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

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(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. . .

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(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.

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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.

 

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

 

 

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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. . .

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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.

 

 

The creating of a lefse snob

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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.

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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?

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Mixing it up. Who knew potato flakes could be turned into such deliciousness?
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It was a hard-working, team effort, with a little fun mixed in.
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Rolling and frying, rolling and frying. We produced HEAPS of the good stuff in a matter of hours.
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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

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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~

Take five minutes to read “64 Things. . .” (You’ll be glad you did)

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Picture from http://www.pinterest.com/pin/409264684858882479/

A friend and colleague shared an article recently about the things  grieving people often experience. More specifically, the stuff nobody tells you, the messy stuff. You know, the stuff you really need to know that isn’t always in the neat little pamphlets that you get. It’s straight-forward, easy to read, and brilliant. The entire article,”64 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Grief,” can be found here–http://whatsyourgrief.com/64-things-about-grief/ and it is WELL worth five minutes of your time to read, whether you are grieving or not. Any human being on this planet that lives long enough will experience loss and the subsequent grief that ensues. I highly recommend taking a look. You can never be too prepared to enter into the world of grief, trust me on that one.

So often society seems to get caught up in the “if onlys” and the “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s”  when it comes to grieving. For instance, “You should, be over that by now” or  “You would be over that by now if only you would _____,”  or “You could be over that by now if only you could just let go.” And while most people are not ill-intentioned when trying to offer help, to a grieving person (well, me for sure) those comments often sound like the adult voices on Charlie Brown, you know, “whah, whah, whah. . .” (Sorry to digress, but humor now and then is essential when grieving. Here’s the link to check it out if you aren’t sure what I mean or just want to reminisce  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss2hULhXf04.) Grief is simply not that simple. You don’t just get over it. You don’t just let go. Closure doesn’t automatically happen because a socially allotted amount of time has passed or because a perpetrator goes to jail.  Everyone grieves in their own time, in their own way. Grief cannot not be put into a neat little box. We each have to figure out a way to weave the pain of our losses into the tapestry of our life stories, even if it is only one tiny thread at a time. Then, we need to figure out how to move forward or as #58 on the list says “get used to it.” I couldn’t agree more with that terminology because “getting used to it” is about all we can do some days. In fact, there wasn’t a single thing on the list that I couldn’t relate to or agree with on some level. . .

#2- Stop avoiding and be present. Being present is ABSOLUTELY one of the hardest things to do when you are grieving. Being present means you have to acknowledge your pain and quite frankly, that sucks! BIG TIME. Unfortunately, healing can’t take place in the past or in the future, it has to happen in the now. FYI: This one becomes harder to do as the numbness of early grief wears off. Work on staying present in small doses at first because it is difficult. But, keep trying. Work on it. I make staying present an intentional part of my day, every single day.

#9- Death and grieving make people uncomfortable, so be prepared for awkward encounters. People will avoid the subject and maybe even you. I am ashamed to say that I have done this in the past to others when I should have reached out. It is totally okay if you don’t know what to say.  Most times just a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” and a hug will do.

#16 and #17- There is no such thing as closure. There is no timeline for grieving. You can’t rush it. You will grieve, in some form, forever. Not much to add here except that, it’s okay to not close that door. Loss is part of life. We don’t expect closure on the good things in life, so why do we expect it when life’s difficulties arise? We don’t need to worry about closing those doors, we need to figure out how to make our losses part of our story without continually living in the past. It’s SO hard to find the balance between the memories and moving forward. It takes work to arrive at some form of acceptance. Do it in your own time.

#23- Grief doesn’t come in five neat stages. Grief is messy and confusing. LIFE is messy and confusing. Why would grief be any different?

#27- However badly you think it is going to hurt, it is going to be a million times worse. All that I have to say to that is AMEN! Wowsa. So true.

#33 and #34- You grieve your past, present and future with that person. Big life events and milestones will forever be bittersweet. The word bittersweet has become a regular part of my vocabulary. It’s these bittersweet moments (graduations, holidays, and wedding planning currently in my case) that have proven to be difficult to navigate with grace.

#63- You will never go back to being your old self. Grief changes you and you are never the same. And that is totally okay! So don’t try to be the same person you once were because that would be impossible. That very moment that your loved one was lost, you were forever changed. It’s okay to be your “new” self, whatever that new self may be, as long as you are not being self-destructive. (See #60.)

It seems every time I read this list, something else jumps off the page at me. In a nutshell, whatever you are experiencing as you are journeying through grief, is quite possibly normal— even if it seems weird at the time. If you feel that what you are going through isn’t normal or if you have questions, seek help from a professional. It’s totally okay to do that (see #53). We aren’t meant to walk through grief alone.