True Olympic Inspiration

The Olympics are a wonderful thing. They start with strange mascots, oily Tongan muscle men, and Gisele Bundchen walking across a stadium in a moment that I’m still trying to understand as “significant”. She was just walking, right? Then there are all the sports. When else can you flip between ping pong- er, I mean table tennis- and badminton, later tuning into handball and archery? And in between there are all the feel-good stories, like this one about a Brazilian penguin:

The Olympics provide a glorious two weeks of entertainment and inspiration. Both for the athletes and for people like me who are couch-ridden with a hamstring strain. I’m definitely in need of a dose of inspiration, and if you are, too, hopefully you’ve been tuning in. Because Rio has been full of inspiration.

I’m sorry, though, if you were expecting another Michael Phelps tribute because you won’t find it here. He doesn’t inspire me at all. I’m not inspired by his showboating after wins–you know, those five-finger flashes or his I’m-number-one smirks–or his name-dropping Ray Lewis in his final post-race interview. I’m not inspired by this Maryland boy’s fiancee from Plastic Barbie, California either. (Anyone wonder where the sisters are at this Olympics? Guess they got pushed out by the more marketable “love” of his life.) And honestly, I’m not impressed with his Costco haul of Olympic medals. Sorry, not impressed.

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You see, if you can manage to step on your tippy-toes and see around all the Phelps Hoopla, there’s a whole collection of stories being told at this Olympics. Stories of real inspiration:

There’s American marathoner Desiree Linden who said this after finishing 7th, “I put everything out there. I’m not upset at all. I wish I were a little bit better. I wish I would have Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.03.48 PMbeen closer. But we went all in. And that’s as good as I am.” She’s happy to be as good as she is. Even if it’s 7th place. We need more role models like Desiree. And then what about last place finisher Ly Nary from Cambodia who finished nearly an hour after the winner? She’s a scientist, not even a professional athlete, and she finished the Olympic marathon. 24 others did not even finish. And the best part…she celebrated her accomplishment.

How about 400m participant Maryan Muse from Somalia? She ran a time of 1:10:14 in her heat. The camera couldn’t even keep her in the frame because she was so far behind. But lacking the comforts that say, Michael Phelps, enjoys, it’s an inspiration just to see her on the track in Rio. Read her story here.

More inspiration came from Equestrian. Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen quit the Olympics out of concern for her horse. The horse fell ill from an insect bite. Though he was cleared to go, she could sense something was wrong and quit mid-ride. And she’s no Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.07.14 PM“participant.” She’s a silver and bronze medalist from London. Clearly, though, her heart is already made of gold as she said this, “In the arena he felt totally empty and I decided not to continue. He did not deserve this,” she continued. “In order to protect him, I gave up … My buddy, my friend, the horse that has given everything for me his whole life does not deserve this … So I saluted and left the arena.”

There has been a ton of inspiration in the pool. But most inspirational to me belongs to Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.09.05 PMMissy Franklin. She’s had a terrible Olympics. But she’s kept smiling and cheering on her teammates even while admitting to crying in the dark private moments of her Olympic Village home. Courage is putting on a brave face when everything inside you screams otherwise. That’s more inspirational than any gold medal.

No group has probably been more maligned by host NBC than the US men’s gymnastics team. NBC finally gave them some TV minutes when team member Alex Naddour won a bronze medal on pommel horse. Because that’s how most people Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.11.48 PMare…what can you do for me? No medal = no interest. For NBC it was just another TV medal moment. But for Alex Naddour, it looked like so much more. He missed out on the Olympics last year, and it’s been his goal for four years to get here. He performed the routine of his life and earned a bronze medal. And his tears showed just how meaningful that one medal is.

There have been so many more inspirational moments. Gymnasts Aly Raisman and Simone Biles walking hand-in-hand during a meet in which they were battling each other. The Norwegian wrestler who was dog-piled by his coaches as he won a bronze medal. A 41-year-old gymnast. Golfer Matt Kuchar’s effusive pride at finishing third. The USA men’s doubles team winning the bronze and being so excited that they get to wear the medal-ceremony jackets.

The Olympics are full of inspiration and reminders of what sport is all about, and this year it’s no different. You can be sure when I return to running and Crossfit, I’ll be thinking of Desiree Linden or Missy Franklin or the triumph of some Norweigian man named Stig-Andre Berge. They are the true athletic heroes who should be celebrated and plastered all over our primetime televisions.

(Share with me some of your favorite inspirational moments!)

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CHASING EVELINE…Coming Soon(ish)!

If you’ve been around this blog and feel as though you’ve heard this one before, please don’t stop me (who got that Smiths reference???) but instead go here probably because you feel like this (I know I do):

I know, I’ve told you before that I was going to be a published author.  It was humiliating enough to tell friends and family that it wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t announce it here, to the world. Perhaps some of you were even wondering, “Hey, what’s going on with that?” Well, nothing. That publisher went out of business before CHASING EVELINE even saw the light of day. And I’ve been pretty depressed since.

Because for some people, publication seems to be either a festive carnival, an all-you-can-eat buffet, or an island paradise. For me, it’s been like a mid-July desert crossing in jeans and a wool sweater.

Education-quotes-It-DOES-NOT-MATTER-how-slowly-you-go-as-long-as-you-do-not-stop.

But that hasn’t stopped me. Either because I’m perseverant or crazy. Or both. But I’ve kept at it (and am keeping on keeping at it with a second manuscript here) and finally CHASING EVELINE has found a home. Pen Name Publishing will bring Ivy and Matt into the world. I am so grateful for this opportunity and to have someone believe in my story and in my writing. February 2018 is the tentative publication date. So there’s no need to clear space on your shelf/Kindle yet. But someday February 2018 will arrive. And when that happens, I hope the world will love Ivy and Matt as much as I do. Here’s what you can expect:

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never find joy in the present.

Chasing Eveline

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Photo Story #118

There Was Only One Road in This Yellow Wood

There Was Only One Road in This Yellow Wood

I didn’t have the choice between two roads. There was only the one. Where I stood, there was so much space. The path was wide, the view vast, and the air crisp and clear. But up ahead, there was so much darkness. The spaces closed, and there was nothing but a tiny box at the end of the path. It was supposed to be the opposite: my future was supposed to be wide open. But I saw that day on that leaf-lined autumn path that for me it was not so. I could only see darkness ahead of me and a tiny box I’d have to find the right way to fit through.

Things Books Have Made Me Want to Do

I am very impressionable. I am a marketing department’s dream. Put a pizza in front of me, and suddenly I’m watching my Dominos pizza tracker turn different colors. In the next moment, show me an article on the health benefits of eating clean, and I’ve already thrown away the pizza I don’t have yet and have a refrigerator full of vegetables, hemp seeds, and grass-fed beef.

So it’s no wonder that after I finish a book, I am suddenly off to research, learn about, or try whatever I discovered in that fictional world. Here is just a sampling of some of the things that books have made me do:

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The Cardturner inspired me to learn to play bridge. My parents play bridge all the time with their friends. I thought it would be a nice thing I could do with them and also something that would benefit me in my older age. I thought this until I tried to learn. I’m not sure what bridge is, but it’s nothing like 21 or Hearts or Go Fish.  I found learning the game of bridge to be the equivalent of trying to knit on a mechanical bull while reciting the Gettysburg Address. I was done after about 30 minutes.

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Both of these books have added about ten more minutes onto my ESPN app viewing and my wasting-time internet viewing. I check basketball scores of the Patriot League and cheer them on in the NCAA tournament as if I know them because of The Last Amateurs. And I’ve gone to minor league baseball games and visited ball parks and read about where in the minors UCLA baseball players end up and what their stats are, all because of Where Nobody Knows Your Name. Unfortunately this extra research has not replaced the time I already spend on silly cat videos and scrolling through pictures of Princess Kate. The internet: Slowly Swallowing Me Up Whole.

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I just finished Eleanor & Park. Yes, I know I’m late. I hate bandwagons. I do love the 80s though, and this book inspired me to bring it all back out once again. I’ve got my Smiths albums back in the iPod mix. I think I’m wearing my hair a little bigger. And the other day I matched my gym socks to my shirt.

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The Eyre Affair created the character of Thursday Next, a literary Nancy Drew. So of course I was inspired to reread all my Nancy Drew books. This led me to my parents’ house and rummaging through boxes covered in dust and spiders. My precious childhood books were nowhere to be found. I think they got lost in one of our moves. So I ran out to Costco to buy the complete set. I charged through two books before something shiny distracted me and now my brand new Nancy Drew books are in some box in my garage collecting dust and spiders. (I did read all the Thursday Next novels though!)

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This tale of bad dates and loser guys inspired me to try speed dating. One puffy blouse, one sex-addict, a possible arranged marriage, and a Prince look-a-like later, I was done with speed dating. Forever.

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I’m not sure if it was the book or the movie (I saw the movie first), but it inspired me to buy a green scarf. I wanted to be The Girl in the Green Scarf. And so I am…on plane rides to Europe, random days at work when I need a diversion from the monotony of my life, and sometimes just when I see it hanging there in my closet. Now, if I could just have a Hugh Dancy to go with it.

What do books inspire you to do?

Photo Story #117

Dreams

Dreams

She dreamed of one day returning to Capri. She wanted to be in a boat all day and swim in the clear blue water. And so she did. However, it wasn’t the millionaire version–in a yacht parked off shore while she sunbathed and swam for as long as she dared to dream. She came on a day-long tour, with the boat stopping twice for a few moments of swim time. It was more the Wal-Mart version of her dream.

But as she floated in the clear blue water under the hot June sun, it was still a dream come true.

Photo Story #116

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Back on Stage

She’s been out of the limelight for awhile. Work, trips, too much TV…so many things to keep her away. But when she saw them out on that stage, under the bright lights, making music and sowing creativity, she knew she had to return.

She’s glad to be back on stage.