Reflections on 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, I’m sitting on the sofa reflecting on the year. I had two goals – lose at least ten pounds and get published (paid). As far as the weight loss goes, I’m happy to report that I only have 15 more pounds to go! I did get a popular article published in the Cactus and Succulent Journal (unpaid). Therefore, I didn’t achieve my goals, but I did accomplish many things this year.

I have three main areas of interest at this moment of my life, beyond home and family activities. They are competitive figure skating, writing, and botanical studies, mainly cactus.

Competitive Figure Skating

Bronze medal, Fort Collins Classic 2017.
Bronze medal, Fort Collins Classic, April 2017.

Things could have gone better. I have a jump, the flip jump, that has gone AWOL this year. It was consistent enough last year that I advanced to the silver adult level in December 2016. Since then – frustration. It’s not a particularly hard jump, even for someone, say, over 60. It was my favorite as a teenager. I relearned this jump a couple years ago and had a fantastic day where I landed ten in a row. The next day, I heard, “don’t be surprised if it comes and goes,” and it has come and gone ever since. This year – mostly gone, especially in competition. I competed in only two competitions this year and did not cleanly land this jump in either.

It is hard for me to comprehend how far this “might come and go” mentality has wormed itself into my brain. However, the jump is almost back and when it is, I’m keeping it!

The rest of my skating is much improved. I have a decent scratch spin, a better back spin, a lower sit spin, and faster camel spin. My other jumps are stronger and more consistent. I’ve learned the Dutch Waltz and am learning the Canasta Tango, the first two ice dances. I started practicing the elements for the first of two adult gold-level tests.

Most of this was to take my brain off from obsessing about the flip jump. Didn’t work. Therefore, my goal for 2018 is a consistent flip jump. I informed my coach that I am not entering another competition until it is consistent 90% of the time. Currently, it is 0.001%, well maybe 0.01%. I probably land one out of a 100.

Writing

My goal for 2017 was to have something published and be paid for it. I had a popular article, Cacti Conundrums, published in the Cactus and Succulent Journal. They don’t pay to publish, but unlike many scientific journals, they don’t charge to publish. Publication, paid or not, is a success for me.

In addition, I was a finalist in the WriterUnboxed.com, Flog-A-WU writing contest http://writerunboxed.com/2017/07/20/flog-a-wu-judgment-day/, finishing second out of 119 entries. I was a finalist for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators first Golden Pen award. Also, I earned an honorable mention in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie writing contest.. https://susannahill.com/2017/11/17/the-2017-halloweensie-contest-winners/

Poppy Okapi catching raindrops on her tongue.

Other notable accomplishments: I created a website nancyrileynovelist.com, created a Facebook page, and recently, Twitter and Instagram accounts. I drafted five picture books and began sketching illustrations for two of them. I wrote six stories for potential publication in children’s magazines. I sent query letters to agents for my memoir and received one full manuscript request. All in all a good start on my writing career.

My writing goals for 2018 are to continue my publication efforts for my memoir, edit and illustrate my picture books for submission to literary agents, and to write more nonfiction essays for children and adults. I want to grow my online platform and utilize social media tools better. Since I’m a novice to Twitter and Instagram, I have an immense opportunity for improvement.

Botanical Studies

Two years ago, when we moved to our current house, I discovered three small, cylindrical cactus species growing on our land. This was the basis for my Cacti Conundrums article. Since I’m retired, and because we own 35 acres of foothill-shrub and grassland habitat, I have started two different studies – one to study methods of stimulate mountain mahogany growth, and the second to study rabbit herbivory (browsing) on the cacti species.

Mountain mahogany is an important food shrub for mule deer. In my area, it is not producing much annual growth, which is the part that deer eat. So, the deer nibble all the new bits and the shrubs struggle to flourish. I’m experimenting with cutting shrubs at certain heights to stimulate more annual growth. Stay tuned for progress reports!

Nylon hedgehog cactus in bloom.

There was scant precipitation in 2016, resulting in rabbits (we have many) eating anything with any moisture, including my little, cylindrical cacti – grr. I’m attached to them, not any rabbit. So, now I’ve marked 100 nylon hedgehog cactus plants to track the percentage consumed by rabbits during the 2017-2018 winter. Fortunately, there are plenty of nylon hedgehog cacti!

Final Thoughts on 2017

Scout – January 1, 2018.

It is now 2018 and 2017 is in the books. Last year was full of opportunities and accomplishments. This new year presents opportunities for many more accomplishments. I’ve already made my bed, brushed my teeth, and taken my dog, Scout, on a long walk. I’ve almost finished this post and the day is still young. I think I’m off to a great start!

Someone Has To Finish Last

 

Vail Invitational 2017 – Adult Silver Free Skate

Yes, I love to figure skate, but who wants to finish last? Not me, not anyone. However, when you compete, someone is going to come in last. Yesterday, it was I. Damn! I knew I didn’t skate my best; I fumbled an important (in terms of the competition) jump combination and faked my way through part of my footwork. I finished strong with a decent salchow-loop jump combination and final sit spin, but overall it was not good enough.

I could make excuses – I didn’t sleep well because of the altitude (Vail is at 8,200 feet elevation); the ice was soft and therefore I was slow. All true. I could blame my coach, but she didn’t skate – I did. I could complain about the judges’ scoring, but they judge what they see. I could pick apart the other competitors’ performances, but that would be unkind and untrue. They skated beautifully.

Finishing last sucks. As my daughter said, “uber sucks.” However, she helped me get some perspective when she wondered how many 60-year-olds are competitive adult figure skaters? Not many. How many 60-year-olds are competitive athletes?

Yesterday, long after I’d skated, a woman asked me how it went. I said, “I came in last.”

“But did you have fun?” she asked.

“Yes, but it still stings,” I answered.

“It’s just a number,” she went on. “When Shelby (Lyons) was a little girl, she came in last all the time. She was so short she couldn’t read the score sheets, so we just told her the number, 4, 9, whatever.”

I did not realize I was talking to Shelby Lyons’ mother. Shelby, a wonderful coach at our rink, is a retired U.S. national medalist in both singles and pairs. She was the U.S. junior women’s national champion in 1996. Wow.

I came. I competed. I didn’t fall on my rump. Shelby and her mom said I skated well. That makes me feel better. My husband, my friends, and my coach are proud of me. That makes me smile. My husband said I’m beautiful (not a make-up wearer usually and had a new lipstick for the competition), but he’s funny that way. He loves me just the way I am.

My friends skated well, maybe even a couple personal bests. Hugs and high fives all around. I finished the day with delicious food and great conversation with friends, then a well-needed soak in the condo’s hot tub.

So, how did I do? I skated well and finished seventh.