Here’s to new friends, giant suitcases, and inspiring runs. . .

47a4d636b3127cce98548a1e76b000000035100IZNWzly1cMr

(August 2014). As I stood in the chute waiting for my teammate to arrive, I wondered for a minute how I got here, to THIS very moment in my running journey. Dick Dale’s Misirlou was blasting from the speakers (BTW, one of the greatest songs ever https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIU0RMV_II8), people were cheering, and I was about to take off on a six-mile jaunt, in the sizzling hot midday sun, the first six of the 16 miles I would be responsible for in the next 24 hours or so. I was excited and nervous, not because I didn’t think I was up for the challenge, but because for the first time I was running with a team–a team of runners I barely knew. There were times I thought I might explode with nervousness (or maybe it was the carb overload I had going) but nonetheless, I knew I HAD to finish each leg of my journey to the best of my ability. There was no room in my head for letting my team down. I was prepared for blood, sweat, tears, and crawling, if needed, to finish each of my legs of the relay. . .

**************************************

(August 2016) I wrote those words two years ago, in the hangover stage (the hangover stage is the day after Ragnar ends and even though you are glad to be home, you can’t stop thinking about all the fun you had and you wish that you were back in the van for just a while longer) that occurs post-Ragnar. If you aren’t sure what Ragnar is, I lifted the official words from their website for you.

What is Ragnar?

Here’s what we do: long distance, team, overnight running relays that take place in the most breathtaking places in the world. Teams come together to conquer a course over two days and one night, and push their limits, on little amounts of sleep, with friends and a community of runners by their side.

In reality, or at least in Van Two of the Rusty Nuts team, Ragnar is 36 hours of six people crammed into what becomes a very smelly van over the course of two days. Sleep is minimal, hygiene is ridiculously sketch, and Wisconsin cheese curds suddenly become a food group of their own. F-bombs may or may not be dropped frequently and we have an arsenal of Van Two inside jokes that will live on for eternity.

As for the actual running, we journey just over 200 miles with our other six teammates, all taking turns on pre-assigned legs of the course. Each runner is responsible for three runs, including running overnight. The course is challenging, the weather unpredictable and often unforgiving. The mental and physical challenge of running with little sleep, no recovery time, and at least in our case, terrible fueling (said cheese curds for example) adds to the overall toughness of the event. At times, this race can be downright brutal. I’ve been near tears, thrown up (cheese curds and pizza and then ran for another eight miles in the dark), fallen face first on concrete in the middle of the night, been swooped by a bat, and currently, it’s extremely challenging for me to sit down and stand-up due to leg muscles that are screaming, “What the hell did you just do to me?” There is not a single mile that I could have logged without the support and care of my teammates. 

But, back to the beginning. When I first started writing about my very first Ragnar in August of 2014 (a bucket-list run for me) I had just completed that journey with people that I barely knew. In fact, I didn’t meet most of the Rusty Nuts until about a week before our first run. I figured that Ragnar would be a one and done. I’d have this fun experience with some cool people and then I’d check it off my bucket list and move on. Except, that’s not what happened. That’s not what happened at all. Two years and three Ragnars later, our team has morphed from a mismatched group of strangers that love to run into a little running community of great friends that love to run. That’s a pretty cool thing in my book.

**************************************

And now it’s 2017 (Yes, it’s taken me three years to write this.) After running in 2014, 2015, and 2016, for a multitude of reasons, the Rusty Nuts took a year off from Ragnar in 2017. The fact that our team stayed intact for those three years was a little miracle in itself (we only had one person drop from our original team after the first year.) At first, I was okay and ready for a break,  but as the months went on, I realized that I missed this race–A LOT. Really, a lot.

As far as running races go, the fact that I miss this race so much doesn’t make sense. For starters, the race is mostly on the road. It’s always hotter than hell. We get virtually no sleep, we eat crappy food and are stuck in a van for hours upon hours. And the smell. Oh, the smell!

What it is though, is simply this. It’s the people. The TEAM. This group of people that were strangers to me just over three years ago have become like family, a little running family.  I cannot imagine my life right now not knowing any of them. Crazy isn’t it? I am so grateful for every mile that we have run together over the years. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all you Nuts! I am looking forward to every single mile that we will run in 2018.

 

2015
2015 Rusty Nuts
13895319_1014369811966100_7341912636550725518_n.jpg
After Van Two’s finish in 2016.

 

 

Advertisements

That thing about grief

20130221-222219

This goes out to every single person that is missing someone they love. . .

Today is my niece’s birthday. She is 12. And today she is partying in Heaven with her mom and grandma, just like she has been since 2012 after a drunk driver cut their lives on earth short.

I wish I was writing this to tell you that three years later life is grand and that I rest comfortably in the fact that three of the people that I love the most are celebrating wildly and beautifully in Heaven. Every. Single. Day. Somedays, that is true. In fact, even as I write this through blinding tears on the most painful of days,  I know in my heart that it is true. They live on in the most glorious of places. But just because something is true and beautiful,  doesn’t mean that it does not SUCK.  As much as I will be celebrating my niece today (in fact it started yesterday when I drug my bestie to the bakery for cake) I will also be glaringly reminded of the fact that my niece is not here celebrating with the rest of us. The scab gets ripped off, so painfully at times, and today is definitely one of those days.

But today, like everyday, life goes on. . . the world around us often seeming oblivious to the searing pain that losing people we love brings.  At one time in my life, I would have been one of those oblivious souls. “It’s been a year (or two, or three) you should be over it by now.” Or maybe I would have said, “Maybe you need therapy or something, you shouldn’t be STILL grieving after all this time.” Or maybe I would have tossed out some meaningless platitude reminding the person that their loved one is now “better off” or that they are in a “better place.” Wow, I know so much better now. Grief doesn’t end after a certain amount of “socially appropriate” time that the world allots.  People will do all they can to avoid talking about grief because its uncomfortable, and messy, and really, who wants to talk about death anyways, right? And that is okay. I get it. I don’t want to talk about it either. But not talking about death and grief doesn’t make the hurt go away nor does it lessen the pain. If anything, it may make grieving  persons question their sanity. “Should I be ‘over this’ by now? Is there something wrong with me?”

The answer to that is NO. In fact, it’s a HELL NO. Whatever you are feeling right now is probably normal. To all of you missing someone, whether you lost them today or 50 years ago, know this. . .

You are not aloneEver. There is a massive tribe of beautiful grieving folks out there. Seek them out and bask in the comfort that being with other grieving persons brings.

Grief makes no sense. You will have good days. You will have AMAZING days. Then suddenly, as if out of the blue, you will have a terribly awful and insanely painful day. A smell, a sound, a song, a memory can bring you to your knees. Grief is like that. It creeps up and punches you in the gut when you least expect it. You suddenly find yourself gasping for air  wondering what the hell just happened. (Yes, even years later. And , yes that is okay, see above, you are probably normal.)

Grief has no time limit. Don’t ever let anybody tell you it does. But also know that life really does go on and we have to figure out how to go along with it–even if it drags us along as we are kicking and screaming. 

Also know this . . . it is okay to celebrate life, even after excruciatingly painful loss. Life, even with the pain, is too beautiful and short to not live it. (You may not be there yet. And that is okay but always look for the littlest of things to celebrate. It helps. More than you can imagine. Buy birthday candles and light them often.)

Breathe. And then breathe some more. Purposefully take a deep breath. Do it again and again. And then do it some more.

So today, on my niece’s birthday, I will celebrate. I will cry happy tears and sad ones. I will lament over how unfair life is yet I will still figure out how to celebrate it–one gloriously painful beautiful moment at a time. And I will not be alone in this tearful celebration of life and death. To all of you missing someone right now, my heart and soul are with you as I know yours is with mine.

Happy Birthday Jules! I love you. Party on in Heaven little angel. Party on. We miss you like crazy.

2014: The year of the dance

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” – C.S. Lewis

A friend of mine posted these words on her Facebook page yesterday. The words struck me. I couldn’t help but think how absolutely perfect this powerful quote was as we close out the old year and welcome a new one.

As I then began to reflect on 2014, I thought about how I don’t really feel any different that I did a year ago. Except, that I do. I KNOW that I am a different person. You cannot go through a year of dancing and not emerge a different soul. It’s impossible. Even though I am sitting on the same sofa, probably in the same jammies, doing the same thing I did last January 1, my life is so completely different now that it would take days to explain. For me, 2014 was the year of the dance–the one of joy and grief. Old paths intersecting with new ones as the journey of life danced on. . .  whether I was ready for it or not.

As I was reflecting, I remembered a blog post, (one of way too many that I had started and never finished in 2014) one that sheds some light on the dance.

It is like a dance really. . .

The one of joy and grief.

Some days, it’s like a lively Irish jig–the back and forth of emotions moving as quickly as a river dancers feet. Joy and grief simultaneously morph into something so mind-blowing that I have yet to find the words to adequately describe.

Then some days, the dance, well, it’s more like a graceful waltz. Joy and grief moving together as beautifully as they possibly could given the circumstances that brought these two emotions together in the first place.

And still other days, it’s like the mosh pit of a punk rock concert. Out of control and coming at you full force, like the beat of a thousand drums pounding at you until you just want to run away forever. But you can’t. You can’t escape a mosh pit. You are stuck until music ends.

And that’s the dance of joy and grief.

When you are missing people who you loved like crazy, the dance is always there.

But, life goes on–it doesn’t stop because we are grieving. Joyful moments intersecting with painful ones. One unable to exist without the other. And just as you are beginning to find a familiar groove, a new dance suddenly begins. Jigging, waltzing, moshing. The dance is there waiting to remind you that even though life is good–so very good-there is a hole in your heart so big that it’s impossible to fill. Those days are mosh pit days. And I am not a fan.

And so it went. And so it goes. Raw becomes real. As the numbness of the first year after loss began to fade, year two slowly became a dance. A very painful one. My old life constantly intersecting with the new. Well worn paths and new ones forged–colliding, over and over and over. The dance became one of clinging ever so tightly while slowly letting go–like you are hanging onto the edge of a cliff and one by one your fingers are slowly slipping. . .

Loving.

Living.

Growing.

Healing.

Praying.

Looking back.

Moving forward.

Dancing.

It’s almost like a cha-cha now.

And instead of dancing in the rain. . .

I dance through tears–the ones of joy and grief.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that you make the choice to stay and dance or you choose to leave the party. You choose to jig, waltz, and cha-cha through the ups and downs of life, or you choose to stay stuck in the mosh pit, even after the music has ended and the crowd has gone home.

I choose to stay and dance–sometimes, like no one is watching.

And I’m glad.

Because even though the dance is exhausting, and painful, and messy, it’s also beautiful and joyous, and worth every crazy, aching moment.

To all of my friends and family that have danced with me in 2014. . .

I thank you and I love you.

Good-bye 2014 and hello 2015.

I can only imagine the new dance steps I will learn.

Happy New Year to all.

May 2015 be all that you hope it to be.

A little bit of 2014
A little bit of 2014. There are many, many more photos I’d like to put in here but ran out of room. Life is good. Live it. Love it. And don’t forget to dance.

Staying present when life gets crazy

Hello Blog, it has been a while. . .

Not the first time I’ve written those words on these pages for the world to see and probably won’t be the last. Luckily I don’t blog for a living. Whew!

My hiatus from the blogosphere started unintentionally, of course. Then one day, I realized that it had been a while since I had written. By then I had so many things on my mind to write that I didn’t know where to begin.

So, I didn’t.

Then, the pile in my mind of things to write got bigger and bigger.

And I became a little lot overwhelmed.

So, I stopped. . .

And I wondered why I was struggling to create space in my life for something that I love to do?

Then, I realized. . .

Sometimes life comes at us so fast that we barely have time to breathe. It’s in those crazy times that we need to just hang on and stay present so we don’t miss a thing.

So, I did. . .

Fotor0706192756

And a funny thing happened when I simply stayed present–in the midst of this crazy, amazing, beautiful, chaotic time–space had been created for awakening, change, and growth in my life. The uncomfortableness I wrote about a couple of months ago? Yeah, well, it settled in, created some angst, then finally allowed me to follow my heart and to make some tough changes. Even though some things have been messy, I have had faith all along that I am heading in the right direction. After all, God has yet to lead me astray.

Staying present throughout the insanity of the last few months has also allowed me to fully embrace the life I have before me and the person I have become. Life is SO completely different than I could have ever imagined it could be. As much as I have tried to compartmentalize my life, especially when it comes to writing about it, I can’t. Life for me isn’t about family, or friends, or faith, or grief, or joy, or loss, or running, or serving, or weight loss, or healing, or even about orphans in Uganda. My life is about ALL of those beautiful things wrapped into one. Even though there are parts of my life I would have never chosen, I couldn’t be more grateful for the beauty that has risen from the ashes. I have come to fully understand that life is truly what we choose to make it. We can’t change what happened a second ago, let alone yesterday, and we surely cannot, with any sort of certainty, know what the future has in store for us. We only have now. So, take a deep breath, stay present, and hang on for the glorious ride. You won’t want to miss one crazy, amazing, beautiful, messy, awesome moment of this incredible life.

 

 

Grieving the childhood loss of a parent, 35 years later. . .

photo (7)
My dad and I, shortly before my first birthday, circa 1970.

February 7, 2014 would have been my dad’s 72nd  birthday. Today, would have been my mom’s 70th.  After my mom’s death 18 months ago, I found myself grieving my dad as well as the collective loss of my parents–something I never expected would happen.

I cleared the leaves and freshly fallen snow from my mom’s newly laid gravestone. It had only been a few months since she, along with my sister-in-law and eight year-old niece, had been killed by a drunk driver. As I looked at her name etched into the stone, I was sure the heaviness in my heart would cause it to explode. My mom was 68 going on 50 when she died and I had yet to make any sense of her senseless death. I stood there in tears for a while and when I finally turned to leave, I noticed my dad’s gravestone. It was covered in layers of dead leaves and snow, nearly forgotten by me. My heavy heart sank further into my chest.

The year was 1977 and I was eight when my dad died suddenly of a heart attack. He was only 34 years old and his death was shocking to me, even at such a young age. Standing at his grave 35 years later, his death seemed like a lifetime ago. The older I had gotten, the less I had seemed to think of him (even though I did occasionally) and at times, I still really missed him. So many years had passed though that for the most part, my memories of him had faded deeply.

My mom had remarried when I was 15 to a wonderful man who I have considered my dad for the three decades. My stepdad walked me down the aisle, was grandpa to my children, and loved my mom to no end. He had been there for me, through thick and thin, throughout most of my life whereas the man buried at my feet had only been there for the first few years. Yet, I shouldn’t have forgotten. Even though he had been gone for so long, my dad had loved me deeply, that I had known from early on.  As time had passed I had taken those memories and tucked them away. Maybe it was to protect myself from the hurt, maybe I really had forgotten, or maybe it was a little of both. I wasn’t really sure. All of these things quickly raced through my mind and suddenly, I found myself sobbing. With guilt-laden grief, I quickly dropped to my knees and began to clear away his stone.

As I drove home, the tears kept coming. I had just been thrust into an unexpected, adult-sized mourning of his death at the same time I was mourning the new loss of my mom. I found myself grieving a lifetime of memories lost as well as grieving the collective loss of my parents, something that I hadn’t considered would happen. Reality hit me like a ton of bricks. The two people that had loved me and cared for me from the very beginning of my life were now gone. If it was possible to feel orphaned as a forty-something adult, this had to be what it felt like.

Over the next few days, I found myself in tears quite often as I kept thinking a lot about the early years of my life, especially those days and weeks surrounding the time of my dad’s death. Even though those memories had been dormant for what seemed like forever, my grief-stricken brain easily–albeit painfully–recalled them. Saying goodbye the morning of his death, being taken out of school knowing that something was gravely wrong, going with my mom to pick out his casket, sitting with her at his funeral, as well as the sorrowful days that ensued— these memories were now incredibly fresh in my mind. As they flooded in, I found myself reliving the pain of that time, not through the eyes of my eight-year old self, but instead, through the eyes of an adult. As a child I knew the loss of my father was tremendous, but as an adult, I was able to realize fully the magnitude of his loss and it hurt– big time. Even though I thought I had completely grieved his loss years ago, I found out that really wasn’t true at all. Now, as an adult, I was able to give my eight-year old self the space and permission to hurt and then to heal. I had discovered quite out of the blue that grief is funny like that. It sneaks up on us and can send us reeling into some dark places when we least expect it to. We can either run from that darkness or through it to the light. I chose to move towards the light.

photo (8)
My dad and I!

It has been just over a year since that grief-ridden, heavy-hearted day in the cemetery. Since that day, I have been able to heal from the childhood loss of my father in a deeper and more meaningful way than I ever thought possible, even while grieving the recent death of my mom.

The biggest lesson that I have learned throughout this time is that grief and healing are constant and fluid, ever changing as time passes. I know that I will always be grieving my parent’s deaths, both individually and collectively, in some way or another, and I am completely okay with that. I know that with every resurgence of grief, the opportunity comes to heal and grow, and to reconcile and release the pain of their losses. I know that it is okay to give myself permission to grieve and to create space in my life for healing, whether it’s from something that happened years ago or just yesterday. This new understanding of grief and healing has created a newfound peace in me–despite the pain— and I know that with each new level of healing that I reach, I will be able to stand in that cemetery. . . my heavy heart a little lighter than the last.

The creating of a lefse snob

LEFSE-353-Edit

I remember the day like it was yesterday (well, good enough to produce this anecdotal account anyways.)

It was the fall of 2010. .

It was that time of year when my annual lefse cravings began to set in.

I stated this fact to my co-worker and then I innocently mumbled that I needed to pick up some Mrs. Olson’s, you know, the kind of lefse that all good Scandi-Americans eat. Then suddenly, before I even knew what hit me, my lefse-lovin’ world was turned upside down.

lefse__19003.1289402825.1280.1280
Who knew that this is not REAL lefse?  Apparently, NOT this German-Swedish-American girl.

Much to my surprise, shortly after uttering the words “Mrs. Olson’s” I received a scolding. YES, a lefse scolding. (This outburst came from my usually very kind co-worker, Char, so I was really taken aback.) My scolding, well, it went a little something like this. . .

“You eat what?” as she turned swiftly to look at me with a horrified look of disbelief on her face. “That’s NOT real lefse,” she said with a tone. And on and on it went. I was being “schooled” in what REAL lefse actually was.  (Okay, maybe that was slightly totally dramatic? Or maybe not? Wink, wink, right Char?) Who knew that REAL lefse didn’t come neatly packaged, labeled with a good Scandinavian name, and sold in the grocery store? Obviously, not me.

Not long after my education, I came to work to find fresh, REAL lefse (complete with butter and sugar to spread) waiting for me to taste test. Yep, the Lefse Fairy (aka my co-workers best friend) had come to work and my taste buds were R-O-C-K-E-D. There was no denying that the “REAL” stuff made Mrs. Olson’s taste like sandpaper. Again, who knew?

Over the years, the Lefse Fairy would occasionally make an appearance, enough to keep me satisfied and away from faux, pre-packaged, “non-lefse,” lefse. I did break down and buy an “upscale” version (Mike’s or something like that) of the commercially prepared stuff a couple of times, but never again did Mrs. Olson’s grace my lips.

This year though, the Lefse Fairy failed to make an appearance. After my initial shock wore off, I nearly caved in a weak moment and returned to my old ways. I swear, while perusing the grocery store,  I could almost hear Mrs. Olson calling out, “Missy, come back to me. Do not listen to the naysayers,”  but, alas, I simply could not do it. I had been turned into a lefse snob and there was no going back now. Not even in the most desperate of hours.

Luckily for me, the ones that created the lefse snob must have gotten tired of listening to me whine about not getting my fix yet this year. I kindly explained to them, on more than one occasion, that you CANNOT create a lefse monster and then NOT feed it. It just ain’t right.

Redemption finally came in the form of a Year-End Lefse Party– hosted by the Lefse Fairy herself. Yes, on the last day of the year, I not only got to eat my weight in lefse, I also learned to create it. What’s that old adage? “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach him to fish. . .”

Although I knew the day would be incredible because I would finally be getting some lefse, it was so much more than I expected! I got to spend the day with some great friends and family, AND I learned to create REAL lefse, a treat that should really have it’s own food group. I can’t think of better way to end the year. Thank you Char and the Lefse Fairy!

Lefse anyone?

IMG_0452
Mixing it up. Who knew potato flakes could be turned into such deliciousness?
IMG_0451
It was a hard-working, team effort, with a little fun mixed in.
IMG_0456
Rolling and frying, rolling and frying. We produced HEAPS of the good stuff in a matter of hours.
photo
My dear friends. On the left is Char, the one who initially “educated” me and on the right, Jan, the Lefse Fairy. They are the co-creators the lefse snob, me in the middle. 🙂

In our weakness, there is peace

33c282f508b7d791af9682b1291613ad

As I was listening to the choir sing a verse of “Silent Night” this morning in church, a tremendous feeling of peace washed over me. It was instantaneous, pretty awesome, and in fact, I swear it felt like the Holy Spirit was thumping me in the forehead and saying, “PEACE, DO YOU GET IT, C’MON!?” I felt myself take a deep, deep breath and just soaking up that amazing moment. In an instant, I was relaxed and just breathing, not something I do very well, ever. I wish I could bottle that feeling because it was I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. Then, as if I didn’t really get the message, I came home and read this in an email. . .

“Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there, our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden.” ~Henry Nouwen

Powerful, powerful words. In our weakness, we find peace. . .  and Lord knows I am weak.

As we hustle and bustle our way through the next couple of weeks of the Christmas season, my wish for you is that you find at least a moment of peace. May you find it through your brokenness, your insecurities, your agony, your “to-d0” list, and your fears. Let it wash over you like a gentle breeze and soak it in. 

Have a Merry and Peaceful Christmas. . .

With Love~