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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.

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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!

 

Kitchen w Freya

Chasing AllieCat Screenplay, recovering, Freya, and Medical Leave

Kitchen w FreyaThe good things about being on medical leave this semester:

1. Not grading papers

2. Getting to visit my kids and grandkids on my own schedule instead of the school schedule

3. Spending tons of time with Freya

4. I get more time to WRITE than I do during the school year. Even with rest time built into every day, I can write at least some time, which doesn’t happen during the busy school year. This year that’s more important than ever because Steph Borklund and the SFI (Stephens Film Institute) at Stephens College in Columbia, MO are indeed working on the short film of Chasing AllieCat. My time away from school allowed me to:

1. Write the screenplay

2. Work with Steph and her students to edit, edit, edit, and tweak the screenplay

3. Be available so Steph and I can brainstorm about details (wardrobe, bike race, location, PR, and tons more) for the film. She’s doing all that work, of course. I just find out what’s happening and I’m lucky that she asks me for my opinion on lots of decisions. Many authors whose books become films don’t get that opportunity.

4. Get to go to Missouri for the week of actual shooting. I’m taking my bikes, too!

5. Meet her students–online, at least–and through a Facetime classroom visit! They students are awesome, and these young women are full of passion for this project. I’m so excited, I feel like a little kid!

I’m also editing another novel, but the film project is front and center right now. It’s much FUN!

 

Rachael and me

A very long blog about Aging and about Happiness

A very long blog about aging. And life. And happiness.My age is no secret. It’s public knowledge on Facebook that I turned 59 last week. People ask me how old I am (seems that it’s not impolite to ask on one’s birthday), and at first, I can’t remember! I suppose it’s possible that I am experiencing early-onset dementia. I don’t want to believe that, and I don’t really think so, but I do forget stuff…Well, that aside, what I mean is that I can’t remember how old I am because I can’t flippin’ believe that I’m almost 60. WTF? How did this happen? 59 years old? What?zeroWhen I turned fifty, I started the tradition of riding my bike the number of miles of my years on my birthday. I needed to do something that felt good about being in charge of my life, my birthday. I didn’t want to wait for other people to make a big deal out of my birthday. I wanted to celebrate my own life in my own way, ‘cause after all, I’m the one living it. Turning 50 mattered more to me than to anybody else, right? I liked getting 50 miles in, just for myself. On my 50th birthday, I rode the whole way all by myself. It was good. So I kept it up, every year.Riding 50-something miles isn’t really a huge deal for me if I’m riding a lot during the year. A couple times, my birthday ride on June 22 has been the second longest ride of the year, but not usually. This year, my birthday dawned—or rather grew lighter in the darkness—there was no “dawn”—in a crackling, pounding thunderstorm. When the rain went away, the day continued howlingly windy, but not too tough to complete 59 miles.

Rachael and me

I met my writing and riding buddy Rachael Hanel in Madison Lake, and she joined me for the middle 32 miles, including a delightful lunch at Jocko’s in Cleveland. We also saved this turtle from the middle of the road.

 

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In the last ten miles of the 59, I ran into Mike (aka Michaelmas) Busch who was getting a few extra miles on his way home from work—twice. I had to double back on my route to complete 59 and saw him for the second time. Best part of this: Mike gave me the delightful birthday present of the news that he’ll be joining the SCC faculty in the Mechatronics program! I almost jumped off my bike in delight when he told me.

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After the 59, I took a little break and fed Freya, and rode back to town to join the Nicollet Bike Shop women’s ice cream ride organized by my buddy Emily Flynn, so I ended up with 92 miles for the day.

Almost (but not quite, as Mark Skarpohl was quick to point out) 159 kilometers. I could have ridden a few more and clocked 159K, but opted to stop in time to go out for birthday dinner. Food—and a margarita—won.

Maybe next year. Maybe I’ll have to ride 160 K instead of only 60 miles—just to keep the maestro of mileage Mark Skarpohli happy. And let it be known that Skarpohli always rides 100+ his birthday years in miles on his birthday. This July, he’ll be riding 157, I believe.

IMG_3272 Birthday flowers. :)

I do think that this much biking is one reason I don’t feel 59—and consequently forget how old I am. But I know I’m not alone in my disbelief. Saturday night, I joined five friends from Ballard High School for dinner in Ames, Iowa. We were all from the class of ’74 or ’73, and none of us can figure out how the heck we got to be this old. For crying out loud, I remember my Aunt Ruby going to her 30th class reunion, and thinking she was so old, and that I’d never be that old. Now I’m past my 40th Reunion year. What?

The reality of aging is a strange twist of logic in the minds of the young. Old people have a fictional past where they were once children in an age so long ago that it’s like a fairy tale. Old people are innately always old; they were never children, never young and beautiful, sexy and vibrant; thrumming with the expectancies of life. Old people are and always were, simply old. Now, it seems, I am entering that group of folks.

Even, as youngsters, if we understand the concept that old folks were once young, and we will, inevitably do one of the other: we will either die young, or we will age—ageing still doesn’t seem like reality for us. I won’t get old. I am me in this reality today, and I’m in this young body, and I won’t really, not really get old. Somehow, I am exempt because here I am. Now. Today. Look at me. Alive.

It’s very much like the student who does her research project on the dangers of tanning, but continues to cultivate a rich dark tan ‘cause cancer can’t really happen to me. Same thing, isn’t it?

Well, let me tell you, all you teens, twenty-somethings, and thirty-somethings, and even forty-somethings (!). It ain’t so, and it happens to the best of us. Weirdly, I’m happier—or definitely as happy at age 59 as ever. I have always loved my life, except for a few years in there when guilt and remorse clouded my entire perception, and I really needed to get a divorce and quit being a pastor’s wife—long story, which I can tell you sometime if you ask—and better yet, I’ll write it—which I’ve actually done—but I emerged from all that guilt and sadness happier than ever. I love my life. I truly love my life.

I have spectacular kids and grandkids. Yup, that’s bragging. I earned it, and they deserve it. Their spectacularness is, of course, a huge factor in my life, yes, but being happy isn’t dependent on anyone else, not even my own kids. Being happy is a decision inside of each of our own situations, and that is a freeing realization. All I can control is me. I make me happy. Or not. Or I do.

I have to say that a huge part of this freedom came from not depending on GOD to make me happy, which, for the first many years of my life, I thought I had to do. I was trying hard, and I mean really trying hard to trust God for my happiness. It just didn’t quite work—all part of that story I can tell you if you ask—and when I realized it was up to me, well, that’s when I started getting happier and happier. And yeah, I have some crappy downtimes, and yeah, I’ve been depressed, and yeah, publishers reject me, and I fall flat on my face, and I crash on my bike, and I break bones in bike crashes, and I got hit by a car, and I screw things up irreparably sometimes, and life sucks, but generally, generally, give me a bike so I can go meditate in motion, and I can reach my happy place.

I remember going for a run on Christmas Day afternoon, back in my glorious running days, when my knees were still in mint condition. A girlfriend pulled up beside me, opened her window in the frigid Christmas air and said, “Becky, you must really like yourself.” That set me in a whirl. What? Was I being selfish to go running on Christmas? I had to think long and hard about her question before I settled on an answer. Raised as a die-hard Christian, “liking myself” wasn’t a good thing. We were bludgeoned with the idea that we must love Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last—the only recipe for JOY. So to be confronted on Jesus’ “birthday” of all days, with “Really lik[ing]” myself was a jolt.

But I guess I do. I do like myself. I like this life I’ve built, and worked so hard to build. And I don’t want to depend on other people to be good to me. I need to do that myself.

I tell my composition students that nobody hands them the life they want on a silver platter. Even if they win the lottery, they’re still living their life, just with more money. Nobody gives you the life you want—not Prince Charming, not the perfect boss—nobody.

And I feel good about being an example to my students about building the life you want to live.

So back to aging. It sucks to get old and to lose perfect control of perfect knees and lose the ability to run. It sucks to forget names of people or things, but it also brings a peace. A recognition that yeah, I’ve actually done some really cool stuff in my life. And my kids know how to love and how to give and how to care about people and society and making the world a better place. If I can give that to the world? I’m happy as shit, and I’m happy to say that to anybody.

Yesterday, Freya and I spent the day with my dear friends Roger and Gwen Hart and their Newfy Buster Brown. We took the goofy Newfies to Petco Pet Store and swimming, and we talked and talked and talked—about life, what we’re doing, what we’re writing, and just what we’re doing in life. It solidified all I think about this: about how a happy life is what we make it, how we live every hour.

Not everybody wants to bike or own a 158-pound dog like I do. Not everyone can. Not everyone runs or bikes. But we each get to determine what makes us happy, and we are the only ones with the power to pursue that. And hopefully, the things that make us happy also make us healthy.

I have some more thoughts about this regarding crap life hands us like cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and other terminal illnesses…but I don’t have room to talk about all of it here, and nope, those are NOT happy-makers. But no matter what we get dealt, we’re still in charge of what we do with it. We’re in charge of every day of our own lives.

It’s up to each and every one of us to make our own lives the place where we want to live. THAT is what happiness is all about. That’s what real joy is.

Amen.

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Mapleton Public Library Storytime

This was quite a good summer day. This morning, Freya and I went to the Mapleton Public Library, where I always love to do storytime. This morning we read about dogs and baby duck and monsters under the bed!

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Freya, as always, was a big hit with the kids. They all got a chance to pet her. She loves the attention, even when she pretends to sleep through it.

Afterward, Freya and I walked around Mapleton for awhile. She likes the shady streets. Every time we’ve been there, she wants to go for a walk before she’s willing to get in the car.

This afternoon, I spent some time with a good friend and this evening, I did the Mankato Isle of Man Time Trial staged in Rapidan. I cut about a minute off last time’s time, so I’m getting back in better shape finally. It’s a delightully fun event, thanks to Mike and Sheila Busch.

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Spring!

 Last night I squeezed in twenty miles after school. I didn’t feel all that great, and I knew that some exercise would help. It did. It’s lovely to be able to ride outside in shorts again!

 And here’s Freya down at the creek this morning. Happy girl waded through the water.

Just seven days ago, this was us! How easy we forget!

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Spring!

 Last night I squeezed in twenty miles after school. I didn’t feel all that great, and I knew that some exercise would help. It did. It’s lovely to be able to ride outside in shorts again!

 And here’s Freya down at the creek this morning. Happy girl waded through the water.

Just seven days ago, this was us! How easy we forget!

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Another snow day….or rather another snowy day

Photo: My big black dog.
Freya carries in a blanket of snow. I try to grab her with a big towel before she shakes.

Writing this morning before school. Going to try to hop on the trainer for a bit, too.

Rafi and Maddie, the characters in the novel I’m working on, have me hooked and all I want to do is write, but then comes a little thing like school.
 
Rafi is a Muslim and Maddie has grown up in a conservative Christian home. They are both fighting the frac-sand minds, and they fall in love. They’re smart, so of course they talk about their religions. I’m worried about too much “talkiness” sometimes, but I guess I will have to read the whole thing aloud and see. It’s sort of pouring onto the page.
All I want to do is write. I already said that.

Yes, this is the novel where both kids go to St. Peter High School. 

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April 10? What? And St. Peter 8th Grade

Had a terrific visit last week with the St. Peter 8th grade English classes. The students were wonderful listeners and had great questions. They had all read Chasing AllieCat, so it was much, much fun to get to talk with them! Thanks, Ms. Hughes!

Time is flying past!
It’s April 10 already! And look at the ground! Freya’s happy–she was crazy this morning, playing “Grab Mom’s warm stuff and run.” (Question of the day: How many exclamation marks can one writer use in one short blog post?)

 Time is flying! I’m not keeping up with my days…I put out fires at school, work on the details we need to iron out for our trip to South Africa, try to keep up grading and reading ahead of the students, and try to squeeze in a little writing and a little cycling.

South Africa approaches, and it’s getting more and more exciting as it does. Will keep you posted…might have more news by the end of the week! (There–I had to end with another exclamation point, of course).

Clive–Crestview and Indian Hills

I just spent two SPECTACULAR days in Clive, Iowa. I visited CRESTVIEW ELEMENTARY and INDIAN HILLS JUNIOR HIGH. The kids were wonderful, and we had so much fun talking about writing, dogs (Freya got to go with me!), and bikes.

I have to get ready for another school day at South Central College, so I don’t have time to write much, but I’ll post more as soon as I have some pictures. I had a TERRIFIC time. So did Freya, but she’s pretty tired right now!

Thanks, Clive students. You ROCK!

Another rejection

Slider’s Son garnered its second rejection this week. “Not enough historical detail” is what Calkins Creek said. George is baffled by that (maybe more than I am, even), so he’s going to ask them what they meant by that. In the meantime, I’m going to spread in some more Depression-era details into the manuscript. I was mostly concerned with the character in the small town and making his life real. Guess I’ll try to make the national news come home to roost more than it does already.

I have some ideas. I’m going to add some of them this weekend.

I wish I could get a book right the first time. Or second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth. Wonder what it means that I have to revise at least TWELVE times before anything gets published.

It mostly means that I should do nothing but write and maybe I’d get a book done WAY faster (and be with my kids, and be with friends, and ride my bike, and play with Freya–oh, yeah, and teach and grade papers).

Oh, well. I’m heading out on my bike to THINK in a few minutes.