Friday, August 18, 2017

Solar Eclipse

In a few days the United States will experience a solar eclipse. An eclipse like this has not occurred since 1918. I've taken the day off, and my husband and I are traveling to Tennessee to observe the eclipse in totality.

And like so much in the current events these days, viewing the eclipse has also become a point of dissension.

Don't watch the eclipse. You'll ruin your eyes.

I've got ISO approved solar eclipse glasses.

No, really. You'll go blind.

I'm an optometrist. I promise there are ways to safely view the eclipse.

You must watch the eclipse. It's a once in a life time experience.

Actually solar eclipses happen more frequently than you think, they just don't always happen in the United States.

The traffic is going to be crazy. Stay home.

I'm not going to let a few extra cars on the road, keep me from seeing this rare occurrence.

In the end, it's your personal choice if you want to view the eclipse, how you want to experience it, and who you'd like to view the eclipse with. Stand firm in what you believe.

There's also a great TedX talk about viewing the solar eclipse.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Twenty-Five Years of Figure Skating

It was probably on this day 25 years ago a sad eleven-year old Anita took her first ice skating class.

I had just moved from Ohio to Alabama and I desperately missed my friends. Frequent moves were taking an emotional toll on me and my only refuge came in reading books. Books took me away to a different place. And it was only in these fictional out of body experiences that I felt safe and happy.

I still remember my first figure skating instructor's name was Julie. I don't remember what she taught me that day. But I do remember feeling free and happy. Gliding, stretching, moving my feet in ways that are impossible to do on the ground--it was, to say the least, opening the first page of a book that has lead to an incredible journey.

Figure skating has taught me to persevere in ways nothing else in life has. The triumphs, the failures, the injuries, they've all molded me into who I am today.

It's taught me the importance of setting goals, and no matter how long the haul, to never give up, and to never give less than all I have. If it weren't for my experiences as an ice skater, I don't think I'd have had the fortitude to endure and give what it takes to be a published author (hopefully one day soon!).

The friendships. Figure skating friendships are life-long friendships. I have crossed paths with so many different people, and just like a blade etching beautiful edges into the ice, each person I've gotten to know over the past twenty-five years has etched a special place in my heart.

Competing and performing are experiences that can never be replicated. I've gotten to travel all over the country for competitions and visited states I may have not been to otherwise. The butterflies in my stomach and the flutter of my heart before every performance have sometimes been so intense I wanted to cry and sometimes so calm it was subdued serenity. I've skated after accidentally leaving my blade guards on and sprawling on the ice like a baby deer on wobbly legs in front of an entire audience. I've performed while knowing a dear friend was probably taking his last breaths. I've skated at test sessions where the desire to pass was so much it was incapacitating. I've even performed on artificial ice during Christmas services at a local church. I've performed in freezing temperatures on outdoor rinks, in skimpy skating dresses, with a smile on my face for the morning news cameras even though the goose bumps on my arms felt like needles and I couldn't feel my toes. And I've skated as the half-time entertainment for professional hockey games. I've skated to music played by a live symphony and I've skated when technical issues made the sound system fail at Adult Nationals and the applause of the crowd became my music. I'd have to say though that some of my favorite performances have been skating in group numbers with my friends in home town shows.

Being a figure skater was also a gateway into two other careers that have enriched my life. I've gotten to share my passion and knowledge of figure skating with other children and adults through being an instructor at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena for the past eighteen years. And for a brief stint I operated Saxena Video Productions, LLC and traveled the south-eastern U.S. with my friends filming competitions and shows.

I've gotten to learn about the intricacies of what it's like to organize an ice show or for a club to host a large event like regionals or sectionals. This summer our rink is hosing Theater on Ice Nationals. It's a remarkable thing to see how a figure skating club and it's members can come together, volunteer their time, and host events like these.

But most importantly, I've come to realize, especially in the past few years after I tore my ACL, just how special every day is that I get to be on the ice. It doesn't matter how early it is in the morning, it's such a privilege to see my friends and colleagues and to jump, spin, and ice dance.

What a blessing and gift it has been to be a figure skater for the past twenty-five years and I pray and hope that I have (at least) another twenty five years more.

Photo courtesy of Angela Karen Photography

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Day 2: Honk Kong = Delicious + Colorful

Yesterday was my first real day to venture out into Hong Kong. My body spent most of the day in a state of jet lag confusion, which kind of feels like having a mild hangover.

We started the morning with a delicious breakfast at home with Asian Pears, turkey, scrambled egg, egg quiches, and some much needed coffee. Then we took a car ride through the city to join in on the BSF chapter here in Hong Kong.

During the car ride, I saw a really cool tree. I love how the trunk looks like its made of multiple cords of bark woven together.

I was pleased to see that Hong Kong has decided to go with my favorite color, red, for their taxi service.

The streets remind me of a mix of the highway's back home and a bit of road travel in the larger cities of India (due to the congestion), save for the fact that drivers in Hong Kong actually respect lanes, unlike in India.

I got to attend a BSF small group with my bestie and some local ladies. Everyone in Hong Kong speaks English, better than some people in Alabama, I might say. LOL. The English that people speak here has a soft English accent, and it sounds beautiful and proper. A dear family friend is the leader of the entire Hong Kong chapter of the day women's group of BSF, and it was such a privilege to hear her speak.

Before we started small group, since the jet lag was making me feel hung over, I decided that I needed some sort of liquid hydration So my bestie and I left the building, and boldly crossed the street and walked into the shopping center where there was a sign for a Starbucks. We walked inside, never found the Starbucks, but did find a small grocery store and headed to the refrigerated section. I didn't know what half the bottles were, but my eyes zoned in on these.

And because the bottles said "Water" I assumed that "POSTONIC" was just the name of the manufacturer. So as we walked back, I opened the cap, and took a sip, and the water was syrupy sweet. That's when I looked at the label and saw that it had TWELVE THOUSAND CALORIES!!!

It was Diabetes in a bottle. No Joke. I even asked my Uncle and he confirmed that it had TWELVE THOUSAND CALORIES!! He said that people drank it after they exercised. Ummm....why? So they can undo all the calories they burned from working out?!?

Needless, to say that once I saw the primary ingredient was high fructose corn syrup, plus the TWELVE THOUSAND CALORIES, and the bottle went in the trash.

After BSF and the water incident, we spent some time with my goddaughter and her cousins and then headed out to here for lunch:

The restaurant was on the top floor of a building and boasted panoramic views of the Hong Kong skyline:

From that high up we could even see the equivalent of Hong Kong's white house. It's where the leader who is the equivalent of Hong Kong's prime minister lives.

I ate dumplings, chicken mushrooms and rice, cucumber salad, and sipped on tea. And then the waiter brought in this:

Yes, that is a bowl full of floating red chili peppers, under which you will find the vegetables and fish. The dish is called Spicy Sichuan Style Stewed Wild Organic Freshwater Fish. I'm a failure at being Indian because I can't eat spicy foods. So naturally, I thought I'd skip this dish. But, then my Auntie, gave me the idea of giving the fish a bath in a bowlful of water, to wash off the spices and pepper. I felt like Anna from Anna and the French Kiss when she was at lunch giving her grapes a bath. The fish was so moist, and still had a moderate kick to it after I gave it a bath. I can't imagine what it'd taste like straight from the fiery bowl.

For dessert I had a delicious bean curd custard with sprinkled yellow sugar on top and a gelatinous cake made of coconut and dates:

On our walk home from lunch, we passed a pond full of beautiful koi.

After that it  was mid afternoon, and with my tummy full and my brain foggy with jet lag, it was nap time. In the evening, we ventured out to the Ladie's Market. No Joke. That is actually what it's called. And, no, they don't sell ladies there. 

Really missing my selfie stick on this trip. I know the #NASASocial media folks are probably like whhhaaat?!? Anita, with no selfie stick?!? On an international trip?!? Don't worry, I've got someone from the states bringing theirs later in the week.

After the Ladies Market we rode the MTR (the subway) back to Town Center and had another delicious meal at home. Another one of my Aunties made this flavorful crab dish. It was soooo fresh and sooo flavorful. Here in Hong Kong, the tofu literally melts in your mouth. And we had chicken and fish and beef and veggies and wine. And after that, I went to sleep. At 7:30 in the evening. LOL.

Stay tuned for Day 3 in Hong Kong!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Made it to Hong Kong!

Now that I'm here, and looking at this view out of my bedroom window, the seventeen hour non-stop flight from Dallas was worth it.

I'm in the heart of downtown Hong Kong looking out at a bunch of skyscrapers that belong to banks. HSBC. Citi Bank. Bank of America. Bank of China. In between the buildings you can see the Hong Kong Observation Wheel and the harbor. I hope to go on the observation wheel soon and see a bird's eye view of the harbor.

This is a view of the harbor and skyline as we drove from the airport into Town Center. When we were going through immigration at the airport, the lady at the intercom cautioned touching the wild animals in Hong Kong, specifically the camels. out for those wild camels.

I'm so blessed to get to stay here with friends (that are really family) and to be with my goddaughter to celebrate her first birthday! Who, by the way, was an absolute trooper. For almost being one year old, she handled the flight pretty well. It did involve chasing her precious diaper butt up and down the aisle of the plane, but over all she handled it fairly well.

I'll have more to share tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cover Reveal for FROSH!!!

Today we have the honor of featuring the cover reveal for Mónica Bustamante Wagner's new adult novel, FROSH!!!

Who is Mónica you ask? 

She was born in a Peruvian city by a snow-capped volcano. Growing up, books were her constant companion as she traveled with her family to places like India (where she became a vegetarian), Thailand (where she *almost* met Leonardo di Caprio), France (where she pretended to learn French), and countless other places that inspired her to write. Now, Mónica lives in Chile with her husband, three boys, eleven hens, and stray dog.

Not only does she spend time with hens and almost rubs shoulders with Leo, she is also a Pitch Wars mentor (if you don't know what Pitch Wars is, I highly suggest you click on the link. Dude. click on the link.) 

In December 2013, I actually submitted my manuscript to Mónica in hopes that she would be my Pitch Wars mentor, but she had already fallen in love with another project. BUT, Mónica took the time to complement my work and told me that she would continue to root for me. Encouragements like this can really help a writer make it through the query trenches. And I'll be forever grateful to Mónica for encouraging me to push on. 

Now that we know that Mónica is waay cool, one can only logically come to the conclusion that her new adult novel FROSH has to be just as awesome as she is. 

*drum roll*

*Throws some confetti*

*passes out celebratory snow cones*


That cover is HOT. And the story is even HOTTER:

During welcome week at Hillson University, the FROSH will hit the fan.

Type-A aspiring journalist Ellie plans to take freshman year by storm. But hell-bent on breaking a huge on-campus scandal, she risks becoming one herself—and getting the mysterious, heart-melting QB in serious trouble. 

Grant, star quarterback and charismatic chick-magnet, is hiding a life-altering secret. The last thing he needs is an overeager (absolutely adorable) journalist asking questions. He’s got a reputation to protect.

High-society legacy student Devon is ready to catch the football hottie of her dreams. If the tabloids feature her with the “it” boy on her arm, her tainted past will be buried—or so she thinks.

Charlie, pre-med, is done being the sweet and funny geek that girls like Devon ignore. But if he tries to impress her with a new edgy, spontaneous attitude, will his heart end up in the emergency room?

FROSH intertwines the stories of Ellie, Grant, Devon, and Charlie in Mónica B. Wagner’s sexy NA debut series, about falling in love and falling apart.

I can't wait to read FROSH. If you're just as eager as I am, check out FROSH on Goodreads. And if you want to stalk....I mean...err...follow Mónica you can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

First Time: Watching the Movie Before Reading the Book.

This past Friday I watched the movie PAPER TOWNS, based on the novel by John Green. I vacillated over whether or not to see the movie because I hadn't finished reading the book. In my experience, the book experience is always richer than the movie experience. And I always, always read a book first prior to watching its movie adaptation.

But with PAPER TOWNS I did things different. I had started the audio book the middle of last week. The narrative voice hooked me as the did the hi-jinks of the female lead character, Margo Roth Spiegelman. While I was compelled by the narrative voice  and the narrator of the audio book, I was a bit disappointed because it seemed the main character, Quentin or "Q," wasn't the one moving the story forward, it was Margo. And then I thought about if maybe Margo was really the main character of the story? Granted, I had only made it through the second audio disc and these were only thoughts and musings going through my head. I was enjoying the book, but I wasn't completely hooked by CD 2.

So I decided to watch the movie, and I LOVED it.

You know how movies have to trim out scenes from the book in order to keep the film at a reasonable length? And often I poo poo the choice of which scenes were trimmed. I mean, I would have sat though a four hour long Harry Potter movie, wouldn't you? But, back to PAPER TOWNS--I feel like every scene that was combined into another or cut was done to benefit story pacing. In addition, the beginning of the movie made it quite clear who it was that was moving the story forward, and it was Quentin--the main character, not Margo Roth Spiegelman, the mysterious girl next door.

I don't know if I'm going to make watching movies before reading the books a habit. But, in this situation it wasn't a bad decision. I'm still finishing up the audio book, and despite knowing the ending, I'm thoroughly enjoying the story. Well, done John Green. Well done.