Saturday, July 28, 2012

Oldest Olympian

Well, this man should inspire us all. He says he's still improving, little by little. So it's not so crazy that I rode my fastest TT ever this past week.

Senior Games next year, here I come.
Japanese Equestrian defies Father Time and rides Olympics 2012.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pondering summer and cycling and getting older

One of the things I love about summer is using the clothesline. And for me, among the most joyful things to hang out there are my cycling kits--or just jerseys, in most cases. Today, I realized I had a collection of this summer's favorite jerseys on the line:
The Jackson Co. Brevet jersey, the King of the Mountain Euskatel-Euskadi jersey Nikki and Tom brought me from the Tour de France, my Nicollet Bike Shop jersey, the Seattle Emerald City Cycling Club jersey, my old stand-by never-weary-of-promoting A-1 Bike Shop jersey (now a classic collectible), and my Gotta Love Hills girls' jersey that I actually designed. Set against greenish grass (in spite of the heat and drought) with horses in the background, it's hard to beat such a summer scene.

Last night, I stopped my car and snapped this on the way home after riding the fastest Time Trial of my life. I like TTs because it's me against the clock...but who's kidding here, I also want to beat other people, compare my times with theirs, and don't want to get passed by any but the fastest guys. I'm "old"--well over 50, and this summer has been one of my best cycling seasons ever. I've ridden four century rides, the awesome Jackson County Brevet, qualified for nationals in all four Senior Games cycling  events, and have ridden each subsequent time trial this summer faster and faster. The last two (on the same course as the Senior Games) I beat my national qualifying time.  It's a joyful thing to keep striving to grow after 50, I have to admit.

Sometimes I pause--cycling, writing, playing with Freya, or just driving, and I think, I really love my life.
That's a beautiful and peaceful, satisfying thing to be able to say.

When I used to feel that way--wow, I am really happy--I love my life--I used to think, uh-oh, that means something bad is going to happen because everything balances out; therefore, the other shoe will drop. Now I don't feel that way. It's okay to just revel in being who we are, to keep striving and growing and to love the effort.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It would be my mom's 92nd birthday...Lovingkindess

I've heard that used as one word. Is that a Christian thing? Lovingkindness?

Maybe I'm thinking about lovingkindness because my mother was full of lovingkindness, in spite of the fact that she was a terribly strict Christian mother, and she didn't have a lot of tolerance for sin. Still, she was kind. And today, if she were still alive, would be her ninety-second birthday.

From that reliable source, Wikipedia:
"Loving-kindness is a term used to describe a specific kind of love, initially coined as a translation of the Hebrew word chesed. Chesed is one of several Hebrew terms used to describe sentiments that modern English speakers may describe as love, charity, pity, mercy or kindness. Terms used to specify particular forms or expressions of love are often used by theologians and religious practitioners."

I guess that in the Bible, its use primarily refers to God, and not to people.

However, it's my theme of the week, I think.

Very strange things have happened in the last forty-eight hours. First, I have been working on my Kerry and Rafi novel--in which sixteen-year-old Kerry who is a Christian and from a very strict, moralistic Christian home, falls in love with Rafi who is the only Muslim in her high school.

Everybody loves Rafi in spite of prejudice that prevails anywhere in post 9-11 USA. He's handsome, athletic, likeable, smart, and is even elected student body president.

When he asks Kerry to prom, at first she can't even believe he means it. When she finally has the guts to ask him why he asked her, he says he noticed her because she "walks in kindness." She can't even figure out why he thinks that. She's just being herself. When he gives her a few examples, she's sort of flabbergasted, thinking she was just being a decent person in those instances. I'm trying to create a character who is naturally, but intentionally kind and yet the quality has a basis in being human--not in being religious (which rarely results in kindness in my opinion).

The religious struggle the young couple experiences, along with the prejudice of their families, is the crux of the story.

In the mean time, my agent has submitted my most recently completed novel Slider's Son to Zondervan, a Christian--and evangelical--publisher. Very interesting. I have been a little distressed about this, even though I'm anxious for the novel to find a home. I made contact with and had a delightful conversation with another Zondervan author who has had great success with the book they published. I was somewhat put at ease, am very grateful for the information she provided, but I'm still not entirely at ease about the idea of being published by Zondervan.

I don't really consider myself a Christian anymore. I don't believe that a loving Father who is full of lovingkindness could or would ever condemn one of his children to hell. Even Grant, the protagonist in Slider's Son, doesn't think God should send Big Joe--who has done some rather heinously cruel things--to hell after having been so miserable in life.

I don't believe that believing Jesus died on the cross to forgive and take away all my sins should be the answer to eternity's mysteries. I have made more mistakes in my life, some of them hurtful to other people, than lots of people. I don't want them washed away  like George W. Bush's cocaine use. I carry them with me. Not the guilt. I carry the understanding I got from them with me. I am no longer guilty, but the wisdom I gleaned from making big mistakes informs my life now and I don't want to repeat them. If they are forgiven and washed away, I don't have that knowledge in my soul. This lack of adhering to Jesus' forgiveness makes me, by all understandings of the faith I've seen, heard, and been taught--not a Christian.

I've never said this in writing in any public forum before, and it's a little scary, but I'm being honest. 

I do, however, strive to be as kind as I am humanly capable of being. I know how to forgive, and most of the time, I know how to not hold grudges, and how to be unconditionally accepting of other people. I fail. But I get up and keep trying. I want to be kind, and I don't want to judge. I overreact and I get angry, but I try to go back and be kind again or make amends. I can say honestly that I think I'm a kind person rather than that I try to be kind.

Today, I had coffee with a dear friend who is going through a tough life situation. She asked if she could ask me something...and what she wanted to know was how  I learned, or how I came to the point in my life where I could live in lovingkindness. I was taken aback. I was flattered and honored. I also found it serendipitous, considering all this thinking I've been doing about kindness this week. She sited the fact that I am friends with or kind to or at least on very good terms with both of my ex-husbands. Therein lies a disclaimer--I do have two  ex-husbands which itself speaks volumes about my deep lack of perfection. But the lovingkindness concept had come full circle this morning, and I knew I needed to write about it.

I'm reminded of Ben Franklin, who said, "if I could conceive that I had completely overcome [my pride], I should probably be proud of my humility." Kindness seems to follow the same vein--if we get proud of being kind, we probably aren't, so by writing this, I may have negated everything I worked for.

The glory or joy or relief of being a writer remains. In ways that I fail, perhaps my characters can triumph.

Publication dilemmas

My agent, George Nicholson, has submitted  Slider's Son, my latest novel, to Zondervan for publication. It's been there a month now, which is NOT a long time in the publishing world by any standard, but it's long enough to give me pause...

Zondervan is an evangelical press. There's nothing remotely evangelical about Slider's Son. Grant, the protagonist, does go to church, but it's the platform for his questioning a lot of things about Christianity...heaven, afterlife, how God can send someone (even someone Grant hates) to hell. And Grant certainly doesn't resolve these issues in the course of the story.

So I've been thinking about Zondervan a lot. I googled their books, and some of the books had no mention of evangelical or Christian or faith in the description. I wondered if that was just a ploy, or if it was true. I  emailed an author of a prominently promoted secular-looking book (socially conscious--story about a bi-racial girl discovering her heritage), and she wrote me back within 24 hours. She gave me her phone number and said to call. So I did, and we talked a long time yesterday. Awesome conversation, and very helpful.

She has turned her character into a three-book series, but chose not to stick with Zondervan for the next two books. No legality since it didn't start out to be a series.
Anyway, at some point a staff person (editor? publicity? I can't remember) asked her about her "faith story." !!! Joan (the author) said she didn't know if it was even legal to ask that, but she answered with "I'm a very spiritual person and my faith is important to me" which satisfied them.

She did feel a vague discomfort with the whole process, even though she had a very positive experience with them as publishers, and they treated her well and promoted her book well. Very interesting.
Next step: talk to George about all this.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grand Rapids, Here I come!

I love northern Minnesota, and Grand Rapids has become a favorite spot of mine. Next Wednesday, July 18, I get to spend most of the day there.

At 1:00, I'm doing a workshop type presentation for teens at the Grand Rapids Public Library: "Creating a Character out of Nothing."

Between 5-6 p.m., I'm heading to Itasca Trail Sports Bike shop to hang out with local cyclists, and go on the group ride at 6 p.m. I have to peel off really early, though, and head back to the library because...

At 7 p.m., at the library, I'm doing a presentation for the public about the writing process entitled "Prairie-Dogging Your Way to a Story --or (Subtitled) From Here to There by Way of the Zoo."
Everybody's welcome. It should be a fun day.

Support your local bookstore! Village Bookstore in Grand Rapids is an awesome place.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fracking, Jordan Sand, and Lime Township.

Last night, I attended the Lime Township Board Meeting. I don't live in Lime Township, but my boyfriend Tom does, and I spend more than half my time in that township, so I was interested.

Why? Because Coughlan Companies (yes, the publishing company) owns Jordan Sand, which wants to put in a new silica sand processing plant less than a mile from Tom's house.
The boardroom was packed.

Concerns raised last night:

AIR QUALITY--you can't process 200 railroad cars of sand a week without some dust, now, can you? The Jordan reps insist that there will be "NO DUST." Really? They say it's like beach sand--no dust. "Ambient dust is NOT an issue." Have you ever walked on the beach when the tide is out and returned with NO residue on your feet? I haven't. I don't get that argument. And silica dust is dangerous. More on that later. Besides that, at least one of the roads to access the plant and quarry is gravel. No dust? really?

TRAFFIC: 3rd Avenue already has heavy truck traffic. There are several Kasota stone quarries on the road, and trucks make traffic sketchy at best, noisy and dangerous in reality. The new processing plant would add one truck every 2 MINUTES for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. The route is short--the quarry where they're pulling the sand for the first 5 years is very close...but that still means 350 trucks making round-trips (that's 600-700 truck trips) making left turns 30 times an hour in a short distance. Plus, at least one of the roads on the route is gravel and already deteriorating. Dust?

PLUS, they either have not determined, or refuse to disclose where they'll be getting their sand in five years. The route from quarry to plant cannot and will not be shorter. That's guaranteed.

NOISE: Jordan officials insist that the plant will be quiet, and gave us decibel statistics about how quiet the operation would be. That does NOT include truck noise, train noise (two 100-car trains a week), truck backing-up beeps, workers coming to and from, etc., etc.

WATER: The Jordan sand plant will drill an industrial well, probably 350 feet deep. Residents affected by the Holtmeier plant have experienced well contamination, and they were told they would not be affected. We were told last night that residential wells shouldn't be affected because they are rarely that deep. Kathy  (of Kathy's Bait shop) interjected that hers is 335 feet deep. How can hers not be affected, and water is a source of her livelihood.  The officials tried to tell us that the plant will be a closed loop; that is, the water will be reused after washing the sand and used in the slurry to wash away impurities. Part of the hauling will be reduced by an under-road pipeline to pump slurry back to the quarry. However, because there will be constant water loss from evaporation, etc., their new well will need the ability to pump 400 gallons a minute. Do the math. That's over half a million gallons a day.
And that won't affect the water tables for area residents?

Jordan officials said anyone concerned should "register their well" and then these wells will be monitored. If a change occurs and Jordan is deemed responsible (who determines this??? nobody knows, it seems), they are responsible to replace the well. And what good does that do, I wonder, if available water tables are all contaminated???

OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS: Several acres of wetlands will be affected...destroyed, effectively. Coughlan promises to eventually return these to the community by building a park on land fill areas from the gleaned sand contaminents. Great. That really replaces wetlands where wildlife have lived safely for centuries.  The last plant (another company) promised the same thing, but now Jordan Sand is going to be building on the site of their promised park which negates the former contract to return to the that doesn't exactly build residents' trust now, does it?

The final arguments actually used Mankato economic development arguments that the plant would bring jobs to town (only 35 that are not contracted out!!!) and would add $1.8 million dollars a year to the local economy. REALLY? The residents affected by all the above quality of life issues care about the Mankato economy?  And Coughlans will be raking in billions, none of which the area residents will ever see except that the tax base for the township will be supported. That's just great because the residents will most likely watch their home values plummet. Who wants to live next to a giant sand plant?

The Jordan folks sited what great neighbors UNIMEN makes. Yeah, because they bought out ALL their neighbors. Nobody lives there anymore.

The Jordan folks have invested millions and a year's time to get to this point, and somehow wanted residents' township board to approve their Conditional Use permit, with conditions attached, which Jordan pledged to honor. Conditions attached at this point--before the meeting--numbered 27, and afterward, skyrocketed. The Permit was tabled for further research on both sides.

Finally, an issue that seems crucial to the entire question is a moral one. However, nobody intimately involved in all of the above quality of life issues can care about this because the above concerns are only a few steps higher on the life food chain than basic survival.


Do a little research on FRACKING. Fracking is destroying water tables and shale layers under the earth to glean every bit of natural gas we can get. Often, fracking is done under people's land. Fracking can drill a mile down and 5 to 7 miles across under homeowners land--homeowners who often don't even know that they do NOT own mineral rights beneath their land, until their water supply has been contaminated. Have you seen the videos of people who turn on their kitchen sinks, hold a lighter to the tap, and their water bursts into flame because of the high gas content?

INSTEAD of cleaning Frac sand and Fracking, why aren't we starting to invest money in alternative energies? Our nation in particular is SO dependent upon oil and gas. These gas and oil companies have more money than god and can squash research like that done on the electric car. Eventually, we'll run out of oil and gas resources, and then we'll HAVE to find other energy sources. Why not do that now instead of ruining every single last place on and within the earth?

The whole thing makes me sad and more than a little sick. What a badge of honor to live in the area that supplies the most fracking sand in the country.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

TOUR DE FRANCE, Phil Liggett

Okay, I cannot believe what Nikki and Tom send me from Rouen, France, where they watched today's stage of the Tour de France.
There are many pro cyclists I love watching--love as people from this great distance...but the one I've always most wanted to meet is Phil Liggett--funny, smart, kind, gracious, absolutely quick wit, and today they got to talk to him and he made me THIS!!!!!!