Leaping Lizards! An Extra 24-Hours? What’s a Girl to Do?

Woohoo! The gift of an extra day? There is no better present, as far as I’m concerned.

Julius Caesar GraphicThank you Leap Year! Or more accurately, thank you, Julius Caesar. I know your brilliant idea of adding an extra day to the calendar every four years had absolutely nothing to do with my foot-long To Do List, but whatever the case, I’ll take it, and send you a heart-felt high-five and “Hail Caesar.”

What do I plan to do with my extra twenty-four hours? Brace yourself, this chick is on a mission–a mission to max out her day.

You might be envisioning an Academy Award-Winning Tasmanian Devil impersonation where I tear through my house, cleaning out the refrigerator or the fish tank, paying bills, doing laundry, trying to write my next chapter, organize the launch of our ebook, and bust out 30 miles on my bike–all before I pick my daughter up from school. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

Nope.

Not. Even. Close.

I plan to pack my extra twenty-four hours with nothing but slothful bliss. I am officially jumping off the To Do List bandwagon today and taking a day to refuel.

Aahhh, I feel lighter already just typing those words.

As a mom, a wife, a writer, and a person who occasionally wears a few too many hats, I find myself perpetually racing the clock, trying to get stuff done, and admittedly feeling frustrated when I’m interrupted or when I don’t get it done in the amount of time I think it should take.

Can anybody else relate to this or is this just my genetic defect?

Okay, maybe don’t answer that.

Whatever the case, in the process of continually trying to tackle my To Do List, my effervescent personality…well, let’s just say…may not be as effervescent as it could or should be.

What? I know, impossible.

My darling eight-year old would definitely say, “POSSIBLE,” as would my extremely patient husband. Yep, they’ve put up with my wound-too-tight-ness a bit too long.

Soooo…for the next 24-hours, on this gift of an extra day, I am slowing it down and taking life at a snail’s pace.

What’s ahead for this snail, you ask?

A whole lot of snail-i-ness.

Okay, so maybe snails don’t set their alarms for 5:00 am, but that’s what I plan do again tomorrow because it is an exquisite time of day; a time when silence wraps its savory soul around my creativity. Mother Nature is usually at her best at this hour too. When you have this view out your window, and a colossal cup of rich, dark roast coffee, and two uninterrupted hours of writing time, what more could you want–especially when you’re kicking off a “bonus” day?

View out my window when writing at dawn

After I write, then drop Twinkle Toes off at school, I’ll probably go on a leisurely bike ride; one with no mileage or pace goals–just a fabulous spin, riding wherever I want, for as long (or short) as I want, at whatever speed I want.

After that, if I’m able to steal my husband away from his art project, I’ll take him out for coffee or lunch and ply him with sweet nothings–especially for putting up with me for so long.

Next? Perhaps a beach walk or a pedicure, and chocolate consumption. Yes, definitely some dark chocolate caramel consumption. Then…

Oh no, my snail’s list is suddenly starting to take on the familiar sound of a To Do List.

Clearly, this could take some time.

Happy Leap Day everybody. What are your plans for this extra day?

Page One–A Movie Review

Page One PhotoFor those of you who love the smell of newsprint with your morning coffee, I have a movie for you: Page One: Inside The New York Times.

This film was nominated for the 2012 Critics’ Choice Award in the category of Best Documentary Feature, and was also listed as one of the 50 Best Movies of 2011 by Paste Magazine.

The gist of the film? It’s essentially a fly-on-the-wall look at The New York Times and the people who put it together. Through four memorable journalists who work on the Media Desk, the film examines how this prestigious newspaper, and others like it, are struggling to survive in the age of digital information. With the Internet surpassing print as the main source of news, and newspapers going bankrupt all over the country, Page One chronicles this grande dame and the media industry in the midst of its greatest turmoil.

Page One delivers the perfect mix of journalism, politics, publishing and all the people who work with or depend on it. You might call this film a love letter to a dying art form, the American newspaper, and a celebration of the traditional values of journalism in a time when our need for free, immediate information is chiseling away at that honored discipline.

David Carr at the New York TimesThis film is worth seeing for David Carr alone. An irascible media columnist, single parent, former crack addict and welfare recipient, Carr pumps this film full of verve with his intelligence, wit and his “No BS” approach to reporting. I say move over Brad Pitt and George Clooney–it’s David Carr who really deserves an Oscar, even if he is just portraying himself.

The other unlikely star of the film is the imposing Times headquarters designed by Renzo Piano. Even though the newspaper sold the building in 2009 and leased part of it back because it was on shaky financial ground, it’s hard not to be impressed by this gleaming monument. In many ways the building represents all that is right and wrong with the industry in the midst of rising new media.

New York Times Headquarters

If I had any criticism of Page One, it would be that it’s a bit scattered, following many intriguing threads, yet never tying them all up into one cohesive bow. Still, news junkies, writers, photographers, and anybody who cares about the future of media will appreciate this smart film.

My other criticism is less a criticism and more a personal wish: I wish the movie had focused on other sections of the newspaper as well–partly because we’ve worked with so many of them over the years. I wish we could have glimpsed our colleagues in the Travel, Business, Week in Review, or Arts & Leisure sections, or even the Magazine, who have all hired Jeffrey over the  years and licensed his photography and our agency’s photography. I would have loved to have heard their thoughts about the state of the industry and where they think it’s heading in the digital age.

My rating: 4 stars out of 5

Film details: Directed by Andrew Rossi, Written by Kate Novak and Andrew Rossi. Released by Magnolia Pictures. Running time 1 hour 28 minutes. Out on DVD and Blu-Ray. Get your hands on it via Netflix, iTunes or any of the usual video outlets. Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

If any of you have seen the movie, I’d love to hear what you think. If not, I’m curious to know what you think the future of media brings for newspapers. Is it possible for them to stay vital and solvent? Drop me a comment and share your two cents.

The Winner of the Photo Caption Contest is…

CINDY BROWN for her caption:

“Exhausted from their Washington, D.C. walking tour, the Johnsons collapse onto a bench to rest. Realizing in horror that the black bench is freshly painted, they simply lay down, clasp hands, and hope to suddenly die of simultaneous brain aneurysms rather than suffer the inevitable embarrassment.”

Cindy wins the title of “Most Creative” and a $10 Amazon gift card for her clever entry. Congratulations, Cindy!

To take a peek at the photograph again CLICK HERE. Jeffrey created this image in London when he was working on assignment for Voyageur Magazine. He was shooting a feature story about London’s hip South Bank and found great humor in this photograph because it was polar opposite to what he was trying to capture.

There were many funny caption entries in this contest. Take a glance at the comment box and you’ll see what I mean. Here are three others that were top contenders:

First runner-up–Marcia with her caption:

“I think it looks like a dog!”
“No, it’s a reindeer…see the fluffy white antlers?”
“You’re wrong, totally a dog.”

Second runner-up–Sweetmother with her caption:

“If I have to do this to induce ovulation, then so do you.”

Third runner-up–Harper Faulkner with his caption:

“I think these bike helmets are too heavy.”

Thanks to everyone who participated. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me!

This is Your Life…

You may have seen this before, but it’s worth taking a peek at the Holstee Manifesto again. It’s one of my favorite tidbits floating around the web so I thought I’d share it with you.

Holstee Manifesto Poster

This video version below is especially fun if you like typography.

Happy Sunday everybody. Now get out there and create something!

Photo Caption Contest

Photo for caption contest

This picture deserves a caption. Send me your best by Sunday, February 19th.

Simply leave your caption in the comment box below. The winner will be crowned with the title “Most Creative” on Monday, February 20th, and will be emailed a $10 Amazon gift card. Okay, so it’s not exactly big bucks, but hey, it’s all about the fun anyway!

The Other Man: An Unlikely Valentine’s Love Story

Heart GraphicLove. Passion. Amore. It’s impossible to define it in its infinite forms, even though its power shapes nearly everything about us.

On this Valentine’s Day I feel compelled to tell you about a man who continually sets my heart on fire and leaves me weak in the knees with his passion.

This man, by the way, is in serious competition with my husband.

Okay, I confess: I’ve been fooling around.

I can picture the disgusted looks on your faces as you read this news. But try not to think too badly of me, even if this affair has been going on for nearly fifteen years.

It might make you happy to know that this “other man” whom I adore so much, has never once brought me roses or chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Nor has he toasted with me champagne, pampered me with peeled grapes or showered me with sweet nothings. In fact, he has never even uttered a word to me.

The name of this quiet man? Fred.

If you’re concerned about my darling husband, don’t worry, he’s okay with Fred. He even supports my flings with him.

You see, Fred is a driving force in the battle against cancer.

His full name is Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon, and also the founder of Fred’s Team, an organization supporting runners who dream of a world without cancer.

In early 1990, after a long illustrious running career, Fred Lebow was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was determined to use his passion for running as a means to battle this insidious disease, and designated Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as the New York City Marathon’s first official charity.

Fred's Team LogoHis program, simply named Fred’s Team, encouraged runners to gather pledges for each mile they ran and donate it to MSKCC.

Since 1995 Fred’s Team has raised more than $45 million for pioneering research.

How did I fall head-over-heels for Fred?

Simple. Cancer drove a truck through my heart when I was eighteen years old. My dad, who was just 51 at the time, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died six months later–just a few weeks into my freshman year of college.

A decade later, that same semi-truck looped back around and plowed into my heart once again. This time it was my mom who was stricken by the disease. Her breast cancer left me dazed, my heart barely pumping. All I could do was watch helplessly (long-distance, no less) as she suffered through painful surgery and treatments.

It’s then I dragged my running shoes out of the closet and fell in love with Fred–or more accurately Fred’s Team, and what it represented.

I’d always loved running, but my shoes hadn’t logged more than five miles in a good long while. Somehow lacing them up again and putting one foot in front of the other helped me sort through my anger, grief and frustration. It also helped remind me of my inner strength—even if setting a goal like the New York City Marathon was so absurd I couldn’t bring myself to utter the words to a soul, except for my husband.

When I joined Fred’s Team though, I realized that it was impossible to raise money for cancer research if you didn’t tell people what you’re doing. Eventually I built up my courage and began sending out letters. Unnerving is the best way to describe it–especially since asking people for money is one of my least favorite things to do.

When I confided in a good friend that I felt like I was bragging when I told people I was running a marathon, she gave me sage advice: “Just remember this is not about you. It’s much bigger than you, so get over it!”

And I did.

Donations immediately began pouring in—along with words of encouragement and stories of how cancer had affected many of my supporters. People blew me away with their generosity.  It seems everybody knew somebody who had been knocked down by this disease.

With each mile I logged and each dollar I collected, my heart slowly began to heal. No longer did I feel powerless against the disease I loathed so much. By raising funds to support researchers working hard to find a cure, I felt like I could finally face cancer and say, “GAME ON, SUCKER!”

That was fourteen years ago, and I have not looked back since.

Since then I’ve run eight marathons (NYC-three times, Paris, Rome, Portland, Santa Barbara-twice), two triathlons, and also participated in a 400-mile cycling event through the Colorado Rockies. With the help of many extraordinary supporters I’ve raised over $60,000 for cancer research.

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson at the finish of the 1998 NYC MarathonBecky Green Aaronson running the 1999 New York City Marathon

Running the Santa Barbara Marathon, fundraising for cancer researchBecky Green Aaronson after the 2002 Paris MarathonBecky Green Aaronson cycling during Ride the RockiesBecky Green Aaronson during the Carpinteria TriathlonBecky Green Aaronson at the finish of the Santa Barbara TriathlonPhoto of Becky Green Aaronson running the Portland MarathonBecky Green Aaronson running the Santa Barbara MarathonPhoto of Becky Green Aaronson running the 2003 Rome Marathon

And now Fred and I are getting ready for our next tryst . This time we’ll be participating in a 50-mile cycling event in Solvang, California on March 10th.

Why do I keep doing this? Unfortunately that careening truck keeps smashing into my heart.

My mom survived her initial bought with breast cancer, but later died of colon cancer. My Auntie Katie also died of cancer in 2010. Auntie Margie died of cancer in 2011 as well as Aunt Bertha. Cousins, uncles, friends, colleagues, neighbors–nobody is immune. Every day it’s somebody new. Steve Jobs, Baby Lexi (read my friend Jessica’s story here to learn more), my friend Molly, my other friend A, my friend, Angie’s dad. It goes on and on. But I refuse to give in to this beast, and I hope you will join Fred and me in trying to kick its ass.

If you’d like to know more about Fred’s Team or if you’d like to support my upcoming half-century cycling event, click on this link: Becky’s Ride for Fred’s Team

Love is what drives us as human beings. And love is what drives me to continue doing what I do.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Fred. Thanks for being my “other man” for some many years. Your passion and commitment still move me.

Fred's Team Lobo

It’s Not About the Bike

Photo of Lance Armstrong with bubblyLance Armstrong once proclaimed, “It’s not about the bike.”

You would have been hard pressed to convince me of that this morning though, as I took my shiny new road bike on its maiden voyage. Yep, after twenty-four years of riding the same bike, I finally upgraded my Buick to a Maserati (okay, maybe a turbo Beetle).

Why did it take me so long to buy a new bike? Well, first of all they cost as much as a used car. Second, there are so many choices, it makes your head spin trying to figure out which one to buy. And third, even though my old bike was heavy and merely equipped with twelve gears, I knew it inside out and backward.

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson cycling during the Carpinteria Triathlon

Betty and me during the 2010 Carpinteria Triathlon

I knew exactly when I needed to shift gears, get out the saddle, or lean into a curve. And I knew every quirk about it. I may have moaned as I cranked up hills, but in reality, I was comfortable with this old beast of a friend, I called Betty. She had carried me through numerous recreational rides and races, several triathlons, and a mountain of leisurely spins.

But last weekend after I finished a long training ride with a fun group of women, I noticed when I loaded Betty up in my van to head home that she had a flat tire.

Somehow this spectacular day of traversing some of Santa Barbara’s most scenic and challenging roads seemed the perfect ending to Betty’s long, illustrious career.

It’s then I decided to retire her and say, “So long, dear friend…”

__________

Becky with her new bike named Lucy

Lucy and me before heading out on a ride

…and “HELLO LUCY!” Woohoo!

As I was flying along today, grinning from ear to ear on my new ride, I knew for sure Lucy was going to turn me into the next Lance-olita Armstrong.

Tour de France logoThe thirty gears. I repeat, THIR-TY gears. The carbon fiber forks. The hard-as-a-rock seat.

Yeah, baby, look out Tour de France!

But then, after about twenty-five miles my legs started to feel heavy, and my back and triceps started to feel like…well, let’s just say…like they weren’t twenty years old anymore.

Wait a second! That’s not supposed to happen. Do you hear that, Lucy?

Okay, okay, I guess I have to admit what I already know: it really isn’t about the bike.

Damn.

It’s about the person riding the bike. And it’s about the hard work that still needs to be done—the five bazillion squats, lunges and core exercises I still need to do to get into the shape I’d like to be in again. The hills. The hours in the saddle. The discipline. The focus.

It’s the same thing with writing. We may think we’ll be better writers once we have the perfect writing space or when we get the latest computer upgrade, or perhaps when our websites are all snazzed out (or just up and running), but when it comes down to it, it’s not about any of that.

It’s about our thoughts, our creativity, focus, and discipline. It’s about working our tails off to make it happen. It’s about hours in the proverbial saddle, cranking out words and thoughts, like pedals cranking out miles on the road. It’s about commitment, and most of all, it’s about not finding excuses.

My new bike isn’t going to magically turn me into the next Lance Armstrong (or anything remotely close), nor is anything else going to turn me into the next Harper Lee.

Nothing, that is, except for hard work.

Damn.

Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird

The Art of Faux-tography

A few weeks ago I was driving my daughter to school, and in between belting out Lady Gaga and talking about our busy day ahead, Olivia and I simultaneously had the air sucked right out of our lungs.

We’d just driven down our little stretch of Mission Canyon, and as we approached the Mission and looked out over the Rose Garden to the ocean in the distance, we witnessed the most spectacular morning light dancing on billowy periwinkle clouds, it made goosebumps rise on my arms.

The light’s reflection in the ocean below looked like a kaleidoscope shimmering on smooth gray glass.

In Santa Barbara beauty wraps its big, warm arms around us every day, so you’d think we’d be immune to it, but my daughter and I were so stunned, the only word to emerge from our mouths was a collective, “Woooowwwwww.”

My immediate reaction was to reach for my camera phone. It was instinctual, automatic—as if there were no other way to enjoy this moment without documenting it. I fumbled for my purse, but the logistics of driving prevented me from taking a picture. Instead I was forced to enjoy the moment during the moment, rather than snapping it for posterity. As a result, I was able to share it with the beautiful person in the backseat—something we could both store deep in our memory banks instead of somewhere on my camera’s memory card.

What happened next though, is what happens all too often.

After I dropped Olivia off at school, I got in my car again—this time to head to the gym. It was one of those mornings Mother Nature was clearly in the mood to show off. This time she sent a brilliant rainbow arching right over the mission. Its ROYGBIV perfectly framed the Spanish architecture, making it look like it belonged on the set of the Wizard of Oz.

It was spectacular. So spectacular, in fact, this is what I saw: the Range Rover in front of me blocking traffic in the intersection so the driver could poke his camera phone out his sunroof to take a picture. A woman walking along the Rose Garden pushing her double-stroller, digging in her diaper bag to get her camera out, missing the moment with her children. Two cars almost colliding as they both illegally pulled over into the bike lane so each driver could take a picture.

My IPhone was sitting in the passenger seat next to me so I could easily pick it up and take a picture out my car window. I was so dismayed by what I saw though, I knew I didn’t want to be one of those people. I also knew I wasn’t at the proper angle to create a memorable photograph, nor did I have a camera that would do it justice.

STILL, the compulsion to capture the moment consumed me like it consumed the others. In a matter of seconds I caved, illegally pulling into the bike lane like the other yahoos.

As I zipped down my window and snapped a few images, I knew the pictures were crap before I even looked at them. I spent so much time trying to zoom in and out to get a good composition, for which one did not exist from where I was sitting in my car, that I missed the peak of the color. By the time I’d shot off three frames, the light had faded.

Photo of a rainbow over the Mission in Santa Barbara, CA

My crappy picture of a rainbow over the Mission

I could only laugh at myself for representing the absurdity of what photography has become.

Technology has created such easy access to the medium that we are all now photographers, or more accurately, faux-tographers. Most of us do not know an F-stop from a truck stop. Nor do we know shutter speeds, proper lighting or good composition. Most of us never learned the art of photography. We just know we have the ability to take pictures and we love doing it (myself included).

It made me wonder, “What is it about photography that is so powerful that it makes us lose our common sense?” Why are we so compelled to take pictures?

This may sound like a funny question coming from somebody who has lived in the world of photography for more than two decades, but I’m not talking about professional photography. I’m talking about all of us with camera phones and PhD (Push Here Dummy) cameras.

This is what I surmised:

Photography is about sharing. Like everybody else at the Mission that morning, I wanted to share my view of the rainbow with others…with you…with my family…with my friends. I wanted everybody to experience the beautiful moment that I had just experienced. Words could not remotely come close to how striking it was.

• Photography is about capturing, stealing, owning a moment—holding onto a piece of time forever.

• Photography makes it real to us. It proves it happened.

• Photography allows us to remember, to look back and recall an exact moment in time. While our memories may fade, our photographs provide a powerful beacon of recognition.

Photography enables us to be sentimental, to linger, to celebrate events and people in our lives. Just think about all the family photo albums that adorn our coffee tables and bookshelves.

__________

Before digital cameras (in all their various forms), most people were careful and methodical about taking pictures. After all, it cost money to buy film and have it processed. And it took time and effort to drop the film off and pick it up once it was processed.

Now, after we purchase our cameras, it’s essentially free, and it’s effortless to shoot a bazillion photographs. And as we all know, if we take enough pictures, eventually we’re bound to at least get one good image.

While I may chuckle and sneer at what photography has turned into, I’m right there will all the rest of you, clicking away, sharing away and loving it. But I never forget there’s a big difference between photography and faux-tography.

__________

Because I hate to only share a crappy picture on my blog with you, allow me to end this post with a few classic images created by a real photographer (one, with whom you know by now, I’m quite smitten).

Photo of gondolas reflected in the Grand Canal of Venice, Italy

Gondolas reflected in Venice, Italy

Photo of a grandfather and grandson at a market in Xian, China

A Grandfather and his sleeping grandchild at a market in Xian, China

Photo of a South African Woman

A Christian Zionist woman holding the new flag of South Africa in Soweto during a rally for Nelson Mandela