Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Creating a path

Only a tiny patch of snow remains now in the grassy median strip that runs in front of my house. But a couple of days ago, the strip was covered with a thick layer of wet snow. It was impossible to run on it without getting an immediate case of soggy feet.

Just as I rounded the corner onto my street and moved to the side of the road to avoid the median strip, I spotted a smiley fellow who looked as if he had taken on a massive shoveling job.  “Are you shoveling out the world?” I asked as I passed by.

“Nope,” he replied. “I’m just shoveling a path in this strip wide enough for people to run on. C’mon over.”

That I did and completed my run on a softer, friendlier surface than the one I had planned to use. Creating the path had required a good bit of work. I even went farther than I’d planned to in order to take advantage of the welcoming surface for at least a mile. It made me feel good.

I have no idea who the shoveler was or where he lives, but he has to be a neighbor. And he has to be a good guy.

I’m grateful for this tiny moment in my day, made brighter by the action of a stranger.



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

For the Duration

I have been a member of a writers’ group for many years. We started out as a group who wrote for children but over time we have morphed some. We write poetry, novels, non-fiction, science fiction, young adult and children’s stories, and poetry. We are incredibly fortunate to have in our midst a singe male who is a science and science fiction writer, illustrator and graphic designer willing to put up with the rest of us. There are times when we function as a therapy group as well.

Two years ago, we lost Nancy Phillips, one of the most talented among us. She left behind the manuscript for For the Duration, a powerful novel based on her childhood experience. With the help of her husband, a close writer friend, the writers’ group and our talented token male, we are publishing Nancy’s book next month.

Perhaps her story lay untold until now for good reason. It resonates with the current world situation with such gentleness yet strength, that it could not be more appropriate for our time. It ranges widely, addressing the love of neighbors for each other, the touching nature of a friendship between a young boy and girl that endures for a lifetime, and on a larger stage, with issues of race and gender prejudice and the acute pain that can result from a government obsessed with fear to the point where it does, in Phillips’ words, “stupid things.” War-time hysteria caused internment of American citizens of German descent and even resulted in deportations in order to obtain freedom for high-level Americans caught behind enemy lines in Germany.

Eight year-old Claire is called upon to care for two brothers, one a newborn, and basically run the household when her mother suffers from severe depression and her father is away at his war-related job seven days a week. When her close friend and neighbor, Carl, and his family, who are of German extraction, suddenly disappear, Claire is heartbroken and wonders all her life what has happened to them.

This experience drives the course of the novel which opens years later when Claire’s granddaughter finds a ring in the attic given to her by Carl more than 50 years ago. “I was nine. It was my first engagement ring,” she tells her granddaughter.

And so the story unfolds, enhanced by Phillips’ skillful dialogue and her ability to keep the reader wondering what will happen next. Claire’s interior monologue enriches the tale. Warning: tears likely.

For the Duration will be available on Amazon.






Thursday, November 1, 2018

Tuggin'

Tuggin’

Leo, my daughter’s lovable golden retriever, was anxious to walk with me until he realized that it would be just the two of us. Try as I might, I could not get him to budge beyond his front yard. He wanted to walk, but not without my daughter, Jeni. If she was staying home, he was too. No amount of tugging on my part could convince him, so back inside he went.

I get it. I’ve been feeling some tuggin’ myself since returning from
Seattle where my oldest grandchild, Adam, and Allison, the woman who has been the love of his life for nine years, orchestrated an incredible, non-traditional wedding ceremony that drew families and friends together. People came from all over the country, from Florida, California, New York, Vermont, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington DC, and from all over the world—from Chile, Tunisia, and France. They celebrated together and made new friends. They ate and drank and danced and cheered on the newlyweds as they began a new phase of their life together with a honeymoon trip to Cambodia.

And then we all went home with a whole lot of memories to be treasured and a tinge of sadness knowing that this special occasion had drawn to a close. 

Bittersweet. Eleven of my 12 grandchildren were there along with their parents. They don’t get to see each other often, but when they get together it’s no holds barred on enjoying each other. I think seeing them together is my favorite part of being a grandparent.


Coming back home after such an event is a bit of a comedown. These kids tug at my heart. I know how Leo was feeling when he refused to leave home.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Body Work

Every morning, whether I feel like it or not, I put my body through a few paces. No going out the door, no eating breakfast until they are done.  Some stretches, a little core work in 15 minutes, and that’s it. I’ve been doing the same routine for a very long time. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing wrong with it.

But last Saturday morning I was introduced to a whole new level of body shaping and strengthening by Stephanie Petty, who has bcome personal trainer for three of my relatives.  In a little over an hour, I began to understand why all of them are so high on her. Even though in the last months, I’d been noticing changes in them, I didn’t buy into their lofty claims for Stephanie.

The “noodle” of the group is now standing  straighter, has a six-pack and visible muscles in his upper arms. Amazingly, he recently led the way on a family 10-mile hike and said he loved it.  Another said goodbye to years of back pain and the third reached a goal weight and had a radical improvement in his golf scores.

Now it was my turn. Stephanie is a certified personal trainer with a degree in kinesiology and a passion for changing peoples’ lives. She pushes, but not hard enough to make you cry. She explains why you are being asked to do an exercise in a certain way, all the time offering encouragement.


Yikes! I don’t mean my words to sound like a blatant ad for Stephanie’s services. I just want to share my first experience with a passionate and knowledgeable personal trainer. She’s based in Cheyenne, Wyoming with a local clientele. She is in the process of organizing an online 22-day abs challenge. It’s available without charge to anyone who signs up.  Let her know if you are interested at stephaniepetty2012@gnail.com. Could be fun to give it a try!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Athletes in Tandem

One of my favorite chapters in Still Running is the “Diversities and Determination” chapter that tells the story of how Athletes in Tandem came to be. It happened because, after completing an Ironman Triathlon in Louisville, Kentucky in 2008, Dennis Vanderheiden decided he was through chasing personal bests. He realized that satisfaction for him came from experiencing the joy of others as they completed an event. For him, the thrill was in the journey, not in the finish.

He knew also that his joy would be enhanced if he could share the journey with someone unable to do it on their own. Inspired by Dick Hoyt who pushed and pulled his disabled son Rick through an amazing 72 marathons and 255 triathalons, six of them Ironman distances, over 37 years of competing, Vanderhein founded Athletes in Tandem.

His non-profit recruits volunteers and supplies equipment to make it possible for those with disabilities to participate in running, biking and swimming events. Vanderheiden says there’s a story behind every athlete. They may not be able to speak, but their sounds and gestures express their elation at feeling the wind in their hair, cool water on their bodies and kudos and camaraderie from fellow athletes.

AIT now has a presence in locations from New York to California and people from all over the country seek Vanderheiden’s advice.
 
Last Monday night I was lucky enough to attend a showing of Lessons from Zachary, a film presented by Athletes in Action that documents an epic multi-day bike ride in the Colorado mountains which Vanderheiden and Zachary Scott, who cannot walk or speak, completed together. It sounds kind of lame to say it was inspirational, but that’s just what it was.


Zachary’s mother, Sandy Scott, made the challenging ride with them. She’s the author of the book, Lessons from Zachary, available on Amazon and through her website.