#AffirmationMonday – The Man Who Taught Me it is OK to Love a Kansas Jayhawk

So, the American Medical Association might have some input on making cheerleading a recognized NCAA sport. I honestly don't see why it shouldn't be a sport at that level. They do athletic stuff that would take a ton of training for me to be able to accomplish. I am for it. Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone!

So, the American Medical Association might have some input on making cheerleading a recognized NCAA sport. I honestly don’t see why it shouldn’t be a sport at that level. They do athletic stuff that would take a ton of training for me to be able to accomplish. I am for it. Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone!

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I have been blessed with a lot of good male role models in my life. My grandfather, Jack Edwin Allen, is one of them. He also turned 81 yesterday.

For as long as I can remember, my grandpa and I have playfully teased each other about the Mizzou-Kansas basketball rivalry. We used to have a game where if one of us made fun of the other person’s team, we had to give that person 10 cents. A dime is a lot to a 10-year-old. Not so much for a grown adult. Looking back on it, I think it was his way of getting in a few good diggers for a small investment.

1) My grandpa is wise and smart. I think it can just be assumed that someone who has seen many seasons of life will be wise. My grandpa definitely falls in that category. He has had many life experiences and has spent much time reflecting on them and growing from them. And we are blessed to have him share those life lessons and experiences with us.

But he is brilliant as well. To be a civil engineer for an oil company, designing pipelines around the West, you have to be smart. He passed that on to each of his children. It does not take long to realize how smart he is by interacting with him. I do not think I have met someone who processes, contemplates and analyzes like him. I hope to have half of his brilliance at some point in my life.

2) My grandpa is absolutely a hard worker. It is insane. He always has been. But it is crazier the older he gets. He instilled in me early on a strong work ethic and the importance of getting your work done. When my brother and I would spend time with my grandparents in the summer, we did chores with my grandpa every morning. We got to go fishing or go to the park afterwards, but it was always about finishing the chores first. While we were not stoked about it then, it is one of the things that has made us who we are today.

And even though he is now 81, he continues to work on projects and chores as much as possible. It is actually really humorous to watch him help my dad with stuff. My dad will tell him to sit down or take it easy and he just continues working right next to my dad.

3) My grandpa is a fighter. He has been battling lung cancer for a few years now. Even though his body is tired, he continues to fight. I also have a young cousin named Jack. Big Jack is Little Jack’s main male role model. And you can already see the benefits of that relationship. Little Jack is an incredibly smart little dude. He has an engineering brain like his father and grandfather. Little Jack works hard. Last time I was at his house, he came home from his pre-school and immediately would water all of the plants in his yard. Even though it was over 100 degrees.

My grandpa continues to fight. Probably for many reasons. But I think one of those reasons is his love for Little Jack.

My grandpa is a great man. A strong, wise and tough man. He has and continues to teach me many things. I love him and am proud of him. Even though he is one of the biggest Jayhawk basketball fans I know.

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What I Have Learned From Running with a Blind Dog

This is Ella. She is the blind dog I have been living with for a week now. She answer when I ask her how her day was. She just looks at me with adoration and wags her tail. But I imagine if she could talk, she would have a ton of interesting stuff to say. Alas.

This is Ella. She is the blind dog I have been living with for a week now. She doesn’t answer when I ask her how her day was. She just looks at me with adoration and wags her tail. But I imagine if she could talk, she would have a ton of interesting stuff to say. Alas.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am house sitting for my supervisor this week. Since last Friday, I have been enjoying the company of Zazu (bird), Simba (male kitten), Shadow (17-year-old male cat) and Ella (old, blind dog). And by enjoying, I mean I could think of about 3,275 other things I would rather do. Regardless, it has been a good learning experience. I have learned if you let Zazu walk around on the counter, he will poop and Simba will try his hardest to kill him. I have learned no matter how much you talk to an Aspen tree, it just doesn’t reciprocate. Also, the male kitten is one of the most annoying species on the face of the earth.

But, I have learned the most from Ella. Ella might be the sweetest old dog on the planet. She is fat, furry and full of love. My supervisor warned me before I left she would try to run with me. Ella loves to run. However, my supervisor told me to try to sneak out so she doesn’t go with me. Ella is used to running short distances with my supervisor.

The first time I went for a run, I waited till she looked asleep and the opened the door and stepped out quietly. A few minutes into my run, I hear something behind me. Here comes Ella charging. I had already made some turns and I am guessing she was either tracking my scent or listening to my footsteps. Regardless, she was charging at top-end speeds. I turned around in time to watch her sprint full force into a snow bank. She somersaulted and gracefully kept running. Although it did look painful. I admit, I laughed. Pretty hard. Like I had to stop running because I couldn’t breathe.

But then I started to think about the situation. And how she kept following me. And because I live my life in fantasies and am very much an idealist and romantic, I probably thought too much about what I had just witnessed and what I continued to witness. But, the blind (I know, sorry) faith of that dog is amazing. She also might love running more than me.

So, what I have learned:

  • Ella is fearless. She runs full speed. She goes for it. She trusts herself.
  • Failures do not stop Ella. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have watched this dog hit her head on something. Or run into a door. Or fall over her face while running. But she keeps going. With an amazing attitude. Her memory is so short to failures. And it is beautiful.
  • Ella absolutely loves adventures. I imagine almost every day is an adventure if you are a blind dog. But she also seeks it out. She is always outside exploring her surroundings.
  • Ella adores people a lot. Pretty much without any reserve or self-consciousness. She is not afraid to love. She is not afraid to show her adoration. She shows her adoration by running out to greet me every day when I get to her home. It doesn’t matter if it is 6 p.m. or midnight. She also wags her tail so hard it shakes her butt. And she makes these annoying, whiney noises when she first notices your presence (I had to retype to change that statement from “when she sees you”).
  • Ella truly loves and enjoys life. She cannot see life, but she seems to enjoy her existence in this world to the fullest capacity.

I started wondering what my life would look like if I lived life Ella-style. At first I thought I would probably do a lot more stupid stuff. And get myself in a lot more awkward, uncomfortable and probably dangerous situations. Those types of things would probably happen. But, think of the stories. I bet if Ella could talk to me (she doesn’t, believe me, I tried) she would have a ton of interesting stories to tell me about her day.

How would our lives changed if we became fearless? Or didn’t allow our failures to discourage our dreams and pursuits? Or loved and sought out adventures on a daily basis? Or truly adored people? Or absolutely loved and enjoyed life? How would our lives change if we tried to focus on one of those things for a week or weekend?

The Redemption Run

This is my Facebook profile picture. I was probably smiling during my Redemption Run. In this photo, I am literally in the middle of a half marathon. Less than a mile later I had to pull over into the bushes to relieve some digestive issues. FAIL.

This is my Facebook profile picture. I was probably smiling during my Redemption Run. In this photo, I am literally in the middle of a half marathon. Less than a mile later I had to pull over into the bushes to relieve some digestive issues. FAIL.

A week ago I wrote about a cataclysmic run and promised the next running related post would be about a lovely run. Here it is. The thing is, there is so much to learn from a failed attempt. Life is full of failures. The run in the storm a little over a week ago was a failure in every way. What is the best way to shake a failure? Swing again.

Last Saturday, I swung again. When a couple of friends hopped in my car with me and left Steamboat last Saturday morning, it was cloudy. And foggy. And it looked like a storm was rolling in. Again. Determined for redemption, I asked them to go with me, drop me off and drive my car back to Steamboat.

We ended up about 21 miles outside of Steamboat and the clouds cleared. The next two hours was a blur of rivers, mountains, cows, farms, cyclists, birds, sunshine and quick miles. Despite a serious workout the day before, the miles flew. The heart methodically pumped like a piston. The lungs inflated and deflated like clockwork. And the legs powered up and over hills effortlessly. And the thought of the previous failed run on the very same road exaggerated the peace.

Bob Goff and I agree on a lot. We haven’t actually talked yet, and he doesn’t know it, but we think the same way. One thing we agree on is our God probably leads us into failure. And as Bob would say, it is better than OK. To fail, that is. Why? Because we get another opportunity. And another. And another. And we learn through failures.

“God doesn’t want failure to shut us down. God didn’t make it a three-strikes-and-you’re-out sort of thing. It’s more about how God helps us dust ourselves off so that we can swing for the fences again.” – Bob Goff

The reason why Redemption Runs feel so good is because I remember how bad a failed run felt. When we pick ourselves up and swing for the fences again and actually connect, it is one of the best feelings in the world.

Failure. Take some time to think about the word. And when you have experienced it in your life. And know it is more than OK. It is beautiful. It is growth. It is learning. It is God’s Love.

What are some recent failures you have had? Have you gone on your Redemption Run yet? Will you swing for the fences again? I used to think failing was important, now I know failing is important but the Redemption Run is even more so. 

*Editor’s note: If you dig the Bob Goff quote and the vibe of this post, I HIGHLY recommend checking out his book, Love Does. Fair warning: It will change your life. Seriously. It will make you want to quit the job you have had for 15 years. It will make you want to write letters to friends and loved ones. It will make you seek a different, intentional life. It will mess you up in all the best ways. It will make you want to do stuff.

Why I (sometimes) Hate Running

This is the town and mountain of Steamboat. This is a beautiful summer day. I imagine running when this picture was taken would have been near perfect. I cannot wait for more days that look like this. Last Tuesday it did not look at all like this in Steamboat.

This is the town and mountain of Steamboat. This is a beautiful summer day. I imagine running when this picture was taken would have been near perfect. I cannot wait for more days that look like this. Last Tuesday it did not look at all like this in Steamboat.

On Tuesday, seeking a change and a chance to get to know the Steamboat Marathon course, a friend/coworker and me were dropped off 17 miles outside of Steamboat. When we left town and were dropped off, it was 55 degrees and sunny. I left the fleece in the car and wore just a t-shirt.

Although I have spent a lot of time outdoors in the mountains, I left my better judgment with my fleece and did not think about drastic weather changes. The first four or five miles of my run were gorgeous.  I waved at cows, took in the scenery, clicked of some fast miles and tried to focus on landmarks for reference during the actual marathon. I rounded a corner and saw a very ominous cloud staring me down. The eternal optimist in me just assumed it would pass over.

Then, I started to notice I really had not seen any sign of human life for a while. Just cows. Cows are nice but cannot help when weather gets bad. And that is what happened. It started to hail. Then sleet. Then lightning and thunder. Then rain and sleet. Then rain and snow. Then rain. All the while, the wind was blowing in my face about 30 miles per hour.

After another few miles, I could see the valley leading into Steamboat. It was completely socked in. This storm was not going to break. Ice started to form on my arms and chest. My core temperature was dropping. I started to literally lose my mind. I cursed myself for the ignorance of leaving my fleece. I cursed the storm. I cursed the heavens. I cursed the cars driving by at 60 miles per hour splashing more water on me. I cursed the cows. I cursed God.

I stuck my thumb out to passing cars. No one stopped. My fingers started to lose feeling. But the worst part was the loneliness. More than the loneliness of the situation. The loneliness felt from losing a companion. A companion you spent seven years attached to. And I cursed God for putting me in that situation. In my mind numbing experience, I had forgotten how much God has been alongside me through the loneliness caused by a tragic situation.

When I made it back to our office, I was extremely embarrassed and hurt by my own actions. I really lost my mind. Seriously. While telling people about it, I could laugh with them about the absurdity of the situation. Now as I am typing this, I am even smiling. But inside on that day (and the next), I ached over my anger. I sent an email to my good friend, Melissa, to tell her my embarrassment and my feelings of potentially damaging my relationship with God. I mean, I really let loose on Him. Here is part of her response:

“Your story reminds me somewhat of how I imagine Peter feeling after the rooster crows. Often we are so quick to judge Peter for abandoning Jesus in those final moments but I know Peter loved Jesus more than I ever have because of all that he gave up for him that I have not. So, it had to take a severe situation of fear and a build-up of the emotions of those last days to cause him to abandon his Master, his Friend. And when he hears the rooster crow, I hurt to imagine how horrible he felt. I think he was destroyed by his betrayal and the fact that Jesus knew all along that he would do it.  YET – I think Peter truly became the Rock upon which the Church was built because of that experience specifically. That despite his lack of faithfulness and his passionate betrayal, God’s love never wavered. God never abandoned him. And as a result, Peter – out of intense love, not shame or guilt – committed the rest of his life and suffered eventual martyrdom out of faithfulness to a God who never denied him. In the end the story goes that when Peter was to be crucified he requested to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner of Christ.  Another example of a wounded healer.”

Beautiful. It is SO our God to watch us throw a tantrum in a literal or metaphorical storm and then await us with open arms. And Love. And Forgiveness. And when we are ready to move past our pain, shame and guilt (admittedly sometimes so challenging to do), He is ready to do lovely things with us and through us. I think the first step is to allow ourselves to be filled with Love. To allow ourselves to be blessed and then bless others. Because despite our beliefs otherwise, I do not think life is about our tantrums on the side of the road in the rain in front of the cows. It is about the radiant Blessings and Love waiting for us. It’s time to stop feeling guilty. Or shameful. Or disappointed in ourselves or situations. It’s time to stop feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s time to be blessed and bless.

What are you holding onto that you don’t like about yourself? That is, what is holding you back from feeling Blessed and Loved? I have a long list to choose from. Let’s let go of one of those things this weekend. And look for a Blessing to replace it with. I am going to attempt to let go of my mileage paranoia. And my amazing ability to be disappointed with myself.

*Editor’s note: If you did not click on “Melissa” and follow the link, my internal journalist is disappointed. It is a link to her blog. It has better insight and is more thought provoking than anything I write. Here is an opportunity to check it out again.

*Editor’s (second) note: I love running. I do. It is why I do it too much. I just don’t have as many life lessons on beautiful runs when everything is going my way. Even though I think it might be boring, the next post about running will be describing a beautiful run. Ugh. It makes me sick to think about writing about just my run with no deep life meaning. So boring. But I will try to spice it up. Maybe I will wear a costume while I run. Or try to get a CMC student to chase me.

Running the Risk…

I would like to run here. It would be nice. And soft on my 25-year-old joints.

I would like to run here. It would be nice. And soft on my 25-year-old joints.

Yesterday, about 10 minutes before I normally leave for my run, it started dumping. Hard. Huge, wet snowflakes mixed with rain. And the wind was blowing what looked like 358,956 miles per hour. To say it was not appealing for a run would be a gross understatement. I happened to check Facebook and saw a friend’s profile picture. This picture was of another runner who passed away too young. It reminded me of him and a college teammate of mine who also passed away way too soon.

What were their last runs like? This thought was more than enough to get me to lace up my shoes and trudge out into one of the most insane runs of my life (weather-wise). It was also one of the most gorgeous runs of my life. Let me tell you why. It hurt. It was tough. It was mentally draining. It was cold. It was uncomfortable. I could go into the million reasons why I adore running but what it comes down to is I love the discomfort. I love the challenge. I love the hurt. Because it makes me a tougher, humble and hungry runner. The discomfort experienced by a runner is a cause of fatigued muscles. The heart, the legs, the arms, the core. It is a breaking down of muscle fibers so they grow back stronger.

Discomfort is what produces growth in my life. Discomfort is what makes me move. The biggest time of growth in my life – spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally – has been the past 14 months. This has also been the most challenging, tough, uncomfortable, hurtful and gorgeous 14 months of my life. The thing with being comfortable is it feels great (obviously). It is safe, secure and pleasant. It can also trick us into settling. Or keep us from moving. Or from growing.

A quote from my first post has been one of my guiding lights for the past year.

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” – Emerson

This is a sure way to make me uncomfortable. Obviously this can lead to some sketch situations, but no matter what, it creates a story. And the majority of those stories have been meaningful. However, for me, there is a certain Trust and Belief in all things working out for the best. More to come about this in a future post.

What are you afraid to do? What makes you uncomfortable? What area in your life feels incomplete? What risk are you not taking?

For me the answers are: I am afraid to commit to one person but I am also afraid of loneliness. I am also terrified of living a life that doesn’t matter or isn’t fulfilling in the right ways or truly connecting with those closest to me. Conflict makes me uncomfortable. I like everyone to be content and peaceful. I feel incomplete in almost every area of my life. The biggest risk I am not taking is allowing myself to get super close to some people. Or perhaps being vulnerable.

What are your answers? What are you going to do about them?

Let’s get uncomfortable. Let’s take some risks. Let’s live big lives. With gorgeous  stories.