Motorcycles, Grand Prix, and Monte Carlo

This was originally posted October, 2015

It was raining in Paris, so we left.

Paris in 2000

We headed south for the coast of France and rented a couple motorcycles.  We explored Cannes, I had one of the best meals of my life in Nice. It was there I discovered Gnocchi, with my dad on his birthday.

South of France with Dad in 2000
South of France with Dad in 2000

We wound our way along the coast, through the small coastal towns of Southern France. Every time we rode around another point to see the next inlet of blue ocean and a steep coastline dotted with bright houses it took my breath away.

I had learned how to ride a motorcycle earlier that year dirt biking in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I borrowed my friend Mike’s time-worn Honda to practice before leaving.

Dad and me our our Mediterranean motorcycle tour
Dad and me our our Mediterranean motorcycle tour

Italian’s drive a little more aggressively than drivers in the US. Similarly, my dad drives more aggressively than your average driver anywhere in the world except maybe Jeff Gordon. I did my best to keep up, but somewhere near San Remo we were passing a car on this winding coastal road as two motorcycles came at us in the oncoming lane. I was still on the center line and those two remained side-by-side. I think my bike had 125cc’s, so there wasn’t much power to get in front of the car I was passing. No room on the road! Dad had safely passed already. I avoided a head on collision bumping into the car I was passing. My foot hit the car’s front tire, I wobbled a little before regaining control.

I was a little shaky pulling into San Remo a short time later. We may have gone a little slower after that. So there you have the story of one of my near death experiences. Next time, I’ll let dad go on ahead.

Grand Prix practice in Monte Carlo
Grand Prix practice in Monte Carlo

One morning, we were sitting outside eating breakfast and we heard this strange buzzing sound. It was like thousands of bees nearby. We listened for a few minutes before realizing it was the sound of Formula One engines racing through the streets of Monte Carlo. We had passed through Monaco the day before and saw the race course being set up. But today the drivers were practicing on the course. Perfect! We returned to Monte Carlo and found seats on the last turn before these cars floored it through the iconic tunnel. It was loud. The drivers cut this corner so close each time that the banner hung there was torn to shreds by the first afternoon.

A perfect day finished with some Limoncello. Que Magnifico!

Paris in 2000

Uncle, Uncle

This post was originally published in November, 2019.

I started my new corporate job last week. It’s a great company, great people I work with, a fun department and challenging work. I haven’t done a corporate gig since the last millennium, so I’m adjusting to the new schedule. It’s working out well so far.

Today the CEO walked past our row of cubicles. Apparently this doesn’t happen often because there was a lot of buzz about it. It got me thinking about my Uncle John.

John Akers, CEO of IBM
John Akers, CEO of IBM

John Akers would have caused a buzz like that walking past any floor in IBM. My uncle was the CEO of one of the largest corporations in the world. The last time I saw him was at my parent’s house during Easter a couple years ago, the year before he passed away.

My new job has gotten me thinking about another uncle lately too. My new job title is “Editor”. This was my Uncle Roger’s title at People magazine. For a couple decades Roger Wolmuth was the senior editor at this major magazine and now, in a small way, I’m echoing that.

Becky with Roger and Sheila in 1999
Becky with Roger and Sheila in 1999

I like my new job, and my new company. I’m excited about this opportunity and getting to know my new co-workers.

Update January, 2022

I start another new job this month. After 6 years at the last gig, and working up to the title, Learning Experience Designer, I’m moving on to see what else there is for me. I worked with great people and learned so much the past six years. I’ve felt very lucky to have landed in that role. I feel very lucky to have the option and opportunity to move on and try something new, too.

So here’s to new beginnings and taking a leap!

In a few months, I’m hoping to take my boys back to New York and visit Aunt Sheila in the same place pictured above. The week I spent in New York with them in 1999 still holds such great memories. Nothing is certain in these pandemic days. But, I really hope my boys get to know Aunt Sheila this spring.


Amsterdam Solo

Hollyhocks in Amsterdam
Hollyhocks in Amsterdam. Click image to shop.

It was the day after my sister’s wedding when I boarded a plane for my first solo trip. This wasn’t the original plan. But life happened and I was no longer going to a wedding in Finland. Instead I decided to visit the country where my great-grandmother emigrated from. As usual, I didn’t have much planned after the first few days. Thanks to the sage advice of Rick Steves, I had a great room in Amsterdam. From this corner of the world, this old city began to feel like my own.

Bloemgracht, Amsterdam
Bloemgracht, Amsterdam

I rented a bike and rode all over town. I stayed a couple blocks away from where Anne Frank once hid through her adolescence. On my third day, I was flagged down while riding my bike and asked why I was alone.

My mode of transporation
My mode of transporation

They had seen me coming and going over the past few days. I was a regular now.  We visited and kept in touch after I returned home. Traveling alone allows you to meet people and have conversations you otherwise never would.

Martine was a beautiful lady I met on the train heading north to the islands. Her husband, a professor, had passed away a few years before. She loved to travel, but her friends would rather stay home. So she traveled the world alone. I loved talking to her.

I had only a faint idea of my Dutch heritage.

Old school in Terschelling Harbor
Old school in Terschelling Harbor

I knew my family were called Freislanders and that they came from the islands. Not knowing which one, I picked Terschelling and had a lovely time there. This was not a big tourist destination. It seemed mostly Dutch people traveled there for holiday, not foreigners. I inquired about my relatives at the local museum on Terschelling. Upon asking for a last name, the historian

told me instantly that they did not come from that island. She knew from the name. It was a small island.

Island Horses on Terschelling
Island Horses on Terschelling. Click image to shop.

I traversed it on bike and saw some beautiful Dutch horses on the way. She gave me the name of a website which I looked up once I got home. From there I was able to find my relatives and trace them back hundreds of years from marriage license information.

Some of my favorite books are the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. In the “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”,

Old ships on the Wadden Sea
Old ships on the Wadden Sea

the group sails to the end of the world where the water gradually gets more and more shallow. This Wadden Sea went on endlessly shallow. A person could walk for ages and not get deeper than the knee.

Becky in front of waders in the Wadden Sea
Becky in front of waders in the Wadden Sea

The last town I visited was Delft, where the famous blue and white decorative ceramics are crafted.

Delft Blue
Even the toilets are pretty in Delft

Here I had a fancy bathroom and a sound night’s sleep before returning home.

It was my first solo trip and a great, life-changing experience. I learned that I’m okay on my own. Even then I’m not alone.




From the Back Line

It’s a mental game from the serving line. I spent many years playing volleyball, which meant thousands of chances to ace or miss a serve, or something in between. It’s a unique position to be in, on that back line, ball in hand, whistle blown, and ten seconds to start the next play. Life lessons come from those seconds, from that pressure, from that pause and those opportunities both missed and met.volleyball sideline

Pause. When all eyes are on you and this could mean changing the momentum of the game, or continuing it. It could mean finishing the game, match, tournament, or season. It could mean just putting the ball in play so the 12 people on the court could set up a miraculous play. serving the volleyballSometimes there is enormous pressure on that line, and other times there is space enough to risk something more. Regardless of the pressure and the pace, you always have those ten seconds. To pause. Breathe. Say a prayer and focus on that one thing. The crowd disappears, the pressure feeds you. Visualize where you’re putting the ball, like you’ve done a thousand times before when no one was watching. It’s muscle memory and mental toughness. It will carry you through life if you remember this lesson, practiced over and over. You proved it to yourself again and again. You’re a gamer. You rise to the pressure. It brings out the best in you.



What is Creativity?

What is creativity? I don’t know exactly. There are so may definitions. But I’m learning more about how to harness it. It needs space. When we hold space for new ideas, thoughts, expressions, they have a chance to come to us. 

Melissa Gilbert said creativity is “The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.” She talks about ideas being a thing outside of us, visiting us, waiting to be discovered and manifested. It’s our job to bring these ideas to life; to give them legs.

Image of illustrated lightbulb with a key inserted into a keyhole.
Unlock creative ideas by making space for them.

“I’m not very creative”, many say. This is a cop-out. It’s the most effective way to shut down creativity. In saying this, you’re refusing to give creativity any space inside you. Instead, try just sitting with a challenge for a while, keeping your mind open to ideas without judgment.  


“There is a sweet spot between the known and the unknown where originality happens; the key is to be able to linger there without panicking.” – Ed Catmull

At a conference I recently attended, John Medina spoke about cognitive disinhibition. This means being uninhibited in idea responses: not rejecting things considered irrelevant, and giving weird ideas permission. He added that working memory allows these things, when we can hold ideas and work them out. One of the greatest factors of innovative success, says Medina, is your reaction to failure. 

As Melissa Gilbert puts it in Big Magic, “All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life—collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.” Lovely!

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”  – Albert Einstein