New Year’s resolutions are not for me, because I see the new year as a mere continuation of the previous year. For example, I begin 2023, looking forward to continuing an activity I started last year. A little while ago, I started helping Szekler (Székely) children from the villages in Hargita County, who have chosen ice hockey as their favorite sport. I have been …
I. Question Dr. J: It’s 2023 … As you went over into 2023, what were you thankful for and what New Year’s resolutions did you make?
Answer István Javorek (aka Coach Pop):
I didn’t even notice that a year ended. Ever since the pandemic started, I have been losing track of what day of the week it actually is, even though I am quite busy with daily gardening, other chores around the house, conducting one-on-one training sessions and keeping in touch with my clients over the Internet. Does time sensitivity decrease after retirement?
The year begins with me being grateful for the fact that, except for a small upper arm bone fracture as well as some joint discomfort related to age and performance sports, I can call myself healthy. Thanks to my 14,000 – 15,000 steps a day, walking fast in a nearby park, and my daily training with light weights, my resting heart rate is now 40 bpm and I have almost kept my body weight. Unfortunately, my muscles have lost some of their former tone and I am six kilograms lighter than my competitive body weight. To look on the positive side, though, I have not gained weight and will be able to keep the same belt for my pants this year as well.
New Year’s resolutions are not for me, because I see the new year as a mere continuation of the previous year. For example, I begin 2023, looking forward to continuing an activity I started last year. A little while ago, I started helping Szekler (Székely) children from the villages in Hargita County, who have chosen ice hockey as their favorite sport. I have been developing suitable outdoor training plans for them and providing them with all sorts of advice. I have also been mentoring the coaches of the Gyergyószék and Csikszék Jég-Vi-Har (Jégkorongozó – Rural Hargita) school hockey teams in the area of strength and conditioning. Being able to contribute to the development of rural children from thousands of kilometers away, fills me with overwhelming emotion and gives me an unbelievable sense of satisfaction and joy. I hope this venture will be successful, and I would be very happy if more children from these hidden villages in Hargita County could grow up to become successful ice hockey players.
II. Question Dr. J: By the time this blog is published, you will have turned 80 years old. How do you feel? How are you better at this age and what has become more difficult?
How old did you say I was? Good God! My joints will disagree, but the rest of me still feels 28 years old.
All my life I have enjoyed creating something new. I have always carried a small notebook to jot down spontaneous ideas. I still have new ideas to this day. For example, I have been training a 12-year-old boy with some physical disabilities. He motivates me to developed new training plans for him, and I take tremendous pleasure in watching him develop into a healthy athlete. He may not become a world champion, and it is a challenge for me to decide on the most suitable training methods for his particular physical and emotional needs and abilities.
Answer István Javorek (aka Coach Pop):
But to answer your question specifically, I feel better now, in old age, because I have accumulated experience and have only gained in confidence over time.
What is more difficult now? Nothing. I have always been an optimist and have never looked back. I have always believed that there was a solution to every problem. You just needed to analyze the situation thoroughly, believe in your success, and fight relentlessly.
I have always tried to instill a positive attitude towards life in my athletes and my students. I have taught them to consciously choose to laugh and be cheerful, to seize opportunities and to overcome difficult situations.
III. Question Dr. J: Do you think aging is a hardship or a privilege? How and why?
Answer István Javorek (aka Coach Pop):
This is not a question I ask myself. As the French say: “C’est la vie,” as in, “That’s life!” I do not consider old age to be an advantage or a disadvantage. It is the natural manifestation of life on earth.
IV.Question Dr. J:You were a coach all your life. In very general terms, what advice could you give us about working out?
Answer István Javorek (aka Coach Pop):
In sports, as in all areas of life, there are always new methods and new innovations. According to the innovators, the training methods have irrefutable advantages. It is interesting to me that even new variations of thousand-year-old yoga are invented, especially by those so-called experts who tempt naive clients with some sensational exercises. But also, if we look at my field of athletics, weightlifting and all-sports physical fitness training, the sport itself has not changed, only the equipment and the technical implementation.
Today, it is difficult to imagine modern physical training without the huge repertoire of exercise variations made possible by weightlifting (including barbell and dumbbell exercises, calisthenics, etc.).
Dumbbell exercises are my favorite, because they are generally safe, do not require a large practice area, and are easy to teach. They can be done simultaneously and very efficiently with a large number of athletes, the exercises are dynamic and have a large range of motion, and a wide variation of movements is possible. Dumbbell exercises help develop muscle strength, cardiovascular and muscular endurance, flexibility, and general fitness.
Dumbbell exercises should be combined with a variety of plyometrics, ballistics, and stretching-shortening exercises.
V. Question Dr. J: What are you looking forward to the most in this 80th year of your life?
Answer István Javorek (aka Coach Pop):
To see the Javorek clan together. To hug my daughter and my grandchildren. And, as I wrote in a poem in the first difficult months of my escape from communism in 1982:
“…Believe, my little darling, We will be together again next year, We will have fun and travel the world…”
Soha nem tettem Új évi fogadalmakat, hiszen számomra nincs újra kezdődő év, csak a folytatása, amit az előző évben elkezdtem. Például most, próbálok segíteni a falukban élő Hargita megyei székely gyerekeknek, akik a jéghoki sportot választották kedvenc sportjuknak. Megfelelő erőnléti edzés tervekkel és tanácsokkal segítem őket. Igy elvállaltam a Gyergyószéki és Csikszéki Jég-Vi-Har (Jégkorongozó – Vidéki Hargita) iskolás jégkorong csapatok edzőinek a mentorálását erő és kondicionálásban. Emocionálisan teljesen a…
I. Kérdés Dr. J: Ahogy átmentél 2023-ba, miért voltál hálás, és milyen újévi fogadalmakat tettél?
Válasz István Javorek (alias Coach Pop):
Nem is vettem észre, hogy vége van egy évnek. Habár eléggé elfoglalt vagyok a napi kertészkedés, más házkörüli munkákkal, edzésekkel, levezetésével, amióta ezek a járványos évek vannak, nem is tudom mikor van hétfő vagy vasárnap. Lehet ez talán a nyugdíjasok idő érzékenységének a hiánya?
Hálás azért vagyok, hogy kivéve egy kis felsőkar csonttörést, a korral és főleg az aktív sport múlttal összefüggő ízületi kellemetlenségeket, egészségesnek mondhatom magamat. Büszke vagyok, hogy a napi 14,000 -15,000 lépésű gyors sétáimmal a közeli erdős parkban és a napi könnyű kézisúly edzéseimnek köszönhetően a pulzusom pihenő állapotban most is 40 és a testsúlyomat is majdnem megtartottam. Igaz, hogy az izmok nagyjából elvesztették a tónusukat és igy könnyebb vagyok hat kilóval, mint a versenyzői testsúlyom, de most sem kell a nadrágszíjamat nagyobbra kicserélni.
Soha nem tettem Új évi fogadalmakat, hiszen számomra nincs újra kezdődő év, csak a folytatása, amit az előző évben elkezdtem. Például most, próbálok segíteni a falukban élő Hargita megyei székely gyerekeknek, akik a jéghoki sportot választották kedvenc sportjuknak. Megfelelő erőnléti edzés tervekkel és tanácsokkal segítem őket. Igy elvállaltam a Gyergyószéki és Csikszéki Jég-Vi-Har (Jégkorongozó – Vidéki Hargita) iskolás jégkorong csapatok edzőinek a mentorálását erő és kondicionálásban. Emocionálisan teljesen a hatalmába kerített, hogy sok ezer kilométer távolságból „túl az Óperenciáról,” picikét tudok betegíteni fiatal vidéki gyerekeknek a felkészítésében. Remélem a vállalkozás sikeres lesz és nagyon boldog lennék ha több gyerek ezekből az eldugott Hargita megyei falvakból híres jéghokizókká fejlődnének.
II. Kérdés Dr. J: Mire ez a blog megjelenik, 80 éves leszel. Hogy érzed magadat? Mennyire vagy jobb ebben a korban, és mi lett nehezebb?
Válasz István Javorek (alias Coach Pop):
Hány éves vagyok? Te Jó Isten! Az agyam most is 28 évesnek érzi magát, csak az ízületeim nem nagyon.
Egész életemben szerettem valami ujjat alkotni. Mindig volt egy kicsi jegyzet füzetem, és ha valami ötlet jutott az eszemben, leírtam, majd utána megfontoltam, hogy jó-e az ötlet vagy sem. Mai napig is vannak újabb ötleteim. Például, egy helybeli 12 éves tanítványomnak vannak fizikai fogyatékosságai és újabb edzésterveket dolgoztam ki számára, amivel biztos vagyok, hogy ha nem is világbajnokot, de egészéges atlétát nevelek ki belőle. Minden egyes személynek mások a fizikai és érzelmi adottságai, igy mindig egy kihívás a legmegfelelőbb módszerrel edzni és fejleszteni őket.
Hogy pontosan válaszoljak a kérdésedre, azért érzem magamat jobbnak most öreg fejjel, mint ezelőtti években, mert a mindennapi edzési tapasztalataim felhalmozódtak és igy biztosabban tudok választani módszereket a kliensek helyes felkészítésében.
Hogy mi lett nehezebb? Hát, semmi. Örök életemben optimista voltam és soha nem néztem hátra felé. Mindig azt tartottam, hogy valamilyen megoldás kell legyen minden problémára. Csak alaposan kell analizálni és bízni a sikerben és küzdeni érte.
Az általam edzett sportolóimnak és diákjaimnak próbáltam megtanítani a pozitív hozzáállást az élethez. Beléjük neveltem, hogy tudatosan próbáljanak nevetni és vígnak lenni.
III. Kérdés Dr. J: Szerinted az öregedés nehézség vagy kiváltság? Hogyan és miért?
Válasz István Javorek (alias Coach Pop):
Evvel a kérdéssel nem sokat foglalkoztam. Ahogy a franciák mondják, „C’est la vie,” vagyis ez az élet! Ez van más nincs, tessék választani.
Nem tartom sem előnyösnek, sem hátránynak az öregséget. Ez a természetes megnyilvánulása a földi életnek.
IV. Kérdés Dr. J: Egész életedben edző voltál, hogyan változott az idők során az edzősödéről alkotott véleményed?
Válasz István Javorek (alias Coach Pop):
A sportban, mint az élet minden területén, mindig vannak új módszerek és újítások. Az újítók szerint a képzési módszereknek megcáfolhatatlan előnyei vannak. Érdekes számomra, hogy az ezeréves jógának még új változatait is kitalálják, főleg azok az úgynevezett szakértők, akik szenzációs gyakorlatokkal csábítják el a naiv klienseket. De ha az én atlétika, súlyemelő és fizikai erőnléti edzési területemet nézzük, akkor maga a sportág nem változott, csak a felszerelés és a technikai megvalósítás.
Ma már nehéz elképzelni a modern testedzést a súlyemelés által lehetővé tett hatalmas gyakorlatváltozatok repertoárja nélkül (beleértve a súlyzós és súlyzós gyakorlatokat, a testmozgást stb.).
A súlyzós gyakorlatok a kedvenceim, mert általában biztonságosak, nem igényelnek nagy gyakorlati területet, és könnyen taníthatók. Egyidejűleg és nagyon hatékonyan végezhetők nagyszámú sportolóval, a gyakorlatok dinamikusak és nagy mozgásterjedelműek, a mozgások széles variációja lehetséges. A súlyzós gyakorlatok segítenek az izomerő, a szív- és érrendszeri és izomállóképesség, a rugalmasság és az általános erőnlét fejlesztésében.
A súlyzós gyakorlatokat különféle plyometriás, ballisztikus és nyújtó-rövidítő gyakorlatokkal kell kombinálni.
V. Kérdés Dr. J:Mit vársz a legjobban életed 80. évében?
Válasz István Javorek (alias Coach Pop):
Együtt látni a Javorek klánt, magamhoz ölelni a gyermekünket, unokáinkat, és ahogy egy versben megírtam a kommunizmusból való kiszökésem első nehéz hónapjaiban 1982-ben:
“… De hidd el nekem, drága kis virágom, Jövőre újra együtt leszünk, Bohóckodunk és járjuk a világot …”
I sat at a small desk at the window, and even though it was late at night, I could still see out into the dunes, lit up by the moon and the star-studded sky. When I stepped outside for some fresh air, I could hear the roaring of the sea and the whistling wind. If I took a few more steps, I could sit on a small wooden bench and even see the sea with its white, majestic waves tickling the beach in its vastness.
It seems appropriate to begin the New Year with an entry about Happy Places.
My Happy Place in the Carpathian Basin has been mentioned many times on my podcast and in my latest book, Life with Coach Pop, but perhaps I should tell you about it in this blog as well.
A very good childhood friend has a cabin outside of Bálványos that I have been going to for years. The little village of Bálványos is located north of Brassó (Brașov in Romanian; Krohnstadt in German) and east of Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureș in Romanian), cradled in the bend where the Eastern Carpathian Mountains extend into the Southern Carpathian range. The thermal baths of Sováta and Tusnád lie to the west, not far away. My friend’s little cabin outside of Bálványos has been my Happy Place since my early 20s, when I first stayed there.
Everything I associate with this cabin is wonderful, even the long, complicated way to get there.
To get to Bálványos, I always have to go through Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca in Romanian; Klausenburg in German), the city where I was born. I still have old classmates and some friends of my parents’ living there, and Kolozsvár is an exciting city culturally. The city takes me down memory lane and makes me feel like I know who I am.
Bálványos is less than 200 kilometers from Kolozsvár, but the trip takes between 6 and 9 hours because of the terrible road conditions.
The first time I went to Bálványos, it was with several friends. We had two cars. We got a late start from Kolozsvár. It took us forever to get to Bálványos, and it was 3 am by the time we got to my friend’s cousin’s house, where we were supposed to pick up the keys. My friend’s cousin and his family take care of the cabin a little, so they are the ones in charge of the keys. This was in the early 90s, pre cell phones and such technological conveniences. We had no way of contacting my friend’s cousin from the road. They knew when we left, and they calculated when we should be there, and then they waited.
We felt terrible about arriving so late and thought we would find the keys hidden outside somewhere, with a little note of instructions and pointers. Instead, the entire family was still up, waiting for us. They had made beds for each of us with fresh, ironed white linen. And they set a table with bread, salami and fatback, peppers and cucumbers, butter, and milk.
We couldn’t believe it and felt we should not impose or put them out any more than we already had. We were all, except for my one friend, complete strangers to them after all. But they would not let us go up to the cabin in the middle of the night. They said it was too dangerous because of the roaming bears and because of road conditions being even worse up around the mountain hut. So, we ate and ended up spending the night.
In the morning we made our way to the cabin. We were almost immediately greeted by a pack of stray dogs. There were about 10-12 of them, big and small, young and old. I instantly fell in love with a midsized puppy that looked like a little wolf and could not have been more than 3-4 months old. My friend explained that the dogs protected the cabin from the bears in exchange for being fed. I didn’t want to think of what they did when no one was at the cabin. I wanted to adopt every single one of them.
The cabin is a very simple mountain hut with two rooms downstairs and a big attic flat upstairs, where all the beds are. There is no running water and no bathroom. There is an outhouse about 10 meters away from the hut, and the kitchen consists of a tiny underground room with two electric plates and some storage shelves. Most of the cooking is done outside, at the fire pit, where you hang a big iron skillet on chains and cook over the open fire. This is called bográcsozás, and it’s a traditional Hungarian way of cooking food. There is electricity, but the water has to be brought from a nearby fountain. It’s all wonderfully basic.
The nature around the hut is incredible. There are 2,000 meters high mountains with pine forests directing you to the peaks. There are natural sulfur baths. There’s a lake in a volcanic crater nearby, and there are exciting hikes to take, whatever direction you go.
When I am there, I find serenity. The feeling is addictive, and I cannot stay away from this place for too long. After a while, I start craving this feeling of peace and belonging, this true calmness and oneness with nature and myself.
Already when we start out towards Bálványos, I go into this zone, this mindset, and I enjoy every single minute of the journey. Whenever I am there, I have to go to my favorite hill, the one that I have claimed as my own personal Happy Place. It is two rolling hills actually. Sheep and cows graze on it. The air is fresh. And there is nothing else. And this place has been my Happy Place, for as long as I can remember.
The last time I was there was with my husband to be. I took my husband there before I married him. Luckily for him, he appreciated my Happy Place. I guess we wouldn’t be married otherwise. With our children being born, and so many of my friends from Kolozsvár having moved to Budapest, we have returned several times to the Hungarian capital, but haven’t visited my Happy Place in Bálványos since.
Being too far away from your Happy Place isn’t a good thing, and I have been very emotional about this, especially in recent years. It has been a source of great sadness for me not to be able to retreat to my Happy Place at will. I have felt detached, uprooted for a very long time. I would even go as far as to say that I have been somewhat hopeless. If I couldn’t even manage to see my Happy Place on a regular basis, how could I hope to feel at home and to achieve a sense of completeness and tranquility.
But the title of this entry is “Happy Places Change” and here it comes …
It is very difficult to go from Hamburg all the way to my Happy Place in Bálványos. Either way you calculate it, I need at least 3 days to get there, if I plan it perfectly and everything goes as planned, which is rarely the case with a trip to Romania. First of all, there are no direct flights between Hamburg and Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca), so I always need to initially reach a connecting city in Germany, then fly, and then go by car to Bálványos. Going by train takes several connections and more than 20 hours, and then there is still the 6-9 hours of driving to Bálványos. There are buses that connect Hamburg and Kolozsvár, but these take about 28 hours. And don’t forget about the subsequent car ride to the mountains! It takes a lot of time for me to reach my Happy Place. It means setting out on a long, expensive and exhausting voyage, every time.
Much easier to reach is Denmark. An unexpected turn, I know!
The first time I went to Denmark was when our twins were 4 months old. My husband’s family rented a house there. The vacation was wonderful, filled with great food and family around, but I hated Denmark. The beach was cold and windy, even in the summer, and the people seemed grumpy and snippy.
We returned one more time in the summer with my husband’s family, and then I started exercising my wifely veto on the matter, and we didn’t return for a while.
One year, when our third child was still a toddler, and I had been very sick for a long time, and we didn’t have the energy to plan anything else, we ended up renting a house on the beaches of Denmark again, this time in October. The house was an absolute disaster, moldy and stinky and truly horrible. Thankfully, we were able to switch houses, and the new one was acceptable, but nothing amazing. Still, we had each other. The dog was still alive. And we settled in to our little house. We took long walks, went on bike rides, played games, and recharged our batteries a bit.
One day, on one of our lengthy walks, we discovered a beach with breathtaking dunes. The beach is several meters wide (about 50 meters at high tide and more like 70 meters at low tide). It is a soft sand beach with beautiful, scattered shingles and cobbles. In the morning, you can walk in either direction for hours without seeing a single person, with only the sound of the crashing waves and the North Sea breeze to keep you company.
And then there are the dunes! To reach the beach, you walk through rolling sand hills covered in grass and shrubs. It is difficult to convey the beauty of these dunes to someone who has never experienced them. The landscape is almost surreal, like something an artist has dreamed up. The hills are often quite high, and you have to endure the climb. When you are in one of the valleys, all the surrounding sounds are blocked out and you are left alone with the little birds chirping. You often encounter deer grazing along your path. If you are lucky, you can see the occasional fox. And oftentimes, you will see a squirrel, a bunny, and frogs scamper by. From the top of the hills, you have a panoramic view of pure nature.
I often turn slowly 360 degrees to take it all in, the blue and white of the horizon, the green and yellow of the dunes, and the explosion of pinks and purples of a sunrise or sunset.
After our discovery of this pristine beach, we decided to return to Denmark the following year. This time, we rented a house closer to our favorite beach. It was wonderful. We could sit in a hot tub heated with firewood outside, overlooking the dunes. We could eat breakfast on the glass-covered, wind-protected, sunny porch. And we could reach the dunes and the beach without having to see another house or another person. Please don’t think that I am antisocial, but this feeling of seclusion and oneness with nature is something I do enjoy very much. And it is a feeling that I rarely manage to have, since we live in a big, cosmopolitan city in Europe! We have sought out this type of serenity on other vacations, to Norway, Argentina, and Croatia, for example, but since all of those destinations are also quite far away from us, we have never been able to return regularly.
Denmark became our vacationing place for the fall holidays. Our kids grew up expecting to go to Denmark at least once a year, usually in October, when Hamburg typically has two weeks of school holidays. We got to know the area around our favorite beach and we have rented one house after the other until we found what we consider the perfect house, a very modern construction, with comfortable rotating chairs and a cushiony, soft sofa in a living and dining room that allows for a view of the dunes in every direction through the multiple floor-to-ceiling windows that make up two of the outside walls. The house is cozy with its fireplace and little corners where you can read, write, or settle in for a chat or a game of cards. The modern kitchen and bathrooms provide for contemporary conveniences and comfort. This house in the dunes has become our little October home in Denmark, and we return with enthusiasm year after year.
We look forward to going in to town by bike to buy bread for breakfast. Rundsykker (breakfast breads; Brötchen in German) and valnøddebrød (a type of Wallnut bread) are personal favorites. We are always delighted to buy the Danish potatoes, sold on the side of the street in little huts where you just take a bag and pay into a metal money box – left up to your conscience and sense of honor to pay the right amount. We crave ahead of time the rullepølse, a traditional Danish cold cut, the leverpostej, a Danish liver pate, and the rygeost, a Danish smoked cheese we particularly enjoy. Interestingly, it is also in Denmark that I find some of my favorite American treats, Twinkies and corn nuts as well. And we always go to the same restaurant for a round of the best burgers the North has to offer!
I originally started writing this entry while we were in Denmark on this year’s fall vacation. My whole family was asleep after a long day of playing in the dunes, running up and down in the sand, flying kites, and breathing in the crisp, iodine-filled air of the North Sea. I sat at a small desk at the window, and even though it was late at night, I could still see out into the dunes, lit up by the moon and the star-studded sky. When I stepped outside for some fresh air, I could hear the roaring of the sea and the whistling wind. If I took a few more steps, I could sit on a small wooden bench and even see the sea with its white, majestic waves tickling the beach in its vastness.
Right now, I am sitting in front of the fire at our house in Hamburg. It is January 1st in 2023. My family is still asleep, and I am trying to finish up an entry I can offer you in celebration of the beginning of the new year.
If I closed my eyes and try to conjure up an image of my Happy Place, I see my children running in the dunes of Denmark. In my mind’s eye, they are in turns toddlers stumbling over rocks and almost teenage giants passing me on the paths with long strides. Memories of our dog who shared the dunes with us in his lifetime and still joined us in spirit this past Fall flood my mind. I smile at the thought of my husband and I on our morning jogs that inevitably turn into us goofing around like children, or our evenings of binge-watching our favorite series, a sinful pleasure we only allow ourselves in Denmark where the abundance of time spent in nature during the day justify such sedentary activities.
I remember particularly one day this past Fall when we were walking back from the beach and I was suddenly hit by the realization that Jutland in Denmark had become my Happy Place.
The kids were running around, giggling, and telling stories excitedly with pink cheeks and foreheads sweaty from all the playing. My husband was telling jokes, relaxed and carefree. Tiny, perfectly round spider webs lined the shrubs on the path. The grass was leaning backwards, engaged in a romantic dance with the wind. And the sun was caressing my face. Everything was picture perfect, like a drawing in a children’s book. I turned around in a circle, as I often do in beautiful landscapes, and I realized that there was nothing I would have wanted to change, not in what I could see or smell or feel. I was at peace, in my Happy Place.
But how could this be? How could Denmark have become my Happy Place? And had Denmark replaced the Carpathian basin?
I am Hungarian, by blood, by ethnicity, and by ancestry. Much of my cultural identity is marked by an upbringing anchored in the Carpathian Basin. History and family link me to the area. I carry the Carpathian Basin deep in my soul. But we are meant to develop over time, and to adjust to new conditions and circumstances.
My father made a bold move when he fled Communist Romania. His decision severed our official ties with the country, and made a connection to the people and the places there more difficult to maintain and almost impossible to develop further.
I cherish the close friendships I still have in Hungary and Romania. I am proud to still be able to speak Hungarian with native fluency and to still have working knowledge of Romanian. I absolutely insist on teaching my children about the area I am originally from, and I try to instill in them an appreciation for the writers, musicians, and artists of the region. I raise them to understand the delightful humor of Transylvanians. I give them the tastes of the cuisine. I teach them the history and the mentality.
But happily, I too have moved on. I would like to begin the new year with this realization: that my cultural identity crisis is perhaps slowly finding its way out of confusion and panic. Together with my husband and our children, I think I am creating my own history, and I am starting to instate my own traditions and cultural markers. Although I have found a new Happy Place in Denmark, the Carpathian Basin and the house in Bálványos will never be replaced.
But it is perfectly all right to be happy in more than one place! In fact, you know what? I’m not that unhappy sitting right here, in my living room, right now!
Here’s to Happy Places around the world and why not also to being happy wherever we are!
For paintings of the North Sea Dunes, Reiner Würz and Lothar Struebbe, two German painters
For paintings of the Carpathian Basin, the Hungarian painter from Csíkszereda in Transylvania, Imre Nagy.
Reading has always been one of my favorite things to do and it remains my number one past time for relaxation.
Late fall and early winter are very busy times for me, both at work and at home. First at home, we have two birthdays to celebrate and multiple holidays. My youngest son, Ellery, joined the double-digit club and turned 10 this October. Ellery has mild autism, and he is deeply fascinated by giraffes. We have gone “all in” with his obsession and his room and much of his learning seems to center on giraffes (or other animals).
Last year at his birthday, his two large stuffed giraffes, Super Doctor Mummy Raffie and Tall Neck, were married by his grandfather a sea Captain at a lovely party attended by friends and family members. This year, the young couple was expecting, and we threw a baby shower for his 10th birthday party. We celebrated the arrival of “twin” baby giraffes with cake and had several baby animals join the party for people to hold and play with. A good time was had by all.
This event was followed by Halloween, which we have perfected if the objective is to collect enough candy to eat until Christmas (we may have over done it and gotten enough to last until Easter!). Next up is one of our favorite national holidays, my lovely wife Lindsay’s birthday. More cake, more stuffed animals, and good times.
Then Thanksgiving, which we hosted for 18 people and made sure we had all the family favorites, turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans, pies, cake and of course ice cream. On the horizon is our yearly trip to New York City. We plan to visit the Natural History Museum and the Metropolitan Museum this year. We usually catch a show but were unable to come to a consensus on whether to see the Rockettes or a Broadway play so may skip it this season. Finally, we will spend Christmas in the British Virgin Islands on a sailboat with friends.
At work, we just achieved 95% of our corporate goals for the 2022 (hooray!), finished a private financing, completed our performance management reviews, and set new Corporate Goals for 2023. We welcomed our 50th employee to our rapidly growing team and are moving to our new office and lab space. We’ve been so busy, we’ve all agreed to have our holiday party sometime next year when we can finally catch our breath and celebrate what we’ve been able to accomplish!
The two most selfish things I do every day are exercise and read. Reading has always been one of my favorite things to do and it remains my number one past time for relaxation. According to my Kindle app, I have read for 207 weeks in a row, with a current consecutive streak of 146 days. This year on Kindle I have read 37 novels. I read anything and everything, but still have a soft spot for science fiction and fantasy novels, my favorite sci fi novel this year was “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson and favorite fantasy series was the “Age of Madness” trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. I have to give a nod to a trilogy that I found unbelievably entertaining, “The Scholomance” series by Naomi Novik. I have recently begun reading more non-fiction books and some that made the list this year include, “How Not to Be Wrong” by Jordan Ellenberg (a delightful book about using math to make better decisions), “Algorithms to Live By” by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths (more of the same), “Popular” by Mitch Prinstein (which takes a hard look at the neuro-and socio-biology of popularity), and “Behave” by Robert Sapolsky (which integrates psychology, neurology and sociology to help understand human behavior). All in all a good year of reading.
Reading also is one of the main ways our family gets together. We still read either poems or passages from books at every dinner we sit down to. We have recently made this a bit more light-hearted for the boys’ sakes and two family favorites are a book poems, “Throw the Damn Ball: Classic Poetry by Dogs” by R.D. Rosen et al. and an updated field guide to the birds of North America, called “The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America” by Matt Kracht. These have been huge hits as they are hilarious and irreverent. Caution, they both should come with language warnings as they use some very off-color descriptors to good effect.
Finally, I read almost every night to my youngest son, who in addition to autism has profound dyslexia. I want to make sure he learns to love the joy of stories and books and for several years his mental sophistication has been well ahead of his reading level, so rather than have him pay the price I am delighted to read books of all levels for his enjoyment. We just finished the entire Rick Riordan Greek Myths multibook series (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus and the Trial of Apollo). I am proud to report that we co-read the last book together (I read a page or two, he read a page or two), a major step forward in his literacy. Perhaps more enjoyable, has been listening to him read aloud the books we read every December in the run up to Christmas. Just last night he read us, “The Little Fir Tree” by Hans Christen Andersen. It is amazing to see another reader blossom before my eyes.
When we engage in writing and reading, we retreat into our mind. We reflect. We imagine. We explore. We reach a state of relaxation that rivals the results of any of the popular forms of meditation. But humans are social beings, and we enjoy sharing what we love. Just like meditation, both writing and reading can be shared. Today, I’d like to write you about the beauty of reading together, aloud.
Writing and reading, mated for life, hand in hand, and yet so alone.
When we engage in these two solitary activities, we retreat into our mind. We reflect. We imagine. We explore. We reach a state of relaxation that rivals the results of any of the popular forms of meditation. But humans are social beings, and we enjoy sharing what we love. Just like meditation, both writing and reading can be shared. Today, I’d like to write you about the beauty of reading together, aloud.
My husband and I started reading together – to each other, aloud – when I was pregnant with our twins and no longer mobile enough to go out or engage in any activities. Watching a movie together got mundane and made us only long for more adventurous, social, or athletic pastimes. Reading next to each other made us feel somehow remote. We had already explored every discussion topic imaginable. We needed something that we could do together that didn’t involve much movement and still allowed us to escape the monotony of our brooding.
A friend of my husband’s had just given him a copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. I looked into the book and started reading, but my brain was clouded by pregnancy hormones and my body tired from the extreme weight gain; I only made it through the first few pages before needing one of my numerous daily naps. My husband took up the book a few days later and found it thrillingly touching from the beginning. One evening, he wanted to read a passage from the book to me, thinking I would find the language interesting. My husband is a physician and expresses limited enthusiasm for literature and the arts. He loves to accompany me on my discoveries, but he rarely takes the initiative in this area. If he felt the need to share a passage of a book with me, I most certainly had to listen. Because reading a passage out of context makes little sense, my husband started reading the book to me from the beginning. Lying cozily cuddled on the couch, with my head on my husband’s lap, I felt like a child during a bedtime story. The energy I saved through this comfortable position allowed me to make it through more than the first few pages. When my husband’s voice grew hoarse from reading, I took over. By then, we were sucked into the story and couldn’t put the book down.
I was fascinated by the way Jonathan Safran Foer plays with language, recreating accents and grammatical mistakes. I loved the attention he pays to history and the importance of our ancestral heritage. I marveled at the way he strings characters together, the way he transcends time, and the way he tackles the question of cultural identity. My husband found the book incredibly entertaining, in turns philosophical, touching, and even humorous. We loved the book’s exploration of the topics of personal and social memory. We were touched by the way the book handles the idea of guilt. We enjoyed the light sexual tones. And we were fascinated by the changes in mood and tone.
We took about four weeks to finish reading the book. We had to stop many times to laugh or cry together. We discussed passages in detail. We read and re-read the particularly beautiful ones. We talked for hours about the messages and the questions the book brings to light. It was a beautiful month of our twin pregnancy that was filled with excitement, closeness and true cerebral connection.
We watched the movie once we finished the book and felt a sense of disappointment. It’s not that the movie is badly done or that the acting isn’t good. It had more to do with the experience itself. We enjoyed the movie passively. Sitting next to each other in a dark room in silence, the only thing left for us to do was to take in the images and the sounds, and hold hands. Of course, we could talk about the movie afterwards. But the experience just wasn’t the same.
I’m not one of those academics who scoffs at the movie version of a literary piece. I quite enjoy movie adaptations of books. Oftentimes – most of the time, in fact – I find that the movie adds another level to the book and a new way of enjoying and exploring specific aspects of the story. But I consider Everything is Illuminated a literary masterpiece, a novel that sets a milestone in literary history and will be remembered as one of the greats of the early 21st century. And as far as literary masterpieces go, I guess I do believe the movie version can never compete with the written word.
What set our reading of Everything is Illuminated apart from our previous literary pleasures was that we read the book together. The experience came at an interesting time in our lives, as we were preparing to become parents, as we were setting ourselves up to read to our future children. Perhaps we thought it would be the last time that we could pamper each other with such attention or take the time to discuss and marvel over a book together.
With the birth of our twins, time became very precious and, unlike during the pregnancy, we were never at a lack of things to do. We read to our children from the get-go, like you’re supposed to, but we stopped reading to each other.
Now, here’s something few people know about me. As a child, I hated reading. Truly! My dad read to me every night when I was young, and that, I loved! I learned to read at an early age but never really developed a taste for books. My father kept reading to me (in Hungarian) until he defected from Romania when I was 10. The three or so years that followed were filled with turmoil and hardship, and I only remember reading two books. They are Hungarian books, so they will have little meaning for most of you, but I will give you the titles anyway: Egri csillagok and Pál utcai fiúk. I remember my mother going to great lengths to get me excited about books. She bought me young adult books about a girl named Csöpike. She asked her friends what their children were reading. She even tried to read to me aloud, but her voice was serious and had sad undertones, which first depressed me and then made me angry.
In the US, my dad took up reading to me again, this time in English, but his accent soon outgrew me, and I politely discouraged the activity within months of our arrival in Texas.
I did start to read poetry with my first best friend in Texas. We enjoyed reading Emily Dickinson poems, because they were for the most part short, and because we liked the idea of a female poet who never got married. The poetry of Robert and Elisabeth Barrett Browning made us dream of the future love affairs we were hoping to have. We also read Shakespeare, because his sonnets made us feel smart and sophisticated. It would be important to point out that all our reading was done aloud, to each other.
In high school, I was really into theater and acting. I devoured plays, but always in preparation for a scene or a theatrical piece we were putting on. Delivering the lines was always part of the enjoyment, so again, the texts were read aloud.
It wasn’t until college that I read alone, to myself. I wanted to go for a degree in performing arts and creative writing, but my immigrant parents insisted I major in Human Biology and Pre-Med. I did as I was told, but escaped the fate of becoming a scientist by committing to reading; after completing the degrees required by my family, I went for a PhD in French literature. As if to show a certain solidarity with my parents, the Literature Gods punished me for my choice. In my graduating year, there were about 900 books on the PhD reading list! This cruel practice has since been changed, and the list has been shortened! But I still had to abide by the old system to complete my degree.
Through my PhD, I learned to read fast, mainly in French. I learned to read academically. I learned to make a science out of it. Reading became a job.
If I think back to the years between my PhD and my first pregnancy, I don’t think I read one single book for sheer pleasure. I always read as part of my research or to prepare the classes I was teaching.
It strikes me as very odd that I was never conscious of this fact until now.
When my husband and I read Everything is Illuminated to each other aloud, I rediscovered the ritual that originally connected me to literary pleasure. For me, reading aloud has always been synonymous with enjoyment, marvel, coziness, and well-being.
So, I read to our twins as soon as they were born.
I would spread a big blanket on the ground, place the little bundles that were my new son and daughter on either side of my head, accept the jealously insistent snout of our huge dog on my tummy, and I would read.
I read to them the favorite Hungarian books of my infancy, taking great care when turning the crisp yet smooth brownish pages. I read to them the German books of rhyme of my husband’s childhood; the twins’ great-grandmother, my husband’s grandmother gave us shiny new editions of these already in the pregnancy. I read to them the French children’s books I bought myself during my studies in Paris, Besançon, and Avignon, already then dreaming of the time when I would become a mother.
Ironically, I had no connection to American or English-speaking children’s books. It was my dear friend from Chicago – we call her Aunt Patty at our house – who brought us a suitcase full of books when she came to see the wiggle worms shortly after their birth. She introduced Dr. Seuss books into our home. She initiated us into reading Goodnight Moon every evening. She brought us The Rainbow Fish and The Going to Bed Book, and many others.
We read a lot. All the time.
Once our twins were old enough to read themselves, I started reading the books together with them, allowing them to take turns to read a paragraph or two, and taking it upon myself to read the bulk. With the birth of our third child, the twins interestingly started reading to the baby on their own initiative.
Now the baby is also old enough to read. She’s now eight, and the twins are twelve. And the kids have reached a maturity where reading can go outside of the tight sphere of children’s books and books for early readers. We select the books together and truly look forward to this shared activity. My husband reads mainly science fiction and fantasy books with them. I stick to classics, best sellers in fiction and non-fiction, and to the lesser-known gems I discover in book stores or through recommendations. The twins have decided to learn French at school, and I’m counting down the days until I can introduce them to the myriad of amazing books written in this beautiful Romance language.
When I read to the kids, I really ham it up. I come up with different voices for the characters. I use foreign accents whenever the story allows it. My Texas and my Italian accents are particularly popular. My husband delivers more serious readings, but he is passionate about the books and his enthusiasm rubs off on the kids and draws them in. The kids try to emulate our reading styles, but, for the time being, fail, for the most part. Naturally, I encourage them to experiment and to always lend special meaning to the words they bring to life with their voices. On the other hand, I find myself desperately clinging on to the title of best reader, because it makes me feel needed and like I am still their mommy.
I paint an idyllic picture of family fun while reading together aloud, but it’s not always smooth sailing. When it’s their time to read, the kids often protest, at times rather vehemently. Their reading slows down the process and even leads to the occasional fight between them. And this is now, after years of working hard to establish this family ritual. It was even more of a struggle in the early years. Tears were shed, questionable deals made, and the occasional ultimatum pronounced.
We have insisted on reading aloud with our kids not only because we find it enjoyable. Of course, hearing their little voices and their own little interpretations of the text is wonderful, and it is thrilling to observe how they improve over time and become better, more expressive and confident readers. But there are many other benefits to reading aloud with them.
First of all, the kids feel involved in the process and pay significantly more attention. This allows them to develop listening skills that will help them in school and in their relationships with others. They learn to listen not only to adults but also to other children.
Secondly, they practice pronunciation, intonation, voice control and projecting their voice, and they learn to notice how their audience is reacting to their words. This contributes to their general presentations skills. This allows them to become better negotiators and develops significant leadership skills. By the way, these benefits don’t only apply to the kids; mom and dad can use the practice in this area as well.
Thirdly, they improve their vocabulary and comprehension skills by immediately being able to ask for clarification. Having a large vocabulary in one language has a synergetic effect and improves their potential to learn foreign languages. Using vocabulary that goes beyond basic, every-day words makes them more eloquent and better at expressing complex thoughts and sentiments. Being able to immediately discuss difficult transitions in time, plot, or character lends clarity to their reading and increases enjoyment.
In addition, they gain experience in discussing difficult topics. They learn to tell a story. They get the chance to talk about their own feelings, and it allows them to hear your perspective on things. This is incredibly helpful in discussing some of the social dilemmas kids have to confront and deal with. For example, we tackled early age difficulties with anger management by reading Knut hat Wut in German and The Anger Gremlin in English. Love that Dog helped us work through some of the sorrow of losing our family dog, the one whose snout accompanied years of reading together.
Our read-alouds have multiple benefits. We relish the time we spend together, and we take delight in the books we are able to discover as a family. Every book we read together is fun and entertaining, and most have meaningful messages, interesting topics, and great literary value. But some stand out above the rest.
A few months back, a friend gave me a copy of The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. I started reading the book by myself, but realized after a few pages that I had to share even the first reading with my children and my husband.
Kelly Barnhill’s book is sheer poetry. The language lulls you, and pierces you, and has you feeling every new development. We read and re-read passages, taking in the beauty of the author’s word constructions. The language itself is touching and gentle, even when conveying pain or danger. The plot is exciting and doesn’t cease to surprise you. The suspense is thrilling and keeps you binge reading. The multiple perspectives allow you to delve into the story and the characters from many different angles, thus provoking discussion and reflection.
The kids had many questions and many ideas for how the story should go on. While reading, we wrote in our heads dozens of alternate endings. We often stopped to talk about the thoughts we were having, or why the book made us feel sad, or angry, or disappointed. But we also stopped to cheer when things were going well.
From a literary point of view, the book is rich in literary devices. The use of foreshadowing is powerful. Symbolism is strongly used, especially to convey hope and sorrow. Character development is excellent.
In our family, reading aloud started with my husband and me reading a book to each other in an effort to find a joint activity during our twin pregnancy. Now, we continue to read aloud, but our circle has expanded to include our three children. In the future, we will perhaps embrace reading together as a couple again. Or we might convince friends to read aloud with us. Or maybe we will be joined by the next generation of readers, our children’s children. But one thing is for sure: reading aloud will remain strongly anchored in our family culture and will continue to be a favorite family tradition and pastime.
4 Literature’s Sake is a work in progress. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you. It has been a pleasure to write them down. Bis zum nächsten Mal! À la prochaine! Bye for now! Sziasztok! Hasta la proxima vez! Henriette Javorek Runte (aka Dr. J)
Dr. Henriette J. Runte aka Dr. J. goes into the linguistic, cultural, societal, and emotional levels of „finding home“. Studded with personal anecdotes and funny stories, the speech takes the audience on Dr. Runte’s long voyage toward putting down roots in Hamburg, Germany.
Throughout the talk, Dr. Runte shares with the audience a number of entertaining personal photos and images displayed via Power Point and accentuates the main points also visually.
Towards the end, the speech turns more tender and thought-provoking, as Dr. Runte reads some touching passages from Life with Coach Pop, a book that recounts how Dr. Runte’s family immigrated to the US.
The former US Consul General to northern Germany, Darion Akins, a Texan himself, as well as the Mayor of Bryan, Texas, Andrew Nelson, who happens to also be an old school mate of Dr. Runte’s, endorsed Life with a Coach Pop and will be in attendance digitally.
Written by Sebastian Junge; Translation by H. Runte
What the month of November also brings to our kitchen is so-called waterfowl, or in other words, duck, geese, and other aquatic birds or winged game. …
Autumn has unmistakably reached Hamburg since my last entry. The last warm days are over. It rains a lot, and it gets dark very early. We live in a perpetual gray haze. Temperatures are falling and the last late summer vegetables from our producers are coming in. We have finally harvested all the vegetables from our own fields as well. It was a great year that produced an excellent harvest and provided us with wonderful new impressions and experiences. Now, it is time to begin pickling and processing all the vegetables we have harvested ourselves or have received from our producers.
What the month of November also brings to our kitchen is so-called waterfowl, or in other words, duck, geese, and other aquatic birds or winged game. Maurice Blank, a longtime companion from Lemsahl-Mellingstedt, a neighborhood in the north-east of Hamburg, has been raising small groups of ducks and geese for us for a long time.
Maurice serves a few private customers and otherwise only our restaurant, and we feel incredibly lucky to be able to enjoy the fruits of his work at the end of the years.
We process waterfowl in as many different way as we do domestic pigs. We make rillette and paté, both braised and pan-fried. We make pastrami. And best of all, we can make our very own cold-smoked ham again. This is only possible in the really cold months. The temperature has to fall below 10 degrees at night so that we can cold smoke the salted pieces of meat over a longer period of time. We can typically do this starting in November, and we truly celebrated this.
The knowledge and craft we use to create our cold-smoked ham has been fascinating fellow chefs and guests for a while now. Smoked products have been an integral part of our menus and cuisine from the very beginning.
We use ancient preservation methods that help create a feeling of well-being and bring back great memories for many people, including me. Our hams represent the type of cuisine we stand for. They are unique and can only be enjoyed here, at Wolfs Junge, and they unmistakably bear our signature. In the spring, for example, when we will cut open our ham from our domestic pigs after 4 months of ripening and smoking, just in time for the first asparagus, I am always filled with great pride in what we do. The knowledge that this ham can only be enjoyed here, in combination with other unique products, is a superb feeling.
Tomorrow, I will try our first goose ham. After 4 weeks of preparation, it is now ready. Its taste will transport me and my taste buds full into the autumn spirit.
Written by Sebastian Junge; Translation by H. Runte
Sobald es auf den November zugeht stehen die Zeichen in unserer Küche auf Wassergeflügel. Maurice Blank, ein langjähriger Wegbegleiter aus Lemsahl-Mellingstedt zieht seit jeher kleine Gruppen an Enten und Gänsen für uns auf. …
Mittlerweile erreicht uns der Herbst in Hamburg unmissverständlich. Die letzten warmen Tage sind passé und Regen stellt sich mit früher Dunkelheit und einem häufigen Grauschleier ein. Die Temperaturen fallen und die letzten Spätsommergemüse unserer Produzent:innen trudeln ein. Auch unsere Ackerparzelle haben wir final abgeerntet. Wir haben hier eine tolle Ernte eingefahren, neue Eindrücke und Erfahrungen gesammelt und jetzt geht es ans Einlegen und Verarbeiten der Gemüse.
Sobald es auf den November zugeht stehen die Zeichen in unserer Küche auf Wassergeflügel. Maurice Blank, ein langjähriger Wegbegleiter aus Lemsahl-Mellingstedt zieht seit jeher kleine Gruppen an Enten und Gänsen für uns auf. Ein paar Privatkunden und wir als exklusiver, also einziger Gastronomiekunde haben das Glück seiner Hände Arbeit am Ende der Jahre genießen zu dürfen.
Wassergeflügel wird von uns ähnlich vielseitig verarbeitet wie Hausschwein. Es wird Rillette und Paté hergestellt, geschmort und Kurzgebraten, Pastrami gemacht, und das beste: Wir können wieder unsere kaltgeräucherten Schinken herstellen.
Dies ist nur in den wirklich kalten Monaten möglich. Die Temperatur muss sich Nachts auf unter 10 Grad absenken, damit wir die eingesalzenen Stücken Fleisch über einen längeren Zeitraum kalt räuchern können. Dies ist erfahrungsgemäß frühestens ab November der Fall und wird dann von uns regelmäßig zelebriert.
Dieses von uns angewandte Handwerk ist eines, das am meisten Faszination auslöst, bei Köchen und Köchinnen, wie auch bei unseren Gästen. Rauchwaren sind seit Beginn an fester Bestandteil unserer Menus und Kulinarik. Es handelt sich um eine uralte Konservierungsmethode, deren Geschmacksprofil bei vielen Menschen Wohlgefühl auslöst und gute Erinnerungen auslöst, so auch bei mir.
Unsere Schinken sind exemplarisch für unsere Art der Gastronomie, sie sind Einzigartig und nur bei uns zu genießen, unverwechselbar und tragen unsere Handschrift. Wenn wir beispielsweis unseren Schinken vom Hausschwein nach 4 Monate Reife und dem Rauch pünktlich zum ersten Spargel aufschneiden, erfüllt mich das mit großem Stolz. Das Wissen, dass es diesen Schinken nur bei uns zu genießen gibt, in Kombination mit weiteren einzigartigen Produkten ist ein großartiges Gefühl.
Morgen ist es dann soweit und ich kann den ersten Gänseschinken probieren, dieser ist nämlich nach 4 Wochen schon fertig. Ich freue mich auf den Geschmack, der mich auch geschmacklich vollends im Herbst ankommen lässt.
I have just changed careers and am challenged every day at my job. For most of my professional life I was a professor at Harvard University, where I taught undergraduate and graduate students and ran a research lab. Eight years ago, I helped start and then led the research of a new company that sought to harness the newly discovered CRISPR/Cas gene editing system to make medicines.
Fall is in full swing here in New England. It is always hard to let the last days of summer go, but with their passing comes the routine of school and work. I am definitely a man of routine. I wake early (5:30am) and spend the first 30 minutes of the day feeding the dog, catching up on reading and the news and getting my kids out of bed. I exercise, a run or a walk or yoga, anything to get the blood moving. Then it is time for work.
I have just changed careers and am challenged every day at my job. For most of my professional life I was a professor at Harvard University, where I taught undergraduate and graduate students and ran a research lab. Eight years ago, I helped start and then led the research of a new company that sought to harness the newly discovered CRISPR/Cas gene editing system to make medicines. We did the early pre-clinical work to build medicines for CRISPR Therapeutics, which now has several medicines in patients. Today, many people with sickle cell disease no longer have any disease symptoms and lead largely normal lives as a result of our first medicine at CRISPR Therapeutics. This forever changed the course of my career and has put me on the path to working on the commercial side of drug discovery, or “biotech” as it is often referred to here in the Boston area. We have combined some of the key discoveries from my academic research lab with several additional advances in the field of stem cell differentiation to form a new company Clade Therapeutics.
At Clade, our goal is to make cell-based medicines accessible to everyone. The success of CAR-T cell therapies, wherein a patient’s own T cells are modified to express a chimeric-antigen receptor or CAR that targets cancer cells has proven the value of cellular medicines in fighting and in essence curing otherwise lethal cancers. The problem with these therapies is that they are only available at a few very highly specialized research hospitals, and they cost millions of dollars to produce. We aim to change that by differentiating induced pluripotent stem cells into T cells that look and function the same as the T cells taken from patients. Arm these with a CAR, and you now have T cell therapies for everyone with a given cancer. We hope that by changing the scale and consistency with which these cell medicines can be produced we will also change their costs, so that in the long run these medicines become available globally for every patient in need. Day-to-day, I am excited by working with our research team to overcome some of the technical challenges that stand in the way of making our goal into a reality. I enjoy the process of solving hard problems together with some enormously talented scientists. This part of my job is not so different from running an academic research lab. The new challenges for me lie in learning to build and lead an organization that has all of the critical skills and know-how to make new medicines. In particular, I am not a gifted people manager, so learning to listen and understand everyone’s perspective and knit those together into a tapestry of teamwork has been my biggest learning experience. I love learning and I am blessed that my new career has stretched both my academic knowledge and my people skills to their limits.
After work, I love spending time with my family. An important part of our day is dinner all together whenever possible. We sit at our dining room table, light the candles, eat on the fancy china, use the silver, and discuss our days. One of favorite things to do is to have one member of the family read a poem aloud. We keep several volumes of poetry next to the table for just this occasion. We have an eclectic mix of poems, some based on science, some from the acknowledged masters of the art and a few irreverent items such as poems from Cookie Monster and those told from the point of view of family pets. No matter who the author is we usually have a laugh or a thoughtful moment.
As my sons are both young and full of energy, we also have a new family rule that if you leave the table without asking to be excused you have to do a “chicken dance”. We get one of these almost every night and it leaves all of us with a smile on our face. This weekend we have the regular fall sports for our guys, soccer and tennis and the Annisquam Village Arts and Crafts Fair. The Arts and Crafts fair brings together artists and craftsmen from all over Cape Ann (this is the small island we live on that has the larger cities of Gloucester and Rockport). I volunteered to work the “floor” on Saturday helping people with their purchases and keeping an eye on the merchandise. All of the proceeds will go to benefit the local church and the Annisquam Village Hall Association, which is a community center, library, community theater and gallery open to everyone. So, a packed weekend with fun for all ages.
As you already know from my introduction, I am István Javorek, a youthful eighty-year-old gladiator. Today, I would like to tell you what’s on my mind and what I have been up to lately.
Written by István Javorek
As you already know from my introduction, I am István Javorek, a youthful eighty-year-old gladiator. Today, I would like to tell you what’s on my mind and what I have been up to lately. Unfortunately, as it is sometimes the case with elderly gladiators, I recently slipped down the stairs and broke my upper arm. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, my dear wife developed a terrible backache that has rendered her completely immobile. So you see, gladiators have their problems, too. What’s important is how we deal with these problems. As a trainer, I have been active all my life, so I recover from injuries more easily and get over illnesses faster. Easier and faster, but not without willpower and perseverance! Obviously, as a sportsman, I have always trained on a daily basis. For the time being, unfortunately, my upper body training is very limited due to my injury.
But my legs are fine, and I have no problem walking! While I do my physical therapy and work on regaining movement and strength in my injured arm, I walk eighteen thousand steps every day at a nearby park with lots of rolling hills, and I try to eat healthy. In my wife’s case, because she has been quite inactive for several years, a recovery is considerably more complicated. However, she, too, must try! And if she can do it, believe me, so can you! Due to the complete or partial seclusion of the two-year pandemic, the population of the world is in dire need of exercise. Each and every one of us should be doing some program of exercises on a regular basis. The exercises have to be easy to perform and should be tailored to everyone’s specific needs and time limitations. And this goes especially for the elderly! Only, I don’t like to say the elderly, so I refer to my clients in my age group as the Aging Youth. During our short life on earth, we should take care of our health, our most precious treasure, because the longer we are healthy, the longer we can enjoy the small pleasures of the „Dolce Vita.“ The sad fact is that, unfortunately, most of the time we start exercising only after an illness knocks us out, and, instead of dumbbells, we „press the bed!“ The secret to a long life is movement, action, work done with pleasure, and a balanced lifestyle in which exercise should have a prominent place. I believe that if your cells are filled with joy, they retain their vitality for longer. I try to remind my clients and athletes every day that crying takes a lot of energy and makes you depressed, while smiling is all you need to feel happy! So, right now, life has thrown me and my wife a few curve balls. But every morning, we still try to do our best. For my wife, for the moment, this means waking up with a smile on her face, despite the pain she is experiencing. It means having the willpower to go regularly to her physical therapy and believing that tomorrow the pain will be less.
It means taking small steps and celebrating every single achievement – being able to sit, being able to tie her shoes, being able to stand and cook again (one of my wife’s favorite activities)! For me, it means helping my wife as best as I can while not forgetting to take care of myself. It means going out into the sunshine and reconnecting with nature. It means staying as active as I possibly can. But it also means having to accept that my body cannot do what it could when I was not an aging youth, but a young man! And throughout these realizations and efforts, it means staying positive and hopeful and optimistic about the future. So let me hear you all say it: “Yes, I love it!” And that’s what’s on my mind these days. Let’s see what I have to say next month. In the meantime, let me leave you with these two images of my wife and me exercising. My wife is using a little device I developed to help her stretch. It’s very practical, because she can just put it on one of our doors. As for me, I am outside, in my favorite park near our house.