the idea. “Young people don’t want anything to do with me,” he argued.

 

Knowing my friend took photography classes—at UCLA and the Art Institute, not the Senior Center—I pushed him on the point. 

My children’s writing community includes people of reading age up, literally.  10-20-30-40…70, 80, beyond united by virtue of being writers. Years fall away while we strive for similar goals. That common thread initially brings us together, from there other connections form. Surely the photography community was much the same? 

“Don’t you discuss photography things with the other students?” I pressed. He did; they did. “So why can’t you try to extend the friendship? Ask them for coffee or drinks, to an exhibit…” He scoffed.

Water and time have passed since that conversation. I’m older. I’m more isolated. I’ve moved often and far, and my writing community has shrunk. My community while global is puny, too. 

Frankly, the family and friends I have keep me so busy, I didn't even realize it was happening. That decades of people, are rising up with whom I have no contact. 

To be honest, I hadn't missed that interaction with new, younger, older, different-- people--Or realized I missed it.

And, I must confess, like my friend, as I've gotten older, I've perhaps become a little, if not fearful, definitely lazy about reaching out.

It's what a twenty-something son of a friend I spoke with at a wedding said about dating. He'd recently broken up with his high school sweetheart, but was thinking about getting back together with her.  I asked him if he'd been dating anyone else. He got a pained look on his face then answered:

“I’m too tired. You have start all over with the ‘what sign are you? Where did you go to school? Getting to know you stuff.” —Son’s friend on dating after a break-up.

Reaching out, making new connections, learning new--older, younger, different languages--takes energy. Perhaps way more than sticking with the familiar. And it's easy to let ourselves think we're doing just fine, why stir things up?

https://images.search.yahoo.com/images/view;_ylt=AwrB8psuEwNVHXAAD4iJzbkF;_ylu=X3oDMTIzOWQybDFyBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDaW1nBG9pZAMyZGU4ZmU0MTFjMzkwOWUwMzQ0MWUxZGZlNmFkMjQ1ZgRncG9zAzU4BGl0A2Jpbmc-?.origin=&back=https%3A%2F%2Fimages.search.yahoo.com%2Fyhs%2Fsearch%3F_adv_prop%3Dimage%26va%3Ddating%2Bcartoon%2Bimage%26fr%3Dyhs-mozilla-002%26hsimp%3Dyhs-002%26hspart%3Dmozilla%26tab%3Dorganic%26ri%3D58&w=1501&h=2101&imgurl=www.staceyreid.com%2Fnews%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F01%2Fmsd324ry.jpg&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.staceyreid.com%2Fnews%2F%3Fp%3D22091&size=1099.4KB&name=Speed+%3Cb%3EDating%3C%2Fb%3E+%3Cb%3ECartoon%3C%2Fb%3E&p=dating+cartoon+image&oid=2de8fe411c3909e03441e1dfe6ad245f&fr2=&fr=yhs-mozilla-002&tt=Speed+%3Cb%3EDating%3C%2Fb%3E+%3Cb%3ECartoon%3C%2Fb%3E&b=0&ni=96&no=58&ts=&tab=organic&sigr=1175317r2&sigb=14kpj2hmg&sigi=11vmfe7ru&sigt=11295sg7i&sign=11295sg7i&.crumb=nFhKodndYDa&fr=yhs-mozilla-002&hsimp=yhs-002&hspart=mozilla

Decades apart, but so much the same, I totally got what he was saying. Reaching out, making new connections, learning new--older, younger, different languages--takes energy. Perhaps way more than sticking with the familiar. And it's easy to let ourselves think we're doing just fine, why stir things up?

I hadn't realized how much "stirring things up" and doing the "getting to know you" stuff mattered, and how much I've been missing it, until recently. . .  

Earlier this month, at my sis-in-law, Marilyn Bennett’s invitation, I joined her for a week’s retreat on Sanibel Island. (Marilyn's an author, writing coach, video-biographer, documentary filmmaker, check it out at Truth in Progress). 

Marilyn and me my Ist morning on Sanibel, the view from "Beach Baby's" lanai. 

Marilyn and me my Ist morning on Sanibel, the view from "Beach Baby's" lanai. 

Marilyn had been invited to stay in a beach-front condo by friends of a dear, departed mutual friend of hers and theirs, named Carolyn. (I’d met Carolyn and knew about her via Marilyn, but that was the extent of it.) 

Speaking of ride: here's Marilyn trying out the beach cruiser.

Speaking of ride: here's Marilyn trying out the beach cruiser.

 

Clueless as to who our hosts were—beyond knowing they were retired—or what, if any interaction, I’d have with them, I was truly, along for the ride.

My first day on Sanibel, Marilyn and I joined our hosts, Deborah and John, for dinner at Trader’s Restaurant.  

Marilyn and I arrived first, purposefully early. I don’t know about Marilyn, but I was What if they don’t like me? What If I don’t like them? What the heck are we going to talk about? Nervous! 

“Buck up,” I told myself, as I ordered a martini  “Up, dirty, large, extra olives.” Drinks and dinner—one evening—we can all make it through one evening.

Deborah & John taking a spin!

Deborah & John taking a spin!

 

That get-acquainted dinner, there was no “making it through,” we shut the restaurant down! (But only after John had taken Deborah for a spin on the dance floor.)

Conversation floated and flitted From one topic to another, as “friend” chats do, with nary an awkward silence.

Birth year-wise, we were 3 maybe 4 decades; conversationally speaking we were contemporaries—interested, interesting, and challenging.

After that first introduction, for me, it was not a question of “Are we dining together again” but rather “When can we?

United in a common goal! That 2nd sunset when the smoke alarms-all 4 of them-started chirping: " Si  lence Them!"

United in a common goal! That 2nd sunset when the smoke alarms-all 4 of them-started chirping: "Silence Them!"

 

Each evening’s topics were rich and varied. Deborah and John's personal histories broadened what Marilyn and I knew of the recent past. May be we taught them some, too.

Motown: Everyone's Music!

Motown: Everyone's Music!

 

Decade to decade commonalities were never so pronounced as the night Deborah and John treated us to “So Good for the Soul”, a tribute to Mo-Town music at Sanibel’s Cultural Center, Big Arts. 

 

 

It was standing-room only in the theater. And Decade-schecade, it was OUR music!  

 

 

Truth is, if fate—and Carolyn—had not intervened, none of us (even if we were sharing the same sundown) probably would have made an effort to get to know each other. But we did and I, for one, am richer for it. 

Decades await! 

Be the one to take that first step—or leap—across those great age divides.

The fountain might be on the other side.

 

Secret of Eternal Youth Playlist:

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The Buddy System

Dylan Thomas Cummings, 17 hours old

Dylan Thomas Cummings, 17 hours old

It's been a busy holiday season. And, as of one week ago today, we have a new little buddy in our family! Dylan Thomas Cummings, arrived Jan 6, 2015. 

Dylan (who wasn't named Dylan then as his parents, Lexi and Ryan, had to meet their new babe to name him) had been scheduled to arrive more than a week earlier, Dec. 22nd, by cesarean. So, instead of celebrating the holidays in Westhampton Beach, as originally planned, we all--when I say all, I mean our immediate family: me, Curtis, Lexi, Ryan, Max, Michelle, Bennett along with Curtis's brother Paul, sis-in-law Valarie and Nephew Will, along with Ryan's family--changed plans. We all met up in the city to celebrate together as we waited for the new baby. Even after Dylan fooled us all by flipping around and pointing down, we all stayed in the city so we could be close by. Sure it was cramped and crowded, but no one wanted to leave. We all wanted to be together. To support Lexi and Ryan, to be on hand, to lend a hand. Sure, Lexi and Ryan would have been fine on their own, they would have managed. But "fine" and "managed" isn't our way. We are all about The Buddy System

While we waited for Mr. Dylan to make his appearance, we had another little buddy to entertain us... Bennett, Dylan's cousin.

At 16 months, Bennett did an excellent job of keeping  us entertained. In turn,we buddied up to entertain him. 

Bennett taught Bapak Curtis to read!

Bennett taught Bapak Curtis to read!

Bennett is mighty handy with the Iphone

When, finally--9 days past his due date--Dylan's doctors and parents it was a time to give him a little boost and induce labor, we all went to the hospital to wait for his arrival. 

No one wanted to wait alone, or to think of anyone else waiting alone, or to be left out. We like having a buddy.

Even though there wasn't a thing we could do, we sat outside, waiting, watching our clocks... 

Even though there wasn't a thing we could do, we sat outside, waiting, watching our clocks... 

Now, a week after Dylan's birth, I'm staying close to Ryan and Lexi to help them get used to being parents, to lend a hand, support, to share the load. Not that they need it. They'll all do just fine without me.  But isn't it easier not having to go it alone???

Misery—and JOY—love company!

Along with celebrating this brand new life, we celebrate a brand new year. The holiday decorations are packed away. Dylan's home. The Party's over, it's time to get back to it. And, for many of us, along with the new years comes resolve to do new things, find new resolves, or renew commitment to established routines. Which isn't always so easy....

A note from motivational writer & speaker Kate Northrup in her Jan. 12th post, "Why it's Sometimes Great to Follow" reminded me why The Buddy System is so effective: 

When it comes to the things in life we may have a little resistance around (like exercise and money, for example), we can tend to fall off track if we don’t have a guide...

...Ask anyone what they struggle with the most regarding anything, and chances are pretty good they’ll tell you that they tend to fall of the wagon.

Sometimes It Feels Good to Follow

When I think about the times I did NOT fall of the wagon in my life, it was when I was following some sort of a program. As much as I’m a leader and have learned a lot of things, it feels great when someone else who has some degree of mastery tells me what to do in an area where I struggle.

While I would never recommend blind adherence, following a program allows us to:

1. Relax, knowing that someone else is giving us support in this one area.
2. Stay accountable.
3. Reduce the number of decisions we make on a daily basis and therefore save our limited decision-making energy for things that either only we can decide or things that are really high leverage decisions in our life.

— Kate Northrup
Dylan's Got his Game Hat on!

Dylan's Got his Game Hat on!

So come on,  2015 is 2 weeks gone; let's get into the game!

Grab a buddy and commit to doing it together. 

If you don't have a buddy handy to partner with, sign up for a class. 

Sign up! Show up! Commit to a NO EXCUSES policy.

Let's get on with the Next Together!

The Buddy System Playlist:

A Pregnant Pause

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the millworkers sing in CarouselJune is bustin’ out all over…”  Flowers are budding, birds are chirping, bees buzzing and as a recent grandmother to Ben,

Bennett experienced the wonders of Indepencence day: Parades, fireworks & watermelon!

Bennett experienced the wonders of Indepencence day: Parades, fireworks & watermelon!

Great aunt for the second time: 

                        Welcome to the World Felicity Allain Smith, born June 9th, 2014.

                        Welcome to the World Felicity Allain Smith, born June 9th, 2014.

And recently revealed gran-to-be:

    Lexi & Ryan are expecting, their baby’s due the end of the year.

    Lexi & Ryan are expecting, their baby’s due the end of the year.

I have babies on the brain, literally and literate-ly.

They—Farmers in the know— say trees always produce best after a “hard” year (“hard” being either an especially cold winter or hot, dry summer). Which might be the reason for the largess . . . although I’m not questioning or complaining. Rather, I’m simply, joyfully, reveling…and pondering gestation:

Elephant gestation takes 547.9 – 669.6730 days (the longest period for mammals).

Salamanders—tiny as they are—about the same. And, considering it, size-for-size, mother discomfort, bulkiness, effort-wise, probably the same elephantian experience too.

Velvet worm—actually NOT a worm and NOT velvet—takes up to 456.553 days,

Velvet worm—actually NOT a worm and NOT velvet—takes up to 456.553 days,

From conception to birth cat's gestation takes 58-65 days. (No wonder they're such hussies!)

 

Manatees 396 days on average.

Manatees 396 days on average.

Donkeys, "Jennys"  330-440 (with lots of variables), camels take 410ish.

Giraffes between 400-460, rhinos about the same, seals and sea lions: 330-350 days.

Giraffes between 400-460, rhinos about the same, seals and sea lions: 330-350 days.

Whales and dolphins: 517.426 (on average with some sperm whales taking 578), humans: 268 days give or take . . . 

Whales and dolphins: 517.426 (on average with some sperm whales taking 578), humans: 268 days give or take . . . 

 As for novels??????

Cause for my literary revelry stems from a cluster of new books by writer friends. With one exception, all by classmates of mine from VCFA. As I have been there through all of these books since inception, in some cases offering a shoulder, always watching admiringly, I’ve declared myself “auntie” to them and as such entitled to muse:

Here are some of the Unreliable Narrators at VCFA last summer.  B.R: Trinity, Cindy, Sarah, Barb, Cynthia; F.R:  Tam, Kelly, Erin.  I fully expect all to be published authors!

Here are some of the Unreliable Narrators at VCFA last summer.  B.R: Trinity, Cindy, Sarah, Barb, Cynthia; F.R:  Tam, Kelly, Erin.  I fully expect all to be published authors!

I’ll begin with the exceptional Russell J. Sanders, who I first met back in/around 2000 when he was a newly retired High School English/Theater teacher and wanna be author at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston. Russell recently celebrated the birth of his second novel, which is garnering excellent reviews, Special Effects (Dreamspinner Press, 2014): More about Russell:

How long did Special Effects take from idea to sale?

About 2191.45 days . . . 

Gestation:  about   2191.45 days (with, as Russell noted “ some stops and starts”

Gestation: about 2191.45 days (with, as Russell noted “ some stops and starts”

Erin Moulton’s third novel came out this June. This being her third, one might think the whole “birthing a novel” thing would have lost its novelty for her. Maybe that’s why Erin “made things interesting” this year, but combining the birth of her newest novel, Chasing the Milky Way, with the birth of her first human baby, Tucker! Oh, yeah, and if that wasn’t excitement enough, timing it all to coincide with the date her new manuscript for her work in progress was due. More about Erin: 

Gestation: It's a bit of a blurrrrrr

Gestation: It's a bit of a blurrrrrr

Jennifer Wolf Kam's path has been by award-hopping to publication! A 3-time finalist for the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, Jen first won publication of her ghost story, White House, in Hunger Mountain. Spectacularly, publication of her debut novel came as a result of writing 2 of 5 finalist in the NAESP 2013 Children’s Book ContestMore about Jen! 

Gestation:    5 years: 1826.21 days

Gestation:  5 years: 1826.21 days

Sarah Tomp, author of my often lauded, put-it-back-in-print fav, The Red, White and Blue Goodbye, had a relatively easy time of it with her debut moonshine novel, My Best Everything, which “walks the line between toxic and intoxicating” The gestation time was only 1 1/2 years=547.9632996 days!  More about Sarah:

Gestation: about 1 ½ years:  547.863298611 days

Gestation: about 1 ½ years:  547.863298611 days

Tamera Ellis Smith, who’s writing credits include a first-person essay in  BREAK THESE RULES: 35 YA Writers on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself,  welcomes her debut novel Another Kind of Hurricane, August 2015.  (Publication is scheduled to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.) Here's More about Tam!

So, Tam, how long did it take to write Another Kind of Hurricane?:  Almost 9 years . . . 3287.18 days, with “A lot of starts and stops along the way.  Sometimes big stops.”

Last but not least for this crop: Teresa Harris, author of the spunky picture book, Summer Jackson: Grown-Up,  won two prizes (one for humor) for this novel-in-progress while we were still at VCFA.

Teresa's WIP, acquired by Clarion, is forthcoming (I could not find a pub date on the web.) So by my calculations, gestation time: 5.6 years=2045.36 days. However, if you count post-sale as gestation,* the interview announcing the sale was Feb of 2012 and Teresa’s book hasn’t been published yet, gestation's is ongoing. So make that 2921.94 and counting . . . More about Teresa 

 

Why the disparity?

I like to think of it in shark terms. Sharks are K-selected reproducers, (as are, cats aside, the other animals noted above.) Rather than producing a large number of poorly developed offspring, “they produce a small number of well-developed young.” In this way offering their offspring the best possible chances of surviving. Additionally, in these animals, birth can be delayed depending on a variety of external pressures.

That’s why I’m thinking shark. Maybe it isn’t’ about how badly we want to publish . . . what brilliant writers we are . . . the fantastic story premise we’ve dreamed up . . . Or about everyone, anyone, our expectations. Maybe there are other forces beyond our control determining how long it takes.

“You can feel it in your heart/
You can see it in the ground/
You can see it in the trees/
You can smell it in the breeze/
Look around! Look around! Look around!”
— June's Bustin' Out All Over by Rogers & Hammerstein

* The question of whether a book is “gestating” in that time between being sold and publication is up for debate. Might this time be the equivalent of Novel neo-natal?--It certainly adds to the w-a-i-t-i-n-g t-i-m-e. . . tick-tock

Care to give a little listen?? JUNE IS BUSTIN' OUT ALL OVER on Utube

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The Argus 2014: Capetown, S.A.

The wind howled throughout Argus Eve night. I know I slept because each time a mighty wind rattled the windows it woke me. Why am I doing this ride?

At 5:00, when the alarm went off, I asked myself again.

And again when I rubbed the pain/inflammation compound on my knee, sun screened, pulled on biking pants, shirts—2 because it was chilly—biking socks, shoes, gloves, adjusted my helmet, clipped the race chip on the bike wheel, checked that my race number was in place on my back, that my green medical ID sticker with allergy info was properly placed, stuffed my pockets with my shuffle, camera, lip balm & Advil, I asked: Why are Curtis and I doing this ride?

Part of the Mason/Voysey Group-Chris, Luke, Dave, Ed, Robert, Darrel, Kelly, Curts- in Official Team Shirts, at Fountain Circle waiting for the rest of the group.

Part of the Mason/Voysey Group-Chris, Luke, Dave, Ed, Robert, Darrel, Kelly, Curts- in Official Team Shirts, at Fountain Circle waiting for the rest of the group.

Everyone else in the Mason/Voysey family group had trained. We’d arranged to meet at Fountain Circle in Downtown Capetown, so we could all start together:

o   Uncle John (80 and the inspiration for this ride)

o   4 Mason Brothers (Andrew, Robert, Charles, David)

o   3 Voysey Brothers (Donald, John, Peter John)

o   Harriet (Robert Voysey’s wife and tandem partner)

o   Caelia (Donald Voysey’s daughter and at 18 the youngest rider)

o   Cousin Robert

o   Cousin Darrel Voysey

o   Mason side Cousins: Luke, Chris Mason

o   Mason/Voysey’s “To Be”: Ed & Luke (who proposed to cousin Eve at the top of Table Mountain)

Caelia, the youngest in our group, and her dad Donald-ready to ride!

Caelia, the youngest in our group, and her dad Donald-ready to ride!

Even after we’d saddled up and were coasting downhill from Shona and Charles apartment toward the starting place, I asked myself: Can I back out now? Should I?

Through the sleepy, pre-dawn streets, the announcer bellowed and music thumped as thousands of riders, like ants converged into a solid clump thousands—35,000ish—thick.

Argus Riders--DD Group--Surging toward the Starting Line

Argus Riders--DD Group--Surging toward the Starting Line

Curtis was ready

Curtis was ready

Harriett & Robert: Tandem Ready!

Harriett & Robert: Tandem Ready!

Corralling 34,500 riders, sorting them into groups of 500 riders (some more or less), herding them through the streets and across the finish line at 5 minute intervals, seems a herculean task. With 36 years of experience the Argus organizers manage it handily and cheerfully.

At sunrise, 6:19 am, The Argus 2014 was on!

The first group set off with dollar sign race numbers on their backs. Then came groups with other symbols, then A group-through to z, then double AA group and so on. (The Voysey/Mason Family group is DD). As each group was announced and set off with a blast of the start horn, the rest of us moved closer to the finish line. The sun rose. I stopped asking why? I started asking: Can I?

The DD at the Start LIne--see the bridge in the distance? That's the start.

The DD at the Start LIne--see the bridge in the distance? That's the start.

The announcer called out tidbits about each group as its members waiting in next off “pen”. The DD group included:

·         The oldest Argus rider, at 91

·         3 or 5 participants who have ridden in every Argus Ride—this being their 37th

·         5 riders in their 80s, including the oldest female and Uncle John (we gave a huge shout out as his name was announced).

·         Amputees & folks with MS and other diseases riding recumbent bikes they pedaled with their hands.

Curtis and me--a couple of "posers" at the start of the ride

Curtis and me--a couple of "posers" at the start of the ride

I had been secretly feeling a little proud of myself that Curtis and I, oldsters that we are, were riding, until hearing this list. . .

The bullhorn blasted. The announcer shouted “And their off!”

And we stood.

A pack of 500 people on bikes does not surge forward in a wave. It oozes forward like goo in the bottom of a squeeze tube. Even slower upon hearing “Mind the wind under the bridge!” “Hold Steady!”

Head down as the wind blasted us, knocking forward riders sideways.  I gripped the bike (not my bike! I already hated this fat wheeled, thick-framed, stocky mule of a mountain bike), and inched my way across the starting line.

The Argus route starts with a long, slow uphill. Even though I was pedaling as hard as I could, it felt as though I was sliding backwards as  everyone else in the Mason/Voysey group, including Curtis and every other DD, then EEs and FFs, JJs, KKs rolled passed.

Uncle John has our team shirts designed with everyone's names and country flags on the front and back.

Uncle John has our team shirts designed with everyone's names and country flags on the front and back.

If I had ever thought about trying to keep up, I quit trying then. The best I could do was keep pedaling, and make the best of it.

Spectators lining the route, waving, cheering, carrying signs, some in costume, some holding out beers or hands for “high five” made it better.

The scenery: breathtaking vistas, aquamarine seas, buff shimmering sand, quaint and varied building & villages, attention grabbing, I-could-hop-off-and-go-in-for-a-look shops, ostrich farms, eucalyptus groves, hills and mountains and down hills gave me plenty to look at as I pedal-crept past.

 

I didn’t have a speedometer or odometer on my bike, or a watch, so I had no way of knowing how long I’d gone or how far—felt like hours and a million miles—until I spotted a bright yellow sign: ONLY 98 KM TO GO!

When everyone—Curtis included—left me in the dust at the starting line, I abondoned the thought of ever see any of them again. Of maybe crossing the finishing line as a group, the way they had discussed at the "Strategy Meeting" the night before.  It was freeing to know I didn’t have to even try to keep up. All I had to do was keep going.

Shona, leader of the official Mason cheer squad said she’d be watching us from the railroad track in Cork Bay, but I’d sort of forgotten that until I heard her calling my name. I looked up, around, and there she was waving and screaming wildly with a bunch of other non-riding family members. Their whoops  buoyed me for a few more kilometers.

Then again, down the road from their home, Aunt Marie (Uncle John’s wife) leading a Voysey cheer squad, shouted encouragement. How happy I was that their watching post was at a slight downhill spot and not one of the ugly, sweaty, hard-fought uphills.

At one Reward Stop, my reward was a glimpse of yellow shirt in the distance. Could it be Mr. B?

At one Reward Stop, my reward was a glimpse of yellow shirt in the distance. Could it be Mr. B?

Hours and Kilometers clicked by. Parts began protesting: my back, knee, chin where the strap rubbed, my seat, my seat, the bottom of my left foot, bottom of the right, knee, bottom .  . . The aches, or my attention, migrated, giving me something to think about as I pedaled—it passed the time.

Stopping after a long uphill was a bargain I made. A reward.  I’d look up and forward to a point, telling myself “When you reach that spot, you can stop and take photos.”  (Taking photos sounds way cooler than "resting."

Random Riders fighting up yet another long hill

Random Riders fighting up yet another long hill

At one such photo/rest stop, I glimpsed a familiar yellow shirt pedaling toward me. It was Curtis! He’d stopped somewhere to wait for me, then stopped again (and maybe again) until I’d wound up in front of him. Neither of us had even pulled a Daniel Day Lewis Last of the Mohicans and nevertheless, we’d found each other in that sea of 36,000. After that, we decided we’d finish together.

Chapman Hill is what riders veterans talk about. “Chappie” they call it, as if having pedaled up, up, up, up, up it, the road winding up and over the mountains, it becomes a friend.

Chapman Hill never will be “Chappie” to me. It’s a miserable climb.  Incredible riding under the cliff edge, though

Chapman Hill never will be “Chappie” to me. It’s a miserable climb. Incredible riding under the cliff edge, though

Curtis battling his way up "Chappie"

Curtis battling his way up "Chappie"

See the road carved into the side of Chapman Hill? And the teeny tiny ant-riders winding up that hill? 

See the road carved into the side of Chapman Hill? And the teeny tiny ant-riders winding up that hill? 

But the long, gradual downhill after was thrilling, freeing, glorious! Especially as Chapman comes toward the end of the ride.

Having ridden the Argus before, as though through muscle memory,  I recalled well the easy, relatively flat cruise from there back into Capetown and the finish. As we rode along, I mentioned to Curtis how Chapman hadn’t seemed as hard going as I recalled. How I’d remembered a stretch where we seemed to be riding almost straight up, with lots of wobbling, pedaling almost to a standstill, and spectators giving riders pushes to help them up. “That wasn’t Chappie,” Curtis said. “That hill you're remembering is the hill that comes after Chappie . . . ”

“After???? There’s another bad hill?” I asked.

“Two more,” Curtis replied.

No one offered to push me up those next two hills. (I would have paid dearly for the service.) There was a group of red winged “Angels” pushing people up hill at one point, but they were on the far right side of the road and I was on the left, too weary and slow to try to cut across the crowd to the other side.

A bit farther on, a man was cooling people down with spray from his garden hose. I recalled laughing when he sprayed me the first time. But that had been a sunny, windless ride, and I'd been hot and powerful. (Fortunately, his territory was at a relatively slight uphill so I could veer out of range—his good fortune, for I think I would have punched him if he’d squirted me.)

Recumbent bike riders pedal with their hands and arms.

Recumbent bike riders pedal with their hands and arms.

As promised, Curtis and I crossed the finish line, together. We looked around hoping Shona & the gang had witnessed our crossing, as they had the first time we'd ridden the Argus. But no familiar voices shouted and whooped as they had in 2011. (Some strangers did. And congratulated us as they handed us our Argus Medals, and herded up past.)

There were 34,500 confirmed riders who started the Argus 2014. Winds at the starting line were clocked at about 35 mph.

The Argus winner, Nolan Hoffman,  rode it in 2 hours and 37 minutes, 1 second.

The best Mason/Voysey race time was Ed’s at 4:37

Uncle John, at 80, crossed the finish line together with his sons in 4:45

The exact time it took Curtis and I to ride the 109 km is unknown as our names do not show up on the official Argus website. Charles said they stop tracking chips after 7 hours.

So, according to official records, we may not have finished the Argus 2014. . . .

It wasn’t pretty. Or handily. Or strong. But we know we finished. 

Here's proof (recieved via email 3-12-2014):

Kelly,

Your result won’t be displayed on our website as you took longer than 7hrs to complete the race. You needed to complete the race in 7hrs from your group start time.

Your group started at 07:44:00, you finished at 15:15:45. That gives you a time of 7 hours, 31 minutes and 45 seconds.

Regards,
— Janine Jacobs Race Office Administrator RaceTec

Now that it's done, and I've slathered my knee with pain-killer, anti-inflammatory salve, I can answer that question of why? Why we rode it?

Why do any of us challenge ourselves to tackle difficult, seemingly impossible, maybe foolhardy tasks? 

It's not about whether or not anyone sees you cross the finish. Rewards, the medals, recognition, that's not it.

Why do we do it? To know we can.

Onward Don Quixote!

PHOTO AT THE FINISH TO COME--MAYBE . . . maybe not.

Be Strong In Your Warrior

One is not supposed to think during Yoga. You know the bumper sticker slogan "Go with the flow"? I'm thinking some yogi coined it. Yoga is about flowing. I know this because I got to thinking today, during yoga, and when I opened my eyes at the end of practice, I was facing the back wall, while everyone else was facing forward.

yoga.jpg

But first, before beginning the practice, we take time to focus our intention.

I’ve had loads of practice thinking, mulling, musing, pondering, "daydreaming" as my grandmother used to call it which sounded so pleasant, positive even, in contrast to other terms letting your mind wander is called: "Procrastinating", "Wasting Time", and when it goes on too long it morphs into "Resisting" as Steven Pressfield discusses in War of Art.

In an interview about her writing process (which I searched for but couldn’t find, as I didn't want to waste any more time looking) Isabel Allende said she "dreams" her stories. She watches the scene play out in her head, then writes it down. (And I seem to recall she actually lies down while "dreaming"--as in on a bed. Maybe with a pillow and blankie . . .

What's the difference?  Focused  Intention.

I've tried "dreaming" my scenes, playing them, working through them in my mind. And it works--but only if I'm walk-dreaming or ironing dreaming or  cooking dreaming. Flat out out on the bed or in a chair turns to "NAP TIME". 

I've tried "dreaming" my scenes, playing them, working through them in my mind. And it works--but only if I'm walk-dreaming or ironing dreaming or  cooking dreaming. Flat out out on the bed or in a chair turns to "NAP TIME". 

I have the same problem during yoga. At the end of each practice we lie in “corpse pose” (pretty self-explanatory: lay flat on your back on the ground like you’re dead.)

However, even with the instructor’s warning: “Tell yourself you are practicing deep meditation, you will not move, you will not fall asleep…” I’ll find myself jerking to attention or snorting awake. Maybe more than once, my friend Mimi had to give me a nudge. 

"I am practicing deep relaxation. I will not move. I will not fall asleep zzzzzzzzz"

"I am practicing deep relaxation. I will not move. I will not fall asleep zzzzzzzzz"

When I think "yoga",  Love-not-War, Flower Power and "Peace, Dude" comes to mind, not battle. Which makes flowing through a series of warrior poses seems oximoronic (if that’s even a word). Today, when Catherine said, as she does every yoga session “Stand strong in your warrior",  this oximoronosity--which self-corrected to monstrosity--came to mind.

As I stood, with my back leg stretched, front knee bent, staring past my quivering fingertips, pushing down through my aching legs in one of my mightiest Warrior 2 ever, I pondered the purpose of these Yoga Warrior poses.

Why would a peaceful practice such as yoga need warrior poses? What do flower power peace dudes have to do with battle?

Why would a peaceful practice such as yoga need warrior poses? What do flower power peace dudes have to do with battle?

I must share how, in spite of my pondering--or maybe because of it--2 out of 3 of my Warrior Poses were Stellar. 

Okay, so my Warrior Three was wobbly. In my defense, I was thinking . . .

Okay, so my Warrior Three was wobbly. In my defense, I was thinking . . .

It was not my best yoga day. (“Thinking, mulling, pondering” and “listen and follow directions” are mutually exclusive.) It was not my best work day, either. This question of why peaceful yogi-types would spend so much time and energy posing as warriors won. I couldn't let it so. So instead of sticking to the tasks I'd set for myself, I searched the internet for answers. 

Validation came when I came across an article in Yoga Journal  which also challenged warrior pose's role in yoga:  

Given that the ideal of yoga isahimsa, or ‘nonharming,’ isn’t it strange that we would practice a pose celebrating a warrior who killed a bunch of people?
— Richard Rosen, a contributing editor to Yoga Journal and the director of Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, CA.

Rosen's conclusion is that the yogi is doing battle against her own ignorance. . . trying to "rise up out of your own limitations."  Which is not easy! Battling oneself never is.

Is this why we resist? Why we avoid? Procrastinate? (Which, I'm compelled to restate for the record, is so not the same thing as daydreaming. . . )

Fame is no insulator. Allende, author of 20 highly-acclaimed books, most recently   Ripper  , battles, too.

Fame is no insulator. Allende, author of 20 highly-acclaimed books, most recently Ripper, battles, too.

Each Jan. 7th, Isabel Allende prepares--focuses her intention. Jan 8th, she begins each new book.

Why Jan. 8th? Allende explains: "My daughter, Paula, died on December 6, 1992. On January 7, 1993, my mother said, ‘Tomorrow is January eighth. If you don’t write, you’re going to die.’"Her mother went to Macy's and when she returned Allende had taken up the gauntlet.

The only hard thing about writing is sitting down,” Isabel Allende noted. “The rest is so easy and so wonderful.
If you attempt to stay in it [warrior pose] for any length of time, you’ll confront your own bodily, emotional, or mental weaknesses. Whatever limitations you have, the pose will reveal them so that they can be addressed....When viewed this way, practicing Warrior [pose] can be seen as fighting the good fight.
— Tim Miller, director of San Diego's Ashtanga Yoga Center

What tool does Allende take with her to battle. What reminder to keep her focused. To help her stay strong in her warrior? A candle.

 In an interview with Bill Moyer she shared how she lights a candle when she begins writing. "It's a real candle, but it's also a metaphysical candle," she told him.

And if I have a candle, for as long as the candle is burning, I write. And then, when it’s over, when it burns off, I can have dinner and get out, and do things.
Imagine, each of these candles represents pages, chapters, novels . . .

Imagine, each of these candles represents pages, chapters, novels . . .

Today has been a battle. A battle to stay the course in yoga. A battle to stop puttering and sit down to the work I had planned for the day (a battle I lost.) And most frustrating/time consuming of all, a battle to publish this posting. Three times I'd been clicking away and something went wrong. It would have been easy to quit and turn to those many things I had planned to accomplish today. Important things. But working through this notion of what Warrior meant, which had taken hold of me as I  stared down the length of my outstretched arm. And so, I soldered.

How-to Focus Intention:

First: admit it. No matter what differences we are trying to make, what we are trying to create, to change, it is a war we are fighting. A war against taking the easy road, playing it safe. 

Second: Arm yourself with whatever will help you focus your intention, be it yoga mat, walking desk, chocolate bar reward, candle. . . 

Third: Attack!

 If you're reading this, I won! And it feels darn good. 

BE STRONG IN YOUR WARRIOR

Popsicles

What Inspires: POPSICLES I’m waiting in my dermatologist’s office to have my annual “mole check.” (Moles? Creepy name, always makes my skin crawl. . . Is one more burrowing up from under my skin right now???) Anyway . . .

There is a brochure on the table for a non-invasive fat melting procedure called “Cool Sculpting.” (Oh please, do not pretend you wouldn’t pick up a brochure promising “fat melting”, too.) The explanation inside explains that the revolutionary discover which lead to “Cool Sculpting” technology came because someone noticed that children with dimples eat more popsicles.

What's Your Favorite Flavor?

What's Your Favorite Flavor?

Who do you suppose that “someone” was? And how was the data gathered? Did someone race around after Ice Cream trucks? Or did someone take playground to playground surveys.

dimples

dimples

Genetically speaking: “Dimples are visible indentations formed as a result of the underlying flesh of the cheeks. . . actually the manifestations of a birth defect resulting from a shortened facial muscle. A dimple is the outcome of a fault in the subcutaneous connective tissue that develops during embryonic development.” (From a BRAIN TRAIN post about dimples.)

Genetic’s aside: It seems the icy popsicles being sucked against the inner cheek of the child over an extended period of time kills fat cells in the cheek. Makes um less “cheeky” (If I’d known that I might have sent a couple certain someones chasing the Ice Cream Truck more often.)

Which jives perfectly with more from the BRAIN TRAIN: And sometimes, “A variation in the structure of the facial muscle zygomaticus major is known to cause dimples.” And leads us back to “Cool Sculpture”:

dreamcicle

dreamcicle

Does this mean that people with only one dimple only sucked popsicles on one side? And did that someone tally statistics to find out if there are more right-side suckers or left-side suckers? Or is the split pretty much fifty-fifty dreamsicle-style? If that’s the case, fair jurors could be almost guaranteed (if we limit the drawing pool to folks with dimples in both cheeks.)

I always wanted dimples.  I used to stand in front of the mirror with my cheeks sucked in wishing I had them. I wonder: If I start sucking popsicles now, can I grow some dimples? (Or is it lose?)

And what about people with dimpled chins? Where do they suck their popsicles?

Remember the adage “Dimple in chin, Devil within”? Is “Devil” a euphemism for unflavored popsicles (otherwise known as icicle)? Weather-wise it’s been called devilishly cold—so cold it feels hot as the devil.

Dimpled knees?

Dimpled butts? ………………………………..Fudgesicles? (I know, I shouldn’t have . . .)

Or Dimpled feet? …………………………………… Say maybe what’s the idea behind Michael Frank’s odd-but-catchy ditty: “Popsicle toes are always froze . . . ”

Popsicles  . . . 

Battling the Buts

When my friend Teri was in Paris, a few years back,  I went to visit her. Paris_-_Eiffelturm_und_Marsfeld2One day she came home all a-twitter. She had been invited to a party by a guy she had seen, often, at an internet cafe. senior-man-in-beret (A handsome, Frenchman).

Later, she and I, her brother Anthony and a guy friend of his, discussed whether she should go to the party or not:

"But . . . do you think he really meant to invite me?" she said. "Maybe he was just being nice . . . "

"Did he look at you?" Anthony and friend asked.

"Yes."

"Then he's interested."

"But . . .

"Did he smile at you?" Anthony and friend asked.

"Yes."

"Then he's interested."

"But . . .

"Did he talk to you you?" Anthony and friend asked.

"Yes."

"Then he's interested. . . . GO TO THE PARTY!!!!"

It's the same with writing, or any creative, non time-card activity. When it comes to our definition of "working" or not, we go all middle-grade and dismiss all that goes into the process with that 3-letter word: "But . .. that doesn't count... "But . .. I'm not really...

The UNs had a "few" middle school moments at the VCFA Alumni-rez this July

To counteract those insecure boogies, I've created this litmus test. (I've used "writing" as my creative endeavor. Substitute yours for it.) Then print it out and post it prominently. The next time buts get the better of you, give yourself the test.

Am I Writing?

Are you thinking about your story?

You're writing!

Are you doing research for your story?

You're writing!

Are you reading words written by other writers, especially those you admire...or not?

You're writing!

Have you written words today? A grocery list? An email? Notes for your story? ...any at all?

YOU ARE A WORKING WRITER!!!!!!! 

--Read. Respond. When in doubt, repeat. Repeat as needed.

Written Words are a renewable resource!

 

On Being the Filling and Refilling that Well!

When I used to grouse about how life interfered with my writing schedule,  my friend, Richard Harnett,  always brushed it away saying "You're refilling your writer's well, Kel." Every moment of living adds another drop to your writer's well

 

It always made me feel good to hear that. To think those times I was so busy with living I couldn't write would one day, serve my writing.

My well is filling, brimming, overflowing . . .  It's been keeping me from posting here--sorry for that. But this is life: rich, messy, exciting, unpredictable, scary--definitely a piled high, deli sandwich.

To paraphrase  Auntie Mame, "If life is a banquet I'm stuffing myself." (Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman.)

Mom's  the bottom layer.  Hers is a stodgy, crusty, nutty and grainy end of the loaf slice, anchoring our open-faced sandwich.

Mom, Mary Ellen, Grandma at M&M's wedding last September.

Mom has been in and out of rehab and hospital the past few years. Heavy as it may be, it's a spicy, interesting layer as it has brought me closer to my brother Joe and his family as we band together to support mom.

Grace Goofing

 

Devin Rocking Out

Curtis and my move from Indonesia to Trinidad and New York last year, brought with it a whole new bag of flavors we're sampling. It's predictable and surprising as dried seaweed sprinkes.

Son Max's wedding to Michelle in Long Island last summer, added a flavorful, thick ham and sweet, spicy saucy layer.

M&M Riding into the Sunset

Daughter, Lexi's wedding to Ryan, scheduled for this November in Turks and Caicos, is proving pesto--fresh & complex with zing!

Lexi & Ryan's Engagement Party

 

Cake Tasting . . . before

 

and after--I helped!

My new, long awaited picture book, Vampire Baby--the gumbo, sambal, curry layer adds fuel.

Crawling your way July 9th!

 

And soon to come--and feeling real courtesy of these 3D photos--our newest layer: a grandbaby! Max and Michelle's baby--a festive topper--arrives this August!

I wonder, could those toes . . .

 

Sneak Preview

Yep, that well is brimming! And that's some kinda ink! In the meantime, our Dagwood-style sandwich is growing taller and more interesting. A banquet indeed!

When life gets in the way of your creating, loosen your belt buckle so you, too, can enjoy the banquet. And think ink! INK!

Please stay tuned for more!

Selamat makan! Happy filling and refilling!

Every person, experiences, encounter is another ingredients added to the Dagwood