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Happy Birthday Freya!

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Happy Birthday, Freya!

Yesterday was Freya’s birthday. It was Soooo HOT that she refused to move from the basement after our initial early morning walk. I gave her a frozen raw bone from the butcher, and that was her birthday treat. She seemed to make the most of it, even in the basement.

 

 

It was an eventful day. Nikki and Tom and Alec and Lia left our house for their Calgary, Alberta adventure. After a delightful four-day visit, it was TOUGH to see them go.

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Lia and Freya

 

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So, after waving them out the driveway and drying my eyes, I got in touch with my friend Paul and saddled up for a 43 mile bike ride. Best way to avoid the blues that I know! It was, however, in the 90s and HUMID, so we were dripping wet by ten miles in. The heat made a bit of a challenge, but cycling moves the air, so I never notice the heat as much on my bike as off. Paul and I had much fun, as always.

Paul and me 8.10.1613886467_1081043135276460_1618886200407948600_n

 

Got some other work done, and then saddled up again to go on the Nicollet Bike Women’s Ice Cream ride. I figured that’s usually a leisurely paced, no-drop ride, so I could do it in spite of an earlier ride. Well, we moved right along and split into a couple groups, and I dropped a sweaty water bottle–fell right through my fingers–but Emma retrieved it, and all was good. Mom and Pop’s Ice Cream is, as always, a delightful way to end a hot, fun ride. . Good friends, good fun. https://www.facebook.com/nicolletbikeshop/photos/a.495357077178405.1073741826.139081836139266/1081043135276460/?type=3

 

Then, last night, I was sorting boxes from my basement in the Rapidan house. I found pictures of Nikki and me as toddlers. Here’s a rather delightful comparison:

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baby Nik and LiaI’m on the left. Nikki’s in the middle, and Lia’s on the right (taken two days ago). I guess there’s a little resemblance. It’s fun to see three generations carrying on. Nikki in the middle, by the way, is also playing with a tea set. Ha.

 

All said and done, what a good life.

This morning I went to the eye doctor, and the only problems are normal problems with aging. Nothing concerning. And with a new appreciation for life, I’m happy to have eye aging problems. It’s so much better than the alternative, which could have been mine!

 

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Some news, Reflecting…and some wedding pictures

_MG_8303 Reflections on getting married and life in the last couple months… The big news is about my novel Slider’s Son. It looks like it’s going to get PUBLISHED in 2017! So before I launch into that explanation, which is a long story, I owe you a few wedding pics…

First of all, this is our gang. Tom and me with our kids and grandchildren.

Left to right:

Ashley holding Charlotte, Chase in Dusty’s arms, Kari, Ben, Tom, me holding Lia, Josh, Emily, Alec who doesn’t want his picture taken, Tom, and Nikki. Tom’s offspring are on the left side of the photo, and mine are on the right. What a terrific crew of kids. Ashley had the idea to dress the girls the same and the boys the same. Turned out ADORABLY in my opinion.

So, getting married the year I turn 60. Some might think it’s nuts, but to us, it feels just right. Secure, solid, content. We’ve been together so long, there are no questions about trust or if we can make it work. We just want to make one secure home (instead of two) for ourselves and for kids and grandkids to visit. It’s good. We like this.

Laughing, ceremonyWe had a good time at the super-informal ceremony outside in our backyard.

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And of course, Freya was our flower girl, thanks to Kirstin providing her with a wreath-collar! True to form, Tom didn’t leave his shirt on long after the ceremony ended.

It’s been a busy summer, the garden is bursting at its seams (with vegetables AND with weeds), and school starts in a couple weeks. I am happy, happy, happy to have survived an aneurysm and to be alive!

Oh, yeah, my name is now Becky Brooks, but I’ll still use Rebecca Fjelland Davis as my writing name. Just FYI.

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Whew. And thinking of Muhammad Ali

This has been one heckofa month of my life. High highs (wow!), a big disappointment or two, but mostly, life is REALLY good.  In the next blog post, I’ll have information about some of these happenings that I don’t have time to dive into right now. But it started with the trip to Missouri for the filming of Chasing AllieCat and just this past weekend, Tom and I got MARRIED! It’s been sort of a whirlwind. But a good one. More on all that soon.

Right now, however, I want to show you this article. Davis Miller is my friend. He knew Muhammad Ali personally, and he wrote extensively about him. I loved his book, The Tao of Muhammad Ali, and I’m not really even a boxing fan. The book was what one might call transcendent. It transcended being about Davis or being about boxing or exclusively about Ali. It was about how we connect with other humans, and how our shared stories–personally as well as in literature–allow us to recognize our connections. Weirdly, Davis’ Great Pyrenees died shortly after Ali did. There’s something karmic about that, and the loss felt that way to Davis. Anyway, this article captures the relationship, and does homage to both men and to their friendship. It’s worth reading.

http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2016/06/08/muhammad-ali-friendship0608_Davis-miller-ali-624x653

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A Muslim at Prom

30prom-web1-master768A Muslim Prom Queen

YES! I’m so excited to read this article about a girl who was voted prom queen, wearing her hijab and all.

I have written a novel about a romance between a Muslim boy and a Lutheran/Christian girl. Titled Who the Frack is Maddie Jackson?, it’s under consideration as I write this. I’m hoping to find a new agent, since George Nicholson died.

I have done tons of research, spent hours talking with my Muslim students, and I feel I’ve portrayed the relationship honestly. I worried that no Muslim teen would get permission to go to prom, but HERE is proof that what I imagined can happen. I am so happy to read this today. Thanks, Trisha Speed Shaskan, for posting the article so I saw it!

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The emotional roller coaster of writing

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So it’s been quite a two-week period. Carol and I left two weeks ago tomorrow for the filming of Chasing AllieCat the movie in Columbia, MO. It was surreal to see the kids–the characters and the scenes I had created come to life before the camera.

Here’s 3 bikesAllie and Sadie and Joe as they appear in the movie.

 

 

 

Here’s the camera crew in the woods, preparing for the scene where Sadie, Joe, and Allie find Father Malcolm. ALL the students working on crews were amazing. I loved hanging out with the entire group of Stephens Film Institute women!

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This is  the set-up before Father Malcolm is planted in the woods. steph&Becky bikes shop

 

 

 

 

 

Steph and I confer, trying to figure out a scene in the bike shop.

 

 

So all of this was a whirlwind, but delightful and exciting and exhilirating!

Then I got home with enough time to do laundry and repack and head north to St. Joseph, MN for the YAYA (Young Authors/Young Artists) Conference at the College of Saint Benedict.

I’m the keynote speaker for all three days of the conference (different group of kids each day). Each day, the auditorium is filled with 500-some kids! I have to keep them paying attention!

I do my schpiel about 5 rules for writers

1. Read

2. Live

3. Pay attention

4. Apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair

5. Write!

And I talk about animal metaphors for writing to completion (all of this can be applied to doing art, too). I use how I came up with the story  Chasing AllieCat by “prairie-dogging” it together–using random unrelated weird things I’d noticed in life and tying them together as if digging a prairie dog town to connect them underneath–to make them all fit together into a story.

The copies of Chasing AllieCat sold out the first day. Luckily, I had ordered a box of 60 books before the movie shoot. I had 50 left, which the bookstore took on–and they sold all but the 15 they reserved for tomorrow’s crowd!

So…all of this should make me VERY happy. This is what writing success is, right? It’s the kind of thing you dream of when you want to write and when you spend long hours alone in front of the computer in the basement. I was flying high.

THEN the bookstore called FLUX–Chasing AllieCat’s publisher–to ask if they could get another 50 books in a hurry. Second choice: to buy the 50 books to replace mine rather than trying to pay me for them. Today FLUX answered that they only have 2 copies in stock, and  they aren’t sure they are going to print any more!!!! So finally all this good stuff happens, and the book that made it happen is going out of PRINT!???? That’s a writer’s nightmare. There’s still hope, but slim.

From the highest high to the most depressed low. Such is the emotional life of a writer! (My mother would have said, “Pride cometh before fall.”)

Good thing we write because we love stories. If we wrote for some modicum of “Success,” It would be the most depressing career in the world!

 

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The Cast of the movie Chasing AllieCat

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http://chasingac2016.wix.com/chasingalliecat#!cast/ozesk

Playing Allie:

Emily Sukolics is a recent graduate from Stephens College. She earned her BFA in Theatre with an emphasis in acting. Along with acting, she sings, has worked backstage at multiple theatres in Kansas City, and is pursuing a career in film and stage work. During her time at Stephens she was in many stage productions including Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird and, most recently,  Cassandra in Vanya, and Sonya, and, Masha, and Spike. She is very excited to be playing the part of Allie in Chasing Alliecat.

 

Playing Sadie:

Ana Michaela Chan was born on June 10th, 1997 in suburban town Davis, California to David Chan and Renee Alarcon-Chan. She is the youngest sister of a total of seven siblings, with her brother, William, ranking youngest of the pack. Ana’s involvement with theatre started at a supremely young age of 3 years old, where she would attend theatre auditions with her dad—the Davis Musical Theatre Company’s hired pianist. After years of observing the performers, Ana was finally cast at age 6 in her first theatre production, the musical The Music Man. Throughout all of her schooling, Ana was constantly involved in this theatre company’s productions, auditioning for as many shows her parents would allow, including Seussical, Les Misérables, South Pacific, and Peter Pan. Ana attended Rivercity High School, where she took part in various school activities, including a state-competing debate team (Mock Trial). Because of her family’s musical background, Ana was also the drummer/vocalist of the jazz band Syncopating Sea Monkeys. Ana is currently attending Stephens College, in Columbia, MO.

 

Playing Joe:

Zack Huels

 

Playing Cecil Baker:

Robert Doyen, Professor of Theatre

Rob Doyen is a resident actor/teacher at Stephens, where he teaches Acting, Directing and Musical Theatre. He also teaches in the Stephens Summer Theatre Institute (STI) and has spent the last 37 summers at Okoboji Summer Theatre. This past summer, he appeared in Blithe Spirit, The Foreigner and Little Shop of Horrors. Last year at Stephens, he was featured in A Catered Affair, Inspecting Carol, Uncle Vanya and A Shayna Maidel. He earned an M.A. from Illinois State University and a B.F.A. from Stephens College.

Father Malcolm: To Be Announced

Playing Race Volunteer:

Itohan Amayo is a sophomore student at the University of Missouri majoring in Communication with a minor in Theatre Performance.  Itohan LOVES acting and performing. Although she is going to school for communication, she continuously is striving to accomplish a career in performance. Itohan has been performing for 5 years now, and most of her performances have been in musicals, she is slowly creeping into a world of strictly acting, and she is loving the challenge.  Itohan is inspired by many people in her life like her family and friends, but her other inspirations are Oprah, and Todrick Hall, for obvious reasons. Itohan is excited to work with the cast and crew of Chasing AllieCat and hopes that this experience will create more experiences that will expand her talents and create new, awesome memories!

Playing the Nurse:

Danielle Doyen is excited to be a part of this SFI project. Danielle is back in Columbia after spending a decade in Los Angeles and New Orleans…it’s nice to be home. Selected Los Angeles and Regional Theater credits include: Natalie in AFTERMATH with Annie Potts, Constanze in AMADEUS, Vita in ANGELS FALL, Maria in TWELFTH NIGHT, Margaret in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Woman in THE 39 STEPS, and she appeared in MACBETH, THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL and AS YOU LIKE IT. She co-stared in the indie film UNMANNED, which garnered many festival nominations and awards.

Check out the crew, and see more details HERE.

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Having Fun on the Bike

Everything about how I’m riding my bike these days goes against my natural inclination. After spending thousands of miles (at least hundreds and hundreds) in the school of pain and hard knocks, led by Mark Skarpohl (Skarpohli, as I call him, also known as Skarp, Mr. Twin Pipes, and several other nicknames), when you encounter wind, what do you do? Lean over, get low and dig into the wind. You go harder. What does that do? It elevates your heart rate. Doctors ordered me to keep my heart rate under 110 until June–six months after my brain surgery–and nothing that has become instinctual about cycling over the past 19 years fits that order.

The first hill I meet, I exert more pressure. Heart rate goes up. I turn into the wind. Heart rate goes up. This is completely counter-intuitive. It’s not what I’ve learned from Skarpohli or from Mike Busch, Gianni Anderson, Terry Beenken, Dan Friedrichs, and Brian Koenemen, who were the first guys who taught me to ride a road bike and taught me to draft and ride a paceline.

Now, granted, those guys also know how to take it easy and how to have fun on the bike. I’m not saying they only hammer whenever they go out. They don’t.

I’m just saying that I think about them when I turn into the wind, see my heart rate rise and have to back off. Soft-pedal until my heart rate goes back down. What? Yeah, my life and my brain are important enough that I am listening to the doctors, but I’m having to re-learn a lot of things. I’m rethinking what it means to ride a bike.

Few of the people I usually ride with want to ride my pace this year for very long…and I’d only ask them to on a rare occasion. (I do that). We have fun putzing along, and I appreciate those friends willing to putt along with me.

So what have I done? Mostly, I go to the woods. In the woods, the wind barely exists. It’s blocked. I turn into those welcoming trees, and the wind just goes away. If, on the outside chance that I crash (I haven’t since the brain surgery, knock on wood and hopefully not with my head), I land softly on grass or dirt. Absolutely no pavement. And I’m not going fast, so even if I should crash, it’s not going to do much damage.

What have I found? Fun! I feel like a kid on a bike, just tooling around, exploring. I’m riding the April Nicollet Bike 30-Days-of-Biking challenge, so I have to get out at least 2 miles a day. I go to the woods determined to find or at least photograph something new. It is truly like being a kid again. Exploring. Having fun. I love my bike, and I’m not kicking ass to go faster than or keep up with a paceline of a bunch of other people.

Maybe I’m discovering another stage of being a cyclist. Who knows. I know I’ll want to hammer again, and I’ll want to do time trials. And go fast. But for now, this is enough, and I’m having SO MUCH FUN.

Here’s what competitions looks like….

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And here are some photos from this month. I have been riding around the woods, where the former Haunted Hayride was staged until ten years ago. Exploring has made my slow rides all the more fun!

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Here’s admiring the bursting buds on the trees.

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Clydesville on the old Haunted Hayride route

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old screamsOld screams linger.

 

 

 

 

GreeterThe tattered Greeter. He doesn’t look so threatening against the blue sky.

 

 

 

 

 

The old Torture ChamberTorture chamber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite tree in the "Haunted Woods." Beautiful against the blue sky, but it always looked creepy in cemetery light.

My favorite tree in the “Haunted Woods.” Beautiful against the blue sky, but it always looked creepy in cemetery light.

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Crashing and Readjusting…

I’m thinking about how we adjust when we’ve had setbacks. I was in Barnes and Noble today and saw a plaque that read something like this:

“All of us fall down. Living means how we get up.”  Hmmmm. Well, I can relate to that, due to some of my recent setbacks (the bike crash with five broken bones and a ruptured brain aneurysm, to be specific).

Indulge me here for a paragraph about pro cycling. Online, I’ve just finished watching Milano-Sanremo which was held March 19th. Milan-San Remo, or Milano-Sanremo kicks off the spring classics of the European professional race season. The spring classics are known as grueling, long and tough, both in weather and terrain. This race was scheduled to be 291 Kilometers, but due to a landslide on the course, it ended up being 300K.  That’s 186 miles. Frenchman Arnaud Démare won in a very exciting finish. I, of course was rooting for Fabian Cancellera, my fave, who appeared to have a shot at winning until a crash in front of him in the last kilometer forced him out of a good position. Who knows if he could have won, but that crash changed his chances.MSR-Watson-01

Crashes. I don’t recall very many one-day races as riddled with crashes as this one was. I’ve watched lots of pro race crashes in my day, and as anyone reading this knows, I’ve also had my share of crashes!SPTDW505crash-661x440

Every crash in that race changed the day’s outcome for some rider. For some young men, a crash on March 19 may have changed his career path.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we readjust goals for ourselves as we move through life. If we live with passion (and sorry, but I actually don’t understand people who have no passion for anything), we are striving or at least working at things that matter to us, whether it’s knitting or reading or writing a book or racing a bike or fixing a car. Doing stuff takes passion.

I’ve been thinking about how many times my passion has been interrupted or rerouted and I had to re-gear myself and my life.

When I was four years old and wanted to grow up to be a writer, I thought I’d have published dozens of books by the time I reached my fifties. Well, little things like having kids, earning a living, and the *$&%*# publishing industry get in the way of being able to control that. The old adage proclaims, “You can be whatever you want to be. You can do whatever you want to do, if you just set your heart and mind to it.” Well, yeah. But there are limitations. You can’t be a movie star if you’re note beautiful and talented. There are limitations.  I’m not a best-selling author. I have not won the Newbery Award. Or a Pulitzer. I don’t care so much about the best-selling part, seriously, but I was hoping to retire sometime because I’d supplemented my teaching income with enough writing income. I’m still waiting on that deal. It appears that I could be waiting until I die. But I keep plugging. I love my life, and I would never NOT be a writer, but it sure as heck is not the way I thought it would be when I was at the other end of my life.

I became a runner by default when I attended Oral Roberts University. I wonder if I’ve ever actually admitted online that I attended ORU. It’s not something I’m proud of. It was the beginning of my rebellion against oppressive organized religion, which is such a long story that I shan’t recount it here. But a good thing that came of that place was the desire to “educate the whole person: Body, Mind, and Soul.” So not only did we study and attend mandatory chapel; we were required to accumulate aerobic points for various activities every week of every semester while in attendance.

The first semester, running was required. I HATED it for two weeks, thought my sternum was going to crack open and my heart would attack my life right there and I’d die on the track. But it didn’t happen. I got better. By the end of a month–actually at the end of the third week–I realized that I kind of liked it. At least I liked how I felt afterwards, or how I felt every day when I ran.

By the end of the semester, I was hooked. During finals week, no aerobic points were required. I was so stressed out that I realized I wanted to run. Not just wanted; I needed to run. At 10:00 that night, I went to the indoor track and ran three miles. My stress disappeared. I was addicted and ran for the next nineteen years–until just before my 40th birthday.

That’s when another of those setbacks occurred.

I trained to qualify and did qualify for the Boston Marathon. I ran it on April 15, 1996.  I was running stronger and faster than I had in the previous 19 years. I had my heart set on running a P.R. marathon at Grandma’s that year, which fell on my 40th birthday. I was very excited and was training well. I ran a 6-mile race in 42:08. I was looking at a P.R for sure, I thought.

Five weeks after the Boston Marathon, however, about a month before my birthday-Grandma’s-Marathon, my son Josh and I were out on our bikes (BRAND-new bikes; our old ones had been stolen; home insurance replaced them, and we were just out on the Sakatah Trail trying them out), and I crashed. At the turn-around point, we traded bikes. I was looking down to figure out the shifters. I’d never been on this bike before. I looked up and Josh was stopped on the trial RIGHT in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and veered to miss him. He was in 8th grade, running varsity track for East High, and I actually thought, “I can’t hit his legs! He might not be able to run!” So I crashed and broke my knee. Severed my tibia inside the knee so that a piece was hanging by my ACL. Needless to say, that was a long, painful recovery.

When I could bend my knee, still inside a massive leg brace, I started riding my bike. I actually put quite a few miles on my old Haro mountain bike the last half of that summer. It was fun, but I was eager to run again.

I was determined to run again, and I did.  After intense and motivated physical therapy, I worked back into running. I ran the Winter Carnival half-marathon the next winter, about eight months after the crash. The first seven miles felt great, and then my knee started to hurt. More and more. I hobbled through the last five miles of it, in some pretty serious pain. The next week, I was running and my knee collapsed. Just GAVE OUT and I sprawled on the pavement. I tried again, but it just never worked right again. I did more running over the next few years, but I couldn’t run seriously. Nothing like I used to do.

Runner’s World Magazine arrived, and I threw it across the room, too depressed to look at it.

I had to change one of the things that helped define me. One of the things I was most passionate about in my daily life. I had to admit that I couldn’t really be a runner any more.

So I started biking more.

One day that summer, on that old Haro that probably weighed 50 pounds, I rode to Faribault and back on the trail, tacking on a few extra miles so that I rode my first century: a hundred-mile ride.

The next twenty years were full of bicycle adventures, too many to list in detail: long cross-country rides with a variety of casts of characters, Dairy Queen rides, breakfast rides, the Minnesota Ironman ride every April, the MS Tram, road races, criteriums, time trials, the National 24-Hour Challenge (which I actually won twice), and weekly rides from bike shops…all fun and memorable.

Then I hit some hole in the road on a group ride on Labor Day and flew into the pavement and broke five bones. I was just recovering, on my way out for a road ride in early December when a brain aneurysm ruptured (See stories in other blog posts).

Of course, I’m still determined to ride and race and do 100-mile rides, and even perhaps the 24-Hr Challenge when I’m in the 60+ age division.

Except. My doctor told me I could NOT ride my bike, not even sit and spin easily on my trainer for 3 months after the brain surgery. I obeyed. At my check-up, my doctor told me I could spin easily, but I could NOT get my heart rate up over 110 until 6 months after surgery. WHAT? 6 months? June? 110? Have you ever tried to ride a bike quickly and keep your heart rate under 110? It’s not easy. I’m riding the trainer almost every day, and doing it, but it takes concentration and commitment.

Here’s the kicker: Am I going to get it back? Am I going to be a chicken to ride in a large paceline after my last crash and now, an added fear of smacking my head on the pavement, even in a helmet, since I’ve had a chunk of skull cut out and replaced?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I think about rethinking how I approach my sport. Maybe my competitive days are mostly behind me. I don’t like that idea. But I like to hike and walk. And riding a bike is fun even if your tongue isn’t hanging in your spokes from trying to keep up with speed demons in a paceline.

So that idea of getting up is what living really means just that. We get smacked down. Some of us more than others. Because we put ourselves out there in smacking zone. But it’s worth it. And we keep getting up, and we keep looking for new ways to keep moving forward with our passion.

I’m writing more than I write while teaching. That’s good. I’m slowly getting back in shape. SLOWLY. that’s good. I’m walking a lot. That’s good. And Freya loves it. I’m home more. That’s good. I don’t have definitive discoveries here. I’m seeking and growing and thinking. And I guess all of that is good.

After all, what do we do? Onward! That’s what we do and where we go.