Friday, May 22, 2015

Excitement and Apprehension

Sunday is the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. I made it to the 500 for the first time last year, and I'd hoped to attend this year, but didn't manage it. So I'm eagerly awaiting the race on Sunday, planning to be in front of my TV for every bit of action and to have Twitter open to chat with the friends I'd otherwise see at the track.

I'm obviously excited about the race—particularly about seeing Pippa Mann driving the pink Susan G. Komen car around, carrying a friend's name in the cockpit.

But I'm also apprehensive. This is one of the fastest races in the world, with cars consistently averaging in the high 220 m.p.h. a lap and touching 230 sometimes on the straights.

Which makes it exciting. And dangerous.

There are new aerodynamic kits on the cars this year, which probably contributed to three of them going airborne last week in practice. Cars flying = not what's intended.

Driving that fast with other cars around you means sometimes you can't recover when things go wrong, as Pippa found out last week when she spun trying to avoid someone.

And when parts break, as they occasionally do, sometimes there's a lot of damage. On Monday, the quick action of the safety crew seems to have saved James Hinchcliffe's life when a suspension piece on his car broke and sent him into the wall. The impact apparently measured 125 Gs.

It's astonishing anyone can recover from an impact that big, so kudos to all the safety workers, safety engineers, helmet makers, soft-barrier makers, and so on. And that gives a viewer (and more than one driver's family member, I'm sure) more confidence headed into the biggest race on the calendar for many.

But so much can go wrong, that while I'm excited, I'm also apprehensive in a way that I'm not when I watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans, for instance (coming up in three weeks!). I know this is the safest era of racing. One statistic tossed around on social media was as many as 25 practice crashes during one year in the late '80s. Compared to five this year.

But it's still a dangerous, dangerous sport. So I'll be watching closely on Sunday. But I'll also be crossing my fingers that nothing goes really wrong.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why I Donate

Twenty-five years ago, I gave a family friend a gift of a star named in her honor. She was particularly hard to buy for, and I wasn't sure if she'd like the gift or not. Turns out, she loved it. She hooted, with the distinctive laugh she had that I can still conjure in my memory. And she displayed the certificate proudly.

It was only a couple years later that cancer would take her from us.

That time it was lung cancer, not breast cancer. But the first time, back in 1980 or so, it was breast cancer. I was a kid at the time, so the magnitude of her battle was lost on me. But looking back, the 20 extra years we had her in our lives was a miracle.

Her name was Barbara, and she and her husband were good friends of my parents (we lost her husband to cancer also, five years before she died). Barbara was about 10 years older than my mother, and she wasn't related by blood, which was important. Because as I was wrapped up in the self-centered murkiness of my teen years, and as I tried to figure out who I was that was different from who my mother was, Barbara helped.

I thought of her as my fairy godmother of logic. (My logic godmother?) She was the one who'd talk sense to me, who'd straighten out my warped, irrational brain. Who'd help me see past the "I shoulds" and "I can'ts" to my own soul and happiness. In a way, for me, she really was magic.

I'm not telling you she was perfect. She wasn't, I know that. But she was a great friend, and I still miss her, deeply. I still think of her sometimes and cry because I miss her. I still get angry at cancer for taking her—and so many other wonderful people we've all known—from us.

And she's why I give anytime someone asks for a donation for a cancer organization. She's why I'm spreading the word as widely as possible about Pippa Mann's pink car for Susan G. Komen at the Indianapolis 500.

Twenty-five years after that named star, 16 years after I last saw her, and nowhere near Christmas or her birthday, I'm giving my friend Barbara another gift. I'm giving her a ride-along in Pippa's car for the entire Indy 500 race, by putting her name in Pippa's racecar. I think Barbara would like that a lot.

I hope you'll join me and #GetInvolved, so we can both celebrate the survivors (and fighters) and kick cancer's ass.

(photo from Pippa's Instagram)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

An Unusual Request From Me

I'm pretty careful with all of my social media efforts. I never ask you all to spend money and buy my books. To me, that's not the point. The point is a good conversation and an exchange of ideas, not asking for dollars.

But I'm breaking my rule. I'm going to ask you to part with a little bit of money. Thing is, it's not for me.

If you've followed me at all, you know I'm a huge supporter of a female racecar driver named Pippa Mann. She's going to race in the Indianapolis 500 for the fourth time this year, and she'll be racing in support of the Susan G. Komen organization for the second year in a row.

She's determined to make an impact with her pink car—not only on the track, but also raising funds to donate to the Komen foundation. I'm determined to help her.

So I'm asking you to contribute to her #GetInvolved campaign, to buy just a pink rubber wristband for $5. Doing so means you'll add your voice to the crowd, supporting women and men dealing with breast cancer, and supporting Pippa reaching for her goals.

Mind you, if you want to contribute more money, there are other great perks up for grabs. There are can koozies, "Pippa races for ____" tee-shirts, and great looking posters (image above). You can even get your hands on her race-worn racing suit! But probably that's too rich for all of our blood (and Pippa won't be sorry to keep it), whereas a wristband is something we can probably all manage.

Because it's $5. A small amount of money to support a worthy cause—do you realize that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer? A small amount of money to show Pippa that we're behind her—do you realize that only two of 33 drivers in the Indy 500 this year are likely to be women? That only nine have ever qualified for the race?

This month, check my books out from a library, don't buy them. Please, instead, donate to Pippa's #GetInvolved campaign. Get behind the pink car in the Indy 500, and let's try to make breast cancer an afterthought.

Friday, May 1, 2015

This Week's Words: May 1

To start the month of May off right, here are some words of inspiration from a pioneering female racecar driver, the woman with the second most starts in the Indy 500:

"Whenever I get to a low point, I go back to the basics. Why am I doing this? It comes down to passion."
–Lyn St. James