Category: Uncategorized

30 Pieces of Gratitude

If you’ve read some of my recent posts, you know that I’ve stumbling and struggling a bit. But this is gray place is no who I am or who I want to be, so I’m taking time to prayerfully explore my heart and world to move forward. During Prayer Group tonight, I came up with one idea based on blogs posts by Betsy. So before I close this tablet for bed, I will write down 30 things (one for each day of April and in honor of looking forward) that I am grateful for…

1. Family who love me unconditionally.
2. Family who love me conditionally (at least they’re trying).
3. A Home Community of seeking people.
4. Running: it gives me sanity and community.
5. My Lenten vegetarian adventure.
6. Once Upon a Time: I just love the old stories told in a new way.
7. Students who inspire me to take risks and be transparent.
8. My cohort members that support one another rather tha compete with one another.
9. A warm heater on a cold April night.
10. Natalie, Thomas, Isaac, Kaity, Evelyn, and all of the other wonderful kiddos I get to borrow sometimes.
11. London: it exists and I hope to return after graduation in a few years.
12. Girls on the Run and the support is gives to young girls.
13. Working on a team that is always trying their best.
14. Friday nights at home with Thai food and laundry (peaceful).
15. Saturday morning runs with Beth.
16. My plant Batman who has somehow survived almost 6 years.
17. Facebook that allows me to keep connected with Anne, Patricia, Andrea, Karen, Randy, and other friends and family throughout the globe.
18. Sara Bareilles: the soundtrack to my doctoral assignments.
19. Hooded sweatshirts to hide in.
20. Understanding coworkers who believe the best in me.
21. Graduation Day: the week before is rough but that morning is worth it.
22. Marathons that force you to pull from every fiber to the finish line.
23. My comfy blue couch.
24. A Father in Heaven who loves me while my father on earth hasn’t learned how.
25. Honest tears shared among friends.
26. Joss Whedon and all of his creations.
27. Twilight, because a girl needs a guilty pleasure sometimes.
28. The promises of spring, Easter, and new roses.
29. Falling asleep to the sound of a rainstorm.
30. Passing my First Year Exam. I’m humbled and proud to continue this journey.>

Lent Lifestyle

I think my first attempts to fast during Lent were in college. I had known about the practice before then, but it was not a big part of my church so the idea of giving something up didn’t quite make sense. At Whitworth it was definitely part of the conversation, but female students tended to use the time as a Jesus approved diet rather than a time of sacrifice, awareness, or worship. And giving up chocolate for 40-days turned out to be a lot harder than expected. Maybe if I had prayed more for divine support.

Two years ago I sat in a Warner Pacific chapel service just before Lent, again thinking about what I could or should give up. When Stephanie shared about a community service program where participants drank only tap water for 40-days, and donated the saved funds, I immediately rejected the idea. However within a day I realized that it was a challenge I needed to try to prove that I could and to see what a real fasting experience meant.

This year I am attempting a Lenten fast again, this time from meat. Unlike my water experience two years ago, I’m not breaking fast on Sundays so it has been five days so far with no tuna, turkey, orange chicken, or turkey bacon breakfast sandwiches. Instead I’ve had more tofu this week than I had in 2013. I chose this fasting method for a few reasons. One is that I want to experience a lifestyle that I know is so prevalent in Portland. My friend Beth has been a vegetarian for years, except for the once a year burger, and Liz has often shared the virtues of being vegan (could go that far and potentially put my chai addiction in jeopardy by not drinking skim milk). Another reason is that I wanted a change that would impact decisions each day, rather than only a few minutes like giving up my snooze alarm or a television choice. Instead I remember with every planned meal that options will be a little different from normal and that I’m choosing this sacrifice to better appreciate creation. Finally, I admit that I’m curious what will happen to my taste buds and general health under this path.

My first major run with this new diet will be the Shamrock Run 15K next Sunday. It will be interesting to see if there is any different perceived energy level.

In the meanwhile, bring on the tofu!

Snow Days

After a stressful experience a few years ago, I am terrified at the thought of driving in the snow. I can do when I have to, but the situation really does have to be desperate to get me behind the wheel. Even then my rapid pulse will be beating in my ears and my hands will not unclench from the steering wheel until the car has pulled back into a secure parking spot. So when the flakes started falling yesterday, I rushed home before the hyperventilation became too obvious.

But outside of driving, I love snow.

This afternoon I walked the mile to Target for supplies and human interaction. The entire world was quieter. The chains on passing buses were like jingle bells on a sleigh that you could hear for at least a minute before it went rattling by. Everything was beautiful, and bright, and clear. The normal intersections were empty as I strolled through, keeping warm under three layers of clothes and my hiking boots. Even the foot deep section of snow was fun as I jumped between footsteps and laughed at the wandering of those who had traveled before. On the way back the snow was falling again, with the wind blowing the flakes sideways across my path. I listened to the Frozen soundtrack and probably amused passing drivers as I jumped through snow piles in time with the music. “Here I stand in the light of day. Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway.”

The entire day has left me thinking about my last snow day experience, over five years ago, when I made a similar journey to Target and came back with Twinkies, frozen French fries, and similar random comfort foods. This time the journey meant bread, tuna, cliff bards, a t-shirt, and a stuffed frog names Prince Charming. I remember buying and eating that large box of Twinkies, but had no temptation to repeat that experience, especially with five holiday pounds that went against my progress from the fall. It was just a reminder of who I was and how different I am today. Some nice encouragement on a little bit lonely snow day.

Will My Real Words Please Show Up?

I’ve spent the past two hours editing papers thanks to the gracious insights of classmates and the APU writing consultant. The process involves seeing pages of red comments and marks, then accepting, adjusting, improving, or ignoring each one as the original document morphs into accordance with APA, grammatical, and syllabus expectations. It is a necessary process taking places on the desks and computer screens of college students around the country every week. The exchange of papers allows for refining as you see your original thoughts through the eyes of another, and catch the mistakes that somehow slipped through the original writing and multiple self-edits. I am grateful to have friends and classmates who will work through this learning process with me every few weeks. And after six months of the experience I have definitely improved my writing ability. It is a worthwhile system I would recommend to any student or writer. And it hurts.

This process is incredibly humbling as you release series of pages that developed out of hours and hours of research and crafting the thoughts floating around in the ether into something real, something that makes sense outside of midnight insomnia. Then the pages come back with connections that seem so brilliant or obvious inside of the red thought bubble. At least once each page, my inner-Homer Simpson cries out “Doh!” as I find a nonsensical word has slipped through or a punctuation that I should have known better, along with recommendations that make me want to go back to English 101 to discover what else I missed. Perhaps editing should be proposed to be one of the spiritual disciplines; I’ve definitely been learning about humility, patience, acceptance, gratitude, community, and perseverance through this process.

As I said, this process hurts. But it hurts in the same way that a good workout hurts: the limp back to the car is one of triumph because at least I’m upright. It hurts like my hands ache after cheering on 100 new graduates who deserve attention and honor. It hurts like the medicine that will calm the fever or cough and give restful sleep again. It hurts in a good way but it still hurts.

When I was 10 pages into the 15 page editing session, and well past the one hour mark in the process, I promised myself that after finishing the edit, I would come to this blog to write. It would be a time of reflection with minimal editing and maximum release as the words would be allowed to just be and APA would be ignored as much as possible. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll return to my papers to read through them once more before releasing them again; this time to be graded. I’ll look through the combination of original words and the medicinal gifts of my friends to confirm that somewhere between is my thesis coming through.

My exegesis professor once explained that the Bible as was written through divine inspiration, so that the intent of God and the unique style of the author were retained in the final product. I wonder if Paul ever got back one of his letters with red slashes on the papyrus. I’m pretty sure Peter would have had a fit about any critical comments while Matthew would be on draft number 10 before sharing it with his Teacher. Someone should write a book about learning styles according to the apostles. I’m happy to be one of your editors. = )

What do you think I’m going to write about?

I have a reminder set up to write in this blog every few weeks; an idea based out of too many unfinished diaries and journals in the past. For the past two weeks, the reminder has popped up each morning and every time I said “I know, I know. But I have homework tonight.”

Well I have homework today too, but I’ve read so many authentic leadership articles today and need to do something, anything else for a while.

And really I knew exactly what I wanted / needed to write about: Hood to Coast.

First up: context (aka, how did I get on a team). This story starts a few years ago when I watched Hood to Coast (the movie) downtown as part of my birthday celebration with Beth and Coralie. The relay race looked like an amazing adventure and one I wanted to sign up right away, which was difficult since I didn’t have a team and sign ups were in October. Oh, and this run is so popular that only about 50% of teams actually get in. Skip forward to this summer…I started using the stair master at the gym to get some variety in my workouts and hopefully kick-start those last 25 pounds (the official goal is June 12, 2014). I would watch an episode of Go On on my iPad, survive 24 minutes on the machine, then walk on the treadmill as my heart rate came back towards normal. I’d been following this routine for about a week when I started feeling some pain in my left leg; not bad pain, more like a pulled muscle that I was sure would recover if took it back a notch. That Sunday, during a normal 8 mile run with Portland Running Company, my leg pain forced me to start walking and eventually to start limping. Four days later I was still in pain, and actually at the doctor’s office to see if I had fractured something. Thanks to a very deep / bruise creating massage, lots of Advil, and break from running for a few weeks, I was slowly on the mend. It was in the midst of this injury and recovery that I traveled to California for my first two-week intensive at Asuza Pacific University. I was in the gorgeous California sunshine, and barely able to run 3 miles even with Advil running through my bloodstream. Not fun.

Okay, now I need to rewind just a bit to April. I was in training for the Newport Marathon (which is a whole other adventure I’ve already shared about). I was registered for the Race for the Roses 10K, but needed at least 15 miles that day per my training schedule, so I decided to switch to the half marathon so there would be more water stations and support during the majority of my mileage. I started off the run with the 2:30 pacer so I wouldn’t have to obsess over my watch, and because I was feeling a bit more extroverted than normal for that early in the morning, said hello to fellow-pace follower, Liz. After chatting off and on for 13.1 miles, Liz and I swapped names and became connected through Facebook.

Back to California…I’m recovering from injury, I’m poorly trained, and I’m starting a doctoral program that will be the focal point of all free time for the next 4+ years. As I’m working on homework one night, I spot a message from Liz about a potential opening on a Hood to Coast team. After about 10 seconds acknowledging the reasons I shouldn’t sign up, I write back. Pick me! Pick me! The opening on the other team fell through but an even better opportunity came up as someone from Liz’s van was injured.

After sending in my email confirmation, I asked what leg I would be running: Leg 6, which Portland Running Company nicknamed “Up is the New Down.” My three sections would end up 17.35 miles total, with the middle section starting around 11pm in a hilly neighborhood with lots of turns and no music(um…pretty sure I broke that rule).

My alarm went off at 2:30am on Friday, August 23rd, and I with just 2.5 hours of sleep, our van headed for Timberline Lodge and the beginning of an adventure. It’s hard to explain this relay event, so I would just encourage you to watch the documentary some time, or take me out for chai as I try to explain it with lots of hand motions. As Leg 6, each time I finished a section, our van got to have a longer break and sometimes a nap before any of us had to run again.

There are a few things that I learned during the run that stand out this afternoon. First: per Alli, if you need to cuss while you are running, make sure you cuss in front of children so its worth it. Before her final leg, which included a mountain, we updated the policy to cuss at children rather than simply in front of. Since there were no children during that section, she kept a huge smile on her face instead and just rocked that run. Second: I helped Richelle to “activate” an iPod before her second run. When a song titled Activate came on my own shuffle sequence later that day, I almost fell down laughing. Third: when you have run 17.35 miles and slept 6.5 hours in two days, sitting on a couch with pretzels and The Social Network is the greatest celebration ever. Most of my team headed home or stayed at the official celebration Saturday night, but I was so happy curled up on the couch and then slept for 9 hours on the floor. So tired but not too sore the next day.

Last but not least (at least for now): it was worth it. Hood to Coast was worth the exhaustion, the porta potties, the hills, the heat, the cost, the sore muscles, the homework stress, etc. My teammates were a wonderful eclectic group of women who cheered each other on each and every leg, and were highly organized to boot. This is one of the major reasons I love running: I would have never met Leanne, Liz, Richelle, Shelly, Alli, or Chris without Race for the Roses and Hood to Coast.

And Liz, if you’re reading this…I would totally run Leg 5. I want to conquer that mountain.

Vocabulary Lesson

About two and half years ago I learned about Girls on the Run; a nationwide running program for elementary age girls that taught teamwork, self-esteem and positive body image while training for a 5K experience.  Because I was in seminary at that point, I didn’t have time to coach but I could spare one afternoon for a practice run and then the Starlight Run final event.  I was partnered with a fourth grader who was on the team for her second year, Stephanie.  Because of our green shirts, during the practice run, Stephanie and I talked about how the several hundred girls and their buddies looked like ants and we need to keep moving to keep our queen happy.  It was a pretty successful practice and I looked forward to our final event together a month later.  Unfortunately Starlight wasn’t quite so successful.  My girl had a few too many energetic bursts at the beginning where she would sprint full blast for a block or two, then have to walk as she tried to catch her breath.  It was a little bit frightening as I tried to keep up in downtown Portland with a girl I barely knew amid thousands of other strangers (about 500 of whom had the same shirt we did).  Around halfway through the run, Stephanie got a side-ache from all of those sprints and started crying that she wanted to stop and wanted her mom.  But the course was a big loop through downtown and the only way I knew to the end was forward.  So for the next mile and a half, Stephanie slowly walked and cried while I tried to just keep her moving forward and distracted from the pain.  I knew that if we just finished the run, that was what she would remember: finishing.  Not the pain.  Not the tears.  Just that she had finished.

Last weekend, during the Newport Marathon, I thought a lot about Stephanie because I was having my own physical and mental breakdown.  This was my second marathon and one I had been training for for months (including 3 half-marathons in about six weeks to give a good idea of a realistic time goal).  I had the right outfit, the broken in but not quite done shoes, the routine breakfast, and a fully charged iPod with music and a Stephen Colbert book on tape.  I also had bronchitis which had kept me up most of the night and passed out coughing the rest.  Adrenaline and stubbornness got me up that morning at 5:15am, and my mom helped me get to the starting line.  The first 5K loop was just fine; we wandered through a neighborhood around the park, the morning cold starting to burn off and the legs remembering what they were here for.  Then it was down through a cute area of shops and restaurants that my mother and I had wandered through the night before.  My favorite part was on the boardwalk; running over the wooden boards with boats lining one side and the sea air wafting in.  I felt like I could run forever in that section.  I had finally figured out how to use my Garmin watch (third try was the charm) so I could keep track of my pace and stick close to my 12 minute per mile goal.  I slipped off during a needed porta-potty break but was basically on target for the first 16 miles.  Then I started to feel exhausted and unhappy and saw myself in tears by the time I was at the finish line.  My legs were okay and my feet were sore but still usable, and yet I started to just feel tired in my heart and soul.  By mile 18, I knew that if I laid down on the side of the highway, I would fall asleep.  I had to walk.  I hated myself at that moment.  I hated that I was about to fail.  I had a reasonable time goal and so much training behind me, but the night without sleep was victorious.  In some ways it was good that I was dehydrated because it kept me from crying, which might have freaked out the volunteers or the cheering random drivers who would pass every few minutes.  I walked for about a mile before I texted my mom to share what was going on.  Thanks to my iPhone, I was able to share my situation on Facebook as well, which led to some needed pick me up encouragement later on.  After about a mile of walking, listening to music, and fighting to urge to just lay down, I thought of Stephanie and my belief that if she finished, that’s the memory that would last.  After another mile, I was able to accept that I was not going to “run” this marathon, but I was going to “complete” it and no one would think me a failure (except myself, but I’m working on that part).  I listened to the random shuffle of music on my headphones and stared at the water on my left as I slowly walked back into town.  I focused on the idea of “giving in” to the exhaustion and illness I was feeling, but not “giving up” by stopping.  That part I could onto: I did not stop.  After about three or four miles, I was in a better mental place but still very very far from the finish line so I challenged myself to run from one light post to the next, with the promise I could then walk as much as I needed.  After a few successful, though painful, attempts, I increased the distance to two light posts and then to three, still walking in between as much as I needed to breathe again.  With one mile to go, and hopes to beating my previous marathon time (which it turns out, I had totally remembered wrong), I began to jog that final stretch, seeing finishers headed the other direction and the busier intersections mean that I was close to the city again.  After one last panic at how to cross the street to the finish line (there was no way in h-e-double hockey sticks I was going past it to the crosswalk), I was so grateful to see my mother and receive my fused glass medal at the finish.

During my first marathon, in October 2012, I learned that I could survive running 26.2 miles.  During this marathon, I learned that I could survive walking.  Hopefully the Portland Marathon in October 2013 won’t require quite the same level of breakdown to have a breakthrough.

Racing the Clock

Yesterday was the first time I ever ran with three times on the line.

The first one was the one I always have: my time from the previous year.  My first experience with the Hippie Chick Quarter Marathon was three years ago.  It was the first time I had participated in a race with that all important “marathon” word in the title.  And the fact that a quarter marathon is just a few blocks longer than a 10K was an added bonus (and the fact I didn’t realize that “few blocks” was .35 miles until the actual run was probably a good thing).  I was excited last year to knock a few minutes off my time and hoped to do the same this year.  The goal was to beat at least 1:10 on the clock which would mean a less than 11 minute per mile pace.  Which brings me to time number two…

During the Shamrock Run in March, I had decided to run with a watch to see if I could improve my pace by staying more controlled at the beginning, rather than losing all energy when I was feeling good those first few miles, rather than just being me and surviving well until the end.  So I strapped on my Nike Watch and hit the button after crossing the starting line.  Now I had been using the regular watch function for a few weeks with my Girls on the Run coaching, and had made sure that the sync still worked with my shoe sensor, but I had not tried out the pacing information in a few months.  Whoops!  Unless I suddenly became an Olympic class athlete with 6.30 minute miles, that part of the watch was no longer functioning.  With the Newport Marathon coming up in a few weeks, and a small field there so its doubtful there will be pacers (volunteers who run at a certain pace so you can just follow them), I decided it was time for a new watch, a runner’s watch.  Oh yes, it was time for a Garmin.  A running store downtown helped me out with the new watch, and a new skort that ended up working less than great.  So again, as I crossed that starting line, I pushed the go button.  And for the next 10 minutes, the watch and some satellite hovering in space tried to find each other.  Turns out, you’re supposed to start the watch while standing still.  So no pacing resource for me.  But the clock still worked so I aimed to keep each mile marker on the course within 11 minutes of the last.  Not the fanciest method, but it was distracting to count in elevens and great fun when I would end up with a minute to spare at the next marker.  Plus, I had to get done with the whole run as quick as I could because of time number 3…

The first time I participated in the Hippie Chick Quarter Marathon, it was on Mother’s Day Sunday, then last year they shifted to Saturday because many of the women had more restful, less 5am alarm clock desires for their days.  When I signed up last fall, I was mostly aware that it was on Saturday again, that it was in May again, and that it would take me about an hour again.  No problem.  Then we get to January or February, and one of my students asks when the Warner Pacific College Spring Graduation is.  And now we have a problem.  I had signed up for a run the very same morning as the WPC Graduation.  Graduation is not only part of my job requirement, but it is also the celebration of so much had work by our students, staff and faculty.  Lets just say there were a few inappropriate words shared with the computer screen when I realized my error.  So now I had the most important time / deadline of all: complete a 6.55 mile run that started at 8am in time for a 10am graduation.  Oh, and the run is in Hillsboro while the ceremony is in Clackamas; locations that are approximately 37 minutes apart from each other.

When I crossed the finish line on Saturday morning, there were three times on the line and three main thoughts in my head.  First: “Hallelujah that clock says 1:10.”  My official time would come out later that day at about 1:06, meaning my pace was a minute faster than last year.  The second thought: “Where is my medal, where is water, and where is my bagel?” I’m not much of a deep thinker at the end of a race.  And last but not least: “I hope there is enough parking because I am getting to that ceremony NOW.”

Many speeding laws were broken over the 37 minutes that followed that finish line, and some less than safe choices were made about when and how to change my shoes, but I made it with 10 seconds spare.  And as I sat there, thankful for the cap that covered my highway dried hair, I celebrated my students for their journey and smiled at my own that morning.  I’m not saying that I would attempt that whole adventure again, but I found myself smiling without an ounce of regret.